Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Children May Lose Religious Rights in Tajikistan
- Iraqi Christians Fear for Missing Pastor
- Catholic Social Services Joins Suit Against Illinois
- Episcopalians Turn to Social Media for Growth
Children May Lose Religious Rights in Tajikistan
A new law supposedly aimed at helping parents protect their children in Tajikistan could also ban children from participating in religious activities. Worthy News reports that the Tajikistan Parliament recently adopted two new laws will ban children under the age of 18 from participating in religious activities like weekly church services. The law also restricts certain jewelry, tattoos and even names parents can choose for their children. "I'm sure the government would say that it's aimed basically at extremism," said Joel Griffith of the Slavic Gospel Association. "It's really difficult to know what their real motivation is for passing such a thing, because it goes beyond targeting just what everybody would agree maybe would be extremist elements ... As the law is worded, it would seem to impact everybody." He further notes, "There's question whether children would even be allowed to go to a worship service until they're 18 years old ... It's a matter of deep concern to the churches."
Iraqi Christians Fear for Missing Pastor
Iraqi Christians are worried about the safety of a house church leader who was recently kidnapped, apparently because he has led Muslims to Christ. According to Release International partners, Pastor Jamal was seized by suspected militants who broke into his house in Dehouk. His family believes he was targeted because of his work among the Shabak people who speak Arabic and Kurdish. Religious rights group The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) Australia reports that one of the people whom Pastor Jamal led to Christ had his home sprayed with machine-gun fire a few weeks ago. Some fear that the militants may kill Pastor Jamal immediately rather than demand a ransom for his release. VOM Australia says the group may have links with al-Qaeda. Despite ongoing threats to Iraqi Christians from militant groups, hundreds turned out recently to celebrate the opening of a new church near Kirkuk in northern Iraq. St Paul's Church in Sikanayan village will serve displaced Christians who have settled in the area after fleeing persecution.
Catholic Social Services Joins Suit against Illinois
The Christian Post reports that another Catholic group is seeking to join the lawsuit against Illinois over gay adoption. Catholic Social Services petitioned to join three adoption and foster care agencies of Catholic Charities, the social group fighting against state compulsion to place children with gay or cohabitating couples. The Illinois attorney general’s office and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services have tried to stop the Roman Catholic agencies from placing any more children until they comply with the state's demands. The state and Catholic groups have gone back and forth in court over the matter. On July 8, CDFS ended its relationship with Catholic Charities for alleged non-compliance, but Illinois Judge John Schmidt granted Catholic Charities a preliminary injunction on July 12. On July 18, Schmidt ruled that DCFS must continue to allow Catholic Charities to take new cases and foster parent applications according to their religious practice.
Episcopalians Turn to Social Media for Growth
The Episcopal Church is urging congregations to embrace social media websites like Facebook in a push to highlight the Internet as a tool for church growth. The church released a 12-page instruction guide on July 20, listing "best practices" for how congregations can make use of social media. Religion News Service reports the release comes after church leaders grew concerned that some congregations were still mystified by the Internet. "Episcopal congregations already know they need to be online and active in creating local excitement about their mission and ministries. ... What they may not know is how easy the Web has become to use," said Episcopal advertising executive Jake Dell in a press release. The guide, entitled "Social Media and the Episcopal Church: A New Way to Tell a 2,000-Year-Old Story," stressed the need to remain relevant in an increasingly digital world.