Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world. In today's edition:
- Voters to Decide Fate of Giant Cross Near San Diego
- Church Leaders Arrested, Interrogated in China
- Voter Registration Efforts Intensify in U.S. Churches
- Colombian Rebels Release Kidnapped Bishop
Voters to Decide Fate of Giant Cross Near San Diego
A July 27 vote of the City Council ensured that San Diego’s citizens will get an opportunity to weigh in on the fate of a 43-foot concrete cross atop Mount Soledad. In a 5-3 vote, the council decided to put on the ballot a measure authored by City Attorney Casey Gwinn to rescind the sale of the half acre on which the cross stands to the Mount Soledad Memorial Association. If approved by two-thirds of the voters, the land would be resold to the highest bidder, who would decide whether the cross will be removed or left standing. The sale would be subject to a long-term lease to the memorial association, which maintains the site. The dispute began when an atheist sued the city in 1989, complaining that having the cross on city property violated both the U.S. and the California constitutions. The city attempted to sell the land around the cross, but each attempt has faced court challenges. The matter remains unresolved and the title to the land unclear, with both the city and the association claiming ownership of the land. The motion to put the issue on the ballot included a provision in the event that the voters reject the city attorney's plan. It would allow the city to accept a settlement agreement reached between the association and the originator of the lawsuit, to remove the cross to a nearby church.
Church Leaders Arrested, Interrogated in China
As part of an ongoing crackdown on Christians, more than 100 underground house church leaders were recently arrested in the Xinjiang region. According to China Aid Association (CAA), the group was meeting for a retreat on July 12 when they were surrounded by more than 200 police who arrived in 46 police and military vehicles. No warrants or other official documents were shown in making the arrests. CAA said 30 believers remain under detention near the place of arrest. Most of the other leaders have been transferred back to their home areas where they are being detained by local authorities. Several are reportedly being interrogated and pressured to renounce their faith. The retreat was sponsored by the large Anhui-based house church network, Ying Shang Church. Wang Yu Lian, a leader in the church for more than 20 years, was among those arrested and is currently being held in Xinjiang. According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the latest arrests comes after a similar raid on June 11 in Wuhan City, located in Hubei Province, when about 100 members of the China Gospel Fellowship were detained and eventually released. Earlier this month, 40 house church leaders and a Taiwanese couple who were leading a training seminar were arrested in Cheng Du City, located in Sichuan Province. The 40 have been released, but the whereabouts of the couple is not known, CSW said. (http://www.charismanow.com)
Voter Registration Efforts Intensify in U.S. Churches
Across the nation, churches are trying to get their members registered to vote. Some of the efforts are extremely organized, including one in Washington state. The goal is 60,000 new Christian voters by Election Day. At the head of the push is Pastor Joseph Fuiten of Cedar Park Assembly of God, one of the largest churches in the state. Pastor Fuiten says he is not intimidated by any argument of wrongdoing relating to separation of church and state. "Well, the church-state argument is totally a smokescreen," he says. "There's nothing wrong with registering voters. It's non-partisan, it's something every pastor can do, and it does not violate church and state. It doesn't violate the IRS rules. All we're supposed to do is not endorse candidates." About 1,200 Washington churches are on board, with another 1,800 expected by Election Day.
Colombian Rebels Release Kidnapped Bishop
Colombia’s second-largest guerrilla group snatched a Roman Catholic bishop on July 24, but freed him three days later. Operatives of the National Liberation Army (ELN) kidnapped 48-year-old Misael Vacca Ramírez, bishop of Yopal in the department (state) of Casanare, as he was traveling near the village of Morcote. Bishop Vacca told Colombian media that he believed he was freed because of national and international outrage at his abduction. Following several high-profile abductions involving evangelical Christians in recent years, the ELN promised to respect Protestant pastors and churches. But evangelical leaders still run the risk of abduction. "If they can do it with a high functionary of the Catholic Church, they can do it with a high functionary of the evangelical church," said Ricardo Esquivia of the Evangelical Council of Colombia (CEDECOL). (www.compassdirect.org)