Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Houston VA Cemetery Draws Discrimination Claims
- Christian Couple in Israel Accused of Converting Minor
- Egypt: Harassment of Christian Woman Turns Into Violence
- BGEA Teams Finish Work in Tornado-Stricken States
Houston VA Cemetery Draws Discrimination Claims
Members of Congress and Christian leaders say they are outraged over religious discrimination claims against a Veterans Affairs official in Houston. Religion News Service reports that Arleen Ocasio, director of the Houston National Cemetery, is being sued for allegedly discriminating against clergy and veterans' families who want to use religious references in memorial ceremonies. The Liberty Institute, a Texas-based legal group, this week expanded its lawsuit against the VA, claiming that officials told veterans' groups that prayers need to be submitted for approval by a Houston VA executive. Lawyers initially filed suit after Ocasio asked Pastor Scott Rainey of Houston to "edit" a Memorial Day ceremony prayer that concluded in Jesus' name. A judge granted a temporary restraining order that allowed Rainey to pray as he wished.
Christian Couple in Israel Accused of Converting Minor
In Israel, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish group known for targeting Jewish Christians is taking aim at a couple it claims is manipulating minors into becoming Christians. The Yad L’Achim group this week placed leaflets around the home of Serge and Naama Kogen in Mevasseret Zion, a suburban community located just west of Jerusalem. The same week someone took out a full-page ad in a local newspaper giving the couple’s address and telling residents they were part of a missionary group “targeting” the community. Compass Direct News reports that the Kogens are native Israelis and not part of any missionary group. About 20 of the group's supporters later demonstrated outside the couple's home. The protests came after Yad L’Achim lost a court case against the Kogens and their congregational leader, Asher Intrater. The group had accused them of “proselytizing” minors.
Egypt: Harassment of Christian Woman Turns Into Violence
On June 30, Muslims looted and torched Christian homes and businesses in Egypt's Minya province, injuring 10 Christians. According to Assyrian International News Agency, the incident began when a Christian woman was sexually harassed by a group of Muslims at a bus station. When her husband tried to defend her, he was severely beaten. Shortly after the altercation, thousands of Muslims from the predominantly Muslim east side of the village of Kolosna began attacking property on the western side of Kolosna, which is about 75 percent Coptic. Christians hid in their homes for fear of attacks by the Muslim mob. “They were cursing the cross and taunting us that we will stay inside and never be allowed in the streets again,” said one Christian, who called a Coptic TV station for help.
BGEA Teams Finish Work in Tornado-Stricken States
Billy Graham Rapid Response teams have wrapped up their ministry to Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Joplin, Mo., following deadly tornadoes earlier this year. The cities were two of the hardest hit locations in what has been a particularly active and devastating tornado season. The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team spent approximately nine weeks in Tuscaloosa, ministering to and praying with more than 2,600 survivors. They were in Joplin for more than six weeks and comforted more than 4,200 in and around the city of 50,000. "We are just thankful for the opportunity to come alongside those who are grieving and broken-hearted, and share with them the hope God offers through the cross of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ," said Preston Parrish, executive vice president of ministry at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team is a nationwide network of chaplains across 40 states that are specifically trained to deal with crisis situations.