Religion Today Summaries - June 29, 2011

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - June 29, 2011

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • China Releases Vocal Dissident Hu Jia
  • Poll: Evangelicals See Declining Influence in U.S.
  • Greek Orthodox Rally to Rebuild Ground Zero Church
  • Cuban Pastor Prevented from Attending Church


China Releases Vocal Dissident Hu Jia

Christian Today reports that China has released on of its most outspoken critics, Hu Jia, but is still keeping a close eye on him. Hu, 37, has spent the last 42 months in prison after being found guilty in 2007 of “incitement to subvert state power." He had previously spoken to a European Parliament committee on China's human rights abuses and publicly criticized authorities in multiple articles and media interviews. Hu's wife, Zeng Jinyan, announced his released on Sunday via Twitter, but Hu himself is banned from speaking to the media and police stand guard outside his home in Beijing. Groups such as the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) are urging more freedom for the dissident. “If that injustice is compounded by another form of detention," said HRW's Asia advocacy director, Sophie Richardson, "it will show just how shallow the Chinese government’s ‘rule of law’ commitments are.”

Poll: Evangelicals See Declining Influence in U.S.

Are U.S. evangelicals losing their influence on America? A new poll released June 22 from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life seems to say just that. The vast majority - 82 percent - of U.S. evangelical leaders saying their influence is declining. At the same time, their counterparts in Africa, Asia and Latin America are far more optimistic. "There's both a huge optimism gap and a huge influence gap in terms of the way these folks perceive things," said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum. Researchers surveyed more than 2,000 leaders invited to attend the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Cape Town, South Africa, last year. The perception of declining influence comes as the nation has become both more pluralistic and more secular. The vast majority of U.S. leaders surveyed -- 92 percent -- called secularism a major threat to evangelical Christianity.

Greek Orthodox Rally to Rebuild Ground Zero Church

Parishioners and supporters of a Greek Orthodox church that was destroyed in the 9/11 attacks rallied at Ground Zero on Sunday. Religion News Service reports that they came in hopes of resuming negotiations to rebuild the church. St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have been at odds for several years over the cost and exact location of the rebuilt church. "Shame on the Port Authority to take this long to rebuild our church," Nicholas A. Karacostas, supreme president of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association at a rally that drew about 100 people to the site of the former World Trade Center. Talks have been stalled for almost a year. The Port Authority did not respond immediately for comment about the rally or the criticisms made by the church. But officials had previously said talks with St. Nicholas got bogged down over what they called the church's escalating demands.

Cuban Pastor Prevented from Attending Church

Baptist Pastor Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso and his wife, Yoaxis, were part of a group of 23 who were detained by Cuban police and stopped from joining a church service on Sunday. According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, they were held for five hours. The service in Santa Clara in support of a pastor who was controversially removed from his post after he refused to deny pastoral support to human rights activists and members of the political opposition. The pastor, Yordi Toranzo, is the second high-profile pastor in Santa Clara to step down or be removed this year because of government pressure. Baptist Pastor Homero Carbonell issued a public statement at the beginning of 2011 explaining that he and his church had come under severe government pressure because of his refusal to expel families of political prisoners from the church.