Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Eritrea Arrests 7 Christians for Praying Together
- EU Considers Protecting Rights of Persecuted Christians
- Mo. Church with Gay Pastor Readmitted to ELCA
- Southern Baptist to Send 150,000 'Food Buckets' to Haiti
Eritrea Arrests 7 Christians for Praying Together
ASSIST News Service reports that Eritrean security officials have arrested seven Christians for praying at a private home in Asmara, Eritrea's capital city. According to International Christian Concern (ICC), seven Christians were praying on Feb. 18 at a home near Babylon Square when security officials rounded them up without warning and took them to an undisclosed location. ICC said Eritrean government officials have been clamping down on Christians since 2002. The government only recognizes three Christian denominations. They are the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Members of other religious denominations are not allowed to hold prayer meetings, or demonstrate other aspects of their religious beliefs. Authorities have imprisoned more than 3,000 Christians for exercising their religious freedom.
EU Considers Protecting Rights of Persecuted Christians
Christian Today reports that the European Union has taken the first steps to protecting Christian minorities in member countries and around the world. "We've set up a working group and are defining what bilateral action can be taken between Europe and the individual countries where Christians' rights are in danger," said Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. "We're studying which international initiatives the EU can adopt to bring this problem more clearly into focus." Frattini said this is the first time a "common protocol" has been drawn up to "closely monitor" attacks on at-risk minorities, including Christians. The protocol would be issued to member embassies throughout the world, and will rely on data in watchdog Open Doors' Watch List. "You see, Christians have never had a political group offering them strong support through their governments," Frattini said. "We discovered this when we found ourselves alone in contesting the ruling on crucifixes.
Mo. Church with Gay Pastor Readmitted to ELCA
Religion News Service reports that a Missouri bishop has lifted the public censure of a church that hired a lesbian priest in 2000. Abiding Peace Lutheran Church in North Kansas City, Mo. is believed to be a first since the nation's largest Lutheran denomination removed a ban on gay clergy last summer. Bishop Gerald Mansholt of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America lifted the public censure and admonition against the church in a Jan. 25 letter that was reported this week by the ELCA. The censure had been imposed by a previous bishop. In 2000, Abiding Peace hired the Rev. Donna Simon, an open lesbian, as pastor. Before the final step to her ordination, Simon told an ELCA committee that she could not comply with the denomination's ban on gay and lesbian leaders. That ban was lifted last summer at the 4.5 million-member ELCA's General Assembly. "Now there's reconciliation, and we're part of the (church) that we've loved so long," Simon told the ELCA's News Service. "The lifting of the censure has touched us emotionally."
Southern Baptist to Send 150,000 'Food Buckets' to Haiti
Baptist Press reports that organizers of the "Buckets of Hope" initiative for Haiti relief estimate that 150,000 food buckets will be shipped to Port-au-Prince to aid the earthquake-devastated country. Several Baptist state conventions have announced a goal for the number of buckets their state's church members will contribute including Kentucky with 10,000 buckets and Tennessee with 7,000 buckets. "Exciting things are happening to the Buckets of Hope campaign in Colorado," Mike Gaines, disaster relief director for the Colorado Baptist General Convention, said, adding that churches there are turning Buckets of Hope into outreach efforts. Wal-mart, the world's largest retailer, also is supporting the project by encouraging individual store managers to cooperate with Southern Baptists who come in to buy buckets and items to go in them. The program allows families to purchase five-gallon, plastic buckets and pack them with required foodstuffs for $30 each. The food in a single bucket can feed a Haitian family for a week.