Religion Today Summaries - March 22, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - March 22, 2006

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:

  • ICC Calls on Afghan President to Pardon Christian Under Death Sentence for Apostasy
  • Kidnapped Pastor Released Unharmed in Northeast India
  • Catholic Priest Murdered in Goa State, India
  • New Attacks by Burma Army Displace over 3,000 Karen

ICC Calls on Afghan President to Pardon Christian Under Death Sentence for Apostasy

Human rights group International Christian Concern (ICC) is calling on Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai to defend religious freedom and freedom of conscience in his country by pardoning Abdul Rahman. According to a Christian Newswire release, Rahman is facing the death penalty for apostasy (rejecting Islam). Rahman, 41, converted from Islam to Christianity over 16 years ago. He was turned in to authorities last month by his own family. Afghanistan’s constitution declares that no law can be contrary to the religion of Islam, which radical Muslims say demands the death penalty for any Muslim who abandons their faith. However, the constitution also demands that the state protect the liberty and dignity of all people, affirming the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The ICC is therefore urging the government of Afghanistan to consider that Islam is not in conflict with this portion of the UN’s declaration, and even quotes the Qur’an in support of freedom of conscience. "The Afghani authorities should drop this case immediately," the ICC states. "Afghanistan has already had enough of religious extremism under the Taliban. The world is watching to see if Afghanistan has entered the 21st century."

Kidnapped Pastor Released Unharmed in Northeast India

A Compass Direct release notes that the Rev. Tongkhojang Lunkim was released at 1 p.m. on Saturday March 18 after being held captive for two months by the Kuki Liberation Army (KLA) in Manipur state, Northeast India. Before handing him over, the KLA forced Lunkim to apologize for and stop his alleged “anti-KLA activities.” The Rev. M. Haokhothong, Lunkim’s son-in-law, told Compass he was grateful for those who have prayed for the release. “I met Lunkim this evening in his home, but unfortunately he is too weak and unable to speak,” Haokhothong said. “He is on a glucose drip, and a nurse is attending him.” Lunkim – a missionary and human rights activist – was a key spokesman for the people of Manipur.

Catholic Priest Murdered in Goa State, India

The murder of priest Eusebio Ferrao in Goa state early Saturday morning March 18 has sent shockwaves through the Catholic communities of India, Compass Direct reports. Fr. Ferrao, 61, was parish priest of St. Francis Xavier Church in Macazana. Police said assailants evidently stabbed and hit the elderly priest repeatedly before strangling and smothering him. Fr. Ferrao’s body was discovered at around 6:30 a.m. when parishioners arrived for morning mass. Police said the suspects in the murder are two young men from Uttar Pradesh state, identified only as Amit and Manish, aged between 25 and 30 years, who had shared a meal with Fr. Ferrao the night before he was killed. The police have ruled out theft as a motive, since nothing was missing from the church premises. While police are baffled, local Christians believe Fr. Ferrao was targeted because of his recently published comments on religious riots in the south of Goa. Ferrao wrote regularly for two local newspapers, Roti (Bread) and Vauradeacho Ixt (The Worker’s Friend). In early March, he expressed his concern about rioting between Hindus and Muslims in Sanvordem, southern Goa.

New Attacks by Burma Army Displace over 3,000 Karen

Over 3,000 people are in hiding following recent attacks by the Burma Army in Western and Northern Karen State, ASSIST News reports. Several villages have been burned down and civilians killed. The Burma Army is laying more landmines in the area, and forcing those villagers who have not fled to work as porters for the military. According to a media advisory put out by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), soldiers from three Burma Army battalions on March 9 attacked Klaw Kee village in the Saw Ka Der area of Mon Township, western Karen State, according to reports received from the Free Burma Rangers. One 38 year-old man, Saw Maw Sae Kya, was shot dead, and two paddy barns were destroyed. The media release says the troops then attacked Maw La Kee village, where they burned down seven houses. At least 1,140 villagers have fled Mon Township and are hiding in the jungle. Constant Burma Army patrols in the area mean they cannot return to their homes. On the same day, CSW says, in Ler Doh Township, similar attacks took place, forcing 1,153 villagers from Kwey Der village into hiding. The CSW release states: "In the past two weeks attacks have also taken place against civilians in Toungoo District, northern Karen State, causing the displacement of over 700. Last month a further 640 were displaced, and they are unable to reach the Thai border due to Burma Army patrols. However, since December 2005 at least a thousand people have fled to the safety of the refugee camps in Thailand and many more may follow."