Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Robertson Loses Seat on Christian TV Board
An AP story reports that Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson, criticized by some evangelicals for recent controversial comments, lost a bid for re-election to the National Religious Broadcasters' board of directors. Robertson, founder of the Virginia Beach-based Christian Broadcasting Network, was one of 38 candidates for 33 board seats during the NRB's recent convention. The group represents mostly evangelical radio and TV broadcasters. NRB President Frank Wright said there was no broad effort to distance the group from Robertson. But "there was broad dismay with some of Pat's comments and a feeling they were not helpful to Christian broadcasters in general," he said in Wednesday's Washington Post. In the past few months, Robertson suggested that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez should be assassinated and that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment for pulling out of the Gaza Strip. A Robertson spokeswoman said Thursday that he had been a board member for 30 years but attended only one board meeting "due to his extensive schedule."
Cuba Jails Evangelical ChurchLeader
Last week Cuban authorities jailed an evangelical pastor and former president of his denomination, apparently on charges of aiding illegal emigrants. Relatives of the Rev. Carlos Lamelas, however, said the supposed allegations against him are groundless. “They accuse him of getting people out of the country illegally, which is a big lie,” said one. “If he had that kind of money, he wouldn’t be living with hunger like he is now.” Some sources believe police targeted Lamelas because he has challenged the Castro regime on religious rights issues. Police allowed Uramis Lamelas a 10-minute visit with her husband on Monday (February 27), one week following his arrest. She said he appeared “exhausted and depressed” and that he had been isolated from other inmates during his confinement.
U.S. Commission says it is 'Alarmed' at Treatment of Iran's Religious Minorities
The United States should speed up attempts to protect the religious freedom and other human rights of beleaguered minorities in Iran, a federal advisory panel has warned. Baptist Press reports that the U.S. Commission on International Freedom called for Washington to take action amid what it described as rapidly deteriorating conditions for religious minorities in the Islamic state, even though it acknowledged the White House’s policy alternatives are limited. Meanwhile, Iran was named March 1 as the third worst persecutor of Christians by Open Doors. Iran moved up two spots from Open Doors’ 2005 list and now trails only North Korea and Saudi Arabia for recognition as the world’s most severe persecutor of followers of Christ. Threats by political and religious leaders, as well as imprisonments and violence, have increased for religious minorities in Iran in recent months, the USCIRF said in a recent news release. Conditions had already begun to decline before Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected Iran’s president in August, but public remarks by the new president and other leaders have demonstrated things could become worse for non-Muslims in the country, the commission said. There is no direct diplomatic relationship between the United States and Iran. The State Department has designated Iran as one of the “countries of particular concern,” a list of the world’s worst violators of religious liberty, since it began making such classifications in 1999.
Believers Framed for Murder
A Gospel for Asia native missionary and several other believers are in jail because of a plot by radical Hindus to frame them for the murder of a child. The 16-month-old child was suffering from a prolonged illness and was under medical care in Rajasthan, India. Because the parents had quarreled with the pastor's family over some land, when the child died the radical Hindus saw an opportunity to place the blame on the Christians. Apparently, members of a local Hindu political party advised the parents to dash their dead child's body against some rocks, breaking its bones. They then took the body to a doctor for a post-mortem examination. Only after threats from the radical Hindus did the physician reluctantly file a false report, citing murder as the cause. Then the radicals advised the parents to file murder charges against, among others, a GFA missionary and nine other Believers Church members, saying that the murder was part of a plot to grab land for a church building.