Religion Today Summaries - Nov. 15, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Nov. 15, 2006

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

  • Vietnam Removed From List of Religious Freedom Abusers
  • U.S. Christians Should Heed Europe's Example, Ministry Head Says
  • Christians Face Double Challenge in Gaza
  • Leaked Vietnamese Government Manual Outlines Plan to Subdue Protestants

Vietnam Removed From List of Religious Freedom Abusers

The State Department Monday removed the country of Vietnam from a list of religious persecutors, but Vietnamese activists blasted the move. The State Department said Vietnam no longer qualified for the list of "countries of particular concern" (CPC) for egregious religious freedom abuses. "Vietnam is not being re-designated as a country of particular concern this year," State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez told "The reason is that Vietnam has made significant improvement towards advancing religious freedom and no longer fits the criteria of severe violator as defined in the International Religious Freedom Act," he said. Vasquez added that Vietnam had released all religious prisoners. "I disagree," said Diem Do, chairman of Viet Tan, a reform party that advocates democracy and economic development of Vietnam. "I think religious persecution is still happening inside Vietnam right now. I don't think all religious prisoners have been released yet, and even if they have released a few or a number of people, that doesn't mean that these people are free." Apart from removing Vietnam from the list, the State Department on Monday added one new country, Uzbekistan. Others on the list are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

U.S. Christians Should Heed Europe's Example, Ministry Head Says

The head of a Minnesota-based ministry says the United States needs to take serious note of what happens when an entire continent dumps Christianity. Messianic Jewish believer Jan Markell of Olive Tree Ministries believes Europe is imploding because it has turned its back on Christ. According to AgapePress, Markell notes that while Christian churches continue to shut down all over Europe, mosques continue to spring up as the Islamic population soars in countries like Great Britain, France, and Germany. Europe has turned its back on God, the Olive Tree Ministries founder and director asserts, and she says she does not think God "takes that very kindly, when He is just plain thrown off of a continent." Meanwhile, Markell says European officials are "appeasing or trying to appease Islam over in Europe, and you can't." Radical Islamists cannot be appeased, she says, because "they don't assimilate anywhere. They want their own society; but more frightening than that is, they want Sharia law. They want Muslim law where they move into." European governments are being "politically correct," the ministry founder observes, and she says they are thinking that "if we just do right by these Muslims that are right now burning down much of France, they're going to like us." But those who think this way are dead wrong, Markell insists, because radical Muslims "are never going to like the West.

Christians Face Double Challenge in Gaza

The head of Open Doors USA, a ministry that supports persecuted Christians worldwide, says believers in Gaza are persevering under increased pressure, AgapePress reports. Open Doors' president, Dr. Carl Moeller, spent this past weekend at the only evangelical church in the West Bank, the Baptist Church of Gaza, to commemorate the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. He says the situation for Christians in Gaza is desperate, due to numerous challenges. "It's desperate for everyone living in Gaza right now, but the Christian community is particularly hard hit because they're hit from two directions," Moeller explains. "They're hit from the direction that everyone else is in Gaza: the economic hardship that's there," he says; "but Christians are persecuted not just by the economic restrictions but by Muslims in the neighborhood." For several years now, workers with Open Doors have ministered to those on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Christian organization notes that a small body of evangelical believers are making a major impact in war-torn Gaza.

Leaked Vietnamese Government Manual Outlines Plan to Subdue Protestants

ASSIST News Service reports that a British-based human rights organization has learned about a Vietnamese government-sponsored plan to dampen the spread of Protestantism among ethnic minorities in the country’s north-west highlands. The news comes from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which learned about an internal Vietnamese government training manual, which CSW reported outlines a plan "to resolutely subdue the abnormally rapid and spontaneous development of the Protestant religion." According to CSW, the manual, entitled "Training Document: Concerning the Task of the Protestant Religion in the Northern Mountainous Region," appears to have been issued by a Vietnamese government department, the Central Bureau of Religious Affairs. CSW stated the document acknowledges "spiritual need for a portion of our people." However, CSW commented that it "betrays a deep antagonism in the official attitude towards Protestantism. It creates a vast loophole whereby local authorities are empowered to arbitrate on the legitimacy of congregations, and to force newer Protestant Christians to renounce their faith." CSW's Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas, said in a news release, "The emergence of this document is highly incriminating at a time when Vietnam is trying to show a positive face to the world."