Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- After Church Attack, Iraqi Christians Question Future
- Arsonists Target Three Russian Churches
- Atlanta Pastor, Responding to Suits, Denies Sex Allegations
- Christian in Uzbekistan Fined for Jesus Film
After Church Attack, Iraqi Christians Question Future
Christians in Iraq are still reeling from Sunday's deadly church attack in Baghdad, which killed 58 people and wounded 75. "We've lost part of our soul now," Rudy Khalid, a 16-year-old Christian who lived across the street from Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad, told The New York Times. "Our destiny, no one knows what to say of it." Many families from Iraq's once-vibrant Christian minority have fled since 2003, when targeted violence became more frequent. An estimated 800,000 to 1.4 million lived in Iraq before then; the population has now dropped to maybe half that. "The government appears to be relatively powerless to change" the security situation for Christians, said Carl Moeller, president of persecution watchdog Open Doors USA. "[I]f conditions continue the way they are, the Christian population in Iraq will simply cease to exist within a few short years," he told Mission News Network.
Arsonists Target Three Russian churches
One church was almost totally destroyed and two other were scorched in Russia's North Caucasus province on Monday. Christian Today reports that the attacks, one in the village of Ordzhonikidzevsky and two in the nearby city of Karachaevsk, occured after someone threw flaming objects through church windows. The region is predominantly Muslim, but has seen very little violence against churches despite an insurgent presence. "Whatever religion a person believes in, he won't raise his hand against a temple or a mosque alike, for both of them are houses of God," said Ismail Berdiev, head of the regional Spiritual Administration for Muslims. He believes the attacks were aimed at destabilizing the region's religious peace.
Atlanta Pastor, Responding to Suits, Denies Sex Allegations
Atlanta megachurch pastor Eddie Long has filed official statements denying any kind of sexual relationship with the young men who accuse him of misconduct. "The plaintiff's claims of sexual misconduct are not true," each of the four responses filed by Long's attorneys says, according to CNN. The responses, each about 30 pages, offer a point-by-point response to the lawsuits of Anthony Flagg, 21; Maurice Robinson, 20; Jamal Parris, 23; and Spencer LeGrande, 22. The four say Long took each young man on extended trips and exploited his position as a spiritual counselor to pressure them into sexual relationships. Long's 25,000-member megachurch has almost uniformly stood with him against the charges.
Christian in Uzbekistan Fined for Jesus Film
Uzbekistan police reportedly confiscated a Christian's private property and then imposed a massive fine on him for owning a film about Jesus. According to Worthy News, five police officers burst into Murat Jalalov's family home on the pretense of checking his identity and confiscated his passport. The officials also confiscated 75 DVDs, including one Campus Crusade for Christ film on the life of Jesus. The state Religious Affairs Committee concluded the film "could be used among local ethnicities for missionary purposes" and banned it under Article 216-2 of the Criminal Code. Contray to international human rights commitments, Article 216-2 prohibits "attracting believers of one faith to another and other missionary activity" and carries a maximum of three years imprisonment. Jalalov now faces a nearly $2,000 fine.