Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today’s edition:
Model Iranian Prisoner Given Home Visits
Peter Lamprecht, Compass Direct
Jailed 14 months ago for converting to Christianity, former Iranian army colonel Hamid Pourmand has been allowed to visit his family on a monthly basis since August. Pourmand has reportedly developed good rapport with both guards and prisoners at Evin Prison. Despite earlier reports that Pourmand’s case had been appealed before the Iranian Supreme Court, sources now say that his lawyer has decided to drop the appeal out of fear that it would be perpetually delayed, giving authorities an excuse to keep the Christian in prison. While in prison, Pourmand has been psychologically tortured – more than once told that he would be imminently hanged, and at other times forced to listen to the screams of children.
Members of Air Force Seek to Intervene in Lawsuit to Stand Up for Free Speech
On behalf of two officers in the U.S. Air Force, attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed a motion to intervene Monday against a lawsuit designed to stop any member of the Air Force from sharing his or her religious views with fellow members while on duty. "The First Amendment applies to everyone, including America's fighting men and women who are on duty 24/7," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster. "Our clients wish to intervene in this lawsuit because the outcome could significantly impair their constitutional rights." The lawsuit seeks to silence religious speech in the Air Force through the following proposed policy: No member of the USAF, including a chaplain, is permitted to evangelize, proselytize, or in any related way attempt to involuntarily convert, pressure, exhort or persuade a fellow member of the USAF to accept their own religious beliefs while on duty. “I consider my constitutional right to discuss my faith without censorship or fear of retribution as valuable to the military and the future of our nation as the aircraft, bombs, and bullets I am trained to employ."
U.S.Names Religious Freedom Violators
Patrick Goodenough, CNSNews
A new State Department report on global religious freedom has cited eight countries for particularly severe abuses. "These are countries where governments have engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom over the past year," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Washington Tuesday. "We are committed to seeking improvements in each of these countries." The eight named as "countries of particular concern" (CPCs) are Burma, China, North Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Vietnam. Designation as a CPC takes place under 1998 legislation which provides for the U.S. government to take punitive steps against violators of religious freedom. The U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom has recommended CPC status for all eight of the countries named Tuesday, as well as three others – Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Other countries criticized for less serious infringements included Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Brunei, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, Pakistan, Russia, Sri Lanka and Turkey. France, Germany and Belgium were cited for practices of branding minority religions as dangerous cults or sects. Rice said that of the eight CPCs, Vietnam had worked on its record and could eventually be removed from the list if improvement continues. Improvements were also reported in India, Turkmenistan, Georgia and the United Arab Emirates.
Riots in FranceConcern Missionaries
France is already a difficult mission field, with many hearts closed to the Gospel. Now, more than a week of violence in France has missionaries on alert. While the violence has only claimed one life so far, nearly 1,500 vehicles have been burned as minority-Muslim youth ravage the streets. Greater Europe Mission’s France field director Charles Cross says they have several families close to the violence. "Today I spoke with a missionary family whose daughter happens to be visiting and she was heading out to a Bible study and was actually surrounded by a gang of Muslim youth. They really didn't do anything. It was probably more for the purpose of intimidating her and scaring her." Reports indicate the growing violence is forcing France to confront long-simmering anger in its suburbs, where many Africans and their French-born children struggle with high unemployment, racial discrimination and despair. It's fertile ground for Muslim extremists offering frustrated youths a way out. Cross says this news doesn't deter GEM from their goal of sharing the Gospel with those living in France. He is asking Christians to "pray for the Lord to bring peace and at the same time for the Lord to open up people's hearts.”