Religion Today Summaries - November 21, 2011

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - November 21, 2011

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Growing Concerns for the Future of Syrian Christians
  • Evangelist Shot Dead in Pakistan
  • Pakistan Bans 'Obscene' Words in Text Messages, Including 'Jesus Christ'
  • N.J. Nurses Say Lawsuit Hasn't Stopped Abortion Duties


Growing Concerns for the Future of Syrian Christians

Christian Today reports of growing concerns for the future of Christians in Syria, including the thousands of Iraqi immigrants seeking refuge there. At least 3,500 people have been killed at the hands of the Syrian military in the past eight months since anti-government demonstrations broke out, and president Bashar al-Assad continues to defy calls to step down amid international outcry at the regime's crackdown. Christians in Syria, however, fear that if Assad falls, the nation will descend into further chaos as Iraq did post-Saddam Hussein -- with militant Islamists rising to power and freely wreaking havoc on the Christian community. "Most of the Iraqi Christians living in Syria are worried because they do not want to see Syrian Christians passing through the same path as happened with them in Iraq," said one church leader. Many Syrian Christians have stayed away from the anti-Assad protests because of the reasonable amount of religious freedom they enjoyed under his rule, said Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo of Barnabus Fund: "Syria has been very much a safe haven for Christians in the Middle East, one of the few Arab countries where they were treated with respect and had equality with the Muslim majority. Syria also has a history of welcoming in persecuted Christians from other countries. But I greatly fear that within the near future we will see a new Iraq developing in Syria."

Evangelist Shot Dead in Pakistan

An evangelist was shot dead in Karachi, Pakistan, Nov. 16 by an unidentified gunman in what his family believes was a radical Muslim group's targeting of a Christian, Compass Direct News reports. Jameel Saawan was opening the doors of his cosmetics shop with a helper when a young man appeared and shot him in the neck and face, then fled on a motorcycle on which two others were waiting. Saawan, a widely respected member of the Christian community who visited several families every day to share the Bible, had received death threats two years ago after voicing his desire to start a welfare organization for poor Christians, but had not been threatened recently. "We firmly believe my father was killed because of his preaching of the Bible, because there is no other reason," Saawan's son said. "It wasn't a robbery, because the assassin only walked towards my father and shot at him."

Pakistan Bans 'Obscene' Words in Text Messages, Including 'Jesus Christ'

The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) has ordered mobile phone companies to begin blocking text messages containing any of 1,500 designated "obscene" English and Urdu words, of which "Jesus Christ" is included, ASSIST News Service reports. Many of the words to be blocked are swear words or sexually explicit terms, but the list also includes words like "headlights," "athlete's foot," "nonsense" and "tampon," raising questions about practicality in addition to questions about religious freedom. "The inclusion of the name of Jesus Christ within this list of offensive words is another example of the intense hatred that resonates within Pakistan toward Christians," said Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Authority. "It beggars belief that 'Jesus Christ' could be considered a word offensive to Muslims, as he is written about as a great prophet in the Quran." In a letter leaked to Pakistani media, the PTA said the order was legal under a 1996 law preventing people from using "false, fabricated, indecent or obscene" language in any form of telecommunications, and also stated that free speech could be restricted "in the interest of the glory of Islam."

N.J. Nurses Say Lawsuit Hasn't Stopped Abortion Duties

Twelve New Jersey nurses who objected to being forced to assist with abortions said Monday that they were still being compelled to do the procedures, despite having filed a federal lawsuit against their hospital, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, the Examiner reports. "My spiritual conviction tells me I would not want to kill innocent babies, and not in my wildest dreams, as a nurse, as a person, as a Christian, did I ever think that I would be trained to assist with this kind of procedure," said Fe Esperanza Racpan-Vinoya. All 12 nurses said they had made their objections known to their supervisors and hospital officials, but their concerns were dismissed or ignored. In response to a previous restraining order issued by a federal judge, hospital officials had said they would temporarily stop requiring nurses to assist, but the nurses said they were still being scheduled for abortion procedures. "UMDNJ's coercive anti-conscience policy is not only highly unethical but blatantly illegal," said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith. "Federal and state law couldn't be clearer on this matter." The case is scheduled to be heard in federal court Dec. 5.

Publication date: November 21, 2011