Religion Today Summaries - November 22, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - November 22, 2004

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

  • Pakistan: Trouble and Triumph for Native Missionaries

  • Decision Reversed; Hispanic Fellowship Can Proceed with Building

  • Uzbekistan: Church Raided

  • Belarus: Government's Efforts Cannot Stop Spread of Gospel

Pakistan: Trouble and Triumph for Native Missionaries

Native missionaries in Pakistan report that despite multiple instances of persecution by Muslim extremists in recent weeks, their work is drawing people to the Lord in growing numbers. While the federal government has made efforts to protect Christians from mistreatment and grant religious freedom to all, certain radical Muslims and rogue police officers have actively and sometimes violently opposed Christians. A native gospel worker with an indigenous ministry in the Potohar region was kidnapped in October and held for three days, during which he suffered repeated beatings and deprivation of food as his captors tried to force him to renounce his faith. He was recently released.  Local police refused to listen to his complaints or to seek out and punish his kidnappers. Several native missionaries working in other isolated Islamic villages in rural areas were also threatened and beaten in September by those who opposed their work. Despite these episodes, churches in Pakistan continue to grow as more and more people turn to Christ. Native missionaries are taking full advantage of the relative freedom they currently enjoy, distributing Bibles and Bible portions by the hundreds to spiritually hungry individuals. The work of the Lord is advancing in Pakistan despite some efforts to stop it.

Decision Reversed; Hispanic Fellowship Can Proceed with Building
Allie Martin, AgapePress

A Hispanic church in Texas has won approval from city officials in a Dallas suburb to construct a worship center on church-owned property. This past summer, the Templo La Fe Worship Center sued the city of Balch Springs after city officials prevented the church from constructing its first church building on land the church purchased in 1997.  When the city failed to comply, the U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation into the matter. Hiram Sasser is director of litigation for Liberty Legal Institute (LLI), the Plano-based firm that sued the city on behalf of the church.  "In this case, this was really easy because the city wasn't following their own zoning regulations in the first place," the attorney explains. "They were intentionally discriminating against this small Hispanic church for no good reason." As Sasser explains, the city has now reversed its original decision and agreed to pay damages to the church and attorneys' fees and costs.  The LLI spokesman also commends the Hispanic church for the example it set by refusing to back down to the city. According to LLI, the members of the city council who originally blocked the church from building have since been recalled by local citizens.  A new council oversaw this recent settlement.

Uzbekistan: Church Raided
Charisma News Service

Police recently raided a church in the capital of Tashkent during Sunday worship, declaring the service an "illegal religious meeting" and demanding the pastor promise to stop all the church's activities. During the raid on Oct. 17, authorities demanded that Nikolai Shevchenko, pastor of Bethany Baptist Church, promise not to meet again in the church, but he declined to do so, Compass Direct reported. After confiscating samples of literature found in the church sanctuary and classrooms, the police left after telling Shevchenko and eight church members that they would be called to answer in court over the case. A member of the Baptist Union, Shevchenko's church has sought official registration for the last eight years. Despite a three-year lull in police actions against their religious activities, the congregation remains caught in an apparent standoff between local city regulations and the government's restrictive registration laws instituted in 1998, Compass reported. The members are an ethnic mix of Germans, Koreans, Uzbeks, Tatars, Kazakhs and Russians. With Sunday attendance averaging 130 or more, the church has since started two spin-off church groups in nearby districts of northeast Tashkent. (

Belarus: Government's Efforts Cannot Stop Spread of Gospel

Even as the government of Belarus begins to look more and more like the former Soviet regime in its repression of religious groups, evangelical churches are growing faster than ever. Indigenous ministries in Belarus are seeing many more people come to the Lord than they have in a long time. Government leadership is becoming ever more dictatorial in nature. In October 2002, Belarus passed the most repressive religion law in Europe. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has enforced the law throughout his two terms. A questionable October 17 election, which several international watch agencies have agreed failed to be truly democratic, has ensured that his repressive policies will continue during a 3rd term. These policies include severe restrictions on evangelical churches. All religious groups are required to register with the government, yet the registration process is so difficult that only Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Jewish groups are eligible. Non-registered evangelical churches are not allowed to construct church buildings unless they have 100 members over 18 years of age who have signed official forms. Open-air evangelistic meetings are illegal, as are house-church meetings with more than five people in attendance. Government policies also prohibit or make extremely difficult renting space to evangelical church groups. Please pray for the churches in Belarus as they persevere in an environment of opposition.