Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Pastor Charged with 'Forced Conversion' in India
The chief of a local Hindu extremist group told Pastor Masih Das Rai of Chattisgarh state that he wanted to embrace Christianity, then sprang a trap on the pastor at the baptism ceremony. On November 10, the day he was to be baptized, Govind Verma, chief of a local chapter of the Bharatiya Janata Party, instead notified a militant Hindu organization that then attacked Rai and 12 other Christians as they were worshiping. Just six months ago, Verma had threatened to harm Rai if he continued his pastoral work in Raipur district. The mob beat Rai and his companions and handed them over to the police, who interrogated the pastor before arresting him for "forced conversion."
Uzbekistan Protestant Churches Persecuted Despite Registration
The Christian Post
Persecution of Christians in Uzbekistan intensified recently after the nation’s Supreme Court imposed a ban not only on the activities of unregistered churches, but also the registered churches. On Nov. 9, Uzbekistan's Supreme Court ruled to keep the ban imposed on the Emmanuel Full Gospel Protestant Church in Nukus despite the Church’s registered status, according to Norway-based Forum 18. Forum 18, which monitors religious persecution in Communist and former Soviet states, noted that Emmanuel Church was the last legal Protestant Church in northwest Uzbekistan. "The court took no account of the church's views and the verdict means only one thing: it thinks the Church doesn't exist," one Protestant involved in the case told Forum 18. Emmanuel Church has been threatened with closure since June. In September 2004, Forum 18 reported that the church was accused of missionary activity among fellow-students of Nukus University and holding its services in premises registered for business purposes, which are both violations of the law. Nevertheless, the Church has denied the claims and has continued to appeal for its existence over the last five months.
Families of Beheaded Indonesian Girls Forgive Killers
The three families who suffered the loss of their young daughters when they were brutally murdered are still in shock and grief over the horrible way they died. On October 29, a group of unidentified men wearing masks beheaded the girls with machetes as they walked to school. The father of one girl who survived the attacks believes that the girls were targeted because they defied Idul Fitre, an important Muslim holiday signifying the end of Ramadan when "there should be no school, but the Christian school is open.” The deaths have brought unity to the Christian churches in Poso, and the lives of the girls have encouraged believers to be strong in the faith. Their parents have released forgiveness to the murderers of their daughters. They believe that it is God who will judge them. Markus Sambuwe, the father of one of the girls, remarked," I am really angry, but the Holy Spirit touched my heart and changed me. I forgive them just as Jesus has forgiven my sins." The girls’ pastor said, “We hope peace will come to Poso. Because of the three girls who were martyred, we are challenged, and our faith is put to a test like gold. But we become strong because of their example.” While tensions remain high in Poso, Christians are, so far, responding in a spirit of forgiveness and restraint.
Bible Belt Residents Most Charitable in U.S.
New Englanders remain among the most tightfisted in the country when it comes to charitable giving while Bible Belt residents are among the most generous, according to an annual index. For the fourth year running, New Hampshire was the most miserly state, according to the Catalogue of Philanthropy's Generosity Index. Mississippi remained at the top for generosity. The index, which takes into account both "having" and "giving," is based on average adjusted gross incomes and the value of itemized charitable donations reported to the Internal Revenue Service on 2003 tax returns, the latest available. However, its methodology has been criticized and has helped give rise to new studies of charitable giving. "We believe that generosity is a function of how much one gives to the ability one has to give," said Martin Cohn, a spokesman for the Catalogue for Philanthropy, a Boston-based nonprofit that publishes a directory of nonprofit organizations. Using that standard, the 10 most generous states were, in descending order, Mississippi, Arkansas, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Utah, South Carolina and West Virginia.