Religion Today Summaries - November 24, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - November 24, 2004

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

  • Crowds Came Out 'In a Big Way' For One of Billy Graham's Last Crusades

  • Chinese Authorities Jail Christian Pastor and Family

  • Liberia: Outburst of Religious Violence Threatens Christian Pastors

  • Vietnam: Church Workers Given Harsh Prison Sentences

Crowds Came Out 'In a Big Way' For One of Billy Graham's Last Crusades
Charisma News Service

More than 80,000 people gathered in the Rose Bowl on Sunday to hear evangelist Billy Graham preach on the last day of what probably was one of his final crusades. About 312,500 attended his four-day crusade in Pasadena, Calif., which marked the 55th anniversary of the Los Angeles revival that propelled Graham to national fame in 1949, the Associated Press (AP) reported. Crusade officials said almost 13,400 people accepted and recommitted to Christ during the crusade, including 3,400 on Sunday. The crowds nearly filled the 92,000-seat stadium, the largest U.S. venue ever booked for a Graham crusade. Graham, who turned 86 on Nov. 7, spoke for about 45 minutes Sunday, pausing only to sit down about halfway through his sermon. "Now I can preach another hour," he joked as he sat. The crusade was delayed for several months after Graham fell and broke his pelvis. More than 20,000 volunteers and pastors from about 1,200 local churches worked for months to plan the $5.4 million crusade, Assist News Service reported. Graham's advisers said the Rose Bowl crusade was the preacher's 416th worldwide, and likely his second-to-last ever. Health permitting, Graham is scheduled to preach in June in New York City. (

Chinese Authorities Jail Christian Pastor and Family
Allie Martin, AgapePress

A ministry to the persecuted church is watching a prominent Beijing house church leader's case with concern, noting that the Chinese Christian leader faces a harsh sentence if convicted in an upcoming trial. According to the Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), pastor Cai Zhuohua, a leading minister to six house churches in Beijing, will soon be formally tried in a government court. In September, the pastor was kidnapped by three plain-clothes officers as he returned home after a Bible study session. VOM spokesman Todd Nettleton says many believe the incident is related to a broad national campaign -- a program of government intimidation and persecution directed against Christians --  that started this past summer. The Chinese minister's wife and two other relatives have also been arrested, and the VOM spokesman says the ministry's contacts are saying that the detainees will probably face a fraud or tax evasion charge of some kind. Obviously the Communist authorities are considering convicting Pastor Cai, his wife, and the other relatives on criminal charges instead of the illegal religion charges, Nettleton says. He is urging American believers to pray for the prisoners of faith and also to send letters of concern to the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Liberia: Outburst of Religious Violence Threatens Christian Pastors

The fragile peace of this West African country was shaken in late October as violence erupted between Muslims and nominal Christian factions. Caught in the crossfires were several native Christian pastors. As Liberia slowly works towards a disarmament process after years of civil war, tensions remain high. Recent fighting broke out in and around Monrovia because of a property dispute between members of a traditionally Muslim ethnic group and a non-Muslim landowner. According to the leader of an indigenous ministry in Liberia supported by Christian Aid, multiple churches in the Monrovia area were burned down. Many Christians were attacked, and three pastors were killed. Some nominal Christians and non-Muslims escalated the violence by burning down mosques and targeting Muslims. The fighting, which lasted nearly a week but has since been contained, claimed about 20 lives. Thousands of dollars worth of property was damaged, and over 150 were injured. This incident has introduced a relatively new conflict to Liberia, that between Muslims and Christians. Past fighting has been mostly along ethnic and political lines. Native missionaries request prayer as they seek to spread the gospel of peace in this suffering country. Violence like this could cause increased opposition to Christianity among Liberia's Muslim minority. Pray that whatever happens, Christians would persevere in their faith.

Vietnam: Church Workers Given Harsh Prison Sentences
Charisma News Service

Six Mennonite church workers were recently given harsh prison sentences. On Nov. 12, pastor Nguyen Hong Quang, general secretary of the Vietnam Mennonite Church, was sentenced to three years in prison, Compass Direct reported. Quang and five colleagues were charged with "resisting officers of the law while doing their duty" in connection with a March 2 incident involving two undercover government operatives. A Ho Chi Minh City court also sentenced evangelist Pham Ngoc Thach to a two-year sentence. Nguyen Thanh Phuong, Nguyen Thanh Nhan, Le Thi Hong Lien and church elder Nguyen Hieu Nghia received sentences ranging from nine to 12 months. "On the basis of the legal issues and the realties of the case, we affirm that Rev. Nguyen Hong Quang and his fellow workers are not criminals guilty of the charges brought against them," a Vietnamese lawyer who asked to remain anonymous told Compass. Meanwhile, Lien, the sole woman among the six workers sentenced to prison, has been hospitalized with a "mental disease," prison officials said. Lien, 21, was arrested on June 30 and sentenced to a year in prison on Nov. 12. Lien's parents attempted to visit her in prison twice this month, but prison officials prevented them access. (