Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
China Balks at Bush Encouragement on Religious Freedom
Bill Wilson, Family News in Focus
President George W. Bush used his recent trip to China to press for improved human rights and religious freedom, but China was unresponsive, even defiant to the President’s exhortations. The President, who prayed with believers in a state-approved church, said, “My hope is that the government of China will not fear Christians who gather to worship openly.” But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was disappointed with the Chinese Response: “We’ve certainly not seen the progress that we would expect. And I think we will have to keep working on it.” Bob Fu of the China Aid Association added that there were no signs of goodwill toward the President by China on religious freedom. And Nina Shea of the Center for Religious Freedom says China is a growing power that no longer has to bend its policies to meet world expectations. “They are a repressing or persecuting government. They’re not trying to hide it. It’s very disturbing. I think they realize there are no ramifications.” President Bush’s visit did little to help the persecuted church, however, hours after the president left China, eight house church members were released from prison.
Catholic Villagers Join Protest against Israeli Separation Barrier
Judith Sudilovsky, Catholic News Service
Catholic residents of the small West Bank village of Aboud joined with some 100 other residents, Israeli activists, and international demonstrators to protest the encroaching Israeli separation barrier. The demonstrators gathered Nov. 18 at the edge of their village, where Israeli border police had set up a roadblock. There, the demonstrators chanted and heard anti-wall speeches from a Muslim leader and a Greek Orthodox priest. Two men held a sign that read "Build bridges not walls (Pope John Paul II)." When the demonstrators began crossing the roadblock, border police fired three stun grenades and began shooting tear gas, but no injuries were reported. Israel says it is building the barrier to protect the country from Palestinian terrorists. The village, which will become separated from more than 1,200 acres of farmland, has appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court for a rerouting of the wall, but the court has not ruled on the case. Losing the village lands, said parish member and village council member Saleh Saleh, 29, is "like losing something from your body or your soul. I don't think the demonstration will stop the wall from being built, but it is at least to tell ourselves and people that we don't need the wall and don't want it."
India: Threat to Burn Christians to Death Defused
Members of the Believers’ Church in the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh met peacefully Sunday, despite death and arson threats issued by Hindu extremists. “About 20 people came for the service. This was lower than usual as some villagers were facing opposition, but at least we were able to meet without incident,” Ramesh Masih, the son of Pastor Feroz Masih, said. The church meets in Masih’s house in the town of Baijnath. On November 4, extremists from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council) assaulted the elder Masih. After beating him, they told Masih that if he and his 60 church members failed to take part in a “reconversion” ceremony on November 20, they would burn them to death. The planned reconversion ceremony was apparently dropped due to police intervention. In the November 16 edition of a national Hindi daily, Amar Ujala, a senior VHP member, Baldev Sood, said the VHP would not “reconvert” the BCI Christians against their will. A recent police inquiry found that Masih had not converted anyone by force or by fraudulent means.
Consumers Flock to Weekend Shopping Boycott
Jody Brown and Allie Martin, AgapePress
A nationwide boycott aimed at Target Stores has succeeded in attracting hundreds of thousands of consumers who say they intend to shop elsewhere during the busiest shopping weekend of the year. On Nov. 18, the American Family Association (AFA) launched an online boycott against Target, citing the retailer's decision to ban Salvation Army kettles from their store entrances, and the use of "Merry Christmas" in their promotions and advertising. By Nov. 21, almost 300,000 individuals had "signed" an online petition indicating they planned to express their disapproval of that decision by avoiding Target during the Thanksgiving weekend. At press time, that number had jumped to more than 340,000. "Target's decision… has made them an easy bull's-eye for people who are fed up with politically correct retailers," says Randy Sharp, AFA's director of special projects. He says if Target does not want to wish him a Merry Christmas, that's fine with him. In return, Sharp says he will do his part to "make sure they don't have a profitable one." Meanwhile, home improvement retailer Lowe's has joined Target in striving to be politically correct this Christmas. Sharp says Lowe's “no longer sells Christmas trees. They've decided that it's more politically correct to sell 'holiday' trees.” The AFA is encouraging Christian consumers to call Lowe's at 1-800-44LOWES just to tell them "just how ridiculous the idea of selling 'holiday' trees is."