Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Iranian Convert Stabbed to Death
An Iranian convert to Christianity was kidnapped last week from his home in northeastern Iran and stabbed to death, his bleeding body thrown in front of his home a few hours later. Ghorban Tori, 50, was pastoring an independent house church of convert Christians in Gonbad-e-Kavus. Since the murder on Nov. 22, representatives of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) have arrested and severely tortured 10 other Christians in several cities, including Tehran. MOIS officials have also visited known Christian leaders since Tori’s murder and have instructed them to warn acquaintances that “the government knows what you are doing, and we will come for you soon.” Tori, who converted to Christianity more than 10 years ago, is the fifth Protestant pastor assassinated in Iran by unidentified killers in the past 11 years. His murder came just days after Iran’s new hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called an open meeting with the nation’s 30 provincial governors, during which he reportedly vowed, “I will stop Christianity in this country.” “This was apparently a green light from the president of Iran to go out and start killing Christians,” a source said.
Jews and the Christian Right: Is the Honeymoon Over?
Michelle Goldberg, Salon
Worried by increasingly strident evangelical rhetoric, Jewish leaders are daring to criticize conservative Christians. Will an alliance held together only by a shared support for Israel survive? Traditionally, Jewish leaders have seen separation of church and state as key to Jewish equality, but with an evangelical president and an alliance of convenience regarding Israel, Jewish leaders have been quiet as leaders of the religious right trumpeted plans to "take America back." This month, however, two major Jewish figures -- Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, and Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism -- have taken on the religious right and, by extension, the Republican Party. By doing so, they have enraged some evangelicals and opened a fissure in the larger Jewish community. Some leaders are worried about provoking a conservative backlash and ushering in a new era of anti-Semitism, while others rejoice that someone has finally articulated what so many American Jews have been thinking.
Search Goes on for Christian Peacemaker Kidnapped in Iraq
The search continues for a Christian peacemaker who has been kidnapped in Iraq, alongside an American and two Canadians. Two British Muslims on a religious pilgrimage have also been killed in an indiscriminate bus ambush by insurgents that also injured three other people. Kidnappee Professor Norman Kember, 74, is a long-time advocate of nonviolence. He has been involved both in the Baptist Peace Fellowship and in Fellowship of Reconciliation (FoR), an international network of religious pacifists. Professor Kember had decided to join a two-week visit to the insurgency-torn country. He had been telling friends that he could not remain a spectator any longer, despite being aware of the risks involved. The team he was working in was established by Mennonites and other historic peace churches in North America, working to build trust and cooperation among conflicting groups. Local security forces and a multinational hostage team are currently searching for all four humanitarian workers. Last week the post-invasion Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said in an interview with a British newspaper that the abuses now taking place in Iraq were as bad if not worse than those that occurred under Saddam Hussein. The UK government is urging Britons not to travel to Iraq at the moment.
Hard-Core Bikers Rally for Nation's Most At-Risk Kids this Christmas
To the average person, leather-clad, Harley-riding bikers partnering with traditional church volunteers may seem like an unlikely alliance. But to 550,000 of our nation's most vulnerable children, the pairing is a match made in heaven. Prison Fellowship's Angel Tree program will reconnect more than a half-million children of prisoners - our nation's most at-risk kids - with their incarcerated parents through delivery of customized Christmas gifts. Joining in this effort is Fellowship Riders, a Dallas-based national non-profit organization comprised of motorcycle riders, whose members will deliver gifts to prisoners' kids through affiliates across the country. Studies show that inmates' children are five times more likely to end up in prison themselves. Since 1982, the Angel Tree program has reached out as the only nationwide effort to exclusively assist children whose fathers or mothers are behind bars. "When I got Christmas presents from my dad, I knew that he loved me and remembered me even if we couldn't be together," said 11-year-old Emily Starling-Dickerson of Irving, TX, who received Angel Tree gifts for four years on behalf of her incarcerated father and will, this year, bring the story full-circle by delivering gifts to a local child whose parent is incarcerated.