Religion Today Summaries - Oct. 20, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Oct. 20, 2009

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

  • Petition Seeks Repeal of Pakistan's Blasphemy Laws
  • Churches Propel Child Witch Hunts in Africa
  • Franklin Graham Preaches to 10,000 at China Megachurch
  • Taliban in Pakistan Threaten Christians

Petition Seeks Repeal of Pakistan's Blasphemy Laws

Religion News Service reports that a petition calling for the repeal of Pakistan's blasphemy laws has been delivered to the United Nation High Commissioner for Human Rights. The laws impose the death sentence on a person found desecrating the Quran, often with little evidence. The signatories say the law is used to settle scores with non-Muslims and has been exploited to incite hatred and attacks against Pakistan's minority Christian community in recent times. "These laws condemn to death any person who desecrates the Holy Quran," said the petition, which bears more than 9,000 signatures. "The testimony of just one Muslim is sufficient to bring charges against the alleged culprit who is then immediately put in jail, where he often remains for months or years pending trail."

Churches Propel Child Witch Hunts in Africa

The Los Angeles Times reports that rogue churches and pastors may be involved in fully half of cases against "witch children" in Africa. "It is an outrage what they are allowing to take place in the name of Christianity," said Gary Foxcroft, head of nonprofit Stepping Stones Nigeria. Poverty and lack of education make families susceptible to accusations, and willing to follow pastors who proclaim the Biblical injunction of "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." The fast spread of evangelical Christianity, paired with traditional beliefs, has contributed to the roughly 15,000 alleged cases of "child witchcraft" in Nigeria. About 1,000 of those children were killed. "When communities come under pressure, they look for scapegoats," Martin Dawes, a spokesman for the United Nations Children's Fund. "It plays into traditional beliefs that someone is responsible for a negative change ... and children are defenseless."

Franklin Graham Preaches to 10,000 at China Megachurch

The Christian Post reports that 10,000 people packed a Chinese church to hear American evangelist Franklin Graham on Sunday. The sermon at Bethel Church of Baoding, located about 120 miles south of Beijing, was Graham's second to the Chinese people in two years. "I'm here today to tell you that not only does God know who you are, He loves you," the evangelist said. Graham's grandfather worked in China as a medical director for 25 years, and his mother, the late Ruth Bell Graham, was born there. While house churches and unapproved denominations often face discrimination and persecution from Chinese authorities, the church where Graham preached is affiliated with the government-approved Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the China Christian Council.

Taliban in Pakistan Threaten Christians

ASSIST News Service reports that members of the Taliban sent threatening letters in Sargodha, Pakistan warning Christian leaders to convert to Islam or face dire consequences. According to International Christian Concern, believers in the area were told to convert to Islam, pay a jizya tax (an Islamic tax imposed on religious minorities) or leave the country. If Christians refuse to accept the choices given to them, the letter said that they "would be killed, their property and homes would be burnt to ashes and their women would be treated as sex slaves. And they themselves would be responsible for this." Islamists sent the letter to Shiite Muslims (who are a religious minority) and Christian schools, companies and even a hospital.