In Today's Edition:
- Chinese Christians Face 3 Years of 'Re-Education Through Labor'
- State Dept. Religious Liberty Report has Shortcomings
- Church Members Convicted of Child Abuse
- Israeli and Palestinian Youth Leaders Seek Reconciliation
>> Chinese Christians Face 3 Years of 'Re-Education Through Labor'
Allie Martin – Agape Press
Four Christian women who were released by a Chinese court last week have been arrested again by officers of China’s Public Security Bureau. The four were re-arrested only hours after they were found innocent of charges relating to their membership in an underground church. Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs says the four were arrested to keep them silent. "All of them were sexually abused and tortured while they were in custody, and were planning a lawsuit against the police and against prison officials that had allowed this abuse to go on," Nettleton explains. "So they have been re-arrested by the police and sent away for three years of what the Chinese call 're-education through labor.’ " Police in China can send a prisoner to jail for up to three years without a formal trial or formal charges. Nettleton says the treatment of the four women proves that China is not serious about religious freedom. "I think we need to be on the phone to the Chinese embassy and to our government officials," he says. "Chinese President Jiang Zemin will be in Texas later this month to meet with President Bush, and our hope is that [Bush] will be very firm in raising the issue of religious freedom in China."
>> State Dept. Religious Liberty Report has Shortcomings
(Baptist Press) The State Department's latest report on international religious liberty is an important accomplishment, but it is a "less effective instrument of U.S. foreign policy than it could be. Though the annual report demonstrates a great amount of work, in some places it is not complete, muffles legitimate criticism and comes to questionable conclusions,” said Felice Gaer, chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Gaer offered her observations about the report in a hearing before a House of Representatives subcommittee. “The report did not include a sufficient explanation of policies the State Department is implementing to advance religious liberty,” Gaer told the subcommittee. The International Religious Freedom Act, which was enacted in 1998, requires the president to take specific actions against governments designated as countries of particular concern. Under the law, he is provided a range of options, from diplomacy to economic sanctions. The president also has the authority to waive any action.
>> Church Members Convicted of Child Abuse
According to Charisma News Service, an Atlanta pastor and four members of his congregation were convicted of abuse for whipping two boys in front of the church. Arthur Allen Jr., who leads the House of Prayer, and the other defendants were found guilty of aggravated assault and cruelty to children, were given prison sentences ranging from 20 to 90 days, fines, probation and, as reported by the Associated Press, ordered to attend parenting classes. Members of the 150-member independent congregation have repeatedly said they have the right to discipline their children and that the church was being persecuted for its biblical beliefs. Last year, state welfare authorities took 49 children of House of Prayer members. Since then, all but six -- the children of the defendants -- have been returned. Serving as his own lawyer, Allen said corporal punishment is sometimes necessary and can prevent violent behavior later in life. Asked if he would follow the conditions of his probation, especially regarding disciplining children, he said: "I'll follow the commandments of God."
>> Israeli and Palestinian Youth Leaders Seek Reconciliation
Michael Ireland and Evan Thomas, ASSIST News Service
A group of 34 youth leaders, both from Israel and Palestinian areas, traveled to Turkey for renewal, retreat and training in youth ministry and reconciliation. This initiative was born out of Musalaha restoration ministry's networking within the youth ministries of the Palestinian Christian and Israeli Messianic communities. “The makeup of the group itself -- carefully balanced between young men and women from the Palestinian Christian and the Israeli Messianic communities -- also contributed to the palpable tensions it brought with it. The differences in identity, language and mentality, coupled with the hostilities that exist between our peoples, forced us to face the challenge of biblically-based reconciliation if we were to fellowship at all," said Evan Thomas, a Musalaha staff member. One Palestinian paricipant said: "Reconciliation is not a step, it's a process. Observing how we all communicated and how God was there made me realize that He makes it possible to change hearts."