Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 18, 2007

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 18, 2007

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

  • US Religion Report Faults Iraq, China But Commends Vietnam and Saudi Arabia
  • Pakistani Christian Unexpectedly Acquitted of 'Blasphemy'
  • Pentecostal Church's Alleged 'Mass Conversion' of Indian Dalits Sparks Hindu Protest
  • Baptist Mission Board Envisions 3,000 More Missionaries

US Religion Report Faults Iraq, China But Commends Vietnam and Saudi Arabia

A U.S. State Department report released on Friday September 14 has said that political violence in Iraq has significantly impaired religious freedom there. But the annual world-wide survey cited improvements in conditions for religious adherents in, among other places, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam, ASSIST News Service reports. This was revealed in a story filed from the State Department by Voice of America’s David Gollus. In it Gollust said, “The annual report, which this year covered 198 countries and territories, is required under an act of Congress, and countries found to be significant violators of religious freedom are subject to U.S. sanctions.” U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom John Hanford said the past year saw progress against religion-based discrimination in a diverse list of countries including Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, Bangladesh and India. But he said half the world's population continues to live under persecution or serious restrictions of religious freedom in many countries, among them Iran, Eritrea, Burma and China.

Pakistani Christian Unexpectedly Acquitted of 'Blasphemy'

Compass Direct News reports that a Pakistani judge this morning unexpectedly cleared a Christian teenager of charges that he had ripped up pages containing verses from the Quran, the Christian’s lawyer said. Judge Muhammad Abdul Sattar acquitted Shahid Masih, 18, at a lower court hearing in Faisalabad after prosecution witnesses Mohammad Younis and Khalid Mehmood dropped their claims that Masih’s co-defendant told them he had seen Masih tear pages from a book explaining Quranic verses. Muslim teenager Muhammad Ghaffar had allegedly witnessed the act while he and Masih supposedly stole books from a medical clinic in Madina Town district of Faisalabad on September 10, 2006. “There were about 100 fanatics inside and outside the courtroom who were astonished when their own witnesses claimed that the accused were innocent,” defense lawyer Khalil Tahir said. “They were very, very angry."to try to reconcile.

Pentecostal Church's Alleged 'Mass Conversion' of Indian Dalits Sparks Hindu Protest

A Pentecostal church in India that was recently accused of conducting mass conversions by promising money and jobs spurred angry Hindu nationalists to hold a demonstration against it in the Patna district in Bihar state, ASSIST News Service reports. According to the Christian Post news, Gopal Prasad and Kishori Sao, local leaders of Hindu organizations Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), alleged that the Pentecostal church brought about a hundred people, including women and children, to baptize them at a home in Nakipore Gorakh, in the city of Fatua. They also insisted that the Dalits, one of the lowest rungs of India's complex social ladder, were lured with the promise of 5,000 Rupees ($123.671 USD) in cash and a job paying 8,000 Rupees ($197.795 USD) per month. The Pentecostals claim the allegations against them by the Hindu nationalists are biased and perverted.

Baptist Mission Board Envisions 3,000 More Missionaries

Many Southern Baptist churches that pride themselves in being "missions minded" might have a hard time convincing an impartial observer, an International Mission Board leader told trustees Sept. 12 at LifeWay Ridgecrest (N.C.) Conference Center, Baptist Press reports. "As I travel, I hear a lot about how 'missions-minded' Southern Baptists are," said Gordon Fort, IMB vice president of overseas operations. "I often ask, 'How much does your church pay for utilities each year?' Then I ask, 'If you are paying more for your utility bill than you are giving to reach a lost world for Christ, how does that make you a missions-minded church?'" Southern Baptist churches claim a total of 16 million members yet have only 5,234 international personnel currently under appointment, Fort said, noting that IMB leaders have a vision "for 3,000 more active missionaries on the field.... Adding 3,000 new missionaries might be a difficult task if we were starting out with no resources, but the truth is that those 3,000 new missionaries are already sitting in our churches, and the finances to support them are already in our pockets."