Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world. In today's edition:
- Canadian Missionary Freed in Lebanon
- Organizations Prepare 'Marriage Protection Week'
- Christians Pressured to Renounce Faith in Laos
- Officials Resign Over Cross Controversy
Canadian Missionary Freed in Lebanon
Religion News Service
A Canadian missionary jailed in Lebanon July 10 was acquitted of spying for Israel on Monday. A Lebanese military court found Bruce Balfour, 52, a Christian missionary from Calgary, not guilty of collaborating with Israel, a charge punishable by 15 years in jail. Judicial sources said he was accused of working with the Jewish state to spy on Lebanon's army and its Shiite Hezbollah militia. Five judges found Balfour innocent of espionage but guilty of causing "religious strife," sources said, sentencing him to a year in prison but reducing the penalty to time served. Balfour was scheduled to return home
Tuesday. He was in the Arab country representing the evangelical Cedars of Lebanon Reforestation Project, which seeks to replant the biblical cedar forests of northern Lebanon. At a court appearance last week, Balfour denied being a spy, saying he served God and Jesus. His family said that while Canadian diplomats in Beirut worked hard for his release, federal authorities in Ottawa "basically did nothing."
Organizations Prepare 'Marriage Protection Week'
As indications grow that same-sex marriage will soon be legal in one or more states in the U.S., pro-family groups are uniting in a drive to defend the sanctity of marriage. The Massachusetts State Supreme Court is soon expected to legalize homosexual marriage, and the resulting legal struggle across the nation may doom traditional marriage. A coalition of almost 20 organizations -- including such groups as Focus on the Family, the American Family Association, Prison Fellowship, INSP Broadcasting, and the Home School Legal Defense Association -- is preparing to kick off a new campaign with "Marriage Protection Week" (marriageprotectionweek.com), scheduled for October 12-18. Don Wildmon, president and founder of the American Family Association, says the observance is an "opportunity to defend and promote traditional marriage between a man and a woman as the God-ordained building block of the family and bedrock of a civil society." The purpose of the effort is to encourage churches to become involved in the battle to preserve traditional marriage.
Christians Pressured to Renounce Faith in Laos
Charisma News Service
Twenty-one Christians were recently arrested and imprisoned in Laos for refusing to renounce their faith. The believers are part of the Bru minority tribe in Muang Nong located in the country's southern region of Savannakhet Province, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said. Nine of the 21 have been released from the incident this spring, but 12 leaders remain in detention because they won't sign affidavits stating that they would no longer follow Christ. "We are very disturbed about the appalling pressure that these believers and their families are being put under to renounce their faith," CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said. "While we welcome the positive steps Laos has made in improving religious freedom, we are deeply concerned by the ongoing occurrence of such serious abuses. We urge the local and national authorities to ensure full freedom for all believers in all areas."
Officials Resign Over Cross Controversy
Religion News Service
Controversy surrounding the erection of a white cross overlooking Twillingate harbor in Newfoundland has led to the resignation of Mayor Danny Bath, Deputy Mayor Elizabeth Jenkins and two other municipal councilors. The fiberglass cross was erected overlooking the harbor of Twillingate, a town of 3,600, on June 25. The cross, a project of the local Salvation Army Men's Fellowship group, is 22 feet high and 11 feet wide. Major William Kean, Salvation Army commanding officer at Twillingate, said the cross was erected to express the group's faith and as a monument to all the fishermen who lost their lives at sea. The town council gave the project its unanimous consent, reportedly based on approval of the project from the local ministerial council. But a citizens group expressed concern, saying proper procedure had not been followed, other churches weren't consulted, and tourists might object to a Christian symbol in such a visible location. Acting Mayor Calla Guy said the former mayor and councilors resigned because of "very abusive phone calls." New elections to replace the officials are scheduled for today.