Religion News Summaries - Dec. 29, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion News Summaries - Dec. 29, 2008

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

  • Gallup: Americans See Religious Influence Waning
  • Pakistan: Policeman Tortures, Paralyzes Christian
  • Kazakhstan Officials Threaten Rights Group after Criticism
  • China: Authorities Arrest Christians Before Christmas

Gallup: Americans See Religious Influence Waning

Religion News Service reports that two-thirds of Americans think religion is losing its influence on U.S. life. This shows a sharp jump from just three years ago when Americans were nearly evenly split on the question, according to a new Gallup Poll. Sixty-seven percent of Americans think religious influence is waning while just 27 percent say it is increasing. That perspective demonstrates a continuing downward trend, Gallup said. But the 27 percent figure is still higher than the record low, set in a 1970 poll, when just 14 percent of Americans thought religion was increasing in influence. The latest poll also finds that the percentage of Americans believing that religion "can answer all or most of today's problems" has reached an all-time low.

Pakistan: Policeman Tortures, Paralyzes Christian

Compass Direct News reports that a Pakistani Christian boy’s quarrel with a Muslim policeman’s son has led to his father’s imprisonment, torture, paralysis, and five-year prison sentence. The father’s health condition has become so fragile that he was temporarily released from prison and sent to a Faisalabad hospital on Dec. 20. Emanuel Masih, 43, is now in stable condition, his attorney told Compass. Masih is seeking to commute his prison sentence instigated by policeman Omer Draz who tortured and imprisoned him on trumped-up charges originating from a quarrel between their sons nine years ago. Police arrested Masih along with his brother-in-law Amin Masih, falsely implicating them in the alleged kidnapping of Draz’ housekeeper’s son.

Kazakhstan Officials Threaten Rights Group after Criticism

Justice Ministry officials in Kazakhstan have accused a local human rights group of lying in response to the group's criticism of a restrictive new religious freedom law, according to ASSIST News Service. The law is currently waiting for official signature by President Nazarbaev. “Officials are nervous over the new law, but very angry and aggressive when people complain about it,” Yevgeny Zhovtis with the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law said. The organization faces the threat of being closed down as a result of a tax investigation which began early in 2008. “Our problems don't appear to be directly related to our work opposing the new law, but represent pressure over all our activity, including on this law," Yevgeny said.

China: Authorities Arrest Christians Before Christmas

ASSIST News Service reports that the Chinese government has targeted Christians in Henan province, Anhui province, and Xinjiang Autonomous Region between December 21 and December 24. A ChinaAid spokesperson said that on Christmas Eve in Henan province, nine Christian women were arrested during a nativity play and are still being held by police. In Anhui province on December 22, officials arrested 19 students and two house church leaders and threatened to demolish their house church building. On December 21 in Xinjiang Autonomous Region, a house church was forbidden to gather and the pastor threatened with arrest.