Religion Today Daily Headlines - December 24, 2012

Religion Today Daily Headlines - December 24, 2012

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • American Pastor Imprisoned Without Notice of Charges While Visiting Family in Iran
  • Syrian Christians Prepare for Somber Christmas
  • Church Bells Ring Nationwide for Newtown Shooting Victims


American Pastor Imprisoned Without Notice of Charges While Visiting Family in Iran

A 32-year-old Iranian who is a U.S. citizen and a Christian convert has been imprisoned without notice of any formal charges while visiting his family in Iran, Fox News reports. In July, the Rev. Saeed Abedini, who lives in the U.S. with his wife and two young children, was making one of his frequent trips to visit his parents and relatives in Iran, his home country where he spent many years as a Christian leader and developer of Iran's underground house church movement for Christian converts from Islam. The Iranian government pulled him off a bus, confiscated his passports and subjected him to intense interrogation, saying he must face a penalty for his previous work as a Christian leader in Iran. He is currently awaiting trial in Iran's notorious Evin Prison, where he has been since late September, and his family members -- who are also Christian converts from Islam -- are under house arrest. Two days before Abedini was thrown in prison, his wife, Naghmeh, received a call from someone she thinks was an Iranian government agent threatening that she would never see her husband again. "When he became a Christian, he became a criminal in his own country," Naghmeh said. The American Center for Law and Justice is providing legal support to Naghmeh by working through the U.S. government, members of Congress, various governments around the world, and leaders in the U.N. to help release Abedini. Over the course of Abedini's involvement, his house church movement had about 100 congregations in 30 Iranian cities with more than 2,000 members.

Syrian Christians Prepare for Somber Christmas

For Syrian Christians in the midst of a terrible civil war, Christmas will be different this year. Open Doors USA reports that there will be few decorations and no big celebrations, as Christians don't want to attract attention and make themselves a target for extremists. "We will use the Christmas time to visit the families that have been going through pain and suffering," a pastor in Damascus says. "The whole city is mourning the loss of their people, family and friends this year, so people will not really celebrate. ... We will be just serving others. We will focus on getting together for prayer." A church leader from the northern Syrian city of Aleppo says their Christmas celebrations will be somber too. "We are not  celebrating Christmas like before," he says. "We will have services in church and invite church people to come and bring their friends. The focus will be on children more than anyone else because they need to feel some joy." Syrian Christians ask prayers during this time for safety and strength, for the ability to meet during Christmas, for comfort, and for believers to be able to continue sharing the gospel with their Muslim neighbors.

Church Bells Ring Nationwide for Newtown Shooting Victims

Church bells tolled across the U.S. Friday morning in remembrance of the victims of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting last Friday, and religious leaders called on people to pause and reflect on the tragedy, the Christian Post reports. "Bells in churches historically have a variety of functions. They are announcements, they are a call to prayer, they are a memorial and they are a call to action," said the Rev. Richard Burnett of Trinity Episcopal Church Downtown in Columbus, Ohio. "I think all of those things at one level or another can speak to people in our community a week after the tragedy of the massacre." Some churches, like the one in Ohio, rang the bell 26 times in observance of the victims shot dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School, while others, like some in Texas, rang 28 times to include the gunman and his mother in the count. People across the U.S. on Friday morning also joined in a nationwide moment of silence called for by Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy.

Publication date: December 24, 2012