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Religion Today Daily Headlines - February 7, 2013

Religion Today Daily Headlines - February 7, 2013

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

In today's edition:

  • Boy Scouts Delay Decision on Admitting Gays
  • American Pastor Imprisoned in Iran Fears Supporters Have Abandoned Him
  • Obama Planning First Visit to Israel as President
  • Christian Persecution in China Rises Over 40 Percent in 2012


Boy Scouts Delay Decision on Admitting Gays

A decision on whether the Boy Scouts of America will end its ban on gay members and leaders will not be voted on until the organization's annual meeting in May, the national executive board said Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. Deron Smith, the BSA director of public relations, said the executive board would prepare a resolution to be voted on by the 1,400 voting members of the national council. "After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America's National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy," Smith said. The meeting will take place in May in Grapevine, Texas.

American Pastor Imprisoned in Iran Fears Supporters Have Abandoned Him

The American pastor sentenced to eight years in Iran's Evin Prison is unaware of growing international support for him and instead fears he's been abandoned, according to relatives who met with him this week, Fox News reports. Saeed Abedini mentioned his doubt during a visit with relatives on Monday, the second time he was allowed to see members of his extended family since he was convicted. Abedini expressed apprehension and concern about his fate and openly asked if there were international efforts to secure his freedom, according to the American Center for Law and Justice, and it is believed that his fears are due to abuse and brain-washing techniques used by prison officials. "It is no surprise that the Iranian prison guards are engaging in this kind of psychological abuse," said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ. "We know that Pastor Saeed is undergoing physical beatings and torture. And we know there is growing concern about his health. Now, a troubling report that the guards are trying to take away his hope -- by feeding him false information about his fate, trying to convince him that no one cares, that efforts to secure his freedom have ceased. This tactic is predictable but very tragic. What the Iranian guards will never tell Pastor Saeed is that there's a growing international network of support. ... We continue to urge President Obama to personally call on Iran to release Pastor Saeed. And now that Secretary of State Kerry is on the job, it is time for him to follow through on earlier statements that Iran release Pastor Saeed."

Obama Planning First Visit to Israel as President

President Obama is planning his first trip to Israel since taking office in 2008, CBN News reports. The trip is planned for the spring, but the White House has not yet released the date or details about the itinerary. While in the region, Obama will also make stops in the West Bank and Jordan. Obama last visited Israel during his 2008 campaign, and his lack of visiting the Jewish state during his first term as president has drawn criticism from some pro-Israel groups who say the administration isn't supportive of the United States' closest ally in the Middle East. The president visited other countries in the region during his first term, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Christian Persecution in China Rises Over 40 Percent in 2012

ChinaAid, a Texas-based Christian nonprofit organization that monitors religious freedom in China, said in its 2012 annual report this week that the Chinese government continues its increase of persecution against Christians for the seventh consecutive year, the Christian Post reports. The report examined 132 persecution cases involving 4,919 people and found that persecution incidences rose 41.9 percent from 2011. Additionally, the number of people sentenced in cases relating to religious persecution jumped 125 percent from 2011. "If the Chinese government had its druthers, religion would not be practiced at all within its borders," ChinaAid said. "Beijing fears a higher authority, and it's also horrified by any group that is able to organize, particularly around an ideology or belief." According to the report, methods for suppressing Christianity in China include "forcibly banning and sealing up churches, pressuring churches to join the official 'Three-Self' church system, detaining church leaders and sending them to labor camps on the pretext of 'suspicion of organizing and using a cult to undermine law enforcement' and strictly restricting the spread of the Christian faith among students." However, ChinaAid added, "The church ... is still standing firm, flourishing like the cedars of Lebanon and fruit trees planted by the streams, bearing much fruit at the appointed time."

Publication date: February 7, 2013