Religion Today Daily Headlines - January 21, 2013

Religion Today Daily Headlines - January 21, 2013

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

In today's edition:

  • U.S. Officials Pressure Iran to Free American Pastor
  • Two North Korean Christians Killed for Their Faith
  • Police Break Up Plot to Assassinate Turkish Pastor
  • Muslims Demolish Church-Owned Building in Egypt


U.S. Officials Pressure Iran to Free American Pastor

American leaders are pressuring Iran to free Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini, who faces trial today, CBN News reports. Iran Revolutionary Guard officers arrested Abedini, 32, in September while he was in Iran visiting his family and working on a project for an orphanage. Now, the head of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has denounced his imprisonment and prosecution. Katrina Lantos Swett said Iran may be making an example of Abedini for his contacts with the underground Christian church in the Islamic country. This week, 12 U.S. senators and 37 congressmen urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to take a more active role in seeking Abedini's release; the American Center for Law and Justice has also been working on his case.

Two North Korean Christians Killed for Their Faith

Open Doors USA has confirmed the death of two Christians in North Korea. According to the ministry that serves persecuted Christians worldwide, one Christian was recently shot while he was on his way back to Bible training in China. The other died in one of North Korea’s notorious labor camps. The first Christian "was very excited about his new faith and wanted to share the gospel with his family," said an Open Doors worker. "He wanted to come back to China to study the Bible more so he could explain the Christian faith better to his family. It is heartbreaking that he was killed. I cannot stop thinking: 'If only he had arrived a little later at the border river, the guard would not have seen and shot him. He could still be alive today.'" The second Christian, who also studied the Bible in China, recently died in a labor camp. He had also studied the Bible in China, but after authorities found out about his secret faith after his return to North Korea and he was sent to prison. "We just received an update that he was dead," said the Open Doors worker. "He was terribly tortured because of his faith. He was also forced to do heavy labor while hardly receiving any food. Before his return to North Korea, he was baptized and willing to deal with the all the hardships he had to face. ... We are devastated to hear about these murders. We know Christians die for their faith almost every day in North Korea, but it is still hard to deal with."

Police Break Up Plot to Assassinate Turkish Pastor

Police in Turkey say they thwarted an assassination plot against a Christian pastor Tuesday when they arrested 14 suspects, two of whom had been part of his congregation for more than a year, the World Watch Monitor reports. Emre Karaali, pastor of Izmit Protestant Church and the target of the alleged plot, said two of the arrested suspects were regular members, feigning interest in Christianity. One of them, he said, participated in a baptism in July. Some of the other suspects also had visited the church, Karaali said. He said three of the suspects are women. "These people had infiltrated our church and collected information about me, my family and the church and were preparing an attack against us," said Karaali, 33, a native Turk and a convert to Christianity. "Two of them attended our church for over a year and they were like family."

Muslims Demolish Church-Owned Building in Egypt

Hundreds of Muslims came out of mosques last week armed with hammers, and destroyed a social services building belonging to the Coptic Church while chanting Islamic slogans, ASSIST News Service reports. Security forces arrived after the building was completely destroyed. According to the Assyrian International News Agency, the 100-square-meter building in the village of Fanous -- which had a reception hall on the first floor and a kindergarten on the second -- had all the necessary government permits, but Muslims insisted the Christians were "building a church" and broadcast a message on loudspeakers to Muslims in surrounding villages to assist in destroying it. A number of local Copts filed a police report, but no Muslim has been arrested. 

Publication date: January 21, 2013