Religion Today News Summaries - May 21, 2007

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today News Summaries - May 21, 2007

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

  • China Arrests House Church Leaders in Xinjiang
  • Iraqi Christians Call for End to Persecution
  • PCUSA Says no Ordination for Homosexual Clergy Candidates
  • Pakistan's Christians Remain Steadfast amidst Threats to Convert to Islam

China Arrests House Church Leaders in Xinjiang

Government-sanctioned persecution of Christians has darkened the landscape of Xinjiang province in north-western China, Compass Direct News reports. Most recently, an estimated 30 house church leaders were arrested on April 19 in Aksu city as they met with four U.S. Christians. The four U.S. Christians, including two pastors, were also arrested and later released, according to China Aid Association (CAA). On April 20 authorities released eight of the Chinese house church pastors but held at least six others accused of being “suspects involved in evil cult activities.” Pastors Zhao Xinglan, Huang Xiurong, Yang Tianlu, Wang Chaoyi, Lu Cuiling and He Sijun are being held for 37 days. They could be sentenced to one to three years of “re-education through labor.” Eyewitnesses told CAA that at least two of those arrested had bleeding noses and bruises from violence inflicted upon them at the interrogation site in Aksu. Over the last two years, a number of other house church Christians have been arrested in Xinjiang, and several foreign Christian workers have been expelled.

Iraqi Christians Call for End to Persecution

Religious leaders have taken up the Chaldean Patriarch’s appeal to save persecuted Christians in Iraq, asking for protection from the authorities and respect for human rights, ASSIST News Service reports. However, while condemning the untenable situation, they have not lost hope that the “flames in which all Iraqis are burning will be extinguished.” Dinkha IV, Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, reiterated the words spoken by Emmanuel III Delly on 6 May in Erbil, reinforcing them with more appeals to Iraqi political and religious leaders. A “strong” reminder of the need to preserve the “social and religious mosaic” of Iraq also came from the Syrian-Orthodox Bishop of Aleppo. The Assyrian Patriarch of the East first drew attention to the tragedy facing the Christian community especially in “Mosul and Baghdad, where terrorists at work in Dora district are asking Christian families to convert to Islam or to pay a protection tax or to leave their homes and all their belongings.”
PCUSA Says no Ordination for Homosexual Clergy Candidates reports that the ban in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on ordaining homosexuals who aren't celibate also extends to candidates for ministry, the denomination's high court said. The issue was discussed in the case of an active lesbian who was allowed to become a candidate for ministry in the Mission Presbytery in Texas. Even though she eventually withdrew her name from the roll of candidates, the woman's candidacy for ordination was supported via vote from the Texas presytery. Nonetheless, the Judicial Commission said in a May 7 statement that it was still concerned that leaders of the Mission Presbytery had misread the denomination's governing Book of Order.

Pakistan's Christians Remain Steadfast amidst Threats to Convert to Islam

Defying the threats the Islamic radicals hurled at them that they should either flee the town or face dire consequences, the Christians of Charsadda have responded to the ultimatum of conversion given by the Islamic extremists with a declaration that they were ready to sacrifice their lives for Jesus Christ but would not deny Him, ASSIST News Service reports. This announcement was made in a press conference organized by All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) at Islamabad. Christians in a Pakistani town of Charsadda in the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan received threatening letters with an ultimatum of 10 days to convert to Islam or face dire consequences and bomb explosions. "We strongly condemn the threatening letter and ultimatum given to Christians of Charsadda. Christians of Pakistan can not be intimidated through coercive means; we can die but can not compromise on our faith. We are Patriotic citizens of Pakistan and can never bow down before Islamic militants and extremist forces," APMA Chief Shahbaz Bhatti said.