Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 22, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 22, 2008

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

  • Four Christian Teachers Murdered in Somalia
  • Israeli Court Sides with Messianic Jews
  • Vietnam Church Laments State Discrimination, Interference
  • U.S. Pastor Given More Than 3 Years in Prison for Bringing Rifle Shells Into Russia

Four Christian Teachers Murdered in Somalia

ASSIST News Service reports that four Christian teachers, two of them converts from Islam, were murdered by Islamic militants Sunday April 13 in Beledweyne in south-central Somalia. According to the UK-based Barnabas Fund, Mr. Daud Assan Ali, 64, Ms. Rehana Ahmed, 32, both of Somali origin, and two Kenyans were shot and killed when militants stormed the school where the Christians were sleeping. “Both Mr. Ali and Ms. Ahmed lived in the UK and were converts from Islam to Christianity,” said a spokesperson for Barnabas Fund. “Mr. Ali returned to his home town in 2004 to realize his life-long dream of establishing a school. The Hiran community education project Private English School was only completed one month ago. In his blog for supporters of the school, Mr. Ali expressed concern about night-time raids by militant fighters in his last posting on March 30.” A spokesman for the Islamist group responsible for the attack on the town claimed that the killings were not premeditated, but that the four teachers had been caught in cross fire. However, several residents of Beledweyne are convinced that Mr. Ali and his colleagues were singled out because they were Christians and the Islamists feared that they were teaching their pupils about Christianity.

Israeli Court Sides with Messianic Jews

According to Baptist Press, the Supreme Court of Israel has ruled that Messianic Jews have the same rights regarding automatic citizenship as Jews who do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah. The case was brought by 12 applicants who had been denied citizenship primarily because they were Jewish believers in Jesus. Most of them had received letters saying they would not receive citizenship because they "commit missionary activity," according to an e-mail circulated by Calev Myers, founder and chief counsel of The Jerusalem Institute of Justice. A clerk at the Ministry of Interior reportedly had told one of the applicants that because she was committing missionary activity, she was acting against the interests of the state of Israel and the Jewish people. Israel's Supreme Court ended the two-and-a-half-year legal battle April 16 by ruling that Messianics should receive equal treatment under the Israeli law of return, which says that anyone who is born Jewish can immigrate from anywhere in the world to Israel and be granted citizenship automatically. "This is yet another battle won in our war to establish equality in Israel for the Messianic Jewish community just like every other legitimate stream of faith within the Jewish world," Myers wrote.

Vietnam Church Laments State Discrimination, Interference

An unprecedented prayer appeal by the Evangelical Church of (South) Vietnam indicates that the government has stonewalled quiet, persistent attempts to obtain redress on confiscated church properties, interference in church affairs and discrimination against Christians, Compass Direct News reports. Addressed to “The Church of God Everywhere,” the March 28 letter from the Executive Committee of the ECVN followed several ultimatums in which the church threatened “collective action” and still did not obtain serious dialogue with authorities. It is uncommon for the ECVN, which received full legal recognition in April 2001 and is Vietnam’s largest Protestant Church, to go public on such matters. The church leaders' letter said some of 265 properties confiscated had been turned to other uses, some simply left to fall into disrepair and others demolished.

U.S. Pastor Given More Than 3 Years in Prison for Bringing Rifle Shells Into Russia

FOX News reports that a Moscow court on Monday sentenced a U.S. pastor to prison time for smuggling hunting ammunition into Russia. According to the story, Phillip Miles was arrested February 3, several days after 20 rifle shells were discovered in his luggage at a Moscow airport. He has been in custody since then, and has now been sentenced to serve 3 years and 2 months. Miles, who is from South Carolina, said he didn't know it was illegal to bring ammunition into Russia, and said he brought the .300 caliber cartridges for a friend, something the judge accepted. "I'm very disappointed. It's a strange sentence for one box of hunting bullets," said Miles, who wore his clerical collar during his sentencing hearing. The judge ruled that the court could not condone ignorance of Russian customs regulations and noted Miles had visited the country more than 10 times. Miles will remain in a Moscow jail until his appeal.