Religion Today Summaries - April 19, 2011

Religion Today Summaries - April 19, 2011

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

In today's edition:

  • Tornadoes Wreak Havoc in N.C., Kill 22
  • Japan Earthquake Cleanup Moves Slowly
  • Beijing Police Harass Female Church Members before Release
  • Suspected Drug Traffickers Kidnap Pastor in Mexico


Tornadoes Wreak Havoc in N.C., Kill 22

The Christian Post reports at least 22 people are dead and 130 injured after strong thunderstorms and multiple tornadoes hit central North Carolina. At least eight tornadoes ripped through the state, destroying dozens of buildings. The twisters were "the most severe, widespread tornadoes seen since the mid-1980s," State Director of Emergency Management Doug Hoell said. Three Disaster Relief Units from Samaritan's Purse are already at work in the affected areas. “Our prayers go out to the families who lost loved ones in these terrible storms, and we’ll be doing all we can to help,” said Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Boone, N.C.-based Christian relief group Samaritan’s Purse. “[T]here are times when some of the most difficult and hard-hit places are within a few miles of home.”

Japan Earthquake Cleanup Moves Slowly

Mission News Network reports that almost 140,000 people remain in shelters across Japan following last month's earthquake. Even those who have not been directly affected by the quake are suffering the consequences of the nation's disarray. "The Japanese society is a very ordered society, and this situation is very chaotic," says Scott Henson with The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM). "I think that's been difficult for people on a personal level." He said Japan's few churches are helping wherever they can. "[The quake has] given the Japanese church--which is quite small--a much bigger role in society by stepping up and giving support, relief, encouragement, hope, in particular to people who are asking those kinds of questions," says Henson.

Beijing Police Harass Female Church Members before Release

Some of the women arrested Sunday for trying to attend an outdoor church service in Beijing were allegedly sexually harassed before being released Monday. "I learned that some sisters have been severely humiliated and insulted," said one Christian connected to the church, whose name Worthy News withheld for security reasons. The women "feel very depressed after they were released," he said. Police arrested at least 30 members of Shouwang Church on Sunday when they tried to pray outdoors, continuing their efforts to meet after authorities forced them out of one location and prevented them from obtaining another. Many of the church's pastors and elders were placed under house arrest over the weekend and prevented from leaving their apartments.

Suspected Drug Traffickers Kidnap Pastor in Mexico

Four masked gunmen interrupted a worship service in the Mexican city of Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacan, on April 10 and forced the church's pastor to leave with them. Compass Direct News reports that the 500 worshippers present at Christian Center El Shaddai had little time to react before the gunmen disappeared. The kidnappers have demanded $1.8 million in ransom, but have not guaranteed the pastor's safety even if the sum is paid. Arturo Farela, director of the National Fraternity of Evangelical Churches, has asserted that organized crime syndicates and drug cartels have targeted Christians because they view churches as revenue centers and because churches support programs for the rehabilitation of drug addicts and alcoholics. He says 100 Mexican clergymen have been kidnapped in recent years, and 15 of them have been killed.