Religion Today Summaries - April 20, 2012

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - April 20, 2012

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

In today's edition:

  • Al Qaeda Banding With 'Like-Minded' Groups in Africa to Heighten Attacks
  • Arizona Governor Signs Bill to Allow Bible Classes in Public Schools
  • Attacked Turkish Pastor Joins in Memorials for Slain Christians
  • Christian Parliamentarian Receives Death Threats in Pakistan


Al Qaeda Banding With 'Like-Minded' Groups in Africa to Heighten Attacks

The Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram had been sporadically attacking police stations and people for years, but exploded into violence in 2012 with suicide bombings, car bombs and coordinated assaults soon after al Qaeda began backing the Nigerian radicals. Now, Nigeria could be heading for a civil war as Boko Haram's attacks on Christians have grown increasingly frequent and violent in an attempt to implement sharia law and create an Islamic state in Africa's largest nation. According to USA Today, some experts say this is an emerging strategy by al Qaeda to convert local rebellions across Africa into a global terror front against the West -- a rising danger that many have yet to comprehend. "This new jihadist nexus in Africa" is now being seen in Somalia and Mali, where al Qaeda is banding with local Islamist groups -- such as Somalia's al Shabaab -- to heighten attacks, said Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations. Ultimately, says International Christian Concern, the groups are uniting in an aim to eliminate Christians from their countries.

Arizona Governor Signs Bill to Allow Bible Classes in Public Schools

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has signed into law a bill allowing the establishing of elective classes that focus on the Bible and its influence on Western civilization, the Christian Post reports. House Bill 2563, sponsored by state Rep. Terri Proud, passed the state Senate last Thursday 21 to 9 and was signed by Brewer on Tuesday. According to the bill, "a school district or charter school may offer an elective course pertaining to how the Bible has influenced Western culture for pupils in grades nine through 12. A teacher who instructs a course offered under this section in its appropriate historical context and in good faith shall be immune from civil liability and disciplinary action." The Bible class elective would teach students, among other things, the contents and history of the Old and New Testaments and their influence on "laws, history, government, literature, art, music, customs, morals, values and culture." Arizona is the sixth state to pass such a law, joining Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and South Carolina.

Attacked Turkish Pastor Joins in Memorials for Slain Christians

After a memorial service for three Christians who were murdered in Malatya, Turkey five years ago, an Istanbul pastor who was attacked over Easter weekend said he had experienced hostility from Muslims nearly all his life, Compass Direct News reports. Semir Serkek, 58, said he personally knew the three Turkish converts to Christianity who were brutally murdered by five young men on April 18, 2007. "I looked at their fate with some envy, because they were young and I am old, but they left -- I have gone through many things," Serkek said. "But they were so young, so young." Serkek was alone at Grace Church on April 7 finishing preparations for Easter when four young men knocked on the door, demanded to enter and threatened to kill him if he didn't recite the Islamic testimony of faith. One of them kicked Serkek in the chest, casting him down the entrance steps to the ground. Serkek said he had known verbal abuse since childhood and especially since he began openly sharing his faith 35 years ago, but "this was the first time I was hit, so this was surprising and made me sad." This year, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended that Turkey -- home to about 4,500 Christian converts -- be designated a "Country of Particular Concern" for its long-term and systematic limitations on non-Muslim communities.

Christian Parliamentarian Receives Death Threats in Pakistan

Christian Pakistani parliament member Saleem Khursheed Khokhar, president of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance in Sindh, has requested additional security after receiving death threats for speaking on behalf of the country's Christian community, the Pakistan Christian Post reports. In a security plea to the Interior Ministry of Pakistan, Khokhar wrote: "As you are aware, the important public officials and members of the provincial and national assemblies, even the provincial governors, are not safe and are victim of [Pakistan's] blasphemy law. Recently, the governor of Punjab, the Honorable Salman Taseer, was killed by one of the guard because he was favoring a Christian lady, namely Asia [Bibi], who has been sentenced to death on accusation of blasphemy of Prophet Muhammad." Khokhar went on to detail the threats to his life he received after speaking out for the rights of downtrodden Christians in Sindh, and requested that he be promptly given protection by the state.

Publication date: April 20, 2012