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Religion Today Summaries, April 22, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, April 22, 2003

Religion Today Summaries: Daily summaries of the top national and international religious news stories impacting Christians

In Today's Edition:

  • Progressive Faith Ministries Reaches Out to Indian Nationals 
  • Baptist Leaders Defend Evangelical Aid in Post-War Iraq
  • Army Refutes 'Baptismal Coercion' 
  • Religion To Determine Nigeria’s Next President

Progressive Faith Ministries Reaches Out to Indian Nationals
Michael Ireland

(Assist News) Over 600 million Asian Indians have never heard of Jesus Christ.  Rev. Dr. B.V.S.N. Rao is the founder of Progressive Faith Ministries in Andhra Pradesh, South India. The ministry was started in 1994 by Dr. Rao and his wife, Mrs. B. Shoba Roa at Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh of South India.  The ministry’s website says: “Having experienced the power of God, this couple, along with the other family members, accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord and converted to Christianity. In the initial days of their conversion, they were physically threatened by their caste and religious traditionalists to the extent of physical elimination and were almost declared as outcasts by the native Hindu society. They were protected by God's Grace."  The website notes that the Rao family dedicated themselves to the Lord's ministry on April 24, 1994 and were ordained by many of God's servants and ministers in Vijayawada.  Since then Progressive Faith Ministries took its roots in the Lord. The first step resulted in starting the following self-sponsored programs.

Baptist Leaders Defend Evangelical Aid in Post-War Iraq
Michael Foust
(Baptist Press) The fact that Southern Baptists and other evangelicals will assist with relief efforts in Iraq has drawn worldwide attention.  Walter Brueggemann, religion professor at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga., said, "I don't care what they say, what they're after is to impose their faith on that culture."  But Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said on MSNBC's "Scarborough Country" April 16, “We are doing this to help people who are hungry and we're not going in there ... to do an evangelistic crusade. But if they ask us why we're there to do it, we're going to tell them it's because we love them and because Jesus loves them.”  Another Baptist leader, R. Albert Mohler Jr., in an interview with Time magazine, said, "The secular world tends to look at Iraq and say, well, it's Muslim, and that's just a fact, and any Christian influence would just be a form of Western imperialism. The Christian has to look at Iraq and see persons desperately in need of the Gospel. Compelled by the love and command of Christ, the Christian will seek to take that Gospel in loving and sensitive, but very direct, ways to the people of Iraq."  

Army Refutes 'Baptismal Coercion'

(Charisma News) An Army chaplain said to have made a baptisms-for-baths offer to soldiers in Iraq has been cleared of any wrongdoing. An official inquiry has ruled that Lt. Joshua Llano, a Southern Baptist chaplain, "does not, has not and will not use coercion in the exercise of his official responsibilities," said Col. Al Buckner, director of operations for the Amy's Chief of Chaplains office. Llano's ministry came under scrutiny after he was reported as saying: "It's simple: They want water; I have it, as long as they agree to get baptized." The account in "The Miami Herald" went on to say that baptism candidates had to sit through an hour-and-a-half sermon.  In a statement, the chaplains' office said Llano's comments had been taken out of context.  "Such behavior would be wrong, and our chaplains, commanders and soldiers know this and would have corrected the situation had such behavior actually occurred," the statement added.

Religion To Determine Nigeria’s Next President

(Compass) Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, will hold elections on Easter weekend to elect a new president -- or perhaps to re-elect the present one, depending on how religious divisions in the nation of 130 million affect the outcome. Twenty candidates have joined the presidential race scheduled for April 19, vying for the office with incumbent Olusegun Obasanjo. Also at stake are 109 senatorial seats and 360 seats in the House of Representatives. Nigeria has lived under a democratic civilian regime for only the past four years and is still making the political transition from more than three decades of military dictatorship. About 60 million voters have registered for the elections, which essentially run from April 12 to May 4. For millions of Nigerians, religion will play a prominent role in their choice of leaders. Muslim-Christian rivalry is so intense that none of the 30 political parties in the country has managed to develop a truly national support base. Muslims consider Obasanjo’s ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) as a Christian party. The All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) of his nearest rival, Muhammadu Buhari, is considered by Christians to be a Muslim party.