Religion Today Summaries, April 23, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, April 23, 2004

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

  • In China: Church's Neighbors Come to Believers' Defense, Get Jail Time in Return 
  • Evangelist and Actor Reach Youth Culture with Extreme Sports 
  • Detroit Suburb Expected to Allow Muslim Prayer Calls on Loudspeakers
  • Elections Begin: Could be Future of Christianity in India

In China: Church's Neighbors Come to Believers' Defense, Get Jail Time in Return
Allie Martin, Agape Press

Officials of the Communist Chinese government are continuing their crackdown on unregistered Christian churches. Last month, a 100-year-old building that housed an unregistered Chinese house church was raided by more than 300 public security bureau officers and destroyed.  The congregation included about 300 members and had existed for the past 20 years.  The pastor and his son were arrested. According to Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs, four neighbors -- who were not believers -- were also taken into custody when they challenged the authorities and tried to talk them out of tearing down the building. “For neighbors to say anything to stand up for the Christians, I think that probably shows that this pastor who lived in the building had a good reputation [and] had good relationships," Nettleton says. "It's interesting because these four were not Christians," he continues, "and yet when the police came and began tearing down the building, these four protested, [asking] 'How can you destroy someone's home?'" Because of their actions, the four neighbors were jailed for 15 days. The spokesman explains that the "religious freedom" promoted by Chinese government officials applies only to churches that agree to be controlled by the Communist regime.

Evangelist and Actor Reach Youth Culture with Extreme Sports
Charisma News Service

Evangelist Luis Palau and actor Stephen Baldwin are reaching American teens with the gospel, using the thrill of extreme sports. Baldwin, who became a Christian after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, has put his newfound faith to work on "Livin' It," which is the Palau organization's first product in a series of evangelistic tools and TV specials for youth and youth leaders. Filmed at several skate parks, "Livin' It" promises to be a 30-minute, reality-style outreach film. Baldwin will host the DVD which mixes action footage of top Christian skaters and BMX bikers demonstrating their skills with a behind-the-scenes look at how they live out their faith day by day. "Core sports [or, extreme sports] greatly influence youth culture," Kevin Palau, son of Luis, said. Luis Palau's ministry has for four decades reached thousands of people for Christ worldwide using traditional evangelistic methods. Luis Palau says, however, that his style of ministry is changing. He believes jumping out of the mold that evangelists have long relied on is carrying his organization to the cutting edge of evangelism. Currently, the Palau evangelistic organization holds about a half-dozen music-evangelism festivals a year. Incorporating BMX-riding and skateboarding demonstrations into the festivals has catapulted the ministry into "a fresh, edgy outreach to today's youth," Kevin says. Kevin says the Baldwin draws the very crowd the Palau ministry is trying to reach.

Detroit Suburb Expected to Allow Muslim Prayer Calls on Loudspeakers
Chad Groening, Agape Press

A Michigan woman says as a Christian, she is offended that the city council in her small community is poised to approve an ordinance that would allow local mosques to broadcast calls for prayer over loudspeakers. The City Council of Hamtramck, Michigan, has given preliminary approval to a mosque's plans to send out the Muslim call to prayer on loudspeakers.  The mosque wants to air the Arabic call to prayer via loudspeakers five times a day, but not between 10:00 PM and 6:00 AM. The Detroit suburb's city council is expected to give its final approval on April 27. Muslims say the call is the equivalent of church bells.  But opponents argue that church bells have no religious significance and that allowing the Arabic call, unfairly elevates Islam above other religions. Some Christian residents, like Joanne Golen, resent the city allowing Muslims to impose their religion on everybody else. “I feel it's against my constitutional rights to have to hear this at sunrise, four more times at sunset...blaring in my ears, telling me about their god," she says. "We know when it's time to go to church; we pray constantly -- we don't need a call to prayer.  My life is a prayer, and I resent this." Golen and her husband says they plan to carry on the fight to head off the ordinance. Estimates are that about one-third of the population in Hamtramck is Muslim. 

Elections Begin: Could be Future of Christianity in India
International Christian Concern

Christians were apprehensive as voting began on April 20, the first day of India’s general elections. With the nation’s recent history of religious oppression, this year’s election could prove critical for the future of Christianity in India. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has worked hard in recent months to change its image, promising economic benefits to religious minorities and focusing on development rather than the Hindu nationalist agenda. However, its election manifesto also promises to extend anti-conversion legislation already in force in five Indian states. The opposition Congress Party has accused the BJP of misusing religion for political gain, reminding voters that the BJP was implicated in violent riots against the Christian community in Gujarat in 1999 and further violence against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. Proving that minorities have become this year’s hot election issue, Congress has promised “strict action against those who promote social bigotry.”