Religion Today Summaries - April 27, 2005

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - April 27, 2005

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

  • Lighthouse Project Brings Bibles, Resources to China's House Churches

  • Arab Countries: Taking Christ to the Secretive Druze 

  • Iranian Convert Christian Faces Death Penalty

  • Global Christian Network Opening New Headquarters in June

Lighthouse Project Brings Bibles, Resources to China's House Churches
Allie Martin, Agape Press

A ministry that serves the persecuted Church worldwide is launching a massive Bible distribution and training project for Christians in China. Open Doors USA has launched the “Lighthouse Project”, the goal of which is to provide 3.4 million Bibles, study Bibles, commentaries, hymnals, and other resources to Christians in unregistered Chinese house churches. Open Doors' Jerry Dykstra says there is a huge need both for religious teaching and instructional materials to equip a growing body of believers. "Training is so important in countries like China, where the growth of house churches is just tremendous," Dykstra says. "But they need those resources, and they need the training. This is what Open Doors will do, and it will have a potential of impacting thousands of Christians." The ministry spokesman notes that already, it is known that about 15,000 to 20,000 Christians are coming to Christ every day in China, even though as recently as last month the Communist government there instituted new laws to regulate religious expression."Open Doors plans to send 125,000 children's Bibles and one million pieces of Sunday school curricula," he says. The international ministry has already provided children in China with more than 1.2 million Bibles over the past decade. Dykstra says the materials being provided through the Lighthouse Project will be a blessing to many young Christians in China.

Arab Countries: Taking Christ to the Secretive Druze
Christian Aid Mission

Referred to by the Institute of Druze Studies at the University of San Diego as "one of the most misunderstood and understudied religious sects in the world," the Arab people group known as Druze remains extremely closed and largely unreached. Yet through the work of native missionaries, Druze communities are beginning to open to the gospel. Because of their secretive, isolated lifestyle, the exact number of Druze in Arab countries is not known. Most estimates indicate there are nearly one million Druze scattered throughout Lebanon, Syria, Israel and Jordan. Nearly all Druze follow a secretive system of beliefs, which are offshoots of traditional Islamic ones, conceived during the 11th century when Muslim caliph al-Hakim began to try to reform Islam. Though Druze consider themselves Muslim, most Muslims regard them as a sect. Often, in order to better guard their ethnic identity, they will pretend to adopt the dominant beliefs of whomever they happen to live among, whether traditional Muslims or Christians. However, through prayer, study and a lifetime of acquaintance with this closed people, native missionaries are reaching the Druze with the true gospel. Home visits are one of the most effective ways to spread the gospel in Druze communities. Native missionaries are also beginning an English teaching program for Druze children. They are prayerfully planning to start the first Druze home church in one area of Jordan.

Iranian Convert Christian Faces Death Penalty
Barbara G. Baker, Compass Direct

An Iranian convert to Christianity has been on trial for his life before an Islamic court in Tehran, facing the death penalty for deserting Islam and proselytizing Muslims. Hamid Pourmand, a former colonel in the Iranian army, was serving as a lay pastor in the Assemblies of God church when arrested by the Iranian secret police last September. The pastor was accused and convicted of "deceiving" the armed forces about his faith, although he had produced written evidence that his superiors were fully aware of his conversion to Christianity. Pourmand faces execution by hanging under Iranian law for leaving the Muslim faith. But recently, government officials reportedly stated that Iranian citizens who had changed their religion before the 1979 Islamic revolution would not be prosecuted by the authorities. Since his February conviction by a military tribunal, Pourmand has been imprisoned in a group cell at Tehran's maximum-security Evin Prison with a number of well-known political dissidents. The military verdict is on appeal before the Iranian Supreme Court.

Global Christian Network Opening New Headquarters in June
Agape Press

The Global Christian Network (GCN) has announced plans to open its new headquarters offices in the metropolitan area of Atlanta, Georgia, this June. GCN executive director, Nestor Colombo, says this is an exciting time for the ministry, which will be joining television giants such as CNN, TNT, TBS Superstation and the Weather Channel in setting up production and launch facilities in the Atlanta area, as well as several Christian media ministry organizations such as Back to the Bible, Leading the Way, and In Touch Ministries. "The new facilities are ideally suited to our needs," Colombo says, "and with the coming opening we can get to the real business of producing and broadcasting innovative and compelling Christian television." GCN, a not-for-profit, charitable, religious and educational organization, works to produce, distribute, and broadcast high-quality Christian and pro-family programming to local and regional affiliates worldwide in as many as five different languages.