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Religion Today Summaries - April 5, 2005

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - April 5, 2005

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

  • Indonesia: Missionaries Bring Aid to Victims of Second Quake 

  • School Board Reverses Decision To Ban Christian Club's Drama Presentation

  • Falwell Upgraded To Fair; Doctors Encouraged By Recovery 

  • Lay Pastor Beheaded in Bangladesh

Indonesia: Missionaries Bring Aid to Victims of Second Quake
Christian Aid Mission

The 8.7-magnitude earthquake that struck off the coast of Sumatra on Monday, March 28, battered a region just emerging from the devastation of December's tsunami. Native missionaries already hard at work to provide tsunami relief are gearing up efforts to help areas hardest-hit by the quake. One island near the earthquake's epicenter has been of special concern to gospel workers. Nias is a predominantly Christian island, unusual in Muslim Indonesia, that was relatively overlooked by major aid agencies following the tsunami. Multiple indigenous missions have made visits to Nias since December, bringing food, medicines and Bibles. As of early March, their relief work was beginning to move from an emergency to a long-term phase as missionaries helped islanders rebuild homes, schools and churches. However, last week's earthquake has thrown them again into emergency mode. More than 1000 Nias residents died after houses and other buildings collapsed. A group of native gospel workers had been preparing a follow-up visit to Nias this week before the earthquake struck. Now, under more urgent conditions, they still hope to take the trip, packing their boat with emergency supplies. Pray for Nias islanders, and for all affected by this most recent disaster, as they struggle to cope with one tragedy on the heels of another.

School Board Reverses Decision To Ban Christian Club's Drama Presentation
Agape Press

Pacific Justice Institute's efforts on behalf of a high school Bible club in Corning, California, have prompted a school board to reverse a decision to ban the Christian club's drama presentation during their school's Fine Arts Festival. The festival had been open to a wide variety of artistic expressions by students, including objectionable dance routines. However, when members of the BREAD (Bible Reading, Education, and Devotion) Club wanted to perform an inspirational drama, the principal of the school prohibited their presentation, citing separation of church and state as the reason. After being contacted about the school's discriminatory actions, PJI sent a demand letter to the school board, delineating the students' First Amendment rights and warning of the legal consequences of violating them. Matthew McReynolds, an attorney with the legal group, notes, "Federal courts have made clear that, when it comes to student religious expression, school censorship is just as unconstitutional as is school sponsorship." After extended deliberations and a closed session, the school board reversed the principal's decision and allowed the BREAD Club's Easter-themed drama to proceed. Local pastors expressed gratitude to PJI for its involvement, commenting that the victory not only allowed the students to express their faith but also encouraged believers to take a stand for their religious freedom. Reynolds says PJI is pleased that the school board realized it could not justify banning a Christian drama while permitting other diverse artistic expressions.

Falwell Upgraded To Fair; Doctors Encouraged By Recovery
Baptist Press

Jerry Falwell's condition was upgraded to fair condition April 1 and his health continued to improve as he walked the hallways of the hospital for exercise, hospital officials said in a statement. A statement released by Lynchburg General Hospital in Virginia said doctors "are encouraged by the pace of [Falwell's] recovery." An aid to Falwell, Ron Godwin, told the Associated Press April 4 that Falwell will remain in the hospital so that more tests can be run. "He's well enough to go home right now, but until the doctors finish running all their tests, he'll stay in the hospital," Godwin told the AP. Falwell could be released by the middle of the week, Godwin said. Falwell, 71, was admitted to Lynchburg General Hospital late March 28 after having difficulty breathing. He initially was listed in critical condition but was upgraded to serious but stable condition before being listed in fair condition. Hospital officials say that swelling and fluid in his lungs caused his problem. They found no evidence of a heart attack. He was admitted to the hospital because of "respiratory arrest," officials said. Falwell also was in the hospital for nearly two weeks in late February and early March because of pneumonia. Doctors said Falwell's latest condition seems to be unrelated to the earlier bout with pneumonia.

Lay Pastor Beheaded in Bangladesh
Sarah Page, Compass Direct

Sources have confirmed the murder by beheading on March 8 of Dulal Sarkar, a lay pastor and evangelist in Bangladesh. Sarkar worked with the Bangladesh Free Baptist Church in Jalalpur village as an evangelist and church planter. On the night of March 8 as he returned home, he was attacked and killed by Muslim extremists. His wife, Aruna, immediately filed a case against the killers, and three suspects were arrested. However, militants are now threatening Aruna and her children. The beheading is the second in the space of a year. Dr. Abdul Gani, a respected Christian leader, was decapitated by a gang of assailants in September 2004.