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Religion Today Summaries, April 6, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, April 6, 2004

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

  • Police ‘Investigate’ Orthodox Renewal Movement in Eritrea
  • LifeWay Consults Culture Experts to Quash Critics' Quarrels with Curriculum
  • Albanian Muslims Target Christian Churches, Cemeteries and Monasteries
  • 'People' Magazine Spotlights Faith of Christian Celebrities

Police ‘Investigate’ Orthodox Renewal Movement in Eritrea
Compass Direct

Police in the Eritrean capital of Asmara launched an investigation on March 20 into the activities of an Orthodox group of young adults known as Medhane Alem. Their Sunday afternoon meeting place was sealed, and the lay leader of the group was arrested and released one day later. Two days earlier, police also arrested 20 members of the Kale Hiwot Church during a home cell meeting in Assab. Over half of the members were military personnel who were taken to a nearby place called Gheharo. “Their lives are in danger,” fellow Protestants declared. In a separate incident, an Eritrean Christian singer was arrested by security police in Asmara on March 19. These latest arrests bring the known number of independent Protestants jailed for their faith to 385. The prisoners include pastors, women, teenagers, children, the elderly and dozens of soldiers. Many have been subjected to severe torture and demeaning conditions for months.

LifeWay Consults Culture Experts to Quash Critics' Quarrels with Curriculum
Allie Martin, Agape Press

A spokesman for LifeWay Christian Resources says this year's vacation Bible school program has received a few complaints about the theme of the teaching materials. This year's theme is "LifeWay's Far Out Far East Rickshaw Rally: Racing to the Son." Rob Phillips of LifeWay says several complaints were received over use of symbols such as rickshaws, umbrellas, and kites, complaining that the symbols were racially insensitive. Phillips says the company has made a comprehensive effort to respond sensitively to all apprehensions. "We did make a few changes in some of our curriculum to address those concerns," he notes. The company's spokesman asserts that LifeWay has had a superabundance of positive feedback. "Overall, what we have found is that pastors, staff members, lay leaders, VBS teachers, have found this to be a fun, exciting, and biblically sound curriculum," he says. The whole point of VBS is to bring young people to a saving knowledge of Christ, Phillips says. He adds that the theme of this year's instructional materials was developed through extensive prayer and exhaustive research. LifeWay's spokesman says the Christian resource provider was in touch with the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board, which put the company in touch with a media consultant in Japan. In developing the curriculum, Phillips says LifeWay's people conferred with Japanese language and culture experts, and also traveled to Japan to work with a pastor and his family, as well as other Christian advisors there.

Albanian Muslims Target Christian Churches, Cemeteries and Monasteries
International Christian Concern

Violence being perpetrated by aggrieved Albanians is centering on Christian churches, cemeteries and monasteries. Thirty-one people have been killed and more than 40 religious sites, mostly churches, have been destroyed in large-scale violence which erupted once again in Kosovo on March 17th. The authorities in Kosovo, largely Albanian Muslim, have taken very little action against the perpetrators of the violence. The immediate cause of this latest violence was reported to be the drowning of two Albanian boys. However it appears that the hostility did not flare up spontaneously, and had in fact been well planned. Neither is it in fact certain that the boys were actually drowned by Serbs. The added irony is that, monasteries in this diocese and others were opened up to give ethnic Albanians shelter during the anti-Muslim/Albanian violence. Indeed such was the kindness shown that many Albanians started to seriously consider the claims of the Christian message. It is these very monasteries that are now being targeted for destruction. The balance of evidence strongly suggests that this latest outbreak of violence is an attempt to “ethnically” cleanse the region of its (largely Serbian) Christian heritage and people.

'People' Magazine Spotlights Faith of Christian Celebrities
Charisma News Service

The unprecedented success of "The Passion of the Christ" has prompted a national entertainment magazine to spotlight the faith of several Christian celebrities. In an April 5 cover story titled, "Does Hollywood Have Faith?" "People" looked at the beliefs of churchgoing stars, as well as those involved in Scientology and Buddhism. "This business tests you constantly: the materialism, the price, the ambition," said Patricia Heaton, star of "Everybody Loves Raymond" who takes her four sons to a Presbyterian church weekly. Actor Stephen Baldwin told the magazine that he will do bedroom scenes only if he's playing a married man or if there is a redemptive story line. "My career will flourish because of my faith," he says. Former "Growing Pains" star Kirk Cameron claimed that he has had to turn down no fewer than 100 jobs because of conflict with his Christian faith. "People" also noted that West Angeles Church of God in Christ, a Pentecostal congregation pastored by Bishop Charles Blake, counts Denzel Washington, Magic Johnson and Angela Bassett as regular worshipers. Heaton told "People" that the film "jump-started" her prayer life. "I think Jesus is a scary subject. God you can make into anything you want. But confronted [with Jesus], you have to say, 'I believe that or I don't.' It's very powerful."