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Religion Today Summaries - April 9, 2012

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - April 9, 2012

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Southern Sudanese Christians Fear Forced Repatriation
  • No Progress in Investigation of Attack on Cuban Pastor
  • Special-Protections Measure Fails in Alaska
  • Court in Egypt Sentences Young Christian for 'Insulting Islam'


Southern Sudanese Christians Fear Forced Repatriation

Christians from South Sudan who were given until Easter Sunday (April 8) to try to become citizens of Sudan or be deported fear authorities will use the occasion to rid the country of Christianity, Compass Direct News reports. More than 500,000 citizens of southern ethnic origin who have been living in Sudan for decades -- some of them born there -- are now, as of yesterday, considered foreigners. Human rights organizations called on Khartoum to grant them more time to either leave or apply for citizenship. Christian leaders expressed concern that local media have been stoking hatred against predominantly Christian southern Sudanese, describing them as "cancer cells in the body of Sudan, the land of the Arab and Islam," and calling on the government to deport them. Banners have appeared in Khartoum streets calling on the government and Muslims to harass and expel southern Sudanese, some of whom are also Muslims. After South Sudan seceded from Sudan last July, Sudan's government began issuing national numbers to designate citizens of Sudan, and denying the designation to Sudanese of southern origin. Without a national number, southern Sudanese have no citizenship rights to work or education. Churches in Sudan have already suffered losses in numbers as many members prepare for forced repatriation.

No Progress in Investigation of Attack on Cuban Pastor

Local officials in Moa, Cuba have told the family of a Cuban pastor who was violently attacked and left for dead in February that they have no suspects in the case, ASSIST News Service reports. Pastor Reutilio Columbie, 41, was attacked and left unconscious on the street on Feb. 6 while on his way to file a complaint with regional authorities regarding the confiscation of a church vehicle. The only thing taken from him was the document proving his legal ownership of the vehicle. Columbie continues to suffer from dizziness, intense nausea, vomiting, and memory and speech difficulties as a result of the attack. As a result, he is unable to preach at his church or travel outside of Moa. While he has received support from his community, Columbie says local authorities remain intransigent on both the investigation into the assault and the confiscation of his vehicle. Now, with the disappearance of the key document, his ownership of the vehicle will be virtually impossible to prove. "We don't understand why any of this has happened," Columbie's family said. "Everything we did was legal." Human rights organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide is calling on Cuban authorities for a thorough investigation into the entire situation.

Special-Protections Measure Fails in Alaska

Family advocates won a huge victory in Alaska on April 3, when Anchorage residents resoundingly shot down a measure known as Proposition 5, which would have expanded the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to include "sexual orientation and transgender identity," WORLD News Service reports. Though backers of Prop 5 -- which included Colorado gay-activist billionaire Tim Gill and both Alaska U.S. senators, Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich -- vastly outspent pro-family advocates, the measure failed by a 16-point margin, 58 percent to 42 percent. "It represents a triumph of common sense over cash," said Jim Minnery, president of the Alaska Family Policy Council. "People are now able to have a firm understanding that they don’t have to check their faith at their place of worship to go out into the public market place." Mayor Dan Sullivan vetoed a similar measure when the city council passed it about three years ago, citing a lack of quantifiable evidence to show it was needed. He was re-elected Tuesday with about 59 percent of the vote.

Court in Egypt Sentences Young Christian for 'Insulting Islam'

In a show of partiality to Muslims who go unprosecuted for like offenses against Christianity, a juvenile court in Egypt last week sentenced a Coptic Christian teenager to three years in prison for allegedly insulting Islam, Compass Direct News reports. The court claimed Gamal Abdou Massoud, 17, posted cartoons on his Facebook account in December mocking Islam and its prophet, Muhammad, and that he distributed the pictures to other students -- charges which Massoud denies. After the incident came to light, Muslims in Massoud's village rioted, fire-bombing his home and burning down at least five other Christian-owned homes. Massoud was held responsible for inciting the riots, which forced his family to leave the village, but no one responsible for burning the homes has been charged. The sentencing was considered significant not only because it violated the free speech clauses of the U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- of which Egypt is a signatory -- but also showed another area where justice is executed unequally between Muslims and Christians. When Muslim public figures violate Egyptian laws related to insulting Christianity, the laws are often ignored, Coptic Christians say. But when Christians are accused of violating the same laws against Islam, even a minor is usually punished to the full extent of the law.

Publication date: April 9, 2012