Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 11, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 11, 2008

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

  • Authorities in Laos Detain 90 Christians
  • Christian Broadcasters Nervous about Fairness Doctrine
  • Chinese House Church Pastor Detained
  • Christian Rights Group Wants U.N. to Intervene in Burma Crisis

Authorities in Laos Detain 90 Christians

Compass Direct News reports that authorities in Laos have detained or arrested at least 90 Christians in three provinces in recent weeks, including an arrest Aug. 3 of a pastor and two other believers from a house church in Boukham village. Arrests were reported in the southern provinces of Saravan and Savannakhet and in Luang Prabang province in the north. In one incident on July 21, Compass sources said officials detained 80 Christians in Katin village, Saravan province, after residents seized a Christian neighbor identified only as Pew and poured rice wine down his throat, killing him by asphyxiation. When mourning family members buried the Christian and put a wooden cross on the grave, village officials accused them of “practicing the rituals of the enemy of the state” and seized a buffalo and pig from the family as a fine. On July 25, according to Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom, officials rounded up 17 of the 20 Christian families in the village – a total of 80 men, women and children – and detained them in a local school compound, denying them food for three days in an attempt to force the adults to sign documents renouncing their faith.

Christian Broadcasters Nervous about Fairness Doctrine

Religion News Service reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is making Christian broadcasters nervous. Pelosi, D-Calif., recently said she supports resurrecting the Fairness Doctrine, a 1949 Federal Communications Commission policy that required broadcasters who sent out specific messages to set aside time for opposing views. Such a move would "really make it impossible to preach the whole counsel of God," said Rich Bott, the owner of Kansas-based Bott Radio Network, which broadcasts Christian programming across 10 states. It would also, he said, likely put him out of business. Put in place nearly 50 years ago, the doctrine was an FCC regulation that policed the airwaves at a time when there were few other sources of information. It never carried the full weight of the law. By the 1980s, with the advent of cable television and multiple opportunities to air differing opinions, the policy fell out of favor and was finally ditched by the FCC in 1987. While Pelosi hasn't offered legislation to reinstate the policy, she has signaled that she supports its revival, and said a bill introduced by Rep. Mike Spence, R-Ind., to permanently kill it will not be considered by the Democratic-controlled House. If the Fairness Doctrine were to be reinstated by Congress, broadcasters would be legally forced to follow the old protocol: one-third of the airtime given to one opinion must be offered free-of-charge to opponents.

Chinese House Church Pastor Detained

Compass Direct News reporrts that Chinese police detained house church leader Zhang Mingxuan, along with his wife Xie Fenlang and co-pastor Wu Jiang He, at a police station in Hebei after a BBC journalist attempted to interview him on Monday (August 4). International affairs journalist John Simpson phoned Zhang to request an interview, as required in a handbook given to journalists reporting on the Olympic Games in Beijing. Zhang agreed to the interview, but as Simpson traveled to meet him, police seized Zhang and his companions and moved them to a local police station. Public Security Bureau officials had banished Zhang and his wife from Beijing for the duration of the Games, fearing they would try to meet with visiting foreign officials. After forcing Zhang and Xie to leave their home, police on July 18 entered a guesthouse where they were staying and drove them to Yanjiao in neighboring Hebei province. Zhang and Xie had moved to another, more remote town to await the completion of the Games.

Christian Rights Group Wants U.N. to Intervene in Burma Crisis

The Christian Post reports that Christian Solidarity Worldwide is calling for “urgent, specific and meaningful action” from the United Nations to address Burma’s ongoing political and humanitarian crisis. CSW wants the U.N. to present Burma's regime with a list of demands, including the release of political prisoners before U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon visits in December. CSW also wants key members of the military junta to be brought before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. “Hundreds of thousands of people have needlessly died as a result of the junta’s military offensives, torture, brutality, and deliberate criminal neglect,” said CSW national director Stuart Windsor. “We cannot afford to wait another 20 years before the international community acts decisively in response to this political and humanitarian crisis.”