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Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 12, 2010

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 12, 2010

Daily briefs of the top Christian news and persecution stories impacting believers around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Epic Pakistan Flooding Called Worst 'in Living Memory'
  • Study Finds Prayer Aids Relationships

  • Chinese Citizens Raise Their Voices against Repression of Petitioners' Rights Lawyers

  • Religious Club Closures in Schools Touch Nerve in Malaysia

Epic Pakistan Flooding Called Worst 'in Living Memory'

Baptist Press reports that unprecedented flooding in an area of Pakistan where people already struggle with great tragedy and hardship has prompted a Southern Baptist disaster relief response. As many as 1,600 people are reported dead and another 14 million have been affected, the United Nations is reporting. As the heavy rains continue to fall, devastation and despair once again seem to have taken hold among the peoples of Pakistan. Stranded by floodwaters, many are grieving loved ones who have died while worrying about how they will care for their living. Pakistan's population is 95 percent Muslim, and those the floodwaters have ravaged have little direct knowledge of Christians. Pakistani Christians, with the aid of Southern Baptist partners and Southern Baptist funds, are doing all they can to help those in need and bring true hope to hurting flood survivors in Pakistan. "One team is doing search and rescue in one of the landslide areas. They have found dozens of bodies," a Southern Baptist relief worker said. "I asked if they were worn out from all this difficult work, but [they] insist that they have great joy in their work and they are eager to continue to help."

Study Finds Prayer Aids Relationships

The old adage "couples who pray together stay together" may be true, especially for African-Americans, a new study shows. According to Religion News Service the survey of religion, race and relationships found that African-Americans attend church more as couples compared to members of other racial and ethnic groups. Four in 10 African-American respondents said they attended services regularly as a couple, according to a study published in the August issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family. In comparison, 31 percent of Mexicans or Mexican-Americans, and 29 percent of whites, said they regularly shared a pew. "Without prayer, black couples would be doing significantly worse than white couples," said W. Bradford Wilcox, a co-author of the study and the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. "The vitality of African-Americans' religious lives gives them an advantage over other Americans when it comes to relationships. This advantage puts them on par with other couples." In addition to worshipping together, African-Americans were found to be more likely than non-Hispanic whites to participate in prayer and Scripture studies at home. In general, researchers found that people in same-faith relationships and partners who attended services regularly were more satisfied with their relationship.

Chinese Citizens Raise Their Voices against Repression of Petitioners' Rights Lawyers

On Monday, August 9, ChinaAid learned that Hu Shigen, a rights defense activist and member of the newly founded Petitioners' Rights Defense Lawyers Association, was officially summoned at 3:00 pm by the Criminal Investigation Department of the Beijing Police, and summarily harassed and threatened by public security officers following the meeting. Persecutionblog.com reports that this incident coincides with a rising pattern of systematic persecutions against members of the Petitioners' Rights Association, since its formation in June. Rights defenders Bai Dongping, Zhao Changqing, Yang Huiwen, Jiang Tianyong, and other declared members have faced similar warnings, summons for interrogations, and similar forms of suppression. In response to the mounting persecution, the Chinese Citizens Rights Defense Alliance joined with four Chinese associations in issuing a statement on Tuesday, August 10, calling on the leadership of China to "stand on the side of the rights defense citizens of China and the legal professionals, ensure the powers of law enforcement and other types of public power are not abused," and to "implement, respect and safeguard the Constitutional concepts of human rights."

Religious Club Closures in Schools Touch Nerve in Malaysia

More closures of non-Muslim religious clubs in Malaysian schools, including Christian fellowships, have surfaced since the first incident was reported on July 12, Compass Direct reports. Loh Seng Kok, central committee member of the Malaysian Chinese Association, said at a July 23 press conference that the situation was "getting worse" and that the initial incident at Klang High School was not an "isolated issue." Several political leaders, including veteran opposition leader Lim Kit Siang, have called on authorities to revoke outdated directives and circulars that contravene the Federal Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion. Malaysiakini news agency on July 23 cited an unnamed retired teacher who described the situation as "very serious," to the extent that some teachers had been transferred because they were active in Christian fellowship activities at their schools. Reports of non-Muslim religious club closures first surfaced when The Sun reported on July 12 that three non-Muslim religious student groups, including the Christian Union at Klang High School, were ordered closed by the Selangor education department last month. Reports of the religious club closures came amid the trial of three men who have been charged with arson in the attack on Metro Tabernacle church earlier this year.