Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 15, 2007

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 15, 2007

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

  • Anti-Shari'a March Banned in Belgium, but 'Spontaneous' Actions still Likely
  • School in Vietnam Denies Entry to Christian Boy
  • Churches are Preaching 'Gospel Lite,' Says German Theologian
  • Open Doors Official: China Worried about Evangelism During '08 Olympics

Anti-Shari'a March Banned; 'Spontaneous' Actions still Likely

The socialist mayor of Brussels has banned a demonstration against the "Islamisation" of Europe that was planned in the Belgian capital on September 11, but "spontaneous" protest actions may still take place, reports. Activists in Denmark, Britain, Germany and elsewhere have been planning a peaceful demonstration outside the European Parliament on the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, under the slogans, "Enough is enough -- no shari'a here -- Stop the Islamisation of Europe." But late last week, Mayor Freddy Thielemans banned the protest. His spokesman, Nicolas Dassonville, was quoted in Belgian newspapers as saying that the risk to public order was too great, and that "the sizeable foreign community living in the area could react." Researchers estimate that 17 percent of the residents of the Brussels capital region are Muslims, mostly of Moroccan and Turkish origin. Dassonville also expressed concern about what he called "Islamophobic language" on the websites of the event organizers.

School in Vietnam Denies Entry to Christian Boy

A school in central Vietnam has denied entry to a fifth-grade boy because he is Christian, according to a letter from an elementary school principal to the Degar (Montagnard) child’s parents. Tran Van Ha, principal of Ka Dang Public Elementary School in Quang Nam province, wrote to Phong Hong Phong’s parents on July 2 that the child could not take an entrance exam because the school district had announced a new rule barring “students who follow a religion.” According to the principal’s letter, a copy of which was obtained by Compass Direct News, the apparently embarrassed Ha asks the parents for their “understanding and sympathy,” saying that the decision was outside of his control. A source in Vietnam who provided the correspondence to Compass said that other parents received similar letters. He added that, although Vietnam has shown some progress in religious freedom, “Ethic minority Christian students still meet with considerable official discrimination.”

Churches are Preaching 'Gospel Lite,' Says German Theologian

Conversion sermons have become like undesirable children, whom no one wants to play with, according to a German evangelical theologian, ASSIST News Service reports. Professor Christoph Stenschke teaches New Testament studies at Wiedenest Bible School. In an article published by the Baptist journal “Die Gemeinde” he recalls the old days, when pastors and evangelists preached fervent sermons of repentance. Today this call had been replaced in many churches by an invitation “to make friends with Jesus.” The response to an attractive” Gospel message is poor and short-lived, however, as many churches are finding out. Stenschke: “There is precious little trace of a life long, life changing discipleship and enthusiastic commitment.” The German Baptist Union, with which some Brethren congregations are associated, is the biggest evangelical church in Germany with 85,000 members. It has not experienced any significant growth for years.

Open Doors Official: China Worried about Evangelism During '08 Olympics reports that Paul Estabrooks, minister-at-large with Open Doors International, believes things will get worse for believers in China as that next year's Olympics approach. Estabrooks notes that persecution has increased against those who do not register with the official church in China, and more effort is being made to register "underground" and "house" churches. "Those in the house-church movement who refuse to register are the ones who are kind of left out, hung out to dry there a little bit," Estabrooks explains. "And... in some areas where local authorities especially are antagonistic, they are experiencing tremendous challenges and pressure and oppression from those in authority." China also expelled more than 100 Christian missionaries this year. All told, Estabrooks believes that the Chinese government sees Christians as a threat to their image.