Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world. In today's edition:
- Visionary and Founder of Christian Television System Passes Away
- Sri Lanka's Supreme Court Ponders Anti-Conversion Law
- Christian History Series Releases Two More Books
- Nation's First Youth Mall to Help Churches Reach Out to Teens
Visionary and Founder of Christian Television System Passes Away
Robert W. Johnson, founder, chairman and CEO of the Sky Angel satellite TV service, has passed away at age 66, succumbing to heart failure Thursday evening, August 5. A media technology innovator and visionary, Johnson devoted nearly 25 years of his life to developing the world's first Christian-owned multi-channel, high-power, direct broadcast satellite (DBS) television system with a mission to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world. He saw DBS as a means of reaching out to virtually every venue in America, bringing the gospel into homes, churches, colleges, prisons, nursing homes, homeless shelters, and other places. Johnson envisioned this Christian direct-to-home satellite system as an instrument to unify the body of Christ and to equip believers to fulfill the Great Commission. His company remains the sole survivor of a pioneering first round of DBS license applicants who applied in the early 1980s for FCC launch authority and construction permits; and it is one of only four companies in the U.S. licensed to own and operate a high-power DBS service. Sky Angel's mission and broadcast ministry are continuing under the interim leadership of Johnson's son, Robert W. Johnson Jr., with the help of dedicated senior personnel and a faithful support staff.
Sri Lanka's Supreme Court Ponders Anti-Conversion Law
Sarah Page, Compass Direct
Religious tensions are running high in Sri Lanka as their Supreme Court considers a number of petitions for and against a new law that will ban or restrict conversions. The "Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Act" was tabled in the Sri Lankan Parliament on July 21, giving opponents just seven days to formally present their objections to the Supreme Court. The court heard presentations on Friday, August 6, and Monday, August 9. Many opponents challenged the "constitutionality" of the bill, saying it contravened Articles 9, 10 and 14 of the constitution which guaranteed the basic right to freedom of religious belief and association. The Supreme Court will release its judgment to Parliament by August 12. Meanwhile, Godfrey Yogarajah, general secretary of the National Christian Evangelical Alliance, has pleaded with those who support the bill to reconsider. "We are already fragmented racially," he explained. "Do we need religious fragmentation as well?"
Christian History Series Releases Two More Books
Two new volumes from the Christian History Project (CHP) are available in this fine series of books that aims to reconnect Christians to the history of their faith. Often spellbinding in its prose and filled with powerful artwork and photos, this series has already garnered impressive endorsements from a variety of Christian sources, such as the American Family Association; Dr. James I. Packer, author and professor of theology at Regent College; and George Barna, leader of the Barna Research Group. Darkness Descends: AD 350 to 565, The Fall of the Western Roman Empire, and The Sword of Islam: AD 565 to 740, The Muslim Onslaught all but Destroys Christendom, are the fourth and fifth in a planned set of twelve volumes. The opening chapter of Darkness Descends confronts the reader with early struggles of the church against heresies. The focus then shifts to chapters covering, among other things, the barbarian invasions, the fall of Rome and collapse of the West, the birth of the medieval world and the foundation of the Byzantine empire. The Sword of Islam covers the rise of Islam and the early Middle Ages. While covering events in the Christian world as well, this volume will help Christians understand the foundations and development of Islam, especially at a time in history when the world's two largest faiths are often at odds.
Nation's First Youth Mall to Help Churches Reach Out to Teens
Charisma New Service
'A Wisconsin-based ministry is set to launch the nation's first youth mall. Organizers say the shopping and activity center in Appleton will help 34 churches reach out to teens in their community. In 1954, the community opened the nation's first fully enclosed shopping mall. Now, 50 years later, the Valley Fair Mall (VFM) is getting a major makeover thanks to the nonprofit YouthFutures. The faith-based community organization is spearheading the pending purchase of the dying VFM with an Aug. 21 grand reopening planned. "Part of the concept behind the mall is that there are 94,000 teens in this four-county region, and like a lot of other communities, there's not that much for teens to do," YouthFutures CEO Greg Books said. "What we want to create is a venue where there's entertainment choices -- a skate park, theater, paintball, stores, food court, places to sit, a comedy house -- there's just a plethora of choices, but none of those choices will get you into trouble." And the youth-mall concept doesn't end in Appleton. "There are literally hundreds of cities that have that same combination of a dead or dying mall, a teen population with nothing to do, and a strong, vibrant faith community," Books said.