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Religion Today Summaries - August 23, 2005

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - August 23, 2005

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

  • Court Says Atheism is a Religion

  • New Egyptian Bible Hotline

  • Open Doors Youth Arm Campaigns for Eritrea's Persecuted Christians

  • Pakistan: Gospel Workers Beaten, Robbed

Court Says Atheism is a Religion
American Family Association

A federal court of appeals has ruled in favor of an inmate who claimed that Wisconsin prison officials violated his rights under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because they refused to allow him to create a study group for atheists. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that prison officials erred because they “did not treat atheism as a ‘religion.’” “Atheism,” said the court, “is [the inmate’s] religion, and the group that he wanted to start was religious in nature even though it expressly rejects a belief in a supreme being.” The Supreme Court has said that a religion need not be based on a belief in the existence of a supreme being. In the 1961 case of Torcaso v. Watkins, the Court described “secular humanism” as a religion. “It is difficult not to be somewhat jaundiced about our courts,” stated Brian Fahling, senior trial attorney for the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy, “when they take clauses especially designed to protect religion from the state and turn them on their head by giving protective cover to a belief system, that, by every known definition other than the courts’ is not a religion, while simultaneously declaring public expressions of true religious faith to be prohibited.”

New Egyptian Bible Hotline
Dan Wooding, Assist News Service

The Bible Society of Egypt has set up a brand new quick-dial telephone service. The special number will connect callers anywhere in Egypt directly to their nearest Bible Society bookshop. “This new initiative follows the recent success at this year’s Cairo International Bookfair, resulting in a 26 per cent increase in sales of Bibles and Christian resources,” said a spokesperson for the Bible Society. “This escalation in interest in Christian materials has encouraged the local Bible Society to try other creative ways of marketing its message. “The Society is already known for its enterprising foray into billboard advertisements in the country’s capital. The adverts appeared across Cairo on huge, prominent poster sites inviting passers by to consider the Bible’s message.” Now, in an ingenious twist on an impact of globalization, the Bible Society of Egypt has set up a brand new telephone service. “The Society has set up its very own special phone number, 19250, which connects callers anywhere in Egypt directly to their nearest Bible Society bookshop. The easy-to-remember phone number is now being publicized across the country to make Christian resources even more accessible.”(www.biblesociety.org.uk)

Open Doors Youth Arm Campaigns for Eritrea's Persecuted Christians
Allie Martin, AgapePress

Young people throughout the nation have an opportunity to support imprisoned and persecuted Christians in the East African nation of Eritrea. Underground, the youth ministry of Open Doors USA, has developed programs that allow young Christians to help believers imprisoned for their faith as well as their families. Jeff Shreve, president of Underground, says in the last 18 months more than 900 Christians have been imprisoned, and among those 900 are many young, teenage Christians. "And we're trying to get a nationwide effort raised up among the teenage Christians of America," he explains, "to come to [the Eritrean believers'] aid in prayer, in finances, in awareness, and every which way you can think of to help those Christians." As part of the campaign to aid these persecuted Christians, Underground is offering a "Pray for Eritrea" bracelet and an Underground Citizen Kit. Shreve says the goal of the effort is to raise $55,000 to help support believers in that country, where there are currently 16 full-time pastors and nearly 900 Eritrean believers who are behind bars because of religious persecution. Underground is spearheading the "Pray for Eritrea" initiative and raising awareness about what is going on there -- so young believers and other concerned Christians can be equipped to reach out to their persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ in that East African nation.

Pakistan: Gospel Workers Beaten, Robbed
Christian Aid Mission

A Muslim backlash against Christians, who are seen by many Pakistanis as tied to often-reviled America, continues in Pakistan with two attacks on native missionaries. Native ministry leaders report that, several weeks ago, a missionary was visited by three Muslim men late at night. As soon as the missionary opened the door to admit them, the men held him up at gunpoint and locked him, with his family, in a back room. The men then searched his house for two hours, stealing Bibles and Christian literature as well as blankets intended for orphaned children. The attackers destroyed what they could not steal, including a computer and motorbike. Their parting words were a death threat to the missionary. A few days later, a team of five young gospel workers witnessing in a North Pakistan village were surrounded by 300 Muslim extremists who began beating them. The men were dragged to a local police station, where policemen refused to let gathering reporters photograph the victims. Thankfully, all missionaries have since been released. Native ministry leaders in Pakistan tell Christian Aid that such incidents have caused an increase in asylum-seekers at mission centers.