Religion Today Summaries - August 27, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - August 27, 2004

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

  • Demand Letter Lays Down the Law for School Officials in Golden State

  • Olympian ready to help seekers grapple with faith in Christ

  • U.S. Hopeful for an End to Ethnic Cleansing -- in Western Sudan This Time

  • Vietnam 's 'Mennonite Six' Allowed Family Visits

Demand Letter Lays Down the Law for School Officials in Golden State
Jim Brown and Jody Brown, AgapePress

A religious freedom group is sending a legal demand letter to every superintendent and school board member in the state of California explaining they must have respect for parental rights and students' religious freedoms. The demand letter from the Pacific Justice Institute warns school districts not to violate the rights of students to pray, share their faith, and read their Bibles on campus.  It also notifies schools of parents' rights to opt their children out of pro-homosexual instruction or other "tolerance" issue-based curriculum. PJI president Brad Dacus says school boards and school districts need to be kept in check. Dacus explains that the letter not only explains the law, but also states the ramifications of violating the law, including potential liabilities and costly litigation.  For example, it warns that failure to allow Christian clubs to put up posters and hold rallies on campus could lead to potential litigation. Other topics addressed in the letter explain the rights of school boards to prohibit students from leaving campus to have an abortion without their parents receiving prior notice, as well as the right of students to celebrate religious holidays like Christmas and Easter on campus. Dacus says he is hopeful the letter will prevent thousands of Christian students from being subjected to outright discrimination.

Olympian ready to help seekers grapple with faith in Christ
Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Imagine if you're a sportswriter assigned to the Olympics in Athens, enthralled with all the world-class competition but, deep inside, hurting with spiritual emptiness. And then you interview Greco-Roman wrestler Jim Gruenwald, who finished sixth in the 2000 Olympics and is soon to begin his quest for gold in the event's 132-pound class. One person who knows what such a reporter might experience is Tony Silengo, a sports chaplain at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. "There are endless accounts of Jim's sharing Christ with the lost," said Silengo. "He [Gruenwald] works wrestling camps every summer teaching young wrestlers how to be the best wrestlers in the world," Silengo continued. "They listen carefully to what he has to say. Then he clearly gives them the Gospel message and every year somewhere around 40-60 young men come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior!" Gruenwald, 34, lives his faith not just at wrestling meets but at home -- he and his wife, Rachel, have a son and daughter. And at school -- he's a math teacher at Hilltop Baptist High School, a ministry of Hilltop Baptist Church, an independent Baptist congregation in Colorado Springs.

U.S. Hopeful for an End to Ethnic Cleansing -- in Western Sudan This Time
Chad Groening and Jody Brown, AgapePress

An assistant secretary of state says he hopes the same diplomatic efforts that ended the attacks by Muslims against Christians in South Sudan will have similar success in another war-torn area of that African country. BBC News reports that the "campaign of terror" in the province of Darfur in Western Sudan has resulted in thousands crowding into nearby towns as they seek refuge from the attacks.  And the group Human Rights Watch says it has documented a pattern of human rights violations in that area that amount to a government policy of "ethnic cleansing" of certain ethnic groups.  Among the atrocities being committed upon the Fur and the Masalit people are mass murder, torture, rape, mistreatment of prisoners of war, and use of civilians as human shields.  Lorne Craner is the Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor at the Department of State.  He has been monitoring the slaughter of thousands of people at the hands of Arab terrorists in Darfur.  Craner says the United States will continue to push the Sudanese government to rein in Arab terrorists in Darfur -- and that he is hopeful that diplomatic efforts will be as successful as those that ended the murder of Christians in South Sudan.

Vietnam 's 'Mennonite Six' Allowed Family Visits
Compass Direct

On August 23, the mother of Mennonite evangelists Nguyen Huu Nghia and Nguyen Thanh Nhan was allowed to visit her imprisoned sons for the first time since their arrest in Ho Chi Minh City , Vietnam , on March 2. It took nearly six months for the brothers' family to get permission for the visit, despite a Vietnamese law stipulating that prisoners must be allowed visitors within the first 30 days of incarceration. Authorities have allowed visitors for three more of the "Mennonite Six," as the prisoners have come to be known. Pham Ngoc Thach, Nguyen Van Phuong and the Rev. Nguyen Hong Quang have received family members in the respective Ho Chi Minh City police jails where they are incarcerated while awaiting charges. However, officials have denied visits for female evangelist Le Thi Hong Lien, arrested in early July, on the grounds that she is "hard-headed and uncooperative." According to sources, authorities are working hard to put the Mennonite Six on trial as soon as possible, perhaps by early September.