Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 16, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 16, 2009

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

  • Turks Threaten to Kill Priest over Swiss Minaret Decision
  • Archbishop of Canterbury Condemns Uganda's Anti-Gay Law
  • Church Screening of 'Jesus Film' Attacked in Pakistan
  • Pakistan: Father and Daughter Acquitted of Apostasy Charges

Turks Threaten to Kill Priest over Swiss Minaret Decision

Compass Direct News reports that a group of Muslims went into a church building in eastern Turkey and threatened to kill a priest unless he tore down its bell tower. The group was reporting acting in response to a Swiss vote banning the construction of new mosque minarets. On Dec. 4, three Muslims entered the Meryem Ana Church, a Syriac Orthodox church in Diyarbakir, and confronted the Rev. Yusuf Akbulut. "If Switzerland is demolishing our minarets, we will demolish your bell towers too," one of the men told Akbulut. In a Nov. 29 referendum in Switzerland, 57 percent voted in favor of banning the construction of new minarets in the country. The Swiss ban, widely viewed around the world as a breach of religious freedom, is likely to face legal challenges in Switzerland and in the European Court of Human Rights. Akbulut has contacted police but has otherwise remained defiant in the face of the threats.

Archbishop of Canterbury Condemns Uganda's Anti-Gay Law

Religion News Service reports that after weeks of intense pressure from Episcopal gay rights groups, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has condemned the "shocking severity" of proposed anti-gay laws in Uganda. The spiritual leader of the 77 million-member Anglican Communion also said that "I can't see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades." Williams had been heavily criticized by American gay rights advocates, particularly since he said the election of a lesbian as an Episcopal bishop in Los Angeles raised "very serious questions" about the Episcopal Church's future with the Anglican Communion. A number of U.S. religious leaders and gay rights groups have already condemned the proposed Ugandan laws, which would imprison gays and lesbians as well as people who counsel them. The Anglican Church of Uganda, however, has opposed only the proposed death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality."

Church Screening of 'Jesus Film' Attacked in Pakistan

Compass Direct News reports that some 50 Muslim villagers attacked a showing of the "Jesus Film" near this city in Punjab Province on Dec. 9, injuring seven Christians. Two of the Christians, who are part-time evangelists, were seriously injured. The Muslim hardliners also damaged a movie projector, burned reels of the film and absconded with the public address system and donations from Christian viewers in Chak village. Officers at the Saddr police station refused to register a case against the Muslim assailants, sources said. The three part-time evangelists - Ishtiaq Bhatti, Imtiaz Ghauri and Kaleem Ghulam - were screening the film within the premises of the Catholic Church of Chak. Ghauri and Ghulam sustained serious injuries for which they received treatment at another hospital. The evangelists said that a Muslim cleric incited Muslim villagers, who were armed with clubs, spades and axes.

Pakistan: Father and Daughter Acquitted of Apostasy Charges

ASSIST News Service reports that a Pakistani father and daughter have been acquitted and freed after being accused of desecrating the Qur'an, the Muslim Holy book. Gulsher Masih was a prisoner in the Faisalabad District Jail, while his 20-year-old daughter Ashiyana, was imprisoned in the Jhang District Jail. Both faced life in prison under a Pakistani law that severely punishes those who "defile" or "damage" the Qur'an. The case against the father and daughter began to fall apart when their accuser, Muhammad Farooq Alam, admitted that he had a personal grudge against the two. According to their lawyer, "while he and others were in the mosque to offer their prayers, the father and daughter used to put on the loud speaker in the nearby church."