Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 17, 2010

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 17, 2010

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Pope: Christians Are Most Persecuted Religious Group
  • Algerian Christians to Appeal Conviction for Worshipping
  • Iranian Christian Temporarily Released on $250,000 Bail
  • Poll: U.S. Split on 'Happy Holidays' vs. 'Merry Christmas'

Pope: Christians Are Most Persecuted Religious Group

The Associated Press reports that Pope Benedict XVI yesterday called Christians "the religious group which suffers most from persecution on account of [their] faith." In a letter released ahead of World Peace Day on Jan. 1, the pontiff pointed to multiple attacks on Christians in the Middle East. He commented specifically on the "reprehensible attack" on a Baghdad church on Oct. 31 that left almost 60 people dead, and lack of religious tolerance in Asia and Africa. "This situation is intolerable, since it represents an insult to God and to human dignity" as well as "a threat to security and peace," Benedict wrote in one of the 17-page-long message's strongest passages. He appealed to authorities to "act promptly to end every injustice" against Christians.

Algerian Christians to Appeal Conviction for Worshipping

Four Christian men in Algeria will appeal a court decision to hand them suspended prison sentences for worshiping without a permit. Compass Direct News reports that the men, all leaders of a small Protestant church, allege the verdict could have repercussions for all the country's churches. The correctional court of Larbaa Nath Irathen in Tizi Ouzou Province gave two-month suspended prison sentences to the men on Sunday. The pastor of the church, Mahmoud Yahou, was also charged with hosting a foreigner without official permission. The prosecutor had asked for one-year prison sentences for each defendant. Yahou told Compass that he and the three other men plan to appeal the verdict because the outcome of their case could affect all Protestant churches of the country, none of which have official permission to operate.

Iranian Christian Temporarily Released on $250,000 Bail

A recent Christian convert who endured more than 70 days in solitary confinement at an Iranian detention center because of his faith is now on house arrest after posting $250,000 bail. ASSIST News Service reports that Neshan Saeedi, 37, was temporarily released on Oct. 3. Plain-clothes intelligence officers arrested Saeedi, along with his wife and six-year-old daughter, on July 24. The agents released his wife and daughter after midnight following a long interrogation. Saeedi was held in an unofficial prison for months, allowing his wife only a couple brief visits and a five-minute phone call with her husband during that time. Saeedi's interrogators asked about his church and pastor, but never formally charged him. They also reportedly threatened Saeedi's wife that if she spoke about her husband's situation, she and her daughter would get into trouble and she would never see her husband again.

Poll: U.S. Split on 'Happy Holidays' vs. 'Merry Christmas'

While more than nine out of 10 Americans say they plan to celebrate Christmas this year, they are divided on whether businesses should use messages like "Season's Greetings" rather than "Merry Christmas," according to a new poll. The latest PRRI/RNS Religion News Poll, released yesterday, found Americans are split, 44 percent in favor and 49 opposed, on whether retailers should use generic holiday greetings. The so-called "War on Christmas" has been a rallying cry for conservatives in recent years as they resist attempts to remove nativity scenes from town squares, Christmas carols from public schools and the words "Merry Christmas" from sales flyers. The poll found a significant number of people engaging in secularized celebrations of Christmas, with Americans more likely to watch Christmas movies like "It's A Wonderful Life" (83 percent) than attend religious services on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day (66 percent). The holiday season is also slightly interreligious: One in 10 Americans say members of their families also celebrate another December holiday, such as Hanukkah or Kwanzaa.