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Religion Today Summaries, December 12, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, December 12, 2003

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

  • Pope, Meeting Israeli Official, Urges `Concrete Acts of Reconciliation'
  • Vietnamese Police Arrest Christians for Passing out Tracts
  • Moore Appeals Removal from Alabama Supreme Court Justice Post
  • Eritrean Government Refuses Church Recognition and Headquarters

Pope, Meeting Israeli Official, Urges `Concrete Acts of Reconciliation'
Peggy Polk, Religion News Service

Pope John Paul II met privately Thursday (Dec. 11) with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and urged "concrete acts of reconciliation" to end the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a brief statement that Shalom's talks with John Paul and later with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican foreign minister, centered on "the road to follow to obtain peace in the Holy Land." John Paul also brought up questions affecting "the life of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land in the light of commitments taken under the Fundamental Agreement of 1993" governing relations between Israel and the Vatican.  The statement made no mention of the climate of the meeting, but Shalom told Israeli reporters it was "very cordial." He said he assured the pope that Israel would take part in the meeting of a bilateral commission to discuss the status of church property in the Holy Land.  Vatican sources said the pope and his aides fear the wall that Israel is building between Israeli and Palestinian settlements will isolate monasteries in East Jerusalem. They are concerned about Israel's reluctance to issue visas to priests and nuns. 

Vietnamese Police Arrest Christians for Passing out Tracts
Fred Jackson and Jenni Parker, Agape Press

A report from Vietnam indicates that 19 Christians have been arrested there for distributing leaflets during the Southeast Asian Games in Ho Chi Minh City. The group of Christians, which included a Protestant pastor, were arrested by Vietnamese police on Tuesday, and all but four remain in custody. The whereabouts of two ministers and two assistants is currently unknown. The leaflets the Vietnamese Christians were distributing contained a schedule for the games and invitations to readers to consider following Jesus Christ. Nguyen Hong Quang, one of the arrested ministers, said that he and the other Christians are being persecuted for their beliefs. Quang is asking to meet with local police in order to pursue the release of the detainees, a public apology, and an end to religious persecution in Vietnam. Last month the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution that urged the Vietnamese government "to respect the right of all independent religious organizations to meet, worship, operate and practice their faith in accordance with Vietnam's own constitution and international covenants." The U.S. Embassy in Vietnam has been instructed to monitor cases of abuse and report to Congress on measures taken to protect and promote religious freedom in that country.

Moore Appeals Removal from Alabama Supreme Court Justice Post
Stan Bailey, Religion News Service

Lawyers for Roy Moore asked the Alabama Supreme Court on Wednesday (Dec. 10) to restore him to office as chief justice and called on Acting Chief Justice Gorman Houston not to participate in the case. Moore was removed from office on Nov. 13 by the state Court of the Judiciary, which convicted him of violating the canons of judicial ethics by refusing to obey a federal court order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the state judicial building. “I think it would have been a violation of my oath of office to obey an unlawful order," Moore said after filing his notice of appeal. "To do what I'm sworn to do cost me my job. It's that simple."  Moore's lawyers said Houston, who has said publicly he won't step down from hearing Moore's appeal, has shown bias against Moore by his public statements and actions. Moore's lawyers said Houston has a direct interest in the outcome of Moore's appeal since Houston would cease to be the acting chief justice if Moore were restored to office. Houston and the other seven justices ordered the Ten Commandments monument removed from the judicial building rotunda after Moore refused to remove it. Neither Houston nor Attorney General Bill Pryor, who prosecuted Moore on behalf of the state Judicial Inquiry Commission, had any comment on Moore's motion or remarks.

Eritrean Government Refuses Church Recognition and Headquarters
Charisma News Service

Authorities recently kicked out a large congregation in the Eritrean capital of Asmara from a government-owned complex. The Full Gospel Church's staff and members were ordered to permanently evacuate the large complex that had served as the congregation's headquarters and meeting place for the past 11 years. The rented facility accommodated up to 4,000 worshipers. "They were told that as an institution, their church was violating presidential directives, that it was involved in an illegal cell-group ministry," a local source told Compass Direct. "They were told that the church will not get any property." Since May 2002, the government has refused to recognize the congregation and a dozen other independent Protestant churches representing some 20,000 members. All have been ordered to close their church buildings and stop both public and private meetings for worship. Meanwhile, all but six of 62 young believers arrested and locked into metal containers in August for having Bibles in their possession at the Sawa summer military camp, have been released. The six youths still jailed have reportedly been moved from containers to underground isolation cells, where there is no light, little air and limited food. They are allowed out once a day to relieve themselves.