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Religion Today Summaries - December 14, 2011

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - December 14, 2011

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

In today's edition:

  • North Korea Protests South Korean Christmas Trees
  • Former Workers Offer to Testify Against Planned Parenthood
  • Uzbekistan: Churches Banned from Evangelism, Youth Worship
  • Obama Attends Church, is Likened to John the Baptist


North Korea Protests South Korean Christmas Trees

North Korea has warned South Korea of "unexpected consequences" if it lights up three giant steel Christmas trees near the world's most heavily armed border, CNSNews.com reports. The South Korean government gave permission for evangelical groups to light the trees, which are topped by crosses, for 15 days in locations where they will potentially be seen by hundreds of thousands of North Koreans -- one on a hill within viewing distance of a large city and the other two on observation platforms further along the border. The South Korean Christians said they wanted to send a message of support to fellow believers in the North, a country regarded as one of the worst for Christian persecution. However, the North Korean government viewed the trees as a propaganda stunt, objecting to both the religious symbolism and the implicit display of prosperity visible to citizens of a country where electricity is rationed.

Former Workers Offer to Testify Against Planned Parenthood

Seven former employees of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) sent a letter offering their help to a congressional committee investigating the organization for misuse of federal funds and other crimes, WORLD News Service reports. In September, Florida Rep. Cliff Stearns wrote PPFA presidentCecile Richards, demanding documentation of how the group makes sure the $1 million a day it receives in federal funds -- which by law cannot be used to support abortion -- is not mixed with with funding from other sources, as well as how employees go about detecting and reporting sexual crimes against women, such as trafficking, coercion or statutory rape. The seven former officers and employees from Massachusetts to California said they all had personal experience and knowledge of PPFA breaking federal laws concerning those issues. "The extent of these problems ... is not fully understood by the American people, who are underwriting the growth of Planned Parenthood and its potent outreach to the young and the poor," they wrote.

Uzbekistan: Churches Banned from Evangelism, Youth Worship

Authorities in the city of Angren, Uzbekistan, have warned local religious communities not to be involved in "proselytism" or "missionary activity" or allow children to attend worship services, Persecution.org reports. Religious communities were also commanded to provide authorities with lists of their members, which many members did not want to do for fear of being singled out and persecuted. "It's not in the law, but we recommend that you do it," said Saidibrahim Saynazirov, deputy head of the administration, when asked what legal basis there was for such a requirement. Intolerance of those exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief is often promoted in Uzbekistan, particularly by the country's state-run TV programs.

Obama Attends Church, is Likened to John the Baptist

On Sunday, President Barack Obama and his family attended St. John's Episcopal Church, across the street from the White House, where the Rev. Dr. Luis Leon likened Obama to John the Baptist in his sermon, the Christian Post reports. The pastor told the congregation that the expectations Americans had from Obama were similar to the expectations religious leaders in Jesus' day had about John the Baptist -- that he was the Messiah or a prophet. Leon said Americans expected Obama to bring an immediate change, but "people have a tendency to create idols. Society must wait without idols." On Sunday night, speaking at the 30th annual "Christmas in Washington" concert, Obama said the story of Jesus had changed the world by teaching love, compassion, forgiveness and faith. "These are values that are shared by all faiths," he said.

Publication date: December 14, 2011