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Religion Today Summaries - December 23, 2011

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - December 23, 2011

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

In today's edition:

  • Bringing Hope to Japan at Christmas
  • Advocates Highlight Three Iranian Pastors Imprisoned Over Christmas
  • Pakistani Christians Protest Extreme Power Outages During Christmas
  • Franklin Graham Speaks Out About Voting for a Mormon


Bringing Hope to Japan at Christmas

During the first Christmas season in Japan since nearly 15,000 were killed in an earthquake and tsunami in March, many survivors are searching for answers, Mission Network News reports. "Every year there is widespread curiosity about Christmas among the Japanese," said Ross and Flossie Epley of the Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM), and this year especially, Christians are taking action to bring answers and hope to those who feel hopeless after their loss. Two TEAM missionaries, Tom and Nancy Edwards, are mobilizing one ministry outreach of passing out tracts of gospel literature in the streets with the help of volunteers dressed in Santa and elf costumes. "People who would not normally take literature accept with glee something Santa is giving out," they said. "The literature clearly tells of the real meaning of Christmas and our need for a redeemer." According to TEAM, fewer than one out of ever 1,000 people has a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ -- less than 0.1 percent of the Japanese population.

Advocates Highlight Three Iranian Pastors Imprisoned Over Christmas

As Christmas approaches, religious freedom advocates remain concerned about the plight of three pastors imprisoned in Iran, Christian Solidarity Worldwide reportsFarshid Fathi-Malayeri, an evangelical church leader and father of two young children, has been detained without charge since December 2010, but has yet to appear in court. He has been in solitary confinement and though his family managed to raise his bail, authorities refused to release him. Pastor Behnam Irani is serving a five-year sentence for apostasy, sharing a cell with criminals who regularly beat him. Because of the repeated injuries, he now has difficulty walking, and prison guards often torture him by refusing to let him sleep. Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani continues to face a death sentence for apostasy and his verdict could be delayed for up to a year. "These men are representatives of many other Iranian Christians held on spurious charges or without any charges in prisons throughout the country," said Andrew Johnston, CSW's advocacy director. "CSW is deeply concerned for their wellbeing. ... We urge the international community to continue to press Iran for [their] release."

Pakistani Christians Protest Extreme Power Outages During Christmas

Extreme power outages have become routine during the Christmas and Easter seasons in Pakistan despite repeated protests by the Christian community, ASSIST News Service reports. Since the current government came into power, "prolonged [lack of power] has affected Christmas celebrations, prayer meetings, and day-to-day life of Christians," said human rights activist Ashfaq Fateh. "Due to lack of electricity, poor Christian workers do not get their wages and they are deprived of buying ration and clothes for their families." Rasheed Jalal, district president of the Pakistan Muslim League for the minorities' wing, said: "Every year when Christmas and Easter comes, the government extends power outages; Christians across the country protest, but the government never listen to their peaceful protests." Youth leader Johnson Gill said, "If the government will not ensure non-stop supply of electricity, Christians will organize Christmas celebrations and prayers in front of [government] offices in protest."

Franklin Graham Speaks Out About Voting for a Mormon

In an interview with CBN News, the Rev. Franklin Graham said he saw nothing wrong with an evangelical Christian voting for a Mormon for president. Many evangelical Christians have reservations about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's beliefs -- 41 percent say they would not vote for a Mormon -- but Graham said Romney's faith should not be a deal-breaker. "I think when we are voting for president we need to get the person who is absolutely the most qualified," he said. "You can have the nicest guy and he can be a Christian and just wonderful but have absolutely no clue as to how to run a country -- you don't want that. You want somebody who understands Washington, who understands government, who understands how to bring people together so that we can move this country forward. ... We need to pray that God would give the right man or right woman to lead this country."

Publication date: December 23, 2011