Religion Today Summaries, December 24, 2002

Religion Today Summaries, December 24, 2002

Merry Christmas from the staff!

In Today's Edition:

  • Ministry Teams Sing Carols, Encourage Police, Firefighters
  • Lord's Prayer School Suit Dismissed
  • Threats of Christmas Violence in Indonesia
  • Bleak Christmas in Dak Lak, Vietnam

Ministry Teams Sing Carols, Encourage Police, Firefighters

(Baptist Press) More than 40 fire halls and 20 police precincts have been filled with the sounds of Southern Baptist college students singing Christmas carols and spreading good cheer in New York.  About 100 students and staff from the Baptist Collegiate Ministries of Louisiana State University ministry trip, according to BCM director Steve Masters.  Masters said the firefighters and police officers have been receptive of the message being spread by the Christian collegians.  "We were at one police precinct and they didn't want to let us in," he said.  "Well, we left a gift box with them and one of the detectives asked us to sing one song.  After that, about 10 police officers came out and asked us to sing more.  Then, a detective who was having a terrible day heard the kids singing 'Silent Night.'  He said it brought peace to him."  Many in Baton Rouge, Shreveport and Bossier City are participating in the Dec. 14-21 of the fire halls and precinct houses lost personnel during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.  After a similar trip in 2001, firefighters extended an invitation for the Louisiana Baptist students to return for another round of caroling.

Lord's Prayer School Suit Dismissed

(Charisma News) A lawsuit against a school board member who led Nebraska students in the Lord's Prayer at a graduation ceremony has been dismissed.  Filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the suit accused the Norfolk Public School District in Lincoln and school board member Jim Scheer of violating the constitutional separation of church and state, the Associated Press (AP) reported.  However, U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp rejected those claims and dismissed the case last month.  Jeff Downing, who represented Scheer and the school, hailed the ruling.  "I'm glad to see the court recognize that the Constitution doesn't require the public square to be swept clean of religion and that people at public ceremonies should feel tremendous freedom to make religious comments...or comments that are in keeping with their faith," he said.  Camp ruled that Scheer was acting in his personal capacity as a parent when he recited the prayer at the May 14, 2000, ceremony.  Scheer's prayer came not long after the school board decided to end the tradition of student-led prayer at graduation because a complaint had been filed with the school district.  Scheer was allowed to speak, however, and led the students in prayer, the AP reported.

Threats of Christmas Violence in Indonesia

(Voice of the Martyrs) Investigators in Indonesia are looking into threats by a group calling itself "International Battalion of Death" that is threatening more violence against Christians over the Christmas season.  On their website, the group blames a "conspiracy of Christians" for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines and Indonesia.  Two years ago, a series of bombs exploded in and around churches in Indonesia during the Christmas season.  Nineteen people were killed and more than forty wounded.  Last year, bombings in Palu in central Sulawesi damaged four churches and injured four people.  In reflecting on these warnings, Glenn Penner, Communications Director for The Voice of the Martyrs said:  "In recent years, Christians in a number of nations have found Christmas to be a time when they face threats or acts of violence.  It’s a time when the followers of the Prince of Peace often do not find much peace on earth or much good will toward them.  We would certainly urge Christians in the West to pause during the Christmas season to remember their brothers and sisters around the world for whom Christmas is a time of uncertainty and fear."

Bleak Christmas in Dak Lak, Vietnam

(Compass) When December 25 rolls around this year, Christmas for some 150,000 ethnic Ede Christians will be a bleak affair. The Vietnamese government has come down hard on Christians in the last three months. Authorities have disbanded most of the 441 churches. The latest crackdown began in September, as public officials and the dreaded public security police informed church leaders that their congregations were illegal. The only religious activity tolerated is within the family, inside the house and quietly. Prayer meetings, Bible teaching and worship are forbidden, as are weddings, funerals and baptisms. Pastors are even ordered to turn away Christians who might come to them for help. The crackdown on minority Christians in Vietnam’s Central Highlands came because some dared to demonstrate last year against the illegal loss of their lands to ethnic Vietnamese settlers. The persecution of the Ede church comes at a time when Vietnam is touting its adherence to international human rights standards, including complete freedom of religion.