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Religion Today Summaries - December 24, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - December 24, 2004

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

  • Church's Stolen Orphans Gifts Replenished Tenfold is a 'Christmas Miracle'

  • Judge Orders Florida Town to Allow Public Nativity Display

  • Needy Children Buoyed By Collegians' Christmas Cheer 

  • Egypt

Church's Stolen Orphans Gifts Replenished Tenfold is a 'Christmas Miracle'
Charisma News Service

Donors have replenished tenfold to a Georgia church that recently had its gifts meant for orphans stolen. After thieves smashed into Calvary Baptist Church in Lilburn and took the presents on Dec. 20, news of the crime spurred a wave of generosity, with people calling in from as far away as Canada and California, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Organizers said they were able to deliver 10 times the haul they had originally planned to take to the children at the Georgia Baptist Children's Home in Palmetto. "We've experienced Christmas already," John Darsey, Calvary Baptist's pastor, said last Sunday as church members prepared to load a truck with thousands of donated gifts. Gwen Howard, Calvary's children's minister who organizes the annual drive to collect items for the children, added: "What thieves meant for bad has turned into the best Christmas miracle I've ever seen." Along with the presents, she delivered donations of nearly $24,000 in cash, checks and gift cards. The truck, festooned with bows, arrived at the children's home campus last Sunday. Kenneth Dobbs, president and CEO of Georgia Baptist Children's Homes and Family Ministries, said the children in the organization's care will be forever blessed by the kindness shown them this Christmas. (http://www.charismanow.com)

Judge Orders Florida Town to Allow Public Nativity Display
Allie Martin, AgapePress

A Florida woman took part in a public ceremony to celebrate Christmas as well as a personal religious freedom victory -- the right to display a Nativity scene in her town. The celebration came after attorneys at the Thomas More Law Center filed a federal lawsuit against officials in Bay Harbor Islands for refusing to allow local resident Sandra Snowden to display a Nativity scene alongside a Jewish Menorah at the town's entrance. Earlier this month, she had asked city officials for permission to place the Christmas display on public property near the Menorah, but her request was denied. Snowden then contacted the Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center, which sued the city on her behalf. Ed White, an attorney with the legal firm, says there is much confusion regarding the public display of Christmas decorations. But in the case of Bay Harbor Islands, the town was obviously exercising a double standard. White contends that Bay Harbor Islands officials acted unlawfully. The Thomas More attorney says a federal judge agreed that the town had acted unfairly in denying permission for the Nativity display and made it clear that this discrimination against Snowden would not be tolerated. Bay Harbor Islands officials decided not to appeal the court's decision, so the Christian crèche now sits alongside the Jewish Menorah at the entrance to the Florida town.

Needy Children Buoyed By Collegians' Christmas Cheer
Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

They come from abusive homes. Many live in poverty. For some, each day has been a new nightmare. But for a couple of hours on a recent Wednesday night, the children from the Carl Perkins Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse in Jackson, Tenn., were able to forget about reality and enjoy a Christmas fantasy. Students, faculty and staff from Union University hosted 33 children with whom the center works, ranging in age from 6-12, for the annual "Carl Perkins Christmas Special." They ate a meal with the children, played games and provided each child with a stack of Christmas presents. People from all across the Union family participated in the event. The children went home with presents like bicycles and basketballs, with radios and dolls, with new clothes and new friends. For many of them, the Christmas presents they received will be the only ones they get this year. Mark VanderHaar, Union's director of student programs who organized the activity, said the event is designed to be an outreach to the community. But it's even more important than that. "Events like this really do pull the student body together," he said. "It makes you a little more selfless. A lot of people peg college students as pretty self- indulgent. I think this shows the reverse."

Charisma News Service

A Christian jailed without charges for nearly two years has become emotionally disturbed and lost his vision in one eye from torture and lack of medical treatment. Hany Samir Tawfik, 28, has been imprisoned since March 2003, Compass Direct reported. Tawfik was initially arrested at the Cairo airport upon his return from Saudi Arabia on June 15, 2002. Saudi authorities had reportedly deported him back to Egypt, saying the Coptic Christian had been suspected of wanting to marry a Muslim girl and convert her to Christianity. Tawfik's family and church sources said police re-arrested him in 2003 when he reportedly refused their demands to spy on a pastor known to be ministering among Muslim converts to Christianity. "Hany said after the police picked him up, they showed him the house of this pastor and said they would only release him if he agree to spy on him and his activities," Tawfik's widowed mother told Compass. "When he refused, they put him in jail." Although Egypt's constitution and laws do not specifically prohibit proselytizing, individuals suspected of helping Muslims convert to Christianity are subject to heavy police harassment and regularly arrested for either "insulting heavenly religions" or "inciting sectarian strife." (http://www.charismanow.com)