Religion Today Summaries - December 28, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - December 28, 2004

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

  • Native Missionaries Rush to Rescue Survivors of Killer Tidal Wave

  • Couple's Food Ministry Offers Christ's Love to Reservation's Residents

  • Sacramento Police Promise to Allow Christians Access to Capitol Sidewalks 

  • Tatarstan

Native Missionaries Rush to Rescue Survivors of Killer Tidal Wave
Christian Aid

Within hours of a devastating undersea earthquake that struck near Indonesia December 26, indigenous missionary teams were delivering loads of emergency relief to tidal wave victims in coastal areas of seven countries. Traveling at speeds of up to 600 miles an hour in open seas, the wall of water reached as high as 50-feet as it surged ashore to swamp the lower coastal areas of India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Deaths were also reported in many other places, including the Andaman Islands, Bangladesh, Burma, and Malaysia. According to Sarla Mahara, India Director for Christian Aid, at least 62 indigenous missionary ministries are expected to be involved. Christian Aid staff are also assessing the damage in Thailand and Indonesia where many of the 32 ministries supported by Christian Aid there are already sending volunteers and aid to the most affected areas. Within 24 hours of the quake, the death toll had already reached 23,000. Long term, the death toll may reach over 100,000 because many bodies will never be found and public health consequences are yet to appear. "Native missionaries need immediate help to purchase blankets, tents, bottled water, food and medicine," says Dr. Finley. "But that is only the start. Long term there will be a need to restore sanitation, dig new wells to replace those contaminated, and find homes for the orphans and widows that survive."

Couple's Food Ministry Offers Christ's Love to Reservation's Residents
Charisma News Service

Residents of the nation's largest Navajo reservation are finding Christ's love every week -- in the form of free groceries. Robert and Rene Briceland provide the food to the people of Dilkon, Az. It was a tough start for the young couple who so strongly believed God had called them to help the poor on the reservation. That was then. Today, the Bricelands' persistence has paid off. Robert and Rene are the pastors of Jesus Bi'Ghan Mission ("House of Jesus"), a mixed congregation in a small community tucked away in the flattop mesa hills, about 25 miles northeast of Winslow, Az. It was their concern and care for the poor that helped them break down the barriers of prejudice and mistrust they initially encountered from the local residents. In a strange twist of fate, the Bricelands -- through their food bank -- ended up helping many of the area residents who were most opposed to their living on the reservation. The food ministry is a part of the couple's Truth of Life Jesus Ministries and was started from the back of an old pickup truck. It began by providing groceries for 50 families a month. Today it serves nearly 450 families a month. (

Sacramento Police Promise to Allow Christians Access to Capitol Sidewalks
Allie Martin, AgapePress

Police officials in California's capital city have stated they will no longer prohibit Christians from handing out literature on public sidewalks. For the past year and a half, a small group of Christians has distributed religious literature on sidewalks near the State Capitol building in downtown Sacramento every Saturday night. But on several recent occasions, city patrolmen informed members of the group they were in violation of a local anti-canvassing ordinance and had to leave the area. The Christian group complied, but felt they were within their rights of free speech and religious expressions -- and consequently sought legal advice from the locally based Pacific Justice Institute. PJI contacted the city attorney and, in a letter, explained its clients' actions and application of the law.  Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, explains the city's response. "The good news is that the official representing these patrolmen quickly contacted us and told us that not only would they cease from doing that and intimidating this particular group of Christians, but they would also make it clear to all their patrolmen that these activities are constitutional," Dacus says. According to the attorney, such misunderstandings are common.  Dacus says there is no reason why Christians should give up a "prime venue" for sharing their faith.  A public sidewalk, he says, is a recognized forum for handing out literature.

Charisma News Service

The pastor of a small church in the mostly Muslim republic was recently threatened by a security official. Rafis Nabiullin complained of threats in October from a local officer to halt the church's activity and drive him out of the town of Aznakayevo, Forum 18 News Service reported. Other Protestants have said that such pressure is widespread in Tatarstan, the capital of which is Kazan, located nearly 500 miles east of Moscow. Nabiullin noted that he was also threatened in the summer of 2003 by the same security official for allegedly inviting children to services without the permission of their parents. Nabiullin told Forum 18 that "the authorities are Muslim and don't want Christianity, though they can tolerate Orthodoxy. They want to stop our activity." He said Protestant churches often cannot rent public buildings or show evangelistic films. "We can't rent a hall in Aznakayevo -- we've tried many times, even this year," he said. "The directors of the local club and the cinema told us to go to the town administration, saying if we got approval from them we could rent. But we just face permanent refusal." Nabiullin moved to Aznakayevo four years ago and started a small fellowship from his home. He said the church, which now has registration as a religious community with authorities, has about a dozen regular worshipers during Sunday services. (