Religion Today Summaries - December 30, 2005

Compiled by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - December 30, 2005

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

In today's edition:

  • Chrisitian Colleges Rise in Popularity
  • Open Doors Reports Escalation of Church Persecution in 2005
  • Harassment Marks End of Difficult Year for Chinese Christians
  • Attack on Christmas is Ongoing

Chrisitian Colleges Rise in Popularity
Baptist Press
Enrollment has increased 70.6 percent since 1990, from 135,000 to 230,000, at the 102 evangelical schools belonging to the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, according to a report by USA Today Dec. 14. During the same period, enrollments at public colleges increased by 12.8 percent, and at private colleges the increase was 28 percent. Alexander Astin, director of the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles, said the growth marks a turnaround from the 1960s and ‘70s when religious colleges struggled to attract students. About 120 religious colleges closed between 1960 and 1979, USA Today said. The article suggested students are drawn to the smaller, Christian schools because the large size of many public universities makes it more difficult to develop deep, meaningful relationships with peers. Also, religious students often prefer to study in an environment where their beliefs will be respected rather than criticized or challenged. “There is a sense that the people who dominate the faculties at secular universities do have an antipathy toward traditional religion,” Naomi Schaefer Riley, author of “God on the Quad: How Religious Colleges and the Missionary Generation Are Changing America,” told USA Today. “It’s nice for [students] to go to a place where they don’t have to always be defending their beliefs.”

Open Doors Reports Escalation of Church Persecution in 2005
Agape Press
Dr. Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA says there was a noticeable increase in persecution of Christians throughout the world in 2005. That international ministry has released a review of persecution against believers worldwide across the last year. The Open Doors review found that there was an increase in persecution of Christians in such countries as North Korea, Indonesia, and Eritrea. Dr. Moeller says many believers in the U.S. and other free nations are largely unaware of the oppression and hostility faced by fellow believers in many parts of the world. He feels some of the countries most hostile to the Christian faith are simply not "on the radar screens" of many in the church. For instance, the ministry leader notes, "Eritrea doesn't make the news very often because it's not either an ally or an enemy of the United States; but it is a country where millions of people are subjected to a Marxist-influenced government that is drumming up fear in a war with Ethiopia." For Christians in Eritrea, he explains, the difficulty with the government is "primarily that it refuses to acknowledge any religious expression apart from four permitted religions and denominations." In North Korea, an estimated 400,000 Christians face daily persecution, including torture in prison camps. That is one reason why that country topped Open Doors' world watch list of countries where persecution is most severe in 2005. Meanwhile, in Indonesia, more Christians were killed and churches burned, and three Christian women were arrested for running a program for children.

Harassment Marks End of Difficult Year for Chinese Christians
A year marked by stepped-up religious repression in China draws to a close amid new reports of mistreatment of believers during and after Christmas celebrations, prompting campaigners to urge increased pressure from outside in 2006. Christmas services were disrupted in the remote northwestern Xinjiang territory and in the southeastern Fujian province, while in Beijing, Christians were also harassed, Bob Fu of the China Aid Association said late Wednesday. In Xinjiang, a predominantly Muslim region, several hundred police and religious affairs officials raided a Christmas morning celebration attended by 210 Christians, confiscated 80 Bibles, a minibus and another vehicle, a piano, driver's licenses -- and even food prepared for the event.Other incidents were reported across the country, but harassment was not reserved for the provinces. In Beijing itself, a pastor was interrogated ahead of a large Protestant gathering and told to restrict numbers to 100. The pastor refused, said Fu, and police in the capital could not stop the meeting from going ahead for fear of bad publicity. In the days following, however, about 2,000 members of the congregation were questioned. China's communist authorities do not recognize any churches that are not affiliated to either of two "patriotic" state-controlled bodies, one Protestant and one Catholic.

Attack on Christmas is Ongoing
Alliance Defense Fund
After compiling the numbers regarding the attack on Christmas in 2005, the Alliance Defense Fund has found that the data continues to support the presence of an assault on the celebration of Christmas in America. "Anyone who claims that the attack on Christmas was a myth must have a hidden agenda," said ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb.  "ADF received more than 400 calls on Christmas this year alone, and this is an unprecedented number of calls for us on this issue.  Frankly, it's ridiculous that so many people would need to call a lawyer in order to celebrate Christmas." ADF launched its third annual Christmas Project in an effort to inform Americans of their First Amendment rights to celebrate the holiday that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ.  A November 2005 Gallup poll found that 95 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas; however, ADF received numerous reports of violations of the rights of Americans to engage in religious expression in public with regard to the holiday. As part of ADF's Christmas Project, ADF-allied attorneys contacted nearly 11,000 school districts nationwide this year to inform them of the truth regarding religious expression at Christmastime.