Religion Today Summaries, December 31, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, December 31, 2003

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

  • Indian Government Denies Constitutional Rights to Dalit Christians

  • New Anglican Network Forms to Combat ECUSA's 'Huge Lie'

  • Ministry Supports Christian Teams in Iran

  • China Arrests House Church Leaders and Writer

Indian Government Denies Constitutional Rights to Dalit Christians
Joshua Newton, Compass Direct

The Indian government has rejected demands that social benefits be extended to Dalit Christians and Muslims. A clause in the 1950 Constitution of India enshrined the right of Hindu Dalits to "social reservations" for jobs and educational placements. At that time, the Dalits, also known as Untouchables, comprised 15 percent of the population. The right to social reservations has since been extended to Dalits who become Sikhs and Buddhists; however, the government has not done the same for Christians. Social Justice Minister Satyanarayan Jatiya justified the policy, saying that Hindu Dalits suffered most from the social and economic discrimination under India's caste system. The All India Christian Council and a number of human rights organizations plan to take the issue to court and lobby high government officials. "Separate treatment of Dalit Christians on the basis of religion amounts to discrimination by the government and a violation of constitutional principles," said Pappu Yadav, leader of the opposition party Janata Dal.

New Anglican Network Forms to Combat ECUSA's 'Huge Lie'
Jim Brown and Fred Jackson, Agape Press

A traditionalist Episcopal bishop is offering details on a new rival network of parishes set up in protest of the Episcopal Church USA's endorsement of an openly homosexual bishop. The head of this body of dissenting Episcopalians says although his group is not leaving the American branch of the Anglican Communion, it will continue to expose heresy in the denomination. Pittsburgh's Bishop Bob Duncan says the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes was established at a November meeting of mainstream Anglican leaders in London, and was formed to spread the truth about the Episcopal Church's approval of V. Gene Robinson, the openly homosexual Bishop of New Hampshire. "The Episcopal Church this summer told a huge lie," Duncan says, "and we need to say over and over again what holy scripture says, what God expects in terms of His creation and the way He structured families, and the holiness He calls us to in terms of how we live our lives." Many traditionalists have begun severing ties to the ECUSA and its leaders, and the church's relations with the Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox and Third World Anglican churches have also been damaged, since Robinson's consecration. The Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes is intended to rally orthodox members of the Episcopal Church who believe what holy scripture says and what Christians have said through the ages about homosexuality.

Ministry Supports Christian Teams in Iran
Agape Press

A Christian ministry is responding to the rising death toll in last week's devastating earthquake in Iran.  Hardest hit was the city of Bam, where more than 30,000 bodies have been recovered so far.  Baltimore-based World Relief is supporting four teams of local Iranian Christians in Bam.  The teams are providing emergency essentials such as food, water, and blankets.  Clive Calver, president of World Relief, says the needs are overwhelming.  "Imagine living in a city that's got such a huge history, as Bam has, and it's got 80,000 people -- and suddenly you wake up to this awful earthquake, and nearly half the population are buried alive," he says.  "You can imagine what it means -- food, water, blankets are desperately needed for the survivors."  The latest estimates are that as many as 50,000 people may have died in the 6.5 quake.

China Arrests House Church Leaders and Writer
Stefan Bos, ASSIST News Service

The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) urged prayers for a jailed Christian Internet writer Zhang Shengqi and other Christian contacts who were arrested amid a crackdown against house churches across China Tuesday, December 30. VOM said "10 Chinese Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers raided the house" of the writer's seriously ill fiancé Ye Jifei in the province of Jilin. "She faced constant interrogation for more than 24 hours," after being taken into custody. "Although she was released due to serious illness, the next morning she was arrested again and interrogated about any connection between her (and) Zhang Shengqi" as well as fellow believer Liu Fenggang who is imprisoned on charges of "leaking national secrets." The Internet writer was expected to be charged with the same alleged crime. VOM expressed concern about the continuing crackdown by Chinese authorities "on the ever-growing house church movement," including the recent arrests of Xu Yonghai, Liu Fenggang, and Zhang Shengqi, with whom it had close contacts.  "It is distressing that under the Chinese legal system they can be held for months before being formally charged or brought to trial," Mission Network News, a Christian broadcaster, said. In addition a dozen of churches have been destroyed in Zhejiang Province. Analysts have linked the crack-down to concern among Communist authorities about the growing number of Christians in China.