Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 12, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 12, 2008

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

  • Ethnic Christians Arrested, Jailed in Xinjiang, China
  • Greek Orthodox Church Elects New Head
  • Iran Proposes Death Penalty for 'Apostates'
  • Creationists Seek Foothold in Europe

Ethnic Christians Arrested, Jailed in Xinjiang, China

Last January 12, state security officials arrived at the home of Alimjan Yimit, a Muslim convert, ethnic Uyghur and Christian house church leader in Xinjiang province, northwest China. They detained Alimjan, telling family members that the arrest was a “national security issue,” according to China Aid Association (CAA). Details of charges against Alimjan are unknown, but last September 13 officials ordered him to close down his Kashgar-based business and accused him of using it as a cover for “preaching Christianity among people of Uyghur ethnicity.” Compass Direct News reports that the arrest followed that of another Uyghur Christian, Osman Imin, on November 19, 2007, for assisting foreigners in illegal religious activities and revealing state secrets, according to CAA. Police previously arrested and detained Osman in 2004, torturing him severely during interrogation, local sources told Compass. One source said the arrests of Alimjan and Osman were not random but part of a coordinated campaign against Uyghur Christians.

Greek Orthodox Church Elects New Head

The Greek Orthodox Church on Thursday elected a new leader to replace the late Archbishop Christodoulos, the Associated Press reports. According to Catholic News Agency, after two rounds of voting, senior clergy chose Metropolitan Bishop Ieronymous of Thebes to become the next Metropolitan of Athens. Within an hour of the vote, Metropolitan Ieronymous, accompanied by other candidates for the office, appeared on the balcony of the archbishop’s office before cheering crowds. "In whichever position the church appoints us, no matter how high, we must know that our leader is Christ," the Metropolitan Ieronymous said, according to the Associated Press.

Iran Proposes Death Penalty for 'Apostates'

The Iranian parliament may mandate the death penalty for citizens who leave Islam, a human rights group announced this week. For the first time in Iranian history, a proposed penal code demands the death penalty for “apostates,” according to a February 5 statement by the Institute on Religion and Public Policy (IRPP). “Apostasy was always illegal, but the court could hand down a jail term, hard labor or the death penalty,” said IRPP President Joseph Grieboski. “Now apostasy [would only] get the death penalty.” Iran has used the “apostasy” law to target Muslim converts to Christianity, liberal thinkers and members of Iran’s Baha’i religious minority. “This is not something new, they just want to be more harsh towards those who are leaving Islam,” an Iranian pastor told Compass Direct News. Though sections of the draft appear to indicate that both men and women can be executed for apostasy, others limit execution to males who leave Islam. The proposed law stipulates that “hardship” will be exercised on a female “apostate,” who will be immediately released if she recants.

Creationists Seek Foothold in Europe

"Evolution is a lie, and it's being taught in schools as fact, and it's leading our kids in the wrong direction," said British cabbie James McLean after a weekend service. "But now people like Ken Ham are tearing evolution to pieces." Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis and northern Kentucky's Creation Museum, is part of an effort to bring creationist theory to Europe. McLean is one of a growing number of British evangelicals embracing the message that the Bible, not Darwin, tells the true history of Earth. According to ABC News, Europeans have long viewed the conflict between evolutionists and creationists as primarily an American phenomenon, but it has recently jumped the Atlantic Ocean with skirmishes in Italy, Germany, Poland and, notably, Britain, where Darwin was born and where he published "Origin of Species" in 1859.