Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Archbishop: Persecution Strengthens Faith of Christians in Iraq
- Sunday Services in Illinois Focus on NIU Shooting
- Ft. Worth Church at Odds over Inclusion of Gay Couples in Pictorial Directory
- Pakistani Christian Leader Demands Repeal of Discriminatory Laws
Archbishop: Persecution Strengthens Faith of Christians in Iraq
Archbishop Luis Sako of Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, has revealed that the persecution suffered by Iraqi Christians at the hands of Muslim fundamentalists is strengthening rather than weakening their faith, ASSIST News Service reports. Archbishop Sako said that the three Christian students who were recently kidnapped in Kirkuk by Muslim fundamentalists confronted their captors saying, “We are willing to die for our faith.” The archbishop thanked God that the incident did not end in tragedy and that the students were released unharmed. “The students were subjected to violent interrogation and were threatened with torture and execution if they did not renounce their faith.” Archbishop Sako stated that the reactions of the three young people apparently moved their captors, who decided to let them go. “What happened with the three young people means that despite so many difficulties, our faithful have not lost faith and hope. On the contrary, they have been strengthened.”
Sunday Services in Illinois Focus on NIU Shooting
The Christian Post reports that churches in several Illinois communities this past Sunday remembered the victims of the recent shooting at Northern Illinois University. At least two churches in the college town of DeKalb held special services on the first Sunday since the rampage. Meanwhile, congregations in the victims' hometowns came together for services ahead of funerals planned for later this week. On Feb. 14 around 3 p.m., Steven Kazmierczak, who was armed with three handguns and a pump-action shotgun, opened fire on a geology class. He killed five students before turning the gun on himself.
Ft. Worth Church at Odds over Inclusion of Gay Couples in Pictorial Directory
According to Baptist Press, ongoing conflict in Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, has intensified, with 162 church members petitioning the congregation's deacon board for a meeting to vote on terminating senior minister Brett Younger. Broadway members found themselves divided last November over the inclusion of homosexual couples in a pictorial directory being prepared as part of the church's 125th anniversary celebration. The project was put on hold, and on Feb. 11 the deacons recommended eliminating family photos and focusing the directory only on church groups and ministries. On Sunday, Feb. 10, however, a group calling itself "Friends for the Future of Broadway" submitted their petition calling for a termination vote on Younger, who has led the congregation since April 2001. In response, more than 200 church members signed a statement opposing Younger's ouster. In a Feb. 12 interview with the Dallas Morning News, Younger confirmed that a group of church members had offered him $50,000 to resign.
Pakistani Christian Leader Demands Repeal of Discriminatory Laws
ASSIST News Service reports that Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, Chief of All Pakistan Minorities' Alliance (APMA), has demanded that all draconian laws be scrapped and the religious minorities of the country be treated on the basis of equality. “I have been struggling to get the black laws abolished for over 20 years. I will not rest until they are scrapped,” vowed Shahbaz Bhatti, in an election meeting on Feb. 16 at his native village of Khushpur. Pakistani minorities have been suffering at the hands of Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws since their introduction. The laws, seen as discriminatory by minorities, are being used by Muslims to settle personal scores against Christians and other religious minority communities of Pakistan. Shahbaz, lamenting the assassination of Peoples Party Chief Mrs. Benazir Bhutto, urged participants of the meeting to avenge the killing of Bhutto by voting for the PPP candidates on February 18.