Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 20, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 20, 2008

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

  • Prospects for Peace Increase in Poso, Indonesia
  • UK Evangelical Alliance Invites Christians to Join Sharia Debate
  • Freed Christian Describes Kidnapping Ordeal in Pakistan
  • Kazakhstan: Religious Freedom under Attack

Prospects for Peace Increase in Poso, Indonesia

Following arrests of Islamic terrorists there are grounds for “cautious optimism” for peace in Poso, Indonesia, according to a January report from the International Crisis Group, as Christian and Muslim communities, aided by government initiatives, work towards reconciliation. The Rev. Rinaldy Damanik, a key peace activist during the conflict, said progress has been made but there is still much work to be done in breaking down barriers of hatred and mistrust between the two communities. “It’s true that the situation has improved, in the sense that we’ve had no murders or mysterious shootings in the past year,” Damanik told Compass Direct News. “But I’m more concerned about the new community policing system. There is now a police post in every village, with seven to eight police officers. If we only have security when they are present, it’s not genuine security. A sense of security must come from within the community.”

UK Evangelical Alliance Invites Christians to Join Sharia Debate

ASSIST News Service reports that the UK Evangelical Alliance (EA) is inviting Christians to join the debate on Sharia law by submitting following the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent assertion that the British legal system should accommodate aspects of Sharia law. According to a story written by Jennifer Gold for the web site, the EA is inviting church leaders, theologians and community practitioners to take a fresh look at the place of faith and law in the public square, and the impact that has on community relations and cohesion. “The wider Christian community is also being invited to share its views by submitting comments to the Evangelical Alliance website,” she wrote. “The EA is hoping that the exchange of views will help set the agenda for discussions on faith and law in light of the Archbishop’s comments.”

Freed Christian Describes Kidnapping Ordeal in Pakistan

Compass Direct News reports that a Christian doctor described receiving various death threats while kidnapped recently by Islamic extremists in an area of Pakistan reeling from extremist violence. Militants in parts of the North West Frontier Province have forced Christians and moderate Muslims to don Islamist garb, have bombed CD shops for perceived decadence and, in the case of Dr. Reginald Zahiruddin, have attempted forced conversion to Islam. Islamist militants released Dr. Zahiruddin on January 2, after kidnapping him 25 days prior and demanding he renounce his faith at gunpoint. The kidnappers told Dr. Zahiruddin that the main reason for his abduction was to force him to convert to Islam. “I was bold enough to refuse, and I even told them that God has the authority of taking my life as he has given it to me,” the doctor said.

Kazakhstan: Religious Freedom under Attack

With the collapse of the Communist regime and the Soviet state, freedom of religion came to Kazakhstan among other freedoms. Through the work of numerous missionaries the Good News was accepted by large numbers of people, resulting in the birth and growth of many Protestant churches. The churches in Kazakhstan continue to grow and the number of converts from both the ethnic and Russian population continues to increase. However, ASSIST News Service reports, Protestant Christians are still a religious minority in Kazakhstan. Most of the ethnic population historically consider Sunni Islam to be the only true religion for ethnic Kazakhs, while the majority of the Russians living in Kazakhstan relate to the Russian Orthodox Church. The government wants to keep strict control of all religious life in the country, deciding which religions are suitable for Kazakhstan and which are not. There is a growing intolerance of Protestant Christians and some Muslim groups as well as other religious bodies, mainly Jehovah's Witnesses and Hare Krishna.