Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 4, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 4, 2009

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

  • North Korea #1 on Newest Persecution Watch List
  • Arizona Cardinals Super Bowl Apparel to be Donated
  • Rural Churches Grapple with a Pastor Exodus
  • Sharia-Based Laws Creep into Half of Indonesia’s Provinces


North Korea #1 on Newest Persecution Watch List

Christian News Wire reports that the isolated country of North Korea has again earned the infamous title of world's worst persecutor of Christians. According to Open Doors' 2008 World Watch List released today, North Korea is ranked No. 1 for the seventh year in a row. Christians are persecuted constantly under dictator Kim Jong Il's communist government, which denies human rights to its citizens. "It is certainly not a shock that North Korea is No. 1 on the list of countries where Christians face the worst persecution," says Carl Moeller, President/CEO of Open Doors USA. "There is no other country in the world where Christians are persecuted in such a horrible and systematic manner. The Wahhabi kingdom of Saudi Arabia is No. 2 and Iran No. 3. Both countries are ruled by Shariah law.

Arizona Cardinals Super Bowl Apparel to be Donated

The Christian Post reports that hundreds of children and families in El Salvador will soon sport t-shirts and other apparel celebrating the Arizona Cardinals' Super Bowl win. Aid organization World Vision helps distribute the pre-printed clothing, continuing a 17 year partnership with the NFL to make sure all Super Bowl clothing, winning team or not, is put to get use. “World Vision helps us to ensure that no NFL apparel goes to waste,” said David Krichavsky, NFL director of community relations, in a statement. “We are pleased to find a good home for the clothing by getting it to those who need it most.” According to the Christian Post, the NFL gear will be the first piece of new clothing many in El Salvador have ever received. World Vision estimates about $1 million worth of Super Bowl apparel will be donated.

Rural Churches Grapple with a Pastor Exodus

Time magazine reports that America's rural churches are fading even faster than America's rural areas, as it becomes increasingly difficult to attract and keep a pastor in sparsely populated areas. According to Trace Haythorn, president of the nonprofit Fund for Theological Education (FTE), fewer than one half of rural churches have a "full-time seminary-trained pastor." That figure can drop to as low as 1 in 5 in some areas of the Midwest. Pastors fresh out of seminary are turning in ever greater numbers to the suburbs, where they can more easily find a salary that will help clear their debt. Dwindling congregations in rural areas simply can't sustain the normal starting salary $35,000 a year for a pastor. "It's a religious crisis, for sure," says Daniel Wolpert, pastor of First Presbyterian in Crookston, Minn. "And to the extent that these churches are anchoring institutions, it's a crisis of community."

Sharia-Based Laws Creep into Half of Indonesia’s Provinces

Compass Direct News reports that as candidates hit the campaign trail in preparation for Indonesia’s presidential election in July, rights groups have voiced strong opposition to an increasing number of sharia-inspired laws introduced by local governments. Opponents say the laws discriminate against religious minorities and violate Indonesia’s policy of Pancasila, or “unity in diversity.” Such laws could become a key campaign issue. Aceh is the only province completely governed by sharia (Islamic law), but more than 50 regencies in 16 of 32 provinces throughout Indonesia have passed laws influenced by sharia. A lawyer from the legal firm Eleonora and Partners told Compass, “Generally the legal system regulates and guarantees religious freedom of Indonesian citizens ... but in reality, discrimination prevails.”