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Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 5, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 5, 2009

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

  • Habitat for Humanity Co-Founder Dies
  • Vatican Demands Holocaust Denier Recant
  • China: Christian Activist Faces Seventh Year in Prison
  • Azerbaijani Pastor May Finally Get Trial


Habitat for Humanity Co-Founder Dies

Habitat for Humanity co-founder and benefactor Millard Fuller died Tuesday, the Christian Post reports. He was 74, entering his 33rd year of work for the Christian house-building charity he started. His wife, Linda, said she still plans to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary as planned in August, initiating a "blitz build" for 100 new houses. "Millard would not want people to mourn his death," she said. "He would be more interested in having people put on a tool belt and build a house for people in need." Fuller gave away about $1 million to start Habitat in 1976, and took a salary of just $15,000 for the first 14 years. The group has built more than 300,000 houses that are home to 1.5 million people. "I've always felt that this is God's work," Fuller told the Associated Press in 2004. "And it's always been bigger than me, from day one."

Vatican Demands Holocaust Denier Recant

Reuters reports that the Vatican on Wednesday released a statement demanding that a rehabilitated bishop recant his denial of the Holocaust. "Bishop [Richard] Williamson, in order to be admitted to the episcopal functions of the Church, must in an absolutely unequivocal and public way distance himself from his positions regarding the Shoah," the statement said, using the Hebrew word for the Holocaust. Williamson's comments, in which he belittled the number of Jews killed and denied the reality of the gas chambers, were "absolutely unacceptable and firmly rejected by the Holy Father," the statement continued. Pope Benedict has said he was unaware of Williamson's denial of Holocaust events when he lifted a 20-year excommunication placed on him and three other bishops Jan. 24.

China: Christian Activist Faces Seventh Year in Prison

ASSIST News Service reports that as Christian democracy activist Wang Bingzhang endures his seventh year in prison in solitary confinement, his family reports he is deteriorating physically and mentally. In a letter to ChinaAid, his daughter, Ti-Anna Wang, implored the international community to speak out on her father’s behalf. Wang is widely regarded as the founding father of the Chinese pro-democracy movement. The Chinese Communist Party's concern about Wang’s activities with China Spring magazine and several overseas Chinese democratic parties eventually led to his arrest in 2002, when he was kidnapped on a trip to Vietnam. Back in China, he was convicted in a sham trial, and given the harshest sentence leveled against on a political prisoner since 1989, his daughter said.

Azerbaijani Pastor May Finally Get Trial

Mission News Network reports that while Azerbaijan's government is officially secular, the government carefully regulates Christian religious activity. According to a Forum 18 report last fall, Islam, Russian Orthodox Christianity and Judaism are accepted as "traditional" religions. Still, authorities have violated religious freedoms for all faith groups. Pastor Hamid Shabanov bears testimony to this practice, after he was arrested in June as a "prisoner of conscience" and has had his trial moved, delayed and reinvestigated multiple times. "It appears that he is scheduled to appear in court again to continue this case," said Slavic Gospel Association's Joel Griffith. "It's in an effort to get that church closed down."