Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 6, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 6, 2008

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

  • Persistent Persecution of the Church Continues in Zimbabwe
  • Malaysia: Bibles Confiscated at Airport
  • BWA-Catholic Dialogue Reaches Midpoint
  • Harsh Winter in Afghanistan: Christian Relief Agency Distributes Survival Kits

Persistent Persecution of the Church Continues in Zimbabwe

Eight Church leaders, including a blind pastor, were arrested during a meeting in front of 400 worshippers and detained in police cells in Kadoma (120 km South West of Harare), in what is seen as continuing persecution of the church by the ZANU PF government. ASSIST News Service reports that the arrested Church leaders are Jonathan Gokovah, Pastor Raymond Motsi, Pius Wakatama, Pastor Ancelimo Magaya, Pastor Wilson Mugabe, Pastor Zvizai Chiponda, Lawrence Berejena and Gerald Mubaiwa. In an e-mail report to ANS from the Foundation of Reason and Justice, Pastor Moyo is quoted as saying: “The meeting was for Christians who felt they cannot remain silent while the country burns with companies closing, inflation (26,000 percent) hitting everyone hard and the majority of people suffering.” The Pastors declared: “We are not aligned to any political party and we don’t mind who rules this country as long as they are accountable and respect the rights of all citizens. We are just against the prevailing situation characterised by looting and misgovernance.”

Malaysia: Bibles Confiscated at Airport

Compass Direct News reports that a customs officer on January 28 confiscated two boxes containing 32 Bibles at a low-cost carrier terminal from a citizen returning from a trip to the Philippines, further troubling Malaysian Christians beset by government curbs on press and religious freedoms. Online news agency Malaysiakini reported yesterday that Juliana Nichols produced a letter from her parish priest stating the English Bibles were meant for use in her church, but a customs officer told her the texts needed to be cleared with the Internal Security Ministry’s Control Division of Publications and Al-Quran Texts. The Rev. Dr. Hermen Shastri, general secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia, said in a press statement that “the Bible is Holy Scripture for Christians” and “no authority on earth should deny Christians the right to possess, read and travel with their Bibles.” He called for the immediate release of the Bibles and an official apology from the Royal Malaysian Customs Department.

BWA-Catholic Dialogue Reaches Midpoint

While some Southern Baptists may describe a dialogue between Roman Catholics and the Baptist World Alliance as possibly helpful, others question how much really can be accomplished. According to Baptist Press, representatives of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Baptist World Alliance held the second meeting of a four-year dialogue Dec. 2-8 at the Vatican. The forum focused on baptism and the Lord's Supper. A previous meeting in Birmingham, Ala., Dec. 10-15, 2006, addressed the authority of Scripture and church tradition. BWA spokesman Eron Henry said the Baptist World Alliance agreed to the dialogue because the organization's objectives affirm efforts "to unite Baptists worldwide, to lead in world evangelism, to respond to people in need, to engage in the defense of human rights and religious freedom, and to promote theological reflection. Our talks with the Roman Catholics and other Christian groups aim to fulfill these mission goals, but especially to aid in the promotion of human rights and religious freedom." The BWA would have no official statement on the substance of the talks until they end in 2010.

Harsh Winter in Afghanistan: Christian Relief Agency Distributes Survival Kits

Afghanistan is experiencing the harshest winter for 15 years. ASSIST News Service reports that hundreds of men, women and children have died of exposure. With temperatures dropping below minus 29 degrees Celsius thousands of cattle have also died. Many villages are isolated. One of the hardest hit regions is Herat province in West Afghanistan, according to the Christian relief and development agency Shelter Now. The German branch started a winter relief initiative even before Christmas. Originally it was focused on the needs of the many hundreds of refugees returning from Iran, who often find their houses and fields ruined. But as Udo Stolte, director of the German Shelter Now branch, told the evangelical news agency “idea”, many more Afghans are suffering from the extreme cold. In Herat and the region around the capital Kabul Shelter Now has handed out survival kits to more than 1,000 families.