Religion Today Summaries, February 11, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, February 11, 2003

Religion Today Summaries: Daily summaries of the top national and international religious news stories impacting Christians

In Today's Edition:

  • Hispanic Churches Experiencing Huge Growth
  • Citing Donation Drop, Focus on Family Has First Layoffs
  • Christian Retaliation Increasing in Nigeria
  • Blasphemy Appeal Awaits Decision in Pakistan

Hispanic Churches Experiencing Huge Growth

(Charisma News) Hispanics are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States, many of them carrying seeds of revival from their countries of origin that could turn America's Anglo evangelical church upside down.  As Jesse Miranda, a professor at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, Calif., and director of the school's Center for Urban Studies and Hispanic Leadership, tells "Charisma" magazine for a March report on the movement, out next week: "I see a revival [in America] coming from south of the border."  At around some 40 million, Hispanics in the United States now outnumber blacks, according to government figures released last month. Other studies claim that an estimated 9 million of them are evangelical.  And of that number, close to 70 percent are Pentecostal.  No longer hidden in storefront missions on the "wrong" side of town, Hispanic churches are blossoming into mega-ministries that are bursting at the seams.  "We need larger facilities.  We don't fit," says Daniel de León, pastor of 6,000-member Templo Calvario Assembly of God in Santa Ana, Calif. -- the largest Hispanic church in America.  Twenty-six years ago there were 60 people in his church.

Citing Donation Drop, Focus on Family Has First Layoffs
Eric Gorski

(RNS) Focus on the Family, one of the nation's most influential evangelical Christian groups, has laid off 34 employees and eliminated an additional 66 positions as a result of a drop in donations, the ministry said this week.  The media and broadcast ministry says it will cut $5 million from its $130 million budget in response to a 3 percent decrease in giving that stretches back to fall 1999.  The layoffs are the first in the 26-year history of the organization.  The layoffs amount to 2.6 percent of the ministry's Colorado Springs work force, which has held steady at about 1,300 for several years.  Like most nonprofit groups, Focus on the Family weathered a tough 2002 fund-raising climate filled with layoffs, stock market declines, anxiety over the prospect of war with Iraq and eroding public trust in some large institutions.  Focus on the Family relies entirely on donations for its budget, and the ministry says the average donation is $30.  Focus on the Family avoids taking on debt and has no reserve fund.  Dobson said that fits into a philosophy:  "If the money doesn't come, we simply do less."

Christian Retaliation Increasing in Nigeria

(Compass) Seventeen Christians from various church denominations in Aba, a city in Nigeria’s southern Abia state, were arrested in late January over reprisal attacks on Muslims.   Sources said Christians were reacting to “incessant” assaults on Christians in northern Nigeria by Muslim extremists.  Abia state police authorities reported that the central mosque and several Muslim businesses were damaged in the January 18-19 attacks.  Clashes on January 11 in Central Nigeria’s Plateau state left two Muslims and one Christian dead.  Violence between Muslims and Christians flared up there in September 2001 and escalated throughout 2002.  In November, religious riots ignited by a newspaper article led to the death of an estimated 1,000 people and the destruction of some 125 churches in the city of Kaduna.  Both Muslim and Christian leaders express frustration over the conflict.  “The nation is sitting on a religious time bomb that can explode any moment with devastating consequences,” said Kaduna state governor Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi.

Blasphemy Appeal Awaits Decision in Pakistan

(Compass) Some 32 months after a Pakistani court handed down life prison sentences to two Christian brothers for alleged blasphemy, the Lahore High Court is to hear final appeal arguments on the case.  This hearing for Rasheed and Saleem Masih has been delayed repeatedly since a lower court verdict was issued against them in May 2000.  However, the Lahore High Court finally ordered lawyers of the defendants and their accuser to present their final arguments before Lahore High Court Justice Rustam Ali Malik.  “This is definitely a case for acquittal,” the Masihs’ defense lawyer Pervez Aslam Chaudhry said.  Nevertheless, the plaintiff’s lawyer has called for the brothers’ execution, demanding last May that the court “enhance” their 35-year prison sentences and give them the death penalty.  According to lawyers from the Lahore-based Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement, the long-delayed blasphemy case is fraught with blatant legal irregularities.