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Religion Today Summaries - February 21, 2005

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - February 21, 2005

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

  • Religious Freedom Resolution Gains Ground

  • 'Philly 5' Are Free!

  • 'Giant Jesus' Outside Charismatic Church Points Travelers to Christ 

  • New Hospital In Afghanistan Will Open Its Doors

Religious Freedom Resolution Gains Ground
Mark Ellis, Assist News Service

Muslim, Christian and Jewish believers are lending their signatures to a resolution calling for freedom of religion throughout the world, but organizers express disappointment that Christian leaders have been the slowest to ratify their efforts. "Our biggest frustration is with Christian leaders," says Ameal Haddad, pastor of the Bellflower Church of God Haddad was born in Palestine before the birth of the modern state of Israel. Raised in Jordan by Catholic parents, an American evangelist visited their town and the whole family was born-again. He founded Ambassadors for Peace with Garry Ansdell, pastor of Hosanna Chapel in Bellflower. The resolution they crafted calls for religious freedom in all countries of the world, as well as a right of conversion without fear of retribution. Haddad would like Christian leaders to see the merits of the resolution. "A big wall has been built by the Muslims and communism. All we're trying to do is tear down these walls." Some Muslim leaders have responded, and even a few atheists have signed the document. "Our ultimate objective is to take this to world leaders to effect freedom of religion," Haddad says. The efforts of Ambassadors for Peace parallel President Bush's efforts to foster democracy throughout the world. Recently, the entire resolution was translated into Arabic and published in the Arab World newspaper.

'Philly 5' Are Free!
Allie Martin, AgapePress

All charges have been dropped against four Christians who were arrested in October for sharing the gospel at a pro-homosexual event in Philadelphia. Charges pending against a minor who was also arrested at the time are expected to be dismissed as well. Last fall, Philadelphia police arrested 11 Christians as they were taking part in street witnessing on a public sidewalk at a "gay pride" event.  Charges were dropped against six of the believers in January, but the four adults and one juvenile -- all members of the group Repent America -- faced serious charges under Philadelphia's "hate crimes" laws.  Those five were charged with criminal conspiracy, "ethnic intimidation," and riot.  In a case that brought national attention, each of the five faced as much as 47 years in prison if convicted. Now charges have been dropped against the four adults.  On Thursday (February 17), Court of Commons Pleas Judge Pamela Dembe dismissed the charges, ruling that peaceful expressive activities like those of the Christian demonstrators are fully protected by the First Amendment.  She also stated that prosecutors were unable to make even a minimal showing of any criminal conduct. The defendants were represented by the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy (CLP), a legal group based in Tupelo, Mississippi.  

'Giant Jesus' Outside Charismatic Church Points Travelers to Christ
Charisma News Service

A 62-foot statue outside a charismatic church in Monroe, Ohio, has people across the country talking about Jesus. After the replica of Christ was unveiled in November along Interstate 75 roughly 20 miles outside Cincinnati, the statue won cheers and jeers from observers nationwide. Some decried it as a highway distraction or an idolatrous "graven image," said Lawrence Bishop, co-pastor of Solid Rock Church, which funded the project. Others, however, said the statue reminded them of Christ's love. Bishop said the statue motivated one man not to end his life. "He passed by and saw that statue and said at the next exit he started weeping, and he got off the exit and gave his heart to God, saved his life," Bishop told Charisma magazine. The "Giant Jesus" has become something of a tourist attraction. Considered the largest image of Christ in North America, the statue soon was to be included in the "Guinness Book of World Records." But Bishop and his wife say the $250,000 project wasn't designed to make history. "Maybe we could have fed a few hungry people, but for years to come, I believe, this is going to give people hope. Not just a meal to eat, but hope for their eternal life," Darlene Bishop said. (www.charismanow.com)

New Hospital In Afghanistan Will Open Its Doors

A Christian physician who has been bringing medical care and updated pediatric hospitals to the Third World for the last decade is looking forward to helping a new hospital in Afghanistan open its doors. Dr. Scott Harrison and his wife founded the faith-based, nonprofit organization known as Cure International in 1996, beginning with a hospital in Kenya that was the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. Since then, the couple have added six more facilities around the globe. Harrison says the success of the medical facility in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and its continued presence when others have left due to dangerous conditions, has given Cure the goodwill to gain permission to open a new hospital in Kabul. "It'll be significantly larger," the doctor points out, "and it will be a full-service hospital. Actually it's two hospitals -- it's a large hospital of 110 beds, and then a smaller facility of 25 beds that's a couple kilometers away, which will focus just on maternal and child health." Harrison says the overthrow of the Taliban regime by the U.S. made it possible for his organization to bring greatly improved medical care into Afghanistan. He feels that was one way the U.S. definitely kept its promise to help rebuild the Mid-East country's infrastructure after the war in Iraq.