Religion Today Summaries, February 24, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, February 24, 2003

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

In Today's Edition:

  • Outspoken Christian Convert Murdered in Iraq
  • Clergy Urged to Reconcile, Work on AIDS at Promise Keepers Conference
  • Ethiopian Evangelicals Still Jailed Without Charges
  • Christian Leaders in Former Soviet State Call on President for Action on Persecution

Outspoken Christian Convert Murdered in Iraq

(Charisma News) A Christian convert threatened repeatedly for turning his back on Islam has been murdered.  Ismaeel Mohamad Ismaeel died Monday in Zakho, in the northern Kurdistan region, when he was killed by a man wielding a machine gun, Open Doors-Australia said.  Although no official motive has yet been declared for the murder, friends say that Ismaeel's increasing openness about his faith had caused growing tension with local Muslims.  A taxi driver, Ismaeel frequently shared his faith with his passengers.  After his second arrest, in May last year, he was told by police, "some people did not like that he was witnessing about Christ," Open Doors said.  After his conversion, Ismaeel was declared an apostate by a local mullah and abducted by relatives who threatened to kill him if he did not renounce Christianity.  He was rescued and taken into hiding by Christian friends, but returned to open life.  "With Jesus on my side, I have nothing to fear," he said at the time, Open Doors reported.  "I have to go back to my family to tell them that even when they kill me, I will never deny Christ."  Ismaeel leaves a wife and five children.

Clergy Urged to Reconcile, Work on AIDS at Promise Keepers Conference
Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) Clergy attending a Promise Keepers in Phoenix heard pleas for reconciliation among Christians and joint work to address the global AIDS crisis.  "The churches of Africa are dying and the pastors of Africa desperately need our help," said author Bruce Wilkinson in an address at the end of the men's conference attended by 9,000 at Bank One Ballpark.  Wilkinson, who wrote the best-selling "The Prayer of Jabez," and the Christian relief agency World Vision formally announced Monday that they intend to work together to involve American and African churches in fund raising to help people affected by HIV/AIDS.  World Vision is trying to raise $10 million for an initiative to provide prevention, advocacy and care to address the disease.  At other times during the conference, Promise Keepers officials and others highlighted the cross-cultural connections among those in attendance.  Presenters at the second clergy conference of the evangelical men's ministry included African-Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics and messianic Jews.

Ethiopian Evangelicals Still Jailed Without Charges
Barbara G. Baker
(Compass) Evangelical Christians in northern Ethiopia confirmed yesterday that instead of being released as expected, two local church elders jailed without charges for 10 months were remanded back to prison two days ago by a local court judge. Under Ethiopian law, Pentecostal church leaders Kiros Meles, 46, and Abebayeh Desalegn, 35, should remain under arrest only if a prosecutor can produce sufficient evidence to press formal murder charges against them. Otherwise, the judge was required to release them. But instead, the hearing was postponed for two more weeks. Meles and Desalegn were arrested after a mob of Orthodox Church extremists staged a two-day rampage last April against Maychew’s five evangelical churches. Local police named the two men as suspects in the death of a young Orthodox man shot dead during the last day of the riots. According to Maychew evangelicals, local police have used the two Protestants as scapegoats in an attempt to exonerate an off-duty policeman accused of firing the fatal bullet from the local police chief’s gun.

Christian Leaders in Former Soviet State Call on President for Action on Persecution

(VOM – USA) According to ASSIST News Service, Christian leaders in the country of Georgia, a former Soviet state, have urged President Eduard Shevardnadze to end the "intolerable religious situation in the country," after an attack against a church in the capital Tbilisi.  As Christians were gathering to meet at the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia for the Day of Ecumenical Prayer, they were attacked by a well-organized group of hooligans led by a defrocked Orthodox priest.  They penetrated the church building, raided the sanctuary, tore religious literature and forcefully occupied the church.  The police apparently did little to provide security despite being warned about the service a few days earlier.