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Religion Today Summaries, February 24, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, February 24, 2004

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

  • Persecuted Christians Beneficiaries of VOM's New Interactive Website
  • Eritrean Police Jail 51 More Evangelicals
  • Cancer Clinics Recognize Healing Power of Faith
  • Pastors' Campus Ban Called Discrimination

Persecuted Christians Beneficiaries of VOM's New Interactive Website
Allie Martin, Agape Press

A ministry which serves the persecuted Church worldwide is trying to increase awareness of believers who are imprisoned for their faith in Christ. PrisonerAlert.com is a ministry of Voice of the Martyrs.  Each month the Internet site will feature a Christian imprisoned for his or her beliefs.  The website currently features the plight of a Chinese journalist, Li Yung, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence for her role in the publication of an underground church magazine in China.  She was arrested in April 2001 along with 16 others from the South China Church and was condemned to death in December 2001. VOM spokesman Todd Nettleton explains how individuals can make use of the interactive features at PrisonerAlert.com.  "You can e-mail your friend, let them know about a Christian who is suffering in prison for his faith in Jesus Christ and invite them to join you in prayer," Nettleton says. "Also...you can write a letter on their behalf to a government official or, in some cases, you can even write a letter to the prisoner himself or herself." Nettleton says those letters will then be translated and forwarded to the prisoner, adding that letters to prisoners and to government officials can have an influence on how prisoners are treated. Nettleton encourages Christians worldwide to reach out to their fellow believers who are suffering imprisonment for their faith.  "We absolutely know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that this does make a difference for our brothers and sisters in prison," Nettleton says. This year an estimated 160,000 believers will die at the hands of their oppressors.

Eritrean Police Jail 51 More Evangelicals
Compass Direct

Police hauled to prison a group of 51 Protestant Christians worshiping in secret in the Eritrean capital of Asmara on Sunday, February 16. Pastor Mengse Tweldemedhane of the Hallelujah Church was arrested along with his congregation in the Edaga Hamuse district of Asmara at 3:30 Sunday afternoon. The 34 men and 17 women were held under arrest at the Adi-Abyto military camp until February 18, when Pastor Tweldemedhane was separated from the group and locked into an underground cell. The same day, all but four were transferred to the Sawa Military Training Camp where they remain incarcerated. The latest arrests bring to 347 the total number of Protestant Christians known to be jailed in at least nine locations across Eritrea for attending “illegal” worship services, possessing Bibles or witnessing about their faith. Some of them, including a number of soldiers, have been in prison for nearly two years.

Cancer Clinics Recognize Healing Power of Faith
Allie Martin, Agape Press

A minister at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America says his experience shows that patients with a strong faith in God are better equipped to deal with chronic illnesses than those lacking such faith. Numerous medical studies suggest that religious beliefs have a beneficial effect on overall health and well-being.  Percy McCray is director of the Pastoral Care Department at the CTCA in Zion, Illinois. He says he has witnessed firsthand how faith enables patients suffering from chronic illnesses to recover more quickly and with fewer complications. "Without the faith factor," McCray says, "many of those people would be long dead and have given up hope because of what medicine and science and its limitations can say to people." But the minister says faith in God can transcend the physical realities of chronic illness and help suffering individuals discover a renewed connection to their Creator. McCray says as soon as patients are admitted to CTCA facilities, they are provided with spiritual support and offered the opportunity to participate in individual and group prayer sessions. The pastoral care director says several members of the CTCA staff take a very faith-centered approach to healing. McCray recently developed a website, AlongSideMinistries.com, where cancer patients can explore resources related to faith and healing.

Pastors' Campus Ban Called Discrimination
Charisma News Service

School officials in a Kentucky community have decided not to reconsider a policy prohibiting ministers from having lunch with students. Despite an overflow crowd of 500 people who overwhelmingly expressed support for the ministerial visits, the Bullitt County school board members refused to change the policy at their meeting last week. Ronald Shaver, senior pastor at Little Flock Baptist Church, told the board that he and other pastors only want to help mentor students with whom they're already affiliated. The ministers have said that when they eat with students, they don't discuss religion, pray or evangelize. Little Flock pastors said the visits had gone on for 17 years. Francis Manion, a Kentucky attorney with the American Center for Law and Justice, urged the board to protect the rights of ministers. "The Constitution is clear," Manion said. "You may not exclude a minister, a rabbi or anyone else solely because of their religious status." Church authorities say Superintendent Michael Eberbaugh's decision to end the luncheon visits changed a long-standing practice, but school board attorney Eric Farris said district authorities didn't know about the pastors' visits until last month.