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Religion Today Summaries, February 5, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, February 5, 2004

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

  • Middle Eastern Pastors Meet For the First Time in Historic Gathering in Jordan
  • Thousands Complain Over 'Scandalous' Super Bowl Show
  • Missionary Reaches Out to Colombian Guerillas, Paramilitaries
  • Christian Women Killed, Injured by Iraqi Militants

Middle Eastern Pastors Meet For the First Time in Historic Gathering in Jordan
Michael Ireland, ASSIST News Service

More than 100 Christian pastors from 14 countries, including Iraq, Syria, and a dozen other Middle East countries, have been able to meet for the first time ever -- face-to-face, sharing meals, prayers and encouragement. RREACH International and the Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary (JETS) co-hosted and sponsored the historic and diverse gathering -- a pastors' training conference held in Wadi Mousa. “This is the first time I have seen anything like this attempted,” said one pastor. Nearly 100 pastors were selected from 14 countries to learn from leaders with experience working with diverse groups. The main seminar presented a method of biblical preaching by Dallas Theological Seminary Professor and President of RREACH International Dr. Ramesh Richard. “Front-line shepherds toil in the Middle East without seeing immediate, large, and measurable indices of ministry success. These peer level heroes taught me how to wait for eternal returns on sacrificial investment under difficult conditions” Richard said. In addition, the pastors heard lectures from JETS President, Dr. Imad Shehadeh, and several faculty members. Topics included the role of theological education, the Trinity, conflict management, and Arabs in the Bible. The highlight of the week was when pastors silently joined Richard in the front on their knees for a final, prayerful recommitment to the ministry and the structure that God had created for each one. “This conference affirmed that the Arab World is on the verge of a spiritual breakthrough after centuries of darkness,” said Shehadeh.

Thousands Complain Over 'Scandalous' Super Bowl Show
Charisma News Service

Tens of thousands of viewers, many of them Christians, reportedly have contacted CBS, MTV, the NFL and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), complaining about last Sunday's Super Bowl halftime show -- described by one pro-family group as "an outrageous display of soft-core pornography." Nearly 90 million viewers saw singer Justin Timberlake disrobe pop star Janet Jackson, exposing her breast briefly during CBS' telecast of the MTV-produced halftime program. Sunday's "scandalous Super Bowl halftime show has awakened millions of Americans to the pernicious influence of MTV," Focus on the Family (FotF) chairman James Dobson said in a statement. Dobson added that the backlash over the show is an encouraging sign of "how fed up parents are with the baseness and immorality of popular culture." FotF and other Christian organizations have urged supporters to contact CBS, MTV, FCC and the NFL. CBS faces a FCC investigation to determine whether the Super Bowl show violated decency laws, with potential fines of up to $27,500. "It is even more encouraging to see moms and dads rise up in defense of their sons and daughters to say, 'Enough is enough,'" Dobson said. "That reaction, more than any government agency's action, has the greatest potential to clean up what passes for popular entertainment these days."

Missionary Reaches Out to Colombian Guerillas, Paramilitaries
Charisma News Service

A missionary once abducted by communist fighters now takes the gospel to guerillas and paramilitaries in Colombia. Russell Stendal has built a publishing company, recording studio and radio towers in hopes of sending messages of peace, freedom and surrender to communist guerrilla units and right-wing paramilitaries -- adversaries in the longest-running internal conflict in the world. Stendal has firsthand knowledge of the climate. He was kidnapped in 1983. After his 121-day ordeal, he returned to the United States with his wife and daughter and began speaking about his experience in captivity to audiences at churches. Back in Colombia, the fighting continued to take 3,500 lives annually, while driving missionaries away. After returning to Colombia in 1996, Stendal and his family created a nongovernmental organization, Colombia Para Cristo (Colombia for Christ). With the help of volunteers and international donations, Stendal built Ransom Press Publishing, turning out books aimed at soldiers, police officers, guerillas and paramilitary fighters, pushing a message of peace. Stendal believes he is winning a place in a country that was driving other missionaries out. "My goal is not to convert anyone to a certain church or religion," he said. "My goal is to put people in direct contact with God."

Christian Women Killed, Injured by Iraqi Militants
Voice of the Martyrs News

Four Christian women were killed and five others injured when militants in a passing car sprayed their van with gunfire January 26th. Nine Christian Iraqi women were on their way to work in the laundry at the Habaniyah American military base, when four masked men in a white Opel machine-gunned their vehicle. Four women died, and none escaped without injuries. Among those killed was a woman who had decided to hand in her resignation that day, rather than live in fear of reprisals for cooperating with the U.S.-led coalition. She had been working to support her paralyzed husband and four children. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although church leaders, individual Christians and human rights workers in Iraq they are concerned about rising violence against Christians.