Religion Today Summaries, January 17, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, January 17, 2003

Religion Today Summaries: Daily summaries of the top religious news stories from around the world!

In Today's Edition:

  • Presidential Proclamation Designates Jan. 19 for Sanctity of Human Life
  • Ashcroft ‘Preaches’ for Faith-Based Programs
  • Arrest Warrants Issued for 11 Evangelical Christians Targeted in November Attack 
  • Chinese Government Tries to Force Church Leadership Change

Presidential Proclamation Designates Jan. 19 for Sanctity of Human Life
Tom Strode

(Baptist Press) President Bush has proclaimed Jan. 19 as National Sanctity of Human Life Day for this year.  In commemorating the Sunday before the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's legalization of abortion, Bush repeated his belief that every child "should be welcomed in life and protected by law."  The high court issued its Roe v. Wade opinion, which struck down state prohibitions on abortion, on Jan. 22, 1973.  More than 40 million legal abortions have occurred in the last three decades.  In his proclamation, Bush said the country would "continue to build a culture that respects life" through "ethical policies and the compassion of Americans."  "By working together to protect the weak, the imperfect and the unwanted, we affirm a culture of hope and help ensure a brighter future for all," Bush said.  His administration "has championed compassionate alternatives to abortion, such as helping women in crisis through maternity group homes, encouraging adoption, promoting abstinence education and passing laws requiring parental notification and waiting periods for minors," Bush said.

Ashcroft ‘Preaches’ for Faith-Based Programs

(Charisma News) Quoting Scripture, Attorney General John Ashcroft was "preaching to the choir" Monday while crusading in Denver for the Bush administration's plan to fund religion-based social services.  The son and grandson of Assemblies of God ministers, Ashcroft "may have sounded more like a preacher than a politician" at an address to a conference of religious groups, the Associated Press (AP) reported.  "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits," Ashcroft said, quoting Psalm 103 to open his lunchtime speech.  The crowd of about 1,000 religious service workers responded with delighted laughter.  Ashcroft delivered an aggressive attack on the "bigotry" that he said religious groups had faced for decades nationwide, the AP observed.  "Unfortunately, over the last several decades, the government has discriminated against people of faith who are striving to do good for others," Ashcroft said.  "Out of fear, ignorance and occasional bigotry, faith-based groups have been prohibited from competing for federal funding on a level playing field with secular groups."  His message was met with a chorus of "right-ons" and "amens," The Denver Post reported. Ashcroft's speech marked one of the most high-profile pronouncements on Bush's faith-based initiative from the nation's top law enforcement official.

Arrest Warrants Issued for 11 Evangelical Christians Targeted in November Attack
David Miller

(Compass) --Two months after a violent shooting incident drove them from their native village in the Chiapas highlands, 27 Tzotzil-speaking Christian families remain homeless and in hiding for fear of reprisals from powerful caciques (traditional village leaders).  Adding to their plight, authorities in San Cristobal de las Casas have issued arrest warrants for 11 of the refugees.  Caciques accuse the evangelical Christians of firing high-powered rifles at them during the November 14 confrontation in which seven persons sustained bullet wounds and other injuries.  But the 109 men, women and children of the village of Los Pinos who sought asylum in the district capital following the violence say it was the caciques themselves who fired the lethal shots after provoking a violent confrontation with evangelicals.  "The government cannot control the caciques," Salvador Lopez said.  "Things have been out of hand.  There always seem to be problems when it comes to believing in the Word of God."  Observers say the Tzetelton incident is but one of several cases of religious persecution that has occurred in the Chiapas highlands since the beginning of last year, when a new municipal government composed of caciques openly hostile to evangelicalism assumed power in Chamula.

Chinese Government Tries to Force Church Leadership Change

(VOM – Canada) The Voice of the Martyrs has received a report from China that a pastor was arrested when he refused to give up leadership of the church on orders from the government.  According to the report received in the last week, Pastor Bian is the only pastor of the official church in Datong, Shanxi Province.  He received notification on December 24 from the Religious Affairs Bureau that all Christians in his church had requested a change in leadership.  According to a member of his congregation, who cannot be identified for security reasons, only 3-4 of the 4000 members wanted him removed.  He was arrested on December 26 and was only released when the church threatened to go to the Datong government.  The church members are asking for your urgent prayers, as the Religious Affairs Bureau continues to investigate, looking for grounds to remove him from leadership.