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Religion Today Summaries, January 2, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, January 2, 2004

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

  • Ministry Spokesman: More Must Be Done About Worldwide Religious Persecution
  • Pope Expresses Sorrow over Killing of Envoy
  • Acclaimed Musician Refutes Evolution
  • Vietnam Steps Up Persecution Targeting Hmong Christians

Ministry Spokesman: More Must Be Done About Worldwide Religious Persecution
Chad Groening, Agape Press

A recently released U.S. State Department report reveals that religious oppression is widespread across the globe, and a spokesman for a leading Christian ministry to the persecuted Church says more must be done to bring such treatment to an end. Among the revelations of the State Department study was the fact that a number of Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan, show little tolerance for religions that are not sanctioned by their governments.  But Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs says his organization has known about worldwide religious oppression for a long time.  "This is not news to us," he notes. The interdenominational organization has been working with Christians in more than 40 countries around the world to help believers who are being persecuted for their faith in Christ. Although Nettleton welcomes the State Department's report, he says just telling people about oppression is not enough. "It's one thing to say, 'Hey, this is happening.' It's another thing to work constructively to make it stop happening," he says. Nettleton encourages Christians around the world to get involved by praying for the persecuted Church and financially supporting ministries that do outreach to believers suffering under oppressive regimes.

Pope Expresses Sorrow over Killing of Envoy
ASSIST News Service

Pope John Paul II urged citizens of Burundi to reject violence after Monday's killing of his personal envoy in Bujumbura, the capital of this mainly Catholic African nation, reports said Wednesday, December 31. Archbishop Michael Courtney died during surgery at a hospital in Bujumbura after the car he was traveling in was sprayed with bullets from a nearby hill, the Vatican confirmed. Burundi's President Domitien Ndayizeye was reportedly at his bedside shortly after the attack, in which a fellow priest was slightly injured. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack, which took place less than 50 kilometers from the capital. Burundi's authorities have blamed rebels of the National Liberation Forces (NLF) but the group has denied involvement and blamed the army. Unlike the country's main rebel group, the Forces for the Defense of Democracy, the NLF did not join in the peace process. In a letter to the head of Burundi's bishops conference, the pope said he was deeply moved by the terrible news of the violent death of the Irish-born prelate. He described Archbishop Courtney as "a loyal and unselfish servant of the Church." A funeral service was to be held Wednesday, December 31, in Bujumbura, after which the prelate's body will be flown to his native Ireland for burial. The latest incident underscored the tensions in Burundi, which has seen periodic massacres with thousands of people.

Acclaimed Musician Refutes Evolution
Agape Press

A highly acclaimed musician is refuting the theory of evolution.  Dennis Marcellino is a former member of popular hippie-generation bands like "The Tokens" and "Sly and the Family Stone."  Now a professing Christian, he says his heart's goal is to share God with the world.  In his book, Why Are We Here?, Marcellino questions why evolution is still being taught in public schools -- and why creationism has been completely disregarded.  He says Darwinian evolution has never been proven and never will be -- and that even Darwin himself had reservations about the theory.  "[Darwin] said that it should never be used because there are too few facts," Marcellino says, adding that when Darwin saw how evolution was being used, he called it "the Devil's gospel."  Marcellino says one does not have to be a scientist to understand that evolution is a weak theory.  The author adds that political correctness has become America's "national religion," and he believes misuse of the phrase "separation of Church and State" has harmed public schools in the United States.

Vietnam Steps Up Persecution Targeting Hmong Christians
Voice of the Martyrs News

Vietnamese authorities have stepped up their campaign of persecution of minority Christians, in some instances threatening to murder their spiritual leaders, Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom in Washington reported Dec. 30. Sources in Vietnam reported that 19 police agents destroyed Hmong Christian house churches in mid-December in four villages in Ta Tong Commune, located in the Muong Te District of Lai Chau Province. Freedom House also received reports that high-level authorities in Vietnam's northwest Lai Chau Province are openly threatening to "kill all Christian leaders." Vietnam's Hmong Christians have long experienced official persecution because of their faith. Freedom House reported the beating deaths by police of three Hmong Christians earlier in the year, including a 10-year-old child of a church leader sought for arrest. Nina Shea, director of Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom, said in a news release, "After the numerous incidents of persecution reported against the Hmong Christians this year -- culminating with the crackdown against their house churches and death threats against their leaders just this month - the U.S. State Department should not hesitate to designate Vietnam a 'country of particular concern' (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act."