Religion Today Summaries - January 21, 2005

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - January 21, 2005

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

  • Bush Promotes Freedom Abroad, Character At Home In Inauguration

  • Billy Graham Leads Prayer At National Prayer Service For 55th Presidential Inauguration

  • Colombian Guerrillas Refuse to Return Remains of Murdered Priest

  • Eritrea: Humanitarian Arrested

Bush Promotes Freedom Abroad, Character At Home In Inauguration
Baptist Press

President George W. Bush called for the United States- supported spread of freedom throughout the world and a strengthening of American character as a product of such liberty in his second inaugural speech Jan. 20. After being sworn in for a second term, Bush said this country's "vital interests and our deepest beliefs" are united in the cause of freedom. As often characterizes the president's major speeches, this one included references to God and religion. Bush grounded the universal rights of mankind in America's belief from its founding that people "bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth." He said Americans have confidence freedom will eventually triumph because it is the "permanent hope of mankind," not because it is inevitable or because the United States considers itself a "chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills." The president said character is sustained by "the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people." His speech reinforced and seemingly elaborated on the policies his administration has followed since the 2001 terrorist attacks -- America must defeat terrorism and promote freedom in the countries where terrorists may thrive in order to be secure. His remarks once again placed his administration and the country on the side of the oppressed. America will use its influence for freedom's sake, Bush said, warning rulers who might oppress their people and promoting reform in other governments.

Billy Graham Leads Prayer At National Prayer Service For 55th Presidential Inauguration
Dan Wooding, Assist News Service

Veteran evangelist Billy Graham accepted an invitation from the 55th Presidential Inaugural Committee to lead the opening prayer at the National Prayer Service in the National Cathedral for the second inauguration of President George W. Bush. Mr. Graham, 86, has participated in inaugural activities on eight previous occasions in the past four decades and will now tie Chief Justice John Marshall's record of participation in his administration of the oath of office to six presidents in nine ceremonies during the early 1800s. Mr. Graham has been invited to participate in a record 10 inaugurals, but due to a hospitalization a few days before the 54th presidential inauguration in 2001 was unable to fulfill his commitment to lead the invocation at then President-elect Bush's first inauguration. "I have known the Bush family for many years, and have seen how their faith in God has sustained them through some very trying times," he said. "I pray for them daily, and it is a great honor to pray publicly for our president, his family, and our nation as he begins his second term." President Bush credits Graham with inspiring him to reaffirm his faith at age 40, give up drinking and become more self-disciplined.

Colombian Guerrillas Refuse to Return Remains of Murdered Priest
Compass Direct

Guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) remain firm in their refusal to hand over the body of a beloved Roman Catholic priest they abducted, shot and buried last month. Father Francisco Montoya, 33, was kidnapped December 8 while traveling from Quibdó, Chocó, to the village of Nóvita, about 400 miles northeast of Bogota. "He had entered the area without their authorization. They accused him of being an army informant," said Manuel García, Vicar General of the Quibdó diocese. Marxist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries control large swaths of territory in the embattled Chocó department (state), terrorizing local residents and trafficking in narcotics. Guerrilla spokesmen said they buried Montoya on the mountain where he was murdered, but refused to allow his remains to be exhumed, citing security concerns. "The church can enter, but only with FARC authorization," García said. "It's a very painful situation." The young priest eagerly embraced Chocó culture, traveling on foot throughout the region and carrying his belongings in a typical indigenous basket. He played his clarinet in the villages and entertained children with toys and magic tricks. "He was a very humble man with a very happy soul," García said.

Eritrea: Humanitarian Arrested
Charisma News Service

A staff member of a Christian group that specializes in complex humanitarian emergencies was arrested in the eastern African nation earlier this week. In an e-mail to Strategic World Impact headquarters in Bartlesville, Okla., mission president Kevin Turner said: "Please pray, one of our Eritrean national staff was arrested ... We have been given no reason why he was taken." Turner noted that the same staff member had been arrested a few weeks ago, Assist News Service (ANS) reported. "While in police custody the staff member witnessed the shooting deaths of seven other people and the kicking death of one other," Turner said. An estimated 200 Christians have been arrested since the beginning of the year. Turner noted that with the recent arrest of the 200 Christians, the number of believers imprisoned for their faith in Eritrea is up to 567, I reported. Sixty members of the Rema Charismatic Church in the capital of Asmara were detained for holding a New Year's Eve celebration in the home of one of their church leaders, Compass Direct reported. They were taken into custody and charged with violating laws against church meetings even though they were not having a church meeting. They are reportedly being held in solitary confinement at the Mai-Serwa military camp. On Jan. 4, Letensae Oqbamichel was released, but the others remained in prison. (