Religion Today Summaries, January 30, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, January 30, 2003

Religion Today Summaries: Daily summaries of the top national and international religious news stories impacting Christians

In Today's Edition:

  • President Lauds Drug Ministry's 'Amazing Work'
  • Sharon Says 'No' To Meeting With Arafat
  • Vietnam Faulted on Treatment of Evangelical Christians
  • Gospel Outreach Prospers in Nepal

President Lauds Drug Ministry's 'Amazing Work'
Andy Butcher

(Charisma News) A former crack addict and prostitute who now runs a ministry helping others turn their lives around is one of the success stories spotlighted by President Bush, who wants to give government money to religious groups tackling social problems.  The president referred to recovery programs that "do amazing work," citing among them Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge -- where Myles and her husband run Set Free Indeed, a weekly recovery meeting.  At Youth Challenge in Newport News, Va., Executive Director Troy Collier told "The Hampton Roads Daily Press" that he welcomed the idea of federal funding "as long as we don't have to remove the center -- the 'cure' of our program -- and that is the Jesus factor."  He added:  "Secular programs don't work as well as religious ones because they don't give addicts the cure.”  Naturally, Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, criticized the idea of funding "untested, unproven programs that seek to pray away addiction," said the Associated Press.  "People with addiction problems need medical help, not Sunday school," he added.

Sharon Says 'No' To Meeting With Arafat
Julie Stahl
( Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat said he is ready to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, now that Sharon's Likud party won a landslide victory in national elections this week.  When asked in an Israeli television interview Wednesday evening if he is willing to meet Sharon, Arafat replied: "Tonight!  If he's ready, I'm ready."  Arafat pointed out that he had met with Sharon's son Omri and added that, "We hope to return as soon as possible to discussions."  He said he is willing to call for a cease-fire so peace can return to "the land of peace."  The prime minister's office responded in a statement almost immediately, saying that Arafat is not a negotiating partner.  Arafat "who continues to finance, initiate, operate and dispatch terror - will not be a partner for negotiations."  In the framework of diplomatic efforts to bring about peace, Israel would be "prepared to speak only to those Palestinians who are not involved in terror in any way, shape or form," the prime minister's office said.  The Israeli government declared Arafat irrelevant more than a year ago.  Sharon has said Israel will not negotiate with any Palestinians while terrorism continues.

Vietnam Faulted on Treatment of Evangelical Christians
Chris Herlinger

(RNS) A new report alleges that the Vietnamese government is intensifying repression against a group of indigenous peoples, many of them evangelical Christians, who are involved in a popular movement for religious freedom and land rights.  The Human Rights Watch report cites an October 2002 internal directive by the Vietnamese government outlining a campaign to root out "Dega Protestantism," a type of evangelical Christianity popular among many Montagnards in Vietnam's Central Highlands.  "People are being interrogated, arrested, beaten and jailed simply because they are Christians or are suspected of supporting the popular movement for land rights and religious freedom," Jendrzejczyk said.  Vietnam's Communist Party, which rules the country's government, has not yet responded to the latest Human Rights Watch report.  But earlier this month, the party harshly criticized the watchdog group's annual report on global human rights violations during the year 2002.  The government said it "flatly rejected" the allegations, calling them "gross slander," and said the problems in the Central Highlands were an internal issue.  "In Vietnam, any violation of the law is handled in accordance with the country's laws," said Phan Thuy Thanh, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.

Gospel Outreach Prospers in Nepal

(Missions Insider) Despite the activity of Maoist rebels, the gospel is going forth in the Himalayan country of Nepal, winning souls, planting churches and training leaders.  A ministry run by Nepali leaders told Christian Aid this week that despite the disruption in their country through terrorist rebel activities, their Bible correspondence course is reaching thousands.  "Even though many hundreds of post offices have been destroyed, our Bible correspondence course is increasing day by day and more and more students are coming for training, especially in remote parts-more than we expected," the leader said.  He said that new churches are being planted, and as more people place faith in Jesus Christ new worship fellowships are being formed.  The ministry has an extensive leadership-training program that reaches Christians in Nepal, India, Bhutan and Tibet.  This year the ministry plans to send five missionaries to different parts of Nepal and others to Bhutan, India and to the border with Tibet.  Despite the critical situation in Nepal, the ministry was able to complete four leadership-training seminars in different parts of the country.  "God is opening the door for us," the leader said, "as more requests for meetings come from remote parts of Nepal."