Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- China: Pastor Sentenced to Re-education by Labor
- Man Sues Zondervan over Anti-Gay Bible Reference
- Iran: Ex-Muslims Detained for 'Apostasy'
- Evangelism Teams to Plant Churches in 40 Ukrainian Cities
China: Pastor Sentenced to Re-education by Labor
Christian Newswire reports that Chinese Pastor Zhang Zhongxin was sentenced to two years of reeducation through labor, according to a written decision by the Shandong reeducation-through-labor management committee. China Aid Association is told that his sentence began July 4. Zhang has applied for legal aid and is hoping to hire defense lawyers for an appeal. Officials accused Zhang of cult participation in "the whole scope of the Church", organized "Sunday School" training courses, preaching the Gospel to the northwest, Tibet and other places for missionaries, and pioneers sermons. Zhang has also established a training school for pastors and the Rainbow Missions Fellowship in Jining of Shandong.
Man Sues Zondervan over Anti-Gay Bible Reference
Mlive.com reports that a Michigan man is suing Zondervan Publishing and a Tennessee-based publisher, saying that their versions of the Bible that refer to homosexuality as a sin have caused him years of emotional pain and mental instability besides violating his constitutional rights. Bradley LaShawn Fowler is seeking $60 million from Zondervan in Michigan, and $10 from Thomas Nelson, the Tennessee publisher. The court refused to appoint an attorney to represent him in his case filed in June against Thomas Nelson. "The Court has some very genuine concerns about the nature and efficacy of these claims," the judge wrote. The publishers' purpose is to reflect the public opinion to cause "me or anyone who is a homosexual to endure verbal abuse, discrimination, episodes of hate, and physical violence ... including murder," Fowler wrote.
Iran: Ex-Muslims Detained for 'Apostasy'
Compass Direct News reports that Iranian authorities have detained two converts to Christianity in the southern city of Shiraz for eight weeks on suspicion of “apostasy,” or leaving Islam. In Iran, apostasy is a crime that can be punishable by death. Mahmood Matin, 52, and Arash Bandari, 44, remain imprisoned in a secret police detention center known by its address, located in the center of Shiraz since their arrest on May 15 (previously reported as May 13). The 13 others arrested with Matin and Bandari have been released but were told they have an ongoing case against them, though officials have not informed them of the charges. During a visit on June 24, Matin’s wife was able to speak with her husband for five minutes as officials listened in, a source told Compass. “They are pushing me to tell them that I am connected to a church outside [Iran] and that I am receiving a salary, but I told them that I am doing it on my own,” he told his wife, according to the source. A draft penal code under discussion in Iran’s parliament this month may make the death penalty obligatory for those who leave Islam or use the Internet to encourage others to do so.
Evangelism Teams to Plant Churches in 40 Ukrainian Cities
Forty ministry teams - 20 from the U.S. and 20 from Ukraine - are kicking off an effort to plan 40 churches in 40 Ukrainian cities, according to the Christian Post. As the first of two phases of Project 125, each team will work in a city without an evangelical church and hold weeklong outreaches that culminate in citywide "freedom" crusades over the weekend. In the past, such crusades have often led to 500 new believers. About 40 trained church planters in Ukraine have volunteers to move with their families to a city and help start a church. Project 125 is led by the Ukrainian Baptist Union, the Southern Baptist's International Mission Board and the Don Betts Evangelistic Association, and has the goal of 125 new churches in Ukraine before next fall. “This is the largest cooperative event we’ve done,” said Don Betts, whose ministry has conducted similar crusades in Ukraine for 18 years. The mission runs from July 28 to Aug. 25.