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Religion Today Summaries, July 11, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, July 11, 2003

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

  • New Law Worries Hong Kong Christians  
  • Michigan Retailer Reaches Settlement with Christian Employee
  • Pakistani Christians Urge Prayer Amid Violence
  • Nigerian Mission Faces Land Confiscation

New Law Worries Hong Kong Christians
Compass Direct

On July 1, half a million people poured onto the streets of Hong Kong in angry but peaceful demonstrations against new laws banning treason, subversion and sedition. The imposition of harsh anti-subversion laws has serious implications for Hong Kong's large Christian community. Many foreign mission organizations still operate freely in Hong Kong, while churches in the autonomous region continue their quiet support of Chinese believers on the mainland. All this could change if the new laws are strictly enforced. Roman Catholic Bishop Joseph Zen has taken the lead in Christian circles against the new legislation. Born in Shanghai, Zen taught at a Catholic seminary on the mainland for seven years before battles with the authorities over religious freedom led to his eviction. "It's just that the system is evil," Zen said after studying the draft legislation. "I realized I couldn't just keep quiet. I was in a position to understand this legislation, as I knew the situation in China."

Michigan Retailer Reaches Settlement with Christian Employee
Ed White, Religion News Service

After firing a cake decorator who refused to work on a Sunday, one of Michigan's largest retailers pledged to improve the way it accommodates employees' religious practices.  Meijer, Inc., with 157 stores in the Midwest, settled a lawsuit by agreeing to train supervisors to avoid religious discrimination and make shift swaps a possible remedy. If conflicts arise, personnel managers will try to solve them -- not an employee's immediate boss. Meijer is making significant changes after having "inadequate" procedures to assist employees whose religious beliefs clash with their work schedule, said an attorney of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC sued Meijer on behalf of Debra Kerkstra of Allegan, a member of the Christian Reformed Church who was fired in 2001 after refusing to work a Sunday.  "Sunday is the Lord's day, a day of rest and worship," she said.  Kerkstra said she lined up a replacement, but the store refused to allow the switch. That employee ended up working Kerkstra's shift when she failed to report. "I was forced to choose between my job and my religion. I chose my religion and lost my job," said Kerkstra. A similar case arose in Detroit. Companies must try to accommodate the religious practices of workers as a result of a 1977 U.S. Supreme Court decision.   

Pakistani Christians Urge Prayer Amid Violence
Christian Aid Report

After a bomb blasted a Shiite place of prayer and a Roman Catholic priest was murdered outside his home, Christians in Pakistan are requesting urgent prayer for their safety and continued ministry. A bomb blast in Quetta on July 4 targeted a Shiite place of prayer, but Christians feared they could be caught in the crossfire between two warring Muslim factions. Official reports say 20 people were killed in the blast, but a confidential yet unconfirmed sources said 140 died. "The situation in our city is growing worse day after day," the source said. "Everything in the city is disrupted. There is a general curfew. All educational institutions are closed. All shops are closed except general grocery stores may open a few hours a day. Attendance at churches is only 10 percent of normal. Uncertainty and insecurity affect everyone, even the Christians." He also said religious extremists are conducting strikes throughout the country. Earlier, Six men overpowered the watchman at a Roman Catholic Church in the small village of Renala Khurd and threatened to kill him if he sounded an alarm. When Father George Ibrahim went to investigate the disturbance, the gunmen shot him and then fled. The main motive was a governmental denationalization of the school to a church, a move that angered Muslims.

Nigerian Mission Faces Land Confiscation
Christian Aid Report

Nigerian authorities are threatening to seize the property of a Nigerian Christian mission and make it available to Muslim developers if a building is not constructed on it soon. The mission purchased the land three years ago when a Muslim landlord forced it out of its old headquarters. While the mission leader says the location is "the best land any mission could think of," funds for putting a building on the premises have not been forthcoming. Gifts have only enabled the mission to drill a well and start molding blocks. Because the land is in a prime location-and because Christians are developing it in a Muslim environment-authorities have told the ministry to put up a building within four months or the land will be confiscated and sold to others.  The first project the mission wants to construct is a building for their school. It now operates the school in a rented facility with 16 students, having to turn away 40 students for lack of space. Moreover, the Muslim landlord has tried to evict the ministry as tenants and has raised their rent. Eventually, the mission wants to construct a separate dormitory, an auditorium and offices. This first phase will meet their immediate needs, satisfy the building requirement of authorities, and secure their land.