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Religion Today Summaries - July 16, 2007

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - July 16, 2007

In today's edition: 

  • China Cracks Down on Rights Ahead of Beijing Olympics
  • Vatican Aims to Become 'World's First Carbon Neutral State'
  • North Korean Facing Death for Faith
  • ICEJ Urges Christians to Petition UN over Iranian Threats to Israel

China Cracks Down on Rights Ahead of Beijing Olympics

Christians throughout China fear tough restrictions on their freedom to worship in the coming year following the launch of a government crackdown ahead of August 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. According to Compass Direct Christians across China are reporting a shortage of Bibles, even in cities where Bibles previously were readily available. There are reports of ongoing house church raids and arrests, and an unprecedented number of foreign Christians have been expelled from China in recent months. The crackdown comes in the wake of several important developments in recent years. These include the publication of the book Jesus in Beijing,” which alerted government authorities to the increasing influence of Christianity in academic and professional circles; the release of the DVD series “The Cross,” which stressed the growth and commitment of the house church movement in China; and the outcome of a religious survey that in February estimated the total number of religious adherents in China at more than 300 million, three times higher than the official figure of 100 million. In addition, research presented at a government meeting in January revealed that the number of Christians in China may have reached 130 million, including 20 million Catholics – much higher than previous government estimates, according to a report from the China Aid Association (CAA). Chinese officials have also reacted negatively to media reports that several large Christian organizations – many of them foreign organizations – are planning outreaches during the Beijing Olympics. For example, The Associated Press on March 22 reported the plans of several mission organizations to “send thousands of volunteer evangelists” to the games.

Vatican Aims to Become 'World's First Carbon Neutral State'

The Vatican plans to create a forest in Europe that will offset all of its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for the year, according to the ecorestoration company that is working to help the Holy See achieve what it calls a "historic goal," says CNSNews. "The Holy See's increasingly creative environmental leadership is both insightful and profound," said Russ George, CEO of Planktos Corp. and managing director of its forest subsidiary, KlimFa, in a news release on Thursday outlining the effort to make the sovereign state located in Rome the "first carbon neutral sovereign state" in the world. "Not only is the Vatican steadily reducing its carbon footprint with energy efficiency and solar power, its choice of new mixed-growth forests to offset the balance of its emissions shows a deep commitment to planetary stewardship as well," he said. "It eloquently makes the point that ‘ecorestoration’ is a fitting climate change solution for a culture of life," George added. "Carbon offsetting" is the practice of making amends for emitting CO2 -- the gas that green activists and many scientists blame for climate change -- by carrying out or paying for environmentally friendly projects elsewhere, such as planting forests to act as carbon "sinks."

North Korean Facing Death for his Faith

Son Jong Hoon, who is visiting the United States from his home in South Korea, today pleaded with the world to pressure North Korea to release his elder brother awaiting public execution for the crime of simply being a Christian. For more than a year, Son Jong Nam, former North Korean Army officer turned underground evangelist, has been beaten, tortured and held in a bleak, North Korean death row basement jail in this capital city.  He has been sentenced to public execution as an example to the North Korean people. "My only purpose in life right now is to save my brother," the younger Son said. "I pray to God for my brother's safety." Son Jong Hoon made his plea at a news conference at the National Press Club today. He was accompanied by representatives of The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) and staff members from the office of Sen. Sam Brownback (Rep.-Kan.). VOM is directing people go to its web site, www.prisoneralert.com, where they can compose a personal letter of support and encouragement to Son.  The letter is to be mailed to the North Korean delegation to the United Nations, along with a cover letter asking the North Korean government to spare Son's life, release him from prison immediately, report on his current status and deliver the personal letter to Son. 

ICEJ Urges Christians to Petition UN over Iranian Threats to Israel

A global petition drive uniting Christians from 87 nations is calling on the United Nations to confront Iran's renegade nuclear program and its repeated incitement to genocide against Israel.  “Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for Israel's destruction and the radical regime in Tehran appears bent on acquiring the nuclear means to carry out this threat,” said Malcolm Hedding, Executive Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, the Israel-based organization behind the petition campaign. Some 10,000 people from 87 nations have already signed the petition to the new UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Says ICEJ’s USA Branch. The petition expresses "outrage and alarm at the repeated threats of genocide against the State of Israel emanating from the government of Iran… [in] clear violation of the UN Charter and the international convention for preventing and punishing the crime of genocide." The petition calls upon the United Nations "to act without delay to censure and penalize Iran to the fullest extent possible, lest the very body founded to shield nations against such heinous crimes shamefully stands by while another disastrous genocidal attempt against the Jewish people takes shape." The petition can be accessed at: www.icejusa.org/stopiranpetition.