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Religion Today Summaries, July 17, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, July 17, 2003

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

  • Compromise Reached in Vietnam Church Dispute
  • Bush Reaffirms Government Partnership with Faith Groups
  • Christian Persecution on the Rise in Indonesia
  • Judge Orders Ten Commandments Monument Removed from Wisconsin Park

Compromise Reached in Vietnam Church Dispute
Compass Direct

The Thu Thiem congregation in Ho Chi Minh City has persisted in finishing construction of its new church building despite a police order in early June halting work at the site. Pastor Truong Van Nganh and his congregation began worshipping in the attractive sanctuary in early July, even though officials of Nganh's denomination had advised him that the government wanted him to "temporarily stop meeting in the church." City authorities then invited congregational leaders to an unprecedented meeting on July 10. There, officials of the Bureau of Religious Affairs admitted that local government offices had not expeditiously processed the church's request for a building permit. Pastor Nganh admitted he began the building project before the final approval on land use. The mutual admissions opened the way for compromise and resulted in the church being granted permission to continue meeting on the site. In remote areas of Vietnam, however, to which foreign journalists and consulate officials are not allowed access, government authorities do not typically exercise this type of restraint. Since Christmas of 2002, officials in the Dak Lak province have destroyed five chapels belonging to congregations of the Mnong minority and ordered all Mnong churches there to disband.

Bush Reaffirms Government Partnership with Faith Groups
Adelle Banks, Religion News Service

President Bush reiterated his support for partnerships between the government and faith-based organizations July 16, adding an international perspective from his recent trip to Africa. Speaking of his five-year plan to spend $15 billion on global AIDS, the president told urban and religious leaders that he believes strategies are in place in Africa to receive and distribute new medical and other assistance from the United States. "We saw good infrastructure," Bush said. "The Catholic Church, for example, in Uganda is fully prepared to pave the way for distribution of anti-retrovirals (and)... help with education and prevention." He thanked religious leaders' for pushing Congress to fund the AIDS initiative, which faces lower first-year appropriations than he had hoped as Congress debates the budget. Bush ticked off some of his accomplishments through the faith-based initiative, such as the executive order he signed that aims to give faith-based organizations equal consideration for federal funding. The president also held up a new catalog that details for faith-based organizations the kinds of grants for which they can apply. Other examples of work on the initiative, he said, include the millions of dollars in funding for faith-based after-school programs and low-income senior housing.  Calling faith-based groups "neighborhood healers" he said he hopes to expand the range of those organizations that receive funding.

Christian Persecution on the Rise in Indonesia
Charisma News Service

Violence against Christians has been on the rise since a pastor and human rights advocate was recently sentenced to three years imprisonment on bogus illegal weapons charges. According to International Christian Concern (ICC), after Rinaldy Damanik was sentenced June 16, his legal team was threatened for filing an appeal to the Central Sulawesi high court. Meanwhile last Thursday, Julius Ledo Pamini, a Torajan Christian, was shot to death in broad daylight at his plantation, located between the Sa'atu and Pinedapa villages, ICC said. The same day, a bomb destroyed a Kawua village restaurant owned by a Christian couple. Four people were seriously injured and hospitalized in the bombing. Last Saturday, Christian policeman Petrian Malenge was shot in Lembomawo village while he was riding a motorcycle with his neighbor, said ICC, a Washington, D.C.-based human rights organization. Christians are also being targeted by a new bill that will force their private schools to build mosques and employ Muslims to teach Islam. On June 11, the Indonesian Parliament passed the controversial Education Bill. (www.charismanews.net)

Judge Orders Ten Commandments Monument Removed from Wisconsin Park
Adelle Banks, Religion News Service

A Wisconsin judge has ruled that the display of a Ten Commandments monument in the city park of downtown La Crosse was unconstitutional and it must be moved. Chief U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb made the decision in the case involving a monument installed by the Fraternal Order of the Eagles in the 1960s.  The suit, filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, prompted the city to sell the parcel of land around the monument to the fraternal organization. But Crabb said that was not enough to remove the violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.  She said the city's "sale of a minuscule portion of the park to the Eagles in order to preserve the presence of the monument proves rather than extinguishes defendant's endorsement of the monument's religious message."  The foundation called the decision a victory in a case that dates to 1985. Initially dismissed in 1987, the foundation filed a new suit in 2002. La Crosse Mayor John Medinger was disappointed with Crabb's decision. He added, however, he was not surprised. "Communities across the country have been losing these Ten Commandments fights," he said. Some community members want the city to appeal but he will suggest that the monument be moved to the property of a local church.