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Religion Today Summaries - July 28, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - July 28, 2004

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

  • Pastor Vows City Won't Stop Church's Homeless Ministry
  • Eritrean Pastors Still Jailed without Charges
  • Despite Increased Violence, Jewish Evangelists Press On in France
  • Update: Abducted Missionaries Freed

Pastor Vows City Won't Stop Church's Homeless Ministry
Allie Martin, Agape Press

A California pastor says he will keep opening his church doors to the homeless, despite increased scrutiny from city officials. On any given night, 70 or 80 homeless people are allowed to sleep in the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park. But recently, Pastor Wiley Drake says city officials have notified him they are reviewing his occupancy and land use permits and other paperwork. Drake says city officials are upset because his church is not far from Anaheim, California, and Disneyland, which is often touted in advertisements as "The Happiest Place on Earth." He believes Buena Park officials are quite unhappy with having a ministry to the homeless in such close proximity to the amusement park and resort area, and that they are employing intimidation and harassment to try to stop the church from doing its outreach to this needy community in that location. But the pastor of First Southern Baptist Church notes that he has fought off previous efforts by city officials to evict the homeless from his church, and he says those who have a need will continue to receive help. "We just will not turn anyone away," Drake says. "If people are homeless, people are poor, and they have a sincere desire to be helped, we find a way to help them."

Eritrean Pastors Still Jailed without Charges
Compass Direct

Nine weeks after Eritrean police arrested three prominent Protestant pastors, the Asmara government continues to detain them and refuses families and church members any direct access to the prisoners. The Rev. Haile Naizgi and Dr. Kiflu Gebremeske, leaders of the Full Gospel Church, have been imprisoned since May 23, and Pastor Tesfatsion Hagos of the Rema Evangelical Church since May 26. No reason has been given for their imprisonment, nor have the three been charged with any legal offense. Meanwhile, evangelical pastor Mengse Tweldemedhane and popular Christian singer Yonas Haile managed to escape from the Sawa Military Center and flee together to Sudan in late June. Christian vocalist Helen Berhane remains under severe confinement in a shipping container at the Mai Serwa military camp just north of Asmara since her arrest on May 13. Although the Eritrean Constitution guarantees freedom of religion for all citizens, President Isaias Afewerki closed down the nation’s independent Protestant churches in May 2002, forbidding the 20,000 members of 12 banned denominations to worship even in their homes. (www.compassdirect.org)

Despite Increased Violence, Jewish Evangelists Press On in France
Chad Groening, AgapePress

A worldwide evangelistic ministry dedicated to reaching the Jewish people for Christ is very concerned about the increase of anti-Semitic acts in France. Jews for Jesus says it is not going to be intimidated by a report indicating there have been nearly as many acts of anti-Semitic violence in the first six months of the year as there were in all of 2003. Susan Perlman, first assistant to the executive director of Jews for Jesus, expresses concern. "They released some figures that anti-Semitic acts... or threats were at 510 in the first six months of this year, and all of last year the figure was at 593 -- and we're only halfway through the year now," she observes. Nevertheless, Perlman says, the ministry's staff recognizes their calling. "We're called to be there and to do what we're doing," she says, "and we know that the Lord doesn't put us in situations that can't be handled and that we can't trust in Him for." The ministry official says she finds reassurance in knowing God has been with them in their work and will continue to be. "He tell us to fear not, that He's with us -- and He truly has been. We're not going to be thwarted from going out and handing out tracts [and] talking to Jewish people."

Update: Abducted Missionaries Freed
Gospel For Asia

International mission organization Gospel For Asia is reporting today that the five GFA native evangelists captured Saturday by anti-Christian elements have been released. The five men had been falsely accused of robbery. After the brothers were abducted, the missionary who had escaped capture -- Ramesh -- told GFA leaders of the whereabouts of the four missionaries being held. GFA pastors then contacted the superintendent of police, who immediately rescued the missionaries from their captors. Authorities did, however, ask the missionaries to minister in a different area. Pray the Lord would give grace for His servants to continue their ministry in this needy place. "We are grateful for your sincere prayers," a GFA leader writes. He requests we lift up Lokesh, one of the released missionaries who suffered severe beatings from his captors. Pray for his speedy recovery. (http://www.gfa.org/gfa/latestnews)