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Religion Today Summaries, July 8, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, July 8, 2003

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

  • Catholic Priest Murdered in Pakistan 
  • Believers Divided Over Nigeria's Christian President 
  • Under Fire, Openly Gay Bishop Withdraws His Nomination
  • Christian Persecution Continues in Vietnam

Catholic Priest Murdered in Pakistan
Barbara Baker, Compass Direct

Six gunmen shot and killed a Roman Catholic priest in his home in eastern Pakistan in the early hours of July 5. Father George Ibrahim, 38, was gunned down about 1 a.m. while sleeping in his home near Okara, 180 miles south of Islamabad in the Punjab province. Archbishop of Lahore Lawrence J. Saldanha said "the main motive" for the priest's murder appeared to be the government's decision last fall to return ownership of a former church school to Fr. Ibrahim's Catholic parish after 30 years under state management. In 1972, the government nationalized Christian Urdu-language schools without compensation and imposed state management. But 20 years later, the Supreme Court declared the forced nationalization unconstitutional, and private school owners began filing for restoration of the institutions, a process that government-employed school administrators and teachers have actively resisted. "The Christian community feels deeply disturbed at this cold-blooded attack on a priest who had devoted his life to the selfless service of the poor and downtrodden," Saldanha declared in a written statement the day of the murder. At press time, no arrests or claims of responsibility have been reported.

Believers Divided Over Nigeria's Christian President
Charisma News Service

Nigeria's Christian president was re-elected earlier this year instead of a Muslim, but believers in the West African nation are divided in their support of Olusegun Obasanjo. Some Christians claim Obasanjo was just as corrupt as his Muslim opponent. Others view Obasanjo as a military stooge. On his re-election, an outspoken pastor declared that the president would suffer God's judgment. What irks many Christians is that Nigeria's problems have not been addressed since Obasanjo came to power. In fact, they contend that poverty and corruption have worsened. Many think Obasanjo failed during his first term by allowing states in northern Nigeria to adopt Islamic law, which has led to widespread Christian persecution. Other leaders in Lagos take a more tempered view. An official with the Christian Association of Nigeria said the president's recent conversion simply hasn't affected all his political views yet. Nevertheless, the president does not hide his faith from public view -- in a nation where Muslims and Christians compete for dominance. Praying daily, he surrounds himself with Baptist and Pentecostal aides and seeks counsel from pastors of the nation. When he was elected to his first term, he immediately built a Protestant chapel at the presidential villa. Obasanjo attends services every Sunday and holds monthly pastor meetings there.

Under Fire, Openly Gay Bishop Withdraws His Nomination
Robert Nowell, Religion News Service

The Rev. Jeffrey John, an openly gay priest in the Church of England whose appointment as bishop angered conservatives in the Anglican Communion, has asked to have his nomination withdrawn. John was well known for his advocacy of gay rights, and church leaders apparently knew of his 27-year relationship with another man. John said he has been celibate since 1991. In a brief letter signed after a lengthy meeting on Saturday with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, John said it had become clear to him that "in view of the damage my consecration might cause to the unity of the Church, including the Anglican Communion," he had to ask Queen Elizabeth II to rescind her approval of his appointment. Williams said the appointment "has brought to light a good deal of unhappiness among people. They are convinced that there is a basic issue at stake relating to the consistency of our policy and our doctrine in the Church of England. Such unhappiness means that there is an obvious problem in the consecration of a bishop whose ministry will not be readily received by a significant proportion of Christians in England and elsewhere." John's appointment raised significant anger overseas. "The estrangement of churches...from their cherished ties with Britain is in no one's interests," the archbishop said.

Christian Persecution Continues in Vietnam
Charisma News Service

Authorities recently destroyed a church, but believers prevented the destruction of their pastor's house. The incident occurred June 22 in the Phuoc Hau village of Vietnam. Police bulldozed the 200-member Phuoc Dong Evangelical Church's meeting hall. They came back the next day to destroy the parsonage of pastor Luong Vinh Quoc, but church members formed a ring around his home. Earlier, police confiscated personal belongings from a pastor because he had Bibles and Christian literature. Authorities also sentenced a pastor to four months in prison because they found Bibles in his church. Meanwhile, for the second time in three years, authorities have halted the construction of a church building. On June 9, an estimated 200 police seized and hauled away the church's building materials in Ho Chi Minh City. Elsewhere, a minister and his family were recently beaten with rocks and clubs because of their faith. Pastor Sung was hung upside down from the ceiling and his son's arms were tied to his back because they would not renounce their faith. After being repeatedly tortured, Sung fled. He was fined on his return. Sung and his family are reportedly under house arrest. Another pastor was beaten and put in jail for a week for refusing to set up an altar for ancestor worship in his house.