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Religion Today Summaries - June 14, 2011

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - June 14, 2011

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Algerian Christians Continue to Worship despite Government Order
  • Police in Pakistan Torture Sister of Christian Who Eloped
  • With Eye on China, Vatican Issues New Bishops' Policy
  • Court Acquits Three Christians of Blasphemy Charge


Algerian Christians Continue to Worship despite Government Order

Worthy News reports that all churches in use and under construction in Bejaia, Algeria, have been ordered to close. The High Commissioner of police, who gave the order, threatened "severe consequences and punishments" if Christians refuse. The country has required all non-Muslim worship sites to hold permits since 2006, but has repeatedly denied registering churches who attempt to comply. According to Mustapha Krim, Protestant Church Association in Algeria, churches have "gone round-and-round with [officials] for years... they want us to disappear from the map." Following the most recent orders, Christians have continued to meet in house churches or in rural areas. "We worship out of conviction," said parishioner. "We are not afraid, because we did nothing wrong. We were never forced to choose Jesus, but we did so voluntarily. Whatever the circumstances, we will continue to say: 'We are here to praise your name, Lord.'"

Police in Pakistan Torture Sister of Christian Who Eloped

Sheikhupura police this month tortured a young Christian woman for information about her family's legal team, according to Compass Direct News. The woman and her sisters were allegedly kidnapped by an influential Muslim family, and police beat the woman's relatives when they showed up in court. The Community Development Initiative (CDI) was providing legal assistance to the family of Sajid Ashraf Masih. He eloped with a young woman from the Gujjar family in Sheikhupura last month, leading the influential Muslims to kidnap Masih’s sisters in retaliation. On June 1, police tortured the Masih's sister into revealing the location of the CDI office in Lahore. Masih's wife has returned to her family to prevent legal trouble, but her husband is still in hiding.

With Eye on China, Vatican Issues New Bishops' Policy

Catholics forced to participate in ordinations of bishops without the pope's approval may be exempt from the usual penalty of automatic excommunication, the Vatican said on Friday. According to Religion News Service, bishops who consecrate other bishops without a papal "mandate" incur automatic  excommunication, as do the men they consecrate and all other ministers who participate in the ceremony. Yet the new statement allows for "mitigating circumstances," under which the penalty of excommunication does not apply. Specifically, if any of the parties was "coerced by grave fear ... or grave inconvenience" to participate in an authorized ordination, he can avoid automatic expulsion from the church. Although the statement refers to no specific cases, it is most clearly relevant to the ongoing struggle between the Catholic Church and the government of China, where a state-controlled official Catholic church competes with an "underground" church loyal to Rome.

Court Acquits Three Christians of Blasphemy Charge

ASSIST News Service reports that, although three Christians were acquitted in a blasphemy case recently, their lives are still under potential death threats by radicals. A local judge in Rawalpindi acquitted the three, as the prosecutor failed to prove the case against them. Additional District and Sessions Judge Sarfraz Akhter acquitted Hector Haleem, Basharat Masih and Robin Masih of the charges of sending blasphemous text messages. The case was initiated against them last year by a Muslim, Ghufran Sialvi. The court also initiated a criminal complaint against the investigating officer and the complainant after they failed to prove the charges against the accused. Haleem's daughter Mehwish posted online petitions and posts asking for support of her father's release.