Religion Today Summaries, June 16, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, June 16, 2003

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

  • China Continues Raids on Worship Services
  • Christian Leaders Lobby for AIDS Funds
  • Christian Evangelist Escapes Kidnappers in Bagladesh
  • Religious Groups Urge Peacekeepers for Liberia

China Continues Raids on Worship Services
Xu Mei, Compass Direct

The Chinese government's concern with the SARS epidemic has not lessened their zeal for arresting Christians. Local Public Security officers raided a house church meeting in Anshan city in the northeast province of Liaoning. About 40 Christians were tied up and their names recorded. They were released the same night but told that their "illegal gathering" was prohibited. A former leader of this house church previously was sentenced to two years "re-education through labor" on the false charge of being a cult leader. The "illegal religious venue" was closed because it represented "disturbance of social order," a common excuse for persecution of unregistered Christians. When asked to define "legality," the police stated that any unregistered religious meeting operating outside of the "patriotic churches," was regarded as illegal. Christians suspect members of the Public Security of accepting bribes from a cult and using the cult's accusations against Christians to arrest them. Officers have begun to arrest Christians for trivial "offenses," fining them about 3,000 RMB, a sum equivalent to several months' wages in rural China. The police see taking bribes from both sides as a way to make a profit. Church leaders want this news be widely publicized, hoping to put pressure on the Chinese government to hold local police accountable.

Christian Leaders Lobby for AIDS Funds
Charisma News Service

Some 90 Christian leaders went to Capitol Hill yesterday to lobby for full funding of President Bush's five-year, $15 billion program to prevent and treat AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. The evangelicals divided into groups to visit about 20 lawmakers from both parties regarding the disease. Last year, evangelist Franklin Graham organized a conference on the issue. This week, World Vision together with the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and the relief group MAP International brought 250 ministers, missionaries and donors to Washington, D.C., for two days of meetings on HIV and AIDS. John Good, 41, mission pastor at the 4,000-member Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina, Minn., said relief groups had arranged for American families to pay $26 a month per child to feed and clothe African children whose parents have died from AIDS complications. Members of his church have "adopted" 1,500 orphans. AIDS in Africa was "faceless, faraway, stigmatized," he said. "But for our people now, it's a child. The 'gay disease' -- that's out the window when you've got pictures of a kid on the fridge." A World Vision lobbyist said their primary plea was for Congress to appropriate the full funding for Bush's global AIDS program, beginning with $3 billion for fiscal 2004.

Christian Evangelist Escapes Kidnappers in Bangladesh
Sarah Page, Compass Direct

The kidnapping of the Bengali evangelist known as "Moses" confirms a worrying trend of violence against Christians in Bangladesh. An evangelist with Gospel for Asia (GFA), Moses was taken hostage by a Muslim terrorist group, which then demanded a large ransom. GFA reported on June 10 that Moses escaped the previous night after his guards fell asleep. With his hands tied behind his back, he ran for hours until he reached a town the next afternoon, suffering from exposure and lack of food. His brother had tried to negotiate with the terrorist group, but GFA said, "The terrorists found and severely beat the brother and others with him. They threatened to kill Moses if the money was not brought soon." Bangladesh has experienced religious tension since 1971, when the nation was partitioned from Pakistan. Tensions increased dramatically with the election of a fundamentalist Islamic government in October 2001.

Religious Groups Urge Peacekeepers for Liberia
David Anderson, Religion News Service

As fighting temporarily subsided around Monrovia, Liberia, the World Council of Churches urged the United Nations to send peacekeepers while in the United States a top relief agency urged the Bush administration to take a more active role in seeking an end to the civil war. The Rev. Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the WCC, urged both factions in the bitter civil war to accept a "credible peacekeeping force." On Friday, there was a lull in the fighting around the Liberian capital, as peace talks in Ghana between representatives of the president and rebels were to begin. Liberian officials estimate that between 300 and 400 people have been killed in the past week. Church World Service, the relief arm of the National Council of Churches, sent an urgent appeal to the State Department asking the U.S. to play a stepped-up role in ending the fighting and to provide humanitarian aid to an increasingly desperate situation, in which hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. Like the World Council and Church World Service, African religious leaders called for a cease-fire, resumption of humanitarian assistance and emergency relief, and the deployment of an international stabilization force "to monitor demobilization and re-integration of all military and security personnel" into civilian life.