Religion Today Summaries - June 16, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - June 16, 2006

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

  • Bible Distribution Continues Downward Trend
  • Saudi Police Arrest Four East African Christians
  • Ten North Korean Refugees Arrested in Laos, then Freed
  • SBC Delegates Approve Strong Language Opposing Strong Drink

Bible Distribution Continues Downward Trend

The worldwide distribution of the “Book of Books” continues its downward trend, ASSIST News reports. According to the United Bible Societies (UBS) in Reading, England, 372.6 million Bibles, New Testaments, Scripture portions and selections were distributed by Bible Societies in 2005. The numbers were down by 4.6 percent (18 million copies) compared with 2004. Since the year 2000 the distribution of printed Scriptures has dwindled steadily by 41.2 percent. In the Millennium year 633.3 million copies were handed out. The only rise was recorded from 2001 to 2002. The declining distribution of printed Scriptures does not mean that the spread of the God’s word is going down, a spokesperson explained. Bible Societies were increasingly making use of electronic media like the Internet, CDs, radio and television. These methods were, however, not recorded in the statistics.

Saudi Police Arrest Four East African Christians

Ten Saudi Arabian police armed with wooden clubs raided a private Christian worship meeting in the coastal city of Jeddah on Friday (June 9), arresting four East African citizens leading the service. Compass Direct reports the two Ethiopian and two Eritrean Christians remained in the city’s deportation jail as of press time. More than 100 Eritreans, Ethiopians and Filipinos were gathered for worship in a home in Jeddah’s Al-Rowaise district at 11 o’clock last Friday morning. Startled worshippers brought chairs to seat the policemen, who sat and waited with clubs in hand for the three-hour worship service to conclude before arresting Ethiopians Mekbeb Telahun and Masai Wendewesen and Eritreans Fekre Gebremedhin and Dawit Uqbay. One Christian who spoke with them by telephone reported they were “doing fine, with okay morale.” But he said he did not know how they were being treated.

Ten North Korean Refugees Arrested in Laos, then Freed

Compass Direct reports Communist authorities in Laos arrested 10 North Korean refugees and two South Korean activists on May 31 as they attempted to reach safety in neighboring Thailand, a South Korean newspaper reported on Friday (June 9). The refugees, whose religious background was unknown at press time, were released into the hands of South Korean embassy staff on Saturday (June 10). Aside from a few “show” churches in Pyongyang, the practice of Christianity is outlawed in North Korea, yet the Rev. Tim Peters of the Seoul-based charity Helping Hands Korea said there are an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 Christians in the country. Leaving North Korea without official permission is a serious crime. Those who return with a Bible or admit having contact with Christians in China face certain torture and imprisonment, and, in some extreme cases, execution.

SBC Delegates Approve Strong Language Opposing Strong Drink

Another controversial measure that came up before the Southern Baptist assembly June 13-14 sparked some debate, AgapePress reports. The resolution dealing with alcohol use by SBC members not only expressed opposition to the drinking of alcohol but also stipulated that no one who does so may be elected to serve with any entity of the denomination. A messenger from Florida spoke against the anti-alcohol resolution. "I do not think that we can be more holy than Jesus Christ," he said. "Christ turned water into wine. If indeed, as we have said, this is a matter of Christian liberty, then we cannot at the same time say that this is a matter of righteousness." Another messenger, however, encouraged support of the measure from a personal perspective. "I spent two years and seven months in prison, and it all started with drinking beer when I was eight years old," the delegate said. "I think that we as Southern Baptists -- but, more importantly, we as Christians -- need to take a stand against something that's destroying our nation." The resolution was approved.