Religion Today Summaries, June 17, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, June 17, 2003

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

  • Pastor Arrested Under Suspect Charges in Laos
  • In Reverse, Africa Sends Missionaries to Fill Scottish Pulpits 
  • Turkmenistan Teacher Pressured to Resign
  • British Methodists Mark Wesley's Birth

Pastor Arrested Under Suspect Charges in Laos
Charisma News Service

A Hmong pastor from St. Paul, Minn., was recently arrested while trying to document human rights abuses and religious persecution. Naw-Karl Mua, 44, who leads the Light of Life Lutheran Church, was serving as a guide and translator for two European journalists when military forces arrested them in Laos's northeastern region, accusing the trio of helping "bandits" kill a security official. Mua is the latest of a handful of Hmong-Americans who have run into trouble or gone missing in Laos in recent years. Initially, there were reports that Mua had been killed when arrested. Mua's wife said she was concerned about the charges and the circumstances under which the communist government is holding him. "I strongly believe he wouldn't do anything wrong. He has been teaching hundreds of people how to adjust to the government and law here as a pastor," she said. Meanwhile, 20 Laotian Christians were arrested last month in Nong City. According to Christian Aid Mission, the incident came soon after a prominent Christian leader of the Bru people was relocated in another town of the same province. The leader was repeatedly warned not to preach and evangelize. Government leaders have targeted the Bru minority lately as they try to stamp out Christianity, which has taken root in the region.

In Reverse, Africa Sends Missionaries to Fill Scottish Pulpits
Robert Nowell, Religion News Service

In the 19th and 20th centuries European churches sent missionaries to Africa to bring the gospel to the natives.  Now it looks as if the trend is about to be reversed. At its general assembly last week (June 4-7) the United Free Church, one of Scotland's smaller Presbyterian, endorsed a plan to invite ministers from a sister church in South Africa, the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa, to come to Scotland to fill a number of vacancies. The United Free Church has seven vacancies, with the prospect of two more before the year ends, while some congregations have only part-time ministers. The UCCSA, which covers Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique as well as South Africa, has a surplus of ministers. The idea is that ministers from South Africa would be invited to serve in Scotland for a three-year term, which could be extended. Scottish Presbyterianism holds the right of the congregation to call its own minister. Equally a minister might well decide that the elders forming the church council were people he just could not work with. This tradition will be maintained. Given that black faces are comparatively rare in Scotland, the United Free Church will not bring a minister from South Africa into a situation where he could find himself facing racial abuse or harassment.

Turkmenistan Teacher Pressured to Resign
Charisma News Service

A Christian kindergarten teacher is being pressured to resign for allegedly preaching to children. Guzelya Syraeva was recently asked to submit her "voluntary" resignation as a teacher in Abadan, Turkmenistan. Syraeva is a member of a nondenominational Protestant church in Abadan, whose May 31 meeting was reportedly raided by officials. Authorities also threatened to fire the kindergarten's director, Tazegyul Nurieva, if she does not dismiss Syraeva. "I do not preach to the children because I know it is against the law," Syraeva said. "They are trying to sack me simply because of my religious beliefs." Three years ago, a similar attempt to force her to resign failed. Officials denied that Syraeva is under pressure. Meanwhile on June 7, five members of Syraeva's small fellowship were reportedly fined the equivalent of $47 each for meeting as an unregistered fellowship. A week earlier, police raided their gathering, confiscating Christian books and forcing adults to go to a police station for interrogation. A former Soviet republic of more than 4 million mostly Islamic people, Turkmenistan is believed to have one of the harshest religious policies in the ex-Soviet Union.

British Methodists Mark Wesley's Birth
Al Webb, Religion News Service

The Methodist Church is celebrating the 300th anniversary of the birth of its founder, John Wesley, but the observance comes amid a continuing crisis over fears for the future of the church itself in his native Britain. A national service has been organized to commemorate Wesley's life. But there are growing concerns over the health of the Methodist Church in Britain, where a steady decline in attendance has seen the number of Methodists in the country shrink to one-third of the total at Methodism's peak. The trend prompted one of the church's leading figures to warn that the church must either reform or face its own demise in Britain within five years. A religion commentator said, "although many Methodists see signs of hope in thriving youth clubs and social projects, the figure represents a decline of about 7 percent in the past three years." One future prospect is a possible closer relationship with the Church of England. The two churches share many of the same problems, centering on falling attendance and an aging membership. Earlier attempts at unity failed for a variety of reasons. Methodism's plight in Britain, however, is not reflected elsewhere. The global membership is estimated at 33 million -- among them President Bush and former South African President Nelson Mandela.