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Religion Today Summaries, June 21, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, June 21, 2004

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

  • CBA Head Says Christian Booksellers Need New Strategy
  • China Postpones Visit of U.N. Investigator on Torture after Arrests of Christians
  • Christian Doctors Leave Conference Focused on Ministry
  • Turkey: Protestant Church Refused Legal Zoning Status

CBA Head Says Christian Booksellers Need New Strategy
Mary Rettig, Agape Press

Although Christian books have become an increasingly popular, multi-million-dollar industry, many Christian bookstores are struggling due to competition from secular retailers. Bill Anderson, president and CEO of the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) says in order to survive, those Christian bookstore owners are going to have to change their strategy. At one time million-sellers like the Prayer of Jabez and the Left Behind series were exclusive to Christian stores, but now they can be found at deep discounters like Wal-Mart and chains like Barnes and Noble. Christian booksellers once used such books as traffic builders to draw people to their stores. However, now many customers go automatically to a superstore rather than a specialty store for such items, and traffic to Christian bookstores has all but stopped. Anderson says now Christian booksellers need to employ a strategy that integrates ministry and business. Some are taking that advice by maintaining their broad selection and great service while adding coffee bars and music listening centers, like their secular counterparts. According to CBA's head, without a clean, well-run, pleasing store that offers more diverse products and services than ever, Christian book retailers will keep losing business to secular stores.

China Postpones Visit of U.N. Investigator on Torture after Arrests of Christians
Stefan Bos, ASSIST News Service

Just over a month after news leaked that a key house church leader was allegedly beaten to death while in police custody, China has again postponed a visit by the United Nations investigator on torture in what human rights groups say is part of a strategy to avoid scrutiny of its overcrowded labor camps and prisons. In a statement, the Chinese government said it had postponed a planned two-week visit this month by the Special Rapporteur on Torture, Theo van Boven, until later this year to allow "more time to prepare" given the many different authorities, departments and provinces involved. Van Boven, who was due to present his report to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, condemned the delay saying that freedom to make inquiries as well as access to places of detention were necessary for a proper assessment. He also stressed the need for confidential interviews with detainees and other people, without fear of reprisal, a statement said. China's controversial decision followed detailed reports by human rights groups this week about a major Beijing-backed crackdown on underground congregations including the arrests of over 100 evangelical officials, and after family members said 28-year old house church teacher Gu Xianggao was beaten to death on April 27 by Chinese Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers.

Christian Doctors Leave Conference Focused on Ministry
Bill Fancher, Agape Press

Several hundred Christian doctors have wrapped up their annual conference in Dallas, Texas, and are returning home with new insights and encouragement. Dr. David Stevens, president of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations (CMDA), told attendees at the conference earlier this week that God has been blessing the organization with many opportunities to provide crucial information in the debates over social issues confronting America. Also, Stevens says the CMDA is helping to shape an important component of the nation's medical community. "Our goal is really to train up a generation of doctors that are the kind of doctors that everybody wants for their own," he says, "That's why we work on nine out of ten medical and dental school campuses in the country, where we really focus...on helping students learn...what it means to be a Christian doctor." The head of the CMDA says the group also works to keep doctors and dentists focused on ministry, "helping them understand that their office practice is their mission field, and they have opportunities to minister in Christ's name everyday." Stevens points out that healthcare professionals often meet people "at the crossroads of life between now and eternity," and have an obligation to provide not only great health care but also to point people to Christ.

Turkey: Protestant Church Refused Legal Zoning Status
Compass Direct

Zoning status recognizing the newly built Diyarbakir Evangelical Church as an official place of worship has been rejected by a local committee of the Turkish Ministry of Culture. Pastor Ahmet Guvener was informed verbally by a Diyarbakir official in southeast Turkey last month that although the committee wanted to resolve the controversy surrounding his new Protestant church, they were "bound to uphold the law" regulating all places of worship. Ironically, word of the zoning rejection came just three days after Guvener was acquitted on criminal charges of trying to open an "illegal" church. In the Diyarbakir court's landmark decision May 12, the Turkish state dropped all charges against the pastor, stressing that Turkey's international agreements signed with the European Union guaranteed all Turkish citizens the right to conduct public and private worship. A large percentage of Turkey's mosques have been constructed without obtaining building or zoning permits. But some 45 small Protestant congregations have struggled for years against authoritative attempts to shut them down on legal grounds. "Turkey is having a hard time fulfilling its European Union conformity commitment to freedom of worship," a lead article on the front page of Radikal newspaper declared.