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:

  • Latest Arrests in China Shed Light on ‘Farce’ of Religious Freedom
  • Sudan Embassy Protests Becoming Trendy
  • Cross Vandalism a Sign of the Times
  • Persecution Watch: Egypt

Latest Arrests in China Shed Light on ‘Farce’ of Religious Freedom
Agape Press

An Oklahoma-based ministry says freedom of religion in China is "a complete farce" -- and points to recent arrests of church leaders as proof of that accusation.  The Voice of the Martyrs reports that more than 100 house church leaders were arrested last week in western China while attending a training session and retreat sponsored by the Ying Shang Church, a large house-church network headquartered in Anhui Province.  According to VOM, most of those who were arrested have been transported back to their home provinces and are being held by government officials; and 30 of the leaders are still being held by authorities near the retreat center. VOM's Todd Nettleton cites the arrests as "yet another example of the Chinese government's harassment and persecution" of unregistered church groups, and encourages Christians worldwide to both pray for those arrested and contact the Chinese embassy on their behalf.  "China wants us to think their people have freedom to practice religion," says Nettleton, "[but] these cases and the hundreds like them show that to be a complete farce."

Sudan Embassy Protests Becoming Trendy
Susan Jones, CNS News

Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D-Pa.) and comedian-turned-activist Dick Gregory were arrested at the Sudan Embassy in Washington on Tuesday, Christian Solidarity International announced in a press release. In a campaign reminiscent of the anti-apartheid demonstrations outside the South African embassy in the 1980s, activists are deliberately getting themselves arrested to draw attention to the crisis in western Sudan. Rep. Hoeffel is among those who support a joint resolution before Congress that calls on the U.S. to declare the Sudan slaughter genocide. "The crisis in Darfur fits every definition of genocide, and must be labeled as such by the United Nations and its member countries," Hoeffel said. The Congressional Black Caucus is demanding that the Sudanese government end its support of the Arab militia accused of murdering thousands of black Africans, and it also wants sanctions imposed against the Sudan government. Those arrested outside the Sudan embassy in recent days include Pastor Raymond Bell of Washington, D.C., Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), former Rep. Bob Edgar, now the president of the National Council of Churches, and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.). Groups taking part in the Sudan Campaign include The Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, the American Anti-slavery group, the Wilberforce Project, and others.

Cross Vandalism a Sign of the Times
Agape Press

A Kansas pro-life activist says the vandalism of crosses meant to memorialize aborted children is simply emblematic of how America is treating Christianity. Every day that Wichita, Kansas, abortionist George Tiller is open for business, volunteers from the Kansas Coalition for Life (KCFL) set up white crosses across the street to symbolize the lives of unborn children who die in Tiller's facility. But the crosses have been the target of vandals who have brazenly carried out daytime attacks. KCFL chairman Mark Gietzen says the destruction of the crosses is symbolic of how Christianity is treated in America today. "Here we have an abortion clinic killing late-term children ... and here comes a person to break the crosses right in front of the cross attendants who are there with them," he says. "I think it's a bad comment on the direction some people are taking in America today." But Gietzen says the vandalism of the crosses is nothing compared to the gruesome violence being committed against unborn children across the street. He points out that Tiller has already performed more than 2,000 abortions this year.

Persecution Watch: Egypt
Charisma News

For a second time this year, a 17-year-old Christian girl reportedly has been kidnapped by militants trying to force her to convert to Islam. According to Barnabas Fund, the girl, whose name was not identified, was abducted on June 2 from a district in Cairo, and local police supposedly aided the Muslim abductors, Assist News Service (ANS) reported. Barnabas Fund, which urged prayer for the girl, said the latest incident was part of a development in Egypt where "police have overlooked and sometimes even aided Muslim men in stealing Christian girls from their families and abusing them in the name of Islam." The human-rights organization noted that the girl's family was "completely devastated," as they already "endured a horrific ordeal since she was abducted [the first time] in April after leaving the house. During her initial abduction on April 6, she reportedly was sexually abused and drugged. Barnabas Fund said her abductors allegedly tried "to force her to convert to Islam, and one now claims to be her husband," ANS reported. Egyptian law specifically forbids the marriage of a girl under 21 without her parents' consent and also makes it illegal to convert a Christian girl under the age of 18. (