Religion Today Summaries - June 23, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - June 23, 2006

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

  • ADF Defends Chinese Christian Seeking Asylum in the U.S.
  • Church in Nigeria Faces Constant Threats, Damage
  • Thousands of Young People Unite for Hope Rwanda Meetings
  • Like James, Christians Called to Deepen Faith, Says Pope

ADF Defends Chinese Christian Seeking Asylum in the U.S.

Attorneys for the Alliance Defense Fund Friday filed before an immigration court a motion for summary judgment seeking full asylum for Xiaodong Li, a Christian man who came to the U.S. to escape religious persecution in his native China. “Religious liberty is the bedrock foundation of America’s history,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman. “Our country should welcome this man who suffered state-sanctioned brutality for his religious beliefs.” China permits Christians to legally worship only in “official” state-sanctioned “churches,” rejected by millions of Catholic and evangelical Christians. As a citizen in China, Li was arrested, beaten, electro-shocked, and forced to clean public toilets without pay for studying the Bible in a non-registered “church.” He fled to the U.S. in 1995 to avoid further persecution for practicing his faith. After the immigration court initially granted Li a withholding of removal, the government appealed the ruling.  The decision was reversed by the Board of Immigration Appeals and affirmed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals which ruled that Mr. Li was not persecuted for his religious beliefs but was prosecuted under a “legitimate” law of China.  The decision outraged the immigration community and ADF was joined by organizations as diverse as Amnesty International and the Christian Legal Society in requesting a rehearing for Li.

Church in Nigeria Faces Constant Threats, Damage

For the Gangare area congregation of the Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA) in the central Nigerian city of Jos, the first Saturday in June brought yet another difficult day of fending off Muslim opposition. Church members were trying to erect a protective fence around the church when a large number of Muslims on June 3 stormed the facility and forcibly halted the work. Previously Muslims had built a house on part of the land belonging to the church. The Christians took them to court, which ruled in favor of the church. “To avoid a situation that will ignite a conflict between us and the Muslims, we had to stop the work,” church elder Dauda Mshelia told Compass Direct. “Even now, there are plans by the Muslims to attack us anytime we are in the church and to burn the sanctuary – that is why you see the police keeping watch over the church.” Church members are well acquainted with fierce opposition; Muslims destroyed the church’s original building after conflict erupted into widespread violence in 2001.

Thousands of Young People Unite for Hope Rwanda Meetings

ASSIST News Service reports that more than 10,000 young Rwandans sang and danced to the sound of Hillsong United's song 'One Way Jesus' on a football field outside the main stadium in Kigali as part of the Hope Rwanda youth events. Throughout the first two weeks of June, Hope Rwanda’s youth events have drawn thousands of Rwandan young people to stadiums across the country under the theme ‘Come Together.’ A media release states that Australian Youth Alive NSW leader, Phil Dooley, preached evangelistic messages and popular New Zealand singer Brooke Fraser joined Australia’s Hillsong United band to lead the crowds in praise and worship. The release says that hundreds of local Christian youth were trained in street evangelism and led many to the Lord on the streets. The ‘Come Together’ rallies closed with an event at which Hope Rwanda Coordinator John Fergusson preached an evangelistic message of hope. As dusk fell, hundreds responded to an altar call, gathering around the preacher to receive Jesus as their Savior," the release says.

Like James, Christians Called to Deepen Faith, Says Pope

Like the Apostle James, Christians are called to set off on a pilgrimage of deepening faith, experiencing both difficulty and consolation, Pope Benedict XVI said. Catholic News Service reports the life of the apostle, usually depicted carrying a pilgrim's staff and a Gospel scroll, "symbolizes the pilgrimage of Christian life amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God," the pope said June 21. The pope said the Gospels highlight the presence of James both at the Transfiguration and in the Garden of Gethsemane. At the Transfiguration, he said, James, Peter and John "experience glory and ecstasy," while in the garden the experience is one of "suffering and humiliation." Witnessing Christ's agony in the garden the night before he died, the apostles learned that "the Messiah, awaited as a conqueror, in reality was surrounded not only with honor and glory, but also with suffering and weakness," the pope said.