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Religion Today Summaries - June 24, 2005

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - June 24, 2005

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

  • Billy Graham's New York Crusade Supported by 'Evangelical Force'

  • Two NYC Roman Catholic Dioceses Not Involved In Billy Graham Crusade

  • Egyptian Convert Released from Mental Hospital

  • RFC Chairman: Believers Suffer as Christian Influence Wanes in Middle East

Billy Graham's New York Crusade Supported by 'Evangelical Force'
Charisma News Service

In what is likely Billy Graham's last crusade, the longtime evangelist "will find an evangelical force" this weekend in New York City. His once-booming baritone reduced to a scratchy whisper, Graham, 86, is set to preach in his 417th evangelistic event on the grounds of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, The New York Times reported. Volunteers from more than 1,500 churches and 81 denominations are helping to put together the crusade -- Graham's first appearance in the Big Apple since he packed Central Park in 1991, Religion News Service (RNS) reported. As many as 70,000 are expected each day for the three-day crusade, which includes a musical lineup of Latin Grammy Award winner Marcos Witt, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs. Ten thousand headsets will be distributed to translate Graham's sermons into 20 languages. The crusade will be broadcast on a Korean radio station in New York. Meanwhile, coordinators were working this week to set up broadcasts in Spanish and Chinese. The families who regularly use the vast Corona Park come from neighborhoods where more than 130 languages are spoken, RNS reported. In 1957, Graham's first New York revival lasted 16 sold-out weeks at Madison Square Garden. The event brought coast-to-coast coverage, making him the first evangelist with a national following. (www.charismanews.com)

Two NYC Roman Catholic Dioceses Not Involved In Billy Graham Crusade
Agape Press

Spokesmen for two big Roman Catholic dioceses in the New York City area say they will have no official involvement in the Billy Graham Crusade that starts on Friday because they're too busy.  Church spokesman Joseph Zwilling tells The Washington Times that the 413 parishes in the Archdiocese of New York, representing about two and a half million Catholics, are too involved with school graduations, confirmations, and the Vatican's emphasis on the Eucharist during 2005.  The Times says it was given a similar response to the same question posed to the Diocese of Brooklyn, which represents about a million and a half Catholics.  Rev. A.R. Bernard, the chairman of the crusade, professed puzzlement over the archdioceses' reasoning, noting Catholic involvement in past Graham crusades.  Graham biographer Bill Martin also expressed surprise and speculates that perhaps some directive has come down from higher Catholic authorities.  The Times story reports a Brooklyn bishop, Nicholas DiMarzio, wrote an article for a diocesan newspaper on Saturday outlining the significant divide over how Catholics and Protestants understand salvation.

Egyptian Convert Released from Mental Hospital
Barbara G. Baker, Compass Direct

Gasir Mohammed Mahmoud was discharged on June 9 from his locked psychiatric ward in Cairo and set free, five months after he was forcibly committed to a mental hospital for converting from Islam to Christianity. Mahmoud, 31, was tortured by security police and then beaten at times and given heavy doses of medication twice daily at the El-Khanka Hospital for Mental and Neurological Health. He was committed to the mental hospital in January after his adoptive Muslim parents became alarmed to learn that he had converted to Christianity two years earlier. Mahmoud's supervising physician told him he would never be allowed to leave the hospital unless he came back to Islam. But a round of international publicity released in May focused considerable attention on the case, apparently convincing hospital authorities to discharge him.

RFC Chairman: Believers Suffer as Christian Influence Wanes in Middle East
Bill Fancher and Jenni Parker, Agape Press

A religious liberty advocate is worried because the influence of Christians in some parts of the Middle East is on the decline. William Murray who currently serves as chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition (RFC), has been involved in the fight for international religious liberty and conservative values for more than 20 years. Murray guides the RFC in assisting Palestinian Christian families and supporting Christian schools in the West Bank. Recently, the RFC chairman has expressed concern over the fact that the power and presence of Christians in the Middle East is waning. His organization has noted that Christians are fleeing oppression in Bethlehem and the rest of the West Bank in ever-increasing numbers, while those that remain behind under the hostile regime face intimidation, religious repression, and the ongoing threat of violence. "The Christian children are being forced to go to schools where they're forced to learn Koranic verses and memorize things that are intolerable to Christians and things which are also anti-Semitic and anti-American," he says. Murray says the Religious Freedom Coalition is currently trying to put together some scholarships for the children of believing poor families in Palestine so the kids can leave the Islamic schools and attend the few Christian schools left in the area.