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Religion Today Summaries, June 5, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News

Religion Today Summaries, June 5, 2003

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

  • Pakistan Acquits Illiterate Christian of Blasphemy
  • Powell Meets With Pope to Discuss Postwar Iraq
  • Islamic Extremists Attack Nuns in Response to Increased Conversion Rate
  • Senegal Ministry Saves Abandoned Children

Pakistan Acquits Illiterate Christian of Blasphemy
Barbara G. Baker, Compass Direct

After four and one-half years in prison for alleged blasphemy against Islam, Pakistani Christian Aslam Masih was acquitted today in a 15-minute appeals hearing before the Lahore High Court. In his mid 50s and illiterate, Masih was arrested in November 1998 on charges that he had desecrated the Quran by hanging verses from the Muslim holy book in a charm around a dog's neck. Although the prosecution only produced hearsay evidence against Masih, he was found guilty in May 2002 and sentenced to double life-sentences. In overturning Masih's lower court conviction, Justice Najam ur-Zaman reportedly took what one observer called "a very aggressive attitude against the prosecution," noting that the prosecution's chief witness had retracted the statement attributed to him by the police. "There are a lot of threats when such a person gets acquitted and then released," one of the lawyers pointed out. Most go into strict hiding until they can be safely sent out of the country for asylum, out of the reach of extremist Muslims vowing to kill them despite their judicial acquittal. Seven other Christians remain jailed in Pakistan on drawn-out charges of blasphemy. (www.compassdirect.org)

Powell Meets With Pope to Discuss Postwar Iraq
Religion News Service

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell met at the Vatican on Monday (June 2) with Pope John Paul II, telling him that the war against Iraq was justified because the Iraqi people were liberated from a "dictator." Powell met privately with John Paul for 30 minutes and discussed Middle East peace, Africa and the reconstruction of Iraq. A Vatican statement issued after the meeting did not mention the pope's staunch opposition to the war. "Among the themes discussed in the conversations was the material and political rebuilding of Iraq, which must be able to count on the cooperation of the international community and must pay particular attention to fundamental rights such as the right to religious freedom," Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in the statement. In an interview with Italian television before the meeting, Powell said he hoped to convince the pope "that the people of Baghdad are liberated." "A dictator who has suppressed the people and has kept their hearts locked up so they could not achieve their dreams" is gone, Powell said, according to The New York Times. "These people are now free to achieve their ambitions."

Islamic Extremists Attack Nuns in Response to Increased Conversion Rate
Charisma News Service

In an apparent retaliation against Christian conversions, Islamic extremists in the state of Kashmir are suspected of killing a nun in a recent grenade attack on a Catholic school. Sister Kamlesh, a missionary teacher from West Bengal, died when a grenade exploded May 22 near the entrance of Saint Lukas Convent School. Another teacher, Sister Mary, was seriously injured in the explosion. Police said the militants tossed the grenade at the school gates as the two nuns were returning from a market. The attack followed threats against Christians lodged by militant groups after they heard reports of Christian conversions. Organizations known as Laskar-e-Toiba and Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen recently threatened the Catholic Church after local media reported that 20,000 Kashmiris have converted to Christianity over the past eight years. Church leaders say the conversion statistics are greatly exaggerated and insist on continuing missionary work. "Every Christian is an evangelist. Our Lord has asked us to go and teach the good news to all the nations," said Joseph Dhar, a Catholic Church spokesman.  These attacks coincide with the recent renewal of surprise Christian surveying in the Gujarat State, increasing suspicion and fear among Christians further. (www.charismanews.com)

Senegal Ministry Saves Abandoned Children
John Lindner, Christian Aid Missions Insider Report

An indigenous mission in Senegal has a plan to save the hundreds of thousands of hopeless street children there. The mission houses 29 children in a facility where they receive food, clothing and schooling, learning skills that will help them advance in life. The primary text used to teach them is the Bible, so from a young age they are ingrained with Biblical truth.  Since poverty is the root cause of their condition, some of their mothers are taught to read, and given professional and vocational training. The ministry also houses 21 adults. Young unwed mothers-to-be have been rescued from a destructive path, and shown Christ's love and how to provide for themselves and their offspring. This outreach began when the leader felt a burden for the more than 300,000 street children of Senegal. Often poverty-stricken parents turn their children over to Muslim marabouts, or spiritual guides, thinking that they are pleasing God and providing a better life for their children. However, the marabouts abuse their wards, forcing them to beg on the streets for their own gain.  Little headway has been made, despite international recognition of the problem. The purpose of the mission remains clear: to bring people to the saving knowledge of Jesus and to train up future godly leaders. (www.christianaid.org)