Religion Today Summaries - June 6, 2011

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - June 6, 2011

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Public Enemy: Iran's Persecution Backfires
  • Haiti Marks Hurricane Season with Tent City Evictions
  • On Tiananmen Anniversary, Many Rights Activists Still Missing
  • China Ordains Catholic Clergy without Vatican Consent


Public Enemy: Iran's Persecution Backfires

Christianity Today reports that Iran is spending more energy trying to stamp out Christianity, but persecution watchdogs say the efforts show how successful house churches have become. At least 202 Christians in 24 cities across Iran were arrested between June 2010 and January 2011, compared to just 80 arrests in 2008 and 2009 combined. "The government always used to deny that Iranians become Christians," said David Yeghnazar of Elam Ministries, a group run by Iranian expatriates. Now, he says, the church has become too strong to ignore. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei declared the house church network "enemies of Iran" in an October speech, which analysts labeled a rare public acknowledgement of the movement. "Religion is regarded as part of your national identity," said Issa Dibaj, an Iranian Christian who works as an Elam translator. "If you turn away from your religion ... it's as if you have betrayed your country."

Haiti Marks Hurricane Season with Tent City Evictions

Haiti is beginning forced evictions of tent cities that had become semi-permanent following the powerful 2010 earthquake, according to Mission News Network. Port-au-Prince's mayor has already forced people to move out of two cities as part of an effort to speed up earthquake reconstruction. Six camps on public land will be closed, despite the fact that some of them still have no place to go as hurricane season begins. But the efforts are not entirely heartless, according to Ron Sparks with Baptist Haiti Mission. He said, "[M]any of these people, who were perfectly able to get back to their own homes and start restoring their lives, were just kind of hanging out in the tent cities which has become a chronic, ongoing thing."

On Tiananmen Anniversary, Many Rights Activists Still Missing

Twenty-two years on from the Tiananmen Square massacre, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) remains deeply concerned about China's treatment of human rights defenders. Christian human rights lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, has been missing for over two years. No news has been heard of him since he briefly reappeared in March 2010, only to disappear again. He revealed details of his severe torture in detention, and there are grave fears for his safety. Others, such as academic Dr. Fan Yafeng and lawyer Chen Guancheng, remain under house arrest. CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said, “On the anniversary of the massacre of hundreds, if not thousands of innocent Chinese citizens, we call upon the Chinese government to show respect for the rights of its citizens by releasing all human rights defenders who are detained... including Gao Zhisheng, Dr. Fan Yafeng and Chen Guangcheng, whose cases are representative of countless others.”

China Ordains Catholic Clergy without Vatican Consent

Father Joseph Shen Guo’an is set to be ordained a bishop in central Hubei province, despite there being no papal mandate for the move. China Aid reports that the ordination is set for June 9. Some diocesan priests who tried to oppose the move as contrary to Church teaching and authority are now suffering, as government officials have lobbied their support for the ordination. Other bishops in neighboring provinces are under "great pressure" to ordain Shen. Shen himself is reportedly unwilling to accept a position as bishop. “Episcopal ordination is strictly a matter for the Catholic Church and not a political issue for any government in the world,” said one church observer, who remained anonymous for security reasons. This is not the first time China's government has created division among Catholic communities by forcing an ordination.