Religion Today Summaries - Mar. 12, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Mar. 12, 2008

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

  • Scholars Find Treasure Trove of Greek NT Manuscripts
  • Christian Turks Fear Discrimination
  • Christian Filmmakers to Receive The Top Cash Prize in World
  • Human Rights, Liberty Practiced by Most Muslims, Says Rice

Scholars Find Treasure Trove of Greek NT Manuscripts

Normally, two or three New Testament manuscripts handwritten in the original Greek are discovered each year. Last summer, the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) found a treasure trove of them during a trip to Albania. The Center, based in the Dallas suburb of Frisco, Texas, devotes itself to the high-resolution digital preservation of these early copies of the New Testament. Scholars tried for decades to gain access to the National Archive in Tirana with little success, partly because Albania is a former police state. Until now, only two manuscripts of the 13 there known to Western scholars had been photographed. Recently though, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, the CSNTM director, received permission to send a team of four men to Albania to photograph the manuscripts with state-of-the-art digital methods. By the end of their first day in Tirana in July, they realized there were more than 13 manuscripts – far more. The catalog at the National Archive listed 47 New Testament manuscripts, and at least 17 were unknown to Western scholars. Evidence suggests that some of the other manuscripts had been presumed lost elsewhere in Albania, but no final determination has been made. For more information on the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, visit

Christian Turks Fear Discrimination

According to ASSIST News Service, Christians in Turkey are living under a shadow of fear as the result of a violent backlash by nationalist hardliners. A story on the Al Jazeera web site says there are about 120,000 practicing Christians in Turkey, and while they are legally free to practice their religion, many say they suffer discrimination and persecution. Al Jazeera reported that Orhan Picaklar, a Christian pastor, said he has faced the wrath of the hardliners as a result of his ministry. Towns like Samsun, in the Black Sea region, where Picalkar works, have traditionally been nationalistic, religious and filled with angry young men who don’t want to be told to change their way of life. Picaklar was recently kidnaped by young members of a radical group who told him they wanted him to stop teaching. “Our church was stoned, they tried to kidnap my son, they did kidnap me (and) they put our pictures on YouTube. They spoke to all our friends, bosses and relatives of everyone who come to our church, so as to distance them from us,” Picalkar told Al Jazeera. He added, “They say we have prostitutes in the church; they blame us for being subversive elements.” Despite police protection, Al Jazeera reported that Picaklar still fears for his life and says his telephone conversations are being tapped.

Christian Filmmakers to Receive The Top Cash Prize in World

On Monday, March 10, the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival (SAICFF) unveiled plans to give away the single largest first place cash prize in the world awarded by any film festival, secular or Christian. Thanks to the generous donation of a private foundation, the cash prize payout for their annual “Best of Festival” Jubilee Award is being upped to more than $101,000, giving it the top rank for cash prizes among film festivals worldwide. In addition, it is expected that other cash, product and service related prizes will bring the total value of awards for the next SAICFF in excess of $200,000. Doug Phillips, founder of the SAICFF, made the announcement at an official press conference during the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) Convention in Nashville. The unprecedented announcement comes during a sustained crescendo for independent Christian films.

Human Rights, Liberty Practiced by Most Muslims, Says Rice reports that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the appointment of Washington's first-ever special envoy to the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference will help to promote principles that Muslims and non-Muslims alike "hold dear," such as human rights, liberty and the rule of law. "These are not American values or Western values," she told OIC ambassadors in Washington on Monday. "They are universal values, values that are lived and practiced by the majority of Muslims in the world, many of whom are citizens of democracies." Fourteen of the OIC's 57 members qualify as "electoral democracies," according to criteria applied by Freedom House in its latest report on freedom in the world. None are Arab states. And only six of the 57 -- Benin, Guyana, Indonesia, Mali, Senegal and Suriname -- are deemed "free" according to a Freedom House evaluation that scores nations for both political rights and civil liberties, and classifies them as "free," "partly free" or "not free."