Religion Today Summaries - Mar. 17, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Mar. 17, 2009

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

  • Church Resumes Services a Week after Pastor Slain
  • Sudan Wants Foreign Groups Out in a Year
  • Pakistani Faces ‘Blasphemy’ Abetting Charge, Dangers
  • Family of Top Chinese Rights Lawyer Escapes to U.S.


Church Resumes Services a Week after Pastor Slain

Baptist Press reports that roughly 200 people came back to First Baptist in Maryville, Ill., Sunday to listen to a guest pastor whose own church experienced a deadly shooting. Al Meredith, pastor of Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, where seven people were murdered by a gunman nearly 10 years ago, told members of the church, "I've come here to be with you to let you know there is hope." Fred Winters, First Baptist Maryville's pastor, died the previous Sunday when a gunman entered the sanctuary and shot him on the platform. Meredith encouraged the congregation to use the opportunity to share the Gospel and grow in spite of the attack. "We've been praying for these kinds of opportunities, and we didn't even have to budget for it. Fred would like that," Meredith said, referring to the slain pastor's thriftiness.

Sudan Wants Foreign Groups Out in a Year

Reuters reports that Sudan plans to be rid of all foreign aid groups within one year, according to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Bashir expelled 13 of the largest groups earlier this month after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest for warm crimes. Bashir says foreign groups should turn over relief efforts in the war-torn Darfur region to domestic agencies. "If they want to continue providing aid, they can just leave it at the airport and Sudanese NGOs (non-governmental organizations) can distribute the relief," he said. "We need to clear our country of any spies." U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes said aid groups can't believe Bashir is serious. "Obviously, the idea that we would simply hand over goods at the port to be distributed or monitored without our involvement is not one that would be acceptable to us."

Pakistani Faces ‘Blasphemy’ Abetting Charge, Dangers

Compass Direct News reports that a Pakistani investigator has ruled out a charge against a Christian for “blaspheming Islam” but retained another for abetting blasphemy, and advocates worry the stigma of the charges could make him a target for local Islamists. Hector Aleem, 51, remains in Adiyala Jail in Rawalpindi, near Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad. His lawyer said he believes law enforcement officers and community members framed Aleem for his social activism on behalf of Christians so that the stigma of the charges would subject him to the danger of violence. Aleem’s attorney, Malik Tafik, said the remaining charge’s connection to blasphemy against Islam could put Aleem in danger of attacks by Muslim extremists even if he is found innocent. “He will continue to be in danger from religious extremists after the case finishes,” Tafik said.

Family of Top Chinese Rights Lawyer Escapes to U.S.

The Christian Post reports that the family of an imprisoned Chinese human rights lawyer has escaped to the United States, and now tells a haunting story. China Aid helped the family of Gao Zhisheng, who was imprisoned last month for his work, leave after the family faced increased pressure from Chinese security officials. “We are very thrilled to see their safe arrival to this free nation," said Bob Fu, president of China Aid, in a statement. "We traveled by night," said Geng He, Gao Zhisheng's wife. "Friends took us, and we didn't really talk. Sometimes we were traveling by motorbike, and we had to get off to walk across mountain passes. We were scared, and it was hard, but we had to keep going forward."