Religion Today Summaries - March 19, 2010

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - March 19, 2010

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

  • Sheikh Incites Muslims to Attack Christians in Egypt
  • Iraqi Christian Shopkeeper Gunned Down in Mosul
  • USCIRF Urges Increased Focus on Iran
  • So. Calif. City Says Home Bible Study Must Get Permit

Sheikh Incites Muslims to Attack Christians in Egypt

Compass Direct News reports that a mob of enraged Muslims attacked a Coptic Christian community in a coastal town in northern Egypt last weekend. The group wreaked havoc for hours and injured 24 Copts before security forces contained them. The March 12 violence erupted after the sheikh of a neighborhood mosque allegedly incited Muslims over a loudspeaker, proclaiming jihad against Christians in Marsa Matrouh, 200 miles west of Alexandria. The angry crowd hurled rocks at the district church, Christians and their properties, looted homes and set fires that evening. The mob was reportedly infuriated over the building of a wall around newly-bought land adjacent to the Reefiya Church building. The building also houses a clinic and community center. "I was very surprised by the degree of hatred that people had toward Christians," said a reporter for online Coptic news source Theban Legion, who visited Reefiya after the attack.

Iraqi Christian Shopkeeper Gunned Down in Mosul

The Christian Post reports that Iraqi Christians continue to be targeted in Mosul even though election violence has died down. Sabah Gurgis, a 55-year-old member of the Chaldean Catholic community, was gunned down on his way to work by men in an unmarked car Wednesday. Multiple Christians were gunned down in Mosul last month, including a family a five. The continued violence sparked mass protests in Baghdad and Mosul three weeks ago, when hundreds of Christians accused security forces of standing by and allowing effective immunity for killers. Mosul's Christian community has dwindled to less than half of its population in 2001. Christian families continue to flee the city last month, when the United Nations estimated that more than 4,000 Christians had fled to safer territory.

USCIRF Urges Increased Focus on Iran

Baptist Press reports that the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has again urged that Iran "be named a 'country of particular concern,' or CPC, for engaging in systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom." Testifying on the current state of religious freedom in Iran, USCIRF Chair Leonard Leo said the extremist Islamic regime has utilized harassment and physical attacks in repressing religious minorities, which include Baha'is and Sufi Muslims as well as Christians. "Although the Iranian government maintains publicly that Baha'is are free to attend university, reports over the past year indicate that the policy of preventing Baha'is from obtaining higher education remains in effect," Leo said.

So. Calif. City Says Home Bible Study Must Get Permit

The Associated Press reports that Rancho Cucamonga is trying to demand that a Bible study of 15 people be required to obtain a conditional use permit by Good Friday. This is the second time the city has targeted the group. The city says the group advertises on the Internet as a church, and neighbors have complained about 40 to 60 people meeting there weekly. The group's defense, Pacific Justice Institute, says the gatherings usually draw about 15 people and is only a Bible study, not a church. Other residents of southern California have met similar demands, but have usually been allowed to continue without a permit. Last year, San Diego county withdrew a similar demand, saying it should not have been made in the first place.