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Religion Today Summaries, March 25, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, March 25, 2003

Religion Today Summaries: Daily summaries of the top national and international religious news stories impacting Christians
In Today's Edition:

  • Family of First Female POW Calls for Time of National Prayer
  • Churches Intercede for Soldiers in Iraq
  • VHP Seeks Constitutional Hindu State in India
  • Islamic Court Opens For Business in Indonesia

Family of First Female POW Calls for Time of National Prayer

Thirty-year-old Army Specialist Shoshana Johnson is the first female prisoner of war taken by Iraqi forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Video of Johnson has been aired showing her nervously answering question questions from her Iraqi captors.  The video showed Johnson with a bandage on her ankle, but otherwise looked to be in good health. Margaret Henderson, Shoshana Johnson’s aunt, made appeals on multiple morning news broadcasts for a time of prayer for the safety of Shoshana and other POW’s today (March 25) at noon EST, 9 am PST.  Henderson is a retired nurse who served in the Air Force and was deployed in 1990 in the Gulf War. Johnson is a thirty-year-old single mother of a two-year old daughter.  Johnson grew up in the Fort Bliss area and is the daughter of a retired serviceman. Relatives were shocked to learn that Shoshana had been taken prisoner.  "I thought she was cooking," an aunt, Margaret Henderson of Miramar, Fla., told NBC's "Today" show.  Johnson’s family had assumed that she was a member of a support group and was unlikely to encounter Iraqi forces. A time of prayer will begin at noon EST, 9 am PST.  Join other Crosswalk community members in continuous live prayer in Crosswalk Chat.

Churches Intercede for Soldiers in Iraq
Andy Butcher

(Charisma News) The names of American servicemen and women were called out in churches across the country yesterday when congregations prayed for their safety, as the personal cost of the war with Iraq was forcibly brought home. At Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church in Dallas, members with friends or family serving in Iraq were asked to stand while pastor Tony Evans prayed for their loved ones, "The Dallas Morning News" reported. Prestonwood's pastor Jack Graham -- president of the Southern Baptist Convention -- received a standing ovation when he told his congregation the president deserved "prayerful support, not the caustic criticism of some celebrities, entertainers and athletes," the "News" said. Members of West Columbia Grace Baptist Church in South Carolina are getting behind the troops with more than prayer. The church is offering financial aid and practical help around the house to the families of deployed servicemen. "We're a very patriotic church in general. We have a lot of men in the military and I've felt a real spiritual need to be here for the spiritual needs of them and their families," pastor Bob Kelly told "The (Columbia) State." "We stand behind our president and our country, but we also stand behind our own members."  www.charismanews.com

VHP Seeks Constitutional Hindu State in India

(Compass) Spurred by a call to amend the constitution and declare India a “Hindu nation,” fundamentalists have stepped up attacks against Christians. “I think we stand for Hindutva (nationalist Hinduism) and not for government,” said World Hindu Council (VHP) general secretary, Dr. Praveen Togadia, as he pressed for the amendment. “We have decided to go for Ram (a Hindu god) rather than Raj (the government).” Reports from rural areas indicate Hindu organizations have been forcing Christian believers to re-convert to Hinduism. A gang of suspected Hindu activists also assaulted Father A. Anthony, 49, a Catholic priest in Chintalapudi, in February and robbed him at gunpoint of 100,000 rupees ($2,100). Several months ago, Anthony had received an extortion demand from unidentified persons. Finally, inter-religious tension worsened when the federal government unveiled a portrait of Veer Savarkar, the father of fundamentalist Hinduism, in the Central Hall of Parliament in New Delhi.

Islamic Court Opens For Business in Indonesia

(Compass) -- Indonesia’s first Islamic court opened in the troubled northwest province of Aceh on March 3 as thousands celebrated. The Aceh legislature recently instituted sharia, the Islamic legal system based on the teachings of the Quran. The new court can implement punishment for Muslims who propagate beliefs other than Islam, fail to attend Friday prayers three times in a row, or sell food, cigarettes or drinks in daylight hours during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Officials said the court would eventually handle murder, adultery and theft cases. Led by two decorated elephants, about 5,000 people in the city of Banda Aceh marched, sang Muslim songs and chanted prayers to mark the inauguration of the court, which coincided with Islamic New Year celebrations. The government of Indonesia has tried to maintain religious neutrality. However, the country’s estimated population of 220 million is 80 percent Muslim, making it the world’s most populous Muslim nation.