Religion Today Summaries, March 26, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, March 26, 2003

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

  • War News Hits Close to Home for Churches Near Military Base
  • Views Mixed on Religion Article Reform in Peru
  • Arsonists Strike Evangelicals in Mexico
  • Indian Fundamentalists Plotted Attack on Missionary

War News Hits Close to Home for Churches Near Military Base
Michael Foust

(Baptist Press) It's understandable when church members in Clarksville, Tenn., pay a bit more attention to war news than the average Christian. With the Army's 101st Airborne Division stationed just a few miles up the road in Fort Campbell, Ky., many in Clarksville are praying for a church friend, a Sunday School member, a spouse. "These are not nameless faces we see on TV," said Bruce Pettitt, pastor of Maplewood Baptist Church, a congregation that is about 60 percent military-related. Another church across town, Hilldale Baptist, has 50-60 deployed soldiers who are either church members or family members of church members. Hilldale has started a special three-fold prayer emphasis encouraging church members to lift up those overseas. "Mission Enduring Prayer" asks church members to pray Job 5:20 -- "In famine he will redeem you from death, and in war from the power of the sword." -- at 5:20 every morning and evening. "Mission MRE" - named for the military lingo "meals ready to eat" -- encourages members to pray and fast. In "Mission Nightwatch," members are asked to pray from 7 to 8 every Thursday night.

Views Mixed on Religion Article Reform in Peru
Deann Alford
(Compass) Lawmakers in Peru’s Constitutional Commission have approved a new Article 71 dealing with church-state relations, but even the nation’s evangelical council that supported the final draft isn’t fully happy with it. A years-long campaign for a reformed article on religion culminated on March 13 when the commission, made up of Peru’s Congress, took a sudden vote on a version of the bill supported by the Roman Catholic Church and National Evangelical Council of Peru (CONEP). The vote allowed no time for debate, said Fernando Bellido, religious affairs adviser for Congressman Walter Alejos, who had helped spearhead the campaign to reform Article 71. The approved version of Article 71 reads: “Within an independent and autonomous system, the State recognizes the Catholic Church as an important element in the historic, cultural and moral formation of Peru and lends it collaboration. The State recognizes and respects other confessions and establishes forms of collaboration with them.” Long-time evangelical church leader Carlos García García confirmed that opinion on the approved text was divided. “There’s a little discontent. I don’t know how far it could go,” he said. “But I know that there are some groups that believed they should have gotten something more.”

Arsonists Strike Evangelicals in Mexico

(Compass) Traditionalist caciques in Chiapas have stepped up harassment of Tzotzil-speaking evangelical Christians. On March 2, caciques incited a mob to burn down the chapel of the Wings of the Eagle evangelical church in Los Pozos, 25 miles east of San Cristóbal de las Casas. Caciques then jailed eight of the evangelicals, including women. Traditionalists justified the attack as “vengeance” for the evangelicals’ defiance of a ban on public worship. In nearby Mitzitón, unknown assailants burned down a house belonging to Pedro Gomez Lopez, an elder of the Wings of the Eagle Church. The Gomez family escaped injury, but lost farm and household tools and crops stored in the building. The day before, armed men had fired on a pickup truck owned by Sixto Heredia Gómez, another Mitzitón Christian.  Pastor and human rights lawyer Esdras Alonso Gonzalez called on authorities to apprehend those responsible for the crimes. “They need to take control in this matter and resolve the crisis before more serious incidents occur,” he said.

Indian Fundamentalists Plotted Attack on Missionary

(Compass) -- Following its investigation into the January attack on U.S. missionary Joseph Cooper, the Confederation of Human Rights Organization has concluded that a local unit of the fundamentalist Hindu Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) plotted the assault. A mob attacked and injured Cooper, his Indian host, Sam Benson, and other Christians following an evening preaching service. An earlier investigation reported that the attack was unplanned, but occurred as a public outcry against “the wrongdoings and immoral acts by Rev. Benson’s family in the area.”  Benson, a civil contractor working for Trivandrum Bible College, was implicated in a local sex scandal and could have been the real target of the attack. Cooper was later deported for violating visa regulations. The report found that RSS activists threatened some witnesses and attempted to bribe others in order to obstruct the police investigation into the attack.