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Religion Today Summaries, March 3, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, March 3, 2004

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

  • Christians Confront Censure, Censorship on College Campus
  • Thousands March for Implementation of Sharia
  • Product Designer Helps Christians Share 'The Passion'
  • Islamic Radicals Blow Up Nine Schools

Christians Confront Censure, Censorship on College Campus
Jim Brown and Fred Jackson, Agape Press

Two University of Oklahoma students have filed a federal lawsuit against the school over its refusal to fund their student newspaper because of its Christian perspective. When Ricky Thomas and James Wickett applied for funds to help defer the cost of printing The Beacon OU, they were rejected by the student budget community. The students were told their paper was not eligible for school funding because "it is religious propaganda." Attorney Kevin Theriot with the Alliance Defense Fund believes the school is engaging in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination. "Incidentally," he says, "they were applying an OU policy that specifically prohibits use of student fees, if you're a student group, for what it terms religious services. So when they were denied, they contacted us, and we asked the university to reconsider their policy in a letter." However, the university declined, saying that no discrimination had taken place. In response, the ADF filed the lawsuit on their clients' behalf. Theriot says the university seems to be functioning under the false impression that religious speech is "somehow less protected than other types of speech." The attorney says American universities are supposed to be forums for the free exchange of ideas, but OU is displaying anti-Christian bigotry in its attempt to prevent the students from exercising their right to free speech.

Thousands March for Implementation of Sharia
Voice of the Martyrs

Thousands of white-clad, religious conservatives rallied and prayed in cities across Indonesia yesterday, demanding the imposition of traditional Islamic law (Sharia Law) in the world's most populous Muslim nation. Organizers said 20,000 supporters gathered in several cities, but police and witnesses said only about 2,000 marched in the capital, Jakarta, and a few hundred in Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city. Although more than 80 per cent of the country's 210 million people are Muslim, only the war-torn province of Aceh has implemented the system on a small scale. Indonesia's founding fathers wrote a Constitution in 1945 for a secular government and religious tolerance between the Muslim majority and Christian, Buddhist, Hindu and other minorities. Successive governments have fended off calls for Indonesia to become an Islamic state.

Product Designer Helps Christians Share 'The Passion'
Allie Martin, Agape Press

Not only is The Passion of the Christ breaking box office records, it is also forcing Christian bookstores to race to keep up with demand for movie-related merchandise. Pins, pocket crosses, T-shirts, mugs, soundtracks, books, and jewelry are among the items licensed to be sold in conjunction with the new film.  Dwight Robinson is marketing director for Bob Siemon Designs, which has been licensed to make jewelry associated with the film. He says many of the special items were designed specifically to aid believers in witnessing. "There are some lapel pins and witnessing cards that help people share their faith," Robinson says. "On the front of the card it has some images from the film, and on the back it has some scriptures, the plan of salvation, and a prayer to help someone to Christ." The director says some staff members are working 10- to 14-hour shifts, six days a week to keep Christian bookstores supplied with Passion pendants, crucifixes, and other items. But he notes that the company's main motivation in the effort is ministry, not money. Bob Siemon Designs has a website featuring the official licensed products for the movie as well as a locator to help visitors pinpoint Christian bookstores that carry the items.

Islamic Radicals Blow Up Nine Schools
Voice of the Martyrs

Arsonists have struck nine secular schools in the remote hills of northern Pakistan, sparking official concern that Taliban or other Islamist groups critical of organizations that get foreign aid could be targeting the area. On just one night, Feb. 15, unidentified attackers razed seven girls' community schools with dynamite. Four days later two other schools, one of them for boys, were damaged in arson attacks. No students died or were injured in the attacks but in all, 500 pupils have had their schooling halted by the destruction of the modest two- and three-room schools. Local observers said the schools likely were targeted because they received funding from foreign aid groups.  ''All these schools established by the government under the Social Action Program were funded by the World Bank. Another likely reason is that as the schools began to attract students that were enrolled in madrasassas (Islamic seminaries). Their enrollments started declining and the fundamentalists took that as a threat to their value system.''  International Christian Concern has written extensively about the role of the maddrassas in raising up terrorists and persecutors of Christians in several different countries.