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Religion Today Summaries - March 30, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - March 30, 2006

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

  • DeLay Says He Sees War on Christianity in U.S.
  • Italy Offers Asylum to Afghan Christian Convert
  • Teacher Accused of Blasphemy in Nigeria Disappears
  • Archbishop Closes Historic New Orleans Church, Citing Sacrilege

DeLay Says He Sees War on Christianity in U.S.

American society looks down on Christianity, U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay asserted Tuesday at a conference of religious conservatives, but God and Jesus Christ have chosen Christians to stand up for faith. The Houston Chronicle reports that DeLay, who is facing tough times of his own, offered a half-hour speech that was part history lesson and part sermon to a crowd of about 300 gathered at a Washington hotel for a two-day conference titled "The War on Christians and the Values Voter in 2006." "Our faith has always been in direct conflict with the values of the world," he said. "We are, after all, a society that provides abortion on demand, has killed millions of innocent children, degrades the institution of marriage and all but treats Christianity like some second-rate superstition." The Rev. Barry Lynn, who heads Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the gathering was more about partisan politics than religion or cultural values. "This 'war' is nothing real," Lynn said in a telephone interview with Cox News Service.

Italy Offers Asylum to Afghan Christian Convert

Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Wednesday that Italy would be glad to give asylum to the Afghan man who faced the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity, the Christian Post reports. The premier spoke ahead of a Cabinet meeting in which the government was widely expected to grant asylum. Rahman, 41, was released from the high-security Policharki prison on the outskirts of the capital late Monday after a court dropped charges of apostasy against him for lack of evidence and suspected mental illness. The jailing of Rahman inspired an appeal by Pope Benedict XVI to Karzai and efforts by the United Nations to find a country to take him. Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini, who has been pushing for a solution to Rahman's plight, said Tuesday the matter was on the agenda of Wednesday's Cabinet meeting.

Teacher Accused of Blasphemy in Nigeria Disappears

Florence Chuckwu, a Christian teacher at the Government Day Secondary School in the capital of Bauchi state, went to work on the morning of February 20 with no hint that her attempt to exercise classroom control would threaten her life and lead to the killing of more than 20 believers. Violent outbreaks over the publishing of caricatures of the prophet Muhammad had erupted in two other northern states the previous weekend. When Chuckwu confiscated a Quran from a female student who was reading it instead of listening to her English lesson, soon Muslim students jumped on tables and began to throw books at her. “Infidel, you’ve defiled the Quran,” a Muslim student shouted. Army personnel rescued Chuckwu, but other security agents whisked her away, and her whereabouts are unknown.

Archbishop Closes Historic New Orleans Church, Citing Sacrilege

Citing "sacrilege" by demonstrators who disrupted a Mass, Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans has ordered the removal of the Blessed Sacrament from historic St. Augustine Church and said it will be closed "for the foreseeable future," Catholic News Service reports. The order came March 27, the day after sign-waving protesters repeatedly interrupted a priest trying to celebrate Mass in the church, causing the liturgy to be terminated. St. Augustine Parish, in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans next to the French Quarter, was founded in 1841 as a multicultural parish attended by free African-Americans, slaves and whites. It calls itself the nation's oldest predominantly African-American parish and was the birthplace of the Sisters of the Holy Family. After the March 26 disruption, the archbishop announced that St. Augustine Church had been "desecrated" and would be closed. He also called on individuals who had occupied the parish rectory for more than a week to "vacate the premises immediately" and asked that church property "be secured." "Once a church is desecrated, it cannot be reused until it is reconsecrated," he said.