Religion Today Summaries - May 1, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - May 1, 2006

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

  • Churches Plan Web Outreach Focus Day on May 7
  • Hindu Extremists Accuse World's Largest Floating Book Fair of Christian Proselytism
  • Rallies, Prayer Vigils Shining Light on North Korea's Cruelty and Persecution
  • Religious Blogs Test Beliefs, Power Structure

Churches Plan Web Outreach Focus Day on May 7

“I encourage all evangelical leaders to take advantage of this initiative and explore their options for using the Web to win as many as possible to Christ,” says Pastor Ted Haggard of the National Association of Evangelicals. Many other Christian leaders also suggest that churches use this new resource to learn more about the potential of the Web to communicate the Gospel. Building on the success of the first web awareness day held last year, a second annual Internet Evangelism Day is set for May 7, 2006. It was initiated by the Internet Evangelism Coalition, an umbrella group of major organizations involved in web ministry. The IE Day website explains how to build a church website that can reach out into the community, or start an evangelistic blog. The site also offers materials for a church or Christian group to easily stage a ‘web awareness’ focus program any time they choose. Churches who used these materials last year found that “People were challenged and inspired! As a result, we will review our church website, add evangelistic signature blocks to emails, and learn how to use Bulletin Boards and Chat Rooms for evangelism,” said a church in Australia. “I want to thank you for the free resources you have provided through your website. This is a huge help for small churches such as ours,” claimed a church leader in California. The IE Day team emphasizes that web evangelism is for anyone, not just the technically gifted. “There are many ways to share your faith online, without any technical background at all,” says IE Day Coordinator Tony Whittaker. The IE Day website.

Hindu Extremists Accuse World's Largest Floating Book Fair of Christian Proselytism

The oldest passenger ship to sail across the oceans, the MV Doulos, has anchored in Chennai port, India, to host the world's largest floating book fair, reports AsiaNews. The Doulos – built in 1914 – has visited more than 500 ports over the last 28 years. It arrived in Chennai April 8 to a warm welcome, but for some Hindu extremists, this is just another Christian attempt to proselytise. Doulos staff are young Christians who have decided to dedicate a part of their lives to “serving the nations”. On board, the ship bookshop contains more than 6,000 books. An extremist Hindu paramilitary movement described the Chennai book fair as a “Bible fair," quoting one visitor as having said, “I went with my family on the Doulos: the majority of books were about the Christian faith and the only thing the crew members of the ship are keen on, is spreading Christianity.” A Doulos spokesperson countered: "We are not here to convert anybody, we are motivated by love... We come to give, not to take.”

Rallies, Prayer Vigils Shining Light on North Korea's Cruelty and Persecution

AgapePress reports that the co-sponsoring organizations of North Korea Freedom Week are exposing the public to the atrocities being committed upon that nation's population by its government. At the same time they are calling on Christians worldwide to pray for their brothers and sisters in Christ there who are suffering persecution and imprisonment for their faith. Several human-rights organizations are gathered in Washington, DC, to protest the horrific treatment of North Korean citizens by their own government. In addition, a number of prayer vigils are planned in front of Chinese consulates around the U.S. North Korea Freedom Week (April 22-30) was sponsored by Open Doors USA and the North Korea Freedom Coalition. About 200,000 Christians are [currently] in labor camps in North Korea, and the treatment at those camps, says Open Doors' leader, is beyond imagination. "By labor camps I mean the worst kinds of human experimentation, privation, torture, and horrific conditions for everyone. It's virtually a death sentence to be even sent there."

Religious Blogs Test Beliefs, Power Structure

A Religion News Service story in the Chicago Tribune reports that ever since Moses, preachers have been engaging listeners, while critics have muttered about the need for more enlightened leadership. Now, thanks to blogs and other Internet postings, critics in every faith tradition are getting a hearing beyond the church parking lot. Forced to listen, religious leaders are responding in ways that show how authority is shifting in the 21st Century. Bloggers with poignant testimonies well-versed in Scripture and church rules are challenging official policies and winning followers of their own. "It's clear that religions that are... less authoritarian, less hierarchical... are doing better on the Internet," says Lorne Dawson, a sociologist who studies religion. "Critics, ex-members... they are thriving online because this is giving them a voice so much more powerful than they would have ever had before. It really is the realm where anyone who has an ax to grind against religion... can find hundreds of sites online that are just dying to hear their story." Traditional religious authorities, meanwhile, are seeing problems but also new opportunities with blogging.