Religion Today Summaries, May 14, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, May 14, 2003

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

In Today's Edition:

  • House Approves New Religious Discrimination Rules in Jobs Bill
  • Baptists Terminate 13 Missionaries Over Faith Statement
  • Faith-Based Disaster Response Follows Week's Deadly Storms
  • Four Christians Murdered in Colombia

Iraq Update: World Vision Plans Aid to Displaced Families
James Addis

World Vision will seek to assist thousands of displaced persons living in dire conditions following post-war population upheavals in northern Iraq. Following a five-day assessment mission in Mosul, and surrounding areas, World Vision senior relief administrator Doris Knochel and commodities officer Mitsu Ikeda discovered displaced families living in grim, unsanitary conditions. Among them the World Vision staff found about 550 displaced sleeping in the guard quarters of the former presidential palace in Mosul. “All they had were some blankets on the concrete floor. They lacked clothes, food, hygiene and a number of children were sick," Dr Knochel, said. "These people have nothing. Something must be done very soon. Mothers are very concerned about the health of their children, especially as it just gets hotter and hotter," Dr Koehler said. Dr Knoechel said World Vision was in a good position to assist the displaced with essential supplies of tents, jerry-cans, hygiene kits, plastic sheeting and water purification tablets, already pre-positioned across the border in Al Hasakah, Syria. "What we have is exactly what they need," she said. World Vision will this week begin plans to move the supplies into Iraq and then distribute them.
For more information on World Vision's ongoing efforts to ease the suffering of those formerly under the oppressive regime in Iraq, and to find out how you can help with a one-time donation click here.

Religious Freedom Panel Warns of Conditions in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia
Kevin Eckstrom

(RNS) An independent panel warned Tuesday (May 13) that religious freedom in Afghanistan is perilously at risk unless the U.S. government presses for greater human rights protections. In its annual report to Congress, the president and the State Department, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said Afghanistan could again become a repressive Islamic state unless Washington intervenes. "There are indications that Afghanistan is being reconstructed -- without serious U.S. opposition -- as a state in which an extreme interpretation of Sharia (Islamic law) would be enforced by a government which the United States supports and with which our nation is closely identified," the nine-member panel warned. The watchdog panel called for increased security to guarantee human rights, as well as secular courts to prevent "misguided judicial activism" and a commitment to make sure "punishments such as flogging, amputation of limbs and death by stoning are banned." The commission also rebuked Saudi Arabia, one of America's closest allies in the Middle East, for restricting non-Muslim faiths and faulted the State Department for not pressing for reforms. The commission, which was chartered by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, monitors religious freedom issues and advises the government on ways to weave those concerns into foreign policy.

Graham's San Diego Mission Makes Milestones, Focuses on Military
Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) Evangelist Billy Graham brought his gospel message to San Diego during a mission May 8-11 that broke attendance records and focused on the military community from which many troops were recently deployed. "When we saw the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln come in here and saw the people get off that had been at sea for 10 months, the rejoicing – the thrill of it -- sent chills up and down your spine," Graham said. "In the same way, there will be great rejoicing when God receives you into heaven. He is willing to forgive you and to change your life." Graham preached to crowds that averaged 54,000 over the four days of the event that created a number of milestones for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. A total of 40,000 children and parents attended the Saturday morning "Kids Mix," marking a record for a Graham mission children's event. The gathering of 74,000 youth that evening for a concert and Graham's remarks broke a stadium record. The San Diego event also marked the first time a Graham mission aired on the Armed Forces Radio and Television Network, reaching military members and their families across the globe.

Update: Yemeni Sentenced to Death in Murder of U.S. Missionaries

(RNS) A suspected al-Qaida militant was sentenced to death Saturday (May 10) for killing three U.S. missionaries at a Southern Baptist-run hospital in Yemen. Donald W. Caswell of Levelland, Texas, was wounded in the attack. The verdict was announced in Jibla, 125 miles south of the Yemeni capital of San'a, where the killings took place. Kamel pleaded not guilty. His lawyer, Mahrous Oqba, told the AP that he would appeal the verdict because he believes it violated Islamic law. Kamel said at an April 20 court hearing that he coordinated the attack with Ali al-Jarallah, another suspected Muslim extremist, who was accused of killing a Yemeni politician two days before the attack on the Jibla hospital. Yemeni security officials say they believe both men belonged to a terrorist cell with ties to al-Qaida. Kamel said he killed the missionaries "out of a religious duty ... and in revenge from those who converted Muslims from their religion and made them unbelievers." Jibla residents have said the Americans never talked about religion. Yemeni law bars non-Muslims from proselytizing in the country, which is overwhelmingly Muslim.