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Religion Today Summaries - May 2, 2005

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - May 2, 2005

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

  • President Of Church Of REACH Shares Gospel With Policymakers In Haiti

  • In Fallujah, 'The God Squad' Helps Build Troops' Morale 

  • Iran Changes Venue for Apostasy Trial

  • Pakistani Christian Beaten Almost To Death Because Muslim Boss Was Kind To Him

President Of Church Of REACH Shares Gospel With Policymakers In Haiti
Agape Press

The president of a Church health and evangelism ministry will soon have a chance to reach key opinion leaders in the nation of Haiti. This weekend, Dr. Ramesh Richard, founder and president of REACH, will take part in a talk titled "The Foundations for Public and Private Moral Life." He is confident that this event will provide an excellent opportunity to make a clear presentation of the salvation message. "This is going to be primarily an evangelistic event where people are bringing unbelieving friends and compatriots and colleagues," Richard says. "We're hoping that 50 percent will be unbelievers who have not yet transferred their trust to the Lord Jesus, and to present a message with a follow-through process that will allow them to come to Christ." The evangelist says the talk will also allow him to share the gospel with many of those who help make policy in Haiti. "We know that everybody is in a continuum of approach to the Lord," he says, "and we're hoping that some would be rescued from death into life." For others, he adds, the hope is "that we can plant some seeds that would bear some long-term fruit. That's the evangelism side of it." After the opinion leaders event, Richard will host a conference in which 300 Haitian pastors will receive training in several areas of ministry.

In Fallujah, 'The God Squad' Helps Build Troops' Morale
Paul Robbins Jr., Baptist Press

A Navy chaplain and his assistant are helping Marines and sailors in Fallujah, Iraq, in the ongoing war against terrorism. Navy Lt. Matthew S. Weems, flanked by his religious program specialist, Petty Officer 2nd Class Aaron G. Neely, are key weapons in the effort to maintain good morale among the 800 troops in the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, Regimental Combat Team-1.  "We're here to give encouragement to the Marines and sailors," said Weems, a graduate of the Arizona Campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, "and to provide for the free religious expression of all in the command." Nicknamed "The God Squad" by the battalion, Weems, 33, and Neely, 21, provide more than weekly religious services; they also perform baptisms; conduct the battalion's morale, welfare and recreation program; and provide any needed counseling. Weems and Neely regularly attach themselves to convoys and patrols through the city to establish a rapport with the troops in addition to the time they spend at the battalion's bases. Maintaining visibility with the Marines and sailors within the city allows Chaplain Weems to empathize with their situation and makes him more approachable, Neely noted. One of the most important roles the chaplain plays is as a counselor and adviser to the battalion.

Iran Changes Venue for Apostasy Trial
Barbara G. Baker, Compass Direct

Iranian authorities abandoned preliminary hearings against Christian convert Hamid Pourmand before an Islamic Sharia court in Tehran last week, apparently after news of his trial leaked out to the international press. Less than two weeks after secretive court proceedings began against the Protestant lay pastor, officials informed his lawyer and family that he was to be moved from Tehran's Evin Prison to his home city of Bandar-i Bushehr to stand trial for his life. No indication was given as to when Pourmand would be transferred to one of several prisons in the southern port city. Nor did officials specify when he would actually go on trial, facing the death penalty under the Islamic regime's laws forbidding apostasy and proselytizing. Pourmand, 47, was arrested by the Iranian security police last September for deserting Islam 25 years ago to become a Christian. A former colonel in the Iranian army, he was serving as lay pastor of an Assemblies of God congregation in Bandar-i Bushehr. After five months in solitary confinement, he was convicted by a military court martial in mid February for "deceiving the Iranian armed forces" about his conversion; he was sentenced to three years in prison. Iran's Islamic law statutes forbid a non-Muslim to hold any position of authority over Muslims.

Pakistani Christian Beaten Almost To Death Because Muslim Boss Was Kind To Him
Michael Ireland, ASSIST News Service

A Pakistani Christian who was shown kindness by his Muslim employer has been attacked and beaten by a gang of Muslims. Shahbaz Masih was attacked by a group of seven or eight Muslims from his village on April 23 and left for dead, with both legs broken, says a report from the Barnabas Fund. In an e-mail report from Barnabas Fund, the Christian human rights organization says Masih's assailants are believed to be jealous of any success within the Christian community, and apparently singled him out because he was favorably treated by his Muslim boss. Shahbaz, a young man in his twenties, was a tractor driver for Mir Hussein, who treated him kindly, apparently because he was an honest and hard worker. The Barnabas Fund report continues: "This kindness from a Muslim to a Christian caused resentment amongst the Muslim group who attacked Shahbaz last Saturday, reports a local church leader, who adds the group were also angered by two Christians doing well in their studies at school and university recently. According to one report the group had tried to force Shahbaz to convert to Islam. He is now in a critical condition in hospital." According to Barnabas Fund, many Muslims in Pakistan regard Christians as second-class citizens, “unclean,” and despicable. There are approximately three million Christians in Pakistan, about 2 percent of the population.