Religion Today Summaries - May 20, 2005

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - May 20, 2005

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

  • Christian Broadcasts Make Gospel Inroads into Islamic Audience

  • Togo: Political Strife Endangers Native Missionaries 

  • Evangelicals in Mexico Jailed, Fined for Their Faith 

  • Vermont Man Persists, Wants Scripture Reference on Vanity Plate

Christian Broadcasts Make Gospel Inroads into Islamic Audience
Allie Martin, Agape Press

An evangelical satellite network is making a big impact in the Muslim world. Back in 1996, SAT-7 began broadcasting Christian programming two hours a week to the Middle East and North Africa. Today the network broadcasts 24 hours a day. Recently, surveys conducted by audience research firm InterMedia found SAT-7 has six million occasional viewers and 2 to 3 million people watching either daily or at least once a week. The network's John Tayloe says the survey proves that many Arabs and Muslims are receptive to the good news of the gospel. "Think of this," he says, "Arab Christians ministering to Arabs over satellite television. SAT-7 is an opportunity for the Church and for those that just happen to tune in to hear the gospel, some even for the very first time." The idea is "very exciting in these very strategic days in the Middle East," Tayloe adds. The station continues to appeal to Muslims viewers and others whose hearts may be ready to respond to the gospel's saving message. SAT-7 recently began broadcasting to parts of Australia and continues to expand its ministry in other areas of the world, particularly in places that are officially hostile to the gospel, but where Muslims and other non-Christians are hungry for the truth of God's Word.

Togo: Political Strife Endangers Native Missionaries
Christian Aid Mission

Tension between supporters of Togo's new president Faure Gnassingbe and supporters of opposition leaders has impacted local ministries, according to native mission leaders. "Some have said that government leaders want to take to actions against churches in days to come," writes one native missionary. The conflict began with the election of Faure Gnassingbe earlier this month, an election many observers have claimed was fraudulent. Citizens took to the streets in protests, many of which turned violent. Over 100 people, most protesters armed with slingshots and machetes, have been killed since the election. Thousands of Togolese worried about escalating violence have fled to neighboring Ghana and Benin. Remaining in the troubled country are many native gospel workers. Though their personal safety is at risk, they are committed to sharing God's truth in such volatile times. Togolese Christians may be in even more danger than other citizens because, according to one native mission leader, the new government perceives them as unsupportive. He says that shortly before elections were to be held in early May, three church leaders approached authorities to ask for postponement of voting. Now, the mission leader believes, the government may turn against all Christians and crack down on their freedom. The steady advance of Islam in this part of Africa is another concern of missionaries.

Evangelicals in Mexico Jailed, Fined for Their Faith
Elisabeth Isais, Compass Direct

On May 15, six police officers and a local Catholic catechist appeared at the Fountain of Heaven Church in Cuateceometl, Hidalgo, Mexico, at 10 a.m. and arrested Pastor Francisco Sanchez Gonzalez and church member Raul Bautista. The arrests came after a decision by the town assembly to "eradicate" all non-Catholic Christians from the area. Local officials informed church members that they must renounce their evangelical faith and pay a fine of 1,000 pesos (approximately $110) by the end of May, or else their homes and the church's chapel will be torn down. Legal representatives of the evangelical church have asked state and federal authorities to intervene and see to it that the Cuateceometl Christians be allowed to worship freely -- a right guaranteed by Mexico's constitution.

Vermont Man Persists, Wants Scripture Reference on Vanity Plate
Allie Martin, Agape Press

A Vermont man continues to fight the state over its refusal to allow him to place a Bible verse on his license plate. In April 2004, Rutland, Vermont, resident Shawn Byrne submitted an application for a vanity plate inscribed with "John316."  Alternatives he found acceptable were "JN316" and "JN36TN." Officials denied his application, claiming the message he requested "refers to deity," and that since license plates are state property any religious message on them could be viewed as government endorsement of religion.  With assistance from the Alliance Defense Fund, Byrne sued the state. ADF attorney Jeremy Tedesco says the rejection of the plates is a violation of Byrne's constitutional rights. Under Vermont law, the Department of Motor Vehicles is allowed to reject a word or phrase considered offensive or confusing to the general public.  More specifically, the regulations state that license plates are not to be allowed to have a combination of letters or numbers that refer to any language to race, religion, color, deity, ethnic heritage, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, or political affiliation. Attorneys for the state have asked a federal court to dismiss the lawsuit.  But Tedesco has asked for a preliminary injunction in the case that would allow Byrne to get the plates.  A ruling is expected later this summer.