Religion Today Summaries - May 20, 2011

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - May 20, 2011

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Pakistan Blasphemy Law Used against Kids
  • Kidnappers Allegedly Called Murdered Iraqi Christian’s Employer
  • Syrian Christians Fear the Worst in Protests
  • Thousands of Church Workers Volunteer for Ala. Cleanup


Pakistan Blasphemy Law Used against Kids

Baptist Press reports that Pakistan's notorious "blasphemy" laws can put even children at risk. Christians say the days when they could teach their offspring pat answers to protect them from accusations of disparaging Islam or its prophet seem to have passed. One 30-year-old Pakistani woman who grew up in Lahore said her Christian parents taught her formula answers to keep from falling prey to accusations under the blasphemy statutes, but says those answers aren't enough anymore. "One answer is, 'As a Christian I have only read the Bible, I can't read Arabic,'" she said. "These questions used to be easier to answer, we had formulas. But those are not working any more. We just tell children 'Don't talk about religion in school.' This is shaky ground now." An entire generation, Christians fear, is growing up not knowing their faith for fear that it will lead to potentially disastrous schoolyard talk.

Kidnappers Allegedly Called Murdered Iraqi Christian’s Employer

A pastor in Kirkuk, Iraq told Compass Direct News that sources close to a Christian reportedly kidnapped and murdered by al Qaeda over the weekend said the kidnappers had pressured his employer to fire him because he was a Christian. The body of Chaldean Christian Ashur Issa Yaqub was found on Monday with marks of severe torture and mutilation. He had worked as a construction worker from the northeastern city of Kirkuk, and al Qaeda members had demanded $100,000 for his release. “It seems that the contractor that Ashur was working for was told he had to fire Ashur because he was Christian, but he refused,” said the pastor, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Because the contractor was rich and they couldn’t do anything to him, they kidnapped Ashur, and unfortunately they killed him.” The 29-year-old Yaqub, whose surname is also spelled Jacob, is survived by his wife and three children. Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako said kidnappings for ransom are unfortunately common, but "kidnappers don’t usually torture and kill this way. This wasn’t human ... this is like they were beasts.”

Syrian Christians Fear the Worst in Protests

Christians in Syria fear the government's violent crackdown on anti-government protesters, but they also fear a change from President Bashar Assad's secular rule. Greg Mussleman with Voice of the Martyrs Canada says Christians in Syria know they won't be getting a Christian president, "but at least there is some measure of religious freedom. If this government, as we know it, comes down now, it's unknown, and it'll likely be something worse than what they have now." According to Mission News Network, Mussleman says Sunni Muslims form the majority in Syria. "With the more militant, radical elements of Islam, [they] will try to enforce Sharia law, and that will cause problems for Christians--similar to what happened in other parts of the Middle East."

Thousands of Church Workers Volunteer for Ala. Cleanup

The latest disaster relief statistics released by the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions show that more than 8,400 Southern Baptist volunteers from 10 states have been deployed following the tornado aftermath in Alabama. More significantly, disaster relief personnel reported 38 professions of faith in Christ as a result of their interactions with residents thus far. Southern Baptists have also served more than 200,000 meals and seven mass feeding units have been deployed. Baptist Press reports that more than 900 chainsaw jobs have been completed, and 365 critical incident stress management chaplains have served 5,292 people, the board of missions said May 11. Twenty-two shower units have been deployed, and nearly 4,000 showers had been logged in addition to nearly 1,200 loads of laundry.