Religion Today Summaries, May 23, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, May 23, 2003

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

  • Evangelical Associations Launch `Operation Iraqi Care' Prayer Effort
  • Both 'Idol' Finalists Credit God and Baptist Churches
  • Protestant Pastor, Church Members Slain in Colombia
  • Evangelicals Tried For ‘Hate Crime’ Violation

Evangelical Associations Launch `Operation Iraqi Care' Prayer Effort
Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

The National Association of Evangelicals and other evangelical ministries have launched "Operation Iraqi Care," an initiative to encourage prayer for the Iraqi people as their country recovers from war and Saddam Hussein's regime. "Today we are mobilizing Christians worldwide to pray for the Iraqi people," the Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the NAE, announced Thursday (May 22) at the National Press Club. "We know that God desires a better future for the Iraqi people." Haggard, a Colorado pastor, said the coming months will be a key time for Iraqis to decide about principles of individual freedom and liberty. "These next few months of decision-making will set the stage for all future Iraqis," he said. "And that's why we want to serve them." Haggard, who leads another online prayer effort called the World Prayer Team, said he is asking evangelical Christians and "people of prayer everywhere" to sign up at to pray for Iraqi people in specific cities. The World Prayer Team, the Presidential Prayer Team and the Christian Emergency Network are additional sponsors of the effort. Haggard hopes people also will donate to World Relief, the NAE's relief and development arm, to help meet physical needs in the region. The organization hopes to work with local Iraqi churches to assist in rehabilitation of schools.

Both 'Idol' Finalists Credit God and Baptist Churches
Associated Baptist Press

In the end, only 130,000 out of 24 million votes separated "American Idol" finalists Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken. But a glimpse into their personal lives shows they were even closer than that. Both finalists in the wildly popular TV talent contest are Baptists with a strong faith. Each grew up singing in church, credited God for his success and said the outcome of the contest was in God's hands. "I'm making sure I give him props (recognition) because he deserves all the credit and respect," said the 24-year-old Studdard, who won by one half of 1 percent of the viewers' votes, which were cast by phone and text messaging. A Christian since the age of 10, Studdard said his singing career began at age 3 at Rising Star Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., where he still attends with his parents. "American Idol" is the Fox Network’s search for the next American pop star. Aiken also has been singing in church since he was a little boy, according to pastor Roger Shuford. He said members of Leesville Baptist Church usually gathered in the church fellowship hall or at the home of Aiken's mother, Faye Parker, on Wednesday's throughout the competition to see if Aiken made it through to the next round. Aiken is a student at UNC-Charlotte and works with special-needs children.

Protestant Pastor, Church Members Slain in Colombia
Chris Herlinger, Religion News Service

A Protestant pastor and three other church members in northern Colombia, including an 80-year-old church elder, were murdered earlier this month in what human rights and church activists describe as a continued pattern of intimidation and violence against civilians by members of Colombia's armed factions. The recent killings, said the Council of Evangelical Churches of Colombia, a coalition of Protestant denominations, have "produced a new threat against defenseless civilian victims." A group of 25 armed men killed Miguel Mariano Posada, 52, pastor of an evangelical church in the community of Baltazan in the northern coastal province of Cordoba. Also killed, church officials said, were Ana Bernice Giraldo Velaquez, 25, a teacher and church secretary; Natividad Blaudon, 80, the church elder; and Julio Torres, 16, a community member. A statement by the evangelical council and the church-based peace group Justapaz did not detail who might have committed the murders, which occurred May 6 in an isolated rural community -- an area where several armed groups are active. But in the last year Colombian church groups, as well as human rights organizations in Colombia and the United States, have criticized both Colombia's leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries for targeting and murdering Roman Catholic and Protestant church leaders in the country's ongoing, 40-year civil war.

Evangelicals Tried For ‘Hate Crime’ Violation
Compass News Service

Umbanda and Candomble spiritist groups in Brazil are pressing a lawsuit against Baptist pastor Joaquim de Andrade, 41, and Aldo dos Santos Menezes, 33, a deacon of the Anglican Church, in connection with an annual evangelistic outreach on the beaches of Sao Paulo state. Spiritists accuse the two men of violating Brazil’s “hate crime” law by distributing evangelistic tracts that, they say, disparage the African goddess Iemanja. They charge Andrade and Menezes with “inciting evangelicals to commit acts contrary to the liberty of religious belief.” At a hearing on April 16, a Sao Paulo judge found Andrade and Menezes guilty and fined them each 1,000 reais (about $300). The judge warned that if they did not stop proselytizing spiritists, they would face stiffer consequences next time. “This is a precedent-setting case,” said former Brazilian resident Paul Carden, director of the Centers for Apologetics Research. “If Christians cannot freely share their faith with interested bystanders in a public place without the potential of some punishment under the pretext of having committed a hate crime, then this profoundly alters the spiritual equation in that country.”