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Religion Today Summaries, May 25, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, May 25, 2004

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

  • TN City Shuts Down Christians, Denies Freedom of Speech
  • Chinese House Church Leader Killed in Custody, Others Detained
  • Christian Couple Escapes from Egypt
  • Soldier Says Serving U.S. Is More Than His Job -- It's His Calling

TN City Shuts Down Christians, Denies Freedom of Speech
Allie Martin and Jody Brown, Agape Press

A Tennessee city is being sued after police arrested two men who tried to display crosses outside a recent pro-homosexual event. Michael Joseph Siemer and Brian O'Connell travel the world carrying ten-foot crosses in an effort to reach others with the gospel of Jesus Christ. On May 8, in Dayton, Tennessee, a "Gay Day" event was scheduled in a public park. When the pair arrived at the park and began constructing their crosses, law officers ordered them to leave. When they refused, Siemer and O'Connell were charged with disorderly conduct and interfering with a special event -- and arrested. Siemer stated it was the first time he had been arrested simply for "being a Christian." The two men have decided to take the City of Dayton to court, with the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy (CLP) as representation. Steve Crampton, chief counsel for the CLP, says it is apparent Dayton has decided that homosexual activists are entitled to more rights than are peaceful Christians. He says the case reflects what he calls "a very disturbing trend" in the law. He says like almost no other issue, the homosexual rights issue seems to bring out a "different standard," even in otherwise well-intended law enforcement personnel. In this case, he says, that different standard excluded individuals who were seeking to peaceably exercise their First Amendment rights "before they even got set up or spoke to the first passerby."

Chinese House Church Leader Killed in Custody, Others Detained
Stefan Bos, ASSIST News Service

A teacher of an influential Chinese house church with 500,000 members was beaten to death by Chinese security forces and several other believers and leaders were detained, a well informed human rights watchdog said Monday, May 24. The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) said that Gu Xianggao, 28, "was beaten to death on April 27 while in the custody of Chinese Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers." Gu was a teacher of the house church group "Three Grades Servants" in Heilongjiang Province. VOM said he was killed after the PSB conducted major raids on the group in April. Parents of the murdered teacher were summoned to see their son's body on April 27, after a PSB official told local police of his hometown to deliver his parents to PSB offices. "There, they were shown their son’s body, which was then immediately cremated. The parents were paid almost 28,000 US$—a fortune to a Chinese family—then ordered not to tell what had happened," VOM claimed. "This is another tragedy in China," said VOM Spokesman Todd Nettleton in a statement. "No one, no matter their religious background, deserves this kind of treatment. It is time for the world to stand up and take notice of China’s treatment of unregistered religious groups."

Christian Couple Escapes from Egypt
Compass Direct

Thirteen months after Egypt jailed and tortured a Coptic Christian pharmacist for marrying a former Muslim woman, Boulos Farid Rezek-Allah Awad was finally allowed to emigrate from Egypt to Canada in March. A few weeks earlier, his wife Enas Yehya Abdel Aziz had escaped the country to claim refugee status abroad. Egyptian security police officials told Rezek-Allah last November that he was permanently blacklisted from leaving Egypt; they vowed to track down and punish his wife for her “illegal” marriage to a Christian. During his two subsequent attempts to leave for Canada, he was turned back by Egyptian authorities. Rezek-Allah told Compass that he assumed that the Egyptian authorities somehow learned that his wife had managed to slip out of Egypt without being identified and arrested. “So after they lost hope of catching Enas, they allowed me to depart from Egypt,” he said. His wife plans to enter English language classes and he is studying for his final pharmacy-license exams in Canada this coming August.

Soldier Says Serving U.S. Is More Than His Job -- It's His Calling
Chad Groening, Agape Press

A Christian member of the U.S. Army National Guard says he believes America's military is ordained by God, and that he has been called to serve in it. Staff Sergeant Geoff Wagner is assigned to the 155th Armored Brigade of the Mississippi National Guard. Wagner considers the National Guard his calling, and he says he is ready to do whatever God and America require of him. "I'm a very patriotic person -- I love this country," he says, "and if God calls me to lay down my life for my country, then I'm willing to do that." The staff sergeant says he considers the U.S. the greatest country in the world, and he feels it is his Christian duty and privilege, as well as his job, to help protect it. "Our military has been ordained, I believe, by God," he says. Wagner contends that America's founding fathers wanted Christian men for its military, and envisioned that its fighting forces would be made up of people of strong faith and character. As a Christian soldier, the staff sergeant tries to observe that same high standard of character and moral strength.  The guardsman says he is not afraid for his family because his church has promised to take care of them should the Lord call him home.