Religion Today Summaries - May 25, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - May 25, 2006

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

  • Don't Be Friends With Christians or Jews, Saudi Texts Say
  • Sudan Releases Priest Suspected of Kidnapping ‘Apostate’
  • Campaign Set Up to Support 40 Days of Prayer for Iran
  • Southern Baptist Pastors Prepare Pulpits for 'Marriage Protection Sunday'

Don't Be Friends With Christians or Jews, Saudi Texts Say

Saudi Arabia's latest textbooks continue to promote intolerance of other religions, a new study said Tuesday. The New York Times reports that Saudi first-grade students are taught that "Every religion other than Islam is false," while teachers are instructed to "Give examples of false religions, like Judaism, Christianity, paganism, etc." Fifth graders learn "It is forbidden for a Muslim to be a loyal friend to someone who does not believe in God and his prophet, or someone who fights the religion of Islam." Numerous examples of such instruction were cited Tuesday in a new study by the Center for Religious Freedom. Muhammad al-Zulfa, a member of the consultative Shura council, said the Saudi public is generally in favor of reforming textbooks and curriculum, but religious conservatives have stymied the effort. And even if the textbooks were changed, the effort might not amount to much unless the country's teachers were retrained.

Sudan Releases Priest Suspected of Kidnapping ‘Apostate’

Compass Direct reports an Episcopal priest and five other people who were arrested in the Sudanese capital over the disappearance of a Muslim convert to Christianity were released last week after the missing woman reported herself to police. Shiraz Feteh Rahman Bellula (previously identified as Shirakh Abdallah) had gone into hiding in March to escape physical abuse from her family for converting to Christianity, a Catholic schoolteacher said. Bellula turned herself in to Khartoum police on May 16, prompting the release of the Episcopal Rev. Elia Komondan and Catholic schoolteacher Anthony Gabriel, as well as four others over the following two days. According to one Christian source who requested anonymity, Bellula’s family was forced to sign a statement that they would not mistreat her. “But the document they were made to sign will not grant her safety,” the Christian said.

Campaign Set Up to Support 40 Days of Prayer for Iran

While the United State and Iran play a game of brinkmanship over the latter's pursuit of nuclear technology, more than 120 Iranian church leaders have pledged to 40 days of prayer and fasting for the salvation of Iran, ASSIST News reports. This campaign will begin on Ascension Day, May 25. According to Sam Yeghnazar, Executive Director of Elam Ministries, participants will fast for different lengths of time and at different periods during the 40 days. He says: "Iranian Christians have issued a call to the global Church to join in praying for the strategic country of Iran. Together they are working to see that millions of Christians around the world will join this campaign. Many church leaders and prayer groups around the world have already begun to put their weight behind this campaign." In answering the question, "Why pray and fast for Iran?" Yeghnazar replies: "Because critical times demand dramatic action. These days [Iran] is at the center of a global crisis that could easily lead to war, deep political turmoil and economic chaos. We need to fall on our knees and pray that God, in His mercy, will intervene."

Southern Baptist Pastors Prepare Pulpits for 'Marriage Protection Sunday'

With less than two weeks remaining before the Federal Marriage Amendment hits the Senate floor, Christian and pro-family groups are creating a ''groundswell of support'' for traditional marriage among pastors and conservative churchgoers. The Christian Post reports that the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention has dubbed June 4 “Marriage Protection Sunday,” and is requesting pastors to preach about gay marriage and encouraging Southern Baptists to tell their senators to vote for the amendment. Some recommendations for Marriage Protection Sunday include preaching about the issue on June 4 and distributing information on same-sex marriage. Lay Christians are being encouraged to email, call, or hand-deliver mail to their senators, telling their representatives to pass the amendment.