Religion Today Summaries - Nov. 18, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Nov. 18, 2009

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

  • Voice of the Martyrs Hopeful about Obama's China Visit
  • Disaster Relief Still Needed in American Samoa
  • High Court Refuses Case on Religious Graduation Speech
  • Christian Convert Who Arrived on Hijacked Plane Given Asylum in UK

Voice of the Martyrs Hopeful about Obama's China Visit

Mission News Network reports that religious freedom watchdogs have watched President Barack Obama's visit to China with some hope. Voice of the Martyrs' Todd Nettleton said he was encouraged when President Obama spoke out about the need for religious freedom in China, but he isn't sure if this signals a complete policy change. He cited Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent statements that "more important" issues like the environment couldn't be jeopardized by human rights issues. "When push comes to shove," Nettleton said, "[the United States owes] the Chinese government and the Chinese people a huge amount of money, so it's very hard for us to put any teeth with our proclamation about human rights and religious freedom."

Disaster Relief Still Needed in American Samoa

Baptist Press reports that Southern Baptist disaster relief work continues on American Samoa, seven weeks after an earthquake -- measuring 8.3 on the Richter scale -- struck the South Pacific island. That quake triggered a deadly tsunami that killed 31 people, including six Southern Baptists. Relief volunteers onsite say many needs created by the disaster remain unmet. Water purification has emerged as the key disaster relief ministry operation in American Samoa since the Sept. 29 tsunami, according to Bruce Poss, disaster relief coordinator for the SBC's North American Mission Board. Volunteers have purified more than 4,000 gallons of water in 17 villages throughout the island. Most natural water supplies have been tainted, so authorities have urged Samoans to boil the water, Poss said. But villagers are unwilling to spend their limited money on propane fuel to boil water when they need it to cook food.

High Court Refuses Case on Religious Graduation Speech

Christian Newswire reports that the United States Supreme Court has refused to hear the case of a high school valedictorian whose graduation speech was cut short after she mentioned her faith. Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute had asked the Court to hear the case of Brittany McComb, charging that school officials violated McComb's free speech rights and engaged in viewpoint discrimination when they censored her speech because of its Christian content. The Court declined to hear the case without any explanation. "This is a sad day for the cause of freedom," said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. "When the Supreme Court cannot clear their calendar to hear a case of this magnitude, then our freedoms are in jeopardy. Such censorship and discrimination should not be permitted in America."

Christian Convert Who Arrived on Hijacked Plane Given Asylum in UK

The UK Telegraph reports that an Afghan man who became a Christian after sneaking into the UK has won asylum in the country. The former Muslim feared for his life after his conversion and baptism, when other Afghans and Muslims ridiculed him and even threatened his life. The man has not been identified for safety reasons, but regularly attends a west London church and Bible classes. According to the Telegraph, although the Afghan Constitution allows non-Muslims to practice their faith, the small Christian community practices exclusively underground and it is forbidden for Afghans to abandon Islam. As an apostate, he would always be "looking over his shoulder" in Afghanistan, his attorney said, as police would turn a blind eye to his fate.