Religion Today Summaries - Nov. 28, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Nov. 28, 2006

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

  • South Korean Pastor Faces Deportation
  • Elderly ‘Blasphemers’ in Pakistan Sentenced to 10 Years
  • Detroit Suburb Bans Nativity Scene on City Property
  • Christians Targeted By Mobs As Violence Escalates In Sri Lanka


South Korean Pastor Faces Deportation
According to Baptist Press, Moon Tak Oh is one of the few pastors in north Texas who leads Sunday services in Korean, and he may be forced to return to South Korea with his wife and three American-born sons if U.S. immigration officials don’t process the necessary paperwork to make him a citizen soon. Oh, 45, has been in the United States as a legal immigrant for 19 years, during which time he earned an undergraduate degree at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo., and a master’s and doctorate at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He has been pastor of Korean-American First Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, for five years. The congregation averages 120 people each Sunday for worship. “We just don’t understand,” Ann Simmons, a founding member of the 25-year-old church, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “He’s been very faithful. He’s been serving the church and all he wants to do is spread the Gospel. He needs to stay.” Oh filed for an I-360, the document he needs to apply for permanent residence, in March 2004 after being in the U.S. on a student visa and then a religious worker visa that expires Jan. 23. An I-360 usually takes from six months to a couple of years to process, the Star-Telegram said, but Oh has waited nearly three years. “I understand one year. But more than two and a half years?” Oh told the Star-Telegram. “We’ve been really suffering, especially my wife. She has had so much stress.” Officials have told Oh that his I-360 application is in the security clearance process, which is mainly handled by the FBI. Though he has a rare name even in South Korea, it could have been flagged for further background checks. Essentially, everyone with any governmental power is telling Oh to wait longer.

Elderly ‘Blasphemers’ in Pakistan Sentenced to 10 Years
In a case that has drawn crowds of religious fanatics, a Pakistani court sentenced two Christian men to 10 years in prison on Saturday (November 25) for committing “blasphemy” against the Quran. According to Compass Direct, after postponing the verdict for four consecutive days, Judge Muhammad Islam of Faisalabad’s Anti-Terrorism Court delivered the prison sentence and a 25,000 rupee (US$414) fine in a closed hearing. James Masih, 65, and his neighbor, Buta Masih, 70, were rumored to have burned pages of the Quran on October 8. Stressing that his clients were innocent, defense lawyer Khalil Tahir Sindhu told Compass that in any event the 10-year sentence was illegal, as desecration of Islam’s holy book calls for life imprisonment. “This conviction was not based on law,” Sindhu commented. “There are only two options: 25 years [life imprisonment] or acquittal. Actually [the judge] wanted to release them, but he was really under pressure.”

Detroit Suburb Bans Nativity Scene on City Property
 Detroit suburb's Nativity scene has been voted off city property.  In the latest attack on Christmas, the Berkley City Council, faced with the threat of a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, has voted 6-1 to donate its manger scene to the Berkley Clergy Association for display on church property.  The Nativity scene had been erected outside city hall every Christmas season for decades.  Berkley resident Georgia Halloran and hundreds of her neighbors had signed a petition urging city officials to fight the ACLU with the help of attorneys who offered to represent the city free of charge.  But Halloran says the city council rejected the offer.  "Moving the Nativity is just nothing but just pure capitulation to the ACLU," the Berkley resident says, "and we feel the City Council buckled and did exactly what the ACLU wanted."  Berkley Mayor Marilyn Stephan seems to make no apology for the Council's capitulation to the ACLU.  In fact, she indicates she believes the Nativity scene constituted the promotion of religion -- and she says the city should not be doing that.

Christians Targeted By Mobs As Violence Escalates In Sri Lanka
As fighting between the Sri Lankan army and Tamil rebels continues, Sri Lankan Christians have faced a recent trend of mob violence against Churches and individuals. ASSIST News Service reports that according to a news release from Christianity Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the Lighthouse Church, Mawatura, Gompola in Kandy District was attacked on November 22, 2006, while the Pastor and a Church worker were inside. Rocks were thrown at the building, shattering the front window, and the Church worker was seriously injured when a rock hit him on the head. “Ten days earlier, on November 12, 2006, members of the congregation of the Assemblies of God Church in Yakkala, Gampaha District, were prevented from attending a church service by a mob of over 100 people, some of whom were armed with clubs,” continued the CSW release. “Four Buddhist monks accompanied the crowd of attackers and anti-Christian posters had appeared on the walls. Only two policemen were sent to the scene initially, but they were unable to control the crowd. They had to ask for re-enforcements twice before twelve other officers arrived."