Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today’s edition:
Ministry Spokesman Disagrees That Religious Liberty is Improving in China
An organization dedicated to the persecuted Church around the world says it does not agree with the assessment of a U.S. Department of State official that things have improved for believers during the past ten years in Communist China. John Hanford is Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom at the U.S. State Department. He believes conditions in China are improving, even though it remains on the department's annual list of "Countries of Particular Concern," which was released this past week. However, Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), an organization that serves and advocates for persecuted Christians worldwide, says these touted improvements in China's religious freedom situation are only the case in certain areas. "If you go to the right places, you can find some areas where the church is operating really with very little interference," he contends, "but you can find other areas where the local officials crack down on every kind of religious expression." Overall, Nettleton thinks the Chinese government authorities are working to tighten restrictions on the Church. "Things are definitely not getting better for the unregistered Christian groups," he says, "and as we see with [numerous Chinese house church members] who are serving prison sentences, I think there's very definitely a continued effort to crack down on the church in China."
Pakistani Christians Call for Seven Days of Mourning
Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Christian schools throughout Pakistan will go on strike on November 17, in protest at the attacks on Christians in Sangla Hill, Punjab, on November 12. Hindu, Sikh and Muslim leaders have joined church leaders in condemning the outbreak of violence, and the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) has declared seven days of mourning. Church leaders are calling on the Pakistani authorities to bring the main instigators of the violence to justice. In Pakistan's worst outbreak of anti-Christian violence since gunmen attacked a church on Christmas Day, 2002, a mob destroyed the Roman Catholic, Salvation Army and United Presbyterian churches in Basti Asyia, Sangla Hill village, accusing a Christian man of desecrating the Koran. The mob, estimated to number between one and two thousand, struck at 10.30am on Saturday, 12 November, destroying the three churches as well as a convent, St. Anthony's School, a girls' hostel and a Catholic priest's home. They burned Bibles, Christian literature, crosses and other Christian materials, and set fire to Christian homes. According to APMA, which sent a team to the area, "within minutes, the Christian residential area was blazing. Christian residents fled to save their lives." According to eyewitnesses, the attack appeared to have been premeditated, as the mob was brought into the village in buses. Over 450 Christian families from the area had fled the previous night, after receiving threats, according to the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP). The local priest, Father Samson Dilawar, informed the police twelve hours before the attack, requesting protection, but no action appears to have been taken by the police to prevent the violence. Subsequently, 88 people have been arrested and charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act. But according to APMA, the major instigators of the attack have not been arrested.
Adrian Rogers on Ventilator, Health is ‘Declining’
Former Southern Baptist Convention President Adrian Rogers was on a ventilator and his health appeared to be "declining" Sunday night as he battled double pneumonia, a statement on his ministry's website said. As of Monday morning, his condition was "unchanged," another statement said. "Dr. Rogers has been undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer," the statement posted Monday morning on the Love Worth Finding website reported. "Due to complications, a blood clot has formed in his lungs causing double pneumonia. He is currently on a ventilator to help his breathing." The statement urged those concerned to "to continue praying for him." "Just as Dr. Rogers has told us, we trust our great God," the statement read. Rogers, 74, who retired earlier this year as pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., has been undergoing treatment for colon cancer the last several months, following surgery May 16. Rogers told Baptist Press in June that he was "optimistic about full remission" and that he was "doing well" for someone "in my category." Rogers played a key role in the SBC conservative resurgence and was elected president in 1979, 1986 and 1987. He is credited with helping bring the denomination back to its historical, orthodox roots.
Christian Band Gets Bumped for Refusing to Tone Down Faith Message
Jim Brown, AgapePress
A Christian band at Wright State University in Ohio says it has been the target of religious discrimination by the school. "The Ambassadors" recently accepted an invitation to perform at a WSU homecoming event, but the university backed out at the last moment and replaced the Christian music group with a secular band. The move to bump the band came after the University Activities Board asked the Ambassadors to modify their lyrics for the campus event by removing any religious references, something the band was not willing to do. Sophomore Jason Seidler, a rhythm guitarist and vocalist for the Ambassadors, says the Activities Board members argued that the school could not use public funds to pay for a religious group. "It was kind of a shock," Seidler recalls, "because I didn't think they were allowed to do that, and I didn't really think they would have the guts to pull something like that -- something that was so obvious. I figured if they'd have done it at all, they'd have been a little more discreet and just a little more subtle than that." But apparently the university officials felt justified in demanding that the Christian group either censor its message or give up the gig. "It was just sort of like they had us," Seidler notes, "and they pulled the rug out from under our feet and said, 'You guys can't play because you're Christians.'" The singer-guitarist says the University Activities Board had even already drawn up a contract and agreed to pay the group. "They basically just said, 'You're the band that's going to have the job, but we want you to tone down your music, take out the name 'Jesus' or 'God' -- you know, sort of censor it for the campus since it's a secular campus,'' he explains. "They didn't want people getting overly offended because we're playing Christian music."