Religion Today Summaries - November 16, 2011

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - November 16, 2011

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Iranian Pastor on Death Row Under Pressure
  • Egyptian Christians in U.S. Call for Action Against Persecution
  • Georgia Schools Cut Bible Classes to Pay Bills
  • China: Century-Old Church to be Demolished, Congregation Protests


Iranian Pastor on Death Row Under Pressure

Imprisoned Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, awaiting a decision on his death sentence for refusing to recant his faith, has faced physical and psychological torture, Compass Direct News reports. Nadarkhani, sentenced to death a year ago after a court of appeals in Rasht, Iran, found him guilty of leaving Islam, is in deteriorating health, according to a source close to his family who requested anonymity. The source said communication with Nadarkhani was limited, but that he had undergone torture. "Certainly he was hit, but his [telephone] conversations are heard [by authorities]," the source said. "We know that he has been in extreme situations, and we consider that torture. When you have spent time in a solitary cell unable to talk to others for a long time, or you are told you will be killed, that is also torture." Authorities have continued to pressure Nadarkhani to recant his faith while in prison. The court in Rasht was expected to pronounce a verdict on his appeal last month but instead sent his case to the Iran's Islamic authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, to make a ruling. Some reports indicate a ruling could come the second half of December.

Egyptian Christians in U.S. Call for Action Against Persecution

Egyptian Coptic Christians living in the United States have sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, imploring her to take more action against what they called the "crime against humanity" facing the Christian population in Egypt from the Muslim Brotherhood, ASSIST News Service reports. In the Nov. 9 letter, Monir Dawoud, head of the American Coptic Association, warned the U.S. government that the radical Muslim Brotherhood was "attempting to annihilate Christians" and other religious minorities in the country. Dawoud called for a guarantee of rights for all minorities to be included in the new constitution after Egypt's new government is elected in less than three weeks, and demanded that aid to Egypt be conditional on the country's justice toward Christians and minorities. He also warned Clinton and the U.S. government to take note that the Muslim Brotherhood had intentions of "planned destruction" against America: "The Muslim Brotherhood is deadly serious about waging what it calls 'civilization jihad' against the United States and other freedom-loving countries in order to secure their submission to the Islamic totalitarian political-military-legal doctrine called Sharia." Dawoud's letter is expected to get some traction in Congress, where repeated calls to stem the popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood have been heard.

Georgia Schools Cut Bible Classes to Pay Bills

Economic troubles are causing public school districts in Georgia to cut Bible education classes, five years after the state became the first to allow the controversial elective, WORLD News Service reports. Budget cuts require classes to have at least 25 students to be affordable, and more and more students are opting to take Advanced Placement courses instead of electives. "We're not going to [use] a teacher for a whole period with 10 to 15 students," said Columbia County superintendent Charles Nagle, who cut the Bible classes from three to one in his district. "We just can't afford to do that." Four years ago, 48 of Georgia's 180 school districts offered the classes, but this year only 16 districts are continuing them. Sarah Jenislawski, executive director of the Bible Literacy Project, said there was still "a consistent interest from both districts and students in Bible courses," but that schools were struggling just to keep "the lights on and ... the air conditioning running."

China: Century-Old Church to be Demolished, Congregation Protests

A 125-year-old church built by Anglican missionaries in China's Shandong province is facing demolition despite being a government-approved Three-Self Patriotic Movement church, and members say they will fight to the death to save it, China Aid reports. Even though four buildings in the church compound are protected national historical landmarks, real estate developers have already won government approval for the demolition. One wall has already been knocked down, and church members have lodged a formal appeal with the government to stop the demolition and are working to draw attention to their plight. "We are not afraid to die," one member said, "but we would not leave everyone without an answer: Pray for us!" Meanwhile, a Chinese government-sponsored exhibit of Chinese Bibles is tour through the United States as part of an attempt to convince Americans that religious freedom still exists in China and to divert attention from the ongoing government persecution of Christians.

Publication date: November 16, 2011