Religion Today Summaries - November 17, 2011

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - November 17, 2011

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

In today's edition:

  • Churches, Prayer Rooms Closed in Kazakhstan Prisons
  • Christians in Malaysia Accept Ruling on Church Raid
  • New Holy Land Museum Will Bring Bible to Life
  • Burma: 10 Killed in Grenade Attack on Orphanage


Churches, Prayer Rooms Closed in Kazakhstan Prisons

Kazakhstan has recently closed churches, prayer rooms and mosques in prisons, citing two laws restricting freedom of religion or belief before they came into force, International Christian Concern reports. Aliya Kadenova of the Interior Ministry said: "Mosques and Russian Orthodox churches were built in prisons in violation of building regulations and the law. They are illegal -- that's why they are being closed down." Religious leaders have complained to the government and are questioning why, if the worship rooms had been built illegally, no prison governors had been prosecuted. "How can these Orthodox churches have been built illegally?" said Aleksandr Suvorov of the Astana and Almaty Orthodox Diocese. "Prisons are zones under the strictest of controls." Some prisoners have been put in solitary confinement for continuing to pray, under the watch of the secret police.

Christians in Malaysia Accept Ruling on Church Raid

Following controversy over a raid on an Aug. 3 church dinner at which Muslims were present, Christian leaders in Malaysia welcomed a sultan's pronouncement that neither the Christians nor the state officers who disrupted the meeting would be prosecuted, Compass Direct News reports. The sultan of the state of Selangor issued a statement saying the officers of the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) did not breach any state laws in the raid on Damansara Utama Methodist Church, and while church leaders welcomed his wish for religious harmony and his decree that no one would be prosecuted, Dr. Ng Kam Weng of the Kairos Research Center argued that the ruling "cannot be taken as license" for Muslim religious authorities to intrude or trespass on church premises. The sultan's ruling asserted that, based on a report and investigations by JAIS, there were attempts made at the church event to "subvert the faith and belief of Muslims," which is illegal in Malaysia, though there was insufficient evidence for legal action to be taken against the Christians. The sultan commanded JAIS to provide counseling to the 12 Muslims present at the dinner in order to restore their faith and belief in Islam.

New Holy Land Museum Will Bring Bible to Life

The Israeli government has approved an idea to build a Bible museum in the land of Jesus' birth, and the project will combine exhibits depicting Old Testament characters and times along with displays of biblical artifacts, the Christian Post reports. Israel's governing body, the Knesset, approved the Israel Bible Valley project on Nov. 13 and will soon decide the museum's location -- some possibilities include historic biblical regions such as Neot Kendumin and Adulam. According to Emek Hatanakh, the Israeli non-profit organization behind the project, the exhibits could include functional biblical farms and villages, archaeological digs and performances of Bible stories once the museum opens. "It's absurd that in the land of the Bible, there is no center dedicated to it," said Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister. Shimon Peres, Israel's president, said: "There is no other book in the entire world quite like the Hebrew Bible, whose pages are old and withered, but whose ideas are fresh and alive. It is eternal and has significance to each new generation."

Burma: 10 Killed in Grenade Attack on Orphanage

At least 10 people were killed and more than two dozen injured in a grenade attack at an orphanage in a primarily Christian region in northern Burma on Nov. 13, the Christian Post reports. The attack, which occurred in Myitkyinar, Kachin State, happened as a study group was taking place inside the orphanage, increasing the number of casualties. It is unclear why the orphanage was targeted, but Kachin State has seen increasing violence targeting Burma's Christian minority. Recent restrictions have been placed on the region's Christians, restricting their freedom to worship, hold Bible studies and pray, and forbidding them to build new churches or display religious symbols in public. More than 30,000 people from Kachin State have been displaced since June, when insurgent groups renewed fighting with the Burmese military. Burma is regarded as one of the world's worst violators of religious freedom, and the country's official newspapers did not include reports on the orphanage bombing.

Publication date: November 17, 2011