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Religion Today Summaries - November 22, 2011

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - November 22, 2011

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

In today's edition:

  • Senate Grants USCIRF Stay of Execution Until December
  • Iraqi Christians 'Living in Fear'
  • Kazakhs Feeling Effects of New Laws Restricting Religious Freedom
  • Refugees at Risk in South Sudan


Senate Grants USCIRF Stay of Execution Until December

The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations voted 70-30 Thursday night to keep the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) alive until Dec. 16, the Christian Post reports. Since its inception in 1998, USCIRF has become the American government's most prominent agency concerning religious freedom around the world, advising the president, Congress and the State Department on how they should stop religious persecution. Thursday's vote is the third time this fall Congress has approved a measure to keep USCIRF operating temporarily, and religious leaders urge Congress to reauthorize it for good: "Barely keeping an agency running is no way to demonstrate that religious freedom is an important national priority," said Lindsay Vessey of Open Doors USA.

Iraqi Christians 'Living in Fear'

More than a year after an attack on a Baghdad church left 58 dead, Christians in Iraq's capital say they still fear for their lives, Christian Today reports. "Living in Iraq means living in fear," said Amir Jaje, superior of the Dominican Order in Baghdad. "There's no feeling safe, and during the last two or three weeks the situation has got worse, because of tensions among political parties." He said congregations felt anxious despite police protection outside churches, and feared infiltration by the Islamic extremists who were behind the deadly attack last year. Iraq faces uncertainty as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw completely by the end of December, turning over peacekeeping responsibilities to Iraqi security forces; Jaje warned that in such times of unrest, minorities "suffer the worst consequences." Thousands of Iraqi Christians have left the country in precaution, finding refuge in Europe, the U.S. and neighboring countries like Syria and Lebanon, but Juje said those still left were not despairing: "Our hope is like a small candle still burning in a dark tunnel. And I believe we will not lose this hope."

Kazakhs Feeling Effects of New Laws Restricting Religious Freedom

A month after two new laws limiting religious freedom came into effect, Kazakhs are beginning to feel the full effects of the ever-tightening restrictions, Mission Network News reports. The laws, introduced in October in an attempt to crack down on religious extremism, imposed registration regulations on religious groups, gave children involved with religious activities fewer rights and banned prayer rooms in all public places, including in prisons. "The government argues that having such prayer rooms allows them to be exploited by extremists," said church leader Aleksandr Suvorov. Not only have evangelical and Orthodox churches been affected, but some Islamic mosques have been shut down as well. Joel Griffith of the Slavic Gospel Association said this mentality could be extremely harmful to ministry, particularly prison ministry: "A lot of churches actually are formed behind prison walls, and these prisoners basically have their own congregations behind prison walls. ... It's obvious that prison ministry is going to be made a lot more difficult."

Refugees at Risk in South Sudan

Amid reports of Sudan bombing the new nation of South Sudan and of rising tensions between the two countries -- apparently over how they will share crude oil reserves -- thousands of Christian refugees are caught in the crossfire, Mission Network News reports. Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA, said the situation in South Sudan was quickly deteriorating and questioned why international officials hadn't addressed it: "We have seen and documented bombs falling on refugee camps in critical areas. ... We have 300,000 displaced in that area. We've got people being killed on a regular basis and literally bombs being dropped, and it's as if nothing is taking place. ... If there's a full-scale war going on, eventually it'll come to the world's attention. But unfortunately at that point it may be too late to do anything about it." Moeller called on international organizations and U.N. officials to condemn the violence, and asked Christians around the world to pray for the plight of the Sudanese church.

Publication date: November 22, 2011