Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Death Toll Rises in Indonesian Quake, American Samoa
- Chinese Officials Kidnap Protesting Church Leaders
- Makeshift Church Collapses, Kill 23 in Nepal
- Religious Ornaments Not Allowed for Capitol Christmas Tree
Death Toll Rises in Indonesian Quake, American Samoa
The Los Angeles Times reports that the death toll from back-to-back earthquakes in Indonesia is still climbing sharply. At least 777 people have been confirmed dead. "Let's be prepared for the worst," Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said in the capital, Jakarta, before boarding a flight for Padang, where powerful earthquakes hit on Wednesday and Thursday. Meanwhile, Baptist Press reports that North American Mission Board relief efforts in American Samoa have been delayed since the group's base on the islands was washed away. The islands suffered four devastating waves from an earthquake-induced tsunami. At least 100 people were killed by the 15 to 20 feet high waves. "We're looking at setting up the kitchen and a disaster response staging area at a school near Pago Pago," NAMB disaster relief coordinator Bruce Poss.
Chinese Officials Kidnap Protesting Church Leaders
ASSIST News Service reports that nine Fushan Church leaders were kidnapped on Sept. 25 by Chinese Shanxi Province Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers. The men were traveling to Beijing to petition the central government for justice concerning the local authorities' brutal attack on Sept. 13. According to ChinaAid, the leaders were illegally seized without warrant, and have not been heard from since Friday night. "After the arrests, local authorities forcibly confiscated all computers, TVs and other church-owned valuables, calling them 'illegal materials.' Remaining church leaders and active members were placed under house arrest and are now under constant surveillance," a ChinaAid news release reported. State police also blocked church members from gathering for worship inside the main Fushan Church in Linfen city.
Makeshift Church Collapses, Kill 23 in Nepal
Voice of America reports that 23 people were killed and at least 60 others injured when a makeshift church collapsed on a large Christian gathering in Nepal. About 1,500 minority Christians from Nepal and India had gathered in Dharan for the week-long convention while the country's religious majority Hindus celebrated their biggest annual festival. According to reports, hundreds of people were in the multi-floor, tent-like structure when it collapsed Tuesday evening (Sept. 29). Most of those killed were crushed as they slept on the ground floor. The religious minority endured a violent church bombing in June, when a bomb killed two Christians and injured 14 others.
Religious Ornaments Not Allowed for Capitol Christmas Tree
Religion News Service reports that Arizona schoolchildren are busy making 5,000 ornaments to decorate the 2009 Capitol Christmas Tree, but have been told by federal officials that the ornaments "may not reflect religious or political themes." That restriction has resulted in the threat of legal action by a conservative Christian law firm if the rules are not relaxed by Sunday (Oct. 4), the day before the deadline to submit the ornaments. "Banning Christmas from the Capitol Christmas tree is just absurd," said Jonathan Scruggs, litigation staff counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). For 39 years, the U.S. Forest Service has chosen a different state each year to provide a fresh Christmas tree for the U.S. Capitol. This year, Arizona was selected to donate and decorate the tree with the theme "Arizona's Gift from the Grand Canyon State."