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Religion Today Summaries - Oct. 5, 2007

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Oct. 5, 2007

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:

  • Suicide Bomber Kills Youths in Sudanese Church
  • Human Rights Organization Urges European Union to Renew Sanctions on Uzbekistan
  • Azerbaijan Baptists “Stunned” as Court Confirms Pastor’s Jail Sentence
  • Court Rejects Religion, Abortion Cases

Suicide Bomber Kills Youths in Sudanese Church

A suicide bomber in military fatigues killed five young people at a church meeting last week in Khorfulus in Sudan’s Upper Nile State, Compass Direct News reports. The man detonated a grenade on his belt after entering an outdoor church meeting September 27. Local authorities said a Sudan People’s Liberation Army soldier was drunk and accidentally set off the grenade, but an SPLA major general reportedly said the attack was meant to intimidate churches. Military officials were unable to identify the bomber. The Rev. Joseph Maker Gordon, acting secretary general of the Presbyterian Church in Sudan, told Compass that witnesses said the man had walked up to a group of Christian youth who were singing worship songs outside of a Sudan Interior Mission church building. “Then he took out a match and began to smoke, and the children heard a strange noise,” Rev. Gordon said. “Some children started to gather around the man to see what was making the noise, and unfortunately the bomb went off.”

Human Rights Organization Urges European Union to Renew Sanctions on Uzbekistan

ASSIST News Service reports that representatives from a human rights organization are urging European Union member states to recognize the deteriorating human rights situation and the continuing limitation of religious freedom in Uzbekistan as they meet to consider the renewal of sanctions against the country. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said in a news release that the decision to renew sanctions against Uzbekistan is expected to be taken at the forthcoming meeting of European Union (EU) foreign ministers on Oct. 15 and 16. The sanctions were initially imposed following the Andijan massacre in May 2005 where at least 500 demonstrators were murdered by Uzbek troops. The EU adopted sanctions in Nov. 2005, which are renewed every six months. At the same session EU is expected to vote on whether to broaden the sanctions on Burma.

Azerbaijan Baptists 'Stunned' as Court Confirms Pastor’s Jail Sentence

ASSIST News Service reports that a court in Azerbaijan has rejected the appeal of Baptist Pastor Zaur Balaev against a two-year prison sentence. Azerbaijan is in Southwestern Asia, bordering the Caspian Sea. “We're stunned at the result the court handed down,” the head of the Baptist Union Ilya Zenchenko told Forum 18 News Service. “We don't know what to do. It is a tragedy for his wife and children.” He said Baptists had been optimistic that the sentence would be overturned or at least reduced. Forum 18 said that officials would not explain to the news service why Balaev has been targeted for his religious activity with his congregation. Other Baptists in his home village of Aliabad near Zakatala have also been targeted. Zenchenko said he and other church members had been able to speak in court in the morning session, but that the verdict was handed down “very quickly” in the afternoon.

Court Rejects Religion, Abortion Cases

Baptist Press reports that the U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals of lower-court decisions involving religious liberty and abortion on the first day of its new term. Among the opinions the justices announced Oct. 1 they would not review were rulings against: A Christian ministry that sought to hold worship services in a California public library; Catholic Charities and other groups that challenged a New York law that requires religious social service agencies to cover contraceptives as part of their prescription drug benefits; Employees of the city of Oakland, Calif., whose advertisement on a bulletin board for an association that would discuss the "natural family" was removed by a supervisor; A New Jersey woman who sued a doctor because he refused to tell her having an abortion would kill a child.