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Religion Today Summaries - Oct. 5, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Oct. 5, 2009

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

  • Aviation Ministry Responds to Indonesian Earthquakes
  • Azerbaijan: Police 'Deport' Local-Born Baptist
  • Capitol Christmas Tree Will Have Religious Ornaments
  • Hindu Festivals Are Time for Christians to Intercede

Aviation Ministry Responds to Indonesian Earthquakes

Christian Newswire reports that Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) has flown in an assessment team to the devastated city of Padang, Indonesia, to help respond to the massive earthquake damage. The quake hit Sept. 30, destroying hundreds of buildings and homes, triggering landslides, knocking out power and cutting off roads into the city of approximately 900,000 people. Amid the fires and flooding, thousands will probably die.  Relief agencies are relying on MAF and other groups in a desperate race against time. MAF currently has two aircraft and three expatriate pilots in Sumatra, and is basing operations from Pekan Baru to the epicenter. The group is coordinating efforts with operation Blessing International (OBI) and flying in OBI relief teams. "We are working primarily with OBI," said Stan Unruh, the MAF country director in Sumatra, "but the phone is ringing off the hook with requests from the Red Cross and others."

Azerbaijan: Police 'Deport' Local-Born Baptist

ASSIST News Service reports that an Azerbaijani Christian has been cut off from his wife, father and children in his native village after being "deported" to Russia on Wednesday (Sept. 30). Local Baptist Javid Shingarov was reportedly fined and given a deportation order for holding religious worship services in his home near Yalama village. However, Yalama Police Chief Gazanfar Huseinov has refused to tell news services why he did not give his verdict in writing and why the Migration Service was apparently not involved. Human rights activists say these failures violate Azerbaijan's law. The Christian books confiscated from Shingarov and others during raids on Sept. 9 have not been returned, while a Baptist whose home was among those raided was pressured to resign from his job as a school director.

Capitol Christmas Tree Will Have Religious Ornaments

World Magazine reports that government officials have decided to allow religious ornaments on the Capitol Christmas Tree after all. Children in Arizona, who will make the decorations, had previously been told their ornaments "may not reflect religious or political themes." On Thursday, shortly after the Alliance Defense Fund threatened a lawsuit on the matter, that guideline was removed. According to a spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol, the group that oversees the Capitol tree (among other things), that was "old information," and "is no longer the position of the agency." The Christmas tree ornaments must be submitted Monday, however, meaning the guideline may have already ruled out some religious decorations. 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."

Hindu Festivals Are Time for Christians to Intercede

Baptist Press reports that Southern Baptist workers are urging Christians to pray for Hindus in October as they celebrate a month full of festivals and celebration. "Many times at the end of these festivals, the area resembles the state fairgrounds once all the rides have gone," Gene Yaussy, who is stationed in southern Asia, said. "It is at this time that I am asking you to pray specifically for the people who have enjoyed many days of festivity and are now returning to normal life," Yaussy urges, directing his words to Southern Baptists and other evangelicals who yearn for the Gospel to spread across India. The revelers "are now facing the true emptiness of their faith as these many days of celebration have ended without any response from their gods."