Religion Today Summaries - October 4, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - October 4, 2004

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

  • Cuba: Pastors, Churches in Need after Bout of Hurricanes 

  • Early Release for Indonesian Pastor 

  • Arkansas Church Gains Rightful Access to Hand Out Flyers in Schools 

  • Nigeria: Islamic Militant Group Terrorizing Non-Muslim Communities

Cuba: Pastors, Churches in Need after Bout of Hurricanes
Christian Aid

Cuba is just beginning to recover from the pounding it took this summer as Hurricane Charley and then Hurricane Ivan hit its western tip. Among those suffering loss of property are indigenous churches supported by Christian Aid. The most devastating storm for Cuba was Charley, which passed over the western part of the island the second week of August. Despite the government's evacuation of about 200,000 people, four lives were lost. Approximately 20,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, leaving thousands of families homeless. Hurricane Ivan brushed the same area in mid- September with winds approaching 160 mph. Though its hit was not as direct, it did exacerbate the already bad conditions. The leader of a native ministry supported by Christian Aid reports that at least one house used as a church lost its roof and was partially destroyed. This leader requests prayer as he and his missionary staff strive to help this church and its pastor. He also asks for assistance as he and his coworkers spread the love of Christ to Cuban families by helping to supply clean water, clothing and food to those who have lost their homes. 

Early Release for Indonesian Pastor
Sarah Page, Compass Direct

On Saturday, September 25, imprisoned pastor Rinaldy Damanik celebrated his 45 th birthday. However on Monday, September 27, he had far greater cause for celebration when police announced he would be released in November 2004 -- almost a year earlier than his original release date of September 2005. Damanik was originally sentenced to three years' imprisonment under what many believe were false charges. In an interview with Compass earlier this year, Damanik said he would continue his campaign for peace after he was released. Reports from Indonesia indicate that a leading Muslim cleric, Idrus R. al Habsy, befriended the imprisoned pastor and learned how Damanik was working for peace in Poso, an area wracked by conflict and bloodshed. The elderly cleric became a staunch advocate on Damanik's behalf. In August, Idrus signed a guarantee directed to the Minister of Justice and Human Rights declaring Damanik to be a "man of good character" who "should be allowed to go free."

Arkansas Church Gains Rightful Access to Hand Out Flyers in Schools
Allie Martin, AgapePress

A Baptist church is now able to distribute brochures in one Arkansas school district.  District officials are being praised for reversing their decision denying the church that right. Recently Anthony Shepherd, the children's pastor for the First Baptist Church of Cabot, Arkansas, attempted to hand out flyers in local schools informing student about the Upward Basketball Program.  But Shepherd was told by school officials that he could not distribute the brochures.  School officials cited the so-called "separation of Church and State." Shepherd then contacted the American Family Association's Center for Law & Policy (CLP), explaining the district permit's a variety of non-student groups to distribute literature at the schools.  On behalf of the youth pastor, CLP attorney Brian Fahling wrote a letter to the district, outlining the church's rights under the First Amendment.  Fahling explains the school reversed its position when it understood the law. "This is just a generic equal access principle," he says, "and in this case it was a non-student group that wanted access to the school.  The school allowed non-student, secular groups in but were denying it to this church -- and you can't do that.  It's just a very simple calculus here: what other groups are permitted to do, Christians are permitted to do." The attorney says the case is another example of the importance of educating public schools about what the law -- not the American Civil Liberties Union -- requires.

Nigeria: Islamic Militant Group Terrorizing Non-Muslim Communities
Charisma News Service

An Islamic militant group that has been terrorizing non-Muslim communities in the African country's northern region recently burned down villages, killed four policemen and kidnapped seven Christians. On Sept. 20, about 60 members of the Muslim sect known as the Talibans attacked police stations in the towns of Bama and Gwoza, located in Borno State, Compass Direct reported. They then carried out raids on Christian communities, killing, raping and burning down homes. Police said 14 bodies have been recovered from areas that were raided. Some of the attackers were reportedly killed in a joint operation carried out by the police and the Nigerian army. Five militants who escaped into neighboring Cameroon were arrested by security forces of that country. Meanwhile, police said they are attempting to trace the whereabouts of the seven kidnapped Christians. Causing havoc in non-Muslim communities since the beginning of the year, the Islamic militants are predominantly Muslim university students and claim affiliation with the Islamic Taliban of Afghanistan, Compass reported.  (