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Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 15, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 15, 2009

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

  • Concerns Rise as New Pakistan Church Attacked
  • During Ramadan, Egypt Arrests 155 Christians, Minorities
  • Columbian Pastor Assassinated by Presumed Paramilitaries
  • Police Slow to Investigate Burned Church in Egypt

Concerns Rise as New Pakistan Church Attacked

About 100 Muslims attacked a Pakistani church on Friday in the latest "vigilante attacks" against Christians in the country, Agence France-Presse reports. "They set fire to prayer mats and some religious books but the timely arrival of police prevented the situation from taking an ugly turn," local police official Rafaqat Ali told AFP. "The church suffered no major damage." The attack was allegedly a response to a young Christian's desecration of the Koran. Pakistan's Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti said the government will rebuild the church, and that police have dealt with the young man in question. "No one from minorities can even think of desecration of the holy Koran," he said. "Some people want to destabilize the country by doing such things, but the government will not allow anyone to play with the lives and properties of the minorities."

During Ramadan, Egypt Arrests 155 Christians, Minorities

Baptist Press reports that authorities in southern Egypt have arrested 155 Christians and other non-Muslims for publicly eating and drinking during Islam's holy month of Ramadan. A Christian organization in the country warned the enforcement of Islamic law on non-Muslims would "create another Taliban in Egypt." The arrests, which occurred in the states of Aswan and Dakahlia and the resort city of Hurghada, were made to maintain order and decrease crime during the holy month, an unnamed government official told the Los Angeles Times. Human rights organizations were quick to react, calling the arrests both illegal and unconstitutional. "Every citizen has the right to eat and drink in Ramadan without being harassed," said Gamal Eid of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information. "This means that the government is implicitly endorsing turning Egypt into a religious state."

Columbian Pastor Assassinated by Presumed Paramilitaries

A Colombian pastor was assassinated in his home last Sunday by three masked gunmen, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide. Forty-one year old Rafael Velasquez, pastor of the Foursquare Gospel Church in Marañonal, died instantly. The attack took place on the evening of September 6, after a church service in a Montelibano hamlet. The armed and masked men broke into Pastor Velasquez's home and shot him dead in front of his wife and six young members of his church. Paramilitary groups vying for power in the region are thought to be responsible for the pastor's murder. At least fifteen pastors in Córdoba have come under threat over the last six months. A number have been forcibly displaced as a result of the threats against them and their families. The situation in Córdobais part of a larger pattern of severe violations of religious liberty in Colombia.

Police Slow to Investigate Burned Church in Egypt

ASSIST News Service reports that a Coptic Church northwest of Cairo, Egypt, was burnt on Tuesday, September 8. No one was injured, but area Christians feel that police are turning a blind eye. There were conflicting reports as to the cause of the fire, the Egyptian police told the media that it was caused by a "short circuit" even before carrying out an arson investigation, while others believe it was arson. Church authorities, however, have declined to comment on the situation until the police finish their investigation. The fire began midafternoon, after people had left morning services. Bystanders outside the church who saw the blaze inside discovered that the church doors' were locked, preventing them from containing the blaze. "Only the Holy Alter remained miraculously unharmed, but all the Saints' relics, icons and pictures were reduced to charcoal," commented a church worker.