Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 19, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 19, 2006

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

  • U.S. Official’s Remarks Surprise Vietnamese Church Leaders
  • Convert from Islam to Christianity Killed in Somalia
  • Muslim Militants in India Attack Christian Missionary School
  • Bible Clubs Spreading

U.S. Official’s Remarks Surprise Vietnamese Church Leaders

Church leaders in Vietnam expressed surprise at U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom John Hanford’s statement at a briefing on Friday (September 15) that “Vietnam has turned the corner and made enormous progress on religious freedom.” Compass Direct News reports most observers concluded that this statement was a clear signal that the ambassador intends to recommend that Vietnam be removed from the State Department’s list of Countries of Particular Concern, a U.S. blacklist of worst religious liberty offenders this year. Within a day of the web postings of Hanford’s statements at the on-the-record briefing, two church leaders in Vietnam called Compass expressing their surprise that the ambassador had responded to a question by asserting “enormous progress” in religious freedom. They fear the ambassador’s statements will encourage Vietnam to relax its efforts to change.

Convert from Islam to Christianity Killed in Somalia

Somali Christian sources report that Ali Mustaf Maka'il, a 22-year-old college student and cloth merchant, who converted from Islam to Christianity eleven months ago, was shot and killed in the Manabolyo quarter of Mogadishu on September 7, ASSIST News Service reports. According to a report from The Barnabas Fund, quoting a Christian source inside Somalia, the gunman was loyal to the Union of Islamic Courts (ICU), the Islamist organization that took power in Mogadishu in early June 2006 and now controls much of southern Somalia. The report states: "The gunman shot Ali in the back after he refused to join a crowd chanting Qur'an verses in honor of the lunar eclipse. (Solar and lunar eclipses are significant in Islam and are accompanied by special congregational prayers.) The ICU confiscated his body for 24 hours before delivering it to the grieving family." The Barnabas Fund says: "It seems that under the new Islamist rulers, who include hard-line jihadi elements, the tragic history of persecution and martyrdom for Somalia's tiny Christian community is set to continue and most likely to worsen."

Muslim Militants in India Attack Christian Missionary School

On Monday (September 11), Muslim militants attacked the Good Shepherd Mission School in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir state, destroying the boundary wall and damaging the school building and equipment. Compass Direct News reports the school is run by a Dutch missionary, Father Jim Borst, 70. A national newspaper has named Fr. Borst as one of a handful of people encouraging Muslims to convert to Christianity, and officials have attempted to expel him from India. One of Fr. Borst’s colleagues said a mob of around 250 to 300 people stormed the compound of the school, destroying the boundary wall and pelting stones at the school building. “They also shouted slogans denouncing all Christian missionaries,” he said.

Bible Clubs Spreading

A story in the Tulsa World indicates that Kids for Christ USA has 39 clubs meeting in Tulsa area public schools this year. Founder Bob Heath said five more clubs are being organized, and another dozen have been started in other states. About 1,200 students attend the clubs weekly, Heath said, and approximately 9,600 children have made some type of decision to "follow Christ" at clubs since he started in 2001. Heath said the clubs are needed because in many of the schools, a majority of the students do not have a home church. A recent study suggested only 25 percent of the 85,000 teens in the Tulsa area are in church regularly. "The clubs are an incredible way to reach kids," said Heath, who is sometimes asked how he can "get away with" holding Bible clubs in public schools. "We follow the guidelines and stay within the law," he answered. The Equal Access Act of 1985 and court rulings have held that if schools allow any student clubs, they have to allow Bible clubs, and that to deny a club because it is religious would be to show hostility, not neutrality, toward religion. Though not all educators understand that, Heath acknowledged.