Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 21, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 21, 2006

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

  • State in India Modifies Anti-Conversion Law
  • Indonesian Christians to Face Firing Squad this Week
  • Study: Most Southern Baptists Don't Embrace Calvinism
  • Jordan: The Birthplace of Christianity?

State in India Modifies Anti-Conversion Law

Compass Direct News reports the Gujarat state assembly House, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, on Tuesday passed a bill to modify the state anti-conversion law of 2003, with intent to clear various legal hurdles that have prevented the implementation of the law. The Gujarat Freedom of Religion Bill was passed on March 26, 2003, but objections by the state legal department over some of its provisions have prevented the state government from framing rules to implement it. Under the terms of the 2003 Act, anyone wishing to convert from one religion to another needs prior permission from the district magistrate. According to the amendment, people converting from one “sect” to another within the same religion would not require this permission. Christians in Gujarat fear that the amended law, once enforced, may be used to harass Christians. A similar law enacted in Madhya Pradesh has contributed to an increase in the harassment and intimidation of Christians.

Indonesian Christians to Face Firing Squad this Week

Indonesian officials say three Christians will be executed by firing squad this week, despite a papal clemency plea and objections that their trials were unfair, AgapePress reports. The men were found guilty of leading a Christian militia that launched a series of attacks on Muslims in May 2000, including a gun and machete assault that killed at least 70 people who had taken refuge in an Islamic school. It was one of the bloodiest incidents in two years of fighting between Muslim and Christian gangs that killed at least 1,000 people from both faiths. New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith is urging the president of Indonesia to stop the scheduled execution. He says commuting the Christians' death sentence "would be an act of compassion and benevolence and would send a message of reconciliation." Smith adds, "Those who thirst for blood should realize that that only breeds more bloodletting." But Indonesian officials say the time has come for the three men to face the firing squad. The men, who maintain their innocence, were scheduled to be executed one month ago, but won a last-minute stay from Indonesian officials, sparking protests by Islamic hard-liners. Only a handful of people have been convicted in the violence, and the three Christians are the only ones to be sentenced to death.

Study: Most Southern Baptists Don't Embrace Calvinism

The Christian Post reports that LifeWay Research has released the results of its first project, showing that the majority of Southern Baptist pastors do not consider themselves five-point Calvinists. The first of four projects for this year, the study found that only 10 percent of Southern Baptist pastors embrace five-point Calvinism even as conversations on Calvinism has created renewed interest within the denomination on the theological system. According to the study, 85 percent said they do not consider themselves five-point Calvinists and four percent said they "don't know." A slight majority of respondents address Calvinism from the pulpit once a year or less; 45 percent address it several times a year or more; 6 percent speak on it once a month; and 7 percent discuss it more than once a month.

Jordan: The Birthplace of Christianity?

“Jordan is the birthplace of Christianity and Christians should come and visit its Biblical sites.” According to ASSIST News Service, that’s the view of Munir Y. Nassar, the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities in Jordan. In an interview in Amman, he said, “We have in this country some of the most revered and some of the most important sites in the Christian religion. In fact, you can say that Jordan is where the Christian religion actually started -- at the baptismal site [at Bethany Beyond the Jordan] where the Holy Spirit came down on Jesus when he was baptized by John The Baptist. This is where the ministry of Jesus began and it can he found on the east side of the Jordan River in Jordan. “Other than that, we have many more biblical sites if you want go over a much longer span of the history of Christianity and Judaism.” When asked, Nassar named some of the key Christian sites Christian pilgrims could visit: “We have Gadara in the north of the country where Jesus case out the demons out of the man and into the ‘Gadarene Swine.’ Then you have Mount Nebo where Moses is said to have seen the Promised Land. "We have more churches per square meter in Jordan old Byzantine churches than you have anywhere else in the world. In fact the oldest church in the world was uncovered in Aqaba about six or seven years ago. Wherever we dig, we come up with a Byzantine church. Whenever we dig we come up with some kind of a Christian pilgrimage site."