Religion Today Summaries - September 17, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - September 17, 2004

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

  • Pakistani Children Kidnapped by Muslim Father 

  • Pro-Family Spokesman: Anti-Religion Site Crosses Line With Criminal Content

  • Eritrea Arrests Five More Evangelicals

  • Under Legal Pressure, Dallas Suburb Permits Church Build

Pakistani Children Kidnapped by Muslim Father
Compass Direct

Two Pakistani children were snatched away from their Christian mother by their Muslim father, Abdul Ghaffar, on September 13. Joshua, 5, and Miriam, 3, were secretly spirited from the Lahore Family Court shortly after Ghaffar had begun a two-hour court-supervised visitation session. Seven years ago, as a teenager of 17, the children's Christian mother, Maria Samar John, had been abducted and forcibly married to Ghaffar. For the next two and one-half years, she was a virtual slave in Ghaffar's home in Gujranwala, locked in the house and beaten by both her husband and mother-in-law for refusing to say the Muslim prayers. She had borne a son and was pregnant for the second time when she managed to flee her captors. Since December 2000, Maria and her children have been in a safe-house location. Maria obtained a legal divorce from her forced marriage in February 2003. "Their mother is very sad and very worried about the children," a Christian lawyer told Compass today.

Pro-Family Spokesman: Anti-Religion Site Crosses Line With Criminal Content
Allie Martin and Jenni Parker, AgapePress

A Christian faith and family research center is calling for action against the operators of a website that advocates an orchestrated campaign of arson and violence against churches and religious people. The Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society is outraged over the "" website, which describes Christianity and Judaism as "forms of mind control" and calls for enemies of religious faith to burn down houses of worship. The site's author also advocates the killing of true believers, saying he looks forward to the day when "the executions of die-hard Christians and Jews will commence." Larry Jacobs, the Howard Center's vice president, says the religion-bashing Internet site is a sad commentary on the state of America and the way that people of faith are depicted by the anti-religious cultural elite. He disagrees strongly with those who compare what the anti-religion website does to nonviolent political or social protest, as he says a number of liberal groups have tried to do. Although some might argue that such inflammatory rhetoric as can be found at is protected under the First Amendment, Jacobs says this is not a free-speech issue. Jacobs believes the website is based in Virginia and says the state's attorney general has been asked to investigate.

Eritrea Arrests Five More Evangelicals
Compass Direct

Eritrean security police pounced on five evangelical Christians holding a prayer meeting in their church office in Asmara last week, hauling them off under arrest to a local police station. Five members of the newly formed New Covenant Church meeting at an office building in the capital were taken into custody about 7:30 in the evening on September 7. Reportedly six or seven security officials were systematically searching through an entire corridor of offices in the building when they came upon the small group praying together in their office. After a day's detention at Police Station No. 2, the one woman among them was released, but the four men were transferred to cells at the Adi-Abyto military camp outside Asmara. Prison authorities have refused to allow the pastors' families or friends to deliver any food or other provisions to the men since late August. Popular evangelical Christian singer Helen Berhane also remains jailed in strict isolation in a metal container at Mai Serwa, just north of Asmara. Since her arrest four months ago, Berhane has refused to sign a promise to stop participating in evangelical activities and return to the Orthodox church. The regime of President Issayas Afewerki banned all of Eritrea's independent Protestant churches in May 2002, ordering their buildings closed and criminalizing any meetings for private worship in members' homes.

Under Legal Pressure, Dallas Suburb Permits Church Build
Allie Martin and Jenni Parker, AgapePress

A small Hispanic congregation will be able to construct a place of worship in one Texas city after officials backed down from an earlier ruling, which forbade the church to move ahead with building plans. It was back in 1997 when the Templo La Fe Worship Center purchased land for a sanctuary in the Dallas suburb of Balch Springs. Earlier this year the city denied a special-use permit for the church, claiming the plans violated zoning regulations.  However, Liberty Legal Institute, an organization that specializes in defending religious freedom and First Amendment rights, filed a lawsuit against the city on the church's behalf. Under pressure, the city council reversed its decision and granted the church its permit. Liberty Legal's director of litigation, Hiram Sasser, notes that Templo La Fe filed its complaint in June 2004, charging that the city wrongfully used its zoning regulations to deny the congregation the right to build a church on land it had bought in 1997. When the city initially failed to comply with the demands of the suit, the U.S. Department of Justice got involved and opened its own investigation into the case. Sasser is pleased that Department of Justice was willing to act in defense of the congregation's constitutional rights and grateful to have a Justice Department that is willing to defend Americans' religious freedom.