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Religion Today Summaries, September 18, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, September 18, 2003

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

  • More Evangelicals Arrested in Eritrea

  • Churches Fund Jailed Missionary's Defense 

  • Lawsuit Forces City to Lift Religious Speech Ban

  • Once-Jailed Nepali Christians Cleared of All Charges

More Evangelicals Arrested in Eritrea
Compass Direct

Police in the Eritrean capital of Asmara continued the country-wide crackdown, arresting another 12 evangelical Christians on September 7 while they were meeting in a private house for worship. Nearly all those arrested were described as young people, all members of the Dubre Bethel Church in Asmara. Yesterday, after nine days in custody at Asmara's Police Station No. 5, the police chief demanded that each of the 12 prisoners sign a commitment to deny their faith in order to be released. When the six women and six men refused, he ordered that all their food rations be withheld. Meanwhile, evangelical church leaders have been unable to learn the fate of 57 young people arrested and locked into metal containers since August 19 and 20 as punishment for having Bibles with them during their summer military camp at Sawa. At least 230 evangelical Christians are currently jailed for their faith in Eritrea.

Churches Fund Jailed Missionary's Defense
Charisma News Service

A Texas man who has taken missionary trips to Mexico is getting some help from some churches that are trying to raise funds for his legal defense after he was recently jailed in the Latin American country for possession of drugs commonly sold over-the-counter in the United States. Last month, police arrested Steve Frey in the border town of Reynosa, Mexico, after they found allergy medications in his van. Frey, an El Paso, Texas, resident was charged with transporting a prohibited controlled substance and avoiding a federal checkpoint. He was sent to a federal penitentiary in Reynosa on Aug. 23. Marty Dyer, mission director for Newsong Church in Grove, Okla., said he frequently traveled with Frey to the Valles area, the home of about 100,000 impoverished Huasteca Indians. "Steve would have a medical team comprised of doctors, dentists, nurses and other helpers who for 12 hours would see most people of a village," Dyer said. "He has single-handedly raised a medical team in Valles that goes to over 200 villages each year, seeing people who would have never had medical treatment if it hadn't been for the medical team." So far, churches in Oklahoma and Texas have raised more than $16,000 for Frey's defense.

Lawsuit Forces City to Lift Religious Speech Ban
Allie Martin, Agape Press

One Oklahoma city has agreed to change a policy that banned religious speech on buses. Earlier this year, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) filed suit in U.S. District Court on behalf of Vincenza Siano and her daughter, against the city of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.  The lawsuit contended that Siano and her daughter rode the city bus several times a week and often talked about a wide range of topics, including their faith. However, a city policy warned that any riders who talked about a number of issues -- including politics, religion, and finance -- would be removed from the bus. Siano was concerned that the policy violated their First Amendment rights. Frank Manion of the ACLJ says after a federal lawsuit was filed, the city of Broken Arrow changed those policies. "We have reached an agreement with the city whereby they have agreed to drop that language and revise their policies more in line with the constitutional rights of our clients," Manion says. The new agreement stipulates that private conversations among passengers are permissible as long as the conversation is not disturbing to the bus driver or other passengers. The ACLJ spokesman says bus riders are free to talk about their faith, provided no one complains of being personally harassed.

Once-Jailed Nepali Christians Cleared of All Charges
John Lindner, Christian Aid Report
Three Nepali workers who were jailed for four-and-a-half months on charges of proselytizing were finally cleared of all charges on September 11. A gospel worker and two fellow-believers were apprehended by police and jailed in February on charges of proselytizing because Bibles and Christian literature were found in their bags. Even though no evidence of proselytizing was found and the defendants' lawyer tried to convince the district judge that Nepal's 1990 constitution, while barring conversions, still allowed every person permission to practice his or her religion, the judge sentenced them to jail. A month later when five other believers went to visit them in jail, the police found Christian literature in their bags, and put them in jail, also. They were held overnight and released the next day. Christian leaders in Nepal attempted to make appeals on behalf of the original three and once tried to submit a letter to the king, but were turned away by the secretary, who promised to phone the judges to authorize them to set the Christians free. Yet the brothers remained in jail until June 20, when they were released on probation by a higher court pending final resolution of the case. The court decision on September 11 found no evidence that the brothers were preaching or attempting to convert others to Christianity. Not one person testified that he was preached to. So the court absolved them of all charges.