Religion Today Summaries - September 24, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - September 24, 2004

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

  • Myanmar: Indigenous Ministries Help Flood Victims

  • Religious Freedom Watchdog Cites China's Repeated Offenses

  • Russia: Beslan Tragedy Takes Lives of Pastors' Children

  • Sri Lanka:  Christian Expressing Relief Over Supreme Court Ruling

Myanmar: Indigenous Ministries Help Flood Victims
Christian Aid

Due to unusually heavy monsoon rains and melting of mountain snows, Myanmar has experienced a bout of intense flooding in recent weeks. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed along the Ayeyawaddy River in central and southwest Myanmar, displacing hundreds of families. At least 20 have died since the river began overrunning its banks in late July. Many flood victims are trying to survive on upper floors of buildings, living in dangerously unsanitary conditions with their pigs, dogs and even cattle. Travel is only possible by boat. A growing problem is sickness due to lack of clean drinking water. Also, increasing numbers of rats and poisonous snakes are seeking dry spots in human houses, causing some to die after being bitten. According to flood victims, authorities are unable to do anything to relieve their suffering. Some are reportedly threatening villagers not to say anything about the destruction to outside sources. Indigenous ministries are shouldering the burden of caring for flood victims in the name of the Lord, providing food, warm clothing and clean water for displaced families. Native missionaries are also seizing the opportunity to preach the hope of Christ. One gospel worker recently shared the message of salvation from a boat as he traveled a flooded area. He reports that "many boats came around and listened, and over 30 people raised their hands to accept Christ."

Religious Freedom Watchdog Cites China's Repeated Offenses
Allie Martin, AgapePress

The head of the U.S. Department of State's Office of International Religious Freedom says China continues to oppress Christians and other religious groups, and that is why the Communist nation remains on the department's list of "countries of particular concern." The release of the sixth annual State Department Report to Congress on International Religious Freedom has cited a number of repeat offenders on its list of governments that violate citizens' basic human right to religious liberty.  China is one of five nations that has been among those offending nations for quite some time. John Hanford, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, notes that the conditions reported in China warrant that regime's inclusion on the list of countries of particular concern. For years the Communist government in China has continuously engaged in the repressive treatment of Christians and other religious groups, Hanford explains. "Protestants are forced to belong to the government-sanctioned church," he says, "and if they don't and they try to meet in house churches, then they risk arrest and, in some severe cases, beatings and torture."

Russia: Beslan Tragedy Takes Lives of Pastors' Children
Christian Aid

When Chechen rebels seized an elementary school in Beslan in early September, taking over 1000 parents and children hostage, they unleashed a horrifying series of events that have resulted in what one reporter called "the worst terror-related human catastrophe in the history of Russia." At least 335 lives were lost from shootings or explosions, most of them children. Seven hundred victims are hospitalized, many with serious life- threatening injuries. Among those affected by this tragedy are two pastors affiliated with an indigenous ministry supported by Christian Aid. One pastor lost four of his five children. The surviving child is currently in the hospital. Another pastor lost one of his children and, as of the latest reports received by Christian Aid, could not find his other child. The suffering these men of God are enduring is unimaginable. Brothers and sisters in the USA can do their part to ease their pain by helping with medical and funeral costs. Please remember in your prayers these pastors and other Christians who are suffering after the incomprehensible tragedy of Beslan.

Sri Lanka:  Christian Expressing Relief Over Supreme Court Ruling
Charisma News Service

Christians are expressing relief over the country's recent supreme court ruling, which determined that clauses of a proposed anti-conversion bill violate the constitution. The court's decision last month came as a blow to the all-Buddhist monks' political party Jathika Hela Urumaya, which has been campaigning to ban conversions to Christianity, Reuters reported. The measure proposed a fine the equivalent of $11,000 and imprisonment for up to seven years for violators. Christian denominations have strongly opposed the bill and feared that it would be used to curb religious freedom and target believers. "Christians are happy that the court has struck down certain controversial clauses in the bill as unconstitutional," Roshini Wickremesinhe, legal officer with the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka, said. "The voting on the bill, if at all, will certainly take months now. We accept the supreme court determination." Christians constitute about 8 percent of this prominently Buddhist country's 19.7 million people, 70 percent of whom are Buddhists. According to Operation World, with Christianity growing by more than 11 percent a year, Christians have come under increased persecution -- more than 50 violent attacks were reported in the last six months. Some 146 Christian churches were forced to close down between December and March, Christian Solidarity Worldwide said. (