Religion Today Summaries, September 5, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, September 5, 2003

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

  • Khartoum Threatens Southern Sudanese Churches
  • Holy Land Christians; Get Rid of 'Separation Wall'
  • Defenders of Religious Freedom Implement Constitution 'Lesson Plan'
  • Final Hearing Set in Indian Murder Case

Khartoum Threatens Southern Sudanese Churches
Barbara Baker, Compass Direct

Sudan's Khartoum regime presented a threatening memorandum in early August to Christian leaders in Juba after the southern Sudanese church leaders refused to back the government's position on peace negotiations now underway in Kenya. The conflict began on August 5, when local church leaders presented a three-page letter listing the church's "points of concern" for peace to the Sudanese government delegation meeting in Juba city. The government council responded two days later with a terse memo ordering Juba's church leaders to tackle religious issues without involving themselves in "political or security issues," embrace "tolerance towards all religions," and abstain from inciting public opinion against the government and its officials. In a written response dated August 28, Juba's church leaders labeled the resolution "an official threat and intimidation to our mission."

Holy Land Christians: Get Rid of the `Separation Wall'
Michele Chabin, Religion News Service

The heads of the Christian churches in the Holy Land are appealing to public figures and private citizens around the world to pressure Israel to halt the construction of a "separation wall" that, once completed, will separate the West Bank from Israel. In a joint letter being circulated to journalists, government officials and church faithful, the nine leaders from Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran churches, said the barrier, started approximately 18 months ago, "constitutes a grave obstacle" that will lead to "a feeling of isolation" on the part of both Israelis and Palestinians.  If the wall is extended to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, as planned, it "will be devastating to the Christian community," the church leaders said. "The community will be isolated following the deprivation of access to land and the freedom of movement." They warned that visits by pilgrims, which have dwindled to a trickle since the start of the Palestinian uprising three years ago, "will be further discouraged." The leaders expressed their abhorrence of violence, whoever the perpetrator, but singled out Israel as the source of the ongoing violence between Jews and Arabs.  The church officials urged "peace loving peoples around the world" to contact their political and religious leaders.

Defenders of Religious Freedom Implement Constitution 'Lesson Plan'
Allie Martin, Agape Press

A civil liberties organization is launching a campaign to educate students, teachers, and administrators about the U.S. Constitution. The Virginia-based Rutherford Institute has sent legal memos to each of the more than 15,000 public school superintendents across the nation to warn them against censoring student religious expression. The Institute's president, John Whitehead, says a national initiative to educate about the Constitution has been introduced. "The ABC's of the U.S. Constitution in the Classroom" is a campaign to teach people how to uphold the Constitution in America's public schools. Whitehead says with the start of each new school year, there is always a slate of cases in which the constitutional rights of Christian students have been violated. "In a lot of the cases we see, we believe it's because of ignorance. They don't know the law...This [campaign] is something we're hoping will defuse problems," he says. The Rutherford Institute wants Christian students and parents as well as educators to know about the freedoms their Constitution affords. "What we're hoping to do in the future is set up a curriculum that schools can use to start teaching these things right, so when our kids graduate from high school they can actually know what the law is, and teach their own children," he adds.

Final Hearing Set in Indian Murder Case
John Lindner, Christian Aid Report

The final court hearing in the case of the murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons, Philip and Timothy, is set for September 8. Chief murder suspect is Dara Singh, a well-liked Indian wrestler and actor who is accused of leading a band of crazed Hindus that poured gasoline over the jeep station wagon in which Staines and his two boys were sleeping in Manoharpur village, Keonjihar district, Orissa. Eye-witness reports say they then set it ablaze and prevented the occupants from escaping while they also blocked other villagers from coming to the rescue. Dara Singh was not declared guilty by a lower court, and a 13-year-old boy was found to be the scapegoat in an earlier trial. While most Christians and the rest of the world denounced Dara Singh as worthy of punishment, many Hindus consider him a national hero and defender of their culture. Dara once played the lead role in "Hanuman," a film that takes its title from the name of the monkey god, the god of body builders in India. Someone said it would be easier to convict Arnold Schwarzneggar of lack of patriotism than to convict Dara Singh of the murder of Graham Staines and his sons. The court proceedings beginning September 8 will presumably sound the final official word on the matter.