June 18, 2001
If one part of the body suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:26-27).
A COUNTRY AT THE CROSSROADS
(Compass) -- While few Africa watchers would rate Christian persecution in Chad as severe, isolated incidents and an ongoing process of Islamization have brought the country to a crossroads, and many Christians are concerned about the direction the country will take. Muslims are the majority in the north and east and represent about 60 percent of the total population of Chad. Christians and animists form a majority in the south. Many people in southern Chad talk about the growing influence of Islam and the government support for Islamization. Rebellion is often bubbling under the surface in the southern provinces.
The Evangelical Church in Moundou, in southern Chad, is a thriving church with several hundred members. Originally, the land where it is located was offered to the Muslim community when they requested land to build a mosque. The Muslims turned it down because it was too far from the center of town. But recently, Muslims requested that the Evangelical Church be closed because they say it interferes with their activities at the mosque opposite. This is despite the fact that the mosque, originally built in 1993, was little used until a year or two ago when Muslim fundamentalists came on the scene.
The village of Lolo, west of Moundou in southern Chad, is an example of the process of Islamization that is sweeping the country. Some Muslims approached the village elders and asked what the village needed most: a well, or help with agricultural implements, oxen, seed or fertilizer? The price the poor villagers had to pay for the well and the yoke of oxen they received was agreeing to the building of a new mosque. A sign was erected that says Lolo is now a Muslim village.
COURTS STALL ON COPT'S 'CONVERSION' CASE
(Compass) -- The wife and family of Dr. Hanna Kamal Hanna Morgan, 38, have been battling for more than a year to cancel the pharmacist's certificate of conversion to Islam. When Morgan signed the document 16 months ago, he had been undergoing treatment for illness diagnosed by his attending physicians as paranoid schizophrenia. He was released from the mental hospital without any notice to his Christian family, who were later informed by local State Security that he had become a Muslim. Meanwhile, Morgan's family learned that a court case had been opened in their home village of El-Fayoum by Morgan himself, requesting custody of the couple's two young daughters. Under the statutes of Islamic law observed in Egypt, a Muslim father automatically retains custody of his minor children.
COWBOYS FOR CHRIST ROPED OFF
The ecumenical worship service at the Pierce County Fair in Wisconsinorganized the past two years by Cowboys for Christ, won't be back for a third. "In 1999, they asked to have the service, and I thought 'why not?'" said fair coordinator Kirsten Schilling. "But constitutional laws have since come to the forefront, while the Cowboys' worship has grown," she added. "The fair committee has denied the organization's request to return for another service during this August's event."
County Corporation Counsel Karen Ebert said "having the service at the county fair would violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Wisconsin Constitution. ... We can't force anyone to support or establish a religion," Ebert said.
She added that the organization wanted to use the grandstand this year and broadcast the worship service.
To read the story online, go to: http://news.crosswalk.com/religion/item/0,,350169,00.htm
ANTI-CULT LAW A BLOW TO RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
(Compass) -- Christian leaders in France have expressed concern over a new anti-cult law they say could restrict religious freedom and serve as a negative model for other countries to follow. The French National Assembly adopted the controversial legislation on May 30, which supporters say is designed to control dangerous religious sects. Critics say the new law could repress minority religious groups. Prominent Protestant and Catholic leaders, as well as human rights groups, have criticized it as a blow to religious freedom.
Church leaders in Hong Kong fear that the passing of the anti-sect law in France may pave the way for the Hong Kong government to adopt similar legislation. The concerns stem from a Hong Kong government statement in May that it is studying overseas anti-cult legislation to specifically target the Falun Gong sect. The director of the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor warned that any anti-sect law could have implications not only for sects but also for mainstream religions. He said an anti-sect law could be used to ban Taoism, Buddhism or even the Catholic Church.
HINDU MILITANTS PREVENT CHRISTIAN BURIAL
(Compass) -- Police and civil authorities in India's Gujarat state remained mute spectators as a violent mob led by Hindu militants blocked the burial of an Indian Christian on May 28 in Kapadwanj. His family had decided to bury him at the local cemetery. However, the Christian community expected trouble because of a 1998 rampage on the cemetery by Hindu militants who had exhumed the body of another Christian. The family informed the police and the civil authorities, but they were finally forced to move the burial to the capital, Ahmedabad.
CASTE SYSTEM WORSE THAN RACISM
(Compass) -- The Indian government is receiving increasing criticism for its attempts to scuttle a discussion on the caste system during the upcoming World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. On May 7, a group of 40 prominent academicians, jurists and civil rights activists, mostly from Dalit (untouchable) communities, denounced the caste system as "worse than racism." Caste discrimination, which has plagued the Indian subcontinent for centuries, is a sensitive issue for Christians in India, as 65 percent of the Christian population hails from Dalit communities.
GOA STATE FACING 'SAFFRONIZATION' OF EDUCATION
(Compass) -- Christian aboriginals in Goa state were suddenly deprived in late May of benefits leading to higher education as the pro-Hindu coalition government removed their names from a list to receive state benefits as underprivileged communities. Goa, a state in western India, has for centuries been a Christian stronghold where the church has played a large part in primary as well as higher education. Now, Christian Gaudas and Kunbis, who constitute the most backward communities, will no longer receive the socio-economic benefits made available to them previously. Christians in Goa now constitute about 35 percent of the 1.5 million population in the state.
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY DETERIORATES DURING CRISIS
(Compass) -- Mobs attacked five East Java churches, and six Ambon Christians were hacked to death in May in a sudden escalation of religious violence being played out against a backdrop of increasing political instability. The worst anti-Christian violence came in eastern Indonesia's Maluku province, when Muslim jihad warriors attacked mainly Christian neighborhoods on the night of May 15. Violence spread to the more populous island of Java on May 29 when Muslim supporters of embattled President Wahid ran through the streets in Pasuruan, protesting attempts to impeach him. One church was destroyed and four others vandalized during the melee.
LONG-SUFFERING CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
(Compass) -- Although overwhelmingly Muslim, Iraq officially recognizes 14 local Christian communities. Since 1981, however, no new churches have been allowed to register. Iraq's Christians represent less than three percent of the estimated 22 million population. Officially a secular state, Iraq legally protects the freedom of its Christian minority to worship "in churches of established denominations," although the law forbids them to "proselytize or hold meetings outside church premises."
An Iraqi Christian who fled to Jordan last year has been trying since last November to file for political and religious asylum with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Amman. After escaping from Iraq, Yad Patrus was able to obtain copies of court documents proving he had been sentenced to two years in jail by the Iraqi government. The Ninevah Criminal Court in Mosul convicted Patrus on April 15, 1997, for writing and distributing leaflets containing Bible verses and the Apostles' Creed to his Muslim friends and acquaintances on the University of Mosul campus. According to an Iraqi Christian who has lived in Amman for the past six years, only a handful of Iraqi Christian families have won official U.N. refugee status to be resettled abroad since the Gulf War.
Baptized secretly in December of 1996, Yusuf Shams El-Dinn sensed last year that news of his Christian conversion was slowly leaking out in the local community. Despite Iraq's secularized government, apostasy from Islam remains a criminal violation of Islamic "sharia" law, ultimately requiring the death penalty. So although it broke his heart to leave his family and the local Christian community, he decided in late December to sell all his assets and flee across the border into Jordan. El-Dinn said he expected there would be many "difficulties to step over" in the months ahead, as he begins a new life away from his homeland.
SEMINARY REGISTRATION STILL IN LIMBO
(Compass) -- Two years after Jordan's only Protestant seminary was ordered to re-register under the government's Council of Higher Education (CHE), the evangelical institution's formal accreditation remains unresolved. Registered as an educational institution under the Ministry of Culture since 1995, the Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary (JETS) ran into official snags three years later, when government security officials balked at the school's applications to purchase land and build a new campus. Although the land-purchase permissions were finally granted in the spring of 1999, JETS was promptly informed that its authorization to obtain residence visas for non-Jordanian faculty, students and staff had been revoked and that it must re-apply for registration. Plans to break ground this summer and begin building the new seminary campus remain on hold.
CHURCHES MUST RELOCATE
(Compass) -- The Katsina state government in northern Nigeria has directed churches in Katsina city, the state capital, to relocate or face demolition, reported Anglican bishop James Kwasu. Church leaders have been told to relocate to a designated "Christian zone." Of the 41 churches, only the Roman Catholic, Anglican and the Evangelical Church of West Africa churches have yet to receive the directive. Katsina, with a population of more than 3.7 million people, became an Islamic state on August 1, 2000, when the state government adopted "sharia," the Islamic legal system.
The Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA) disclosed that 89 of its members, including five pastors, were killed during the sharia-induced riots in northern Nigeria's Kaduna state. Riots broke out in March and May last year, leading to the death of more than 1,000 persons. The ECWA, with a total membership of about four million, is located primarily in northern Nigeria, where riots have been sweeping the 13 states that have adopted and implemented "sharia," the Islamic legal system.
Two churches and a mosque were burned to ashes after a riot broke out on May 22 in Kumo town of Gombe state in northern Nigeria following the introduction of two "sharia" (Islamic law) bills to the state House of Assembly. Both bills seek to implement the Islamic legal code in the state. Police reported that hundreds of persons were injured in the clashes between Muslims and Christians and that property worth millions of dollars was destroyed. The area police commander said that both Christians and Muslims had been arrested, but he refused to disclose the number or religious breakdown of the arrests for fear of heightening the already tense atmosphere.
Five Nigerian Christians -- two Anglican priests and three church members -- are currently facing trial for assisting two Christian girls who escaped from arranged marriages. The teenage girls were to be forcefully married to Muslims by their father, a convert to Islam, in northern Nigeria's Kano state. The marriages would force the girls to change their faith to Islam. The five Christians were charged on May 17 with abduction. The Christians are free on bail while the trial proceeds. The Kano Diocese of the Anglican Church has hired four lawyers to defend the Christians.
TWO MISSIONARIES TAKEN CAPTIVE
(Compass) -- Two New Tribes Mission (NTM) workers kidnapped with 18 others
from a southern Philippines resort are unharmed, but the Islamic rebels that snatched them are still holding them captive. Gracia and Martin Burnham were captured May 27 while celebrating their anniversary at Dos Palmas resort. The Philippine military is battling Abu Sayyaf rebels on Basilan, an island located about 550 miles south of Manila, for the hostages' release. The missionaries were not targeted for the kidnapping, but NTM is concerned "because the two Burnhams and (fellow hostage Guillermo) Sobero are Americans and could be singled out."
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