Chinese Group Claims Religious Freedom 'Fully Respected'
Amazingly, some Chinese religious researchers have released a report stressing the rights of millions of Chinese believers. According to The China Daily, the Society of Religious Studies of China reports: "We do not interfere in the religious freedom of individuals, and we believe this kind of freedom is a part of their basic rights and fundamental interests."
The Society of Religious Studies of China is the largest body studying religion in the country, containing academics, but also government officials.
The society, at its fifth national congress, on Aug. 1, elected Zhuo Xinping, a researcher with the Institute of World Religions under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences as its new president. Zhuo pledged that during his tenure, he would promote exchanges with related departments and institutions so as to set up an academic network for religious studies in China. The society will also enhance international co-operation, Zhuo added.
According to official statistics, China now has more than 100 million believers of various religions, including Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism.
Hostages' Children Appeal for their Release
Charisma News reports that the children of a missionary couple held hostage in the southern Philippines by Muslim extremists have made heart-wrenching appeals for their parents' release. Taped messages by Martin and Gracia Burnham's children, Jeff, 14; Mindy, 12; and Zach, 10, were aired last week on Radio Mindanao Network.
"You people that have kids must understand what it's like to be separated from your family, so please let them go," Mindy said. Jeff added: "I want to ask you guys if you could just set my parents free, because I would really like to see them again. I miss them a lot, and you know they didn't really do anything wrong. They were just at that resort for their anniversary, and you know, that would be really cool if you could just set them free."
The Burnhams, Manila residents who were originally from Kansas, and members of the Sanford, Fla.-based New Tribes Missions, have been held along with 18 others since May 27, when extremists raided a resort off the Philippine island of Palawan.
The couple has been credited with boosting the moral of fellow captives, The Orlando Sentinel reported. According to a former hostage, they lead daily prayers and encourage fellow hostages to persevere by talking about things such as Gracia Burnham's recipe for apple pie.
COLOMBIAN EVANGELICAL LAWYERS SURVIVE MURDER ATTEMPT
Attack Thwarts Plans to Form a National Christian Legal Society by Deann Alford
AUSTIN, Texas, August 3 (Compass) -- A Colombian lawyer has temporaril abandoned his plan to unite the country's Christian attorneys in a national legal society after a "sicario," or killer for hire, apparently attempted to kill him.
David Pérez Palacio, a Presbyterian lawyer from the Caribbean coastal city of Barranquilla in northern Colombia, was visiting his brother in their hometown of Cereté, about 600 miles northwest of Bogota, when he was approached by a lone gunman. The July 27 attack was thwarted when cries from Palacio's sister-in-law alerted the gunman to witnesses.
The murder attempt, an example of the lawlessness that threatens numerous Christian leaders in Colombia, so frightened the evangelical lawyer that he is considering fleeing the country.
After the incident, David hid in Oved's office and then left for Barranquilla at noon, where he has been on constant vigil for paramilitaries who may come looking for him.
Still, he doesn't think that the incident has derailed plans to create a society of Colombia's Christian lawyers. "I'll push for [the legal society]from wherever I am, but there are lawyers that will create the society without me."
Even if the brothers are both able to find work abroad, they worry they may not survive until then. He asked Compass, however, to report the incident.
"Please pray for us. Vilma just called me to say that suspicious cars are continuing to drive around their house."
DEATH SENTENCE CONFIRMED AGAINST PAKISTANI CHRISTIAN
Supreme Court Appeal is Last Chance for Ayub Masih by Barbara G. Baker
ISTANBUL, August 1 (Compass) -- The Multan High Court rejected the death-sentence appeal of Pakistan's most high-profile Christian prisoner last week, upholding a lower court verdict to execute Ayub Masih for alleged blasphemy against the Muslim prophet Mohammed.
The unexpected ruling, issued by Judge Khawaja Muhammad Sharif and Judge Naeem Ullah Sherwani, was called "very devastating news" by some localreligious rights activists.
"This man is really unfortunate for being detained for five long years for no substantial reason," NCJP executive secretary Peter Jacob told Compass today.
The ruling against Ayub Masih marks the first time that a high court in Pakistan has failed to acquit a Christian convicted in the lower courts on blasphemy charges. To date, all such cases -- invariably fabricated to avenge personal quarrels or maneuver financial gains -- have been overturned for lack of evidence.
"The current verdict is probably the result of extremist pressure," the NCJP observed in an action appeal yesterday labeled, "Justice at stake in case against Ayub Masih."
A report in "The News" the next day stated that "many fundamentalists outside the court building threatened [Zaidi] with dire consequences for pursuing the case."
Refused bail since he was jailed nearly five years ago, Masih has spent the last three years on death row in Multan's New Central Jail. His "guilty" verdict on April 27, 1998, rests solely on the verbal accusations of his Muslim neighbor Mohammed Akram, without any further corroborating evidence.
In fact, the 14 Christian families from Masih's village of Arifwala were evicted from their homes, and their land was confiscated on October 14, 1996, the same day that the alleged blasphemy case was registered against him. According to an NCJP report issued this week, the house belonging to Masih's family is now occupied by his accuser, Mohammed Akram.
In a report released May 15, Amnesty International charged that the administration of ruling General Pervez Musharraf "has not been able or willing to effectively tackle the increasing religious intolerance which is the background against which the human rights of minorities in Pakistan have been abused."
YOU PRAYED! IT HAPPENED! Through the representation of Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO), The Sudan Peace Act passed through the U.S. House of Representatives on June 13, 2001. The bill condemns war being waged by the National Islamic Front (NIF) government in Khartoum and its associated human rights abuses. The bill seeks to bring solution to the war in Sudan by facilitating famine relief efforts and raises standards for businesses engaging in commercial activity in Sudan.
LINKING UP! The Voice of the Martyrs is making it easier for kids to learn from, serve and link up with the persecuted Church. At Linkingup.com, young people can find stories, articles, and resources especially designed to meet them at their level. Go to www.linkingup.com or visit The Voice of the Martyrs at www.persecution.com.
PERSECUTION NEWS is a non-regular periodic service of Foot of the Cross Publications. Articles are copied from various sources, including Newsweek, Compass Direct, Religious News Today and FridayFax. The information is for the sole purpose of disseminating information about persecution of Christians around the world, and subscriptions are free.