News

South Dakotan Challenges Roe
vs. Wade

A South Dakota legislator hopes his bill outlawing nearly all abortions in the state will be the catalyst for overturning the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade handed down 31 years ago, according to a report from WorldNetDaily.

The bill, House Bill 1191, was introduced by Rep. Matt McCaulley on Jan. 22. It would make abortion a crime unless it is necessary to save the life of the mother, explained the Thomas More Law Center <http://www.thomasmore.org/>, which helped in drafting the legislation.

According to a statement from the center, the bill already has the support of a majority of members of both the state House and Senate. It was designed to "directly confront" Roe v. Wade, which overturned laws against abortion in all 50 states. The center says the bill is expected to easily pass both houses. Gov. Mike Rounds <http://www.state.sd.us/governor/>  "has previously vowed to protect life under all circumstances," the statement said.

"This is a decision that should be made by the people in each of the states through their elected representatives, not by nine un-elected judges in a courtroom 1,500 miles from the capitol of South Dakota. This bill puts South Dakota in the forefront of the nation and says we will lead the fight to protect unborn children," said McCaulley, a Republican.

"Medical and scientific discoveries over the last 30 years have confirmed that life begins at conception, a question the Roe Court said they could not answer."

Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the center, acknowledged a likely court battle would ensue if the legislation is passed.

Based on a WorldNetDaily report.

Attacks Against Christians Intensify Around the World

The list of suffering reads like Hebrews 11:32-39: churches seized, people dragged from meetings and beaten to death, seeing their homes destroyed, or being arrested for carrying Bibles. Instead of 2,000 years ago, however, such horrors occur daily across the world, according to several organizations that track reports of religious persecution. The situation is so bad that Forum 18-an advocacy organization based in Oslo, Norway-lists erosion of religious freedom during the past 10 years as its leading concern.

Among the abuses:

The slaughter of 10,000 Christians in Indonesia over the past five years. Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern (ICC) in Washington, said during this time 1,000 churches have been destroyed, along with 80,000 Christians' homes. 

Vietnamese authorities are stepping up their campaign against minority Christians, in some instances threatening to murder spiritual leaders, according to the Washington-based Center for Religious Freedom. Last year, that police did beat three Hmong Christians to death, including the 10-year-old child of a church leader, the center reported.

Compass Direct reported Dec. 29 that a Chinese house church leader died while in police custody after her arrest by police Oct. 29.

In mid-December, Compass reported that a 51-year-old priest was murdered Nov. 14 in Colombia, the second priest to be killed in the country over a three-week period.

In recent weeks, Forum 18 has reported on the seizure of a Methodist church in Moscow and the arrest of a Baptist pastor in Turkmenistan. Among other situations Forum 18 is following are continued state atheism in Belarus, repression practiced by Azerbaijan, and continued toleration of violence against religious minorities in the former Soviet state of Georgia. "Sadly, there are other countries which could be added to that list, as well as countries like Saudi Arabia and Indonesia," said Felix Corley, editor of Forum 18 News Service.

Burma, China, Cuba, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam were listed for totalitarian attempts to control religion, in the latest State Department's International Religious Freedom Report. Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan were listed as practicing state hostility toward minority or non-approved religions.

"North Korea is a place where they put you to death or put you in prison if you have a Bible," King said. "There's two kinds of death, one slow and one quick. Yet there is an underground church. The more they try to stamp it out, the more the light shines."

India: In the world's largest democracy, a Hindu fundamentalist movement has led to laws against converting to other faiths. Often, Hindus will attack Christian schools, churches, or evangelical rallies, beating believers with sticks. "It's a lot like Nazi Germany in the 1930s, where people used anti-Semitic laws to attack the Jews," said David Miller, managing editor of Compass Direct.

Baptist Press

Militant Hindus Plan Film Honoring Missionary's Murderer

Leaders of the militant Hindu group Bajrang Dal plan to produce a film honoring Dara Singh, convicted murderer of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two young sons. In November, 2003, a week after prominent filmmaker Sunil Agnihotri unveiled his bilingual film project titled The Murder of a Missionary, which commends the work of Graham Staines, Bajrang Dal leaders announced plans to produce Dara: the Hero.

The Hindu fundamentalist group also threatened to disrupt the shooting of Agnihotri's film in Orissa State. "For us, Staines was nothing less than a villain," said Subash Chouhan, state convener of the Bajrang Dal. "By killing Staines and his sons, Dara surely committed a crime. But his activities pertaining to conversion were good. That's what we want to portray." Chouhan refused to comment on whether the film would reenact the killing since his comments might endanger Singh's appeal against the death sentence, now pending in the Orissa High Court.

Staines and his sons, Philip and Timothy, died when their car, in which they were sleeping, was set on fire Jan. 23, 1999. They were traveling to attend an annual Christian gathering. An Australian, Staines and his family had lived in India since 1965, preaching, evangelizing and operating the Mayurbhanj Leprosy Home, where about 60 patients annually receive treatment and vocational training. His widow, Gladys, continues his ministry.

Compass via MissionNet

Grand Canyon Book Controversy Sparks Thousands of Emails

A controversy surrounding a new book being sold at bookstores in Grand Canyon National Park that offers a creationist view of how the canyon was formed has generated between 6,000 and 7,000 emails to the National Park Service. David Barna, the Park Service's chief of public affairs, says the controversy centers on the book, Grand Canyon: a Different View, suggesting that the natural wonder is only a few thousand years old.

That claim has a number of prominent evolutionists, most of whom claim the canyon is millions of years old, demanding that the National Park Service remove the book from bookstores. The book is the 2003 work of Tom Vail who collected essays from 23 contributors, most of whom hold earned doctorates in science. "We recognize there are a diversity of viewpoints and beliefs," Barna said. "It's not unusual to find books in our store dealing with how our parks were created from a native American viewpoint."

The book has been moved from the bookstore's natural sciences section to the inspirational reading section, and its status at the park is still up in the air. Grand Canyon's superintendent, Joe Alston, has sought guidance from Park Service headquarters in Washington. Meanwhile, the book has sold out and was reordered.

Assist News Service via MissionNet

Iraqi Muslim Leaders Call for End of Attacks on Christians

A call by more than 200 mainly-Muslim intellectuals and political leaders from Iraq to stop attacks on Christians and cease forcing women to wear the veil was published Jan. 4, on an Arabic Website. The call was directed at Muslim clerics, the Iraqi Governing Council, and the Coalition Authorities. They specifically called upon Islamic religious leaders to issue fatwas forbidding such "atrocious crimes against humanity and the Islamic religion." The declaration said "horrific" crimes had been committed against women in forcing them to wear the veil, but worst of all was the "terrorizing of our Christian brothers," intimidating them to become Muslims.

The new head of the Chaldean Church, Patriarch Emmanuel III, said that Muslims and Christians had lived side by side for "countless years in love and charity," but that they were now subject to attacks from extremists coming in from Saudi Arabia and Iran. He added that if legislation is enacted according to Islamic law, Christians would suffer. The Iraqi Governing Council has nearly finalized a transitional constitution that would have Islam as one of its sources of law, but not the sole one. Freedom of religious practice for non-Muslims and equal rights for women would be guaranteed. This is another welcome sign for Iraq's Christians, but it remains to be seen whether Iraq's conservative Shi'a community would accept such a constitution.

Barnabas Fund/Assist News Service via MissionNet

"Stop Telling Child Prostitutes About Jesus!"

The Times of India reported Jan. 6 that a Christian social worker named Anson Thomas is facing opposition from authorities in his campaign to rescue young children from a life of prostitution. The article stated that police seem to be turning a blind eye to the growing problem of young children that are being used as sex trade workers, and now authorities are claiming that Thomas has taken advantage of his position as a social worker to evangelize these young children. The newspaper claimed that the brothel owners had convinced police to serve Thomas notice to stop "indulging in unlawful acts which would lead to religious and social trouble." Those involved in trying to rescue these children from a life of prostitution recount many reports of police taking bribes, including the testimony from one 13-year-old girl who was allegedly told by police that the brothel was the safest place for her. There are sufficient laws in India against child prostitution, but Balkrishna Acharya of the Rescue Foundation (which is involved in rescuing minors from these brothels) said, "I can't think of one place which has been closed by the police."

Voice of the Martyrs via MissionNet

Sudanese "Urban Replanning" Disastrous to Refugees

More than 10 Christian churches and a church-run vocational training center in the sprawling Wad el Bashier refugee camp in West Omdurman, Sudan, have been demolished by authorities in an ongoing "urban re-planning exercise," affecting thousands of people. Sources in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum said that makeshift worship centers erected by Christians fleeing two decades of civil war or natural disaster have been demolished, many of them within the last two months. As part of urban planning policies dating back to the early 1990s, poor residential areas in and around the camp, including some squatter camps, are being demolished, and residents are slowly being allotted plots of land. In many cases, they are rendered homeless for months. An estimated 15,300 households have been affected by demolition in the areas around the camp, a temporary home to some 50,000 Sudanese.

The people are given a "deserted piece of land" without water supply where they put up their own shelter and struggle to find medical care, sources said. A U.N. report states that almost 7,500 shelters, houses and latrines will be affected and that the current plan is to demolish the entire area before allocating new plots rather than carry out the demolition in incremental steps as in the past. Due to conflict and natural disasters, Sudan has Africa's largest displaced population, estimated at more than 4 million people. The U.N. report notes that the average household contains seven members, and more than 90 percent live below the poverty line.

Compass via MissionNet

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Missionaries Bring Gospel to Remote Group in Russian Arctic

An unreached people group living in the remote Russian arctic recently heard the gospel for the first time through an outreach called "The Expedition," sponsored in part by Russian Ministries based in Wheaton, IL. The expedition team traveled 150 miles above the Arctic Circle to the Yemal region. "We were able to preach to those people and tell them about Jesus, whom they hadn't heard about," said mission spokesman Sergey Rakhuba. Team members distributed "shoeboxes of love" and presented the gospel through a special program, complete with music. Rakhuba said there was a "great openness" to the gospel, and everyone they talked to was positive about the message. Pastor Anatoly Marichev, from nearby Salehard, is taking responsibility to follow up these people. He is also raising funds to build a church/ministry training center that will be used not only to worship but also to facilitate the training of young leaders to reach the area for Christ.

Mission Network News

 "Year of the Bible" in Former Soviet Union

The Bible League (TBL) has declared 2004 the "Year of the Bible" for Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States. In partnership with the major evangelical denominations there, TBL is launching the campaign to encourage people to dust off the Bible and read it some for the first time. The massive campaign spans denominations, borders, and languages across the former Soviet Union.

Mission Network News

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Mega-Churches Use Business Tactics to Grow

It's no longer business as usual for a growing number of large churches in the U.S. That's the observation of a leading business magazine, which said mega-churches-defined as Protestant congregations that attract at least 2,000 worshipers a week-"aren't so different from corporations." Forbes magazine recently looked at the business ventures of several mega-churches. The 23,093-strong World Changers Ministries in College Park, Ga., pastored by Creflo Dollar, operates a music studio, publishing house, computer graphic design suite and has its own record label. The 18,500-member Potter's House in Dallas, pastored by T. D. Jakes, has a record label, daily talk show, a prison satellite network with broadcasts in 260 prisons, and a twice-a-week Webcast. The 25,060-member Lakewood Church in Houston pastored by Joel Osteen recently leased the Compaq Center, former home of the NBA's Houston Rockets, has a four-record deal and spends $12 million annually on TV airtime.

"This entrepreneurial approach has contributed to the explosive growth of mega-churches," the article said. It also noted that the growth has a higher purpose-to spread the Christian faith to as many people as possible. There were just 10 mega-churches in the U.S. in 1970. By 1990 this number increased to 250, and today there are more than 740. Average weekly attendance at mega-churches is 3,646, up 4% from a year earlier.

Charisma News Service via MissionNet

Clairvoyants Again Fail Miserably in 2003 Predictions

Clairvoyants produced a poor record in their forecasts last year. The German Society for the Scientific Study of Para-Sciences in Rossdorf near Darmstadt compared 100 predictions with reality. Almost all of them were false. For example, astrologer Kurt Allgeier predicted that Michael Jackson would celebrate a magnificent comeback as a pop singer. In fact, he was accused of child abuse. Other clairvoyants saw actor Arnold Schwarzenegger fail in his political ambitions. In reality he was elected governor of California. Other clairvoyants kept their predictions general. Astrologer Norbert Giesow foresaw a clear danger of war in Iraq. "At the time of his forecast (December, 2002) this was probably as difficult to predict as the next sunrise!" commented mathematician Michael Kunkel.

 IDEA via MissionNet

Covert Ways Used to Send Aid, Gospel to North Korea

Christians sometimes resort to using covert ways to send aid into North Korea, a country where human-rights groups say religious freedom is nonexistent. One medical missionary says Christianity is the communist nation's biggest fear. "[President] Kim Jong-Il does not allow any god besides him," said German doctor Norbert Vollertsen who traveled to North Korea, taking video and still images of the starved and dying. "The Christians in North Korea are eliminated-executed." However, Christians are finding ways to reach North Korea. Tim Peters, an American missionary and founder of Helping Hands Korea, says his ministry sends food into the country via skilled smugglers. Besides its normal monthly shipments, the ministry delivered 19 tons of baby food to a northeastern province last year. Humanitarian relief experts say that more than 4 million people have died of hunger since 1995.

Charisma News Service via MissionNet

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Orthodox Church in China Struggles Without Leadership

Following the Dec. 18 funeral of the last surviving Orthodox priest in Beijing, it remains unclear when the Orthodox community in the Chinese capital will once again be able to worship freely in its own church. "There are up to 250 Orthodox believers in Beijing," said visiting Russian Orthodox priest Dionisy Pozdnyayev. "But the situation for them is so difficult. You cannot even call them an organized community. They have no priest now, no church, and nowhere to pray." But he expressed some optimism over the possibility for Chinese Orthodox men to study for the priesthood in Russian theological institutions. "The authorities were positive about this idea." The Russian Orthodox Church has been trying over the past few years to help the Chinese Autonomous Orthodox Church to revive its activity, which was decimated during the Cultural Revolution.

Forum 18 News Service via MissionNet

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