Praise and Prayer

Praise: Bail Granted to Christian Woman Accused of Blasphemy-Naseem Bibi, a Christian woman charged with desecrating a poster of Khana Kaba, the Muslim holy place in Saudi Arabia, was released from jail on bail on April 22 after posting surety bonds of 50,000 rupees ($832.628 USD). According to the Pakistan Christian Post (PCP) she was arrested on March 3, 2006, under accusations that she had desecrated a flyer of Khana Kaba. "I love Jesus Christ too much. I often saw Him in my dreams. Jesus met me many times in my dreams and showed His love to me. That is why I have emotional attachment with Jesus Christ," Bibi said. "On March 3, 2006, I was at my home and washing clothes. A protest march was passing in our street. My elder daughter told me that Muslim protesters are making sign of cross on the heap of garbage and hitting it with shoes. I could not control myself when I saw that Muslim protesters were desecrating cross. I shouted and quarreled with them. They were in large numbers they started to beat me. Meanwhile someone phoned to emergency police. Heavy force of police and four vans of military came there and freed me from the clutches of fundamentals. They took me to the police station and on the same day they sent me to the jail." Naseem Bibi is the mother of four children. She has taken refuge in Lahore with her husband and children for safety.

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Pray: Convert From Islam Strives for Recognition as Christian-The Malaysian federal court on April 13 granted permission to Lina Joy, a Malaysian Muslim convert to Christianity, to appeal the government's refusal to remove her Muslim status from her identity card. A Compass Direct release states that a three-member panel of judges of the nation's highest court ruled that, "there were novel issues to be argued in the case and the matter was of public interest." The ground-breaking decision came after lower courts repeatedly dismissed her application. Besides religious rights for Joy, at issue is whether Islamic courts have the sole right to handle cases of Muslims who leave their religion. Joy, previously known as Azlina binti Jailani, became a Christian in 1990 and was baptized in 1998. Since 1997, Joy has submitted multiple applications to the National Registration Department (NRD) to change her name to reflect her new-found faith. Her application for a name change was approved on October 22, 1999, and she was issued a new identity card the following month. Her new identity card, however, stated that she was a Muslim according to a new regulation that came into force on Oct. 1, 1999, requiring all Muslims to be declared as such on their identity cards. The NRD refused to change her religious status and insisted that Joy obtain an order from the Islamic law court stating that she had become an apostate.

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Praise: Divinity Students, Inmates Find Knowledge Behind Bars-Vanderbilt University's Writing About Religion' class is being held at Riverbend Maximum Security Prison in Nashville, home to Tennessee's death row. An AP story appearing in The Christian Post reports how inmates and Vanderbilt students sit together and immerse themselves in passages from Matthew, discuss the meaning of faith, and debate the discovery of the Gospel of Judas. The class meets once a week, on wooden chairs moved into a circle. "All the great men went to prison, the way I see it-Jesus, Paul, and John the Baptist," said 35-year-old inmate Rahim Buford, who was sentenced to life at 18. "If you want to find out who you are, you have to be confined in some way." The program began three years ago with faculty members volunteering their time to introduce divinity students to the growing number of people who seek religion behind bars. For some inmates who have no expectations of ever living outside of Riverbend's prison walls, the classes represent a precious moment of freedom. "It's an opportunity to deal with the loneliness. These classes have probably saved my life," said inmate Tom Warren, 47.

Religion Today Summaries

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Praise: Indonesian Tsunami Survivors Send Money for Katrina Victims-A Baptist Press story details how Louisiana Baptist Convention officials recently opened an envelope filled with $854 cash, which turned out to be an offering from several grateful citizens of Sumatra, Indonesia-a region decimated by the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami. Twenty Sumatran men reached deep in their shallow but generous pockets to send aid to Louisiana, which they heard was hit by Hurricane Katrina. During the tsunami disaster, these 20 men had experienced the help of Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers. The Indonesian men remembered how these particular Americans helped them, cared compassionately for them and loved them unconditionally.

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