U.S. troops or not, changes are afoot in Burnham rescue
There's some confusion over the Philippine government's willingness to allow U.S. troops to help rescue New Tribes missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham. Yesterday, Alan Bjerga of The Wichita Eagle (which is covering the Burnhams' plight almost daily) reported, "U.S. ground troops will not be invited to aid in a rescue." Reuters confirmed this, quoting a Philippine presidential spokesman, who said, "I would like to emphasize that in no way can there be (U.S.) ground troops or combat troops. Only strategy in close coordination and in communication—for instance, even suggesting how a terrain could be approached, how troops could be deployed."
But today, the Eagle's Bjerga has an article quoting Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) as saying the doors are open. "Tiahrt said he thinks the difference between advisers and ground forces in any rescue effort will be largely semantic," Bjerga writes. The congressman told him, "Political leaders and the press in the Philippines have an opposition to having the term 'U.S. troops' in the country, but the reality is, their military needs our assistance. … They want, quote-unquote, 'trainers,' but that's in a broad sense of the word. Those trainers will be well equipped, side-by-side with Philippine forces. Some of their training will be on-the-job."
Meanwhile, the Philippine military is radically restructuring its efforts to free the Burnhams and destroy the radical Muslim Abuy Sayyaf Group that is holding them hostage: the Marines are out, the Army is in. The Marines "have been given a chance to implement the rescue operations since the hostages are in their area of operation, but nothing happened," a Southern Command officer told The Inquirer newspaper. But Marine officers are frustrated by the move, saying they're very close to a rescue. One of the units going in is a Philippine Army group trained by the U.S. Delta Force. Will this change of strategy help or delay rescue efforts? Who knows? First, President Gloria Arroyo promised to rescue the Burnhams by Christmas. Now she's promising "complete and total annihilation" of the Abu Sayyaf within the next three months.
Suspect found in Detroit church vandalism case, but it's bad news
King of Kings Lutheran Church in Shelby Township, Michigan, has had a bad last few months. At the end of October, someone broke in and stole computer equipment, then ran around setting off fire extinguishers. Two weeks later, someone broke in again and poured paint and communion wine on the pews, the altar, walls, and computer equipment. The damage topped $50,000. "We're looking at somebody who has a connection in the church, maybe a family member of a parishioner … [but] we're kind of at a loss," Lt. Roland Woelkers told the Detroit News back in November. Turns out he was right. Wednesday, the pastor's 17-year-old son allegedly confessed to the crime, along with another teen. At the time, the son was living with his mother, who is divorced from King of Kings pastor Louis Fourney. "Obviously, to do this kind of extent of vandalism, there's a lot of deep-seated issues there between the pastor and his son, but it's not our job to get into that," Woelkers says.
- Democrats target "religious right" | Will draw comparisons with Taliban (Howard Fineman, Newsweek)
- Also: Inside Politics: Demonizing Christians (Greg Pierce, The Washington Times)
- The charity of strippers embarrasses church | Leaders must decide whether to distribute toys collected at a strip club. (St. Petersburg Times)
- In largest unity movement ever, churches blur denominational lines | Churches Uniting in Christ, which includes nine denominations, has particular emphasis on race (The Christian Science Monitor)
- Coffee serving higher purpose | More churches and synagogues are buying organic, "fair-trade" and "shade-grown" gourmet coffee intended to benefit environmental and social causes (Chicago Tribune)
- Family leaves conflicted church | Police presence, protests disturb parishioners (The Toronto Star)
- Judge says ex-Klansman can be tried | Bobby Frank Cherry will stand trial for 1963 Birmingham church bombing (Associated Press)
- Church official faces charges of embezzlement | Secretary allegedly took $18,000 (Tallahassee Democrat)
- Woman raped in Louisiana church | Police seek suspects (WDSU, New Orleans)
- Defying cops, 3,000 at bishop's funeral | Chinese mourn Catholic bishop of Beijing (Chicago Tribune)
- Also: Funeral of dissident Chinese bishop (BBC)
- Christians in Indonesia | Allowing persecution to happen. (Julia Duin, National Review Online)
- Nigeria executes murder convict | Hanging is first execution since a dozen Nigerian states began introducing the Shariah legal system last year (Associated Press)
- Also: Nigeria's first Sharia execution (BBC)
Denominations you probably haven't heard of:
- Faith: Praying with the heirs of Hus | Moravian Daily Texts is an astonishing booklet that has been printed year after year since 1731 (UPI)
- Also: Jan Hus: The Incendiary Preacher of Prague (Christian History)
- Old Believers keep Russian roots alive in Oregon village | Sect comprised of descendants of dissident Christians who split from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th century, then fled to the United States to escape persecution (Associated Press)
Wheaton, Colorado Springs, Minnesota?:
- Evangelicals in Minnesota influence national movement | "Maybe we're the Bible necktie," says Evangelical Press Association's Doug Trouten (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
- Also: Minnesota's noteworthy religion stories in 2001 (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
- Archdiocese fights posters for condoms | Subway ads say Catholic bishops are responsible for deaths (The Washington Post)
- Local ads stir up Utah controversy | Polygamy becomes a target for fun (USA Today)
- Album sales spin slower, ending years of growth | But Christian music sales are up 13.5 percent. New Age music is up 83.2 percent (The Hollywood Reporter)
Other stories of interest:
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