Pakistan's rural churches can't protect themselves
There have been several arrests of those behind recent attacks on the nation's Christians, but most Pakistani believers are convinced that the assaults will continue. "[The extremists] say, 'Americans are Christian, the West is Christian, so let's kill Christians here in retaliation,'" Shahbaz Bhatti, head of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, says in the current issue of Newsweek. The magazine also notes that Christians are now arming themselves.
They may have guns, but they don't have much hope of keeping Muslim terrorists from attacking their churches. "While armed police and private security guards are on duty outside Christian schools and churches in the cities, no protection can be offered to those in the remote reaches of Pakistan," reports the British Daily Telegraph. That's problematic, because those rural churches are also the poorest and can't afford to hire their own security. "It's not possible. The money isn't there," Anthony Lobo, the Catholic Bishop of Rawalpindi, tells the paper. "We can't afford them [guards]. We are spending all our money on keeping the parishes and the schools. … We are struggling to pay the teachers without having to pay guards as well."
Don't expect any major capital campaigns from within the churches, either. "There are no rich Christians," Lobo explains. "There are no industrialists, top bureaucrats, or feudal lords. There are no top people in the army and air force. Christians are all lower middle class or poor and destitute people. When you talk about the Christian community here, you are talking about the margins of society."
More than 70 Christians arrested or "disappeared" in China
The Committee for Investigation on Persecution of Religion in China, headed by former house church leader Bob Fu, says at least 71 Christian house church members were arrested or "disappeared" over the last few months, most in July. The Associated Press couldn't verify the story, but it would be extremely difficult to do so, and the group is very reliable on such matters. So far there's nothing on the committee's website on this latest round of arrests, but it has many other troubling documents about religious persecution in China. This latest crackdown is apparently tied to the Communist Party's national congress.
Meanwhile, reports The Ledger of Lakeland, Florida, some Christians in the U.S. have their doubts about how orthodox many of China's house churches really are. Local retired pastor Giok Se Tjiong is on a mission to reform them. "One proclaims that the second coming of Christ will be as a Chinese woman. It recalls Chinese idol worship," he tells the paper. He's also upset about the "holy laughter" movement there, even though he himself is a Pentecostal who formerly pastored Assemblies of God congregations. "I have seen demon possession like that but not the work of the Holy Spirit," he says.
Another local, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida coordinator Pat Anderson, explains, "For many, Christianity is new, and they're easily influenced by heresies. An emotional religious approach and emphasis on miracles are attractive to those rural people." Anderson recently returned from a trip to China, where he met with leaders of the officially sanctioned Three Self churches.
The National Post of Canada talks about another trip to China. "Rev. Philip Woo is planning to break the law in China today," the story begins. (One hopes The National Post website is one of those sites the Chinese government bans.) "The shy, gentle Lutheran minister, who runs Hong Kong's Chinese Evangelical Ministry, intends to travel to flood-ravaged villages in China's central province of Hunan with a donation of 10,000 pounds of rice. Along the way, he will also secretly visit a series of illegal underground churches to preach and hold religious services."
Missions and ministry:
- 250 Dalits adopt Christianity | The Seventh Day Adventist Church had shot into the limelight in 2001 when it converted more than 1,500 dalit Hindus to Christianity (PTI)
- Answering the special call to minister to the young | Whatever the reason, it takes someone special to nurture the hearts of children, guide them with a loving hand and give them spiritual nourishment as they journey through their Christian experience (Associated Press/The Charlotte Observer)
- Bible Society on a mission to spread word among Scots | The Scottish Bible Society, founded in 1809 to provide Bibles to missionaries in countries as far afield as Kenya, Korea and China, is launching its strategy on home soil after widespread concern that Scotland is turning into a nation of agnostics (The Scotsman)
- Behind the Peruvian shootdown | CIA contract pilot was "nervous" before attack on missionaries' plane (The Washington Post)
- Dressing down for summer worship | Across the nation, many churches are making a conscious effort to allow more informal attire for summer worship (The New York Times)
- Husband and wife—and the father | A man whose wife married their priest sues the Arlington Diocese for millions (The Washington Post)
- Sacred mysteries | I had thought that some of the conservative Evangelicals in the Anglican Communion had been crying wolf when they said that the issue of homosexuality could lead to schism. But now, despite an attempt to paper over the cracks, a schism does seem to be opening up. (Christopher Howse, The Telegraph, London)
- Congregations working to make church buildings handicapped accessible | It's not just about wheelchair ramps (The News & Advance, Lynchburg, Va.)
- Land prices too steep for many churches | Some church groups rent space in City Hall, Kennedy Community Center and the local library for their services (The Mercury News, San Jose, Calif.)
- Churches losing faith in vans | For the past two years, the U.S. Department of Transportation has been issuing warnings about 15-passenger vans because of the increased number of rollover crashes, many involving religious groups (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- Couples can tie knot in inflatable church | It is 47ft high from ground to steeple and includes a blow-up organ, altar, pulpit, pews, candles and a gold cross. It even has plastic "stained glass" windows (Ananova)
- What would Jesus write? | Christian film critics offer answers (The Bergen [N.J.] Record)
- Screenwriters try to be good while doing well | A support group helps its members reconcile career success in a secular business with honoring God (Los Angeles Times)
- Lessons from the 'Soprano' family | While others see mob boss Tony Soprano as a violent, depraved killer, Houston pastor Chris Seay identifies with his values (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- Oh, let me be banned | For book sales, you can't beat banning (A.C. Snow, The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)
- Public schools vs. Mom and Dad | The public-education monopoly can't stand the thought of ''un- qualified'' parents teaching their own children. That is why they are cracking down on home schooling. (Michelle Malkin, The Miami Herald)
- No place like home | More parents become fed up with public and private schools for reasons other than faith. For them there's only one place to get an education: at home (St. Petersburg [Fla.] Times)
- The controversy over teaching Islam and the Koran | Academic freedom versus Christian fundamentalism in North Carolina (Elaine Cassel, FindLaw.com)
- Different denomination, same faith | Non-Catholics find Catholic schools (Herald Times Reporter, Manitowoc, Wis.)
- Govt. bonds can aid religious school | A $15 million municipal bond issue floated by the city of Nashville, Tenn., to fund a construction loan to a religious university did not violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. (The National Law Journal)
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