Contractors refuse to build abortion clinic
Prolife groups are using a new strategy to stop construction of a Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Austin, Texas. Six weeks after construction began, the project's general contractor pulled out in November when it could find no subcontractors willing to provide concrete, plumbing, and other work.
Local concrete contractor Chris Danze organized the boycott. Danze said every concrete supplier within 60 miles of Austin has agreed not to supply materials. Danze sent a letter to 750 executives of construction-related companies asking them not to participate. Calls and more letters followed, urging companies not to participate in the construction of the facility, which was scheduled to open in 2004 to provide abortions and other services.
Texas Right to Life got involved by thanking companies for pulling out and offering to share their names with the prolife community. Then churches said they would not work with any contractor who provided construction services for Planned Parenthood.
"It's brilliant in the sense that most of these guys do large commercial jobs, and a lot of them do churches,'' David Bereit, director of Bryan-based Coalition for Life, told reporters. "There are a lot more churches than abortion clinics in Austin."
— Rob Moll
Turkmenistan tightens religion law
Turkmenistan is making life miserable for religious minorities. On November 10 last year, the government in the former Soviet Central Asian state passed a religion law even more restrictive than the one in place since 1991. All religious groups must be registered, but registration is now restricted to those with at least 500 adult members. This represents an insurmountable obstacle to all but Sunni Muslims and the Russian Orthodox.
"The nation is ruled with Soviet-style oppression by President Saparmurat Niyazov, a totalitarian nationalist dictator who has created a personality cult around himself," said Elizabeth Kendal of the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission. "Those who share the gospel do so at great risk to their life and liberty."
The law states that those who violate its provisions a second time within one year face "a fine of between ten and thirty average monthly wages, or corrective labor for a term of up to one year, or deprivation of freedom for a term of up to six months, with confiscation of illegally received means." The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said it is deeply concerned about the "harshly repressive new law."
The 5 million people of Turkmenistan are 91 percent Muslim and 2.6 percent Christian (mainly Orthodox). Operation World estimates annual evangelical growth at above 14 percent. Christians say they will try to keep meeting without drawing attention to themselves. Authorities broke up a Baptist Sunday service on November 30 in Balkanabad, taking all those present to the police station.
Still, one Baptist told the Forum 18 news agency, "The rulers of Turkmenistan are not in charge. God is still in his place."
Al Qaeda targets Christians in kingdom
Al Qaeda bombed a foreign workers' compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on November 8, 2003—killing seven people. That much everyone knows. What has been obscured in Saudi government statements and media coverage about the attack is that six of the victims were targeted because they were Christians. Paul Marshall, senior fellow at Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom, lays out the case in a Weekly Standard article.
Marshall notes that Saudi religious police raided the compound, situated in a Lebanese Christian neighborhood, three months before the attack because they had heard an "un-Islamic" party in progress. Marshall wrote: "The fact that the Saudi authorities did not reveal that this was largely a Lebanese Christian area, that they rapidly demolished the remains and stayed silent while the media misreported the identity of the victims, suggests a deliberate attempt to mask what is going on in the kingdom."
- Former U.S. Senator Paul Simon of Illinois died in a Springfield hospital on December 10 at the age of 75. Simon succumbed to complications after heart surgery. Simon was the son of Lutheran missionary parents, and his faith prompted him to advocate social programs to feed the poor, overhaul student loans, and curtail television violence. He once rebuked the church, saying, "Centuries before Jesus or Muhammad, the prophet Amos wrote that because people denied justice to the oppressed, the Lord despised their religious assemblies, their songs and their sacrifices."
- E(rvin).K(insley). Bailey, founder of Concord Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas and a prominent mentor to black pastors and lay leaders, died on October 22. Bailey, 57, had suffered from lung cancer. Mark Bailey (no relation) of Dallas Theological Seminary told the Dallas Morning News of E.K. Bailey's two great contributions: "One was his ability to mentor young men in pastoral ministry. [The other] was building bridges between the races."
- Christian apologist Robert Passantino died on November 17 after a heart attack. Passantino, cofounder of Answers in Action, was 52. Mark Mittelberg of the Willow Creek Association in suburban Chicago told CT Passantino was "the answer man behind so many famous answer men and women."
- Orville H. (Ted) Fletcher, 71, founder and president emeritus of the Pioneers missions agency in Orlando, Florida, died on November 19 at his home in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Pioneers has 1,000 workers in the United States and in 50 other nations.
- James B. Torrance died unexpectedly on November 15 at his home in Edinburgh, Scotland. Torrance, 80, was professor emeritus of systematic theology at the University of Aberdeen. Torrance, known as a mentor to other Christian leaders, wrote Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace (IVP, 1997). With his brothers Thomas F. Torrance and David V. Torrance, he wrote A Passion for Christ (PLC, 1999).
- The Northwest College board of directors voted on December 4 to rename the school, in Kirkland, Washington, to Northwest University. The new name will be fully implemented next year.
- In September the U.S. Senate confirmed Rear Admiral Robert Burt as the 50th chaplain of the Marine Corps and Deputy Chief of Navy Chaplains. Burt, a minister with Open Bible Churches since 1977, is the first chaplain endorsed by the National Association of Evangelicals to attain such a high rank.
- In December the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada announced the appointment of David Arrol Macfarlane as director of national initiatives. Macfarlane is a former church pastor.
- Peruvian army Colonel David de Vinatea, an evangelical Christian, was released from prison after serving a sentence based on spurious drug-trafficking charges. Convicted in December 1997, de Vinatea received a 16-year sentence. An international coalition of Christian organizations accused officials in former President Alberto Fujimori's government of fabricating the charges to cover up their own illegal activities and to silence de Vinatea. President Alejandro Toledo decided to commute his sentence in 2002, after sustained international lobbying. "We have seen a lot of cases of Christians going to jail for believing in Christ," said Richard Luna, Open Doors Latin America director. "In David's case, he went to jail for obeying Christ."
- In March, Gary Bishop, formerly president and CEO of Mission Aviation Fellowship in Redlands, California, will join the World Bible Translation Center in Fort Worth, Texas, as vice president for development.
- Nicholai Nedelchev of Bulgaria was elected to a second term as president of the European Evangelical Alliance, which is part of the global World Evangelical Alliance. The vote took place during the EEA's General Assembly in Budapest, Hungary, in October.
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