Churches Under Fire

On May 5, JOHN HANFORD, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, announced an agreement with Vietnam and confirmed the release of 12 religious prisoners as part of a special amnesty, Compass Direct reports. Six Hmong Christians and Mennonite church worker LE THI HONG LIEN were among them. The agreement acknowledges recent progress in Vietnam's religious-rights policies, including a pledge to allow hundreds of disbanded churches to reopen. However, Human Rights Watch reported that state security forces continue to force Montagnard Christians to recant their faith.

Supersize Church in China

With government approval, registered Chinese Christians dedicated the LARGEST CHURCH BUILDING in the country on May 5. The 5,000-seat structure is in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, on China's east coast. Last year, authorities sentenced several unregistered house-church leaders from the same city to prison, convicting them of passing on information to foreign journalists about the destruction of illegal church properties.

Messianic Jews in Israel

Immigration from the former Soviet Union has boosted the number of MESSIANIC BELIEVERS in Israel to 10,000, according to the Jerusalem Post. Previous estimates put the number around 6,000.

Millard Fuller Update

Millard Fuller, founder of HABITAT FOR HUMANITY, under a threatened lawsuit by HFH, has announced a changed name for his new housing ministry: the Fuller Center for Housing. Initially, it was called Building Habitat .

Related Elsewhere:

Compass Direct has more information about Vietnam's religious rights agreement. Vietnam's prime minister recently visited the U.S. to much protest:

Vietnam prime minister launches U.S. tour | The first visit to America by a prime minister from Vietnam in 30 years was greeted by demonstrators shouting ''Down with communists!'' and calling for an end to political and religious persecution in Vietnam. (Associated Press)
Protests decry Vietnam leader's U.S. trip | Phan Van Khai, the first Vietnamese prime minister to visit the United States since the end of the war 30 years ago, called on Vietnamese emigres to help strengthen ties between the two countries as he began a weeklong tour aimed at improving relations with Washington. (Associated Press)
A test for President Bush on democracy, human rights | In President Bush's second inaugural address, he pledged, "All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors." President Bush has been stalwart in keeping that pledge. Let's hope and demand he continues to keep that pledge, to oppressed Vietnamese. (Bruce Kesler, The Augusta Free Press, Va.)
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Hanoi officials not off-limits for Bush | Assemblyman Van Tran, R-Westminster, was outraged when Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, D-Los Angeles, welcomed the head of Vietnam's Parliament in April, assailing Nuñez for honoring "a regime that enslaved and murdered countless thousands of my former countrymen." (John Gittelsohn, OCRegister)
Green Berets fight on for Viet allies | Three retired Green Beret members of Save The Montagnard People Inc. (STMP) crossed the border into Cambodia again in March 2005 in a rescue mission for Montagnard allies who fought beside them in the Vietnam War. (Washington Times)

Christian Today has more information about the dedication of the largest church in China.

The Jerusalem Post has the full story on the number of messianic Jews in Israel.

Weblog commented on the name change of Millard Fuller's new organization (second item). More coverage includes:

Fuller Creates Another 'Habitat' | New organization will focus on housing, too. (May 09, 2005)
Questions Follow Fuller's Firing from Habitat for Humanity | Changing corporate culture, not harassment allegations, reportedly led to founder's dismissal as president. But some say the leadership battle isn't over. (Feb. 07, 2005)
How to Build Homes Without Putting Up Walls | Habitat for Humanity strives to keep its Christian identity—a tricky task, when everybody wants to join. (May 31, 2002)
Sidebar: Evangelism of the Hammer | How Habitat's Christian identity gets translated in Costa Rica. (May 31, 2002)
Sidebar: Keeping the Faith | How other Christian organizations stay true to their mission. (May 31, 2002)
God's Contractor | How Habitat for Humanity's Millard Fuller persuaded corporate America to do kingdom work. (June 14, 1999)

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