Wednesday, June 27, 2007

June 27, 2007

[ ] Hanwuri Korean Church Moves Into Own Home
[ ] Australian Elders Appeal to Assembly
[ ] Ken Wingate Appointed Interim South Carolina Treasurer
[ ] William David Silver, 1947-2007
[ ] Theologian Sentenced For Comparison between Abortion And Holocaust
[ ] Iraqi Presbyterian Pastor Seeks Michigan Asylum
[ ] Romania Proposes French Solution

HANWURI KOREAN CHURCH MOVES INTO OWN HOME

Hanwuri Korean Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, moved into its new building on 25 June. The building at 2024 Sam Newell Road in Matthews was the former home of Blessed Sacrament Academy. The first worship service at the new location is scheduled for July 1. The Hanwuri Church currently meets at Wedgewood Baptist Church in South Charlotte.

+ Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, One Cleveland Street, Greenville, SC 29601

AUSTRALIAN ELDERS APPEAL TO ASSEMBLY

Some 15 Presbyterian elders identified as the Fellowship have appealed excommunication to the General Assembly of Australia. The appeal will be held at called meeting in Sydney, the first such meeting in the body's 106-year history.

The struggle has extended for more than a decade. Opponents say the movement began under the direction of Bruce Teele, a former stockbroker, in the Anglican Church. After decades of controversy, the grop allegedly moved into three Presbyterian congregations.

The Victoria Assembly excommunicated Fellowship leaders for exercising presumed authority over the lives of members contrary to traditional practice at the expense of family relationships.

+ Presbyterian Church of Australia, 168 Chalmers St, Surry Hills, NSW, 2010 PO Box 2196, Strawberry Hills, NSW, Australia 2012 (02) 9690 9333

KEN WINGATE APPOINTED INTERIM SOUTH CAROLINA TREASURER

Ken Wingate, 47, an elder at First Presbyterian Church (ARP), Columbia, South Carolina, was appointed interim state treasurer on 20 June by South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.

The Columbia lawyer will run the agency's day-to-day operations until Treasurer Thomas Ravenel is cleared and returns to his duties, or is convicted and removed from office, or resigns. The governor may appoint another interim treasurer for a longer term.

Wingate opposed video poker and the South Carolina lottery. He has been actively involved in public service and in his church. He currently serves on the Catawba Presbytery Church Extension Committee. Your prayers for him will be appreciated.

+ Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, One Cleveland Street, Greenville, SC 29601

WILLIAM DAVID SILVER, 1947-2007

William David Silver, whose 1975 application for ordination in the United Presbyterian Church -- the first by an openly gay man -- set off a continuing debate in the church over admitting homosexuals into the ministry, died on 26 May, according to The New York Times. He was 59 and lived in New York City. The cause of death was complications of AIDS, Dan Jennings, a friend, told the newspaper.

A grandson of Presbyterian missionaries in China, Silver hoped to follow them into the ministry when he entered Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan in 1969. It was in his final year there, in 1973, that he came to terms with his homosexuality, according to The New York Times. Two years later, when applying to the Presbytery of New York for ordination as an assistant pastor at Central Presbyterian Church on Park Avenue and 64th Street, he shocked committee members interviewing him by saying he was gay.

The local body then asked the church's national leadership for definitive guidance. The answer came in 1978, when the church's general assembly voted to prohibit ordination of "unrepentant" homosexuals as ministers, elders or deacons, the newspaper reported. It cited the church's constitution, or Book of Order, which requires that its married officers remain faithful to their spouses and that its unmarried officers live chastely.

Silver was born in Pittsburgh in 1947 and grew up in Carnegie, PA. He received a bachelor's degree in fine arts from Ohio Wesleyan University and a master of divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary. Silver worked as a graphic and fine artist, as an organizer of art shows and street fairs, and as advertising research director at Architectural Digest, Bon App├ętit and other magazines.

He is survived by a sister, Betsy Storey, and a brother, Jim, both of Fort Wayne, IN. Silver remained involved in the church for a number of years after the general assembly vote. He left the church in the mid-1980s, disillusioned, he said, by its refusal to ordain gay ministers, The New York Times reported.

+ Presbyterian Church (USA), 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, KY 40202 (888) 728-7228

THEOLOGIAN SENTENCED FOR COMPARISON BETWEEN ABORTION AND HOLOCAUST

A court in Erlangen near Nuremberg found Johannes Lerle, 55, guilty of "incitement of the people" by denying the Holocaust. Lerle has launched an appeal against the verdict. The Lutheran theologian and anti-abortionist claims that the "infanticide" in the womb is comparable to the Nazis' systematic mass murder of Jews in concentration camps, for instance Auschwitz.

Lerle has six previous convictions for slander because he labeled physicians, who perform abortions, as "professional killers". He has already spent eight months in jail.

The current case concerned a pamphlet published on the Internet. Lerle called the murder of Jews by the Nazis as "supposed injustice". As a consequence he was accused of disturbing the public peace by denying the Holocaust.

Lerle rejected the accusation on the grounds that he had only quoted the Federal Constitutional Court. The court had refused to accept Lerle's application for a verdict against the abortion practice in Germany. The court used the term "supposed injustice" with regard to the killing of unborn children.

In judicial terms all abortions are illegal in Germany. But they will not be punished if they are performed within the first three months of pregnancy and if the mother has undergone a certified consultation. These abortions are often falsely referred to as legal. Approximately 120,000 non-punishable abortions are officially recorded in Germany each year. But Pro Life advocates estimate that up to 200,000 babies are killed in their mother's womb, if one takes the unregistered cases into account.

+ ASSIST News Service, PO Box 609, Lake Forest, CA 92609-0609

Iraqi Presbyterian Pastor Seeks Michigan Asylum

The tiny Presbyterian Church in Iraq recently lost one of its pastors to murder. Now another is seeking asylum. Jonah Salim, 31, has been in America since November working in various churches as an intern. A product of Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt, Salim came to the attention of hostile Moslems when he led a Moslem inmate to Chist while serving as a prison chaplain. The civil authorities then revoked Salim's student visa and forced him out of Egypt.

While preparing to return to Iraq, news arrived of the murder of the pastor at his home church and warnings from relatives not to return. The US Embassy in Cairo suggested a religious-worker visa.

+ First Presbyterian Church, 200 W. Mansion St., Marshall, MI 49068 (269) 781-5161

ROMANIA PROPOSES FRENCH SOLUTION

The Roman Orthodox Church has condemned a court ruling that endorsed calls for a French-style ban on religious symbols in schools. "It isn't the church who has placed crosses and icons in classrooms but children, parents and teachers," said the Rev. Costas Stoica, spokesman for the Bucharest Patriarchate of the Romanian Orthodox Church, on 26 June. "They aren't institutional emblems of any particular church. They symbolize universal religious and cultural values," Stoica explained.

+ Ecumenical News International, PO Box 2100, CH - 1211 Geneva 2 Switzerland

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

June 20, 2007

[ ] CRC MEETS FOR HISTORIC CHANGES
[ ] REGIME CHANGE IN IRAQ
[ ] GAZA AS A MICROCOSM OF THE MIDDLE EAST
[ ] CHRISTIANS IN PALESTINE AIM TO OVERCOME CULTURAL DIVISION


CRC MEETS FOR HISTORIC CHANGES

The annual synod of the Christian Reformed Church in North America began its week-long meetings 9 June at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. To mark the 150th anniversary of the denomination, synod was convened by pastors of the three oldest churches in the denomination: Rev. Mark Vande Zande of Noordeloos CRC, Holland, Michigan; Rev. William De Vries of First CRC, Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Rev. Stanley Scripps of Graafschap CRC, Holland, Michigan.

Synod elected Rev. Joel Boot as its president; Rev. Cecil Van Niejenhuis as its vice president, elder Henry Baron as first clerk, and Rev. Jake Kuipers as second clerk. Boot is a pastor at Ridgewood CRC in Jenison, Michigan, and has served as president before in 2004 and as vice-president in 2001. Van Niejenhuis is pastor of First CRC, Edmonton, Alberta. Elder Henry Baron is a professor-emeritus of Calvin College and a member of Neland Ave. CRC in Grand Rapids. Kuipers is a pastor at Ebenezer CRC, Trenton, Ontario.

Synod encouraged Christian Reformed churches to become familiar with the Belhar Confession, a declaration focusing on justice, unity and reconciliation. Originally written in Afrikaans and adopted by the synod of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church (DRMC) in South Africa, the Belhar Confession is named after a suburb of Cape Town, South Africa, where a general synod of the DRMC met in 1982.

The Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa has asked the CRC to consider the Belhar and respond to it. Synod 2006 had noted that the CRC lacks a strong confession on race relations. Synod encouraged the Interchurch Relations Committee to hold regional dialogues across the denomination to familiarize churches with the confession and its issues and stimulate discussion towards a recommendation for Synod 2009.

Twelve thousand worshippers gathered in the Van Andel arena in Grand Rapids on Sunday afternoon, plus about 2,000 more in an overflow venue, in the largest worship service ever held by the Christian Reformed Church. The service celebrated the denomination's 150th anniversary and looked forward to what the Lord still has in store.

A 500-voice choir assembled from Christian Reformed churches across west Michigan, was led by choir director Anton Armstrong. Armstrong, formerly a professor at Calvin College and currently the director of the choir at St. Olaf's College in Minnesota, said it was an honor and a joy to come back and direct the choir for the anniversary.

Synod also approved plans for a new hymnal-which will be designed for use by both Reformed Church of America and Christian Reformed churches-scheduled to hit the pews in 2013. The new hymnal will contain creeds and liturgies that RCA and CRC have in common, as well as all 150 psalms to continue the CRC's tradition. The Heidelberg Catechism will not be included because the two denominations use different versions.

Synod made an historic decision, voting to remove the word "male" as requirement for holding ecclesiastical office in the Christian Reformed Church. Synod also decided that women will be allowed as delegates to Synod 2008.

The removal of "male" opens the way for any CRC congregation to ordain women as ministers, elders, deacons or ministry associates. Since 1995, congregations and classes had been allowed to ordain women as office bearers under a system of local option.

Other recommendations included a provision allowing delegates to classis or synod who believe that including women delegates is in violation of the Word of God may record their protest on the appropriate credentials.

Delegates gave a standing ovation to Rev. Mary Hulst after interviewing and confirming her as assistant professor of preaching at Calvin Theological Seminary. Hulst served at Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church for eight years before pursuing her doctoral degree and has been teaching part-time at the seminary for a year.

Synod 2007 decided not to adopt the proposal of Synod 2006 that would have opened the way for all baptized children to take part in communion, whether or not they had made a public profession of faith.

But synod did not reject the proposal either. It appointed a Faith Formation Committee with the mandate "to deepen the integration of biblical teaching; confessional norms; church polity; and liturgical, educational, and pastoral practices in the CRC" with respect to participation in the Lord's Supper and public profession of faith.

+ Christian Reformed Church in North America, 2850 Kalamazoo Ave., SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49560 (616) 241-1691


REGIME CHANGE IN IRAQ

Elizabeth Kendal, researcher for the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission, says al Qaeda is purging the Baghdad and Basra areas of Christians.

On the weekend of 18 April Christians in one neighborhood were given 24 hours to convert to Islam or die. Six Christian families fled but were not permitted to take any of their belongings. Others have been required to yield up their daughters.

A fatwa has been issued forbidding Christians to wear the cross or make any religious gesture. In al-Durah (Dora), the ancient Christian quarter of Baghdad, churches have been ordered to remove their crosses or be burned. St. John the Baptist Chaldean Church and the Church of St George were resistant so militants climbed up and ripped off the crosses themselves.

The Church of St. George was later burned anyway. According to Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty, 27 churches have been destroyed since 2003 and dozens of other churches and monasteries have been abandoned due to threats and terrorism.

Most of Iraq's displaced Christians - at least those who haven't fled to Lebanon, Syria, Sweden or the United States - are now in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. Some international Christian organizations have joined them there, rather than leave Iraq entirely. However, a major conflagration between Turkey, Kurdish separatists and Arab factions may be imminent, and opportunistic Kurds require allegiance from Christians seeking refuge there.

Further, Islamic militants operate even in the northern cities. An Assyrian priest, Gassan Isam Bidawed, and three deacons of his church were killed by gunmen on Sunday, 3 June in Mosul.

+ Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletins,

+ Assyrian International News Agency, www.aina.org + Assist News Service,

GAZA AS A MICROCOSM OF THE MIDDLE EAST

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, of the Fatah party, dismantled the Hamas-Fatah coalition government 14 June under a state of emergency. This comes after five days of fighting in which Hamas, the popular Islamic paramilitary group, took over the Gaza strip.

Gaza, a small enclave - yet with 1.4 million people - of the Palestinian Authority lands around Israel, is located in part of the coastal territory of Old Testament Philistia. The Hamas victory in Gaza splits Palestinian territory into two, with the Islamic extremists controlling the coastal strip and Western-backed Fatah ruling the West Bank.

The takeover heightens the severe pressure Christians in Gaza were under already. Hanna Massad, pastor of Gaza Baptist Church, wrote last month of the deteriorating conditions for all of the residents in the Gaza Strip, and said no one was able to check on their church building because of the danger. "Even the guard wasn't able to go. It's in God's hands," he said.

The factions represent the forces at work across the Arab world, writ small in a confined space. Democratic elections tend to produce winners among the most radical Islamic groups - Hamas in Palestine, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and so on. More centrists groups such as Fatah in Palestine may be better able to govern, but have no way to bring stability when they lack a substantial popular majority.

In March 2007 Islamist Hamas entered into a government of national unity with Fatah and agreed to respect international agreements. Al Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri responded by slamming Hamas, accusing it of falling "into the swamp of surrender" by abandoning its ideology and selling out to Israel and the US.

Since then, Wahhabist jihadis linked to al Qaeda have dramatically escalated their effort in purging and Islamizing Gaza. They have assassinated three Hamas leaders (no doubt the ones they viewed as treacherous moderates) and are targeting everything they deem "un-Islamic."

On the night of 15 April, Gaza's only Christian bookshop was bombed. On Saturday night, 21 April, the American International School was bombed. On Sunday, May 6, the UN-administered Omariya School in Rafah was attacked in broad daylight by some 70 white-robed Wahhabi militants or Salafiyeen. They tried to prevent the school's sports carnival, deeming it un-Islamic, and fought the security forces with machine guns and grenades, killing one and wounding six.

+ Tom Doyle, e3 Partners,

+ Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletins, www.ea.org.au/rlc

+ Mission Network News, Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids, Michigan, (800) 284-9361;

CHRISTIANS IN PALESTINE AIM TO OVERCOME CULTURAL DIVISION

Tom Doyle of e3 Partners says there is a breakthrough conference coming later this month. "It's bringing Muslim background believers, Christian background believers, and evangelical background believers together - all three, for times of working together, praying, forgiveness, moving forward. They want to see the churches more integrated."

+ Tom Doyle, e3 Partners, www.e3partners.org + Mission Network News,


More synod and assembly reports will appear next week and in the print edition of the Christian Observer.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

June 13, 2007

[ ] Religious Discrimination in Sports Is Out-Of-Bounds
[ ] Bible Verses in Veggie Tales Offensive, But Not Madonna's Mockery
[ ] Fire Guts Lincoln Church
[ ] Pittsburgh PC(USA) Congregation Departs to EPC
[ ] Gael Matheson Awarded C$600,000
[ ] Religious Discrimination in School Employment Condemned


RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION IN SPORTS IS OUT-OF-BOUNDS

On 11 June the North Oldham County School District in Buckner, Kentucky reversed a decision that discriminated against junior Kim Osborne because of her religion, after receiving a demand letter from Liberty Counsel.

Kim had attempted to get approval from Coach Brian Jones in January to miss practice, a full six months before a national church youth event. Coach Jones told the Kim that summer practice was absolutely mandatory but allowed two other players to miss a week of summer practice to attend the Governor's Scholars Program.

After receiving the letter from Liberty Counsel, the school district agreed to allow Kim attend the Christian event without losing her place on the volleyball team.

+ Liberty Counsel, Suite 1100 - 1015 Fifteenth St NW - Washington, DC 20005


BIBLE VERSES IN VEGGIE TALES OFFENSIVE, BUT NOT MADONNA'S MOCKERY

NBC anti-Christian bigotry continues. This time NBC censored Bible verses and expressions of Christian love from the children's cartoon Veggie Tales being shown Saturday mornings on NBC. NBC says comments such as "God made you special and He loves you very much" were offensive and censored them from the show.

In response to the outrage over the allegations that NBC was ordering the removal of any references to God and the Bible from the animated series, the network first issued a flat denial. As reported in Broadcasting & Cable, NBC said they had to "clip off the beginning and ending tags, which are Bible verses, but they were also arguably the easiest cut to make."

The creator of Veggie Tales, Phil Vischer, said NBC's excuse for censoring the Bible verses was not true. Vischer said, "Well, that's kinda funny, because as the guy required to do all the editing, I know that statement is false...The show wasn't too long, it was too Christian. The show was already cut down to the proper length, so timing had nothing to do with it."

NBC then backpedaled: "NBC is committed to the positive messages and universal values of Veggie Tales. Our goal is to reach as broad an audience as possible with these positive messages while being careful not to advocate any one religious point of view." Evidently NBC considers not being truthful as one of their "universal values."

Vischer said had he known how much censorship NBC would exercise, he would not have signed on for the network deal.

Censored were comments such as: "Calm down. The Bible says we should love our enemies." And "the Bible says Samson got his strength from God. And God can give us strength, too."

NBC says using Bible verses or referring to God is offensive to some non-Christians. But NBC doesn't hesitate to offend Christians by showing Madonna mocking the crucifixion of Christ. Neither do not mind offending Christians in their new program Studio 60 with a segment called Crazy Christians.

+ American Family Association, PO Drawer 2440, Tupelo, MS 38803
(662)844-5036


FIRE GUTS LINCOLN CHURCH

Fire officials say it took firefighters from nine units about three hours to extinguish a fire that gutted a brick church building south of downtown Lincoln in the morning of 9 June. Deputy fire chief Pat Borer says most of the church roof has collapsed and the main floor has fallen into the basement.

Flames shooting 15 to 20 feet high were visible when firefighters pulled up at Zion Church about 5 o'clock in the morning. No injuries were reported.

The congregation is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America, a result of a merger between the former Zion Congregational Church and the former Covenant Presbyterian Church.

+ Zion Church, 610 "J" Street, Suite 20, Lincoln, NE 68508 (402) 476-2524


PITTSBURGH PC(USA)CONGREGATION DEPARTS TO EPC

In a move emblematic of mainline Protestant divisions over sexuality, members of the largest church in the Pittsburgh Presbytery voted to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) and join a smaller, more conservative denomination. There were 951 members of Memorial Park Presbyterian Church in McCandless Township who voted to be affiliated with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Fifty-two percent of the 1,450-member congregation needed to approve the plan.

+ Memorial Park Community Presbyterian Church, 8800 Peebles Road
Allison Park, PA 15101 (412) 364-9492


GAEL MATHESON AWARDED C$600,000

A Presbyterian minister who was subjected to hate mail, stalking and a whisper campaign against her by members of her congregation has been awarded more than C$600,000 in compensation. The Prince Edward Island Human Rights Commission also ordered the Presbyterian Church of Canada to reinstate Gael Matheson as a minister and apologize to her for not properly dealing with the harassment to which she was subjected.

The human rights panel decision on compensation was released 1 June.

It followed an earlier decision that upheld her complaint alleging that the Presbytery of Prince Edward Island and the Murray Harbour North Pastoral Charge, where she was posted, had discriminated against her on the basis of sex. It said Matheson experienced an offensive working environment, and when she sought help for her problems, she was blamed.

"Not only was there a lack of support for Rev. Matheson, but many members of the Charge viewed her with animosity. The members were not attending church or volunteering their time to help with church business. Consequently, this...left Rev. Matheson in a precarious position," the panel ruled.

The Presbyterian Church has already filed notice of appeal of that decision. Alex Godfrey, lawyer for the church, said they now have 30 days to examine Friday's decision. Published reports noted, "We are weighing our options right now with respect to a possible judicial review ... to the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island," Godfrey said. "We've already launched a judicial review with respect to the liability - the main question - whether they're liable for anything at all. So now we have to decide whether we want to review the amount of damages as well," he said.

The Presbytery was ordered to write Matheson a letter of apology and a letter of reference. Among the costs, the Presbytery was instructed to pay $425,000 for lost income, $50,000 in damages and $102,000 in court costs. It was ordered to reinstate her to a ministerial position.

When Matheson was first posted to the eastern P.E.I. congregation in 1986, she got anonymous letters against the ordination of women. The letters alleged she was a lesbian and that she was sexually abusing children. One member of her congregation called her a "whore of Babylon." She was also stalked by a church official, who was found guilty in 1991 of criminally harassing her.

In its response, the Presbytery of Prince Edward Island said it acted in good faith towards Matheson, but it blamed her for the incidents and the erosion of her relationship with her congregation. It said it had no choice but to remove her from the ministry in 1996. [CW]

+ The Presbyterian Church in Canada, 50 Wynford Drive, Toronto Ontario M3C
1J7

+ Canadian Press


RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION IN SCHOOL EMPLOYMENT CONDEMNED

The right of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland to select teachers in denominational schools on the basis of their religion was criticized on 31 May by John Quigley, the outgoing president of the Educational Institute of Scotland.

Quigley described the powers as "iniquitous" and said: "How do you measure somebody's religious commitment and moral standing with a view to establishing whether a skilled and qualified teacher should be denied employment on these grounds alone? Yet we have a law which says you can make such judgments and on these grounds alone deny jobs to people in schools which they are funding through their own rates and taxes."

Under the 1980 Education (Scotland) Act, the Roman Catholic Church has the right to veto teachers on grounds of faith. But there are concerns the law conflicts with the European Convention on Human Rights which protects people from discrimination on religious grounds.

+ National Secular Society, 25 Red Lion Square, London, England WC1R 4RL


Synod and Assembly Reports Begin Next Week

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

June 6, 2007

[ ] Pact Spares Evangelicals In Chiapas, Mexico From Expulsion
[ ] Turkey Jails Four Street Evangelists
[ ] Hindu Extremists In India Target Christian State Official
[ ] Northern Nigerian Christians Wary Of New Muslim President
[ ] Christian Lawyers In Vietnam Could Get Harsh Sentences

PACT SPARES EVANGELICALS IN CHIAPAS, MEXICO FROM EXPULSION

Local political bosses in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico, who had voted to expel 65 Christians from a small town near here grudgingly signed an agreement yesterday to let the evangelicals stay. Evangelical attorney Esdras Alonso Gonzalez told Compass the town bosses (caciques) of Los Pozosand other "traditionalist Catholics," who practice a mixture of Tzotzil Mayaritual and Roman Catholicism, showed up armed with a plan for the Christians to pay for religious festivals, plus fines for past refusal to contribute. The evangelicals' refusal to help pay for and participate in the festivals, which include drunken revelry and what they regard as idolatrous adoration of saints, was the original reason the town officials voted to expel them last Dec. 23. "The caciques' attitude was that they wanted the brothers to sign another document obligating them to contribute funds for past festivals and the fines they had supposedly accumulated," Alonso said. "But the state government did not allow it." [CD]

TURKEY JAILS FOUR STREET EVANGELISTS

Police jailed four Christian street evangelists in Istanbul for "missionary activity" this week, even as government officials openly defended the right of all religious groups to carry out evangelistic work in Turkey. Officials released U.S. citizen David Byle this evening, more than 48 hours after he was arrested along with a Korean and two Turkish Christians, his wife said. Christian sources maintained that Turkey plans to deport the Korean believer, though further details remain unknown. The four men were detained Wednesday afternoon (April 25) while sharing their faith with passersby at a park in Istanbul's Taksim district. The arrests occurred in the midst of tense national debate over the legitimacy of Christian missionary activity, sparked by the gruesome killing of three Christian men in southeastern Turkey last week. "Missionaries are more dangerous than terror organizations," Niyazi Guney, Ministry of Justice director general of laws, reportedly commented only a day after the murders. [CD]

HINDU EXTREMISTS IN INDIA TARGET CHRISTIAN STATE OFFICIAL

Hindu extremists in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh have brought the incidence of Christian persecution to an unprecedented high, including a slander campaign against the state's chief minister, Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, a Christian. Sam Paul, public affairs secretary of the All India Christian Council, said at least one anti-Christian incident occurs per day. Paul believes that the rising number of attacks on Christians is linked to a campaign against Chief Minister Reddy by Hindu extremist groups. "Hindu extremists are accusing the chief minister and the state government ruled by the Congress Party of having a 'Christian' agenda," Paul told Compass. Theyare trying to ensure that "the chief minister is branded as a supporter of Christian missionaries trying to convert Hindus by the use of force and allurement." [CD]

NORTHERN NIGERIAN CHRISTIANS WARY OF NEW MUSLIM PRESIDENT

Christians fear that persecution especially in predominantly Islamic northern Nigeria will increase following the election on Saturday of Muslim Umaru Musa Yar'Adua as president. As governor of Katsina state in northern Nigeria, Yar'Ardua imposed sharia (Islamic law) and presided over a system of deliberate denial of land for building churches, as well as government agencies that arbitrarily closed some churches, Christian leaders told Compass. Major political parties in Nigeria nominated only Muslims from the north as part of an unwritten agreement among leaders that the presidency would alternate between north and south. The Rev. Bulus Polit of the Evangelical Church of West Africa in Jos told Compass that between the two Muslim presidential candidates, Yar'Adua's opponent was the more hard-line Muslim who would have presented greater problems to Christians in the country. [CD]

CHRISTIAN LAWYERS IN VIETNAM COULD GET HARSH SENTENCES

Following the March 29 sentencing of Father Nguyen Van Ly to eight years in prison for distributing "material harmful to the state," two Protestant lawyers charged with the same "crime" are expected to face equally harsh sentences in what Human Rights Watch has called the harshest crackdown in 20years. Attorney Nguyen Van Dai, a 38-year-old member of the main Hanoi congregation of the legally-recognized Evangelical Church of Vietnam (North) since 2000, was arrested on March 2. According to Pastor Au Quang Vinh of the Hanoi church, a second lawyer, 27-year-old Le This Cong Nhan, was also arrested in early March. She had just completed a doctrine course for new believers at the same church in preparation for baptism. Authorities have prohibited Dai's wife, Khanh, from visiting him, and her home phone and cell phone services have been cut. A Christian source also said that police have been trying to incite neighbors against her. [CD]

+ Compass Direct News, PO Box 27250, Santa Ana CA 92799-7250