News Update-5/09/2011

 

Christians in Tornado-Hit South Pray for Help
Editor's Note: These storms have affected many across the South, but also at our home office. Several of our AMG International staff lost electricity for several days, some suffered extensive damage to their homes and cars, and one of our staff lost four family members to a tornado in our area. Please be in prayer for these and others who've suffered as they regroup and rebuild.

Churchgoers in tornado-ravaged towns across the American South prayed for help Sunday, May 1-many in the open air outside churches leveled by the deadly storms. However, church leaders were determined to gather.

"This service is our response to tragedy. It shows that we are not victims. We are victors. We are visible victors," said Pastor T.L. Lewis, who led a congregation of 5,000 outside the remains of Bethel Baptist Church in Pratt City, Ala. The New York Daily News reported that the church's stained glass window of Jesus was one of the only parts of the church to survive the storm.

At least 342 people were killed across seven states in the April 26-28 outbreak of storms. Relief groups such as Samaritan's Purse and World Vision are on the ground, distributing emergency supplies and hygiene kits. World Vision will also bring in a mobile distribution unit that will drive directly to affected communities. The group will shift to rebuilding efforts over the next 90 days.

Religion Today Summaries

Christians Attacked by Anti-Government Protesters in Syria
Anti-government protests in Syria have increasingly targeted Christians in the country, according to sources for International Christian Concern. One Christian leader said, "People want to go out and peacefully ask for certain changes, but Muslim Salafi groups are sneaking in with their goal, which is not to make changes for the betterment of Syria, but to take over the country with their agenda."

He said Christians have been told join protests or else leave the country, at least one Christian home was attacked, and several churches received written threats over Easter. Another Syrian Christian leader told ICC, "If Muslim Salafis gain political influence, they will make sure that there will be no trace of Christianity in Syria."

ICC says if the situation further deteriorates, the country may see an exodus similar to that of Iraq's Christians, in which more than half the Christian population has left over the last eight years.

Religion Today Summaries

Cuban Protestant Pastors Detained, Interrogated
Three protestant pastors were detained and questioned by Cuban security agents in Camaguey over the weekend of May 1. The pastors are all affiliated with the Apostolic Movement, a network of churches that has come under heavy pressure from the Cuban government over the past few years, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

Pastors Benito Rodríguez and Bárbara Guzmán were picked up by a group of high ranking state security agents and communist party officials on April 30 and held for two hours. They say they were under heavy pressure to cease holding church services in their home.

The next day, officials interrupted the church service and demanded they show proof of their home ownership, despite the fact that Rodríguez has lived in the house his entire life. That same day, another pastor, Bernardo de Quesada Salomón, was detained and subjected to similar pressure in an effort to make him leave his pastoral work.

Religion Today Summaries

Asia Bibi Still Imprisoned despite Internet Rumors
Asia Bibi, the 45-year-old Christian mother of five who was sentenced to death last year for alleged blasphemy, has not been pardoned and freed despite Internet rumors reporting the story.

ASSIST News Service reports that Bibi has been imprisoned since June 2009 on accusation of blasphemy, and was sentenced to death on Nov. 8, 2010, by Judge Naveed Iqbal. Previously retracted stories recounting her supposed pardon by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari were recently rerun due to dating errors, but the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement Pakistan (CLAAS) says Bibi's case has not changed.

Bibi was accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad by Muslim field workers following a dispute over their different faiths. When she was asked to bring a cup of water to one of them, the women refused to drink from it, saying that it had been touched by a Christian and was therefore "unclean." Her conviction and sentence caused an international outcry and shone a spotlight on Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

Religion Today Summaries

Evangelist David Wilkerson Laid to Rest
Times Square Church and Teen Challenge founder Rev. David Wilkerson was laid to rest at a private funeral on Monday. The pastor, who also wrote the popular book The Cross and the Switchblade, died in a traffic accident April 27, according to Religion News Service.

Wilkerson was known most for his outreach to street gangs, which he started after viewing a photo in Life Magazine of New York City teens charged with murder. He founded Teen Challenge, a ministry to young gang members and drug addicts, in New York in 1959. In 1963, he co-authored his best-selling story, which Christianity Today listed in 2006 in the No. 32 spot on its "Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals."

Amazingly, Wilkerson's last blog entry-posted the day of his death-addressed the inevitability of death. "To those going through the valley and shadow of death, hear this word: Weeping will last through some dark, awful nights," he wrote, "and in that darkness you will soon hear the Father whisper, ‘I am with you. I cannot tell you why right now, but one day it will all make sense. You will see it was all part of my plan. It was no accident.'"

Religion Today Summaries 

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