News Update-4/23/12


World Silent as Saudi Arabia Works to "Destroy" All Churches
As Saudi Arabia's highest Islamic authority has recently called for the destruction of all the churches on the Arabian Peninsula, religious rights groups are wondering why there hasn't been a global outcry over the persecution, CBN News reports.

Cliff May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, wrote in a recent column: "Imagine if Pat Robertson called for the demolition of all the mosques in America. It would be front-page news. It would be on every network and cable news program. There would be a demand for Christians to denounce him, and denounce him they would-in the harshest terms. The president of the United States and other world leaders would weigh in too. Rightly so. So why is it that when...the Grand Mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia declares that it is necessary to destroy all the churches in the Arabian Peninsula,' the major media do not see this as even worth reporting?"

May added that he believed U.S. leaders and others had kept quiet on the issue to avoid promoting the notion of "Islamophobia," but warned that "the world cannot stay silent much longer."

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A Global Genocide against Christians Underway?
In addition to the widespread persecution of Christians in the Muslim-majority Middle East, one religious freedom expert says Christians are "very much threatened" throughout the rest of the world, CBN News reports.

Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, said: "We're seeing a very vicious attack on Christians in a number of countries. In many places in Iraq, we're seeing a religious cleansing. That's a euphemism-it means that Christians are being killed and driven out. About two-thirds of the Christians in Iraq have already left." In Saudi Arabia, she said, the government is now hunting down people who pray in their homes, and in Egypt, Christians are "very, very worried about their future because there's an Islamist parliament now."

However, Shea notes that it isn't just the Middle East that's seeing an increase in Muslim extremism: "There is a radicalization of Islam going on throughout the world and this is having an impact on the tolerance that there is for non-Muslims. So Christians are very much threatened throughout the world, and any Muslim who defends [Christians]-they're being attacked and killed," Shea said.

Religion Today Summaries

Iranian Christian Asylum-Seekers in Danger of Deportation from Sweden
Despite efforts from human-rights activists following a decision by Sweden's immigration office to deport Iranian asylum-seekers, many Christians still face the possibility of being returned to their home country-and experiencing danger upon their return, Mohabat News reports.

One of the Christians in danger of deportation is Mohammad-Ali Hodaei, an Iranian citizen who converted to Christianity. "If it is Jesus' will for me to return to Iran, I'll submit to His will and He will protect me Himself," he said, but his activities-such as posting daily evangelical messages on social media such as Facebook-could cause great risk for his future if he is forced to leave Sweden.

Another Christian convert facing deportation is Mohammad-Reza Hamedian Esfahani, who entered Sweden using a visa after he was fired from his job in Iran after becoming a Christian; he and his family would also face an unsafe situation if they returned to Iran. Asylum activists continue to call on the immigration office to protect the Iranian Christians and stop the process of deportation.

Religion Today Summaries

Evolution's "Weaknesses" Can Be Taught in Tennessee Schools
A bill that will allow Tennessee public school teachers to present the "weaknesses" of scientific theories such as evolution has become law without the governor's signature, Baptist Press reports.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam returned the bill to the legislature April 10 without vetoing it or signing it, signaling that he wasn't fully pleased with it but acknowledging that his veto could be overridden. The bill passed the House 72-23 and the Senate 25-8.

The new law states that legislators believe teachers may be "unsure" about some issues, including "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning," and that since a major purpose of scientific education is "to help students develop critical thinking skills," state officials cannot prohibit teachers from "helping students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories."

Casey Luskin, an attorney for the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, said the law would protect teachers around the state who are "harassed, intimidated and sometimes fired" for presenting arguments against evolution, even if they back up their claims with evidence.

Religion Today Summaries

British Lawmakers Approve Prayer at Town Halls
The British government has fast-tracked a move to restore the rights of towns and cities to hold prayers as part of their official business, effectively overriding a High Court order to stop the practice, the Religion News Service reports.

In February, the High Court ruled that it was illegal for town halls to continue with the centuries-old practice of conducting prayers at the start of official meetings, but Communities Secretary Eric Pickles spearheaded the introduction of a new "general power of competence of local authorities in England" to give new powers to local governments to resume prayers and sidestep the court ruling.

The parliamentary order took effect immediately when Pickles signed it on April 6. "Parliament has been clear that councils should have greater freedom from interference," the British government said, adding that the new powers enable councils to "innovate" and "hands them back the freedom to pray." Pickles said the measure "sends a strong signal that this government will protect the role of faith in public life."

Religion Today Summaries

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