Venezuela Expels U.S. Missionaries

The Venezuelan Interior and Justice Ministry announced in a press release published on Nov. 14, that U.S. missionaries with New Tribes Mission (NTM) who work in areas populated by indigenous communities have 90 days "to get out of the country." This followed a radio and television broadcast on Oct. 12, when President Hugo Chvez ordered NTM members to be expelled from Venezuelan soil.

Chvez has accused NTM missionaries of destroying Indian cultures and spying for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and foreign commercial interests. He also called the Florida-based organization an example of "imperialist infiltration." New Tribes Mission, which has 160 missionaries and staff in Venezuela, has repeatedly denied accusations of wrongdoing and urged Chvez to reconsider. However, he never responded to a request from leaders of the Evangelical Council and Pentecostal Evangelical Federation of Venezuela for a meeting to discuss the allegations.

Tensions also have been reported between Venezuela's government and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) which announced that about 200 foreign missionaries were leaving the country because of visa problems.


Atheist's Suit Challenges "In God We Trust"

Michael Newdow, the atheist whose challenge of the Pledge of Allegiance reached the United States Supreme Court, is now targeting "In God We Trust" on the country's currency. In a lawsuit filed Nov. 17 in federal court in Sacramento, Calif., Newdow charged the national motto is unconstitutional and should be removed from the United States' paper money and coins. Newdow's suit claims "In God We Trust" violates both of the First Amendment's religion clauses, which ban government establishment of religion and infringement of the free exercise of religion. The suit also says the motto violates his free speech and equal protection rights.

The American Center for Law and Justice will defend members of Congress in the suit, ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow said. The national motto "is not only permissible, but constitutional as well," Sekulow said in a Nov. 18 written statement. "Mere acknowledgment of God by the government cannot be said to be establishment of religion'."

"In God We Trust" was placed on a U.S. coin for the first time in 1864 and on a bill first in 1957, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. Congress approved "In God We Trust" as the national motto in 1956.

In 2004, Newdow argued before the Supreme Court that the phrase "under God" should be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. The high court ruled Newdow did not have standing in the case, thereby leaving the pledge intact. Other plaintiffs have joined the physician-turned-lawyer in refiling a suit against the pledge, and they are awaiting a decision from a federal judge in Sacramento, according to the Sacramento Bee. Newdow also challenged the prayer in President Bush's inauguration in January, but the late William Rehnquist, then the chief justice, rejected his emergency appeal from a lower court, which had denied his request.

Baptist Press

Regime Brutalizes Burmese Christians

The U.N. and various human rights groups have accused the military regime in Myanmar (Burma) of atrocities including forced labor and extra-judicial killings. Many of those killed have been tribal Christians, says Strategic World Impact's Kevin Turner. "This is being conducted by the government, using its military all up and down the border with Thailand and of course the entire country, where there's not just persecution, they're actually killing, slaughtering whole villages." Myanmar tops the U.S State Department's 2005 list of countries of particular concern. Turner said: "We've been smuggling in Bibles across the border, and we've been bringing in food and supplies. We helped build a church and a school. Within one month the Burmese military came in and not only burned our church to the ground, but they also destroyed the entire village."

 Mission Network News

British Aid Worker Murdered in Sudan

A British aid worker died of bullet wounds Nov. 5, after his jeep was ambushed by gunmen in Sudan near the Ugandan border. Twenty militants attacked Collin Lee, his wife, Hedwig Unrau Lee, and their Sudanese driver as they traveled to the southern Sudanese town of Yei from Uganda. "Collin was a man after God's own heart," said Elias Kamau, his friend and International Aid Services colleague. "He felt that he had a calling from God, and he had a real sense of urgency to accomplish that goal. His death is a shock to us as an organization." The Ugandan army held the Lord's Resistance Army, a politically ambiguous group known for terrorizing civilians, responsible for the murder.

Compass via MissionNet

Run of Disasters Stretches Relief Agencies to Limit

International Aid's Dean Agee says 2005 was an extraordinarily difficult year for those who respond to natural disasters around the world. The tsunami response, topped by earthquake, famine, and hurricane emergencies, have stretched their resources to the limit. Yet, he says, it has been equally extraordinary for ministry opportunity. Hurricane Wilma, while not as damaging as it could have been, was the eighth hurricane to hit the state in 15 months. It has been an unusually busy storm year resulting in 22 tropical storms or hurricanes, topping the 1933 storm season. More than 3 million people were left without power and searching for temporary shelter and food. Agee says the organization would be partnering with the Florida Baptist Convention to provide aid. "They've got four assessment teams in the field, and then we'll work with our resources to meet those needs. We just greatly appreciate the support that folks have given us. We couldn't do it without their prayers and their financial contributions."

Mission Network News

Survey: More Britons Believe in Ghosts Than Believe in God

A total of 2,012 people in the U.K. were polled on their beliefs regarding the supernatural. More than two-thirds (68%) said they believe in the existence of ghosts and spirits while just over half (55%) said they believe in the existence of a God. Some 26% believe in UFOs, 19% in reincarnation, and 4% in the mythical Loch Ness Monster. The survey found 12% believe they have actually seen a ghost. Seventy-six percent said that reality TV shows and films such as "The Blair Witch Project" have helped convince them spooks and ghouls really exist. The poll was carried out in advance of Halloween by entertainment retailer ChoicesUK.

Religion Today/Ananova via MissionNet

Indonesia Frees 5 Suspected of Beheading Girls

Five soldiers who were arrested after the brutal beheadings of three teenage girls in Sulawesi, Indonesia, Saturday, Oct. 29, have been released, said Glenn Penner of Voice of the Martyrs Canada. "We were disappointed to learn that those five individuals were released due to lack of evidence," he said. "To this point we still have no idea if anyone is ever going to be held accountable." Penner suspects the murders may not have been motivated as much by faith as they were by politics. "For militants, they would like to see [sectarian fighting] reignited, if for no other reason than it creates instability in Indonesia. These militants do not like the present government, and this is a way of creating instability in the country again." Christians have recently become the targets of militant action. Two more high school girls were attacked Tuesday, Nov. 8, near a Pentecostal church in Poso. One died, the other is in critical condition after being shot at point-blank range. Hundreds of troops have been dispatched to secure this high-tension area, but the attacks show the danger from militant Islamic groups hasn't lessened. Penner says even with the persecution, it hasn't stopped evangelistic activity, nor has it stopped the church from steadily growing.

Mission Network News

Qatar Allows First Christian Church In 1,400 Years

The reform-minded emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, has donated land on the outskirts of Doha for the construction of the first Christian church in that country since the 7th century. The Church of the Epiphany, which will begin operations in 2006 under 58-year-old Scotsman Ian Young, will not have a spire or free-standing cross—though walkways and grounds of the church will have motifs resembling those used in early Christian churches. Clive Handford, the Anglican bishop in Cyprus and the Gulf, said: "We are there as guests in a Muslim country, and we wish to be sensitive to our hosts...but once you're inside the gates it will be quite obvious that you are in a Christian center. We hope that the center can be a base for ongoing Muslim-Christian dialogue." Christianity disappeared from most Gulf Arab states within a few centuries of the arrival of Islam, but many Christians have migrated to the region since the discovery of oil. Qatar's Anglican community is estimated to be between 7,000 and 10,000 people.

Religion Today/The London Times
via MissionNet

Christian TV Channel Goes on Air in Egypt

Aghapy Television, the first Christian satellite channel in Egypt, began broadcasting on Nov. 14. Established by the Coptic Christian Church, the main church in Egypt, it is the first TV station in Egypt to broadcast programs with a purely Christian outlook. The channel will carry church services, family programs and documentaries on topics such as ancient monasteries. Some Egyptians are concerned that the presence of a Coptic channel may exacerbate the tensions between Muslims and Christians that periodically flare up into violence. However, an organizer said Aghapy TV will not carry anything that could "upset Muslims." The aim is to "provide a link with the church to all those Copts who may not have access to a place of worship or who live abroad, but in the current volatile atmosphere many will be watching closely to see if the new channel gives offence in any way."

BBC via MissionNet

Church Leader in North Korea May Face Death Penalty

A North Korean church leader could face the death penalty after being arrested on charges of plotting to overthrow the government, reported Jubilee Campaign, a British human rights organization. Seong Jeun Moon, 64, was recently taken into custody by North Korean State Security Agency officers in Peeyeong Gun, Pyongan Province, and charged with treason, a crime that carries the death penalty. Moon, the leader of an underground church in North Korea, and a number of his family members, also have been arrested and questioned. Jubilee Campaign has launched a postcard campaign to draw attention to his plight. The organization is appealing to the North Korean government to free him and to permit freedom of religion in the country.

Assist News Service via MissionNet

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Religious Liberties Dying in Sulawesi

It's often hard to keep track of seemingly small events in distant countries when so many dramatic headlines continue to dominate the international scene. But Americans ought to be paying close attention to Indonesia, with 212 million people the world's largest Muslim country, but where Christians are under serious attack. For the past five years, persistent violence has plagued the island of Sulawesi. Recently, three Christian schoolgirls were attacked by machete-wielding bandits and beheaded, with one girl's head left near a local church. In the past, such attacks have almost all been initiated by Islamic radicals. Unfortunately, violence throughout Sulawesi seems to have increased since Saudi Arabian money started funding Muslim radical groups. Religious liberties throughout the world are under increasing threat, but Indonesian Christians are paying an especially devastating price for their faith, and need America's support.

David Aikman, Beyond the News, via Religion Today Summaries

Russian Rabbi Says Political Correctness Invites Rioting

Berel Lazar, chief rabbi of Russia, warned recently of a possible repetition of the French riots in Russia if the authorities and society do not abandon the wrongly understood political correctness and do not show resolution in applying law to the rioters. "Such developments may happen in any country including us, if, God forbid, the authority and public repeat the mistake made in France by seeking to justify the actions of those who trample upon the law," the Rabbi told Interfax.

He draw attention to the fact that after the Beslan tragedy the law enforcement has drawn appropriate conclusions and prevented a repetition of those terrible events in Nalchik. But they can do little without the support of the whole society. And society as a whole, unfortunately, still has not learnt by its own mistakes. There are still voices in society calling .to understand. terrorists and raiders,' Rabbi Lazar complained.

."Politically correct. authorities and mass media in many countries, which call to treat raiders with understanding, to enter into negotiations with them and to make concessions to them, dig a grave to democracy with their own hands., the rabbi said. Rabbi Lazar also reminded that Jewish organizations have long warned of possible disorders in France.

Institute on Religion and Public Policy

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