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Head of US church body arrested in protest over Sudan

 

In the US,  the National Council of Churches General Secretary Rev. Dr. Robert Edgar was arrested during a daily demonstration that protested the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. In the Darfur region thousands of people have died and over a million more have been forced into unsanitary refugee camps. According to Ecumenical News International, General Secretary Edgar said his arrest outside the Sudanese embassy in the US was meant to draw attention to the worsening crisis in the region. 

 

 

100 Church Leaders Arrested in China

 

In China a group of over 100 house church leaders were allegedly arrested recently for participating in an ‘illegal religious meeting.’  Mission Network News reports that no arrest warrant or official identification papers were presented to the church members, most of who are still in custody of the Public Security Bureau of China.  It is believed the church leaders were arrested due to the fact that their respective congregations were not registered with the Chinese government.  A Voice of the Martyrs spokesman said the Christian work in China will not stop and that they continue to pray for the safety of the arrested church leaders.

 

 

Swaziland Churches Overcome Uneasiness to Sex-Educate

 

In Swaziland, Christian churches, whose membership includes 90 percent of the Swazi population, have stepped up efforts to educate the public about AIDS and sexual health.  Traditionally, such topics were not something churches felt comfortable discussing, however the AIDS epidemic has hit Swaziland so hard that action had to be taken.  A project headed by the Swaziland Council of Churches and the United Nations Children Fund is using churches to educate young girls about incest, AIDS and their right to say no.   This project marks the first major attempt by a social institution in Swaziland to fight the AIDS crisis.

 

 

Pakistani Government drafts bill to change blasphemy laws

In Pakistan the government recently announced that it would introduce a new bill to revise the so called blasphemy laws. Christian Solidarity Worldwide advocacy officer for south Asia, Benedict Rogers comments:

“For sometime the situation in Pakistan regarding the blasphemy law has been very much a concern for us and for other Christians and human rights organizations anb President Musharaff recently made a speech earlier this year in which he called for the blasphemy law and the Hidud* ordinances to be scrutinized and he’s then going to stage further and put forward legislation to reform these laws.  And these laws are extremely unjust and discriminatory laws which have resulted in suffering, not only for Christians but for actually for many Muslims and other religious groups in Pakistan.”

The Blasphemy laws has been open to abuse Rogers continues:

“The biggest problem with the blasphemy law is that it is so wide open to abuse.  It requires simply the evidence of one Muslim against another person to accuse them of blasphemy, and so it’s frequently used in neighbourly disputes that have nothing to do with blasphemy and a person can then be charged with blasphemy and put on trial, and the ultimate penalty is death, although so far there haven’t been any executions by the state.  But frequently blasphemy7 suspects become targets for the extremists so even if they’re not killed by the state, some of them have been killed by the militants.”

The reform of the blasphemy laws does according to Benedict Rogers not go far enough:

“Although we very much welcome the steps that t y 3691>  he government and the President have taken, we don’t feel they go far enough.  We believe the blasphemy law should be repealed rather than reformed.  What I have heard is that the reforms will not lift, for example, the death penalty, and really, in effect, the reforms are tinkering with a very dangerous law it’s self should be repealed.”

According to Benedict Rogers the international community has probably played apart in bringing change to the blasphemy laws:

“In the last few months there’ve been a number of deaths of Christians in Pakistan and I think that has drawn this whole issue higher up, both to the attention of the President and to the international community.  Though I’m certainly pleased that the President is taking this seriously and I think it is in light of a number of very serious attacks on Christians in recent months.”

 

 

 

 

800 Farmers to Benefit From ADRA Training Programme

 

In Ghana roughly 800 farmers are receiving training from the Adventist Relief Agency, or ADRA, on how to improve their farming techniques.  According to the AllAfrica news service, the training programme includes instruction on building better barns and how to grow citrus fruits.  ADRA is also aiding farmers with purchasing fertilizer, seeds, plants and other equipment.  The man in charge of the programme, Agya Asamoah-Muno, said ADRA has undertaken the project with goal of “empowering the people to be in charge of their own destiny.”

 

Hong Kong: Youth Alive Seminar Empowers Delegates Against Drugs

 

In Hong Kong, roughly 350 young adults, many speaking different languages, met for the Youth Alive seminar recently.  According to Adventist News Network, participants, who were spit into groups of twelve, learned how to connect with God and to connect with people their own age.  The seminar, sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, was aimed at teaching young people how to communicate with their peers, many of whom come from Buddhist backgrounds, about drug use and other issues.

 

 

South African council admits church that once justified apartheid

 

In South Africa the Dutch Reformed Church has been readmitted after four decades into the South African Council of Churches. According to Ecumenical News International, The Dutch Reformed Church was not part of the council due to its support of apartheid.  

Mbeki's 'quiet diplomacy' on Zimbabwe has failed, say SA churches.

Also in South Africa, the South African Council of Churches,  the SACC, recently criticised South African President Thabo Mbeki’s plan of “Quiet Diplomacy” towards the crisis in Zimbabwe.  Ecumenical News International reports that SACC officials have said that Mbeki’s plan has “clearly failed” and was unlikely to get any results.

 

And finaly…

 

 

Nigerian Anglican bishop advocates cell phone ban in churches

 

In Nigeria, the Anglican Bishop-elect of the Ukwa diocese in the southeastern area of the nation has forbidden the using of cell phones during services, saying that the devices are a modern form of idolatry.  Ecumenical News International reports that Bishop-elect Kelechi Eze has encouraged other Anglican diocese and churches of different denominations to ban cell or mobile phones as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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