Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world. In today's edition:
Uzbekistan Cracks Down on Baptists
Stefan Bos, ASSIST News Service
Uzbekistan's secret service is interrogating and "beating up" Baptists as authorities of this mainly Islamic oriented ex-Soviet Republic are trying to prevent Christianity from spreading. Hardest hit is an active Baptist church in Urgench, in northwestern Uzbekistan, which was stripped of its registered status and became "illegal." Secret police, known as the NSS, questioned at least two Baptists, beating one up, and threatened both Christians with imprisonment "for years" to come. One of them, Baptist Sharovat Allamova was summoned to the NSS headquarters on June 25, where the officer who interviewed her, Alisher Khasanov, jeered at her for maintaining her Christian faith which investigated the situation of churches in Uzbekistan. He accused her of being a spy for the West and ordered Allamova to say which foreign organizations were in contact with local Baptists, threatening that if she refused he would imprison her under the article of the criminal code that forbids knowingly giving false evidence. On 26 June, officer Khasanov called in Baptist Dilshod Dilbaev, for questioning about the Baptists' links with foreigners and the humanitarian aid they received from abroad. This time Khasanov was more brutal, hitting Dilbaev several times and threatening that if he did not give the required information straightaway they would plant drugs on him. A journalist investigating the plight of persecuted Christians was also summoned to NSS headquarters earlier this year.
Church's Unorthodox Techniques Prove Successful
A church in Ohio is spreading the love of Christ by filling gas tanks, wiping windows, and checking oil. The members of Milan Baptist Church went to a local gas station and paid the station $250 to lower the cost of 1,000 gallons of regular gas by a quarter. During the two hours before the gas sold out, the members served roughly 100 people to a full-service fill-up. Rev. Todd Hartley, pastor of the church, says this is not the first time they have done something a bit unorthodox to share the gospel. "We do things like this quite often in the community," the pastor explains. "For the last two years, we've given away 10,000 water bottles at a big [community] festival. We plant flower bulbs for people, clean gutters, wash windows, and cut grass -- all of these types of things -- just to show people that Jesus loves them with no strings attached." Hartley says several families in the rural community have started going to church because of these outreaches.
Vietnam Still Holding Nguyen Hong Quang in Unknown Location
Since his arrest on June 8, the Rev. Nguyen Hong Quang has become the victim of a propaganda campaign. Vietnamese authorities have been spreading misinformation through Vietnamese diplomats, newspaper reports and a government website. Arrested for allegedly "inciting other people to resist an officer doing his official duty," Quang is being accused on government websites and in the official press of crudity, sexual immorality, and "hooligan behavior." Quang, a Mennonite, has consistently documented abuses and exposed authorities who violate Vietnam's laws regarding religious freedom and other human rights. A colleague of Pastor Quang believes that "they [Vietnam's authorities] are going make a hard test-case" of him. Quang's whereabouts remain unknown, raising serious concerns for his well-being.
Petition Circulates to Keep Cross on California County Seal
Residents of Los Angeles County in California now have an opportunity to voice their opposition to the removal a cross from the official county seal. The Campaign for California Families, based in Sacramento, is making available on its website a petition to stop the American Civil Liberties Union's attempt to remove the tiny cross. CCF says the signatures of 170,000 registered voters in the county must have been collected by the end of the day on Wednesday for the issue to be placed on the November ballot. CCF's Randy Thomasson says time is of the essence. "Now is the time for the Los Angeles County voters who were angry about the ACLU's attack on the cross to sign the petition to preserve the county seal," he says in a press release. "Let's stand up and put this issue on the ballot, instead of surrendering to the ACLU and the Democrat politicians who want to erase history." Thomasson emphasizes that both signers and circulators of the petition must be registered to vote in the county.