Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Iranian Pastor Has Visible Marks of Torture, Says Wife
The Christian Post reports that an Iranian Christian pastor who was arrested last month now shows visible marks of torture, according to his wife. Pastor Wilson Issavi of the Assyrian Evangelical Church in Kermanshah, one of the few churches in western Iran, was arrested on Feb. 2 while visiting friends in another city. Issavi's wife, Medline Nazanin, said he is being held in extremely poor conditions and has faced physical abuse in the unmarked prison where he is being held. Meanwhile, the church has been forcibly closed, and some parishioners are allegedly being monitored by government officials. Issavi's church is one of several that have been shut down in recent months. Issavi reportedly told news sources not to release stories concerning his arrest until several weeks afterwards, as he tried to respect authorities.
Pakistani Christians Sentenced to 25 Years for 'Defiling Quran'
ASSIST News Service reports that a Pakistani court sentenced a Christian couple to 25 years in prison for allegedly defiling the Quran, the Muslim holy book. On Tuesday, Munir Masih and Ruqqiya Bibi were sentenced for touching the Quran with unwashed hands. According to the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), the pair was originally granted bail after being arrested in 2008 on blasphemy charges. Nasir Saeed, director of CLAAS-UK, said that hardliner Muslims allegedly pressured police to implicate them for committing blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad, an offense that carries the death sentence if convicted. Saeed said that police the couple from the court and have sent Masih to the Kasur District Jail and Ruqqiya to the Multan Women Jail.
After Chile Earthquake, Relief Assessment Underway
Baptist Press reports that, despite logistical difficulties, Southern Baptist workers are responding to help those suffering from Chile's 8.8-magnitude earthquake. With highways cracked, bridges collapsed and the international airport closed, travel to and through Chile is greatly limited. But missionaries from the International Mission Board's Mapuche indigenous team, which ministers to the Mapuche people in South America, began moving out March 2 from Temuco to assess needs in the worst-hit areas. Temuco is about 130 miles south of quake-ravaged Concepción, Chile's second largest city.
The missionaries are carrying water and first-aid supplies for distribution. Besides providing some initial relief, they also will assess damages and share their findings with Southern Baptist leaders. The Chilean convention, which already has personnel traveling south on a "scouting report," welcomed assistance from Southern Baptists and other conventions
Luis Palau to Preach to 20,000 at Chinese Megachurch
Christian Today reports that American evangelist Luis Palau will return to China this month to address a crowd predicated to reach 20,000. Palau will return to Chong Yi Church, a registered church in Hangzhou, where he first preached to about 8,000 people in 2007. The church is only designed to hold about 5,400 people, but the event is expected to fill up every church building and be projected outside via loudspeaker. Palau has preached at various registered churches in China before, with the stated goal to eventually hold an open-air festival in China as the evangelist is allowed to do in other countries. Palau has focused on relationships with registered churches, hoping to build relationships with government officials. The evangelist's spokesman says Palau met with underground church leaders in 2004, when they encouraged him to gain China's ear through the mostly-genuine registered church.