China’s church persecution grows
Chinese Communist authorities reportedly raided a children’s Bible class Dec. 15, shutting down one of China’s leading underground church and confiscating 4,000 books. The latest raid became the third prominent Protestant unregistered church to be closed by officials this season. Those arrested are being beaten, tortured and denied food and restroom accommodations according to Southeast Asia’s regional manager for International Christian Concern.
Many leaders of Early Rain Covenant Church counted the cost and pledged faithfulness in advance of arrests at homes, workplaces and on the streets that have continued since Dec. 9. The church’s pastor and elder wrote letters to their congregation saying, “We will not bend, even if it means jail, even if it means death. We will continue to preserve our faith.”
Pakistan ousts aid groups, World Vision
Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim country known for persecuting religious minorities, has expelled 18 aid organizations from its country, including World Vision and other Christian groups. The expulsions will affect more than 11 million aid recipients in the country suffering in healthcare and education, entailing an estimated loss of more than $130 million in annual aid, the Associated Press reported.
Egypt approves 168 churches
Egyptian Christians now have an additional 168 legal church buildings. Prior to a new law passed in August 2016, churches faced an arduous task to secure recognition by the government. On November 30, a cabinet committee approved the requests of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic churches to formally register facilities that have functioned as centers of worship. “I am pleased,” said Andrea Zaki, president of the Protestant Churches of Egypt. “The process has been slow in the beginning, but I think going forward it will be better.”
MO town keeps Christmas cross despite atheists’ warning
A town in Christian County, Missouri, has reversed its decision to take down an illuminated cross from its Holiday display at Finley River Park. Many residents voiced their outrage when, under pressure from an atheist legal group, the city of Ozark announced Dec. 11 that it would no longer include the blue-lit cross in its Christmas light display. The town, however, reversed its decision and assured residents the cross will continue to be part of the holiday display as the city looks into the atheist group’s legal claims.
Survey: Americans want more Christ in Christmas
Most Americans want more religious meaning to the Christmas season. A new study from LifeWay Research found 65% of Americans say, “Christmas should be more about Jesus.” However, those looking for more Christ in Christmas this year are significantly fewer than 2014 when LifeWay Research found 79 percent of Americans at that time said Christmas should be more about Jesus.
Sources: Christian Post (2), BP News (3), Christianity Today