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INTERNATIONAL DIGEST: Romanian religion law most restrictive in Europe, group says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Romania now has the most restrictive religious registration system in Europe, according to a religious watchdog group in Washington, D.C. The Institute on Religion and Public Policy has called on the European Union to investigate. Despite the fact the country’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, the new system requires minority groups to meet certain standards –- like membership amounting to at least 0.1 percent of the country’s population -– in order to be recognized by the government.

“In light of the population of the country, a group must consist of approximately 23,000 members in order to be eligible for registration,” IRPP President Joseph Grieboski told Agape Press. “These types of preferential statuses and membership requirements make it very, very difficult for smaller religious communities to be able to register within Romania.”

The Romanian government should not enjoy benefits of membership in the European Union while flouting basic human rights standards established by the EU, Grieboski said. The 2005 International Religious Freedom Report released by the U.S. State Department noted minority religious groups in Romania complained about lengthy delays in obtaining construction permits and local authorities preventing activities for which groups had been issued permits.

CHRISTIAN RADIO REACHING COLOMBIAN GUERRILLAS — Kidnappings, drug trafficking and civil unrest plague Colombia’s citizens and government troops often battle the guerillas that cause it. A Christian broadcaster, however, is reporting that Gospel radio is touching hearts deep in the jungles where the guerillas take refuge.

Trans World Radio uses AM, FM and short-wave transmitters to broadcast evangelistic programming throughout the country, TWR’s Jim Munger told Mission Network News. TWR recently received a letter from a young fighter who had given his life to Christ after hearing the Gospel on the radio.

“I am the son of a Christian woman,” the young man wrote. “I carry the memories of her engraved on my heart. Because of my rebellion and poverty, I decided to leave home.” He wound up being recruited by a guerilla group.

Now the young man feels trapped, Munger said: “They are threatened with death if they abandon the forces. The Colombian army is seeking them. … Over a period of time he’s done horrible things and has seen horrible things. As a Christian now, he doesn’t agree with this, but he’s afraid to leave.”

PREACHER TO HANG FOR ‘SIN BURNINGS’ — A high court in Nigeria has sentenced a preacher in Lagos, the capital city, to death by hanging for setting fire to six members of his congregation when they were accused of having extra-marital sex.

In July 2005, Emeka Ezeuko, who is known as “Reverend King,” publicly accused six members of Christian Praying Assembly and then set them on fire, according to the BBC. One of them, a woman named Ann Uzor, later died of her injuries. Ezeuko was convicted of one count of murder and five of attempted murder.

The pastor reportedly told members of his congregation that he was Jesus Christ and had the power to punish sin, according to ASSIST News Service.

CHRISTIANS TARGETED IN IRAQ — Terrorists and armed gangs singled out Iraqi Christians for attack in 2006, with the result that Christians have fled the country in massive numbers. The number of Christians in the country today is only about half what it was in 1991, according to Open Doors, a Christian ministry that reaches out to persecuted believers around the world.

While most of those Christians left Iraq in the 1990s, another exodus seems to have taken place in 2006, Mission Network News reported. Much of the intimidation, kidnappings and murders of believers seems to be focused on raising money for the various factions.

Those Christians remaining are a dedicated remnant, said Open Doors’ Carl Moeller. Christians have little protection or respect and evangelism poses huge risks. “I think the future of the church is like the future of Iraq. It’s uncertain,” Moeller said. “We recognize the necessity for establishing stability in that country that has a direct bearing on the state of the church, the physical presence of the church, as well as the political presences, and the way that the church can be a force for peace.”

MUSLIM CLERIC: ‘REMARKS MISUNDERSTOOD’ — A radical Muslim cleric in Australia who recently sparked outrage by encouraging children to sacrifice their lives for Islam has claimed his remarks were misinterpreted. In a series of video lectures, Sheik Feiz Mohammed said to Muslim parents: “Teach them this: There is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a mujahid [holy warrior]. Put in their soft, tender hearts the zeal of jihad and a love of martyrdom.”

Mohammed, head of the Global Islamic Youth Center in western Sydney, said he had been misunderstood: “The jihad I speak of is not one of violence. It is one of personal struggle against things like mischievousness, temptation and personal harm. I don’t believe in suicide bombing. I don’t believe in violence against others. We denounce that. This is not Islamic law and it is not moral.”

He also told a reporter he regretted that in the videos he called Jews “pigs.” The lectures were recorded in 2002 after bloody clashes between Israelis and Palestinians were reported by international media.

The Australian government quickly condemned Mohammed’s comments and several Muslim leaders also distanced themselves from him, according to the Associated Press. An investigation into whether Mohammed had broken laws against sedition and inciting violence or terrorism is planned by the Australian Federal Police.

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  • Mark Kelly