Criminalizing the Gospel?

RELIGION TODAY, Nov. 22—Preaching the Gospel in Israel would be a crime under a proposed law. A committee of the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, held a hearing Nov.10 on a bill that would impose prison sentences for any kind of direct or indirect evangelistic activity. It was proposed by Rabbi Porush of the National Religious Party, Religion Today's online news service reported.

The bill calls for a five-year sentence for those convicted of trying to persuade an Israeli citizen to change faiths, 10 years for tying to convert a minor or “needy” person, three years for using advertising to encourage people to change faiths and one year for bringing a minor or “needy” person to an event sponsored by a religious group other than their own. It also calls for a 10-year sentence for anyone convicted of persuading an Israeli to change faiths, even if the conversion occurs outside of Israel, Religion Today reported.

Persecuted Lao Christians Speak Out

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST, Nov. 22—Christians in Laos say they have nothing more to lose and are speaking up about being persecuted, the Chinese daily reported.

After years of suffering in silence they are asking international leaders to address the situation, which they say has become severe. “Church leaders, detainees, and their families have requested outside intervention, saying it cannot get any worse,” a source in the country said.

Forty-six Lao Christians are in prison for their faith, including 15 in Savannakhet city, 11 in Attapeu and 20 in remote regions throughout the country, the report said. Several have been charged with “believing the Jesus religion” or “religious belief” and some are locked in stocks in primitive cells, the paper said.

Hmong Christians living near Vientiane, the capital, are being forced to sign affidavits pledging to forsake the faith, it reported. About 40 Lao and several western Christians were arrested at a worship service in 1998.