By Diane Macedo
Published February 23, 2011| FoxNews.com
Pressure is mounting for the release of an Afghan Red Cross worker who was arrested last summer for converting to Christianity.
The worker, Said Musa, 46, who left Islam roughly eight years ago, was arrested in May after an Afghan TV report showed locals being baptized and called for the government to crack down on apostasy.
Musa, a father of six, who lost a leg to a land mine and was working to help other amputees when he was arrested, reportedly was abused in prison and threatened with death if he did not renounce his faith.
Some Christian leaders say the U.S. government and media have not paid enough attention to Musa's case, and they are now calling on both to take action to secure his release. Others counter that the U.S. is working quietly but effectively for Musa and maintain calls for action may do more harm than good.
"Since his arrest, Mr. Musa has experienced beatings, sexual assault and sleep deprivation. Our current administration appropriately condemned this kind of treatment of our own terror suspects," Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote in a letter to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday.
"Certainly we cannot stand idly by while a fellow human being is tortured and executed merely for exercising his freedom of conscience. This flies in the face of everything we say we are fighting for in Afghanistan."
And Denny Burk, the Dean of Boyce College at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, appealed Sunday to Obama via Twitter to "persuade the Afghan govt. not to execute our brother Said Musa."
John Piper, the pastor for preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minn., followed suit: "Mr. President, speak wisely and boldly, in private if necessary, for Said Musa, imprisoned in Kabul," he wrote on Twitter.
Rick Warren, Saddleback Church pastor and widely known television evangelist, tweeted to his nearly 250,000 followers, "Media CLAIM to champion free speech but if they really did, they'd report these stories everyday." He linked to a National Review article that questioned why Obama openly addressed a Florida pastor's threat to burn a Koran last September but hadn't made any public comment on the Musa case.
All three messages have been retweeted countless times.
Other Musa supporters say this new attention is a little late, and a little much.
It's a "very sensitive time," said Mark Helmke, a spokesman for Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., who has been working on the case. "Prosecution has been halted. Quiet release (is) hoped for soon. … Our embassy is doing a good job to resolve this important human rights matter."
Knox Thames, director of policy and research at the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, told FoxNews.com he witnessed the U.S. government making strides in this case when he visited Kabul in December, adding that “quiet diplomacy is often the best in cases of this nature."
Jeff King, president of the International Christian Concern, which has been working on the case from its inception, added that while the new attention is welcome, some of the new reporting has been "over the top."
"Said's life has been threatened numerous times by Afghan officials, but at this point these threats are hard to take seriously," he said.
King said while it was hard to get the government engaged initially, the ICC has been fairly pleased with more recent efforts.
"There are numerous encouraging recent developments that should shortly come to light. Until these events are made public, it is counterproductive to talk about them openly," he said. "Regardless, we need to remain vigilant until he is released. Public pressure needs to remain high."
By Hollie McKay
Published February 17, 2011| FoxNews.com
The upcoming film “Soul Surfer,” slated for release in April, is based on the true story of spirited teen surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm in a 2003 shark attack, but courageously returned to her board and become a champion again months later.
However, it appears as though the uplifting story hit a sour note with the film's producers where the family's Christianity was concerned.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the real-life Hamilton family – all devout Christians – were upset to learn that the words “Holy Bible” were digitally removed from the cover of a Bible in a scene featuring Bethany Hamilton's father Tom reading by his ailing daughter’s hospital bedside.
An executive at Mandalay Pictures pushed to soften the Christian element of the film, presumably in an effort to appeal to non-Christian audiences. However, after the upset family complained, they were pleased to discover that the “Holy Bible” had been reinstated in the final cut, THR reported.
“I could see the words bright and clear. I looked at my wife and whispered, ‘Thank you God, they put it back,” Tom Hamilton told THR.
Furthermore, Hamilton said that in one scene Carrie Underwood, who plays a spiritual mentor to the group of young Christian surfers, quotes scripture. Some involved with the production were fine with the verse, but didn’t want it known that those words came from the Bible, THR reported.
Mandalay Pictures would not to comment directly on the Bible-related filmmaking decisions, but did release a statement to FOX411.
“Putting a movie together is a long and arduous process that consists of many decisions, big and small, made by many people from development through the film’s release. As people who collectively have been involved in making movies for many decades, we are not looking to engage in discussions about the process of the intricate decisions that go into the filmmaking process, but rather have the film judged by what appears on the screen,” the studio said. “Mandalay is extremely proud of ‘Soul Surfer,’ and we are excited to share this beautiful and inspiring story with the audience.”
Although Tom Hamilton obviously didn’t always see eye-to-eye with the production team, he is pleased with the portrayal of his family and their beliefs.
“This is the first movie I’ve ever been involved in, and what really counts is what ends up on the screen,” Hamilton told FOX411. “And we are absolutely thrilled with the way the film turned out, and the wonderful way it portrays Bethany’s and our family’s story and faith."
Underwood is also a fan of the film’s faith-based message.
“To me the phrase ‘Soul Surfer’ is about finding your path, your walk with God – or your surf with God – and making the best of the ride,” she said. “In the end, that is the most important.”
“Soul Surfer” is the latest film trying to tread the thin line between appealing and pandering to a faith-based audience.
“Films that have strong faith content do it because they understand there's an audience out there. There are 163 million people who go to church every week, and it's a gigantic audience and Hollywood makes movies for every audience,” explained Dr. Ted Baehr, founder and publisher of Movieguide, and Chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission. “The movies that do better at the box office, like the top 10 films from last year, none of them were R-rated, none of them had violence in them, and none of them had sexual content in them.”
Deidre Behar contributed to this report.Print This Post
A new app for the iPhone is intended to help Catholics through the act of confession.
An iPhone app aimed at helping Catholics through confession and encouraging lapsed followers back to the faith has been sanctioned by the Catholic Church in the United States.
"Confession: A Roman Catholic app" is thought to be the first to be approved by a church authority. It walks Catholics through the sacrament and contains what the company behind the program describes as a "personalized examination of conscience for each user."
"Our desire is to invite Catholics to engage in their faith through digital technology," said Patrick Leinen of the three-man company Little iApps, based in South Bend, Indiana.
"Taking to heart Pope Benedict XVI's message from last years' World Communications Address, our goal with this project is to offer a digital application that is truly 'new media at the service of the word."
Pope Benedict XVI's World Communications Address on January 24 emphasized the importance of a Christian presence in the digital world.
The firm said the content of the app was developed with the help of Reverend Thomas Weinandy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Reverend Dan Scheidt, pastor of Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Mishawaka, Indiana.
The app is not designed to replace going to confession but to help Catholics through the act, which generally involves admitting sins to a priest in a confessional booth. Catholics still must go to a priest for absolution.
Little iApps said Bishop Kevin Rhoades, of the Diocese of Fort Wayne in Indiana, officially authorized the app for Catholics to use.
"It has been approved by Bishop Kevin Rhoades," said Weinandy.
Leinen said the app has already aided one man in returning to the sacrament after 20 years.
"We hope many more will take advantage of this new confession resource," he added.
The app retails for $1.99.