Where medicine is magic | World News Briefs


  1. PAKISTAN: Historic Fatwa Condemns Blasphemy Attacks
  2. GHANA: The Christian Ministry of Healing Where Medicine Is Magic
  3. CAMEROON: Family’s Murder Attempts Embolden Leader’s Faith
  4. AFGHANISTAN: 25 Young Men Receive Christ Together
  5. IRAQ: Christians Return to Ninevah

20170804HJH2436-1A three-week-old baby recovers after surgery to correct a complication caused by a traditional cure that almost took her life. See related story below. Source: William Haun, International Mission Board.

PAKISTAN: Historic Fatwa Condemns Blasphemy Attacks

Source: Global Christian News via Barnabas Fund, February 8, 2018

The Pakistan government has unveiled a historic fatwa (religious ruling) condemning Islamic extremism and vigilante “blasphemy” attacks, in a potentially positive development for the country’s minority Christian community.

By issuing the fatwa with the support of 1,829 religious leaders—who are signatories to the document officially released on January 16—the Pakistani government is addressing extremism from a religious perspective.

The fatwa declares that terrorist activity against the state, and in particular suicide bombings, are haram (forbidden under Islamic law). It also states: “We believe that spreading sectarian hatred, armed sectarian conflict and imposition of one’s religious ideologies by force are contrary to the Shariah/teachings of Islam,” adding that there is a “religious obligation” to confront “evil” extremist ideology.

It should be noted however that “extremism” in the context of the ruling is defined as views deemed to be outside the body of mainstream Islam—this differs from typical Western definitions, which define “extremism” in relation to issues such as democracy, human rights, and freedom of religion.

The document also says it is “unacceptable in Islam” that any group “takes [the] law into its own hands, [and] declares people infidels” —a statement which is understood to refer to the country’s controversial “blasphemy” laws. Instead, the fatwa asserts that “only the State has the right to implement punishments on citizens.”

» Read full story.

» See also Ahmed’s Lawyer Beaten During Blasphemy Trial (Mission Network News). Wondering about China’s changing religious policies? Get some clues and links in Religious Regulations and the Cross (China Source).

GHANA: The Christian Ministry of Healing Where Medicine Is Magic

Source: International Mission Board, February 19, 2018

In the Mampruli language, the word for medicine also means “magic.” In this culture, anything with healing or supernatural powers is considered to be or have tiim. When westerners first showed up and offered suffering patients small white pills that relieved pain, they were called “magic.” The only word for pharmacist in the local language—tiimdaana—means the “magic guy” when translated literally. Every time I prescribe medication to patients in the local language, I have to tell them to go buy some “magic” (tiim) from the “magic guy” (tiimdaana).

West African healers often tout the fact that their cures are “all-natural.” It’s true that they know of many roots, barks, and leaves with legitimate curative properties. But in practice, mixing those ingredients into medicine is usually accompanied by a sacrifice to ancestral spirits. If the cure fails to work, it’s not seen as the fault of the local healer or the medicine but a failure of the patient or family caretaker to appease the spirits.

» Full story provides some great illustrations of what happens when cultures clash and tips for Christian doctors serving in contexts with similar traditional healing practices.

» See also Witch Doctor Pastors Selling “Miracles” Contrary to Teaching of Jesus (Global Christian News). This month the Global Prayer Digest is all about West Africa. Subscribe here.

CAMEROON: Family’s Murder Attempts Embolden Leader’s Faith

Source: Open Doors, February 13, 2018

When Abdul left his tribal religion of Islam and committed his life to Christ in 2000, his Muslim family felt and acted like he had just pointed a challenging dagger straight at them. Abdul’s family (part of the ethnic Kotoko group spread over Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria) always took pride in the fact that they were one of the few tribes in their region of Cameroon with no known Christians.

“When all their spells and curses with the help of the local medicine man failed, they tried to kill me themselves.”

More than once, Abdul’s family tried to poison his food. One night, strangers kidnapped him and took him to an unknown destination. “On the way there, I prayed for God to confuse them so they could release me. And he did! They just let me go without saying anything. I knew it was God who had changed their minds.”

Ten years down the road and Abdul’s family has still not given up trying to get him back to Islam. He faces constant insults and exclusion from the family. His wife has also left him and often slanders him in front of their seven children.

“My family abandoned me, rejected me, did everything to have me go back to Islam, but the hand of God is with me. I count on the Lord, and he protects me. I trust him. I continue in the faith. My wish is that one day we will have a church here for the Kotoko people that gathers openly, just like everyone else.”

» Full story includes prayer points.

» In more encouraging news from Cameroon, read Developing Deep Roots in Scripture. It describes the alliance of translators that has completed eight translation projects in the last two years, with several more nearing the finish line (Wycliffe Global Alliance).

AFGHANISTAN: 25 Young Men Receive Christ Together

Source: God Reports, February 13, 2018

Christian satellite programming in Iran and Afghanistan has resulted in numerous professions of faith in Christ. Many receiving the broadcasts know little about Jesus, but often follow up with questions by phone.

“One call came from a young man in Afghanistan,” said Panayiotis [Keenan], the director of SAT-7 PARS, broadcasting via Yahsat, a private satellite company based in one of the Gulf States.

The young man had many questions about Jesus. “Like millions around him, up until watching SAT-7 PARS, he didn’t have a clue who Jesus is. But he was deeply unsatisfied with his life and beliefs and instinctively knew there must be something better.”

“He said he was stunned by the love and truth he was witnessing on SAT-7 PARS,” Panayiotis recounted. “He was so impressed by Jesus that he wanted to know where he lived so he might meet him.”

A few days later, the young Afghani called again, this time with a friend. The friend had also been moved by the broadcast.

“A week later, the first man called again. This time there were 25 young men crammed into a tiny apartment, asking questions, listening to the counselor’s answers.”

“All 25 prayed to receive Christ in unison!” Panayiotis exulted. “Incredible, a miracle…a true God thing.”

Panayiotis believes there are many more small groups gathering in secret as they listen to the truth beamed to their televisions from SAT-7. “They are anxious to meet other Christians, start their own church and want to find a pastor,” he noted. “Because finding a local, trained pastor is often impossible, we assure them that we will not leave them alone and urge them to watch the many teaching programs on SAT-7 PARS.”

» Read more or learn about SAT-7 PARS.

» See also Taliban Wants to End War (Reuters via INcontext).

IRAQ: Christians Return to Ninevah

Source: Open Doors, February 8, 2018

After three years of Islamic State occupation and devastation in the wake of the ISIS war, local partners are sharing stories of continued hope for the Nineveh Plains and the believers who were forced to flee when militants issued their ultimatum: “Convert, leave or die.” For more than two years, occupying Islamic jihadists tried to erase any evidence of Christianity from the city—burning churches, destroying crosses, toppling bell towers.

Father George walks toward a colorful paper, where a map of the city is divided into several sectors. He leads what is called the Church Supreme Board for Reconstruction of Baghdeda, which is coordinating the efforts to restore homes [in Iraq’s largest Christian city].

“With your support, we were able to restore 286 houses in Qaraqosh. That means 286 families have returned to their homes. By the end of 2017, we finished 1,054 of the 2,658 of houses that are on our list to be repaired.”

In other places in the Nineveh Plain, local partners have helped support the restoration of another 392 houses for a current total of almost 700 rebuilt homes—and new hope for almost 700 families.

» See full story with pictures. It’s quite encouraging.

» See also another Christian leader who has invited Muslim nations to rebuild Christian villages destroyed by ISIS (World Watch Monitor).

Ten Ways Pastors Can Help Their People Think and Act like Jesus Toward Muslims

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largePastor articleBy Shane Bennett

Pastors, I honestly don’t know what it’s like to walk in your shoes. Back in college, I pastored a church of a dozen people. Elderly saints they were but with a remarkable propensity not to die. So I preached, and I dodged the rest of the pastoral duties. I never faced the stresses you do with budgets and staff and people who come to you with intractable problems, hoping you’ve got a silver bullet to spare.

Nor have I been in your place with goofballs saying, “Hey, your church should do more with Muslims!” Maybe that feels like a burden you’d rather let go. Maybe you have some personal anxiety about Islam or you can already feel the pushback that will come if you lead your flock toward engagement with Muslims.

Here’s why it might be worthwhile anyway:

  1. Islam is a big deal. Over 1.5 billion people are Muslims, with a huge number being added every day. And Islam is talked about like crazy in America and all over the place.
  2. Your people, at least some of them, are wondering how Christians should respond to this.
  3. God, mostly on the down low, is inviting Muslims into his kingdom these days like we have never seen before. This might be the sort of harvest you don’t want to miss out on.

If the Holy Spirit nudges you in this direction, I’d like to make it as easy as possible to obey, with ideas both for “knowing” and “doing” and with varying costs in time and money.

Not a pastor but know one? If you think it might bless them, please send this along. Tell them you’d like them to read it, and understand if they can’t get to it right away.

Ten Ways to Get Started

1. Add to a sense of Muslims’ lostness an understanding that God wants to find them in great numbers.

You probably don’t have to convince your people that Muslims are lost. Most evangelical Christians agree. They might not be thinking as much, though, that God has in mind to gather great numbers of them into his kingdom, that every blessing we enjoy is meant for them, and that the blood of Jesus shed on the cross works redemption for them with the same wonderful efficacy with which it does for us.

2. Share winsome stories of Muslim-Christian interactions.

While evil has certainly been done in the name of Islam and good Muslims have done very bad things, there’s more to the story than that. Negative news makes it hard to imagine that Christians can connect with them. Read this short, surprising story as a counterexample.

3. Highlight similarities between Muslims and Christians.

Sometimes, whether intentionally or subconsciously, we try to keep Muslims at arm’s length as being “other.” In doing so, we might fall prey to thinking, as a woman at my church once told me, “We are completely different in every way!” That’s just not true. Your people need to know this.

I probably go overboard in the other direction, happy that a typical Muslim and I both believe in just one God and both think Jesus was born miraculously of a virgin, is alive today, and could take Chuck Norris in a one-on-one match. Generally, we also believe that abortion is a bad thing, kids are a good thing, Jesus is coming back, and devotion to God should be above all else. Not bad starting points from which to invite Muslims back to the faith of their forbearers.

4. Read and encourage others to read material that prioritizes engagement over fear and defense.

I know, I know. Everyone wants to give the pastor a book. Or ten. Here are two that will help you think in good ways about engaging Muslims and give you tools to pass along to your crew: Muslims, Christians, and Jesus by Carl Medearis and Connecting with Muslims by Fouad Masri. Both are practical and accessible. If you’ve already blown your book budget for the year and can only give this a few minutes a week, I’d be honored to have you read my 300-word weekly email, Muslim Connect. It’s designed to help normal Christians think about Muslims the way God does and love them like Jesus does.

5. Host a seminar on Islam.

Crescent Project offers a quick look at Islam and how to befriend Muslims in a weekend seminar or DVD-based curriculum. Encountering the World of Islam is a twelve-week course based on understanding Muslims. I’ve seen them lead to lives better ready to serve God among Muslims near and far.

6. Encourage your people to connect with international students and refugees.

In any town with a sizable university, someone organizes care and connection for international students (Muslims and others). Find this person. Give them three minutes on the platform in early August to tell your people how they can befriend future leaders from other countries arriving next week. Decide together that they won’t return home without enjoying a dinner in an American home. Be the first to sign up.

Someone in your town also knows what’s up with refugees. Same story. If you don’t know how to find these people, shoot me an email and I’ll give you a hand.

7. Endorse a church-wide commitment to pray for Muslims during Ramadan.

Each year around a million Christians worldwide will use the same beautiful little book to pray for Muslims during Ramadan, their month of fasting. Order copies for your people. Ramadan next occurs May 15 to June 14.

8. Audit the “Muslim impact” of your missions budget.

Are you putting dollars toward work that cares for Muslims and invites them into the kingdom, either locally or far away? It’s none of my business how your budget is set up or what you support, but a budget suggesting that the church, corporately, doesn’t value reaching out to Muslims might limit what individuals will care about and do.

9. Partner with Muslims to address a social ill in your city.

A friend in San Jose, CA unites “Jews, Christians, and Muslims to serve the poor, suffering, and marginalized.” I think he’s onto something. Serving soup or cleaning up trash shoulder to shoulder with someone from another faith teaches things you’ll never get from a book or video.

10. Offer to take some of your people to visit a mosque.

There’s something about stepping into a mosque for the first time that is powerful, though difficult for many (Am I cheating on Jesus?). Your people will walk away with a sense that mosques are more the places where Muslims go to seek God in the best way they know and less the hothouses of religious sedition we’re sometimes told they are. A little bit of reality goes miles toward reshaping imagination. Two key points for this: Go as learners, not evangelists. A first visit is not the time for a showdown. And make sure you have pre-planned a good 45 minutes to debrief the experience.


Because these ideas are designed to be put into action, I’m happy to help you consider and implement any of them. I’d be honored to come alongside as you guide your people into obedience relative to one of the greatest challenges and opportunities of our generation.

» Let’s chat. Also, please add your ideas, whether brilliantly polished or still in process, to this document. I’ll start with my outtakes from this article.

Creative ideas and tools for the task | World News Briefs


  1. NETHERLANDS: The Secret That Can’t be Kept
  2. SOUTH KOREA: Consider Inviting the Neighbors
  3. THAILAND: Sacred Ink?
  4. CENTRAL ASIA: Nomad Truck Venture
  5. WORLD: Over 4 Billion Online


Today’s news briefs highlight some creative ideas and tools for ministry. I’ll add one more. I often find cool stuff at Flowing Data. This interactive map is awesome. You can zoom way in to get very detailed results. My area of Northern New York, a 6,000-square kilometer area, has a population of about 64,000. This time next year I hope to visit a part of the world with 12.5 million people in an area the same size!


NETHERLANDS: The Secret That Can’t Be Kept

You’ve heard of OM Ships, but you may not know about OM Riverboats. Their first vessel includes a floating “escape room” to help European visitors consider the gospel, “the secret that can’t be kept.”

Source: Operation Mobilization, January 24, 2018

The Agency is a first-of-its-kind interactive mission experience that’s set on top of OM’s newly-launched riverboat. Inspired by ideas from a popular real-life game known as an “escape room,” The Agency is a simulation where participants race against time as they try to break out of locked rooms by gathering clues and solving puzzles. Through the experience, participants discover a secret that can’t be kept.

“This experience is the focus of the riverboat,” explained David Svenson, who oversees the artistic direction of The Agency. “We are taking the parable and giving it a modern twist. It’s telling a story about the gospel which then motivates and mobilizes people to share it with the least-reached.”

Escape rooms have only been introduced in Europe in recent years, but have quickly gained popularity, especially among youths. The first escape room opened in the Netherlands in 2013, with others following due to market demand.

The concept of The Agency can be summed up in three words: recruited, trained, and sent. It’s the same process that Christians go through to eventually be sent by God and carry out the Great Commission.

» Full story here. Not familiar with the escape-room concept? Read In Escape Rooms, Video Games Meet Real Life (New York Times).

SOUTH KOREA: Consider Inviting the Neighbors

Source: International Mission Board, February 5, 2018

This Olympics… As you watch people compete in events like curling or skiing or shooting, let it be an opportunity to remember who we are, why we’re here, and the eternity to which we are all heading. Let it be an opportunity to remember that our big wide world is full of billions of living, breathing souls, all striving for similar things—to achieve purpose in life, to make their life count somehow.

And let it be a bridge to reach out. Many of us have neighbors or colleagues from different countries. Invite them over for a meal and to watch the Olympics together. Maybe even ask them to bring a dish from their country and share your cuisines. Talk about what sports are like in their country and what brings their countrymen together.

The Olympics are an easy topic around which to unite, talk about what we have in common, and build relationships. In some way, the Games speak to the hearts of everyone. People in every culture know what it’s like to spend their lives trying to achieve something. Every person knows what it’s like to try to find meaning and purpose.

Use these Olympic Games to ask people about their passion in life and what they’re striving for. Ask them what they want their big life achievements to be. Ask them where they find their purpose. Ask them if they’ve ever been disappointed in that quest. Ask if their accomplishments have fulfilled them like they thought they would.

The Olympics are a great bridge to enter a conversation about the race we’re running and the hope that we have—a hope that will gather the nations together one day in a way that is a million times more peaceful, a million times better.

» Read full story.

» See also Experiencing the Olympics with God in Mind (Weave). For daily devotions and activities to do with your children, join the author’s Missional Olympics Facebook group. Sound familiar? We highlighted both those things in last week’s Resource Reviews. Take a look if you missed it!