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).

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!

THAILAND: Sacred Ink?

Source: International Mission Board, January 29, 2018

When I moved with my family to Thailand a few years ago, I began noticing an abundance of tattoo parlors, many advertising “bamboo tattoos.” I soon learned that bamboo tattoos are known in the local language as sak yant, which translates literally, “tattoo of sacred image.”

Sak Yant has gained worldwide fame. The tattoos are considered fashionable and are sought after by many who travel to Thailand. But it is important to understand the spiritual implications of the tattoos.

Khun Pat, a Christian who once practiced sak yant extensively, cautions, “For people who want to be involved with sak yant, they need to know this—it is not an art form. You open the door for something really dark to come into you.”

Khun Pat testifies to the deliverance from sak yant he found in Christ. “What Jesus gave me is not the power to hurt people, not to harm people; but what he gave me was the power to love people. Sak yant is darkness—it will destroy you long term. But Jesus will give you life.”

» See full story with photos and a short videos to see why he says these tats are trouble.

» It may be helpful to acknowledge that tattoos send different messages in different contexts. See Tattoos Present Him With Witnessing Opportunities (Baptist Press) and other points explored in a conversation on the topic at AskaMissionary.com. Also check out Why So Many Americans Think Buddhism Is Just a Philosophy (The Conversation).