World News Briefs

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeMissions Catalyst News Briefs 7.1.15

  1. WORLD: Wars and Statistics
  2. INDIA: Holiday Wars
  3. LEBANON: Muslim Leaders Condemn Persecution of Christians
  4. WORLD: Refugees, Crisis or Opportunity?
  5. INDONESIA: Former Jihadist Starts Jesus Communities

HopeinJesusListen to Josh Lavender sing Hope in Jesus.


How do you communicate hope? Before we can communicate hope to others we must learn to make them feel welcome. I am finding that the tools that a missionary needs to communicate well are also needed close to home. The pluralistic West hosts many subcultures, even where I live in upstate New York. In light of that, my pastor sent me a helpful list of seven things to say to church visitors and from the same source ten things you should never say (Thom Rainer).

Even more helpful is this list of things to avoid saying in an honor/shame context ( The explanations are SO helpful. I think some of my relatives are from an honor/shame subculture!

Communicating hope must also be done with prayer. Are you praying this Ramadan for Muslims? Here are some ways to pray for Muslims besieged by war (Zwemer Center).

Communicating hope in Jesus,


WORLD: Wars and Statistics

Sources: various via Pat Noble, June 2015

Did you realize that Monday, June 29 was the one-year anniversary of the declared “caliphate” by ISIS? It bought to mind  an interview with Philip Jenkins by The Gospel Coalition which discussed Jenkins’ latest book, The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade. Meanwhile, many evangelicals in the U.S. and elsewhere are despairing about the moral decline of society.

All this causes me to think about social changes, especially those that are ideologically driven. How is the enemy leveraging ideologies? How do we pray, or act? The first thing may be to recognize when what we’re hearing is propaganda and to combat it, if only in our own minds, with hard facts. Since data is inherently boring, I try to find information presented with great graphics, like those from INContext and Missiographics.

Some creative types use their art to humanize the data. Check out Hard Data, a five-minute video and music piece illustrating military data about casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. Jump in and watch from 8:50 to 10:10 to hear the artist describe this work (Flowing Data). Another great data visual about war is an interactive 15-minute piece, The Fallen of World War II (Neil Haloren). While the civilian and military deaths have gone down, the number of “other casualties” of conflict, refugees and internally displaced people, has risen steadily. See a New York Times visualization of the flight of refugees around the globe.

But back to holy wars and the utopian ideals that often drive them. Their appeal may be that they give hope to those who have none. Scripture calls hope, specifically “the hope set before us” as believers, the anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:18-20). And take a look at the context: this hope is for “we who have fled for refuge.” We can keep praying for more of those seeking social change or simply seeking refuge to know such a hope!

INDIA: Holiday Wars

Source: World Watch Monitor, June 29, 2015

As you may have seen, June 21 was the first-ever International Yoga Day, observed from New Delhi to New York. In yoga’s birthplace, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself led a yoga session attended by 37,000 people in the heart of Indian capital. June 21 also was a Sunday, and that’s why several of India’s Christian organizations voiced their opposition—not to yoga itself, but to another big national event scheduled on a Christian holy day.

“It’s not that we do not welcome yoga, minus its (Hindu) religious connotation, since it has merits for mind exercise and relieving stress. However, the hype and overboard is just too much,” said [a senior Presbyterian church leader in the north-east of India and former leader in the National Council of Churches in India].

Yoga Day is the latest of several attempts by India’s government to hold high-profile events on Christian holy days. The government declared a nationwide observance of “Good Governance Day” on Christmas. It convened a national conference of judges on Good Friday. India’s education minister has said yoga would become part of the federal school curriculum, and a top official of one of India’s 29 states told a Catholic convention that Christians should start reciting Hindu mantras as part of their worship services.

» Read full story.

WORLD: Refugees, Crisis or Opportunity?

Source: Mission Network News, June 16, 2015

Amnesty’s 35-page report The Global Refugee Crisis: A Conspiracy of Neglect blames the world and its leaders for failing to “fix” desperate circumstances currently surrounding 50 million people.

“The global refugee crisis may be fueled by conflict and persecution,” part of the report reads, “but it is compounded by the neglect of the international community in the face of this human suffering.”

About two-thirds of the world’s refugees have been in exile for more than five years, many of them with no end in sight. Approximately 86% live in developing nations; Turkey, Lebanon, and Pakistan each host over one million refugees.

Outlining crises in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia, [Amnesty] calls for a “paradigm shift” in the way people view the global refugee crisis. It also blames the global community for refugee deaths.

“The current approaches to the world’s many refugee crises are failing—and the toll in lives lost and lives blighted is far higher than many armed conflicts.”

» Read full story.

» See also: The Global Refugee Crisis in Unprecedented and Getting Worse (VICE News), A Record Year in Misery: the World Has Never Seen a Refugee Crisis This Bad (Foreign Policy), the four-minute video Interview with a Refugee Pastor (IAFR), summaries of a Brookings panel on Europe’s Migration Crisis, the moving Diary of a Teenage Refugee (Tearfund), and Migrant Deaths Worldwide (Carnegie Council). Many refugees are coming from a country many people have never heard of: Eritrea. Read about why they are fleeing what has been called the “North Korea of Africa.”

LEBANON: Muslim Leaders Condemn Persecution of Christians

Source: Catholic News Agency, June 17, 2015

The leaders of four branches of Islam in Lebanon gathered earlier this month to issue a joint statement in the face of sectarianism and the rise of the Islamic State, denouncing attacks against Christians in the region.

“In the name of religious, humanitarian and national principles, the summit condemns religiously motivated attacks against Eastern Christians, including attacks against their homes, villages, property, and places of worship, when in fact the Prophet had recommended that they be respected, protected, and defended,” the participants said in a June 2 statement.

Such attacks, “like those suffered by other Muslims and non-Muslims belonging to other faiths and cultures, like the Yazidis, are tantamount to aggression against Islam itself,” they added, according to, a site edited by Fr. Rif’at Bader, a priest of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

The June summit included representatives of the Sunni, Shia, Druze, and Alawite communities.

» Read full story.

INDONESIA: Former Jihadist Starts Jesus Communities

Source: Joel News, June 23, 2015

Raharjo (not his real name) was a school drop-out on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi looking for work, when he was recruited by a jihadist organization. Like many young Muslim men, he was paid to attack Christian villages with the aim to force the Christians out of the area. However, as a result of the increased “war on terror” by the United States after the 9-11 attack, his group fell apart and he lost his job. Raharjo returned to Jakarta, traumatized and depressed. There he joined a punk group and started to use heroin.

One night Raharjo had a dream. A person who introduced himself as Jesus (Isa) spoke to him in “bright and strong language” and told him to “Follow me!” In the dream Raharjo decided to follow this person. When he woke up, he found himself healthy, sober, and without any desire to use drugs.

His newfound faith struck deep roots in Raharjo and changed him over time. He introduced all his gang members to his new Christian friends, and one after another began to take an interest in Jesus.

The method they used to “discover Jesus” was simple: they followed the instructions of the Quran to read the Gospels and also parts of the Old Testament. Questions that arose were answered cautiously. In this way the young men were able to discover their faith by themselves.

» Learn more or subscribe to Joel News.

» Readers might also be interested in a recent report from CBN News about Muslims turning to faith in Jesus in response to atrocities committed by Islamic extremists, though some of its claims seem a bit, well, extreme.

World News Briefs

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeIn This Issue: Challenging our assumptions

African Men


Have you ever observed someone and wondered why they act that way? Or assumed that someone was part of a certain group because of the way they behave? I find it refreshing when my own assumptions are challenged, and sometimes it helps me laugh at myself. The video How Do You Distinguish Americans? provided such an opportunity. See also African Men, Hollywood Stereotypes, in which some young Africans were able to laugh at themselves, too.

The young, who haven’t yet learned how they are “supposed” to behave, are sometimes more ready, willing vessels for God because of it. For example, read a New York Times piece about the Child Preachers of Brazil.

Ramadan begins this evening. I find it a great time to face my stereotypes head on and devoting time to learning about and praying for the Muslim world. The reading and viewing list I hope to tackle this Ramadan will take me into the world of extremists. See a few links from my collection below, as well as another piece we shared this time last year, a report from St. Francis Magazine on Ramadan’s effects on spiritual openness.

This Saturday, June 20, is World Refugee Day. This year’s theme is “Get to Know a Refugee.” Download the UNHCR’s toolkit on this topic.

Getting to know the “other” (and myself),


ISLAMIC WORLD: Thought-provoking Presentations

Various sources, via Pat Noble

A semi-annual Conference on Religion, Politics, and Public Life was held last month in Florida and included insightful presentations on the topic The Islamic State: Understanding its Ideology and Theology. You can listen to the audio recordings or read the transcripts.

Earlier this month, Brookings Institution convened a US-Islamic World Forum in Qatar. Watch nine videos from that event. First on my list is one on Pluralism in the Islamic World.

My list would not be complete without some TED talks; this time, a playlist on terrorism.

I saved the best for last: Lausanne’s 2014 Global Consultation on Islam includes informative presentations on Progressive and Liberative Islam.

TURKEY: Yazidi People Ask Jesus to Help Them Find a Permanent Home

Source: CryOut prayer email, June 8, 2015

A coordinated plan is underway among several Yazidi refugee camps throughout Turkey to leave their camps [and] migrate to the northwest border of Turkey. Their intent is to bring attention to their plight so that the international community might agree to relocate them to a permanent home in non-Muslim countries, which is their desire.

After nine months in makeshift tent camps where temperatures can reach 120-degrees, where baby formula and diapers are in short supply for mothers unable to produce milk due to PTSD and where very few educational resources are available to children/youth, staying put is no longer an option. Many have come to a point that they would rather risk their lives than waste away, forgotten about, with no promise of relocation.

As a marginalized people they are asking the Christian community for help, and based on what they know of Christians and previous interactions with them, they believe Christians will help them.

Leaders in a local church near one of the camps in southeast Turkey have been studying the Gospels with a Kurd from a nearby local church and have indicated that they believe Jesus will help them in their plight and have begun to call out to him in prayer.

» Read full article, browse CryOut archives, or subscribe to updates.

» Also see Christians Among 88 Eritrean Refugees Kidnapped by ISIS (The Christian Post).

WORLD: Migration and the Future of Faith

Source: INcontext, June 2015

Editor’s Note: This is from a larger analysis of the recent Pew Forum report on religion, but it’s from the section on migration, something not always factored into population studies.

International migration will influence the projected size of religious groups in various regions and countries. Numbers are, however, difficult to determine because migration is often linked to government policies and international events that can change quickly. For this reason, many population projections do not include migration in their models. But the Pew Research Center has developed an innovative way of using data on past migration patterns to estimate the religious composition of migrant flows in the decades ahead.

In Europe, the Muslim share of the population is expected to increase from 5.9% in 2010 to 10.2% in 2050 when migration is taken into account. Without migration, the Muslim share of Europe’s population in 2050 is projected to be nearly two percentage points lower (8.4%).

In North America, the Hindu share of the population is expected to nearly double in the decades ahead, from 0.7% in 2010 to 1.3% in 2050, when migration is included in the projection models. Without migration, the Hindu share of the region’s population would remain about the same (0.8%).

In the Middle East and North Africa, the continued migration of Christians into the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries is expected to offset the exodus of Christians from other countries in the region. With migration factored in, the estimated Christian share of the population is expected to be just above 3% (down from nearly 4% in 2010).

» Read full story.

» See also these three finds: State of the World / The Task Reminaing (a short video from Global Frontier Missions), The Top 20 Countries Where Christianity Is Growing the Fastest (, and Are Hindus Being Undercounted in Religion Surveys? (Worldwide Religious News).