Missions Catalyst News Briefs

In This Issue: Stories of global engagement

Dear Readers,

This edition seems to have a theme: engagement. State and church engagement, and on a global scale. As Missions Catalyst readers I am sure you are all engaged globally, but let me share some stuff about what others are doing.

The Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) is an evangelical but non-partisan, non-proselytizing, non-profit organization that “works at the critical intersection of religion and global affairs, building sustainable environments for religious freedom worldwide.”

This four-minute talk by the chairman of their board is inspiring! I was so impressed with the speaker I had to know more. Read J. Brady Anderson’s bio (Wycliffe). For more about the IGE, listen to this five-minute interview with the president.

Global engagement can be intentional or forced. Many of us learned from Perspectives on the World Christian Movement about voluntary or involuntary going or coming. Here is one church’s response to the immigrant “border children” now coming to the US.

Want to be more globally engaged with foreigners and refugees? Read this and pray this, along with the words of Ezekiel 22:29-30 (thanks for this insight, Neal!).

Pat

Pat

Pat Noble has been the “news sleuth” for Missions Catalyst since 2004. In addition to churning out the news, she is working to create a SWARM (Serving World A Regional Mobilizers) in Northern New York using the NorthernChristian.org website. You can connect with her at www.whatsoeverthings.com.

BURUNDI: Lawmakers Pass Bill to Curb Proliferation of Churches

Source: Christian Post, July 11, 2014

Citing a survey last year which found that there were some 557 practicing Christian denominations in the small Central African nation, Burundi’s lower house of parliament has passed a bill requiring churches to have at least 500 members and a building to stanch the “proliferation of churches” in that country.

Under the proposed law, foreign churches will need at least 1,000 followers before they can register as a legitimate church, according to the BBC.

Evangelical churches have been cropping up at a rapid pace in the predominantly Christian nation of nearly 9 million people since the end of a long, ethnic-based civil war in 2005 in which an estimated 300,000 people were killed.

The government, led by born-again Christian President Pierre Nkurunziza, believes that the church community is currently too haphazard, with just about anyone being able to start a church, and it has also been plagued by scandals as well. One recent scandal involved a pastor imploring barren women who wanted to conceive to sleep with him.

The BBC said the bill got unanimous support from the MPs in Burundi’s National Assembly and is likely to get the same reception in the Senate.

» Full story also reports some of the Christian push back against this legislation. See also Burundi Law to Limit Church Members (BBC).

» From another part of the world, readers might be interested in the registered Chinese church’s views of Christianity (IMB Asia Stories).

NORTH AFRICA: Ramadan Adds Extra Pressure for Christians

Source: World Watch Monitor, July 3, 2014

In about 50 countries across the world, some 1.6 billion Muslims have [been] fasting from sunrise to sunset for the 30 days of Ramadan. Much as it’s celebrated by those who choose to participate, it also brings a heightened pressure for non-Muslims if they do not agree that they should be forced to fast.

Often the pressure comes from social discrimination, but in a country such as Algeria or Morocco, where Islam is the state religion, breaking the Ramadan fast in public is punishable by a fine and imprisonment.

A majority of [Algeria’s] Christians are Kabyle Berber, and many object to being forced to fast at this time of year.

Last year, during Ramadan, there was a joint effort by the police in the same region to arrest public non-fasters. This sparked a wave of outrage among human rights activists, and in reaction, hundreds staged picnics in protest against ‘forced’ fasting.

» Read full story.

ISRAEL: Messianic Jews and Arab Christians Gather amid Violence

Source: ASSIST News Service, July 10, 2014

“Dancing together with Arabs? Laughing together with them? These are the people I hated my whole life,” says Chava, a Messianic Jewish girl who grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family in Israel.

According to Israel Today, Chava was part of a three-day gathering where she met with an estimated 1,000 Messianic Jewish and Arab Christian youth and young adults in Haifa.

At a time when murderous kidnappings, violent riots and a developing war in Gaza are bringing racial tensions to boiling point, these young Messianic Jews and Arab Christians arrived at the conference still reeling with all the raw emotions of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

For Chava, who grew up in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish ghetto, it was the first time to be in such close quarters with Arabs.

“I used to walk with my family to the Wailing Wall and pray that bad things would happen to the Arabs,” she recalled.

“We have this view that Arabs are bad people. But when I saw them praying to God, and heard them worshipping in Hebrew and then in Arabic, God touched my heart. These are the lost brothers and sisters I have been looking for all my life,” she said.

“As I washed the feet of my Arab sister, I was able to ask forgiveness for the way my family, and my people, look at them (Arabs),” Chava said.

“To hear her say that she forgives me and loves me was so healing. It was the love from Yeshua, nothing else. I never had an Arab friend.”

» Full story with picture. See also the original report from Israel Today.

» Readers might be interested in Mosul Exodus: Three Faith Groups, One Story (Institute on War and Peace Reporting).

IRAQ: New Prayer Movement among Kurdish Christians

Source: Christian Broadcasting Network, via OM Newsbytes, July-August 2014

The Kurds, who have one of the longest cultural histories in the Middle East, are [today divided among] Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. Kurdish culture has remained unique from other cultures around it. In fact, tens of thousands of Kurds today identify as Christians, although thousands have been fleeing their homeland recently in the wake of militant Islamic attacks. As a result of the attacks more than 500,000 refugees have flooded into the Kurdish part of Iraq.

But God is at work in the situation. Fabian Grech, a leader within with the Mesopotamia House of Prayer in Erbil said, “In the last couple of weeks, there’s been a rise of prayer meetings all over the city. People are opening their homes for prayer and praying with their neighbors. The local churches have been opening their buildings for prayer in the morning. It wasn’t like that before. So we are seeking God’s face for our country. The prayers are filled with faith and passion—big prayers.”

» Read full story. See also the original report from CBN.

PAKISTAN: Proclaiming a Message of Hope

Source: Christian Aid Mission, July 10, 2014

Despite relentless persecution against Christians, a ministry in Pakistan is seeking to strategically bring the good news of salvation [through Bible distribution] to some of the most hostile sections of the country this summer.

The project was launched in mid-May with just 285 Bibles at the ministry’s disposal. The ministry director said his group is taking a bold step of faith and trusting God to provide all of the 2,000 Bibles they are planning to make available to their Muslim neighbors near a Taliban-controlled area by August 31.

“It is one of the difficult areas to evangelize,” the ministry leader explained in a report to Christian Aid Mission. “We praise God that in spite of all the hazards caused by heat and hatred, there are those who are seeking for the written Word of God.”

Since it is illegal to evangelize in Pakistan, Bibles cannot be given out for free. They can, however, be offered for sale at a low cost. The ministry pays $5 per Bible and sells them for $2.

Wherever the ministry’s gospel workers go, they find men and women whose hearts are eager to read the Word of God for themselves.

During its inaugural year in 1991, the ministry set a goal to sell and distribute 1,000 Bibles to Muslims. That goal was reached in the first month! By the end of the year, 4,000 Bibles had been sold.

» Read full story.

Missions Catalyst News Briefs

cropped-Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_large.pngIn This Issue: News from the nations: Armenia, Pakistan, and China

  1. MIDDLE EAST: “Islamic State” Rises

  2. ARMENIA: First Bible College
  3. PAKISTAN: Passing Out Literature on Independence Day
  4. GEORGIA: Despite Threats, Many Accept Gospel
  5. CHINA: Persecution – Again!

For additional news, see our Twitter feed.

Greetings!

With the US Independence Day holiday just around the corner and yet more media reports of “nation rising against nation,” nationalism is on my mind. Last week our home group read in Samuel 1 about Israel wanting their own king. It struck me that for these tribes called by God to be a light to the world, this was the birth of nationalism. And God was against it!

Does nationalism interfere with witness? Maybe. What about transnationalism? How is it different than globalization? And how does it affect the witness of the Church? My friend Justin Long is once again thinking about the same things. Read his thoughts on the complexities of nationalism and the Kingdom.

This week’s stories include nations like the world’s first “Christian nation,” Armenia, which define themselves by an ideology, as well as nations with deep divisions and people without a nation.

What does God think of nation building? How can it be leveraged for the Kingdom? Glad you asked. We’re in the season of Ramadan, a time that rallies Muslims transnationally and a great time for us to pray. Read Ramadan’s Effects on Openness (St. Francis Magazine). This article summarizes field observations about the spiritual dynamics surrounding the Ramadan fast, with numerous suggestions for more effectively reaching Muslims with the gospel.

And visuals are great for prayer. Check out Ramadan in Pictures (Al Jazeera).

Finally, what is prayer without a promise? See Psalm 2:10-12.

Pat Noble

MIDDLE EAST: “Islamic State” Rises

Source: Worthy News, June 30, 2014

On the first day of Ramadan, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant declared a new Islamic Caliphate in the areas it now occupies, and has renamed itself as simply “Islamic State,” as it ushers in a new era of international jihad. The “Islamic State” has called on al-Qaeda and other Sunni jihadist groups operating in the region to immediately pledge their allegiance.

The Caliphate would be established in all areas the “Islamic State” controls in Iraq and Syria. It announced that its leader, [who calls himself] Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, would be the caliph or head of state. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was released in 2009 from a US detention center in Iraq. The US has a $10 million bounty on his head.

“The time has come for the Ummah [nation] of Mohammed (peace be upon him) to wake up from its sleep, remove the garments of dishonor, and shake off the dust of humiliation and disgrace,” Islamic State spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani said in an audio release.

» Read complete article.

» See also What Is a Caliphate? (Huffington Post) and 20 facts about what’s happening in Iraq (INContext). If you have time, watch or listen to a talk from Arif Jamal, author of Call for Transnational Jihad (Hudson Institute).

ARMENIA: First Bible College

Source: Assemblies of God AG News, June 18, 2014

A trip to Armenia, led by [Assemblies of God] General Superintendent George O. Wood and Global University President Gary Seevers, has resulted in the Armenia Bible College, a School of Global University, being created, with classes beginning in September. The college will be the only Bible college in Armenia.

Dr. Wood spoke at an invitation-only meeting of approximately 2,000 Pentecostal leaders and believers in Yerevan. These groups have requested the assistance of Global University to launch Armenia Bible College and train missionaries. They desired to increase their effectiveness as “a lighthouse for Christ in a sea of Islam.”

» Read complete article.

PAKISTAN: Passing Out Literature on Independence Day

Source: OM News, June 20, 2014

Pakistan’s Independence Day, March 23, [was] a great opportunity for the teams of OM Pakistan to share the good news using literature.

In the south, the team ordered 2,500 pamphlets they intended to distribute in a particular city. They asked the youth of a local church to help and gave leaflets out throughout city.

One man they met said, “This is amazing! I was thinking, nobody seems to know about Pakistan Day here, but you are sharing God’s love to awaken the nation through this literature. I appreciate your loyalty to the motherland. May God bless Pakistan!”

The team in the north also distributed 2,000 leaflets in six cities. The leaflet talked about the issues Pakistan struggles with and the need to pray for the country and play a personal role in its restoration. It emphasized that, although now Pakistanis live in a free country, there is a lack of awareness of the freedom that Yasu Al-Masih (Jesus) offers from the powers of darkness, sin, and death.

» Read complete article. Please also read about and pray for many Pakistanis who have been displaced by violence: Unbelievably, There Are Now Refugees Fleeing to Afghanistan (Time), In A Remote Corner Of Pakistan, A Mass Exodus (NPR), Afghanistan Becomes Unlikely Safe Haven for Pakistani Refugees (IRIN), and Ethnic Cleansing Goes Unpunished in the Land of the Pure (Inter Press Service).

» Readers might also be encouraged by another recent story from OM. Speaking to the Arli Heart is about the impact of scripture distribution on Roma people in Serbia, and it led us to an interesting article by Philip Jenkins, The Church of the Roma, in his series Notes from the Global Church (Christian Century).