Worship in the Wilderness | World News Briefs


In This Issue:

  1. ERITREA: Anniversary Protest Vigil
  2. CHINA: When You Can’t Blend In
  3. INDONESIA: Christian Governor Imprisoned for Blasphemy
  4. VIETNAM: Overcoming Difficulties
  5. ZIMBABWE: Father of Gospel Music

Helen Berhane 2

Helen is an Eritrean gospel singer who spent 32 months imprisoned by the Eritrean authorities in a shipping container. Freezing cold at night and burning hot by day, and even tortured, Helen chose to worship. In her wilderness, God gave her a new song. See story below.


Do you know that there are more than 30 “protracted” refugee situations in the world today? In each situation, more than over 25,000 refugees have been displaced for more than five years with no resolution in sight. Want to educate your fellowship about refugees with World Refugee Sunday approaching? As I sleuth for news I’ve found some really good stuff that will reveal the depths of their plight and give you some fresh ideas on how you can help.

Thursday, May 18, a coalition for the persecuted in Eritrea will protest in the UK as they declare 15 years of oppression is enough. See the story below.

Praying for those without hope,

ERITREA: Anniversary Protest Vigil

Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide, April 26, 2017

While imprisoned in a shipping container, God gave Helen Berhane a new song, enabling her to endure the beatings, torture, and imprisonment designed to break her and destroy her faith. Helen was eventually released after a severe and debilitating assault and was able to flee the country. Others aren’t as fortunate. Thousands of Eritreans of all faiths and none are currently imprisoned without charge, trial, or prospect of release, and unknown numbers have died in detention.

It’s now 15 years since the Eritrean government shut down churches from all but three denominations and began a campaign of mass arrests that also affects members of permitted denominations.

On Thursday, May 18, CSW will be joining with Church in Chains, the Evangelical Alliance, Human Rights Concern Eritrea, the Medhani Alem Eritrean Orthodox Church, and Release Eritrea to protest the continuing repression suffered by the people of Eritrea and to pray for change.

» Read complete article. Listen to Helen Berhane’s story in Worship in the Wilderness (less than six minutes in length).

» Have an hour? Check out The Eritrean Exodus documentary, well worth the US$3.99 I paid to stream it. Proceeds support refugees. Watch trailer.

CHINA: When You Can’t Blend In

Source: OMF International, May 3, 2017

I expected the bizarre scrutiny of the locals, to some degree, anyway. Foreigners were strange people they occasionally saw on TV. If such a being was somehow in the vicinity, their pale skin and curious dress sense caused them to stand out—that and the crowd of people staring at them. However, I don’t think I was quite prepared for the strangely amusing shock that my being black would be for the Chinese.

In China, basketball enjoys a popularity equivalent to that of football in Britain, so a bald-headed black man in Northwest China could only mean one of two things: a holidaying NBA star or one who was lost. I found the phrase “Wo bu shi Michael Jordan” (“I am not Michael Jordan”) extremely useful.

It suddenly clicked that this unexpected “fame” would be a great way to get conversations (albeit limited ones) going, and to share the gospel. Top idea, I thought. One of the things I grew to realize more and more during my seven weeks in China was that God’s ideas are so much better than mine.

» Read full story to see how God worked during Kenton’s visit to China. Please pray for others who will spend a few weeks or months in cross-cultural service this summer. Ask the Lord to bless them and make them a blessing.

INDONESIA: Christian Governor Imprisoned for Blasphemy

Source: WEA Religious Liberty Commission newsletter, May 15, 2017

On May 9, 2017, the governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, was convicted on charges of blasphemy against Islam and sentenced to two years in jail by the North Jakarta District Court.

Purnama, Indonesia’s foremost Christian politician, was appointed as governor of Jakarta in 2014. However, in the wake of blasphemy allegations, Purnama lost his bid for re-election last month.

According to reports, prosecutors had recommended a suspended one-year jail sentence on charges of hate speech. The judges, nevertheless, ignored the prosecutors’ demand. Following the verdict, Purnama’s lawyers stated that they would appeal the court’s ruling. The governor, though, is expected to remain imprisoned during the appeal process.

  • Pray that the District Court’s decision will be overturned by a higher court.
  • Pray for the quick release of Purnama.
  • Pray for God’s protection over him during his imprisonment.
  • Pray for God’s comforting presence upon his family and loved ones during this time of distress.

» Read full story or subscribe to the WEA newsletters.

» See also a related article Christian Governor in Indonesia Found Guilty of Blasphemy against Islam (New York Times) and read about a further development, Indonesia to Review Anti-blasphemy Laws (Straits Times).

VIETNAM: Overcoming Difficulties

Source: Christian Aid Missions, May 4, 2017

Vietnam’s new law on religion has generated much debate in the human rights community, but church leaders know for certain only that difficult realities will continue—and that they can speak of them only in hushed tones.

The new law passed in November crystallizes previous ordinances on church registration and controls, and little is expected to change when it takes effect on January 1, 2018. Registering with the Communist government will continue to be difficult if not impossible for some churches, and those that do will be hampered by prohibitions on Sunday school classes and taking Communion, especially in rural areas.

Church leaders unwilling to submit their congregations to religious freedom violations accompanying registration then leave themselves open to arrest.

» Full story describes efforts to support those affected.

» From another part of the world, see Ethiopian State Considers Restricting Christian Activity to Church Buildings (World Watch Monitor).

ZIMBABWE: Father of Gospel Music

We’ll end this edition of News Briefs on an upbeat note. The Global Christian Worship blog recently highlighted news about a Zimbabwean worship leader whom you may find inspiring:

Machanic Manyeruke“Known as the father of gospel music in Zimbabwe and heralded around the world simply as a great musician and songwriter, Machanic Manyeruke’s rise to international fame from humble origins carries profoundly inspiring and telling lessons,” says James Ault, producer of an upcoming documentary of Manyeruke.

» Watch a short video about the project (for which the funding is now complete) and check out Ault’s website to learn about other documentary films exploring world Christianity. They look interesting.