BAHRAIN: Arab State Declares Religious Tolerance

Source: World Watch Monitor, September 21, 2017

The King of Bahrain has sought to promote his country as a global champion of religious tolerance, with a declaration that advocates freedom of religion for all and rejects extremism.

In the Bahrain Declaration, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa “unequivocally reject[s] compelled observance.”

The one-page pledge, which was co-sponsored by the Jewish US-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, also calls for the condemnation of terrorism, of stirring up extremism, of suicide bombing, and of sexual slavery.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Center’s associate dean and social action head, told World Watch Monitor that Muslim, Christian, and Jewish scholars had looked over the king’s text before it was published. He added that it was the first such declaration by the head of an Arab state. “We hope to take this text and get sign-offs from leaders around the world of all faiths,” he said, adding that the king had also pledged to build a center akin to the Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance.

» Full story points out that this declaration stops short of specifically stating that Muslims can leave Islam for another religion.

» Also read Saudi Arabia Agrees to Let Women Drive (New York Times).

MIDDLE EAST: How Ministry Has Changed

Source: Arab World Media, October 1, 2017

Charles has been in ministry to Muslims for thirty years, many of those with Arab World Media. As he approaches retirement, we asked him to reflect on how things have changed in that time.

“Today a Muslim enquirer in the Arab world can find a phone number on a Christian website or a satellite TV programme, make a call at minimal or no cost (if they have an internet connection), and speak to an Arab believer. This is a truly amazing development!

“When I first visited Morocco in the early 1980s, there was only one TV channel and the news focused mainly on the king’s activities. In order to make an international phone call, I had to go to the main post office, and it was quite expensive. If Moroccans were interested in the gospel, their best chance of hearing it would probably have been on the radio—one or two hours of broadcasting each evening on Trans World Radio. After that they could correspond with a media organization and do a simple Bible correspondence course. Later, it might be possible to arrange for them to meet with a believer—often an expatriate visitor.

“Today our response workers are able to send an electronic copy of the Bible to their contacts via WhatsApp. It is true that many also ask for a hard copy, because reading from a phone screen is tiresome. Nevertheless, the opportunity to find out about the gospel has mushroomed through satellite TV, the internet and, most recently, social media. What will come next?”

» Full story also goes into the ways ministry in these contexts hasn’t changed: the challenges have not gone away. Hope you’ll read it.

SOUTH ASIA: God Uses Ordinary Women to Grow Churches

Source: Beyond, September 15, 2017

“One day, busy with housework at home, I heard a loud voice come through the open window. It seemed to come from my neighbor’s house. The person was telling a story. I stopped to listen. It was an amazing story about how the world came to be. Back at the beginning, God made this world a beautiful place. Amazing! I had to give my full attention to that voice.

“Once the story was finished, I went to find out more. Rini, my neighbor, told me that three months ago, she became a follower of Jesus. A man named Raj gave her an audio speaker with God’s stories on it so she could learn what it means to follow Jesus. Rini now meets with 47 other people in her home each week to study the stories. They listen to a story, and then discuss questions about it. That creation story was so beautiful. I began to attend the meetings and soon decided to also follow the God of those stories.

“One month later, I met Raj. He gave me a speaker, too, and now we have two groups meeting in our village! Just like the group at Rini’s house, we listen to a story, discuss what it teaches about God, and then try to apply it to our lives that week. We are all learning about God. I am very thankful to Raj for providing us with a speaker. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to know this amazing and lovely God. I am an illiterate woman. I cannot read or write, but the stories on this speaker have changed my life.”

» Full story includes several other examples of God working through ordinary women to spread his Word and build his Church.

» See also Reaching Beyond One (Frontiers) and pray for the woman it describes to introduce her friends and family to Jesus in such a way that men and women say, “tell us more!”

TURKEY: Andrew Brunson, Political Hostage

Source: World Watch Monitor, September 29, 2017

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has for the first time confirmed publicly that a U.S. pastor jailed in Turkey for the past 12 months is being held by his government as a political hostage.

In a speech at his presidential palace [on September 28], Erdoğan openly called on the United States to exchange Pastor Andrew Brunson for Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish citizen living in exile in the U.S. since 1999, who is accused of masterminding last year’s failed coup.

“[The U.S.] says, ‘Give us the pastor back,’” Erdoğan said. “You have one pastor [of ours] as well. The pastor we have [Brunson] is on trial. Yours [Gülen] is not—he is living in Pennsylvania. Give him to us. You can easily give him to us. You can give him right away. Then we will try him [Brunson] and give him to you.’”

Turkey has launched a massive internal crackdown over the past 15 months to identify and punish the FETO (Fethullah Terror Organisation) network accused of infiltrating Turkey’s armed forces and government. More than 50,000 “suspected” judges, prosecutors, soldiers, academics, journalists, human rights activists, and police officers have been jailed, held for months in pre-trial detention.

Since October 7, 2016, Andrew Brunson has been one of these prisoners.

» Read full article (or a related story from Reuters) to better understand the dynamics at play. Please pray for Brunson and his family as the anniversary of his imprisonment approaches.

» Check out the latest edition of EMQ Online for an article about a movement that bears Gülen’s name. This group has been quite active in the U.S., running a network of charter schools, interfaith dialogue groups, and cultural centers. The article focuses on ways to engage followers with the gospel (subscription required).

The Church, as both building and bride | World News Briefs

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeMissions Catalyst News Briefs 09.20.17

  1. USA: Nabeel Qureshi Goes Home
  2. SOUTH SUDAN: New Radio Station
  3. MUSLIM WORLD: “Impossible to Plant a Church in a Muslim Country”
  4. PAKISTAN: VBS Ministry Reaches Thousands
  5. ETHIOPIA: Church Attacked, Told to Close

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Greetings,

This edition gives us a lot to think about when we think of what it means to be the Church. Many point out the Church is not just a building or institution, and I heartily agree. But buildings and institutions can be important tools.

Blessings,
Pat

USA: Nabeel Qureshi Goes Home

Watch Dr. Nabeel Qureshi (1983-2017) share his perspective on life and death in a message he shared in Houston in June.

In keeping with our theme of the Church, let me say the Church has lost a gift with the death of author and apologist Nabeel Qureshi. Christian news sites on the internet are blowing up with this news as eulogies, condolences, video clips, and quotes from Nabeel abound. Please pray with me for his family and friends, including David Wood who led him to Jesus (I hope I get to see their crazy handshake in heaven).

Nabeel summed up his recent battle with cancer well in saying:

“Without Jesus, we approach life with the expectation of death. With Jesus, we approach death with the expectation of life.”

The Church has lost the gift of Nabeel the man, but she has inherited an amazing, powerful legacy.

» Learn more (The Gospel Coalition). You might also want to read the piece Ravi Zacharias wrote about why this Muslim-turned-Christian speaker resonated with so many (The Washington Post).

SOUTH SUDAN: New Radio Station

Source: Words of Hope, September 18, 2017

This summer, a new radio station started airing Words of Hope Dinka radio broadcasts in South Sudan. This allows programming to be heard in more parts of the country than was previously possible. The close partnership between Words of Hope and the station allows for Christian programming to be coupled with better listener follow-up in this remote area.

The country of South Sudan continues to struggle with a long-running civil war and refugee crisis. Words of Hope currently supports radio broadcasts in three languages in South Sudan: Dinka, Nuer, and Bari. The ongoing civil war has forced many Nuer and Bari listeners out of the country and into refugee camps in Kenya and Uganda. The Words of Hope Dinka studio, located on a compound in the city of Rumbek, has been able to operate continuously since it was dedicated in May of 2013.

» Read full story and pray for growing collaboration between broadcasters, local churches, and Christian workers so that all who hear the good news and respond may be discipled.

» Did you know that South Sudanese refugees in Uganda now exceed one million? (UNHCR). The Guardian recently published a photo gallery that tells some of their stories.

MUSLIM WORLD: “Impossible to Plant a Church in a Muslim Country”

Source: SBC International Mission Board, September 14, 2017

“There is no church here. There are no Christians, and,” he added, “there never will be.” His tenor and words stung. They exposed at once the great need of our city of 450,000, as well as the seemingly impossible task. But what this grizzled Muslim man, a stranger to me, didn’t know was that already there were five Muslim-background Christians meeting in my nearby home.

Today, four years later, the fledgling church in that city has disbanded. All missionaries have been forced to leave. The dozen or so local believers who once gathered have mostly moved on. Those who remain live either in isolation or secrecy. Others have fallen away. And I’m left to wonder if perhaps there was something the old man knew that I didn’t. That maybe his city is unreachable. That maybe church planting is impossible.

Without a doubt, missionaries in the Muslim world face an incredible assignment. Usually we think first of the danger or the obvious antagonism to Christianity. While such challenges are real, I can honestly say they may be the least of our worries when we seek to establish a church where there is none.

In some ways it’s easy to be an evangelist in the Muslim world. I’ve found the people friendly and hospitable. Many are overtly religious, relational, and even appreciate lively conversation about religion, God, and Jesus—more so than most Christians I know.

The challenge is this: how do you gather those who do believe?

» Read full story. Readers might also appreciate, from the same source, an article for mission workers on expectations vs. expectancy for mission workers and one for pastors on preaching the biblical basis for missions.

PAKISTAN: VBS Ministry Reaches Thousands

Source: Missions Network News, September 15, 2017

In the last couple of years, Pastor Vazir and his church made the decision to reach out to their community and bless the children there with the gospel.

Then, this summer the number of Christians in Pakistan began growing after Pastor Vazir essentially put his church’s VBS program on wheels.

“He ran 55 different VBS programs across the city of Lahore and outlying areas over the course of the three months this summer,” Bruce Allen [of Forgotten Missionaries International] shares.

“Seven thousand people attended those VBS programs and nearly 2,800 people placed their faith in Jesus Christ as a result.”

“In developing this ministry team that has fanned out in the Punjab province, what they wanted to do was identify places where there were a ton of children and youths, without a VBS program, but at least had Christians living in the community who would be there on site for follow-up,” Allens explains.

» Read full story. Also note that a surprising new census report shows Pakistan’s population has more than doubled in 20 years (Washington Post). That means a lot of children and youth.

» Another recent story from Mission Network News comes from Japan and describes a church whose paster has a vision to see churches become as common in that country as convenience stories. That would take them from 8,000 churches to 55,000 and truly impact Japan for Christ.

ETHIOPIA: Church Attacked, Told to Close

Source: World Watch Monitor, August 11, 2017

A Pentecostal church in Ethiopia has been ordered to stop meeting in a residential area in the wake of a mob attack on the church after which a church member was arrested for “illegal activities” that “incited religious clashes.”

The Full Gospel Church in Tikil Dingaye, 20km from the historic city of Gondar in Amhara State, previously applied for land on which to build a church, but its application was refused, leading the church to purchase a house in which to meet.

Although Ethiopia guarantees religious freedom on paper, Pentecostal churches in rural areas often face restrictions in a society dominated by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC).

The attack on the church took place early in the morning of Sunday, June 11, when a mob destroyed the church’s meeting hall, offices, and the accommodation of a church worker. They also stole money from church members and assaulted some of them, including one man whose front teeth had to be removed due to the injuries he sustained.

The attackers are thought to have belonged to a student movement called Mahibere Kidusan, seen by its critics as “fanatical” in the way it operates to protect the traditions and dominance of the EOC in society.

» Read full story and others from World Watch Monitor, which reports stories from around the world of Christians under pressure for their faith.