Missions Catalyst 03.08.12 – World News Briefs

In This Issue: Religious communities struggling to live side by side

  • TURKEY: On Questioning Religions
  • INDONESIA: Saying “No” to Islamic Intolerance
  • CHINA: House Church Leader Released
  • IRAN: Officials Concerned over Spread of Christianity in Malaysia
  • SRI LANKA: Pastor Threatened, Church Ordered to Close

Missions Catalyst is a free, weekly electronic digest of mission news and resources designed to inspire and equip Christians worldwide for global ministry. Use it to fuel your prayers, find tips and opportunities, and stay in touch with how God is building his kingdom all over the world. Please forward it freely!


Last month Newsweek published Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World. While this voice of experience deserves to be heard, some with less personal experience but perhaps with a broader view disagree. Read Newsweek Feeds Fear (Baptist Center for Ethics) and Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Tale of Christophobia (Peace Catalyst International).

And by now you may have heard reports that the “Arab Spring” has turned into a “Christian Winter.” Again, I give you some challengers: read Egypt Revolution Not a “Christian Winter” (The Christian Post) and After the Spring (International Mission Board).

Have you noticed that in many media outlets, Christianity is fair game for criticism even when other faiths may be more carefully portrayed? The BBC admits this and offers some explanation (ASSIST News Service). Two points made me proud: that Christianity is not tied to any one ethnic group and is more “broad shouldered.” What do you think?

Be blessed,
Pat Noble

TURKEY: On Questioning Religions

Source: Forum 18, February 18, 2012

The prosecution of – among others – a cartoonist, a website contributor, and the publisher of a diary has raised concerns about how the complementary human rights of freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief can be exercised in Turkey, including the religious freedom right not to believe. The common element is that all these cases relate to the prosecution of questioning or criticism of all religions, or Islam specifically, from an atheist perspective.

In all these cases, Article 216 (3) of the Turkish Criminal Code (“denigrating the religious values of a group”) has been used as the legal basis of prosecution. A close look at this provision and its application is therefore necessary to understand the developing intersection of freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience, religion, or belief in Turkey.

These cases are taking place in the context of public debate on drafting a new constitution. This has opened up discussion in Turkey of a wide range of issues to do with freedom of religion or belief.

>> Full story. See also a previous article about the drafting of this new constitution.

>> Also on the topic of denigrating religious values, Jere Van Dyke has some advice about the Afghanistan Qur’an-burning protests. Other countries grappling with these issues are Pakistan (Pakistani Christian Leader Addresses Challenges) and India (Are We Ready for Spiritual Democracy?).

INDONESIA: Saying “No” to Islamic Intolerance

Source: ASSIST News Service, February 29, 2012

Something happened in Palangkaraya, the provincial capital of Central Kalimantan, on Saturday, February 1, 2012, that may prove pivotal for Indonesia. On February 11, four prominent leaders of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) flew into Central Kalimantan from Jakarta to inaugurate their organization in Palangkaraya. Upon landing, however, the FPI delegation – which included FPI founder, Saudi-educated Habib Rizieq – was blocked by a crowd of around 800 locals, mostly indigenous Dayaks, at Palangkaraya’s Tjilik Riwut Airport.

The protestors forced their way onto the runway to confront the FPI officials, causing air traffic to be disrupted for over three hours. They dispersed only after airport officials convinced them that the FPI members would not be permitted to disembark and would travel on to another destination.

The Jakarta Globe headline on February 16 was a classic: “Could Palangkaraya Be Our Rosa Parks’ Moment in the War against Violence?” According to Jakarta Globe correspondent Pangeran Siahaan, “The people of Palangkaraya believe violence, which the FPI advocates, is intolerable, and they found FPI’s presence in their city as a threat to society. The residents were successful in ousting the FPI, as the FPI officers … fled without stepping off their plane.”

>> Full story.

CHINA: House Church Leader Released

Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide, January 24, 2012

Pastor Shi Enhao, Deputy Chairman of the Chinese House Church Alliance, was unexpectedly released from labor camp Friday, January 20, after serving six months of a two-year re-education through labor (RTL) sentence. The reason for his early release is unknown.

Pastor Shi, who oversees several hundred house churches with thousands of members, had previously disappeared on June 12, 2011, before police confirmed his detention on June 21, 2011. Early release from RTL is rare, except in cases of illness.

Leaders of the group have faced severe persecution in the past, including arrest, imprisonment, and harassment.

While many house churches in China operate with relative freedom, there continue to be cases of arrest, disappearance, harassment, and confiscation of property among house church Christians in China. 2011 saw a crackdown on any form of dissent, with lawyers, writers, religious leaders, Tibetans, Uyghurs, and others affected. The Chinese authorities have been largely immune to international pressure on these issues in recent months.

>> Full story with picture.

>> More stories of prisoners released include Lao Pastor Set Free after Nearly Thirteen Years (Barnabas Aid), Accused Pastor in Kashmir, India Given Reprieve (Compass Direct), and Joy as Pastor Is Released from Labour Camp in Turkmenistan Prisoner Amnesty (Barnabas Aid).

IRAN: Officials Concerned over Spread of Christianity in Malaysia

Source: ASSIST News Service, February 4, 2012

The ruling Islamic regime of Iran is not only worried about the growth of Christianity inside the country [of Iran], but is also concerned about the increase in tendency of Malays [in Malaysia] towards Christianity.

Mohabat News reports the IRNA news agency, which is backed by the Islamic republic, reflected this news quoting the Malaysia Insider news site as saying: “Jamil Khair Baharom, the minister of Islamic affairs, expressed his concern over the growth of Christianity among Malays and in reaction to the growth in evangelism said, instead of passage of new rules, all efforts should be made to enforce current rules more strongly.”

Mohabat News says the law to control and restrict non-Islamic religions among Malay Muslims was adopted in 1980.

The news agency says the minister of Islamic affairs in Malaysia believes that the law lacks strength in its execution, and officers of religious affairs should exert more seriousness in executing these laws.

>> Full story.

>> Also listen to a six-minute talk on Iran’s “Halal Internet” (NPR) and read The Situation in Iran: Human Rights, Youth, and the Media (Chatham House).

SRI LANKA: Pastor Threatened, Church Ordered to Close

Source: WEA Religious Liberty Prayer News, March 1, 2012

A pastor in Ambalangoda, Sri Lanka, was threatened by a large group of Buddhist monks who accused him of conducting Christian religious activities. He was also warned not to convert Buddhists. When the pastor responded to allegations, he was slapped and assaulted by one of the monks. The extremist Buddhist monks have issued an ultimatum for the pastor and his family to leave the village or face death.

On February 27, the monks organized a large demonstration in front of the police station against the pastor. The pastor was ordered by the police to stop worship services and close down the church.

>> Full story with prayer points.


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.





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