Infographic: 2024 Will Be a “Super Election” Year

Source: INcontext, February 16, 2024

Did you know 2024 may be the biggest election year in history? The year is notable for a large number of elections, with seven of the world’s ten most populous nations voting. According to Anchor Change, these countries are home to nearly half of the world’s people. Only 38% of elections listed for 2024 are expected to be [fully] free and fair. 

Check out the infographic below for fuel for prayer. See also the interactive election cycle tracker map at Anchor Change.

USA: A Buddhist Monk Asked How to Share the Gospel

Source: OMF, February 14, 2024

Every two years, a new cohort of Buddhist monks shows up in Atlanta to participate in a university program. I was able to meet them through the international coffeehouse ministry I have been a part of, which focuses on learning about other cultures in an open and welcoming environment.

I had the opportunity to have several gospel conversations with them. We talked about God and his plan of salvation through Jesus. We talked about Buddhism and their beliefs in reincarnation and the process of eliminating suffering from your life. We asked questions. We listened. We learned.

As their time in Atlanta was coming to a close, I could feel the burden to share the gospel becoming heavier and heavier. They were leaving to return home, and I didn’t know whether I would ever see them again. Would they ever think about Jesus again after they left Atlanta? Would they ever get to hear the gospel again once they were back at the monastery? My burden felt heavy and urgent.

During our last meeting together, a group of us discussed a Bible story with [one of the monks]. He [asked] us to share with him a summary of the central message of Christianity so when he goes back home, he can share with the other monks what Christianity is all about.

Hear how the writer summed up the gospel for her Buddhist friend. Pray the message sticks with him and that he shares it with others.

A Husband Converts, Lunar New Year, and Sikhs in America

In this edition of News Briefs:

  1. Egypt: Mahdi Wasn’t the Man She Married
  2. World: What Is the Lunar New Year?
  3. USA: Sikhs in America Vote for an Independent Homeland
  4. Indonesia: A Rise in Religious Freedom in the Most Populous Muslim Country
  5. Middle East: God Uses Poor Handwriting for His Glory

Read or share the email edition or scroll down for more.

Egypt: Mahdi Wasn’t the Man She Married

Source: Pioneers-USA, January 27, 2024

It was 2018 when Hanedi’s husband, Mahdi, told her he wouldn’t be fasting during Ramadan with her that year. And that was only the beginning. She found things on his phone she didn’t like. And, as she realized what had happened, she felt as if the sky had come crashing down on her. Mahdi had become a different person. He wasn’t the man she knew. Her response was to become more devout, going to the mosque with her son to pray. After all, somebody had to. Otherwise, what would happen to their family?

In a new video, Hanedi, a refugee from Sudan, shares the story in her own words. Hear about the new things she saw in her husband and how she eventually responded. Mahdi and Hanedi now live in France.

Read the full story and watch the short video. Note that the war in Sudan has displaced more than 10.7 million people (Mission Network News).

Have you heard about the International Migration Bible? Launched at the United Bible Societies World Assembly in October, it includes articles from many migrants highlighting migration and related themes in Scripture. It could be a good resource for you if you minister to people on the move.

World: What Is the Lunar New Year?

Source: East-West blog, February 5, 2024

The Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year and the Spring Festival, is a prominent holiday in East and Southeast Asian countries, including China, Vietnam, Korea, and Singapore.

Lunar New Year begins with the new moon closest to the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. While the Lunar New Year is largely a secular holiday, many traditions originated from Buddhism and Taoism. Believers should understand the significance of the Lunar New Year and know how to share the love of Christ with friends who celebrate this holiday.

The holiday also celebrates new beginnings and ushering in good luck for the new year. Before the new year, people will clean their homes to symbolize ridding the house of the previous year’s bad luck and making room for good luck to enter. Families will also gather for a large dinner and serve dishes representing abundance and fortune.

Read the full story and consider ways you might pray for or connect with friends observing this holiday on Saturday, February 10 (and over a period of several weeks).

Millions travel home in “the world’s largest migration,” but read about the Chinese millennials who shun Lunar New Year travel (BBC).

USA: Sikhs in America Vote for an Independent Homeland

Source: Religion News Service, February 1, 2024

[On Sunday, January 28], more than 120,000 Sikhs of all ages and occupations took part in a historic referendum in San Francisco on the creation of an autonomous homeland in northwestern India. They braved hours-long lines after already long commutes, in many cases from neighboring states, to reach the polling place in the City by the Bay.

These Sikhs, almost all of them U.S. citizens and residents, were voting aspirationally for the creation of Khalistan—a hoped-for but nonexistent “land of the pure” that would stand separate from the nation of India.

Organized by Sikhs for Justice, an activist group banned in India, the vote was aimed at raising the profile of Sikh efforts to convince the government of India to allow Punjab, the state where the Sikh faith was born, to secede.

Read the full story.

Learn more about the Khalistan Movement and how it is connected with tensions between India and Canada (Al Jazeera).

Indonesia: A Rise in Religious Freedom in the Most Populous Muslim Country

Source: International Christian Concern, January 24, 2024

Religion is a vital part of a person’s identity in Indonesia. On each citizen’s official National Identity Card, people can identify with one of the six religions recognized in the Constitution—Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.

A seventh religious category—kepercayaan (belief)—was introduced for identity cards in 2016. But since then, there have been legal and religious challenges to this change, including the Indonesian Ulama Council (an influential national Muslim organization) that opposed this new category.

Indonesia has strict anti-Islam blasphemy laws. Yet Indonesians who are part of minor religions may now openly include their religion in this seventh new category. Government figures show that nearly 140,000 Indonesians have used this new kepercayaan category since its start.

Read the full story or read A Step for Freedom of Religion and Belief in Indonesia (Human Rights Watch).

In other religious liberty commentary, see Islamic Studies No Longer Required for Religious Minority Students in Pakistan; Christians Rejoice (The Christian Post) and A Year of Bumpy Ups and Downs for Religious Liberty in Vietnam (Morning Star News).

Finally, in case you missed it, last week’s Missions Catalyst also highlighted a short video on The Top Ten Countries Where Christians Face Extreme Persecution (Open Doors).

Middle East: God Used Poor Handwriting for His Glory

Source: OneWay, January 31, 2024

Throughout history, God has used human weakness for his glory. That was the case for a OneWay staff member when God took his struggle with bad handwriting and used it to prepare him for international ministry.

When he was a child, “Sparrow” had such poor handwriting that his teachers couldn’t grade his assignments. To help with this, Sparrow’s parents bought him a laptop to use for school, making him among the first people in his community to have one. As he grew in his skills, Sparrow developed a passion for technology, but he didn’t know how to channel it into his passion for missions.

Today, Sparrow works with a large network of missionaries and ministries all over the Arab world as a digital evangelist. He uses Facebook and Google ads to reach out to people in the Middle East who are questioning their faith and connect them with local believers who can answer their questions about Christianity.

Read Digital Evangelism Making an Impact in the Middle East.

See also an article about United Hive, a social media platform designed for Christians to share inspiring “God moments” (Back to Jerusalem).

Data: New Numbers on Global Christianity

It’s a lot to process, so you might want to look for secondary sources citing this resource. See, for example, 8 Encouraging Trends in Global Christianity for 2024 (Lifeway Research). Also consider these tips from Lifeway: How to Use Statistics in Your Sermons.

Of course, there are also some less-than-encouraging trends to be aware of. Voice of the Martyrs also has a new 2024 Global Prayer Guide focused on the persecuted church. Looks like everything is on the website or available in booklet form.

The 2024 World Watch List, an annual ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution, is now out. Watch and consider how you can share their video, Top 10 Countries Where Christians Face Extreme Persecution (Open Doors).

Sources: Various

Need numbers? The Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary has released its 2024 Status of Global Christianity Report. A related article in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research is a bit pricey for non-subscribers, but you can download the one-page summary for free.

It’s also worth looking for secondary sources citing this resource. See, for example, 8 Encouraging Trends in Global Christianity for 2024 (Lifeway Research). Also from Lifeway: How to Use Statistics in Your Sermons.

Of course, there are also some less-than-encouraging trends to be aware of. Voice of the Martyrs also has a new 2024 Global Prayer Guide focused on the persecuted church. Looks like everything is on the website or available in booklet form.

The 2024 World Watch List, an annual ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution, is now out. Watch and consider how you can share their video, Top 10 Countries Where Christians Face Extreme Persecution (Open Doors).