News Worth Listening To
Sri Lanka. On Sunday, May 26, following three previous attacks on churches by extremists, shooters attacked yet another church in Burkina Faso. Also in May, extremists attacked churches, villages or Christians in Nigeria, India, and Pakistan. June saw much of the same. July also records nearly daily incidents with the most recent attack, July 11, with a car bomb exploding near a church in the Syrian city of Qamishli.USA (MNN) – 2019 is a year pockmarked with religious intolerance, persecution, oppression, and harassment. On March 15, 2019, a gunman killed 51 worshippers at a New Zealand mosque. On Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019, suicide bombers killed 250 people, including many children in
Identifying the problemIn a ten year review, the Pew Research Center found high levels of persecution in 42 percent of countries studied. Christians and Muslims, the most significant and most globally widespread of any group, experienced either government or social and religious persecution in over 140 countries. Research like this, along with the data released in the Open Doors' annual World Watch List, underscores the chaos unleashed by religious freedom violations. It's why the U.S. State Department watches the issue and seeks input from leaders, survivors, and other government entities. One instrument of measure is the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom conference, the second of which ended yesterday. The hope is that it will mark the beginning of a global human rights movement centered on religious freedom.
Connecting the dotsIt also puts violators on notice: the world is watching. Open Doors USA's President and CEO David Curry says, "It is a factor in cultures (how things are viewed), and we can't just look at things through nuclear terms or economic terms. We have to consider the cultural impacts as well." He added that there is a clear link between refugee resettlement programs and responses to religious freedom violations. "Religious intolerance is really the nexus of so many crises around the world. When you look at ISIS five years ago, it started as jihadist rebels attacking churches in the north of Iraq. When there was no response, they built in strength and took over an entire region." Among things delegates heard were impact stories from survivors,recommendations on building a better future, the necessity of forgiveness and reconciliation, and the impact of sectarian violence on the stability of the government. On that point, religious persecution is often predictive, explains Curry. "I think when you're looking around the world, you've got to look at Africa, which is indicative of the massive corruption problems that the world is facing, you have a young population with a lot of ineffectual, corrupt governments."
Looking at you, AfricaTake the impact of collapse in the Horn of Africa, for example. "I think Somalia wants to capture large parts of Somali tribes, (and) would like to take parts of Kenya back," Curry muses, noting that "wherever you're looking for violence against religious minorities like you see in Africa, you're going to have big problems in the future." Combined with Al Shabaab, a terrorist group entrenched in Somalia with ties to Al Qaeda, and you've got a failed state which now affects international trade routes. Or look at what's going on in Nigeria. Curry says extremists have targeted Christians in northern Nigeria to the point of genocide. "I think you could see Boko Haram, which is a jihadist group, and the Fulani, another jihadist group, I think you could certainly see Boko Haram try to take over that entire region parts of Cameroon, Niger, northern Nigeria."
Looking through two lensesThe takeaway: looking at the issue of religious freedom requires different lenses. One views the impact of religious freedom policy. The other recognizes that for Christians, the question is a spiritual one. As has oft been noted by Curry, spiritual battles require a spiritual response. In sharing their faith in Christ, Christians often experience pushback, discouragement, and isolation. The number one thing that persecuted believers ask for is prayer. Ask God to strengthen their faith while under pressure. Pray that the Gospel would spread even farther and that God would raise even more leaders to be His bold witnesses. Headline image: U.S. Vice President Michael R. Pence--Screen Capture courtesy U.S. Department of State/Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom/You Tube
Mozambique (MNN) -- It has been four months since Cyclone Idai ravaged Mozambique and killed hundreds of people. Audio Scripture Ministries’ base in central Mozambique took a direct hit from Cyclone Idai, suffering heavy winds and 30 inches of rain in just two days. “Cyclone Idai really took a huge toll on the country,” says ASM’s Africa Director Chad Vanden Bosch. “I think it's changed pretty much every aspect of life around here, which has definitely impacted our ministry. Even though several months have passed now, things are still not quite back to normal and they won't be for quite some time.” After Cyclone Idai broke, Vanden Bosch and a local man went to inspect ASM’s farm. They expected to find the land pillaged by the storm, but what they saw was far more surprising. “The crops around us were heavily damaged. Yet on our farm, we suffered very little damage.” Vanden Bosch’s surveying partner works in ASM’s agriculture program, Farming With God, but he is ingrained in local witchcraft practices. However, he has heard the Gospel through their ministry.
“As we were surveying it and looking at the damage that was there compared to around us, he turned to me and he said, 'God is with us,' which absolutely shocked me to hear those words come from his mouth.”
USA (MNN) – A summer campaign for Wycliffe Bible Translators is beginning Bible translation for six new languages. This summer, Wycliffe USA is reaching three people groups with a focus on translating and spreading God’s Word. Pixie Christensen from Wycliffe USA says, “We have three languages in Indonesia, South Sudan, and one in Central Asia.” These people groups encompass 5 million people in three different areas of the world and Wycliffe USA aims to meet each of them with God’s Word in their language.
Summer CampaignThis year, Wycliffe USA is not only working on translating languages in Indonesia, South Sudan, and Central Asia, but also training local Christians and printing God’s Word. Christensen says, “We're actually printing an entire New Testament with Genesis, Exodus, Ruth, and Jonah in South Sudan.” The summer campaign is also working in Papa New Guinea and Southeast Asia to train and equip local Christians. This training makes translation easier when locals can help translate God’s Word into the language they use every day. “Across the world, local people are taking up the task and leading the work, and we're coming alongside them and providing training and other help... to give them all they need to do the work themselves," Christensen says. Currently, there are three languages beginning the process of training and translation in Papa New Guinea alone.
Spreading God’s WordGod's Word transforms new believers when they are met with a copy of Scripture they can understand. Christensen explains that one believer in South Sudan was given a copy of the Bible and began to understand scripture in a new way. “This believer said,... ‘Now I begin to understand the word of God better. Now I can get the meaning of some of these scriptures very [clearly] and in a better way’,” Christensen says.
She adds, “That's the whole reason why we're doing what we do is that God's word is open and accessible to all of these people now. And they do understand it because it comes in a language and format that they can access."If you want to get involved, donate to Wycliffe USA’s summer campaign. This year, all donor gifts are being matched for a limited time. You can also connect with Wycliffe USA and their campaign here. Finally, pray for the summer campaign this year to reach new people with the Gospel. “Pray for those working on the translation work, that God will give them wisdom and give them good contacts with local believers,” Christensen says. Header photo courtesy of Wycliffe USA.