News Worth Listening To
Nicaragua (MNN) – Clashes between the Nicaraguan government and protestors have continued on with vigor. After a month of civil unrest, dozens of people have been killed—perhaps more than 60. The violence reached a fever pitch over the weekend with at least two more people being killed. The protests began last month due to proposed social security reforms. The government redacted the proposal, but it was too late. The protests which were the worst in Managua also showed up in Masaya, Chinandega, Granada, Leon, and other regions. The people are angry about the violence that came from the protests. And some demonstrators even called President Daniel Ortega a murderer. The people are calling for President Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo to step down. The unrest has affected the entire country, even those who are staying out of the political fight.
Effects on MinistryVirna Segovia with Compassion International says since the protests broke out, their child sponsorship programs have been stilted. Several of their Implementing Church Partners (ICPs) have had to temporarily shut down operations. She says, “Up to Saturday… May 12, we had about 21 percent of the ICPs—that is about 40 of the 190 ICPs-- that were not working because of the protests and the insecurity in their communities. One hundred and fifty ICPs were still working with the children. But the attendance has been low. It has been only about 73 percent.” Normally, the attendance rate is over 80 percent. After the government redacted their social security reforms, it appeared that things would calm down. However, the anger has spread instead. “The protests have increased in many different communities. It is not only in Managua anymore. And also they have increased in violence.” Segovia says they know that nearly 50 people have been killed so far. The exact number is difficult to determine, especially in a constantly changing situation.
Protests Shutting Down Daily LifeEven where the ICPs are still open, parents are hesitant to let their children attend. In the area around Managua, for instance, the situation is still too volatile. “I think that parents are scared about something happening to their children while they are walking to the projects. Sometimes the protests are unexpected or there is violence in the street that you don’t expect it is going to happen. So I think that parents are trying to protect their children, not sending them to schools and not to the project, also.” But the ICPs aren’t the only ones affected by the protests. Many places of employment have shut down because nearby protests have made traveling to work too dangerous. This means many Compassion parents have been out of work. Compassion’s church partners are visiting the homes of the children, bringing food to the parents to make sure their families will still be able to eat.
Answering Violence with PrayerRegarding the role of the broader Church in these protests, Segovia says, “The Church has been a mediator with the government to try to look for a solution to the problem. Our churches have been gathering and praying and fasting, and I know some churches have helped the families of those that have lost a child, a father, a brother.” She says that most Christians consider that prayer is the best way to approach this issue, rather than getting involved with the protests. However, she recently saw the representative of the Assemblies of God Church in Nicaragua on the news, inviting all Christians to a massive event held in one of the main plazas of Managua. The plan is to pray and hold a campaign, asking the government to cease violence and look for a peaceful solution. There are a few ways you can be praying for Nicaragua from afar. Segovia asks you to pray for security for the ICPs, the staff, and the children. “They can pray that God will protect us as we do our work, as we try to help the children in need in Nicaragua," She says. Additionally, she says we can be praying for all NGO’s to be able to continue their work, despite the intense political situation. Also, be praying for the people involved in these negotiations to be able to sit and talk and find a peaceful solution to the unrest. “That is not easy… because of the increasing violence and more killings that have happened during the last few days, people [are] asking Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo to—just to leave the government. They don’t want them anymore,” Segovia explains. She believes this issue is the hardest to believe there could be a solution to. And finally, she says, “What I think is very important is that people pray that the hatred and the revenge that has raised in the last few days, the anger because of the people that is suffering the loss of a family member, that God somehow will—heal those hearts and that he gives consolation to those suffering, but also bring a spirit of peace so that there is no more bloodshed in our land.” “We are so sad to see people from the same country killing each other.” (Header photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash)
India (MNN) – What if sharing the Gospel could land you in jail? This is the reality many Indian Christians face now that another state has enacted an anti-conversion law.
Why Anti-Conversion Laws?Indian anti-conversion laws are put in place through local state governments. These laws have been part of public discourse since the colonial period, when they were seen as a way to protect national and religious identity in the face of British imperialism. Over the years, these laws continued to serve different purposes, but now they are coming back into popularity. Anti-conversion laws do not simply discourage interpersonal sharing of faith, they make changing religions illegal. For Christians, this poses a unique problem when faced with Scriptures like the Great Commission.
Nationalist, Religious PressureJoe Handley, president of Asian Access, says that while the resurgence of anti-conversion laws may take Western Christians by surprise, religious pressure has been building in India for years. He explains, “This has been an ongoing kind of movement for a number of years now. Essentially ever since [Prime Minister] Modi has come into power, there’s been this move to consolidate that power under a broader umbrella called RSS. So RSS is the broad umbrella party that’s trying to move the country toward what they call a Hindu Rashtra... And in that sense they want the country to become a Hindu nation.”
A Broad ImpactAnti-conversion laws are serious. They are open to many interpretations and can have steep consequences for those accused of violating their terms. Handley offers some insight into the fall-out of these laws. “Concern is for most of the folks doing ministry on the ground, is that it affects the local Church. And so, as you have this increasing intolerance happening within the country more and more, churches are facing pressure and then direct persecution. And because of that, there’s a backlash on those organizations who service the local churches and ministries in India.” Churches are rethinking how they conduct services and training programs are reconsidering how and where they hold training because security concerns are growing.
Growing FearHandley says that there is significant fear in the local Church over the anti-conversion laws and the hostility they seem to be breeding. “And their fear is justified. I was just reading a recent report wherein one of the movements in a part of the country 70% of the Christians in that kind of direct network or movement, 70% of them faced some form of pressure within their setting and then 20% have had outright persecution of some sort. And it’s just devastating to read these news people dying, people threatened, bullied, all sorts of things.”
Supporting the Local BodyAs the pressure mounts, Indian believers are asking for prayers. They are seeking wisdom as they try to live and work despite the anti-conversion laws. Church and ministry ask for prayers that they might understand how to continue in their callings. Pray that God would equip His people with confidence in Christ, a readiness to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and wisdom in challenging situations. Handley also emphasizes that Indian believers are asking for advocates for their situation on humanitarian and government levels. Don’t let their plight be forgotten. They are asking that this restriction of their freedoms would be kept top of mind and top of policy. If you would like to support Asian Access as they seek to support and equip local leaders, this is a great time to give. The Asian Access giving grant is still active. Gifts will be matched up to $167,000. They still need $12,448 to finish the matching campaign. Consider joining their ministry financially today. Go herefor more information.
Lebanon (MNN) – Spiritual warfare is often veiled in developed nations, but Horizons International’s Pierre Houssney says it’s a battle that’s raging in Lebanon and surrounding nations. “One of the battlegrounds that I think the Church in Lebanon has not really taken up is actually the battleground for the unreached peoples of the world,” Houssney says.“Often, the ministry has been focused internally on Lebanon. The churches and organizations have been focused on Lebanon as a missions field and we’re now trying to make the shift so that the nationals will now look at themselves as a missions-sending base to the Middle East and North Africa, and around the world.” A major factor to becoming a missions-sending base, Houssney says, is prayer. He shares that there are several elements to effective prayer in missions and focusing on serving other nations. The first element is teaching believers how to pray in ways that are intentional, passionate, and intercessory. The second is providing a space for corporate, multi-church prayer so groups can pray together in one room. And finally, the last element is focusing prayer on the unreached people groups worldwide by knowing who they are, what they believe, and what their needs are. Considering the three elements of effective missions prayer, Horizons wanted to conglomerate all three. Now, they’re establishing a prayer center as part of their larger project, The Middle East Center for World Missions, that can enable others to pray informed and efficiently.
Prayer for All Nations CenterThe prayer center will be called Prayer for All Nations Center, “which is a place that’s open to all the different churches from different denominations to join together in prayer that God might extend His hand of Salvation to the unreached people.” In the prayer center, Horizons will provide displays of photos and information about unreached people groups so believers know how to specifically pray for them. “I believe that once we establish this place, it’s going to be a place where God calls Lebanese missionaries to serve around the world through praying for these unreached people groups, and that’s our vision and that’s our hope in faith,” Houssney says. Horizons is about to launch the first version of their prayer center, which will be at their café and bookstore facility. Pastors and Church members are often at their café to use free Christian resources and to have Bible studies. “So, we already have a traffic of different churches and in the basement of that facility, we are about to – in the next month or two – start setting up the prayer space with prayer displays that have this information from around the world and all kinds of prayer aids.”
Get InvolvedIn the near future, Horizons hopes to expand their prayer center to a larger space and will be launching a fundraising campaign early next year to help sponsor it and the many other elements of the Middle East Center. “Until then, we just have to use whatever we have. I think he who is faithful with a little bit will be granted more,” Houssney says. “We’re just trying to strive to be faithful with whatever we have and even if it’s just a small room, that’s Version 1.0. Version 2.0 could be bigger and we’re praying that it will be bigger and that the involvement of the churches will grow as we’re able to have more capacity.” You can help expand missions work in Lebanon by kick-starting fundraising with Horizons for their prayer center here. Also, pray that God will use their prayer center and move through their prayers to catalyze a missions movement. Pray God will spark His work, love, and guidance in Lebanese missionaries and Church leaders to make a difference in other nations. Finally, you can be on the ground in Lebanon and work with Horizons as they minister to people and give encouragement. Find more information here.