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Will ISIS go nuclear?

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Debate continues over the probability and likelihood of a nuclear ISIS. While reportedly improbable, Central Asia could be a starting point for the Islamic State’s nuclear ambitions.

ISIS in Central Asia

(Wikipedia)

(Wikipedia)

In March, terrorists handed out hundreds of notices on official ISIS letterhead before and after the bombing of a Shi’ite mosque.

Though officials continue to deny an Islamic State presence in Pakistan, “they’re operating there,” says Bruce Allen of Forgotten Missionaries International (FMI).

“Their recruiting pamphlets are there across Pakistan; brick-and-mortar office buildings.”

Yet, a bigger concern is the growth of ISIS in neighboring Afghanistan.

Earlier this week, the top commander of U.S. forces in the region called for more troops because ISIS and al-Qaeda were increasing in strength.

“The ISIS influence is stronger in Afghanistan than in Pakistan,” claims this security analyst.

“However, Pakistan would not be able to counter the threat alone if he conflict in Afghanistan worsens and Pakistani and Afghani militants inspired by the ISIS try to capture territory along the Pak-Afghan border for establishing a ‘caliphate.’”

(Photo cred: FMI)

(Photo cred: FMI)

While clearly present in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Islamic State’s “hold” on Central Asia as a whole is arguable.

“No Central Asian government has produced much by way of proof that Islamic State is operating in any substantial fashion within the region,” said a blogger on Eurasianet.org.

Meanwhile, indigenous missionaries supported by FMI are pressing forward without fear.

Pakistan: Anti-Blasphemy Laws

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FMI_Muslim prayer in Pakistan

Muslim workers pause for a few minutes along an alleyway in the afternoon to offer their ritual prayers.
(Image, caption courtesy FMI)

According to Bruce Allen of Forgotten Missionaries International (FMI), terrorists aren’t the only source of persecution for Pakistani Christians.

Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws were first put into place in 1927, but the amendment that has made the laws infamous for persecution wasn’t added until 1986. Between 1927 and 1986, there were only seven violations of Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy law; however, from 1986 onward, as many as 4,000 cases were formed.

According to Contributoria.com, half of the people charged were minorities.

Today, the laws are mostly used to persecute Pakistan’s religious minority groups, such as Christians and Shi’ite Muslims.

“What is so ironic is Pakistan itself was founded for the protection of minorities,” says Allen, referring to the Pakistan-India split of 1947.

He says those belonging to the “religious majority” in Pakistan follow Sunni Islam. Shi’ite Muslims comprise 10% of the remaining population, while Christians and Hindus make up less than 4%. Less than one-percent of Pakistani’s are evangelical Christ-followers.

Nevertheless, “They’re ALL being affected by these anti-blasphemy laws,” says Allen.

You can help provide a safe haven for persecuted Pakistani Christians here.

“We operate several safe houses where they can go for crisis or transition and receive medical care, a safe place to live; perhaps some vocational training,” says Allen.

Get more FMI updates here.

“Pray for the repeal of the anti-blasphemy laws. They are being so abused in Pakistan,” Allen suggests.

“[Pray] that God moves in the hearts of the political leadership to see that justice — true justice — gets done.”

Russian commentary no empathy, no truth

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Mission Network News has learned that there is a growing conflict between Russian evangelical Christians and Ukrainian evangelical Christians. The accusations between the two sides are astounding. 

On March 9, Dr. William Yoder (no relationship to me, that I know of) wrote an article and commentary about the schism between the two. Unfortunately, he sided with the Russian pro-Putin church. 

I’ve decided to give equal time to Ukrainian evangelical church who are in the cross-hairs of Yoder. Here is the response to Yoder’s accusations. 

Ukrainian Christians believe some Russian Christians are aligning themselves with pro-Putin radicals in Russia. Russian Christians are accusing Ukrainian Christians be being ultra-nationalist revolutionaries. Dr. William Yoder, representing the interests of the Russian Baptist Union, came to the defense of Russian policy regarding Ukraine.

In his mailing on March 18th, 2014 he criticized the Ukrainian Maidan protesters and their defenders for not being democratic enough, and not waiting for the next elections, but instead seizing power and provoking the secession of the Crimea.

Additionally, Yoder compares Ukraine’s claims to the Crimea to a former spouse, who was never actually legally married, but after splitting up claims a right to the other’s belongings. Crimea was given away by Khruschev illegally in 1954, therefore no one owes Ukraine anything.

 

Justifying Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, Yoder criticizes Ukrainian church leaders who have come to the defense of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of their country. He corrects of the vice president of the Ukrainian Baptist Union, Valery Antonyuk, and states that Kiev Protestants have no right to talk about their country’s integrity because the eastern part of the country wants to be part of Russia.

 

He also commented on the “illegal” interim government of Ukraine and acting president Oleksandr Turchynov, a Baptist, who is supposedly hurting the reputation of Baptists in Russia. William Yoder defends Yanukovych’s regime from accusations of cruelty by saying, “Was Yanukovich’s administration more despicable than Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge?” It seems that all regimes any less despicable than the Khmer Rouge must be acknowledged as fully democratic.

 

But the height of cynicism from Yoder’s side was his criticism of a Christian organization for supporting the family of Alexander Khropachenko, who was killed by a sniper on the Maidan. Yoder believes that this is evidence of one-sided sympathies. Yoder suggests equal assistance for the families of police who lost their lives (who killed over 100 Maidan activists and injured hundreds more), in order to show a non-partisan and peacemaking front. And because some of the ministry’s leaders took a clear stand on the side of the unarmed protesters instead of the armed killers, Yoder accused them of criticism of Russia and anti-Russian viewpoints. However there is a distinction between disagreement between Russia’s policy, which is natural for the civilized world, and truly unacceptable Russophobia.

 

The commentary of Dr. William Yoder is a mix of naïve faith in the authority of Russia, loyalty to his employers, and lack of understanding in the sphere of politics, history, and culture. You cannot talk about peacemaking while avoiding the truth and failing to distinguish between the aggressor and the victim, right and wrong. Peace can only be achieved after truth – acknowledgement of and repentance from crimes committed. Therefore the comments of William Yoder should have begun with an acknowledgement of the obvious fact of Russian intervention, without which everything written is a manipulation of facts. But what is even more noticeable and sad is his lack of empathy and sympathy for the tragic events in Ukraine. It is a bad sign – without empathy you cannot hope to come to the truth, let alone achieve peace.

 

M. Kuznetsov

What’s the message through the mess?

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You’ve heard the headlines. The Obama administration is caught in scandal after scandal. Persecution against Christians in Eritrea is at an all-time high. Human trafficking is up 18 percent in Europe. The Oklahoma City tornado kills school children. Syria continues in civil war. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood continues identifying Christians for violence.

The world is in chaos….at least it appears to be that way.

The reality is that God is in control. The amazing thing about these headlines is that God is using each and every one to glorify Himself. Have you thought about that?

Each situation, tragic as it may seem to us, God is using to motivate His people to think outside of the box to do something more for Him.

That’s the tricky part for Mission Network News. Our job is to tell you about the news and information nobody else is talking about with a unique perspective — the perspective of how God is using people like you and me to accomplish this.

I’m always amazed at how God does this. He brings in what appears to be a bleak situation, then BOOM He does something incredible. It just goes to prove that our plans aren’t always His plans. The tricky part is trying to figure how to match up your plans with God’s plans.

I’m still trying to figure that out. Stay tuned.

Help us challenge the NEXT generation

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You have probably seen my posts about our website. I’m not going to go into great detail. But, to recap briefly — IT’S OLD, and it needs to be updated and reprogrammed. But, we still have more than 50-percent to reach our goal of $15,000.

Get an MNN mouse pad when you giveWe NEED your gift of $50 and $100, but we also need some large gifts of $1,000 or $2,000. We need it NOW because it’s being match dollar-for-dollar by a generous donor, up to $7,500.

Why do we need a new Web site? Well, it’s simple — we can’t do some of the things we’re called to do. One of those things is calling young people — the next generation — to join this task of sharing their faith with those who haven’t heard. Yes, we’re doing it on Facebook and Twitter, but we’re missing out in one specific area — phones.

The new website will allow us to provide news bites to those who are using smart phone technology like I-phones and Androids. As part of the reprogramming effort will be creating special apps for each of these devices so those using them can get news and information they need to be Christians who are not only WILLING to go, but more informed where they can go.

Your generous donation can be made here: https://www.MNNonline.org/donate/special and give as generously as you can so we can meet this matching grant quickly!  God bless you for what you’re going to do.

Senseless Desensitivity

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I think this is probably a fitting first post for me, as it’s an issue that crops up often in the bustling news world, and provides an even more difficult challenge for Christian journalists, I think. Desensitizing.

In one sense, I’m glad that I’ve developed the ability to “shut off” my emotions when it comes to news. I’m naturally a decently emotional person, but it’s really not reasonable to be a journalist who cries every time she does an interview. And so I’ve learned to turn that side of me off as I listen to stories about famine killing hundreds of thousands, entire nations in uproar, Christians being hunted for their faith, so that I can focus on asking good questions to get the news across effectively. But there’s a point when shutting off that emotional valve can be devastating–not so much to me as to God. As a Christian, I’m called to love everyone, to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions…praying for all the saints.” But when you hear bad news every day, it’s easy to be numb. It’s easy to shout across the office, “Ruth, another bombing in Iraq. 15 Christians dead. Who should we talk to about it?” rather than to simply stop and pray. It’s not just easy, it’s easier. Easier than taking a minute to think about the life lost for the sake of the Gospel, the importance of the Gospel message, the purpose I write this news at all.

I’ve been working at Mission Network News for nearly three years, first as an intern, now as a full time staff member, and have yet to master the fine art of “stopping” in the news room. Lately, I’ve taken to writing down the names of countries, leaders, and even friends on small note cards that I might be reminded to pray for them throughout the day. Funny how we have to make so much effort to remember to pray when these things are before our eyes daily.

And in an effort to place the blame elsewhere and feel slightly better about the fact that I’m so far from perfect, I recognize that we all do this. We all hear news even in our own towns that we say is terrible, but how often do we stop to intercede? I’m reminded of cameraman Jack’s thoughts about the 1990’s genocide in Rwanda in the film Hotel Rwanda, “I think that when people turn on their TVs and see this footage, they’ll say, ‘Oh my [gosh], that’s horrible,’ and then they’ll go back to eating their dinners.” That line haunts me. What can I be doing to get involved? I can’t give to every organization, but surely I can pray for many of them. How can I become more sensitive even to what’s just “news” to me–someone else’s “reality”–today? How can you?

 

International Evangelical Mission Forum

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Organizations that have been involved in ministry in Russia, Ukraine or other former Soviet countries are gathering this weekend for the International Evangelical Missions Forum sponsored by Russian Ministries/Association for Spiritual Renewal on the topic: “Missions Today: History, Analysis, and New Approaches: Perspectives for International Partnerships in Countries of the CIS.”

This Forum will take place at Russian Ministries new training center headquarters located in Irpen (Kiev region), Ukraine on October 24-25, 2008, and will begin with a dedication ceremony for this new facility which is already serving as a national center for our national affiliate, Association for Spiritual Renewal.

During the International Evangelical Missions Forum, leaders and representatives from many different national and international organizations, missiologists and theologians will analyze the experience, results, new opportunities and strategies for ministry in the countries of the CIS. Specific goals of the Forum include:

• To analyze missions during the past 20 years of religious freedom in the CIS;
• To understand the reasons for the crises facing national evangelical churches;
• To outline prospects for partnerships between churches and Christian organizations;
• To study successful models of church growth and effective missions.

I will be there representing Mission Network News and will begin special reports from this historic meeting Friday night, October 24.  I’ll be featuring special interviews with mission leaders, videos and lots of photos.

Be praying for what God is going to do through this special forum.

Greg