We begin today’s newscast with a look at Sharia law in Nigeria and its impact on the church there. President of Open Doors USA Terry Madison says the number of states in that African country that favors Islamic law concerns him. “The northern half of Nigeria is predominately Muslim. The southern half is predominately Christian. Sharia law has been introduced in a number of the northern Muslim states, but in those northern states there are minority Christian communities and it is in this context that some of the violence has taken place.” Madison says his prayer is that Muslims and Christians can live together without violence. Open Doors is holding seminars to help. “These seminars present ways in which you can love your Muslim neighbor and how you can live an authentic Christian life in front of them and with them and be a good neighbor. You should always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But, do this with gentleness and respect.”
Next, Nigeria’s worst cycle of ethnic and religious violence in 30 years continues to flare up in pockets of the country. The decision to introduce Sharia law provoked bloody clashes between Christians and Moslems, and set up reprisal attacks. To douse the tension, country officials urged a suspension of the controversial measures. What all this means to ministry, Book of Hope’s John Young explains. “We’ve gotten government approval for distribution there in Nigeria-I know that they’ve had a difficult time, but I think right now is a real turning point in their history. There’s a lot of hope and they’re really looking forward to the future, especially with the ministries and the missionaries that we’re working with in Nigeria.” Young says they are optimistic about reconciliation. “I think that what was in the past, hopefully will stay in the past. We are in the process of doing a book for Nigeria and are planning on sending about a half million copies of the book to the folks that are on the field there. We’ve got full government approval to do it.”
While Russia’s battle for Chechnya continues, ministry leaders are strategically planning how to reach the lost with the Gospel. Russian Ministries’ Peter Deyneka says they’re uniquely positioned to help the thousands of refugees. “Because Russian ministries is an indigenous organization, it is one of the few ministries that has been granted access to the refugees. And, along with food clothing and medical care, Russian ministries is providing the one thing that many other relief agencies can’t, that is hope for the future through Jesus Christ.” Deyneka says evangelism among this predominately Muslim people group could expand as they train Christians this year, but they need help. “It costs $120 per seminar, per missionary to train them. We are looking to God for $204,000 in the next eight months to make these 90 seminars possible to train 1,700 young men and women to evangelize Russia.”
Elsewhere, Bulgarians may soon experience further restrictions on their religious freedom. The Bulgarian National Assembly recently approved the first reading of a bill which creates a two-tiered system that favors the Orthodox Church and gives them full religious freedom. Forty-four minority religious groups have spoken out in opposition to the law that they say would impede their ability worship and share Christ freely in their community.
Topping today’s news, an evangelical ministry is thanking God for protection in the wake of a volcanic eruption in the Philippines this week. According to Philippine scientists the Mayon volcano has stopped erupting. American Leprosy Mission’s Chris Doyle visited the area and says their work didn’t suffer. “We have some projects at a leprosy hospital close to there. The folks at that hospital have been asked to participate in some of the relief work that’s going on there right now, but in terms of our projects, none of those have been affected.” Doyle says currently they’re assisting the government and community-based leprosy clinics. He says while cases of leprosy are dropping…”We’re still seeing a lot of cases with children. Generally speaking, when prevalence rates are dropping down, you tend to see fewer cases with children. So, we’re trying to continue to get out there and find all the new cases and get them on treatment. And, then help them in whatever way we can, including spiritual care.”
Next, two Christians have been refused bail after being arrested in the port city of Izmir, Turkey. 38-year-old Ercan Sengul and 28-year-old Necati Aydin were arrested March 1st on charges of forcing people to accept Bibles and insulting Islam. According to Compass Direct, the two men were selling and distributing Christian literature. Three local residents made complaints against them. The arrests come on the heals of a special television show which depicted what it called, “Christian missionary sects.” A hearing date is scheduled for March 30th.
Following India’s recent parliamentary elections, one evangelistic ministry is watching to see how the new leadership may effect the work they are doing. Dayspring International’s John Gilman describes the state of the church these days. “There are militant Hindus that are in favor of a Hindu state, but now the church across India has moved away from the foreign missionaries support as the young church in India really takes hold in a dynamic new way.” Gilman explains their film on the life of Christ reaches people because: “…it’s entertaining and dramatic and educational-it makes the people so comfortable. They love this movie on the life of Jesus and it relates to them in their cultural setting. If Jesus walked into one of their villages, they wouldn’t be able to distinguish him from the another villagers. That’s how relevant the Gospel is today in the villages of India.” Dayspring International will be sending new 100 new film teams throughout India this year with the film.
Meanwhile, Global Advance recently finished a series of Frontline Shepherd’s Conferences in India. Dr. David Shibley says while training the pastors for ministry, he came to believe that the persecution believers face has had a constructive result on the countenance of the church. “The reason for increased persecution in India is because of the advance of the Gospel and the tremendous growth of the church throughout most of India in the 1990’s. I believe that the growth will continue in the coming decade as well.” Shibley says this is because the martrydom of missionary Graham Staines and his sons actually galvanized the body of Christ. “I believe that Christians, by and large, though they are concerned for their own safety, certainly, they are really taking strength and being encouraged in the Lord. New churches continue to be planted throughout India.”
Rain has again hit flood-ravaged Mozambique as the people try to recover from weeks of flooding. Hundreds are confirmed dead and nearly a-million people homeless. Food for the Hungry’s Scott Clark explains the situation. “It seems as though the rescue period is starting to wane. We’re seeing now that people have come down from the roofs of their houses. They’re able to get around a little bit further. But, there are serious problems of malaria cases arising. There is some cholera as well as the fact that people just don’t have food.” Clark says there are more problems before them. “To get seeds and tools into peoples hands so that they can take advantage of the second cropping season. The farmers in Mozambique were very close to harvest when these incredible rains and cyclones hit. Their seeds and their food stocks were basically exhausted from the year before.” Clark says they’ll be sharing their faith as they provide these necessities in the weeks ahead.
Meanwhile, Medical Ambassadors International is asking people to help the flood victims of Mozambique by sending a financial gift. MAI’s Executive Director Paul Calhoun says as cholera and malaria increase, the need for medication also increases. Calhoun says they need the funding so they can share Christ’s love in word and deed. “We are putting out a plea to help with the costs of supplying the medications. These medications can be bought at a considerable discount and we commit will go 100-percent to the field.” Calhoun adds when the rest of the world eventually forgets about the devastation in that country Medical Ambassadors will remain there. “When people pull out, Medical Ambassadors will be there establishing community health evangelism outreaches to enable these people to get back on their feet.”