October News from around the World

CHINA: American Christian Group Leaves after Airport Standoff
In August 2008, Voice of America (VOA) reported Vision Beyond Borders (VBB) leader Pat Klein and three others spent twenty-six hours at Kunming airport waiting for officials to return more than three hundred confiscated Bibles. VBB representative Dyann Romeijn told VOA the four decided to leave the airport after it was clear the Bibles would not be returned. Klein became concerned that he and his companions, including a 78-year-old man and 15-year-old boy, would be taken by force from the airport. (Vision Beyond Borders)

CHINA: Unprecedented Crackdown Planned against “Unstable Social Elements”
The China Aid Association (CAA) has been informed that an unprecedented nationwide crackdown of “unstable social elements” is being prepared in China. Those elements were identified as: illegal Christian house church leaders, petitioners, human rights defenders, and political dissidents. The crackdown, set for October 2008, is to coincide with the government’s campaign of “China’s twenty more years of political and social stability.” CAA also learned that the Beijing Municipal State Security Bureau has released a “citizen informant initiative,” which requires ordinary citizens to report individuals and groups who are deemed a threat to national security through the use of media and religion. (China Aid Association)

GEORGIA/RUSSIA: World Council of Churches Finally Reaches South Ossetia
Barred from making a half-hour drive from within Georgia to Tskhinvali in South Ossetia, a pastoral delegation sent by the World Council of Churches (WCC) took a four-thousand kilometer detour to reach people caught in the Georgia-Russia conflict. The original route designated for humanitarian access by a ceasefire agreement in August was not being honored as such, and armed groups are accused of violence in the area. Government and aid officials in Georgia told the WCC group that up to seven thousand ethnic Georgians are still in South Ossetia under uncertain conditions. (Overcoming Violence)

GUATEMALA: YMCA Worldwide Urges Investigation of Killings
Three young volunteers with the Guatemalan Young Men's Christian Association who were shot dead in August are being remembered by YMCAs worldwide, which are also calling for urgent action to investigate the deaths. The bodies of the three volunteers—Eliazar Bernabe Hernadez Rhodes, Mario Rene Gamez Moon, and Juan Luis Navarro—were found on 11 August 2008, the World Alliance of YMCAs said in a 1 September statement. The Geneva-based world alliance said the three volunteers, well-known for their work with children and youth in Amatitlán, south of Guatemala City, had been brutally beaten and then killed. (Ecumenical News International)

HAITI: Nazarenes Report Hurricanes’ Heavy Toll
In the hurricane-damaged Caribbean, Haiti remains among the hardest hit, with Gustav leaving eight thousand homeless and Hanna causing further destruction with flooding and mudslides. According to Nazarene French field coordinator Bill Dawson, conditions are so bad that no relief can be flown in, and major roads are impossible to drive in areas outside the capital. All eleven Nazarene districts in Haiti report major losses of homes as well as crops and livestock. Haiti’s population is over eight million, of which 108,000 are Nazarenes. (Nazarene Communications Network)

INDIA: Karnataka Christians Protest Violence, Face Possible Consequences
Christian groups have expressed dismay at attempts by the government of India's southern Karnataka state to take action against hundreds of church educational institutions after they closed for a day to protest at ongoing violence against Christians in eastern Orissa state. In an appeal to India's National Human Rights Commission on 2 September 2008, the Global Council of Indian Christians urged it “to take steps to see that the Christian institutions [in Karnataka] are not penalized for this action of solidarity and peaceful prayer for the victims of violence in Orissa [state].” (Ecumenical News International)

INDIA: International Community Expresses Concern over Recent Violence
Seven United States members of the House of Representatives sent a letter on 4 September 2008 to India’s Ambassador to the U.S. expressing concern about recent attacks on Christians in Orissa state. Violence against Christians erupted after the murder of controversial Hindu swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati by unknown assailants. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or World Hindu Council (VHP), publicly blamed Christians for the murder, leading to mob attacks on Christians in several Orissa districts. International condemnation of the violence has been voiced by the Italian government, the Vatican, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Human Rights Watch, and Dalit Freedom Network. Civil society Hindu leaders have also condemned the attacks. According to Christian leaders, the breakdown of law and order in Orissa has led to over four thousand homes destroyed and an estimated fifty thousand people displaced. (Assist News)

INDIA: Christians in Orissa Forced to Convert to Hinduism
Facing threats of ostracism or property destruction, Christians in Orissa returning to their villages are being coerced into signing papers renouncing their faith and converting to Hinduism. Anti-Christian attacks continue to be reported in several area districts, sending at least fifteen thousand people into relief camps. Calling for protection of Christians and prosecution of attackers in Orissa, civil society organizations and Christians began a hunger strike in New Delhi on 3 September 2008. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) advocacy director Alexa Papadouris said true peace in Orissa would not likely be seen unless attackers are brought to justice. She urged world leaders to voice their concern about the violence. (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)

INDONESIA: Muslim Mob Storms Church and Calls for Ban
While celebrating Indonesia’s Independence Day, approximately twenty church members were stormed by a mob in the village of Pondok Rangon in Cipayung. The attack, which took place at the Pentecostal Church of Indonesia, was perpetrated by a Muslim group who later erected banners in the street declaring a ban on “churches and religious services.” Although erecting such banners requires prior district approval, authorities made no attempts to intervene or remove them. Church members were chased into the streets and warned not to return again for future services. (International Christian Concern)

IRAN: House Churches Growing Despite Persecution
With the rapid spread of Christianity in Iran, a major crackdown has been launched with President Mamoud Ahmadinejad declaring, “I will stop Christianity in this country.” Although Christianity dates back before Islam in Iran, currently less than one half of one percent of the Iranian population is Christian. There are seventy-three registered churches in Iran, but it is the rapid growth of unregistered house churches that concerns the government. The crackdown on these churches has had a surprising effect in that house churches are spreading out into smaller groups and therefore reaching out farther into various parts of the country. (Assist News)

MALAYSIA: Malaysian Christians Urge Leaders to Heed Religious Unity
The chairperson of the Christian Federation of Malaysia, Bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing, has urged the country's national leaders to ensure the religious and racial diversity of the South East Asian nation, and has pledged his organization's support to achieve it. “Our country needs to re-examine her priorities and policies, and reassert the Merdeka (freedom) spirit that shaped the nation that we have become,” said Ing. “Race and religion have reared their ugly sides; unscrupulous people are making use of such issues for political gain.” (Ecumenical News International)

MALDIVES: New Constitution Severely Restricts Non-Muslim Rights
Condemning the recent ratification of a new constitution in the Maldives, the Institute for Religion and Policy reported that the new document fails to provide basic guarantees of rights and freedoms in the country for non-Muslims and violates internationally-accepted human rights standards. The constitution denies citizenship to non-Muslims and goes so far as to favor Sunni Islam over other forms of Islam, establishing aspects of Sharia law in the Maldives. (Institute for Religion and Policy)

MALI: Bible Society Launches Three Key Projects
In a Muslim country where spreading the gospel is not easy, the Bible Society of Mali is focused on three particular projects serving great needs: the Listening to the Word project; a literacy project called Alpha; and a collaborative venture with Malian Union for the Blind. Listening to the Word will help communicate the Bible through speaking, singing, and dancing, while Alpha will raise awareness among parents of the value of education and literacy for children, only a minority of which attend school. The third project, which addresses the significant number of visually-impaired people in the country, will teach Braille and organize Bible reading sessions. (United Bible Society)

MIDDLE EAST: SAT-7 KIDS Introduces Colors
In August 2008, SAT-7 KIDS began a new program entitled Colors, focusing on pre-school-aged children. Launched in 2007, SAT-7 KIDS is the first and only Arabic Christian channel exclusively for children. The new show has no physical sets, but instead utilizes green screen technology which creates various backdrop locations complete with colorful animated cartoons. As children also appear on the screen, Colors teaches basic concepts and Bible lessons through songs. (SAT-7 KIDS)

MYANMAR: Government Does Not See Christians as a Threat
The United Nations estimates that only one quarter of those in need of shelter since Cyclone Nargis killed thousands in May 2008 have received it so far. While there continue to be reports of government interference with assistance efforts, one native missionary with World Hope International (WHI) said Myanmar’s government is not as opposed to Christianity as the world might think. WHI has been delivering aid to twenty-two villages in the Irrawaddy Delta, and with many children orphaned by the cyclone, WHI has also established an orphanage ministry. According to the WHI missionary, there is an opening for Christians in Myanmar. (Mission Network News)

PAKISTAN: Christians Hopeful about New President
The September election of Asif Ali Zardari, widower of Benazir Bhutto, raised hopes among Pakistan’s Christians, who are reeling from recent murders and attacks. Officially Muslim, Zadari attended missionary schools and a top boarding school near Hyderabad. The late Prime Minister Bhutto had told journalists shortly before her assassination that she wanted to reach out to all Pakistanis, regardless of religion. Pakistani Christians hope Zadari’s election will help bring violent anti-Christian attackers to justice. (BosNews Life)

RWANDA: Bible Society Pushes Forward Amidst Challenges
Without a general secretary for several months in 2007, the Bible Society of Rwanda (BSR) struggled, but now with a new leader, Norbert Rutebuka, the society has fresh energy to face the challenges of a “big harvest with few laborers.” Getting scripture into the landlocked country is challenging, forcing Rutebuka to be creative when adversity increases, such as during the recent violence in Kenya, from where BSR transports its Bibles into Rwanda. Another challenge, according to Rutebuka, is the literacy rate in Rwanda, which is only fifty-two percent; because of this, BSR is also concentrating efforts on non-print scriptures and literacy materials with the help of Faith Comes By Hearing. (United Bible Societies)

UNITED STATES: Spreading God’s Word with Sports Fans
Ready with player testimony cards and a strong desire to spread the gospel, Sports Fan Outreach International (SFOI) geared up for the college football season. According to founder Bill Adams, “We are going to communicate…the gospel with sports fans as they tailgate and mill around stadiums before they go in.” Player testimony cards have a picture of a Christian player on one side and their faith story on the other. The cards also refer people to SFOI’s website. Adams encouraged other Christian sports fans to start a ministry with their favorite sport; however, he stressed patience and consistency as a means of building relationships and engaging in deeper conversations. (Mission Network News)

UNITED STATES: Convoy of Hope and Assemblies of God Respond to Hurricane
More than one million residents in the Gulf Coast were without power in the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav in early September 2008. A Category Two hurricane, Gustav made landfall in Cocodrie, Louisiana, on 2 September, causing significant flooding and wind damage in that state as well as neighboring states. Convoy of Hope (COH) president Hal Donaldson said COH is prepared to empty its warehouse if needed to help people impacted. Along with the Assemblies of God, COH has personnel working throughout the region during what looks to be an active hurricane season. COH has been a relief presence in the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina. (Convoy of Hope)