November News from around the World

BOLIVIA: Conflict and Violence Escalates while Bishops Call for Peace
Roman Catholic bishops in Bolivia appealed to the country’s political leaders to bring an end to recent violence that has reportedly left several people dead and many others injured. Several regions of the country are demanding autonomy and oppose plans by President Evo Morales for constitutional reform. (Ecumenical News International)

BOLIVIA: Evangelical Lutherans Ordain Women for the First Time
The Bolivian Evangelical Lutheran Church has marked its seventieth anniversary by a special service at which, for the first time, the ordination of women as pastors within the church was a highpoint of the celebration. “It is only after seventy years that we open our eyes and accept that we are all part of this inclusive Church, and that we can thrive together in harmony,” said the Rev. Luis Cristóbal Alejo Fernández, president of the Bolivian Church, about the anniversary service at which two women and five men were ordained, and a further three women and ten men were authorized to carry out church functions. (Bolivian Evangelical Lutheran Church)

EGYPT: Violence against Coptic People Increases
In October 2008, after a fact-finding visit to the fourth-century Abu-Fana monastery building in Upper Egypt, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reported on a brutal attack in which three monks were kidnapped and tortured. Several more were reported shot during the assault by local Bedouins on 31 May 2008, and estimates are that the monastery has been attacked at least fifteen times by local Bedouins since 2004. Violence against Coptic people, institutions, businesses, and property has escalated recently. CSW expressed concern that inaction by state authorities and security forces will lead to further unrest. (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)

GERMANY: WCC General Secretary’s Term Extended a Year
At its meeting 23-26 September 2008 in Luebeck, Germany, the World Council of Churches (WCC) announced its decision to extend the contract of Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, the current WCC general secretary, through the time when a new general secretary takes office. In February, Kobia announced he would not seek a second term as general secretary. The council will elect a new general secretary in September 2009 at its meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. (World Council of Churches)

GERMANY: Churches Speak Up for Iraqi Refugees
Churches in Germany pleaded for their country and the European Union (EU) to admit more Iraqi refugees amid reports that the German government was backing off plans to take in a group of Iraqi Christians. Rev. Stephan Reimers, who represents the interests of the Evangelical Church in Germany to the German government and EU authorities, said further postponement of admitting Iraqi refugees could not be justified amid catastrophic conditions in the country. Meeting on 25 September 2008, the EU reported it would take up to ten thousand more Iraqi refugees and send a mission to the Middle East to identify the most vulnerable people. (Ecumenical News International)

GHANA: WACC and CCG Combating HIV/AIDS Stigma
Beginning 1 July 2008, the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) and the Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) embarked on a 3-year project targeting HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination. The initiative emerged as a result of close talks between WACC and CCG in 2005. CCG has close working ties with religious and community leaders in Ghana. Efforts will be aimed at reducing HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination in three districts close to the capital city of Accra. The three districts were chosen because of their high levels of infection, attributed partly to fear of getting tested for the virus because of rampant stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS. (World Association for Christian Communication)

INDIA: Violence Continues against Christians in Orissa
In September 2008, Christians in Orissa, especially in Kandhamal, 250 kilometers from Bhubaneswar, reported continued acts of violence against them by Hindu mobs following the killing of Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati in August. A Maoist leader is reported to have claimed responsibility for the killing; however, some Hindu groups say it was a Christian conspiracy, as the 85-year-old slain monk had been campaigning against conversion to Christianity in Kandhamal, where he was based. Estimates are that more than half of the 100,000 Christians in Kandhamal are reported to have been made homeless as a result of Hindu extremists roaming villages, trying to forcibly convert Christians to Hinduism, and looting and torching Christian houses. (Ecumenical News International)

IRAN: Parliament Approves Legislation Making Apostasy Punishable by Death
In September 2008, the Iranian Parliament voted in favor of a bill stipulating the death penalty for apostasy. Although news of the vote was withdrawn from the Iranian Parliament website only hours after it was published, official Iranian news agencies, including the Islamic Republic of Iran News Network, announced the decision. The draft of the bill adds a number of crimes to the list of those punishable by execution, including “establishing weblogs and sites promoting corruption, prostitution, and apostasy.” (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)

NORTH AMERICA: Bill McCartney Returns to Promise Keepers Leadership Role
In September 2008, Bill McCartney, co-founder of Promise Keepers (PK), returned as chairman and CEO of the organization. He resigned in 2003. Assuming his new role, McCartney brought back former PK executive and current board member Raleigh Washington to serve as president. According to its website, PK has “drawn more than six million men to some 250 conferences in stadiums and arenas across North America” since its founding in 1990. (Promise Keepers)

PHILIPPINES: Video Conference Nurtures Understanding among Youth
A 3-hour Internet-based video conference on 29 August 2008 revolved around building peace and mutual understanding through dialogue between Christians, Muslims, and non-Christian and non-Muslim youth. Organized by PeaceTech, the video conference enabled students in Baguio and Cotabato to reflect upon how ignorance breeds prejudice, which eventually leads to conflict. PeaceTech is a non-government organization which is holding a peace-building video dialogue series among Muslim and non-Muslim youths in various countries. Through two movie screens installed at the Baguio Convention Center, over one thousand high school students exchanged testimonies and ideas, and prayed and sang with their fellow students in Cotabato City. Students also pondered what steps they could take to promote better Muslim-Christian understanding, and what they could do to help promote peace. (PeaceTech)

POLAND: Network of Nigerian Missionaries Appoints New International Facilitator
The Network of Nigerian Missionaries (NNM) has appointed a new international facilitator, Pastor Zion Okuneye. Okuneye, who lives in Warsaw, is a pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church (RCC) in Poland (under Pastor Enoch Adeboye) and serves as the coordinator of mission efforts for the RCC in Eastern Europe. NNM is a “platform for Nigerian missionaries, pastors, Christian leaders, and professionals serving God in the Diaspora.” Among its objectives is to equip the Nigerian Church with information needed to become more actively involved in world evangelization, especially to the least-reached parts of the world. (Network of Nigerian Missionaries)

QATAR: Anglicans Begin Construction of Second Church
The foundation stone of Qatar’s second Anglican church was laid 28 September 2008 in a ceremony presided over by the Bishop of Cyprus. According to Christianity Today, the event followed the March completion of the country’s first ever church, the Roman Catholic Our Lady of the Rosary church, which is on a site nearby. Three more churches are planned in Qatar, where the majority of the population practice a strict form of Islam called Wahhabism. Land for the Anglican church on the outskirts of the capital city of Doha was donated by the Qatari emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. (Assist News)

SOUTH AFRICA: All Africa Conference of Churches Commends Mbeki’s Decision to Resign
The general secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) has praised President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa for putting his country first by announcing his resignation after losing the confidence of the ruling African National Congress. Rev. Mvume Dandala, a Methodist from South Africa, who has led Nairobi-based AACC since 2003, said Mbeki demonstrated that “a country is bigger than an individual.” He added that Mbeki showed respect for institutions of leadership. Mbeki announced his resignation 21 September 2008 (Ecumenical News International)

TURKEY: TURK-7 Marks Fifth Year of Ministry
Christian broadcasting company TURK-7, an international partnership ministry, celebrated its fifth anniversary in October 2008. TURK-7 partners with approximately thirty organizations and churches and develops Christian television programming for the Church in Turkey and Turkish-speaking Christians worldwide. According to David Harder of SAT-7, the Middle Eastern Christian television broadcast that shaped TURK-7, TURK-7 also aims to provide a better understanding of Christianity to the wider Turkish community. Harder added, “Often they’re told things about what Christians believe that simply aren’t true.” TURK-7 creates its own programs, but is also implementing Western Christian programs, such as VeggieTales, using Turkish voicing. (Turk-7)

UNITED KINGDOM: Scientists, Philosophers, and Theologians Explore the “Big Questions”
“Seeking Truth: Science, Mystery, and Human Identity” is the title of a program at St Paul’s Institute, St Paul’s Cathedral, running from September 2008-January 2009. The series brings together scientists, philosophers, and theologians to explore the “big questions,” such as: How did the universe evolve? What is the place of humans within creation? How do our minds work? and What do we mean by the human soul? Taking the science and religion debate from conflict to dialogue, the series hopes to find ways in which spiritual quest and scientific endeavor can enlighten one another. (St. Paul’s Cathedral)

UNITED KINGDOM: Campaign Calls Attention to Brutality in Burma
Change for Burma!, a partnership of Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Partners, Relief, and Development UK, was launched in September 2008, exactly one year after the largest pro-democracy protests in twenty years swept across Burma. The campaign also launched a day before the twentieth anniversary of the seizure of power by Burma’s current military junta, the latest in a succession of military regimes which have held power since 1962. Change for Burma! hopes to raise awareness of what it calls one of the world’s most brutal regimes. The website allows the public to email their respective members of the British Parliament, encouraging them to ask the UN Security Council to bring the Burmese government before the International Criminal Court. (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)

UNITED STATES: World Journalism Institute Appoints Apologetics Chair
On 22 September, the World Journalism Institute (WJI) appointed Dr. Anthony B. Bradley as Francis Schaeffer Chair of Apologetics. WJI’s mission is “to recruit, equip, place, and encourage journalists who are Christians in the mainstream newsrooms of America.” Bradley will continue full-time teaching responsibilities at Covenant Theological Seminary (CTS) in St. Louis, Missouri, but will also teach for WJI in its 2009 journalism course at The King’s College in New York City. Bradley is assistant professor of apologetics and systematic theology at CTS, having joined the faculty in 2005. (Evangelical Press Association)

UNITED STATES: Samaritan’s Purse Continues Hurricane Relief Efforts
Following devastating Hurricane Ike, Samaritan's Purse (SP) dispatched three disaster relief units and a convoy of supplies on the road toward Texas to help provide aid to storm victims. The convoy included tractor trailers filled with supplies, including heavy-duty plastic sheeting, construction equipment, and building materials. SP was already working in the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Gustav and has done extensive relief work along the Southwest and Gulf Coast in the years since the devastating hurricanes of 2005. (Samaritan’s Purse)

ZIMBABWE: Christian Student Group Seeks Justice
In a recent statement, the Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe urged the country's new government, expected to be forged out of a power-sharing agreement, to ensure that perpetrators of violence marring a presidential runoff election in June face the law. According to the statement, “…the country badly needs a healing process, and to this extent the new government arrangement is a welcome development.” The students' group said it deplored “the post-March 29 violence instigated, organized, and sponsored by the state against its opponents.” Talks mediated by South African leader Thabo Mbeki, following Robert Mugabe's re-election in a disputed runoff vote, led to a power-sharing agreement on 25 September 2008 between Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, and Arthur Mutambara, leader of a smaller MDC faction. (Ecumenical News International)