March News from around the World

AROUND THE WORLD: Religious Freedom on the Decline
Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and now Kyrgyzstan have passed very restrictive religious laws, which all but force the evangelical Church into hiding. Unfortunately, the future for the evangelical Church in the former Soviet Union doesn't look very bright, either. Kazakhstan is also considering strict legislation. While the president of Kazakhstan has sent the matter to the constitutional courts for consideration, Sergey Rakhuba, vice president of Russian Ministries, says, “Knowing how things work there, they just simply follow each other's example. Most likely, Kazakhstan will follow the example of Kyrgyzstan.” The religion laws require 200 or more people in a church to register with the government. If that's not done, it's illegal to meet. In addition, there are restrictions on what can be taught to young people. And evangelism outside the walls of the church is prohibited without a permit. (Mission Network News)

AROUND THE WORLD: Hunger in Families Skyrockets around World
Studies show an increasing number of people are going without basic nutrition. In 2007, close to one in eight Americans struggled to feed themselves adequately, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Bread for the World Institute reports that the number of people going hungry worldwide has increased by seventy-five million in the last two years. Randy Hurst, Assemblies of God World Hunger Day director, says extending compassion to those in need is an ongoing part of the Church's mission. Learn more about World Hunger Day at: (Assemblies of God)

AROUND THE WORLD: New Website to Help Christians Engage with Scripture
The Forum of Bible Agencies International recently launched a new website, Scripture Engagement. The site offers encouraging scripture engagement methods, thought-provoking articles to download, news of upcoming events, videos, books, and links to useful sites and journals. For those using “translating the Bible into action,” all of the hard-to-find articles at the end of each chapter will be posted on this site. Visitors will find ways of engaging with scripture, different kinds of ministry and media, language issues, cultural issues, and more. (Scripture Engagement)

CONGO: Protection for Vulnerable Must Be a Priority
As Rwanda and DRC join forces against rebel militias, protection of civilians must be the priority, warns humanitarian agency World Vision. Thousands of Rwandan troops recently entered eastern Congo as part of a joint military offensive with the Congolese army against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a mainly Hutu group, accused of taking part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. “Imminent violence may mean more deaths and displacement for people affected by decades of war,” said emergency director for World Vision East DRC Bekele Hankebo. The people of eastern DRC have faced brutal conflict, rape, multiple displacements, and recruitment into armed groups for more than a decade. “Tens of thousands of people remain displaced from their homes,” said Hankebo. “Any further outbreaks of violence threaten to push vulnerable families into an even more vulnerable and dangerous position.”  (World Vision)

COSTA RICA: Relief Work Continues after Earthquake
Relief work continues in Costa Rica after an earthquake claimed more than a dozen lives on 8 January 2009. The count of displaced people is over 3,700. Current needs include personal hygiene items, water purification, and sanitary equipment. Relief workers also continue to search through debris from the magnitude 6.1 earthquake, but road damage has made the sites difficult to reach. Road damage is extensive. Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE) missionaries, including Ryan Rought, have been helping to search through debris for victims and have set up shelter points. Some missionaries in the area have been able to visit the relief camps and offer hope there. Since Rought's regular ministry is in law enforcement in Costa Rica, he has had countless opportunities to share the hope of Jesus Christ with the actual relief workers. (Association of Baptists for World Evangelization)

ENGLAND: Pro-God Advertisements on London Buses
Three separate pro-God advertisement campaigns on the sides of London buses recently hit city streets in the British capital. The BBC has reported that buses adorned with the slogan “There definitely is a God” are from the Christian Party, while the Trinitarian Bible Society chose a biblical verse. The Russian Orthodox Church is also preparing bus advertisements. The adverts, which are unrelated, came a month after the British Humanist Association placed “No God” slogans on buses across England. The cost for the Christian Party’s two-week campaign on one hundred buses was £35,000 (about $51,000 USD). (Assist News)

ERITREA: Mass Arrests Raise Concerns for Welfare of Church
Mass arrests of Christians in Eritrea are raising concerns for the welfare of the church. According to Glenn Penner, with Voice of the Martyrs Canada, “Eritrea is probably the most closed country in Africa today.” In the past few months over one hundred Christians have been detained and transferred to a military facility. Reports indicate that some have been severely mistreated and an unspecified number may have died due to untreated injuries sustained while in detention. Authorities continue to insist that those arrested are behind bars for reasons other than practicing their faith. The government stands behind its 2004 statement that “no groups or persons are persecuted in Eritrea for their beliefs or religion.” Yet, in May 2002, the government banned and closed all independent churches not operating under the umbrella of the Orthodox, Lutheran, Catholic, and Muslim religious structures. (Voice of the Martyrs)

GAZA: Bible Society and Open Doors Provide Relief for Suffering Residents
According to the Palestinian Bible Society (PBS), many residents of the Gaza Strip suffer from psychological problems because of the aggression of the governing forces, lack of jobs, isolation from the outside world, and a feeling of insecurity. Bible Societies in Israel and Palestinian areas have launched a joint initiative called “Standing in the Gap,” offering practical as well as spiritual relief for the suffering Gazan people. Open Doors is co-supporting a part of the program called “Love your Neighbor/Comfort my People.” This immediate relief is for both Christians and Muslims. (Mission Network News)

INDIA: Relief Camps Closed in Orissa
Government authorities in Orissa state have shut down relief camps, forcing thousands of Christians displaced by the wave of violence that began last August 2008 to flee. Believers have been left without adequate protection against further attacks or compensation for damages sustained. Many of the believers were threatened with violence while in the camps and fear further attacks if they return to their homes. Officials are providing some of the refugees with 10,000 rupees ($201 USD). However, the sum is inadequate to meet their long-term needs and it is unlikely that many will be able to secure employment, as local Hindus often refuse to hire Christians. (Voice of the Martyrs)

LIBERIA: Bible Marathons Encourage Faith in Christ
Bible Reading Marathons have been held through Bible Pathway Ministries since 1990, typically beginning with prayer and concluding with eighty hours of scripture reading. As a result of these marathons, the country is being reached with the gospel. Ken Sharp with Bible Pathway says since their ministry began to provide Bibles and copies of Bible Pathway—their daily devotional guide—Liberia has experienced much change: “What they're seeing now is a vast turn to the Lord through the preaching and the sharing of the word of God within their communities. Forty percent of the country's population has now come to accept Christ as their Savior.” Five Bible Reading Marathons are scheduled for April and May 2009, with the intent of reaching over a third of the counties in Liberia. (Mission Network News)

SRI LANKA: Anti-Conversion Law Likely
Sri Lanka's Parliament is expected to pass the country’s first anti-conversion law. The proposed legislation, titled “Bill for Prohibition of Forcible Conversions,” was presented a second time to members of Parliament in January 2009. Currently, Sri Lanka’s constitution guarantees freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. However, it also calls for Buddhism to hold the “foremost place.” A number of observers and commentators are saying the legislation is in reaction to the decline in the number of Sri Lankans choosing to follow the Buddhist teaching. Buddhist leaders have expressed concern about the growth of Christianity, especially in the country’s rural areas. These Buddhist activists accuse Christians of offering jobs or money in order to get people to convert to Christianity. They were also harshly critical of many Christian aid organizations that worked in the country just after the 2004 tsunami. (Gospel for Asia)

SUDAN: Students Multiply Bible Training
As warfare and genocide have run rampant in Sudan, it's become more difficult for westerners to enter the country to preach the gospel. Building up native pastors and leaders is, therefore, critical. Five students from Sudan left the country years ago to escape the violence. The students, who attend Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, are now dedicated to delivering the gospel message back to their home country. GRTS professor David Livermore says that the students are aware of the challenges ahead and are prepared to face them. “Sudan's needs are huge, but one of the key ways that the Church has identified for them to address these needs is by having better educated pastors and leaders,” says Livermore. The students will be joining hands with Serving In Mission to accomplish this mission and to multiply their own ministry training to reach as many people as possible. (Mission Network News)

UGANDA: Workers Needed for Outreach
Violence continues between the Lord's Resistance Army and Ugandan troops. But even as these tensions persist, a ministry is gearing up to reach out to internally displaced people living in refugee camps. Lorella Rouster with Every Child Ministries (ECM) says many of the kids in these camps are plagued by memories of seeing family and friends murdered. ECM is sending short-term teams in June and July 2009 into some of the camps to reach out with the gospel. Children will be involved in Bible teaching, games, and some educational activities. The ECM teams will have a first aid clinic as well. ECM is looking for short-term mission participants. (Mission Network News)

ZAMBIA: Zimbabwe Refugees Flee to Neighboring Country
As a result of Zimbabwe facing runaway inflation, high unemployment, a disastrous agriculture policy, and rampant disease, thousands of refugees are fleeing to Zambia. Zimbabwe refugee camps are springing up near the border with Zambia, laying a heavy burden on the goodwill of its neighbors. The problem is that Zambia's government is taking land from subsistence farmers and giving it to the Zimbabwean refugees, many of whom were commercial farmers who lost their land as the result of President Mugabe's agriculture policies. This is creating turmoil in the Church (many of whose members are subsistence farmers), because it's threatening Zambian livelihoods. (Mission Network News)

ZIMBABWE: Schooling for Orphans and Children
Serving In Mission (SIM) plans to enable three thousand orphans and children in Zimbabwe to go back to school by paying their school fees, purchasing some school uniforms, and providing writing materials. SIM is running this project in partnership with the United Baptist Church (UBC) of Zimbabwe. SIM representatives add that ensuring educational opportunities for children is critical to mitigating HIV-related vulnerability. (Serving In Mission)