March News from around the World

EGYPT: Large Christian Population Faces Many Threats
The Christian population in Egypt is very large—estimated at six to nine million people, or between eight and twelve percent of the population. However, Egyptian Christians face discrimination in education, employment, and the courts, as well as harassment in daily life. Most prosperous Egyptian Christians have left Egypt. Christians who remain often live in extreme poverty. Those in rural areas are vulnerable to violence, and the police seldom offer protection. Incidents of anti-Christian brutality, kidnapping, and forced conversion to Islam are rarely followed by successful prosecution of the perpetrators. (Barnabas Aid)

EGYPT: Coptic Christian Youths Arrested without Charge
Egyptian State Security has intensified its intimidation of the Coptic Church and Christians in Nag Hammadi and neighboring Bahgoura by carrying out random arrests of Christian youth. According to the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), the ongoing campaign against Christians started in early January 2010. AINA said numerous members of families have been arrested, mostly at dawn, without warrants. More than one hundred Christian youth have been arrested without charge. Tension in the area has escalated following the 5 January 2010 shooting in which several Christians and a security guard were killed following Mass marking Coptic Christmas. (Assist News Service)

ERITREA: Another Christian Dies in Detention Center
On 24 January 2010, Hana Hagos Asgedom, 41, became the eleventh believer to die in an Eritrean detention center. Asgedom reportedly suffered a heart attack while being held in solitary confinement at Alla Military Camp. According to sources with Open Doors, “Shortly before her death, she apparently endured beatings with an iron rod for refusing to ‘make the chief commander in the camp a cup of coffee.’ When Asgedom resisted this order (which Christians interpret as a sexual advance), she was apparently sent back to her cell where she endured punishment and later succumbed to the heart attack.” It was reported that Asgedom was serving a life sentence in solitary confinement because she refused to renounce her faith. The Eritrean government recently “ordered the heads of Islam, the Catholic Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church to stop receiving funding from their partners abroad.” Instead, the government would fund and control the institutions. While the Catholic Church responded, saying the orders were against their belief, Open Doors does not know if the Evangelical Lutheran Church or Muslims have reacted. (Mission Network News)

FRANCE: French Lawmakers Consider Ban on Face-Covering Veils
Six years after banning Muslim girls from wearing headscarves in public schools, French lawmakers appear close to a measure to ban women from wearing face-covering veils in some public spaces. On 26 January 2010, a parliamentary commission delivered a long-awaited report recommending that women be barred from wearing the full veil in public institutions and on public transportation. The bipartisan panel also recommended that foreigners who wear the full veil be denied French citizenship and residency. But in an indication of the issue's sensitivity, the panel did not call for banning the garment from private buildings or public spaces such as streets. Of France's six million Muslims, only a small percentage of women (the government estimates less than two thousand) wear the full veil. Recent polls also indicate the majority of French back a ban. The push for a crackdown is hardly unanimous. Many French Muslims, even conservative ones, are against face veils, but are dismayed by a debate they say unfairly targets their community—and underscores a European intolerance of Islam in Europe. (Ecumenical News International)

HAITI: World Hope International Sends Aid, But Suffers Losses
Many of World Hope International’s (WHI) orphanages, hospitals, and schools suffered damage from the catastrophic 12 January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. WHI reports that although the need is great in Port-au-Prince, they are also working in surrounding regions that are being neglected. “A lot of the efforts…are in Port-au-Prince,” explains WHI’s Karl Eastlack. “World Hope International tends to go out into the other cities and do work. We found when we got out there that it was just devastation.” WHI is responding with immediate aid in ten sites, three in the city of Port-au-Prince, but seven in other regions of the country. “We're doing our initial round of food and water and medicine and shelter,” says Eastlack. “Through the end of February, that's our primary emphasis.” Reports have estimated the earthquake death toll to be over 200,000. By April 2010, WHI hopes to be focusing in on the rebuilding process for its damaged orphanages, churches, and hospitals. (Mission Network News)

HAITI: HCJB Global Rotates Medical Teams, Finds Inspiring Moments
Immediately following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, HCJB Global sent a medical team into Port-au-Prince. HCJB president Wayne Pederson says, “They've done about seventy major surgeries, but they've treated hundreds of others. It's almost impossible to count the number of people they've treated.” The team was working at the Baptist Haiti Mission Hospital, one of the only standing hospitals in the region. In the midst of the despair there have been moments of hope and encouragement. Pederson says, “We were thrilled when about twenty Billy Graham chaplains arrived at the hospital earlier this week. And they are having devotions with the patients and sharing Christ. We heard Monday morning that on Sunday, twenty people prayed to receive Christ in the hospital.” While HCJB’s first team is getting ready to head home to Quito, Ecuador, Pederson says, “We will be sending in a second wave of medical professionals by the end of the week. This will be an ongoing process where we bring new personnel in and send others home for rest and renewal.” (HCJB Global)

INDIA: Church Planters Will Take the Gospel to New Places
India Gospel League (IGL) is commissioning one thousand church planters throughout the next three to five years to minister in areas mostly untouched by the gospel. “For two thousand years, India has been resistant to the gospel. Now, all of a sudden, it seems that the floodgates have opened, and now is the time for us to reap the harvest in India,” said David Rice, executive director of IGL. “We are working to raise up one thousand new church planters to send into areas of India where there is absolutely no gospel witness.” They hope to have all of the pastors ministering within three to five years. Rice said with the number of workers they are sending out and based upon past witnessing in new areas, they could see as many as two million people come to Christ. “These bold Indian brothers and sisters are going into places that you and I could never go. So our role is to undergird them with our prayer support, our financial support, and see a great harvest for the kingdom,” he said. (Mission Network News)

MALAYSIA: Non-Islamic Faiths Targeted for Using the Word “Allah”
More places of worship belonging to religious minorities in Malaysia have been targeted in a continuing dispute over the use of “Allah” by non-Islamic faiths, and the World Council of Churches (WCC) has expressed “deep concern” about the situation in the Muslim-majority country. In Geneva, WCC general secretary the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit urged “immediate action by both the [Malaysian] government and civil society to resolve the conflict in order to avoid renewed hostilities and escalation of violence in society.” The attacks against Christian churches followed a court decision that outraged Muslim hardliners, as it opened the way for Christians and other non-Muslims to use the word “Allah” in their religious publications and prayers. At least ten churches are reported to have been attacked. About sixty percent of Malaysia’s population is Muslim, while the rest, mostly ethnic Chinese or Indian, are Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, and Hindu. Christians constitute nine percent of the country’s twenty-six million people. In one attack against a church building on 8 January 2010, Molotov-cocktail wielding assailants escaped on a motorcycle after fire-bombing the offices of the Metro Tabernacle Church, part of the Assemblies of God movement, near Kuala Lumpur. The offices were gutted. (Ecumenical News International)

RWANDA: Prison Fellowship Responds to Children in Need
According to UNICEF, there are approximately 100,000 children living on the streets of Rwanda without a parent or guardian to care for them. Two years ago, Prison Fellowship Rwanda (PFR) began a program to help these struggling children. PFR now serves more than eighty-five young children with meals, counseling, group activities, and Bible teaching. They also provide medical insurance for many children and literacy training, since their situations have force most of the children to drop out of school. Guma Alexandre of PFR says, “Prison Fellowship Rwanda believes that helping young and unfortunate children of the world is everybody’s responsibility.” PFR hopes to expand this needed program by building a shelter for the children that would allow for a more stable living environment and sustained access to education and healthcare, if funds become available. (Prison Fellowship International)

UNITED KINGDOM: Praying the Lord’s Prayer at Noon Each Day
The leaders of the Global Day of Prayer London (GDOP London) are calling for one million Christians to pray the Lord's Prayer at noon every day. Organizers hold a vision to host the GDOP event at Wembley Stadium in 2011. Ahead of Wembley, a venue that can accommodate ninety-thousand people, preparations are well underway for this year's event at West Ham Stadium on 30 May 2010. GDOP London convener Jonathan Oloyede is asking people to start setting their alarm clocks and mobile phones at noon every day. Oloyede said, “Set against massive social, financial, and spiritual upheaval and the barrenness and fractured nature of much of our society, we are crying out to God; Our Father in Heaven, Heal our Land! Extraordinary times demand extraordinary prayer.” GDOP is part of a global network which began in South Africa at the turn of the millennium. In 2007, over 250 million Christians united in 203 countries to pray. In London, GDOP has been a focus of prayer and Christian action since 2006. West Ham Stadium in 2007 and Millwall Football Stadium in 2008 saw a combined attendance of thirty thousand Christians. (Assist News Service)