March News from around the World

AROUND THE WORLD: Wycliffe International Becomes Wycliffe Global Alliance
Wycliffe International has a new name: Wycliffe Global Alliance. This new “doing business as” name, effective 1 February 2011, reflects organizational changes already underway and helps position Wycliffe for ongoing adaptability. An accompanying tagline/cutline, partners in Bible translation, serves as a reminder of Wycliffe’s unchanging focus on the minority language communities of the world who still need God’s word in their heart languages. Wycliffe Global Alliance is an alliance of 105+ organizations. Forty-five carry the Wycliffe name in some way because of Wycliffe’s role in their beginnings. Most of the other 60+ organizations began as a result of local or national mission movements. (Wycliffe Global Alliance)

AUSTRALIA: Cyclone Yasi Complicates Flood Recovery in Australia
Cyclone Yasi slammed into the flood-ravaged northern state of Queensland as a category 5 storm. It is one more serious complication in the flood recovery efforts estimated to cost at least A$5 billion. Australia's government is calling the scale of flooding in Queensland and New South Wales (NSW) the greatest natural disaster to ever occur in that nation. Cleanup has begun, but seventy-five percent of Queensland and parts of northern NSW have been declared a disaster zone, covering a land mass larger than Germany and France combined. There are also concerns about inflation. (Mission Network News)

AUSTRALIA: Australian Anglicans Engage Atheists Online
Outspoken atheists have captured attention worldwide; now, Australian Anglicans have launched a website encouraging Christians to enter the debate. The Anglican Diocese of Melbourne's new website offers a set of resources answering the hard questions about why people can believe in God. The website was created by a committee of Anglican theologians and thinkers, including Prof. John Pilbrow, its deputy chair and a prominent physicist. “We want to equip people in the pews with the courage to sit down and talk to people who don't have the same beliefs,” he said. The website collects articles and book reviews, and has an online discussion forum where a panel of theologians will respond to questions people post. (Ecumenical News International)

EGYPT: Jubilation over President Ouster
Egypt is basking in the glow of making history. On 11 February 2011 President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, clearing the way for the armed forces to restore order until the September 2011 elections. SAT-7, a Christian satellite television ministry to the Middle East and North Africa, not only captured the unfolding of the events, but noted a fascinating aspect that arose: the Christmas Eve sectarian violence gave way to Muslims and Christians praying together in Tahrir Square. Terry Ascott, SAT-7 CEO, says, “It's a great time to pray for the church in Egypt….Christians and Muslims have been on the street side by side. They've recognized, in each other, a common cause. They've recognized each other as equal citizens in the Egyptian struggle.” Even as SAT-7 captured the demonstrations in the streets, there was little they could do with the programming. Offices had to be closed because of the studio's proximity to the hundreds of thousands gathering. However, their team in Lebanon came through at a critical time, providing live programming from the Beirut studio. (Mission Network News)

ERITREA: Renewed Crackdown on Christians
Two Christians are reported to have died in separate Eritrean prisons after being refused medical treatment amid a renewed crackdown by the authorities against unregistered churches. According to Barnabas Aid, one of the martyrs is 27-year-old Seble Hagos Mebrahtu, who was arrested after being caught reading a Bible in her bedroom. Her death comes as a new wave of raids, which started on New Year's Eve, saw more than one hundred evangelical believers detained. The World Evangelical Alliance-Religious Liberty Commission (WEA-RLC) said it was no coincidence that this fresh onslaught began around the time of the Tunisian uprising, which ousted the country's president. WEA executive director Godfrey Yogarajah warned that as unrest spreads throughout North Africa and the Middle East, conditions for Eritrean Christians could worsen: “This may prompt President Isaias to tighten (his) grip on power leading to an even more severe persecution of political dissidents and those from unregistered Protestant Christian groups.” Thousands of Christians are believed to be imprisoned without trial in Eritrea's notorious detention system. (Assist News Service)

NIGERIA: Bible Translator Still Missing
In mid-December 2010, the Tarok Old Testament translation project was drawn to an abrupt halt after translator and project coordinator Stephen was kidnapped. Stephen was kidnapped from Jos, and although he has not been able to return home, The Seed Company recently received a report that he was able to contact his wife three weeks ago. The Seed Company has yet to hear anything else from this key translator. In the meantime, the Tarok project continues to suffer as a result. Seventy percent of the Tarok people have accepted Christ as a result of the New Testament release and are still eagerly anticipating the Old Testament. Stephen is a vital piece in completing this project. (Mission Network News)

PAKISTAN: Protests to Amendment in Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law
Some forty thousand people joined Pakistan's main opposition religious party, Jamiat-e-Islami, along with seven other parties (including Pakistan Muslim League [Q] and the banned Jamat-ud-dawa) to participate in a rally of Tehreek Namoos-e-Risalat [sanctity of the Holy Prophet] on Mall Road Lahore on 30 January 2011 against any amendments to the blasphemy law in Pakistan. Protesters demanded that the government reject Western influence and criticized Pope Benedict XVI for joining the West in what they claim is “propaganda against the Muslim state.” The Pope had led international calls to show mercy toward Asia Bibi, the 45-year-old Christian woman and mother-of-five who denies insulting the Prophet Muhammad during an argument in a Punjab province village in June 2009. Leaders threatened to stage, at the very least, a “long march” if any changes were made to the blasphemy laws. (Assist News Service)

SUDAN: Churches Closing in Northern Sudan after Referendum
Some churches, parishes, and church schools in northern Sudan are closing due to a large movement of people to the south after the independence referendum. “This is the trend. There are some centers in the parishes that are far apart and the populations have decreased drastically. These are closing,” Roman Catholic Bishop Daniel Adwok, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Khartoum Archdiocese, said. In the referendum, held in mid-January 2011, voters in southern Sudan overwhelmingly approved independence for their region, the site of two long civil wars. The area is expected to become independent in July 2011. Rev. Ramadan Chan Liol, general secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC), a grouping of Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox churches, confirmed that some of these parishes were mainly of southern people. “With the mass movement of the southerners and people from the Nuba Mountains, some of the churches have been left empty,” he said. “Individual denominations are considering what to do with the properties of such parishes.” Although many of the Christians are said to have returned to south voluntarily, some observers said they had departed because they could not be assured of their safety. Church leaders are concerned that if the Muslim government in the north adopts strict Sharia law, as it has promised, then the Church will suffer. (Ecumenical News International)