New Briefs

AROUND THE WORLD: Christian Persecution Showing No Sign of Improvement
According to the German yearbook, Martyrs 2007, at least one in ten Christians around the world suffers persecution. In Iraq alone, three in four Iraqi Christians have left their country in fear of harassment, kidnapping or death. There are more than 200 million Christians worldwide who suffer persecution or discrimination; unfortunately, according to the report, there are no signs of improvement. (idea)

AROUND THE WORLD: Kirk Franklin Named CEO of Wycliffe International
Kirk Franklin was recently appointed by the Board of Wycliffe International to become the new executive director (CEO) of Wycliffe Bible Translators International. He replaces Dr. John Watters. Franklin, a citizen of both Australia and the USA, has served with Wycliffe since 1980, most recently as executive director of Wycliffe Australia. He spent twenty-five years in Papua New Guinea (PNG), is fluent in the Tok Pisin language of PNG and has traveled to twenty-five countries, meeting with mission organizations and speaking at churches and mission events. “Bible translation is a key facet of the overarching mission of God,” Franklin stated. “We face tremendous challenges. More than two thousand of the world’s minority language groups still need access to scripture in a language and format they can readily understand. The raising of resources for Bible translation takes place in a rapidly changing social, cultural, economic, political and religious environment in each nation and globally.” (Wycliffe International)

AROUND THE WORLD: SVM2’s 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting
Student Volunteer Movement 2 (SVM2) is holding a 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting 15 February 2008 through 6 March 2008. The event will engage the emerging generation to return to Christ as the fountain of life. Highlighted in each of the twenty-one days will be the core elements of repentance, personal holiness, finding joy, healing, experiencing satisfaction in Christ and being channels of that fountain to the nations. The prayer and fasting can be done either alone or in a group, in any location. Participants can download a prayer and fasting guide. (Student Volunteer Movement 2)

ETHIOPIA: Graduates Aim to Reach the Horn of Africa for Christ
The Awassa District Centre located in Awassa, Ethiopia, was the site of a December graduation ceremony for forty-four students receiving a diploma of ministry or certificate in ministry from the Horn of Africa Creative Leadership Institute. Speaker and Horn of Africa field education coordinator Terry Barker asked the graduates, “Who do you say that Jesus is?” and challenged them to live with the knowledge they acquired in school, pass it on to others and be prepared to answer those who question their faith. Horn of Africa field strategy coordinator Howie Shute sent his congratulations and reminded the students that the Awassa Centre is part of a bigger system of education and training. He believes their district has become a leader in a great movement of God across the Horn of Africa, with thousands of new churches being planted and thousands of new converts coming into a relationship with the living Lord. The message further stated, “Having a system of multiplication of pastors is a must in order to sustain the system of multiplication of churches that is taking place in the district and the field. This means that you are all teachers and you must teach and teach until Jesus comes.” (Nazarene Communications Network News-Africa)

GERMANY: Churches Preaching “Light” Version of the Gospel
According to German theologian Christoph Stenschke, evangelical Christians in Germany have embraced a postmodern “light” version of the gospel. Stenschke says that in contrast to preachers speaking on repentance, hell and sin, as they did in previous decades, most sermons today are a call to “make friends with Jesus.” The outcome has been little life-long, life-changing discipleship and enthusiastic commitment to the faith. Germany’s largest evangelical church, the German Baptist Union, for instance, has not seen experienced any significant growth in years. (idea)

HAITI: Clean Water Transforming Communities
Something as simple as clean, safe water can transform a community. For churches in Haiti—where more than half of the eight million people do not have access to safe drinking water—this means they can become the source of both the literal and spiritual water of life. At the Saint Michel, Haiti, Church of the Nazarene, a hand-pump well has allowed church members to offer water to their community. It means they can provide water for the children at their day school—a necessity for growing and learning. It also helps them cook the food for the school’s daily feeding program. In the northern peninsula of Haiti, La Reserve Church of the Nazarene is also finishing a fresh-water cistern that will provide water for a community in the mountains and for the kids at their day school. Through the Haiti Water Project, groups are partnering with local churches to empower them to provide sustainable water resources for the people in their communities. (Nazarene Caribbean Communications Office)

INDIA: Verse-by-Verse Teaching Translated into Hindi
Pastor Chuck Smith’s (founder of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California, USA) verse-by-verse Bible teachings have been translated into Hindi through the efforts of K.P. Yohannan, founder of Gospel for Asia (GFA), and the GFA team. In a country where nearly 600 million people speak Hindi, GFA hopes to get 100,000 CD copies of Smith’s teachings into the hands of Indian pastors and missionaries. “One of the greatest crises we have is when revival breaks out and millions of people turn to Christ—but then, when there's not enough teaching of God's word, usually they end up in all kind of extreme cults,” said Yohannan. “So we felt compelled to give to pastors something they can actually listen to and then be able to teach their congregations. This project is Pastor Chuck Smith teaching through the Bible; Genesis to Revelation; chapter by chapter; line by line.” For nearly five decades, Smith has been teaching thousands of people God’s word every week. The Calvary Chapel movement birthed the modern-day worship music and contemporary Christian music. (ASSIST News Service)

IRELAND: Significant Decline in Religious Knowledge
According to a new poll, levels of religious knowledge throughout Ireland are decreasing significantly, and in Northern Ireland (NI) are even lower than in the Republic. According to an Ekklesia article, the poll is believed to be the first ever conducted on the subject in NI and is the follow up to a religious knowledge poll conducted in the Republic of Ireland on behalf of The Iona Institute and the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland (EAI). Those organizing the poll conclude that, contrary to popular belief, NI is less religious than the South and that it was already known that church attendance figures in the North were lower than in the South. The poll found that levels of religious knowledge among Northern and Southern Catholics were roughly the same; however, in general, levels of religious knowledge among Northern Protestants were lower than among Northern Catholics. The one question where Protestants were more likely to know the answer was when asked what the first book of the Bible was. Sixty-eight percent of Protestants knew it was Genesis, compared to only fifty-four percent of Catholics. However, only forty-two percent of respondents in the North knew there are four Gospels. Thirty-nine percent of Catholics knew the first of the Ten Commandments, compared to twenty-six percent of Protestants. The poll also found a marked difference between the levels of knowledge found among younger and older age groups. Just twenty-one percent of NI respondents aged 16-24 knew there are four Gospels. Stephen Cave, of the Evangelical Alliance (Northern Ireland), explained, “The results of this poll throw serious doubt on the claim that we are a ‘Christian country.’ The findings present a serious challenge to the Church and those involved in religious education.” (ASSIST News Service)

JAPAN: Increased Poverty among Young Adults
Japanese Christian groups are noticing increasing poverty among young adults. This in a country that once had an image that its companies provide lifetime employment and that it has a strong middle class base. “If one applies the commandment, ‘You shall not kill,’ this should mean allowing poor young adults in Japan who have insecure lives as part-time and contract workers to live properly,” says the Rev. Iwao Hayashi of the United Church of Christ in Japan. (Ecumenical News International)

SRI LANKA: Church Groups Call for Solution to Ethnic Conflict
Church groups in Sri Lanka have made a united call for a political solution to the ethnic conflict that has divided the island for two years and claimed more than six thousand lives. “Fighting will not lead us anywhere,” the Rev. W. P. Ebenezer Joseph, president of the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka, said. In recent months, Sri Lanka has slid back into civil war between security forces and Tamil rebels seeking autonomy from the mainly Buddhist Sinhalese majority. Although a 2002 ceasefire put in place by Norwegian mediators ended two decades of conflict, fighting flared again after the election of President Mahinda Rajapakse in November 2005. Rajapakse won with the support of Sinhala nationalist parties. (Ecumenical News International)

UNITED STATES: Jewish and Muslim Interfaith Dialogue Project
Two major religious organizations, one Jewish and one Muslim, have unveiled an interfaith dialogue project intended to reach hundreds of thousands of their members across the United States and Canada. At its biennial convention in San Diego on 15 December 2007, the Union for Reform Judaism announced it had begun discussions with the Islamic Society of North America. (Ecumenical News International)

ZAMBIA: First Lady Says Country a “Christian Nation”
Maureen Mwanawasa, the First Lady of Zambia, has stated in an interview concerning HIV/AIDS in Zambia, that her country has become a “Christian nation.” According to Mwanawasa, “The Church is one of the biggest helpers of [Zambia’s] government in the fight against HIV/AIDS….Actually, our country was declared a Christian nation, so you can see how dependent we are on God for an answer to the challenge.” Her husband, President Levy Mwanawasa, caused a sensation in 2005 when he gave his life to Christ and, as President of Zambia, was baptized at a local Baptist church in Lusaka, the country's capital city. “This baptism was an incredible occasion for the Baptist witness to many people who have not been in church before,” said Troy Lewis, a Southern Baptist missionary in the southern African nation of more than ten million people. “They heard the gospel of Jesus Christ.” On the day of his baptism, Mwanawasa shared his spiritual journey before a packed chapel service. He told listeners he had been “struck” by Jesus—similar to the Apostle Paul's experience on the road to Damascus. (ASSIST News Service)