News Briefs

AROUND THE WORLD: North Korea Tops World Watch List for Sixth Year
For the sixth straight year, North Korea tops Open Doors’ World Watch List, which lists where persecution of Christians is the highest. Rounding out the top ten are: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Maldives, Bhutan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Laos, Uzbekistan, and China. Islam is the majority religion in six of the top ten countries: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Maldives, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Uzbekistan. Three countries have communist governments: North Korea, Laos, and China. Bhutan is the only Buddhist country on the Top Ten list. The World Watch List ranks countries according to the intensity of persecution Christians face for actively pursuing their faith. The list is compiled based on the answers to fifty questions covering various aspects of religious freedom from Open Doors’ indigenous contacts, field workers, and persecuted believers. (Open Doors USA)

AROUND THE WORLD: David Reeves Named President of JAARS
David Reeves has been appointed the next president of JAARS, an organization which provides technical support and resources to speed Bible translation. Reeves, who will assume his new role in January 2009, originally served with JAARS before spending eighteen years in communications and aviation services in Indonesia. JAARS provides services to organizations such as Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL International. (JAARS)

AROUND THE WORLD: Fredrick Boswell Named Executive Director of SIL International
Fredrick A. Boswell assumed his role as executive director for SIL International in January 2008. Previously, he served SIL as vice president for academic affairs, international translation coordinator, and entity director for SIL Solomon Islands. Boswell worked as a field linguist and translation advisor to the Cheke Holo language group in the Solomon Islands on Central Santa Isabel Island. He has also lived and worked in Peru and Papua New Guinea. Boswell’s appointment follows the tenure of Dr. John Watters, who completed his maximum term limit. (SIL International)

CHAD: Fears of Humanitarian Disaster
Amid reports that people are trying to flee the country, World Vision staff in Chad fear the situation could turn from a political crisis to a humanitarian disaster if fighting does not stop soon. “We did not expect things to happen this quickly. I fear that the entire capital could be destroyed. There is already much human and economic damage. Many civilians have been killed,” said Levourne Passiri, World Vision’s national director in Chad. Rebel attacks, which are now centered on the presidential palace, have forced international aid agency World Vision to move staff and their families to safe houses and to close its office in the capital. It is feared that a humanitarian crisis could result if a negotiated ceasefire or a mediated transition of power are not achieved soon, as this could trigger factional fighting that would displace civilians. (Christian Newswire)

ETHIOPIA: Center for Orphaned Children Opens
The Adana Children Center, sponsored by Blessing the Children International, recently opened and will accept six hundred orphaned children over five years. Ten new children will be sponsored each month. Ethiopia is one of the countries hit hardest by the AIDS pandemic. With four million orphans in Ethiopia (twenty percent as a result of AIDS), it is a major problem the government describes as “tearing apart the social fabric” of the East African nation. Children at the Adana Children Center are initially cared for in the orphanage while a foster home is found. In their new home, children are loved and cared for as they receive provision and support—such as clothing, healthy meals, life skills training, and the opportunity to go to school—from their sponsor. (Blessing the Children International)

FRANCE: Majority of Births Out of Wedlock
In 2007, France became the first non-Scandinavian country in Western Europe where a majority of births are now out-of-wedlock. In France, 50.5% of the 816,500 births registered in 2007 were to unmarried parents, up from 48.4% in 2006 and forty percent a decade ago. Out-of-wedlock births kept pace with the rise of civil unions. In 2007, there were 305,385 of said “unions” registered in France, compared to only 266,500 marriages. In Sweden, Norway, Estonia, and Bulgaria, out-of-wedlock births have also passed the fifty percent mark. In the United Kingdom, births to the unmarried were forty-four percent in 2006, up a percentage point from 2005. In Catholic countries like Italy and Spain, births to married couples are still the norm (illegitimacy is twenty-seven percent in Spain and seventeen percent in Italy). Even so, in those countries, the percentage of out-of-wedlock births has doubled in the past decade. Guy Desplanques, head of France's agency for compiling demographic data, notes, “Marriage is now seen more as a celebration held to bring together family and friends, and less a necessary institution, especially given the growth of civil unions.” (Christian Newswire)

INDIA: Religious Cleansing by Hindu Radicals
On 23 December 2007 radical Hindus attacked thousands of Christians in India's eastern state of Orissa. Months later, hundreds of believers are still hiding out in the surrounding jungle, and two thousand are in refugee camps. According to a report for CBN News, “The attacks are part of a larger campaign by Hindu radicals to turn India into a Hindu nation.” During December 2007, hundreds of Hindu radicals destroyed more than seven hundred Christian homes in India's eastern state of Orissa. Some ninety-five churches were demolished or burned to the ground. According to Hindu Umasankar Acharya whose group, Bajrang Dal, is suspected of taking part in the attacks, peace will come only when Christians in India stop proselytizing. (ASSIST News Service)

KENYA: Bible League Continues Work Despite Violence
Violent clashes and deadly riots continue to erupt in Nairobi, as well as in Kenya’s eastern and western provinces. Bible League staff members are navigating the country to make sure ministry continues. “Bible League has a strong focus of ministry among the poor who have been very hard hit in the violent conflict that is rocking Kenya,” said Joseph Owens, vice president of Africa ministries for the Bible League. “We are continuing to provide Bibles to churches whose members have been displaced and properties destroyed. All Christians are trying to rely upon wisdom from Jesus to guide their actions in these very difficult times. The teachings of Jesus are the true hope for a better future in Kenya.” Due to the conflicts, three Bible League ministry areas are completely shut down and more ministry areas may be forced to close. In 2007, Christians trained by Bible League in Kenya placed 140,228 scriptures and established 143 new churches. Owens confirms that God’s Word and a commitment to Christ can sustain Kenyans during this uncertain and dangerous time. (Bible League)

NIGERIA: Churches Destroyed in Shari’ah State 
Around one thousand people were displaced, several critically wounded, and every church reportedly destroyed in Shira Yana, Bauchi State, Nigeria, on 2 February 2008. This follows recent incidents of religious violence in northern and central Shari’ah states. Tension is also mounting in Kano State, where around two hundred Shari’ah police were reported to have patrolled the streets of the Christian area of Sabon Gari in Kano City during the evening of 1 February. They were armed with an array of weaponry, including bows, arrows, sticks, and machetes. (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)

UNITED STATES: IBS-STL Launches Urban Outreach New Testament
International Bible Society (IBS), a division of IBS-STL Global, launched an updated, newly-revised edition of the popular My City My God (NIrV) New Testament last month. The revised New Testament contains seven new testimonies from teens and Christian youth workers in major US cities, including Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, and New York, as well as a new introduction and notes. IBS collaborated with YouthPartnersNet and other ministries on the revised New Testament. Teen testimonies in My City My God tell of growing up amid violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and poverty. These testimonies reflect the grim realities of urban life for many, including that fact that nearly forty-three percent of urban teens drop out of high school, three in ten teen girls become pregnant by age twenty, and homicide and suicide are the second and third leading causes of death for teens ages fifteen to nineteen. Nearly three-fourths of teen homicides stem from gang violence. Nearly 476,000 copies of the original My City My God New Testament, including English and Spanish versions, have been distributed since its 1998 release. (IBS-STL Global)

WEST AFRICA: New Trans World Radio Transmitting Site in West Africa
Trans World Radio (TWR) is now airing the good news of Jesus Christ into spiritually-needy West Africa. Broadcasts in fourteen languages began 1 February 2008 from a powerful 100,000-watt AM transmitter located in Benin, the birthplace of voodoo. The new broadcasting outlet marks TWR’s fourteenth major international transmitting site; the facility has the potential to reach some sixty-three million people, many of whom belong to another major world religion. According to Operation World (21st century edition), most West African nations have numerous unreached people groups without an established indigenous evangelical church. Radio, then, is one of the most relevant and cost-effective ways to share Christ’s love with people in this vast region. (Trans World Radio—Africa)