Oleksandr Turchynov, a well-known Baptist pastor and top opposition politician in Ukraine, has taken office as acting president after the Parliament voted to oust President Yanukovych.  The collapse of the Yanukovych regime follows three months of growing protests that exploded in recent violence, which has claimed more than 88 lives. Many of these protests took place in the Independence Square in the capital city of Kiev. At issue was Yanukovych’s decision to move Ukraine into a much closer economic and political relationship with Russia. This move triggered outrage among younger Ukrainians who wish for their nation to cast its lot with the European Union.

After the vote to oust him, Yanukovych fled Kiev and is reportedly in Crimea in south west Ukraine. The new government has charged Yanukovych with murder and has issued a warrant for his arrest. In Kiev, Turchynov, 49, spoke publicly for the first time since taking office as acting president. He said, “Unprecedented cruelty and brutality of the dictatorial regime did not stop citizens who selflessly gave their lives to defend their rights-and won. “Our first task today is to stop the confrontation, to regain control and to ensure peace and tranquillity. Another priority is returning to the European family.

We recognize the importance of relations with the Russian Federation, and are ready for dialogue with the Russian leadership to build relations with this country on a new, truly equitable and good-neighbourly basis, which implies recognition of accounting Ukraine’s European choice.” The Parliament has set new national elections for late May. The choice of a Baptist pastor as acting president in Ukraine, which has had an Orthodox majority population for centuries, does not come as a huge surprise to Sergey Rakhuba, head of U.S.-based Russian Ministries. “He is well-known in political circles as a principled, honest leader.

“He is well-known as a preacher who, despite his political opposition work, preaches on a regular basis at one of the Baptist churches in Kiev. The evangelical church is excited about Turchynov’s sudden unanimous appointment as acting president.  In 2008, Susan Wunderink reported from Ukraine about the changing role of the nation’s evangelical minority, exploring how Eastern Europe’s most missional evangelical church was rethinking tradition and the Great Commission. On Monday the following public statement was issued by Valery Antonyuk, vice president of the All Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Churches.

During this time in the life of the nation, the Church and individual Christians cannot remain spectators to the battles and losses. The Church serves society and mourns together with it. We went through difficult days together with the nation – we served through prayer, evangelism, volunteers, medical help, clothing, and food. Today a time has come for a ministry of active reconciliation, which will help maintain unity in our country and nation. We support the nation’s demand to put an end to the tyranny of the authorities and repressions by the police. Now it is important to restore justice and due process of law, to form a government that has the people’s trust, and provide fair presidential elections.

We believe that those guilty of crimes against the people will be justly judged, and that peaceful citizens will be protected. But on behalf of the Church we must say more, we must speak the whole truth; we must say that which is still hard to accept and fulfil, that which is a precondition for a better future. Therefore the Church calls the Ukrainian nation to more than just feelings of human justice – to Christian forgiveness, grace, and reconciliation. We pray to God for repentance for the guilty. However at the same time we ask victims to forgive those who are already repentant as well as those who are still lost.

To unite and reconcile the various social, cultural, and political groups in the nation, laws and justice are not enough. Without repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation, the country will remain divided and in conflict. This is the precondition for a spiritual transformation of Ukraine. The Bible says, there is “a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace”. Accordingly, we declare today to be a time to mend, and not to tear the nation apart; a time to seek peace, and not to fan the flames of war; a time to learn to love yesterday’s enemies, and not to continue to hate rivals and those who have hurt us.

We call on the Evangelical churches of Ukraine to serve to bring peace between people and healing to the wounds of war. We do not call black white and do not justify crimes or even mistakes. But we, as Christians, forgive, because we have been forgiven by God. He reconciled us to Himself, and gave us a message of reconciliation. This grace-giving Word should be heard by our whole nation. We also call upon the international Christian community asking for prayer and intercession for the Ukrainian nation and for help with peacemaking. We mourn for the victims, and thank God for His grace toward Ukraine, and pray for peace and spiritual revival in our nation.

Source: Christian Today

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“Saudis are not all god-forsaken ‘Osamas.’ There are people of that persuasion, but also a good few who are quite liberal and who don’t like the status quo. The current King is said to be quite liberal,” according to a Christian expatriate in neighbouring Bahrain. King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, the King of Saudi Arabia, is known as Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Since coming to power in 2005, he has promoted reforms. He reshuffled the cabinet, replacing some hardline clerics with more moderate ones. He also promised to overhaul the education system with more of a focus on sciences rather than religion. He also gave the green light for the country’s first co-educational university in 2009. 

The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology is one of only two educational institutions in the Kingdom where men and women can mix and women are not required to wear veils. This is in contrast to the country at large where Wahhabism dictates that women are completely segregated. In 2005 he introduced the first municipal elections, and in 2011 granted women the right to vote and run as candidates in the next local election, set for 2015. A year ago, he issued a historical decree allowing women to become members of the Kingdom’s previously all-male Shura Council for the first time. Thirty Saudi women, who included princesses and university graduates,were sworn in before King Abdullah.

Currently, an unlikely “alliance” is developing between Saudi Arabia and its once bitter rival, Israel. Both countries’ opposition to Iran may see Saudi Arabia allowing Israeli jets to land and re-fuel in the Kingdom in the event that Israel decides to take out Iran’s nuclear installations according to the Christian Broadcasting Network. Chris Mitchell, CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief, said: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend – true for Saudi Arabia and Israel who see eye to eye on this.  They have a mutual interest in stopping Iran. Saudi Arabia doesn’t want to see a Persian empire established in the ME. Israel doesn’t want to see Iran gain power either. They are unlikely bedfellows.” 

Please pray: 

*  for King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz (age 89) so that he might continue to make more positive changes in his kingdom before his successor takes over. Pray that God would reveal Christ to the King

*  for the reforms King Abdullah has introduced. Pray that they would be part of a deep change in the country which would go to the heart of all that Saudi Arabia stands for.

*  that the reforms would eventually lead to more freedom for Christians who live and work in Saudi Arabia.

Source: Windows International Network

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A comprehensive report by The Centre for the Study of Global Christianity states 59% of all Christian believers live in the Global South. The Global South includes countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Oceania. This number is projected to increase by 2020 by which time 66% of all Christians will live in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Oceania. In the continent of Africa, the population of Christians rose from 9% to nearly 49% over a span of 100 years. Many of these Christians are from sub-Saharan Africa, and converted from ethno-religions to Christianity. It is worrying however that only 20% of Muslims in Africa personally knew a Christian in 2010.

Even though Asia remains the least-Christian area in the world by percentage, Christianity has made a noteworthy advance. In 1970, 4.5 percent of the population was Christian; that percentage has increased to 8.2 percent in 2010. And in the coming years, Christianity is projected to grow faster than any other religion. Many are added to the number of Christian Believers through conversions. China is the home to much of the increase in the number of Christians. In 1970, 0.1 percent of the population was Christian; now, 7.3 percent are followers of Jesus Christ. There are nearly 103 million Christians in that nation.

Conversely, a climate of political volatility has played a vital role in the decline of Christians in the Middle East.  Many historic Christian communities in Western Asia – notably those in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq – have been emigrating due to conflict and violence. The report illustrates the fact that the Lord is moving in a powerful way in the nations of the 10/40 Window. Christian Believers in the region have been sharing and living the message of the Gospel and interceding for God’s children in the 10/40Window. However, much remains to be done. Many more need to hear about God’s redeeming love expressed through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Please pray:

*  for the tremendous harvest of souls in the 10/40 Window. Praise God for the tireless work of Christian Believers and workers, in the region, who are sharing the Gospel.

*  that God would continue to bless the labourers as they carry the Gospel to the 10/40 Window. Pray that the volatility in the Middle East would bequelled.

*  for the Prince of Peace to reign in this troubled part of the world. Pray for Christian Believers who live in hostile environments. Pray God’s hedge of protection around them even as they witness to the love and grace of God.

Source: Centre for the Study of Global Christianity

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Pope Francis, whom some in the Roman Catholic Church have accused of not speaking out forcefully enough against abortion, has called the practice “horrific”. The Pope made his toughest remarks to date on abortion in an address to diplomats accredited to the Vatican. “It is horrific even to think that there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day,” he said in a section of the speech about the rights of children around the world. Since his election last March, the Pope, while showing no signs of changing the Church’s position against abortion, has not spoken out against it as sternly or as repeatedly as his predecessors Pope Benedict XVI and the late John Paul II.

Both of those Popes often delivered sermons against abortion, which the Church considers murder. Conservatives in the Church were alarmed when Francis, in an interview with the Italian Jesuit magazine Civilta Cattolica, said the Church must shake off an “obsession” with teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality. His stance favouring mercy over condemnation has disoriented conservative Catholics, notably in rich countries such as the United States, where the Catholic Church has become polarised on issues such as abortion. Conservative Catholic websites have criticised the Pope in the past months for what they called his silence on abortion.

Source: Charisma News

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“The movement within philosophy to a renaissance of Christian thinking is the brightest hope in American culture today in terms of religious impact. The university is the single most important institution influencing American society in the long run, so I am very optimist about the future of the American university, and therefore, the American culture”, Dr William Lane Craig, a contemporary Christian philosopher said. Philosophy is the study of wisdom. At its core are the big questions of life: Who am I? Why do I exist? What is the meaning of our collective existence on earth? It’s a popular subject on college campuses and many students begin their journey to Christ while taking a Philosophy class.

Americans believe Christianity is being upended by the “New Atheism.” Dr Craig says nothing is further from the truth. “Over the last 50 years there has been a renaissance of Christian philosophy. Over the past generation it has become a very significant and respected minority within the philosophical community.” According to Craig the New Atheism movement “lacks the ideological muscle that its Christian counterpart has built, and doesn’t have the staying power of the Christian philosophical renaissance.” “Over the long run the picture for Biblical Christianity is very positive and when felt in popular culture, the picture will get even brighter”, Craig concludes.

Source: Intercessors for America

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South Korean Pastor David Yonggi Cho – Founder of the world’s largest church; Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul – has been indicted for fraud and embezzlement of $12 million in church funds. Cho (78) was sentenced to three years in prison-suspended, and five years probation, along with a fine of $5million. He was also found guilty of tax evasion. Cho’s oldest son, Cho Hee-Jun (49), was found guilty of the same charges, and because he was considered a flight risk, he was taken into custody immediately after his sentencing to serve a 3-year sentence. The court “considered Cho’s life journey as a religious leader and his long-term contribution to social welfare” as mitigating circumstances on his behalf.

The court ruled that his son, Cho Hee-Jun, was the instigator of the crime. The presiding judge had reportedly stated, “The court considered that even though Pastor Cho had the final say in the church, he never took the lead in any of the crimes, including tax evasion, committed on the suggestion of the accounting firm.” This is probably why his prison term was suspended for probation. A pastor friend, Dr. Bob Rodgers  noted that in spite of his convictions, Cho didn’t live an elaborate lifestyle. According to Rodgers, he didn’t own a car, he lived in a 1,000-square-foot church apartment, and he had “raised and given personally to the church more than $170 million.”

Source: Charisma News

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