IRAN WORLD’S FASTEST GROWING CHURCH CELEBRATES NEW BIBLE TRANSLATION
A new translation of the Bible into modern Persian, has been launched in London. It marks a remarkable transformation for the Church in Iran. According to a news release from Elam Ministries, the organization behind the translation, at the time of the Islamic revolution in 1979, there were no more than 500 Christians from a Muslim background in the country. Now Iran is thought to have the fastest-growing Church in the world. “A very conservative estimate puts the number of Christians in Iran at 100,000,” said David Yeghnazar of Elam Ministries, speaking in the news release. He continued, “The generally-accepted estimate is 370,000. Some believe there are 700,000, some over a million.
Operation World puts the annual growth rate at 19.7%. If that is the case, Iran will very soon have one million Christian Believers.” Yeghnazar believes there are a number of reasons why the Church has grown so rapidly. “The Iranian identity is not rooted in Islam and there is real disillusionment with the religion,” he said. “A new house church movement is allowing Iranians to go to Christian meetings easily and not risk all by going to a public church. New Christians have zealously shared the Gospel and Scriptures and there has been on-going prayer for Iran around the world.” Some people expected at the launch have been imprisoned for their faith. One wrote Scriptures on her prison wall for others to read.
Indeed, the vision for a Bible in modern Persian was conceived when Iran’s Church was in the midst of murderous persecution. In 1994, three senior Church leaders were killed, including Tateos Michaelian, Iran’s foremost translator of Christian Scriptures and books into Persian. “Michaelian joyfully accepted the role of lead translator for the new translation,” said Yeghnazar. “One month later he was dead – shot in the head by three bullets. It was a military-styled execution. He had spoken out one too many times against the Iranian government.” Despite grieving for his loss, Elam Ministries said Iran’s Church leaders continued to work on a new translation in Persian that was “accurate, modern and elegant.”
Michaelian’s widow, Juliet, was at the dedication with her granddaughter, born on the day her grandfather was murdered. They were the first to receive the Bible, followed by children of other martyrs. The dedication of this Bible sends out a clear message to those who persecute Christians. “In 2010 the Mayor of Tehran called evangelical Christians ‘deviants,'” said Yeghnazar. “‘The government portrays Christians who love the Bible as a cult-like sect.” He added, “With 500 mainly Christian leaders present – including representatives of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Pope, the Orthodox and Assemblies of God churches and many others—we are saying the Iranian government’s view of Christians is wrong.”
A gathering of the international Church in London also sends out a timely message that the Middle East is Christian as well as Muslim. “Though the event will be a joyful one, we are sad it is happening outside Iran,” Yeghnazar said. He continued, “This event proves the world wide Church will always bring the Scriptures to people, however ‘closed’ a country is meant to be. Rather than try and stop the inevitable—especially in our digital age—it would be much wiser if the Iranian government gave Christians the freedom promised in their constitution and let the Bible in Persian be printed legally inside Iran.”
In Muslim-dominated Indonesia, many evangelical Christian communities are reacting positively to their new President, Joko Widodo. “Many Christians in Indonesia are feeling relief and delight that this man has become their new leader,” says Bruce Allen of Forgotten Missionaries International (FMI). Nicknamed “Jokowi”, 53-year-old Joko Widodo made history when he was sworn into office as the first Indonesian president not to have a background in politics or military service. He grew up in the slums of Java and rose quickly from the position of mayor to president. After his inauguration Widodo made history again by choosing the country’s first female Foreign Minister.
Widodo is not only charting new territory in the realm of politics, he’s setting a new standard in the realm of religion, too. During his first speech to Parliament, Joko Widodo acknowledged the Christians who were present. All previous presidents, in their opening address to Parliament, have given the traditional Muslim greeting. Joko Widodo gave the traditional Muslim greeting, but then he also said, ‘I want to greet my Christian countrymen, and so I also say ‘God bless you’ and ‘greetings in peace’ to the Christians. “Widodo is making very serious overtures to say, ‘I’m a Muslim, but I am a leader of all the people’” Allen said.
Christians are one of the six religions protected by Indonesian law. However, Allen says, those legally-protected freedoms are often infringed upon in the world’s largest Muslim-dominate nation. “Many things tilt in favour of the Muslims,” says Allen. “If there is opposition to Christian outreach locally, or if someone is attacking a church or a pastor, the local police department, probably led by a Muslim, says, ‘We’ll get to that in a few hours.’ “There are still abuses toward Christians, even though they are legally protected.” Allen said. Indonesian believers hope Joko Widodo’s tolerance and acceptance of religious minorities will change this persistent reality.
“They’re looking for fewer restrictions as well as looking for many changes that will show that Indonesia is much more open,” states Allen. In light of the growing ISIS cliphate, pray that other Islamic nations will follow Indonesia’s example, as set forth by its new president. “Right now, the world-wide media is being dominated by so much bad news about the Islamic world, especially with ISIS running rampant,” Allen says. “Here, is the world’s largest, Muslim-dominated country turning its back on ISIS, so to speak, and saying, ‘We welcome the contribution that Christians are having in this country.’” That is what is giving hope to so many Christians in Indonesia.
NIGERIAN BISHOPS CALL FOR PROTECTION OF INNOCENT CITIZENS
Catholic Bishops in Nigeria have called on the government to protect the lives and property of its people, as militants intensified their killing spree across the country. In a statement issued by the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria Most Rev Ignatius Kaigama, the Bishops have urged the authorities to carry out their ‘‘primary duty’’ to protect the life of every Nigerian – irrespective of tribe, religion, social class or tradition. “As Nigeria bleeds and burns, we Bishops are alarmed at the scale of human and material destruction, and the disruption of village and community life with increased levels of hatred and potentials for more conflicts in the nation.” he said.
While Muslims are sometimes targets of these attacks, Christians and other non-Muslims are the principal targets.’ The Bishops statement says “In the face of Boko Haram and other militias killing innocent, defenceless citizens, our government must do more to safeguard our lives and prevent segments of our nation from drifting into anarchy and mutual self-destruction.’’ The statement warns of the danger posed by the insurgency. “We warn every Nigerian community to be alert to the danger facing our nation from within and without. “The issue is not about who gets elected at the 2015 general elections. It is about the security of each of us who loves his or her life and cares about our living together in peace as Nigerians.’’
Recently a raid by unknown gunmen claimed the lives of 32 villagers in three Christian communities. This attack was carefully planned and carried out by Islamic fundamentalists. ‘‘Our women, children, clergymen, and the aged, have been the main targets of these attacks’’ read the statement. At least 15 people died as militants attacked the Federal College of Education of Kano, the main commercial city of northern Nigeria. Witnesses said the attackers stormed the college, exchanging fire with police officers posted outside the grounds. There was at least one suicide bomber among the group whose explosives went off when police shot him. Some of the attackers entered a lecture hall and opened fire on the students.
Another 36 people were killed in an attack on a town just 60 km west of Maiduguri. ‘‘Many people are being forced out of their homes” said Father Oliver Doeme, the Bishop of Maiduguri Diocese. Thousands are living in mountain caves, in the forest, or with friends and relatives. Thousands have fled into Cameroon and are living with little food, shelter and medication’’ ‘‘People are sleeping on the streets in Maiduguri. The government is doing its bit to provide for them but the number is overwhelming and the resources are limited’’. An ‘ all night prayer’ rally is scheduled for both the 13th and 14th of November in the capital Abuja, to pray for the nation.
ISLAMISTS ATTACK COURAGEOUS ‘MOTHER TERESA OF ISRAEL’
Karen Dunham has survived many attempts on her life as she ministered Christ’s compassion to Palestinians in Jericho and Gaza. Some have referred to her as a “Mother Teresa in Israel.” Now she is asking for God’s protection due to mounting pressures to force her from her ministry headquarters in East Jerusalem. On September 21st, she was assaulted by an extremist bent on doing her harm. “The man ran up from behind me and with both fists hit me as hard as he could in the back,” says Dunham, founder of the Living Bread International Church. She slammed to the ground, sustaining a fractured arm, busted teeth, knee damage, and bruises from head to toe.
The most recent attacks against her ministry began when she returned from a trip to the U.S., Islamists had taken over her parking lot and informed her they had designs on the entire property. One week ago they tore off her front gate and front door. Then they stole a privacy shade and metal security fence around their offices. “Without the metal fence we’re like sitting ducks,” she says. When she called a company to replace the fencing, Islamists attacked the repairman and he fled. The next day, a man with a black plastic bag walked by and began to pump a toxic gas into her offices, including rooms where they house orphans and young children with disabilities. “I can’t breathe!” many of the children cried as they ran outside. ¶
“We ran inside the church next door and they had filled it with gas through a couple of open windows,” Dunham reports. “They are also threatening to bomb us if we didn’t leave.”. One of the orphans recognized the man who knocked Dunham over. “He made a motion with his hand like he was going to slit her throat,” said the child. The police in East Jerusalem have been uncooperative, according to Dunham. She also talked with her contacts in the Israeli army. “Should we give up and leave?” she asked one of the officers. “Should all Christians leave East Jerusalem?” “No, don’t go anywhere,” he advised. However, her office is outside their “jurisdiction,” so they cannot offer her any protection.
ASSYRIAN CHRISTIANS CRY OUT FOR SAFE HAVEN AS THEY FACE GENOCIDE
Nuri Kino, a Swedish-Assyrian journalist has founded a campaign to protect the Christians of Iraq and Syria, called #DemandForAction, and is seeking help from the international community. Kino has outlined the conditions of Christians in Iraq and Syria, as the terrorist group Islamic State (IS), forces them to leave or be killed. Kino has sub-titled his campaign “What Would Jesus Say?” “Not only do Assyrian Christians lay claim to some of the oldest literary, architectural, and geographical artefacts of Christianity, they also speak the language of Jesus. All of this history—along with the lives of thousands of families—is on the verge of destruction. Christianity is facing extinction in the places where it first emerged.
“The Assyrians want to live in harmony and understanding with other faiths and ethnicities as they always have. They want a small area where they will be protected and not ruled by those who will force them to give up their faith or ethnicity or risk death. France has announced its intention to grant asylum to some Christians forced out of Iraq. But as much as we would love to see all the Christians of the Middle East find a safe haven in, say, Marseille, we know that it is not a tenable solution. The Assyrians need a permanent safe haven in the Middle East: the birthplace of Christianity, where our legacy of 7,000 years as Assyrians rests, the land of our faith and our forefathers. This is where the Assyrians belong.” Kino said
Kino notes that the U.N. which has made a statement regarding the situation—albeit a weak one—could come together and establish an “internationally administered safe haven in Iraq” but that it would take a member of the U.N. Security Council to “introduce Article 70” for a vote.
Kino has called on the members of the U.N. Security Council to act, and for Christian Believers everywhere to cry out on behalf of their brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria. Adds Kino: “All the major Assyrian-American organizations came together in Washington DC recently to raise their voices and demand action, but they cannot do it alone. If you are God-fearing and freedom-loving, please support Christians of Iraq and Syria!”
VATICAN ARRESTS DEFROCKED FORMER ARCHBISHOP ON PAEDOPHILIA CHARGES
The Vatican has arrested a former archbishop accused of paying for sex with children while he was a papal ambassador in the Dominican Republic. Jozef Wesolowski, a Pole who was defrocked by a Vatican tribunal in June, has been placed under house awaiting a criminal trial. The 66-year-old Wesolowski has not been detained in the Vatican prison but was granted house arrest in a Vatican apartment for medical reasons. Wesolowski was recalled to Rome last year when he was still a diplomat in Santo Domingo and relieved of his duties after Dominican media accused him of paedophilia. The former archbishop could face up to 12 years in jail in what will be the first trial for sexual abuse to be held inside the Vatican City.
Wesolowski served in the Dominican Republic as nuncio, or ambassador, but no longer has diplomatic immunity. The Vatican said the arrest reflected the wishes of Pope Francis “that such a grave and delicate case be handled without delay, with the just and necessary rigor”. Francis, the first non-European Pope in 1,300 years, has vowed zero tolerance against Roman Catholic clerics who sexually abuse children. Last May, he called such abuse an “ugly crime” and likened it to “a Satanic Mass”. In July, he told victims of sexual abuse the Church should “weep and make reparation” for crimes he said had taken on the dimensions of a sacrilegious cult.
U.S. NAVY REVERSES ORDERS AND PUTS BIBLES BACK IN ROOMS
Following outrage that the U.S. Navy had banned Bibles from its Navy Lodges in June, the military has now reversed its decision. According to a report in Stars and Stripes, complaints about the presence of Bibles in the Lodges was originally prompted by the Freedom from Religious Foundation. The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty reportedly called the subsequent ban an act of censorship and criticized the Navy for bending to atheist’s agendas. Navy spokesman Commander Ryan Perry said “The decision to ban Bibles from the Lodges and our policies with regard to the placement of religious materials are under review. While that review is under way, religious materials removed from rooms will be returned.”
THE RESTAURANT THAT REWARDS CUSTOMERS WHO SAY GRACE BEFORE THEIR MEAL
As the child of a preacher and missionary in the Philippines, Mary Haglund is very familiar with poverty and need. And she knows how important it is to have a grateful heart for what you have. For that reason, when Mary, now the owner of “Mary’s Gourmet Diner” in North Carolina, sees one of her customers giving thanks before their meal, she will reward their gratitude by discounting their bill by 15%. “For me, every plate of food is a gift. And I never take that for granted and when I see someone in a restaurant honouring their gratefulness at my table,” Mary said “it touches my heart.” Mary has instructed her staff that whenever they witness someone “praying in public” before their meal, they can give them the discount.