In some restricted countries the Gospel is spreading in an unprecedented way, driven by prayer, boldness, persecution, and the Holy Spirit, according to a report by ‘Brother Jonathan’, a Voice of the Martyrs missionary. “What we are seeing around the world is really a Gospel wildfire,” he says. Recently Jonathan asked one indigenous leader in Myanmar about their strategy to send workers into unreached villages, and he replied: “The secret is Fridays.” “What is it about Fridays?” Jonathan wanted to know. “On Fridays we all come together and we fast and we pray – all day.” “What if you’re going into a hostile village?” “If we think it’s going to be a really hostile area, we set aside seven days to fast and pray. When that’s over we go and let the chips fall where they may.”
Jonathan spoke to a 19-year-old worker in Myanmar who told him: “I’m going to move into a village where there are no churches and no Christians.” He planned to build a small lean-to in the forest to live in, work in the rice fields, and start sharing the Gospel. “I’m going to plant a church and appoint a leader and then I’m going to move and do it again,” the young worker told him. “How long do you think you’ll do this?” Jonathan asked. “Until Jesus comes back.” The fuel that Brother Jonathan sees in this wildfire is a combination of prayer and a bold proclamation of the Gospel.
In north India, he met with a coalition of 1,000 pastors working in Uttar Pradesh (UP), one of the most unreached states in India. “They risk their lives every single day,” Jonathan noted. One young minister told him: “I ride my bicycle into a village where there are no Christians [he had a drum fixed to the cross bar of the bicycle and behind him he had a lantern sitting on some Gospel tracts and a small speaker on the front] and I bang on my drum until a crowd comes out and then I preach the Gospel. We see people’s hearts touched, we see them repent and we see the birth of a church.” “What about other times?” “Oh, they beat me.” “What do you do then?” “When I wake up I ride to the next village.”
Jonathan noted there are 1,000 other young ministers riding around UP State on their bicycles doing the same thing. The result is that UP State has gone from almost no Christians to about 3% Christians – about 6,000,000 believers. The spark for the Gospel wildfire is the Holy Spirit, Jonathan observes. “Dreams and visions are so common among Muslims that when we meet someone for the first time we ask if they’ve had any strange dreams lately.” Amongst Hindus and Buddhists he is seeing signs and wonders, with many miraculous healings. Persecution is the accelerant of this move of God. “When the church is persecuted the church thrives,” Jonathan notes. “The places where the church is growing most rapidly are the worst places of persecution.”
“Nearly two years ago we went to a village in Myanmar that was seeing many new disciples being made, and we trained them in how to heal the sick,” reports evangelist Sean Steckbeck from Israel who visits the nation regularly. “One of the villagers took it to heart and started having a ‘Lord’s Supper healing ministry’. He had gone to the hospital a few weeks after the training and noticed a woman who was dying and near her last breath from a snake bite. He told her: ‘Do not worry, Jesus will save you.’ He then visited his daughter for which he had come to the hospital. However, when he came back out, the lady had been announced dead and her body was being taken to the family to bury.
He told her family: ‘WAIT! Let me pray for her.’ He then took a cup, filled it with water, and told them ‘this is the blood of Jesus which has healing power’ and blessed it. He opened her mouth and gave it to her in small drops, then wildly he started sprinkling her entire body with the water as well. She coughed and came back to life, and her grossly swollen leg had also appeared to be normal. The doctors were so amazed that they told him that his medicine – the Lord’s Supper – is more powerful than their medicine. This story became so famous in the village where he lived – I was there yesterday and people were talking about it – that he goes from village to village, explains the Gospel and gives people the Lord’s Supper for healing.”
For western Christians, the birth of Jesus is celebrated on 25 December. For Eastern Orthodox Christians, Christmas Day is 7 January. Increasingly it is a season in which we anticipate not only joy, but terror — for churches and Christians are at a greater risk of terrorist attack over Christmas than at any other time during the year. Obviously the fact that Christmas services and festivities are often well attended, means Christmas gives Islamic terrorists an opportunity to maximise Christian casualties. But that is not the primary reason Christmas festivities are targeted — after all, churches and Christians are increasingly being recognised as low value targets.
Whilst Muslims are instructed to ‘strike terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve’ (Qur’an 8:12) jihadists are discovering that few people or world leaders are threatened or even upset these days by the killing of Christians or Jews, or sacrilegious cartoonists and blasphemous bloggers (because they asked for it, didn’t they?), or even Russians (because they are the enemy, aren’t they?). To really grab a nation’s attention these days terrorists need to be far more indiscriminate. If they are going to target anyone, it needs to be people in their everyday environments. Only then can the terrorists make their demands — no ‘blasphemy’ (i.e. criticism of Islam), no ‘conversion’ (i.e. Christian witness), no crosses (too offensive), more Islam etc — and be likely to get them.
So why do jihadists target churches or Christmas festivities? It sends a message that Christianity will not be tolerated. It is not just the Christianity of the true believer that is in the terrorists’ sights but the Christianity of culture, heritage, tradition and foundational values. Most people do not realise just how precious these things are. In taking them for granted, most will not realise their value until they are gone. Just as Christianity is being erased in its historic heartland of Mesopotamia, so too will Islamists seek to erase it everywhere. This is why it is imperative that everyone understands the Christian crisis in the Middle East, for it will ‘be coming to a theatre near you’. Each year the list of countries where Christmas services and festivities are at risk gets longer.
This year we should anticipate the risk to be highest in Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Kenya and Bangladesh. We should also realise that risk could exist in Indonesia and Jordan (subject to previous plots) and possibly Southern Philippines, Tunisia, Bosnia and Mali (which have seen terror incidents this year). Because the world has changed dramatically during 2015, the risk of a Christmas terror attack is now also high in Russia, which is being threatened by Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda; the European Union, with Rome being the ultimate terror target, and where unknown Muslim migrants are flooding in at the rate of 5000 per day.
Lebanon, which has seen terrorism this year and has been thoroughly infiltrated with IS and al-Qaeda-linked jihadists may be another target; and Israel, a high value target which has been infiltrated by IS, although security there is phenomenal. Even where IS and al-Qaeda have not established a presence, their ability to incite impressionable youth through social media and radicalised mentors is significant, thereby increasing the risk even more. Terrorists intending to attack churches and festivities this Christmas will already be plotting, gathering materials, rehearsing and training — preparing themselves logistically, materially, physically, and spiritually. Consequently, Advent is a great time to be in prayer asking for divine protection for Christians the world over.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL
* Break the power and means of action of the wicked and evildoer, severing their supply lines, communication channels and relationships; remove their funding and leadership; foil their plots and confuse their schemes ‘so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more’
* infiltrate the hearts and minds of would-be terrorists as they seek their god in preparation for their attack; may the Spirit of the Lord work powerfully to turn them from their path; to convict them of their sin; and even generously reveal himself to lost human beings in desperate need of his grace.
* be pleased to use his Church to amplify the gospel of generous grace this Christmas. Prepare us Lord. Increase our faith that we might be living testaments to your generous grace.
Source: by Elizabeth Kendall – Religious Liberty Monitoring
INDIAN NATIONALISTS BLAME OTHER FAITHS FOR DECLINE IN NUMBER OF HINDUS
Hindu nationalists have hit out at Christians and Muslims in India, after the number of adherents to “Bharatiya” (traditionally Indian) faiths fell, according to the recently released results of the 2011 national census. Although the overall proportion of Christians fell marginally in the last decade from 2.34 per cent to 2.30 percent, there was a 13 per cent increase in the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, causing Hindus to complain of a “serious religious imbalance” in the state. Meanwhile, the Muslim population has grown from 9.8 per cent to 14.23 per cent in the past 50 years, leading one critic to go so far as to suggest Muslim families should be limited to only two children. But Christian activist John Dayal said the “hysteria” was simply an attempt at hatemongering.
“All this is a precursor to social violence against non-Indic religions,” he warned. “There is nothing new in this campaign.” The Christian population has actually declined in five states, including the southern state of Kerala –the Christian heartland. The proportion of Christians in Kerala has fallen from 19.1% to 18.4% of the 33 million population. In the 1960s the ratio of Christians was nearly 25%, but it has steadily declined ever since. Dayal said that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Hindu nationalist group “wants to push a violent and exclusive concept of citizenship based on religion”. Christianity and Islam, he said, are being branded as “foreign religions”, while others like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism are projected as “Bharatiya” religions.
A statement from the RSS singled out the rise of Christians in Arunachal Pradesh, the sparsely populated mountainous state home to only 1.3 million people. “Religious imbalance of the population in the north-eastern states has assumed serious proportions,” the RSS statement said, in reference to four of the seven tiny ethnic states in the north-east being majority Christian, while Christianity is growing in the other three. But Toko Teki, general secretary of Arunachal Christian Forum, said RSS’s claims were “mere propaganda”. “The people of Arunachal are animists and not Hindus, as claimed by RSS. Yet, all the animists have been included among Hindus in census after census. Many of them are becoming Christians. That is why our numbers are growing,” he said.
“The pattern is the same in other north-eastern states,” where ethnic tribal animists have embraced the Christian faith in large numbers, he said. The increasing numbers of conversions to Christianity in the north-east, the RSS statement said, threatened “the unity, integrity and Hindu identity of the country”. However, Teki said: “We are no less patriotic than any other. RSS is trying to generate hostility towards Christians.” The RSS statement asking the government to “reformulate” a national population policy and prepare a national register of citizens. With the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in power, John Dayal said the RSS is “trying to build social pressure on the government to adopt a Hindu nationalist policy”.
Meanwhile, Pravin Togadia, president of the World Hindu Council called for legislation to punish Muslims if they had more than two children. According to the 2011 census, the Muslim community registered a 0.8% growth between 2001 and 2011, while the Hindu population declined by 0.7%. “The issue of conversion has been mischievously publicised,” said Rev. Roger Gaikwad, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in India. “In 1951 census figures showed Christians constituted only 2.23% of the Indian population, while in 2011 Christians constituted only 2.30%. Where are the so-called massive conversions to Christianity? They keep misinterpreting church services, such as education, health care and social service as enticements to convert.”
NEW IRISH LAW FORCES CATHOLIC SCHOOLS TO EMPLOY HOMOSEXUALS
The Irish Parliament has passed a bill forcing publicly-funded Catholic institutions, including schools, to employ homosexuals. The bill affects the 90% of the country’s schools that belong to the Catholic Church. While homosexual groups and the media hail the new law, defenders of the Catholic schools say the law is unconstitutional. Until last week, Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act exempted religious employers from the general ban on discrimination based on sexual behaviour, when the behaviour conflicted with the school’s religious “ethos.” It affected homosexuals, divorcees, co-habiters, etc. The Iona Institute, a non-profit organization set up to defend the Catholic faith, believes that the exemption is supported by Section 44.2.1 of the Irish Constitution.
This states that “Freedom of conscience and the free profession and practice of religion are guaranteed to every citizen.” The Institute noted that the exemption had been “upheld by the Supreme Court in relation to the Employment Equality Bill 1996 on the grounds that it struck a proper balance between the right of freedom of religion on one hand and the right to equality before the law and to earn one’s livelihood on the other.” The same Supreme Court ruling also affirmed a parental right to teach children religion at home and in a public or private school. “Religious education of the child is primarily a matter for the parents who are free to educate in their homes or in private or state schools,” said the judge, C.J. Hamilton.
Declared the Iona Institute: “We further believe that any withdrawal of this protection is both unconstitutional and an attack on the right of free profession and practice of religion.” Ireland’s church-affiliated schools are all state-funded, an arrangement that is increasingly under government scrutiny. Parent groups have the right to apply for secular schools and the Catholic Church is required in theory to provide space in unused schools. Its leaders have recently indicated that teachers who cannot sincerely teach the Catholic faith should move to a secular school, though these are not available in more than half the country.
AMERICAN ABORTION RATE DECLINES TO LOWEST IN 42 YEARS
The number of abortions in America continue to decline, according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report based on 2012 data. In fact, according to the report, the abortion rate is at its lowest since abortion was legalized in 1973. “We should take some encouragement from that” commented Eric Scheidler, the head of the Pro-Life Action League. “But there is still a massive amount of injustice against the unborn, so we must stay on track.” Political scientist Michael New says the American data shows a strong correlation between the decline and states imposing restrictions on abortion, such as requiring minors to have parental consent or women being shown an ultrasound image of their unborn child.
In 2012, the abortion industry killed 699,202 unborn Americans, down 17% since 2003. The abortion ratio fell from 24.1 per 100 live births to 21, and the abortion rate fell from 16 per 1,000 women of childbearing age to just 13.2, a drop of 18%. The data shows that abortion has declined by more than half since its peak in the late 1980s of more than 1.5 million per year. conservative commentator and political scientist Michael New says the American data shows a strong correlation between the decline and states with restrictions on abortion, such as requirements for parental consent for minors or for women seeking abortion to be shown an ultrasound image of their child.
A STEP BACK IN INDIA – THE WORLD’S LARGEST DEMOCRACY
India boasts of being the world’s largest democracy. However proposed legislation threatens a major tenant of a democracy – freedom of thought and expression. Two members of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have announced plans to introduce bills in their respective houses of parliament to criminalize religious conversion without government approval. The BJP favours making Hinduism the country’s only religion. Anti-conversion laws are written in such a way that saying, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” can be a violation, resulting in a ten-year jail sentence. South Asian affairs analyst, Peter Friedrich, remarks, “Passing an anti-conversion law in India, is an attempt to eliminate the most basic human rights of a democratic society.”
Please pray for:
* the religious fundamentalist BJP to be defeated in its attempt to pass national anti-conversion laws. May legislators recognize this legislation as a violation of its democracy.
* Christian Believers to remain strong and confident in their faith as they continue to witness to non-believers of Jesus Christ’s love for them.
* God to continue to witness his love for Indians with healings and miracles, confirming that Jesus Christ alone is Saviour. There is no other name by which humankind can be saved.