When the banks of the Matanikau River burst it created the worst disaster the Pacific Island had ever seen. Rain had been falling consistently for 36 hours with 138mm on April 2 and a further 318mm on April 3.  This placed pressure on the river banks, with the overflow bringing down bridges, buildings and houses, turning ships on their side and gutting villages. Honiara, the capital suffered the greatest damage as it is situated on the river banks. Rudaba Khondker spokesman for Save the Children Development Program said that more than 16 evacuation centres had been set up in schools and other buildings to provide shelter for over 10,000 homeless people from a total population of 70,000.

While mainstream media stayed silent on this disaster for 3 days, social media began trickling out devastating stories and photos of destruction and loss. Stalin Konainao (Facebook) “Australia and NZ, we need your search and rescue teams ASAP, now relatives and public are digging and stuff . “Today will be a day I will never forget. A swim in the rain turned into rescue efforts. Manage to help 2 women (1 pregnant) and 1 young man, but unfortunately in the end we watch helplessly as the rubble filled waves swallowed a 7 year old boy.  I shouted warning alarms at the top of my voice but in the midst of the women, men, children, an entire family keep floating down the rubble….sad, sad day….please Pray.”

Israel Sibia (Facebook) “I am thinking of all the people who lost their lives during this trying time, whole families were swept away as people watched helplessly. A woman was seen struggling to save herself but knowing the current was too strong she just raise her hand as she made her last gasp and vanished into the water. God this is too much, help us!”

Roads to villages have been cut off making food and water supply difficult. More than 40,000 people are estimated to be affected in outer rural areas. The threat of disease is looming in cut off villages as well as in evacuation centres with limited access to fresh water and the already prevalent dengue fever. The sewerage system has broken down, communication is patchy and with only 20 doctors in the entire country, the situation is looking dire. Oxfam, Red Cross, Save the Children and World Vision (to name a few organisations) already work within Solomon Islands and are stretched to the maximum. With the airport having been closed for almost 6 days, the manpower has been limited.

Katie Greenwood from Oxfam reported. “Honiara is geographically cut in half by the river that broke its banks. It has two bridges. One has been washed away and the second has been closed on and off. These logistical issues are hampering the efforts to try and get to the more remote villages and actually see what the situation is.” World Vision National Director Andrew Catford explained, “Funding can hamper relief efforts. It doesn’t come in as quickly as you are needing it. Certainly that has been the case so far. There has been some good support, but the sooner we get that the quicker we can respond. Given the scale of this, it’s not going to be a cheap exercise to get those people back on their feet.”

Please pray:

*  for renewed strength and energy for police and others who have been working hard now for 2 weeks.

*  that the government will decide wisely on various course of actions and that people in charge will use aid money properly to meet the needs of true victims without corruption.

*  that Christian denominations and churches would take responsibility for those helping in the situation, and for the personal salvation of victims and many others searching for safety and security at this time.

Source: Compiled by APN from various sources

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A call for greater acceptance of gays and lesbians has put African and Western churches on a collision course, as some African clerics liken mounting criticism from the U.S. and Europe to a new wave of colonization by the West. Bishop Arthur Gitonga, the powerful East African Pentecostal church leader led the group in launching a one million signature campaign against homosexuality. “Homosexuality is equivalent to colonialism and slavery,” said one cleric. The harsh language attests to a sense of betrayal some Africans feel toward the West. Across Africa, thriving churches are a testament to the work of missionaries from Western nations.

Clergy say they are grateful to Western churches for sending missionaries to Africa and making converts to Christianity. However many clergy feel Western churches are now on a reverse trajectory, as they accept homosexuality, which is seen as unscriptural and contrary to African culture. Support for government legislation criminalizing homosexual acts and levying harsh penalties is widespread among Christians. Recently, Ugandan and Nigerian churches backed anti-gay laws that impose jail sentences for gay sex. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni recently signed a bill that would sentence gays to life for some acts, while Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed a similar law in January.

Museveni criticized Western nations as imperialists imposing their culture on Africa. Anglican Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Uganda was a strong supporter of the final bill there. Archbishop Ntagali denied reports that the province was considering breaking away from the Anglican Communion. According to the primate, the fabric of the Anglican Communion was torn in 2003 when the Episcopal Church in the United States consecrated Gene Robinson as bishop in New Hampshire. “Not only was this against the Bible, but it went against the agreed position of the Anglican Communion,” Ntagali said. He said the differences on the subject have been a source of tension with the Anglican Communion.

Other Ugandan church leaders have also backed the new legislation, saying it will help stop recruitment to, and promotion of homosexuality. “The Bible teaches homosexuality is part of human weakness that must be addressed through repentance,” said Metropolitan Jonah Lwanga, the Archbishop of Uganda’s Orthodox Church. Meanwhile, the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, said their denominations would show respect, practice non-discrimination and offer compassion to homosexuals. Kenyan religious scholar Abdallah Kheir said “Homosexuality is not new in Africa, but it has never been a problem until recently when they came out into the open”.

Source: Religious News Service

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Greg Kernaghan a writer for Operation Mobilization (OM), recently travelled through the Middle East. On his return Kernaghan wrote of his experience. “We are hearing of women and whole families coming to Christ. Normally we would know of individual men but, as the culture places such importance on the family unit, this is a major step forward. “One girl is writing hymns and posting them on the Internet. That was where she learnt of Christ and has ‘met’ workers, although she has yet to meet other Christians face to face. Two of her sisters also believe in Christ. A Bahraini across the country is gifted in playing local Arabic instruments. He puts her hymns to music and posts them on YouTube.”

Kernaghan also wrote about two workers who walked past a sidewalk café in Europe. Five Arabs invited them to join them. God prompted one of the workers, a Saudi—whose dialect was immediately recognizable and thus a surprise to the five men—to share his testimony. The hearers asked, ‘Aren’t you afraid of confessing this because of the consequences in your country?’ He replied, ‘No, because I am at peace with God and know where I will spend eternity.’ As he continued to speak one of the listeners, also a Saudi, began to weep. Their time ended with the workers praying for the five men.

“The next day, they met one of the Saudi men who said, ‘As you spoke yesterday, I felt real peace within me for the first time.’ He asked for materials to share with the other four friends. “While the workers were in conversation on the street with him,” noted Kernaghan, “an Iranian woman approached them – shocking it itself – and said, ‘You must listen to this man; he speaks truth. I am an Iranian and was not only a Muslim but also part of a terrorist family. Jesus appeared to me in a dream and changed my life. Do not miss this!’ This caused the man to begin thinking and questioning deeply, not long after he came to Christ.”

Source: Operation Mobilisation

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The European Union (EU) Parliament has passed a non-binding resolution encouraging countries to reduce the demand for prostitution by punishing the clients, not the prostitutes. It calls on member states to find exit strategies and alternative sources of income for women who want to leave prostitution.  “We need an approach which punishes men who treat women’s bodies as a commodity, without criminalising those who are driven into sex work,” said Mary Honeyball who drafted the resolution. “We must send a strong signal that the European Parliament wants to tackle prostitution rather than accepting it as a fact of life.” The resolution was adopted by 343 votes to 139, with 105 abstentions.

Most MPs believe that one of the best ways to combat prostitution and trafficking of women and girls is the Nordic model followed in Sweden, Iceland and Norway. It views prostitution as a form of violence against women and criminalises those who buy sex rather than those who sell it. They call on EU countries to take the Nordic model as an example. Buying sexual services from prostitutes under the age of 21 should be a criminal offence in the entire EU, they add. Data shows that 62% of victims are trafficked for purposes of sexual exploitation and that 96% of  identified victims are women and girls. EU countries should strengthen their policies to fight trafficking and better protect victims, say MPs.

The resolution calls on authorities to set up exit schemes to support women who want to get out of prostitution and help them find other sources of income. Better education and reducing the poverty that forces women and children into prostitution, are needed MPs add. In a separate resolution, MPs say violence against women must also be tackled at EU level. They want legislation tabled before the end of the year to prevent gender-based violence in the EU, which they say should be considered a crime. “There is a need for minimum standards, common definitions and action. We must ensure that a violence-free becomes a reality for all women in the EU.,” they said.

Source: European Parliamentary News

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Christians in Raqqah have now become formally subject to strict Islamic ‘rules of submission’ enforced by the extremist group which controls this northern city. The Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) issued the rules in the form of a contract which it has forced Christian community leaders to sign. Christian signatories have three options: to abide by the contract’s regulations, to convert to Islam or to be considered ‘enemies of Islam’. The contract has been posted on extremist websites. Under the rules, Christians must pay a special tax, known as jizya, and must conduct their religious activities in places and in ways that are not visible or audible to Muslims.

No Christian symbols are permitted to be on public display and Christians have to abide by Islamic regulations on commerce, dress code and diet. Furthermore, they are not allowed to restore or repair any church buildings that have been damaged in the conflict. This system has been operating informally since the extremists took control of the city but has now been formalised. At the last census in early 2011, Raqqah had a population of 3,000 Christians, making up about one per cent of its population. It is not known what the remaining population is today but it is thought to be considerably less than in 2011.

Please pray:

*   that God will sustain and strengthen Christians in Raqqah – and across Syria.

*   that they will know that He is their rock, their fortress and their deliverer

*   for a political solution to the Syria conflict and an end to the fighting.

Source: Middle East Concern

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Christians in India are fearful that the country’s general elections, which have begun, may lead to a rise in persecution of religious minorities. Opinion polls suggest a victory for the opposition National Democratic Alliance, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Its prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, is currently chief minister of Gujarat. He was widely criticised for failing to prevent the massacre of more than 2,000 Muslims in the state in 2002. Most incidents of mass violence against Christians have taken place in states under the rule of the BJP.

Rev Richard Howell, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, says Modi’s rise has led to ‘fear and insecurity’ among Christians. ‘The perception… is that the scale of persecution of Christians will increase,’ he says. India’s parliamentary elections will be held in nine phases, ending on May 12. Please pray that Christians in India will rest secure in the knowledge that God is their refuge and strength and that whoever is elected in May, India’s new Government will be committed to improving the country’s religious rights record and protecting people of all faiths.

Source: Release International

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As tensions mount in Ukraine over escalating threats from Russia, Christians are gathering together to pray in earnest throughout that country in response. Violent demonstrations broke out in the Ukraine last weekend resulting in an announcement that the city of Donetsk would be renamed the People’s Republic of Donetsk. One missionary who wishes to remain anonymous said 200 Believers have been gathering every morning in Kharkiv’s Freedom Square to pray for their country. It is a non-denominational group which includes Baptists, Pentecostals and Orthodox.

“It’s really amazing,” said the missionary. “Young and old, fathers bringing their children, rain or snow—everybody is on their knees. People are more open than they’ve been in years and years and years.” Christians are reportedly praying, fasting, and opening their doors at all hours welcoming people to pray. According to the report, missions’ workers are asking for prayer, peace and wisdom in Ukraine and for churches to continue boldy sharing Christ.

Source: International Mission Board

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Beloved movie star, Mickey Rooney has died of natural causes according to news reports. He was 93. Well known for his big screen roles, Rooney enjoyed Hollywood’s “top box office draw” from the late 1930s to early 1940s.  Nominated for four Oscars, and winning two of them throughout his career, Rooney became a Christian in the 1970s, telling others how important it is to know Jesus Christ as your Saviour. In July of 1993, Rooney was quoted in the New York Times saying, “I believe God gave me my career. I was sent here to do my Father’s work.

Source: Christian Broadcasting Network

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