AUSTRALIAN  PRAYER  NETWORK  NEWSLETTER – INTERNATIONAL NEWS 23rd SEPTEMBER 2013

  • COPTIC POPE BLASTS MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, U.S. AND EUROPEAN UNION
  • CHRISTIANS HIGHLY UNSAFE IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
  • FAITH BASED PRISON PROGRAM WORKS
  • SYMBOLIC MOMENT AS CHINESE GATHER IN SEOUL
  • BANGLADESH STUDY SHOWS INCREASED RISK OF BREAST CANCER AFTER AN ABORTION
  • NEW SALVATION ARMY WORLD LEADER WANTS SPIRITUAL FOCUS
     

COPTIC POPE BLASTS MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, U.S. AND EUROPEAN UNION

Since former President Morsi’s ousting on July 3, attacks on Egyptian Christians by members of the Muslim Brotherhood have taken place in most areas across Egypt. These attacks have escalated since security forces ended the pro-Morsi protests in central Cairo on August 14.  During their six weeks of protests, Muslim Brotherhood leaders threatened to harm the Copts should they be forced to end their protests, which they vowed to prolong until Morsi is restored to power. “Over the past weeks we have witnessed an increasing trend of anti-Christian rhetoric calling for ‘the attack upon and eradication of Christians and churches in Egypt,'” said Coptic Bishop Anba in the United Kingdom.  

Bishop Anba added, “The result of such incitement, at least in part, has been the unprecedented attack on 52 churches and numerous Christian homes and businesses across eight governorates in Egypt, within the space of 24 hours.”  Dr Naguib Gabriel, President of Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization, said “82 churches, many of which were from the 5th century, were attacked by pro-Morsi supporters in just two days.”  Coptic Pope Tawadros II has issued a statement expressing his views on the violence which engulfed Egypt, accusing the Muslim Brotherhood of fomenting sectarian clashes.  

The Pope said the Church is on “the side of Egyptian law, the armed forces and all the Egyptian civil institutions when it comes to confronting violent armed organizations and terrorizing forces, either within the country or from abroad.” The Pope pointed out the need to look beyond the squares where the Muslim Brotherhood have been holding their protests, in order to gain a general overview of what has been happening for weeks in Egypt. He said, “The attacks on government buildings and peaceful churches terrorize everyone, whether they be Copts or Muslims. These actions go against any religion, any moral code and any sense of humanity.”  

The Coptic Church also criticized the way in which the crisis was being reported outside of Egypt. It expressly speaks of “false broadcasts by Western media,” and urged for an “objective” revision to be made of the descriptions given to the actions of those “blood-thirsty radical organizations.” The Coptic Orthodox Church said that “instead of legitimizing them with global support and political coverage while they are trying to wreak havoc and destruction upon our beloved land, report all events truthfully and accurately.” Pope Tawadros reaffirmed his support for “national unity,” and rejected any form of “international interference in our internal affairs.”  

Coptic Christians, are angry with the U.S. and E.U. “who have threatened to take further action against our interim government and army and portraying the Muslim Brotherhood as victims while not even mentioning the destruction of over 80 churches, as well as monasteries, orphanages, businesses and Coptic schools by the Muslim Brotherhood.”  Coptic activist Wagih Yacoub said this attitude emboldens the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters to carry out further violence. Yacoub added, “The Muslim Brotherhood hoisted the Al-Qaida flag on top of St. George’s church in Sohag. Three churches were turned into mosques in Minya and Friday prayers were held inside them.”

Source: Assyrian International News Agency

 

CHRISTIANS HIGHLY UNSAFE IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

Amid the chaos that has gripped the Central African Republic (CAR) since a rebel coalition captured power five months ago, the country’s Christians seem to have become a target. The government recently arrested a top evangelical leader, and armed Islamists attacked Christian villages, killing at least 15 people and displacing about 1,000. Authorities briefly arrested President of CAR’s Evangelical Alliance, Rev. Nicolas Guerékoyamé, for criticizing the government at his church in the national capital of Bangui. Days later at least 15 people were killed and more than 1,000 rendered homeless after Islamist militia men attacked 14 Christian villages that come under the Catholic Diocese of Bouar. 

The attackers were from the newly formed Séléka coalition, which overthrew the regime of President François Bozizé in a military coup in March. According to witnesses, the militants threw bodies in a river, including that of a five-month-old baby. “These incidents highlight targeting of Christians and breakdown of law and order in the country,”  World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Executive Director Godfrey Yogarajah said. Rev. Guerékoyamé is a member of CAR’s National Transitional Council (NTC), the acting parliament formed of 105 members, but “his immunity was not respected” Yogarajah added. 

The NTC was formed after the Séléka alliance suspended the constitution and parliament that functioned under President Bozizé. Bozizé came to power in 2003 through a military coup, and had since won elections. “By arresting the evangelical leader, the new regime seems to be sending the message that churches and Christian groups should abstain from opposing new officials in any manner,” Yogarajah said. “And the selective attacks on Christian villages raise the fear that Christians might bear the brunt of the breakdown of law and order in the country.” A panel of U.N. experts this week said the rule of law is “almost non-existent within CAR,” 

It noted “reports of killings, torture, violence against women, forced disappearances, acts of popular justice, as well as the general climate of insecurity and the absence of the rule of law established in the past 5 months.” Reports suggest armed rebels are taking advantage of the anarchy in the country, and there is also infighting among the rebels. It is learnt that rebels are sparing Muslim villages and homes as they go on a killing, looting and raping spree. Groups have also warned that over 100,000 children are facing sexual abuse and recruitment into armed groups. About half of the country’s population of 4.4 million is Christian – 25% Protestants and 25% Catholics. 

The country’s 15% Muslims are concentrated in the north, where the rebellion started. The new President Michel Djotodia, leader of the Séléka alliance, declared himself the country’s first Muslim leader after seizing power. Although he has said the CAR will remain a secular country, he is suspected of having an Islamist agenda. Yogarajah said the country’s Christian community needs to pray for and work towards religious harmony, adding, “The ongoing crisis is an urgent call for nations and international groups to provide all possible help and speak out for the protection of the Christian community and other vulnerable people.”

Source: World Evangelical Alliance

 

FAITH BASED PRISON PROGRAM WORKS

A faith-based prisoner re-entry program in Minnesota has saved an estimated $3 million by reducing recidivism, according to a Baylor University study.  The study is a cost-benefit analysis of the InnerChange Freedom Initiative, a program which relies heavily on volunteers and is privately funded, said study co-author Byron Johnson, Ph.D., co-director of Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR). “The InnerChange program doesn’t rely on public funding, yet provides a benefit by reducing recidivism, which results in fewer costs associated with crime,” said lead author Grant Duwe, Ph.D., research director for the Minnesota Department of Corrections. 

In the debate over whether and how faith-based groups can be effective in working with government and secular entities to confront social ills, “this kind of research will be called for by policymakers,” Johnson said. “It just makes sense. Taxpayers want to know whether programs work—especially when religion is involved.”  The cost-benefit analysis followed up on a 2012 study that compared recidivism outcomes among 732 offenders released from Minnesota prisons between August 2003 and December 2009. In that study, a comparison group of 366 prisoners—who did not take part in the program—were carefully matched with 366 

InnerChange participants on factors associated with recidivism and program participation. The results showed that InnerChange reduced re-arrest by 26%, re-conviction by 35% and re-imprisonment for a new felony offense by 40%. Duwe and Johnson studied post-release employment and recidivism outcomes to estimate InnerChange’s financial impact on state income tax contributions, victimization costs, criminal justice system costs and lost productivity of prisoners. They found that the program produced a benefit of nearly $8,300 per participant.

InnerChange includes Christian religious services, Bible study and prayer, substance abuse education, cognitive skill development, mentoring and seminars, as well as aftercare involving support groups, peer mentoring, interaction with volunteers and individual counselling. Those in the program need not be Christians, and volunteers, who are screened, represent a variety of denominations but need not be theologically trained. The program lasts 18 months in prison, followed by a year-long re-entry phase. The nation’s first InnerChange program—launched in 1997—was a joint venture by Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship and Texas Department of Criminal Justice. 

Currently, the country has eight InnerChange programs (three for females) operating in Arkansas, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Texas.  The researchers noted that many faith-based organizations do not consider seeking government funding to deliver social services. But many—especially in disadvantaged communities—are willing and eager to do so. “In a time of economic hardship, it would seem prudent for secular and sacred groups to consider working together in order to develop evidence-based approaches to confront social problems like offender rehabilitation and prisoner re-entry,” the study concluded.

Source: International Journal of Criminology and Sociology

 

SYMBOLIC MOMENT AS CHINESE GATHER IN SEOUL

The Chinese Church was barely represented at The Third Lausanne Congress in Cape Town in October 2010 as Chinese participants were unable to leave China.  In 2011 plans were laid quietly for a special event for these Chinese church leaders, to be held elsewhere in East Asia.  Over one hundred unregistered church leaders from mainland China arrived safely in Seoul, representing millions of Chinese believers.  The participation of the Chinese leaders in the 300-strong Asian Church Leaders Forum (ACLF) marked the first time since 1949 that such a group of Chinese Christian leaders had taken part in a multi-national gathering. It was a symbolic moment in church history. 

Professor Liu Peng from the Chinese Academy of Social Science, spoke of Christianity’s potential to win the heart of China. There is a need for China to update its outdated religious policies ‘to adapt to a new modern era’ he said, concluding ‘Christianity is best suited to resolve China’s current moral crisis’.  Beijing Pastor Daniel Li urged that the Chinese Church work and pray to see 20,000 missionaries sent out from China by 2030.  ‘Over the last 200 years, since the days of the earliest British pioneer Robert Morrison, some 20,000 missionaries have served in China.’ There was, he said, ‘a gospel debt to pay off’.  

Japanese Bible Expositor Dr Eiko Takamizawa from Torch Trinity University brought a powerful message of reconciliation between Japan, Korea and China. The worship team, drawn from these three nations, demonstrated a poignant sense of unity.  Pastor Ezra Jing of Beijing Zion Church led the Chinese in drafting and signing the ‘Seoul Commitment’ which calls the Chinese church to commit to loving the gospel of Christ; maintaining unity of the Spirit; working together wherever possible with the global church; and raising up younger leaders to take up the baton for world evangelization. Some 200 of the most gifted Chinese leaders under the age of 35 are currently being mentored.

Source: The Lausanne Movement

 

BANGLADESH STUDY SHOWS INCREASED RISK OF BREAST CANCER AFTER AN ABORTION

A Bangladesh study published in the Journal of Dhaka Medical College on risk factors for breast cancer, led by Dr. Suraiya Jabeen has found .  a statistically significant 20 fold increased risk among women with abortion histories – by far the highest risk elevation reported among 73 published abortion-breast cancer studies. Professor Joel Brind (Baruch College, City University of New York) said the reason why the risk elevation is so high is because it’s “a measure of RELATIVE risk.” Observing that women in Bangladesh have very traditional childbearing patterns that reduce breast cancer risk, he explained. 

“Almost all the women are married (97% currently married; the rest widowed) and with child by the time they are 20, and all of the kids are breastfed. Ninety percent had their first child at age 21 or younger. They typically neither take contraceptive steroids nor have any abortions.  Childlessness or abortion before first full term pregnancy (both of which mean no breastfeeding) in a population in which breast cancer is almost unheard of, makes the relative risk very high.  Abortion was by far the strongest and most significant risk factor observed in these Bengali women. 

In plain English, women in this population who had an induced abortion were more than 20 times as likely to get breast cancer, compared to women with no abortions.”  Additional reproductive factors influencing breast cancer risk included: use of oral contraceptives (1.47-fold increased risk); early first birth at or before age 21 (0.35-fold reduced risk); having two or more children (0.29-fold reduced risk); and increased number of months spent breastfeeding (0.30-fold reduced risk). 

The Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer is an international  organization founded to protect the health and lives of women by providing information on abortion as a risk factor for breast cancer.

Source: Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer

 

NEW SALVATION ARMY WORLD LEADER WANTS SPIRITUAL FOCUS

Taking over a global organization best known for its social service work, the Salvation Army’s new international leader has said he wants the Christian movement’s religious work to take centre stage for the 1.7-million member church.  General Andre Cox, 59, said from London, “The reputation of the Army has been won over generations because of the hard work of the people who day in and day out get on with the ministry.” He added, “One of the concerns I share… is to ensure we are rooted and confident in the Word of God, and we want to obviously reflect on the authority of Scripture and what it means to us. I want to see an Army committed to prayer which reflects the mind of Jesus.” 

The Zimbabwean-born Cox, formerly the organization’s chief of staff, assumes his command from Gen. Linda Bond who has retired. She had held the Army’s top post since April 2011.  Speaking of his former boss, Cox said, “I have seen a woman of great courage, faith, and vision,” saying her vision statements for the Army “will be a lasting legacy.” Founded in 1865 in London, the Salvation Army’s social services have sometimes overshadowed its evangelical Christian roots and mission. Those services encompass disaster relief, adult rehabilitation centres,  aid to families needing food and other assistance, and ministries to those in or leaving prison as well as after-school programs. 

Religious programs underlie Salvation Army services at each of its installations, but have been less visible in the public, and Cox said he wants to see that change. “One of the things that has challenged me, particularly in recent years, is the fact we are a people who have received grace from God. We’re grateful for His love and His transformation in our lives… but it’s more than theory, it’s got to take root in us and it’s got to be visible,” he said.

Source: Washington Times