Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, thousands of Christians are meeting in a corner of northeast China for an unprecedented prayer movement. What started as a small gathering six years ago has become a nationwide prayer initiative uniting hundreds of Chinese churches. For years, the Chinese government tried to snuff out Christianity. In the late 1940s, some 500,000 Chinese Christians were killed because of their faith. Now decades later in what is officially still an atheist nation, Christianity is the fastest growing religion. “We had a dream that someday we would build a church focused on prayer for China and the world,” prayer leader Ha Bining said. Ha Bining and her husband Feng Kai are witnesses to this profound move of God across China.
In 2000, the Christian couple had a dream to turn this piece of land in a corner of northeast China into a place of prayer. “My tears fell like the rain and I started praying,” Bining said. “God gave us a vision to help bring churches across China together for 24-hour non-stop prayer for our country and the world.” Nine years later, with construction on the property almost complete, the couple sent out email and text messages to friends and pastors inviting them for a prayer meeting. “We didn’t know who would show up or how many. I was praying that at least people from seven churches would show up. To my absolute amazement 70 churches joined us that day,” Bining said.
One believer prayed. “The glory of this present house will be greater than the former house. May this place be a new lamp that lights up China and the world.” “We were overwhelmed at the response,” Binning said. “It was totally beyond our expectations.” The prayer centre started in June 2009. Since then, 617 churches from across China have signed up to pray 24 hours a day. Bining said they have three main objectives. “First, that this will be a place where people can make peace with each other. Second, that God will use this place for churches to repent and reconcile with each other. And third, that this will be a place where people can make peace with God,” she said. Christians from more than 100 countries have also visited the prayer centre.
“Every day we receive guests from around the world. It’s so exciting to see people pray,” Jian Yanchang, a 24/7 prayer intercessor, said. These intercessors know God is doing something special in China. And they are praying that way. “Lord, the number of Christians in China is increasing. What should we do Lord? What’s our job? How should we expand your Kingdom to gather more people? Lord, we pray that you will place your mission into each of our hearts,” one pastor said. When the Communists took power in the 1940s there were roughly 4 million Christians in China. Today, well over 100 million are followers of Jesus Christ. And if current growth rates remain, experts say in less than two decades, China will become the world’s most populous Christian nation.
In return, Feng Kai said God will use China to be a blessing to the nations. “I believe our life as Christians should be a blessing to others. God told Abraham, ‘I will bless you. I will make your name great and you will be a blessing.’ God blessed Abraham; he is blessing the Chinese church,” Kai said. Kai and others believe prayer initiatives like this have been key to church growth in China. “Twenty-four hour non-stop praying is not an easy task to accomplish, but it is a happy thing for us to do, to enjoy 24-hours of God’s presence in prayer,” Dong Lili, another prayer intercessor, said. “We are in need of prayers,” Elder Wang, a regular attendee at the 24/7 prayer centre, admitted. “Through prayers our heart is broadened; we learn to care for others and for the world. As time goes by, prayers inspires us to love each other.”
In 2011, a new seminary and Christian college were established on the grounds of the prayer centre to train the next generation of pastors and business leaders to change China for Jesus Christ. “I will follow Lord Jesus my whole life for you are my Lord. I will carry my cross my whole life. Since the moment I met you, worldly pleasures became flavourless to me. I will follow Lord Jesus my whole life for you are my Lord. I will carry my cross my whole life,” they sing. For Ha Bining and her husband Feng Kai, this place is a God-given dream come true to unite churches in China and help bring news of Christ’s love to the ends of the earth. “This is the core of Christianity,” Bining said. “We are all on our knees, lifting our hands and praying that the Gospel will continue to spread around the world and also here in China.”
CANADIAN DOCTORS REFUSE TO PARTICIPATE IN EUTHANASIA EVEN AT COST OF JOBS
Two long-practicing Winnipeg doctors have said they would refuse to assist suicide, even if it meant being losing their jobs. Doctors Mark Kristjanson and Larry Rados are speaking out because the Manitoba College of Physicians and Surgeons is seeking input for a new policy on assisted suicide and euthanasia. The policy is being formulated as the moment of truth imposed by the Supreme Court of Canada approaches when the Criminal Code provisions against both measures will be nullified. “The Hippocratic Oath is the foundation of medicine. And part of that tradition explicitly regards the patient, one’s fellow human being, as sacred,” Dr. Kristjanson told the CBC. “There is a very explicit commitment to not take the life of a patient. It’s distressing, it’s disturbing and saddens me it has come to this.”
It has come to this because of a group of university academics calling themselves “The Conscience Project.” This group has persuaded the colleges of physicians and surgeons in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta to require doctors to refer patients requesting procedures that violate their consciences to other doctors they know will perform them. Larry Worthen, head of the Christian Medical and Dental Association of Canada (CMDS), said that any regulatory college that required doctors to either perform or refer against their consciences would “absolutely be in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” Earlier this year the CMDS joined with the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians Societies and the Canadian Physicians for Life to challenge the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons in court.
“And we are looking at challenging the Saskatchewan College,” said Worthen. Freedom of Conscience is one of the fundamentals of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, said Worthen, and the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled “there must be a very compelling reason to restrict freedom of conscience, and whatever restriction must be kept to a minimum.” The Saskatchewan and Ontario colleges have recently followed the template provided by the Conscience Project in requiring doctors to perform abortions in a medical emergency despite their moral objections if no one else is available, and at all other times to refer patients seeking abortions to doctors who will do them. Ontario has applied the same formula to euthanasia.
Dr. Rados said “I take the view that a referral to another doctor is equivalent to a recommendation for the procedure. Why would I make a referral for assisted suicide if I don’t think it is in the patient’s best interest?” But the Conscience Project believes doctors’ consciences are trumped by patients’ rights though the latter have no recognition in the Charter. Patients’ rights are now ensconced in doctors’ ethics codes in some provinces. Dr. Rados believes this reduces doctors to the role of waiters in restaurants. Doctors are sworn to protect their patients’ best interests, in spite of the patients’ wishes. “Every doctor that has been around for a while knows there are times when you say no. We say no when a patient asks for narcotics and doesn’t need them. We should be allowed to also say no with regard to referring patients.
For the first time in history, Saudi women have been allowed to register to vote and run for election. Saudi Arabia is one of the last countries to allow females the vote. Women also are not allowed to drive, to travel outside the home without a male escort, to wear anything but a burka whilst outside, and more. Traditional social customs prove difficult to change. So, how was the right to vote won? In the political arena, royalty has encouraged women’s empowerment. Women themselves worked hard offstage to prepare the social path. Women educators contributed greatly, as did women in the business and private sectors. Princess Rema worked in the public arena for suffrage, as well as on broader freedoms for women. She urged women to register and vote, even offering to provide transportation for some.
The UN awarded her the goodwill ambassador for women’s empowerment efforts. She also worked to enhance Saudi labour policies pertaining to women.However, Princess Rema was not the only Saudi royalty to encourage women’s empowerment. When the late King Abdullah took the throne in 2005, he worked towards liberating women, appointing 30 women to the Haj ministry. In 2011, he declared that Saudi Arabia would implement suffrage in 2015. The current King Salman also actively supports the women’s freedom march. Prince Alaweed owns a television network that featured a new drama premiered during Ramadan, which challenged Saudi stereotypes and taboos. The storyline of the show called Sponsored Women, followed 4 Saudi women who move to America and experience freedom.
This year he donated a large portion of his US$32 billion estate to the empowerment of women. The freedom march still has a long way to go. Changing cultural norms is the greatest hindrance, even with royal support of women’s empowerment. Progress is happening though. For example, 70 women are prepared to run in the December municipal elections as candidates. Eighty women have already registered as campaign managers. Two car booking services offered free rides for women wishing to vote in the upcoming municipal elections. Nonetheless, out of 10 million Saudi women, only a handful were able to register. Women still face hindrances like driving taboos, finding voting registration centres or proof of residency. It is still complicated. Yet, Saudi women have proven great resilience and perseverance.
* that as women gain freedom, they will use their empowerment to openly seek truth about Jesus
* that Christ will reveal Himself to Saudi women as their true liberator
* that the underground church of Saudi Arabia implements effective ministry to women and raises up more female leaders
TWO IN FIVE BRITS THINK JESUS IS A MYTHICAL FIGURE
A joint study from major Christian organisations has found while 57% of people in England call themselves Christians, two in five think Jesus wasn’t a real person. The research of 3,000 people, conducted by the Church of England, the Evangelical Alliance and Hope, also found one in five people who aren’t Christians would be happy to learn more about the faith after hearing other Christians talk to them about it. Most people in the study knew at least one Christian, and were most likely to describe them as ‘friendly’, ‘caring’, ‘good-humoured’, ‘generous’ or ‘helpful’. Overall, 43% of respondents believed that Jesus rose again from the dead. However there were less encouraging statistics for the Christian groups too.
More than a third of people (39%) thought Jesus was a mythical figure, rather than actually existing in history. This was particularly the case for under-35s, who were 25% more likely to think Jesus didn’t actually exist than those aged 36 and above. And while the study found 57% identified themselves as Christians, less than one in ten (9%) described themselves as “practising”, defined in the study as regularly praying, reading the Bible and attending church at least monthly. The study found the same proportion of practising Christians among under and over-35s, while also finding that under-35s were more open to Christianity and Jesus than their older contemporaries, signalling that as time goes on the number of practising Christians may well go up.
Dr Rachel Jordan, the national adviser for mission and evangelism, said Christians must not assume that people know Jesus was a real person, and make it a priority to talk about him in a relevant way. Dr Jordan was also encouraged that younger generations were as likely to be practising Christians as their older counterparts, but also that they were more open. She also said it was the job of Christians to explain to non-practising Christians what it actually means to follow Jesus. She said: “They think we’re friendly, caring and good-humoured, and they like being around us, which is great news for Christians to know. We’re liked, in fact, we’re loved. “We think because people grow up in this country, they’d know that Jesus was a real person… so it’s a challenge to make sure that news actually gets to people.
GUATEMALA ELECTS CHRISTIAN COMEDIAN AS PRESIDENT AMID MUCH PRAYER
Guatemalan voters have chosen a comedian with studies in theology as their new president. Jimmy Morales was initially considered an outsider but surprised the nation by leading the first round of elections, easily qualifying for the runoff. Morales ran on a platform of conservative values, opposing gay marriage, abortion, and the legalization of marijuana. “According to my belief, my ideology, I would have to veto such laws,” the president-elect said. “I think in Guatemala we will not have this because of conservative thinking. In case Congress approves such laws, my position would be against them.” Morales presented himself as a champion against corruption, with the slogan “neither corrupt nor a thief.”
The election followed months of political crisis, including the resignation of outgoing President Otto Perez Molina and his arrest on fraud and corruption charges. With a jailed president, the country teetered on the verge of social and political chaos. The Guatemalan church played an important role through the crisis, holding prayer meetings like one held every Saturday morning at the Central Park. The “Guatemala Prays” movement mobilized more than 700 churches for prayer vigils and fasting. For 40 days they prayed for a peaceful solution to the crisis. “God put His hand in Guatemala, it’s a miracle what happened,” prayer participant Marco Antonio Ruiz said. “We came together as the Church and cried out with one voice. God heard the voice of all those who joined us in prayer.”
“The role of the Christian Church is to be the bride of the Lamb, a role of service and devotion,” Morales said. “Also to evangelize, train and improve the talents of people. So, it’s a fairly large role.” The church’s active participation was also reflected in a debate held days before the election. The event, organized by the country’s main evangelical organizations, was broadcast on national television and by satellite on the Christian network Enlace. Both Christians and non-believers agree that the peaceful solution to Guatemala’s crisis and the entire electoral process offers a lesson to other nations. Christians in this election have affirmed that Guatemala begins its road to recovery as a direct answer to prayer.
CHINA’S DECISION TO ALLOW COUPLES TWO CHILDREN WELCOMED BY EXILED CHRISTIANS
China’s decision to allow all couples to have two children, has been welcomed by exiled Christian Bob Fu. The policy had limited many urban couples to only one child for more than three decades. Bob Fu was forced to flee China when his wife Heidi fell pregnant without a pregnancy permission card. He said the announcement was a “welcome first step towards women’s rights for birth freedom”. The couple fled China in 1996 in order to avoid a forced termination and now reside in America where Bob is President of China Aid. Fu said China’s “coercive family planning system violently regulates” the number of children parents are permitted to have, adding “the genocide of girls will not be stopped any time soon.” Historically, the country’s restrictions led to an imbalanced sex ratio because of a traditional preference for boys.
The Communist Party says the decision to allow all couples to have two children was to deal with an ageing population. Previous easing of the one-child policy has led to fewer births than expected, and many people among China’s younger generations seem to prefer smaller family sizes. China, which has the world’s largest population at 1.4 billion people, introduced the one-child policy in 1979 as a temporary measure to curb a then-surging population and limit the demands for water and other resources.The imbalance in the population between men and women which the policy generated makes it difficult for some men to find wives, and is believed to fuel the trafficking of women as brides. The recently announced decision removes all remaining restrictions limiting couples to only one child.
Last year saw the highest number of Bibles ever distributed by Bible Societies around the world. Nearly 34 million Bibles were handed out, a six per cent rise on 2013. A new report shows that in total 428.2 million Scriptures were distributed by Bible Societies in 2014. That figure includes full Bibles, Testaments, Gospels and other smaller scripture items. The Americas is the region that has reported the highest rates of distribution, with 341.5 million Scriptures, including 14.4 million full Bibles being given out. Far more Scriptures were distributed in Brazil than in any other country in the world. Its 7.6 million full Bibles account for more than half of the total Bible distribution in the Americas, and more than a fifth of last year’s global Bible distribution.
It is thought that this was boosted by the many thousands of Scriptures handed out during the FIFA World Cup. Bible Society Executive Director Dr Rudi Zimmer, said: “Brazilians are football mad, and the World Cup was a wonderful opportunity to share God’s Word with the many football fans who were celebrating the tournament.” Cuba was another area that saw an increase in Bibles. Last year 1.5 million Scriptures were distributed there – more than double the total distributed in 2010. The Bible Society has also reported that more than five times the number of Testaments were distributed in Syria in 2014 than in 2010, before the conflict began.