UN AID CHIEF SAYS 20 MILLION PEOPLE IN 4 COUNTRIES FACE STARVATION
The United Nations says it needs $4.4 billion by July to prevent famine in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and northeastern Nigeria. U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien, who just returned from field missions to the affected countries, told Security Council members that the United Nations is facing its largest humanitarian crisis since the organization’s creation. He said that without the necessary funding and full, safe and unimpeded access for aid workers, people will die. “We stand at a critical point in history,” O’Brien told council members. “Now, more than 20 million people across four countries face starvation and famine. Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death.” He said all the regions on the brink of famine have one thing in common: They are conflict zones.
Yemen’s needs are the most critical. It is already the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, with two-thirds of the population, nearly 19 million people, needing assistance. The situation in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest nation, is rapidly deteriorated as the country was plunged into war between the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government. More than 7 million people face hunger today, a staggering increase of 3 million people since January. The U.N. has appealed for $2.1 billion to reach 12 million people there this year. O’Brien said that people in Yemen are hungry and sick and they need peace so that they can return home. While he received assurances of improved aid access, O’Brien said all parties to the conflict arbitrarily deny sustained humanitarian access, and they politicize aid.”
In South Sudan, where a political rivalry between the country’s two leaders plunged the area into war more than 3 years ago, O’Brien said that the situation “is worse than it has ever been.” More than 7.5 million people need humanitarian assistance, up by 1.4 million from last year. More than 1 million children are believed to be acutely malnourished. O’Brien warned that 270,000 of them face “the imminent risk of death” if assistance does not reach them in time. A localized famine was declared last month in Leer and Mayendit counties, and the country is also dealing with a growing cholera outbreak. “Aid workers have been killed, compounds and supplies have been attacked, looted and occupied by armed actors,” O’Brien noted. But despite government-imposed obstacles to reaching those in need, aid workers managed to reach more than 5 million people last year with assistance.
In 2011, Somalia experienced a famine that killed 260,000 people. By the time the international community designated the crisis a famine, more than half the victims already had starved to death. “The current indicators mirror the tragic picture of 2011,” O’Brien warned. But, he said, humanitarians are better prepared today to prevent a famine. “To be clear, we can avert a famine. We have a committed, clear new president, a humanitarian and resilient track record, a detailed plan, but we need those huge funds now,” he said.
Three states in northeastern Nigeria, Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, are severely food insecure because of violence and instability stoked by Boko Haram terrorists. More than 8.5 million people in those three areas need aid. More than $1 billion is needed to meet critical needs in the northeast. “The situation for people in each country is dire, and without a major international response, the situation will get worse,” O’Brien concluded. He said the United Nations and its partners are ready to scale up, but need the access and money to do more. O’Brien added “It is possible to avert this crisis, the famines, and these looming human catastrophes.” We have seen God’s answer before in such seemingly impossible situations requiring His deliverance. Let’s, therefore, pray for His mercy and help. Ezekiel 22:30 reminds us that He is always looking for those who will stand in the gap in such situations.
* for the funds to be allocated by governments and others around the world and also for the UN and humanitarian organizations and efforts to be free of any corruption and very effective in reaching these millions of severely suffering people in time.
* for an end to the conflicts that have precipitated this situation and for the safety of the humanitarian personnel who are risking their lives to bring relief.
* that the Gospel will speed on and triumph among these 20 million in their great adversity. Mostly they are Muslims and animists who need the life-saving Good News of Jesus. May Christians be bold in sharing Him and may they cry out to God in their hardships in order to find the Saviour!
ALMOST AS MANY AMERICANS DIED OF DRUG ABUSE IN 2015 THAN IN 12 YEARS IN VIETNAM
U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly has blamed drug cartels for the unprecedented 52,000-plus drug overdose deaths in America during 2015 alone, the latest year for which data is available. During a discussion at George Washington University about the threats facing the United States, retired Gen. Kelly noted: It’s the highest number of drug-related deaths our country has ever seen. It’s more deaths than the peak of the AIDS epidemic in 1995. In a single year, we’ve lost nearly as many Americans to drug overdose as we lost in battle in World War I. Almost as many as was lost in 12 years in Vietnam. And that’s just overdose deaths. That number says nothing about the long-term health damage to our citizens who survive, to say nothing about the human misery, the families ripped apart, and the extremes of crime and violence inherent in the illegal-drug enterprise.
Kelly identified transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) in the form of Latin American drug cartels and violent international gangs like MS-13 as “one of the greatest” threats against the American public. Citing the most recently available data, the DHS chief noted that drug overdoses yielded 52,404 deaths in 2015, saying: The damage TCOs do is not only violence and potential terror. It is also vast tonnages of marijuana and hard drugs, cocaine, heroin, counterfeit opiates, fentanyl, and meth amphetamines, they smuggle across our borders to feed both the recreational and addictive U.S. drug demand. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Coast Guard all bear witness to the massive quantity of drugs TCOs are bringing to America every day, with devastating consequences.
He cited the fatal overdoses as one of the significant consequences of the large amounts of drugs TCOs smuggle into the U.S. daily. According to the CDC, the abuse of opiates, which includes heroin and other drugs derived from opium, such as painkillers, is the primary driver behind the overdose death epidemic currently afflicting the United States. Echoing the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Kelly said that most of the heroin in the United States originates in Mexico. Although the majority of heroin in neighbouring Canada comes from Afghanistan, the world’s top producer of opium and its heroin derivative, the most recent DEA estimate suggests that only one percent of the Afghan-based drug makes it into the United States. The DEA projections for heroin availability in the United States are based on law enforcement seizures.
In its most recent U.S. National Drug Threat Assessment, the agency acknowledges that its estimate only provides “a snapshot of the U.S. heroin market,” adding that “since not all heroin seizures in the United States are submitted for analysis, the source area proportions should not be characterized as market share.” A CDC map shows that states at or near the U.S-Canada border are home to the largest concentration of heroin overdose deaths. None of the states along the U.S.-Mexico border experienced a “statistically significant” increase in fatal overdoses from 2014 to 2015, the latest period for which data is available. Not everyone agrees with the DEA’s assertion that most of the heroin in the U.S. is cultivated in Mexico. Last year, a published article criticized the former U.S. administration and the media for misleading the American public about the influx of heroin from Afghanistan.
In the report, William Edstrom, a scientist and author of articles in scientific journals, noted: Heroin from Mexico cannot supply even 10% of US heroin demand. Yet the DEA claims most heroin in the US is from Mexico. Most heroin in the US is coming from Afghanistan. We’re getting hit with the largest ever illicit drug epidemic in American history and the DEA is asleep at the wheel. In 2012, Associated Press reported that some American soldiers in Afghanistan had been investigated “on suspicion of using or distributing heroin, morphine or other opiates during 2010 and 2011.” Pentagon data shows the number of U.S. troops testing positive for heroin has increased throughout the war in Afghanistan. The DEA expects Mexican cartels to continue unrivalled as “the greatest criminal drug threat to the United States,” as traffickers make a concerted effort to increase heroin availability in the U.S.
CHINESE UNDERGROUND CHURCHES DRIVING RELIGIOUS REVOLUTION
China is seeing an “explosion of faith” that could turn the atheist country into the world’s biggest Christian nation in less than 20 years, scholars say. What’s even more remarkable is that the “religious revolution” is being driven by the country’s underground churches, according to Pulitzer-prize winning author Ian Johnson in an opinion piece for The Atlantic. Johnson, author of “The Souls of China: The Return of Religion after Mao,” said one of the world’s great spiritual revivals” is also happening despite increasing persecution. China’s unregistered churches, he said, have “become surprisingly well-organized, meeting very openly and often counting hundreds of congregants.” “They’ve helped the number of Protestants soar from about one million when the communists took power to at least 60 million today,” he wrote.
Remarkably, about two-thirds of the believers are not affiliated with government churches, Johnson said, adding that Protestants in non-government churches outnumber worshippers in government churches two to one. He explained that what’s driving the Chinese people towards Christianity is their search for new moral guideposts lacking in the country’s communist ideology. “Hundreds of millions of Chinese are consumed with doubt about their society and turning to religion and faith for answers that they do not find in the radically secular world constructed around them,” he said. Johnson’s analysis matches that of Fenggang Yang, a professor of sociology at Purdue University and author of “Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule.”
In 2014, Yang said that the number of Christians in China is growing so fast that by 2030 it could become the “world’s most Christian nation.” China’s Protestant community only had one million members in 1949 when Communist leader Mao Zedong seized power, Yang said. In 2010, or 61 years later, China’s Protestant population grew to 58 million, compared to 40 million in Brazil and 36 million in South Africa, he said. Yang believes that number will rise to around 160 million by 2025, which would exceed the Protestant population of the U.S. which numbered 159 million in 2010. By 2030, China’s total Christian population, including Catholics, would exceed 247 million, Yang predicted. This would make China the biggest Christian nation in the world, ahead of Mexico, Brazil and the United States.
The persecution watchdog China Aid also noted in a 2016 report that Christianity continues to grow at a dramatic rate in China despite the mounting cases of persecution. China Aid revealed that a total of 20,000 Chinese Christians suffered religious persecution in 2015, but this only spurred the growth of churches. “Despite the worsening situation of religious freedom in China in the last decade, China Aid sees great hope in the fast growth of the house church movement across China and firmly believes that God’s love and justice will eventually cover the vast expanse of this nation,” the report said.
By Dr Michael Brown American Christian Commentator
Recently, a committed Christian wrote to me about how he was feeling in the midst of the culture wars. Things look very bad, and he was down. He’s been serving God very seriously since coming to faith a few years back, and he has looked to me as a mentor from afar. He wrote: “I’m sorry if this sounds defeatist. I certainly would rather people continue fighting the good fight no matter what. But, notice how the Left controls the pace when it comes to the culture wars? They have most of us focusing on debating and discussing the transgender issue almost completely forgetting about male homosexual practice and female homosexual practice. They are always outpacing us so it seems. Between this and the fact that our side has little to no regard for the importance of language based on false premise, it’s getting to the point where the only thing left to do is pray.”
This culture war stuff is becoming way above the pray grade of human intervention. Christians are all over the place on just about every important issue, and there is no such thing as a viable small government Constitutional Conservative movement anymore. Republicans grow government just like the Democrats, but only at a slightly slower pace. “I could be wrong about how I’m thinking and feeling as expressed here, but I’ve been pretty confident that for the past 5 or 6 years, my eyes have been pretty wide open when it comes to these moral issues.” This was my response to him. “You have every reason to feel this way, looking at things in the natural and looking at the overall progression. Years ago, before I got involved in the culture wars, I saw clearly that we had already lost the battle for this generation and it was too late for change, barring divine intervention.
That was my default, starting point. Yet I felt God telling me to help turn the tide back against homosexual activism, and I still believe God promised me that I will be in the midst of a gospel-based, moral and cultural revolution. So, my confidence rests wholly in the Lord, not in society or even the Church. That being said, if society crumbles around us, I’ll take that as an opportunity to preach the gospel more clearly and forcefully. And yes, I do believe that LGBT activism will defeat itself, but even if I’m wrong, the gospel will still triumph in the end, and every day is an opportunity to pray effective prayers and to share the gospel with the lost. “Forward in faith!” I hope my response helps you too. May the smile of the Lord be upon you as you honour and serve Him.
DEMAND FOR SAME-SEX MARRIAGE IN NEW ZEALAND UNDERWHELMING
Since so-called same sex “marriage” was legalised in August 2013 in New Zealand, there have been just 1,422 same-sex “marriages” of Kiwis and 58,540 traditional heterosexual marriages (as of December 2016 statistics). The same-sex “weddings,” represent just over 2% of total marriages, despite media hype and activists’ claims of a huge demand for same-sex marriage in New Zealand. And now in May 2017, we have the latest report revealing that half of all same-sex “marriages” in the last year alone were international couples who came to New Zealand to tie the knot. Not surprisingly, the great majority of those couples (58%) came from Australia. Supporters of redefining traditional heterosexual marriage have had to rely on “marriage tourism” to justify the change and prop up their campaign. The demand for same-sex “marriage” in the country has been underwhelmingly insignificant.
Half of all same-sex marriages and civil unions in New Zealand last year were between couples from overseas. Statistics New Zealand said. “Couples from Australia accounted for 58% of overseas same-sex couples coming here to marry,” senior manager Peter Dolan said. “A further 17% came from China.” Of the same-sex couples coming from overseas, 21% had one or both partners born in New Zealand, compared with 56% of opposite-sex couples. About 11% of opposite-sex couples married in New Zealand in 2016 came from outside the country, Statistics New Zealand said. This included 2,490 overseas couples and 19,752 New Zealand resident couples celebrating opposite-sex marriages or civil unions in 2016. Most couples preferred to marry than get civil unions, with 23,136 opposite-sex and same-sex marriages registered in New Zealand in 2016, compared to just 60 civil unions.
ISIS OVERRUNS CITY MURDERING CHRISTIANS AS WAR RAGES IN PHILIPPINES
Islamic radicals who have besieged much of a southern city in the Philippines are trying to establish a regional branch of ISIS in that country. The Philippine military says the radicals include foreign fighters and local gunmen. The military is conducting air strikes, trying to regain control of the city of Marawi that has been overrun by ISIS. Marawi is located on the island of Mindanao, where more than 100 people have died and 70,000 have fled since terrorists launched their attack. Among the dead are nine Christians who were murdered merely for being followers of Jesus Christ. A Catholic priest who was taken hostage by the ISIS jihadists says he’s being held along with 200 other captives, including children. In a video taken by the jihadists, Father Teresito Suganob says under duress that his captors want the military to withdraw its forces from Marawi.
Philippines troops have carried out “precision attacks” with tanks and rocket launchers to target the radicals. Since they’re attempting to avoid civilian casualties it’s more difficult to destroy the ISIS fighters. The island of Mindanao has long been a base for local Islamic radicals in the Philippines, and government officials say they’re also getting outside help. Philippine soldiers have taken control of about 70 percent of the city. The head of the Philippine military says three Malaysians, an Indonesian and a possible Arab extremist were killed before they could murder an entire Christian village in an audacious ISIS-style plot. Gen. Eduardo Ano says the jihadists plotted to set Marawi ablaze and kill as many Christians as possible in nearby Iligan city on Ramadan to create fear by mimicking the terror seen by the world in Syria and Iraq.