THE LARGEST PRAYER MEETING IN AFRICAN HISTORY HELD IN SOUTH AFRICA
Saturday, April 22, saw the biggest prayer gathering in South African history as close to two million people gathered from all parts of South Africa to pray. The event was held on a farm north of Bloemfontein in central South Africa. Some 1.7 million people registered on-line to attend the gathering with thousands more arriving on the day. The multi-racial crowd spread over more than a kilometre. The proceedings were relayed onto multiple large screens which required many kilometres of cabling for the sound system. Popular South African farmer and evangelist, Angus Buchan, called for a nation-wide prayer meeting in light of the current spiritual and socio-political decline evident in the nation. The event was called, “It’s Time”. Buchan said, “We are tired of people taking the law into their own hands. We call upon the Lord to bring justice, peace and hope to our beloved South Africa.”
As people kept streaming to the farm for the prayer meeting, organizers delayed the start by more than an hour due to people still coming to the venue in large numbers. The prayer time was duplicated in hundreds of town and suburbs around the nation. Prayer meetings, for those who couldn’t get to Bloemfontein were held in churches, rented halls and homes around South Africa. No television broadcasts were allowed, but Christians around the country followed the event from the social media posts of their friends. Busses and airplanes were chartered for the event. Despite the magnitude of the event there was no television advertising and little news coverage beforehand. Farmers in the area opened their farms to hundreds of thousands of campers at no cost. Gridlock was reported for up to 40 kilometres away and the event was delayed for 90 minutes to allow people more time to arrive.
Some Bloemfontein residents started making their way to the farm just after midnight, to avoid traffic and to find a good seat at the event. Marita Victor, 36, said she and her friends arrived at the farm shortly after 04:00 am. At that time, 300 people had already arrived with their chairs. Victor and her friends used flashlights to find a place to sit. Heavy traffic congestion occurred on Saturday morning when people from all over South Africa headed for the farm. Locals living nearby walked, or cycled to avoid the traffic. Hundreds of planes also landed at several nearby locations. People came from all over South Africa to attend the service. Helicopters landed every ten minutes. Frans Cronje, brother of the former South African cricket captain, the late Hansie Cronje, said on Twitter that he and a group of cyclists pedalled for six days from Cape Point to attend the service.
Evangelist Angus Buchan began by teaching on prayer, reading the passage about Jesus praying at the Garden of Gethsemane before going to the cross. He reminded the crowd of Moses words before the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea. Angus Buchan led the crowd in prayer, stopping at various points while they shouted “Amen” or repeated parts of the prayer: “I am praying that South Africa will become a country that takes the Word of God literally as it is written. We say no to immorality. No to sex before marriage. No to pornography and drug addiction in Jesus name. We say no to racialism in this country, no to senseless murder and rape in this country. We ask You Lord to give our armed forces the power to bring stability back to this nation. “We ask the Lord for restoration. Restoration in the family. Between mum and dad. Between children and their parents in Jesus name.”
“We pray for respect for old people. For poor people. For rich people. For all people. We say there is no other God save Jesus Christ and Him alone. We will not serve any other God save the Lord Jesus Christ. Please forgive us for compromising our nation, our family and our future. From today onwards, we promise to stand up for truth and righteousness at all costs.” Buchan added, “I want to speak against bankruptcy. No more bankruptcy. I want to speak against HIV and AIDS. We are not interested in condoms. We are interested in obedience to the Word of God. Young people, you will sleep with no one until the night of your wedding. We are calling sin by its name. I am not interested in your opinion. You shouldn’t be interested in my opinion. The only thing you should be interested in is God’s opinion. God said it. We believe it. That settles it.
Buchan said he hoped the power of this gathering would “wash over” to neighbouring countries. “People from Zimbabwe, Botswana and even in Zambia will feel the power of what happens here today, because Jesus is a miracle worker,” said Buchan. The Reverend Helgard Janse van Rensburg, moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church in the Free State, said there was a big need for a prayer gathering. “I am positive about it, because the country is not well. But everything isn’t necessarily going to be set right, as if by magic,” he said. “My position is that people must first humble themselves in front of God. With this, I mean they must examine their own lives and try to determine what God wants to tell them. Does God not want to tell people something about South Africa’s drought, economy and politics? And should I, as a person, not also perhaps change?”
The Reverend Cassie Aucamp, from the Reformed Churches in South Africa, said the answering of prayers have nothing to do with the size of the prayer gathering, but rather with the sincerity of the prayers. Nothing is excluded in terms of what we can and cannot pray for,” he said. “Our country is experiencing a crisis. We must pray for the authorities to respond correctly, according to the will of God,” he stated. Pastor At Boshoff, from the Christian Revival Church (CRC), said reconciliation, tolerance and peace in the country, as well as economic prosperity, especially among the less privileged, were some of the changes he’d like to see after the prayer day. “We believe prayer brings change and it is heartening to see how people from all terrains stand together in unity,” he said.
Several prominent politicians attended the gathering, but Buchan made it clear that the motivation for the event was clearly spiritual, “This is not a political change. This is a Jesus change, because we need a Christian government. Today we pray to Him, because He will heal South Africa,” he said. “I look forward to the day when Parliament begins every morning with the reading of Scripture and prayer, because that is what South Africa needs.” After his short message, Buchan allowed people to pray on their own. The crowds prayed, some in whispers, and others loudly. Some were on their knees and others held their hands in the air as they cried to God. “Here I stand looking at a miracle. The face I am seeing. It is just a miracle,” Buchan said. “Today we are making history, because people said it was impossible to organize such a gathering in six weeks. But here we stand today. What a Jesus miracle!”
REPUBLICANS CALL ON TRUMP TO DELIVER ON PROMISE TO PROTECT RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
Fifty-two Republican Congressmen have asked President Trump to issue the draft “executive order” defending religious liberty that was shelved, reportedly with the influence of Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, after being pilloried by the pro-LGBT Left. In a letter, the Republican Congressmen asked the president to live up to his campaign promise to defend religious liberty by taking executive and legislative actions to “protect religious freedom from Federal assault”. Because religious liberty is under such threat, we believe that the draft executive order should be signed without delay and that the protections discussed in this letter should be enshrined into our law,” the letter states. The House members asked also for Trump’s help to “adopt legislative protections that prohibit government discrimination against healthcare providers that decline to participate in or perform abortion.”
It also cites the Conscience Protection Act, which it says Trump has “pledged to sign into law.” This bill was passed by the House last year by a 245-182 vote along party lines. The letter reminds Trump that, “During your campaign, you repeatedly expressed your commitment to defending religious liberties enshrined in our founding documents stating that, ‘the first priority of my administration will be to preserve and protect our religious liberty’. The First Amendment guarantees our right to practice our faith as we see fit, all the time, and wherever. We share that sentiment and request that you sign the draft executive order on religious liberty in order to protect millions of Americans whose religious freedom has been attacked or threatened over the last eight years.”
The draft order, which was leaked to the leftist publication The Nation, quickly earned plaudits from leading social conservatives like Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson and Erick Erickson, founder of Red State. But LGBT activists and their allies blasted away at it, characterizing the floated Trump order as inimical to “gay” and “transgender” “rights.” Days later, Politico reported that Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, both White House advisers, used their insiders’ clout to help sink the floated religious freedom mandate, one of several actions by the power couple that have made conservatives wary of their liberal influence on President Trump. Ivanka Trump reportedly converted to the orthodox Judaism of Kushner before their 2009 marriage, but traditional practitioners of Orthodox Judaism question their social liberalism, especially their strong support for homosexual “rights” .
Kushner and Trump served as honorary co-hosts for a 2011 fundraiser promoting the legalization of homosexuality-based “marriage” in New York state, unheard of for morally traditional orthodox Jews. Historically adherents to orthodox Judaism believe that homosexual behaviour (sodomy) is an abomination and condemn any recognition or promotion of “rights” based on this egregious sin. Orthodox Jews, like biblically faithful Christians, believe that the sinful pull of homosexuality can be overcome with God’s help. There remains widespread hope and speculation among conservatives, including prominent pro-family leaders and unofficial Trump advisors like Ken Blackwell, that Trump will unveil a strong executive order protecting religious liberty in the days or weeks ahead. Blackwell said that Trump’s team will “dismantle” Obama’s “aggressive LGBT agenda.”
The congressional letter to Trump states, “The draft executive order would undo the unworkable Health and Human Services contraception mandate and ensure that Americans are not coerced to buy abortion coverage under Obamacare exchange plans. Although the U.S. Supreme Court blocked enforcement of the contraceptive mandate against the Little Sisters of the Poor, there remains a need for your administration to protect organizations and individuals from being coerced into providing or purchasing health coverage in violation of their faith and conscience,” it states. Pro-life and pro-family advocates are outraged that Trump has not yet buried the government’s legal prosecution of Little Sisters of the Poor caused by Obama’s mandate.
CANADIAN SENATE POISED TO ADOPT A GENDER NEUTRAL NATIONAL ANTHEM
Canada’s upper house is one step from neutering O Canada! by changing “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command,” but a vocal bipartisan minority of senators is opposing any change to the national anthem. The bill’s late sponsor, MP Mauril Belanger, summed up his case: “On the eve of the 150th anniversary of our federation, it is important that one of our most recognized and appreciated national symbols reflect the progress made by our country in terms of gender equality.” For Belanger and most in the Liberal and New Democratic Party caucuses, the offending passage speaks of an era when women could not vote at all, let alone be senators or MPs. From a historical perspective, the anthem honours the 60,000-plus Canadians, virtually all male, who died in the First World War opposing German aggression.
The line was added to the song’s English version just before that war began by its author, Robert Stanley Weir. Though O Canada! did not become Canada’s official anthem till 1980, it became so informally decades earlier. Liberal Senator Joan Fraser called the revision “clunky, leaden and pedestrian.” Though she considers herself “an ardent feminist,” she has no time for efforts to revise an historic document to reflect “today’s values.” “If we are to become engrossed in the idea that we must at all times be correctly modern, we lose a part of our heritage,” she told the Senate. “It may not be a perfect heritage, I’m not suggesting it is, but it is ours. I suggest that it deserves respect and acceptance for what it is: imperfect but our own.”
One of the revision’s most outspoken critics, Nova Scotia Conservative Senator Michael MacDonald, said, “If we are constantly revising everything because it was written in another generation, our national symbols will have no value. Our history means nothing in this country anymore, and it’s a shame that we’re doing this.” When MacDonald spoke in the Senate late last year, he corrected the grammar (it should be “In all of our command” he insists) but devoted much more of his allotted time to wondering why only the English version of the anthem was considered for improvement in the names of “inclusion.” “It is, without question, an ethnic French-Canadian, Catholic, nationalist battle hymn, certainly non-inclusive,” said MacDonald. “Yet I am not offended. It is just part of Canada’s history in song.”
Among the references to the Christian faith is the line “because your arm knows how to carry a sword, it knows how to carry the cross.” Commented journalist Terry Milewski: “So we’re deep into ‘Onward, Christian soldiers’ territory. We’re armed, and we’re spreading the gospel of Jesus.” The English version also contains a religious reference dating from 1980: “God keep our land glorious and free.” Christian commentators such as Toronto evangelist Charles McVety have warned, “The next step for revisionists will be to remove ‘God,’ ‘wield the sword,’ ‘carry the cross’ and ‘valour steeped in faith’ from the anthems. Canada’s national anthems are precious to the foundation of the country and should not be changed.” The bill could receive third and final reading any day now. An online poll last year showed 85% opposition to changing the anthem.
President Tayyip Erdogan has declared victory in a referendum to grant him sweeping powers in the biggest overhaul of modern Turkish politics, but opponents said the vote was marred by irregularities and they would challenge its result. According to Middle East Concern, the vote barely tipped 50/50 in favour of passing the proposed changes. They effectively move Turkey from a parliamentary system into an executive presidential system. In other words, President Erdogan, the man behind Turkey’s ongoing political purge, would have fewer restrictions in terms of power. Under the changes, most of which will only come into effect after the next elections due in 2019, the president will appoint the cabinet and an undefined number of vice-presidents, and be able to select and remove senior civil servants without parliamentary approval.
Erdogan survived a failed coup attempt last July, responding with a crackdown that has seen 47,000 people detained and 120,000 sacked or suspended from their jobs. In Turkey, if you’re pegged as a coup supporter, you land behind bars. Miles Windsor with Middle East Concern explains, “The coup is an excuse to crackdown on those that the government doesn’t want to be part of Turkish society. But that is the situation now in Turkey. It’s very easy to paint anybody who is in opposition to the government’s perceived positions or the government’s ideal Turkish community as related to terrorist organizations.” A current example of the treatment of Christians post-coup is the imprisonment of American Pastor Andrew Brunson. Last October, Brunson was arrested on charges of being part of an armed terrorist organization. But despite the United States calls for release, he is still locked up.
Different religions, including Christianity, have spread to neighbouring countries from Turkey. Turkey once played a significant role in the spread of the Gospel worldwide becoming known as the ‘guardian of Christendom,’ Turkey was a Christian stronghold for more than 1,000 years, but following persecution and massacres of Armenian and Syrian Christians by Turkish Islamists, Christians emigrated in their droves. Over the last century, the Turkish Christian population has declined from 22 to 0.21% today. Yet, Turkey remains highly strategic from a Christian perspective. It is ‘home’ to thousands of Christian refugees fleeing the Middle East, and it is the link between a Muslim Middle East and a ‘Christian’ Europe. Turkey is also a ‘gateway’ for missionaries in the Middle East and Asia. Instability in Turkey would have huge implications on Christian endeavours throughout the region.
* that peace will prevail following the referendum and that Christians, especially church leaders, will respond wisely to ongoing events.
* that as the Church in Turkey remembers the brutal deaths of the three Christians in Malatya, it will be strengthened in its resolve and faith, and that God will continue to comfort the families and friends of the victims.
* that God will have mercy on the country and people of Turkey, and that His truth and righteousness will prevail. Pray that Andrew Brunson and his family will be upheld by God, and that this unjust detention will soon end with his release. Pray too that God will touch the hearts of those in leadership, and that they will work for the ultimate good of Turkey.
ETHIOPIAN STATE CONSIDERS RESTRICTING CHRISTIAN ACTIVITY TO CHURCH BUILDINGS
Ethiopias northern Tigray State is considering adopting a new law that would restrict Christian activities to within official church compounds, rendering illegal the activities of smaller churches that do not own their own buildings and gather in houses. The law, if passed, would most affect Christians from outside the Ethiopian Orthodox Church because any church that wanted to have its own land would need to prove that it had at least 6,000 members, a greater number than the total population of non-Orthodox Christians in the state. The law would also ban Christians from evangelising outside of church compounds. Local church leaders have raised their concerns about the law with the state government but have yet to receive a reply. A similar law was recently ratified in neighbouring Amhara State which, together with Tigray, is home to most members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Local church leaders fear other states will copy the move. For centuries Ethiopia, which some argue was the first nation in the world to accept Christianity, consisted of an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian core, a Sunni Muslim zone in the east, and an animist/indigenous-faith area in the south and far west. In the last 10 years, indigenous faiths have diminished, in most cases yielding to Protestant Christianity, which is said to be the fastest-growing religious group in Ethiopia. This is making the country home to “one of the fastest growing evangelical churches in the world”. Former members of the Orthodox Church have also become Protestants, creating tension between the two communities. While Ethiopia’s government seeks to further restrict religious institutions, to prevent dissent. Christians also face oppression from family members and their local community.
An example is the story of Tutu, a widow, and her son, Biruk, who live in a Muslim-dominated community and have faced troubles since Tutu’s husband passed away, 18 months ago. After his burial, local Muslims dug up his body and dumped it by the side of the road. In January, Biruk was assaulted and told that he and his mother would continue to face trouble until they converted to Islam. On 4 March, their house was burned down. Attacks on Christians in Ethiopia are increasing. In March alone there were 11 attacks on Christians, affecting approximately 250 people. The judicial system often works against Christians in Ethiopia. On February 3 Christians, falsely convicted and imprisoned for burning down an Ethiopian Orthodox Church were acquitted by the Supreme Court and freed, but still ordered to pay for damage to the church, valued at over US$40,000 at the time of sentencing.