This Time, Christian Groups Play Major Role at AIDS Meet

Unlike the International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain, two years ago, Christian groups played a major role in this year's conference in Bangkok, Thailand, July 11-16. At the 2002 event, faith-based organizations were widely ignored. This year marked the first time that an inter-faith exhibit was given space. Organized by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the religious exhibit gave attendees a chance to see the wide range of care and support that faith-based groups provide worldwide. More than 23 groups participated in the exhibit, representing Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, and Hindu traditions.

World Vision's Lynn Arnold says the secular world is becoming more accepting of Christian assistance. "They could see the value of a faith-based organization when they actually witnessed a World Vision staff member being with a person dying of AIDS," he explained. "They said at that moment it was only an organization like World Vision that could have provided the support that this person needed." Arnold said the international Christian community isn't doing enough to help AIDS orphans and widows. "Are we to shelter behind the judgmental attitude, or are we to follow what we're called to do? If the church fails here, many who are searching will die without Christ."

Mission Network News/Assist News Service/World Vision

Fresh Atrocities Found in Southern Sudan

The Sudan-Persecution Project Foundation has announced the release of new photo and video evidence of atrocities against non-Muslim civilians in southern Sudan's rich oil region. During last month's relief mission cosponsored by Voice of the Martyrs in Bartlesville, Okla., a team led by Persecution Project Foundation President Brad Phillips encountered more than 700 Shilluk survivors of a recent government-sponsored massacre in the remote village of Payuer in Sudan's upper Nile region. Reports had leaked out of oil-rich Renk County that from late March to mid-April, 22 Shilluk villages had been burned and hundreds of people murdered while Sudanese government troops looked on. "They did more than look on," said Phillips. "Survivors told us that soldiers in motorboats had fired on them from the Nile while government-sponsored militia attacked from the bush. We received testimonies that between 300 and 1,000 people were killed during these attacks. More died afterward from wounds and disease. Hundreds were also abducted, and 20,000 people were driven out of their homes, their villages burned." Phillips said evidence of the massacre has been "denied by Khartoum and ignored by the international community." Meanwhile, the killings in Sudan continue. The country's 20-year civil war has resulted in the deaths of an estimated 2 million people.

Assist News Service via MissionNet

Iraqi Christians Fearful As Attacks Continue

Continuing violence in Iraq despite the recent hand-over of power to Iraqis is taking its toll on congregations in this embattled nation. While reports indicate there are more than 70 evangelical churches working together to share the gospel with the Iraqi people, some churches are struggling. Lee DeYoung from Words of Hope says the ministry is working with five local churches through an indigenous organization. "The churches have seen some erosion in attendance and participation," he says. "A number of people were seeking some kind of safety, and not all of them have come back. It seems as if there is interest at least on the part of some Iraqi Christians in leaving the country." Violence isn't the only thing that's affecting believers. They're also afraid that the new government will force Islamic law on the people, ending religious freedom. "It's not absolutely certain that will be the case," says DeYoung. "But that's an understandable concern and fear that some Christians have." Despite the difficulties, Iraqi churches are not dying. "They're just going through a period of turbulent change. Initially that has caused some people to withdraw. Whether that's an ongoing trend, we can't be sure." Meanwhile, Words of Hope continues to broadcast the gospel to Iraq via radio. "Pray that the broadcasts would continue to be heard and that the messages would be relevant and powerful," he says.

Mission Network News

 "Poland Harder to Evangelize Today"

"Poland is harder to evangelize since the fall of communism," says Arkadiusz Delik, director of Operational Mobilization in Poland. "We were hoping that when we received our freedom from communism, it would be easy to interest people in the gospel, but actually it's harder. People are more concerned about money, television, entertainment, but not about God. For instance, when the OM ship, Logos, came to Poland in 1990...some 90,000 people came on board. But 10 years later, only 7,000 came on board the same ship at the same place, despite the fact that we had better books and programs. People in Poland aren't hostile, but they are indifferent. They don't care." Arkadiusz says his main aim is to recruit Polish Christians to be involved in missions and to encourage Polish churches to multiply their efforts. "We also encourage missionaries from around the world to come to this country to help evangelize Poland. The proportion of evangelical Christians in Poland is the least in the whole of Europe-just 0.13 percent of the population of around 40 million."

Assist News Service via MissionNet

Ministries to Send Bibles to Persecuted Colombians

A pair of Christian ministries have joined forces to bring hope and encouragement to thousands of Colombian believers who face persecution from FARC guerrillas. Bibles for the World (BFTW) is working in conjunction with Voice of the Martyrs to distribute 54,000 Bibles in the hill country of Colombia, says BFTW spokesman Eric Foley. "The guerrillas become very threatened anytime that anyone accepts Jesus Christ, because when they accept Christ they drop out of the guerrilla army and instead serve a different master. In order to make an example of people who have become Christians, they literally will go and slaughter Christians-either torturing them, or simply shooting them-killing them for making a profession of Jesus Christ." Foley says time is crucial. "These are Christians whose lives are in danger from the moment they make a profession. And we want to get them Bibles as quickly as possible so that they can grow in Christ and share their faith with others." Colombia is BFTW's July project in its "Billion Bible Campaign."

Mission Network News

Multinational Teams Find Success Reaching Muslims

As the war on terror continues around the world, Muslim outreach has been a challenge for missionaries. They're required to make security a top priority, forcing Westerners to stress their citizenship in Christ, says Steve Strauss of SIM, a ministry that works with Muslims worldwide. "It's important to distinguish who we are as believers in Jesus Christ, from who we may be in our earthly citizenship," he says. "In many Muslims' minds there is no difference between a Christian and a Westerner, and many of our missionaries are going through great pains to show that there is a difference." Strauss says many Muslims are coming to Christ through SIM's multinational teams. "In one country where we're doing a lot of work with Muslims, our team consists of Westerners, Koreans and other Asians, Latin Americans, and some Africans. That kind of multinational approach destroys any accusation that the gospel is a Western creation."

Mission Network News

Teachers Help Missionaries Stay on Field Longer

Teachers are helping missionaries stay on the mission field longer, says Michelle Baxter who works with Greater Europe Mission, a partner in SHARE Education Services-a pool of educators from 14 different mission organizations. "It's pretty difficult for one educator to know all the needs of a child from kindergarten all the way up to high school. So if you pool all the educators in one area, then we can all work in our areas of expertise." Education is a concern of all missionary families. "One of the top three reasons that missionary families come home is because they feel the educational needs of their kids are not being addressed, and that's where we step in to help," Baxter says. "All sorts of teaching positions are needed, including kindergarten teachers, speech therapists and educational counselors. It's a perfect opportunity to make an eternal difference not only for the students, but also for those whom the missionaries are able to minister to while they remain on the field."

Mission Network News

Bible League Celebrates 50 Years in Mexico

More than 500 Bible League-trained church planters from across Mexico gathered in Mexico City the last week of June to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ministry in Mexico. The church planters have established nearly 2,300 churches in Mexico in the last 50 years. The church planters represented about 20 Mexican ethnic groups, many coming from the Oaxaca area. The three-day assembly brought together church planters who have been trained by the Bible League in the past nine years. The purpose of the event was to celebrate what God has done through the ministry and to encourage workers to continue the vision of evangelizing, discipling, and establishing new churches throughout Mexico. Daytime sessions offered continued training and encouragement to the church planters. Evening sessions were broadcast live on the Internet and on television via satellite to more than 25 countries around the world. Public worship services brought 600 to 700 people each night, filling the worship center at a large church in Mexico City.

Bible League via MissionNet

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