Afghan Convert Just One of Thousands Who Could Face Death

Abdur Rahman, the Christian Afghan man who could have been sentenced to capital punishment for leaving Islam, is just one of "literally thousands" of believers across the Islamic world who could face death for converting to Christianity, says Jim Jacobsen, president of Christian Freedom International (CFI).

The case was dropped against Rahman, 41, after intense international pressure, and he was freed. He is now in Italy where he has been granted asylum. "We're involved with many, many other cases just like Rahman's," said Jacobsen. "They lose everything - all possessions, their inheritance. They're literally thrown out into the streets. The local mosque will issue a fatwa or death sentence against them."


Many Hundreds Accept Christ in Brazil

Sixteen volunteers from Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., traveled to the Vitria da Conquista community in Bahia, Brazil, to evangelize and to teach believers witnessing methods during a March 2-14 mission trip. Using material from Darrell Robinson's book, People Sharing Jesus, the team taught more than 600 people in seven Brazilian Baptist churches how to share their faith.

The teams shared Christ in public schools, chicken factories, prisons and any place where crowds gathered. They also went door to door in neighborhood homes to share the Good News of Christ.

They ended the week with a citywide crusade held at the city's Sport Gymnasium. More than 2,000 people attended the Saturday night event, and 125 people accepted Christ. Altogether, in the community of about 300,000, from 1,200 to 1,500 people prayed to receive Christ.

Baptist Press

Believers Respond to Niger Hunger Crisis

In the West African country of Niger more than 3.5 million people are suffering from the hunger crisis caused by poverty, drought, and a locust invasion that damaged crops. Operation Blessing's Kristin Vischer says the ministry has had teams on the ground since last year addressing the ongoing needs. "We're very excited to have dedicated a permanent food bank building on March 17. We are actually providing enough millet in the bank to sustain 600 families until rainy season so they can grow crops again. So, that's just one of five food banks that we plan to be actually building."

Vischer says the outreach is also opening doors for spiritual ministry. "We're doing what the Lord wants us to do-feeding the poor and the starving-so there are opportunities to tell them why we are doing what we are doing." Operation Blessing is partnering with Humedica and the World Food Program to provide emergency feeding programs for approximately 78,000 people living in 64 remote villages.

Mission Network News

U.S. Christians Doubt Bodily Resurrection

Most Christians in the U.S. don't believe they will experience a resurrection of their bodies when they die, putting them at odds with a core teaching of Christianity, reported Scripps Howard News Service. Thirty-six percent of the 1,007 adults interviewed by the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University said "yes" to the question, "Do you believe that, after you die, your physical body will be resurrected someday?" Another 54% said they do not believe, and 10% were undecided. The poll has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

"This reflects the very low state of doctrinal preaching in our churches," said Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. "I continually am confronted by Christians, even active members of major churches, who have never heard this taught in their local congregations." The findings surprised many top theologians since it seems to put Americans in conflict with both the Nicene Creed and the Apostles' Creed, which mention the resurrection of the body.

Religion Today via MissionNet

Growth of Church In Ethiopia, Sudan Amazes Nazarene

Explosive church growth and evangelism in Ethiopia and Sudan has caused Nazarene missionary Howie Shute to call this "the greatest movement of God that I have seen in my lifetime. Churches are planting churches that are planting churches." The Nazarene south central district (including Ethiopia and Sudan) reported 200 churches in the last one-and-a-half years. In addition, more than 50 Bible study groups are in the process of becoming churches. "There are evangelists on the road and in the bush everywhere, all planting Bible studies and churches," he said. "They continue despite a lack of money." The denomination expects to plant more than 400 new churches this year while the Ethiopian leadership has a target of 1,000 new churches. "Pastors and congregations are being persecuted, but they are faithful to God's call to preach this message," Shute said. "The great miracle of Pentecost was 3,000 new believers in one day, but we have had 20,000 in one day praying for their sins to be forgiven!"

Evangelical News/ via MissionNet

Assemblies of God Fastest Growing Faith

The Chicago Tribune has reported that the Assemblies of God, the Mormon church, and the Roman Catholic Church were the fastest-growing denominations in the United States last year, according to the 2006 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. The pentecostal Assemblies of God grew 1.81% to just under 2.8 million members. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints increased 1.74% to nearly 6 million people. And the Catholic Church, by far the largest denomination in the United States, grew .83% to 67.8 million. Only three mainline Protestant churches remain among the 10 biggest U.S. denominations: the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. The Southern Baptist Convention remains the largest U.S. Protestant group and second-largest denomination in the country with 16.3 million members.

Religion Today Summaries

More Americans Are "Born Again"

The proportion of adults who fall into the "born again Christian" category, based on their beliefs, is at the highest rate ever measured in The Barna Group's 25-year history.

"The same tracking survey shows us that people's faith is not at all deep, but at least more people are becoming attuned to the importance of the life, death, resurrection, and message of Jesus Christ," George Barna said in a March 27 news release.

Barna found that 45% of all adults met the criteria the research group uses to classify people as "born again," meaning they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and believe that when they die they will go to heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus as their Savior. The adults classified by Barna as born again did not necessarily attach that label to themselves.

In 1983, the number of "born-again" Christians was just 31 percent of the total adult population, Barna said.

Baptist Press

Pakistani Christians React to Bible Burning

The burning of a Bible and other sacred texts by four Muslim men in the Tibba Shomali area of Tehsil Mian Channu prompted over 1,500 Christians to stage a protest against the incident that occurred on April 4. Four men were caught while burning the Bible, calendars carrying the picture of Jesus and other Christian booklets, reports the Pakistan-based Daily Times. An enraged Christian mob tried to attack the accused but elders intervened. A former district councilor condemned the incident but asked the Christians of the area not to take law into their hands. The fresh incident of setting the Bible on fire disputes the recent claim by the minister for local bodies, Raja Basharat, that there existed complete harmony between Muslims and Christians in the province of Punjab.

Religion Today Summaries

Bookshop Reopens After Bomb Threat

The Palestinian Bible Society bookshop in Gaza reopened April 3, after a five-week closure in response to unknown militants' threats to bomb the building, reported Hanna Massad, pastor of Gaza Baptist Church. Massad, whose wife, Suhad, is the Bible Society bookshop's director, said that the store reopened with permission from the Gaza Interior Ministry despite objections from the building's owner.

On Feb. 3, unidentified militants exploded two small pipe bombs in front of the bookshop, destroying its steel and glass doors. A note left by the militants threatened to kill the landlord and others living in the building unless the Bible Society vacated by Feb. 28. The militants also warned the society not to continue ministry elsewhere.

Open Doors via MissionNet

Adult Stem Cell Research Shows More Promise

While the media persists in trumpeting research using embryonic stem cells to treat disease, successful breakthroughs continue to occur using adult stem cells-which unlike embryonic cells, do not require the death of the donor.

Researchers have thus far developed treatments using adult stem cells for more than 80 diseases and conditions. One of the new developments, at Northwestern University, is for patients with severe lupus. Northwestern doctors have treated 48 patients with their own stem cells: 30 have had no disease symptoms for more than 7 years, following their transplants. This disease, which attacks the skin, brain, and heart, affects some 1.5 million Americans.

In other research, the Food and Drug Administration approved a second phase of a treatment using adult stem cells to help rebuild heart tissue. Baxter International will use adult stem cells to help 150 patients create new blood vessels in their cardiovascular systems. In the first phase, 24 patients used fewer nitrate pills and were able to resume activities such as walking and using a treadmill-tasks they were previously unable to do. Heart disease, the leading single cause of death in America, is responsible for 1 in 5 deaths., 3/13/06,
via Life in Oregon

Core Religious Behavior Increases in America

A survey conducted by The Barna Group shows an increase in five out of the seven "core religious behaviors" studied by the company. The largest increase in activity showed Bible reading which dropped to a 20-year low of 31% in 1995 but rebounded to 47% of American adults reading from the Bible outside of church in a typical week. Additional increases were noted in attendance at church, small-group Bible studies, adult Sunday school, and involvement with church volunteerism. The only two religious behaviors surveyed not showing significant change were prayer and evangelism, which have remained stable for a decade. "The intriguing possibility," said company head George Barna, "is that this may herald a holistic, lasting commitment to engagement with God and the Christian faith." He added that such studies include "normal fluctuations," and he cautioned against drawing too many conclusions from a single survey.

Evangelical News/Barna Group via MissionNet

Algeria Forbids Conversion of Muslims

In an attempt to keep the practice of religion and politics separate, the North African country of Algeria passed new laws forbidding non-Muslims from seeking to convert Muslims to another religion. Mohamed Aissa, director of the ministry of religious affairs, said the March 20 legislation was prompted by the activities of Christian evangelical sects, particularly in the restive ethnic Berber Kabylie region. Algeria, reeling from more than 10 years of Islamist violence, is seeking to be "immunized against the use of religion, all religions, in Algeria as political tools to destabilize the country," said Aissa. Before this law passed there was no legal barrier to religious conversion in this country of 33 million people, almost exclusively Muslim. According to officials, less than 5,000 Christians, including expatriates, live in Algeria.

WorldWide Religious News via MissionNet

Ministry Focuses on Training Russ Pastors

As the Russian government puts pressure on foreign organizations, Slavic Gospel Association (SGA) continues to help the national church. One of the organization's programs is called the Antioch Initiative. SGA's Kyler Welch says staff members recruit churches in the U.S. to help train pastors and lay leaders in evangelism, leadership training and church planting. However, the benefits are mutual. "The American church is really strong in discipleship, but the Russian church is much stronger in evangelism, and so we're mutually encouraging each other," he said. The biggest concern is whether Americans will be allowed to travel to Russia as the government tightens its restrictions. "That's why our focus right now is on training," Welch explained. "If we're never allowed to go back, we'd like to train the pastors there so that they are stronger than when we came, and they can continue the training on their own without us." Welch was in Russia looking at three new potential Antioch sites.

Mission Network News

Nuns Fired for "Preaching Christ"

According to CNN-IBN, Catholic nuns will no longer be able to serve in an Indian-government-run leprosy hospital as the Gujarat government thinks that their services are required no longer. The reason the government cited for not renewing the contract of the nuns was that they were preaching Christianity among the patients. "It is a rumor and what people are falsely talking about, I did not believe it myself. I know it is in my agreement that I am not supposed to preach here and you can ask the patients to find out that I don't," Sister Karuna, former president of the hospital says.

The patients deny allegations made by the government towards the catholic nuns. They say the nuns have been thrown out on baseless charges. "We were never sermonised from the Bible and we were never made to convert to Christianity," Laganpat, patient of the leprosy hospital says. The issue has created a stir in the Christian community of Ahmedabad.

Religion Today Summaries

200,000 Christians in North Korea Prisons

Carl Moeller, president of the persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA, says an estimated 200,000 Christians are imprisoned in North Korean labor camps where many face torture and execution. The goal, he says, is to appeal for prayer and international pressure on the communist regime. Moeller calls North Korea "one large concentration camp with the entire population trapped in a nightmare that doesn't end." He urges American Christians in particular to pray for their fellow believers in North Korea.

AgapePress/Associated Press<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

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