News September 2002

#[Sudan's Civil War Reaching Critical Point]# There are fears that Sudan’s civil war has recently reached its deadliest phase. Civilian targets were hit early in July by the Khartoum government, resulting in more casualties. The conditions have deteriorated to the point that human rights groups despair of security. Voice of the Martyrs’ Todd Nettleton said: “We’re very concerned about the situation in south Sudan, particularly for the Christians there and for our workers, and other aid workers who are there. The situation right now is extremely unstable, and, in spite of all the good talk that we’ve heard from the government in northern Sudan, good action has not followed.” Nettleton said that despite the danger, they have not abandoned their project. “I think we definitely still choose to stand with the Christians in south Sudan who are being persecuted for their faith. Some of the changes we’ve made will enable us to stay focused on the Christians who are persecuted. Some of the things that we were formerly doing, we have turned over to the Sudanese people,” he added. Mission Network News via Religion Today Summaries #[Christian Mass Media Reaches Adults in Surprising Numbers]# More adults experience the Christian faith through Christian mass media than by attending churches, according to a new study by the Barna Research Group. The survey found that 63% of American adults attended a church service during the previous month, while 67% of Americans tuned in to Christian radio or television or read a Christian book other than the Bible. Slightly more than half the nation’s adults said they had tuned in to a Christian radio program during the previous month. Also, the Christian music genre is one of the fastest-growing categories in the music industry during the past two years, according to researchers. Forty-three percent of respondents said they had watched some Christian programming on TV during the previous month, and 33% said they read a Christian book other than the Bible during the previous month. Researchers were surprised to learn that 44% of Americans who are associated with a non-Christian faith had contact with Christian media in the prior month. One-third of those who described themselves as either “atheist” or “agnostic” admitted to listening, watching, or reading something related to the Christian faith. Researcher George Barna observed that large numbers of the atheists, agnostics, and adults aligned with non-Christian faiths intentionally absorb information from the Christian media in an effort to learn more about the faith. Baptist Press via Religion Today Summaries #[Faith and Giving Linked]# Americans are a generous bunch, and a new study shows again that religious Americans tend to be the most generous sector of our society. The report, prepared by the non-profit research organization Independent Sector and the National Council of Churches, shows that Americans who gave to both religious groups and secular causes in 2000 gave more than three times as much (about $2,200 each) as did those who contributed only to secular groups (about $620 apiece). Interestingly, 52% of the 4,000 households surveyed gave to both religions congregations and secular groups, yet they accounted for 81% of all donations. The findings echo those of studies over the past few decades, NCC officials said. Robert W. Edgar, general secretary for the NCC and board member of Independent Sector, made a common-sense connection between faith and giving: “In our traditions, we learn the concept of stewardship, philanthropy, and giving. In our houses of worship, we hear over and over again that it is ‘more blessed to give than to receive.’” Those words bear repeating—often. Chattanooga Times Free Press #[Churches Plan Sept. 11 Remembrance Services]# Thousands of churches across the country are planning to hold special remembrance services to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Partners with Mission America, a coalition of denominations and Christian ministries, are providing resources for pastors planning to hold services. “There are some things only the church can provide in times of crisis,” said Glenn Barth, the coalition’s national facilitator of city and community ministries. “The news media can tell us what happened. Emergency workers can tell us what is being done in response. But only the church can share a word of hope and call a community to prayer, action and reliance on God.” See “911 remembrance” at . Meanwhile, the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board (NAMB) has announced an array of resources developed for church use on either Sunday, Sept. 8, or on the actual night of the anniversary—Wednesday, Sept. 11. A special Website titled “Hope Remembering 9-11” has been established at www.namb.net/911 where the resources can be downloaded or ordered. A central resource from NAMB is a video available in VHS or DVD formats that a church can feature in the observance. It provides a firsthand look at the activity of God through his people in the aftermath of Sept. 11. The video can be ordered by sending an email request to essentials@namb.net or by calling 1-800-634-2462 and selecting option two. The cost is $7.50 for the VHS version or $10 for the DVD. John Yarbrough stressed that the video must be ordered no later than Aug. 19 to ensure delivery in time for 9/11. Other resources offered include a downloadable document on the “Hope: Remembering 9-11” service that provides an extensive list of additional ideas and service elements; sermon outlines and other ideas that can serve as a resource for pastors planning a remembrance service; and a list of prayer needs for individuals in New York impacted by the event as well as a link to the www.praynewyork.com Website. Charisma News Service and Baptist Press #[Indonesian Christians Brace for Renewed Attacks]# Christian Aid Mission reports that Indonesian police searches in the village of Garua near Tobelo, a predominantly Christian city in North Maluku Province, reveal that Muslims are caching arms and munitions and a renewed attack against Christians in the region is feared. According to Christian Aid’s contact in the region, police searches on July 9 disclosed weapons, bombs, grenades or rifles in nearly every home in the Muslim sector of the community. None were found in the Christian community. Police arrested three Muslims from Ternate Island, who are still being held. The same day the East Java military unit Brawijaya 512 moved into Garua to secure the area. Three days later the town of Garua had become the launching site for a renewed jihad attack against the Christian community. At 6 a.m. on July 11 attackers came simultaneously from the east and west, destroying five homes and severely damaging three others in Garua. One refugee barrack was destroyed, two kiosks were damaged, and a number of other places were looted before the police and military from Tobelo were able to squash the attack. After the attack was quelled, police and military from Tobelo conducted a new search and discovered that in just three days the Muslim residents had been able to rearm themselves. Late afternoon reports stated that 20 fishing vessels carrying jihad fighters had been sighted traveling north along the coast of Halmahera Island towards Tobelo, prompting a state of high alert. Christian Aid via Mission Net #[Millions of Southeast Africans May Starve]# Millions of people in Southeast Africa are at risk of starving if something isn’t done soon. World Concern’s Kelly Miller says the people of Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Angola are most at risk. “To date there are upwards of 13 million people at risk of not having enough food to eat. It’s not a potential situation,” said Miller. “It is already a phenomenally huge crisis ... one that needs immediate response today, tomorrow, and weeks and months to come to avert a lot of death and help get people back on their feet.” According to Miller, relief coupled with the gospel is the key to seeing many people turn to Christ. “Communicating the truth of the gospel obviously is needed, but if somebody is not alive, it doesn’t do them a whole lot of good, so the physical care is a complete reflection of Christ and the love of God.” Mission Network News #[Court Approves Man's Access to Women's Restroom]# A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld a lower court’s decision that a man who dressed as a woman while at work at as a school librarian at Southwest High School in Minneapolis, Minn., was entitled to use the school’s female toilet facilities. David Nielsen, now retired, came to the school in 1998, but called himself Debra Davis and dressed as a woman. When he demanded access to female facilities, the school went along, even allowing him into the student female restrooms, though he was asked not to use them. Carla Cruzan, a teacher at the school, sued. “I had to stand up against this. This was so very, very wrong,” Cruzan said of her losing effort. #/Based on a report from Citizen Link/#