March News

Ethnic Cleansing Continues in Sudan’s Oilfield

Sudanese government troops continued an "ethnic cleansing" offensive in the western Upper Nile oilfields by attacking five villages the morning of Thursday, Jan. 17, said Taban Deng Gai, a senior official with the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM). The village of Kual Kouny had been occupied by government forces, and the communities of Kermyang, Lienepra, Kerial and Thargena were strafed by two helicopter gunships and shelled with heavy artillery from the government garrison at Mankein. The offensive has resulted in more than 200,000 mostly-Christian refugees as people flee their homes. Gai added that Sudanese government troops attacked the village of Lare on Jan. 13 for the second time in two weeks. On both occasions, troops set fire to buildings, including the facilities of four relief agencies

Since the offensive began on Dec. 31, almost no emergency humanitarian aid has been delivered by the U.N. and various relief agencies. Refugees are surviving mainly on leaves, roots and berries.

Christian Solidarity International via HCJB World Radio

Report Shows Partial-Birth Abortions Increasing

Though the total number of abortions—and abortion providers—is down, the latest numbers from the the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute show the number of partial-birth abortions has more than tripled: from 650 in 1996 to 2,200 in 2002.

Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, thinks that even this new number is really much too low, because reporting was purely voluntary, and the limited resulting base was then extrapolated to the nation. He suspects that doctors who perform a large number of partial-birth abortions might be reluctant to report numbers that would only feed the controversy. “But at least they’re beginning to give some evidence of the scope of this practice,” Johnson said.

Based on a Family News in Focus report

Cuban House Churches Bulging With New Believers

Before 1991 the only church buildings legally permitted in Cuba were those built before the 1959 revolution. Since then, no new structures have been built. However, many churches have outgrown their buildings, and the only solution is to meet in private homes. These gatherings, known as “casas cultos” (worship houses) can now register with the government. However, permission is still needed to erect new buildings. Even if permission is given, there is no guarantee of safety. A pastor in northern Cuba says that some houses used for church meetings have been confiscated by the government on the pretext of a fault in the original paperwork. The houses are now used by the government with no compensation to the church members. Many Christians have missed out on higher education or employment because of their faith, yet the house church movement continues to grow.

Compass via HCJB World Radio

Food Crisis Adds to Tensions in North Korea

As tensions continue to mount in North Korea, the country is experiencing a growing food crisis, says Beth Allen of Food for the Hungry. “More than 20% of the population is in dire need of food aid this year,” she says. “The political situation there, combined with some really bad weather conditions—drought and even flooding in the last couple of years—has left people in the population vulnerable. We’re particularly concerned about children and the elderly.” Allen says getting humanitarian aid into North Korea is a challenge, but one that can be met by the love of Christ. “These are people who are absolutely powerless in the world. They have absolutely nothing to do with the policies of their government, and those are the kinds of people that we particularly want to help.”

Mission Network News via HCJB World Radio

Belarus Permission Required for Mini “Mass” Meetings

Despite assertions by the Belarus government’s Committee for Religious and Ethnic Affairs that a “mass” religious meeting requiring state approval is one with at least 100 people, a senior official has declared that if more than 10 people gather for a religious meeting without official permission they would be committing a crime, Keston News Service reported.  A Belarus’ senior religious affairs official made the assertion to leaders of religious communities registered in the Frunze District of Minsk during a meeting organized by the local administration to explain the new provisions of the nation’s controversial amended religion law, which entered into force on Nov. 16. The official told the religious leaders that from now on all religious meetings in private homes require prior permission from the local administration. She said private homes are not places designated for holding religious meetings and therefore such permission is obligatory.

Baptist Press via Religion Today Summaries

Persecution in North Korea Horrific

Some 100,000 Christians are suffering as political prisoners, according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW). The report featured testimonies from escaped prisoners, defecting guards, and starving economic migrants who described horrific, inhumane conditions in prison camps and chronicled stories of escapes. A severe famine has gripped North Korea since 1994. Because of the food shortages, many North Koreans flee to China, but authorities from both countries track down refugees in the border area. When they are caught, they are deported back to North Korea, and those who have been in contact with Christians are forced to renounce Christianity and worship communist dictator Kim Il Sung, Open Doors said. “The treatment of prisoners in North Korea represents one of the worst abuses of human rights we have ever documented,” said Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, which recently conducted interviews with 50 North Koreans in four different countries.

Charisma News via Religion Today Summaries

Repair Record May Date to Solomon’s Temple

 Israeli geologists report they have examined a stone tablet detailing repair plans for the Jewish Temple of King Solomon. If authenticated, the tablet would be a rare piece of physical evidence confirming biblical narrative. The tablet is about the size of a legal pad, with a 15-line inscription in ancient Hebrew that strongly resembles descriptions in the Bible’s Book of Kings.

The Israeli daily Haaretz quoted an unidentified source as saying it was uncovered in recent years, during renovations carried out by the Muslim administrators of the Temple Mount. Muslim clerics insist, despite overwhelming archaeological evidence, that no Jewish shrine ever stood at the site. The tablet could strengthen Jewish claims to the holy site.

However, confirming its authenticity may be difficult, as it apparently passed through several hands before reaching a major antiquities collector in Jerusalem, Haaretz said. The collector, who wished to remain anonymous, took the stone to Israel’s Geological Institute, whose experts studied it over the past year. “Our findings show that it is authentic,” said Shimon Ilani, who performed geological tests on the inscription. Carbon dating confirms the writing goes back to the 9th century B.C., he said.

Gabriel Barkai, a biblical archaeologist, said the inscription’s resemblance to biblical passages “has far-reaching implications of the historical importance of the biblical text.”

Based on an Associated Press report via CNN.com

Vietnamese Spray Poison Gas on Tribal Believers

Vietnamese police used noxious gas to break up a Christian worship gathering attended by 40 Hmong people in the Dien Bien Dong district of northern Vietnam on Sunday, Dec. 29. “Police discovered the meeting, so they came to stop it by spraying noxious gas on these Christians,” said a confidential source. “Now 20 Christians are in hospital; five of them seem to be unable to recover as they are in serious convulsions.” Many of the Hmong believers came to Christ as a result of broadcasts from Far East Broadcasting Co. “Since they believed Jesus, they have been under constant intimidation and oppression from the government,” the source said. FEBC President Jim Bowman urged all Christians to “join us in praying  for the Hmong people, and also contact your local government  representatives and request investigations to be made into these unconscionable acts of brutality.”

Vietnamese authorities have also executed 3 Montagnard believers from Buon Gram Village in the central highlands, for participating in “anti-government activities” in February, 2001.

Assist News Service via HCJB World Radio

N.Y. Catholic Bishops Sue Over Birth-control Law

Roman Catholic leaders in New York have sued the state over a new law that would require employer-provided health insurance plans to provide coverage for birth control. The state’s Catholic bishops sued state officials Dec. 30, attempting to invalidate the law. The bishops said the law would force Catholic organizations that provide health insurance to their employees to violate church teachings. The Catholic Church has explicitly forbidden its members to use any artificial form of birth control. Some Protestant groups joined the bishops in their opposition to the law.

Associated Baptist Press via Religion Today Summaries

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