News

Refugees Flee Sudan's Darfur Region as Death Toll Reaches 180,000

The full horror of Sudan's violent genocide is still becoming known. An estimated 2 million refugees have fled in an effort to escape violence, starvation, and death. The United Nations estimates that at least 180,000 people have died in non-conflict deaths in western Sudan's Darfur region in the past 18 months. "The world needs to come to grips with the intensity of the death toll...as many as 10,000 people a month are dying of malnutrition and starvation," said Ben Homan, president of Food for the Hungry. The agency's focus is to provide humanitarian aid while sharing the gospel. "We need to be thinking strategically about how we preserve life, and how we gain a day when we'll be able to sit down with people and hear their hearts and share our love for Christ," he said.

Brad Phillips, spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs and its partner, Persecution Project Foundation, says Muslims from Darfur are "fleeing other Muslims who are persecuting them on behalf of the government and are coming into southern Sudan, and it's Christians who are ministering to them. As a result, many of them are coming to Christ. What's exciting is to see some cultures that are traditionally closed off to the gospel now having the opportunity to receive the Word of God in the context of their situation," Phillips said.

Mission Network News

U.S. Teens' Faith Termed Shallow

A new survey finds while many American teens are "religiously active," few are well-educated in their faith—resulting in a shallow religiosity. The four-year National Study of Youth and Religion was conducted by 133 researchers and consultants led by sociology professor Chris Smith of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. A third of the teenagers said they were consistently involved in religious organizations and practices. Another third said they were "somewhat" involved. However, Smith said that religiosity tends to be shallow. "A lot of Christian teens really had not much at all to say about who Jesus was, what grace was," the researcher said. Even though they said they believe in God and that faith is important, they have a hard time explaining what they believe and how faith makes any difference in their life. Smith describes many teens' religious knowledge as "meager, nebulous, and often fallacious." Smith urged parents to use their leadership role to train their children in God's Word.

Religion Today/AgapePress via MissionNet

Editor's note: But see the following news item.

12,000-plus Teens Attend Youth Evangelism Meet

More than 12,000 teens descended on Middle Tennessee State University's Murphy Center March 4-5 for the Tennessee Baptist Convention's Youth Evangelism Conference, with 1,570 of them making spiritual commitments. It was the conference's largest response to a decision time in the past seven years.

Youth evangelist Tony Nolan from Woodstock, Ga., who addressed the conference's two main sessions, said some of the students are "just gaming with God. But it's not a game." Teens might be afraid of death, which is the top fear of Americans, Nolan said, but more importantly, the question is: Are they prepared for death? God will judge their lives after death, Nolan said. It's like "the ultimate report card day," he told the young people, when God will "evaluate the condition of your heart."

 Students of another faith who believe they serve the true God strap bombs to themselves and die for their god, Nolan noted. Yet Christians "won't go out and spread life. Go back to your campus and go back with a passion, a passion for the Word of God," he exhorted. "Share the message of Jesus."

Baptist Press

Pressure Builds on Native Missionaries in North India

The leader of an indigenous mission in the northern Himalaya regions of India writes that his missionaries have been experiencing heightened persecution and threats on a scale surprising even for North India. One missionary working in a rural village was warned by members of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Hindu nationalist organization) to leave the village and stop missionary work or they would harm him and kidnap his wife. The missionary, who has been married to his wife for only three months, was determined to remain at his post but, after receiving repeated threats on his wife's life, moved to another village for a few weeks to wait out the situation. Another gospel worker says that in the area where he is working, threats on his life have been increasing each day. He has not left the area and requests prayer. The leader of the ministry writes that reports of such threats are growing among missionaries in Himalaya regions: "After a period of calm the last year following the defeat of the BJP [Hindu nationalist political party], we have now started to see the dirty head of persecution again on the rise in some of our mission stations." He reports that the mission's headquarters building in Uttar Pradesh has been receiving threats from Hindu extremists.

Christian Aid Mission via Religion Today Summaries

Court Nixes Lawsuit Against Temple Univ.

A Philadelphia jury has ruled against a former student of Temple University who sued the school after administrators attempted to commit him to a mental hospital in 1999. Michael Marcavage opposed the campus presentation of the controversial play Corpus Christi, which portrays Christ as a homosexual. He approached Temple officials about his opposition to the play, but they tried to have him forcibly committed for treatment. Marcavage sued the school, claiming officials violated his constitutional rights. Steve Crampton, chief counsel for the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy, which represented Marcavage, claimed the judge prevented the jury from hearing both sides of the story. "They had the story from the defendants [William Bergman and Carl Bittenbender, the vice president and the head of campus security, respectively], but they don't get the rest of the story," Crampton said. "They don't get Michael's version, which includes the doctors who said he was perfectly normal when he arrived at the hospital—basically indicating that there was no legitimate reason to bring him in the first place." Crampton said the judge in the case basically rewrote Pennsylvania state law to protect Temple University. Crampton said he will appeal the jury's ruling.

Agape Press via Religion Today Summaries

Pro-Abortion "Theology" Course Is Planned

The Chicago Theological Seminary—working with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC)—is preparing to offer a course purporting to give scriptural support to abortion. The course, called "Theology and Reproductive Choice," reportedly is to focus on feminist theological perspectives, pastoral care, and philosophy and ethics. Parker Williamson of the Presbyterian Lay Committee called it nothing more than "an apologetic for abortion." "Calling it a theology is really a misnomer," Williamson said. "There's no Theos or God in it. God, for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, is nothing more than the imperial self. It's all about me. It's all about my choice."

Based on a report by Citizen Link citizenlink@FAMILY.org

Ukrainian Christians Upbeat After Election

Christians in Ukraine continue to be optimistic four months after voters elected President Victor Yushchenko, says Todd Marshall of Kiev-based CB International. In an interview with radio station WBNH, Marshall said the new president is doing more than giving "lip service" to religious freedom. "He has been working to eliminate the Ministry of Religion which has kept so many churches and ministries under its thumb for so many years. And when asked why, he said, The state has no business in the affairs of the church, and the church has one head and that is Jesus Christ the Lord.'" Marshall said these changes could have a historic spiritual impact on the country.

"What's happening in Ukraine now will affect the future of Eurasia as much as the Reformation affected Europe," he said. "The revolution was the easy part. Now the hard part is to work day by day and fight corruption in society and challenge believers to take their faith outside the walls of the church." Meanwhile, Ukrainian believers are ready to take advantage of their newfound religious freedom. CB International and a new Ukraine-based ministry, Gospel to the Nations, will work with local partners to help evangelize Central Asia and the Balkan region. SEND will provide training, encouragement and some start-up assistance for Gospel to the Nations. Gospel to the Nations expects to have candidates ready by January.

Mission Network News

Jesus Film Passes 20 Million Mark

Jesus is the most watched movie in history, translated into 888 languages, shown in 228 countries and viewed almost 6 billion times worldwide. Now, the JESUS Video Project America (JVPA), a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ International, was set to distribute its 20 millionth copy of the famous film—one for every six homes in America—during community-wide outreach projects Resurrection week, March 21-25. The ministry announced the 20 millionth copy would be distributed in Bozeman, MT, or Canfield, OH. For more information about JESUS Video Project America visit (www.jesusvideo.org).

ASSIST News Service via Religion Today Summaries

Burmese Tsunami Victims at Risk

Thousands of Burmese seek to escape the poverty and oppression of their native Myanmar by crossing the border into Thailand. Though they endure slave-like working conditions as illegal immigrants, they dread being caught and deported back to Myanmar. Now, added to these problems, many Burmese immigrants are struggling to recover from the tsunami disaster.

An estimated 3,000 Burmese living in southern Thailand were killed by the tsunami, and thousands more lost all they owned. In the wake of the tragedy, few Burmese have benefited from the outpouring of aid in their area, largely because they fear being caught by authorities and deported if they try to seek help. Refugees living in shacks around the corner from five-star hotel resorts are suffering; yet most are too afraid of deportation to look for lost loved ones or visit aid stations.

Christian Aid assists a Thailand mission with a special outreach to Burmese immigrants. After the tsunami, native missionaries responded immediately, delivering emergency aid to Burmese families, including medicines, temporary shelters, clothing, mosquito nets, and food. They are now turning to long-term help such as trauma counseling and replacing ID cards for those who lost them in the tsunami. As they give vital aid to an already suffering people, native gospel workers are showing the love of Christ to some of the most marginalized individuals in Thailand. They also share His love more directly through Bible study and prayer.

Missions Insider

Souper Bowl Tally Is at $3.7 Million

Food banks, soup kitchens, and hundreds of other charities are the big winners of the Souper Bowl of Caring as reports continued to come in. At one month after the big game, over 10,300 congregations and schools had reported raising over $3.7 million through what Miami Dolphins owner H. Wayne Huizenga calls "the most creative and straightforward effort (he's) ever seen."

"Once all of the reports are in, we expect to be over $4 million, which after the tsunami relief efforts, is quite an accomplishment for these young people," said Brad Smith, founder and executive director of the Souper Bowl of Caring.

Young people across the country collected one-dollar donations in large soup pots on or near Feb. 6, through the Souper Bowl of Caring. Each group donated their money directly to the charity of their choice—no money was sent to Souper Bowl of Caring headquarters. Organizers simply asked that groups report their collection amount so a national total can be determined. Groups that have not reported are encouraged to do so at www.souperbowl.org or by calling 800-358-SOUP. Since beginning in a single South Carolina church, the Souper Bowl of Caring has raised over $27 million for hungry and hurting people.

From a Business Wire news release

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