Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Chinese Evangelist Escapes Government’s Watchful Eye
He was an active Christian leader for several years in a large Chinese city until 2004 – first in the state controlled Three Self Patriotic Movement church, then in an unregistered house church. After being monitored, chased and harassed, he finally tired of being on the run and is now an applicant for political asylum in a Western country. Even now, it is too dangerous to reveal his name. ‘Gao Wei’ was ministering to young people when a spiritual revival in 1999 saw many people come to Christ. This drew the attention of the Public Security Bureau (PSB) – which sent an undercover agent to Wei’s church who “stood out because his face was cold and without feeling compared to the entire congregation.” After this scare, Wei applied to study at seminaries overseas. But he found his mail was being monitored. He learned his name was on a government list. Eventually, in late 2004, Christian friends overseas learned of Wei’s plight and issued an official invitation to him to study overseas. He finally applied – very reluctantly – for political asylum overseas. “I love China, and I love the Chinese people. I still want to go home one day for family reasons. But I am still blacklisted, and I do not want to bring trouble to my family.”
As Killings Increase, Church Official Says All of Iraq Is in Danger
As killings increased in retribution for the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Iraq, the Rome-based representative of Baghdad's Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate said that "all of Iraq is in danger. It's not just about Sunni and Shiite, because they started three weeks ago on Christians," Father Philip Najim told Catholic News Service Feb. 23, referring to the near-simultaneous attacks in late January in Baghdad and Kirkuk, a northern Iraqi city, launched just as some Sunday services had ended. Father Najim said he believed the people behind the mid-February attacks "came from outside Iraq and they (coalition forces) are doing nothing about it." He said that as an Iraqi, he could assure people "100 percent that no Iraqi man would ever do this. Not a Sunni, not a Shiite." The people behind the mid-February attacks "want to create division and chaos. They want to stop the process of a new political situation" of democracy and peace, Father Najim said, adding that he did not understand what U.S. and British forces were doing to help keep order.
Pastor Beaten for ‘Forcible Conversion’ in Punjab, India
Accusing a pastor in the northern state of Punjab of “forcible conversion,” an Indian woman from Canada and three unidentified youths on February 8 beat the Christian leader so severely that he required hospital treatment. After discussing a land dispute in Khamachon village in Nawanshahr district, Surjeet Kaur slapped Balhar Singh, pastor of Doaba Punjabi Christian Sabha. She accused him of forcible conversions and ordered three youths who were with her to beat him. Police ultimately took Singh to a hospital, where he was treated for several bruises on his body and a deep cut on his face near the cheek bone.
Churches Asked to Help AIDS Orphans
Swaziland's National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS (NERCHA) today announced the inauguration of Young Heroes, a program through which Americans and others overseas can sponsor orphan families with monthly donations for food and clothing. With 42.6% of adults (age 15-49) infected, Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV in the world. UNICEF estimates that some 70,000 children in the country's population of one million have already lost at least one parent. NERCHA Director Dr. Derek von Wissell said, "Our greatest desire is to encourage young people with advantages to help their peers who have little or nothing.” A crucial goal of Young Heroes is to keep families together on their homesteads and in their communities, where they have the most security and are surrounded by a familiar support system. The Internet-based program can be found at http://youngheroes.org.sz.