Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Laotian Missionary Murdered after Christmas Service
Missionary Aroun Warapong, who served the Lord in his native Laos for years, was found murdered on December 23. No one has yet been charged with the crime. According to reports, Warapong went missing on December 22 after leading a Christmas service. He left after the service to return to his home village Christmas with his family, but he never made it home that night. Warapong's family members began a search for him that culminated tragically the next day, when they found his body abandoned in a creek, his throat slashed and his chest stabbed. "His face was all bruised and beaten and left dead," one witness reported. It is not known whether or not the murder was religiously motivated. While many parts of Laos have been experiencing increased religious freedom in recent months, other more isolated areas remain dangerous for Christian workers. Warapong had experienced some of this danger first-hand about two years ago, when he was arrested and imprisoned for over a year because of his outspoken faith. After his release, he continued preaching the gospel despite many threats against him. "Now," writes one of Warapong's former coworkers, "he is with the Savior and has finished his race strongly and faithfully."
Christmas Day Service Attacked by Mob in Sri Lanka
Christian Solidarity Worldwide
On Christmas Day, a mob of about 30 people accosted members of the King's Revival Church in Alawwa, Kurunegala District, west central Sri Lanka. They threatened the pastor and warned the congregation not to attend the service. They told the pastor not to hold a Christmas service and warned they would attack again on New Year's Eve. Many worshippers fled in fear, according to a report. Those who continued on their way to church were beaten up. One man and three women were injured, and the man was taken to hospital for treatment. One of the women was pregnant. The incident was reported twice to the local police, on December 25 and December 28, but no action was taken to apprehend the attackers until December 29 when the police finally detained some people for questioning. CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: "We are most disturbed that this Christian community has been unable to celebrate Christmas in peace. We would urge the Sri Lankan Government at all levels to be proactive in ensuring protection for Christians, equal rights and freedom of religion for all. We urge the authorities to bring the perpetrators of violence to justice, and to do everything possible to eliminate extremism and intolerance."
Bible's History Explored
Written, assembled and translated over many centuries, the Holy Bible is the most printed and most read book in human history, influencing everything from art and music to politics and pop culture. Regardless of whether its first scribes were touched by a divine hand as Christians believe, the Bible's evolution from ancient Hebrew text to the English language is a rich lesson in the history of civilizations, origins of the written word and the revolution of printing. The tale is recounted in an exhibition opening at the Florida International Museum on Jan. 13 that boasts artifacts as rare and priceless as they come, among them bits of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a fragment of the Gospel of John dating to about 250 A.D., a 1455 Gutenberg Bible and a first edition of the King James version from 1611. William H. Noah, founder and curator of the exhibit, isn't a biblical scholar but a pulmonary physician who lives near Nashville, Tenn. He said his personal interest in the history of the sacred text led him to study it and begin to assemble a collection that opened in Tennessee a year ago called Ink & Blood: Dead Sea Scrolls to the English Bible. "You get all these extreme views [of the Bible] from different groups, Dr. Noah said, “and as I started to research this, I found that the real academic view was an incredible story." Dr. Noah said the focus of the 8,500-square-foot exhibit is more historical than religious, tracing the evolution of the Bible from pictograph writings on clay tablets 5,000 years ago to finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Ministry in a Tropical Paradise
Gospel for Asia
Known for their coral reefs, lush forestland and translucent waters, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have been called a tropical paradise. Officially part of India, this little-known "paradise" lies more than 600 miles off its east coast, in the Bay of Bengal. About 350,000 people call the island chain home—inhabiting less than 40 of its 500-plus islands—but only about a fourth call themselves Christian. Sixty-four percent of the population is Hindu; and the Muslims (8.6 percent), Sikhs and Buddhists need to be reached as well. That's why Gospel for Asia missionaries Vincent and Sunil are daily following God's call to reach precious souls tucked away in this remote area of the world. They work among a diverse population, with its own unique ministry challenges. The majority of the population immigrated to the islands from the mainland and have no common language. Others descend from the islands' original inhabitants — nomadic tribal groups who moved from island to island. Even today, a few resist contact from the outside world. And reaching them with the Gospel is made even more difficult. The government requires anyone traveling to the islands to get a special permit, and the rainy season brings heavy mud and power outages. But today, as Vincent and Sunil continue to carry out their God-given calling in these tucked-away islands, they are finding hearts receptive to the Gospel. To date they have planted at least two Believers Churches and 18 fellowship groups.