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Religion Today Summaries - February 23, 2005

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - February 23, 2005

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world. In today's edition:

  • Thailand: Neglected Village Reached with Tsunami Aid

  • Retired Pentecostal Pastor Seeks to Plant 1,000 Churches in Ethiopia 

  • Colombia: Two Churches Closed Following Guerrilla Threats

  • Indian Evangelist's Battered Body Found in Karnataka 

Thailand: Neglected Village Reached with Tsunami Aid
Christian Aid Mission

A month after the tsunami disaster, certain remote villages of southern Thailand had yet to receive any relief. A group of native missionaries were the first to bring supplies to one village on the southern coast that had had no aid from either the government or a relief agency since the December disaster. At the end of January, gospel workers learned of an isolated fishing village that had reportedly been overlooked in the distribution of aid. They immediately gathered supplies and drove the two hours from their location to the village, where they found that over 70 families had been living with nothing for four weeks. Missionaries write that the village leader and all families greeted the team with open arms and thanked them over and over for the truckload of food and building supplies they brought. The villagers had been trying to survive and clean up on their own but were literally going hungry and beginning to despair. They were so grateful for the missionary team's outreach that they asked the believers outright to plant a church in the area. With up to 20 people coming to Christ every day through their efforts, establishing churches in these regions is a natural next step. They plan to continue their relief work in these areas for years to come, helping communities rebuild physically and spiritually.

Retired Pentecostal Pastor Seeks to Plant 1,000 Churches in Ethiopia
Charisma News Service

A retired American Pentecostal pastor is leading a campaign to plant 1,000 churches in Ethiopia. Nearly two years ago, Charles Blair, who spent more than 50 years as founding pastor of Calvary Temple in Denver, an Assembly of God congregation, before he retired in 1998, launched the Ethiopian Call, which seeks to raise enough money to plant churches in Benishangul-Gumuz. Located in western Ethiopia near the Sudan border, Benishangul-Gumuz has a population of 600,000. So far, Blair says, enough money has been raised to sponsor 649 churches. He hopes North American Christians will support the Ethopian church "and trigger a ripple effect that will be felt throughout all Ethiopia." "We believe God's going to give us the nation," Blair told Charisma magazine. Blair has been working in Ethiopia since the early 1990s, when communism fell in the east African nation. At the invitation of the Evangelical Churches Fellowship of Ethiopia, a consortium of more than 20 denominations, Blair began training promising young leaders to evangelize their nation and plant churches in remote villages. Blair's organization reports that some 60,000 Ethiopians have converted to Christianity through their efforts. Yaregal Aysheshim, president of Benishangul-Gumuz, said he noticed a marked difference in the villages in his region: crime was down, the AIDS infection rate had dropped and alcoholism had decreased, Blair recalled.

Colombia: Two Churches Closed Following Guerrilla Threats
Christian Aid Mission

Native missionaries working in remote jungle areas face the constant threat of violence and extortion from Colombia's powerful guerrilla groups. Recently, two local churches supported by Christian Aid were forced to close. Pastors and many church members had to flee the villages where these churches are located following threats and pressure from guerrilla fighters. The fighters, in their efforts to exert total control over the region, were targeting evangelical believers in part because of the effect their gospel was having on fellow guerrillas: those led to the Lord were laying down their weapons and refusing to fight. In the two villages mentioned, they have forbidden evangelical church services to take place and are not allowing any person to travel for missionary purposes. Many Christians throughout rural Colombia face such situations. Traveling to preach the gospel or attend a training meeting is extremely difficult. One missionary writes, "Guerrilla people have constantly threatened us, and many times we have had to obey their commands." These commands include demanding large sums of money from churches at random, as well as a fee at wantonly placed checkpoints along jungle roads. During the course of Colombia's decades-old internal conflict, dozens of pastors have been kidnapped and held for ransom, a common guerrilla method of generating income. Some Christians in rural areas have been killed for being alleged "government spies."

Indian Evangelist's Battered Body Found in Karnataka 
Compass Direct

On February 11, the body of 25-year-old Christian evangelist Pastor Narayan was found in the small town of Channapatana in Karnataka state, India. Doctors who performed an autopsy said Narayan had been brutally murdered -- the corpse had broken ribs and teeth and injuries to the abdomen. However, "the official report of the autopsy suggested it was a case of suicide," Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians told Compass. George suspects Hindu extremists were responsible for Narayan's death and that their sympathizers are engaged in a cover-up. A fact-finding mission to the district revealed that attacks on minority Christians have been going on for years and several churches have been destroyed. George has demanded that the government conduct an official inquiry through the Central Bureau of Investigation.