LISTEN: Urban Christian News Network Weekend Report #114

1. According to the New York Times, an oath of allegiance from Boko Haram, the Nigeria-based militant group, to the Islamic State on Saturday reinforces Western fears that the terrorist group is growing beyond its base in Iraq and Syria. These worries have prompted American and allied commandos to rush to train African counterterrorism troops to fight extremists on the continent. The expanding effort on the edge of the Sahara to fight militancies like Boko Haram comes as the group has kidnapped schoolgirls, slaughtered thousands of people, and now has expanded its attacks from Nigeria into Cameroon, Niger and Chad. More than any exercise in the past decade, this year’s training — three weeks of marksmanship, mock ambushes and patrols in harsh desert terrain — is bumping up against real-world operations. The Chadian capital is just 30 miles from militant-held territory in Nigeria, and Boko Haram has vowed revenge since Chad began cross-border attacks against the militants.

2. According to NBC News, Events commemorating the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” and the march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery continued on Sunday in the same place where civil rights activists paved the way for equal voting rights a half century ago. Sunday’s events kicked off with the Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King Unity Breakfast at Wallace Community College, which was followed by film screenings in the city. The city also honored President Lyndon Johnson, who signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act. His daughter, Luci Baines Johnson, accepted an award Sunday morning on his behalf. Crowds gathered to watch Sunday morning’s service at Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where the march to Montgomery began in 1965. Inside, speakers — including outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, Martin Luther King III and Jesse Jackson — expressed their optimism about steps the country has taken toward equality, but also said there was still work to be done.

3. According to CBN News, For the first time in history, the means are available to make the Gospel available to the whole world, putting the Bible into every language every person on the planet speaks. And the people who can make it happen have a passion to make it a reality in this generation. Mart Green, a member of the wealthy Green family that operates Hobby Lobby, said, “My passion is by 2033 that 95 percent of the world will have a whole Bible, 99.9 percent will have a New Testament, and 100 percent will have at least 25 chapters.” Bob Creson, president of Wycliffe Bible Translators U.S.A., told CBN News that putting the Scriptures into the world’s 6,900 languages is well on the way. Creson said, “About a third of those don’t need any work, about a third of those are underway, and about a third–around 1,800–don’t have one word of Scripture yet.”

4. According to the New York Times, President Obama said that he and other world leaders have offered Iran an “extraordinarily reasonable deal” that will test whether the leadership of the Islamic nation is serious about at last resolving the dispute over its nuclear program. Even as negotiators appear close to an agreement, Mr. Obama highlighted the challenge of what comes next: ensuring that any pact forged in Geneva can pass muster in Tehran, where Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, has expressed deep skepticism about a settlement with the outside world.

5. According to Reuters, Russian authorities on Sunday charged two Chechens with the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov and detained three others for questioning in his killing late last month within sight of the Kremlin. All five appeared in a Moscow court as officials continued their investigation of the February 27 shooting death of Nemtsov, a staunch foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was shot four times in the back as he walked across a bridge with his girlfriend. A judge ruled that all five should be held in custody and said that one of them had admitted his involvement in the killing when questioned by investigators.

6. According to the AP, Two bombs exploded on Sunday in Egypt’s Mediterranean city of Alexandria, one outside a popular supermarket chain and another near a police station, killing one person and wounding at least 9. The blasts are the latest in a bombing campaign blamed on Islamic militants who are targeting foreign and local economic and financial establishments. The campaign seems designed to undermine confidence in Egypt ahead of a major, three-day economic conference scheduled to open on Friday in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

7. According to the AP, Inmates in northern Afghanistan killed two police officers they had taken hostage on Sunday during a prison riot in which an inmate was also shot dead. The riot erupted during a search for cellphones, knives and other contraband. Five officers and 10 inmates were wounded in the melee.

8. According to USA Today, an interim report issued on the first anniversary of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 tragedy revealed that the locator beacon battery on the data recording black box had expired before it ever vanished shortly after leaving Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing. The Malaysian report, which shed little light on the Boeing 777’s disappearance, was released on Sunday as at least 30 relatives of the Chinese passengers on board gathered at a Beijing temple to mark the anniversary. Holding signs and white t-shirts saying “search on” and demanding “the truth,” the relatives said they wanted to commemorate the day, pray for their loved ones’ safe return and maintain pressure for more information from Malaysian authorities, who they believe are concealing information.

9. According to the New York Daily News, The ISIS assassin known as Jihadi John has apologized to his family members who are now under 24-hour security after his identity was revealed. Mohammed Emwazi was unmasked as the brutal killer who has beheaded several hostages in gory videos released by the Islamic State. The revelation caused his family to flee from London to Kuwait. The 26-year-old former computer programmer has sent word to his family through a third party. His message included regret for the “problems and trouble the revelation of his identity has caused.” But Jihadi John did not express regret for his brutal acts of violence even after his father publicly condemned him.

10. According to Variety, Octavia Spencer is in final negotiations to play God in Lionsgate’s adaptation of the bestselling novel “The Shack.” Stuart Hazeldine is directing the film, with Gil Netter producing through Netter Productions along with Brad Cummings. Production is set to start this spring. Based on the William P. Young novel published in 2007, the story follows a man whose youngest daughter is abducted during a family vacation, with evidence found in an abandoned shack leading authorities to believe she was murdered. Four years later, the man receives a note, apparently from God, inviting him back to the shack and, against his better judgment, he accepts the invitation and finds something there that will change his life forever. The book adaptation would be a major project for Lionsgate, which acquired it in 2013, as it has sold more than than 18 million copies worldwide in 39 languages, with 10 million in the U.S.

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