LISTEN: Ghana’s Fervent Embrace of the Christian Faith Puts West Africa at Heart of Global Christianity; Protestant Churches of Egypt Condemn ISIS’ ‘Terrorist Acts of Murder’ Against Christians (BCNN1, 3/2/2017)

This is the Black Christian News Network Podcast for Thursday, March 2, 2017.

1. According to Reuters, Ghana is embracing the Christian faith with a fervor that is increasingly shaping its national identity. The country is central to a wave that puts West Africa at the heart of global Christianity, said professor Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu of Trinity Theological Seminary in Accra. More than 70 percent of Ghana’s 26 million people are Christian. The statistics understate the fervency of everyday faith. Many attend church on weeknights. All-night prayer vigils are common and billboards advertising Christian meetings line the streets. Some 41 percent of the world’s 560 million Protestants live in Africa and it could rise to 53 percent by 2050, said an article this year in the International Bulletin of Mission Research. Muslims are a minority in Ghana.

2. According to Christian Today, churches in Egypt are continuing to respond to the hundreds of Coptic Christians who have been displaced from their homes by the threat of ISIS’ brutal crusade against the faith community. Hundreds have fled El-Arish, a coastal city in Northern Sinai, Egypt following threats and attacks from violent jihadists. First hand accounts from displaced Copts report death threats and violent killings from ISIS militants. The Protestant Churches of Egypt released a statement in which they announced that they ‘condemn the terrorist acts of murder and displacement that occurred recently in the North Sinai, targeting citizens—especially Christians—in Arish and other neighboring cities’.

3. According to the Baptist Standard, churches in Waco are planning The Gathering, a community-wide multi-denominational worship service on Palm Sunday evening, April 9, in Baylor University’s McLane Stadium. The Gathering will echo a similar event held in 2015, which attracted 35,000 people to the stadium for prayer, worship and collection of 19,000 tons of canned food for needy families and individuals. John Durham, pastor of Highland Baptist Church in Waco and lead administrator for the event, predicted the 2017 edition of The Gathering is expected to attract the same-sized crowd and generate “the same enthusiasm.” Miles McPherson, a former star with the San Diego Chargers football team and pastor of 15,000-member Rock Church in San Diego, will be the keynote preacher.

4. According to Politico, Barack Obama is getting closer to making his public reappearance in politics, his friend and former Attorney General Eric Holder said on Tuesday. Holder said he’s been talking to the former president about ways — including fundraising and interacting with state legislators — that could help the new National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which Obama asked Holder to chair last year. Speaking to reporters at a briefing for the new group, Holder said, “It’s coming. He’s coming. And he’s ready to roll.”

5. According to Liberty University News Service, NBA superstar Stephen Curry visited Liberty University’s Vines Center on Wednesday to do something bigger than score points in a hoop. He joined Liberty students in an effort to collect 20,000 pairs of shoes for the needy in Africa as part of a Kick’n It for a Cause humanitarian partnership. Students were encouraged to bring a new or gently used pair of sneakers to Convocation to be shipped to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Curry was welcomed to Liberty’s stage by President Jerry Falwell, who boldly compared him to NBA legend Michael Jordan. Steph Curry, his mother Sonya Curry, and Kick’n It founder Chris Strachan sat down for an interview with Flames Head Men’s Basketball Coach Ritchie McKay and Senior Vice President for Spiritual Development David Nasser. Among other things, Steph encouraged the crowd in their faith, saying, “The Lord has blessed me with these talents to do something special. But it is not about me. That is something that I want my career and my life to be a reflection of His love and His grace and mercy. Whether it is winning games, losing games, making shots, missing shots it is all about giving glory to God.”

6. According to ESPN, for the first time in his NFL career, quarterback Colin Kaepernick will be a free agent. Kaepernick is planning to opt out of the final season of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The league was notified in a letter sent to all teams by Kaepernick’s representation, Select Sports Group. Thursday is the first day Kaepernick can opt out, and he has until the new league year begins March 9 to do it. Kaepernick’s contract was originally supposed to keep him with the Niners through 2020, but the team worked with the 29-year-old to revamp it before he reclaimed the starting job in October.

7. Jay Z has reportedly secured another big-screen gig. According to Playbill, the Brooklyn MC will serve as a co-producer for the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s play In the Heights. Harvey Weinstein reportedly announced the news at a pre-Oscars party on Sunday (Feb. 26). Last September, Jay Z joined forces with the Weinstein Company for the upcoming Spike TV docuseries TIME: The Kalief Browder Story. In the Heights was a 2008 Broadway musical that earned a Tony Award for its story about Latino characters growing up in New York City’s Washington Heights. The eclectic film, reportedly directed by Jon M. Chu, is said to feature hip-hop, salsa and merengue, with the screenplay penned by Quiara Alegría Hudes.