PODCAST: Religious freedom and human rights in Sudan (Whyte House Report 7.16.20)

According to Mission Network News, A new dawn has come for religious freedom and human rights in Sudan. The government passed several laws that got rid of the country’s apostasy law, allow non-Muslims to drink alcohol, and criminalize female genital mutilation. The laws repeal other oppressive systems as well. Women no longer need the permission of a husband to travel with children, and public flogging has been outlawed. The apostasy law, introduced in 1991, prescribed stoning for anyone who rejected Islam. Daniel Hoffman of Middle East Concern says, “The government has announced, in a sense, that this is not the final step. This is a step in the changes that they’re seeking to bring to the country. They expect there will be further changes to get rid of old legislation from the previous regime that violates human rights. And [they plan] to bring more positive change in that area in the future as well.” Of course, not everyone is happy about these changes. Muslim clerics have criticized the changes, and some have called for a new revolt. But Hoffman doesn’t think there is any danger of these new laws being repealed.

According to Mission Network News, In Iraq, things are looking particularly grim – reported COVID-19 cases have spiked 600% through the month of June. Samuel of Redemptive Stories says, “We are seeing thousands of cases every day that are even reported. I was just talking with a partner there who states that in Baghdad in particular, the number of cases continues to skyrocket. The local government has told them, ‘Don’t even come to the hospital, we can’t care for you. All of our ventilators are maxed out and that we don’t have enough capacity to even assist you.’” Samuel says partners he works with have seen the virus in their own families and churches. The government has tried to slow the spread through a series of lockdowns, but it hasn’t worked. The church in Iraq continues to serve Christ and spread the good news that he had risen from the dead. Samuel says that during a discussion with one partner, “He just met with a young believer from a Shia background that has come to faith. [We’ve seen] story after story like that.” Redemptive Stories continues to train Christians in Iraq on how to use social media for effective ministry. Samuel says, “Even in the midst of their own illnesses and sicknesses, they’ve stuck with this and are completing the training and are excited to implement this.”

According to Christian Post, There’s been a nearly 90% reduction in the number of Christian refugees being resettled to the United States from countries where churches face the greatest persecution since 2015, according to two leading evangelical humanitarian organizations. Open Doors USA, a watchdog group that monitors the persecution of Christians in over 60 countries, teamed up with the refugee resettlement agency World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, to release a new report Friday. The 16-page report, titled “Closed Doors,” is critical of policies that have drastically reduced refugee resettlement to the U.S. in recent years and others that have made it increasingly difficult for persecuted individuals and families to seek asylum. “There have been many recent changes regarding refugee resettlement and asylum law that has effectively shut the door on many of the refugees from being able to access protection in the United States of America,” World Relief Vice President of Advocacy and Policy Jenny Yang told reporters on a press call Friday. “As organizations that are working to help those that are fleeing religious persecution, particularly Christians, we feel like it is of the utmost importance that the … U.S. keeps its doors open.” The report includes testimonies from persecuted Christians as well as data comparing the numbers of refugees resettled during the final years of the Obama administration to the drastically decreased numbers resettled under President Donald Trump.

According to Mission Network News, Last month, North Korea demanded that South Korea stop all cross-border balloon launches. Two weeks later, South Korea officially banned all attempts to send material into North Korea. See our full coverage here. Voice of the Martyrs Korea is the only group sending Bibles – not political flyers – across the border, but officials don’t seem to care. “For 15 years, we’ve had a very respectful and cooperative relationship with authorities at all levels: police, military, and intelligence. That seems to have changed this year. The governor of Gyeonggi province, Governor Lee, has called for my immediate arrest, conviction, and deportation,” VOM Korea’s Eric Foley says. There’s more to this issue than meets the eye. “Balloon launching is the tip of a much deeper iceberg,” Foley adds. “The issue is the legitimacy of private ministry activity that’s conducted independently of the government in a responsible fashion. Those rights are, at the moment, in jeopardy. It’s dangerous to shift away and risk religious freedom, and the freedom of speech, to pacify North Korea – which, historically, has not been an easy proposition,” he notes. “Those freedoms are hard-won, but easily and quickly lost. We’ve seen that happen in a matter of three weeks in our country.

According to Mission Network News, How do we remember history well? It’s a question on the hearts and minds of many in the wake of political discussions and challenges. What history is worth remembering? Are there stories that should be left in the past? Where can we be inspired, and where do we need to learn from our mistakes? International Media Ministries already has some experience learning to remember history well. Their Heritage Project chronicles the lives and stories of early Christians. The docudrama video series tells the stories of Cyprian, Tertullian, Perpetua, and other early believers, especially those from North Africa. For the most part, Christian history in North Africa has been forgotten or discarded. “We can… see things that could be significant to our future if we examine what has occurred in the past,” says Denise Godwin of International Media Ministries. “It’s really intriguing when you start digging into the past to recognize how history of course repeats itself and how much we can learn from that.” It’s not just about avoiding mistakes of the past; Godwin says we can find hope in stories of God’s persistent support and working plan. Even the most painful experiences often yielded spiritually amazing results.

According to CBN News, The Barna Group released a new survey looking at the changes among church attendance after the COVID-19 pandemic grew in the U.S. The result: Research has revealed that 1 in 3 practicing Christians has stopped attending church services. Amid the pandemic, churches were forced to shut their doors and begin streaming Sunday services online. The switchover was well-received by some but unpopular with others. The poll conducted last week by the research firm found:
—35% are still attending their pre-COVID church.
—32% are no longer attending church.
—14% have switched to a new church.
—And 18% are watching worship services from different churches each month.
Barna’s research showed a pattern between the different generations of practicing Christians who attend church online.
—50% of Millennials have stopped attending church.
—17% of Generation X attend a new church.
—40% of Baby Boomers stayed at the same church.
And practicing Christians who have decreased their access to online church services or have stopped attending church are more emotionally stressed.

According to Mission Network News, Mission Cry just landed a shipment of Bibles and Christian books in Pakistan. That’s not unusual for their ministry – they’ve sent crates and shipments all over the world – but food distribution is. Yet in the middle of a pandemic and its economic impact, that’s exactly what they’re doing. “We were able to feed 1800 Pakistanis for 30 days, and then give them a Bible and a Christian book,” says Jason Woolford of Mission Cry. “As a matter of fact, 50 Muslims came and took a Bible because we had given them food.” It’s not just about food or reading material; this is a mission of hope. This is a mission to give people another option. “We’re getting the Word of God around that area and giving people the opportunity to become Christians to be saved, to know the one and true and only God,” Woolford says.