PODCAST: Nigeria remains ‘most dangerous place to be a Christian’ (International Christian Herald 05.15.21)

This is the International Christian Herald podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.

According to the Intersociety Rule of Law, Nigeria has devastatingly remained the “most Christian killed country” and ‘most dangerous place to be a Christian’ as well as Africa’s newest hotbed of Islamic Jihad and religious intolerance. Statistically shocking is the fact that the country had in the past four months or from January to April 2021 lost no fewer than 1,470 Christians. Also out of estimated 3200 defenseless Nigerians abducted by jihadists during the period, Nigerian Christians accounted for no fewer than 2,200. The 1, 470 Christian deaths in four months is the highest number recorded since 2014 and it specifically surpassed the total number of Christians killed in 2019, estimated by the Open Doors to be 1,350. It is recalled that the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law had in early January 2021 statistically disclosed that more than 2,400 defenseless Christians were hacked to death by jihadists in Nigeria in 2020. But in the World Watch List report on persecuted Christians released by USA based Open Doors; the group found that “3,530 Christians were killed in Nigeria between Nov 2019 and Oct 2020”. In other words, it is most likely correct to say that ‘between 2,401 and 3,530 Christians were hacked to death by jihadists in Nigeria in 2020’.

According to Evangelical Focus, The European Evangelical Alliance, a body representing 23 million evangelical Christians across Europe expressed its “dismay” over the treatment of member of parliament and former Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen, “who faces prosecution and up to 2 years in prison for 3 separate cases for expressing biblical views”. Since 2019, the member politician and committed Christian, has been questioned by the police several times for an investigation of the General Prosecutor, who filed charges against Räsänen for hate speech against homosexuals on 29 April 2021. In the letter, the EEA points out: “In the case of a brochure published in 2004, the police added that, if it was decided that biblical views were considered per se to count as agitation, then it would have to become a crime to make the Bible available. Clearly, such a situation would be ludicrous”. “Foundational issues of freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression are both at stake”, says the EEA, a reality that clashes with the Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. According to this legislation, “people have the right to express their views in public”. After analysing the words of Räsänen, the EEA concludes that “there is no hint of intent, likelihood or imminence of acts of hatred happening”. And asks: “Is the Public Prosecutor attempting to redefine human rights law? The right to freedom of expression exists to legally protect those that express views which may offend, shock or disturb others”. The letter ends by stating: “The EEA calls upon the Finnish court system to uphold freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief. We urge the Finnish government to make clear its unequivocal support for these fundamental freedoms”.

According to Baptist Press, Trustees of the International Mission Board (IMB) approved 68 new fully funded missionaries for appointment during their May 11-12 meeting in Richmond, Va. This is the first in-person meeting trustees have had since Jan. 2020, before restrictions from COVID-19 necessitated virtual meetings. Missionaries approved for appointment will be recognized during a Sending Celebration held June 14 in conjunction with the Send Conference in Nashville before the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting. Each missionary is crucial to IMB’s goal of sending an additional 500 missionaries by 2025. Accounting for missionaries who complete their service, approximately 400 new missionaries are needed each year to meet the target goal of growth in the total mission force. The plenary session of the trustees’ meeting included the recognition of 17 trustees completing their terms of service, election of 2021-2022 officers and remembrance of 101 staff and active and emeritus missionaries who died in 2020. In his address, IMB President Paul Chitwood announced that IMB would be forming a new global affinity, the Asian Pacific Rim Peoples Affinity, effective Oct. 1, 2021. This new affinity will encompass work among peoples who originate in the countries along the Pacific Ocean Rim, roughly from Mongolia to Indonesia and Myanmar to Japan. It will comprise the peoples IMB has, up until now, been seeking to engage in the affinity structures of East Asian Peoples Affinity and Southeast Asian Peoples Affinity.

According to Christian Today, Four Christian men were beheaded in a horrific terror attack in Indonesia on Tuesday, Open Doors reports. The attack occurred in Kalimago Village, Poso Regency in Central Sulawesi, and has been blamed on Islamist extremists belonging to the terrorist group, East Indonesia Mujahidin (MIT). Two victims were members of the Mamasa Toraja Church. Another came from Toraja Church and one from a Catholic Church in the area. They were aged between 42 and 61. Their murders come just half a year after four other Christians were killed at a Salvation Army outpost in Sigi, Central Sulawesi. Open Doors’ local partner in Indonesia Ari Hartono – whose name has been changed for security reasons – said, “Central Sulawesi locals are still traumatised from the terrorist attack in Sigi last November and have not recovered yet. “We’re not sure if the attack is religiously motivated even though the victims are Christians.

According to Religion News Service, On Sunday (May 16), Pope Francis will celebrate a Mass in Rome for Myanmar Catholics on the Feast of the Ascension, underlining his religious and diplomatic efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in the troubled Southeast Asian country. Myanmar, once known as Burma, spiraled into violence when military forces took over the country on Feb. 1, interrupting the democratic process set in motion by its previous state counsellor, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. Democratic protests have sparked all over the country, with some Catholics taking center stage in opposing the violence of the armed forces. Almost 1,000 people have reportedly been killed in Myanmar since the military coup and many more have been displaced by raids and airstrikes. “Every dictatorship must find someone to oppress. So we always have a target on our back,” said the Rev. Maurice Moe Aung of the Missionaries of Faith, speaking online from Myanmar with a pool of Vatican journalists. “Probably, if this difficult situation continues and as it’s already happening in Buddhist monasteries, the military forces will also enter Catholic churches to control the situation,” he added. Aung said protests continue all over the country, with many arrests putting further pressure on a population already struggling due to the pandemic and a crumbling economy. According to the missionary, time is running out for the international community to intervene and prevent further bloodshed in Myanmar. “The international community must lend its voice. It must be stronger and more determined. We cannot wait!” Aung said, adding that Southeast Asia has had its share of turmoil since the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the war in Vietnam and the Japanese invasions. “Now it’s up to Myanmar,” he said, “so we must act quickly or there will be many, many more deaths.”

According to Baptist Press, Having presented the 2020 Annual Statistical Report (ASR) to International Mission Board (IMB) trustees during their Thursday (May 13) board meeting, IMB is now making the full report available to the public. “I have to admit that I’ve been a little nervous about that report,” said Paul Chitwood to IMB field personnel and staff last week. Citing the disruptions and unforeseen circumstances of 2020, Chitwood admitted he wondered what statistics would show regarding the progress of mission work. “Honestly, I expected a drop off in the vital statistics we track to gauge our efficiency and effectiveness around the world,” he said. “Jesus was obviously talking directly to me when He said, ‘Oh you of little faith,’ because I was wrong. What we witnessed in our work around the world in 2020 was not a dropping off, but a ratcheting up.”

According to Christianity Today, On Monday, Ireland emerged from one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns, allowing Christians to return to in-person church services for the first time since December. Members of Solid Rock Drogheda couldn’t wait until Sunday and met to worship together as soon as the restrictions lifted. The church, located in a town north of Dublin, started praying for Ireland and the end of the pandemic on St. Patrick’s Day 2020 when lockdown kept revelers at home. What started as a 24-hour prayer vigil has continued ever since, and the church has used an online booking system to schedule members to pray continuously, according to Nick Park, Solid Rock’s pastor and the executive director of Evangelical Alliance Ireland. While the church prayed, the Irish government instituted three separate lockdowns. In the 14 months since the pandemic began, the government has permitted worship on only 14 Sundays and only three times in the past six months. As of May 10, churches can hold services—along with weddings and funerals—with a maximum of 50 people in attendance. This is a long-awaited relief for churchgoers who have spent so much of the pandemic apart. Pastors could leave their homes to conduct an online service or to minister to the sick during the earlier lockdowns, but residents were not permitted to get together socially or for worship, indoors or out. While many businesses and restaurants are still under phased reopening, the Irish are also finally free to travel between counties and meet up with friends and family, per the latest directives from government officials. At times Ireland’s restrictions were considered among the toughest in the world. Authorities issued fines and threatened to arrest pastors conducting services in violation of the restrictions. Irish legal scholars started to speak up on behalf of churches, and pastors wrote the government last month concerned about the continued ban on worship gatherings. The isolation over the past year-plus has taken its toll on pastors and congregations alike. Congregants longed to see family members who were isolated in other communities. Families with young children struggled with adjusting to at-home schooling and the time away from friends. Pastors worry who will return after months apart and who has disappeared for good. Park said evangelical congregations usually depend on the weekly offering to make ends meet, and the transition to online giving has been difficult, though he said churches have made it work. In the majority-Catholic country of 5 million, around 1.6 percent is evangelical, the lowest in the English-speaking world, according to Operation Mobilization.

In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know Jesus as your Saviour, today is a good day to get to know Him. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Thanks so much for listening and may God bless your day!