Sharing God’s love in Burundi
Harvest Initiatives (a Faith2Share partner) has numerous mission programmes throughout Burundi to share the Gospel and serve the community. Each year missionary teams are sent into every province in the country to share the good news of Jesus on a two week nationwide mission. Over the last five years, Harvest Initiatives reports that 85,000 people have responded to the gospel and 35 new churches have been planted to continue to disciple and grow new Christians. Outreach in local communities is also central to Harvest’s work – reaching countless informal settlements and villages across Burundi. Harvest also has a pioneering mission among the Batwa, the poorest and most marginalised people group in Burundi – making up around one per cent of the population. Harvest missionaries live and work with Batwa communities of Muramvya and Busiga - overseeing the provision of food, housing, healthcare and education.
Showing compassion among Syrian refugees
Thousands upon thousands of homes have opened up for Syrian refugees around the world and we are witnessing one of the greatest acts of compassion in our lifetime. That’s the message from a missionary couple with NZCMS (a Faith2Share member), who are currently in Turkey, working with Syrian refugees. “Many of these homes are Christian and already stories are emerging of transformation by the power of Jesus,” they report. “There are four million refugees from Syria outside their country and two million of them are here in Turkey, a country that doesn’t want them.” The missionary couple has been active in a programme to feed refugees at borders and manage relocations into homes of compassion and missional centres in European cities. “It’s been good getting to re-establish relationships with ministry leaders again - joining forces to respond to such a serious crisis and a huge opportunity for the Gospel.” Read more here.
Wati Longkumer new IMA General Secretary
Faith2Share congratulates Wati Longkumer who was installed as the general secretary of the India Missions Association (IMA) at the organisation's Annual General Meeting in Hyderabad on 11 September. He officially took up the leadership reins from Dr Theodore Srinivasagam on 30 September. At his installation, Rev Wati said: “I express deep gratitude to the leaders of IMA reposing your faith in me and inviting me to lead the Indian Missions Association, the national federation of Missions in India and one of the largest such bodies in the world." He said he was not coming to office with his own agenda or vision because it was his strong belief that IMA's vision should be the collective vision of its members. Reverend Wati also paid tribute to the work of outgoing general secretary Dr Theodore, saying "he has achieved in 17 months what many would have taken years to accomplish - a testament to his commitment and hard work." Dr Theo (on the left of the picture) continues as executive consultant at Rev Wati's (on the right of the picture) request. Read more here.
Women overlooked in conflict reporting
Women are virtually invisible in news reporting on peace and security issues in nations experiencing conflict. Seminal research, monitoring media in 15 transitional and conflict countries, found that women constitute only 13 per cent of people interviewed or spoken about. This statistic flies in the face of the fact that women make up at least 50 per cent of the countries’ population and ignores the disproportionate impact of conflict on women and girls. The research results are being presented today (7 October) at a conference on Gender, War and Conflict reporting being held at the Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences in Norway.Sarah Macharia, programme manager for Gender and Communication for the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC), who coordinated the study, noted that the reporting “falls considerably short on the measures of respect for the right to freedom of expression for all, particularly women, as well as the professional and ethical obligation of news organisations and journalists towards their publics.” The research covered 876 stories relevant to peace and security published in 83 major newspapers in 15 countries over a three-day period in April 2015. Read more here.
Expanding God’s kingdom in Russia
One of Faith2Share’s partner organisations, based in the far East of Russia, has a very special ministry to migrant workers from Central Asia who are now in Russia. Since 2007, a softly spoken couple have started sharing their faith with migrants – both by directly ministering to them, and more importantly, working with Russian churches training them how to reach out. The work includes showing pastors and congregations how to understand migrants’ culture and traditions better and how to reach people for Christ contextually. Through seminars, talks and printed materials, the ministry helps break down stereotypes and prejudices with wonderful effect. For example, people organise evangelistic holiday type celebrations close to Central Asian traditions, provide food and hospitality. The team maintains contact afterwards to help them know Jesus and not feel abandoned. The couple also counsels migrants and have opened their home to them. The couple’s own pastor cannot praise this ministry enough: “It is a joy to know that many families of migrants have been saved, thanks to their ministry,” he says. People from different churches who want to share their faith with migrants often ask the couple for help. “We try to help and encourage them as much as we can. We told Bible stories to their children and taught them to read and write, while some of us shared the Gospel with their parents.”
Help refugees encounter the love of Jesus
Our calling is to welcome refugees, support development and make peace. That’s the message from the Archbishop of Jerusalem & the Middle East and Bishop in Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa, Mouneer Hanna Anis (pictured left). The first job Christians need to do is welcome and help refugees by putting more pressure on governments in developed countries to accept more refugees. He says: "Lebanon, such a small country, with a population of 5 million people and a weak economy is hosting 1.5 million Syrian refugees. The rest of the neighbouring countries did the same. In Egypt we accepted a quarter of a million Syrian refugees in addition to 2.5m African refugees. After welcoming refugees in the country the churches can then cooperate with the government and UNHCR to provide for the needs of the refugees in a more holistic way." Read his thoughts here.
Reaching Chinese people in Africa
A consultation forum on how to engage better with the ever increasing population of Chinese people in Africa has birthed a new network – to include prayer groups, exchange programmes among African and Asian Chinese churches, a discipleship manual on the theology of immigration and an orientation programme for Chinese arriving for the first time in Africa. Held in Nairobi on 16 to 18 September, the event involved three Faith2Share members, CMS-Africa, Church Army Africa and Asia CMS, along with Anglican Church of Kenya and other organisations. Faith2Share’s Africa coordinator, Timothy Mazimpaka, was event secretary. Delegates heard how some seven million Chinese people live in Africa - and face culture shock, language barriers, xenophobia; and harassment by some corrupt police officers who carry out arbitrary arrests. Up until now, the African church has not been keen on ministering to Chinese in Africa. But one standout exception is Parklands Baptist Church in Nairobi, which has integrated Chinese people into its church and has a prison ministry among Chinese inmates.And this forum and network marks an imporatnt step forward in enhancing Chinese-African relations.
"Refugees are human beings, not numbers"
The world must address the plight of refugees streaming out of Syria and other countries, but we must also think beyond the current crisis. That is the message from Doris Peschke, general secretary of the Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME)."We need to look at integration which is a two-way process," she said. "There does need to be a framework to enable people to make a safe passage and to overcome language barriers to become part of society. But it is at least as important to prepare that society, which fears change, to become welcoming and open." She argued that both sides need to come together.“We still see a lot of hesitation from people regarding refugees, and this is where we need to adopt a longer-term view.” CCME cooperates with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and other ecumenical organisations in responding to the refugee crisis. Refugees are human beings, not numbers or political representations, added Peschke, who has helped lead CCME’s “Safe Passage” campaign to connect local work in border monitoring with political advocacy for a humane asylum and migration policy. More about CCME's work with refugees here.
Bishop Drayson: 'Don't cry for me, speak out for us'
"Don't cry for me, speak out for us" is the empassioned plea from CMS ( a Faith2Share member) mission partner Nick Drayson, Bishop of Northern Argentina in the Anglican Church of South America, who has made a video calling for people to speak out about climate change, lobby politicians and do something now to protect our planet. Bishop Nick says the lives of indigenous people in the Chaco region have been affected by extensive and continuing deforestation: “In a very real sense these communities weep for the cutting down of the forest because it is the destruction of their home. As we face climate change we mourn for the destruction of our home, our planet. The changes that are taking place don’t affect just one part of the world; they affect us all, and particularly those without a voice – the indigenous people.” Bishop Nick was in Peru last week to take part in the Lausanne Creation Care consultation. The event is designed to help participants develop creation care movements in their own countries. Bishops Nick was accompanied by three new indigenous Argentinian bishops elect.
St Frumentius College welcomes students
A momentous new chapter for theological training in the Gambella region of Ethiopia has begun with the opening of St Frumentius Theological College. The college has just held an orientation day for its 13 new students. They are all from different ethnic backgrounds and are on different stages of their respective Christian journeys - some having come from Christian families and others having only met Jesus a few years ago. There is an urgent need for theological training in this region where many refugees have sought shelter as a result of the protracted civil war in Sudan and the current unrest in South Sudan. There are 80 Anglican churches in Gambella area which are served by 16 clergy only one of whom has a theological degree. St Frumentius Theological College has been set up to train new and existing clergy and will also be open to other denominations. As Rev Dr Johann van der Bijl, the college principal and SAMS USA (a Faith2Share member) missionary, says: "The students' levels of education also differ, ranging from grade 10 certificates to diplomas. But they are united in their desire to learn more, as they want to serve more. Each one already has quite a remarkable resume as far as service in the Kingdom is concerned."
Spreading message of peace in DR Congo
A ten-day peace mission to rural areas of eastern DR Congo has resulted in 6,000 people hearing a message of peace, justice, forgiveness and reconciliation. In addition, via radio broadcasts at least one million heard preaching and teaching – which led hundreds more ‘to the foot of the Cross’. That is the latest update from our colleague and friend Rev Desire Mukanirwa (pictured left) – who is Anglican national mission and evangelism director in DR Congo and CongoBrazzaville. “We have really seen God’s hand working in this very mission season,” says Desire. He and his team felt called to evangelise in these rural areas due to a spate of killings, kidnappings, sexual violence and tribalism. They also ministered to 250 prisoners who gave their lives to Christ. In addition, “tribes who were living at logger heads had time during our conference to come together and forgive.” The team also visited a military barracks where 39 soldiers became Christians. Desire and the team also ran an ecumenical conference on peace and reconciliation for church leaders, plus an adult literacy programme.
Helping those caught in no man’s land
As the Syrian refugee humanitarian crisis deepens many Christians feel called to help those fleeing conflict in Syria and seeking refuge in Europe. Saint Margaret’s Anglican Episcopal Church in Budapest, Hungary, is on the frontline – as tens of thousands of asylum seekers pass through the city each day en route to Germany via Austria. The German authorities have announced that anybody fleeing the conflict in Syria who reaches Berlin will be granted refugee status. Many parish members distributed aid packets to the refugees last weekend from Keleti International train station. Meanwhile in London this week, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby used his position in the House of Lords, the upper House of Parliament, to question the British government’s announcement that they would bring in 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees from the camps around Syria over the next five years. Read more here.
Church to help end violence against children
The vision of building a better world for children where they can be protected from violence and sexual abuse in families, schools and communities was strongly affirmed by representatives of both religious and secular organisations in a forum held on 27 August in Geneva, Switzerland. Hosted by the World Council of Churches (WCC) at the Ecumenical Centre, the event was organised by Arigatou International, a global faith based non-governmental organisation and ECPAT International, a global network of civil society organisations exclusively dedicated to ending the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Among the panellists was Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, WCC associate general secretary, who gave a Christian viewpoint on the issue of violence against children. She argued that the church is in a position to bring about transformation. “The Christian faith has the message and the leadership to deal with violence against women and children.”
Global Prayer for Creation
Christians and churches globally are being encouraged to join in prayer and observe the ecumenical “Time for Creation” (1 September to 4 October). This year the event is bolstered by Pope Francis also declaring 1 September as World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. The World Council of Churches says the movement toward a yearly commemoration of the biblical mandate to exercise stewardship over God’s creation (Genesis 1:26-28) first took shape in 1989. That’s when the late Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I of Constantinople invited “the entire Christian world to offer together with the Mother Church of Christ, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, every year on this date prayers and supplications to the Maker of all, both as thanksgiving for the great gift of creation and as petitions for its protection and salvation.” The World Council of Churches (WCC) and related ecumenical bodies have adopted this "Time for Creation” as an emphasis in the church year. Read more here.
Nepal’s new constitution: bad news for Christians?
Many Nepali Christians are concerned that proposed amendments to Nepal’s new constitution could eventually render all Christian activity illegal. The constitution is due to come into effect very soon after seven years of parliamentary discussions. WorldWatch Monitor explains that attempting to convert someone to another religion is already prohibited in Nepal but the proposed amendments would mean that anything perceived as “evangelistic” could be punishable by law. Article 31(3) states that “any act to convert another person from one religion to another, or any act or behaviour to undermine or jeopardise the religion of another [will be] punishable by law”. Christians fear this could pave the way for an “anti-conversion clause” to be written into the penal code, which could result in prison sentences or hefty fines. Buddhists, Muslims, Christians and other minority religious groups in Nepal last week marched to constitution assembly in Kathmandu in protest against the proposals. Report here.
Syrian bishop on destruction of ancient monastery
The Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo Antoine Audo has spoken out against last week's destruction of an ancient Catholic monastery near the Syrian town of Qaryatain by so-called Islamic State (IS) militants - saying IS wanted to send a message of intolerance and violence, spreading fear. Media reports stated that Islamic State used bulldozers to destroy the monastery. By destroying this ancient symbol of Christianity this would encourage Syria's Christians to flee their homeland. "For us, the Church, it sends a message of intolerance and violence, spreading fear that the war is continuing," he told Vatican Radio. "They are doing all they can to put Christians outside Syria." He also referred to the kidnapping of 230 people - some Syrian Orthodox Christians - earlier this month, also from Qaryatain. Bishop Audo said the kidnappers may have two aims first to obtain ransom money in exchange for the hostages’ release and also to “spread a message of terror” and show people they were “powerful” and didn’t believe in a political solution. Map: Courtesy Wikipedia
Community health evangelism grows in West Bengal
Rev Tushar Manna (pictured left), of Manna Mission, one of Faith2Share's partner organisations, reports that the roll-out of community health evangelism training in West Bengal is gathering pace. The Bengali people are the second largest unreached people group in India, according to Tushar. In his latest newsletter Tushar reports that 35 community health evangelism trained workers are now based in 35 centres in West Bengal. Through the training Manna Mission is able to make disciples among Bengalis who in turn take their message back to reach communities and aim to bring about transformation. The five-day training includes holistic health, child labour, malnutrition, education, sanitation and microenterprises. The training is designed to provide a strategic model for integrating evangelism, discipleship and community transformation. Elsewhere, newly trained missionaries are reaching out to 200 homeless chidren; while in Mursidabad, Basirhat and Kharagpur, 10 house churches have been established - and numbers are growing, according to Tushar. Community health evangelists have also been working in a tea garden community in the Panitanki area of Darjeeling district. Meanwhile house groups are going from strength to strength in underprivileged communities in Malda and Dinajpur districts.