Christianity Explored Ministries (CEM) and Prison Fellowship International (PFI) announced on 3 February that over 350 of their new, three-strand The Prisoner’s Journey evangelism courses (of which Christianity Explored is the central component) are running in the Nigerian and South African prison systems.
In South Africa, 135 courses are being run in 11 prisons, and in Nigeria 224 courses will run in eight prisons.
Fellowship of European Broadcasters (FEB)
The Bible Society in January reported that there are currently 48 registered churches in Algeria and 11 more due to be registered this summer.
In addition, 200 house church groups meet unofficially around the country and 2,000 new Christians are baptised every year. For more information: Bible Society, Stonehill Green, Westlea, Swindon SN5 7DG.
Arab world: impact
Middle East Media is producing Arabian Dawn ﬁlms in partnership with AWM Pioneers, it was reported in January.
In the videos, Arabs from the Persian Gulf who have discovered Christ personally have chosen to tell their stories to their own people. The first six testimonies have had great impact in the Gulf region. In 2014, more than 457,000 people viewed the finished testimonies and 179,000 copies were downloaded from various countries across the Arabian Peninsula.
Bhutan: lesser sentence
Morning Star News
A court in Bhutan on 19 January reduced a sentence of nearly four years in prison to a bailable 28 months for Tandin Wangyal.
More than ten months after Pastor Wangyal was arrested for holding a public gathering in Samtse District, he was granted bail of $1,523 for a sentence reduced from three years and 11 months to two years and four months in what sources said was a move by the judiciary to dispose of a conviction for which it had no evidence. ‘It has been a miracle verdict for me’, a joyous Pastor Wangyal said.
Bosnia: a first
The Bosnian Bible is the ﬁrst translation of the complete Bible into standard Bosnian, it was reported in January.
The vast majority of Bosniaks are Muslim. Dr Redzo Trako, chief editor of the Bosnian Bible project, is a Bosnian scholar of Islamic background. The idea of translating the Bible into his own language came to him while he was a student at Belfast Bible College, where he was moved by the reality of being the only foreign student without a Bible in his mother tongue.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)
Two Kachin women were raped and murdered in their church compound in Kawng Hka Shabuk village, Muse District, northern Shan State, on the night of 19 January.
Maran Lu Ra (20) and Tangbau Hkawn Nan Tsin (21), teachers from Myitkyina working with the Kachin Baptist Convention, were attacked during the night by Burma Army soldiers. Church members went to the area police, but no action has been taken.
World Watch Monitor (WWM)
Two aid workers kidnapped at gunpoint on 19 January in the Central African Republic, Claudia Priest and the Revd Gustave, were released on 23 January.
Priest, 67, is a French national who runs a small charity organisation and has been travelling to CAR on a regular basis since 2005, and Gustave is a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit who works at CODIS, a diocesan service active in health care and education in CAR.
China: no sex selection
The Christian Institute
China announced in January that it will tighten controls on illicit sex testing of unborn babies in efforts to curtail sex-selective abortions.
Finding out the sex of an unborn baby for non-medical reasons is against the law in China. The country’s one-child policy and the cultural preference for boys has led to the abortion of many girls and a major sex imbalance in the nation.
Five church leaders in the north of Colombia in January received death threats from neo-paramilitary groups, apparently because of their pastoral care for victims of human rights violations.
Three Presbyterian pastors, a Lutheran and a Mennonite pastor were named as targets in a threat that was printed and circulated in the name of the Black Eagles neo-paramilitary group on 11 January.
Egypt: client found
After weeks of judicial runaround, Egyptian lawyer Karam Ghobrial managed to ﬁnd and visit his client, Egypt’s most publicly-known Christian convert Mohammed Hegazy, in Cairo’s Tora Prison on 26 January.
Hegazy, who in 2007 was the first Egyptian Muslim to fight a legal case to change his religious identity to Christian, is appealing against a conviction by a lower Egyptian court on three misdemeanour charges, all linked to his arrest in the city of Minya, 135 miles south of Cairo, in December 2013.
India: agency formed
World Watch Monitor
Indian Christians from across denominations in January formed a legal-aid agency, complete with a telephone hotline number, to respond to increasing attacks.
The United Christian Forum for Human Rights was formed on 19 January ‘to coordinate both legal and advocacy assistance to the community’. Harassment of India’s Christians has increased since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept into power in parliamentary elections in May 2014.
Suspected Bajrang Dal activists interrupted a Sunday meeting on 11 January in Jehanabad, Bihar State, beating up the Christians present and causing damage.
In a separate incident on the same day, enraged Hindu activists demonstrated against Christians who were meeting at a worship service in Kushulanagar, Karnataka State.
India: beaten up
Morning Star News
A Christian welder who leads a home fellowship near Mumbai is on painkillers with chest and back injuries after 25 Hindu extremists beat him with iron bars on 24 January.
Threatening to kill him if he continued preaching and practising his faith, members of the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal attacked 38-year-old Pramod Sahu at his workshop garage in the Nalasopara area. Armed with long wooden rods and iron bars, they struck him further when he refused their demand to worship a Hindu god.
World Watch Monitor
In January, the UK Foreign Ofﬁce raised concern with the Iranian government over the detention in Evin prison of the former leader of the Assyrian Pentecostal Church in Tehran, as well as two others.
60-year-old pastor Victor Beth-Tarmez and two Christian converts who were his guests were arrested when Iranian state security agents raided Tarmez’s home during a Christmas celebration he was hosting on the evening of 26 December. The details of the actual charge on which Tarmez is detained remain unclear.
Iran: not released
Despite the fact that Christian convert Ebrahim Firouzi should have been released from prison on 13 January after completing the term of his sentence, he continues to be held in Rajaei-Shahr prison in Karaj.
According to Mohabat News, another case has been opened against him in a Revolutionary Court, but no further action has been taken to date.
Israel: Herod’s palace
Bible Society’s Newswatch (Washington Post)
According to archaeologists, evidence of the remains of King Herod’s palace in Jerusalem and the site where Jesus may have been tried by Pilate have been uncovered and are now open to the public, it was reported in early January.
Archaeology professor Shimon Gibson said: ‘There is, of course, no inscription stating it happened here, but everything – archaeological, historical and gospel accounts – all fall into place and makes sense’.
George Kardhimba, a Kenyan church ofﬁ-cial, was gunned down by unidentiﬁed assailants on 11 January, just inside the gate of his church in Majengo, Mombasa.
Police were able to stop the gunmen from entering the church, thereby preventing further carnage. Although no one has claimed responsibility, many suspect the Somali Islamist group Al-Shabaab. They promised revenge against Kenya after the government sent troops into Somalia to aid the fight against the Islamist group in 2011. Since then, Kenya has experienced repeated violence from Islamist radicals.
Kosovo: church plants
Through the ministries of Agape and the evangelistic work of ETS graduates and missionaries, dozens of churches have been planted in Kosovo, it was reported in January.
Bosnia and Kosovo, which both have many interethnic tensions and Muslim majority populations, are some of the least evangelised people in Europe.
Lithuania: on air
In March there will be a Christian radio station on the air in Vilnius – 100.5 FM.
The Good News Centre had been seeking a broadcast frequency in the capital, but an application had twice been turned down. However, when radio executive Jon Hull of TWR visited to provide training for XFM, TWR's national partner, he was rushed to meet the Lithuanian National Radio and Television Commission (equivalent of the FCC in the USA) and, miraculously, the frequency was granted!
British Pakistani Christian Association
Christians in Pakistan fear for their lives as Charlie Hebdo protests and attacks erupted all over the country in January.
Many Christian families living in high-risk rural areas temporarily relocated to families within cities, where possible. Between 200-300 Muslim students attacked Panel School (a Christian school) in the town of Bannu, Knyber Paktunkhwa, during an anti-CharlieHebdo protest, on 26 January.
South Africa: isiZulu Bible
Bible Society’s Newswatch (BBC News)
President Jacob Zuma has donated £26,000 to translate the Bible directly from Hebrew and Greek into isiZulu, it was reported in early January.
Mr Zuma’s mother tongue is isiZulu, the main language spoken in South Africa. The Bible has been translated into isiZulu previously, but from other languages.
Sri Lanka: pledges
President Sirisena secured 51.3% of votes in Sri Lanka’s presidential elections on 8 January and will lead a coalition government formed of key opposition parties, which is reported to have strong support from the minority Tamil and Muslim communities.
In addition to promising an end to nepotism and corruption, President Sirisena also pledged to ensure religious harmony by establishing institutions and mechanisms among religious leaders to work for religious coexistence and against extremism.
In the early hours of 20 January, a church building in Mashewa, in the Muheza district of Tanga Region, was set on ﬁre.
Recent years have witnessed growing tension in this Muslim-majority coastal area of Tanzania and the pastor of the church had been threatened repeatedly for some time.
Turkey: new church
Bible Society’s Newswatch (Catholic Herald)
The Turkish government announced on 2 January that a Syriac Orthodox church is to be built in Yeşilköy, on the outskirts of Istanbul, the ﬁrst new church in the country for nearly a century.
Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been accused of Islamising the country, with the country’s 100,000 strong Christian minority talking of an increasingly intolerant atmosphere. However, the party are in some ways more tolerant to Christianity than Turkish republicans who tend to be hostile to all religious expression.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Twenty four independent Vietnamese civil society organisations (CSOs) co-signed a report dated 30 January, drawing attention to human rights abuses in Vietnam in 2014, including violations against the right to freedom of religion or belief.
The report aims to alert the UN Human Rights Council, the European External Action Service, foreign embassies in Vietnam and various members of the international community to ‘the blatant, illegal and systematic crackdowns on human rights defenders and dissidents’ in Vietnam. In particular, the report claims that there are at least 105 prisoners of conscience currently detained in the country.