World in Brief

All World

These articles were first published in our July edition of the newspaper, click here for more.

USA: SBC not to ban women pastors

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has just failed to achieve the two-thirds majority vote needed to place a ban in its constitution on women being church pastors.

Issues impacting women are prominent at this year’s annual meeting of the SBC, taking place in Indianapolis. Church leaders also approved a resolution condemning in vitro fertilisation. The SBC is the largest Protestant denomination in the US, with over 50,000 churches and over 14 million members, and is now a serious political force in the country.

Israel: Drawings unearthed

Recent excavations in Rahat, Israel, have unearthed ancient ship drawings within a Byzantine-era church, revealing Christian pilgrimage practices 1,500 years ago.

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said: ‘These intriguing drawings may have been left by Christian pilgrims arriving by ship to the Gaza port – their first inland stop was this Rahat church; continuing from here on to other sites throughout the country.’ Among these discoveries was a detailed drawing of a two-masted ship.

Pakistan: Deaths from gas inhalation

Five Christian sanitation workers in Pakistan have died from inhaling toxic gases, highlighting how they are forced to work without proper safety equipment.

Irfan Masih, Ratan Masih and Babar Masih succumbed to the poisonous fumes while cleaning a sewer disposal well in Bhalwal, Punjab Province. A fourth Christian worker, Naeem Masih, was in critical condition in hospital. In Sindh Province, Christians Yunus Hidayat and Yunus Masih also died from gas inhalation.

Turkey: Church changed to mosque

European bishops have condemned the decision by Turkish authorities to convert the Church of Saint Saviour, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Chora, Istanbul, back from a museum into a mosque. They say it dilutes the historical roots of Turkish Christianity.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan formally inaugurated the Chora church for Islamic worship in May. The transformation comes four years after the similar conversion of the Hagia Sophia Basilica, another iconic Byzantine Christian site, back into a mosque.

Canada: Former bishop removed

A former bishop of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) has been removed from ministry after being found guilty in a church court of multiple charges, including ‘inappropriate relationships with women’.

The ACNA said that Todd Atkinson, former bishop of the Via Apostolica Missionary District based in Alberta, Canada, was ‘removed from ordained ministry following the conclusion of his ecclesiastical trial’. Atkinson was earlier found guilty of four charges related to ‘conduct giving just cause for scandal or offense, including the abuse of ecclesiastical power’.

Uganda: Evangelists hospitalised

Evangelists Samuel Mukiibi, 27, and 25-year-old Ephraim Duula are still receiving hospital treatment two weeks after hardline Muslims in Uganda beat them unconscious for proclaiming Christ.

They were attacked near Bukwanga village, in Iganga District, in eastern Uganda. In the last six years they have led several Muslims to Christ. After an evangelistic outreach in the Nambale area they left at about 4pm after preaching in the open air. Three Muslims then blocked the road and attacked them, said Mukiibi.

Eritrea: Embassy protest

Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Church In Chains (Ireland), the Eritrean Orthodox Church in the UK and other groups held a peaceful protest vigil outside the Eritrean Embassy in London to mark the closure of churches and the 20th anniversary of the detention of several senior church leaders in Eritrea.

The vigil was the first to be held outside the embassy since 2019 having previously taken place every year since 2003 to highlight the Eritrean government’s effective outlawing of religious practices not affiliated with the Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran and Orthodox Christian denominations or Sunni Islam.

Somalia: Muslim convert wounded

Somalian Muslim convert Mohammad Abdul, 40, has been seriously wounded for putting his faith in Christ. He has also lost his wife and five children.

He survived a knife attack by his Muslim relatives on the outskirts of Kismayo, a port city in southern Somalia. The relatives also took away his wife and children while he was recovering at a medical clinic. Abdul suffered a deep cut on his head and a fractured hand in the attack. Fearing for his life, he has moved to another city in Somalia.

South Africa: Railway Mission success

In a significant move towards international collaboration, Railway Mission has been invited to an international conference in South Africa. The event aimed to inspire railway workers from various countries to explore and potentially develop chaplaincy services within their respective railway industries.

Delegates from 12 countries attended, including the US and Zimbabwe, showcasing a global commitment to nurturing supportive work environments within the rail sector. Their participation underscored the importance of spirituality in enhancing the resilience and well-being of rail workers.

Haiti: 5m face famine

Almost 5 million people in Haiti, half of them children, face imminent famine as an extraordinarily active hurricane season approaches the already vulnerable country, which is dealing with horrific gang violence.

International humanitarian organisation World Vision warns that the Caribbean is predicted to be hit with 23 named storms, including 11 potential hurricanes, from June to November. Climate disruptions, exacerbated by La Niña and extremely warm temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean, could severely affect Haiti, which is already very climate-vulnerable.

China: Christian released

Chinese Christian human-rights defender Zhang Zhan has been released from prison having completed a four-year prison sentence for ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’.

Zhang was detained by Shanghai police in 2020 for reporting on the Covid-19 pandemic from Wuhan. She was sentenced to four years in prison by the Pudong New District Court, in a closed-door trial that lasted less than three hours. Supporters of Ms Zhang say the charges are completely unfounded and are frequently used by the Chinese authorities to target human-rights defenders.

France: March for Jesus

Thousands of people took to the streets of Paris, Lille, Nantes, Metz and Strasbourg for the 2024 March for Jesus. They all enjoyed inspiring speeches, prayer and uplifting songs.

Under the motto ‘Let’s bear witness publicly and in unity about our faith in Jesus Christ’, the gathering ‘allowed Christians of all denominations to raise the name of Jesus above their theological differences’, explained the organisers.

Spain: ‘Day of the Bible’

This October Andalusia will celebrate the ‘Day of the Bible’. The Evangelical Council of Andalusia (CEAA) says it is ‘a recognition that fulfils one of the main demands of the evangelical community’ in the region.

Evangelicals and the regional government of Andalusia have also extended their General Protocol of Action, in a ceremony that took place at the San Telmo Palace (headquarters of the regional government). It was attended by the regional minister of the Presidency, Antonio Sanz, and the president of the CEAA, José Manuel Marín.

Italy: Church attacked

Members of an evangelical church in San Giuliano Milanese, northern Italy, have been attacked after a Sunday worship service.

A man who had consumed alcohol tried to enter the church’s premises after shouting anti-Christian phrases, including ‘Allah Akbar’ (Allah is Great, a slogan used by radical Islamists). Several members of the church were tidying and cleaning the building when the assault happened and children were still present. They called the police, and the assailant, an Egyptian national, was arrested minutes after leaving the scene.

Ivory Coast: Methodists leave UMC

The United Methodist Church’s (UMC) largest overseas division has voted to leave the denomination, following the Church’s landmark decision to allow same-sex marriage and the ordination of practicing homosexuals as priests.

In May, the UMC voted at its General Conference in America to change its definition of marriage and remove decades-long restrictions on LGBT clergy. Following that move, the United Methodist Church of Ivory Coast voted to exit the denomination, taking with it an estimated 1.2 million members.

Iain Taylor