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Christian World News: July 15, 2011

On this week's Christian World News: Reviving Japan's churches, the film on Iraq's ancient Christian population, a Colombian woman who risked it all for her faith, and more.
 

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Today on Christian World News – "Defying Deletion." Why Iraq's ancient Christian population is crying out for protection from extremists. Plus – Reviving Japan's churches. How a new youth movement could restore hope to victims of recent disaster. And – War, faith and courage. This Colombian woman risks all to bring the Good News to soldiers in a war zone. And welcome to Christian World News, everyone. I'm Wendy Griffith. George Thomas is on assignment. A short film had a high profile showing among U.S. lawmakers this week. That's because it documented a dire crisis, the near genocide of Iraq's ancient Assyrian Christian civilization. Paul Strand has more. A Congressmen and media mixed with Assyrians anxious to plead their cause at this showing of "Defying Deletion." It highlights how other Iraqis have systematically targeted the Assyrian Christians who've called Iraq their homeland for thousands of years. More than half have fled. That's 600,000. Andre Anton is a 26-year-old director of the fast-paced "Defying Deletion." There are a lot of shootings. There are a lot of bombings. Churches have been bombed. I would say over sixty churches have been bombed. The filmmaker says extremists often go after Assyrian priests. They want to instill fear into the rest of the population so what better way to do it than actually kidnap and kill somebody who's meaningful and powerful. The film points out other Iraqis are out to grab the homes, lands and resources of the Assyrians among them. But the main reason for the persecution is the Assyrians' Christianity. That's why they're getting attacks from these extremists, you know, who are saying "Okay these are Christians like the Americans. Let's show them what we think of them." This is all very personal for Anton whose family is in America only because of the 33 attempted genocides against his people over the last fourteen hundred years. I'm one of the hundreds of thousands of Assyrians who have been born here because of the constant persecution. Anton and his fellow Assyrians hope that America will use its influence to push for an actual Assyrian homeland in Iraq, or at least more protections for these beleaguered Christians. Paul Strand, CBN News, Washington. You can hear more of Andre and his interview. Just log on to our Website at cbnnews.com. Christians in Nigeria remain on high alert after bombings at two different churches on Sunday. At least four Christians died in the attacks in the town of Suleja. The bombings follow an increase in violence in that area. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks but officials say a militant Islamic group recently warned people to avoid Christian institutions. Well, a new nation joined the world this week when South Sudan declared its independence. The celebration was tempered by concerns that peace between the north and south could unravel. CBN's senior international correspondent Gary Lane has more. It was a day of jubilation in Juba, the capital city of the world's newest nation, South Sudan. For more than 20 years the people of the south, mostly black African Christians, fought a civil war with the northern Arabs. They resisted Sudanese government efforts to force them to become Muslims. American evangelist Franklin Graham attended the Independence Day celebration. Two and half million people died struggling to be free. And the majority of the south were Christians. These are people who paid with their life, shed their blood, for the chance to be free. And for me, for Samaritan's Purse, we've been working here over 20 years. Many Christian organizations - CBN has been involved here helping the people during the time of struggle and now today is a day of celebration. But U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice warns peace between the north and south could be temporary. She says the U.S. is concerned about unresolved issues of contention, mostly over exact demarcation of the border and the sharing of oil revenues. Heavy fighting in the border city of Abyei and in the South Kordofan state, especially in the Nuba Mountains, threaten southern independence and still poses a danger to the young nation's future. During a meeting with South Sudan President Salva Kiir, Graham mentioned that Samaritan's Purse has helped rebuild 433 churches in South Sudan. A couple of them were burned in recent fighting. Graham urges Christian groups and others to help South Sudan build its nation. He prayed for the world's newest country, number 193, and its president. Gracious Heavenly Father we come today to thank you and to praise you for the gift of freedom, for the birth of this new nation. And, Father, we pray for the president, that you would guide him, direct him… Gary Lane, CBN News. It's like watching a miracle. While South Sudanese celebrate, Open Doors President Carl Moeller says he's concerned for Christians in the north. He says President Bashir has pledged to tighten Sharia law there. That means Christians in the north may face additional persecution. In the United Kingdom, extremist Muslims are calling for the establishment of Islamic states in three English towns, complete with Sharia law. As Peter Wooding reports, the proposal has Christians very troubled. Muslims Against the Crusades is the controversial group proposing that two towns in Yorkshire and one in East London be turned into states ruled only by Islamic law, entirely outside British common law. Even a Muslim imam says any plans to enforce Sharia law in the U.K. are completely ridiculous. The idea of bringing Sharia here is a total non-starter. It's nothing but a publicity stunt. Most Muslims, the vast bulk of law-abiding productive citizens in this country, do not wish to have Sharia law here. If we wanted Sharia law, we would go to a country that practices Sharia law. And Christian leaders here in Bradford, one of the towns affected by the proposal, are deeply disturbed by the plan. The dean of Bradford Cathedral, David Ison, told CBN News: What worries me about it is that it frightens people in the country, because, although it's a very small group, very extreme group, they try and get as much publicity for their cause as they can. And it worries people, the idea that somehow we're all going to be subject to Sharia law, even though it's never going to happen. Terry Quinn is on a mission to re-launch Smith Wigglesworth's Bowland Street Mission in this Islamic area of Bradford. Well, I am concerned with any extremist group because at the Wigglesworth Centre it goes against everything we're doing building fantastic relationships with the Muslim people. Our landlord is a Muslim and many, many Muslims in this area are welcoming everything we're doing at the Smith Wigglesworth Centre. So the extremist group and their opinions don't represent what the Muslims in Bradford really believe. And government counselor for Bradford, Ian Greenwood, also believes these proposals don't represent the wishes of the Muslim population there. Clearly they do not speak for the vast majority of Muslims. They don't certainly don't speak for the vast majority of people. And we treat them with the contempt really that they deserve. Christians are fighting the proposal, saying Islamic law is incompatible with Britain's Christian heritage and values. Last month, Baroness Caroline Cox introduced a bill into the House of Lords to protect Muslim women from abuses under Sharia law. In Britain, we have a country where many people have died to protect the democratic freedoms enshrined in our laws and in our culture. And we now have allowed an alternative quasi-legal system to develop in our land, which is fundamentally incompatible with those democratic freedoms and where many citizens, especially women, are suffering as a result. The Christian Institute is fully behind this campaign. And the head of communications, Mike Judge, says this latest announcement is proof that Islamists are seeking to impose their extremist views on British society. There are some British Muslims who want to impose Sharia law on their community. And that's precisely why we're backing Lady Cox's bill in the House of Lords. Her bill will stop Sharia law taking root as a parallel legal system and it's going to ensure that there is equality before the law, particularly from vulnerable Muslim women. Though this proposal may seem unlikely, Christians say it's important to stand against the increasing Islamic influence in their nation. Peter Wooding for CBN News, Bradford, England. Coming up – Christians in Japan praying for a spiritual awakening. Why they believe God is using disasters to draw people to Him. Welcome back. Christians in Japan struggle to share the Gospel. However, the recent disasters are causing many Japanese to reconsider their lives. As Lucille Talusan reports, Japan's churches are praying for a spiritual shaking in the country. Whether they're in church or standing on a street corner, the members of Grace Tokyo Church loudly sing their songs of praise. These young people are part of a new youth movement that many Japanese Christians hope will revive Japan's churches. Filipino pastor Glen Nabarrete was born and raised in Hawaii. He and his family answered God's call to Japan in 1992. The church in Japan is small and getting smaller every day. The average Japanese church has 30 people, and many have less than ten members. Church historian Masakazu Suzuki says traditional churches are dying out. After the war, a lot American GIs who came to Japan were Christians but later came back to Japan as missionaries. So after the war, the Japanese church grew a lot. Now after 50 years, 60 years, a lot of pastors are getting older and now facing the time for retirement. Also many members are getting older too. Like most Christians, Suzuki believes God is using the recent disasters to open the hearts of the Japanese people. There have been more than 1,280 aftershocks since the March 11th earthquake and there could be more. But Christians here are praying for a different kind of aftershock, and that is a spiritual awakening of the Japanese people. Businessman Yuto Matsumoto saw how the power of God restored his marriage after a divorce. I worked too hard, not too much attention for my family. His Christian daughter visited him in New York where he moved and took him to watch "The Passion of the Christ" movie on Easter. Later, back in Japan, she brought him to the church their family has been attending since converting to Christianity. During the preaching, I couldn't stop crying. Again and again. I don't know why. Right after the service, I went to Pastor Scott and asked him how I can become a Christian.. That was in April 2004. I accepted Jesus as my Lord. It was the beginning of my new life. Two years ago, Yuto remarried Takako, his ex-wife. Today, they have a harmonious relationship with Christ at the center of their marriage. And at work, Yuto shares his faith with his colleagues. Yuto invites them to visit Grace Tokyo Church where he serves as an interpreter. One of the things we have that a lot of Japanese churches don't have is just a lot of joy and a lot of laughter. I think that's what God wants to bring into this nation that there is a reality of joy in serving God and knowing God. And we also cater to the young people. We let the young people step up and take charge of the music, do our preaching. Young people love it. They want to participate in the growth of the church. The youth go out of their way to spread God's love, singing Gospel songs on the street, even when reprimanded by the police. We just praise and worship, basically, on the street and let God move and touch people's lives. When someone stands right next to you we just start talking to them and invite them to church. These young Christians hope that through their involvement, Japan's older churches can be made young again, and dying ones reborn. Lucille Talusan, CBN News, Tokyo. That's so awesome. Well, 70 percent of Japanese claim no religion. Less than two percent of Japan's 127 million people are Christian. Up next – Overcoming danger to be a witness for Christ. This Colombian woman shares her faith in a war zone. In Hungary, some evangelicals fear a new law threatens religious freedom. The Institute on Religion and Public Policy says the law strips more than 100 groups of their status as religious organizations. One pastor said it's the greatest discrimination against evangelicals since communism. Not all agree. We spoke with Dr. Peter Hack, a former member of Parliament and a deacon at Faith Church in Budapest. He believes the fears are overblown. I understand that some churches are a little bit afraid of this process, but up till now we don't know how this law will work in the actual practice. And we don't have reason to be suspicious in this way. Faith Church maintains its status under the new law. Turning now to South America. Deep in the Colombian jungle a Christian woman and her two children are overcoming danger to shine forth the light of Christ. In the middle of an armed conflict, she's refusing to take sides and shares the Gospel with anyone who will listen. man of the Voice of the Martyrs Canada brings us this exclusive report. "Gabriella" and her children, 15-year-old "Bella" and 17-year-old "Juan"—not their real names—rely on the Lord's protection to keep them safe. They live deep in the jungles of Colombia where Marxist FARC guerillas, para-military, drug traffickers, and government soldiers are active. This is an extremely violent area. Gabriella has compassion for all these groups because she knows what it's like to live in fear and darkness. In 2006, her life had fallen apart. Gabriella says she became depressed after being spiritually abused. Soon her life would be dramatically changed. Russell Stendall of Colombia Pet-ee-cristo (phonetic) gave her several Galcom solar-powered radios, which were pre-set to a Christian radio station. She began listening to the biblical teaching, studied the scriptures for herself, read Christian books, and received encouragement from Russell and others. Through the Lord's powerful work in her life, Gabriella became a committed follower of Jesus and was a changed woman. (Voice of Interpreter). My whole outlook on life changed. I really began to love my children and I realized I hadn't really loved them. After seeing the Lord work a miracle in the life of their mother, Juan and Bella say they will serve Jesus no matter what the cost or danger. They want to see others set free from their spiritual darkness. (Voice of Interpreter). We see a lot of young people either joining the guerillas, para-military, going into the army. A lot of young people are going to the city and join drug gangs. As long as they do this there's going to be a lot of violence and we're not going to do that. What they will do is pray for them and reach out to them with God's love. Gabriella and her family live on the edge of a FARC-controlled area. To the south of their house there are no churches; the guerillas won't allow them. (Voice of Interpreter). The Lord has given us peace in the middle of all this. And whatever side comes into our house, the Lord gives us the words to say to them and ways to reach out to them. Juan and Bella work with Rolo and others to distribute radios, Christian books, Bibles, and clothing to all sides of the conflict. (Voice of Interpreter). When I find young people, especially the girls who don't have clothes or their clothes are in tatters, then I get something ready and I take it to them. I scout around and see where the needs are. The guerillas returned one day to see if I had any more radios. Their radios had been destroyed and lost when the government bombed them. They said the radios were the most important thing to them. Gabriella says she's not afraid to continue her ministry because she is seeing amazing results. (Voice of Interpreter). The Lord has given us peace in the middle of all this. And whatever side comes into our house, the Lord gives us the words to say to them and ways to reach out to them. Gabriella says some of the guerilla commanders have come to Christ. Two of them called Gabriella just a few days before our visit with her. (Voice of Interpreter). They said they loved me very much and to pray for them. The message of the Prince of Peace through these faithful followers of Jesus is making a huge difference in this violent country, one life at a time. And thanks to man for that report. And you can find daily stories about the church around the world on our Website. Just visit cwnews.org. We'll be right back. One of the most famous Bible stories is Noah's Ark. Now, people can visit a life-size replica of the ark in one of the world's most famous cities, Hong Kong. Here's Chris Mitchell. The ark rises next to a huge suspension bridge in one of the world's busiest waterways. Its story begins with a unique partnership, including a government, a developer, and Christian organizations working together. In the late ‘90s, Hong Kong needed a bridge to connect the city with its new airport. Matthew Pine is manager of Noah's Ark theme park. As part of the whole development scheme there was an island that needed to be developed to enable the building of the bridge. As a lawyer for the developers, Hugo Chan's message to the government was: We can help you with the bridge if you negotiate with the owners of the land on the island, build a theme park for the community, let us relocate the villages and build a residential development. So the government built the bridge, these apartments, and a theme park. But at first they didn't know what kind of theme park. They had vision to do something remarkable, something outstanding. So they came up with many ideas. Some of them were really outrageous and some of them were very unreasonable. But the big vision of the ark came from a little girl. It came from the heart of an eight-year-old girl. She drew a little picture, her dad took it, the government officials loved it, and from there on the architects and engineers developed the plan, the marketing teams came alongside, and the Hong Kong government also came to support it as well. And they eventually created what you've seen today. The contractors built the ark the same dimensions the Bible says Noah did, 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high. Many believe it was the largest wooden structure ever to roam the seas. One thing you notice up close is that it's big, very big. Outside, a garden features nearly 70 pairs of life-size replicas of animals from the ark, and a few real live ones. Inside, it contains exhibits with rare animals, like a nautilus, a toucan, and exotic fish. Original animations show how the ark could have been constructed or how it might have been ventilated. You also discover the story of a major flood is nearly universal throughout the world's ancient cultures. The designers tell Noah's story at the time he opens the ark after the flood. And the reason we chose that moment in the story is because this is the message we want to bring to Hong Kong, we want to bring to China, we want to bring to the world today. And it's this: In our lives we will always face floods. We will face trials, we will face difficulties, we will face tribulations. In our lives sometimes that's sickness, sometimes that's financial troubles, sometimes that's trouble with relationships. If we can find a vessel to pass through those storms, those floods in our lives that may even threaten our very lives, then we can pass through, have a new beginning, have a new hope as it was in Noah's day. Chris Mitchell, CBN News, Noah's Ark, Hong Kong. Fascinating! I'm just glad the lions and tigers aren't real. That's our report for this week. Thanks for watching. God bless you.

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