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Christian World News: July 8, 2011

On this week's Christian World News: Outreach for flood victims in the Philippines, Sudan's Christian South becomes a new nation, one man's mission to bring smiles to Romania, and more.
 

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Today on Christian World News – The people of South Sudan finally have their own country after a half century of civil war and oppression. But hear why some fear the situation remains tense. Plus – The Smiles Foundation. How one man's mission to share the love of Christ in Romania helped bring smiles to people who once had no hope. And – A Muslim community and a massive flood. How these Christians responded to their needs. A new nation is born in Africa. Welcome to Christian World News. I'm Efrem Graham. George Thomas and Wendy Griffith are both on assignment. There is a new country in the world today. The Republic of South Sudan has joined the community of nations. The south seceded from the north on July 9th. It is part of the 2005 peace agreement that ended a 20-year civil war. The people of the south endured brutal ground and air attacks by the Muslim north during the war. More then two million people died. The south's population is heavily Christian and black African, two groups targeted by Omar Bashir's regime in Khartoum. Joining us now is CBN senior international correspondent Gary Lane. He's been to Sudan many times over the years and I know you've covered the civil war and witnessed the suffering of Christians in South Sudan. What does the independence mean for them? Efrem, this means everything to the people of South Sudan because as you know they've been fighting for 22 years for their independence. Two million people died. Another four to five million were left homeless. They've suffered tremendously over the past couple of decades. And this is the moment they've been waiting for. They wanted to stop this advance of Islam into the south. Many were forced to learn Arabic, also to attend mosques and also learn Islam. And this way they can practice their faith freely now. Indeed. Speaking of faith, this new nation is mostly Christian. Why is that so important in this part of Africa? Well, it's important because as Islam was attempting to advance throughout southern Africa, this is the buffer. These are a Christian group, a rag-tag army initially, called the SPLM, the Sudan People's Liberation Army, and they stood up against this. They stood up against this Islamic regime in Khartoum that was trying to force them to become Muslims. And they won! Do you know of any other place in Africa or even in the world where a Christian militia has stood up against Islam and have won. So what this does is it's a buffer to prevent the advance of Islam down into Uganda, into Tanzania, Kenya and other places in South Africa. Now in the weeks leading up to independence there have been attacks by northern forces in border regions. What's going on there? Well, what's going on is the north is trying to determine what the border is. And they want to mandate what the border is without the south having a say in that. And that's because this border area is rich in oil. And the oil revenues just in April and May of this year were over a billion dollars. So we're talking about a lot of money. So what they want to do is clear the people out of the border area and make it secure for the oil. They want to determine what the border is. And we've certainly talked about the victory and the celebration. This new nation right now is facing, though, a refugee crisis, isn't it? Yes. Tens of thousands of people because of the recent fighting are now refugees. Many are coming back also from Kenya and Uganda because the country of South Sudan is independent now. So they're returning; they have no homes to return to. And many of the people from the recent fighting are without homes. So that's a big problem right now, big humanitarian crisis in South Sudan. Wow. What does the future hold for South Sudan do you think? Well, the future is bright if they can get investment, if people will partner with them to help them build roads and institutions there. But I'm afraid that if they don't come to some agreement with the north on the border, on oil revenues and so forth, that they could end up in war again. The world watching, what should we be praying for? Well, we need to pray for the peace of Sudan. And pray that many more people will come to the Lord now that they have a free and open society there where they say they honor and protect religious liberties. So pray for the peace of Sudan, number one. Number two, pray that more people will be open to the Gospel and will have an opportunity to hear it. Governments like the U.S. looking, what can we be doing to help? Well, the U.S. government is already giving a hundred million dollars a year in military aid to beef up their Sudan People's Liberation Army, the South Sudan army. And that is needed if they are going to have secure borders and stand a chance against this giant in the north that may want to do things their own way and fight with them again. All right, Gary, thank you so much. We appreciate your time. We know you'll keep us posted. Will do. And you can learn more about the new nation of South Sudan and the Christian ministries at work there. Just visit our website at cwnews.org. Well, sub-Saharan Africa is in the midst of a revival. It's an area where Christianity is attracting followers in numbers not seen in more than a hundred years. George Thomas takes us there. Twenty years after the end of apartheid, inside South Africa's biggest black township, another image is emerging. Soweto is on fire for God. Grace Bible Church is where it's happening. They began in 1983 with a handful of people. It has now more than 15,000 members and eleven satellite churches across South Africa. Mosa Sono is the senior pastor. God says if you seek me you'll find me. If you long for me, if you seek for me with all your heart. I think that Africa is very hungry for God. And the proof is in the numbers. For four months researchers criss-crossed South Africa and 18 sub-Saharan African nations. They interviewed more than 25,000 people face-to-face in 60 different languages. What did they discover? Well, [it's] clearly the most religious place on earth. Luis Logo is with the prestigious Pew Research Center. His team found that people who live south of the Sahara Desert and stretching all the way to the tip of Africa are seeking after God unlike in any other region of the world, including Europe and the United States. The overwhelming majority of those here said religion is very important to them. Most people believe in one God and in heaven and hell. They say the Bible is the literal Word of God. And a vast number believe Jesus will return in their lifetime. From the importance of religion in people's lives, to attendance at religious services, to belief in God, to prayer, you name it, one after another, Africa ranks at the highest level in terms of global comparisons. Lugo says Christianity, in particular, is exploding. In 1900 there were seven million Christians in sub-Saharan Africa. That number is up 70-fold today to a staggering 470 million. Christians are now 60 percent of the population. That growth by any global comparison or historical comparison has to be one of the most rapid religious transformations in the history of Christianity in the last two thousand years. Muslims have also seen a big rise in their numbers. From 11 million in 1900 to some 234 million in 2010. You know, it's not to say that the indigenous African beliefs are not being practiced today on the continent. In fact, the survey found that half of the people questioned here in South Africa believed that sacrifices to the ancestors, and even spirits, can protect people from harm. And the Pew survey shows that despite the dominance of Christianity and Islam, traditional African religious beliefs haven't diminished. Nonetheless, Jacques Vernaud could never have imagined today's phenomenal growth of Christianity. Born in the central African nation of Gabon to Swiss parents, Vernaud says he was 20 years old when he got the calling from God to be a missionary to Africa. In those days I never preached before big congregations. Fifty-seven years later he leads one of the largest churches in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has 60 other churches around the country. (congregational singing and worship) And like his fellow pastor in Soweto, Vernaud says he bears witness to the power of God in people's lives. God is doing something special for Africa in our days. And despite the crushing poverty, hunger, disease and famine that millions of Africans face each day, researchers discovered that the people living in this region rank the highest in the world in terms of their optimistic outlook. Back in Soweto, Pastor Mosa Sono is thrilled that Africa is on the leading edge of Christianity's growth worldwide. For years he's been calling on the men and women of his church to lead the effort of carrying the banner of Christ to the ends of the earth. We come from a history where things were done for us. People came to us, to tell us about Christ. We were the so-called "Dark Continent," you know, and all of that, but we realize history changes and so we intentionally and pro-actively talk about taking the Gospel to other parts of the world. Yet another sign, researchers say, of Africa's dynamism and spiritual vitality. George Thomas, CBN News, in Soweto, South Africa. Unfortunately, there is grim news out of eastern Africa. A drought is gripping nations on the Horn, even as the area faces what's being called the worst food crisis of the 21st century. Thousands are leaving their homes in search of water and more than a thousand Somalis are said to be crossing the border into Kenya every day. In northern and eastern Kenya more than three million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. As World Vision we are very concerned, especially because of the under-five. If they do not get the nutritional requirement they need in the first five years of their lives there will be stunting and this is irreversible and therefore they will never be able to live really to their full potential. The United Nations says throngs of Somali children are dying on the harrowing journey to reach refugee camps in Kenya as well as Ethiopia. Coming up here on Christian World News – Here in Romania, it struck me, the children didn't smile. And over the time I was here I've come to realize they didn't know how to smile. They had nothing to smile about. One man's mission to put a smile on people's faces is bringing hope to those who had none. Twenty years ago a British missionary had a plan: travel to Romania, hand out food, medicine and school supplies and then head back home. But once he got there he just couldn't leave. I went to Romania to follow his remarkable story. With a cry to God, Romanians rose up in December 1989 and defeated Nicolae Ceausescu's Communist regime. Just days after "Revolution Square" grew quiet, a British accountant and talent manager made the short trip to help those in the newly freed country. I've been too many desperate parts of the world and normally there are smiles and laughter amongst the children. Often because they don't realize the seriousness of the situation around them. Here in Romania, it struck me, the children didn't smile. And over the time I was here I've come to realize they didn't know how to smile. They'd had nothing to smile about. Seeing children who wouldn't even smile for the camera Broke Kevin Hoy's heart. He soon learned that while the revolution ended Communism, it did not erase the poverty and its pain. This led to one simple goal: give children something to smile about. Our fundamental mission was as simple as that. And the mission, now known as The Smiles Foundation, continues to expand. Today, a Smiles social worker delivers food to Adrianna Adi. Abandoned by her husband, Adrianna and her two children share one room in a social housing project. Eighty-seven families live in this building and there's a long waiting list of families with nowhere else to go, waiting for space to open up. In fact, Adrianna's one-room apartment used to be the building's laundry room before she moved in four years ago. Her seven-year-old son admits to having nightmares about losing his mom and becoming an orphan. But in this visit, counselors are able to make him smile. I have been working for the past year and a half with families, with homeless people, and I can testify to people not smiling, turning to people that are smiling. And joining us now right here in the studio is Kevin Hoy. He is the founder of The Smiles Foundation which works to bring smiles to the faces of the most disadvantaged people in Romania. Kevin, thanks so much for being here. It's a great privilege, thank you. You know, in recent weeks we've seen gypsies taking refuge in the Basilica in Rome, children dying in a fire there in a shack, as well as the pope calling for solidarity. Why is it so difficult to get gypsies to coexist with other populations? Largely due to the different culture which is extremely different from wherever they might settle. But in Romania where I now spend my time working with gypsy communities, even amongst the Romanian communities there are great differences. And of course because of the problems that the gypsies have come through largely due to no education, they have struggled to make a life for themselves. And so not only are we coping with a different culture but we're dealing with people who have been bad neighbors. They've sent their children begging, they've tended to steal from the land or the livestock of their neighbors in order to survive. Whilst if I were trying to feed my hungry child I might well be tempted to go a similar route, in the end we've got to work to change their situation and provide them a different means of covering their needs. That said, you have been in Romania for a while now working with at least two gypsy communities there. How has The Smiles Foundation been able to make things work? You cited all those difficulties that exist, but when you go there, I mean, you're seeing change. How have you been able to make it work? Well the paramount issue to be sure of is that we are motivated by the love of God. He is the one who can fill us with the desire to go the extra mile, to do what doesn't always feel the natural thing as a human being to do - to love unconditionally, but at the same time to present some rules and some conditions in which we should all live by. Changing culture is not a quick process. We've attempted to help the children in their education. In both communities, very few of the children ever went to school. I had the opportunity to spend some time there with your organization, traveling with teams into the two different communities that you work with. One is certainly farther along than the other when it comes to progress. How are things progressing now? Well, we started in the Tilia (phonetic) gypsy community in 2001 whereas in the Salah (phonetic) gypsy community it was 2007. So naturally one is further progressed than the other. But in both cases we are seeing progress particularly among the children. We've just our first children who are looking to graduate eighth grade, which is a very important stage in Romanian education. It's the diploma you need to be able to be officially employed. Without it, it's extremely difficult. And we're having our first children get to that stage. Now we hope and pray that we will encourage them to go through high school and possibly on into university. Kevin, thank you so much. Really appreciate your time. Thank you. Up next – Under water and out of reach. When floods overtook this Muslim community, only one group responded to their needs. More than 65,000 families in the southern Philippines are suffering because of floods and landslides triggered by torrential rains last month. Villages in the mostly Muslim region are still submerged in water, displacing thousands of families. As Asia correspondent Lucille Talusan reports, Operation Blessing is on the scene providing relief and medical care. It's been three weeks since torrential rains caused massive flooding in the mostly Muslim region of southern Philippines, yet many villages are still submerged in water. The residents have no choice but to endure the discomforts of cramped evacuation centers and exposure to the changing weather. (Voice of Interpreter). It is very hot here during the day, but at night it is cold and windy. Most of the evacuees, especially the children, get sick with colds, cough and fever. The residents here are very poor. Our blankets are too worn out to keep us warm. They also suffer from diarrhea and infections due to lack of clean water and poor sanitation. To help them, Operation Blessing held medical missions, especially in the far-flung areas that have barely been given relief assistance. Areas like this one are neglected because of the presence of Muslim rebel groups. But Operation Blessing volunteer, Dr. Yvonne Estose, went from tent to tent giving health checkups and treating the sick. Most children have diarrhea, while the old women suffer from hypertension because of poor nutrition. The medical mission came just on time for Sammy Ulong and his family. Their three-year-old daughter who had fever for several days was diagnosed to have bronchitis. (Voice of Interpreter). Thank you so much for your help. This is our first time to be checked by a doctor. We don't go to the doctor because we don't have money to pay them and buy medicines. But you gave everything for free. In addition to medicine, Operation Blessing also gave away toys to the children. For many children, it's the first real toy they've ever owned. Operation Blessing also distributed food, mats and blankets and copies of the Book of John to flood victims. The team also set up a water station to provide clean water in the villages where the water has been contaminated by the flood. While the evacuees are waiting for the floodwater in their villages to subside, Operation Blessing is there to ease their suffering and spread God's love in these Muslim communities. (Voice of Interpreter). I am overwhelmed to know that for most of them I am the first doctor they saw. I hope they really felt God's love and that they experienced through us that Christ's love is real. Lucille Talusan, CBN News, Cotabato, Philippines. You can see daily stories about the work of God's church around the world. Find them at our website, cwnews.org. We'll be right back. A three-day Gospel festival in southern France attracted a global audience, thanks to TV coverage. The Luis Palau Christian festival drew thousands to a Marseilles beach. Public Christian events are unusual in France, which has a strong secular tradition and a longstanding indifference to the Gospel. Palau spoke in Spanish, permitting a live broadcast to Latin American through the Enlace TV Network. The translated messages were taped for later broadcast to France, the Middle East, and French-speaking Africa on other Christian networks. Peru's president, Alan Garcia, erected a giant statue of Jesus as one of his last official acts in office. It faces the Pacific, similar to the one that overlooks Rio de Janeiro. The "Christ of the Pacific" statue is 121 feet tall. A Brazilian construction company donated it. The president prayed for the nation and read Christ's Beatitudes at the dedication. And finally to day – A first for the Billy Graham Association – a bilingual festival to reach Hispanics in Southern California. Nearly five million Hispanics live in the Los Angeles area. Evangelist Franklin Graham worked with some 600 Hispanic congregations recently for the outreach. They had a Saturday morning event for children. It was followed by two nights of public meetings for adults. Altogether about 1,500 people responded to Graham's invitation to follow Christ. Los Angeles holds special meaning for the Graham family. It's where Franklin's father Billy Graham came to national prominence in 1949. Franklin Graham's daughter, Cissey Graham Lynch, revisited the site of her grandfather's historic eight-week tent meeting. Washington and Hill Street. And this is where it all started for my grandfather's ministry. It was his first crusade back here in 1949, and the largest erected tent that California had seen. It held 6,500 people every night for eight weeks. Cissey is one of Franklin Graham's four children. Her brother Will is a preacher as well, the third generation of evangelists in the Graham family. Lots more work to be done, indeed. That is going to do it for our program this week. Thanks so much for joining us. Until next week, good-bye and God bless you..

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