|| FIGHTING IN EASTERN DEM. REP. OF CONGO FAILS TO DETER MISSIONARIES
Mission teams in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo, continue to reach out to others despite heavy fighting in the area in recent days. Rebels withdrew from Bukavu, a city of 250,000 near the border with Rwanda, Sunday, June 6, after receiving pressure from the U.N. and international mediators. Hundreds of fighters loyal to dissident Cmdr. Gen. Laurent Nkunda headed north of Bukavu Sunday, although U.N. peacekeepers on the ground remained cautious, reported Reuters. The rebels' show of force in taking Bukavu last week revealed a weakness in the government, prompting protest riots in the country's capital. Grace Ministries International's Sam Vinton says for three days last week the ministry's teams were pinned down by gunfire in Bukavu, disrupting the outreach. The worst of the fighting took place about a quarter of a mile from Grace's compound in the city. "Right now everything is at a standstill because no one is going to leave their homes, and even in their homes they don't feel secure because they're being looted," he said. Despite the violence, missionaries have no plans to evacuate. "I think prayer is the main thing that we need to concentrate on at this time," Vinton said. "As far as our missionaries, right now they're safe, but you never know what could happen. My daughter-in-law said to me, 'You know, we feel this is where God wants us. What kind of a testimony are we to people when we take off and leave them?'" (Mission Network News/Reuters)
* HCJB World Radio works with local partners in the Democratic Republic of Congo to broadcast the gospel on FM stations in Boma, Bukavu and Kinshasa. Programs go out in English, French, Kikongo Fioti, Lingala, Luba and Swahili. Weekly programs in the Songe and Kikongo San Salvador languages also air from local FM stations in the country.
PAKISTANI CHRISTIAN ACCUSED OF 'BLASPHEMY' RELEASED ON BAIL
Anwar Masih, a 30-year-old Christian jailed in Lahore, Pakistan, on what many believe to be a trumped-up blasphemy charge, has been released on bail. The Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), which is handling his case, reported that Masih was "bailed out from High Court by Justice Tassadaq Hussain Jilani on June 4." He had to post a bond of 20,000 Pakistani rupees (US$346) for bail. "This is a great success and triumph for Anwar and for CLAAS," said Ann Buwalda of Jubilee Campaign USA. "Until 1999 no one accused of blasphemy could get bail, and it still takes great legal maneuvering to convince a judge to grant bail pending the outcome of the case." Joseph Francis, coordinator for CLAAS, said Masih was arrested on the blasphemy charge 11/2 years ago after allegedly "uttered insulting remarks about various prophets and said something derogatory about the beard of the complainant, Naseer Ahmed, who recently had converted to Islam." Francis said Ahmed "bore an old grudge against Anwar Masih" and had a "disliking for Christians and sees them as his rivals." (Assist News Service)
RUSSIAN OFFICIALS TARGET JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES, PENTECOSTALS
Jehovah's Witnesses and Pentecostals in the Sakhalin oblast of eastern Russia appear to be facing an ongoing campaign by the authorities against their right to gather for worship. Following the recent ban on Jehovah's Witness activity in Moscow, one Russian Orthodox priest, Oleg Stenyayev, suggested a similar ban in the Sakhalin region, and that a new Kingdom Hall be confiscated and given to local Muslims. Roman Catholics and Baptists have encountered few or no problems from Sakhalin authorities in their use of premises for worship, but Pentecostals and Jehovah's Witnesses have had mission events barred from buildings. (Forum 18 News Service)
MINISTRY TEACHES ETHICS IN SCHOOLS OF FORMER COMMUNIST STRONGHOLD
An international Christian ministry is being allowed to teach ethics from a biblical basis in a former communist stronghold. Decades of communist control in the former Czechoslovakia resulted in a moral decline that is widespread, especially among young people. Skyrocketing alcohol and drug abuse are common among the youth, prompting government officials in the Czech Republic to turn to International Needs Network for help. Spokesman Rody Rodeheaver says believers have permission to teach ethics in public schools. "What they've done is turn to an organization that has supplied and put together a group of youth evangelists who have created talks on ethical issues," he explains. The talks address issues such as sex and morality, abstinence, alcohol, drugs and bullying. "They can actually go in and are allowed by the school to talk about those subjects and to speak from a platform of Christian values," Rodeheaver added. The arrangement has led to many evangelistic opportunities. "We're been able to present our talks, and then invite these students back to another location after school where we can openly share the gospel," he explains. Many of the young people have put their faith in Christ and are now active in local churches. (Religion Today/Agape Press)
NEW ASSOCIATION JOINS 10 TELEPHONE MINISTRIES IN U.K.
The Christian Helplines Association (CHA) was officially launched Wednesday, May 12, joining 10 telephone ministries across that U.K. that bring spiritual and emotional help to callers. Nearly 100,000 calls (274 per day) were received last year by 10 "helplines" in the country. The association was formed during a special event at the Christian Resources Exhibition at Sandown Park in Esher that aired live via Premier Christian Radio. The 10 founding members include the Crossline Coventry, Crossline Hull, Crossline Plymouth, Derby: All Nations for Christ, Matthew Project, National Message, Nationwide Christian Trust, Premier Lifeline, Preston Christian Message and UCB Prayerline. John Pither, chair of the working party of the CHA, said, "I am very excited by the progress that has been made so far. I can see that there will be real benefits through us working closer together in this way." (Assist News Service)
CUMULATIVE VIEWING AUDIENCE OF 'JESUS' FILM SURPASSES 5 BILLION
The "Jesus" film continues to make inroads into more languages around the world. The film has now been translated into 812 languages. To date more than 37 million video cassettes and nearly 8 million audio cassettes have been distributed. Through the widespread distribution in 236 countries, 193 million people have indicated decisions for Christ. Some 2,500 "Jesus" film teams in 102 countries continue to show the film. The cumulative viewing audience is more than 5 billion. (Mission Network News)