The Soviet government’s harassment of Christians seems to be on the upswing. London’s Keston News Service reports that rearrests of unregistered Baptists are a sign of a trend toward isolating religious groups. Keston also reports searches of believers’ homes for “forbidden literature,” including Bibles. Meanwhile, Timothy Chmykhalov, one of the “Siberian Seven,” is appealing to Christians to help in his campaign to bring to the West his mother-in-law and her two daughters. Chmykhalov now lives in Dallas, Texas.

Guatemala’s human rights record has worsened since the overthrow in August of President Efraín Ríos Montt, says the Washington Office on Latin America. WOLA, which supports leftist groups in Guatemala, reports that at least 80 people have disappeared, and thousands have been imprisoned for “subversive activity, since the rightist administration of Mejia Victores took power from Ríos Montt.”

An evangelical agency in Peru has won $10,000 in prize money for its work in literacy. The agency, Alfalit, represented Peru in competition for the Iraq Literacy Award 1983. Peru was among four nations honored out of 34 that entered the annual competition. Working through local, evangelical churches in Peru, Alfalit trained nearly 500 volunteer literacy teachers and some 3,500 people to read and write. The agency is a part of the Costa Rican-based Alfalit International, which works in 13 Latin nations.

Leaders of South Africa’s three largest interracial denominations have urged rejection of proposed constitutional changes that would give the country’s Indians and coloreds (mixed races) their own national assemblies. The denominations—Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Methodist—say the plan could lead to greater separation and division. It would continue to exclude the nation’s 22 million blacks from a major political role.

Three Christian schools were shut down by the Ethiopian government in August.

According to Christian Response International, Ethiopia’s revolutionary Marxist regime is responsible for taking over the facilities of Comboni College and two other schools without compensation.

Bangladesh continues to battle mass malnutrition. Dramatic increases in rice production in the last decade have been offset by extreme population growth. Bangladesh is the eighth most populous country in the world. According to government statistics, the average 18-year-old male stands at five feet, three inches, and weighs only 97 pounds.

The Presbyterian Church of Brazil has rejected a relationship with the recently formed Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. The Brȧzilian church broke 114-year-old relations with the southern-based Presbyterian Church U.S. because of the merger between PCUS and the United Presbyterian Church. The Brazilian body broke ties with the United Presbyterian Church in 1972 over sharp differences in mission philosophy. Church officials say it is still a dividing issue.

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Onagers—the wild asses mentioned in the Bible—are once again loping across the Negev Desert. Eight onagers were released by the Israel Nature Reserves Authority, culminating a 20-year plan to revive the Middle Eastern wild ass. This is the first time a species of Bible-era animals, carefully bred in captivity, has been returned to the wild.

Some 70 Soviet Pentecostalists are trying to follow in the footsteps of the Siberian Seven. According to religious sources in Moscow, 17 families from a remote village in eastern Siberia have started a mass protest in an effort to emigrate to the West. In a typewritten message, the protesting villagers said they were beginning a graduated fast. They are protesting the heavy fines and short jail terms that Soviet authorities levied against villagers who held unauthorized religious services.

For the First time in South Africa’s history, nonwhites may soon have a role in national government. South Africa’s parliament has developed a new constitution granting such authorization. The country’s white electorate is expected to give its approval in a referendum early in November. If the constitution is rejected, it will be the most severe setback for the governing National Party in 35 years of uninterrupted rule.

When beverage alcohol was outlawed from 1919 to 1933, prohibitionists had to credit part of their success to pressure from Protestant churches. Today, concern about alcohol abuse is rising again in many quarters, and those who are facing the problem are looking to the churches for help. This time, however, the response is less than wholehearted.

The scientists and health professionals who are speaking out on alcohol problems complain that they receive little help from major denominations. Dan Beauchamp, a University of Michigan health-planning professor and leader in the movement, would like to see churches take a greater role in the effort.

“I am powerfully disappointed that no major denomination has taken an active interest in this issue,” said the United Church of Christ layman. “I think the churches are still afraid of this issue. Their fear is that they’ll revive latent prohibitionism in their denominations.”

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George Hacker, of an ad hoc group called the National Alcohol Tax Coalition, also believes churches are shy of getting a prohibitionist label. He and Beauchamp believe the churches may be coming around, however.

With or without church support, actions to reduce alcohol abuse are increasing. A federally funded study last year urged the development of a campaign to reduce drinking. Set up by the National Research Council, the study called for such actions as stiff taxation on liquor and a national campaign to encourage moderate drinking rather than alcohol abuse.

In another development, the National Council on Alcoholism, traditionally linked to the liquor industry, has removed industry members from its board. At its annual meeting last spring, the council vowed to campaign for higher taxes on liquor, mandatory treatment for alcoholics, and warning labels on liquor bottles. The American Medical Association has backed the call for warning labels, particularly to alert pregnant women to the possible health risk to their unborn babies.

Opinion polls show that a majority of Americans support government action against alcohol abuse. In a Gallup poll last year, 56 percent of those surveyed favored doubling the tax on at least one type of alcoholic beverage. A larger number, 61 percent, favored the labeling of calories and ingredients on liquor bottles. And 68 percent favored a nationwide educational campaign to discourage alcohol abuse.

Public support for higher taxes on alcohol is growing. Last July a coalition of some 100 consumer, health, and religious groups held a news conference to demand the doubling of alcohol excise taxes. The taxes haven’t been increased since 1951.

In the United States, drunkenness is a factor in a majority of deaths caused by falls, drownings, fire accidents, and spouse beatings, and in half of all traffic fatalities. It is estimated that deaths caused by alcohol run between 50,000 and 200,000 annually. The cost of alcohol abuse—in medical bills, property damage, and time lost from work—was estimated at $100 billion in 1982.

The problem is not limited to the United States. In a survey of 80 nations last year, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) cited “a swing back of public opinion, away from complete liberalization and towards a reasonable degree of alcohol control.”

As an indication of the scope of the problem, WHO reported an increase in beer consumption of 500 percent in Asia, 400 percent in Africa, and 200 percent in Latin America. “The evidence of increasing damage in a large number of developing countries suggests alcohol-related problems constitute an important obstacle to their socioeconomic development, are are likely to overwhelm their health resources unless appropriate measures are taken,” the organization said.

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National Baptists Reaffirm Their Support For Civil Rights Activism

America’s largest black denomination has reaffirmed its year-old commitment to civil rights and social action. The 6.8-million-member National Baptist Convention U.S.A., Inc., reelected Theodore Judson “T.J.” Jemison as its president.

First elected last year, Jemison has directed the denomination away from the conservative leadership of its former president, Joseph H. Jackson. Jackson, who headed the church for 29 years, opposed civil disobedience and other forms of nonviolent protest advocated by the late Martin Luther King, Jr. As a result, King led about 500,000 members out of the denomination in 1961 to form the Progressive National Baptist Convention.

Jemison, whose father was president of the convention before Jackson was elected in 1953, organized America’s first bus boycott in the early 1950s. The protest forced the integration of the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, public transportation system.

Elected in September to his second term as president, Jemison, 63, told the church’s annual convention: “We will not try to become a political organization … or a civil rights organization. But when you deal with people, you can’t leave out politics and civil rights. You must lead the way.”

In addition to his commitment to civil rights, Jemison wants his denomination to carry out an evangelistic campaign aimed at winning three million persons to Christ. He also has led his denomination into broadened participation in the National and World Councils of Churches. At the same time, he is reaching out to leaders of other black churches. Jemison is one of the organizers of next year’s National Assembly of Black Churches. A possible business item to be considered by the assembly is the creation of a national bank to serve American blacks.

“The black church is the answer, more or less, to black problems,” Jemison has said, “and we have the opportunity to turn this entire nation toward what we believe is right.

“We believe that the church, the black church, is historically the focus of power within our race.… The solution to problems in black America can be found within the black community. We must shoulder our own responsibility.”

The proposed national bank would draw from the financial resources of black churches. The money generated by the bank would help provide jobs and economic development in black communities across the country.

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