Some 150 to 250 Christians face charges for violating laws against conversion and proselytization in the Hindu state of Nepal. According to several recently released reports, persecution of Nepal’s Christians increased sharply during the past year. For example, the Puebla Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based human-rights group, notes that about 180 cases of prosecution were reported in 1989, compared with only one or two in 1970.
Though most of the Christians charged are free on bail, at least 10 are serving jail sentences and at least 50 are in police custody, according to church leaders within the country.
The Puebla report indicated that while Catholics have also been affected, Protestant evangelicals have borne the brunt of the government persecution because of their persistent efforts to evangelize.
The Cambodian government has legalized Christianity, allowing Christians in the capital city of Phnom Penh the right to worship openly for the first time since 1975. All religion was banned in the country during the rule of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979. The succeeding Vietnamese government recognized Buddhism (the religion of 90 percent of the population) and Islam, but continued to repress Christianity. In recent years, however, restrictions on Christians have eased.
Protestant church leaders last year submitted a petition to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, asking permission to reopen churches in Phnom Penh. According to Joe Kong, president of the Cambodian Evangelical Church of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, more than 400 believers attend nine churches in the city. Noting that the government has not yet recognized about 30 house churches in the countryside, Kong told News Network International that Christian leaders were reacting with caution. A BBC report attributed the government’s action in part to pressure from the East European diplomatic community.
Soviet Groups Meet
Representatives of about 60 organizations with ministries in the Soviet Union met last February in Dallas to share information and strategies for working in the rapidly changing communist bloc. Though some Eastern Bloc ministries have met together in the past, those meetings have included only a few groups at a time, due to the covert nature of their work. But now, according to Ralph Mann of Mission Possible, who was one of the meeting organizers, the overwhelming opportunities for ministry that now exist made such a large conference necessary.
The 110 mission leaders present at the four-day meeting discussed strategies for literature distribution, discipleship and training, mass evangelism, and economic development for Soviet churches and groups, Mann said. Almost all the groups were unprepared for the dramatic changes in the country, he said, and they are rushing to respond to what many feel may be a limited opening for Western agencies.
Bishops Warn Against Sects
The 30 Roman Catholic bishops of northwestern Mexico and California have issued a pastoral letter warning against the proselytizing efforts of groups that “reject or directly oppose the historical churches.” The letter makes specific reference to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, and Pentecostal groups, according to Religious News Service. Its release comes in the wake of recent attacks on evangelicals that were reportedly instigated by Catholics (CT, March 19, 1990, p. 44).
The letter called clergy and lay leaders to increase activities to counter the missionary work directed at Hispanic Catholics. In a section addressed to “members of the proselytizing sects,” the letter says: “Our attitude toward you, and to all sincere believers, must be one of openness and understanding, not condemnation.” It calls for “a true commitment to the work of ecumenism,” avoiding “the polemics and proselytism of the past.”
PEOPLE AND EVENTS
Opened: In London, a school to train Iranian Christians to evangelize Iranians around the world. The Iranian Bible Training Center offers a two-year program and is directed by Samuel Yeghnazar, who also leads a congregation that includes about 100 Iranian members.
Published: The first religious statistics within the Soviet Union. A poll conducted in connection with the debate on a new law on religion found one in three Soviet citizens confesses allegiance to a church or religious community.
Elected: As president of the Lutheran World Federation, Gottfried Brakemeier, president of Brazil’s Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession.
Scheduled: The maiden voyage of Logos II, the shipboard evangelism program of Operation Mobilization, for next spring. Stops may include Tallinn, Estonia; Leningrad; and ports in Poland and East Germany. The ship replaces the Logos, which ran aground in a storm off southern Argentina in January 1988.
Chosen: Lindsay Brown, 36, of Wales, as the general secretary of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, beginning in June 1991. He is only the third person to hold the post in the 42-year history of the group.
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