Three missionaries working in war-torn areas of the Middle East and western Africa were killed last March. William Robinson, 59, was shot by masked gunmen who broke into his home in the Israeli-designated “security zone” in southern Lebanon. Robinson had been in the country for about ten years and established a center for orphans and handicapped children in the village of Rashaya Foukhar.

Robinson’s wife, Barbara, told United Nations investigators that three men burst into their home about 8:30 P.M., while the Robinsons were praying with their four sons and 26 children from the orphanage. After identifying Robinson, they led the others out of the room, bound his wife, and took about $4,000. They then used sleeping gas to render the group unconscious. One of Robinson’s sons later found his father’s body.

The independent missionary’s plans to expand his orphanage apparently led to rumors that he intended to create a housing development for Israelis. The rumors were denied by the Israeli government, as well as by Robinson’s friends and supporters. A statement issued by the Lebanese National Resistance Front following the March 28 attack said its guerrillas killed Robinson to “deter the establishment of Zionist settlements in southern Lebanon.”

A State Department spokeswoman said the U.S. government had warned Robinson several times to leave the country.

Caught In Crossfire

Veteran missionaries Tom and June Jackson, who had been in Liberia working on Bible translation for almost 40 years, were killed in crossfire between government and rebel troops outside the eastern village of Bahn. Though reports vary, the attack was apparently not directed at the couple. Some accounts said they were killed while trying to prevent citizens from being killed. Others indicated the Jacksons were leaving their village to escape fighting in the area when their car was fired on. The couple’s car was found on March 24; their bodies were discovered four days later.

Mission and embassy officials had called for the evacuation of the area, where hundreds of civilians have been killed. The Jacksons formerly worked with Worldwide Evangelization Crusade (now WEC International), and more recently were associated with the United Liberian Inland Church. Mr. Jackson, 72, was from North Carolina; his wife was from Surrey, England.

About 6,000 Americans, many of them missionaries, live in Liberia, which was founded by former slaves from the U.S.

CAPITAL CURRENTS

Wrapped up in red tape

Evangelical leaders have petitioned President Bush to intercede on behalf of some 900 Christian families who are stranded in the Soviet Union as a result of abrupt changes in U.S. immigration policy last fall. According to World Relief, the Christians abided by the old refugee-processing system, which led them to quit jobs and sell houses in preparation for immediate departure to Rome or Vienna to await processing.

However, under new U.S. rules, Soviets must remain in the USSR until departure. The soonest any of the Christians may be able to leave is December 1990. “Having renounced Soviet citizenship, they are targets of harassment in their home communities, and many believe their lives are in danger,” a World Relief statement said. “Unable to work and without homes, they have had to depend on handouts from churches and relatives.” In an open letter, World Relief asked Bush’s office to provide immediate resettlement in the U.S. or permit the refugees to wait in another Western country of asylum.

End run around Webster

Congressional hearings have begun on “The Freedom of Choice Act,” a sweeping legislative package that would prohibit states from regulating abortion. The package in effect writes the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision into federal law.

Hearings in both the House and Senate centered on the usual arguments about the sanctity of human life versus a woman’s reproductive freedom. But both meetings saw unexpected excitement when witness Shari Richard was not allowed to show video-sonograms of developing fetuses.

Rep. Don Edwards (D-Calif.), chair of the House hearing, and Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), chair of the Senate hearing, both forbade the video as testimony, saying it violated usual procedure. Bitter exchanges between members of Congress included charges of “censorship” and “gagging” of witnesses. At one point, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) left the room in protest. Richard showed the video after both hearings, although most members and the press had already left.

Congressional advocates of abortion have vowed to push the Freedom of Choice Act to floor debate before the fall elections. Meanwhile, prolifers are gearing up for a hot exchange over the renewal of the Reagan administration’s “Mexico City Policy” ban on U.S. funds for groups promoting and performing abortions worldwide.

People

Counting the homeless is not the only aspect of the U.S. Census Bureau’s work that is generating controversy. A little-publicized section of the questionnaire includes a place for couples living together to identify themselves as “unmarried partners.” By matching this information with the gender answers, the government hopes to obtain better figures on the number of gay couples living in the U.S. Gay-rights groups are concerned about confidentiality, confusion, and an undercount.

The Senate approved evangelical Robert Sweet, Jr., a former White House aide, to head the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. During the hearing process, some senators had expressed reservations about Sweet’s former work with the Moral Majority and his “lack of experience,” but the nomination went through.

The Institute on Religion and Democracy presented its 1990 Religious Freedom Award to Romanian Baptist pastor Nicolae Gheorghita, a medical doctor and defender of religious liberty.

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