Radio Station Robbed

An armed robbery and threats against HCJB World Radio in Ecuador have continued to baffle police and raise tensions at the pioneering Christian station. Last February, two armed men entered the HCJB transmitter building in Pifo, about 15 miles east of Quito. They tied up the two operators on duty and stole about 50 circuit boards, which control transmitting operations.

HCJB engineers restored most service by midmorning the same day. However, the thieves left a note demanding $250,000 and threatened additional damage to the facilities, said HCJB president Ron Cline. They warned that they would destroy the circuit boards if HCJB contacted the police or the news media, and that HCJB personnel would be harmed should any of the thieves be arrested. After a four-week silence, the thieves made yet another threat in early April.

Ministry leaders believe common criminals motivated by money, not political terrorists, were involved in the robbery. HCJB, operated by World Radio Missionary Fellowship, received security advice and assistance from the U.S. embassy in Quito and put armed security guards at its transmitter site. HCJB engineers in Elkhart, Indiana, built replacement circuit boards, which were flown to Ecuador. Full service was restored by Easter.

Christian Population Grows

The world’s Christian population grew by some 326 million during the past decade, according to David Barrett, writing in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research. The total of all Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant believers is now an estimated 1,758,777,900, or about 33 percent of the world’s 5.3 billion people. That figure includes 963 million Roman Catholics, 324 million Protestants, 180 million Orthodox, and 54 million Anglicans.

Copts Challenge Law

Egyptian Christians are suing their government to change a 134-year-old law that requires presidential permission to build or refurbish a church and offers tax breaks for building mosques. Coptic Orthodox Bishop Barsoum of Dairut filed suit last November, following a police order to shut down Saint George’s Church in that city because repairs were being made without a permit. The case since has been postponed twice in an Egyptian court.

According to the American Coptic Association, nine other church buildings have been closed under the law in the past two years, with only one remaining from the rule of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. About 200 applications to build new churches have been denied or not acted upon since President Hosni Mubarak took office in 1981.

The association has also charged that the country’s 11 million Copts are targets of increasing violence, while authorities have refused to intervene. They cite two recent incidents in which Coptic churches were ransacked and desecrated by Muslim fundamentalists.

Famine Threatens Again

Relief agencies are warning that war-induced famine in Ethiopia and the Sudan could produce mass starvation far worse than any seen before in those troubled East African nations. Fighting between government and rebel factions has not only blocked distribution of relief supplies, but it also has made difficult the delivery of seeds for the coming planting season.

Dick Anderson, Africa director of World Relief, said that seeds must reach farmers before mid-April. If no crop is harvested in October, famine will be worse than ever.

In Ethiopia, observers estimate that more than four million people, about four times that of the 1984–85 famine, could die in the year ahead. Though harvests last year were good, and relief agencies stand ready to deliver aid, President Mengistu Haile Mariam has refused to let supplies into areas controlled by the rebel forces battling against him. In the Sudan, where fighting has also closed relief supply lines, observers estimate that up to three million could starve in the next several years.

Briefly Noted

Announced: The reunification of the Evangelical Alliances of East and West Germany. The boards of both agencies agreed unanimously last month to merge within one year. The alliance will bring together about 700 local groups in the East and 900 in the West.

Rented: A vacant hospital in Sri Lanka to the Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM). Civil unrest forced many expatriates from the area near the city of Kandy last year, leaving the hospital empty. Authorities in the predominantly Buddhist nation have forbidden Christian witnessing in the hospital itself, but TEAM officials hope the unusual presence of a Christian medical work will strengthen the ministry of Kandy Bible Fellowship.

Lost: Land previously approved as the site of an evangelical seminary in Moscow (CT, March 5, 1990, p. 4). In February the Moscow city council told the Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists that the property had been assigned to someone else. The Soviet Religious Affairs Department apologized to the Union for the confusion, and offered to help “seek other solutions.”

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