Human-rights Group Formed

The newly organized U.S.-Pakistani-American Christian Association is protesting a blasphemy law under which Christians can be put to death.

Edgar Dass, president of the Milford, Pennsylvania, group, criticizes Pakistan’s 1991 Shari’a Act that deems use of “derogatory” remarks about the Islamic prophet Muhammad or “any imputation or insinuation directly or indirectly” deserving of death.

On February 2, Faisalabad police arrested Anwar Masih for “loudly uttering blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad in public.” If convicted, Masih faces the death penalty. Another Christian, Gul Masil, was sentenced to hang last November under the blasphemy law and is appealing his case.

“What constitutes a derogatory remark is never defined,” says Dass, who grew up in Pakistan, which is 97 percent Muslim.

In another case, Naimat Ahmar, who was exonerated of a blasphemy charge, was stabbed to death on a street in January 1992 by a Muslim who danced over the corpse and bragged that he had killed an infidel. Even the policeman arresting the accused murderer (charges later were dropped) kissed him, according to Dass.

Jamaica Welcomes Palau

Luis Palau’s recent two-week “Say Yes to Jesus” crusade in Jamaica received support from 130 pastors and laity from 13 United States churches. Palau spoke to 245,000 people in stadiums, churches, schools, hospitals, prisons, and on streets. More than 100,000 schoolchildren heard the gospel preached at assemblies; an estimated 17,500 people made Christian commitments.

Palau, the 58-year-old evangelist based in Portland, Oregon, was received warmly by Jamaica’s political leaders, who have been groping for solutions to the nation’s social and moral problems. He addressed most of the 60 members of Parliament. “We must evangelize the nation or it will perish,” Governor-General Sir Howard Cooke declared. In the past 30 years, the murder rate has risen 950 percent, and robberies have escalated 2,000 percent on the island.

“A Christian revival is moving through Jamaica that has the ability to touch many other countries,” Palau said. “I see Jamaica becoming a spiritual superpower that could affect the whole world.”

Atheists Are Common in Uruguay

Uruguay has a higher proportion of atheists and agnostics than any other country, says a new 19-nation survey by Gallup International. Pollsters found 7 percent of those in Uruguay are atheist, and 3 percent are agnostic.

The figures may be low, according to John Maust, editor of Latin America Evangelist. He notes that 14 percent of Uruguayans in the Gallup poll claimed no religious preference, and that could be an expression of unbelief.

“At least a third of the nation are self-professing atheists and agnostics,” Maust says. In addition, he says, while 56 percent claim to be Catholic, all but 20 percent are nominal Catholics. Evangelical Protestants account for only 2 percent of the population.

Les Thompson, president of Logoi International, believes 25 percent are atheists and agnostics. “You can actually feel a religious indifference. As soon as the subject turns to religion, they don’t want to discuss it.” Maust and Thompson say Uruguay is difficult to evangelize because of historical and cultural barriers. In 1918, the government legislated a strict separation of church and state as a way to undercut the authority of the Catholic church, and that has resulted in broad secularism. For instance, Christmas is officially called Family Day, and Holy Week is dubbed Tourism Week.

Briefly Noted

Two thousand and counting. That is the number of languages into which at least one book of the Bible has been translated—about a third of the total number of languages in the world. The milestone was reached last year when the Gospel of Mark was translated into Bete: Daloa, a language spoken by at least 500,000 people in the West African nation of Cote d’Ivoire (name changed in 1985 from Ivory Coast). The number is more or less symbolic, because it represents only those translations received by the libraries of the American Bible Society and the British and Foreign Bible Society.

• American missionary William Brown and his Iraqi Christian wife, Esther, were unharmed in a bomb attack on January 29 outside their home in the Kurdish town of Dohuk. A bomb of one kilogram of TNT exploded in front of the kitchen window while the couple were in their bedroom. Brown is owner of the only Christian bookstore in “free Kurdistan.”

• The Family (formerly the Children of God) will regain custody of eight children who were taken into custody by Australian police last spring. In the past, the Family has been accused of encouraging followers to engage in shared sexual relationships, including sex with children. Victoria’s Community Services Department sought custody of the children, alleging they were being subjected to that and other forms of abuse. But in his ruling, Judge Greg Levine said evidence suggests the group’s past unacceptable sexual practices “have been terminated,” and that he was not satisfied the children’s emotional and intellectual development had been damaged significantly.

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