- The Vatican in January accused police in the Chinese province of Hebei of trying to blackmail priests who had been arrested for their faith. The Roman Catholic Fides International News Agency reported that arrested priests who remain loyal to the pope and refuse to join the government-controlled church are visited regularly by prostitutes who try to tempt them into sexual relations. Priests who push away prostitutes are caught on hidden cameras, and the photos of them touching are used for blackmail, Fides reported. Chinese authorities have denied the reports.
- Following pressure from the U.S. government and Orthodox leaders, the board of trustees of the Halki Theological School has been reinstated in Ankara, Turkey. A Turkish government agency arbitrarily dismissed the board in November for alleged "financial malfeasance and propaganda against the Turkish state." The majority of Turkey's 120,000 Christians are Orthodox.
- Protestant theologian and New Testament scholar Oscar Cullmann died January 16 in Chamonix, France, at age 96. He led early twentieth-century ecumenical efforts to dialogue with Roman Catholic and Orthodox theologians. Cullman wrote several books, including Christ and Time (1951) and The Christology of the New Testament (1959).
- Frank Naea, 41, will become the first nonwhite president of the Colorado Springs-based Youth With a Mission International (YWAM). Naea, a New Zealander of Samoan and Maori parents, has worked with YWAM since 1981 and is the agency's regional director for the Pacific. Naea begins a four-year term in 2000. He will replace Jim Stier, who will continue as YWAM's international director of evangelism and frontier missions and national director for Brazil.
- Lars B. Dunberg, who recently resigned as president of the International Bible Society, has started a new ministry in Colorado Springs, Global Action. The organization will be involved in Scripture distribution projects for youth, evangelism outreach, training of national pastors, and evangelism and discipleship conferences for youth.
- Fifteen organizations have created a partnership to prepare cross-cultural missionaries, the Center for Intercultural Training in Union Mills, North Carolina. The coalition includes Columbia International University, SIM USA, United World Mission, World Harvest Mission, and World Team.
- The government of Malaysia banned The Prince of Egyptin late January, just before the DreamWorks SKG motion picture was set to be released in theaters following weeks of promotion. Chair Lukeman Saaid said the Film Censorship Board found the movie "insensitive for religious and moral reasons." About 60 percent of the population in Malaysia are Muslims.
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March 1 1999
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