The Washington Post reports that Christian missionaries around the world have evacuated predominantly Muslim countries since the September 11 terrorist attacks. The Southern Baptist Convention alone has moved about 100 missionaries in the Middle East and Asia to more secure locations. "They are frustrated because they love the people so much that they want to be ministering to them in this time of crisis," says Avery Willis, senior vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board. Other missionaries still in predominantly Muslim countries are being told to watch their step, and to be even more careful about overt evangelism.
Two missionaries on many Christians' minds are Martin and Gracia Burnham, currently held hostage in the Philippines by the Abu Sayyaf. There apparently hasn't been much news since the Muslim guerrilla group threatened to behead them. However, 16-year-old Basit Balahim, whose father was a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf before his arrest, offered details about the gruesome death of Guillermo Sobero, the other American hostage. "I no longer want to be an Abu Sayyaf member," Balahim told reporters. "You are always on the run. It's difficult being pursued by a lot of soldiers." A U.S. counterterrorism team is visiting Zamboanga, the base city for military action against the Muslim rebels, and the chief spokesman of the Philippine military says it still expects to rescue the Burnhams by the end of the month. Then there's this cryptic announcement by National Security Adviser Roilo Golez: "Within 24 to 48 hours, we expect something big will happen." It's unclear when he said it, but the Reuters story that quoted him moved at 6:03 EDT this morning.
New Tribes Mission has set up an e-mail bulletin list for those interested in breaking news about the Burnhams. Click here to subscribe, or visit the mailing list's site here. The bulletins will likely be posted at the New Tribes main site and its Philippines office site.
Taliban stalling Shelter Now verdict
On Monday, Weblog noted that the Taliban Supreme Court was expected to issue a verdict this week in the case of eight foreign aid workers accused of promoting Christianity. Scratch that. "Unfortunately it doesn't appear that the court has that on the front burner at this time," John Mercer, the father of American prisoner Heather Mercer, told CNN. "Of course, that is disappointing." The aid workers' lawyer, Atif Ali Khan, told Reuters he spoke to the judges earlier this week. "They said they could not hold regular proceedings due to the attacks," he reported. "It is natural that in such a warlike situation, the court cannot hold regular hearings." All eight prisoners were allowed to call their families.
Ground zero is evangelism center
While missionaries may be lying low in predominantly Muslim countries, evangelism has apparently skyrocketed in New York City. Prayer stations with red-and-white banners decorate the Wall Street area, with counselors passing out Bibles and kneeling with passersby. Choirs sing hymns to tourists who've come to gawk at the wreckage. Street preachers shout out messages of damnation. "The only difference between hell and New York is one of them is surrounded by water," one tells The New York Times. New Yorkers are apparently responding. Debbie Walcott, who works at a brokerage firm, grabbed a pamphlet from an evangelist as she told the Times, "I think what happened was a wake-up call, but I'm still struggling to figure out what it all means. … It's really difficult to be here every day."
Church and state:
- After a surge, limits return to school prayer | A number of politicians, communities and religious groups have moved to challenge restrictions, hewn by courts over the last four decades (The New York Times)
- Texas governor defends prayer in school | 'Reaching out to a supreme being is a very normal act' (The Dallas Morning News)
- 'God Bless America' displays endorsed | The House last week gave its blessing to "God Bless America," urging public schools to display the expression as a show of support for the nation. (Associated Press)
- Signs of the time | "God Bless America" doesn't violate the separation of church and state in the slightest (Editorial, The Denver Post)
- This 'religion' thing | In recent times, the exercise of bending over backward not to offend has squeezed rational considerations out of existence. (Balint Vazsonyi, The Washington Times)
- Church leaders criticize plans to drop court oath | Proposed change would require witnesses only to promise to tell the truth (The Independent, London)
- Nativity scene battle looms with the ACLU | Town Hall, school displays under dispute (The Boston Globe)
- Expelled devil returns to school | Catonsville High principal says seniors may keep mascot until end of year (The Baltimore Sun)
Christian observances of Halloween:
- Spooky or spiritual? | Two Oahu churches take opposite approaches to celebrating Halloween, a day usually devoted to spooks and ghouls (Honolulu Star-Bulletin)
- Tribulation trail | End-times tableau designed to scare you out of hell will include 9/11 scenario (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
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