Prophecies give way to prayer
With the reported site of Jesus' birth as a focal point for the Mideast conflict, one might expect the biblical prophecy interpreters to be in high gear. Not so, says The Washington Times. Even Hal Lindsey "is focusing on larger biblical themes rather than details, such as terrorist attacks on America or Israel's seizure of Yasser Arafat's political headquarters," writes Larry Witham. Christian Broadcasting Network columnist Erin Zimmerman, on a visit to Israel, says she's "surprised by the lack of detailed, 'date-setting' type of end-times speculation that was popular during the Gulf War." The reason, she suspects, is because the immediate horror of the situation makes such guesswork seem a bit trivial. Evangelicals in the Holy Land, Zimmerman says, are "becoming more aware that there's a human side to Armageddon. For many Christians, I think the prophetic viewpoint is being tempered by a new level of compassion where the Middle East is concerned."

Slave redeemers: We weren't ripped off
Regular Weblog readers will remember accusations in February editions of The Irish Times, The Washington Post, and other media that Christian Solidarity International had been duped into buying and freeing fake slaves. "Rebel officials round up local villagers to pose for the cameras," Declan Walsh reported in The Irish Times. "They recruit fake slavers—a light skinned soldier, or a passing trader—to 'sell' them. The children are coached in stories of abduction and abuse for when the redeemer, or a journalist, asks questions. Interpreters may be instructed to twist their answers."

As also noted by Weblog, Christian Solidarity International's first response didn't get into many specifics, but reiterated the horror of Sudanese slavery (a fact conceded by the newspapers).

But Maria Sliwa of Freedom Now has called Weblog's attention to an extensive refutation of the articles at, which answers the details of the February news reports. For example, the papers had asserted (based on an account by Italian missionary Mario Riva) that the rebel forces deliberately mistranslated both CSI's questions to the slaves and the slaves' response. Here's how Walsh wrote it:

For example, says Father Riva, [CSI's John] Eibner would ask if a slave had been held in captivity. The official would translate the question as "have you suffered in the war?" The villager would emphatically reply in the positive. Then the translator would tell Eibner that the man had been abducted by Arabs, treated inhumanely and was grateful to CSI for saving his life.
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But Eibner says the incident in question was taped by a news crew, and independent translators say the exchange wasn't mistranslated. "No significant discrepancies were found between what the interviewees said in Arabic or Dinka and what the local translator told them," says a letter from Eibner to The Irish Times.

Many other details of the news accounts are brought into question, which readers can examine themselves. The bottom line, however, is that the it's now the news agencies, not CSI, that owe an explanation.

In related news, an international team of experts will travel to Sudan this week to investigate slavery in that country. Leading the team is Penn Kemble, former head of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Others are from Britain, Italy, Norway, and France.

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