Grave desecration acknowledged
A Georgia county has acknowledged it paved over part of a Black Baptist graveyard during road construction 52 years ago. St. Paul Baptist Church in DeKalb County was pushed out of its historic location by white neighbors in 1930 but maintained a church graveyard. The county built a road over part of it in 1969. DeKalb officials refused to acknowledge the desecration—despite the many letters and protests of a longtime deacon—until it was reported by a local news station. The deacon is asking the county to move 26 bodies, put up a plaque, and construct a fence around the remaining burial grounds.
Muslims can work on churches
The Grand Mufti Shawki Allam issued a fatwa in January allowing Muslim laborers to work on the construction of new churches. The religious ruling overturns previous teaching that building a church violated the Qur’an’s prohibition against helping “sin and rancor.” According to a government council, land has been designated for 10 new churches in Egypt, in addition to the 34 already under construction. The ruling marks a significant step toward Christian toleration in the country. In 2018, the government began allowing churches to be licensed. Since then, 1,800 have registered, including 310 Protestant churches. Another 960 Protestant churches are waiting to be processed.
UN demands reason for church closures
The United Nations Human Rights Council is demanding an explanation for the closures of Protestant churches. More than a dozen churches with the Protestant Church of Algeria have been closed since 2018, and another 49 have been threatened with closure. The association lost its legal status in 2013 after 70 years, and no Protestant church has received a permit in the North African country since 2006. The UN letter demands Algeria explain in detail the reasons for the closures, the process for reopening, and the process for re-registering the association. The World Evangelical Alliance expressed concern about Algeria in February.
Evangelical leader appointed
Thomas Schirrmacher was appointed general secretary of the World Evangelical Alliance starting March 1. Schirrmacher, a moral philosopher, gave an inaugural speech about the definition of evangelical. He said believers from the Brazilian rainforest, where worship services are held in trees, to Malaysia, where churches meet in modern skyscrapers, are not united by culture or politics but by belief in the resurrection of Jesus, empowerment through the Holy Spirit, and the authority of the Bible. Schirrmacher’s top priorities include improving regional relationships and better integration of evangelism and creation care.
Pastor identified in civil war mass grave
Investigators may have located the final resting place of a Protestant pastor executed by fascists during the Spanish Civil War. Atilano Coco, a Reformed Episcopal minister, was the only Protestant leader in the city of Salamanca in 1936, when Francisco Franco took over and the far-right government declared Roman Catholicism the national religion. Coco was accused of “false news propaganda,” arrested, released by the side of a road, and then shot and buried in a mass grave. An estimated 114,000 were killed by Franco’s supporters. Since 2007, the government has been slowly removing Francoist symbols from public spaces, documenting the historic murders, and exhuming and identifying bodies. In that time, Catholicism has declined by 10 percentage points while evangelicalism and “nones” have experienced significant growth.
Putin critic quotes Jesus
Anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny praised protestors who turned out to support him after his arrest by quoting Jesus’ statement, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matt. 5:6). Navalny was poisoned in 2020, probably by Russia’s Federal Security Service, and has been called the man that Vladimir Putin fears most. Navalny said he became a Christian after his son was born, but “I don’t think I could make political capital out of my religious faith—it would just look silly.” Kremlin officials claimed he is “comparing himself to Jesus” and has delusions of grandeur.
New police chief promotes diversity
An evangelical Christian has been named head of the national police for the first time. The appointment of Listyo Sigit Prabowo has been hailed as evidence President Joko Widodo is really committed to religious pluralism in the majority Muslim nation where, only four years ago, a Christian governor was convicted of blasphemy for quoting the Qur’an in a campaign speech. Listyo, a Pentecostal, told parliament he will work to improve the transparency of the police force, promote diversity and respect for minority groups, and curb radicalism.
Christians pay for Jewish immigration
The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem funded the flights of 300 Ethiopians to Israel, helping the government bring more than 2,000 members of the African Jewish diaspora to the country. Aliyah, or Jewish repatriation, is increasingly funded by evangelicals, as Jewish giving declines and a growing number of Christians embrace it as a way to support Israel. According to the Jewish newspaper Forward, donations are even coming from Christian countries with no notable Jewish communities, such as South Korea and Papua New Guinea. The Ethiopia flights cost $1,300 per immigrant.
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