Indonesia will stop using the Arabic term for Jesus Christ—Isa al Masih—when referring to Christian holidays celebrating his birth, death, and ascension. Starting in 2024, the government will instead use the Bahasa term Yesus Kristus, which is more common among Christians in the majority-Muslim country. Most believers see it as a positive development, but some are concerned about attempts to legislate religious terminology. In 1986, the government tried (but ultimately failed) to forbid Christians from using the word Allah for God.
United States: Hate crime report shows some anti-Protestant violence
The Federal Bureau of Investigation reported 2,042 antireligion hate crimes were committed in 2022. More than half targeted Jews. About 100 targeted Catholics, 78 Eastern Orthodox, 63 Protestants, and 97 “other” Christians. Reports of anti-Protestant violence have increased by about 20 percent over the past two decades, while antireligious violence overall has increased by more than 40 percent.
Cuba: Pastors kept from participating in freedom of religion event
Two pastors were detained before a freedom of religion event and were kept so long they couldn’t present an award. Alejandro Hernández Cepero and Luis Eugenio Maldonado Calvo, both Protestants, were told by state police that attending such events could lead to accusations of terrorism. The event was hosted by the Patmos Institute, an independent civil society organization founded by Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, an exiled Baptist pastor. “The Cuban dictatorship views the theme of religious freedom as a sensitive topic, associated with the United States,” Lleonart Barroso said. “They are unable to understand that they are dealing with a universal theme.”
Argentina: Recognition for evangelicals considered
Eighteen of Argentina’s 24 provinces celebrated evangelicals on Reformation Day, and the Chamber of Deputies approved a bill, drafted in 2021, for the holiday’s annual federal recognition. If passed by the Senate, the bill would give evangelicals the visibility some leaders have sought for decades. It will fall short of granting legal equality with Roman Catholics, however. Argentina has no official religion, but the Catholic church has a privileged status and receives state support. Evangelicals first organized to request equal treatment in 1999. A gathering of about 250,000 believers marched under the slogan “Jesus Christ for all and to all.” Two years later, 400,000 rallied with the motto “For my country, I want religious equality.” But multiple bills proposing religious freedom reforms failed between 2001 and 2019. The most recent census reported that a little more than 15 percent of the country is evangelical.
The Netherlands: Reformed Congregations to require rebaptism
A Calvinist denomination has ruled that people baptized by women must be rebaptized before they can join the Reformed Congregations in the Netherlands. Reformed churches have traditionally accepted the validity of all baptisms performed by ordained ministers in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. However, according to the Reformed Congregations in the Netherlands, which has about 23,000 members, a woman cannot be ordained and thus cannot administer a sacrament.
Spain: Assemblies of God dreams of 1 million congregations
At the Assemblies of God (AG) World Congress in Madrid, church leaders challenged each other to grow the denomination 170 percent in the next decade. The Assemblies of God currently has about 370,000 congregations globally. Dominic Yeo, the AG’s new international president, said the AG can reach its goal if every existing congregation plants two churches by 2033.
Sudan: Church destroyed in shelling
The Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Omdurman, Sudan, was destroyed by Sudanese Armed Forces shelling on November 1, All Saints Day. Three shells struck the 81-year-old building around 9 p.m., destroying the worship space and everything inside, including Bibles and hymnbooks. No one was reported killed, and an orphanage attached to the church was unharmed. Two factions of the Sudanese military have been fighting since April 2023, both reportedly targeting churches. Two evangelical schools were destroyed in Omdurman about three weeks before the Presbyterian church. After six months of fighting, more than 10,000 people are dead, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. Another 5.6 million people have been forced to flee their homes.
Kenya: ‘Pastor’ in viral lion video is not a pastor
Video footage of a zookeeper petting lions went viral in Kenya with false claims that the man was a pastor attempting to prove “nothing can happen to a man of God.” A member of the country’s parliament believed the social media story and challenged the man to walk with wild lions in a Kenyan nature preserve. The video, however, originated in Somalia, where a zookeeper feeds dangerous animals and attracts audiences with demonstrations of how tame they are.
Saudi Arabia: Christian martyr celebrated 1,500 years later
The Roman Catholic Church is celebrating the 1,500th anniversary of a martyr’s death in Najran, in modern-day Saudi Arabia. Al-Harith bin Ka’b, known to Catholic and Orthodox Christians as Saint Arethas, was killed in 523. Ka’b was older than 80 and reportedly prophesied that, “as a vine pruned at the correct time gives a good yield of fruit, God will multiply the Christian population.” Many hope a celebration of his faith in Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates will strengthen the region’s believers.
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