From Belarus and Portugal to Sri Lanka and Suriname, Bible Societies are facing financial collapse in countries hardest-hit by the pandemic. Two thirds of Bible Societies around the world now face significant survival challenges: 20% risk immediate closure. However, we can thank God for $4.1 million given to them by a global Solidarity Fund, to provide finances for staff salaries, Bible translations, and continued work on essential outreach projects.
Egypt will now allow Muslims to build Christian churches as paid labourers. In the past, Muslims have often seen this kind of work as taboo. The pronouncement allows them to help build any of the 44 churches now under construction around Egypt. They can also join the work on 16 historic Coptic churches now being restored. Tom Doyle of Uncharted Ministries says, ‘This is a big step. This is the government saying, “We are giving our okay for this”. And that’s another good sign. So we are thankful for that, and pray that there will be better relations between Muslims and Christians. We know as Muslims become exposed to the Gospel and see the joy of the Lord in believers, it is attractive to them. They want to know more. Saudi Arabia is the heart of Arab Islam. But Egypt is the brains of Arab Islam.’
The 2014 kidnap of 276 Chibok schoolgirls brought global attention to raids on schools in Nigeria. Now criminals are making money with copycat crimes. Nearly 300 girls were kidnapped from a boarding school last week, then released four days later after a ransom was paid. One girl said, ‘Most of us got injured, and we could not carry on walking. They said they would shoot anybody who did not continue walking. We walked across a river and they let us sleep under shrubs in a forest.’ Their release was secured through negotiations between government officials and the abductors. Kidnapping for ransom is a widespread criminal enterprise. Both rich and poor are seized by gunmen on almost a daily basis. Security personnel have also been held. The aim is to secure someone's release by raising funds from friends and relatives - or even selling their assets.
Former president Donald Trump returned to the spotlight at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. He stated, ‘The Republican Party is going to unite and be stronger than ever before. I am not starting a new party.’ He focused much of his speech on criticising the first few weeks of President Biden's administration, making it clear he wants a leading role in the GOP in future. With the 2022 midterms just around the corner, he wants Democrats defeated, also each GOP lawmaker who voted for his impeachment.
Wycliffe Bible Translators are launching New Testaments in three different languages in Ghana over four days, and Christians across the nations can join the dedications live on Facebook. The Tafi, Logba and Nyagbo peoples receive their New Testaments on 25, 27 and 28 February respectively. The events, which start at 10 am each day, are hosted by a local organisation partnered with Wycliffe. You can watch the celebrations at facebook.com/gillbt.org. Also, on 25 February Ghana became the first country to receive a shipment of free Covid vaccine doses. This is a historic step towards an equitable distribution of vaccines to the areas where those most at risk live. It will be the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history, which will continue in the coming days and weeks.
Pope Francis is making a monumental trip to Iraq in order to bring healing to the war-torn society. As the very first pope to set foot on Iraq's soil, he plans to meet with key Christian and Muslim leaders to address issues faced by both groups. This event is being heralded by the Iraqi government as a ‘historic event, symbolising a message of peace to Iraq and the whole region.’ Peace indeed is needed for the small remnant of Christians left in Iraq. Christian communities were scattered by the Daesh onslaught in 2014, further shrinking the country’s already dwindling Christian population. Their struggle to endure will get a boost from the historic visit in March, his first foreign trip since the coronavirus pandemic and a sign that ‘You’re not alone, there’s someone who is thinking of you, who is with you’.
Acknowledging a need to restrain the abuse of ‘blasphemy’ laws and protect victims of false accusation, forced marriages to Muslims and forced conversions, the government has appointed a special assistant to the prime minister on religious harmony and Middle East. It is hoped this appointment will end the social structure where Christians are inferior to Muslims, confined to low-paid menial jobs such as street sweeping and latrine cleaning. A significant government statement affirmed that minorities living in Pakistan are ‘not second-class citizens’, and guarantees they will be protected under the rights and privileges enshrined in Pakistan’s constitution. Also, there is now a grievance helpline set up to report false accusations of ‘blasphemy’.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has launched a new commission to explore how the Church can help resolve Britain's housing crisis. The housing shortage is one of the ‘major challenges’ facing Britain. He said the nation must think about building strong communities not just bricks and mortar. Academics and theologians will discuss Christian perspectives on providing affordable homes and flourishing neighborhoods. The commission follows the archbishop's book published last year, Reimagining Britain, in which he connected good-quality housing with equality and justice. The report recommends that thousands of hectares of unused church land be used to build affordable homes in the next few years. The legalities for selling church assets could be amended so that land and buildings are used for social and environmental needs, not just economic benefits. See