Between 27 – 29 January prayer leaders from across the nations are in Bucharest, Romania to intercede for an end to the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. This has not been an easy event to facilitate. Some have had spiritual attacks on their lives and families. Please pray for their continued protection after the conference. As we thank God for the relief agencies, churches and governments helping those suffering the consequences of man’s pride and greed, we know that only God’s Spirit, working through His people can bring healing, reconciliation and peace. Pray that every prayer released during this time will resound continually in the coming weeks to bring a lasting peace and reconciliation.
A Wagner mercenaries Serbian-language video showing Serb volunteers training to fight alongside Russian troops in Ukraine has outraged Serbia's president Vucic. He said, ‘Why do you, Wagner, call Serbians when you know it is against our rules?’ So far, Serbia has prioritised Russian friendship over ambitions to join the EU, but now Belgrade lawyers and anti-war groups have filed criminal complaints against Russia’s ambassador and Serbia's state security and information agency for recruiting Serbians for Wagner. Vucic said, ‘Serbia’s path is towards the West, not towards invading Ukraine. Serbia consistently voted in favour of resolutions at the UN, condemning Russian hostility.’ That stance does not impress MEPs because Serbia refuses to impose sanctions on Russia. MEPs have called for ending Serbia membership negotiations until they agree to sanctions and forego cheap Gazprom gas from Russia.
There have been Ukrainian anti-corruption reforms before, but stakes are higher now that Kyiv is receiving billions of dollars of financial aid from Western allies. Officials are warned through official and unofficial channels: focus on the war, help victims, reduce bureaucracy and stop doing dubious business. Some have not listened. Several senior officials have resigned as Zelensky begins a shake-up of government personnel. A top adviser, four deputy ministers and five regional governors left their posts on 24th January in the broad anti-corruption drive. There are bribery claims worth hundreds of thousands of pounds and officials living lavishly. Zelensky is responding to ‘key public demands’ that justice must apply to everyone and state officials cannot leave Ukraine unless on authorised business. Ukraine is historically corrupt. In 2021 Ukraine ranked 122 out of 180 corrupt countries.
Niger is an important transit area from West and Central Africa, Libya, Algeria and Europe. All must face the desert before reaching their destination. Between January and May 2022, Algeria sent 14,196 migrants like Cécé, back to Niger. Cécé, a tiler from Guinea, has just returned from Algeria where he could never leave the dangerous construction site where he was sporadically underpaid. It was not worth staying, so he returned home to the same job he had left. A roundtrip tracing political geographies, imagined borders, expulsions, deportations, targeted removals and defeats. The feeling of shame for what has been invested in terms of time, money, energy, dreams and regret is mixed with the bitter relief of still being alive. These are times in which the seas, deserts and especially the use of borders are nothing but sophisticated systems of point elimination.
The influence of the Church is waning and waxing in north and south America. The religious forms once dominant (Catholicism, mainline Protestantism) see a marked decline in their influence. Secularism, the growing presence of other world religions and the increasing personalisation of spirituality all gravitate against classical Christian orthodoxy. Evangelicals and charismatics continue to grow - but not as fast as they once did. Pray for Christians to come to a personal faith in Christ, not striving to earn entrance to heaven by works, ceremonies and pilgrimages. Prosperity theology can turn God into a heavenly sugar-daddy who exists to bless us rather than a loving Father who wants engagement in every area of our lives. It syncretises the Gospel with materialism and stunts the growth of the Christian with a focus on things of this world. Maturity is needed in the churches. Sanctification and maturity are often lacking. Churches that grow spectacularly often decline in the same manner.
There is a move to change Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Act, and the Queensland Human Rights Commission (QHRC) has recommended removing the right of Christian schools to exclusively hire Christian teachers. They released a Report containing 46 recommendations, four of which relate to religious bodies, one of these recommendations would narrow the 'genuine occupational requirements' so Christian schools cannot require all staff to be Christian. Only certain roles would meet that criterion, like the principal or chaplain. A science teacher, for example, would not be required to be a Christian. This dramatically undermines a Christian school’s ability to fulfil their ethos. Christian schools are places where students practise their faith along with teachers and staff. The idea that staff are not required to live according to the school’s religious ethos is at odds with faith-based learning. The Australian Christian Lobby is encouraging Australians to write to their MPs and the Minister for Education to express their concerns.
Bangladesh is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. Bangladesh was part of Pakistan until its independence in 1971. Islam is the official religion, and the government propagates Islam with financial assistance to mosques and by organising Imams’ training. 89% of the population is Muslim. The Christian population is a fraction of 1%, facing persecution from Muslim communities and ISIS. Christians meet in underground house churches. In the early 1800s, William Carey ministered to the Bengali and translated the New Testament into their language. Today, indigenous missionaries effectively continue the work of evangelism and discipleship. Missionary support and funding is their greatest need for discipleship and training programs. Missionaries also engage in compassionate outreach, including providing education to poor Muslim and Christian children, running feeding centres that provide nourishment to hundreds of children, and sheltering orphaned or abandoned children.
On 25th January, Rwanda's military fired at a Congolese fighter jet that had violated their airspace for the third time recently. The DRC called the shooting ‘an act of war.’ This incident comes a week before Pope Francis is to make the first papal visit to Kinshasa since 1985. The Pope plans to shine a spotlight on the bloodshed of the conflict in eastern DRC, one of the world's most resource-rich yet conflict-ridden regions. On 15th January an improvised explosive device ripped through the congregation at a baptismal service conducted by a blind pastor. It severed limbs and killed at least 17 people. This attack in North Kivu province is just the latest terrorist outrage in the DRC by the Allied Democratic Forces, one of the most dangerous of dozens of armed groups in eastern DRC. As well as physical injuries, terrorist violence has left DRC Christians suffering serious emotional trauma.