April 22, 2009

School in Refugee Camp Celebrates 25 Years

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance
April 22, 2009

The Kawthoolei Karen Baptist Bible School and College (KKBBSC) in the Mae La refugee camp in Thailand celebrated its 25th anniversary from March 25-29.

The school was founded by Saw Simon, the recipient of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) Human Rights Award in 2000, and offers general education to refugees and training to church leaders.

Simon and his family fled across the Thai border after the school, which was originally located in Rangoon (Yangon), the former capital of Myanmar , was destroyed. He later restarted it at the Mae La camp. Mae La houses an estimated 50,000 persons and is one of the largest of several refugee camps for displaced persons from Myanmar who fled conflicts in the South Asian country. The school restarted with 32 students and has since grown in enrollment to more than 300.

Included in the celebration were the 23rd graduation exercises of the KKBBSC, where 39 students graduated, and the 25th Annual Mass Meeting of the Kawthoolei Karen Baptist Churches (KKBC), comprising the more than 240 churches that were founded in the refugee camps.

“We are really grateful to God for what He has done for us, is doing for us, and will be doing for us,” a release from the school said. “We also thank our brothers and sisters around the world for supporting us and praying for us.”

For the full release: http://www.bwanet.org/default.aspx?pid=1074

South African Baptist union urges South Africans to vote, pray

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance

The Baptist Union of Southern Africa (BUSA) is urging its members to vote in national and provincial elections set for April 22 in South Africa .

“Every citizen of South Africa is given an opportunity to vote for the party of their choice to become the government. If good people do not vote, only bad people will vote, and the results will be disastrous,” the Christian Citizenship Committee of BUSA said in its voting guidelines to Baptist churches in South Africa .

“Many good people are disillusioned and discouraged...they feel politics is so hopelessly corrupt, it is useless becoming involved in it,” the BUSA guidelines said, “but we must seek the peace and prosperity of the city and state in which God has placed us.”

“We want competent leaders to lead our land,” the guidelines read, even if these leaders are not religious. “Some of the finest political leaders in history have not necessarily been deeply religious or spiritual people…. In His common grace, God has given certain skills to particular people.”

Even while urging Baptists to vote, the Baptist union called on Baptists to “pray that South Africa ’s democracy may be strengthened,” and for “more men and women to be elected who have a real desire to serve the nation and not just their own interests.”

The elections on April 22 will elect a new national assembly as well as the provincial legislature for each province. The national assembly will select the person to become president of the Republic of South Africa.

For the full release: http://www.bwanet.org/default.aspx?pid=1068

April 2, 2009

Police Raid Baptist Home in Azerbaijan – Again

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance
April 2, 2009

Three Baptist women were detained and fined for “illegally spreading Christianity and other faiths” in the South Caucasus country of Azerbaijan on March 25.
The three, who are from Baku , the capital of Azerbaijan , were charged after police raided a Baptist religious gathering in a private home in the central town of Agdash , where children were receiving religious instruction.

According to Forum 18, a religious freedom watchdog group based in Oslo, Norway, “In the afternoon of 25 March, eight men raided the Agdash home of long-standing Baptist Vera Zhuchaeva, who is in her seventies,” and detained the three women, who claimed that “officers insulted them for their faith.”

Forum 18 reported that parents had been invited to send their children to Zhuchaeva’s home to listen to Bible stories during the Novruz spring festival, a holiday celebrating the arrival of spring. Approximately 12 children were present.

A report out of the office of the European Baptist Federation (EBF), one of six regional fellowships of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), stated that the police confiscated more than 500 pieces of Christian literature, 40 CDs, and a CD recorder.

The EBF report also stated that the raid and the detention of the Baptists has had widespread media coverage, which has included the disclosing of the addresses of those detained and fined.

Elnur Jabiyev, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Azerbaijan, described the public disclosure of the addresses of the detainees as dangerous. “Nationalists will know their addresses. The police should not have given journalists this information,” Jabiyev said.

Azerbaijan has come under increasing scrutiny from the international Baptist community in recent times. Two Baptist pastors, Zaur Balaev and Hamid Shabanov, were arrested in 2007 and 2008, respectively, after police raided their house churches. Both were found guilty on what were regarded as trumped up charges. Balaev was released in March 2008 after serving six months of a two-year sentence, while Shabanov, though convicted in February of this year, was not imprisoned as he had spent time in jail and under house arrest before and during his trial.

See: http://www.bwanet.org/default.aspx?pid=1046

April 1, 2009

Called to a Global Context

By Elijah M. Brown

On March 13th an important – though mostly unannounced – milestone was reached: the 20th Anniversary of the proposal of the World Wide Web. As a recent Economist article notes, Tim Berners-Lee first proposed the World Wide Web in a document that went by the rather unassuming title, “Information Management: A Proposal.” The original idea was to use the web to link together documents and understanding related to particle physics from around the world into a connected platform for collaboration. Two decades later the web has moved far beyond science and has radically transformed life and society as we know it.

Even with the web, however, our natural tendency is not to think globally, but to think locally and personally. What is going on in my community? How does this affect me or my ministry? What about my church, my calling, my setting?

What if we began to think globally? What if we changed the equation from how can my ministry grow to how can my ministry, in its current form, partner with others to transform the world for Christ?

Such a mindset raises a new set of questions:

  • What area(s) of the world is the Lord calling me to intentionally adopt as a focus for pursuing transformation?
  • Who is already at work in that area or among that subgroup? How can I listen and learn from those already engaged?
  • Who are my potential partners and how can I deepen my relationship with them?

On this 20th Anniversary of the World Wide Web what strikes me is that the proposal stemmed from one individual. One individual who understood the power of collaborative thinking and global connectivity. In the economy of the Kingdom, size and amount of resources are not the chief ingredients. It is yielding to the Spirit – not size – that matters most.

The question is not, “Does my ministry have a global calling to reach new areas for Christ?” Rather, the question is, “Where, Lord?”

The World Wide Web started with one individual. Now just imagine how God could use you. Be encouraged. And let us together answer the question:

“How can we begin to think and minister globally?”

(Twenty Years of the World Wide Web. What’s the Score? http://www.economist.com/science/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13277389&CFID=48160950&CFTOKEN=14777343)