PODCAST: Jihadists are blamed for killing 160 people in Burkina Faso (ICH 06.21.21)

This is the International Christian Herald podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.

According to Baptist Press, Jihadists are blamed for killing 160 people in Burkina Faso in a prolonged weekend attack among the latest in violent religious persecution in Africa’s Sahel region. Government and nongovernmental leaders there blame the Islamic State regional affiliate, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), for the attack, although no one has claimed responsibility. The attack is the deadliest in Burkina Faso’s history and spurred calls for increased international counterterrorism efforts in West Africa. Such attacks in the predominantly Muslim Sahel region, on the southern shore of the Sahara, are religiously motivated and target both Christians and moderate Muslims, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). “As violent Islamist groups gain ground in central Sahel, they are committing religious freedom violations in their areas of operation,” USCIRF said in a May factsheet. “Across parts of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, ISGS and Katiba Macina have imposed strict interpretations of Sharia law, restricted religious practice and executed individuals because of their beliefs.

According to Religion News Service, Pope Francis refused Thursday to accept the resignation offered by German Cardinal Reinhard Marx over the sex abuse scandal in the church, but said a process of reform was necessary and that every bishop must take responsibility for the “catastrophe” of the crisis. Francis wrote a letter to Marx in response to the German’s bombshell announcement last week that he had offered to resign as archbishop of Munich and Freising over the church’s mishandling of abuse cases. Francis refused to accept the resignation and told Marx in the letter he must continue as archbishop. Francis said what was necessary instead was a process of reform “that doesn’t consist in words but attitudes that have the courage of putting oneself in crisis, of assuming reality regardless of the consequences.” Francis’ letter, written originally in Spanish and using an informal, brotherly tone, appeared to give Marx papal backing to proceed with the German Church’s controversial reform process that was launched as a response to the abuse crisis and reports into the German hierarchy’s mishandling of abuse cases over decades.

According to Baptist Press, In January 2020, International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood announced 2025 targets built around the IMB’s vision and mission to engage unreached people and places in the next five years. The first target is “send an additional 500 missionaries.” The IMB will host a Sending Celebration on Monday (June 14) during the Send Conference in Nashville, recognizing 64 missionaries approved by IMB trustees during their meeting in May. Each missionary is crucial to IMB’s first target goal. Accounting for attrition from missionaries who complete their service, approximately 400 new missionaries are needed each year to meet the target goal of growth in the total missions force. Building on the work God did in 2020, IMB plans to mobilize more people toward work overseas in multiple missionary roles. Scott Ray, director of assessment and deployment at IMB, explained the importance of each missionary role to reach 500 additional missionaries. “There are opportunities for Southern Baptists to help hit this number, no matter what their current season of life is,” Ray said. “Whether you are just out of college, have a seminary degree, currently a business professional or work in the medical field there is a pathway for you. If you are interested in following the Great Commission to make disciples of the nations, we can help you get there.”

According to Religion News Service, Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s anti-money-laundering unit, published a long-awaited report on Wednesday (June 9), giving the Vatican and Holy See good enough marks for compliance with international anti-corruption laws for Catholic Church officials to claim success in the push for greater financial transparency. “The Holy See welcomes the Moneyval Report published today and the invitation to continue on the path already undertaken,” the Vatican said in a statement, while promising to renew “its commitment to continue working towards full compliance with the best international parameters.” But the 200-page report, which rated the Vatican’s risk as “medium low,” also notes that Moneyval’s concerns have moved from the possibility of outsiders using the Vatican’s financial institutions to move large sums of money to the potential for inside figures to take part in money laundering schemes. While Vatican authorities deem the risk of corruption of church officials to be low, the report said, Moneyval’s assessment team “disagrees with this conclusion and is of the view that risks presented by insiders are important.” Moneyval, created in 1997 at the time Europe countries went to a common currency, sets standards to combat money laundering and improve financial transparency in over 200 countries. The past two years have brought renewed attention to the long-troubled Vatican finances, as the Vatican secretary of state’s 2014 investment in a luxury real estate property in central London raised questions about the involvement of an Italian businessman who has since been accused of defrauding the Vatican of roughly $22 million.

According to Baptist Press, Students from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary are just one of the latest groups to learn about refugee ministry while visiting a small town known for its diverse population. Clarkston, a small town on the eastern periphery of the Atlanta metro area, is known for its resettlement program for refugees and immigrants established in the 1990s. The town came to be known as “the most diverse square mile in America,” with more than 60 countries and 100 languages represented. Clarkston International Bible Church sees its unique community as a mission field. Southern Baptists’ Send Relief partners with the church to teach visiting groups from a variety of churches, schools and seminaries about refugee ministry. Greg Wilton, the Care for Refugees director for Send Relief, said that although the ministry was able to meet some needs and share the Gospel in the community in 2020, it is great to have visiting groups coming back for in-person activities. “There are a variety of church groups that come to us that want to engage in international and refugee ministry, and that’s extremely easy to do here because that is Clarkston, we’re such a diverse community,” Wilton said. “Oftentimes ‘the nations’ are found in our own context. We in Clarkston want to be a part of the process of pushing people to the very ends of the earth.”

According to CBN, A top Scottish teacher’s union is drawing backlash from Christians in the United Kingdom after promoting a controversial play in which Jesus Christ is portrayed as a transsexual. The Christian Institute, a nondenominational Christian charity in the U.K., reports the play titled The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven was written by Jo Clifford, a man who identifies as a woman. Clifford also performs the title role in the play. As the BBC previously reported, theatrical advertising described the play this way: “Jesus is a transexual woman. And it is now she walks the earth. This is a play with music that presents her sayings, her miracles, and her testimony. And she does not condemn the gays or the queers or the trans women or the trans men, and no, not the straight women nor the straight men neither. Because she is the Daughter of God, most certainly, and almost as certainly the son also. And God’s child condemns nobody. She can only love…”The Education Institute of Scotland (EIS) announced two passages from the play are scheduled to be performed at an LGBT event sponsored by the organization, whose website says they represent around 80 percent of lecturers and teachers in Scotland. The EIS said the play “invites us to imagine Jesus coming back to earth in the present day as a trans woman.” It will be a part of the EIS’s Gay Pride event scheduled for June 17 to “celebrate Pride and the end of the school year.” The Christian Institute’s Education Officer John Denning said the play is deeply inconsiderate of Christians who are in the EIS.

According to Christianity Today,  When Singapore detected its first case of COVID-19 in January 2020, containment seemed manageable—until the disease started spreading like wildfire among migrant workers. While cases among the general population of 5.7 million numbered only about 10–20 a day, by April 2020 news agencies were reporting that infections among the Southeast Asian nation’s approximately 288,000 migrant workers—who live in small dormitories where social distancing is difficult—had spiked to 10,000 cases in one week. In response, the government placed the workers in isolation in their dorms, preventing them from going out into the community—for five months. The story of how local Christians stepped up to meet the need is an overlooked silver lining among all the gloomy headlines of the pandemic. And with Singapore reentering a season of heightened restrictions last month as COVID-19 cases climbed again, the fact that migrant workers are not a focal point of the outbreaks shows how they are better taken care of now, due to the kampung (meaning “village” in Malay) spirit that led many Christians to serve Singapore’s least of these. The plight of these migrants—especially during the government’s “circuit breaker” campaign when the workers were in mandatory isolation, facing the stress of being cooped up and not receiving any income because they couldn’t work—touched the hearts of many Singaporean Christians. A Bible verse that motivated many believers to begin ministering to them was Deuteronomy 10:18–19, where Moses instructs: [God] loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. Such efforts have been coordinated by the Alliance of Guest Workers Outreach (AGWO), which was formed in 2019 under the Hope Initiative Alliance (HIA), an interreligious aggregator of services for the needy that partners with more than 100 organizations—including many churches—to provide holistic care for vulnerable and marginalized communities in Singapore. A significant proportion of AGWO’s partners are Christian churches and organizations, though it has members from all faiths and also works with various government agencies to support their own assistance to migrant workers. Two key leaders are Christians: Ezekiel Tan, who serves as HIA’s president through his role as CEO of SowCare, the social service arm of The Bible Society of Singapore (of which Tan is general secretary); and Samuel Gift Stephen, senior pastor of Life Center, who serves as HIA’s chief outreach officer and the lead director of AGWO.

In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know Jesus as your Saviour, today is a good day to get to know Him. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Thanks so much for listening and may God bless your day!

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