(Photo courtesy Assist News Service/Kazakh church)
Kazakhstan (MNN) -- Nobody has been really surprised at the
increasing crackdowns over religious freedom issues in Kazakhstan.
Shortly after Tajikistan modified its religion laws,
Kazakhstan adopted new religious legislation in 2011. Then, last year, the laws
began to bite. This legislation has
made the training of Christian leaders much more difficult, and youth work now
requires the permission of both parents. Compulsory censorship on religious
materials is imposed.
Following Christ comes at a real price now. According to a report from Forum 18 News and
International Christian Concern, the fines against individuals for exercising their religious beliefs
without state permission have totaled more than $118,000. There have been 119
individuals who have been fined, some of them on multiple occasions. The
average of the fines has been equivalent to approximately two months average
Spokesman for the Slavic Gospel Association Joel Griffith says the shift is causing some
consternation among believers. "It used to be [that] in Kazakhstan you were
relatively free to minister and proclaim the Gospel. But as we've seen
with the other Central Asian countries, Kazakhstan in recent years has really
been cracking down on this."
One of the more recent incidents involved a group of 16
police officers and journalists, led by
the local religious affairs official who raided a Sunday worship service in West Kazakhstan on November
10. As a result of the arrests, "10
of the church members now are facing a court date, and they could get possible fines
of one or two months' average salary."
Prosecutor's Assistant Talap Usnadin defended the legality of the raid when
interviewed by Forum 18. "They had no registration and no permission to meet." Indicating that they weren't targeting Christians
alone, he pointed out the case of a Muslim in a village near where the raid
took place, who turned his home into a mosque with an unapproved minaret. He has also been fined.
On another front, traditional Islam is on the rise
throughout Central Asia. Saudi Arabia,
Iran, Turkey, and Pakistan have been sending Muslim missionaries to Kazakhstan.
The extremism that came with them forced
the government to consider increasingly oppressive religion laws to control
However, these laws are often used to limit, restrict, and even
persecute Christians, who are sometimes regarded as members of a dangerous sect.
The government's response has recreated
a scenario with which the older generation is familiar. Griffith explains, "The older saints that are there, they're
going to remember what life was like under atheistic Communism and how they had
to survive under Soviet oppression. The
newer generation that's coming up would have no memories of this and how to survive
under such a thing."
If it continues in this vein, outreach ministries will be
disrupted. For those who are working alongside the Church
in Kazakhstan, Griffith asks that you "pray
that the Lord would grant us wisdom and discretion about equipping them to be
able to proclaim the Gospel, and that we would have wisdom to do it discreetly."
SGA is using what time they have in Kazakhstan to respond to
the needs expressed here. You can help. Click
India (MNN) -- News reports last week told of Cyclone Lehar,
threatening to hit Andhra Pradesh, India on Thanksgiving day. Predicted conditions
included high winds and rough seas overwhelming low-lying areas.
India Partners asked for your prayers. And by the grace of
God, those prayers were answered.
They received news from their partners that the cyclone
changed overnight, and the winds dissipated.
Lehar was expected to cause severe damage upon landfall,
further incurring devastation on the land that got hit by Cyclone Helen the
Their partners are reporting heavy rains, but the damage is
much less severe than predicted.
India Partners thanks you for your prayers for mercy and
protection. Please continue to pray for them as they continue to help the
villagers recover from Cyclone Helen.
Also pray for India Partners as they enter into a vital time
of year when many people will be making contributions to their ministry. Their
work provides the means to share the Gospel with some people who would
otherwise never know the love of Jesus. If you'd like to contribute, click
Over a third of reported sex trafficking cases involved minors. (Image courtesy Polaris Project)
USA (MNN) -- Human trafficking is growing in the U.S. According to The Polaris Project, over 9,000 potential cases of human trafficking cases were reported between 2007 and 2012.
A report published by The Polaris Project last week analyzes data from 49,301 calls made to the group's National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline, 1,735 online tip reports, and 5,251 e-mails. From this information, The Polaris Project found that 41% of all sex trafficking cases and 20% of labor trafficking cases reported U.S. citizens as victims.
Read the full report here.
Amy Richey of EFCA ReachGlobal says now is the time for the U.S. Church to act. "If we can identify and meet people in their vulnerability...we can actually intersect and make the biggest difference in preventing human trafficking," she says.
Richey helps churches in Ukraine get involved in the fight against human trafficking. The 2013 U.S. Trafficking In Persons (TIP) report describes Ukraine as a "source, transit, and--increasingly--destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking."
John 10:10 reads, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Richey says her work against trafficking in Europe proves this Truth over and over again.
"I'm very familiar and I understand that the enemy comes to steal and destroy, and I also understand that we serve the Life Giver-- the One who gives hope and peace and a future," she states.
"There certainly are some organizations doing great work to fight human trafficking worldwide that don't share that same hope. But, it's that hope that separates us."
The idea that human trafficking is an overseas problem, faced only by places like Ukraine or Nepal, keeps people blind to the scourge within the U.S.
"It's harder, quite honestly, to process when it's something that's happening right next door to you in your gated community…as opposed to…helping a country or a region of the world fight something like human trafficking," Richey notes. "It's an 'us versus them' issue."
According to The Polaris Project, over a third of all sex trafficking cases reported to the NHTRC hotline involved minors. Many victims reportedly had some prior interaction with the child welfare system.
Richey admits that there are no easy solutions for the problems presented by this report.
"If we look at the child welfare system and try to figure out how we can intersect, and how we can make children less vulnerable, it will have a great impact," she says. "But how does that happen? I don't know."
It starts with awareness.
The following ten states had the most reports of potential human trafficking between 2007 and 2012: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, District of Columbia, Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, and Georgia.
See how many calls came from your state.
"This is a good report for churches to look at and say, 'How can we engage in the child welfare system in our location?'" notes Richey.
"One of the greatest points of vulnerability also is teenage runaways. I've encouraged many churches to engage with the at-risk youth in their area."
In at least 50 cases reported to the NHTRC hotline, the minor victim first came in contact with the child welfare system after running away from their place of residence. In at least 49 cases, a child was reportedly being trafficked by a parent or legal guardian.
When building relationships with the vulnerable, Richey lists some signs that could point to trafficking activity:
Tattooed numbers or names on a child under the age of 18 could be a mark of "ownership."
Other signs: kids "carrying around hotel keys, large amounts of money, or no money at all. Sometimes they'll even openly refer to someone as a pimp, or a 'lover boy,'" says Richey. "Sometimes they will not make direct eye contact with you because they're ashamed or concerned."
Find more indicators here.
"One of these indicators may not necessarily mean that someone is trafficked, but it never hurts to alert authorities or ask questions of parents," Richey says.
Don't try to tackle the problem by yourself, though, she warns. "These rings are very strong and usually much stronger than any one individual," Richey says.
"So I would encourage people to alert authorities and to contact their local government, as opposed to going in by themselves and thinking that they're going to stop something."
If you believe you are a victim of human trafficking or may have information about a potential trafficking situation, please contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC).
"There are laws in place in many states: law enforcement that is capable and that is willing to help, and get engaged in the problem," shares Richey.
The next step.
ReachGlobal's anti-human trafficking initiatives take different shapes in different locations. You don't need a degree in counseling or psychology. Click here for a list of opportunities in Europe.
"Exactly how God has wired you gives you abilities that He can use in the fight against human trafficking," says Richey. "Web designers, filmmakers, logistic specialists, artists, teachers -- everybody can get involved in this fight."
There's an easy way to start right now. "Pray for the victims themselves, especially during the holiday season; this is a very hard time for them," shares Richey.
"Pray for strength for them, and the courage to try and leave."
Pray also for the ReachGlobal team as they fight human trafficking around the world.
"Personally, I pray for strongholds to be broken, and for us to have insight, for us to understand what the strongholds are, how we can intercept," Richey shares.
(Photo by Marina Parfinskaya)
Ukraine (MNN) -- Ukraine's government held onto power in parliament yesterday, but thousands continue to protest. They're angry because police violently clashed with peaceful protestors over President Viktor Yanukovich's decision not to sign a trade deal with the European Union, under pressure from Russia.
President of Russian Ministries Sergey Rakhuba is from Ukraine. "The country is getting paralyzed because of all these protests. Definitely the economy will be shaken. The Banking system will not function properly."
What does that mean for Ukrainians? Rakhuba says, "It creates a lot more need. It means that people become more poor. They lose their income. So, that's why I really encourage people to consider supporting Russian Ministries."
Russian Ministries is planning to distribute 80,000 Christmas Gifts to poor and needy children throughout the former Soviet Union through Project Hope. In Ukraine, Rakhuba says, your support is essential. "Especially now, when the country is in turmoil. We need more help. We need more resources. We need more partnerships that will continue bringing the Gospel to the next generation."
Project Hope is an effort by national churches to distribute Christmas gifts filled with toys, candy, personal care items and most importantly God's Word to children in orphanages and poor communities. It costs $25 to give a Gift of Hope. The money is sent to local churches in Ukraine to purchase the boxes and supplies to implement the program.
As the protests rage on, Rakhuba says there are fears that the issue will divided the evangelical church as well as the country. "[The] older generation is debating with the younger generation. The younger generation really wants to be a part of the European civilized life." The older generation wants it to be like old times.
As Russia curbed religious freedom in that nation, many mission organizations moved their headquarters to Ukraine. Rakhuba is concerned about a Ukraine that's aligned so closely with Russia. "Russia will take more control over Ukraine. It means more restrictions will be applied to the evangelical church in Ukraine."
Rukhuba is asking you to pray for Ukraine "that God would give [church leaders] wisdom to understand how to guide their congregations, but also give wisdom and patience to young people that they would not go over the border when they are expressing their desire [for freedom] so there will be no bloodshed in all these protests."
Support Russian Ministries Project Hope Christmas ministry by clicking here.
(Image courtesy PIONEERS)
USA (MNN/PNS) -- They say nothing in life is free. But that's not
necessarily true. And when something is free and meaningful, that's even better.
As a special gift to PIONEERS BottomLine Update readers, for the next two
months they are offering many of their BottomLine Media resources for FREE.
Each week you will have the opportunity to download a free Kindle e-book or
receive one of their videos by mail.
Some of the books that have already been offered are:
Yielded Captive, a novel by Dalaina May (Kindle e-book),November
Pursuit of a Thirsty Fool, a memoir by T.J. MacLeslie
(Kindle e-book),November 11th-15th
Spiritual Survival Handbook, a resource for spiritual growth
by Dr. Robert Miller (Kindle e-book),November 18th-22nd
Hidden in My Heart, a memoir for teenagers by Taylor Murray
(Kindle e-book),November 25th-29th
These are the available and upcoming free offers:
Threads, a missionary memoir by Arlene Richardson (Kindle
Overwhelming Minority, a missionary memoir by Ted Esler
(Kindle e-book),December 9th-13th
When God Comes Calling, a memoir by Ted Fletcher (Kindle
Never the Same, the 50-year anniversary of Peace Child with
Steve Richardson (DVD, free shipping),December 23rd-27th
Don't miss this special offer! Share this offer with your
friends and family on Facebook, and then link them to our page. These resources
are helpful to encourage, uplift, and instruct Christians in their daily walk. They
also inform Christians on how the Gospel is moving in individual lives and
people groups around the world.
All offers are good from midnight the initial morning to
midnight the last evening. For links to these books, click here.
Your support can help FH's innovative work in entire communities. (Courtesy of Food for the Hungry)
USA (MNN) -- If you're an American, you've probably just
barely finished Thanksgiving dinner. In
fact, you've still got leftovers crowding the shelves in the fridge.
Stores opened early Thursday, so maybe you joined in the shopping marathon
that spilled over to Black Friday, taking advantage of all the holiday deals. Then, there's Cyber Monday...the online
retailers' version of Black Friday (a day when retailers hope to go into the
black in their accounting books).
Feel over-commercialized yet? How about
participating in Giving Tuesday? Non-profit charities like Food for the Hungry are
participating in the second annual #GivingTuesday event today.
What is it? 03 December
is a day where charities and individuals can come together to celebrate the act
of giving. The hope is that #GivingTuesday will become a nationally-recognized
day similar to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
It will kick off the season of giving that already exists
with Christmas. Here, however, the focus will be on people in need instead of
When charities participate, they have the opportunity not
only to celebrate giving, but also to raise awareness for what they do. You
could call it "a day of extra giving."
Any non-profit charity or entity backing a non-profit
charity can partner with #GT by committing to a project for the day. The
charities are then supposed to advertise what they're doing on social media
This is especially crucial for Christians who want to obey
God's command to reach out to the lost. Many of these partners are Christian
charities who are able to share the Gospel while demonstrating God's love. The giving
movement of #GivingTuesday raises opportunities to share the love of Jesus with
entire communities who would otherwise never know it.
One ministry devoted to sharing the Gospel is Food for the
Hungry. By partnering with the #GT movement, they can create a bigger impact on
the world in the name of God. One way
they do this is by helping communities escape harsh lifestyles.
They are a ministry that utilizes innovative techniques in
order to help more people long-term. Their projects bring innovation to
impoverished people, helping break the cycle of poverty. Some of their projects
include building wells and schools, and teaching farming practices and healthy
habits. All these things teach the needy how to be self-sustaining and to break
out of a harsh lifestyle. Your help could impact entire communities for the
So how can you help? Start by posting about #GT on your social
media sites. You can always pray that many would feel led to give today and
hereafter, and the impact would be felt on a physical and spiritual level.
Check out #GivingTuesday's
site to see what charities are participating. Click here to find out how you can give
to Food for the Hungry.