Displaying items by tag: Asia
The USA says its ‘strategic patience’ with North Korea is over, and suggests it might decide to take preemptive military action: the option was ‘on the table’ if the threat from North Korea’s weapons programme reached a level requiring it. The USA is now exploring a range of new diplomatic and economic measures, and continues to defend the deployment of its missile systems in South Korea. This angers China, but South Korea and the USA say the defence system is needed against North Korea's aggression (twenty years of persuading it to abandon its nuclear ambitions have failed). On Sunday North Korea had a powerful rocket engine test of ‘historic significance’, which could lead to the rebirth of the country's indigenous rocket industry. This came hours before US secretary of state Rex Tillerson met with President Xi Jinping of China - North Korea's only major global ally. Tillerson was thought to have raised the prospect of financial penalties on Chinese companies and banks that do business with North Korea. See
Some Christians study weather patterns over North Korea in order to choose the best time to launch helium-filled weather balloons, with a GPS transponder, carrying gospel tracts and New Testaments into the country. By including a GPS transponder, workers can track the paths and see where the precious payloads land. Another method of reaching the unreached involves radio broadcasts from South Korea. The North Korean government tries to jam signals, but frequencies are repeatedly changed and sharing the Good News continues. North Korean defectors read Scriptures over the air deliberately slowly so that listeners can write down passages of God’s Word themselves. These handwritten verses are the only Bibles that many will ever have in a nation where owning a Bible is only a dream for most. Also brave Christians hand out Bible tracts. John was detained for passing out gospel tracts in North Korea. Listen to his story by clicking the ‘More’ button.
The Afghan government does not recognise any of its citizens as Christians, nor is anyone permitted to convert to Christianity. However, there are no laws forbidding proselytism, although the practice is contrary to Muslim beliefs. There is only one legally recognised church - the Catholic chapel at the Italian Embassy - but it is not open to local nationals. There are also Christian religious facilities at foreign military bases, such as an Eastern Orthodox church at the Romanian base in Kandahar. Items and articles belonging to religions other than Islam, such as Bibles, are prohibited. Muslims who change their faith to Christianity are subject to societal and official pressure, which may lead to death. However, many sources claim there is a secret underground church of Afghans. The US state department estimates that the size of this group is between 500 and 8,000 individuals. The complete Bible is available online in Dari, and the New Testament is available in Pashto.
Numerous attacks, including heavy artillery and mortar fire from Iraqi forces and IS, are killing civilians in Mosul, said Human Rights Watch. They are fleeing in their thousands, with a massive spike in refugees in the last few days. The real concern among the humanitarian community is that this spike is going to continue and perhaps even increase. There is a limit at the moment inside the camps on how many people can be accommodated. Everyone is working as quickly as possible to make more space, but building an entirely new safe camp takes time. There is real worry about where all these people can stay safely. Currently 4,000 people escape Mosul on a daily basis. 30,000 Iraqis were displaced in less than a week, as US-backed Iraqi forces launched their offensive to recapture the densely populated western part of Mosul from IS.
The Syrian Arab Army has been kept busy in the eastern countryside of Homs since they liberated Palmyra, attacking several areas controlled by the IS forces north of the city. Among these areas are the Jazal Mountains, situated 10 km northwest of Palmyra. On Sunday, the Syrian Arab Army’s newly-formed 5th Legion entered the gas fields in this mountain region, liberating the entire site after 24 hours of fierce combat. The army now controls two of the four gas fields that are situated near the Palmyra-Homs highway.
Sri Lanka’s constitution affords Buddhism, which is practised by 70% of the population, ‘the foremost place’. This elevated status is exploited by a powerful ethnic Sinhalese and Buddhist nationalist lobby, which demands rights and privileges for itself at the expense of other religions. The lobby, which is particularly opposed to Christianity, campaigns for the introduction of anti-conversion legislation that would hinder Christian activities. Christians face difficulties in building churches and might be ordered to stop activities; they experience discrimination in education, and many live in desperate poverty. The government plans to introduce legislation prohibiting ‘cults’; this could threaten evangelical churches, which are not recognised by the state. Christianity has a long history on the island, pre-dating the arrival of Westerners by many centuries. Tradition claims that Sri Lanka was first evangelised by the apostle Thomas.
The Japanese are considered the largest unreached people group in the world, with over 120 million still waiting to hear the Gospel. Enormous hurdles stand in the way of the Japanese putting their faith in Jesus. Five of these hurdles are: - spiritual forces of evil, idolatry, and ancestor worship - the Bible and Christianity are viewed as Western and anti-Japanese - busy-ness and materialism - hopelessness, with more than 30,000 suicides per year - the Church's low influence in society. However, a low birthrate, an ageing society, natural disasters, economic decline and feelings of social isolation have provoked a recent resurgence in spiritual searching. The Japanese are now increasingly open to the Gospel, and many believe Japan is ready for an unprecedented awakening to the Good News of Jesus. Only a move of God will bring the freedom, joy, peace and hope that the Japanese desperately crave.
Cybersex trafficking is a new and devastating form of slavery. It is a rapidly growing problem as internet access increases everywhere. Now, paedophiles worldwide can direct the live sexual abuse of boys and girls, many under ten years old. For a crime, it’s low risk, easy to do, with high potential reward. 54% of victims rescued in International Justice Mission (IJM) cases are between one and twelve years old. Victims can be exploited in any location with a computer and the internet, or just a mobile phone. Philippine authorities are already receiving thousands of referrals a month, like Cassie, who was tricked to move to Manila when she was twelve. She had big dreams, but what she found was a nightmare - being forced to perform sex acts in front of a camera.
Christians in a predominantly Muslim region of Central Asia risk almost daily harassment for sharing the Gospel. In Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, the growth of Islamic extremism helped make 2016 the worst year ever for Christian persecution. Artur (not his real name) said, ‘If you are a Christian living in any of the five former Soviet Republics of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan or Turkmenistan, you are intimidated, harassed, or - worse - jail time, for telling others about their faith. When the authorities discover someone has converted to Christianity, they will gather relatives, friends and family of the accused and bring him or her before an Islamic council of elders. The convert then stands before the group and has to decide between faith or family.’ Twenty-five years after the Soviet Union disappeared and these republics gained their independence, the five 'Stan States' have become repressive and hostile towards people of faith.
Even though the incumbent governor of Jakarta, ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian, is awaiting trial for blasphemy, he is still in the running in the current elections for his post. In the first poll, on Wednesday, he was ahead, but did not have enough of a lead to take immediate victory. More than a thousand supporters flocked to the campaign headquarters of Ahok and Djarot (his running mate) to welcome the two candidates and watch the most recent quick count results. ‘We wanted to secure a one-round victory. But still, we should thank God for this result’, Ahok added. Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno, their opponents, are close behind, while the third contestant has conceded defeat. This means that there will be a second round between the two remaining pairs of candidates - scheduled for 19 April.