Around the World
American Christians Come Up Short in Mission Awareness Survey
About 20,000 persons responded to the questionnaire which was published in several leading evangelical magazines.
Dennis Mulder, executive director of WHBL, said that the responses were "probably weighted toward pastors."
Still, he wrote, "It's tragic that Americans are so out of touch with the dimensions of today's missions task." If we are to establish sound mission strategies, "we've got to get Christians at home in touch with the facts."
To illustrate the lack of knowledge exhibited by respondents, he noted that:
--- Less than half knew the current population of the world--- five billion people.
--- About one-fourth knew that the world's Christian population is estimated to be 33 percent of those five billion.
--- Only 18 percent recognized that 19 out of 20 Christians live outside the United States.
--- Only a third knew there are about 40,000 North American Protestant missionaries overseas. Most thought there are a lot more.
--- Less than 40 percent knew that it costs an average of close to $26,000 to put a missionary on the field for a year. A third thought it cost more than that.
Soviet Soldiers Evangelizing Afghans
"A large number of Soviet soldiers who are believers are actively sharing their faith with Afghans," the source said. "They are giving out Christian literature as well as holding Bible studies and prayer meetings in the country."
The source said the Soviet soldiers were sent to Afghanistan because of their Christian beliefs. "It's the Soviet government's way of persecuting them, but what they've done instead is send them on an evangelistic mission to one of the toughest mission fields in the world." And what is happening is that Afghans are becoming Christians as a result of their witness.
The source said his investigations in the country--- one of the most difficult Islamic countries in the world to penetrate with the Christian message--- revealed that the tiny church there is growing. "However, I'm not talking about hundreds of converts," he added. "I would say there are no more than one thousand Christians in the entire country."
In his survey of the Afghan capital, he said the largest gathering of believers is "no more than 15" and "that's tightly controlled and no Westerners get to attend." In the past they have been betrayed in this fashion by spies.
The source said he thinks it is ironic that Soviet soldiers are at the forefront of evangelism in this country where Western attempts at evangelism have been of such limited success.
Ding Says Chinese Church Free of Gov't. Regulation
"The structure and style of Chinese society neither requires nor provides any process whereby Christian groups must be registered," Ding said. "Our churches in China are certainly not any more government approved than churches in North America or any other place."
The CCRC pointed out that the most authoritative Party document dealing with religion ("Document 19") clearly states in Section 6 that religious activities are legal only in places managed by religious organizations under the administrative leadership of the government's Religious Affairs Bureau.
Other documents issued in various cities, townships, and provinces of the country say virtually the same thing. A document from Shanxi province, for instance, said, "Normal religious activities should be held in churches or meeting points approved by the government."
The CCRC was not as ready to challenge another statement Ding made, though it was definitely as radical in terms of changed posture. Said Ding: "Observant China visitors know the church in China is predominantly evangelical in nature and spirit."
In the past, the CCRC noted, Ding has studiously avoided labeling the TSPM as either liberal or evangelical. "We wonder if this change of opinion has not been prompted by the TSPM's desire to woo more evangelicals into the TSPM camps."
Turkish Believers Face Imprisonment
The arrests began in the last half of February, perhaps as a result of a series of articles in Hurriyet, Turkey's largest daily newspaper, "exposing" Christian believers.
Beginning in Samsun on the Black Sea coast, the arrests quickly spread to other Turkish cities.
Both foreigners and nationals have been arrested. The newspaper articles cite Christian propaganda and missionary and other religious activities as grounds for the arrests.
All foreign Christians, apparently, have been treated properly by the authorities, but there are allegations of physical mistreatment of some nationals.
While the Republic of Turkey guarantees religious freedom to all residents, this almost totally Muslim country at times finds it difficult to apply such freedom in fact.
A Hurriyet article on February 20, for example, called attention to the activities of a West German Christian with the headline, "Here is the Man Who is Poisoning Our Youth." In subsequent articles, Hurriyet and other leading Turkish dailies have charged Christians with using money, marriage to foreign women, and travel abroad as means to attract new converts. In addition, it has been insinuated that these activities are connected to Armenian nationalism and an international network of subversives.
Despite the inflammatory nature of the reports, some within the Turkish government are making serious attempts to ensure religious freedom for Christians as well as Muslims.
These recent events in Turkey are testimony to what one retired Quaker relief worker described as "a monumental ambivalence" in Turkey today. Besides Christians, there is a significant fundamentalist Muslim movement in Turkey of which many--- especially Western-oriented--- Turks are afraid.
A strong wing of this latter movement was highlighted by Hurriyet in a series of exposes that ran from March 5th through 11th.
Church leaders in Thailand report that four provinces in their country--- Samut Songkhram, pop. 205,000; Pathumthani, pop. 397,000; Surin, pop. 1,204,000; and Mukdaharn, pop. 268,000--- are still without any church.
Caribbean countries are home to nearly 400,000 Muslims. Mostly East Indian in origin, they live in relative prosperity on at least a dozen islands, including Barbados, Grenada, Dominica, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Jamaica.
The region's heaviest Muslim concentrations, however, are in Suriname, with an estimated 100,000 Muslims; in Trinidad and Tobago, also with 100,000; and in Guyana, with close to 120,000.
Trinidad is the focus of Muslim life in the Caribbean. Smaller than Delaware, it boasts 85 mosques, a Muslim speaker of the House, and a Muslim president. Guyana is home to the Islamic Missionaries' Guild International.
The center of Chinese Christianity outside of China will shift to North America in the next decade, says Eddie Lo, vice-chairman of the North American Commission of Chinese Evangelicals. The Chinese population in North America is expected to double by the year 2000--- especially once China takes control of Hong Kong in 1997 and Macao in 1999.