Missionaries evacuated from Cameroon after Boko Haram bombing

Two men examine the damage of a house bombed in northern Cameroon German-based Baptist mission agency, EBM International (EBMI), evacuated all its missionaries and volunteers from the Far North province in Cameroon following a series of bombing by Boko Haram.

“Since January 2013 Boko Haram has started to kidnap foreigners in order to release them for money,” said Christoph Haus, EBMI general secretary. “They have kidnapped almost 20 foreigners, some of them were missionaries.”

Activities by the terrorist group have intensified in recent times. “Over the past six weeks they have started a series of six suicide bombings that have left more than 50 dead and hundreds injured,” Haus, who was visiting Cameroon, told the Baptist World Alliance (BWA).

“Three of those attacks occurred 400 and 600 meters from our mission station in Maroua, the capital of the Far North province. We have evacuated all our EBMI-missionaries and volunteers from the province.”

Haus said the predominantly Muslim region in north Cameroon has approximately 350 Baptist churches. “Some of our Baptist churches at the Nigerian border have been destroyed by Boko Haram terrorists,” he said.A Baptist church that was bombed in northern Cameroon

Boko Haram, a terrorist Islamist militant organization, has wreaked havoc, mainly in Nigeria, killing some 15,000 and displacing 1.5 million in that country.

Magloire Kadjio, EBMI regional representative in Cameroon, said Boko Haram has changed its tactics. “After the burning of houses, the destruction of properties, the killing with guns, cutlasses and many other means, Boko Haram has changed its methods,” he informed the BWA.

“They are now using adolescents as kamikazes. They take time to brainwash them and to convince them that if they die as kamikazes, God will be very pleased with them; they will have special privileges in paradise, they will be together with their loved ones who are already dead.”


Food supplies delivered to bombing victimsKadjio said though there is no conclusive proof, “some suspect that the adolescents they are using are from the children who were kidnapped in Nigeria.” 

Baptists are extending assistance to displaced persons. “Baptists Christians from other churches and villages gathered food, clothes and fertilizer to help the brethren who were victims,” explained Kadjio. The support provided by EBMI and Baptists in Cameroon and elsewhere has “helped a lot of victims and refugees in many villages.”

Donations may be made online at www.bwanet.org/give or sent to:
Baptist World Aid
C/o Baptist World Alliance
405 North Washington Street
Falls Church, VA 22046


Baptist World Alliance®
© September 22, 2015

 

 

Nepalese Christians protest changes to constitution

Baptists and other Christians in Nepal are protesting changes to the country’s constitution that limits religious freedom in the Hindu-majority country.

Nepal's parliament overwhelmingly approved the new constitution on September 17 by a vote of 507 to 25. Some small opposition parties boycotted the vote.

A change to the constitution implies that conversion from one faith to another will become illegal. Religious conversion deemed “contrary to public health, public decency or morality or incitement to breach public peace… is not allowed and such act shall be punishable by law.”

This clause appears to run contrary to another constitutional clause that “every person shall have the right to profess, practice and protect his or her own religion according to conviction and the freedom to separate oneself from any religion.”

In addition, the constitution states that “every religious denomination shall have the right to maintain its independent existence, and, for this purpose, to operate and protect its religious sites and religious trusts in accordance with law.”

“We seek your prayer at this moment for our country,” a leading Baptist in the country asked of the Baptist World Alliance. He told the BWA that Hindu extremists demanded that Nepal return to its former status as the “Hindu kingdom.”

Nepal became a secular republic in 2008 after the Unified Communist Party of Nepal won the largest number of seats in the Constituent Assembly election held in April of that year. Hindu nationalist parties and their supporters have since been agitating for the country to rescind its status as a secular state.

“Extremist Hindu demonstrators are threatening the churches,” said another Baptist leader. “They have stoned the Itahari Baptist church at night. Many churches have been threatened by them.”

Approximately 40 persons died during protests by mainly minority ethnic groups who fear discrimination as a result of the constitutional changes.

The constitutional crisis comes even while the country is in the process of recovering from a devastating earthquake in April of this year that left more than 8,800 dead, injured more than 21,000 and caused some US$5 billion in damage.

Baptist World Alliance®
© September 18, 2015

Pastors protest dam construction in India

Chadong, one of the villages in Manipur submerged by the Mapithel DamBaptist pastors in the Northeast Indian state of Manipur are protesting the construction of the Mapithel Dam.

The dam, part of the Thoubal Multipurpose Project, will utilize water from the Yangwui Kong River to provide irrigation for 21,860 hectares (54,000 acres) of farm land, as well as a 7.5 megawatt electricity generation plant for Imphal, the capital of Manipur.

The pastors allege that some 12,000 persons, most of them Christians, will be displaced by the construction of the dam. They told the Baptist World Alliance that 777 hectares or 1,920 acres of the affected area comprise rice paddy fields; 293 hectares, or 725 acres, of jhum, land cleared for cultivation; and 111 hectares, or 274 acres, are homestead. In addition, “595 hectares (1,470 acres) of forest areas will be submerged.”


“Huge tracts of paddy fields, river, forest and grazing grounds will be submerged in the upstream Christian villages of Riha (Loutei), Thoyee, Shangkai Kuki, Zalenbung, Sharkaphung of Ukhrul District,” they said. “Downstream villages such as Nongdam Tangkhul of Ukhrul District, Thangjingpokpi and Maphou Village in the Senapati District and Tumukhong and Moirangpurel in Imphal East District are adversely affected.”

As a result, “they are losing their immovable assets handed down by their ancestors which have been the principal means of livelihood since time immemorial.”

At least two church buildings, one Baptist and one Catholic, will be destroyed and their burial grounds lost.

Protestors allege that the authorities have engaged in a “divide and rule policy” and that “there have been no proper and comprehensive resettlement and rehabilitation program for the affected villagers.” Furthermore, “no impact assessment on socio-economic and religious perspective [was] ever conducted.”

The pastors demand that the involuntary displacement of villages and the submergence of graveyards be stopped, and that the plights of the villagers be addressed. “Otherwise the grievances and damage caused to the affected people will become irreparable throughout generations.”

Baptist World Alliance®
© September 11, 2015

 

Baptists aid refugees in Europe

Bela Szilagyi, vice president of Hungarian Baptist Aid, left, and Baptist pastor, Nyúl Zoltán, provide assistance to Middle Eastern refugees in Budapest, Hungary  (Photo courtesy of Baptist Union of Hungary)Baptists are providing assistance to refugees who are streaming into Europe. An initial sum of US$15,000 was sent by the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) through its relief and development arm, Baptist World Aid, to Hungarian Baptists to aid refugees in that country.

The 2015 European migrant crisis arose through the increasing number of refugees and migrants traveling to the European Union across the Mediterranean Sea or Southeast Europe. A majority of the refugees are from the Middle East, such as Syria, Yemen, and Iraq, and Africa, such as Eritrea, Somalia, and Sudan.

Bela Szilagyi, vice president of Hungarian Baptist Aid (HBAid), informed the BWA that HBAid’s temporary shelter is filled to capacity, indicating that this was the first such facility provided in the country for the refugees.

 

He said medical assistance has already been extended to some 700 refugees. “Most migrants who are ill suffer from upper respiratory issues, skin diseases, and swellings,” Szilagyi told the BWA. “Thirty percent of those seeking medical attention were children and 70 percent were adults.”

In addition, the Hungarians have distributed water and food at the Nyugati and Keleti train stations, as well as hygienic kits, medicine, disinfectants, diapers, baby food and toys.

“Many of our churches are busy responding to the challenge in many different ways,” said Thomas Klammt, commissioner for immigrants and refugees of the Union of Evangelical Free Churches in Germany. Congregations in Germany are “offering language courses, assistance in practical needs, even opening their houses and rooms for refugees to stay or find protection,” Klammt told the BWA. Guidelines to assist churches offering shelter in their “sanctuary” have been published.

In May of this year, Baptists in Germany passed a resolution titled “Welcoming Christ in the Stranger.” Klammt declared that the Baptist union “has appointed a representative to the church commission that is directly addressing the Government Department for Migration.”

Christoph Haus, general secretary of German-based EBM International, said that in Germany, “we expect a number of 40,000 during the upcoming weekend and the next week. Last weekend it has been 25,000.”

“Right now very many refugees are arriving into Sweden,” said Inga Johansson, coordinator of church and society for the Uniting Church in Sweden, which includes Baptists. “The Uniting Church in Sweden has many congregations active in supporting refugees,” Johansson told the BWA. “We from the Uniting Church in Sweden urge congregations to open the churches for meeting places where refugees can receive support, counseling, language training and more.”

The Christian Council of Sweden has a committee working on migration issues, Johansson said. “We as a church are very keen that we, together with other organizations, support refugees and asylum seekers.”

The immigration crisis will be a major topic of discussion during meetings of the European Baptist Federation, one of six regional fellowships of the BWA, to be held in Sofia, Bulgaria, beginning on September 23.

Donations may be made online at www.bwanet.org/give or sent to:

Baptist World Aid
C/o Baptist World Alliance
405 North Washington Street
Falls Church, VA 22046

 

 

Callam calls on Baptists worldwide to unite

Callam calling on Baptists to unite at the closing session of the Baptist World Congress in Durban, South Africa on July 26In a statement at the closing plenary session of the 21st Baptist World Congress in South Africa on July 26, Baptist World Alliance (BWA) General Secretary Neville Callam renewed a call for the unity of the worldwide Baptist family.

In the address, Callam called attention to the jubilant occasion in July 1905 when the original BWA constitution was agreed by the delegates at the inaugural Baptist World Congress.

He drew attention to the emphasis the originators of the BWA placed on the organization as an expression of "the essential oneness in Christ" of Baptist churches worldwide. This was against the background of a perception of the worldwide Baptist witness as being weak and divided at the time.

Callam said those who formed the BWA were keen to emphasize that the worldwide fellowship being formed was to signify or express the oneness in Christ of Baptist churches worldwide. “The BWA was to become a vehicle for both the expression of that oneness and the furtherance of Baptist unity,” he said.

The BWA leader urged contemporary Baptists to affirm the importance of unity as a central focus of the BWA. “I believe that the BWA continues to have the vocation of giving expression, and bearing witness, to Baptist unity in Christ,” he told the more than 2,500 participants from more than 80 countries attending the congress in Durban. “The BWA has the calling to model this unity in our life as a denominational community and to serve as a vital instrument that helps Baptists overcome fragmentation and division.”

At the same time, Baptists ought to recognize that they are part of a wider global community of Christians, with Callam declaring that Baptists share with “other Christians the one body of Christ.”

In a final appeal, Callam urged Baptists to commit to the core principles of the BWA, which are preaching the Good News of the kingdom, practicing responsible Christian discipleship, defending those who are persecuted and identifying with people in need not only by contributing to their relief, but also by working to remove the systems and structures that perpetuate injustice.

Callam challenged Baptist Christians to “keep the word of God in our hearts and let us model a loving and united movement of Baptist Christians,” going “forward as a people who are united in God our Savior.”

The congress, which had as its theme, “Jesus Christ, the Door,” was held July 22 to 26 at the International Convention Center in Durban. It was the first Baptist World Congress in Africa since the first in London, England, in 1905.

The 2020 celebration will, for the first time, combine the Baptist World Congress with the Baptist Youth World Conference. It will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

 Baptist World Alliance®
© July 28, 2015