Esengo, the Mennonite Brethren Missions/Services-sponsored choir from Zaire currently on a North American leg of their tour, planned to tour France, Germany and Austria in June, but their visas were denied by the German consulate in Vancouver Apr. 2. No reason was given but, most likely, the war in Zaire raised concerns. This denial also bars Esengo from Austria and France, blocking the European wing of their tour. MBM/S is appealing the decision.--
As rebel forces continue to take key sections of Zaire, peace talks are underway. Of North American MBs, only three are in Zaire: Sam Dick and Doug Hiebert with Youth Mission International and Linda Tshimika, Mennonite Brethren Missions/Services team leader. Pakisa Tshimika, MEM/S Regional Secretary for Africa is also in Kinshasa with the three. Linda Tshimika wrote that the unpredictability of the situation causes tension. "We feel like we're in a closed room with a half-awake lion. We don't know what the lion will do next: will it wake up, roar a bit, then walk away from us? Will it wake up and go on a devouring rampage? Will it go back to sleep? Or is it dying?" The crisis has caused uncertainty in planning and travel and further eroded the meagre resources of the Zairian MB churches--
Chinese authorities arrested and jailed over 100 church leaders in the first three months of 1997. Some were released after three days, but Compass Direct reports that about 55 remain in prison. The leaders are placed in jail for "re education through labour", a charge enabling authorities to hold them for up to three years without trial. Most are herded into crowded cells with hardened criminals, and forced to work 10-hour days in fields or factories. The crackdown appears to be an attempt to thwart unity talks among the three major house church movements in China.--
Some findings from a recent Maclean's magazine/CBC News poll: * When asked "What is the most important problem facing Canada?"
Deficit/government spending 15%
National unity 9%
Health care 5%
Don't know 5%
Other social services 4%
Morality/moral breakdown in society 1%
Each of the following received 1% or less: native/aboriginal issues, agricultural issues, immigration/multiculturalism, women's issues, free trade, peace/defence, international issues.
* When asked how likely it is that the risk of people being exposed to violence and physical harm will be much greater in 2005 than today, 48% replied "very likely", 33% said "somewhat likely", 14% said "somewhat unlikely" and 4% said "very unlikely".
* When asked how likely it is that there will be a revival of spiritual values and a rejection of materialism by 2005, 17% said very likely, 30% said somewhat likely, 29% said somewhat unlikely and 21% said very unlikely.--
The number of unmarried Canadian couples living together tripled between 1981 and 1995. Statistics Canada attributes the phenomenon to the fact that there is now far less stigma attached to such unions. Some study highlights:
* In 1995, nearly 2 million Canadians lived common law, up from ?00,000 in 1981. Nationwide, they now represent 14% of all couples.
* Quebec has the greatest number of common-law spouses, with 25% of couples living together. The number jumps to 64% for Quebecers under 30.
* Manitoba and Saskatchewan have the smallest percentage of common-law couples, 7.1.
* Statistics Canada predicts that if the current trend continues, by the year 2022 there will be the same number of couples living together as married in Canada.--
Terrorists left 14 villagers dead in Ezbet Daoud and Ezbet Kamel, Upper Egypt March 13, including nine Coptic Christians. Three hours later, the same individuals were suspected of attacking a train, killing a pregnant woman and 15 other passengers. Villagers and police accuse the Moslem militant group al-Gala'a al-Islamiya, who since 1992 have fought to make Egypt an Islamic state, but it has denied responsibility. The independent Egyptian Human Rights Organization suspects the killings were aimed at "shaking security and the ties and harmony between Moslems and Copts." Other recent attacks on Christians include a Jan. 30 attack by Egyptian soldiers on a Christian-run farm outside Cairo. The attack destroyed 600 metres of the stone walls surrounding the 100 acre land reclamation project. The surprise attack followed a previous assault on the farm in December, when troops sacked and bulldozed three agricultural buildings and a centre designed for mentally disabled children. The army vehicles used were without licence plates to make them harder to identify.--
The B.C. Teacher's Federation adopted a resolution March 17 which creates "a program to eliminate homophobia and heterosexism within the B.C. school system." The BCTF defines heterosexism as "the assumption that everyone is heterosexual and that being heterosexual is inherently better or more moral than being lesbian, gay or bisexual." In a recent ChristianWeek article, Trinity Western University professor John H. Redekop criticizes the resolution, saying the first part of the definition makes no sense because everyone knows that in society there are some homosexual people. "By including the first six words, the BCTF drafters of this definition are trying to shift attention away from the last 15 words, which are the bone of contention". Redekop writes that the resolution goes beyond simply acknowledging that any person has the right to live according to homosexual practices; it challenges the idea that heterosexuality is normal, natural and morally superior to homosexuality. Redekop sees this as a challenge to a core teaching of Christianity.--
The Christian Coalition
, a powerful US lobby group, has introduced a new initiative to reach out to African-Americans and Hispanics; and a legislative agenda designed to combat poverty and revitalize American inner-city ghettos. The new plan, dubbed the "The Samaritan Project", calls for government-financed scholarships to private schools for low-income children in 100 of the nation's worst school districts. It calls for a $500 tax credit for people giving money and at least 10 hours of volunteer time to charitable groups that serve the poor. Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed also calls for the establishment of "empowerment zones" to give tax breaks to individuals who start businesses and create jobs in inner-city neighbourhoods. He said the Christian Coalition will work to raise up to $10 million in the next few years to help black and Latino churches minister to at-risk youths. The project encourages stable families to move to inner-city neighbourhoods to help recover neighbourhoods. A coalition of liberal religious leaders dismissed Reed's proposals as a politically packaged strategy aimed at softening the coalition's image. The Christian Coalition has 1.7 million members and claims a network of 100,000 churches.--
Mennonite Central Committee
plans to send three teams of pediatric surgeons and medical supplies to Iraq for two-to-three-week periods during 1997. The surgeons will perform operations and help Iraqi surgeons upgrade their skills. MCC quotes a Harvard University researcher who says that 500,000 Iraqi children may have died over the past six years due to crippling international sanctions. MCC recently sent 13,600 school kits to Iraq.--
Myanmar's largest ethnic minority--the Karen people--are bracing themselves for a military onslaught from the ruling junta for their refusal to traffic in narcotics. Nearly 40% Christian, the Karen people say, "It goes against Christian principles to deal in drugs to attain peace". The Karen number 2.6 million, and live in the dense jungles of northern Myanmar (formerly Burma). As a group, they have been at war with the Myanmar military government for 30 years in their desire to win autonomy. Over 17 other ethnic groups have reached individual agreements with the military, each receiving concessions in exchange for trafficking opium to the military. Only the Karen people have refused such a deal.--
Before 1975, East Timor was less than 50% Catholic; now over 90% of East Timor's 700,000 people profess Catholic beliefs. Since being named as a joint recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize Oct. 10, East Timorese Roman Catholic Bishop Carlos Belo has been subjected to a fierce vilification campaign by the Indonesian government. Belo has long spoken out against human rights abuses against East Timorese by Indonesia's military.--
Rates of suicide, substance abuse and mental illness within the homosexual community are three times higher than the national average, says Gens Hellquist, executive director of Gay and Lesbian Health Services in Saskatoon. He says the numbers are due to "rampant homophobia". Saskatoon Health Board member Maurice Vellacott disagrees, citing several studies which he says indicate that the psychological problems of homosexuals stem from arrested development. Even in societies where homosexuals enjoy wide acceptance, many of them still exhibit destructive behaviour, he says.--
An 80-year-old Chicago-area woman
recently had surgery in which retinal cells from an aborted fetus were transplanted to her failing eyes. It was the first surgery of its kind in the US. Researchers say fetal cells work well for transplants because they grow rapidly and are not as likely to be rejected as more mature cells. Pro-life groups oppose such procedures, noting that therapies using fetal tissue could create a commercial market for aborted fetuses.--
Northview Community Church has added a second Saturday evening worship service, starting at 6:00 p.m. The change was made beginning on Easter weekend because Northview's two Sunday morning services and already existing 7:30 p.m. Saturday service were overcrowded. The rapidly growing congregation in Abbotsford, B.C. now has over 3000 people attending its four services. The church runs "Discoveryland" (children's Sunday school) during its 6:00 p.m. Saturday service and its 9:15 and 11:00 a.m. Sunday services. CORE, the equivalent of adult Sunday school, is held in the form of short-term courses on specific topics, usually on Monday evenings.--
Burnaby Pacific Grace Chinese Church in Burnaby, B.C. has started making its 11:15 a.m. Sunday morning worship service bilingual (Cantonese and English) once every three months. The 8:30 a.m. service will remain only Cantonese. The move is a response to a decreasing ability among younger Chinese Canadians to understand Cantonese. For some time, the church has had an English-language youth fellowship on Friday evenings, English-language Sunday school classes and an English-language junior worship service at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings. Several of the other Chinese MB churches have some worship services completely in English, although Cantonese is still the language of the majority.--
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