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Open Doors Canada works around the globe to assist Christians who face persecution.

They recently released their annual World Watch List. The annual list looks at persecution that Christians face around the globe, and ranks which countries have the highest levels of persecution.

Currently over 250 million Christians around the world  face severe persecution.

Five years ago, only North Korea was in the ‘extreme’ category for its level of persecution of Christians. In the 2019 World Watch List, as in 2018, 11 countries scored enough to fit that category.

From roughly 2006, and accelerating from 2012, the List has recorded more persecution of Christians around the world each year.  Partly this reporting has become more possible as digital technology has enabled global communication. The technology has also enabled stricter government monitoring of its citizens. This year more countries than before have risen on the List without scoring significantly in the ‘violent incidents’ sphere of research. This points to greater structural, legal and societal restrictions on Christians.

The trend is most clearly seen in China (no. 27), where new Regulations for Religious Affairs came into force on 1 February 2018. Since then, a focus on prohibiting children and youth from hearing religious teaching has seen nursery and Sunday schools closed down, summer camps banned, and churches forced to place signs at the entrance forbidding anyone under 18 to enter.

In March 2018, President Xi Jinping was allowed to rule indefinitely, the first since Mao to hold such power. China also announced its ‘Principle for the Promotion of Chinese Christianity in China for the Next Five Years’ (2018-2022).

The same state authoritarianism also pressures Christians in Vietnam (no. 20). Its first-ever law on religions since Vietnam was re-unified under Communist rule in 1975, the Law on Belief and Religion, came into force on 1 January 2018.

State authoritarianism combines with nationalism when it comes to Myanmar (no. 18). The country’s first Catholic cardinal, Charles Bo, says that “Over the decades of armed conflict, the military has turned religion into a tool of [ethnic] oppression.” More than 100,000 members of a majority-Christian ethnic tribe, the Karen, remain in refugee camps just across the border in Thailand.

Ultra-nationalistic governments and societies where minority Christians are seen as ‘alien’

In a growing number of countries, nationalism is intensifying into an ultra-nationalism that not only considers law-abiding minority groups to be a threat, but also employs aggression to force minorities to forsake their identity or even to leave the country. Where Christians are in a minority – perhaps due to a colonial past – they are increasingly under attack both by government and society as “Western” and “alien”.

India (no. 10) where, increasingly, the BJP-led government promotes an extremist militant Hindu agenda, where to be Indian, one must be Hindu. Eight states out of 29 have passed ‘anti-conversion’ laws, which, among other things, require anyone who wants to change religion to give a month’s notice to local officials, and to submit to a government interview. (Two states have not implemented the law).

Militant Hindus see Christians as a threat to the nation because of their growth in numbers and a strong presence in the tribal regions. In the most recent year, solely from documented incidents, at least 12,500 Christians and about 100 churches have been attacked. At least 200 people have been arrested solely for their faith, and at least 10 have been killed. However, many incidents go undocumented, so true figures could be much higher.

Neighbouring countries, themselves majority-Hindu and -Buddhist, such as Nepal (no. 32) and Bhutan (no. 33), also have found that appeals to national religious identity are a potent formula to boost their own position of power.

Spread of radical Islam from the Middle East across sub-Saharan Africa

While the violent excesses of Islamic State and other Islamic militants have mostly disappeared from headlines from the Middle East, their loss of territory there means that fighters have dispersed to a larger number of countries and into sub-Saharan Africa. Their radical ideology has inspired numerous other splinter groups spreading hatred towards Christians.

In Egypt (no. 16), which has the Middle East’s largest population of Christians – estimated at about 10% of the close to 100 million population – Islamic State in Sinai continued to threaten to ‘wipe out’ the Coptic Christians by terrorizing the community with targeted murders of respected local leaders.

In Somalia (no. 3), an Islamic State-affiliated group of 200+ has recruited fighters who fled Iraq and Syria, as well as ex-fighters of Somali Islamist al-Shabaab, which also continues to be active. The group chooses Somalia because there is no central authority. Though there may be only hundreds of Christians amongst its 10 million people, the intensely tribal character of Somali society also means any Muslim who converts to Christianity is likely to be immediately detected by family and friends and risks death.

As a ‘failed’ state without a unified government, Libya (no. 4) continues to be a deadly environment, mainly for sub-Saharan African migrants – many of whom are Christians – trapped there by tighter European migration controls.

The glimmers of good news

North Korea: Despite its ranking in the top slot as in every year since the World Watch List 2002, diplomatic meetings ahead of the Donald Trump – Kim Jong Un summit did free three Korean-American Christians from a North Korean prison. Two were lecturers at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), arrested in 2017, accused of “behavior against the regime”. PUST has now changed its recruiting policy. The third was a pastor, convicted as a ‘spy’.

Pakistan: The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar – at risk of his own life – kept his promise to hear the Supreme Court appeal of Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi before he retires early in 2019. He and his fellow two judges ruled to acquit her, saying her accuser had been lying, and the blasphemy charge, for which she had spent 8 years on death row, was a fabrication. However, their landmark ruling was challenged by days of mass protest and disruption across Pakistan by radical Islamic groups who called for the judges and Asia Bibi to be killed. While Asia Bibi is technically ‘free’, she is still in fear of her life, and unable to leave Pakistan for asylum in a country where she can live safely with her family.

Egypt: There are 3,700 churches waiting to be registered under a 2016 law. By the end of August, 220, and by October, another 120 had been registered, making a total of 340, or 9%. However, at this rate, it will take 12 years to complete all registrations.

Life can be stressful enough, so it is essential we try not to add anger to the mix.

Pastor Jameliah Young suggests that there are many positive ways to temper our emotions and "quiet the anger" this new year. She takes on anger and so much more in her new book, The Death of the Angry Black Woman.

"I wrote this book for all the women out there who are dealing with anger that they have yet to find the source of,” said Young-Mitchell. "Many women in the black community come from backgrounds of abuse, mistreatment, violence––and they become fighters. Through my book I hope to be that voice in their head, the one we all hear but rarely acknowledge, encouraging them to move on, let go of anger, reject hateful labels, embrace their powerful femininity, and live the life God intended them to live.” 

Pastor Jameliah the daughter of the late Evangelist Violetta B. Young and Pastor James I. Young, and grew up in Brooklyn, NY, as the youngest of four kids. At the age of nine her mother predicted she would carry the gospel, and at the age of 13 she delivered her first sermon. From there she began to speak at local churches in New Jersey and has since preached across the United States and internationally. She is now the Pastor of Unity Church Charlotte and a keynote speaker for women's empowerment, teen and youth mentoring. She is also the voice behind the Car Chronicles Movement where she can be seen live on Facebook Monday through Friday at 7:30 a.m. Young-Mitchell is the proud mother of a son and daughter and resides in Charlotte, NC.

The Death of the Angry Black Woman is available at warrenpublishing.net, Amazon.com, or wherever books are sold.

 

 

 

Growing up in today's society can be challenging in all aspects, especially for our youth.

Ashley Wichlenski, a mom, business woman and now author, grew up dealing with her own struggles, but after asking God to guide her along, she was able to pull through. She is now taking what she learned and using it to help others.

In her new book, The Keeper of My Heart, Wichlenski helps young girls find their worth through God’s love. Its message is one that is especially important for teens who are contemplating suicide.  Formatted as a series of letters from “The Keeper of Your Heart”, young readers can feel the love pouring into them from each page.  Each letter is addressed in a way that builds confidence in the reader, whether they are being addressed as “precious one”, “brave girl”, “beautiful girl”, or “sunshine”.  Rather than the negativity that teenage girls are so often faced with in a world that can often send them negative messages about their self-worth, readers are called “beautiful one”.

Each day in the United States, there are an average of over 3,041 suicide attempts by young people in grades 9-12.  More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease combined.  The relentless bullying that plagues young people today is making the problem even worse—bullying victims are two to nine times more likely to attempt suicide than other teens.  For many teens who are contemplating suicide, their sense of self-worth is so low that they can’t see another way.

The Keeper of My Heart makes the nature of God’s unconditional love—love that is complete, forever, consistent, whole, and without restraint—clear to the reader.  In one letter, The Keeper of My Heart writes, “I promise to keep your heart safe and love you forever!  You are mine, and I am yours.”  Each chapter contains inspirational Scripture that is meant to build up the confidence and self-worth of the reader with such selections as Zechariah 2:8, “Whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye,” and Lamentations 3:23-25, “God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning.  How great your faithfulness… God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks.”  Readers will walk away from this book truly feeling fearfully and wonderfully made. 

Wichlenski says, “Teen suicide rates are sadly soaring at an alarming pace. If we show our teens their worth in Jesus and who they are through His eyes- that they are loved, forgiven, His masterpiece, strong, brave, and worthy, I believe the trend will go down." She adds, " It’s up to us as believers to show them the answer. The Keeper of My Heart is a way to show them the unconditional love of Jesus and their worth in Him alone, and can offer them the opportunity to receive hope once again!"

Wichlenski is spreading her message of self-worth and empowerment by giving motivational speeches to middle school and high school girls.  She is committed to raising money to send these books as gifts to less fortunate girls.  Her books have been sent to a girls’ school in Kenya, and she has plans to send copies of her book to the Dominican Republic, after the book is finished being translated to Spanish.

The Keeper of My Heart can be purchased by visiting thekeeperofmyheart.com.

He went from notorious to glorious, with many high hills and downward slopes along the way.

Michael Bull Roberts is a Christian author, speaker, and artist. But he wasn't always living a life focused on following after Jesus.

Bull was best known as a white supremacist, drug dealer, and notorious gang leader. His story involves a lot of trauma and heartache, but it also involves miraculous healing and hope.

Roberts grew up in an abusive home and was tormented physically and mentally for years by his own father. He soon found himself in and out of juvenile jails and institutions and by the age of 16 he was declared criminally insane.

He soon ended up on the street, seeking love and acceptance in all the wrong places. He became involved in a dark, white-supremacist culture, consumed by drugs, violence and greed. He was feared by many.

But, even though Michael didn't realize it at the time, God was pursuing him. It all came to what seemed like was going to be a tragic end to Michael’s life when his so-called friends turned on him and beat him and left him for dead.

Then something happened. Something that would be a turning point in the life of this career criminal. God poured out his love in an amazing way. The Holy Spirit washed over Michael and the soul of a little boy seeking love emerged.

Michael now loves to speak about how God redeemed and brought him out of the gutter and how he has opened so many doors for him. Surrendering to God wasn't easy for this giant of a man, but once he did, he realized that the love of God was the answer.

And it was just the beginning of an amazing journey. Michael has managed to go beyond the hate that was an integral part of his life, and, instead speaks of how Jesus rescued him and laid upon his heart to embark upon another kind of journey—one of forgiveness and healing and ministry.

Michael Bull Roberts’ ministry has become a global adventure. He no longer cares about power and money and prestige. He lives day to day trusting God and heeded his direction to feed the hungry, love the downcast, heal the hurting. He has a passion for youth and for teaching and talking about the harm bullying does.

To learn more about Michael and his book, his ministry and his art visit www.michaelbullroberts.ca.

She grew up learning how to win with money.

Rachel Cruze had no way of getting around it, being the daughter of Dave Ramsey, a well respected and well known business man and financial guru.

She understands the dangers of debt, and she’s seen firsthand the damage it can do. She knows how to give generously, spend wisely, and save for the future. Now Rachel has a passion to help others learn those same principles, and she’s traveling the country doing just that.

Rachel is now a respected personal finance expert who has been a guest on a number of television and radio shows across North America. She is also a contributor to a number of magazines. She is also a #1 New York Times best-selling author, host of The Rachel Cruze Show, and The Rachel Cruze Show podcast.

She’s authored three best-selling books, including Love Your Life, Not Theirs and Smart Money Smart Kids, which she co-wrote with her father, Dave Ramsey.

Cruze says for many it can be very hard to see through debt as the majority of people live paycheque to paycheque.

She says no matter where a person is or how much debt that they may have, they just need to start working their way out.

"The fastest way to do it, the most effective way is to list off all of your debts, smallest to largest, regardless of the interest rate. Pay minimum interest rates on everything and then attack the smallest one first," Cruze explained. "Once that is payed off, then roll it over to the next smallest debt. You keep going, we'll have a debt snowball because you keep picking up momentum as you're going."

She says it is amazing that anyone, if they choose to, can become debt free. They just have to make a choice and make some sacrifices.

"It is so worth it to be in control of your money and to not have that stress of owing someone," said Cruze.

Cruze says it is also important to create a budget with your spouse and to prepare an emergency fund that can support your family in times of need.

When couples get on the same page—through talking regularly, making money goals, and discussing dreams together—they build a strong foundation for their relationship.

“Talking about money is often more valuable than the money itself,” Cruze said.

To find out more about how you can deal with debt, and to find out more about Rachel visit rachelcruze.com.