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BWA to send to United Nations reports of religious persecution

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Baptist World Alliance is asking Baptists around the world to document instances of religious persecution which then will be sent to the United Nations for action.
“Religious freedom is under threat around the world,” said Denton Lotz, BWA general secretary. During the BWA executive committee meeting March 8-11 in Washington, Lotz distributed a form which Baptist leaders can use and send to the BWA offices in Washington. Forms are available from the BWA office and will be posted on the BWA website, www.bwanet.org.
George Younger, BWA representative to the United Nations in New York, in his report strongly urged Baptist leaders to send documented reports of religious persecution to him that he can present to the United Nations. “Religious persecution is now a big issue with the U.N. and the climate at the U.N. is very good for support of those who are persecuted for their faith,” Younger said.
Persecution, civil war and even natural disasters, however, have not stopped the work of evangelization, as Baptist leaders at the BWA meeting recounted stories of evangelism and church growth around the world.
“With all of the persecution in Asia, there is a tremendous movement of God’s Spirit with different people from different backgrounds,” said Bonny Resu, general secretary of the Asian Baptist Federation.
Resu reported enormous growth in Baptist churches and baptized believers in Nepal and in Orissa, India, where Australian Baptist missionary Graham Staines and his two sons recently were burned to death. Baptists, who number more than 400,000, are the largest Christian group in Orissa.
Mar Gay Gyi, general secretary of the Myanmar (Burma) Baptist Convention reported there are more than 10,000 baptized believers and a community of 50,000 Baptists among the Wa tribe in Myanmar. For 20 years, the Wa people suffered under communistic rule that ended in 1980. “As soon as there was freedom, we were allowed to go in and do mission,” he said. Burmese Baptists planted churches, started schools and helped with a water supply system.
Mar Gay Gyi also said the state-sponsored Buddhist faith affects their evangelists, but does not stop the commitment of Burmese Baptists to double their churches and members by 2000. Currently there are 1.2 million Baptists in Burma. He reported just three weeks earlier more than 40 people were converted in a village, as Burmese Baptists focus not only on the hill tribes, but in the towns and villages of Burma.
In Latin America, the destructive effects of Hurricane Mitch, which hit several countries late last year, did not stop a continental, evangelistic meeting in Guatemala that saw 7,000 people accept Jesus Christ in one week.
“God is glorified even in tragedies,” said Rosalio Ramirez, general secretary of the Guatemala Baptist Convention.
Ramirez told Baptist leaders that the meeting, part of the Latin America evangelistic campaign, “There Is Life in Jesus Christ,” was planned for Guatemala two months before the hurricane hit. Plans were made to cancel, but the people from Nicaragua and Honduras wanted to come. “Do not cancel, we are coming in God’s name to say there is life in Jesus Christ,” Ramirez said he was told by the Nicaraguans and Hondurans. For three days 160 people traveled without food from Nicaragua, and 100 came from Honduras. “In the middle of everything, the hand of God has been with us,” Ramirez said.
Concerning Kosovo, Theodor Angelov, former president of the Bulgarian Baptist Union and former president of the European Baptist Federation, reported, “If peace comes soon, we will establish several churches in Kosovo.”
Morris H Chapman, president of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, now serving a two-year term as president of the North American Baptist Fellowship, pleaded for Baptists in North America to be involved in evangelism. “We are here with the mandate of the Great Commission to go and make disciples, “Chapman said.
Baptist leaders at the executive meeting thanked BWA President Nilson Fanini for his strong evangelistic emphasis, which has given many Baptist groups an identifying goal for the last decade in this century. In his message, Fanini reported more than 2,000 people had accepted Christ as Savior in crusades he has held in the last year.

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  • Wendy Ryan