BWA Day to be re-launched next year

Baptist World Alliance (BWA) Day is to be re-launched in 2015. The decision was made by the BWA General Council in its meeting in Izmir, Turkey, in July.

The observance will be on February 7 and 8, 2015, depending on whether Baptists worship on Saturday or Sunday. Baptist churches are encouraged to include BWA Day in their annual calendar.

The celebration is aimed at affirming Baptist identity within the worldwide Christian family.  Baptists are encouraged to pray for each other and to renew their commitment to cooperate with Baptists globally through the BWA.

BWA Day has been celebrated since 1927 when the BWA Executive Committee, meeting in London, asked President Edgar Mullins and General Secretary John Rushbrooke to prepare a "Special Statement" to express clearly the purpose of the BWA. The Statement emphasized that the BWA "seeks to express and promote unity and fellowship among the Baptists of the world."

A decision was made to introduce the observance of Baptist World Alliance Day in an effort to promote unity and fellowship among Baptists.

Originally celebrated on the first Sunday of February each year, BWA Day was moved in 2006 to the first Sunday in May. Recognizing that some members of the BWA family worship on Saturday, the first Sunday of May and the Saturday immediately preceding it became the new dates for BWA Day in 2009.

"It appears that the change from February to May has not gained traction within the BWA family," said BWA General Secretary Neville Callam. In Izmir, the General Council decided that, as of 2015, BWA Day will be observed on the second Sunday of February and the Saturday immediately preceding it.

Resources for the BWA observance will be available on the BWA website at www.bwanet.org.

Baptist World Alliance®
© September 25, 2014

BWA supports appeal made by Christians in the Middle East

Baptist World Alliance (BWA) General Secretary Neville Callam endorsed the urgent appeal from the Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community in Syria and Lebanon to evangelical and Protestant churches and organizations around the world.

The appeal, which was signed by church leaders and pastors, including Baptists, asserted that minority groups such as Christians and moderate Muslims in the Middle East face an existential threat.

"This is a moment filled with awe and fear," the leaders stated. A "state of emergency" is needed "in order to preserve what remains of the Christian and moderate non-Christian presence in the East, and to circumvent its complete demise."

In issuing a "cry of warning," the leaders fear that events will "cause the annihilation of Christian presence in the Middle East." They ask Christians, churches and social and humanitarian organizations around the world to "act swiftly before it is too late."

The organizations are being asked to help raise awareness among their constituencies on the situation in the Middle East; to take actions that may end the depletion and "forced and ordered displacement of individuals and communities from their homelands"; to assist in working on a long term strategy to put an end to "cruel violence and indiscriminate murder"; and to "exercise the maximum pressure, moral and otherwise, and to tap all the resources at their disposal," to bring resolution to the problems faced by Christian minorities and moderate Muslims in the region.

In a 2013 resolution on the crisis in the Middle East and North Africa, the BWA "lamented that Christians have been targeted and persecuted." Callam, referencing that resolution, is encouraging Baptists to pray for the safety and well being of all who suffer regardless of their faith.

Callam said the 2013 resolution urges "governments of the Middle East to engage religious minority groups located within their borders in the process of pursuing measures to protect them against actions that target Christians and other minorities." The BWA "commends and supports the efforts of moderate religious people everywhere who advocate for the just treatment of all citizens throughout the Middle East and North Africa."

The appeal from the Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community also included a plea for humanitarian aid. "We urge our partners to offer food and water supplies, as well as medical and other forms of assistance, to the war victims, and to support those who have been forcefully displaced in their own homeland, or become refugees in neighboring countries, so they may safely return to their towns, villages and churches."

The BWA has had a long history of supporting minority and vulnerable groups in the Middle East. Over the past few weeks, the international umbrella organization for Baptists assisted 500 displaced Christian families inside Iraq, sent assistance to both Christian and Muslim families in Gaza that were affected by the recent war between Israel and Hamas, and supported Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon.

Donations may be made online at www.bwanet.org or mailed to
Baptist World Aid
c/o Baptist World Alliance
405 North Washington Street
Falls Church, VA 22046
USA

Baptist World Alliance®
© September 18, 2014

Liberia reeling from Ebola

The Ebola epidemic in Liberia has led to the shutdown of many activities in the West African country.

A state of emergency has been declared, the capital Monrovia is under curfew, schools are closed, only essential government services are being provided and private businesses and offices have scaled back production and services.

The BWA sent an initial sum of US$10,000 to Liberia with additional sums earmarked to counter the growing menace.

"We are struggling through one of the most difficult periods in the history of our country," Justus Reeves, general secretary of the Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention (LBMEC), told a roundtable hosted by the Baptist World Alliance. "Currently Liberia is the epicenter of the Ebola virus on the continent."

Unemployment, which was already 85 percent, got worse with the scaling down of government services. Government is the largest employer in the country.

Reeves said Liberia has only 51 doctors for a population of more than four million. There is a desperate shortage of medical supplies, including medicines for ailments other than Ebola.

Reeves told the BWA roundtable, which included donors and representatives from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, that the "disease has affected every aspect of our lives, politically, socially, economically, even spiritually...everyone lives in terror and fear of each other."

An immediate concern is the threat of hunger.

Liberian Baptists have been engaged in four initiatives: sensitization and education campaigns; the provision of sanitation equipment and materials to churches and communities; food relief; and trauma counseling for families and communities.

Thus far, LBMEC distributed 650 large bags of rice to three counties and 50 bags to a hospital that had run out of food for its patients. In addition to the food distribution, Liberian Baptists are preparing and distributing meals to Ebola patients.

Baptists have been directly affected by the Ebola outbreak, including the families of 25 Baptist pastors. Baptists, including pastors' spouses who are medical professionals and practitioners, have contracted the disease.

On September 8 the World Health Organization warned the number of new cases in Liberia was increasing exponentially. As of September 12, more than 2,000 Ebola cases have been reported in Liberia with more than 1,200 succumbing to the disease.

Donations may be made online at www.bwanet.org or mailed to
Baptist World Aid
c/o Baptist World Alliance
405 North Washington Street
Falls Church, VA 22046
USA

Baptist World Alliance®
© September 12, 2014

BWA statement on Congress 2015

The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) is excited about the prospect of thousands from all over the world gathering in Durban, South Africa, in July 2015 for the 21st Baptist World Congress.

At a meeting last week of the Congress Core Committee, we noted that more than 1,000 hotel rooms have been reserved and Baptists from around the world continue to make use of the "early bird" registration discount. The Local Arrangements Committee is hard at work preparing for the Congress that we expect will be one of our finest ever.

We have been following closely news of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. BWA and its partners are actively engaged in providing needed assistance. We encourage everyone to continue to pray for the families and the communities affected and for the outbreak to end.

We are heartened by the efforts being made to contain the spread of the disease and are thankful for the progress being made in Sierra Leone and Guinea. We continue to support initiatives to improve the situation in Liberia and welcome the recent announcement of increased United States involvement in the Ebola eradication campaign in that country.

We are especially pleased that South Africa remains Ebola free and note that the local health authorities have vigorously implemented a carefully designed program to prevent the entrance of Ebola within the country's borders. The South African leaders remain vigilant even though their country is several thousand miles/kilometers away from those countries that have been affected by Ebola.

As Congress registration continues apace and we enter into a new phase of preparation, we continue to closely monitor the Ebola situation, mindful that it is desirable for our Baptist brothers and sisters on the African continent to be able to participate in the event.

We request your prayers for the upcoming meetings in Durban that, through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, they will provide a rich feast for the thousands of Baptists who will participate.

Relying on the providence of God, whose face we seek in all things, we remain committed to prayer for the accomplishment of God's will through the 2015 Baptist World Congress.

Baptist World Alliance®
© September 16, 2014

Ebola takes toll on Sierra Leone

The Ebola outbreak has disrupted economic and other activities in Sierra Leone, causing widespread dislocations.

The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) sent a total of US$20,000 to provide food, educational materials for the prevention of the spread of the Ebola virus, as well as materials and equipment to provide adequate sanitation for persons who have been affected by the crisis.

"The Ebola scourge in Sierra Leone is affecting the economy of the state, communities, households and individual family members," Samuel Conteh, coordinator of social ministries for the Baptist Convention of Sierra Leone, told the BWA.

The outbreak, which began in March, occurred during the height of the farming season. Agriculture is roughly 58 percent of Sierra Leone's gross domestic product (GDP).

 

"This is the time rice farmers plant their rice fields and plantation (cocoa, coffee, etc.). The outbreak has not only abruptly halted these farming activities, but has also claimed the lives of farmers," Conteh said.

"Some survivors are either quarantined or can no longer frequent their farms or plantations thereby leaving the crops to perish, particularly in epicenters like Kenema, Kailahun and Bo, where the majority of the population depends on rice and plantation farming for their livelihood."

Conteh indicated "that most of the Ebola deaths are in the age brackets of between 15 and 45 years old, which fall within the active labor force, thereby leaving a huge population (children and the aged) as dependents."

As a result, there is food shortage and the price of basic food supplies has skyrocketed. There is urgent need for food, especially for Ebola survivors and orphans. Agricultural supplies for planting the next harvest are also a great need.

The mining sector, the fifth highest contributor to Sierra Leone's GDP, has also been negatively affected. Large mining companies "have all scaled down their activities leading to mass redundancy of a massive work force. Government revenue from this sector has also gone down," Conteh affirmed.

In other areas of the economy, people have been laid off or made redundant. Education is virtually crippled as schools are closed.

The health sector is also severely affected. Approximately 50 medical personnel have died, including three prominent doctors. According to Conteh, persons are fearful of visiting health facilities lest they are labeled as Ebola patients and, as a result, are dying of ailments other than Ebola. Pregnant and nursing mothers are not visiting clinics to receive necessary prenatal and postnatal care. Babies and young children are not receiving necessary immunizations to ward off other infectious diseases.

Church activities have been drastically reduced. "Church attendances are dwindling. Baptist activities are being slowed down, particularly in [the] epicenters. The traditional embracing and handshake among members after church service have disappeared," declared Conteh.

Donations may be made online at www.bwanet.org or mailed to
Baptist World Aid
c/o Baptist World Alliance
405 North Washington Street
Falls Church, VA 22046
USA

Baptist World Alliance®
© September 10, 2014