Churches lead reconciliation initiatives in South Sudan

Baptists have joined other Christian groups to end fighting in South Sudan.

Edward Dima, president of the Baptist Convention of South Sudan told the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) that church and community leaders met several times in October with an aim to bring conflicts in the northeastern African country to an end.

Tens of thousands of South Sudanese have been displaced by nine months of civil war in the states of Unity, Jonglei and Upper Nile, and in Juba, the capital. Millions more are refugees in bordering countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan.

The BWA sent an initial sum of US$18,000 to assist in South Sudan IDP (internally displaced persons) relief.

Dima said, "Recently there were border clashes between Moyo in Uganda and Kajo-Keji in South Sudan which forced about 12,000 displaced people to run to Kajo-Keji for safety." The conflict is related to issues of traditional land ownership and the demarcation of the international border between South Sudan and Uganda in that area.

South Sudanese accused residents of Moyo of destroying 90 homes and stealing 37 heads of cattle during a raid in the South Sudanese territory. In retaliation, 12 Ugandan women were kidnapped in Moyo and brought to Kajo-Keji. In recent clashes at least seven people have been killed.

After the latest outbreak of violence, various Christian traditions convened several meetings of the Reconciliation Church Council. "This council is meeting to work toward common peace as the body of Christ," Dima, who chairs the council, declared.

The council adopted a resolution acknowledging the work of governments, churches, humanitarian organizations and individuals who helped on both sides of the border during the conflict; called on the governments to resolve the border issues speedily; and encouraged church leaders, governments and local authorities to take steps to reunite alienated and broken families.

The council will organize a series of worship services and meetings to promote reconciliation, healing and forgiveness that will include church leaders, elders, landlords, chiefs, and youth on both sides of the border. These meetings include a leadership conference planned for December 1-3 in Kajo-Keji. "Pray with us for support during this sensitive face to face meeting," Dima requested.

New churches will be planted in conflict communities by the various Christian groups as part of the peace efforts.

An interdenominational committee has been established by the council to oversee the implementation of the resolution.

The outreach efforts have thus far helped to ease tensions in the area. "Thank God that peace and calmness has returned to the two sister districts," said Dima. "Pray for the continued effort to dialogue with the two communities. Pray for the effort of churches [that] real and permanent peace shall be realized and attained."

South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in July 2011, following a referendum. The area has been wracked by longstanding conflict. The First Sudanese Civil War was fought from 1955-1972 between the northern part of Sudan and the southern Sudan region, the latter demanding representation and more regional autonomy.

After the war, which claimed approximately half a million lives, the Southern Sudan Autonomous Region was formed in 1972. This lasted until 1983 when the Second Sudanese Civil War broke out. This war ended in 2005 and led, ultimately, to the splitting off of South Sudan as an independent country. Roughly two million people died as a result of fighting, famine and disease caused by the second war. Four million people in southern Sudan have been displaced at least once during the war.

In December 2013, a political power struggle broke out between the South Sudan president and his former deputy over accusations of a coup plot, which eventually led to a civil war. Up to 10,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the fighting.

"Thank you very much for praying and for the support you have given to the displaced people of South Sudan, especially those people who fled the border conflict between Moyo in Uganda and Kajo-Keji in South Sudan," Dima told the BWA.

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

Baptist World Alliance®
© October 23, 2014

Speakers for international Baptist congress confirmed

The keynote speakers for the 21st Baptist World Congress to be held in Durban, South Africa, from July 22-26, 2015, have been confirmed.

Speakers are Peter Chin from South Korea, Donald Ndichafah from Cameroon, Dimitrina Oprenova from Bulgaria, Anthony Carroll from the Bahamas, Luiz Soares Silvado from Brazil and Joel Gregory from the United States.

Chin is senior pastor of the Global Mission Church in Bundang-Suji district in South Korea. He earned degrees from several schools in the United States -- Fuller Theological Seminary, Midwestern Baptist Seminary, Trinity International University in Ministry and the University of Virginia. He previously pastored Baptist churches in the United States before going to Korea.

Ndichafah is a vice president of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship, one of six regional fellowships of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) and was, from 2008-2012, general secretary of the Cameroon Baptist Convention. He was previously field pastor for the Yaounde Area in Cameroon. Ndichafah is a member of the BWA Commission on Baptist Worship and Spirituality.

Oprenova is associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Sofia, president of the Bulgarian Baptist Women's Department and a member of the Executive Committee of the European Baptist Women's Union. She has been engaged in ministry among women, children and youth. She earned degrees from Spurgeon's College in the United Kingdom and the International Baptist Theological Seminary.

Carroll is senior pastor of Antioch Native Baptist Church in Nassau and former president of the Bahamas National Baptist Missionary and Education Convention. He is a graduate of the American Baptist College and Emory University's Candler School of Theology in the US. Carroll is a member of the BWA General Council and the Commission on Evangelism.

Silvado is pastor of Bacacheri Baptist Church in Curitiba, Paraná, and president of the Brazilian Baptist Convention. He holds degrees from the Federal University of Paraná, the South Brazil Baptist Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in the US. Silvado is a member of the BWA General Council and the Mission, Evangelism and Theological Reflection Advisory Committee.

Gregory is professor of preaching at Baylor University's Truett Seminary in Texas and distinguished fellow of Georgetown College in Kentucky. He is founder and principal of Joel Gregory Ministries, an international ministry of teaching and preaching. He earned degrees at Baylor University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where he taught preaching for three years. He is lead author of the recently published, Baptist Preaching: A Global Anthology, which was launched during the BWA Annual Gathering in Izmir, Turkey, in July 2014. He is a member of the BWA Commission on Baptist Worship and Spirituality.


Congress speakers, left to right, Peter Chin from South Korea, Donald Ndichafah from Cameroon, Dimitrina Oprenova from Bulgaria, Anthony Carroll from the Bahamas, Luiz Soares Silvado from Brazil and Joel Gregory from the United States.

Baptist World Alliance®
© October 14, 2014

Baptists take strong stance against anti-Semitism

A Baptist group in the United States issued a resolution reaffirming the "historic American Baptist stand against anti-Semitism."

The resolution, issued by American Baptist Churches USA's (ABC USA) International Ministries (IM), declares anti-Semitism to be "wholly contrary to Jesus' teaching" and that it "demeans Jesus and all people of Jewish ethnicity." Baptist members and congregations are urged to sensitize themselves to issues associated with anti-Semitism by providing "age‐appropriate, Biblically contextualized teaching within the congregation concerning the Holocaust and other forms of genocide."

Individuals, churches and ABC USA mission partners within and outside the US are also encouraged "to reach out to Jewish neighbors and/or synagogues to build relationships of solidarity and to initiate mutual actions to confront anti-Semitic attitudes and actions."

IM commended Baptists in Romania for their strong stance against anti-Semitism in the Eastern European country. "Anti-Semitic attitudes are intolerable at any time and in any place," the letter to the Romanians read. In reference to anti-Semitic sentiments expressed on Romanian airwaves late last year, IM told Romanian Baptists they "were deeply encouraged to read of the Baptist union's courageous press release concerning the intolerant and anti-Semitic remarks that were aired on December 13, 2013, on Romanian radio."

Among the events IM denounced were the defacing of an exhibition of child Holocaust victims in Paris, France, in January; the defacing of the Holocaust Memorial in Philadelphia in the US, in March; the painting of swastikas and anti-Semite graffiti on a Holocaust monument in Odessa, Ukraine, in April; shootings at both the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park and at the Village Shalom Retirement Community in Leawood, both in Kansas in the US, in April; and the shooting of four persons at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels, in May.

The resolution, which was adopted on the 9/11 anniversary in the US, followed on similar resolutions by American Baptists in 1976, 1983 and 1989.

Baptist World Alliance®
© October 7, 2014

Africans ask for prayer on October 12

The All Africa Baptist Fellowship (AABF), one of six regional fellowships of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), has called on all Baptists to make the Ebola outbreak a matter of prayer during worship on Sunday, October 12.

"All Africa Baptist Fellowship appreciates global Baptists for the love and concern shown to our brethren in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea since the outbreak of Ebola epidemic," the regional group said. "Particularly, we express deep appreciation to Baptist World Alliance for the leadership role played in bringing a coalition of concerned Baptist conventions, organizations and other bodies to respond to this deadly epidemic."

The AABF has asked that prayers be offered for the comfort of families that lost loved ones; the healing of those who are infected; the protection of Ebola health workers; and an end to the Ebola outbreak.

BWA response included a roundtable of donor partners and representatives from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in September. Monetary grants have been sent to Liberia and Sierra Leone for public education and sensitization campaigns on the disease and for the purchase of medicines and food.

The BWA has engaged other partners such as Brothers Brother Foundation and Baylor Scott and White Health system to ship medical supplies to Sierra Leone and will ship two containers of approximately 500,000 prepackaged meals to both countries.

As of October 1, a total 7,493 persons have been infected with 3,439 having died, the majority, more than 2000, in Liberia.

Baptists have significant presence in much of West Africa. The Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention has approximately 72,000 members in 270 churches and the Baptist Convention of Sierra Leone has more than 21,500 members in 189 churches.

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

Baptist World Alliance®
© October 10, 2014

Thousands of Baptists displaced in Ukraine, appeal for help

The All-Ukrainian Union of Associations of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (AUUAECB) reported that approximately 5,500 Baptists have been displaced in Eastern Ukraine as a result of the conflict in that country.

A letter received by the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) from AUUAECB gave a graphic description of life in Eastern Ukraine. It said more than 100,000 Ukrainians are displaced from their homes, with thousands more wounded. "Bridges and supply lines are destroyed. Roads and streets are blocked with checkpoints. Cannonade from explosions is heard every night. Many apartments and cars are destroyed. Tanks are plowing through the city streets."

The BWA was told that local churches have been mobilized to provide assistance to the displaced and are collecting and distributing donations to assist those injured. Campsites are housing families and orphans. Assistance is being given to families that lost loved ones in the ongoing conflict. Health facilities operated by Baptists and other Christian groups are attending to the wounded.

Ukrainian Baptists are appealing to Baptists and the international community for donations and prayer.

An unconfirmed number of Baptists and other evangelical Christians have died in the conflicts. The Baptist Times in the United Kingdom reported in July that pro-Russian separatists were increasingly targeting evangelical Christians in Eastern Ukraine by beating, torturing and even killing them. The attacks included the killing of four Baptists who were dragged out of their church in Slavyansk in June and whose bodies were found in a mass grave in July.

"In these difficult circumstances, we are called to enhance the ministry for the sake of victory over evil and in every possible way, to help stop the war," AUUAECB said in its letter.

A BWA resolution adopted in Izmir, Turkey, in July, "promises to continue to pray for peace and reconciliation among the people of Ukraine and their political leaders, and to support our brothers and sisters in Christ in Ukraine in the challenging days to come."

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

Baptist World Alliance®
© October 6, 2014