BWA protests new Bolivian law

The Baptist World Alliance joins other Christian groups and organizations in protesting a new and ambiguous law in Bolivia that could make proselytizing illegal and put those who do so at risk of prosecution and imprisonment.

In a letter to legislators in Bolivia, BWA General Secretary Elijah Brown expressed concerns “that the ambiguity of these laws could lead to unintended restrictions on religious freedom and to the direct persecution of churches and individuals of faith.”

Brown said his concerns were not only for Baptists, “but for all who might find themselves unable to live according to the dictates of their conscience.”

In a translation by Evangelical Focus, a news and opinion website out of Europe, the offending law declares that “Whoever recruits, transports, deprives of freedom or hosts people with the aim of recruiting them to take part in armed conflicts or religious or worship organizations will be penalized 7 to 12 years of imprisonment.”

The fear is that the law could ban public preaching and punish the mere act of inviting someone to a Christian or other religious event.

According to Evangelical Focus, the new law collides with the country’s constitution. Article 4 of the Bolivian constitution reads, “The State respects and guarantees the freedom of religion and spiritual beliefs, according to their worldviews. The State is independent of religion.”

In his letter, Brown expressed hope “that freedom of religion and expression will be strengthened” and said Baptists are praying “for the ongoing wellbeing of the country.”

He also made the BWA available to Bolivian government and other authorities for further dialogue on the issue.

Global Baptists are encouraged to join Bolivian Christians who have declared Sunday, January 21, a day of prayer and fasting. They are also urged to make representations to Bolivian diplomatic missions in their respective countries on BWA concerns on the new law.

The BWA has two member organizations in Bolivia, the Baptist Convention of Bolivia and the Bolivian Baptist Union, comprising more than 50,000 members in more than 300 churches.

Both an English and Spanish version of the BWA letter may be downloaded on the BWA website.

Baptist World Alliance®
©January 19, 2018

 

 

 

 

Elijah Brown assumes BWA leadership

Elijah Brown, the 9th general secretary in the 112-year history of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), assumed responsibility on January 1.

Brown, the fourth American to lead the global organization for Baptists, was elected during the BWA Annual Gathering in Bangkok, Thailand, last July.

He succeeds Neville Callam, a Jamaican, who retired after being BWA general secretary from 2007-2017.

Prior to coming to the BWA, Brown, 36, was a professor of Religion at East Texas Baptist University in the US and executive vice president of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, a religious freedom advocacy organization.

In his first week, the new BWA leader has emphasized BWA commitment to mission, evangelism and human rights, particularly religious freedom.

Brown has issued an invitation to prayer for Friday, January 5, at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. “All are encouraged to pray on that day for the work of the Lord through the Baptist church around the world,” Brown declared.

“In light of pressing human rights challenges facing Baptists around the world and the ongoing need to continue to share the hope of the Gospel, Baptists are encouraged this Friday to pray for the work of the Lord through the Baptist church.”

To participate in the corporate prayer, persons may call +1-712-451-0685, using the access code 335454.

Persons may also call numbers of 61 countries listed on the attached or linked form, using the same access code. If your country is not listed you may use the number above.

Conversations focusing on innovations in evangelism were held with Kowloon International Baptist Church in Hong Kong, which has agreed to sponsor the BWA Evangelism Award, to be given out every five years.

The staff held a special meeting to review the situation in Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa. Christian villages in northern Nigeria and the nation’s Middle Belt have had repeated attacks, including from Boko Haram and Fulani militants. The country, which has one of the largest Baptist groups globally, faces a worsening famine crisis.

BWA staff will attend meetings with the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom in Washington, DC; and meet with Knox Thames, special adviser on Religious Minorities in the Near East and South/Central Asia of the US Department of State.

For further information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Baptist World Alliance®
©January 3, 2018

 

Christians killed in Nigerian attack

Twenty one Christians were killed by Fulani herdsmen on September 9 in Plateau State in Nigeria.

Samson Ayokunle, president and CEO of the Nigerian Baptist Convention (NBC), told the Baptist World Alliance that 20 of those killed were Baptists while one was a Methodist.

A mass burial for 19 of the victims was held in Ancha Village, where the massacre occurred.

“It was a difficult time for us because all the 20 Baptists killed came from the same local village church,” Ayokunle said. “Up till now, our government has not arrested any of the criminals who perpetrated the dastardly act. They appear to be above the law.”

Ayokunle, president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the main Christian ecumenical body in the nation, is appealing to “the international community [to] help us cry out to the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to show seriousness in bringing these criminal herdsmen to book.”

He said the “government's failure to arrest them is simply seen by reasonable people as complicity. We demand justice for our dead brothers and sisters.”

The Nigerian Baptist leader visited the village. NBC; CAN; and First Baptist Church in Garki, Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, provided assistance to the families of the victims.

Ayokunle alleged that the Fulani herdsmen made other attacks in other parts of the local area and no arrests have been made.

Christian villages in northern Nigeria have had repeated attacks from Muslim militants, including Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen.

In early 2015, more than 30 Baptist churches and about 2,000 individual Baptists were affected by the Boko Haram insurgency in Nassarawa State and parts of Benue State. Baptists and other Christians were killed, women were raped and farms destroyed.

Other attacks occurred in Adamawa State, which includes the predominantly Christian city of Mubi, and in other states such as Borno, Yobe, Taraba and Bauchi‎.

In March 2015, Ayokunle asserted that the insurgency in northern Nigeria “comes most of the time through Fulani herdsmen who go about with AK-47 rifles and other sophisticated weapons to kill farmers in their villages when they are fast asleep in the night.”

He alleged that many of the insurgents were from outside Nigeria.

He pleaded for prayer “for the future of the church in Nigeria,” declaring that Christianity is under attack in the country, the most populous in Africa.

 Baptist World Alliance®
©October 23, 2017

 

2018 human rights award nomination closes November 30

The Baptist World Alliance 2018 Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award closes on November 30.

Any Baptist individual, church or organization can submit a nomination, and any Baptist is eligible to receive the award.

The award is intended to recognize and give visibility to men and women who have done outstanding work in defending and promoting human rights as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Persons may not make nominations on their own behalf.

The awardee will be announced at the March 2018 BWA Executive Committee meeting and the award presented during the Annual Gathering in July 2018 in Zurich, Switzerland.

The nominations form may be downloaded here on the BWA website.

 

BWA Day 2018 to be observed

Worship resource for Baptist World Alliance (BWA) Day 2018 is now available in English on the BWA website. This can be downloaded at www.bwanet.org.  Other languages will be subsequently available for download.

The observance will be on February 3 and 4, 2018, depending on whether Baptists worship on Saturday or Sunday.

The liturgy was prepared by Lina Toth (Andronoviene) of Lithuania, assistant principal and lecturer in Practical Theology at the Scottish Baptist College of the University of the West of Scotland. A musician, artist and theologian, she has special interest in exploring various aspects of ethics, spirituality and theology of culture.

The BWA Day 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, England, asked BWA 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."

BWA Day is normally observed on the first weekend in February.

Baptist World Alliance®
©September 29, 2017