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Religion Today Blog Christian Blog and Commentary

Amanda Casanova

Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has earned the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in the country.

Ahmed has been in the role less than two years, but is credited with helping the country find reconciliation and dissolving a border conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

“Even if much work remains, Abiy Ahmed has initiated important reforms that give many citizens hope for a better life and a brighter future,” the Nobel Committee said in a statement.

Ahmed, 43, became the prime minister in April 2018. Since taking the position, he signed a peace accord with the president of Eritrea, opening air travel and telecommunications between the two countries.

Eritrea and Ethiopia have long been at odds with each other, including violence and attacks that cost 80,000 lives along the border.

“He spent his first 100 days as Prime Minister lifting the country’s state of emergency, granting amnesty to thousands of political prisoners, discontinuing media censorship, legalizing outlawed opposition groups, dismissing military and civilian leaders who were suspected of corruption, and significantly increasing the influence of women in Ethiopian political and community life,” the Nobel committee also said. “He has also pledged to strengthen democracy by holding free and fair elections.”

Ahmed also helped two branches of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church reconcile after the church split in 1991, Christianity Today reports.

Ahmed is a Protestant Pentecostal and attends Full Gospel Believers’ Church.

“There is something of the revivalist preacher in the way he evangelizes for his vision,” BBC said in a report. “He has the energy, the passion and the certainty.”

In response to the announcement of his Nobel Peace Prize, Ahmed tweeted, “I am humbled by the decision of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. My deepest gratitude to all committed and working for peace. This award is for Ethiopia and the African continent. We shall prosper in peace.”

Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Sean Gallup/Staff

TIZI-OUZOUAlgeria, October 14, 2019 (Morning Star News) – A Christian protest of Algeria’s church closures resulted in an order on Sunday (Oct. 13) to seal the church building of the head of the umbrella group of Protestant churches, the leader said.

Salah Chalah, head of the Protestant Church of Algeria umbrella group (l’Église Protestante d’Algérie, or EPA), said the order he received yesterday for the closure of his Protestant Church of the Full Gospel, ordered by the governor of Tizi-Ouzou (EPPETO) on Wednesday (Oct. 16), came in retaliation for a sit-in that Christians organized at the Bejaia Province headquarters on Oct. 9.

“To shed light, this last notification is not the result of coincidence, but a provocative response to the sit-in of Oct. 9 in front of the Bejaia Province headquarters,” Pastor Salah said.

When the Christian leaders received a visit from police yesterday notifying them to go to the central police station at 3 p.m., he and fellow pastor Tarek Berki arrived to find the closure notice dated Oct. 9, when leaders of various EPA-affiliated churches staged the sit-in, he said.

“After Tarek read the notification, they asked me to sign it, which I refused to do,” Pastor Chalah told Morning Star News. “But they said they were going to act anyway. Then I told them, ‘Anyway, on your arrival, we will wait for you as many as possible inside the room of worship in praise and prayer. That’s our way of opposing your actions.’”

Pastor Chalah explained to police that he had nothing against them personally, but that the church leaders wanted to get the attention of their superiors who are ordering church closures. The closure was ordered by the governor of Bejaia Province.

Authorities have engaged in a systematic campaign to close Christian places of worship and other Christian institutions since November 2017 based on a 2006 ordinance, Law 06/03, stipulating that all non-Muslim worship must be carried out in buildings designated for that purpose, though the government has failed to consider any applications, according to Middle East Concern (MEC). 

Makouda Church Ordered to Close 

A 500-member Protestant church in Makouda, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) from Tizi-Ouzou, today also received an order that its building would be closed, in this case on Tuesday (Oct. 15), according to pastor Nourredine Benzid. Pastor Benzid is the secretary of the EPA.

The closure order would bring to 12 the number of churches closed on the basis of “non-Muslim worship practice without permission,” and three other churches in Oran that have re-opened are threatened with closure, Pastor Chalah said.

The governor of Oran Province, 414 kilometers (257) miles west of Algiers on the Mediterranean coast, has filed a court complaint against the re-opened churches for non-conformity with Law 06/03. Without authority to close the churches, he has undertaken a judicial route, church leaders said.

Representatives of the EPA, which has 46 affiliate churches, have traveled to France, Brussels, the United Kingdom and the United States to explain their plight and seek support. They seek reopening of the worship places, the end of Law 06/03 and freedom to import Bibles and other Christian literature.

Pastor Youssef Ourahmane, vice president of the EPA, told a French-language magazine that the government wants to definitively close as many churches as possible and dissolve the EPA, officially recognized since 1974. As a result the church leaders of Tizi-Ouzou said that they would not remain idle in the face of these unjustified threats but that they would stage various peaceful demonstrations, he said.

Islam is the state religion in Algeria, where 99 percent of the population of 40 million are Muslim. Since 2000, thousands of Algerian Muslims have put their faith in Christ.

Algerian officials estimate the number of Christians at 50,000, but others say it could be twice that number.

Algeria ranked 22nd on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, up from 42nd place the previous year. 

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that can orient you on how to get involved.

If you or your organization would like to help enable Morning Star News to continue raising awareness of persecuted Christians worldwide with original-content reporting, please consider collaborating at https://morningstarnews.org/donate/?

Article originally published by Morning Star News. Used with permission.

Photo courtesy: Morning Star News

A new study found that American Christians are more likely to consider the lead pastor of their church to be a “friend” rather than a “mentor.”

The Barna Group report, released earlier this month, was called “Do Christians Consider Their Pastors to Be Friends?”

The study revealed that 20 percent of participants said they spoke or regularly met with their pastor outside of weekly worship services and other church events, the Christian Post reports

That 20 percent was then asked to describe the relationship to the pastor with 50 percent of respondents calling the pastor a “friend.”

Nineteen percent said they called the pastor a “mentor,” while 13 percent called the pastor a “counselor” and 11 percent called the pastor a “teacher.”

“Though most congregants surveyed admitted to not interacting with the lead pastor or other church staff outside of church, there is a small, yet significant number of constituents who do—and even regard their pastor as a friend,” noted Barna.

“Exactly half of Christian respondents and churched adults (50% each) call their pastor ‘friend,’ as do 46% of practicing Christians. The lack of difference in percentages across these groups suggests that, while church attendance or faith practice increases the likelihood of getting to meet and know one’s pastor in the first place, friendship might naturally occur once those interactions come about.”

Barna surveyed more than 800 self-identified Christians living in the U.S. The survey also took into account another report, “The State of Pastors,” which included some 1,000 responses from Christian adults.

Other findings of the study:

-       Protestants (48 percent) are more likely than Catholics (27 percent) to meet with their pastor outside of church

-       28 percent said their pastor often attends community or social events outside of the church

-       64 percent responded that they have a positive view of their pastor

October is Pastor Appreciation Month.

Photo courtesy: Eber Devine/Unsplash

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