Category Archives: International

Police detain Invisible Children co-founder

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By Mark Ellis
ASSIST News Service

SAN DIEGO, CALIF. The youthful co-founder of Invisible Children was detained by San Diego police after he was allegedly discovered undressed, running through traffic, and engaged in aberrant behavior.

Jason Russell, 33, was held in Pacific Beach by the San Diego Police Department on March 15, according to a report by NBC San Diego. Police initially responded to several calls at 11:30 a.m. about a man in various stages of undress, running through traffic and screaming.

A SDPD spokesperson described Russell as “in his underwear,” and that he exhibited strange, even bizarre behavior. He

Jason Russell

allegedly took off his underwear at one point, but it was back on by the time officers arrived.

“Due to the nature of the detention, he was not arrested,” Lt. Andra Brown said. “During the evaluation we learned we probably needed to take him to a medical facility because of statements he was saying.”

Russell created the 30-minute film “KONY 2012” featuring himself, his son, and a former child soldier from Uganda named

Jacob. Last week, the film went viral, with close to 100 million views on YouTube and Vimeo. The film targets Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, for crimes that have involved kidnapping children in Uganda, torturing them, and forcing them to fight in his army.

After the film’s rapid ascent in the media, Russell made numerous appearances on prominent TV programs, but he also had to respond to criticisms that the film was outdated, and also about his organization’s spending practices.

Russell is described on the Invisible Children website as a “grand storyteller and dreamer” who dreams of “redefining the concept of humanitarian work.” He is a father of two who wants to have nine more children with his wife, whom he calls his “best friend for over 23 years.”

Invisible Children’s CEO Ben Keesey released a statement March 16, saying: “Jason Russell was unfortunately hospitalized yesterday suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition. He is now receiving medical care and is focused on getting better. The past two weeks have taken a severe emotional toll on all of us, Jason especially, and that toll manifested itself in an unfortunate incident yesterday.”

“Jason’s passion and his work have done so much to help so many, and we are devastated to see him dealing with this personal health issue. We will always love and support Jason, and we ask that you give his entire family privacy during this difficult time,” according to the statement.

Security guards blocked the entrance to Invisible Children on March 16, according to the L.A. Times, who reported that workers inside were removing “KONY 2012” banners from the lobby. The phones were not being answered, but some talked on cell phones and were crying, the Times reported.

Egyptian court sentences priest for excess church height

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By Jeremy Reynalds
ASSIST News Service

A court in Edfu has sentenced the Rev. Makarios Bolous, pastor of St. George’s Church in the village of Elmarinab, Edfu, in the Aswan province, to six months prison and a fine of 300 pounds for violations in the height of the church building.

According to a story by Mary Abdelmassih for the Assyrian International News agency (AINA), the court also ordered the removal of the excess height.

AINA said the church had received a license from the Governor of Aswan and was still under construction, but it was torched by a Muslim mob on Sept. 30 2011. Construction workers had started removing the excess height before the torching of the church.

“Since then no work has been done to it. We are not allowed to pray there or come near it by order of the authorities,” said Father Salib el-Deek of the Coptic Diocese of Edfu.

AINA said he added they had proof that the church applied several times to the police to remove the excess height, which it had started doing before the torching of the church, but were not granted permission. The police records were not allowed by the court as evidence.

AINA said the church lawyer also presented documents showing that Bolous is not the one who is responsible for the removal of the excess height, but the architect and the building contractor. However, AINA said, the court refused to take this into consideration and Bolous was convicted.

AINA reported that el-Deek also said that Bolous is not allowed to go inside the village by the village Muslims, and the government has done nothing about this.

AINA said Field Marshall Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, had given orders to the governor of Aswan to rebuild the church at the expense of the government.

“He even told this to Pope Shenouda personally and was mentioned in all papers,” AINA reported el-Deek said. “But the governor did nothing about it.”

AINA said the church will appeal the ruling.

For more information about AINA go to

Internet ministry launches outreach to bring hope to Japan

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By Michael Ireland
ASSIST News Service

An Internet evangelism effort to reach millions shaken and still hurting from the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident, has launched a series of seeker-friendly “stepping stone” web sites in Japan.

Internet ministry Japan is partnering with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Samaritan’s Purse, Campus Crusade, and author Philip Yancey to help lead them to start a relationship with God and make a connection with local churches. Japan is an extension of ( ), a global alliance of Internet ministries that operates Christian

Jesus.Net Japan's Hope for Living video plays during the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's "Celebration of Hope" event held recently in Tohoku, Japan.

evangelistic websites in more than 20 languages worldwide. recently was awarded the National Religious Broadcasters’ “Innovation Award” for its global, cutting-edge evangelism strategy.

The U.S. entity and English information source for the ministry is Jesus Net Japan ( ).

In anticipation of the one-year anniversary of the disaster, Japan partnered with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for its “Celebration of Hope” event in Tohuku and will support Philip Yancey’s speaking tour in Northern Japan March 7-11. It also will be involved in four BGEA events in Japan in 2013. Other partners include Samaritan’s Purse (  ), Campus Crusade for Christ (  ) and CRASH Japan (  ).

“The disasters last spring and the continuing economic upheaval here have people wondering what life is about more than ever before,” said Christian Zebley, former missionary to Japan and U.S. spokesperson for Jesus Net Japan. “The Japanese are a very private people and do not talk about religion easily. Many already use the Internet to answer questions or find information about topics considered too embarrassing to discuss in person.”

According to ABC News, 2 million people around the world “look for God each day” online, said Zebley. Searches are on topics about the supernatural or on the big questions about life and the future.

“We want to give people an opportunity to get answers and hope where they spend a lot of time – on the Internet – and connect them with other Japanese who have satisfied the longings of their hearts in Jesus,” he said. Japan’s initial web site, Hope for Living (  ) introduces visitors to survivors of earlier quakes or other traumatic experiences. Their stories illustrate how they have been strengthened by faith in God, or how they got to know Jesus in the midst of their turmoil. The site also contains prayers and words of hope to encourage those who are afraid, tired, lonely or going through difficult times.

As the one-year anniversary of the quake approaches, Japan is planning more ways to reach out to the Japanese people, including a special series of Hope for Living stories from the stricken region, filmed with the help of Samaritan’s Purse. Japan is a part of ( ), a worldwide movement of more than 40 national and international ministries who partner together to create a network of online websites and tools to assist and support online searchers in their spiritual search.

Christian converts arrested in raid on Iranian house church

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By Michael Ireland
ASSIST News Service

Thirteen Christian converts have been arrested following an attack by security authorities on a house church in Iran. Three of them are being held in custody at an unknown location, according to Mohabat News (

According to the news agency, on Feb. 21, at 7 in the evening, security authorities raided a home dedicated to be used a house church and seized all 13 gathered there for worship. To date, no precise news is available regarding some of these detainees.

Mohabat News says that during this incident, security authorities who were wearing plain clothes transferred these Christians to an unknown location while insulting and abusing them.

The authorities also invaded and thoroughly searched the detainees’ homes and confiscated some of their personal belongings.

Numerous Christian converts have already been arrested in various cities in their house church gatherings, homes or workplaces by order of judicial and security authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as a result of the continued anti-Christian wave in Iran during past months.

Now, in addition to Ahwaz, Shiraz, Esfahan and Tehran, this ongoing wave has reached the city Kermanshah, 526 KMs west of Tehran, in the western part of Iran.

A knowledgeable source told Mohabat News that the Christian detainees may have been transferred to a building in Hafezieh Junction in Kermanshah or 22-Bahman Street which is known as the location of security and intelligence forces.

The source said that nine of these detainees were released the next day after their photos were taken, their details and fingerprints recorded and they signed a disclaimer stating they would not attend any Christian gatherings.

Mohabat News also received word that Ms. Azadeh Sharifi was released on February 28 after enduring 8 days in custody. As yet, no detailed information has been received regarding the way she was released.

Three other detainees, Mehdi Chaghakaboudi, Mojtaba Baba-Karami and Shirin Ghanbari, however, are still being held. Some of the named Christians had also been arrested by security authorities before.

Prior to this, on Jan. 2, 2010, the official Pentecostal church of Assyrians in Kermanshah was also closed by the order of the judicial and security authorities for spreading Christianity among Farsi-speaking Muslims and for preaching the gospel. Security authorities also arrested the pastor of the church, Wilson Isavi on Feb. 2, 2010. He was temporarily released on bail after 54 days in Dastgerd prison in Esfahan.

Mohabat News states: “With the growth in the number of Iranian converts to Christianity in recent years, and the increased pressure by the Islamic government on Christians, especially Christian converts, the Islamic Republic is seeking to stop the growth of house churches in Iran by any means.

“The Islamic Republic considers the growth of Christianity as a religious threat against its national security and is greatly concerned about the spread of the truth of the gospel among the people.”


Christian groups among deregistered under new Kazakh religious laws

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By Jeremy Reynalds
ASSIST News Service

Hundreds of small religious groups have been stripped of their registration in Kazakhstan as a senior religious affairs official says that their activity is “now banned” under new rules.

According to news release from Barnabas Aid, a group that helps the persecuted church, a number of churches from a range of

The Kazakh Parliament building

Christian denominations, including Baptist, Presbyterian and Seventh-day Adventist, are among the 579 groups deregistered.

Barnabas Aid said Kairat Lama Sharif, chair of the Agency of Religious Affairs, described the 13 percent fall in the number of officially-recognized religious groups as “a positive dynamic in the systematization of the total number of religious associations.” He said that the number would probably decrease further as the new Religion Law is enforced.

According to Barnabas Aid, a religious group must now have at least 50 adult members to be registered. Leaders of small churches have received official warnings to stop their activity and return their registration certificates.

Barnabas Aid reported that Saule Ibrayeva, chair of Akmola Region’s Agency of Religious Affairs, said “The activity of small religious groups in the territory of Kazakhstan is now banned since there is no such form of religious association of citizens.”

He added, “We have a new law and as it does not allow for the existence of religious associations which have fewer than 50 members, then they should either re-register with 50 members or stop their activity as a religious association.”

Barnabas Aid said that small churches are still meeting for services, but they face harassment from the state. Kulyan Seydahmetova, head of the Bulandy District Internal Policy Department, said that officials “regularly visit these communities and check up on their activity.”

According to Barnabas Aid, a representative of one church said, “Now our believers are afraid each time they gather for worship. We are worried about possible punishments from the authorities.”

Although the new Religion Law came into force in October 2011, no regulations have yet been drawn up for the re-registration process.

Barnabas Aid said that deregistered groups, which must make any necessary amendments to their charters and re-register with the authorities by Oct. 25, 2012, have complained that they cannot do so until the regulations are in place. They fear that there will be only a short time to do so once these have been adopted.

And for many, Barnabas Aid said, it will not be possible to collect the 50 signatures required, because they do not have sufficient members or at least not enough willing to give their personal information to the authorities.

For more information about Barnabas Aid go to


Orality: Changing face of missions around world

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By Jerry Wiles
Special to Assist News Service

Living Water International continues to see the Lord do amazing works as our orality strategies are implemented around the world. The following is an example of the transformational stories we hear from those who have been through our orality training.

During a testimony time at the end of an Orality Training Workshop in Southern Ethiopia, an evangelist and church planter shared his experiences. He had used the orality methods and told stories he had learned when he attended a training workshop the year before. He told some of the stories in a Muslim community where the chief elder, who was also a Muslim Imam, was present.

The chief elder was very distraught over the fact that his 10-year-old daughter had been missing for several days. After hearing

In India, all ages learn and retell stories.

the stories of how Jesus performs miracles, he asked if Jesus could still perform miracles today. The evangelist said, “yes.” The chief asked the evangelist if he would pray that he could find his daughter. He said that if he could find his daughter, he would become a follower of Jesus.

The evangelist agreed to pray that they would find the daughter. They found her the very next day. The chief elder followed through with his promise to become a follower of Jesus. Not only did he embrace the Good News of Jesus, his family became followers of Jesus and the entire village as well.

Two of the stories that are part of LWI’s basic orality training are The Samaritan Woman at the Well, from John 4, and the story of The Demon-Possessed Gadarene, from Mark 5. When the appropriate questions are asked after trainees have learned the stories, amazing insights and lessons come alive. People really come to understand how Jesus can transform lives and how entire communities and geographical regions can be impacted by one person.

In our training, we emphasize that you don’t have to be a great story teller, because we have great stories to tell. And, that it is the work of the Holy Spirit that touches hearts and changes lives as we simply tell the stories and share the Work of God.

We often hear testimonies of how people, who have never personally led anyone to Christ, are telling the stories and asking the questions and seeing people come to the Lord. One man reported how he used to go into villages and pass out tracts and share his testimony, and the people wanted to argue with him. He said, “Now we go in to the communities, make friends, tell stories and ask questions, and the people want to receive Jesus and follow Him.

A leader in Asia reported that in the regions where the orality training had taken place the year before, the churches are thriving and new churches are being planted. Orality-based evangelism and disciple making efforts are removing barriers and also minimizing opposition and persecution.

Improved research in recent years shows us that more than 4.35 billion people in the world today are oral learners, by necessity or by preference. Yet, an estimated 90 percent of the world’s Christian workers present the gospel and do discipleship using highly literate communication styles. Thankfully things are changing and increasing numbers of churches and mission organizations are discovering the power and impact of telling stories, asking questions and using other oral methods in evangelism, disciple making and church planting.

Jerry Wiles serves as president emeritus of Living Water International (, a Houston based water solutions organization with operations in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. He is the paradigm pioneer in the orality movement and serves on the advisory council of the International Orality Network. Contact him at

Rescue mission members attacked in India red light district

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By Jacob Philip
Assistant Correspondent in India for ASSIST News Service

PUNE, INDIA (ANS) — Undercover rescuers from the Indian Rescue Mission (IRM), who had gone to rescue minor girls forced into prostitution inside one of the brothels of Pune, India, were thrashed by a gang Feb. 22.

According to organization sources, two of their undercover operatives were trying to trace two minor girls trafficked into one of the

A scene in the Pune red light district

brothels in the red light district of this city which is the second largest in the state of Maharashtra after Mumbai.

It happened that a group of people, mostly women and hooligans, gathered on the ground floor of a brothel building and as soon as IRM team members reached the ground floor, the mob pounced on them and beat them up.

One of the attacked member, Mr. Kamble, said, “One boy punched me in the face, giving me a bloody nose.”

According to Kamble, the attackers called the police and tried to mislead them by branding the activists as “extortionists.”

Kamble told ANS, “After the police noticed that we were the victims who were manhandled by the mob, they asked us to lodge a complaint against the attackers.”

U K Yadav, the Sub-Inspector of the Faraskhana Police Station said, “The duo did not disclose their identity which led to the tension in the area. We have taken preventive action against Ghanashyam Dnyaneshwar Kulapalli (27) of Bhavani Peth who had allegedly beaten the staff member.”

Reacting to the episode, James Varghese, founder of the Indian Rescue Mission, and also an ANS correspondent, said, “We are deeply disturbed by this incident and we feel that we who help the people of the society should be given protection. We condemn this act and we request the police to act swiftly and bring the attackers to book.”

For more details on IRM’s work visit them

Two churches targeted in bomb attack in Nigeria

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Senior International Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

ULEJA, NIGERIA (ANS) — Suspected Islamic extremists detonated a bomb outside a church building here on Sunday (Feb. 19), two months after Boko Haram Islamists killed 44 Christians and blinded seven in a church bombing in nearby Madalla.

One of seven victims blinded by blast at Catholic church in Madalla on Christmas Day, 2011.

Compass Direct News says Sunday’s blast in Suleja, in front of Christ Embassy church during morning worship, injured five people, one seriously, according to sources.

Compass reports the bomb, planted in a parked car, was left by suspected members of Boko Haram, which seeks to impose sharia (Islamic law) throughout Nigeria, and authorities arrested some members of the sect the same day.

Compass explained that Triumphant Ministries International Church is also near the site of the explosion.

Peter Osema, a search-and-rescue worker with Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency, told Compass that the bomb was likely meant to affect both churches, and indeed Compass learned that at least one of those injured belongs to the Triumph Ministries church.

Compass also reported that at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla, where the casualty figure has varied the past few months as victims were sought and identified at various hospitals, the Rev. Isaac Achi said Monday (Feb. 20) that 44 church members were killed in the Christmas Day blast.

“Of the 127 victims, we lost 44, and of the injured seven lost their sight,” Achi said.


Jerusalem church defaced with hateful graffiti

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By Michael Ireland
ASSIST News Service

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL (ANS) — Unknown assailants spray painted blasphemous graffiti on a church building that’s home to several Christian congregations in downtown Jerusalem, according to Julie Stahl, CBN News Mideast Correspondent.

Stahl says the vandalism, which could be part of an ongoing campaign against non-Jewish religious sites, led to a show of goodwill by neighbors and others. Stahl reports that vandals sprayed messages of hate — slurs against Jesus including, “We’ll crucify you” and “Death to Christianity” — in Hebrew on the walls of the Baptist House.

“It’s not just defacing, there’s a message there,” Dr. Al Nucciarone, senior pastor of the Jerusalem Baptist Church, told CBN News.

“Obviously people don’t like Christians being here and don’t like Jesus or don’t respect Jesus for sure,” he said.

Stahl reports that it’s not the first time the Baptist House has been attacked. In 2007, vandals broke into the sanctuary and torched chairs and hymnals. In 1982, arsonists burned the original wooden building to the ground.

But, she says, the latest incident brought out the best in the neighborhood.

“We’re sad there are extremists who would take things into their own hands like this, but we’re also heartened by the outpouring of sympathy from neighbors and people of goodwill, whom I believe are the majority,” Charles Kopp, senior pastor of the Narkis Street Congregation, told CBN News.

“People are very sympathetic when something like this happens,” Pastor Nucciarone said.

“We’ll get a lot of support. Even my friend Barry, [he’s] Jewish, came with his rabbi from the conservative synagogue in Arnona because they heard about it and they were quite disgusted about what happened and even wanted to call the mayor’s religious affairs person,” he said.

Stahl reports that police are investigating whether the vandalism is connected to earlier attacks this month on a Jerusalem monastery and mosque.

In her report, Stahl says Dr. Mordechai Zaken, head of the Ministry of Public Security’s Desk of Minority Affairs, paid a solidarity visit.

“I’m here to show my support, my solidarity, my friendship, not only me. I think I represent the overwhelming majority of Israeli citizens,” Zaken said.

He also pointed out that this kind of incident wouldn’t have garnered such press coverage 10 years ago.

South Asia women bring Gospel to their communities

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ASSIST News Service

The other piece of the puzzle when it comes to raising up leaders in church ministry and outreach, Gospel for Asia-supported pastors don’t only look to the men in their congregations. They believe the women are just as important in bringing the Gospel to their communities and beyond.

GFA’s Women’s Fellowship groups help women grow in God’s Word, learn to share His love with their neighbors and receive basic education that may have been denied them as young girls.

Encouragement to Continue On

One Women’s Fellowship group worked together to hold two special services in neighboring villages in January. These were times for pastors’ wives and women missionaries to fellowship and learn with their fellow sisters in Christ, who were part of local church congregations.

Local pastors helped the women set up and prepare for the services, excited to help the women grow in the Lord.

Conferences like these, held in southern Asia, are rare chances for Christian women to fellowship with others beyond their local church.

During the sessions, pastors’ wives taught the women about God’s desire to work through them for His Kingdom. They taught that God does not consider women to be less important than men, as their culture often tells them, but that He loves them equally and has great plans for them.

Many of the women, relieved to hear this message, shared with joy and tears how God had spoken to their hearts.

Conference Leads to New Fellowship

In another region of South Asia, Women’s Fellowship members organized a large convention for 534 women representing 86 local churches spread throughout a large area.

The women worked hard to prepare the convention. Organizing the event even turned into a ministry opportunity. They shared Christ with the conference hall managers, who responded with interest. In the midst of the event planning, the women decided to start a new fellowship group in the area!

When the conference started, the sound of hundreds of women worshiping God in their own language filled the room. Then two leaders’ wives shared messages to encourage the women in their walk with the Lord and in their ministry to their neighbors.

Eager to learn, many of the women recorded the messages on their cell phones so they could listen again and share it with other women who couldn’t attend.

During the three-day convention, the ladies also performed cultural programs, took an offering for their outreach and participated in a Scripture memory competition.

The women went home with many new ideas and motivation from the Lord.

“We hope that all the women will shine like bright morning stars in the days to come!” wrote a GFA field correspondent.

Read more about how God is working through the women of Asia at