Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Relief Agencies Flock to Japan as Rescue Efforts Continue
As Japan comes to grips with the damage caused by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami, Christian relief groups are already at work in some areas of the devastated northeastern region. Christian Today reports that millions of people are without power or clean water. World Vision UK’s chief executive Justin Byworth said the organization was raising money to support its teams already on the ground. “It is clear this is a huge disaster. Children have lost their parents, their homes and their schools," he said. “Parents will be in shock too. Providing a safe place for their children means parents can concentrate on what they need to do to protect their families, knowing their children are being cared for.” The Salvation Army in Japan, Tearfund and Convoy of Hope are also on the ground with disaster response teams. The country is still experiencing strong aftershocks, which have slowed search and rescue operations.
Christian Woman Freed from Muslim Kidnappers in Pakistan
A Christian mother of seven who was kidnapped, raped, sold into marriage and threatened with death if she did not convert to Islam was freed this week. Compass Direct News reports that human traffickers had threatened to kill Shaheen Bibi, 40, after she refused to convert and accept the marriage and her father could not pay a ransom. A member of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Lahore, Bibi said she was kidnapped in August 2010 after she met a woman named Parveen on a bus on her way to work. Her father asked police to take action, but they did nothing as her captors had taken her to a remote area between the cities of Rahim Yar Khan and Sadiqabad, considered a “no-go” area ruled by dangerous criminals. Human rights group Community Development Initiative eventually spearheaded a raid that recovered Bibi at midnight on Sunday.
Egypt's Military Begins Rebuilding Burned Church
Egypt's government acknowledged the complaints of Coptic Christians last week as the military began reconstruction of a burned church south of Cairo. Hundreds of Christians protested the torching, leading to clashes between Muslims and Copts that killed 13 Christians. "The engineering department of the Egyptian Armed Forces has started to rebuild the church in Atfeeh today at the same exact location," Army spokesman Maj. Mohamed Askar said, according to CNN. "The Armed Forces will bear all expenses." Although many Egyptian Christians took to the streets along with Muslims in last month's revolution, the unity didn't seem to touch generations-old tensions. Dozens of Christians have been targeted in Egypt since New Year's Day, when the bombing of a Coptic church in the city of Alexandria killed 23 people.
New NIV Bible to Debut amid Ongoing Concern
Zondervan's bestselling New International Version hit the shelves this month with its first update in 25 years, but not everyone is embracing the new NIV. The Christian Post reports that the update replaces not only the 1984 NIV but also the controversial TNIV, which many criticized for its sweeping, gender-inclusive language. Although the new NIV tones down that language, it does mix gender-neutral singulars and plurals throughout the translation. Zondervan has already printed 1.9 million copies of the updated version. "This laydown of the NIV update is bigger than we imagined," said Chip Brown, senior vice president of Bibles for Zondervan.