by Robert L. Niklaus
Reports from around the world.
AFRICA: FAMINE AND COMPASSION
Commentators are beginning to label Africa’s drought and famine the worst in this century on the continent. The area stretching from Ethiopia to the West Coast compares to the United States in size. Of the twenty-five to thirty million people affected, the League of Red Cross Societies estimated in August that thirteen million are threatened with starvation.
In Ethiopia, 1,800,000 go hungry. In Mali, where last year’s millet crop failed to appear, conditions worsened for 250,000 refugees. Niger had the poorest rain season in forty years, forcing thousands of nomadic tribesmen to seek help.
Livestock, a major economic mainstay, fares even worse. Mauritania lost eighty percent of its cattle, sixty percent of its goats and sheep. Experts estimate the six Frenchspeaking countries of West Africa have averaged thirty to sixty percent loss of livestock. One division of the desert warrior Taureg tribe now has only 100 of its original 10,000 camels.
All told, 625,000 tons of food and grain have been rushed to Africa by numerous nations and organizations. This help has averted immediate and widespread starvation.
Evangelicals have been deeply committed in providing relief aid. Although World Relief Commission appeals seemed to stir a slow response at first, contributions reached $30,000 by October.
Missions working in the stricken areas set up their own local relief efforts as well. The Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) in Ethiopia distributed fiftyfive tons of grain during the first two months of famine, sometimes by airlift; SIMNiger missionaries contributed $1,000 toward government relief efforts. The Christian and Missionary Alliance raised nearly $70,000 to help West African nations in which the mission works. The Assemblies of God, Baptists, Mennonites and additional relief groups set up programs.
Church World Service responded quickly with nearly 250,000 tons of food and medicine worth close to $100,000. The Billy Graham Association received almost $100,000 in donations after a special appeal for relief funds.
Missions in the disaster areas have been careful to work closely with their national church colleagues in the distribution of aid. This humane effort by Christians has not been lost on Muslims, who in some areas see little but fighting between rival sects as a result of the famine.
Dr. Larry Ward, president of Food for the Hungry, warned that relief efforts must be viewed as both immediate and long-term. Immediate needs include milk, food and medicine for daily needs of millions made destitute by the drought. Longrange needs are more difficult and costly: livestock breeding programs, feeding stations, weal-drilling, reforestation, rehabilitation of both land and people.
"We"re just beginning," said W RC administrative vicepresident George Doud. "We’ve got to help host nations develop new techniques to break the drought cycle."
Representatives of six West African nations estimated that $3 billion would be needed to break that drought cycle. But spokesmen of donor organizations and relief agencies suggested price levels that "could be more seriously considered." The West African group pared their estimates to a bare $827 million.
Whatever the eventual cost, relief efforts must continue for years to come. Mr. Kerry Lowering of SIM estimated that long-term efforts to break the drought cycle may take thirty years-and gifts of grain may need to continue that long. The question is, How much longer can evangelical relief agencies with their limited sources of support send help to Africa? They have already been heavily committed in recent years to crises in Biafra, Bangladesh, Nicaragua, Peru, and India. And as an article in Christianity Today concluded, "Those prophecy books say the worst is yet to come."
ASIA: AWAKENING TO MISSION
As major denominations in North America continue to register diminishing missionary outreach, Third World churches are extending their own witness beyond cultural and national boundaries. One estimate puts the total of missionaries sent from developing countries at 3,400 (Missions From the Third World, by James Wong, Peter Larson, and Edward Pentecost).
The most recent and significant outreach move by Third World churches was taken in Seoul, Korea, last August 27 to September 1. Twenty-five Asian church and mission society leaders from fourteen Asian countries met in the first All Asia Mission Consultation. It was the first time such a representative meeting concerned with sending missionaries convened outside a Western nation. An Evangelical Press release referred to the meeting as a "turning point in missionary history, breaking the traditional Western monopoly on sending missionaries."
One delegate expressed the mood of the Consultation: "Two-thirds of the world’s population lives in Asia. As Asia goes, so goes the world. Asia is the most acclaimed, richest mission field history has ever known."
Coupled with their heightened pride in Asia was a sober realization that 98 percent of Asia’s people have so far not responded to Christ. Scarcely 1.75 percent are professing Protestants. With this unfinished task confronting them, the All Asia Mission Consultation adopted a unanimous statement which pledged in part: "We are compelled by the Holy Spirit to declare that we shall work towards the placing of at least two hundred new Asian missionaries by the end of 1974. "These missionaries will be involved primarily in evangelism . . . ( They ) will also be sent to plant evangelistic churches where they do not already exist."
A Continuing Committee of seven members was chosen to carry forward the cooperation initiated at the meeting. The committee chose the following officers: Chairman, Dr. Philip Teng (Hong Kong); Vice Chairman, Dr. Petros Octavianus (Indonesia; Secretary-Treasurer, Rev. David J. Cho (Korea).
Edwin L. Frizen, Jr., executive secretary of the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association, commented on the Consultation: "The results of this meeting show a marked contrast with another meeting held earlier this year at Bangkok, Thailand, to discuss the meaning of `Salvation Today.’ All of the delegates to Seoul ’73 recognized the lostness of man apart from salvation . . . Seoul ’73 was planned before the Bangkok program was announced. Thus it was not just a reactionary program, though it certainly proved to be one evangelical answer to Bangkok ’73."
Mr. Frizen promised, "In the months ahead missiologists from all areas of the world will become increasingly aware of the great significance of the All Asia Mission Consultation."
Dr. Myron Augsburger, president of Eastern Mennonite college, defined that significance after a month-long visit to Asia. Observing that the Third World is the cutting edge of the Christian church today, he said that the Asian churches are entering a new "international phase" of development.
KOREA: COLLISION COURSE
The government of President Park Chung Hee proved helpful when Dr. Billy Graham preached to a record 1,200,000 people earlier this year in Seoul. It reserved different treatment, however, for clergymen and laymen who became political activists in the name of religion.
Two Presbyterian pastors and eleven others, mostly affiliated with the Student Christian Movement, were arrested last July on charges of attempting to overthrow the government. The accused insisted they "only intended to arouse the public conscience to the social crisis." The students were later released. Pastor Park Hyong Kyu of Seoul’s First Presbyterian Church, was freed, pending appeal of a twoyear prison term on charges of political subversion.
A delegation of National Council of Churches in America and Japan visited Seoul to investigate the situation. One American member said the Korean Christians "welcomed our concern and contributions for legal fees and the support of the families and prisoners, but otherwise they feel at this point that they can handle the situation themselves."
In mid-November an assorted group of intellectuals and religious leaders issued a statement calling on the nation to "rise up and struggle" for the restoration of democracy. Their meeting in the Y.M.C.A. coffee shop in Seoul was broken up by police who arrested nine of the statement signers. Among the arrested were the Roman Catholic Bishop of Wonju, the honorary dean of Hankuk Theological Seminary and a Buddhist priest. Most of the signatories belong to an antigovernment political party.
The statement issued by the group resembles the "Theological Declaration of Korean Christians, 1973," circulated anonymously earlier. Both documents accused the government of using dictatorial powers and methods of terror. The unsigned declaration called upon Christians "to destroy the system of dehumanization and injustice."
Given the government’s hard line against internal dissent, and the persistence of social activists within the religious community, Christians may be headed for difficulty in a nation where they represent only six percent of the population.
SWITZERLAND: AGENDA THROUGH FEEDBACK
The International Congress on World Evangelization (July 15-26, 1974) in Lausanne will differ significantly from the 1966 Berlin Congress. The major papers will be sent in advance to the 3,000 participants for study and response. Congress speakers will only briefly summarize their papers and then deal with the questions sent in advance by the participants. Major papers will be given by leading churchmen from at least nine countries and as many denominations.
The opening addresses will be given by Dr. Billy Graham, honorary chairman of the Congress, and Dr. John R. W. Stott of London.
Further advance feedback will come through a preliminary questionnaire inviting participants to indicate in which areas the Congress can best help them. For example, which evangelistic methods would be most effective in reaching particular groups. To help each participant answer the questionnaire, he will be provided an overall view of world need as well as an indepth study of churches and evangelization in his own country.
The quota system will also be used to help the Lausanne Congress reflect more accurately the whole church in the whole world. Dr. Donald E. Hoke, director of the Congress, said that an expected 600 participants will be under thirty years of age. Other quotas will include women, layfolk, evangelists, missionaries and theological educators.
National advisory committees have been established to make confidential recommendations to the Planning Committee. Those to be invited must be convinced evangelicals, influential in some sphere of Christian work in the country where they now serve.
Dr. Paul Little, Congress associate director for program, summarized the general guidelines for this sensitive agenda based on the advance wishes of the participants: "The program has been formulated in consultation with people in all parts of the world. Each participant will have the opportunity to indicate the particular interests and concerns he would like to see reflected in the program. The combination of theological and strategic issues should result in each participant carrying away from the Congress ideas and materials of immediate relevance and help in achieving the goal of world evangelization. "
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