Startling number of Christians are persecuted around the world


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STARTLING STATISTICS SHOW CHRISTIANS ARE LIVING IN PERIL

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, additional statistics are in from the Open Doors’ Intolerance against Christians. The number of Christians murdered increased to more than 3,000 in 2017. The report analyzes the data collected in 2017, a year in which according to the organization serving persecuted Christians worldwide, violence against Christians has significantly increased. Right now, 1 in 12 Christians live where Christianity is illegal, forbidden or punished the organization says.

DR. REEDER: 1 out of every 10 Christians is living under the threat of the loss of their life when they wake up in the morning, either by government action or government approval. If you go through the list of nations, almost all of them — except for one notable exception — these are Islamic nations where the radical militant Islamic fascist that is government use of power is constantly being brought to bear.

Notably, in places like Pakistan, there were about 100 plus incidents of churches being attacked last year, and Afghanistan, where we have troops, actually, fighting this war on terror, the northern part of Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. The most notable exception is North Korea.

Now, what should be noted as we take a look at it, Tom, is that this is always a religious phenomenon. The persecution against Christians is, by and large, vast majority governmentally enforced where the Islamic religion controls the culture and controls the government.

NORTH KOREA IS A UNIQUE PLACE OF PERSECUTION

An exception, of course, would be North Korea, where we have the old-line persecution that we saw back in the twentieth century — an old-line persecution of a government that is confessedly atheistic. It then puts to death anything that would rival the government and Christianity is seen as a rival because Christians are discipled to be good citizens, but they are also discipled that the government as God is not to be worshipped and that Caesar is not Lord, but only the Lord is the Lord.

And so, we see a place like North Korea where you have not only a confessed and governmentally documented atheisms, in general, in terms of the religions of mankind, but you have the deification of the dictator. And so, he must be worshipped and, therefore, Christianity is seen as the enemy and, thus, Christians are targeted in North Korea.

Therefore, Tom, that’s what we see at work and I think of my brothers and sisters and where they are, but I also want you to know that there are verified reports that, in those places, a robust movement of Christianity is taking place.

MISSION WORK AT CHURCHES MUST BE A PRIORITY

I am not allowed to give any of the internals of this, but at Briarwood, we are engaged in Asia, in Indonesia, in Pakistan, in India and we are also engaged at certain places in Asia — again, I cannot be more specific but I will be specific about this one but not the mechanisms that are being used — we’re being engaged in Iran.

Doing what? We are able to provide literature, we are able to provide encouragement and support and we are able to provide training for ministers who are pastoring churches that are “underground churches” in these nations of persecution. And, of course, we’re doing that along with a number of others and one agency that is of extraordinary help to us is the one that has brought the statistics to bear and that is Open Doors. We have found them to be insightful and reliable and extremely helpful.

Now, at Briarwood, our people with their sacrificial and generous has allowed us to do some things beyond our normal focus that predominates what we do — which is evangelism, discipleship, church planting and church revitalization — and one of the things we’ve been able to do over the last couple of years is minister to the persecuted church.

And we actually even set up a subcommittee in our missions ministry to gain the information. We have multiple communications that we do not share publicly and on the internet that we are privy to of those who are serving the Lord in very, very difficult and dangerous situations. We are getting reports of significant multiplication of believers and leaders in these very areas.

WHAT SATAN TRIES TO STAMP OUT, GOD ALLOWS TO FLOURISH

And, again, it’s being born out that, when Satan brings persecution, he thinks he’s going to stamp out the church but, in reality, all he’s doing is spreading the church. You see a great example of that when the persecution hit Jerusalem in the Book of Acts and all it did was spread Christianity to Judea, and Samaria, and to a place called Antioch and then on to the world.

That’s what is happening and, in fact, in some of these places, these persecuted Christians are actually sending missionaries to other persecuted areas. It’s really a phenomenon that is so encouraging.

Now, having said that, I would like to call upon our nation to understand what is being done, stand against any and all religious persecution but realize how, in a very significant way, Christians are in the crosshairs and we need to come to the rescue of these people with governmental policies. I’m not talking about military invasions, but governmental policies dealing with nations that have sanctioned persecutions against religion, in general, but Christians, in particular.

SCRIPTURE TELLS US HOW TO TREAT OUR PERSECUTED BRETHREN

For us, as Christians, Tom, there’s a wonderful passage of Scripture I ask our folks to read. Would you read it today?

TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, you’re talking about Hebrews, Chapter 13, specifically Verse 3, but let me pick up at Verse 1.

“Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers: for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners as though imprisoned with them and those that are ill-treated, since you yourselves are also in the body.”

DR. REEDER: And you were correct to read the context because the writer of Hebrews is writing at a time when persecution is starting to be felt in the first century so he’s telling us to keep loving each other even though you may get persecuted because you love the Lord and love each other.

Show hospitality — don’t close off your heart. Then he’s referring to the event when Abraham and Sarah showed hospitality to three strangers and it was actually the entertaining of two angels and a Christophany, a pre-Incarnate appearance of Christ, recorded in the Book of Genesis.

And then, of course, he then says that we are to visit the prisoners. The context is talking about the believers who have been imprisoned and who are being persecuted and assaulted. That’s why it says remember their suffering. You, too, are in the body. You have a body and you know what it means to suffer. And if you know what it means to suffer, you know how you would want people to help you in your suffering.

Now you see them who are suffering in their imprisonment and under assault — reach out to them and minister to them. Don’t go run from your brothers who are imprisoned and under persecution; run to them. Don’t run from them; run to them. Don’t disassociate yourself from them; embrace them.

Therefore, that’s why I would strongly encourage every church to embrace the ministry to the persecuted church in some form or fashion. There are many places we can tell you about the value of the enterprise of missionary endeavor, but one of the places we can’t talk about much because we can’t get the information — but it is there and there are those that can help you such as Open Doors — are our brothers and sisters who are dying for the faith.

UGANDA IS A WONDERFUL STORY OF HOPE AFTER PERSECUTION

Tom, I’ll just simply finish that one of the places that I’ve gone is Uganda in the 1980’s when Idi Amin and Obote were putting to death Christians. I went to the place where hundreds of my brothers and sisters were persecuted in gruesome deaths and I stood there and realized what had happened.

Today, Uganda, beginning in the late 1970’s, has been the epicenter of the East and Central Africa revival that is now going into it’s fourth decade and Uganda now has the vast majority of its citizens professing Christ, a stable economy and all of the blessings that have come from it. That’s what God can do — these very areas of persecution can become epicenters of a Gospel revival.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

25 mins ago

Jerry Carl visits White House, gets endorsed by President Trump in AL-01

Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl, the Republican nominee in Alabama’s First Congressional District, on Wednesday visited the White House and met in the Oval Office with President Donald J. Trump.

“It was an incredible honor to spend over half an hour in the Oval Office with President Trump and Vice President Pence today,” Carl said in a statement to Yellowhammer News.

After the visit, Trump in a tweet endorsed Carl for the Southwest Alabama congressional seat.

“He Loves our Veterans, Stands for Law & Order, and is Strong on Jobs and the Second Amendment. Jerry has my Complete and Total Endorsement!” Trump wrote.

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“The President is focused not only on his own race, but also on down ballot races nationwide,” Carl told Yellowhammer News. “He cares about the people of Alabama, and we had a good conversation about issues that are affecting Alabama’s 1st District.”

“I’m looking forward to working with President Trump to address some of these critical issues – stopping the spread of socialism, supporting our law enforcement, and getting our economy back on track,” he concluded. “Thank you, President Trump!”

Carl will face Democrat James Averhart on November 3.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

Sara Evans is a 2020 Woman of Impact

One of country music’s most popular artists of the 21st century, Sara Evans, has adopted Alabama as her own, and she is not slowing down.

Earlier in 2020, Evans released a new album, “Copy That,” where she covers 13 classic songs, and published a new memoir, Born to Fly.

She came to the Yellowhammer State after marrying former University of Alabama quarterback Jay Barker in 2008. They now make their home in the Birmingham area along with their seven children.

The singer performs and releases music under the name Sara Evans, which is how Yellowhammer News is referring to her for the purposes of this article. Evans does not shy away from her married name; just in 2019, she released a six-track EP titled “The Barker Family Band” which featured herself, her son Avery and daughter Olivia.

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Evans was born and raised outside of a small town in Missouri and began her lifelong connection with music at age four. She had recorded her first CD and was attending country music events by the age of 9 or 10, according to a 2011 interview.

Aspiring to a career in music, she moved to Nashville in 1991 and worked as a waitress while trying to find her big break.

“Three Chords and The Truth” and “No Place That Far,” Evans’ first two albums, were released in 1997 and 1998 respectively. They earned the artist solid reviews from critics but did not make a big impact on the charts.

“If I’m going to have the career I came to Nashville to find,” she told a newspaper at the time. “I’ve got to get on the radio and give today’s fans what they want.”

“Born to Fly,” the album that resulted from this change in sound, achieved everything Evans aimed to accomplish. The Recording Industry Association of America has certified it as double platinum; meaning it has sold over 2 million copies. Singles “Born to Fly” and “I Could Not Ask for More” placed first and second on the U.S. Country charts.

After the breakthrough success, Evans never left the country charts for very long over the next decade; buoyed by singles like “Suds in the Bucket” and “A Little Bit Stronger.”

Evans’ albums “Restless,” “Real Fine Place,” and “A Little Bit Stronger” are certified platinum and five more albums by Evans are certified gold.

She won Top Female Vocalist at the Academy of Country Music Awards in 2006.

Her five most popular songs available on the music streaming service Spotify have been played a combined 101,997,937 times.

Jerry Sharpe, a music writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, described Evans as having a “a strong, spring-water clear voice, which she uses well.”

Evans met her now-husband when they were both in their 30s with kids. They were introduced by Joe Beam, a Christian speaker that focuses on love and marriage who knew them both previously.

“One defining moment was, I made the decision to walk into my office and email Jay Barker and say, ‘Hey, so-and-so told me that I should reach out to you. I want you to know that I’m praying for you, and I’m sorry for everything that you’ve been through,” Evans recounted to music website The Boot.

Barker was the starting quarterback on the Crimson Tide’s 1992 championship-winning team, and at the time when he and Evans connected they had both recently gone through painful divorces.

“He emailed me back within five minutes, and that was definitely a defining moment,” she added.

Evans brought three children to the new family, while Barker brought four.

“Our house is full of children and activities and chaos, but Jay is such a great support to me,” Evans told The Boot about her husband, who hosts a sports talk show in Birmingham.

Radio play by country music stations is dominated by male artists and programmed by male deejays, something that has frustrated Evans in recent years.

She has become an outspoken advocate for more women in country music and voices her opinions on the subject with regularity.

Evans has appeared at events and spoken up for the organization Change the Conversation that aims to gain more representation for women in country music.

“The lack of voices heard on country radio affect not only those who are making music, but those listening as well. Music plays a powerful role in shaping our popular culture. Today’s music does not reflect who we are as a country and sends the wrong message to our girls and women. Too often, country songs portray women as a pretty ornament on the passenger side. It is time to reclaim a woman’s place in the driver’s seat,” the organization says on its website.

Evans has remarked that for her most recent original studio work, the album “Words” released in 2017, she placed a greater emphasis on including female producers and songwriters to give their careers a boost.

At a Change the Conversation event in 2017, Evans said, “When I first got my record deal, women were dominating country radio. We had Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood, Lee Ann Womack, LeAnn Rimes, Shania Twain, Patty Loveless and on and on. I was fortunate enough to join that group of amazing women.”

“[W]e need to change the conversation and figure out why it is not that way anymore. Why are there not enough women on country radio? Women artists are amazing and they have so much great music that we want to hear and we need to hear, so let’s change the conversation,” she urged.

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Sara Evans a 2020 Woman of Impact.

Editor’s note: Yellowhammer Multimedia recently announced the third annual Women of Impact Awards. Honorees are being featured on Yellowhammer News each weekday through October 1. We will tell their stories one-by-one, utilizing written and video formats. Check back daily for more of Alabama’s best and brightest.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

4 hours ago

Baldwin County residents throw parade for linemen amid recovery heroics

Southwest Alabama residents are celebrating the heroic linemen and support personnel who have traveled from across the country to restore utility services following Hurricane Sally last week.

WKRG reported that Fairhope residents on Tuesday night held a short parade downtown to express their appreciation for the power crews.

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The parade reportedly featured bucket trucks honking, with linemen inside waving, to those residents who took their time to line Section Street.

Alabama Power Company has restored power to its service area as of Sunday night, and Energy Institute of Alabama members continue to lead the charge restoring service to Baldwin County electric cooperative members, which was hardest hit by the slow-moving category 2 hurricane.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

Shadowy web of 20 ‘news’ sites operating in Alabama, tied to national network that invented quotes, bylines

A shadowy group of websites masquerading as local news agencies has been launched ahead of November’s high-stakes general election.

An investigation by Yellowhammer News uncovered the existence of “Yellowhammer Times,” which purports to be a statewide news organization intended “to provide objective, data-driven information without political bias.” The site’s “people” section, where one would expect its employees to be listed, is blank.

“We provide 100% original reporting, including to share as much data as possible from government and other publicly available sources,” the site claims. “We also provide a platform for all citizens whose views on issues are rarely heard. If you want a voice in your community, we want to hear from you.”

The website is admittedly owned and operated by Metric Media LLC and its parent Metric Media Foundation, a Missouri-based entity just granted 501(c)(3) nonprofit status last year. Publicly available data shows that Metric Media has not yet revealed having any assets, income or revenue through mandatory IRS filings. This means that at this point in time, the organization is effectively operating as a dark money group.

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Metric Media has a glitzy website that asserts, “Metric Media is funded by donations and grants from contributors who care about restoring local news in their communities.”

The website does list a three-person board of directors, which is reportedly chaired by San Francisco-based Rakesh Donthineni. The other named directors are Victor Chen of Los Angeles and Brent Southwell of Houston. Chen formerly worked for then-Beijing TV China, an entity of Beijing Media Network — which is owned and operated by the Chinese government, otherwise known as the Chinese Communist Party.

Metric Media’s explicit presence in Alabama does not stop at the statewide Yellowhammer Times. The bottom of this website links to 18 more sites, all appearing to be local or regional news agencies across the state. These publications are identical in format to Yellowhammer Times and are as follows: Auburn Times, Baldwin Times, Decatur Times, East Central Alabama News, Gadsden Today, Huntsville Leader, Jefferson Reporter, Mobile Courant, NE Alabama News, NW Alabama News, North Birmingham Times, River Region Times, Shoals Today, South Alabama Times, South Birmingham Times, Tuscaloosa Leader, West Central Alabama News and Wiregrass Times.

Publicly available domain information shows that these sites were all registered in May of this year.

That same month, Yellowhammer Times published its first “original story,” which was about COVID-19 related liability issues. The author is listed as a “T.H. Lawrence.”

Almost every story posted since then has been a completely automated story, mainly using RSS feeds to populate the stories on the site. This includes republishing press releases from Governor Kay Ivey, Alabama State University and the University of Alabama. The automated stories also include a lot of identical templates that simply display federal government-released data.

In all, Yellowhammer Times as of Wednesday at noon hosted more than 2,300 stories on the site — with only two listing a human author. The automated stories name “Metric Media News Service” or other entities such as “Locality Labs News Service” as the author.

One short story about lost Alabama tax revenue related to the pandemic simply does not list an author.

The second story to actually list an author, Juliette Fairley, advocated in July to fully reopen the economy and return students to school in the fall. This story was based on exclusive quotes from Alabama-based John Chamberlain, board chairman for Citizen Health. Citizen Health advocates for subscription-based medical services and disrupting the healthcare industry.

Yellowhammer News dug into the two authors listed on the site. Fairley is a national freelance author specializing in finance, while T.H. Lawrence’s name popped up across several sites in Metric Media’s network of more than 1,000 sites nationwide.

Yellowhammer News’ investigation also uncovered that T.H. Lawrence is indeed Tom Lawrence, a career journalist from South Dakota who was once executive editor of the state’s Black Hills Pioneer. He is now a freelance writer and blogger, appearing in local publications (under his real name) such as the Dakota Free Press, American News and South Dakota Standard. He also has his own blog, the Prairie Perspective. It should be noted that American News is owned by national conglomerate Gannett.

Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) in December 2019 published an in-depth investigative report that revealed some disturbing findings about Metric Media and its related entities, including Locality Labs. The investigation concluded that the network can be traced back to Illinois-based businessman and conservative activist Brian Timpone.

CJR was able to find at least 450 sites, all linked, operating under the banners of Metric Media, Locality Labs, Franklin Archer, the Record Inc. and Local Government Information Services. The entities at times — while being aimed at different states — shared IP addresses, Google Analytics IDs and other technical identifiers. Since December, the network has more than doubled in size, according to Metric Media’s own website.

CJR further traced Locality Lab’s origin story. The entity was once known as Timpone’s company “Journatic.” Journatic had to rebrand in 2013 following a national scandal over “faking bylines and quotes, and for plagiarism,” per CJR.

The CJR report followed a story published in October 2019 by a Michigan paper about Metric Media’s network that had popped up in that state. More local and national reporting followed, including by the New York Times and Guardian.

Yellowhammer Times republishes stories from other named entities in this Metric Media web, as well. For example, the publication ran a story from Empire State Today of New York.

This also includes another Alabama-focused site not directly linked at the bottom of Yellowhammer Times. Alabama Business Daily stories are republished on the site, and CJR previously reported there is an identical entity curated by Metric Media in each state. Yellowhammer News found that Alabama Business Daily’s domain was registered in February 2018.

With the 2020 election rapidly approaching, the existence of this network of sites in Alabama should raise alarm bells across the state.

Alabama was already besieged in the 2017 special election cycle by “Project Birmingham,” which utilized “Russian tactics” by Democratic operatives to aid the campaign of then-Democratic nominee Doug Jones.

Alabamians will hope that this type of disinformation campaign is not repeated this time around through Metric Media or its sister entities.

Secretary of State John H. Merrill has previously warned residents to arm themselves with the truth and to be wary of unknown sources spread on social media, especially.

“It is of paramount importance that the 4.8 million people who make up our state are informed with up-to-date, complete, and accurate information,” Merill has said in a statement. “All election-related information should come directly from our website or from your local election official. We are your trusted source for information related to the elections process.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 hours ago

Ivey, Orr and Battle team up for virtual groundbreaking for School of Cyber Technology and Engineering campus

Ground was broken on the new campus for the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering (ASCTE) on Wednesday, and prominent officials in Alabama delivered virtual addresses about the importance of the new institution.

The ASCTE is a magnet high school open to students from any of Alabama’s 137 public school districts. Located in Alabama’s cyber capital of Huntsville, attendees live on campus in a boarding environment.

Governor Kay Ivey, State Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, the three public officials most involved in making ASCTE happen, spoke at the groundbreaking for the new campus.

ASCTE’s first crop of students enrolled this fall. They are currently taking classes in facilities on the campus of Oakwood University. The cyber school will move to the permanent campus that began construction on Wednesday upon its completion.

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(Huntsville Chamber of Commerce/Contributed)

According to materials provided by the school, ASCTE is the first cyber-focused school of its type in the country.

Orr sponsored the legislation to create ASCTE and now chairs its board of trustees.

The lawmaker from Decatur recounted that soon after he embraced the idea of a cyber-focused magnet school, he approached the governor and “she immediately saw the value.” Orr also praised the “support we got from the mayor’s office” as he and a team were putting together the project.

Ivey, who has made education a priority of her administration and in the last week created a STEM council, joined the virtual groundbreaking from her office in Montgomery.

“We must provide our state’s children with meaningful opportunities to pursue careers in STEM fields to ensure a prosperous Alabama of tomorrow,” Ivey remarked during her speech.

Battle was thanked in his introduction by Alicia Ryan, ASCTE Board of Trustees vice-chair, for creating the Cyber Huntsville initiative in 2010 and for his general support of the atmosphere that made the Rocket City fitting for a technology-focused school.

“Today begins a new chapter for Huntsville,” began Battle, who praised the “collaborative effort” that brought ASCTE into being and thanked Orr and Ivey by name.

“Welcome to Huntsville,” he told the assembled students who were watching via telecast.

Raytheon Technologies, a defense contractor with a strong presence in the Rocket City, is ASCTE’s most supportive corporate partner. The company donated $4 million to help get the school off the ground and was a partner in Wednesday’s groundbreaking. All public officials who spoke thanked the business multiple times.

“Our nation has a significant cyber talent gap,” remarked Wes Kramer, president of Raytheon Missiles & Defense, in talking about why investing in ASCTE was good for his company and the nation.

Matt Massey, a former superintendent of the Madison County School System, is the president of ASCTE and tasked with both leading the current iteration of the school and preparing it for the future.

ASCTE plans to go from the 72 students currently enrolled to over 350 by 2024.

Phillip Thomas (left) speaks on ASCTE groundbreaking (ASCTE/Screenshot)

One of those students currently enrolled, Phillip Thomas, spoke at the groundbreaking on Wednesday.

“Coming to this school was the best decision I have ever made,” he began.

Thomas assured those listening that the residential staff was top-notch and the boarding environment was welcoming and comfortable.

“I came here to further advance my path to engineering and cyber career opportunities, and this school is one of a kind in that regard,” he continued.

The freshman said his plan was to eventually earn advanced degrees in the fields in which ASCTE is giving him a robust primary education.

“The future of this world relies on technological advances, and I am excited to play a role in that innovation. Thanks to ASCTE, I will achieve these goals,” Thomas concluded.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95