Newsbriefs

Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg, reached a milestone in January, when it passed the 500-student mark in its undergraduate programs in arts, music, sciences, and biblical studies at its Shaftesbury campus. CMU president Gerald Gerbrandt was particularly happy to see the increase occur during the second semester – a time when many schools see a drop in enrolment.

www.cmu.ca
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Ontario’s religious communities gathered from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays to Thursdays, through March for prayer for the poor in a series of pre-budget vigils outside the provincial legislature. Believers from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim faith traditions prayed for integrity, courage, spiritual strength, and compassion for the Members of Provincial Parliament. The vigils were organized by Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition.

—ISARC
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China may have more Christians than card-carrying Communists. Party membership is 74 million, while the Chinese government recognizes 21 million Christians. But, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life says indirect survey evidence suggests unaffiliated Christians not included in official figures may bring the number as high as 130 million. Christianity in China is associated with modernity, business, and science because of the many believers who encountered Christianity through studies locally or abroad.

—The Economist
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According to Open Doors’ 2008 World Watch List, North Korea is ranked number 1 as worst persecutor of Christians in the world, for the 7th year in a row. Somalia and Eritrea are new to     the top 10 list, at 5th and 9th, respectively, while China and Bhutan have dropped off. Islam is the    majority religion in 7 of the top 10 countries; 2 have communist governments; a non-communist    dictator governs Eritrea.

—Open Doors USA
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The Aboriginal Ministries Council of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has created a DVD resource to combat suicide. Called Through the Pain: Helping a Suicidal Person, the comprehensive training DVD teaches about contributing factors and gives strategies, such as ask, listen, and help, to assist a person who may be suicidal.

—Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
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Canadian Mennonite University will host a new Canadian School of Peacebuilding in July 2009. Piet Meiring, professor of theology at University of Pretoria and former member of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, will teach a course titled “Truthtelling and Peace.” Scottish theologian, songwriter, and social justice advocate John Bell will teach on “Poets, Prophets, and Music of Social Justice: Toward Holistic Worship.”

www.cmu.ca
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Family members of a Christian found murdered last week in Orissa state, India, said they believe the killers were Hindu nationalists such as those responsible for more than two months of violent anti-Christian rioting last year. Hrudayananda Nayak was found dead with several injuries to his head, sustained as he took a shortcut through a forest to his home village. The district superintendent of police reportedly said it is not clear the murder was related to last year’s anti-Christian rioting.

—Compass Direct News
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The Manitoba chapter of the Canadian Public Relations Society named Heather Plett, director of resources and communication with Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Manitoba’s Communicator of the Year. Plett was chosen for her success in targeting diverse audiences across the country with a multi-platform campaign. Under Plett’s direction, the CFGB rebuilt their website, added a microsite for a special campaign, developed videos, ran a direct mail campaign, and employed social media tools, resulting in a record year in donations totaling more than $11 million.

—Canadian Public Relations Society
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Mennonite Central Committee is sponsoring distribution of 26 tons of corn flour to some 4,000 people in a drought-stricken area of southern Rift Valley Province, Kenya. Kenya’s president said some 10 million people need food assistance because of shortages caused by drought, global economic problems, and political violence in the country’s breadbasket region. MCC provided $10,000 to a partner organization, Maasai Integrated Development Initiatives, to purchase and distribute flour in the Kajiado region where most of the recipients herd livestock, and will participate in work projects in exchange for food.

—MCC
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An Episcopal priest who has received a Buddhist lay ordination has been nominated for the position of bishop in the Diocese of Northern Michigan. Kevin Thew Forrester currently serves as rector of St. Paul’s, Marquette, and is the diocese’s ministry development coordinator. Forrester is not the first Episcopal clergy to hold dual faith – priest Bill Melnyk revealed he was a druid, and priest Ann Holmes Redding declared she was also a Muslim – but is the first nominated as bishop.

—Institute on Religion and Democracy
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In Tanzania, 45 albinos have been killed for ritual purposes since 2007. President Jakaya Kikwete said the murders brought shame on the country and urged the public to anonymously name those suspected of involvement. In an effort to stop the sale of albino body parts witchdoctors use to make magic potions, in January the government issued a ban on all traditional healers.

—BBC

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