Roundup #179
October 18, 2019

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New Events

North-West Africa

Algeria closes three more churches two of which are the country’s largest - Link
… “The harassment hasn’t silenced Christians… There is a boldness in the N African church that is new…"

Tunisia polls suggest conservative professor wins election - Link

Egypt / Sudan

Anti-government demonstrations led to Internet censorship - Link

Western Africa / Lake Chad

“We looked to escape death”: violence uproots nearly 500,000 in Burkina Faso - Link
… "Aid groups and the government of the West African nation have been at a loss to respond to a fast-moving emergency, set off by lawlessness and suspected terrorist attacks in a once-tranquil country."

Nigeria

Nigeria: the Islamic State West African province gains steam - Link

Ethiopia / Horn / East Africa

Ethiopia’s evangelical PM wins Nobel Peace Prize - Link

Central Asia / Caucasus

Turkmenistan routinely blocks most websites - Link
… so does Tajikistan - Link

Saudi / Israel / Lebanon / Syria / Gulf

#AndNowMoreFightingInSyria:
Read all these with a grain of salt. There’s a war going on, with long standing enmities, and a lot of points of view. I’m not familiar enough with the nuances of the ground situation to able to discern very well. I’m generally limiting myself to major mainstream pieces that give an overall sense of what’s happening and the impact on the people.

If you’re looking for a quick explainer, Politico has a pretty good one - Link

Latest, 10/17: a US-Turkey agreement leads to a cease-fire and a suspension to its march, gives Turkey the withdrawal of the SDF from its borders, and a America’s agreement to refrain from imposing sanctions - Link

Report: Turkish-backed forces freeing Islamic State prisoners, executing Kurdish prisoners, killing unarmed civilians - Link

Residential areas targeted, Christians among those killed - Link

The enemy of my enemy: Kurds throw in their lot with Russian-backed Syrian government - Link

Russian troops patrolling between Syria, Turkey, stepping in as a mediator? Link

But, odd: NYT shows proof that Russia has been bombing hospitals in Syria - Link

War leads to IDPs: More than 300,000 have fled the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army’s advance - Link
… more than 100 international organizations left as a result of Turkish shelling
… shortages of key supplies due to highway cutoffs

An infographic of where the Syrian IDP refugee camps are - Link

… this graphic says 160,000 displaced since Turkey began operations.

70,000 children are among the displaced, says UNICEF - Link

To no one’s surprise: Why Syrian refugees don’t want to return home from Jordan - Link
… factoids, though: there are between 0.6 million and 1.3 million refugees in Jordan

Turkey says it wants to build 400,000 houses in NE Syria to resettle 2 million Syrian refugees, but it’s unclear who will pay the bill - Link

Kurdish evangelicals: amidst the current war, here’s one angle the media isn’t getting - Link

And in Lebanon, thousands in anti-government protests in Beirut and several other cities - Link

Iran/Iraq

Iran backed militias deployed snipers in Iraq protests - Link

Afghanistan / Pakistan / Pashto>

The Council of Presidential Candidates accused both Ghani and Abdullah of involvement in large-scale election fraud - Link

More Afghans are migrating to Europe from Iran than Syrians - Link
… and other sources tell me many of them are coming to faith …

“They were all killed in front of my eyes”: the brutal cost of war in Afghanistan. "In a country where decades of conflict have taken a profound toll on mental health, professional support is scarce.” I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in a country where everyone has PTSD - Link

The Jogis: a tiny stateless minority in Afghanistan strives to survive without rights, services - Link

India

Prices continue to rise - Link
… vegetables up 15%, meat and fish up 10%, onions soared

Cell service to be restored in Kashmir - Link

Nepal / Bhutan / Tibet

China, India competing over Nepal - Link
… “China now the largest trading partner of Bangladesh, Maldives and Pakistan"

China

70 years of China’s economic growth on one high-resolution chart - Link
… interesting look at the intersection of history and economics

Christian volunteers trying to stop clashes from happening in Hong Kong: “Beat us, don’t beat the kids” - Link

Japan / Koreas / Mongolia

Rescuers hunt for survivors after Japan typhoon - Link

Southeast Asia

Water Wars and Chinese dams on the Mekong: “China now has the power to completely stop the flow of water to downstream nations” - Link

“Nothing bad happened here. Believe us, they said.” How Myanmar covered up ethnic cleansing - Link

Notable Europe / Americas

USA steadily becoming less Christian…? Link
… Pew: 65% Christian 2019, 77% in 2009
… Nones: 26% in 2019, 17% 2009
… I have three caveats.
… One is timing: where will Millennials be when they are the age the Silents are now? This research only shows a snapshot of where generations are now and where they were 10 years ago. I’d be very interested in a look at where, for example, the Silents were when they were at a similar generational period as Millennials are now. It’s possible that many Millennials will come back later in life.
… Second: what is meant by “Christian” vs. “None”? Other research shows Americans still broadly believe in God, etc. It’s possible what we’re seeing here isn’t a loss of faith but a disenchantment with the American religious structure.
… Third: It is possible that this is a new “normal.” For much of America’s history, there has been a strong cultural pressure to identify as some form of Christian. Now, that cultural pressure has been significantly reduced. We may be seeing in Millennials what was truth all along.
… I still believe there is a firm floor to the drop. Those who are declaring themselves “none” are likely those who were mostly cultural Christians all along.

Another data point: attendance is dropping, but total giving is increasing in the USA - Link

USA: 40% of Muslim students in California report being bullied due to religion - Link
… last week I shared a poll that showed just 13% of Christians have seen other Christians bullied for their faith ...

Longer reads

How cooking helps refugees and migrants blend in - Link … I think this is a fascinating piece, and one that points to some ministry options.

Christianity: the most diverse movement in history - Link
… among other things, this tidbit: "Sengmei warned me not to give Western missionaries too much credit.  Westerners saw only a handful of Naga converts, who then effectively evangelized their tribes.” That’s how it’s happened throughout history, and how it’s happening today.

Futuristics/Technology

Global Fintech Report 2019, from PWC - PDF - Link

The state of technology in global newsrooms, 2019 - PDF - Link
… journalists in some parts of the world face many of the same restriction issues that mission agencies do. And, they also face significant funding challenges, and most newsrooms are very small organizations. So it’s interesting to see how they use tech to solve problems.

China’s new cybersecurity program: no place to hide. This piece from China Law Blog is chilling. Link
… another view: China making it harder for companies to keep their information private - Link

Amazon has transformed the Hasidic economy - Link

The percentage of American workers who typically work at home is growing - Link
… at least 5%, and by some measures vastly more than that.
… and companies are working to increase the number of remote workers

Twitter will limit the reach of certain politicians who break its rules - Link
… this is an interesting approach: when tweets “are of public interest” but you want to limit the viral spread. “Users won’t be able to like, reply share or retweet the tweets.” Generally, I think this is a good idea - but what can be applied in this situation can be applied in other situations, too. It’s a double-edged sword.

China’s big brother [Hikvision] is watching your every move - Link
… high tech company is operating in 100 countries

China broadens data collection through propaganda app, translation service: “This app helps you learn about China, while China learns all about you.” Link
… here’s an article from February describing the app - Link
… allows data access to 100 million phones - Link

“AI has learned to create fake news stories” - Link
… an article more about the potential for the technology than where it presently is.

To no one’s surprise, it’s more likely deepfake videos will be made of women than men. But, this QZ article recounts some things are really key in looking at this trend. (1) the number of deepfakes seems to be doubling every year, growing exponentially; (2) there are services offering very cheap production of deep fakes; (3) when men are targeted (<5% of videos), it’s for non-pornographic (I assume political or scam) purposes. While the pornographic issues are horrendous, they are unsurprising in our culture; I am watching primarily for when non-Western governments use deepfakes against Westerners and especially against missionaries and/or Christians. Link

Can AI learn to write for The New Yorker? This very long read explores the development of GPT-2 (an article-writing AI which is not publicly available) and the less-powerful but better-known Google Smart Compose. These have certain limitations but the trend is definitely there. Link

Quotable

“He who jumps into the void owes no explanation to those who stand and watch.” ~Jean-Luc Godard