Roundup #212

Observations on growth in Muslim regions

My work on documenting movements has led me to conclude at least 29 million believers are part of movements that are mostly or exclusively concentrating on Muslims. Not all of these believers come from a Muslim background, but most do. This sounds like a huge and hard to believe number, but it really shouldn’t surprise us.

First, there are some 1.9 billion Muslims in the world. 29 million is a very small percentage – just 1.5%. That kind of number could easily be missed, especially if they were going out of their way to keep their religious affiliation out of general view (as many are).

Second, there have been many threads & whispers of large scale movements in the Muslim world for some time. The common refrain has been “More Muslims have come to Christ in the last century than in the previous 20 combined.” While it’s true “the previous 20 combined” is a pretty low bar, it’s still true there is a lot of growth in the number of Christians in majority-Muslim countries.

Yes, some countries have seen declines in the numbers of Christians. Many of the highly Islamic countries (>90% Muslim) have seen significant declines, indeed. The most marked of these include Yemen, Libya, and Iraq–nations torn by warfare, where many of the Christians fled violence and persecution.

However, according to the latest edition of the World Christian Encyclopedia , strongly-majority Muslim nations like Afghanistan, Iran, Algeria, Senegal, Saudi Arabia, and Oman have each seen rapid Christian growth–at least 2%, and some significantly more. In some places, most of this growth is in the ebb and flows of diasporas, but in all of these places there has also been growth in the number of Christians among locals. And this fact, published in the WCE, shouldn’t really surprise us either: for years we have gotten plenty of signals about the rapid growth of Christianity in Iran, and the pieces of growth in Algeria are well known (especially amongst the Berbers). And I’ve heard from many people, from many organizations, who have had long experience in these countries, who have told me about wide-ranging efforts. Further, in less Islamic countries (>60%, <90%), there are very few reports of declines, and many reports of significant growth (Gambia, Mali, Guinea, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Sierra Leone).

Given all of this, it should not be surprising that more is happening “underneath” the surface than is commonly acknowledged or published. We should be encouraged by the gains. But we should also remember that while much progress has been seen, much remains to be made. And some of the gains made to date can be very fragile, so we need to continue to pray for and collaborate with our brothers and sisters in these places.

New Events

Covid-19 Dashboard


… now: 13.8m (+1.6) cases, 590k deaths 
… 7/10: 12.2m (+1.5) cases, 550k deaths 
… 7/3: over 10.7m (+1.0) cases, 517k deaths 
… 6/26: over 9.4 m(+1.1) cases, 483k deaths 
… 6/19: over 8.3m (+0.8) cases, 450k deaths 
Trackers: Johns HopkinsNYTCovidTracking.com

Several nations slow re-openings in midst of virus surge.

Back in lockdown: AlgeriaBangaloreBiharHong KongManilaBarcelona.

North Africa/Egypt-Sudan (266M)

Covid-19 has put Algeria’s “peaceful revolution on hold” 
… the past year’s protests have stopped, the streets are empty …

Sudan drops penalty for apostasy, alcohol ban for Christians 
… worry that “this is a lot to take for the Sudanese.” 
… Concerns about backlash from conservative Muslims, counter-demonstrations, etc.

Sudan declares a state of emergency in Darfur after virus protests erupt.

Tunisia jails a woman for a Koranic joke on Facebook 
… reposting a Facebook joke about the coronavirus written as if it was a Koranic verse.

East Africa/Horn (520M)

Ethiopia: Video of damage from protests in Shashamene
… “similar scenes in many towns along the Rift Valley corridor.” 
… Economist: “A musician’s murder sparks mayhem in Ethiopia“ 
… Death toll from unrest following singer’s killing rises to 239
… Government announces arrests for the killing
… two men say they work for an armed splinter wing of the Oromo Liberation Front. 
… “Unresolved tensions, grievances partly fuel violence“ 
… the Internet has been largely shut down for 3 weeks now

Ethiopia began filling the Grand Renaissance dam on the Blue Nile
… Egypt gets 90% of its fresh water from the Nile, of which the Blue is a tributary 
… Egypt says the dam represents an “existential threat”, asks “for clarification” 
… I rather doubt this will lead to a war, but a strong potential for conflict remains.

West Africa/Nigeria-Sahel (457M)

The fake pharmaceutical industry thriving in West Africa… 
… particularly tragic in the midst of the Covid pandemic …

Jihadists in the Sahel threaten west Africa’s coastal states… 
… even west Africa’s most populous countries are vulnerable … 
… Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso …

West Asia/Saudi-Iran (303M)

China and Iran near a trade and military partnership
… ‘would vastly extend China’s influence in the Middle East’ 
… ‘throw Iran an economic lifeline’ 
… represents massive $ into Iran, oil flow out, military collaboration

Iraq will reopen airports, international flights this month.

Turkey’s Erdogan signs decree declaring Hagia Sophia a mosque.

More interesting: Turkey’s Generation Z turns against Erdogan
… ‘young people’s rejection of Erdogan’s brand of Islamic conservatism…’ 
… ‘parents worry heavy dose of religious instruction… prevents learning enough math, science, tech to successfully compete in university exams…’

In photos: Saudi Arabia through the lens of 5 photographers.

Remember Yemen: 5 years of conflict, 100,000 dead, 4 million displaced. Backgrounder.

South-Central Asia (2.1B)

Afghanistan violence continues with major attacks in Aybak
… ‘Deadly Taliban attack adds to despair over faltering peace process’

Kyrgyz chaos: shortage of medics, hospital beds as Covid cases skyrocket.

Kazakhstan’s second lockdown extended to the end of July.

Turkmenistan is going into lockdown
… not because of Covid. There’s no cases of Covid here. No, really.

South Asia being pummeled by monsoon rains, flooding.

One-third of Bangladesh is under water
… monsoon rains drench South Asia, 4 million impacted 
… “going to be the worst flood in a decade”

India:

Could reach 1 million Covid cases soon.

Ladakh, caught between India and China
… a longer read on the buildup of China and the confrontation in the Himalayas. 
… I still think war here is unlikely, but Ladakh is in Jammu & Kashmir, one of the least reached provinces.

Punjab, India’s grain bowl, facing ‘de-peasantisation‘ 
… ‘peasants are seen giving up agriculture as a livelihood’ 
… ‘robust shift from farm to non-farm sector’

No Bangladeshi can leave B’desh w/o valid Covid-19 negative certificate
… selling fake Covid certificates has become big business.

Minorities under attack as PM pushes ‘tolerant’ Pakistan. 
… “A Christian was gunned down… in Peshawar…”

East Asia (1.6B)

China’s new security law is implemented: 
… “disappearing books, illegal words and arrests over blank white paper“ 
… when words became illegal, people began holding up blank sheets of paper. The symbolism is obvious, especially when done in a group. It’s rather like other symbols, like umbrellas. Beijing will not stand for it. 
… Further: laws “are designed to make the media self-censor

China’s troubling vision for the future of public health
… question: what does it mean for health and security to be intertwined? China’s answer to the question involves constant surveillance “in the name of both biological and political health.” Fangkong = “prevent and control.”

China’s Xinjiang Policy is “less about births, more about control“ 
… eradicating Uighur culture, genocide through childbirth prevention … 
… could a UPG virtually cease to exist in one or two generations?

ChinaSource sharing a study on how the church is growing in China
… how much the church is grown can’t be easily known, but “it’s a lot.” 
… given that “it’s a lot,” the question of “how the church is growing” is helpful.

US-China tensions continue to rise: 
… US thinking of a travel ban on all Chinese Communist Party members … 
… almost certainly, China would respond to that …

Stress between UK and China, too.

Southeast Asia (700M)

Travel bubbles and barriers impact long-term and short-term arrivals as well as transit. Singapore, for example, has mostly banned short-term visitors and only recently begun to partially reopen transit. Travelers entering Singapore from some countries are issued 14-day ‘stay at home’ notices can remain at the lodging of their choice; those from other countries (including the USA) will have to serve their time at a government-designated facility at a cost (est. SGD2,000). These restrictions are causing issues for visa renewal and medical access in the region. Check the Embassy page for details.

No one knows what Thailand is doing right, but so far, it’s working
… just 3,240 cases, 58 deaths, and no cases of local transmission in weeks …

Myanmar’s shattered hopes for peace
… ‘overshadowed by conflicts that have smoldered for decades…’ 
… and, illegal drugs have become deeply rooted in Burmese society

Europe/North America (1,125M)

US administration backs down, rescinds rule on foreign students.

Strained US-China relations “are playing out in American universities“ 
… “Chinese students fearful that their government is watching what they do, and if they attend your program, their degree might be meaningless in their country.”

USA: Small business owners closing their doors after new lockdown orders, realizing there may be no end in sight to the virus. “Nearly 66,000 businesses have folded since March 1.” In some nations (like Iran and India), people are broadly facing a choice of “death by starvation or virus.” The choice the US is facing is in the same vein, if not quite so stark. If businesses try to remain open “as they used to be” (e.g. bars, churches, gyms, restaurants, etc. open with full occupancy), there is an almost certain prospect of rampant virus spread. Yet many of these businesses cannot make ends meet with takeaway or 25% occupancy alone. If they close entirely, the economic hit will be devastating. Unfortunately, as inadequate resources are being invested in testing, tracing, and isolating the infected to break transmission chains, this stark choice is being faced by many business owners. The first wave of unemployment was the layoffs of employees; a scenario with a second wave featuring the failure and closure of many small to mid-sized businesses is still possible. Open question: what impact will this have on church finances and mission giving? Link 
… banks gearing up for loan losses, defaults, worst quarter since Great Recession

5% of US pastors say the return of worship services unlikely before 2021
… North Point (Andy Stanley) will suspend services for the rest of the year. 
… ‘It’s an outsider-focused question, instead of an insider-focused question’

Infographic: US passports used to access 183 countries. 
… Now, Americans are barred entry to all but 29
… CNN has a list of nations where Americans are welcome (9, including Turkey) 
… and a list where they are welcome with restrictions (23, incl Cambodia, Egypt, UAE).

New Data

New CHE manual for Covid-19 (PDF). H/T Brigada.

New Longreads

A new study suggests the accelerated decline of fertility rates could lead the global population to peak at 9.7 billion in 2064, fall to 8.8 billion by century’s end. The populations of 23 countries (including Japan and Thailand) could shrink by half by 2100. Subsaharan Africa would go the other direction, and grow to 3X its current population. “India, Nigeria, China and the US would be the dominant powers.” But is that scenario actually likely, or will countries “think their way out of the problem” in the next 80 years? Link

Futuristics & Technology

SCMP has a new China Internet Report for 2020
… there’s a limited free version, and a longer pay version.

Extensive malware stashed inside software mandated by China… 
… Example: lurking inside tax software that Beijing requires companies to install 
… ‘high-stealth spy campaign… bypasses Windows UAC… installs modules with System level privileges…’ 
… My source: ‘Anyone who started a company to stay in China should be aware of this’

Good early report on Moderna’s potential Covid-19 vaccine
… I remain cautiously skeptical about the potential availability or widespread distribution of a vaccine either this year or early 2021. But this is a very good sign that one will be developed in the short-term future.

Bring on the ‘bots, who don’t get sick: 
… Covid could accelerate automation, hurt low-wage workers

Hotspot for Jesus
… a wireless hotspot in his pocket advertises itself as an open wifi connection 
… it is also a full web server in the local language 
… including text of the Bible and copies of the Jesus Film.

Online gaming exceeds $150 billion
… probably nearly $200 billion by 2022.

Looks like big changes are coming to the Gmail web interface
… could be some serious competition for Slack … 
… how many mission orgs use Gmail? Will affect nearly all of you …

DDoS-for-Hire fueling a new wave of cyberattacks. 
… AWS fended off a 3-day attack that was likely ideologically motivated … 
… Have any mission or church websites suffered DDoS attacks? …