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"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on to love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10: 23-25
Why mobilize Christian lawyers, judges and national leaders? Because evil is on the loose. We need to encourage and equip competent advocates who are engaged on the frontlines of the battle.
Evil wears many masks. Among the worst are religious intolerance, persecution and discrimination. Lawyers play the key role in promoting justice and religious freedom. Justice and freedom grow best when competent nationals nurture these ideals within their communities. As seen in Christ's Good Samaritan story, the innkeeper was indispensable in caring for the man who had been beaten, robbed and left for dead. What would the Good Samaritan have done without the innkeeper? Likewise, lawyer "innkeepers" are indispensable in going to court, drafting laws and counseling those in need, whether they are pastors, presidents or prisoners. Often they are "the voice for the voiceless."
Evil is escalating on every continent. The "clash of civilizations" is no mere theory. It is a brutal reality. In the 13 years engaged in the international arena, I cannot recall a time when the scope and intensity of the attacks on believers has been worse. No continent is immune. The nature of some of the challenges facing believers and their advocates are highlighted in this newsletter - along with some hope. Our "innkeeper" leadership network is on the back page. Our brochure shows 1,300 faces of "the best team money can't buy."
During the past decade, we have facilitated conferences, seminars and gatherings held in over 30 nations. Over all, about 7,000 professionals from at least 100 nations participated in these meetings. The most important result was not just hearing good speeches. Even the best of talks are soon forgotten. Rather, the fruit has been in building solid relationships among Christian lawyers who have strengthened fellowships in 70 nations linked together in regional networks. They communicate daily about their challenges through the Internet.
Committed lawyers - empowered by Christ - are impacting nations. In most countries where believers are wrestling with the "principalities and powers" that promote evil, someone within Advocates' network is most likely among those professionals "standing in the gap."
We facilitate gatherings through networking, counseling and providing "seed money" so that conference organizers can make their plans and arrange for lodging and travel. Typically the regional conferences this year in Africa, Latin America, Europe and Asia will cost us $75 per participant, or about $1,000 for each nation sending delegates. We doubt there are many investments that give more "bang for the buck!"
Living in His-Story,
Samuel E. Ericsson
Founder & President
P.S. Your generous gift will enable advocates who are on the frontlines to "encourage one another."
Challenges and Hope in Africa and Asia
AFRICA (23 national fellowships)
- Nigeria - Africa's most populous nation with over 160 million citizens faces major challenges of Islamization in its northern states with Muslim majorities. Increasingly Muslim politicians in these states are elected through the democratic process and then seek to impose Islam's Sharia Law on Christian minorities in violation of Nigeria's Constitution. In the last three years, twelve states have introduced Sharia punishments, including amputation, flogging and even stoning. For example, in the highly publicized case of Amina Lawal - who conceived a child in an adulterous relationship - she was sentenced to death by stoning. The appeals court will render its ruling in late September, 2003.
The Hope: The Christian Lawyers Association for Nigeria (CLASFON) founded in 1983 has an extensive network of 6,000 lawyers seeking to address these volatile issues. In 2003, Nigeria hosted the 5th African Christian Lawyers Network (ACLN). The new ACLN President, Bankole Sodipo, is a highly respected lawyer in Lagos, Nigeria, as well as a Nigerian Chief and the President of CLASFON.
- Kenya - Kenya is rewriting its Constitution. Pressure from the Muslim community seeks to give Islam the upper hand through various provisions in the proposed Constitution.
The Hope: The 325-member Kenyan Christian Lawyer Fellowship (KCLF) is taking an active role in many legal challenges facing the Church throughout Kenya. They are engaged in the Constitution drafting process. KCLF also has several legal aid programs for the indigent and "street children", as well as training lawyers and pastors in biblical conflict resolution. KCLF's former Executive Director, Judy Kalinga, serves as the Regional Coordinator for Advocates International and ACLN. She coordinates a weekly Prayer Calendar knitting together lawyers from 25 nations.
- Zimbabwe - Few countries have suffered more in recent years due to government corruption at all levels than Zimbabwe. 30% of Zimbabweans live on the edge of starvation due to government policies. Fundamental civil rights are violated daily. Any voice of protest concerning government policies is often punished.
The Hope: After attending the Advocates International Convocation in 2000, recent law-grad Daniel Molokela returned to Zimbabwe to organize the Christian Legal Society of Zimbabwe. By 2003, CLS has over 125 members serving as salt and light in their nation. Daniel has also been instrumental in helping plant the seeds of other national fellowships in southern Africa.
- Liberia - Until the 1970's, Liberia was one of the "jewels of west Africa." Devastated by two decades of civil war and conflict, peace may finally return to Liberia with the departure of their most recent corrupt president. Rebuilding society, including its judicial and legal system, will be a major undertaking.
The Hope: Othello Payman is a dynamic Christian lawyer who attended the African Christian Lawyer Network conference in 2002, as well as the U.S. CLS conference. He returned to Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, and organized the Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Liberia that has linked 20 Christian lawyers and judges to help in the immense task of rebuilding their nation.
ASIA (18 national fellowships)
- India - In recent years, the "world's largest democracy" with one billion citizens voted the Hindu-based BJP party into power at both the state and national levels. Until 1998, BJP was outlawed because of its extreme intolerance toward all other religions. The Christian "remnant" in India is about 2% of the population. BJP is pushing for "anti-conversion laws" that would make evangelism a criminal offense. Hundreds of Christians, Muslims and other religious minorities have been killed in recent years and many churches burned.
The Hope: After Advocates International's Convocation in 2000, the Christian Lawyers Association of India was launched. CLA's goal is to link the 3,000+ Indian Christian lawyers to respond to the challenges facing believers in India. Over 50 Indian lawyers have participated in Advocates' global and regional conferences. In May 2003, CLA initiated a weekly e-mail Prayer Calendar to share needs, issues and activities among India's Christian lawyers.
- Pakistan - In 1986 Pakistan's military dictator, General Zia, decreed the Blasphemy Law that makes any perceived slight of the Prophet Mohammed a crime punishable by death. As a result, several lower court trial judges - under death threats by Muslim extremists - have sentenced Christians to die on trumped-up "blasphemy" charges. Fortunately, all sentences have been reversed on appeal. About 2% of Pakistan's population are Christians.
The Hope: The Pakistan Christian Lawyer Association (PCLA) has 100+ members and has represented many persecuted Pakistani Christians during the past decade, including those sentenced to death under the Blasphemy Law. Over 30 PCLA lawyers have participated in Advocates' conferences.
- Sri Lanka - Few nations in Asia have faced worse religious violence than the Island of Sri Lanka, once called "Paradise." Buddhist extremists have burned scores of churches and killed thousands of Christians in recent years. A proposed Anti-conversion Law, similar to the one proposed in India, is being pushed through Sri Lanka's Parliament. It would make all evangelism a crime. Recently, the "Christian Affairs Ministry" announced that they will compile a list of "recognized" churches. Most likely, only the Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant denominations will qualify for inclusion in this list. It will effectively "outlaw" evangelical churches. Evangelicals are less than 1% of Sri Lanka's population.
The Hope: Godfrey is the director of the Evangelical Alliance for Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. He and seven other colleagues from Sri Lanka have participated in Advocates' network conferences since 1998. They are on the frontline of the battle for religious freedom in their "Lost Paradise."