Today on Christian World News ñ
The U.S. and several allies call on the Syrian
president to resign. But how will this affect
the Christian community?
Christchurch, New Zealand still recovering
from a massive earthquake. See how Christians
there answer the call to provide some of the
most basic needs.
Healing the hearts of orphans. How one missionary
couple in Mexico is providing a loving family
to those who need it most.
And welcome everyone to this weekís edition
of Christian World News. Iím George Thomas.
The President of the United States is calling
on Syriaís leader to step down. In a written
statement, President Obama said Bashar Assadís
bloody crackdown on civilian protestors makes
him unfit to lead and that he must go.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton followed
up on the presidentís statements:
The people of Syria deserve a government that
respects their dignity, protects their rights,
and lives up to their aspirations. Assad is
standing in their way.
An estimated 2,000 Syrians have been killed
by government forces since a peaceful uprising
began nearly five months ago. The U.N. says
the crackdown may rise to the level of crimes
The United States also slapped sanctions on
the Syrian regime, freezing all government
assets and targeting its lucrative energy
The European Union joined the call for Assad
Syriaís political chaos, as you can imagine,
has the countryís tiny Christian community
also on edge. Christians, mind you, make up
about ten percent of the population and have
historically enjoyed a level of religious
Hereís a look at their role in Syrian society.
Friday night in the Old City of Damascus.
It was a short distance from here that the
Apostle Paul had his dramatic encounter with
God and received his calling to spread the
Today Syrian Christians are continuing to
follow in Paulís footsteps. This image of
Christians sharing their faith in a Muslim-dominated
country may come as a surprise to some.
But the fact is that Christianity has had
its roots in Syria since early in the first
century. Following his conversion on the road
to Damascus, Paul established the first organized
Christian church at Antioch in ancient Syria.
Meanwhile, John the Baptistís head is said
to be located here at the Umayyad mosque,
which used to be a church at one time.
And up the road from the Umayyad mosque youíll
find the Chapel of Ananias. It is here down
in the cellar where locals say the Lord used
Ananias to cure Paulís blindness.
(Voice of Interpreter). This is the place
where the Apostle Paul received his calling
to share the Gospel across the Roman world.
Today Christians have the freedom to worship
openly here and we are proclaiming the name
of Jesus Christ everywhere in Syria.
Christians make up ten percent of the Syrian
population; the majority are Muslims. Most
of the Christians live in the cities of Damascus,
Aleppo, Hamah, and Latakia. The Orthodox and
Catholic churches have the strongest following
There are also have a dozen or so evangelical
churches. Edward Awabdeh pastors one of those
congregations on the west side of the capital.
Less than one percent of the Christians are
the evangelicals in Syria. So we are a small
By a minority that is seeing some growth.
Ibrahim Samara pastors an evangelical church
in the Old City of Damascus.
(Voice of Interpreter). The church today in
Syria is living in its golden age. We see
a hunger for God among the youth, and many
families are expressing openness to the message
of Christ. The church is also moving in freedom.
The Syrian constitution allows for freedom
of religion. Although proselytizing is discouraged,
the Christians we talked to say theyíve never
had trouble sharing their faith with non-believers.
(Voice of Interpreter). Obviously, we have
to use some wisdom and discernment in how
to best share Christ. We especially have to
avoid talking negatively about other religions.
In the meantime one of the most effective
tools of evangelism in Syria, and in fact
throughout the Middle East, continues to be
the showing of the Jesus Film.
(Voice of Interpreter). Over the years weíve
had the chance to show the Jesus Film in a
number of cities across the country. And every
time we show the film, 99 percent of those
in attendance are non-Christians.
Today the Gospel, which spread from here to
the uttermost parts of the world, is making
its way back to the region. And the Syrian
Christians that CBN News talked to said the
changes that are taking place across the Middle
East are part of Godís plan for the sake
of the church here.
(Voice of Interpreter). God is using these
changes for the glory of His church. We believe
that we are living in the End Times and that
Christís return is very imminent. God is
giving an opportunity for the people in the
Middle East to turn to Him.
And these are truly historic times in that
Joining us for some perspective is CBN senior
editor John Waage. He has spent several years
in our Jerusalem bureau covering the events
in the Middle East.
What is it about Syria, John, that makes this
place quite acceptable for evangelical Christians,
perhaps unlike any other country in the Middle
East – Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq?
Well, I think part of it, George, is that
Assad himself is from a minority in Syria
and so minorities get a little more protection.
Also his father when he came to power in 1970
was a member of the secular Baath party, the
same party that Saddam Hussein had founded
And so Christians actually had a certain amount
of, if not freedom, at least ability to carry
out their faith within their own communities
and everything under both of them. And so
that I think is the primary reason.
But I remember five years ago you were in
Syria and you were really taken aback. I remember
you being struck by what you saw in Damascus
at the time.
Absolutely, because, you know, in some ways
when I hit the streets of Damascus you get
this perspective of a very closed, Islamic
country. And it is quite the opposite. You
have women who are wearing European outfits.
Theyíre not walking around with the hijab,
and there is this openness.
But I am concerned as Iím sure you areóour
viewers watching this are concernedóthe president
is calling for Assad to step down, who replaces
him and more importantly what does it mean
for the Christian community, as you mentioned,
that has thrived under the Assad regime? Your
Well, there were some problems for the Christians.
I mean, Assad himself, there are reports that
he shut down eight house churches among evangelicals
last year and probably continues to this day.
So it isnít all roses for the Christians
there, but, no, there is uncertainty in the
Christian community now in Syria about where
it goes from here because Syria is 90 percent
And if you look around at the so-called Arab
Spring and who seems to be coming to the forefront
itís the Sunni Muslims. And just as in Iraq
where itís estimated that more than half
the Iraqi Christians have left since the U.S.
invaded and ousted Saddam, the same fate might
await the Christians in Syria.
And so itís a really difficult time because
Christians, as many other people in Syria,
would like to see human rights come to the
forefront. Theyíd like to see the end of
the dictatorship, but what comes after it
thatís a very important question for them.
And it is one that Iím sure that you will
continue to watch for our viewers. A very,
very important hard time in this strategic
part of the world. John Waage, as always,
thank you, sir, for your insights.
We have other news to report.
In neighboring Iraq, as John was mentioning,
a lot of challenges there. A bomb blast severely
damaged a Christian church in the northern
city of Kirkuk. It is the second attack against
a church in the city just this month alone.
Here you can see the damage done to the Syriaq
Orthodox Church in aff-fromm (phonetic). The
bomb blew a hole in the wall sending bricks
across the church, floor and furniture. The
pastor says itís the third attack against
this church in the last five years. No one,
fortunately, was hurt in the attack.
Right now Muslims around the world are observing
their holy month. Itís called Ramadan. A
ministry to persecuted Christians is asking
the global church to pray for believers living
in the Muslim countries during this holy time.
Michele Miller of Open Doors USA told us that
those prayers do make a difference.
Often we do go to prayer but we donít always
feel that it really is meeting that need.
But God calls us to prayer. He tells us to
do that to unite the Body of Christ. And they
have told me time and time again that they
feel our prayers and that they know that theyíre
not alone during these difficult times.
Difficult times, indeed. And to learn how
you can take part in Open Doorsí prayer outreach,
visit our website at cwnews.org.
Well, coming up on Christian World News ñ
Rebuilding Christchurch, New Zealand after
a devastating earthquake. How Christians rise
up to help those who are still struggling.
And welcome back to Christian World News.
Well, people in Christchurch, New Zealand
are still rebuilding their lives six months
after a deadly earthquake. Within hours after
this earthquake struck, the cityís churches
sprung into action.
And as our news partner SHINE TV reports,
churches have continued their relief work
to this day. News director Allan Lee filed
this firsthand report from Christchurch.
Five months on, Christchurch is still broken,
the scene of one of the worst natural disasters
in New Zealand history. More than 180 lives
lost and so far more than a billion dollars
worth of damage, and that will climb significantly.
From the outside itís surreal. Images of
disaster come through our TV screens. Itís
hard to fathom that this is New Zealand. The
people who live in Christchurch are still
there, still struggling, but more than ever
determined to get through.
Normal is whatever you find, isnít it. And
today normal is weíve got a huge row of containers
here protecting people from potential rock
fall. Weíve got some empty buildings which
are being used. But weíve got a family thatís
having a birthday and theyíre just carrying
on having donkey rides with the very young
And in general terms, people quickly accept
their environment because you canít do a
The people whose homes are in the red zone
(??? have been told that the clay seaboard
just nine months earlier to raise a family
and so into a community) is to be pulled down
because itís not fit to repair or build.
First houseówe only bought it last year in
Januaryóso yeah itís been a little bit of
a shattered dream for us but thatís why you
Some are in authority, dealing with their
own disasters and also having to help a community
come to terms with incredible loss. The place
that youíre passionate about and live in
and work in will look completely different.
Driving past homes and places from your past
will simply become bare land and a memory.
We were quite positive about being able to
save the major portion of this, but the next
one came along and itís really devastated
Iím not so worried myself about physical
things. They donít really affect me in that
way. Whether the car survives or the building
survives is more minor to me than whether
a person is okay.
Christchurch people have had to deal with
more in just a few months than most of us
will experience in a lifetime. But there is
something you have to envy: how these people,
these communities, have pulled together and
the family who prays God that theyíve been
told their home wonít be repaired or rebuilt
because at least they know, unlike so many
Itís incredible that when we face our darkest
times, when it seems that nothing can go right
or thereís no hope, the human spirit, the
Kiwi spirit, awakens and we begin to understand
what this life is about ñ family, community,
and a personís ability to show amazing love.
Going through hardships and struggles, I believe
personally, it amplifies what we feel in our
heart, and so therefore if we feel love in
our heart and we go through struggles we also
amplify that. So for us going through hard
times I think in a way has actually shown
us where our true heart is and where our true
It may be the simplest ideal to love your
neighbor, but itís more valuable now to people
in Christchurch than ever. And if this tragedy
has shown us Kiwis anything, itís how remarkable
we can be when we have to be.
And to find out how you can help the victims
of the Christchurch quake, you can go to our
Up next ñ
Caring for the orphans. How one missionary
couple is changing lives, one child at
For the past two months students in Chile
have abandoned their classrooms and joined
street protests to demand improvements in
Student demonstrators have been met with water
cannon and tear gas as the government struggles
to come up with solutions. But while some
students protest, a few Christian youth have
taken a very different approach – theyíre
turning to prayer to change their country.
Lord, you are above all, the head of this
country, and thatís why we turn to you now
so that you will control this situation, so
you will bring peace, harmony and love in
Chilean students are protesting the lack of
school resources, especially in the nationís
Orphanages, housing, dozens, or even hundreds
of children are disappearing. Instead, governments
are stepping in to protect children from neglect
or abuse by placing them with substitute families.
But one American couple in Mexico is creating
a new model. Itís a wholesome community for
orphaned or abandoned children where they
can grow up in a family atmosphere.
Stan Jeter has their story.
In Arriaga, Chiapas in southern Mexico, Bill
and Tammy Woods and their missionary staff
offer love and guidance to dozens of orphan
They started out decades ago working on youth
ranches and a Romanian orphanage and saw that
growth was limiting personal attention.
We started out with eight kids and then before
long there were twenty, within a year we had
forty. We found that as it grew then we lost
the family atmosphere. The first twenty kids
were very healthy emotionally, but then what
happened with adding so many more children
to the mix that you couldnít meet all the
Bill and Tammy didnít have children of their
own but theyíre convinced that every orphan
needs a loving family.
When you put a bunch of children into a large
building you can maintain them, you can take
care of their basic needs of clothing and
schooling and food, but in terms of being
able to get those hugs and the time one-on-one
they lose it. And when a child begins to lose
that then something happens in their soul,
something happens in their personality.
Weíve seen children come out of orphanage
who reject their adoptive parents because
they donít know how to connect.
The Beacon of Hope is an orphanage set up
like a home, according to founders Bill and
Now that weíre in Mexico we really felt that
we wanted to do something that was more family-oriented
and have smaller amounts of children living
This concept of Christian family has resulted
in the emotional and physical restoration
of dozens of children ñ as in the case of
Carmita, a brutally abused, artistic girl
who over the years has been restored and turned
into a happy young lady.
Many of these kids will never be adopted because
their parents have parental rights but they
canít keep the children. So we keep them
in long-term care.
And so we function as a family. We tell the
children yes, to the world this is an orphanage
but to us this is family. When we go on vacation
we take all twenty-plus kids with us. This
is our family.
Three years ago they began a new project called
the Potterís Ranch.
The Potterís Ranch is 106 acres where we
can take care of more than 200 children. We
have the building for production of rabbits,
cattle, we have fruit trees, weíre also putting
in greenhouses, all for the purpose of sustaining
the work with whatís produced here.
The ranch will also have tilapia tanks, a
concrete block factory, and community homes.
Öto produce almost a village idea where you
would put them in small homes with a substitute
mother or a couple so that they can get that.
Weíre designing it for twenty homes to begin
There will be a school in the area, everything
that weíd find in a little village so that
they feel like this is normal.
The ranch is designed to be self-sustaining
and to host visiting work teams.
The goal is to make it self-sufficient so
that weíre not always looking for others
to give. And whatís also helped here, I think,
is the kids can work there, they can learn
to work with their hands and be outside and
work with the animals. And then in that way
when they leave they can have a life.
So for us the goal this year is to finish
our first house, which is called the bunk
house, and that house receives short-term
teams that come in and help us build.
Bill, Tammy and their team hope that with
Godís help they can establish loving families
that will serve hundreds of Mexican orphans
now and for generations to come.
And we just go little by little, watching
Stan Jeter, CBN News.
ñ Commercial Break ñ
finally on our broadcast this week ñ
A Dutch man is building a replica of Noahís
ark. And it matches the dimensions of the
vessel found in the Bible.
My colleague Chris Mitchell went to Holland
to see it for himself.
Drive about an hour south of Amsterdam and
you can see the ark. The big idea started
with a dream in 1992.
The night of my dream the ??? part of Holland
was flooded. So the next day when I woke up
I said to my wife, ìIím going to build the
ark of Noah.î Yeah, that was the first beginning.
Despite objections from his wife and others,
Johann Huibers first built this replica, one-tenth
the size of Noahís original ark. Six hundred
thousand visitors came to see that one, but
Huibers had a bigger dream.
Huibers built the ark the same dimensions
as Noah did: 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide,
and 30 cubits high.
As you can see, itís huge. Some believe the
ark was the largest wooden structure ever
to roam the seas.
That makes it the length of one and a half
football fields and the size of a five-story
But how do you build an ark?
I didnít make plans, you know, I had no drawings,
I had nothing. I had the will to build a boat
and I asked God every day, give me the ideas
how to build, how to do it. And God gave me
day by day, so it was fairly easy.
The ark also carries replicas of the animals
that would have been on the ark. But is the
story about Noah real? Huibers says there
are more than 200 stories of a flood in ancient
Itís the same story. There was somebody who
took all the animals inside a boat and he
But why did this modern-day Noah want to build
the ark in the first place?
To tell the people about God – who is God
and that people start to read the Bible again.
When you open the Bible, God will be there,
you know, and He will give you all the answers.
Huibers believes the ark is a sign of the
days weíre living in, just like in the days
Theyíre terrible, like the same situation
at the time of Noah. Nobody cares about God.
Nobody cares about each other. They kill each
other for nothing. Unbelievable.
Just like Noah, people criticized Huibers.
It was a very hard time. Everybodyís asking
why and itís not necessary and you donít
have permission to build the ark of Noah.
But Huibers and his team persevered. They
expect to finish the ark by the end of the
year and hope to take it to the 2012 London
Chris Mitchell, CBN News, Dordrecht, Holland.
Thank you, Chris.
Well, thatís it for this weekís edition
of Christian World News. I hope youíve enjoyed
our broadcast. If youíve got any suggestions,
story ideas, please email those to cwnews.org.
Until next week, from all of us here at Christian
World News, good-bye and God bless you.