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The Great Commission, its foes, and everything else in between

International | God's redemptive work and Satan's response: Ten important international flareups in 1996

Issue: "Year in Review 1996," Dec. 28, 1996

For Christians, important stories the world over can fall into two categories. The first is the Great Commission, the work of evangelism. The second is Satan's response to the Commission: persecution and bedlam. Tangled between are flare-ups reflecting both man's fallen nature and the redemptive work of Christ. Ten "flareups" from 1996 are highlighted below.

**red_square**By last February 15,000 American troops had arrived in Bosnia as part of a NATO force to carry out the peace agreement reached last December in Dayton, Ohio. The show of force brought a near-immediate end to fighting between Muslims, Croats, and Serbs battling for territory in the former Yugoslavia. The year-long deployment of troops was less successful in securing the long-term provisions of the Dayton Peace Accords: a guarantee to return all refugees to their homes (see WORLD, Mar. 30 and Apr. 20). Nearly two million people remain displaced, and sporadic fighting broke out when some returning refugees tried to reclaim homes they lost during the war.

Meanwhile, some American soldiers continued to describe their stint in Bosnia as "incarceration with work release" because of General Order No. 1. It requires the troops to remain in camp, to refrain from alcohol, and to be on high-alert, "combat ready" status at all times. The order is meant to avoid terrorist-sponsored debacles like the attacks on U.S. troops in Beirut and Somalia. Performance and mortality ratings have improved, if not morale. Five American soldiers died this year in Bosnia, one from a mine explosion, two from heart attacks, one in a traffic accident, and one when a burner exploded in his tent.

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Humanitarian aid poured into Bosnia this year alongside the troops. Headaches as well as help resulted. Leaders in Bosnia and Croatia, for instance, face finding ways to destroy more than 900 tons of useless drugs sent during the war. The drugs are outdated or meant for treating cholera and other tropical diseases that don't exist in these two countries. Health workers say disposing of such quantities of drugs may pose its own health risk or poison the environment, and government officials estimate the cost of disposal at $2 million.

**red_square**Russian President Boris Yeltsin survived his country's first general election in May and a run-off in July, but nearly succumbed to heart trouble (see WORLD, July 21). The 65-year-old chief executive underwent heart surgery in November to restore his physical strength but ended the year with his political stamina still in doubt. The landscape of the country's emerging democracy continues to defy categorization. Russia's most nimble politician, Alexander Lebed, moved his country closer to peace in Chechnya and cooperation with NATO, but he frightened Christians with his xenophobic statements about missionaries working in Russia and efforts to make it difficult for some to remain there. "We must make ourselves round," said missionary Tim Campbell, borrowing a Russian expression that means "hurry up."

**red_square**Cuban leader Fidel Castro seemed in no hurry to quit communism, despite Cuba's crumbling economy and new sanctions from the United States. After Cuban MiG fighters shot down two civilian aircraft flown by Americans over the international waters between Florida and Cuba last February, Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Helms-Burton Act. The legislation restricts American travel and business activity in Cuba but also penalizes other countries that do business with Cuba. The third-party sanctions, to be fully implemented next year, infuriated American allies like Canada and the European Union nations.

**red_square**Taking a tough line on communists next door did not preclude the Clinton administration from embracing those across the sea. The president insisted on Most Favored Nation trade status with China--one item on the "to-do" list of big-time Indonesian donor Mochtar Riady--and announced plans for a 1997 summit, even as greater evidence of human rights abuses in mainland China were in the news. In mid-January top Communist Party officials and members of the Chinese government's Religious Affairs Bureau met to hammer out a new strategy for dealing with growing numbers of religious adherents, particularly Christians (WORLD, Feb. 17). A crackdown on the country's rapidly growing house-church movement and its leaders followed. "China now has the largest number of Christian prisoners in the world," said human-rights expert Nina Shea. "Religious intolerance is not dissipating with the expansion of the capitalist system."

**red_square**China threatened to take democracy captive when it lobbed three nuclear-capable missiles into the sea near Taiwan March 8. Part of military exercises designed to intimidate the Taiwanese into foregoing their first presidential election, the move prompted the United States to dispatch two aircraft carriers to the region. President Lee Teng-hui, 73, became Taiwan's first democratically chosen president in the elections. Both his margin of victory--54 percent--and voter turnout--76 percent of 14 million eligible voters--were considered high under the circumstances.

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