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

"The Great Commission, its foes, and everything else in between" Continued...

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

**red_square**Nicaraguans cast ballots in their second free national elections Oct. 20 (see WORLD, Oct. 26). Seven years have passed since Nicaragua emerged from civil war and a Marxist dictatorship. Still, international observers and $3.5 million from the United States were required to ensure fair elections. Democratic candidate Arnoldo Alem n was the top vote-getter, succeeding Violeta Chamorro. Mr. Alem n won on a promise to continue the liberal economic and social agenda that he credits with transforming Nicaragua's capital, Managua, where he was mayor.

**red_square**Israelis also went to the polls, seeking an end to the political turmoil that followed the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in November 1995. Mr. Rabin's Labor Party was turned out of office in May elections, and Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud Party took over as prime minister (see WORLD, May 25/June 1). Mr. Netanyahu's reputation for toughness put a chill on the three-year-old Mideast peace process. Talks with Palestinians stalled over the issues of trading land for peace and Mr. Netanyahu's decision to expand Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.

A United States-brokered accord brought about a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon. Israel shelled areas supposed to be enclaves for the Muslim terrorist group but invited international condemnation for killing 200 civilians in April bombings.

**red_square**South Africans kept their head of state but adopted a new constitution in May. The move by South Africa's Parliament sealed the coffin on apartheid by calling for unrestricted majority rule after 1999. Acknowledging the new order, Vice President and National Party leader F. W. de Klerk, the last president under the apartheid system, resigned from President Nelson Mandela's coalition government the day after passage. He agreed to lead his party in forming a loyal opposition within Parliament. While apologizing to his country for participating in the apartheid system, Mr. de Klerk said other contentious issues were raised by the new constitution. Chief among them is abortion on demand, which Mr. de Klerk opposes. But in December President Mandela passed a law making abortion permissible for women and teen-age girls. Under apartheid, most abortions were outlawed.

**red_square**In May the United Nations ran out of money for daily operations. The financial crisis was blamed on the United States' refusal to pay $1.5 billion, a stand meant in part to reform U.N. spending habits. The U.N. bureaucracy expected payment from other countries, too. By the U.N.'s contribution formula, Russia owed $400 million; Japan, $128 million; and Germany, $50 million.

The budget crisis came to a head in November when the United States vetoed Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's bid for a second term. U.S. Representative Madeleine Albright insisted the secretary-general had not done enough to reform the U.N.'s bloating bureaucracy (see WORLD, Oct. 21). But the year-end selection of Kofi Annan as the new secretary-general did not look like a step toward the kind of reform the United States wants. Mr. Annan, a career U.N. bureaucrat from Ghana, was head of peacekeeping operations, one of the functions reformers would like to trim.

**red_square**And finally, the issue of persecution itself became a mainstream news story when the cause found an odd patron. Michael Horowitz, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, who is Jewish, used prime op-ed space in The Wall Street Journal to denounce a campaign against Christians in Muslim countries. "This issue tests us all," he concluded. "For American Jews who owe our very lives to the open door of 'the blessed land,' silence should not be an option in the face of persecutions eerily parallel to those committed by Adolf Hitler."

Thus ignited, several prominent Christians and human-rights groups pressed Congress and the Clinton administration to grant the problem the political attention it deserves (see WORLD, Sept. 21). Congressional testimony and a concerted effort on the part of evangelical denominations--including the first ever International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church held in September--drew attention to specific cases of Christian persecution. Bowing to growing pressure, President Clinton in November announced the formation of a commission on religious liberty. Don Argue, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, will serve on it along with other Christian leaders. In a move meant to keep the political pressure politically correct, the president also included representatives from Buddhist, Muslim, and Native American groups in the commission.

Mindy Belz
Mindy Belz

Mindy travels to the far corners of the globe as the editor of WORLD and lives with her family in the mountains of western North Carolina. Follow Mindy on Twitter @mcbelz.

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