CHINA:Here are a few pages hot off the press (from the Gospel of Mark) for the new Chinese Study Bible from Crossway, an exciting tool for the fast-growing church population in China. Chinese have had their own Bibles printed for decades, but the Study Bible is unique and comes at a time when authorities have been loosening some controls over Bible distribution.
WASHINGTON:President Barack Obama told attendees at yesterday’s National Prayer Breakfast that he prays for U.S. citizens Kenneth Bae and Saeed Abedini, held captive overseas, and said the United States will “continue to do everything in our power” to gain release for the Christian workers. Bae is held in North Korea and Abedini is imprisoned in Iran.
SYRIA: Today the UN is overseeing the evacuation of Syrians from Homs, one of the first battlegrounds in the country’s three-year civil war and a historical Christian site. The Wall Street Journal’s Sam Dagher reports that only 28 people had been evacuated by late afternoon. His Twitter feed gives a painful, photographic account of the process.
HAITI is at the bottom of just about every economic indicator in the Western Hemisphere, but savvy companies and nonprofits are learning the value for Haitians of business startups versus charity handouts—my report from Haiti in the latest issue of WORLD.
LONG WEEKEND READ: The Poisonwood Bible and other castigations of Western missionaries aside, sociologist Robert Woodberry has persevered in over 10 years of post-graduate study and has come to a startling conclusion: The presence of “conversionary Protestant” missionaries has been central to explaining why some nations develop stable democracies, while neighboring countries lacking the same have authoritarian rule and internal conflict. Woodberry presented his findings in a scholarly journal (with 192 pages of supporting documentation, on request) and at a December conference on Christianity and freedom sponsored by Georgetown University in Rome. But an article in the Jan/Feb issue of Christianity Today is drawing popular attention to his startling findings.
"Areas where Protestant missionaries had a significant presence in the past are on average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust membership in nongovernmental associations.
"In short: Want a blossoming democracy today? The solution is simple—if you have a time machine: Send a 19th-century missionary."