For anyone looking for things to do this weekend, the Guardian has published a couple of great articles on a couple of countries where I work – all worth reading and situations definitely worth praying for:

On questions of justice, stolen land, NGOs and the importance of long-term solidarity in Colombia, specifically Uraba which was one of the regions I visited in August, and where the Church has suffered enormously but continues to carry out important prophetic work despite the risks: As Colombia Jails Army General, NGO’s Combating Land Grabs Should Take Note

On the insanity of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan (as a rule, blasphemy laws are nuts, even in countries in Europe where many are still shockingly on the books, but Pakistan has made their prosecution and implementation a special art form) and their impact on religious minorities, including Christians but also on non-Sunni Muslims and others: How to Commit Blasphemy in Pakistan

On the real impact of the drug war in Mexico (and other countries, including Colombia and Peru, though Mexico is the focus of this article), touching upon the actual real life effects of the North American and European recreational drug habit and political policies on actual real life people in those South American countries. For those wondering what this has to do with religious freedom – consider that in 2010 over 1000 Catholic priests in Mexico reported being under threat from organized crime involved in the drug trade; rates are probably similar for the Protestant churches though no comprehensive study has been possible, mostly because people are so afraid of the consequences of speaking out: Breaking Bad Doesn’t Show You the Real Drug War Drama

The increasing marginalization of women from the political transition and reform in Egypt. This is particularly on my heart as one year ago I was in Egypt running a training on human rights advocacy to a large group of young Christians, the majority of whom were young women, who love their country and were so hopeful for a future that included inclusion and the active participation of women and religious minorities: From Virginity Test to Power


This is Jaime. He is 74 years old. In 1970 he immigrated to California where for the next 33 years he worked as a busboy in a Bob’s Big Boy in downtown Los Angeles and where he became a Christian. He and his wife, Juliana, raised six children all of whom live and work in Southern California.

In 2003, at the age of 66, he decided to give up his life in the United States to return to Mexico, to his indigenous village in the mountains of Oaxaca. He went with his wife in order to share his faith in Christ with his native village. He believes that this is what God called him to do. His children in California, now adult professionals, supported him financially, sending him money to build his house.

In late 2010, in the middle of the night the village authorities came to his home and threw him and his wife out. They forced them to leave the village. The couple now lives in the city of Oaxaca as displaced people. The village authorities will not allow them to return to the village to collect their things, including money his children had sent them. They sold off his four bulls and his supply of grain. When questioned by state officials they lied and said the grain had gone bad and they had thrown it out. They had no answer for what had happened to the bulls. The government cannot or will not guarantee Jaime’s personal security and the village authorities have threatened to imprison or kill him if he returns. He says they sometimes call him late at night asking for his address.

He thinks the reason for their expulsion is rooted in personal jealousy but the village authorities claim it is because he shared his faith with others in the village. They say will not allow anyone to change religion. A missionary couple, also indigenous people from the same region, say Jaime did his work quietly but felt compelled to share his faith and joy with his people. Jaime says his wife, who is 64, cries every night. He says his children have encouraged him to leave Mexico behind and return to California where they will look after him, but he does not believe his work here is done. He asked me to ask others to pray for him.

This is “Juana”. She is in her 70s. She and a number of other families were thrown out of their village on July 22, 2007 because they refused to renounce their faith. As in the case of Jaime, the mob came to their homes in the middle of the night, in a downpour, and pulled them out by force, driving them out of the village. They also sought refuge in the city. She and the others are not allowed to return to the village and have been told they will be beaten, imprisoned or killed if they try to go back, even if it is just to see relatives.

Juana not only lost her home, she lost her husband, who rejected her for being a Christian, and her daughter who was unable to withstand the pressure and renounced her faith.

Juana and the others eke out a meager living, collecting recyclable garbage from around the city and turning it in. She is old, has no family who will support her and no other resources. She still clings to her faith.

The government has done little to help the situation. They will not guarantee the safety of Juana or the others if they return to their village. They say they have convinced the local authorities to let the Christians sell their property so they at least have some money to build a new life, but the Christians say the local authorities deceived the state officials. The local authorities have threatened anyone who attempts to buy the Christians’ property; technically they are free to sell but no one will purchase it. She also asked me to ask others to pray for them.

This all sounds terribly sad but I cannot forget Juana’s steadfast faith in a God who will provide for her, or the sounds of her prayers mingled with the prayers of the others who were expelled that night, at the end of our meeting. She lifted her eyes and hands to God and I could see, she believes.

I cannot forget the light in Jaime’s eyes and smile. The palpable pride he took in telling me about his 33-year career as a busboy at a burger joint in downtown L.A – a job most people I know would consider demeaning and not worthy of mention. Despite the way they have treated him, he loves his people and his village and wants to show them the way to God.

I lift my eyes up to the hills; where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of Heaven and Earth.