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January 25, 1999
In the past few days, we have received reports of encouraging results from our colleagues in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe:
¨ On December 23, the Bulgarian government registered a Campus Crusade ministry in that Balkan nation. Our Rule of Law Institute, led by Latcho Popov, spearheaded this effort for four years. We hope this will open the door for many other ministries.
¨ This week we heard that the Mongolian government finally allowed the Union Bible Training Center to be registered after several officials tried to close it down. Our Law Institute in Mongolia took the lead in this crucial effort.
¨ Motivated by his attendance at the October Convocation, Michael Chibita returned to Uganda with a vision to revive the Christian Lawyers Fellowship. In an e-mail yesterday, Michael said that they are now holding monthly meetings in Kampala, with 15 lawyers attending on January 7. Michael serves as a legal advisor to the President of Uganda and is the proud father of a new son, Joshua, who "delayed" his arrival an extra week for his father to return home from our Convocation.
¨ John Langlois, the Chairman of our Board of Directors, has just returned from a productive two-week trip to Beijing and Shanghai, continuing to build positive relationships to advance the rule of law and religious freedom for China's 70 million believers. Our top priority in 1999 will be to encourage China to implement their "policy clarification" allowing home Bible studies and prayer groups.
Despite these successes, we continue to face great challenges. For example, our colleague from Nepal, Simon Peter, arrived in our office today. He reports that in recent weeks several pastors have been murdered in his country and that the communists are engaged in a campaign of terror leading up to the elections in May, 1999. Simon and his wife, Meena, care for 300 children whom they have adopted from the streets of Nepal. He is the pastor of a large church and directs several ministries in a nation where it is still a felony to convert from Hinduism to Christianity. During his stay with us this week, we are exploring practical ways that we can help him in Nepal.
We are thrilled that two highly-qualified lawyers joined our staff this month on a part-time basis. Each brings about 30 years of experience to the job. Wally Cheney will serve as our General Counsel and Director of International Programs after retiring as the Assistant Director and General Counsel of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. My good friend, Campbell University Law Professor Lynn Buzzard, will serve as Director of Legal Education while remaining at the law school. Lynn and I begin our third decade of working together promoting religious liberty, justice and reconciliation.
In a very real sense, Advocates International is a unique "law firm" serving two distinct sets of clients. First, there are those who need our professional services. They range from a President seeking to implement the religion clauses in a new Constitution (as in Albania) to the persecuted who have been sentenced to death for their faith (as in Pakistan). Neither is in a position to pay for our services.
This is where the second set of "clients" comes in - our donors. In effect, our donors "retain" Advocates International to do that which they would like to see done but are not in a position to do themselves. Whether it is a 98-year-old widow who faithfully gives $20 per month and prays for us everyday, or a foundation which may give substantial sums, all are viewed as clients who "retain" us to serve those who need help around the globe.
We are deeply grateful to those who have "retained" us over the past seven years enabling us to have an impact in nearly 50 countries. In 1998, even with the $100,000 costs for the International Convocation attended by 50 internationals from 26 countries, we managed to end the year in the black -- but just barely -- with $368 cash on hand. Clearly, the Lord was gracious in showing a small ministry/law firm like ours that every gift and every "client" counts.
As you can imagine, $368 will not carry us very far. While the Lord blessed greatly in our 1998 activities, great challenges remain, as Simon Peter's story illustrates. We invite you to join us in the challenges facing us in 1999 as we continue...
Living in His-story,
Samuel E. Ericsson,
P.S. The enclosed "A Vision for Justice: An Agenda for 1999" sets forth a few of the major projects we hope to carry out this year. To enable us to begin, we hope you will "retain" us by sending a gift this month. It would be a great help.
A Vision for Justice: An Agenda for 1999
1. On October 16, 1997 the Religious Affairs Bureau of China issued a policy clarification concerning religious activities, home Bible studies, and prayer groups. Advocates will continue encouraging China to implement this policy on behalf of the 70 million believers.
2. Enlisting "the alumni" from the 1998 International Convocation, Advocates will launch a Christian lawyer network on the Internet to facilitate law professionals worldwide in doing justice with compassion. Advocates will also publish a devotional book edited by Lynn Buzzard, Wally Cheney, and Sam Ericsson with contributions from the network.
3. On November 22, 1998, Albania adopted a new constitution containing strong guarantees on religious freedom. Advocates will work closely with Albanian leaders in implementing these crucial provisions in a nation that embraced atheism as its official religion for 30 years.
4. On December 23, 1998 the Bulgarian Directorate of Religious Affairs finally registered Agape Bulgaria, a Campus Crusade ministry. Advocates' Rule of Law Institute provided the legal counsel in the four-year effort to secure the registration. Advocates will continue to strengthen the crucial work of the Institute and its network of 100 lawyers, which may now be the largest active network of Christian lawyers in Europe.
5. In September 1999 Advocates and the Bulgarian Rule of Law Institute will co-sponsor the first convocation of the Europe Christian Advocates Network (Europe CAN). The theme will be religious liberty and will be held in conjunction with Prison Fellowship International's quadrennial convocation, which will draw delegates from 135 nations to Sofia.
6. After a three-year effort, Advocates helped secure consultative status for the World Evangelical Fellowship at the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Advocates will work closely with WEF and its Religious Liberty Commission to serve as a voice for the persecuted.
7. Advocates encouraged several Christian law groups in South Korea to unite. Advocates will co-sponsor a conference with the Korean Christian Law Center focused on the integration of faith and practice and challenging Korean lawyers to broaden their vision for Asia.
8. In 1999 China's prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing will open China's first Western-style graduate level law school. Advocates is providing library resources and other materials on human rights, religious liberty, conflict resolution, professional ethics, and related issues. Advocates will also seek to identify Western lecturers for the law school.
9. In June 1998 Advocates, Peacemaker Ministries, and the South African Christian Lawyers Association co-sponsored a conference on conflict resolution and reconciliation in Lusaka, Zambia. In August, 1999 there will be an Africa-wide conference co-sponsored by the same organizations in Johannesburg, South Africa. The conference will also serve as the first convocation of the Africa Christian Advocates Network (Africa CAN).
10. In OctoberAdvocates will hold its second International Convocation in conjunction with the Christian Legal Society and other law groups. The hope is to have 100 nations represented.