Roundup 267

Top Events

The Middle East is in shambles, but it’s not in the headlines. The pandemic, Tigray war, and the Taliban are getting all the press, leaving out terrible humanitarian crises found in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. The potential for “complete collapse” and renewed violence and/or a massive refugee exodus is high. Existing works in these areas will have to grapple with the effects of war, rising poverty, oppression, and starvation. AP

Myanmar: Baptist Pastor Cung Biak Hum was shot dead by soldiers while he was helping put out a house fire caused by artillery fire. It isn’t clear from the story why he was shot. At most it would fit the “broad” definition of martyrdom: “premature death in a situation of witness as a result of human hostility” (as opposed to a narrow definition, “killed for his faith”). It illustrates the challenge of counting martyrs, as well as the risks Christians face in being a blessing to their local communities in the context of warfare and violence. This pastor is just one visible example of risks run by everyone in Myanmar. Link

A large Pew Research report dives into the religious demography of India, its changes since the partition, and the factors involved. It’s useful for a variety of reasons–I’m especially looking at page 4, with its province-by-province breakdown. The report says “religious switching” (conversion) is a very small factor in religious change and, viewed in the context of history since the Partition, this is likely correct. There are some large and well-known rapidly-multiplying movements in India, but these are still small percentages of the population, and likely under the radar for Pew’s style of research. Link

Afraid they missed their chance to reach paradise: The Washington Post investigates how the Taliban are adjusting to life in government: “After 20 years of waging religious guerrilla warfare, Taliban fighters in Kabul say they miss the battle.” The piece shows elements of culture shock; and also, the spiritual thoughts: “most of the rank-and-file believed they were fighting a war sanctioned by God, with a clear path to paradise in the afterlife… many worried that they missed their chance at martyrdom in the war.” Link

New conversations about risks and requirements: With rising vaccination rates in some regions and a complete lack of vaccines in others, mission agencies are now (or will be soon) talking about risks and requirements. When a higher percentage of the population is vaccinated, infections will be fewer in number, but a higher percentage of them will be breakthroughs. That doesn’t mean vaccinations aren’t working, but it does mean the risk calculus changes–some countries will open up more, choosing to endure the risk of 10s of 1000s of infections so millions can work. On the other side, poorer nations are getting fewer vaccines, which means missionaries working there face different sorts of dangers (in some cases far worse) than they would in more vaccinated nations. And, in many places, vaccinations will be required to enter–so we must decide about that too. Many Western Protestant missionaries come from circles with their own debates about vaccines; might missionaries find themselves at odds with their churches and supporters?

  • SCMP – “How much sickness & death will be had after everyone has a jab?”

  • Atlantic – “Six rules that will define our second pandemic winter”

  • CT – “Missionaries want to carry the Gospel to the ends of the Earth. Not Covid-19.”

  • AP – “Access, travel rules influence missionary vaccine policies”

New Events

North Africa + West Asia = NAME (570m)

MidEast in shambles, but the world has moved on for now. AP
The Middle East’s Jihadis are copying the Taliban model. FP
— hoping that a turn to local jihad will win them international legitimacy
— “Washington could learn to … deal ith extremists groups that are not a direct threat”
— “Jihadis have noticed and are hoping to cut similar deals with the administration”
— “The United States seems as desperate to retreat from the MidEast as Afghanistan”
Tunisia: Pres. Saied “moves to cement one-man rule.” Reuters
— “Will rule by decree and ignore parts of the constitution” Guardian
Libya’s Haftan steps down from military role before elections. Al Jazeera
— move likely paves the way to participate in presidential election
Tunisia will reopen its border with Libya. Reuters

East Africa (520m)

“I just cry”: dying of hunger in Ethiopia’s blockaded Tigray. AP
“Silent killing”: Starvation stalks Ethiopia’s Tigray. AFP
Ethiopia’s Tigray rebels accused of shelling, shooting civilians. AFP

West + Middle Africa (600m)

Russia’s Wagner Group mercenaries arrived in Bangassou. HumAngle
— “prepare for big operations”; “arrival has created relative calm”
ECOWAS resorts to sanctions over Guinea and Mali coups. Al Jazeera
France warns Mali against Russian Wagner mercenary deal. Al Jazeera

What’s behind the rising violence in western Niger? New Humanitarian
— “the killing of 100s of civilians in recent months suggests a shift in strategy”
— on border of Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, and NW Nigeria

Over 20% of Nigerian workers lost their jobs due to Covid-19. CNN

After pastor TB Joshua in Nigeria died, the church is struggling with succession. Link
— succession planning is affecting a lot of places as generations change.
— does your agency/church have a succession plan (or capacity to easily choose next lead)?

South + Central Asia (2b)


After 20 years of waging religious guerrilla warfare, Taliban fighters miss battle. Post
Divisions among the Taliban: “very real, and if disharmony grows…” Al Jazeera
— Pakistan’s Imhran Khan warns of “civil war” in Afghanistan. Al JazeeraCNN
Fighting off hunger under the Taliban: starvation could be the big challenge. BBC
“Now we all grow poppies”: farmers predict roaring opium trade under Taliban. IranWire
The Afghan immig. crisis is bigger, faster, more traumatic. Are US believers ready? CT
Harsh new [restrictions] for Afghan women and girls in Taliban-run schools. NYT
Taliban seize women’s ministry building for use by religious police. NYT
Afghan Uyghurs fear deportation as Taliban cozy up to China. NYT
Taliban official says strict punishment, executions will return. AP


“Around 5 million Chinese nationals working in Pakistan by 2025.” Link
Fleeing Afghan Hazara face uncertain future in Pakistan. Al Jazeera

Central Asia

Shaped by its neighbors, Tajikistan is increasingly negative on Af. refugees. Diplomat
Former Afghan Panjshir resistance leaders surface in Tajikistan. National Interest
There are Covid-19 “sick people in practically every family” in Turkmenistan. Eurasianet
— “Reports suggest its experiencing 3rd, possibly strongest wave”. BBC
Uzbekistan “has good reasons to be on good terms with the Taliban.” RFE
— chiefly, transit fees for shipments to Afghanistan from China, Kazakhstan and elsewhere


Questions about tourist visas to India being revisited. Hindustan Times
— OCI & PIO card holders allowed to visit India “for any purpose except tourist visa”
— “If other ctrys do not recognize India vaccines, India will impose similar restrictions”
Over 85% of Mumbai has Covid-19 antibodies. India Express

Eastern Asia (1.6b)

Poor countries still want Chinese vaccines despite concerns about effectiveness. SCMP

Can I travel to mainland China? SCMP
— a guide to entry restrictions, documents, vaccination, testing requirements

China’s cultural crackdown: few areas untouched as Xi reshapes society. Guardian
Don’t mistake crackdowns for a second Cultural Revolution. Conversation
The casualties of China’s education crackdown. TechCrunch
— “edtech firms now wondering if they can remain solvent long enough to [pivot]”
— “took a wrecking ball to an education & test-prep industry worth billions”
— “ban on hiring online foreign teachers left some edtech firms wondering how to survive”
Under Xi Jinping, the private life of Chinese citizens isn’t so private any more. CNN
The vanishing allure of doing business in China. Economist
— could impact a lot of different ministry models, not just BAM

Meet China’s GenZ: only children shaped by the Internet. ChinaSource

North Korea’s Covid-19 crisis adds to global risk list. Forbes
— “Kim lashed out at Kpop… suggests fears NKor youth get glimpses of outside, realize how much better off others are?”
— “NKor economy taking big Covid-19 hits”
— recent National Day parade featured soldiers in hazmat suits, no nuke missiles
— Covid19 isolation and impact on economy shows NKor “not actually economically isolated” from the rest of the world.

Facing declining birth rates, NKor calls for provinces to “create an environment where people feel comfortable about having children.” Young married couples worry about expenses, and even simply feeding babies. DailyNK

Southeast Asia (700m)

Cambodia set to reopen borders to international tourists. Link
— “with visitors from China and South Korea among those to be targeted initially”
Indonesia finally emerging from its “summer of death.” Link
— 3 problems that created the pandemic crisis still loom large
— half of Jakarta infected with Covid-19
Indonesia may reopen to foreign tourists (Bali) in October. Reuters
Singapore’s migrant workers are still living in Covid lockdown. BBC
— not permitted to leave except to go to work, one of the longest confinements globally
Thailand plans to slash mandatory quarantine period for vaccinated travelers. Bloomberg
— from 14 days to 7, to boost economy and tourism, starting October 1
Thailand desperate for tourists following Covid-19 slump. Hindustan Times
— tourism made up about 20% of national income
Laos locks down capital for 2 weeks as infections reach new peak. Diplomat
Myanmar town near India border sees exodus as thousands flee fighting. Link
— “about 10k live in Thantlang… most had left to seek shelter in surrounding areas”

The West

America’s air rage epidemic, and lots of talk about cracking down on it. Forbes
— a different sort of risk for workers traveling abroad
New CDC model for USA predicts steady decline in cases through March 2022. NPR
USA to lift Covid travel ban, allow entry of vaccinated visitors. Post
— “how can they tell? will it lead to some kind of vaccine passport arrangement?”
“It appears that 70,000 HongKongers (5k/wk) have moved to the UK.” @JEPomfret
— Not insignificant trend, but not deafening rush: 1,5000 weeks (28 years) to empty HK
— on the other hand, somewhere around 100,000 Afghani refugees are newly abroad

New Data

Covid global case data data

At current pace, 300m cases by Jan. 28.
… 9/24: 230.2m (+3m/wk) cases, 4.72m deaths
… 9/17: 227.3m (+4m/wk) cases, 4.67m deaths
… 9/10: (vacation)
… 9/03: 219.3m (+4.5m) cases, 4.55m deaths
… 8/27: 214.8m (+4.6m) cases, 4.47m deaths
Trackers: Johns HopkinsNYT *

Covid crisis has led to a garbage crisis – NYT
— “fears the virus could be transmitted through surfaces created a stigma around trash”

Data & Reports

UNHCR: Global trends: Forced displacement in 2020. Link
— more people are internally displaced than any other category, including refugees.

Beautiful data visualization of national fertility rates around the world. Link
— Fertility is an important factor in demographic growth, itself a factor in church growth.

New Longreads

Hannah Anderson. “Don’t wait for hope. Work for it.” CT
— “The hard work of hope… trust a Person and not our plans…”
— “not denying our present difficulties or ceasing to plan for the future ourselves…”

Great Attrition or Great Attraction? The choice is yours. McKinsey
— “A record number of employees are quitting or thinking about doing so.”
— “Orgs that take time to learn why & act thoughtfully have an edge in attracting talent.”
— deserves reflection–lots of people leaving old jobs, what can agencies offer?

Book Notes

Reading: Mine! How the hidden rules of ownership control our lives.
Book notes on Predictably Irrational and The Art of Statistics coming soon.
MoreNonsense (ambiguity) – Scarcity (poverty, tunneling) – The Talent Code (coaching)

Tech & Futures

The Scientist and the AI-assisted, remote-control killing machine. Link
Interesting Q&A on encryption & privacy with Will Cathcart, head of WhatsApp. Link
Inside Youtube’s recommendation system: how it works. Link
China is the dominant producer of rare earths, but relies on Myanmar for feedstock. Link
— group of 17 minerals used in consumer electronics, military equipment
— with border closed, import of rare earth compounds to China down 91%
Indonesia’s tech giants are battling to bring roadside stalls online. Link


“When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” -Alexander Den Heijer

“Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.” Picasso

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