World Tour

NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: World Tour with senior editor Mindy Belz.

Russian meddling—We begin today in the U.S. Two reports prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee found Russian influence in the 2016 U.S. presidential election was worse than previously known.

Republican-led panel commissioned researchers to analyze millions of social media posts. They found a Kremlin-linked troll group used all major social media platforms to sow division and push voters toward then-candidate Donald Trump.

That means not just Facebook and Twitter—but Instagram, Reddit, Pinterest. All of them.

I’ll give you two quick examples. The Russian agency targeted black voters for a fake election boycott—trying to suppress turnout. Trolls also targeted Christian voters with a—quote-unquote—“Army of Jesus” page.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden sits on the intel committee. He told PBS News Hour that social media companies are part of the problem.

WYDEN: So what is really new here is not only is this serious business because it undermines our democracy, but the companies trying to get them to change is like pulling teeth.

Predictably, Russia denied the allegations.

In a statement Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr cited the most disturbing part: Russia’s divisive actions continue to this day.

New Egyptian church—Next to Egypt, where President Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi ordered the building of a church in a new city on the outskirts of Cairo.

The city is one of two new developments designed to cut down on informal settlements. El-Sisi ordered the military commander giving him a tour of the site not to forget the church. “Everyone shall worship,” El-Sisi added.

The president has voiced support for permitting more churches after several high profile attacks against Coptic Christians. In November he reiterated state support for all religions.

AUDIO: [Sisi speaking]

The government approved licenses for 53 new churches earlier this year, but thousands more are still pending.

‘Ahok’ could soon be free—Next, potentially good news from Indonesia. Jakarta’s former Christian governor, known as “Ahok,” may be released from prison next month.

AUDIO: [Sri Puguh Budi Utami speaking with reporters]

An official said Ahok would gain his freedom four months ahead of schedule based on good behavior.

AUDIO: [Sound of judge sentencing Ahok]

In 2017 a judge sentenced Ahok to two years in prison for blasphemy against Islam. He was running for re-election at the time and accused his political opponents of using Quranic verses to dissuade Muslims from voting for him.

CHINA—Now to China, where President Xi Jinping marked the 40-year anniversary of Communist Party reforms credited with boosting the country’s economy.

AUDIO: [Sound of clapping, trumpets]

Xi used his speech to warn other world powers not to “dictate” China’s economic development path.

AUDIO: [Xi speaking in Mandarin]

Xi called the Communist Party of China “the greatest strength of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics.”

Xi’s nationalist emphasis has helped drive recent crackdowns on several large unregistered house churches—most notably Early Rain Covenant Church.

AUDIO: [Wang preaching]

In an October sermon, Pastor Wang Yi said—quote— “We hope that one day, even the authorities in this city will be reluctant to eradicate this church from the city because doing so would damage an intangible asset of the city.”

After authorities arrested Wang and 100 church members on December 9th, worshippers met again last Sunday. But police had surrounded their building and arrested about 60 parishioners.

Those who remained moved services to nearby parks. At one, about 50 Early Rain members sang hymns, prayed, and recited the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism: “What is your only comfort in life and death? That I am not my own but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.”

If that doesn’t help put the busyness of Christmas in perspective, I doubt anything will.

That’s today’s World Tour. Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Mindy Belz.

(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during a conference to commemorate the 40th anniversary of China’s Reform and Opening Up policy at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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