NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: World Tour. Here’s Mindy Belz.
AUDIO: [Indonesian Elections, sound of music]
Indonesian elections—We start today in Indonesia. Nearly 200 million people are registered to vote in one of the world’s biggest one-day elections.
Voters will cast ballots for presidential, parliamentary, and local offices at the same time. That’s a first for the country’s 20-year-old democracy.
AUDIO: [Indonesian Transportation, sound of speedboat]
Officials used motorbikes, speedboats, planes, horses and even elephants to transport ballot boxes. They went to every corner of the 3,000 mile long group of islands.
A record 245,000 candidates are vying for public office in the Muslim-majority nation.
At the top of the ticket, incumbent President Joko Widodo is trying to fend off a challenge from a former army general in a repeat of their 2014 electoral contest.
U.S. missionaries held in Laos—Next we go to the nearby Southeast Asian nation of Laos. There three American missionaries remain under arrest.
Wyoming-based Vision Beyond Borders confirmed the detentions on Friday. It said police took two men and a woman during a visit to villages in the northwestern part of the country. All three carried gospel tracts and MP3 players loaded with Scripture and other material for villagers.
The region they were visiting is known for being a particularly difficult place for Christians.
Measles outbreak in Madagascar—On to Madagascar. That’s where health workers are scrambling to vaccinate children against measles.
AUDIO: [Madagascar child crying]
At least 1,200 children have died in the island nation’s largest-ever measles outbreak. Officials have confirmed more than 100,000 cases of the virus since the outbreak began in September.
Over 40 percent of Madagascar’s residents are not vaccinated against measles. But health officials blame poverty for the low rates. Rampant malnutrition also plays a role. According to the World Health Organization, half of Madagascar’s children are malnourished. That makes them especially susceptible to deadly complications from the disease.
Fighting forced conversions—Now to Pakistan, where religious minorities are fighting for protective legislation. They want to protect women and girls from forced conversion to Islam.
Earlier this month, a Pakistani court dismissed a case brought by Hindu parents who said two men abducted their daughters. The court ruled the girls were 18 and 19, despite birth certificates proving they were younger. The court also ruled they left home and married the men of their own free will.
Rights groups have documented dozens of forced conversions in Pakistan so far this year. Those cases included a Christian wife and mother whose husband turned to social media to beg for her return.
Fuel removed from Fukushima—Next we go to Japan. There workers have started to remove atomic fuel from the reactors at Fukushima.
AUDIO: [Japan workers suiting up, walking stairs]
Three of the nuclear plant’s six reactors suffered meltdowns in 2011 after an earthquake and tsunami. This is the first time the Tokyo Electric Power Company has been able to remove some of the cooled rods.
Due to high radiation levels, technicians used remote-controlled equipment to lift the rods from a storage pool inside one of the reactor buildings. The entire operation will take two years to complete.
The company expects to spend the next 40 years fully dismantling the plant.
AUDIO: [Jerusalem procession]
Palm Sunday in Jerusalem—And finally, we end today in Jerusalem. Thousands of Christians marked the start of Holy Week on Sunday by walking through the city waving palm branches. The traditional procession started at the Church of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives and ended in the Old City.
That’s this week’s World Tour. For WORLD Radio, I’m Mindy Belz.