Window on the World brings alive the culture, history, and traditions of all sorts of different people. With "Fact Files" and "Do You Know?" features, each section brings you information, true stories, maps, and easy-to-use prayer points that take you into homes around the world. See how children live, what they like to do, where they go to school, what they eat and wear, and what they hope and dream.
This revised edition includes new entries for more countries and people groups, with updated information and prayer points from the team at Operation World. It will draw a new generation into learning about the world, reaching out to people, and praying for those who have never heard about Jesus. Through Window on the World, young people and adults alike can discover and pray for the peoples of the world.
About the Author
Jason Mandryk sensed that God was putting in him a more global calling to see the big picture, to analyze the trends, and to communicate the global challenge to the church. Jason coauthored the sixth edition of Operation World with Patrick Johnstone. A regular speaker at mission events, Jason specializes in mission mobilizing, focusing on the biblical basis for mission and weighing strategic considerations for mission today and in the future.
Read an Excerpt
A Land That Longs for Peace
MOUNTAINS AND DESERTS
Afghanistan, a land of great mountains and scorching deserts, is at the heart of Central Asia. Its climate is harsh with hot, dry summers and cold winters. But its people are warm, and they hope for a better future for their beloved country.
For thousands of years, fierce wars were fought in Afghanistan by the ancient Persians, Greeks, and Mongols. In more recent times, the British, Russians, and Americans have all invaded Afghanistan. There's also been continual fighting between the many different tribes and ethnic groups inside the country. Its main peoples are the Pashtun, the Tajiks, Hazara (see page 62), Uzbeks, and Turkmen.
In 1978, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, and many Afghans fled to Iran and Pakistan. The Communist Russians retreated in 1989, and many more Afghans fled the fighting that followed. Although some returned to their own country, many remain in Pakistan.
"Why can't we have peace? What's life like without fighting?" Samir asked his father.
"Sadly, I don't know," his dad replied. "When I was a child, we fought a holy war — or jihad — against the Communists until finally they left. But groups of Afghans went on fighting each other, to get control of the country.
"Eventually the group called the Taliban took over. There was less fighting for a while, but we had to follow their strict Islamic rules. Your mother could not keep her job or even go out of the house without covering herself completely. And there was always supposed to be a man from our family with her. Girls could not attend school at all. Life changed for us and all our neighbours here in Mazar-i-Sharif."
"Is that why some families are scared to send their girls to school now?" Samir asked.
"Yes. Many people fear attacks on girls' schools, which happen from time to time. If we kept all the Taliban rules, we wouldn't watch television or listen to music. Men would all have to grow beards and wear only traditional long shirts and baggy trousers — the shalwar kameez," said Samir's father. "Things are slowly changing back to a freer way of life, but the Taliban's influence is still very strong.
"Western forces helped overthrow the Taliban and begin a new constitution and government for our country. We started to vote for our leaders and laws. But the Taliban remain active, especially now that most foreign troops have left. And in recent years the so-called Islamic State has been causing a lot of problems. Son, I hope you and your friends will come to know a peaceful Afghanistan — one that I have dreamt of, but may never see."
AREA: 251,800 square miles
POPULATION: 36.4 million
MAIN LANGUAGES: Dari, Pashto
MAIN RELIGION: Islam
CHIEF EXPORTS: Carpets, fruit, gemstones, opium
Continuous violence has had a terrible effect on people's lives. In most of the country, there's no clean water or sanitation, nor enough food. Hospitals have been badly damaged, and many doctors have left the country. Healthcare and education are limited, and many of the people in Afghanistan have short lives. Children — especially in rural areas — often die from preventable illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia. Most Afghans alive today have never known a time without war.
Although farmers raise animals and crops for food, it is difficult because of the violence. Landmines have been left all across the countryside, so walking in the fields is dangerous.
One crop that earns a lot of money is poppies, which people use to make the dangerous drug opium. Although opium is mostly sold to other countries, there are now more than one million opium addicts in Afghanistan.
DREAMS OF JESUS
Fifty years ago, probably fewer than fifty Afghans followed Jesus. Today, there are many hundreds of Afghan Christians. But they often keep their faith secret to protect themselves from the opposition of their Muslim family or community. Afghans hear about Jesus through Christian radio, from refugees returning home, and sometimes in their dreams, or through seeing visions of Jesus. There is now a complete Bible in Dari, and parts of the Bible have been translated into Hazaragi and Pashto. None of the other language groups has a complete Bible. Only twenty percent of women can read, and many men can't read either. Afghans need to have a Bible they can listen to, as well as one they can read.
Christians from abroad are trying to show Jesus' love to Afghans by helping blind, disabled, ill, and needy people. Others provide films, radio programmes, apps, websites, and other media resources to teach about Jesus.
TO HELP YOU PRAY FOR AFGHANISTAN
YOU CAN THANK GOD FOR:
* secret Christian believers in Afghanistan, and Afghans who meet Jesus when they flee to other countries.
* the Bible in Dari, and parts of Scripture available in some other languages.
* aid workers who care for the injured, blind, poor, ill, and needy. Many risk their own lives.
YOU CAN ASK GOD:
* to bring peace to this land. People are weary from war and the problems it causes the country, but fighting continues.
* to help people translate the Bible into all the languages of Afghanistan, and to make recordings so that people who can't read can hear the Word of God.
* that people listening secretly to Christian radio will find Jesus and help others find the hope and peace he brings.
* to protect the lives of Afghan and foreign workers who care for people in need.
Land of the Eagle
Albanians call their country "the land of the eagle," or Shqipëri (she-pur-ee). On their flag, they have a double-headed eagle. That's not surprising, because more than two-thirds of Albania is mountainous, and eagles love mountains. Transport through the mountains is difficult because the roads are poor, so most of Albania's people live near the coast. Because of the mountains, only one-quarter of the land can be used to grow crops.
Albania has many natural resources, including chrome, oil, natural gas, copper, and iron — so it could be a rich country. But it's one of Europe's poorest countries. Why is this?
In 1944, Albania became a Communist country. For the next forty-one years, a man named Enver Hoxha ruled Albania. He didn't allow Albanians to travel abroad or to buy things such as cars and fridges. People had little food and no luxuries. In 1967 the Communist government declared Albania "the world's first officially atheistic state," and even made an atheist museum. Muslims and Christians were no longer allowed to worship in their mosques or churches, to pray, or to have religious books. Parents were even forbidden to give their children Muslim or Christian names. The country was difficult to enter, so it became almost completely closed off from the outside world and the Christian good news.
During those difficult times, Christians around the world prayed for Albania. Finally, in 1991, Enver Hoxha's Communist government was forced out. The country became more open, both for its own people to travel outside and for foreigners to enter.
The world was shocked to discover the terrible conditions in Albania. Hospitals were poorly equipped. Many people didn't have enough money to buy food. Starving children filled the orphanages and children's homes, with too few adults to care for them. In the capital, Tirana, there were more donkey-carts and
AREA: 11,100 square miles
POPULATION: 2.9 million
MAIN LANGUAGE: Albanian
MAIN RELIGIONS: Muslim majority, Christian minority, some nonreligious
CHIEF EXPORTS: Iron ore, electricity bicycles than cars. Villages had neither electricity nor running water.
DO YOU KNOW?
In the twentieth century, one Albanian Christian became famous around the world — a Catholic missionary known as Mother Teresa. She showed God's love to many poor, homeless, ill, and dying people in India, taking care of them in their time of need.
LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS
Christians abroad wanted to share Jesus' love with Albanians and started to take in food and medical supplies. The new government allowed both Albanian Christians and Muslims to worship again and to talk about their faith. It is now more than twenty-five years since the end of the Communist rule, and the number of Albanians who want to follow Jesus has increased. Today there are many churches led by Albanian pastors in the cities, and some in smaller towns and villages too. But there are still many towns and villages without a church. Sometimes this is because church leaders or members have moved away. Albanian evangelists and foreign missionaries are trying to share the gospel throughout the country, but much work and prayer is needed.
Because the Bible had been forbidden for such a long time, many Christians knew little about its stories and teaching. But soon after Communist rule ended, Christians worked hard to make modern translations that many Albanians are now reading.
Because Albania has so many poor and needy people, Christians not only tell others about Jesus, but also put love into action with practical help and care for people. Christians from many countries help look after children in the orphanages and share the good news of Jesus with Albanians. Several thousand Albanians, many of them young people, now follow Jesus.
FAR FROM HOME
"When will my mother come to get me, Aunt Marjeta?" Dritan asked. Marjeta looked down with compassion at her neighbour's little boy, who had come to live with her three months earlier. His mother had gone away to Italy to find work. There were no more jobs in their town, and she needed money to care for herself and Dritan.
"I miss her so much," said Dritan, starting to cry. Marjeta took the young boy into her arms to comfort him. "Your mother loves you very much, and misses you dearly. She will be back once she finds a good life for you with her in Italy. Times in Albania are hard. We must love one another and pray to God for help to make it through," she said.
More than half of the Albanian people now live outside of Albania. Nearby Kosovo and Macedonia have large Albanian populations, and most of them do not know about Jesus. Many Albanians have gone to find work in Italy, Greece, and many other countries. Some women, like Dritan's mother, work as cleaners, waitresses, or caregivers for the elderly. They try to send money back home to their families.
TO HELP YOU PRAY FOR ALBANIA
YOU CAN THANK GOD FOR:
* answering the prayers of Christians to open Albania to the gospel.
* every Albanian who follows Jesus.
* the translation of the Bible into modern Albanian.
YOU CAN ASK GOD:
* to help Christians share his love with everyone in Albania and to care for people in practical, helpful ways.
* for the Albanians in Kosovo and Macedonia to hear the truth about Jesus.
* to protect and encourage families who are living apart while one or both parents work abroad.
* for Albania to create more jobs so that families can stay together and the country can improve.
* to help Christian leaders care for their congregations and teach them to follow God's Word.
The Fire Guardians
Farzali lives in the city of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, a country on the Caspian Sea. His people, the Azerbaijani, are almost all Muslims. They live mainly in Azerbaijan and Iran, with some in nearby countries, such as Iraq, Turkey, and Russia. A few smaller groups of Azerbaijani live in countries even farther away. But more live in Iran than in any other country, including Azerbaijan.
A few Christian people also live in Azerbaijan alongside the Muslim Azerbaijani. One part of Azerbaijan — Nagorno-Karabakh — is also claimed by their neighbour, Armenia. The Armenians are traditionally Orthodox Christians. The Azerbaijanis and Armenians fight over who should have control of that land. During the 1990s, there was a war between the Azerbaijani and the Armenians, and many people fled the country.
ARE WE MUSLIMS?
Farzali was excited when his friend Babek invited him to his house after school. "I'll ask my mother, but I'm sure I can come," he said.
"I used to love going to Johan's house to play," Babek said. "But my mother doesn't let me go there any longer, because his family are Dutch Christians. His father is a pastor at an international church. My mother said they would try to make me a Christian too. But Johan is a great friend. Do you think it's really so bad to be a Christian?"
Farzali frowned. "I think it would be terrible. My great-grandfather says it's unforgivable for an Azerbaijani to become a Christian," he said.
"Why do they make such a fuss?" Babek asked. "My family all say we're Muslims, but we never go to the mosque."
Farzali wasn't sure whether his family were Muslims or not. His great-grandfather certainly was. He read the Qur'an every evening. But his father talked mostly about politics and money, not about being a Muslim. He said that, because of all the oil, a few people were very rich here in Baku — but most Azerbaijanis remained poor.
The next day, Farzali went with his father and great-grandfather to visit his uncle's farm. Farzali loved his great-grandfather. He was more than a hundred years old, but still very active.
"Today's a special day, when we jump over a bonfire three times. We imagine that our sicknesses are falling into the fire, and that it gives us strength for the next year," explained Farzali's uncle. "Before the Azerbaijani became Muslim, we used to worship fire and our ancestors. For this reason, the ancient Greeks called our ancestors 'fire guardians.' Now, we still keep up some of the old ceremonies in our holidays."
NUMBERS: Around 40 million
MAIN COUNTRIES: Iran (more than 20 million) and Azerbaijan (Azerbaijani make up much of the population); also Iraq, Turkey, Russia, and Georgia
MAIN LANGUAGE: Azerbaijani
MAIN RELIGION: Islam
MAIN OCCUPATIONS: Oil and natural gas industries
Farzali took a running start and leaped over the small fire. Even his great-grandfather hopped over the flames. Farzali wondered if the fire could really take away their sickness and pain.
Farzali's cousin wore a traditional fire-red dress for the first part of her wedding celebrations. Farzali felt confused. He wondered which was best to follow: the old Azerbaijani religion, Islam, or Christianity? Surely they couldn't all be true?
The Azerbaijani want their souls to be made clean and pure. But only Jesus can do that for them. Few Azerbaijani people have heard about Jesus, but now the Bible is available in their language, in print and online. The Azerbaijani can also listen to Christian radio programmes in their language. Some Azerbaijani Christians have composed special music, literature, and poetry so they can worship Jesus in the Azerbaijani language and style.
During the last thirty years, the number of Azerbaijani Christians has increased. Today there are Azerbaijani Christians in Azerbaijan, mainly in the capital, Baku. They usually meet in house churches and hope one day to see churches in every town and village in Azerbaijan. There are perhaps even more Azerbaijani Christians in Iraq, and a few in Iran. But it's very difficult for churches to register and meet together legally in public places or in church buildings, and Azerbaijanis often face persecution for following Jesus.
Mud volcanoes, Azerbaijan
DO YOU KNOW?
There is a site on a hillside near Baku called Fire Mountain, where a wall of fire has been burning for more than sixty-five years. Natural gas seeps out from the ground, so the flames never go out.
TO HELP YOU PRAY FOR THE AZERBAIJANI
YOU CAN THANK GOD FOR:
* Azerbaijani Christians and the few Azerbaijani churches, meeting mostly in homes.
* the Bible and other Christian resources in the Azerbaijani language.
* the chance for Azerbaijani in Azerbaijan to hear about Jesus more openly there than in some nearby countries.
YOU CAN ASK GOD:
* to send Christians to Azerbaijanis, wherever they live, to share what the Bible says.
* for every Azerbaijani to meet Jesus and follow him.
* to show the Azerbaijani that only Jesus can make them pure and clean.
* to help Azerbaijani Christians share their Christian music, poetry, and literature with more people.
From the Island of the Gods
A BEAUTIFUL ISLAND
Anne thought Bali was the most beautiful place she'd ever seen. It had sandy beaches, brightly coloured flowers, rice fields of green and gold, and thousands of temples. She could see the mountains in the distance — some of them were volcanoe
Anne had even seen a performance of the graceful Legong dances, which tell the stories of gods and demons, witches, and kidnapped princesses. The dancers wore dresses of gold, scarlet, and green, with headdresses glittering with gold, and bright, tropical flowers in their shiny black hair. All the Balinese people she met had such gentle, smiling faces.
No wonder that every year more than four million tourists visit Bali, a small island in the long necklace of Indonesian islands. Visitors often call it "the island of the gods" or "the island of a thousand temples."
There are thousands of Hindu temples on Bali. The Balinese had many gods before they became Hindu. In Bali, Hindus say they worship one god (Brahman, or Hyang Widhi) who takes many forms.
Once a year, the Balinese have a religious festival called Nyepi: a day of silence, fasting, and meditation. They bring out statues of their gods to be washed clean in the sacred waters of the sea. They also make bamboo statues called ogoh-ogoh that look like evil spirits, parade them around, and then burn them to get rid of evil influences.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Window on the World"
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Table of ContentsIntroduction
Country and People Group Profiles