Though it’s based right here in Asheville, WORLD magazine, one of the country’s oldest Christian news magazines, sends reporters to locales all over the globe, including war-wracked hot spots.
“Obviously the Middle East has been a big one in the past few years: I’ve made four trips to Iraq. We’ve been to Jordan, Israel. We’ll probably be in Afghanistan more coming up,” Editor Mindy Belz says. “We’ve focused a lot on Africa,” she adds. “Under the radar, the Bush administration and the U.S. military have been quite active there.”
Conflict zones are a key part of the magazine’s beat, Belz says. “Around the world, we want to look at whatever the circumstances are, broadly speaking, but also focus on minorities—which Christians are in much of the Middle East—and their struggle for religious freedom, amidst the focus on war, famine and all the other things that should concern us.”
One recent topic of particular emphasis for WORLD, which started in 1986 and publishes biweekly, has been the plight of Iraqi Christians, a topic that, Belz says, has been missing from much coverage of violence in the region.
“I was there in 2003, 2004, during the war, embedded with an Army unit in a combat hospital,” she recalls. “It became too difficult in 2005 and ‘06 to go to some of those areas. What we were looking at was a story that wasn’t really being told in the media: what was happening to the Iraqi Christians in Nineveh. It’s really an ancient homeland—I’ve been in churches there that were built in 200 A.D. Most of us don’t even really think about Iraq like that.”
During the last two years, WORLD published a series of articles on the issue, as many Iraqi Christians were forced by violence and persecution to flee to Syria and other countries in the region.
“We have tried to focus on Iraq’s minorities, which also include Yezidis”—a tribal group—“and a tiny, tiny Jewish population, and just reveal the situation for them,” Belz says.
The series came as a surprise to many readers.
“Churches tend to be pretty good at networking, but the Iraq situation is unlike others I’ve seen in Africa or Bosnia, where you had a lot of international aid groups” paying attention, she notes. “In Iraq, the word we tend to get is focused on Baghdad or the military. It’s hard to actually get the Iraqi focus. We assume Iraqis are used to having bombs go off in the street. They’re not. They’re used to going to work and sending their children to school like the rest of us.”
Belz views WORLD‘s reporting role as inextricably tied with its religious mission.
“In a lot of ways, the essence of the gospel Jesus preached is telling news,” she says. “What you see in the hard situations of the world is the fallenness, the brokenness of man, and you also see the way in which the teachings of Jesus can break through, bring hope. Not always: The world is a bitter place. But that’s what you’re looking for, whether it’s the way believers are helping each other or their Muslim neighbors, and if that’s not working, why not? All of this is compelled by the idea of Jesus sending people out to tell the story.”
Info: WORLD Magazine, 85 Tunnel Road, Asheville NC 28805 (232-5415 or 800-951-6397; www.worldmag.com).