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REDLANDS, Calif. — New research released Tuesday by Mission Aviation Fellowship analyzes 364 isolated areas whose inhabitants are considered the hardest to reach for evangelistic work and social services.

Of the world's 20 "least-reached" ethnic groups, 15 were in Asia, including five each in Afghanistan (Hazara, Pashtun, Tajik, Turkeman, Uzbek) and China (Han, Han-Gan, Kham, Salar, Tu) and two in Nepal (Magar, Rai). Other groups on the list were located in Djibouti, Guinea, India, Iraq, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Pakistan.

A broader index of the most difficult areas for Christian missionaries to reach showed 173 in Africa, 97 in Latin America and 94 in Asia. In all, two-thirds of the regions had little or no Christian ministry in place.

The "Operation Access" report was in preparation since 2000. It focuses on "pockets of people who are either forgotten or unreached," and the problems that "prevent or impede peoples' access to the Gospel" such as inaccessible locations, language barriers, economic factors, laws and religious opposition. It also lists any Christian agencies with contacts in each area.

The Protestant fellowship provides 40,000 flights per year, as well as communications and other support services for missionaries and nongovernment organizations in remote areas. It conducted the research to set its own plans for the next 15 to 20 years and help other evangelical groups with strategy.

Copyright © 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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