An ambitious young man and his tithing :-)

November 30, 2012 by admin  
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A rich young man counting his money

W.A. Criswell tells of an ambitious young man who told his pastor he’d promised God a tithe of his income.

They prayed for God to bless his career.

At that time he was making $40.00 per week and tithing $4.00.

In a few years his income increased and he was tithing $500.00 per week.

He called on the pastor to see if he could be released from his tithing promise, it was too costly now.

The pastor replied,

“I don’t see how you can be released from your promise, but we can ask God to reduce your income to $40.00 a week, then you’d have no problem tithing $4.00.”

 

- fwd: samuel machado

 

Iran Pastor Nadarkhani thanks supporters for release from prison

November 30, 2012 by admin  
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Iran, November 28, 2012: Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who faced the death penalty for “apostasy” but was recently released, has thanked those who had prayed and petitioned on his behalf during his imprisonment for nearly three years, BosNewsLife monitored Wednesday, November 28.

In just released comments, he told supporters, “It is the opportunity for me to share about what the Lord did for me and to thank you because you supported me by your prayers, you supported my family in a very difficult time.”

Nadarkhani made the remarks this month as a special guest speaker at the national conference of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a Britain-based advocacy group that closely followed his case.

“My prayer is I ask the Lord to bless you for what you did for me as a small member of the body of Christ,” he told participants at the gathering in London titled ‘For Such a Time as This’.

“Today my presence here is the will of God and the result of what your prayers did for me,” said Nadarkhani. His family stayed behind but CSW told BosNewsLife that he will “shortly be returning to his family in (the city of) Rasht.”

Death sentence

Pastor Nadarkhani also spoke at four services at Holy Trinity Brompton church this month, CSW said.

The church leader was sentenced to death for “apostasy”, the word used for “abandoning Islam” in 2010 but released on September 8 this year after a court appearance in which he was unexpectedly acquitted of the charge but found guilty of evangelizing Muslims.

Though the court sentenced him to three years imprisonment, he was released as he was deemed to have already served his time.

Iranian officials have denied wrongdoing and accused the 35-year-old married father with two children, of being “a Zionist” and “criminal”and said their actions are aimed at defending “Islamic values”.

Despite the reported difficulties there may be at least as many as 100,000 devoted evangelical Christians in Iran, many of them former Muslims, according to mission groups.

Large movement

Pastor Nadarkhani’s congregation, which has hundreds of members, is part of the Church of Iran, one of the largest evangelical house church movements in the country,

In several letters obtained by BosNewsLife, the pastor made clear that he wasn’t surprised he had been prosecuted by the authorities of strictly Islamic Iran.

Nadarkhani said the Bible tells Christians to expect persecution. The “Word of God tells us to expect to suffer hardship and dishonor for the sake of His Name. Our Christian confession is not acceptable if we ignore this statement, if we do not manifest the patience of the Lord in our sufferings,” he wrote.

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas told BosNewsLife that Pastor Nadarkhani’s most recent “testimony” shows his “faith and perseverance, and of his love for God, for his family and for his nation.”

Thomas said the pastor’s “quiet courage, integrity and lack of recrimination cannot fail to have inspired anyone who heard him to deepen their own commitment to their faith.”

- bosnewslife

Suicide bombing at Barracks Church; anti-Christian riots in Nigeria

November 30, 2012 by admin  
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At least 11 people have been killed in a suicide bombing at a church inside a military barracks in Kaduna state, while elsewhere in Nigeria, an allegation of blasphemy prompted anti-Christian riots.

The Nigerian military said the church attack was "an embarrassment"

The Nigerian military said the church attack was "an embarrassment"

Nigeria, November 27, 2012: The attack on St Andrew’s Protestant Church in Jaji happened around midday on Sunday (25 November) during a service.

First, a bus was driven into the wall of the church building and exploded; around ten minutes later, a car blew up outside the church.

A military spokesman said:

The first blast caused no casualties and curious worshippers gathered around the scene looking at the debris … and that was when the second blast happened.

It appears that the vehicles were driven into the barracks through the bush to evade the military checkpoints. The spokesman said that the incident was “surprising and an embarrassment”.

Officials said that 11 people were killed and 30 were injured, but several witnesses at the scene put the death toll at around 50.

Militant Islamist group Boko Haram is suspected of carrying out the atrocity.

Christians in Kaduna state, which is in central Northern Nigeria, have previously been targeted. At least seven people were killed and dozens injured when a suicide bomber drove an explosive-laden vehicle into a church in the Malali neighbourhood during a service on 28 October.

Blasphemy accusation

Christians have also come under attack by Muslims in the town of Bichi in Kano state. Violence was sparked by an accusation of blasphemy against a non-native Christian tailor, Chibuke, who accidentally mispronounced the name for a popular outfit while talking with a Muslim neighbour; he inadvertently said, “the prophet has come to the market”.

Muslims accused Chibuke of deliberately blaspheming against Islam and launched a violent response. Armed with cutlasses, knives and other weapons, they rampaged through the town, attacking Christians and their property.

Residents said that four Christians, including Chibuke, were killed, although only two deaths have been officially confirmed.

Seven churches, eight shops and a house were torched.

Kano police have arrested 22 suspects in connection with the violence.

- barnabas team

Young Indian and Filipino win global faith film ‘Oscars’

November 30, 2012 by admin  
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If even only one film had the power to turn one person’s ignorance into understanding it would be worth it.

Young Indian and Filipino win global faith film 'Oscars'United Kingdom, November 28, 2012: Congratulations to young film makers Charles Andrew Flamiano from the Philippines, Liat Har-Gill from Israel, and Mudit Muraka from India for winning the Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s 2012 global film competition, Faith Shorts.

The three winners received their awards at 195 Piccadilly, the home of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) in front of over 200 guests including Tony Blair, members of the entertainment and film industry, religious leaders, and experts from Wikipedia, Youtube and Google.

Host of the event Julie Etchingham said,

“These films truly give young people a voice in a world where they can often feel drowned out – and an opportunity to use their personality and creativity to express their faith and what it means to them. They challenge stereotypes, provoke thought – and most importantly encourage tolerance and compassion.

If even only one film had the power to turn one person’s ignorance into understanding it would be worth it. But these films have the potential to reach many more, and to foster a network of respect among young people from all backgrounds”.

Winner in the 14-17 year old category, Charles Andrew Flamiano, who is a 16 year old student from General Santos City, Philippines, made an emotional film “Letting Go, Letting God”. The winning film focuses on putting trust in God when faced with an adversity like illness.

Commenting on the news that he had won in his category, Charles Andrew Flamiano said: “This award has been the greatest thing which has ever happened to me. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to receive this award and to see this very lovely place. I would like to thank the judges for selecting my film my class mates who served as cast and crew and my family and my school for nurturing my faith since elementary years.”

15 year old student, Mudit Muraka, from New Delhi, won the Face to Faith category for his film “The Mirror”. His film explores the social pressures teenagers around the world face today. Commenting on the news that he’d won his category, Mudit said:

“This is really amazing and I am overwhelmed. Thank you to my school, my principal and family. Thank you for giving me this platform to express my views on what is such a sensitive and important topic for young people. I hope the Foundation continues its great work. Someday I hope we can live in a world where everyone is free of prejudices and stereotypes and can have their own unique faith and be themselves”.

- tony blair faith foundation

Church groups take Google, Facebook to court

November 30, 2012 by admin  
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The complainants allege that “there are several malicious contents with intent to defame and destroy their reputation.”

Delhi High CourtNew Delhi, November 28, 2012: The Delhi High Court has sought replies from Facebook and Google on a plea filed by two Christian groups, who wanted to remove defamatory articles appeared in three social media sites.

Justice Valmiki Mehta issued notices to Google India Pvt Ltd, its subsidiaries —You Tube and Blogger— and to Facebook on a petition filed by Gospel for Asia, a city-based NGO, and Believers Church.

The court has asked them to reply by January 7.

The complainants allege that “there are several malicious contents with intent to defame and destroy the reputation of the entire organization (church) including its founder Metropolitan Bishop K. P. Yohannan and Fr. Daniel Varghese, Diocesan Secretary of the church.”

“Certain persons with vested interests are continuously trying to malign the reputation of the organization by uploading defamatory content on the internet. The Google and other intermediaries are liable to restrict these contents,” they said.

The plea claimed that their church was serving in more than 13 countries, reaching out to hundreds of thousands of poor and downtrodden people and working at improving their standard of living.

It also cited statements of former presidents, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Patil, appreciating the work of the Church.

- indian express

In Nepal – Christians up by 1 per cent?

November 30, 2012 by admin  
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In 10 years, Catholics and Protestants went from 0.4 to 1.4 per cent of the population, less than estimated in 2011. Hindu rise is attributed to wrong designation. Converts to Christianity are also afraid of declaring their new religion. Two million Nepalis live abroad.

Christians praying in a church in NepalNepal, November 27, 2012: Nepal’s Christians are growing. In ten years, they went from 0.4 per cent to 1.4 per cent in the country of 26 million, this according to the latest census released by the Maoist-controlled government. The findings are the first since Nepal became a secular state in 2007. The latest estimates were from last year. Surprisingly, Hindus grew from 80 to 81 per cent. Muslims remained the same at 4.4 per cent. Buddhists declined instead from 10.7 per cent to 9 per cent.

Nepali Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai unveiled the study. In his address, he stated that no religion should use the results to ask for privileges. “The country is secular and people from all minority religions will enjoy equal status,” he explained. “The government’s programme will focus on women and minorities because they were deprived in the past.”

Various experts and religious leaders criticised the data’s accuracy however, because of imprecise information, especially in relation to religion.

“We believe our population is more than the report claims,” Protestant leader CB Gahatraj said. “The problem is that during the census period, many newly converted Christians were afraid to tell their religion, and so were registered as Hindu.” What is more, “when data collectors didn’t meet the people because they were absent, they simply put them down as Hindu.”

Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) Director General Uttam Narayan Malla disagrees, saying that data collection was all done by the book and that there was no need to doubt its accuracy.

In addition to religion, the census also looked at other important facts. Literacy grew by 10 per cent over 2001. The highest literacy rate is in Kathmandu with 86.3 per cent. The lowest one is in the rural district of Rautahat (Terai) at only 41.7 per cent.

The census also shows that the number of Nepali migrants is up. In ten years, their numbers more than doubled, from 762,000 to more than 1.9 million.

The overall population rose by 14.4 per cent whilst 25 new ethnic groups were recognised.

- asianews

Asif Ibrahim, new chief of the Intelligence Bureau

November 30, 2012 by admin  
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News of Syed Asif Ibrahim’s appointment to the post of Director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has come as a surprise. There are reasons for the eyebrows to be raised- he is the first Muslim to head the Bureau in 125 years of the organization’s history and he is being made the chief by moving four senior officers out of IB.

Syed Asif Ibrahim will be the IB chief from Jan 2013 to Dec 2014

Syed Asif Ibrahim will be the IB chief from Jan 2013 to Dec 2014

New Delhi, November 28, 2012: Born on September 28, 1953 in Kanpur, Ibrahim belongs to 1977 batch of Indian Police Service (IPS). He was assigned to Madhya Pradesh where among other postings he also served in Chambal as SP Gwalior. A journalist of the state tells me that Ibrahim has “reputation of being honest with high integrity.”

He went to Delhi on central deputation in late 1980s and has remained outside his parent state ever since. It is not clear whether he moved to Delhi to join IB or he joined it later.

IB and RAW have been notorious for not hiring Muslims and Sikhs. Late Dr. Omar Khalidi in his famous book “Khaki and Ethnic Violence in India” quoted journalists and government officials that suggested that there has been a deliberate policy to exclude Muslims from “sensitive and strategic services.”

“Most of the intelligence agencies do not mirror the diversity of the national population,” Dr. Khalidi wrote in his book whose second edition was published in 2010.

He also cited a Communalism Combat report of September 1993 that quoted the Union Minister of State for Home confirming that there has not been a single Muslim in the RAW and IB personnel. But Former CBI director R. K. Raghavan in an email to Dr. Omar Khalidi confessed that “there are a handful of Muslim officers working for CBI and there are some Muslims in the IB as well.”

Asif Ibrahim is one of those few Muslim officers in the IB. In fact Dr. Khalidi lists Asif Ibrahim along with Javed Gilani as the two Muslims in IB.

What is not clear is exactly when Ibrahim joined IB. Ajit Doval, IB chief from 2004 to 2005 was quoted by the Guardian, “I worked with [Ibrahim] for 20 years.” Which will put the date of his IB induction to 1992. Saikat Datta, who has written on the topic of IB recruitment of Muslim writes in the DNA that “in the early 1990s the IB decided to move away from this unwritten code and brought in Ibrahim as one of its first Muslim officers.” The two statements together will point to 1992-3 as the date when Ibrahim joined IB, it could also be in the aftermath of Babri Masjid demolition.

According to media reports, Ibrahim was at the Kashmir Operations Desk of the IB during the height of the militancy in the state. He is also reported to have handled Maoists, security and cyber security.

From 2007 to 2011 Ibrahim was posted at Indian High Commission in London as Minister (Coordination). Munaf Zeena, Chairman of Council of Indian Muslims (UK)- CIM ,described his relationship with Ibrahim as “luke warm” but that turned to “strong mutual respect for each other” before the end of Ibrahim’s UK posting.

The Hindu curiously called Ibrahim’s posting in UK as being the “IB station chief in London.” As IB is “internal intelligence agency” why would it have a station outside India but if it was not intelligence posting why would he come back to IB? There seems to be some truth to The Hindu’s claim as present Minister (Coordination) at Indian High Commission, Sukhdev Singh Sidhu also comes to this position from the IB.

In an email to TwoCircles.net Zeena recalled Ibrahim being helpful by facilitating meetings at short notice and listening and finding ways to solve problems in the matters that Zeena represented.

Asif Ibrahim in his capacity introduced CIM to number of influential people and also to the Indian High Commissioner which resulted in the High Commissioner visiting North London Muslim Community Centre which showcased achievements of the Indian Muslim community. Zeena described Ibrahim as a “lateral thinker” who is “aware of different interest groups and dangers it poses to fairness and justice.”

The Hindu report also credits Ibrahim for being “ the first one to have a clear sense of the whole Indian Mujahideen movement within the organisation.”

This is another interesting comment, rise and fall of “Indian Mujahideen” which many consider to be a figment of imagination of the IB, happened from 2007 to 2011 which coincides with Ibrahim’s stay in the UK. Was Ibrahim serving the High Commission in UK or working on Indian Mujahideen Desk for IB? May be we will never know.

The manner of Ibrahim’s rise to the organization’s top has also raised quite a few eyebrows. Indian bureaucracy is a big believer in the idea of seniority, the date of joining is more important than the merit. To make Ibrahim the chief, four IPS officers senior to him in IB were transferred out of the organization.

Indian Muslims that see IB and police harassing the community in the name of terrorism will not find it reassuring that a Muslim have been made the IB chief. When we have living breathing examples of innocent people who have been acquitted after spending as much as 14 years in jail on the false charges of terrorism, nothing less than a complete overhaul of intelligence and anti-terrorism institutions will be sufficient.

Will the presence of Syed Asif Ibrahim at the helm of affairs of India’s premier intelligence agency make any difference for the Muslims of India? Dr. Omar Khalidi wrote in his book, “a handful of Muslims here and there could hardly prevent the IB’s raid on renowned seminary, the Nadwa in Lucknow in 1994.” Still I believe, a representation should be made to the new IB chief, not just by Muslim but all those who are concerned about IB functioning, raising the concerns about pattern of illegal detention on false evidence that do not stand a chance in the court of law but still able to destroy the lives of hundreds and keep millions in an environment of fear. Also, congratulate Ibrahim for breaking a glass ceiling for indian Muslims that was in force for over 125 years.

- tcn

Why is it so hard to be kind?

November 29, 2012 by admin  
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A car salesman handing over the keys of an orange classic convertible car

Every so often, you have a small experience in business that teaches big lessons about what really separates winners from losers. I had one of those experiences a few weeks ago, and I think the story is worth telling, not because it is so exciting or dramatic, but because it is so true to how the world really works — and because it underscores how those of us who think about business often make things more complicated than they are.

So here’s the story…

Two weeks ago, my father turned 75. I wanted to give him a special gift to mark the milestone, and I got an idea. How does a red-blooded American male do something nice for his Dad? Why, he buys him a Cadillac, of course! So I called my father, whose 2001 Cadillac was showing its age, and gave him the news: You visit the showroom, pick the model, negotiate the price (that’s half the fun, right?) and I’ll take care of the rest.

He was thrilled. So he drove his old Cadillac to the dealer, test-drove the new models, chose the options he wanted, and started talking price. Towards the end of those discussions, he reminded the dealer that he’d received a $1,000 customer-loyalty discount in the mail, which he planned to apply to the car. This was on a Friday afternoon. Turns out, the dealer told him, the loyalty discount had expired — on Thursday, less than 24 hours before the visit. “But I assume you’ll honor it anyway,” my father said. “I’m a loyal Cadillac customer.” Sorry, the dealer told him, but the terms are the terms.

Needless to say, that reaction stalled the conversation. My father drove away, a little confused and very disappointed, and decided to look around more — not at other Cadillac dealers, but at other brands. The next Friday, he drove by a Buick dealership and decided to stop in. A Buick Lacrosse — which, it turns out, is a super-popular model right now — caught his eye, and he struck up a conversation with the dealer. He told the story of his expired loyalty certificate. The dealer checked the computer and confirmed that the certificate had indeed expired. “But no problem,” he said, “we’ll honor it. We’ll knock a thousand bucks off whatever price we agree to.”

Impressed, my father decided to take the Lacrosse for a ride. He liked the experience, but he told the dealer he wished he had stopped by earlier in the day, so he could drive it longer. “Then take the car with you for the weekend,” the dealer said. “Bring it back on Monday and we’ll go from there.”

It was a great plan, until Monday rolled around and my father found himself being rushed not to the dealer but to the hospital, with what turned out to be a medical problem that required surgery (He’s doing great now, thanks.) As he was lying in his hospital bed, thinking about whatever it is we think about in these moments, he realized that the Buick Lacrosse was sitting in his garage! So he called the dealer from the hospital and asked how he could get the car back. “Don’t worry about the car,” he said. “Just get better.” And the next morning, what should arrive at the hospital but a lovely bouquet of flowers and a nice note from the Buick dealer!

So here’s the first question: Which car do you think my father bought? If you said the Buick Lacrosse, you would be correct. Here’s the second question: Since that purchase, what do you think one my father’s favorite topics of conversation with friends, associates, and me has been? If you said, the incredible treatment he received from the Buick dealer, you would be correct again.

Now here’s the third question: Why is it so rare for businesspeople to behave like the Buick dealer, and so common for businesspeople to behave like the Cadillac dealer? It’s a mystery to me, but there’s nothing mysterious about the results of those contrasting behaviors. Success today is about so much more than just price, quality, reliability — pure economic value. It is about passion, emotion, identity — sharing your values.

Nobody is opposed to a good bottom-line deal — “cold beer at a reasonable price,” in the immortal words of Bruce Springsteen, who prefers his Cadillacs pink. But what we remember and what we prize are small gestures of connection and compassion that introduce a touch of humanity into the dollars-and-cents world in which we spend most of our time. Translation: The ROI on that bouquet of flowers and the thought behind them was pretty darn high.

———————————————————————-

Last spring, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos gave the Baccalaureate address to Princeton University’s Class of 2010. He told a little story of his own, about how a 10-year-old Jeff Bezos showed his grandparents how smart he was, in a way that upset his grandmother. His grandfather pulled young Jeff aside. “My grandfather looked at me,” the now-billionaire CEO recalled, “and after a bit of silence, he gently and calmly said, ‘Jeff, one day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever.’”

That sounds like a good takeaway from the story of my father’s new car. What is it about business that makes it so hard to be kind? And what kind of businesspeople have we become when small acts of kindness feel so rare?

- fwd: joe dcruz

New centre for interfaith dialogue opens in Vienna, some ripples over Saudi sponsor

November 29, 2012 by admin  
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Named after Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, the centre is designed to advance understanding between religions through educational reform and funding as well health campaigns in poor countries. Cardinal Tauran stressed the importance of religious freedom for everyone, everywhere. Saudis are criticised for promoting dialogue abroad and banning other religions at home. The ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople calls for a leap from dialogue to loving one another.

Heads of various religions at the new centre for interfaith dialogue in ViennaAustria, November 27, 2012: “The eyes of the world” are on the centre. They expect to see a place of dialogue that promotes “religious freedom in all its aspects, for everybody, for every community, everywhere,” said Card Jean-Louis Tauran after the opening ceremony of the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) in Vienna. Named after the Saudi king, the centre is also co-sponsored by Spain and Austria.

The KAICIID wants to be a place to build bridges between religions, and promote greater understand between faiths. It will be run by nine people, three Muslims, three Christians, a Jew, a Hindu and a Buddhist. Fr Miguel Ayuso Guixot, Secretary-General of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, is one of the three Christian members and will represent the Holy See.

Meetings and seminars were held yesterday with discussions focusing on certain points, such as revising textbooks with regards to the way they present religions; health campaigns in poor countries; and study programmes for religious leaders in Vienna.

“The aim is to promote acceptance of other cultures, moderation and tolerance,” said Fahad Sultan Al-Sultan, representative of the Saudi king.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal explained that the centre wants to promote peace in the world and serve humanity by bringing “peace and understanding to religions.” Too often, “Religion has been the basis for many conflicts,” he said.

Saudi involvement in interfaith dialogue is recent, following the attack against the Twin Towers on 9 September 2001 by mostly Saudi terrorists.

Since then, King Abdullah has taken measures against the clash of civilisations and sponsored a number of interfaith meetings. In 2008, he was behind one such meeting in Madrid. After that, he visited Benedict XVI in Vatican.

At home, he has also pursued some tentative reforms, but they are slow. In fact, Al-Faisal Minister described his country’s actions as a “long march” towards cautious reform.

There is however a major stumbling block in Saudi Arabia, namely that no religion other than Islam is allowed in the country. Any display in public or in private of non-Muslim religious symbols could lead to jail or expulsion.

The double standard-dialogue abroad and repression at home-did generate some criticism, first of all in Austria.

During the centre’s inauguration, Muslim liberals met in front of the venue to criticise human rights violations in Saudi Arabia.

Austria’s Green Party expressed doubts about the Saudi kingdom’s intentions in promoting the centre, which it will finance for the first three years, whilst at the same time funding many mosques in Europe where Wahabism, radical and warlike Islam, is preached.

During their address, Saudi representatives yesterday said that the message of dialogue would also be promoted at home.

In his address, Cardinal Tauran noted that “This Centre presents another opportunity for open dialogue on many issues, including those related to fundamental human rights, in particular religious freedom in all its aspects, for everybody, for every community, everywhere.”

“In this regard,” he continued, “you will understand that the Holy See is particularly attentive to the fate of Christian communities in countries where such a freedom is not adequately guaranteed. Information, new initiatives, aspirations, and perhaps also failures will be brought to our attention.

Thus, it “will be the task of the Centre-and when possible with the cooperation of other organizations-to verify their authenticity and to act consequently, in order that our contemporaries not be deprived of the light and the resources that religion offers for the happiness of every human being.”

For the prelate, “Believers have to work for and to support all that favours the human person in his material, moral and religious aspirations. So three attitudes are required: 1) respect of the other in his/her specificity; 2) mutual objective knowledge of the religious tradition of each other, particularly through education; and 3) collaboration in order that our pilgrimage towards the Truth be realized in freedom and  serenity.”

UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon was in attendance Monday as one of the guests of honour, and spoke words of encouragement.

The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I was present as well. In his address, he urged those present “to move from prejudice to good will; from good will to knowledge; from knowledge to understanding; from understanding to recognise the breath of God on each human rights, feeling love for each individual.”

“Tonight,” he added, “is a powerful statement to the world that harmony is better than conflict to solve problems.”

- asianews

New mayor of Indonesian city vows to implement Sharia

November 29, 2012 by admin  
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This map of Indonesia shows the percentage of Christians in the country’s various provinces

This map of Indonesia shows the percentage of Christians in the country’s various provinces

Indonesia, November 27, 2012: The new mayor of a city in West Java, Indonesia, has vowed to implement sharia to honour a pledge he made to Muslim leaders who backed his election campaign.

Budi Setiawan announced on 19 November that Tasikmalaya’s bylaws would be based on Islamic law in matters of customs and behaviour. The mayor said that he had received “strong backing from Muslim leaders” and wanted to keep the “personal commitment” he had made to them.

His plans for the south-eastern city have been met with criticism and popular dissent. Previous attempts by the Tasikmalaya authorities to introduce sharia law have also been opposed; it has been under consideration since 2009, with proponents pointing to the fact that the city’s population is overwhelmingly Muslim.

Earlier this year, a proposal to impose the veil for all women, including foreigners and non-Muslims, and form a “moral police” sparked controversy. Then Mayor Syarif Hidayat denied that there would be a strict application of sharia; he said that non-Muslims would not be forced to practise specific Islamic morals but that there were some “customs” that all would be bound to respect.

Eva Kusuma Sundari, a national politician, condemned his plan, saying that laws inspired by sharia were “unconstitutional and discriminatory”.

Sharia law is nevertheless spreading in Indonesia. Aceh is the only one of the 32 provinces where it is officially permitted, but many others use it as the inspiration for their ordinances; since 2003 at least half have enacted their own variations of sharia, some of which apply to Christians as well as Muslims. The national government has refused to intervene, claiming that the laws deal only with “public order”.

The increased Islamisation of some areas is making the Christian minority increasingly vulnerable as Muslims become more intolerant and extremist.
In other parts of West Java, Christians are under growing pressure from both the authorities and Islamist groups. In Bogor, the mayor has illegally sealed off GKI Yasmin Church and refused to comply with a Supreme Court ruling that it be reopened. Filadelfia Batak Christian Protestant Church’s building in Bekasi has also been closed. Both churches have come under attack by extremist groups.

- barnabas team

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