TN: Carol singing group attacked. One injured

December 22, 2013 by  
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Carol singing group attackedTamil Nadu, December 20, 2013: Members of Assemblies of God (A.G.) Church were attacked by Hindu Munnani activists in Velayuthampalayam near Karur, Tamil Nadu on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 during Carol sevice rounds, injuring one who had to be admitted to a hospital and causing fear among Christians.

Hindu Munnani is a fundamentalist Hindu organisation based in the state of Tamil Nadu.

During the attack, a 46-year-old Danapal, a believer suffered injuries on his forehead and is admitted to a Government hospital at Karur.

At the intervention of Minorities Commission Chairman, Siswa Prakash, the Elayuthampalayam police have registered case u/s 506 (2), 324 & 294 b of I.P.C. in crime no. 524/13.

Christian Legal Advisor Lawyer Rajendiran is helping the church in legal matters, GCIC reported.

The A.G. Church in Karur is a about-13-years old growing church; with a congregation of about 100 families.

A Carol singing group were also attacked and inhumanely beaten in Pune, Maharashtra on the same day in 2011. The attackers had used sticks and cricket bats, breaking the hands of two parishioners.

– christian today

Hyderabad police book Salman for insulting religion

December 22, 2013 by  
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Hyderabad police book Salman Khan for insulting religion during 'Bigg Boss 7'Andhra Pradesh, December 20, 2013: Police here Friday booked actor Salman Khan for hurting religious sentiment of Muslims in a TV reality show hosted by him on Colors channel.

A case against Salman and producers of the show “Bigg Boss” for insulting a religion was booked under section 295 of the Indian Penal Code at Falaknuma police station in the old city of Hyderabad.

Police Commissioner Anurag Sharma told reporters that the case was booked on the direction of a city court after a petitioner, in his complaint, alleged that the religious sentiments of Muslims were hurt during the show.

“Before proceeding further with the investigations in the case, we have sought legal opinion with regard to the jurisdiction and culpability,” he said.

The police chief said the petition alleged that the show hurt the religious sentiments by depicting “Jannat” (heaven) and “Jahannum” (hell).

Mohammed Fasihuddin had filed a complaint in the court of VIth Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, which directed police to register a case.

– ians

LGBT lobby’s unnatural way of championing gay cause?

December 22, 2013 by  
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Unnatural way of championing the cause of homosexualsDecember 18, 2013: It is a classic case of double standards. When Muslim organizations, rightly or wrongly, opposed the Supreme Court ruling on Shah Bano case in mid-1980s on the plea that the community has its own Personal Law, the entire media and opinion-making class rose in chorus to ask as to how can the apex court ruling be challenged.

The truth is that India has personal laws for followers of different religions and people have right to question that judgement.

But when the same Supreme Court on December 11, 2013 quashed the Delhi High Court ruling of July 2, 2009, which decriminalized the same sex relationship, the whole opinion-making class went on to call it a regressive step. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) activists called December 11 as the black day. The media went all out to back them.

When the politicians – cutting across party lines – initially hesitated in giving their opinion they were criticized by panelists sitting in various television channels.

A day later, political leaders did come out with their stand. Some agreed and some disagreed with the Supreme Court. Once again those who rejected the ruling said that this is an archaic law made by the British over a century back.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with the SC ruling should be temporarily set aside. What is more important is the manner in which these enlightened liberals went on to denounce and brand those who supported the ruling as backward and outdated. How can one be pilloried simply because one supports the ruling of the highest court of the land.

After all there are different opinions on lesbians and gays even in many countries of the West, where there is no such ban. In the Bible belt of the southern part of the United States there still is a huge population opposed to it. Are they all in the Stone Age?

True one has the right to oppose the ruling in public platform. But does it behoove the media to back LGBT agitation against the Supreme Court ruling and dub everyone opposed to it as not fit for this modern world? Is not it the tyranny of the media?

From now onward, the judges will think many times before giving any ruling on controversial issues. After all the Supreme Court is the highest court of the land and custodian and protector of Indian Constitution. If there is some reservations on its ruling, one has the right to disagree. But there should be a way to it. The SC gives its rulings under the Constitutional provisions, as per existing laws. It is for Parliament to make or amend laws.

Now come to what the media in India and the West said about the ruling. May one ask, whether new or old could ever be the criteria for any law. If a century old law – even if a thousand year old – is better than one enacted today, it should be appreciated. So how has this been made a criteria to reject Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. After all most of our laws are more than 150 year old – enacted in 1861. So why are we following them?

Our Constitution is over six decades old while that of the United States over 200 years old. One can debate its merits and demerits and make certain amendments, but can we call the Constitution archaic?

What these ladies and gentlemen failed to understand is that homosexuality is itself a very old practice. It dates back to the time of Prophet Lut (Lot in Old Testament) – or may be even older. The Prophet asked the people of Sodom to desist from such evil practice but they refused. The word sodomy has its origin from there. One can find the reference of sodomy in Old and New Testaments, Quran and other holy books.

So instead of old versus new, the debate should be on whether it is good or bad for health of an individual, society or country. For argument sake just accept that homosexuality is not unnatural, but very much natural.

But then is it not the fact that it contributes immensely to the spread of HIV-AIDS? Who can deny that homosexuals were the first to be inflicted with this disease in the United States?

Almost all the arguments made in the electronic and print media were based on what is happening in the West where gay marriages are being legalized. But may one ask a very simple question: Why should we follow West? Is it the only example of development? And even if we want to follow the West why are we so selective and not follow everything of the West?

Take the example of the United States. There is no need to have a licence for gun. So the country with 30 crore population has, according to some estimates, 31 crore guns. More than 30,000 people die in the gun related violence in that country every year. Why not adopt the same law and be called progressive? After all there is National Rifle Association which strongly opposes any control on gun – even if school-kids and students on campuses are mercilessly mowed down.

Nothing could be more progressive than allow 125 crores Indian to have 125 crores guns. So there would be no problem if millions would die in the gun-related violence every year and class rooms and campuses are splattered with blood.

There is no denying the fact that notwithstanding gay marriages and all those sexual concessions, the United States is ranked among the countries with highest number of rapes. Why in so liberal a society one should have such crime and so many sex-starved people?

If homosexuality is one of the most important factors responsible for the spread of HIV-AIDS why can not a government make a law banning the practice which leads to death of so many people. After all the government spends huge amount every year in protecting its people from such a dreaded diseases. In that way, it has the right to penalize those who are spreading them.

In the name of individual freedom, the liberals have adopted classic double standards. They pressurize the government to ban tobacco as it causes death to lakhs of people every year. Those smoking in public places are even fined as smoking affect the health of passive smokers too. Similarly, there is always pressure on the government to fight the menace of drug.

But when any government bans the sale and production of liquor on the basis of the argument that it is bad for health of individual as well as the society, the same set of people would stand up and question – whether it is at all implementable.

They would plead that the country would lose huge amount in the form of excise duty, but would not take into account even larger amount spent by the government on diseases caused by liquor.

Similarly, if the government tries to control homosexuality because it is unnatural and causes AIDS, it is being criticized for intruding into an individual’s right to freedom. But should not the government allow junkies to go on taking drug at will – as stopping them would be an intrusion into their right to freedom.

After all homosexuality is illegal in about 75 countries of the world. Several of them are more advanced than India and almost on par with the western society.

So how come we will become outdated if we do not de-criminalize it?

– tcn

Myanmar: Religious intolerance alive in Chin state

December 22, 2013 by  
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Naing Ki, the only Christian in a village of Buddhists, says villagers threw bricks at his house after he converted

Naing Ki, the only Christian in a village of Buddhists, says villagers threw bricks at his house after he converted

Myanmar, December 20, 2013: Report from Myanmar’s most impoverished, most remote and most Christian region.

The road to Yaung Laung in Myanmar’s northwestern Chin state winds through cloud-raked mountains, where more than a century ago American missionaries began canvassing the land.

Only 28 households make up this remote village, a three-hour drive from the nearest town of Mindat. Included among those wooden abodes is the house where Naing Ki and his family live, the only Baptists in a village of Chin Buddhists.

That distinction has been difficult for the 28-year-old, whose father founded the village in 1989. Naing Ki had been Buddhist but converted a decade ago after struggling “to find peace of mind” within the dictates of Myanmar’s most widely-followed religion. The conversion was met with hostility from his neighbors.

“They told me that no Christians were allowed in the village and tried to force me to leave,” said Naing Ki, who, fearing retribution from villagers, met with ucanews.com reporters at a spot above Yaung Laung, far away from prying eyes. When he invited a pastor to pray a year after converting, “villagers threw bricks at my house”.

The American Baptist missionary Arthur E Carson began the first wave of proselytizing the largely animist Chin back in 1899. Today around 90 percent of the state, Myanmar’s most impoverished and remote, are Christian. Yaung Laung’s concentration of Buddhists thus makes it an anomaly, and Naing Ki something of a lone wolf.

Amid the coverage of protracted ethno-religious violence in Myanmar over the past year, the tension between its Buddhist and Christian communities has received scant attention.

Although the military has a long and ugly record of attacks on churches and other Christian sites of worship, particularly in Kachin and Karen states, its nefarious presence in Chin state, which the government opened to foreigners only two months ago, has gone largely unnoticed by the outside world. A 2010 investigation by Physicians for Human Rights found evidence of rights violations by the military here that may constitute crimes against humanity, including religious persecution, torture, rape and killings.

More subtle forms of pressure on non-Buddhist communities has also fueled tensions in the region, notably the creation of so-called Na Da La schools run by the Border Affairs Ministry that attract poor Christian children with offers of free education and meals, and requires them to practice Buddhist rituals each day. Pressure from rights groups in recent years has however pushed the government to ease this requirement.

Beyond this, actual violence between civilians in Chin state has been seldom documented.

“The villagers beat my wife and I in 2005 and told us we had no right to stay here,” Naing Ki recalled. He said a Buddhist missionary monk dispatched to the region to counter the Christian missionaries – a practice common to many areas of Chin state – had pressured him to convert back to Buddhism, otherwise he would not be accepted.

Naing Ki has stayed, but he remains persona non grata in the village. Banned from using the communal water pipes and from shopping in village stores, he is forced to make the three-hour journey to Mindat once every few weeks to pick up food supplies. He has slowly developed cordial relations with his immediate neighbor, who often gives him water.

Aside from the instances of violence and discrimination, there is an ominous subtext to Naing Ki’s story. In 2014, Myanmar will conduct its first census in more than two decades. Since his conversion in 2003, local authorities have refused to include the 28-year-old on the family registration list. This means he will not be included in the census.

The plight of Naing Ki goes beyond just a tale of religious persecution. It raises key questions about who does and does not qualify as a Myanmar citizen, an issue that has gained increasing attention with the attacks by Buddhists on Muslims over the past year and the ongoing denial of citizenship for the Muslim Rohingya minority.

That denial of citizenship based on religious or ethnic identity is nothing new in Myanmar, said Matthew Smith, head of Fortify Rights International. With it comes “a cascade of other rights violations, including limiting access to employment, education and healthcare, freedom of movement and other livelihood issues”.

Yet often the conflict here takes more nuanced forms. The Chin are believed to have begun their migration southward from the Tibetan plateau in the ninth century, and planted roots in what is now Chin state some 300 years later. Centuries-old claims to land play a major factor in religious tensions.

Sixteen kms beyond Yaung Laung, the village of Yar Taing Kyne stretches along a narrow road cut into a steep mountainside. Here, animists, Baptists, Buddhists and Catholics mingle comparatively harmoniously. But attempts by Baptist elders to build a church last year were met with resistance from members of the Buddhist community, who said the land earmarked for the church belongs to their ancestors. Perceived evangelizing by Baptist leaders adds to the problem.

“Baptists will attempt to convert people not of a strong religion and will then support them materially, which creates disunity and tension,” said U Aung Kyaw, a former village administrator of Yar Taing Kyne. He added that the situation works both ways: Buddhists also should refrain from building monasteries in Christian villages.

The government has done little to tackle the tensions. Indeed following the Buddhist-Muslim violence of the past year, it has stood accused of direct complicity in attacks on Muslim communities in an effort to sow inter-communal hostilities and thus embolden the military, which has felt threatened by the democratic reforms.

“For the last 60 years the state has pushed a homogenous nationalism onto ethnic areas in a number of ways,” said Smith. “It has stifled political and economic development and led to deadly civil war.”

Chin state’s woeful infrastructure added to its remoteness. Poor roads and blocks on the provision of outside aid and the movement of its people has compounded the problems associated with poverty, and has also allowed these animosities to fester. Locals are angry that in a majority Christian state, a government touting its newfound openness has appointed a Buddhist as the minister for religious affairs.

President Thein Sein’s inability to mend age-old divides between Myanmar citizens is one of the key obstacles to democratic transition, and threatens to become the fuel for conflict well into the future. As the likes of Naing Ki know, the problems don’t stop there – come next year, on government books that will long outlast his own lifetime, he will be officially considered an outsider. With violent campaigns underway to distinguish once and for all which religion qualifies someone as Myanmar, millions of others could join him.

– ucanews

Barnabas briefs: Iran, Afghan & Egypt persecution

December 22, 2013 by  
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IRAN: CHURCH LEADER ON DIALYSIS SENTENCED TO THREE-AND-A-HALF YEARS IN JAIL

Iran: church leader on dialysis sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jailA seriously ill church leader who requires dialysis three times a week has been sentenced to three and a half years in jail.

The Rev. Vruir Avanessian (61), who also has serious heart disease and diabetes, was found guilty of anti-government activities and promotion of ideas contrary to the Islamic Republic ofIran: euphemisms for his Christian ministry.

He was arrested during a raid on a Christmas house church gathering in Tehran on 27 December 2012.

Mr Avanessian is a well-known Christian musician in Iran. He was a pastor in the Assemblies of God Church for 17 years before ill health forced him to retire from full-time ministry.

AFGHAN CONVERT THREATENED WITH DEATH FACING DEPORTATION FROM NETHERLANDS

Christians in AfghanistanAn Afghan convert from Islam to Christianity is facing deportation from the Netherlands after his asylum application was rejected.
Mostafa Najafi, who became a Christian around nine months ago, had to flee Afghanistanafter he was threatened with death – even by his own father – because of his conversion.

Apostasy, leaving Islam, is judicially punishable by death in Afghanistan. Earlier this year,Afghan MPs called in parliament for all converts to Christianity to be killed, in accordance with sharia law.

Mostafa would clearly be in great danger if he was returned to his homeland. But neither is he safe at the immigration camp in the Netherlands; he has been threatened by hard-line Muslims who are also being held there.

EGYPT: THREE CHRISTIANS JAILED FOR MUSLIM DEATH; NO-ONE CHARGED FOR FIVE CHRISTIAN DEATHS

Egypt ChristiansEgyptian Christians have criticised prison sentences issued in connection with an outbreak of violence against their community.

On Sunday (15 December), three Christians were jailed – one for 25 years, the other two for 15 years – for the death of a Muslim, while no-one has even been charged over the deaths of five Christians. At least six Muslims were convicted of vandalising churches and Christian property, and each jailed for either three or five years.

The case relates to an attack on the Christian community in al-Khosous in April. It was the worst outbreak of anti-Christian violence during the presidency of the Islamist Mohammad Morsi.

Beshoy Tamry of the Maspero Youth Union, a Christian activist group, said it was hoped that Christians would receive more equitable treatment following Morsi’s removal, adding, “But today proved that nothing changed. The regime has not changed its system of using the judiciary against Christians.”

– barnabas team

A father writes a letter to his child

December 22, 2013 by  
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Dear Child,
I am writing this to you because of 3 reasons:

A. Life, fortune and mishaps are unpredictable, nobody knows how long he lives. Some words are better said early.

B. I am your father, and if I don’t tell you these, no one else will.

C. What is written is my own personal bitter experiences that perhaps could save you a lot of unnecessary heartaches.

Remember the following as you go through life:

Father & Son1. Do not bear grudge towards those who are not good to you. No one has the responsibility of treating you well, except your mother and I. to those who are good to you, you have to treasure it and be thankful, and ALSO you have to be cautious, because, everyone has a motive for every move. When a person is good to you, it does not mean he really likes you. You have to be careful, don’t hastily regard him as a real friend.

2. No one is indispensable, nothing is in the world that you must possess. Once you understand this idea, it would be easier for you to go through life when people around you don’t want you anymore, or when you lose what/who you love most.

Father & Son3. Life is short. When you waste your life today, tomorrow you would find that life is leaving you. The earlier you treasure your life, the better you enjoy life.

4. Love is but a transient feeling, and this feeling would fade with time and with one’s mood. If your so called loved one leaves you, be patient, time will wash away your aches and sadness.Don’t over exaggerate the beauty and sweetness of love, and don’t over exaggerate the sadness of falling out of love.

5. A lot of successful people did not receive a good education, that does not mean that you can be successful by not studying hard! Whatever knowledge you gain is your weapon in life.One can go from rags to riches, but one has to start from some rags!

Father & Son6. I do not expect you to financially support me when I am old, neither  would I financially support your whole life. My responsibility as a supporter ends when you are grown up. After that, you decide whether  you want to travel in a public transport or in your limousine, weather rich or poor.

7. You honour your words, but don’t expect others to be so. You can be good to people, but don’t expect people to be good to you. If you don’t understand this, you would end up with unnecessary troubles.

8. I have bought lotteries for umpteen years, but I never strike any prize. That shows if you want to be rich, you have to work hard! There is no free lunch!

9. No matter how much time I have with you, let’s treasure the time we have together. We do not know if we would meet again in our next life.

Your Dad

– fwd: vathan shettigar

Deeper Darkness Settles Over North Korea

December 22, 2013 by  
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North Korea ChristiansWashington DC, December 21, 2013: It began with a media frenzy. Six months into Kim Jong-un’s new reign over North Korea, the internet was filled with images and video of the smiling new leader waving to his beloved people. ABC news reported the “youthful supreme leader” was “attempting to forge a new image for himself and his country” by allowing women to wear pants and endorsing banned foods like French fries and pizza. A few months before, on Jan. 1, the newly minted leader of the world’s most militant regime had publicly called for an end to the almost fifty year old confrontation between the two Koreas.

The façade was not to last. Even as we at International Christian Concern pointed out the lack of any significant reforms to the regime’s despotic policy towards religious minorities, the Kim Jong-un government was pumping more resources into expanding its horrific system of political prison camps, known as “Kwan-li-so.” On Dec. 4, Amnesty International released new satellite images of the camps where generations of families, many of them Christian, are sent to starve or work themselves to death. The images revealed that rather than close or curtail the growth of the nightmare camps, Kim Jong-un was working on their expansion.

All of this news though paled in comparison with the sheer brutality of the report ICC received last month on Nov. 11. According to a South Korean news source, at least 80 people were publicly executed in seven cities across North Korea on the same day. Their so-called “crimes” included watching South Korean movies, distributing pornography, and the “possession of Bibles.” At least one of those Bible owners was tied to a post in the center of a sports stadium, a bag placed over their head, as they were torn apart by machine gun fire until their body was “hard to identify afterwards.” Families of the “criminals” were reportedly sent to the Kwan-li-so.

The executions were widely viewed as a move by the only 30-year-old leader to consolidate his grip on the populace. One source intimately familiar with the reclusive nation told ICC, “It just shows that Kim Jong-un is still trying to consolidate power and I think this is an indication of his failure to do so.” As to why Christians were among those executed, the source said, “I am sure all those executed knew information from the outside and [among them] were certainly Christians. The DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea) has always considered Christians their greatest threat.”

Any doubts remaining that Kim Jong-un was determined to secure his position at all costs died last week when the state controlled media announced that Kim’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek, had been publicly removed from his position of authority and executed only days later. Jang was widely believed to be untouchable as the second most powerful figure in the country. Within a week of his execution, massive purges were erasing all references to Jang Song Thaek from North Korea’s history books.

What all of this repression means for Kenneth Bae, a U.S. missionary who recently became the longest serving American prisoner in North Korea since the end of the Korean War, is anyone’s guess. Kenneth is serving out a 15-year sentence of hard labor after being arrested in late 2012 for allegedly trying to overthrow the hyper-paranoid State. Kenneth, who has been described as a “devout Christian,” was providing legal tours into North Korea while conducting quiet humanitarian work. Of course, in a nation where as many as 70,000 Christians are interned in the modern day equivalent of concentration camps for simply being Christians, Kenneth’s sentence is tragically unsurprising.

Yet even as a deeper darkness appears to be settling over North Korea, there is some cause for hope. For the first time ever, and thanks in part to Christian advocates, the United Nations has launched a “Commission of Inquiry” into the atrocities being committed in the country. Its ultimate goal: to conclude if North Korea has committed “crimes against humanity” (a foregone conclusion for many). Chilling testimony given to the commission this year by defectors and survivors of the Kwan-li-so has already raised the profile of North Korean crimes substantially, giving hope that significant international pressure on the regime will soon be brought to bear.

Most notable, and perhaps even more significant in this author’s opinion, is that after 65 years of total war directed at Christianity, an unbelievably determined remnant of believers still free inside the country continues to hold fast to their faith. In late October, new and exceedingly rare footage of underground believers quietly praying and singing in their homes was released by a Christian NGO. The footage, which may have cost some believers the ultimate price to obtain, is emphatic proof that no amount of totalitarianism has been able to completely extinguish the fire that faith ignites.

If China’s current unprecedented revival is any indication, the final death knell of the modern world’s most evil regime (whenever it comes) may herald in an era of spiritual renewal led by a core of Christian leaders whose faith survived insurmountable odds.

One day, Pyongyang may even earn again its old title, “Jerusalem of the East.”

– icc

Rules of Life by Cherie Carter-Scott

December 17, 2013 by  
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‘Rules for being human’

LifeRule One – You will receive a body. Whether you love it or hate it, it’s yours for life, so accept it. What counts is what’s inside.

Rule Two – You will be presented with lessons. Life is a constant learning experience, which every day provides opportunities for you to learn more. These lessons specific to you, and learning them ‘is the key to discovering and fulfilling the meaning and relevance of your own life’.

Rule Three – There are no mistakes, only lessons. Your development towards wisdom is a process of experimentation, trial and error, so it’s inevitable things will not always go to plan or turn out how you’d want. Compassion is the remedy for harsh judgement – of ourselves and others. Forgiveness is not only divine – it’s also ‘the act of erasing an emotional debt’. Behaving ethically, with integrity, and with humour – especially the ability to laugh at yourself and your own mishaps – are central to the perspective that ‘mistakes’ are simply lessons we must learn.

LifeRule Four – The lesson is repeated until learned. Lessons repeat until learned. What manifest as problems and challenges, irritations and frustrations are more lessons – they will repeat until you see them as such and learn from them. Your own awareness and your ability to change are requisites of executing this rule. Also fundamental is the acceptance that you are not a victim of fate or circumstance – ‘causality’ must be acknowledged; that is to say: things happen to you because of how you are and what you do. To blame anyone or anything else for your misfortunes is an escape and a denial; you yourself are responsible for you, and what happens to you. Patience is required – change doesn’t happen overnight, so give change time to happen.

Rule Five – Learning does not end. While you are alive there are always lessons to be learned. Surrender to the ‘rhythm of life’, don’t struggle against it. Commit to the process of constant learning and change – be humble enough to always acknowledge your own weaknesses, and be flexible enough to adapt from what you may be accustomed to, because rigidity will deny you the freedom of new possibilities.

LifeRule Six – “There” is no better than “here”. The other side of the hill may be greener than your own, but being there is not the key to endless happiness. Be grateful for and enjoy what you have, and where you are on your journey. Appreciate the abundance of what’s good in your life, rather than measure and amass things that do not actually lead to happiness. Living in the present helps you attain peace.

Rule Seven – Others are only mirrors of you. You love or hate something about another person according to what love or hate about yourself. Be tolerant; accept others as they are, and strive for clarity of self-awareness; strive to truly understand and have an objective perception of your own self, your thoughts and feelings. Negative experiences are opportunities to heal the wounds that you carry. Support others, and by doing so you support yourself. Where you are unable to support others it is a sign that you are not adequately attending to your own needs.

Rule Eight – What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. Take responsibility for yourself. Learn to let go when you cannot change things. Don’t get angry about things – bitter memories clutter your mind. Courage resides in all of us – use it when you need to do what’s right for you. We all possess a strong natural power and adventurous spirit, which you should draw on to embrace what lies ahead.

Rule Nine – Your answers lie inside of you. Trust your instincts and your innermost feelings, whether you hear them as a little voice or a flash of inspiration. Listen to feelings as well as sounds. Look, listen, and trust. Draw on your natural inspiration.

Rule Ten – You will forget all this.

– fwd: reuben tellis

Barnabas Edit: UK MPs unite on Christians persecution

December 16, 2013 by  
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The debate was secured by Jim Shannon of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)

The debate was secured by Jim Shannon of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)

Pakistan, December 12, 2013: “Let us be honest: if this were happening to almost any other religious group it would be something of a national scandal. That makes it all the more important to put the ongoing persecution of Christians in many parts of the world on the political map.”

The persecution of Christians around the world was the subject of an impassioned debate in the House of Commons last week.

The well-attended three-hour session on 3 December followed a number of other key debates and statements on the topic by British politicians in recent weeks.

On 16 November, Baroness Warsi, the UK’s first Minister for Faith, made the persecution of Christians the subject of a pivotal speech at Georgetown University in Washington DC, describing it as “a global crisis” that requires an international response.

This was preceded by debates involving both MPs and Lords on the plight of Christians in the Middle East.

Last week’s debate was secured by Jim Shannon, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP for Strangford. As with the previous ones, Barnabas Fund was able to provide MPs with material to inform their contributions, and it was clear that they had taken note of its content, as well as of reports supplied by other Christian organisations.

In opening the debate, Mr Shannon outlined how “Christianity is the most persecuted religion globally” with “reports that one Christian is killed every 11 minutes somewhere on earth for their faith”. His motion called on the Government “to do more both in its foreign policy and through its aid work to defend and support people of Christian faith”.

The motion attracted cross-party support, with numerous MPs speaking out in strong and uncompromising terms against the way Christians are being targeted for their faith.

Sir Tony Baldry, Conservative MP for Banbury, said:

There is now practically no country – from Morocco to Pakistan – in which Christians can freely practise their religion. That must be a matter of real concern to this House.

A number of comparisons were drawn with the Holocaust. Sammy Wilson, DUP MP for East Antrim, said:

When the Nazis carried out such acts in concentration camps we pursued the prison guards and those responsible to the ends of the earth, to prosecute them and to make sure they were brought to justice, yet it seems there is not the same response when it comes to the persecution of Christians.

He said that this was not to do with just the Government but with the media also, adding:

I thought it was striking that when 80 Christians were blown up at the beginning of November (sic) as they worshiped in Pakistan, the BBC found it so important that it came below the Emmy awards in the news agenda. That seems to be the level of seriousness that is attached to such issues.

I was particularly impressed with comments made by Rehman Chishti, Conservative MP for Gillingham and Rainham, who comes from a Muslim background; his father was an imam. He spoke emphatically, denouncing the persecution of Christians that is taking place in 130 of the world’s 190 countries as “completely and utterly unacceptable”.

Mr Chishti focused his speech on Pakistan, where he was born, and in particular the country’s controversial “blasphemy laws”. I will return to his specific comments about that in my editorial next week.

DILUTING THE ISSUE

Government minister Mark Simmonds tried to broaden out the issue

Government minister Mark Simmonds tried to broaden out the issue

The outrage and determination of the backbench MPs stood in stark contrast to the limp response of the two frontbenchers, representing the government and the opposition, who both attempted to dilute the issue by broadening it out rather than focusing on the persecution of Christians.

Speaking for the government, Mark Simmonds, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, made a number of comments such as this:

It is not just Christians but people of other religions who are suffering such persecution.

And:
We should not be standing up for our co-religionists or Christians in particular; we should be supporting the right to freedom of religion or belief for all.

His shadow minister Kerry McCarthy of Labour did likewise, referring frequently to human rights in general rather than the persecution of Christians in particular:

I do not think that we should start carving up human rights by saying that some abuses are worse than others. That would be entirely wrong, because there are countries in which people of other faiths are being persecuted and killed, and we see persecution when we look at violence against women and attacks on LGBT communities. I accept that the persecution of Christians is a growing problem and that it is horrific in many countries, but I just do not think that we should divide it up.

The backbenchers did not let Mr Simmonds and Ms McCarthy get away with this, taking them to task time and again for trying to divert attention away from the matter in hand, and calling for a more robust response.

Sir Edward Leigh, Conservative MP for Gainsborough, said that if they were to accept the minister’s argument, “we should not have complained about the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany”, adding later:

I have heard this Foreign Office speech many times before. Dare I say that I do not detect a sense of burning anger about what is happening to Christians? This is something that has increased, and it is one of the most terrible things happening in the world today… Everyone who has taken part in this debate demand that the Government take this more seriously and speak out more powerfully.

Sir Tony Baldry was equally forceful, arguing that it was “not sufficient to say that because some other people are being persecuted, we should not be concerned about the persecution of Christians”. He told the frontbenchers said that House was “not prepared to continue to stand by while there is global persecution of Christians. They should not think that the line they want to take is sufficient.”

FINANCIAL LEVERAGE

But at least Mr Simmonds and Ms McCarthy were there, which is more than can be said for the Department for International Development (DFID).

Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton, who brought the previous debate on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, said that she was “disappointed” by the absence of a DFID representative. She called on the department to prioritise tackling anti-Christian persecution through its aid provision.

Stephen Pound, Labour MP for Ealing North, provided some figures for the amount of aid Britain has allocated between 2010 and 2015 to a number of countries where Christians are suffering severe persecution: £1.392 billion to Pakistan, £1 billion to Nigeria, £710 million toAfghanistan and £643 million to Tanzania.

A number of MPs called for the government to use financial leverages against countries where Christians are persecuted by attaching conditions to its aid programme and trade agreements.

The DUP’s Sammy Wilson got to the heart of the matter:

When we point to and specify the persecution of Christians, perhaps we are actually pointing the finger at Governments who, possibly for political reasons, we sometimes need as allies, and at Governments who, for commercial reasons, we need as trade partners. If that is the reason we are not prepared to be specific about this persecution, it is a great shame on the Government of our country.

The minister, Mr Simmonds, tried to stress “how seriously the Foreign and Commonwealth Office takes this issue”, but the examples he gave of measures that are being deployed to address it fell far short of the MPs’ demands. He spoke repeatedly in terms such as, “raising issues”, “condemning violence” and “convening meetings”.

The question for the government now is whether or not it is prepared to put its money where its mouth is.

PLEA TO PRAY

I was extremely impressed by the many backbench MPs who took such a dogged stand on behalf of persecuted Christians and was particularly heartened to hear some of them testify to their own personal Christian faith, something that I could hardly believe I was hearing in the House of Commons.

I would like to end with a few lines from Labour MP Stephen Pound, who made a heartfelt plea for people to pray for suffering Christians in the run-up to Christmas:

We must assist wherever we can financially and materially and we must raise the profile, but we must never, ever forget to pray for our fellow co-religionists. The power of prayer is immense and it has an incredible force. Let us never forget suffering Christians in our prayers. Let us continue to do that. Advent might be a couple of days old, but this is a powerful season for prayer.

– patrick sookhdeo

VHP threatens Nagma, Johnny Lever – Power to Change

December 16, 2013 by  
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Power to changeMumbai, December 10, 2013: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal have threatened to launch agitation against Bollywood actors Nagma and Johnny Lever, for what they allege, propagating Christianity and proselytizing Hindus.

VHP leader Umesh Rane has alleged that large hoarding have come up at Mumbai railway stations and on BEST buses using pictures of Nagma and Johnny Lever propagating Christianity.

“If they don’t stop these ads immediately, we will hold Maha Aarti and havans in front of their residences”, threatened Rane.

Rane alleged that both Nagma and Johnny Lever were collaborating with Christian missionaries and trying to proselytize Hindus.

He said, a booklet with 18 stories depict both the actors as claiming that their lives changed for the better after becoming Christians. “If they dont’ stop tis, we will teach them a lesson VHP-style”, he said.

– indiatv news

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