You don’t have to get elected or make movies to change culture

October 31, 2016 by admin  
Filed under newsletter-miscellaneous

When it comes to making a change in our world, we often feel…

  • Who am I to make a difference? I’m only one person.
  • What does it matter what I say? Who listens to me anyway?
  • I don’t have a platform. How would I get my voice heard if I did try to make a change?

Have you had similar thoughts? I did. I wasn’t thinking about making a difference in the world’s culture—maybe in my world. Then during the journey of starting the Woman to Woman Mentoring Ministry and watching lives changing—one woman at a time—I realized I was making a difference. These mentors and mentees were making a difference. One woman mentoring another woman was having a ripple effect out into the culture.

You can make a significant change in our culture today. God never forces us to do anything, but He created us with gifts and a purpose, and when we use our God-given talents for His glory, things change—for the good—in our circle of influence, our platform.

In the Great Commission (Mark 16:15-16), Jesus tells us to shout the Good News to everyone who will listen. That means in our jobs, activities, sports, shopping, playing… whatever we do, wherever we do it… joyfully let others know that God is at the center of our lives. Someone is noticing. Someone sees a difference in how we live our lives, and that changes things.

Celebrities, Sports Stars, and Politicians

Movies stars have changed the culture mostly in a negative way by making it fashionable to have babies with whomever they’re dating, normalizing living together without getting married, wearing revealing clothes, swearing and using vulgar language—both men and women—and doing things in movies we would never let them do in our living rooms. They have influenced our culture by lowering the moral and sexual standards for society.

Sports figures and teams often become idols. Olympic swimmers lied and falsified an assault story in Brazil, and yet one of them ended up on Dancing with the Stars! Instead of being good role models, again we see the culture influenced in worldly, ungodly ways, while sports figures honoring God are often ridiculed. Still it was refreshing to hear many 2016 Olympians praising God.

People don’t trust politicians. Many will change the culture for good, but others make changes that starkly contradict our Christian beliefs and values. The media blasts politicians who agree with a Christian agenda because the majority of culture today is secular.

We’ve seen the secular agenda invade the Federal and local government, and we feel helpless watching the sanctity of life and marriage destroyed by laws legalizing sin. We cry out to God and to each other at the atrocities; but after we vote and lose, we hang our heads thinking we can’t do anything. But that’s when the real work begins.

There’s more to changing culture than just voting! We still have control of where we spend our money, our time, and how we use our voice and influence.

You Can Change Culture

It’s time for Christians to step up, speak out, and seize opportunities to defend God and change our culture back to one that respects and honors virtue and morals. We need a revival, which starts in the church with the people sitting in the pews. That’s you and me!

Christianity has been under attack by the media, the government, and the entertainment world in our culture for several generations, so today’s generation has formed prejudices and perceptions based more on the worldly lies of Satan than the truths of God. We need to proclaim the Good

News of Christ because they’ve only heard the distorted lies of Satan.

10 Ideas for What You Can Do to Change Culture

1. Speak Up

Today, society marginalizes, neutralizes, and denies God—forgotten by a culture forsaking Him. Wherever and whenever you hear someone speaking disrespectfully of God, kindly let him or her know you’re a believer and explain why and what you believe, and would they please speak respectfully of the most important person in your life.

2. Mentor

I receive so many stories from women of all ages desperate for someone spiritually older to share their life experiences and God’s faithfulness. They’re begging for mentors as Titus 2:1-8 instructs spiritually older Christians to help spiritually younger men and women learn how to navigate life and make choices that honor God. If more Christians became mentors, we would see less violence, rage, poverty, divorce, single-parent families, abuse, abortion… the list goes on. Titus 2:5 says we mentor so “no one will malign the word of God.”

3. Use Social Media

As an author, I have a large social media presence, and I boldly comment from a Christian perspective. A young mom approached me at church and thanked me for my Facebook posts. She said I always wrote something on my timeline just when she needed it or when she needed perspective on a current topic.

I have no idea how many lives I may be touching and changing through social media, but I try to always include something about God in today’s culture, and hope it sounds doable to my readers to duplicate.

Pick one form of social media, establish a following, and get a dialogue going for cultural change.

4. Blogging

I also write a weekly Monday Morning Blog. Not everyone likes to write, but a blog reaches multitudes. Whatever your passion is—sports, gardening, building, cooking, parenting—write about it and add something in your post to help the reader make positive cultural changes in his/her life or environment.

5. Parenting

Your children are the future of our country and will define the culture for decades. They look to you for guidance and direction to set their moral compass. Talk about the difficult issues they face. Know what the culture is saying and doing and teach them how to identify twisted doctrine and counter it with the truth. Give them the tools they need to be change agents in the culture. Help them be leaders, not followers.

6. Teach Sunday School or Help in Youth Ministry

One of the most important roles in the church is teaching and training the next generation. These children and youth are the future of the church who will be change makers or breakers. They must go into the world not only knowing about Jesus, but also knowing Him in a personal relationship they wouldn’t give up or give away for anything.

7. Support Businesses that Champion Christian Values

Businesses are succumbing to the cultural pressure to market and financially support the LGBT agenda. We have a choice where we spend our money and our time. If you know a business supports something you don’t agree with, don’t spend money there. It’s that simple. There are plenty of other places to eat and shop—especially those owned by Christians.

If a movie is full of violence, sex, and vulgar language… don’t see it. Go to opening weekend of a Christian movie. Businesses, television, Hollywood, and the sports industry take notice when revenue declines.

8. Try Running for a Local Office

We need more Christians in government. So if you feel called to run for office, answer that call and become a Christian voice in your community.

9. Remember God’s Goodness

When we remember how good God has been in the past, we share it with others. Today’s children don’t know a world where you can pray, talk about Jesus, and take your Bible to school. It’s our job to tell them that the culture we’re living in today is not God’s way, but we can find our way back to His ways.

10. Prayer

God hears the prayers of His people: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Jesus changed the culture, and He was only one man, whose fame came after His death, but He left a band of followers to keep up His work of changing the worldly culture.

“As Christians, God calls us to live holy lives: separated to God, separated from the world, and separated for God. Our responsibility is to help a generation that thrives on conforming, want to conform to God’s standards! Don’t think you can’t make a difference. You can. Sure, you can’t transform the whole world, but you can make a difference in your world.”*

- cross walk

In joint declaration, Catholics & Lutherans emphasize unity

October 31, 2016 by admin  
Filed under newsletter-lead

Sweden, October 31, 2016: In a joint declaration signed for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Catholic and Lutheran leaders apologized for division in the Church and pledged to work for greater unity.

“Fifty years of sustained and fruitful ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans have helped us to overcome many differences, and have deepened our mutual understanding and trust,” the statement said.

“At the same time, we have drawn closer to one another through joint service to our neighbours – often in circumstances of suffering and persecution. Through dialogue and shared witness we are no longer strangers. Rather, we have learned that what unites us is greater than what divides us.”

The joint statement was signed on Oct. 31, 2016, during Pope Francis’ trip to Sweden to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

“While we are profoundly thankful for the spiritual and theological gifts received through the Reformation, we also confess and lament before Christ that Lutherans and Catholics have wounded the visible unity of the Church,” the religious leaders said in the document. “Theological differences were accompanied by prejudice and conflicts, and religion was instrumentalized for political ends”.

“While the past cannot be changed, what is remembered and how it is remembered can be transformed. We pray for the healing of our wounds and of the memories that cloud our view of one another.”

Rejecting hatred, violence and conflict, the religious leaders called for greater communion.

“(W)e commit ourselves to further growth in communion rooted in Baptism, as we seek to remove the remaining obstacles that hinder us from attaining full unity,” they said, noting Christ’s desire that all may be one.

“We invite our ecumenical partners to remind us of our commitments and to encourage us,” they added. “We ask them to continue to pray for us, to walk with us, to support us in living out the prayerful commitments we express today.”

The joint declaration also noted the pain of Catholic-Lutheran married couples who desire the share a common Eucharist but cannot.

“We acknowledge our joint pastoral responsibility to respond to the spiritual thirst and hunger of our people to be one in Christ,” the religious leaders said. “We long for this wound in the Body of Christ to be healed. This is the goal of our ecumenical endeavours, which we wish to advance, also by renewing our commitment to theological dialogue.”

The declaration voiced hope that Catholics and Lutherans would be able to jointly witness to the Gospel, as well as to work for justice, human dignity and peace.

The religious leaders also denounced greed and advocated a greater care for creation.

“Today in particular, we raise our voices for an end to the violence and extremism which affect so many countries and communities, and countless sisters and brothers in Christ,” they said. “We urge Lutherans and Catholics to work together to welcome the stranger, to come to the aid of those forced to flee because of war and persecution, and to defend the rights of refugees and those who seek asylum.”

The joint declaration concluded by calling on Catholics and Lutherans throughout the world to be “bold and creative, joyful and hopeful” in seeking unity, cooperation and solidarity.

“By drawing close in faith to Christ, by praying together, by listening to one another, by living Christ’s love in our relationships, we, Catholics and Lutherans, open ourselves to the power of the Triune God,” the document said. “Rooted in Christ and witnessing to him, we renew our determination to be faithful heralds of God’s boundless love for all humanity.”

The full text of the joint declaration is below:

JOINT STATEMENT on the occasion of the Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation
Lund, 31 October 2016

“Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me” (John 15:4).

With thankful hearts

With this Joint Statement, we express joyful gratitude to God for this moment of common prayer in the Cathedral of Lund, as we begin the year commemorating the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation. Fifty years of sustained and fruitful ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans have helped us to overcome many differences, and have deepened our mutual understanding and trust. At the same time, we have drawn closer to one another through joint service to our neighbours – often in circumstances of suffering and persecution. Through dialogue and shared witness we are no longer strangers. Rather, we have learned that what unites us is greater than what divides us.

Moving from conflict to communion

While we are profoundly thankful for the spiritual and theological gifts received through the Reformation, we also confess and lament before Christ that Lutherans and Catholics have wounded the visible unity of the Church. Theological differences were accompanied by prejudice and conflicts, and religion was instrumentalized for political ends. Our common faith in Jesus Christ and our baptism demand of us a daily conversion, by which we cast off the historical disagreements and conflicts that impede the ministry of reconciliation. While the past cannot be changed, what is remembered and how it is remembered can be transformed. We pray for the healing of our wounds and of the memories that cloud our view of one another. We emphatically reject all hatred and violence, past and present, especially that expressed in the name of religion. Today, we hear God’s command to set aside all conflict. We recognize that we are freed by grace to move towards the communion to which God continually calls us.

Our commitment to common witness

As we move beyond those episodes in history that burden us, we pledge to witness together to God’s merciful grace, made visible in the crucified and risen Christ. Aware that the way we relate to one another shapes our witness to the Gospel, we commit ourselves to further growth in communion rooted in Baptism, as we seek to remove the remaining obstacles that hinder us from attaining full unity. Christ desires that we be one, so that the world may believe (cf. John 17:21).

Many members of our communities yearn to receive the Eucharist at one table, as the concrete expression of full unity. We experience the pain of those who share their whole lives, but cannot share God’s redeeming presence at the Eucharistic table. We acknowledge our joint pastoral responsibility to respond to the spiritual thirst and hunger of our people to be one in Christ. We long for this wound in the Body of Christ to be healed. This is the goal of our ecumenical endeavours, which we wish to advance, also by renewing our commitment to theological dialogue.

We pray to God that Catholics and Lutherans will be able to witness together to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, inviting humanity to hear and receive the good news of God’s redeeming action. We pray to God for inspiration, encouragement and strength so that we may stand together in service, upholding human dignity and rights, especially for the poor, working for justice, and rejecting all forms of violence. God summons us to be close to all those who yearn for dignity, justice, peace and reconciliation. Today in particular, we raise our voices for an end to the violence and extremism which affect so many countries and communities, and countless sisters and brothers in Christ. We urge Lutherans and Catholics to work together to welcome the stranger, to come to the aid of those forced to flee because of war and persecution, and to defend the rights of refugees and those who seek asylum.

More than ever before, we realize that our joint service in this world must extend to God’s creation, which suffers exploitation and the effects of insatiable greed. We recognize the right of future generations to enjoy God’s world in all its potential and beauty. We pray for a change of hearts and minds that leads to a loving and responsible way to care for creation.

One in Christ

On this auspicious occasion, we express our gratitude to our brothers and sisters representing the various Christian World Communions and Fellowships who are present and join us in prayer. As we recommit ourselves to move from conflict to communion, we do so as part of the one Body of Christ, into which we are incorporated through Baptism. We invite our ecumenical partners to remind us of our commitments and to encourage us. We ask them to continue to pray for us, to walk with us, to support us in living out the prayerful commitments we express today.

Calling upon Catholics and Lutherans worldwide

We call upon all Lutheran and Catholic parishes and communities to be bold and creative, joyful and hopeful in their commitment to continue the great journey ahead of us. Rather than conflicts of the past, God’s gift of unity among us shall guide cooperation and deepen our solidarity. By drawing close in faith to Christ, by praying together, by listening to one another, by living Christ’s love in our relationships, we, Catholics and Lutherans, open ourselves to the power of the Triune God. Rooted in Christ and witnessing to him, we renew our determination to be faithful heralds of God’s boundless love for all humanity.

- cna

Congress gears up for Tipu jayanthi in Karnataka; BJP, Christians oppose

October 31, 2016 by admin  
Filed under newsletter-india

Karnataka, October 31, 2016: The Congress-led government in Karnataka is once again gearing up to celebrate ‘Tipu Jayanthi’ but this time around the move is witnessing a unique formation of protestors ranging from RSS leaders, representatives of the Catholic Church, and even a Congress national spokesperson hailing from the state.

Smelling trouble, the Siddharamaiah government has transferred the onus to commemorate the 18th century ruler of Mysore on his birth anniversary on November 10 to the department of Kannada and culture that has also invited the Hindu monks of Sringeri and Udupi mutts. In 2015, the highly controversial event that triggered a national debate on whether Tipu Sultan was a “freedom fighter” or a “religious bigot”, was organized by the state’s department for minority affairs.

Tipu is particularly controversial in the southern Kodagu (Coorg) district where he is blamed for the carnage of Hindus, forcible conversion of over 40,000 and desecration of hundreds of temples in the 18th century. Protests last year against the event had resulted in dozens of injuries and one death.

Brijesh Kalappa, the AICC spokesman and advisor to Karnataka government, told News18 that he had conveyed to the government not to hold this event in Mangalore and Coorg last year.

“It was wholly unnecessary given the local sentiment. I had taken the matter further but I am not at liberty to divulge the course of events I pursued. This year too, I have conveyed that this event ought not to be held in these two districts, at least that the event ought to be made a low-key affair without processions of any variety,” Kalappa said. However, he was quick to blame the RSS-BJP for communalising the whole issue.

The RSS has already declared a “Black Day” on November 10 in protest against glorifying a “religious bigot” as a freedom fighter. The main opposition BJP has discovered a new angle this time. They claim that celebration of Tipu Jayanthi is an insult to the SC/STs as Tipu and his father Hyder Ali had invaded and killed the last ruler of Chitradurga, Madakari Nayaka, who was a tribal king. Tipu and Hyder’s army had also killed a Dalit woman called Onake Obavva who single-handedly defended the Chitradurga fort by killing enemy soldiers with the help of a heavy pestle. She was killed by the invaders later. Nayakas of Chitradurga had ruled some eastern parts Karnataka for over two hundred years and they are a part of state’s folklore.

“We are not against celebrating or commemorating any Jayanthi. But celebrating Tipu Jayanthi is the most insensitive act on part of the Congress government. The SC/STs, Kodavas and even the Catholics are against it,” RSS state convener V Nagaraj said.

The RSS leader’s words were echoed by Alban Menezes, president of the United Christian Association (UCA).

“Tipu was a bigot. He had demolished over 27 churches and took away more than 80,000 Catholic men, women and children including the Europeans. Some died on their way and the rest were converted to Islam,” he told News18.

When the previous Congress-led UPA government at the Centre had planned to name a proposed Central Muslim university at Srirangapatna after Tipu Sultan, the UCA had backed the RSS-BJP in their protest in 2013.

State BJP president and former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa has also warned the government against Tipu Jayanthi. “Tipu was the Aurangazeb of South. Several historians have concluded that he was a bigot who massacred and forcibly converted non-Muslims. Not only in Karnataka, even in Kerala he is considered an evil king even now. The Siddaramaiah government is using his name to polarise Muslim votes. If the government goes ahead with the celebration, we will oppose it, come what may. If the government wants to honour a Muslim, it can honour a mystic Saint Shishunala Sharief or even APJ Abdul Kalam. Why Tipu?,” he said.

But CM Siddaramaiah said the government will go ahead with the plan. “The RSS-BJP are trying to whip up communal tension and caste sentiments ahead of the elections. They are politicising it. The government will go ahead with the celebration,” he said.

According to a top minister in the Karnataka government R Roshan Baig, the Tipu Jayanthi would be a secular event and the Hindu seers have been invited for the same purpose. He said that Tipu had helped Sringeri seer after the Sharada Peetha at Sringeri was looted and destroyed by the invading Marathas. “We hope the Seer would attend the event,” he said.

When contacted representatives of both Sringeri and Udupi Mutts said that they were yet to receive the invitation and a decision would be taken later. The Vishwa Hindu Parishath (VHP) has already announced a 15-day statewide agitation against the Jayanthi.

- news 18

Catholics advised to utilise Karnataka govt’s development fund

October 31, 2016 by admin  
Filed under newsletter-india

Karnataka, October 31, 2016: Karnataka Legislator J R Lobo advised Catholics to make use of the funds allotted by the state government for the community’s welfare.

“An amount of Rs 125 crores is set aside for the development of Catholic communities, and they must make the best use of it,” said MLA Lobo, who is the Vidhana Mandala Backward Class and Minorities’ Committee president.

He was speaking during a discussion held with the Catholic community leaders at St Michael School in the city on October 27.

“The government has announced several programmes for the development of society and a special grant in the budget. The amount of Rs 125 crores can be used for several pro community programmes,” he said.

“The government has created Catholic Development Committee for community development. It has appointed Bengaluru urban development minister K J George as the president and me as the vice president of the committee. It has also formed a subcommittee and appointed me as its president. Petitions for renovation or repairs of churches, cemetery, boundary wall, skills training and other development work in the community can be submitted,” he said.

“Christians comprise 3.6% of the population in the state. The government has given special importance to their development, but the community lags behind in making use of government released funds,” MLA Lobo said.

“Special camps should be held in various districts to make information on government programmes reach the people. Fund up to Rs one crore in the city and Rs 50 lac in towns is being provided for community halls. An amount is also paid for maintenance of old age homes,” he said.

Community representatives requested for additional funds for repairs of churches and donations to poor people. Requests for reservation for Catholics could also be heard in the meeting. They also said extensive details of the government facilities such as scholarships, caste certificates, etc. are required.

- daiji world

Caste is the main reason for violence in Nasik: Report

October 31, 2016 by admin  
Filed under newsletter-india

Maharashtra, October 31, 2016: On 16-17 October 2016, team from the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice went for a fact finding mission in Nasik District of Maharashtra state. Recently the area has become sensitive and lot of violence cases have been noted by the media.

This incident began at Talegaon near Trambakeshwar in Nasik district where a minor Maratha girl was raped allegedly by a 16-year old Scheduled Caste boy. Following this incident, the landowning community of Marathas began a campaign of widespread attacks and violence against Scheduled Castes in the region. This report has stated that, ‘It is simply violence perpetrated because of Caste. All the Scheduled Caste Buddhists ghettos were targeted and Babasaheb Ambedkar’s statues have been vandalized brutally’.

Fact finding team members were from various backgrounds. Including Shrusti Salve and Sagar Bhalerao from Samata Vidhyarthi Aghadi, students from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, Durgesh Solanki, Bigul Majdur Dasts Nagesh Durve, Sudhir Dhawale from Republican Panther Mumbai, Radical Study Circle (TISS), other social activists including Arun Ferreira, Balasaheb Kamble, Biswas and few journalists were backing the team .

Published report is 40 pages long titled as ‘Nasiks State Initiated Casteist Terrorism’. It includes 11 topics the contents of which are victim, survivor and witness reports of the 10 villages of people from various identities including journalists, politicians and police. It also includes an analysis of the situation.

The report asserts, ‘Whoever is being attacked in the villages are being intentionally targeted because of their Scheduled Caste and Buddhist identity ’. Report is available for 20 rupees and it is currently in Marathi.

- tcn

Christians in North Korea ‘Not praying for freedom,’ but for westerners who ‘Put their faith in money’

October 31, 2016 by admin  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Korea, October 31, 2016: An organization seeking to support persecuted Christians in North Korea who live under the world’s most oppressive regime has said that believers there are surprisingly not praying for their own freedom, but rather for their Western brothers and sisters who are tempted by money and material wealth.

The Rev. Eric Foley, the head of Soul-based Voice of the Martyrs Korea, said that he has spoken with Christians in North Korea who’ve told him they are not praying for a regime change.

“They don’t pray for freedom and money. They pray for more of Christ and to mirror more of Christ in their life,” he told Hope 103.2.

International Christian Concern added that in some ways, life for Christians in North Korea, where the practice of religion is against the law, is as bad or worse than many people can imagine it, with believers hunted down, imprisoned and murdered.

Still, as Foley said, Christians in the North are actually praying for Westerners rather than for themselves.

One defector remarked: “You pray for us? We pray for you. … You have so much, you put your faith in your money and your freedom. In North Korea we have neither money nor freedom, but we have Christ and we’ve found He’s sufficient.”

The detailed report goes into the many instances of intense persecution and suffering Christians face under Kim Jong Un’s regime, with entire families of Christians being punished for their beliefs.

It also explains that the North Korean ideology of “Juche,” which consists of citizens singing hymns in Kim’s honor, is in a way a corruption of Christianity.

“The reason why North Korea’s so threatened by Christians, is that Christianity is able to unmask Juche as a fraud. Christianity really is considered a subversive ideology, because it gives a different way of thinking about the value and purpose of human life,” Foley explained.

Foley further said that Western Christians shouldn’t necessarily be praying for freedom for North Koreans, but for courage to stay strong in Christ as they face persecution.

“Because they see that in many ways, we lack happiness, because money and freedom can’t bring that,” he added.

“There is one Body in Christ, there’s not a ‘persecuted Church in North Korea’ and a ‘free Church in Australia,’ there’s one body,” Foley said, “and we’re commanded [by the Bible] to remember those who are in prison, as if we were in prison also.”

Several persecution watchdog groups, such as British-based human rights advocacy organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide, have revealed many details about what believers in the North suffer. A report earlier in September highlighted that some followers of Christ have been crushed under steamrollers, while others were hung on a cross over fire in what is but a small sampling of the many brutalities they face.

The report explains: “A policy of guilt by association applies, meaning that the relatives of Christians are also detained regardless of whether they share the Christian belief. Even North Koreans who have escaped to China, and who are or become Christians, are often repatriated and subsequently imprisoned in a political prison camp.”

Suzanne Scholte, the chair of the North Korea Freedom Coalition and vice co-chair of the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, told The Christian Post back then that CSW’s report is an “accurate representation of how Christians are especially persecuted,” and also shared her personal experiences of speaking with defectors, who have confirmed such stories.

- christian post

Christian persecution rising as 75 percent of world’s population lacks religious freedom

October 31, 2016 by admin  
Filed under newsletter-world

Europe, October 29, 2016: Persecution of Christians is getting worse as up to 75 percent of the world’s population now lives without religious freedom, European Union’s special envoy Jan Figel said, marking the International Freedom of Religion or Belief Day this week.

The majority of the world’s population continues to lack freedom of religion or belief, the EU envoy told Premier Christian Radio Thursday, the day the International FoRB Day was observed.

“Therefore, those who believe that humanity should prevail can, and should do, much more for freedom of religion,” Figel was quoted as saying. “We are witnesses of a systematic and mass murder, martyrdom and persecution on several territories.”

According to the Christian persecution watchdog group Open Doors, which works in over 60 countries, more than 7,000 Christians were killed for their faith between Nov. 1, 2014, and Oct. 31, 2015.

The group found that over 3,000 more Christians were killed for faith-related reasons during its reporting period for the 2016 World Watch List than it found during the reporting period for the 2015 report. Additionally, over 2,400 churches were attacked, damaged or destroyed during the reporting period, which is more than double the number from last year.

“This crime of crimes is calling for all serious people to do more,” Figel added.

The increase in the incidence of Christian persecution is partly due to the rise of Islamist extremist groups like the Islamic State, Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab in the Middle East and Africa.

“Islamic extremist caliphates are solidified and expanding,” Open Doors USA President David Curry said earlier. “The data shows that the Islamic State caliphate has effectively carried out genocide against Yazidis and Christians in Syria and Iraq, pushing hundreds of thousands of Christians into refugee camps in North Iraq and other countries.”

Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh, wants to establish a caliphate in the Levant region and beyond. It controls parts of Iraq and Syria, and is seeking expand.

In the United States, the campaigns of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton both spoke earlier this month with persecution watchdog groups about the violence Christians face around the world.

Curry told The Christian Post that the meetings with the two presidential nominees were “productive,” and focused on urging both the Trump and Clinton campaigns to think about how they would “integrate religious freedom issues into larger discussions within the administration.”

“The conversations were wide-ranging, and we were encouraged that both campaigns seem to be in broad support of strengthening international religious freedom,” a press release about the meetings said. “We found both campaigns to be taking this issue — and our recommendations — seriously, particularly our emphasis that the new administration ensure highly qualified people are appointed as the U.S. Department of State Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom and the Special Envoy for Religion and Global Affairs within the first 100 days in office.”

- christian post

What you need to know about the character of Jesus

October 30, 2016 by admin  
Filed under newsletter-miscellaneous

The Character of Jesus

When we read the Gospels about Jesus, then, what do we see?

One striking feature of the accounts is how they give us no description of Jesus’s appearance. It is inconceivable that a modern journalistic account of any person would fail to tell us something of the kind of figure he cut or even of what he wore. We live in an age intensely concerned with image and nearly obsessed with looks. But here all the emphasis is, we might say, not on the quality of his skin but on the content of his character. And that character was remarkable.

Particularly impressive to readers over the centuries has been what one writer has called “an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies in Jesus Christ.”[i] That is, in him we see qualities and virtues we would ordinarily consider incompatible in the same person. We would never think they could be combined but, because they are, they are strikingly beautiful. Jesus combines high majesty with the greatest humility, he joins the strongest commitment to justice with astonishing mercy and grace, and he reveals a transcendent self-sufficiency and yet entire trust in and reliance upon his heavenly Father. We are surprised to see tenderness without any weakness, boldness without harshness, humility without any uncertainty, indeed, accompanied by a towering confidence. Readers can discover for themselves his unbending convictions but complete approachability, his insistence on truth but always bathed in love, his power without insensitivity, integrity without rigidity, passion without prejudice.

One of the most counter intuitive combinations in Jesus’s life, that of truth and love, is seen everywhere in the pages of the Gospels. Then as now, people rejected and shamed those who held beliefs or practices that they thought wrong and immoral. But Jesus astonished everyone by being willing to eat with tax collectors, collaborators with the occupying Roman imperial forces. This outraged those we might call the “Left,” those zealous against oppression and injustice. But he also welcomed and ate with prostitutes (Matthew 21:31–32), which offended those promoting conservative, traditional morality on the “Right.” Jesus deliberately and tenderly touched lepers (Luke 5:13), people who were considered physically and ceremonially contaminated but who were desperate for human contact. Yet he also ate repeatedly with Pharisees (Luke 7:36–50; 11:37–44; 14:1–4), showing that he was not bigoted toward the bigoted. He forgave the enemies who were crucifying him (Luke 23:34) and the friends who were letting him down in the hour of his greatest need (Matthew 26:40–43).

Nevertheless, though welcoming and befriending all, Jesus was surprisingly insistent on bearing witness to the truth. Zacchaeus, the despised tax collector, was stunned by Jesus’s love and embrace of him, yet, when hearing his call to repent, stopped his government-backed extortion racket (Luke 19:1–9). When Jesus encounters women who were considered sexually immoral by the society, he engaged them with a respect and graciousness that startled onlookers (Luke 7:39; John 4:9,27). Yet he gently points out to the Samaritan woman the wreckage of her many failed relationships with men and calls her to find the soul satisfaction she has sought in his eternal life (John 4:13–18). In the famous account of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus says to her, in one breath, “Neither do I condemn you,” and in the next, “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).[ii] Here we see the counterintuitive but brilliant conjunction of both truth and love, both a passion for justice and a commitment to mercy. He is full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg explains that the religiously respectable of Jesus’s day refused to associate or eat with people considered sinners, such as tax collectors and prostitutes, for fear of becoming morally contaminated by them. Their friendship and love was given only conditionally, to those who had made themselves clean and pure. But Jesus turned the dominant social pattern on its head. He freely ate with the moral and social outcasts. He welcomed and befriended the impure and called them to follow him (Mark 2:13–17). He did not fear that they would contaminate him; rather, he expected that his wholesome love would infect and change them, and again and again this is what happened.

- cross walk

Indian Pastor’s faith steadfast as Hindu extremists abuse him

October 30, 2016 by admin  
Filed under newsletter-india

Maharashtra, October 28, 2016: Hindu extremists in Maharashtra state had severely beaten a pastor, pointed a gun at his head and were sprinkling gasoline on him to burn him to death when he began praying and praising Jesus.

Pastor Prashant Bhatnager, 45, is still recovering from broken hand, arm and leg bones, as well as cuts and abrasions on his head and the rest of his body, after about six Hindu extremists led by Gurunath Mumbaikar, president of the Shri Ram Foundation (Shri Ram Pratishtan Sanghtan), on Sept. 16 beat and urinated on him.

Pastor Bhatnager and four other Christians from House of God Church were praying for a sick person and distributing tracts in Taloja, Raigad District when they were attacked, church leaders in Maharashtra told Morning Star News. The Hindu extremist assailants questioned the Christians, snatched their tracts and took them to a public hall, where they held them for two hours, the church leaders said.

Two hours later, at about 8:30 p.m., another 30 Hindu extremists showed up, disparaging the Christians and threatening to kill them, the church leaders said. But the assailants then released the other four Christians, after warning them not to pray for anyone again, and dragged the pastor of the 350-member church into a car.

“The extremists started beating him as they accused him of forceful conversion and then sped up the car and took him away to an isolated place, followed by another 20 extremists on 11 motorbikes,” area church leader Baban Kamble told Morning Star News

At an isolated area, they dragged the pastor out and beat him with an iron rod while accusing him of forceful conversion and destroying the minds of the villagers by leading them to believe in Christ, Pastor Bhatnagar said.

“They pulled me out from the car and pushed me to the ground while they pointed a revolver at me, snatched my phone away and threatened to take my life,” he said. “All of them started beating me, and I started to bleed form my mouth and nose.”

The extremists later sprinkled gasoline over him to burn him alive.

“I was fearful, and I started feeling convulsive, but then and there I started praising Jesus and praying, and my attackers became angrier as they continued to beat, kick and punch me, told me to shut up, spat on my face and urinated on me,” he said. “How I survived such an attack is miraculous. I see the love and the faithfulness of God more through this incident.”

He went unconscious in a pool of blood. Thinking that that he was dead, the extremists put the pastor back into the car and deposited him at another isolated area. After 15 minutes, however, they gathered him up again and dropped him near his village, he said.

A passer-by found him, poured water on his face and revived him, and then helped him to call friends.

“When we arrived at the roadside where he was taken care of, he was still bleeding profoundly from his nose, mouth and ears, and he fell unconscious again on the way to the hospital,” Kamble said.

The pastor was taken to Kharghar Medicity Hospital, but due to the severity of his injuries, he was later admitted in Navi Mumbai Municipal Hospital, Vashi.

Police registered a First Information Report against the attackers and on Oct. 16 arrested the leader of the assailants, Mumbaikar, church leaders said. They said there was no case of forceful conversion against the five Christians, as they were simply handing out pamphlets to those who wished to take them.

“We pray for people on their request, and people come to the church by their own free will,” Pastor Bhatnager said. “We never force or lure anyone to believe in Christ as they wrongly accused us.”

The Christians were not able to lead a prayer convention (Prarthana Sabha) scheduled for Oct. 17 because of the attack.

India ranked 17th on Open Doors’ 2016 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

- christian news

Priests visit anti-Christian riot-hit Indian villages

October 30, 2016 by admin  
Filed under newsletter-india

Kandhamal, October 27, 2016: Priests  from several parts of India have visited villagers in Odisha state to learn how they coped with anti-Christian violence.

Coming from seven dioceses in northeastern India, 32 of them visited villages in eastern Kandhamal district where violence in 2007-2008 resulted in the murder of about 100 Christians who refused to abandon their faith. The regional Odisha bishops’ council organized the visit, the first in a series. This group of priests are involved in the spiritual and academic formation of seminarians.

“The Catholics of Kandhamal may not pass a catechism examination or win a prize at a catechism quiz but they came out with flying colors in the ultimate test of their faith,” said Bishop John Thomas Kattrukudiyil of Itanagar, who led the group. “Faith is more important than knowledge,” he said.

During the week-long tour that began Oct. 23 they visited riot-affected families and spoke to survivors. The priests stayed with the families overnight. Afterwards they discussed their experiences, guided by Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar.

They met “the valiant Christians of Kandhamal who did not hesitate to sacrifice everything for the sake of their Catholic faith,” Bishop Kattrukudiyil said.

Kandhamal, the hilly tribal district in eastern India has witnessed several incidents of anti-Christian violence in the past two decades. The worst began in August 2008 and lasted seven weeks during which marauding crowds of Hindu extremists murdered Christians, destroyed churches and convents, set fire to Christian homes and institutions and raped nuns, in what came to be known as the largest persecution of Christians in modern Indian history.

Father Philip Barla from Tezpur said the “most affecting experience” was to know that “such intense and fanatical violence failed to have any impact on the faith of the poor Christians. The perpetrators of the violence may have hoped to wipe Christianity from the region but they failed; the torture only strengthened people’s faith,” he said.

Father Paul Dahanga also from Tezpur admired the villagers’ bravery. “They continue to be surrounded by people who question and challenge their faith. They live under constant threat. But they hold on to their faith in Christ,” he said.

Father Sebastian Ekka from Dibrugarh told ucanews.com that the “resilience shown by the Christians of Kandhamal proved that the allegation that they were lured or tricked into their faith with material incentives was false.”

Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, whose archdiocese covers the riot-hit area, told ucanews.com that such visits help local Christians experience the universal church’s concern for them.

- ucan

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