Should young Christians rush to get married?

June 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

Ring before spring. Getting an “MRS” degree. Calling Bible colleges “bridal colleges.” The jokes made about college students (especially Christians) going to school to find a spouse seem never ending, but with so many people marrying young, they aren’t entirely unfounded either.

For young adult Christians who have grown up believing that sex outside of marriage is wrong, it can be understandable that they might rush to the altar with the person they feel so strongly in love with. It’s no shock to anyone that young people are flooded with feelings and desires that lead them to wanting to be physical with whoever they are attracted to, and when sex is known as a sin unless it’s with a spouse, the rush to get a ring on that finger makes sense.

With a culture that so readily promotes the “happily ever after” path and seems obsessed with the latest pop culture couplings, marriages, divorces, and drama in between, it’s not surprising that many young people would view marriage as the ultimate destination and goal in relationships. Even in the church, marriage is often lauded as the best thing, the highest achievement, the greatest gift, and it can lead young people to feeling like they have to get to that point quickly for their lives, their relationships, and their presence in that community to really matter and have value.

Ethan Renoe recently wrote an article for Relevant asking “Should So Many Christians Push to Get Married Young?” and he zeroes in on one famous Bible passage about singleness and marriage: 1 Corinthians 7. This passage has been often debated, and it raises some important (although controversial) questions.

In verse 8 of that chapter, Paul writes, “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.” This is a very different stance than what our culture and our churches tend to promote. “But what if Paul was telling the truth?” Renoe asks. “What if it really is better for us to remain single instead of diving headfirst into marriage?”

Wouldn’t that be something?

It’s a helpful and healthy question to ask ourselves, though. As a single woman in her mid-twenties, it’s one I find myself pondering often. The expectation seems to be that I will get meet the man of my dreams someday and then get married shortly thereafter… but I’m not so sure that’s what’s meant for me. I’m definitely in no hurry to get there if that is what the Lord has in store, that’s for sure. As I see more and more friends getting married (even friends quite a few years younger than me, which feels strange), I return to this question, wondering if marriage is really the ultimate good thing we should be striving for, or if Paul was right in encouraging singleness instead.

For the Christians (young or old) who pursue marriage as a way to justify their physical and sexual desires, it seems clear that the focus is misplaced.

“As Christians,” Renoe explains, “our primary calling in life is not to gratify our sexual desires first and foremost. It is to glorify God, enjoy Him forever, and bring others into this sphere of blessedness. For this reason, I’ve come to see many of the young marriages of Christians as more of a detriment to the work of the church than a blessing.”

He goes on to say, “what I mean by that is, if we really believe that Jesus, not sex, is the source of our satisfaction, it should affect the way we live our lives. It means perhaps we would spend years of our lives giving to the world in sacrificial and beneficial ways before settling down with our sweetheart to raise children rather than diving into marriage for the wrong reasons.”

Now, this does assume that sex and a desire for physical intimacy is the driving force behind young couples getting married, which isn’t always the case. But he does make a good point that the Lord has great opportunities in store for us in our twenties and thirties when we free ourselves to follow his leading and serve him with our lives, unencumbered by such a serious relationship commitment. It’s not that the desires for intimacy go away, but instead that those who choose to embrace singleness instead redirecting those desires toward Jesus and the work he has for us instead.

We can pursue intimacy in other ways— in our prayer life with the Lord, in our Bible studies and conversations with close friends, in sharing our stories vulnerably with one another, and with sharing common interests and bonding with others around us.

While there have admittedly been times or seasons of my life where I have felt the absence of a meaningful relationship or longed for a husband, there have been many more times where I have been grateful for the freedom that comes with singleness, especially when it comes to service opportunities and ministry work in my church and community.

“We have become blinded by a culture that teaches that the truest source of satisfaction is sex, so it makes sense that many of us would marry young for a taste of that ecstasy,” Renoe writes.

What if we saw our lives instead as something so much greater? What if we saw our singleness as a chance to truly give ourselves to others? What if we saw our free time as a gift from the Lord allowing us to serve the people around us and expand the Kingdom? What if we reprioritized our desires and what is important to us, putting satisfaction in Christ above all else?

Like Renoe concludes, there is no hurry for us to get married. There are so many opportunities before us in the seasons we are in now, and there is so much goodness to be found in a life wholly committed to serving the Lord and others. Pursue him first and foremost, and discover that he, better than any other, can and will fulfill every desire of your heart, no matter your relationship status. The rings can wait.

– cross walk

Thiên An monastery cross demolished; Monks and faithful assaulted

June 30, 2017 by  
Filed under newsletter-world, World

Vietnam, June 30, 2017: Plain clothes policemen and thugs hired by local authorities have once again attacked and beat a group of monks and faithful in the Catholic monastery of Thien An (Huế, central Vietnam). They tried to stop an attack on the cross and the statue of Christ erected on a land that for years the provincial government has been trying to illegally claim.

Around eight in the morning of 28 June, a hundred thugs broke into the monastery grounds and, shouting blasphemous phrases, knocked down the big cross. The assailants then set upon the monks who tried to raise the sacred symbol again and protect the adjoining statue of Jesus, under the eyes of the faithful who attempted to document the violent attack. Meanwhile, Huế authorities had deployed some police departments to prevent local community Catholics from accessing the monastery.

“They have thrown stones against the monks and hit three or four of them,” says Fr. Peter Cao Đức Lợi, priest of the monastery, adding that undercover police were helped to break the cross by “women and thugs”. “They prevented us from raising it again and pulled the monks clinging to it by their hair and clothes. Two of them were injured and another was knocked senseless. It was horrible. ”

Despite the aggressors wearing civilian clothes, Fr. Loi was able to identify some of the prominent officers of the police among them. The priest declares to AsiaNews: “I saw with my own eyes some key characters, such as Võ Trọng Nhơn and Dương Văn Hiếu, of the city police; Mr. Minh, of the district police; Trần Công Quý of the provincial one. There were many plain clothes officers, I recognized them because I have met them many times. ”

Ms. Lee, from Huế diocese, told AsiaNews: “More than 100 people came to the monastery to destroy the cross and the statue, it can not be a spontaneous act. This is the work of the city government. There are strong economic and property interests behind this aggression, targeted at the occupation of this land and involving police, thugs, and local authorities. They will split money among themselves. “

The Catholic monastery of Thiên An is not new to these attacks and is often subject to persecution by the state. The cross and the statue of Jesus Christ attacked and demolished 28 June were already destroyed in 2015 and 2016 and promptly replaced by monks and faithful.

Although acknowledged by Vietnamese law, Catholic worship is at the center of a painful dispute with the Communist regime, which has long sought to seize more than 110 hectares of protected forests and eradicate religious practice. In 1998, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Cong Tan signed the illegal (expropriation) order of lands adjacent to the monastery. For years the local administration has had its sights on the area and annexed structure to make it available to a travel agency. The monastery is often the subject of attacks by local authorities to frighten Catholics and persuade them to abandon the area. To these are added raids by policemen who, repeatedly, have broken into the structure and threatened to occupy it.

– asianews

1,600-year-old basilica of ancient Nicaea found underwater to become a museum

June 30, 2017 by  
Filed under lead story, newsletter-lead

Turkey, Jun 30, 2017: The remains of a 1,600-year-old Byzantine basilica that was built to honor a martyr who stood up for his faith during the worst Christian persecution under the Roman Empire will now become a museum.

Archaeologists suspect that the church found at the site of the Councils of Nicaea was built in the year 325. If the assessment is correct, the timing actually places the church right around during the time of the First Council of Nicaea.

“We have found church remains. It is in a basilica plan and has three naves,” Mustafa Sahin, an archaeology professor at Bursa Uludag University, told Hurriyet News.

The ancient basilica was first captured through aerial photographs taken in 2014. Its exact location is placed at the bottom of 5-7 feet of water in Lake Iznik in Bursa, Turkey.

The experts determined that the basilica was destroyed after it collapsed during an earthquake in 740. The ruins were never rebuilt and eventually were submerged under water.

Named one of the Top 10 Discoveries of 2014 by the Archaeological Institute of America, the church will now become a sight for tourists to visit. Aleteia.org says plans have been set in motion to open an underwater museum that will allow people to view the foundation of the church.

According to professor Sahin, the church was most likely built in the 4th century, in honor of St. Neophytos. Neophytos was born in Nicaea of Bithynia to Christian parents and eventually became a martyr under Roman emperor Diocletian’s harsh persecution of Christians in 303.

In history, it is documented that Neophytos traveled to Nicaea (known as modern-day northwest Turkey) to confront the false belief of his hometown and publicly denounce the pagan faith. The Story of Christianity by Justo L. Gonzalez calls Diocletian’s persecution of Christians the “most cruel” punishment that ancient believers had to endure and unfortunately Neophytos fell victim to that.

He was killed by Roman soldiers in A.D. 303, 10 years before Christianity was legalized by the Roman Empire under Constantine rules. The discovered basilica was reportedly built on the spot where Neophytos was killed in the most brutal manner.

The Orthodox Church of America describes the martyrdom below:

“The enraged persecutors suspended the saint from a tree, they whipped him with ox thongs, and scraped his body with iron claws. Then they threw him into a red-hot oven, but the holy martyr remained unharmed, spending three days and three nights in it. The torturers, not knowing what else to do with him, decided to kill him. One of the pagans ran him through with a sword (some say it was a spear), and the saint departed to the Lord at the age of sixteen.”

Sahin told Hurriyet News that he believes the basilica was built as a result of the First Council of Nicaea held in the year 325.

“Most probably, it could have been built in 325 after the first council meeting in İznik. In any case, we think that the church was built in the 4th century or a further date. It is interesting that we have gravures from the Middle Ages depicting this killing. We see Neophytos being killed on the lake coast,” Sahin explained.

– christian post

Christian pastor being horrifically tortured in China Is an ‘utterly grievous injustice,’ group says

June 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

China, June 30, 2017: Persecution watchdog groups have decried the “cruel” and horrific torture an imprisoned Christian pastor is being subjected to in China, calling it an “utterly grievous injustice.”

“In 2014, Pastor Zhang Shaojie was unjustly sentenced to twelve years’ imprisonment and an extortionate fine. Recent reports that he is on the verge of death after being tortured in prison would be an unacceptable abuse of human rights even if he were guilty, but the deliberate ill-treatment of an unjustly sentenced pastor is an utterly grievous injustice,” Christian Solidarity Worldwide Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in a statement on Wednesday.

“We call on the Chinese authorities to immediately stop the mistreatment of Pastor Zhang and to review his sentence with a view to securing his unconditional release. We further urge the Chinese government to ensure that the right to freedom of religion or belief is fully protected in China.”

China Aid, which monitors human rights abuses in China, reported late last week that Zhang’s daughter, Zhang Huixin, who currently lives in the U.S., has been speaking out against the mistreatment of her father who has been in Xinxiang Prison of Henan Province for almost four years now, as part of his 12-year sentence.

“They cruelly torture my father,” the daughter described. “He’s unable to see the sun during the day. He’s deprived of sleep for 24 hours at a time. The prison gives him only one steamed bun a day and intentionally starves him. According to people who have been released from that prison, my father is barely alive, suffering both mentally and physically.”

– christian post

Thousands across India rally against religious intolerance ‎

June 30, 2017 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

New Delhi, June 30, 2017: Thousands of people, including Christian groups, rallied across India on June 28 to protest against mounting religious intolerance and express solidarity with the victims of hate crimes. Secular groups across India organized the protest titled “Not in My Name” to bring together thousands of Indians, including Hindus, who are against violence conducted in the name of Hinduism and patriotism.

“A small group in India believe that every Indian should follow a particular culture and lifestyle dictated by them” which they project as Indian culture, Michael Williams, president of the United Christian Forum, told ucannews.  “It cannot exist. Not in my name and not in my constitution. Do not fight this war in the name of India and Indians. You are not protecting the constitution of India by killing innocents,” he said explaining the message of the protest.

Holding placards and the national flag, students, artists, politicians and religious leaders gathered in New Delhi to take part in a silent protest. Facing the protesters was a billboard — called the Lynch Map of India — illustrating where incidents of mob lynching happened in the country since 2015.

The protests took place days after a group of Hindu men attacked 17-year-old Junaid Khan and his three brothers in an apparent row over seats, as they returned home to Khandawli village in Ballabgarh after shopping for Eid in new Delhi.  One brother said the attackers accused them of carrying beef, a meat popular among many Indian Muslims but shunned by most of the country’s Hindus, who revere cows as sacred.  After stabbing Junaid to death on-board they threw the three others off the train some 20 kilometers from the national capital.

Police said on Thursday they arrested four men and identified the chief suspect in the killing, who had yet to be arrested.  Media reports said two of the men arrested were local government employees.

“The incidents of hateful lynching exceed intolerance. What happened is really, very disturbing,” Rabbi Shergill, a popular Indian singer told UCANEWS at Wednesday’s protest site in New Delhi.  Shergill said all Indians should “challenge and stand against these atrocities.”  More protests are scheduled to be held in other parts ‎of the country in the coming days.‎

Since 2015, many people across the country have fallen victim to incidents of mob lynching related to religious intolerance, that commonly results over petty issues.  Recently, there has been a surge in cases of public lynching by self-styled ‘gau rakshaks’ or ‘cow protectors’ in different parts of the country over beef eating and cow smuggling or slaughtering, with Muslims and Dalits among the victims. The slaughter of cows and the possession or consumption of beef is banned in most Indian states, with some imposing life sentences for breaking the law.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, under whose right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government, incidents of intolerance have been surging, broke his silence for the first time this year on Thursday over the lynchings.  “Killing people in the name of ‘gau bhakti’ [cow devotion] is not acceptable,” Modi said a day after the nationwide “Not in My Name” protests.  “This is not something Mahatma Gandhi would approve. It is not the message that Vinobha Bhave’s life would give us,” he said in a public address marking the centenary of  Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati ashram in Gujarat. Last year, Modi criticized the vigilantes and urged a crackdown against groups using religion as a cover for committing crimes, but such incidents have continued.

Hours before Modi appealed against such killing, a Muslim, Asgar Ali was beaten to death at Ramgarh, 60 kms from Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand state, where the government is headed by BJP chief minister, Raghubar Das.

Leading rights watchdog Amnesty International has also called on the Indian government to ensure there is no impunity for those responsible for public lynching and other hate crimes against Muslims. “The pattern of hate crimes committed against Muslims with seeming impunity – many of them in states where the Bharatiya Janata Party is in power – is deeply worrying,” said Aakar Patel, Executive Director, Amnesty International India. “Unfortunately both the Prime Minister and various Chief Ministers have done little to show that they disapprove of this violence,” he said on Wednesday.  The group noted that since April 2017, at least ten Muslim men have been lynched or killed in public in suspected hate crimes, amid a rising tide of Islamophobia in the country.

– ucan

Modi’s words on cow vigilantism sound hollow, says opposition

June 30, 2017 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

New Delhi, June 29, 2017: Opposition leaders on Thursday attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks on killings in the name of cow protection, saying those sound “hollow” and “mere lip service”, as little has changed despite his earlier similar warnings.

Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the series of attacks on people accused of eating beef or slaughtering cows had to stop and “just words will not do”.

“We condemn killings taking place in the name of ‘gau raksha’ (cow protection). This must stop now. Just words not enough,” she tweeted.

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said Modi’s remarks in Sabarmati Ashram condemning killings in the name of cow protection was an eyewash and was done under public pressure. He described it as yet another “publicity stunt”.

The Delhi Assembly, where the Aam Aadmi Party is in an overwhelming majority, passed a resolution condemning the killings and violence across the country in the name of religion and urged people to remain alert to threats posed by divisive elements.

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief and Lok Sabha member Asaduddin Owaisi termed Modi’s comments as “lip service” and said “gau rakshaks” got direct and indirect support of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Sangh Parivar.

“The Prime Minister says killings unacceptable but three alleged killers of Pahlu khan are yet to be arrested and BJP is in power in Rajasthan. Walk the talk Mr. PM,” Owaisi tweeted.

“Modi’s statement is mere lip service… So long as an animal has a higher premium, killings of human beings will continue,” Owaisi added.

“The Prime Minister should ask himself as to who has created this atmosphere of lawlessness in the country. Pro forma condemnations are not enough. The Prime Minister must reaffirm that he believes in the founding values of the Indian state,” said Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari.

Modi, speaking at Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad on Thursday, said that killings in the name of cows were unacceptable and that nobody had the right to take the law in their hands.

Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi, in a sarcasm-laced remark, said the “presence of Gandhiji’s living spirit in Sabarmati Ashram” must have affected Modi.

“What he has said is absolutely right but it should be followed by very strong action on the ground. All the perpetrators (of hate crimes) have to be caught and prosecuted and the public’s confidence (in law and order) has to be revived,” Gandhi told IANS.

Saying that the “state has been complicit in murders in cow’s name”, Gandhi hoped that Modi’s statement would herald the beginning of a change.

Janata Dal United (JD-U) spokesman K.C. Tyagi said he did not see any substance in Modi’s remarks.

“The Prime Minister has spoken on cow vigilantism earlier too but it has had little impact on the ground. In fact, every time he issues such advisory to gau rakshaks (cow vigilantes), the incidents of violence in the name of cow go up,” Tyagi said.

Communist Party of India leader D. Raja demanded concrete action against the people involved in violence against minorities on one pretext or the other.

“He (Modi) is speaking alright but what is the action that he is suggesting? All the incidents of lynching in the name of cow are happening in BJP-ruled states. So who is patronising the cow vigilantes?” Raja said.

Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) spokesperson Manoj Jha said Modi’s words sounded hollow.

“He had made such delayed statements about the Rohith Vemula suicide and the Una incident (thrashing of Dalits) too. Did it stop? What this nation urgently requires is a robust legislation against mob lynchings,” Jha told IANS.

On Wednesday, protests were held in several cities across India under the banner of “#NotInMyName” to denounce lynching of innocent people in the name of religion and protection of cows.

– ians

Nothing wrong in inviting Muslims to temple: Udupi Matt Chief

June 30, 2017 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Udupi, June 29, 2017: The Paryaya Sri Pejavara Adhokshaja Matha in Udupi caught national attention after an Iftaar was held for Muslim residents of the temple town in Karnataka. While the move was hailed by many as a reflection of communal harmony in the country, some fringe groups including Ram Sene slammed the Matt calling it an insult to Hindus.

However, Sri Vishvesha Teertha Swamiji, the head of the Matha played down the controversy saying there was nothing new in this event and it has been happening for years.

In an interview with Bangalore Mirror he said, “During the recent festival, we organised food for the Muslims, there is no need to make an issue out of it. There is nothing new about it. It is not something that has never taken place. In all Paryayas we offer food to all communities. The only difference is this time I invited them.”

Lauding Muslim community for standing by them at times of need Swamiji said,” When there was an attempt to gherao Krishna mutt in the name of Udupi chalo, then the Muslims stood by us. They have always supported us.”

“In places such as Bhatkal and Gangavathi, Muslims have invited me to their homes as well as to inaugurate mosques. In Bhatkal and Kasargod I was honoured by the Muslims. Muslims has always extended support and co-operated in our activities,” he told the daily.

When asked why he allowed Namaz in temple premises, Swamiji said, “Namaz is a prayer offered by Muslims to God. There is nothing that maligns Hindu religion in it.”

When asked about inviting people who eat beef, the chief priest quipped that not just Muslims, there are many Hindus too who eat beef. Hindus or Muslims, attempts must be made to convince beef eaters to stop eating through peaceful means.

– inuth

When it’s hard to be patient with God’s perfect plan

June 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

“So, how have you been?” I asked the vendor at the curriculum fair, as I flipped through the sample of the sixth grade history book.

“Pretty good,” he replied, having recognized me from years past.

“And your children? Any married since I last saw you?” I felt comfortable asking such a prying question since two years previous we had exchanged glimpses of family pictures, having discovered that we each had the same number of children, even some similar in age.

“Yep, I have one just married, one about to be married, and one engaged to be married next year.” His face lit up with pride.

“That’s wonderful!” I quickly congratulated him and earnestly shared in his happiness. Memories swiftly flooded my mind of how he had endeavored to match up my oldest daughter with one of his sons after having seen her picture. He had expressed much concern that at 25 years of age, his first born still did not have any romantic involvement. And he made no qualms of his desire, as a concerned father, to move things along.

“Did you have a part in any of them meeting their future spouses?” I asked with genuine interest. He hesitated a moment as if my question had jolted his memory. Then he smiled slightly.

“No”, he replied slowly, his grin getting a little bigger.

“You weren’t responsible for any of them meeting? You didn’t make any introductions? The Lord didn’t bring any of them across your path first before your son or daughter met them?” I simply could not resist this form of questioning.

“It’s not that I didn’t try,” he quickly interjected, still smiling. Now it was my turn to grin.

“But none of your efforts paid off, did it?” He shook his head twice, slowly, back and forth, never leaving my gaze.

“So all three marriages are totally of the Lord and completely His doing? Each one is wholly in God’s timing?” I now found myself inquiring out of my own need for reassurance and encouragement.

“Yep”, came the reply. His eyes suddenly glistened as if he was experiencing this revelation for the first time. To see God’s thumbprint in one’s life is truly an awesome thing, even for the spectator.

Interfering in God’s Plan is dangerous business. Lack of patience and absence of trust in the Lord can have devastating results. One need only to look at Sarah’s determination to have children in her timing instead of waiting on God’s Promise to Abraham of an heir “out of thine own bowels” (Gen. 15:4). Her hastiness with Hagar resulted in a rival nation for her Promised son, Isaac.

Abraham’s daughter-in-law, Rebecca, had been told that “the elder [of her twins] shall serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23), yet she also took matters into her own hands. Fear for her husband in not heeding God’s command concerning the birthright, was a driving force in her intersession. The result was her son’s need to flee.

Saul’s feelings of abandonment by, and his unmet expectations of, Samuel caused him to step into territory reserved only for God’s prophets (I Sam. 13:5-14). The consequence of his hastiness was that the kingdom was taken away from him (I Sam. 13:14) and given to another.

When we run ahead of God in any situation, due to lack of patience and absence of trust, when fear is allowed to cloud our judgment, and when unmet expectations and feelings of abandonment interfere with Godly living and our walk of faith, then we miss out on God’s Perfect Will and the abundance of blessings. “The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness, but of everyone that is hasty only to want” (Prov. 21:5).

Patience is a virtue much to be aspired to. But it is also a direct result of faith. The more we believe in God’s Sovereign power, the greater our ability to wait on His timing. “He that believeth shall not make haste” (Is. 28:16).

As Christian homeschooling mothers our job is to educate our children with a Godly foundation and to the best of our ability. As we do our part, we can rest in faith that God will do His. His Perfect Plan for each of our children will be accomplished if we leave the results in His Hands.

– cross walk

Enforcement is key in fight against human trafficking, report says

June 29, 2017 by  
Filed under lead story, newsletter-lead

U.S., June 28, 2017: With an estimated 20 million victims of human trafficking today, all governments must step up their enforcement efforts, a new report by the State Department insists.

“We are all confronted with a choice: Do nothing or do something,” Ambassador Susan Coppedge of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons said Tuesday at a press conference launching the 2017 Trafficking in Persons report.

“When it comes to human trafficking, everyone has a role to play and an obligation to act,” she added. “We must choose to do something to end modern slavery.”

The annual Trafficking in Persons report was released by the State Department on Wednesday, over 400 pages in length and detailing the state of human trafficking around the world.

There are an estimated 20 million persons being trafficked today, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson noted on Tuesday at the launch of the report. This number includes children. Trafficking takes many forms, including sex slavery, debt bondage, forced marriage, and involuntary servitude.

“Human trafficking is as old as humankind. Regrettably, it’s been with us for centuries and centuries,” Secretary Tillerson stated. However, he added, “it is our hope that the 21st century will be the last century of human trafficking, and that’s what we are all committed to.”

Ivanka Trump, daughter of President Donald Trump and senior advisor to the president, was present at the launch of the TIP report on Tuesday. “On a personal level, as a mother, this is much more than a policy priority. It is a clarion call to action in defense of the vulnerable, the abused, and the exploited,” she said.

“Last month, while in Rome, I had an opportunity to talk firsthand with human trafficking survivors,” she said, recalling her meeting with trafficking victims at the Community of Sant’Egidio in Rome after President Trump met with Pope Francis on May 24.

“They told me their harrowing stories, how they were trapped in this ugly, dark web, how they survived, how they escaped, and how they are very slowly reconstructing their lives,” she said.

Pope Francis, during a November audience with RENATE, a network of European religious who fight trafficking and exploitation, emphasized that “much more needs to be done on the level of raising public consciousness and effecting a better coordination of efforts by governments, the judiciary, law enforcement officials and social workers.”

The TIP report is required to be compiled and released annually by the State Department to document how foreign governments are “prosecuting traffickers, protecting victims, and preventing the crime.” It was mandated by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, of which Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who chairs the House global human rights subcommittee, was the prime author.

The 2000 law also set up a tier ranking system for foreign countries based on their commitment and success in fighting human trafficking. Tier 1 countries are those that are abiding by “the minimum standards” of fighting trafficking, which were set by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA).

Meanwhile, Tier 2 countries do not meet those minimum standards “but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards,” the TIP report explained. A Tier 2 Watch List is for countries with more serious trafficking problems which are nonetheless making sufficient efforts to curb trafficking and meet the minimum standards of the TVPA.

Tier 3 countries are the worst trafficking offenders, because they have been determined to be not even working to meet the minimum standards for fighting trafficking.

To hold these countries accountable for their poor records on trafficking, the U.S. can take actions against these countries as allowed by the TVPA, like withholding non-humanitarian, non-trade related assistance or voting to bar them from loans by the International Monetary Fund.

China was downgraded to Tier 3 status in the most recent report, and Rep. Smith had “high praise” for the administration for recognizing China’s “shameful complicity in sex and labor trafficking.”

“They turn women into commodities for sale,” Smith said of trafficking of women from nearby Burma, Cambodia, and Vietnam for commercial sex or forced marriages in China. Goods made from Chinese slave labor are also in the supply chains of U.S. businesses, he insisted.

During a Tuesday press conference at the State Department, Ambassador Coppedge outlined some other concerns with China’s record on trafficking. According to reports from NGOs, trafficking victims have not been cared for sufficiently.

Rep. Smith stated his desire for the designation to be utilized in the future to push China toward reform of its notorious trafficking record.

“Hopefully, the new tier ranking coupled with robust diplomacy – including the imposition of sanctions authorized under Tier 3 – will lead to systemic reforms that will save women and children’s lives and ensure that Chinese exports are not made with slave labor.”

Also, many North Koreans are also working in China in slavery, with their wages effectively going to the North Korean government, Smith noted.

“The North Korean regime receives hundreds of millions of dollars per year from the fruits of forced labor,” Secretary Tillerson stated on Tuesday. “Responsible nations simply cannot allow this to go on, and we continue to call on any nation that is hosting workers from North Korea in a forced labor arrangement to send those people home.”

Of the 187 countries considered for the tier system, 40 were listed as Tier 1 countries, 80 as Tier 2, 45 were placed on the Tier 2 Watch List, and 23 were designated as Tier 3 countries, Coppedge said. Twenty-one of the countries were downgraded in status in the 2017 report, while 27 countries were upgraded.

Many countries do not prosecute trafficking as they should, Ambassador Coppedge noted, and this leads to greater impunity for traffickers to continue working. This was the theme of the 2017 TIP report, the need for governments to more strongly enforce laws against human trafficking.

“In addition to protecting victims from retribution or re-victimization, an effective criminal justice response brings traffickers to justice both to punish them for their crimes and to deter others,” the report stated.

Yet, at times, governments can be actively colluding with traffickers, Ambassador Coppedge said.

“We still see instances of government officials protecting brothels, taking bribes from traffickers, and obstructing investigations for profit, and while we still see governments criminalize and penalize victims for crimes their traffickers force them to commit,” she said.

“Trafficking in persons is a hidden crime rooted in deception,” she added. “Victims are coerced or intimidated into silence, and they often fear that if they do come forward they will be punished. When governments enact and enforce strong, comprehensive anti-trafficking laws, they send an unmistakable message to criminals: We will not tolerate this.”

The report also quoted Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, as saying that today, “wars and conflicts have become the prime driver of trafficking in persons.”

“They provide an enabling environment for traffickers to operate, as persons fleeing persecutions and conflicts are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked,” the archbishop said. “Conflicts have created conditions for terrorists, armed groups and transnational organized crime networks to thrive in exploiting individuals and populations reduced to extreme vulnerability by persecution and multiple forms of violence.”

– cna

Attacks on Christians by Buddhist radicals rising in Sri Lanka; over 20 violent cases recorded so far this year

June 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Sri Lanka, June 28, 2017: Hollywood actor Richard Gere and Apple’s co-founder, the late Steve Jobs, may have given Buddhism a “peaceful face” in the West.

But that impression doesn’t last long when Christians living in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka speak about the real situation in their country.

According to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), Buddhist nationalists launched more than 20 attacks against Christians in the South Asian country since the start of this year, World Watch Monitor (WWM) reported.

Since the Sri Lankan people elected a new government in 2015, more than 190 incidents of religious violence against churches, clergy, and Christians have been recorded, according to the NCEASL in its May 27 report.

Sectarian violence remains unabated even though freedom of religion is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Sri Lanka constitution, the report stated.

Last March, a group of Buddhist monks barged into the Christian Fellowship Church holding a Sunday morning service in south-western Sri Lanka and put a stop to the service, threatening harm to the worshipers inside.

To make matters worse, when the police arrived to investigate, they even reportedly accused church members of “disrupting the peace.”

The pastor of the church named Sampath was even interrogated at the police station, where a mob of around 200 people led by about two dozen Buddhist monks gathered, shouting anti-Christian epithets. They also blocked Sampath and his wife’s passage home.

When they reached home, they found that their house had been pelted with stones, shattering the glass windows.

When Sampath confronted the mob who had followed him home, he was hit with a pole.

Just last month, thousands of protesters led by Buddhist monks held a protest action against another Christian church in Sri Lanka, according to UCAN.

In Sri Lanka, race and religion are linked amid the popular belief that “to be Sri Lankan is to be Buddhist,” according to Mahesh De Mel, NCEASL Missions Director.

Sri Lanka is the only nation in Asia which is majority Sinhalese, he told WWM.

“To locals, to be Sinhalese is to be Buddhist, so they always try to protect our being a Sinhala Buddhist nation,” De Mel explained.

“Locals think Christianity is a new kind of colonization,” he said. “They think you have a CIA agenda.”

Sri Lanka is ranked 45th on the Open Doors 2017 World Watch List of the 50 countries where Christians face intense persecution.

– christian post

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