Boko Haram still holding 200 school girls captive

April 29, 2014 by  
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Nigeria, April 25, 2014: Boko Haram kidnappers are still holding 187 girls captive more than a week after the Islamists abducted them from their dormitories in northeastern Nigeria, according to school and government officials.The figure is much higher than the one earlier released by authorities.

Boko Haram“A total of 230 parents registered the names of their daughters who were missing on the day of the kidnap,” said Asabe Kwambura, principal of the Government Girls Secondary School in the town of Chibok.

“From my records, 43 girls have so far escaped on their own from their kidnappers. We still have 187 girls missing,” the principal said.
The school asked parents to come forward and register the names of their missing daughters a day after the April 16 kidnapping.

Borno state government officials insisted only 129 girls were originally abducted from the school, and had said that 51 escaped.

Isa umar Gusau, the spokesman for Borno state’s governor, said the escape of seven more girls on Sunday reduced the number of girls in the custody of their Boko Haram abductors to 77.

Kwambura disputed Gusau’s claim of seven more escapes.

“I’m not aware of any seven girls that escaped on Sunday,” the principal said.

Borno state Education Commissioner Musa inuwa Kubo confirmed the numbers released by Kwambura and sought to explain the discrepancies in figures provided by the government and the school.

“There was break in communication which resulted in a lack of coordination, as a result of which different figures were provided,” Kubo said.

“But the opening of a register … provided an avenue where parents of missing children recorded the names of their daughters, which furnished us with a comprehensive list of girls taken away and those that were able to escape,” the commissioner added.

Families becoming impatient

In Chibok, angry parents are becoming impatient, accusing military and state authorities of playing politics with the lives and safety of their children.

Boko Haram“It is unfortunate that the kidnap of our girls is being politicized, with so many false claims by the military and the government,” said Chibok resident Haladu Sule.

“Parents and vigilantes have suspended searches for the kidnapped girls since Thursday and we are not aware of any military rescue operation going on,” Sule said, disputing claims that the military is conducting ongoing rescue operations.

Enoch Mark, a father whose daughter and two nieces were among the kidnapped girls, also doubted the military’s claim.

He and hundreds of other Chibok residents, as well as people from nearby villages, went into the forest on motorcycles on April 19. They followed the tracks of the kidnappers up to Baale village, close to the camp where the girls were being held. During their nine-hour, 100-kilometer trek, they never saw a single soldier, Mark said.

Villagers told them the gunmen had passed through “and were camped with the girls in a creek some hundreds of meters outside the village.” Some of the girls had even been brought back to the village at gunpoint to fetch water.

Boko Haram“We were warned by residents of Baale not to proceed, saying they feared for our lives because our sticks and (outdated) guns were no match for the heavy arms of the Boko Haram gunmen,” he explained.

“The villagers warned us we would all be killed if we dared face the gunmen and would put the lives of our daughters in danger. We have therefore abandoned the search for our daughters since we know where they are but we don’t have the capacity to liberate them,” Mark added.

Some managed to escape

The father of a girl who escaped with two other girls from their abductors on April 16 also said they had been held at gunpoint.

“She told us that all the girls were gathered under trees in the forest under constant watch of gunmen,” said the father, who asked not to be named for security reasons.

“My daughter was among those selected by the kidnappers to cook food and she and two other girls cooking together came up with a plan. They told their kidnappers they needed to use the bathroom,” said the father.

The girls ran off once they were out of view of the their armed guards until they came across a village, where residents helped them get back to Chibok.

Barnabas Yakubu, a Chibok resident, wondered why the government failed to act on information supplied by residents about the location of the Boko Haram camp near Baale village.

But Kubo said the government and the military were “doing everything possible” to secure the release of the school girls.

“This is a delicate situation that requires careful handling,” Kubo said.

“When you have heavily armed men holding close to 200 girls hostage, you have to be very careful in your approach so as not to risk the safety of these girls you want to rescue.

“It is a security issue and we just can’t be divulging all the efforts we are making to get these girls freed,” the education commissioner explained.

– cnn

God’s whisper

April 29, 2014 by  
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God’s whisper

Not long ago I heard a story about a young man and an old preacher.
The young man had lost his job and didn’t know which way to turn. So he went to see the old preacher.
prayingPacing about the preacher’s study, the young man ranted about his problem. Finally he clenched his fist and shouted, “I’ve begged God to say something to help me. Tell me, Preacher, why doesn’t God answer?”

The old preacher, who sat across the room, spoke something in reply -something so hushed it was indistinguishable. The young man stepped across the room. “What did you say?” he asked.
The preacher repeated himself, but again in a tone as soft as a whisper. So the young man moved closer until he was leaning on the preacher’s chair.

“Sorry,” he said. “I still didn’t hear you.” With their heads bent together, the old preacher spoke once more. “God sometimes whispers,” he said, “so we will move closer to hear Him.”
This time the young man heard and he understood.

We all want God’s voice to thunder through the air with the answer to our problem. But God’s is the still, small voice… the gentle whisper. Perhaps there’s a reason. Nothing draws human focus quite like a whisper.

Jesus talkingGod’s whisper means I must stop my ranting and move close to Him, until my head is bent together with His. And then, as I listen, I will find my answer. Better still, I find myself closer to God. – D.E.
jesus“Be still, and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10)

‘Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

– fwd: molly coutinho

Hungary Court: New law violates church rights

April 28, 2014 by  
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Europe, April 22, 2014: The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that a controversial law in Hungary that stripped many churches of their registration violated their rights.

Hungary introduced the Church Act in 2012In a case brought by various religious communities, the court ruled on 8 April that their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights to freedom of assembly and association and freedom of thought, conscience and religion had been breached.

Hungary introduced the Church Act in 2012 as part of much-criticised changes to its constitution and associated laws. Over 300 religious groups – including several Christian denominations – lost official recognition and with it certain monetary and fiscal advantages, such as tax exemptions and subsidies, for their faith-related activities. Only 14 retained state backing.

The Church Act aimed to address problems relating to the exploitation of state funds by groups formerly registered as churches that were not conducting any genuine religious activities. The court recognised Hungary’s “legitimate concern” regarding this issue but said:

The Hungarian Government had not shown that there were not any other, less drastic solutions to problems relating to abuse of state subsidies by certain churches than to de-register the applicant communities.

The religious communities that took their case to the ECHR argued that they had been discriminated against on account of their status as religious minorities. For a religious group to be recognised under the new Church Act, it had to meet criteria including a minimum membership and duration of existence, requirements deemed “excessive” by ECHR.

The court’s ruling stated:

Distinctions in the legal status granted to religious communities must not portray some of them in an unfavourable light in public opinion… In many countries the denomination as a church and state recognition were the key to social reputation without which a religious community might be seen as a suspicious sect.

A number of major Protestant denominations, including Episcopalians, Methodists and all but one of the evangelical groups, as well as many small Catholic orders, were decertified. Every version of Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism lost state backing.

Following a ruling by the Hungarian Constitutional Court that certain provisions of the Church Act were unconstitutional, new legislation was adopted in 2013 that allowed deregistered religious communities again to refer to themselves as churches. But the law continued to apply in that the communities had to obtain Parliamentary backing to be registered as “incorporated churches” in order to regain the monetary and fiscal advantages to which they had previously been entitled.

– barnabas team

Controversy on Pope’s alleged phone call to divorcee

April 28, 2014 by  
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Vatican City, April 25, 2014: Vatican laments conflicting details that caused confusion.

Pope FrancisMedia frenzy over an alleged phone call Pope Francis made to a divorced and remarried woman allowing her to receive Communion has seen a rise in conflicting details – and has been lamented by the Vatican as causing “confusion.”

Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said yesterday that the Holy See will not officially comment on the alleged phone call Pope Francis made to an Argentinean woman this week, as the pontiff’s “personal pastoral” relationships “do not in any way form part of the Pope’s public activities”.

“That which has been communicated in relation to this matter,” he stressed in an April 24 statement, “and the consequent media amplification, cannot be confirmed as reliable, and is a source of misunderstanding and confusion.”

The story of a woman in Argentina that allegedly received a phone call from Pope Francis on Easter Monday, giving her “permission” to receive Communion since she is married with a divorced man, has become more complex and doubtful in some of its details.

The situation involves Jaquelina Lisbona, 47, and Julio Sabetta, 50, of San Lorenzo – a small city 185 miles North West from Buenos Aires.

Sabetta was married into the Catholic church in 1985, but got legally divorced in 1992. In 1994, he was re-introduced to Jaquelina – they had been boyfriend and girlfriend in their teens – and the two started to live together in a civil union. Since then, they had two children, Candela and Josefina, aged 17 and 14, respectively.

Six years ago, during Candela’s preparation for her confirmation – both daughters have been baptized, received first Holy Communion and have been confirmed – the local pastor at that time, who has been erroneously described as having left the priesthood by some news sources, told Jaquelina that she could not receive Communion because of her marital status.

Last September, encouraged by a friend, she decided to write Pope Francis about her situation and her desire to receive Communion.

The story of the Pope’s “permission” to Jaquelina to receive Communion was first posted on Monday evening by Sabetta on his Facebook Page when he wrote: “Today one of the most beautiful things happened to me since the birth of my two daughters, I got a call in my home from none other than Pope Francis, it was a big emotion, we cannot figure it out yet, this call was originated by my wife who sent him a letter and he took his time to call her and talk to her and I can assure you that when he talks, he gives you total peace. Thanks God for this blessing!”

The story was originally picked up by local radio station “La Red,” and local newspaper “La Capital.” It was then mentioned by the national Argentinean News Agency TELAM and by Wednesday the news story spread globally, including the Drudge Report.

What the Pope exactly told Jaquelina is a matter of controversy. Speaking to La Red, Jaquelina said that after talking for about ten minutes with the Pope, he allegedly told her that there are some priests that are “more Papist than the Pope” and that she should “go to confession and start taking Communion at a different parish.”

In a second interview, overwhelmed by the international attention and the phone calls from around the world, she confirmed that she received “permission” to receive Communion by the Pope, but she complained: “this was supposed to be discrete, now I don’t think I will be able to go anywhere now.”

Since Wednesday, Jaquelina has not been available for comments.

– catholic news agency

3 Americans martyred in Kabul?

April 26, 2014 by  
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Kabul PoliceDelhi, April 24, 2014: We have just received information that three American Christians were allegedly martyred and two others, including one sister was injured by Afghan police and soldiers in Kabul yesterday.  The incident occurred when the three believers, who were doctors went to the CURE Hospital in Kabul to meet another brother, who was one of the senior doctors in that hospital. While they were inside the compound, the soldier who was responsible for the security of the hospital compound opened firing on them; and unfortunately 3 of them were killed and two others were injured. Two among the martyrs were a father and son.

The CURE Hospital is reportedly working under a Christian charity – Cure International – which operates in 29 countries with the motto: curing the sick and proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Afghan Christian refugees in India call for prayers, believing our three brothers are with the Lord, rejoicing for giving their lives for the sake of proclaiming His Gospel to the lost. Please also pray that God may give strength to their families and friends, besides Afghan believers in India, who are discriminated and those back home in Afghanistan, who are persecuted.

– afghan christians in delhi

Police in India rebuke, file case against Christians fleeing Hindu extremist attack in Jharkhand

April 26, 2014 by  
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Pastor Tilas Bedia, (left), with the family of his brother Chandra Bedia (center).

Pastor Tilas Bedia, (left), with the family of his brother Chandra Bedia (center).

New Delhi, March 26, 2014: A police station official in India’s Jharkhand state this month reviled Christians who sought protection after Hindu extremists beat and threatened to kill them for refusing to convert to Hinduism, area church leaders said.Accusing Christian leaders of forcible conversion, the Hindu extremists earlier this month attempted to forcibly convert several church members after disrupting a home worship service, beating them and parading them half-naked through the street, area pastor Rampath Nath told Morning Star News.Police subsequently registered a case of forcible conversion against four Christians, he said.

Virender Singh, the police official at the station in Patratu Thana, Ramgarh District, verbally abused the Christians who fled their homes, rebuked them and sent them away without taking their complaint after the Hindu extremists beat them on two consecutive days, stripped off their clothes and chased them from Pali village, Nath said.Some 10 Hindu extremists stormed into the March 4 worship meeting at the house of pastor Tilas Bedia at 7 p.m. and began beating the Christians, including the pastor’s 60-year-old mother, Christian leaders said.

“The extremists asked the Christians why they are following Christ when they should be worshipping their tribal god and threatened to kill them if they continued to follow Christ,” Nath said. “They left after they told the Christians that they will teach them a lesson the next day.”

On March 5 at about 11 a.m. a mob of extremists appeared, led by Suresh Upadia, leader of the local Vishwa Hindu Parishad, youth wing of the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal, and village head Rohan Bedia. They dragged several Christians from their homes to the compound of the village head, who summoned a public meeting.“The extremists dragged about 15 people who come to our prayer meetings,” said Jodhan Bedia, a pastor at the church. “They let us stand in the middle and started to verbally abuse us for following Christ, for being low-caste, and warned us to convert back to Hinduism or face harm.”Several terrified church members denied they were Christians, pastors said.

“They ran off after saying they were Hindus,” Tilas Bedia said, “and two teenage girls who did not deny Christ were forcefully ‘converted’ back to Hinduism.”Manita Kumari, 16, and Meenu Kumari, 17, refused to renounce Christ, he said.

“The extremists slapped them, verbally abused them for their faith in Christ, threatening them that they will never find a husband if they remain Christians, and forced them to worship Hindu idols at the spot,” he said.The extremists continued to mock and beat Tilas Bedia, and his brother, Chandra Bedia, as well as the latter’s family; they also beat Jodhan Bedia.“We told the extremists that we are ready to leave our house, but we cannot leave Christ,” Tilas Bedia said.

The Hindu nationalists slapped and kicked the Christians and struck them with their hands, slippers and clubs. The mother of Tilas and Chandra Bedia fell to the ground from the beating, spraining her ankle as her face swelled up from the blows, they said.The extremists then dragged Tilas Bedia, Chandra Bedia and another Christian leader along a road, paraded them half-naked as they jeered and beat them, and dragged them to the outskirts of the village.“They forced us to sign on a blank paper and told us that we will be cut into pieces if we ever return to the village,” Tilas Bedia said. “They said, ‘Those who worship Jesus cannot stay in the village.’”The three Christians, who converted to Christianity about four years ago, sustained bruises and marks on their backs, and swelling on their faces and other areas, Nath said.

“On March 10, we received a copy of a First Information Report registered against pastor Tilas Bedia, Chandra Bedia, pastor Jodhan Bedia and myself by police officer Virender Singh of forceful conversion,” Nath said.Singh was not available for comment, but Ramgarh Superintendent of Police Shri Ranjit Kumar Singh told Morning Star News that he had received the Christians’ police complaint and had sent a deputy to investigate.“Nobody can say anything about the faith that a person chose,” the superintendent said. “The Constitution of India has given the right to each individual to follow the faith that he or she likes. Appropriate action will be taken against the culprits.”The pastors were scheduled to appear before a judge on April 4. Area Christian leaders said there was no instance of forceful conversion by the accused.

Since Tilas Bedia, Chandra Bedia and Jodhan Bedia began following Christ, their families have been shunned and boycotted and have faced continual threats, Nath said.“They are not allowed to fetch water from the public well, they are not allowed to walk on the main road and they were prohibited from buying and selling in the village,” Nath said. “They were often beat up and verbally abused and warned to renounce Christ or face harm.”

– morningstar news

Tribals torn apart by religion

April 26, 2014 by  
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Tribal MaryJharkhand, April 22, 2014: Two months before polling began in Jharkhand, Ajay Tirkey began dividing his day between campaigning for the Bharatiya Janata Party in Ranchi and attending to his real estate business. Mr. Tirkey, who heads the Central Sarna Committee(CSC), with lakhs of animistic Sarna tribals as members in urban parts of Ranchi, Gumla and Hazaribagh, believes that the BJP’s Narendra Modi will get the community what it has been demanding for decades: the distinction of being a minority religion with all attendant benefits. “We submitted a memorandum to Modi in December to introduce a Sarna code in the census, and [the] BJP’s State leaders agreed,” he says.

Mr. Tirkey — tall, stout, dressed in white shirt and trousers and wearing a golden watch on one wrist and a vermillion thread on the other — speaks softly and smiles often, even while narrating the violence that has broken out following his organisation’s attempt to stop religious conversions in the last decade. The office of his company, Deoshila Development Private Limited, is sparsely furnished, with only a poster of Hanuman for decoration. Mr. Tirkey owns the commercial complex we are sitting in. “This is a century-old fight. I have not let the Christians get away with conversions since I became the head in 2000,” he says. “We broke the walls of a church in Tape in Ormanjhi while it was being constructed. There was a case of conversion of five families in Ghagrajala village in Ranchi; we re-converted three. Then a few families in Gaitalsud, Angada, of whom only one member escaped because he worked somewhere else. He has not come back since; he fears us,” he recounts, beaming.

Mr. Tirkey, the BJP’s mayoral candidate from Ranchi in 2013, describes the “re-conversion” ceremonies as being similar to the ghar-waapsi (homecoming) ceremonies conducted by BJP leader Dilip Singh Judeo in Chhattisgarh, in the mid-2000s. Mr. Judeo used to wash the feet of the converted person with holy water and declare the person Hindu again. Sarnas, Mr. Tirkey says, besides washing feet, made the converted person taste a drop of blood of a freshly sacrificed rooster and sprinkled water on them. A member of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh’s Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (VKA) or Dharam Jagran usually accompanied CSC members for this ceremony, he says. Sitting by Mr. Tirkey’s side, Manoj Kumar, a member of the BJP’s Jharkhand Kisan Morcha Pradesh Samiti, nods in agreement.

Conversion politics

In the last century, religious conversions in the Chotanagpur region have led to tensions. The first missionaries to arrive were the German Protestants in 1845, followed by the Catholics. The rift between Christian and non-Christian tribals was visible in 1947-48. Concerned with the growing influence of Christians, Sarna leaders formed a ‘Sudhar Sabha,’ notes academic Dr. Alex Ekka in an essay on the Jharkhand movement.

The former captain of the Indian hockey team, Jaipal Singh Munda, is credited with getting equal rights including reservations for Christian tribals, as a member of the Constituent Assembly. A few Sarna leaders opposed this move then. Congress MP Kartik Oraon introduced a bill in Parliament in 1968 to de-schedule Christian tribals, albeit unsuccessfully.
The Jan Sangh and the RSS began making inroads in the Chotanagpur region in the 1960s, initiating developmental activities in forest villages to counter the growing reach of Christian missionaries. While the VKA already has a strong presence in the Gumla and Latehar districts of West Jharkhand, more recently it has focused on increasing its influence in Sahebganj and Pakur along the State’s border with West Bengal, close to Bangladesh. Both districts feature in a map of areas from Uttar Pradesh to the north-east as “Areas of high Muslim and Christian influence” in a publication by Sankat Mochan Ashram, New Delhi.

“The church was trying to proselytize in Pakur but slowed down after we increased our presence. We recently performed ghar-waapsi for 50 families there. Sarna groups are doing re-conversions themselves now; we prefer it this way. We explain to them that 2000 years ago, we worshipped trees. Sarnas are Hindu too,” says Prakash Kamat, the Bihar-Jharkhand zonal secretary of the VKA.
Tribals constitute 26.3 per cent of Jharkhand’s population. According to the 2001 Census, of the State’s population of 3.29 crore, 68.5 per cent are Hindus and 13.8 per cent are Muslims. Only four per cent follow Christianity. Though Sarnas, who worship their ancestors and nature, are not counted separately, they make up most of the ‘Other’ category, estimated at 11 to 13 per cent of the population. Sarna groups claim that the actual numbers may be higher, given the absence of a separate category for them. A common perception is that despite their small numbers, Christian tribals have better access to higher education and jobs. Whether due to economic disparities or the stoking of enmities by different religious groups, the chasm between Sarna and Christian tribals has widened.

A deep divide

The most stark instance of this was in 2013 when a spate of protests erupted in Ranchi soon after the Cardinal Telesphore Toppo unveiled the statue of a “tribal” Mary — a dark-skinned Mother Mary wearing a white and red saree and bangles, holding an infant Jesus in a sling, as is common among tribal women. Sarna dharamguru Bandhan Tigga, considered more moderate than Ajay Tirkey’s group, gave the Church three months to remove the statue, describing it as a conversion tactic. In August, over 3,000 Sarna tribals marched to the site, a small Catholic church in Singpur on Ranchi’s outskirts, threatening to bring it down. The police imposed Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code in the area to stop the protesters. Three days later, a FIR was registered against members of Sarna groups after they threatened families in Ormanjhi, 50 km from Singpur, who had converted to Protestantism several years ago, to re-convert to Sarna religion within a week, even breaking the gate of the house of one of the families.

Sources close to the Cardinal claim he had not known that the statue was that of a “tribal” Mary before he reached the parish for the inauguration, but have chosen to stay silent, fearing that a step back now may only weaken the church’s position. Before this, in 2008, the church was on the back foot when Sarna groups questioned the ‘Nemha Bible’ published by a Lutheran church in the tribal language, Kuduk, which they said contained portions offensive to animistic worship.

In Singpur, the residents still recount last year’s protests cautiously. “Thousands marched from Dhurva to the parish. While the march had been called by Sarna groups, several Bajrang Dal members wearing saffron bands marched with them. Even tribals from neighbouring Odisha, Chhattisgarh districts reached here,” recalled a member of the community. It was done by evoking Sarnas’ pride, say Dharam Jagran members.

– hindu

Marking past in the present

April 26, 2014 by  
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St. Marks CathedralBangalore, April 19, 2014: Nestled in the heart of the Garden city is one of the most remarkable monuments that pays tribute to Bangalore’s undying spirit – St. Mark’s Cathedral. Founded in 1808 and completed in 1812, the 206-year-old imperial structure, situated at the prime location of Mahatma Gandhi Road, has a history that plays a significant role in the shaping of the city.

Named after St. Mark, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ and author of the Gospel of St. Mark, the church is testament to the rich heritage that the British mission left to Bangalore.

Consecrated by the Bishop of Calcutta in 1816, the beautiful colonial structure with a graceful dome over a semicircular chancel did not always look like it does today. The structure was initially built between the Fort of Bangalore and the Baird Barracks. It was barely able to accommodate 450 soldiers at that time and was designed like a matchbox structure. Growing to a congregation of over 2000 worshippers in a few years, the need for enlargement soon became a necessity. While the Holy Trinity Church and East Parade Church came up to accommodate the swelling numbers, St. Mark’s Cathedral continued to expand on its own scale.

A massive part of the blossoming British Cantonment, St. Mark’s Cathedral pioneered the establishment of the Bishop Cotton School and was chiefly responsible for the stabilisation and strengthening of the education system in the city.

In 1905, Bangalore became the first city in India to get electricity and on September 9, 1908, which marked its centenary year, St. Mark’s Church witnessed the installation and inauguration of electric lights for the public worship.

On the midnight of February 17, 1923, a serious fire destroyed the interiors of the church following which a large section of the building collapsed. The church was renovated and reopened in 1937 and the structure modified to look as it does today.

Along with its renovation came the shift in its congregation. What began as a church for the garrison later saw elite groups of Indians thronging it. Soon after Independence, local residents started using it and the church was made a part of Church of South India – a union of Anglican and Protestant churches of South India.

The two-manual pipe organ, encased in Burma Teakwood was installed in 1928. Used even today in the Sunday services, the depth and balance of its tonal qualities makes the organ a valuable part of the Church’s legacy. The most notable features of the Cathedral are the Roman archers along the walls. With external bells, elaborate woodwork and ornate carvings coupled with majestically done ceilings and domes, the imperial structure is also famous for its stained glass work, the most notable of which is one depicting the Holy Communion at one end of the church. Adding to its grandeur are magnificent pillars supporting the structure surrounded by memorial tablets.

Beginning with Rev. W. Thomas in 1812 to the present Presbyter-in-charge Rev. D. Moses Jayakumar, the cathedral has seen a rich transformation in its structure as well as the people visiting it. But it has endured the test of time and remained a lasting landmark in the cityscape.

Reverend Prem Mitra, the assistant presbyter, says that being part of such a historic church is a great privilege. With Easter round the corner, the pastor says: “At a time when worship forms are changing and music is evolving, the church upholds the traditions of old. Times are changing but the church stands for something that is still part of our city’s legacy.”

“For the environmentalist in me, the church is also one of the most important lung spaces in the heart of the city,” he adds referring to the wide canopy of trees in the compound.

The magnificent edifice at No. 1 M. G. Road continues to stir hearts and draw people to it, making it a lasting part of Bangalore’s wonder.

– hindu

Christian man killed for not converting to Islam

April 26, 2014 by  
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Christian man killedPakistan, April 24, 2014: A 22-year-old Christian working as a janitor at an Islamic Centre in Lahore was shot dead by a Muslim security guard colleague two days before Good Friday for refusing to convert to Islam.

Haroon, alias Sunny, had only recently taken up the job and had been working with his assailant Umer Farooq, who had been persuading him to convert to Islam, promising him a life of luxury.

Haroon who persistently refused the suggestion reportedly stated on the day of the murder that he was a true follower of Jesus Christ. Farooq was angered by the remark and fired on Haroon. The bullet pierced his head, killing him on the spot. The murderer later tried to call it a suicide.

The police took the security guard into custody immediately but an FIR was registered only after local Christians held protest demonstrations.

Nasir Saeed, Director CLAAS-UK, condemned the killing and said that there were several cases of religious intolerance and torture against Christians in Muslim-majority Pakistan.

“Recently a report published by MSP said that 1000 young Christian and Hindu women were forcibly converted to Islam. There are also incidents where young men and boys are also forced to convert to Islam, and murdered or implicated in false cases if they refuse,” he said.

– pakistan christian post

UK: What the numbers say about religion

April 26, 2014 by  
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British Social Attitudes surveyUK, April 24, 2014: The United Kingdom “should be more confident about [its] status as a Christian country,” Prime Minister David Cameron wrote in a recent opinion piece published before Easter.

His statement has sincedrawn strong opposition, including a letter to a British newspaper from a group of more than 50 scientists, writers and others. Cameron’s comments “foster alienation and division,” the letter says, asserting that they are also not true. “Surveys, polls and studies show that most of us as individuals are not Christian in our beliefs or our religious identities.”

Both may be correct, depending on the data source. By one definition, England, at least, is a Christian nation: The Church of England is the official state church of England. Looking at the religious affiliation of the population, however, a more complex picture emerges.

There are different ways to measure the U.K.’s religious makeup. A majority of the population identifies as Christian, according to 2011 census results. But some surveys, including the 2012 British Social Attitudes survey (which uses different question wording), find a lower level of affiliation with Christianity.

The 2011 census in England and Wales (home to more than 85% of the U.K.’s population) found that, in response to the question “What is your religion?” a majority (59%) of the population said Christian. Separate censuses were conducted in the same year with a different question – “What religion, religious denomination or body do you belong to?” – inScotland, where 54% identified as Christian, and Northern Ireland, where a higher share (82%) said they are Christian. In each of the three cases, about 7% did not answer the question.

But in the 2012 British Social Attitudes survey – which surveyed people ages 15 and older in England, Wales and Scotland and asked “Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion? If yes, which one?” – a much higher share (48%) said they have no religious affiliation. The survey found the Christian population was less than half (46%) of the total.

(The United States, by comparison, is more solidly Christian, with 73% identifying as such and one-in-five identifying with no religion, according to a 2012 Pew Research survey.)

While question wording likely plays a role in the significant differences between the U.K.’s censuses and surveys, there also may be other factors. For example, question order may affect results; the religion question on the England and Wales census followed a question about ethnicity, while the ethnicity question came after questions about religion in the British Social Attitudes survey. There also are differences in data collection methods, such as the census being conducted primarily online and on paper and the survey being conducted via face-to-face interviews.

– pew

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