Church to issue guidelines for members in view of Goa polls

December 29, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Panaji, December 28, 2016: Goa Church will issue guidelines to Christians to help them decide “the right candidate” to vote for in the next year’s Assembly elections. The Church, however, clarified that it will not canvass for any candidate or the party.

“Elections to the legislative assembly are approaching and Church leadership in Goa will take up this duty bound task once again.

“We do issue guidelines to our faithful on how to exercise their franchise and thus fulfill one of their sacred civic duties,” said Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao of Goa and Daman on Wednesday here while addressing a customary reception on Christmas.

He said though the guidelines are read out in churches, they never mention name of any candidate or any political party, News 18 reported.

The function was attended by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Goa Governor Mridula Sinha and Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar among others.

However, the archbishop said the faithfuls are requested to vote as per their conscience. He lamented that “certain elements today accuse the church in India of being involved in conversions.”

“Our institutions have been attacked, robbed, burnt down and the perpetrators of this crime often goes scot free. It is almost as if the tiny three percent is posing a serious threat for the disintegration of the whole nation,” Ferrao said.

Referring to the illegal mining issue, the archbishop said the church is the trustee of this land.

“It is our solemn duty to ensure that the value of the land is passed on to our future generation. All generation and all within a generation would benefit equally.

“But what we see is extensive environmental and social damage to Goa which has generated rampant corruption and even weakened governance. It has been an assault on our community and our natural wealth, more distressingly it has been a loss to our children and our future generation,” he said.

– matters india

20,000 NGOs banned for FCRA violation

December 29, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

New Delhi, December 28, 2016: The government, on Wednesday, said that it has cancelled the FCRA licence of close to 20,000 of the 33,000 NGOs operating in the country after they were found to be flouting certain norms laid out in the Foreign Contributions Registrations Act, 2010.

The FCRA or Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 is nothing but a regulatory act formed to keep a check on civil society bodies that may be receiving foreign funds in an illegal manner. Therefore, the cancellation of an FCRA licence means that the NGOs in question can no longer take funds from a foreign contributor but they can continue to work on donations given by Indian companies and individuals.

Home Ministry officials said after cancellation of the FCRA licences of around 20,000 NGOs, only 13,000 NGOs in the country are legally valid now to receive foreign funds, First Post reported.

The exercise of reviewing the working of the NGOs was started about a year ago and the process is still continuing, official sources said.

Among the 13,000 valid NGOs, around 3,000 have submitted applications for renewal while Ministry of Home Affairs received 2,000 new applications for registration under the FCRA for the first time.

An additional 300 NGOs are currently under prior permission category but not registered under the FCRA. This means that although these NGOs don’t hold a FCRA licence, they can accept funds from foreign sources by taking prior permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The FCRA licences of around 16 NGOs were renewed by the Home Ministry under the “automatic” route and all the cases were reviewed thoroughly and except in two cases, 14 NGOs have been put under the prior permission category, while papers of two other NGOs are under examination.

As per FCRA, if an NGO is put under prior permission category, it is barred to receive foreign funding from abroad without taking permission from the Home Ministry.

– matters india

Christians poisoned after drinking toxic liquor in Pakistan on Christmas day

December 29, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Pakistan, December 28, 2016; Dozens of Christians were poisoned with toxic alcohol during a Christmas party in the Punjab province of Pakistan on Sunday, which caused over 30 people to perish.

At least 31 people have died and as many as 60 people fell ill after consuming the alcohol during the holiday party in the small town of Toba Tek Singh.

According to The New York Times, a local police officer named Atif Imran Qureshi said that as many as 50 people were transported to a hospital in the closest major city, Faisalabad, while at least a dozen were taken to a local hospital.

After initial reports indicated that as many as 27 had died, authorities are saying that a total of 12 people died on Monday, while 19 people died on Tuesday.

Local police officer Mohammad Nadeem told BBC that another 25 people are still being treated and are having their stomachs pumped at hospitals in Faisalabad or the hospital in Toba Tek Singh.

“The men who belong to the Christian community drank liquor on the night of 25 December and went home,” Nadeem explained. “Tragedy struck the next morning when many did not rise from their beds, while others got sick.”

As it is illegal in Pakistan for Muslims to buy alcohol, Christians and other religious minorities can technically buy alcohol but doing so requires a special permit from local and federal authorities.

The strict alcohol laws in Pakistan often leads many non-Muslims and Muslims alike to brew their own alcoholic beverages or buy bootlegged alcohol, which often can be hazardous considering it take precise conditions to separate the dangerous methanol properly.

Since alcoholic beverages were banned in the Muslim-majority country in 1977, bootlegging alcohol has become a multi-million dollar industry.

Nadeem said that the liquor consumed by those victims on Christmas Day was also believed to be a homemade liquor.

Nadeem explained that two men had been tasked with going to the store to buy alcohol for the party, however, the local vendors were out of stock.

“The local sellers were out of stock so they went and bought it from somewhere else,” the police officer explained. “Both [men] have died.”

Authorities are still in the process of investigating to find out where the alcohol was made and sold.

As the Times reports, most of the residents of the village where the deadly alcohol was consumed are Christians.

“We are still investigating what kind of drink it was,” Qureshi told The New York Times. “We didn’t find any bottles, but it would most probably be homemade liquor.”

This is not the first time and probably won’t be the last time that there has been a mass poisoning as a result of the consumption of dangerous homemade liquors in Pakistan.

On Oct. 5, Pakistani authorities reported that at least 21 people died in the city of Karachi in the Sindh province after consuming toxic liquor while celebrating the Islamic holiday Eid al-Adha.

That came after 19 others in Karachi died from poisoning the week before.

– christian post

Profanity-Laced Tupac ‘Hail Mary’ rap lyrics printed in Christmas carol program in Sri Lanka

December 29, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-world

Sri Lanka, December 28, 2016; In this day and age, the term “Hail Mary” means different things to different people and organizers of a Christmas carolling event organized by the Archdiocese of Columbo in Sri Lanka this December learned that lesson the hard way.

To many Catholics, the “Hail Mary” is a prayer recited for the intercession of the blessed virgin mother of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

To football fans, a “Hail Mary” is a long pass thrown in desperation to the end zone at the end of a game in hopes that it somehow comes down in a receiver’s hands for a touchdown.

As for many hip-hop fans, they think of the title of a rap song by by the late rap legend Tupac Shakur when they hear the term “Hail Mary.”

Unfortunately, the organizers of one of Sri Lanka’s largest Christmas carol fundraising services didn’t double-check which version of “Hail Mary” was included in the programs for the Joy to the World 2016 service before they printed and handed them out.

Attendees of the Dec. 11 service held in the nation’s capital city of Colombo were surprised to find that instead of the Catholic prayer they are accustomed to seeing and reciting, the program included Tupac’s version of the “Hail Mary.”

Anyone who attended the service and read the program might have been alarmed to find such expletives as the N-word and might have been even more alarmed that the program asks “do you want to ride or die?”

The gaffe made waves on Twitter and other social media platforms, as an attendee posted pictures of the program’s “Hail Mary” page.

“A lot of people were in shock as whether it was a joke or someone would actually rap the song,” an attendee named Andrew Choksy told CNN. “A few of the older ladies in front of us could not stop looking at the printed booklet.”

The event was organized in part by the Archdiocese of Colombo and the Joseph Vaz Trust. Following the unwanted attention caused by the error, a representative from the archdiocese told CNN that the organizers didn’t realize the mistake until it was too late.

Once they realized the mistake, the organizers asked for the programs to be returned.

“The page was in the middle of the booklet. When people looked at this page, they saw it before the start of the show,” Father Da Silva explained. “Two people saw it and alerted us to it.”

“We are very sorry to say that this happened,” he added.

– christian post

7 Breathtaking privileges of being a child of God

December 28, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-miscellaneous

Feeling weary today? Distant from God? Anxious? Uncertain? In this article Tim Keller warms our hearts with seven breathtaking privileges of being a child of God set out by Paul in Romans 8:14-17:

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

1. Security

We are not to fear, but enjoy sonship (v 15a). An employee or a servant basically obeys out of fear of punishment, loss of job, etc. But a child-parent relationship is not characterized by a fear of losing the relationship.

2. Authority

We have the status not of “a slave” but of “sonship” (v 15a). In a house, slaves have no authority. They can only do what they are told. But under their parents, children do have authority in the house—they are not mere servants. The children of God are given authority over sin and the devil. They are to move about in the world knowing that it belongs to their Father. There should be a confidence and poise about them. Children have the honor of the family name. There is a wonderful new status conferred on us.

3. Intimacy

“By him we cry, ‘Abba’” (v 15b). We need to know the original language here. “Abba” was an Aramaic term which is best translated “Daddy”—a term of the greatest intimacy. A child does not always (or even often) address his father as “Father”; likely, he has a different term for him that shows his loving, trusting familiarity with his father, such as “Dad” or “Papa” or “Daddy.” And this is how Christians can approach the all-powerful Creator of the universe, who sustains every atom in existence moment by moment!

Martyn Lloyd-Jones is worth quoting here: “Let us notice the word ‘cry’… we cry ‘Abba, Father.’ It is a very strong word, and clearly the apostle has used it quite deliberately. It means ‘a loud cry’ … it expresses deep emotion … It is the spontaneity of the child who sees the father … and not only spontaneity, but confidence.” (Romans Chapter 8:5-17, pages 240-242)

4. Assurance

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (v 16). When we cry out to God as “Abba,” the Spirit of God somehow comes alongside us (“with our spirit”) and gives us assurance that we truly are in God’s family. There is a lot of debate about the nature of this “testimony,” but it appears to be an inner witness in the heart, a sense that yes, he really loves me.

Notice, Paul says our spirit is already testifying: “The Spirit … testifies with our spirit.” This means we already have evidence that we are Christians. We know we trust Christ. We have his promises. We see our lives changing and growing. All these pieces of evidence lead our “spirit”—our hearts—to have a measure of confidence that we really are his. But Paul says that the Spirit can come alongside us and, in addition to all we see, “testify.” This seems to refer to a direct testimony of the Spirit in our hearts. This probably is a sense of God’s immediate presence and love that sometimes comes to us (something Paul has already spoken of back in 5:5). We don’t get this all the time, or even often; and it may not be a very strong feeling. But there will be times when, as we cry out to Abba, we find ourselves deeply assured that he really is our Abba. That is the Spirit’s work, testifying for us and to us that we truly are sons of the living God.

5. Inheritance

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs” (v 17). This means we have an incredible future. In more ancient times, the first son was the heir. There may have been many children, and all were loved, but the heir got the largest share of the wealth and carried on the family name. This was the way a great family kept its influence intact and did not have it divided and dissipated. (Paul’s reference should not be read as either supporting or rejecting this practice. It is simply illustrative.) Now, in a breathtaking turn, he calls all Christians “heirs of God.” This is a miracle, of course, because the heir got the lion’s share of the parent’s wealth. Paul is saying that what is in store for us is so grand and glorious that it will be, and will feel, as though we each had alone gotten most of the glory of God.

6. Discipline

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs … if indeed we share in his sufferings“ (v 17). Fathers always discipline their children. When parents discipline a child, they allow or introduce a milder form of pain in order to teach or mature the child away from behavior that will lead to far greater pain later. Hebrews 12:9-10 explains: “We have all had human fathers who disciplined us … but God disciplines us for our good.” A good father will lovingly discipline. He will not use his authority selfishly to indulge his own need to feel powerful or in control. But neither will he be so needy for his child’s love and approval that he never does what is hard or difficult. It is a (painful) privilege to be put through discipline by the most loving Father in the universe.

7. Family likeness

“We share in his sufferings” (Romans 8:17). Christians will suffer, not simply in the pains of this world that all people face, but specifically because they are brothers and sisters of Christ. Christ faced rejection because of who he was, and because he had come to expose sinfulness, warn of judgment and offer salvation through himself. Likewise, his family will suffer in the same ways as they live for him and speak of him. We get to be like him! God works in us and through our circumstances so that we would “be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (v 29). Though we are adopted, God actually implants Christ’s nature in us. As sons of God, we actually come to resemble the Son of God. As we bear the family likeness of suffering, we become more and more like the Son, and our Father, in our characters and attitudes. This is how the Christian looks at persecution and counts it as a privilege (eg: Acts 5:41; 1 Peter 4:13, 16). We get to be like him!

– cross walk

Franklin Graham reveals his ‘Drastic’ New Year’s resolution

December 28, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead

U.S., December 28, 2016: Evangelist Franklin Graham says his 2017 New Year’s resolution is going to lead to him making a “drastic” change in his life.

With the New Year fast approaching, Graham, the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the head of the Samaritan’s Purse humanitarian organization, took to his Facebook page on Tuesday to reveal to his supporters what he will be doing in the upcoming year to improve himself.

In the written post, the 64-year-old son of famed evangelist Billy Graham admitted that he has “some extra pounds” that he would like to lose and that he would love to return to the weight that he was as a freshman in high school.

Recognizing that returning to his high school weight might be a little too ambitious, he that he would settle for making it back to the weight he was as a freshman in college during the early 1970s.

While many people who have resolutions to lose weight tend to go on diets, try to eat in moderation or start new exercise regimens to shed those unwanted pounds, Graham said he doesn’t think he will be able to handle his love for McDonald’s “Quarter Pounders with Cheese” and barbecued meats with any sort of healthy moderation.

That is why he has decided that he will overhaul his diet by no longer eating meats, or even any animal products, at all.

“Therefore, beginning January 1, I’m going to try something drastic — I’m going on a vegan diet,” Graham explained.

“Vegetables and fruit anyway you can fix them,” Graham continued. “Do you think I’ll survive?”

While Graham revealed that “everyone is betting” his new vegan diet won’t last two days, he figures that if biblical figures like Daniel can do it, so can he.

“Remember in the Bible, Daniel went on a complete vegetable diet and after 10 days, his appearance was better than the others who hadn’t,” Graham said.

Graham called on his supporters to help him by posting any great vegetable recipes that they would like to share.

With over 5,600 comments as of Wednesday morning, Graham’s fans gave him a plethora of different advice.

One fan suggested that if Graham wants to lose weight he should “cut out all the white” like rice, potatoes and bread. Another supporter advised that Graham should go on a gluten-free diet to make his body feel better. And one commenter said that a little protein like chicken or fish every once in awhile wouldn’t hurt.

A supporter suggested that if Graham wants to lose weight, a vegan diet might not be the best way for him to do it.

“Meat is good, just don’t combine it with a simple carb when you eat It,” Gilbert Davis commented on the post. “Eliminate the sugar, corn syrup, hydrogenated fats and oils and eat your complex carbs without meat unless that meat is fish. The vagan [sic] diet might be good for other reasons but I would not go to it in order to try and lose weight.”

– christian post

Derecognise church courts, Christian body pleads SC

December 28, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Delhi, December 28, 2016: Joining the chorus for a Uniform Civil Code (UCC), a Christian body has approached the Supreme Court with a demand to derecognise ‘church courts’, terming that any privilege that allows a particular religion to have its own legal system is “divisive” for a secular India.

Raising its voice against the existence and prevalence of Ecclesiastical Courts, the validity of which is under challenge before the apex court, the body called “Joint Christian Council” (JCC) was of the view that such religious courts that adjudicate personal laws of a particular religion are “anachronistic” in a modern democratic state.

A Bench, headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur, issued notice to the Centre on the application drafted by advocate Santosh Paul and allowed the body to intervene in a pending petition by a lawyer, Clarence Pais. Seeking recognition of all decisions taken by Ecclesiastical Courts, Pais contended that several Catholic men had remarried after their first marriage was annulled by these courts.

She further contended that if these decisions were to be set aside by the apex court, thousands of Catholic men will be arrested for bigamy under the Indian Penal Code.

The application holds significance as the apex court has already asked the Centre whether it wanted to implement Article 44 of the Constitution, which talks of a Uniform Civil Code. At the same time, another bench of the Supreme Court is dealing with the validity of Sharia laws that form the code of law for marriage and divorce among Muslims.

The Kerala-based Joint Christian Council in its application said, “It is dangerously divisive for secular India to give special privilege to a particular faith in the form of Ecclesiastical Courts…it would be no solution to try to give multiple religions multiple legal system. There are simply too many different faiths and beliefs and it would be chaotic legal systems if such prayers are granted.”

The application said Ecclesiastical Courts are peculiar to English jurisprudence which has a State religion. These courts were controlled by the Church but by the 19th century many of the clauses dealt with by the over 365 Ecclesiastical Courts were either abolished or stood transferred to civil courts.

Finding no relevance of such courts in a secular, democratic society like India, the application suggested, “It is unfair and divisive for organised religion to have a privileged formal role in the constitution of a modern democratic state.” Moreover, the Council argued that within the Christian population in the country, there exists a diversity of beliefs and practices. Hence, it is “manifestly wrong” to recognise a common court for all Christian denominations.

– daily pioneer

Odisha: 45,000 Hindus pay tribute to Baby Jesus on Christmas day

December 28, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Odisha, December 27, 2016: On Christmas day, some 45,000 Hindus paid tribute to the Child Jesus in Bhubaneshwar, capital of the State of Odisha (Orissa).

The event is historic, the more so since the Indian State was the scene in 2008 of the most vicious persecution of Christians ever perpetuated in India.

According to Fr Prasanna Pradhan, pastor at St Vincent Cathedral in the state capital, the people of Odisha “have a deep sense of respect and honour for Jesus, who dispels the darkness of discord and division and strengthens ties between people.”

The clergyman believes that as a result of the sectarian violence unleashed by Hindus in Odisha in the summer of 2008, which killed about 100 people and led to the destruction of 300 churches and places of worship, “Christianity is much better known among people of different faiths”.

Leena Dutta, a young woman from Patia, was among the thousands of devout Hindus who came to Bhubaneshwar’s pro-cathedral. “I studied in a school run by nuns,” she said. There “I met Jesus’ life. For this reason, I come to visit him every year during the holiday season.”

In Kandhamal district, the most affected by sectarian violence, Christmas celebrations were held under tight security. This was possible, Christians say, thanks to constant surveillance by police, which is deployed every year to prevent possible attacks.

Even in 2007, when pogroms started, police were present, averting an attack by an angry mob of 2,500 Hindus, armed with sticks and knives, who wanted to avenge the death of a Hindu struck by the collapse of a cross.

Mgr John Barwa, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, thanked the state government for providing “protection to Christians, especially those persecuted in Kandhamal”.

“Christmas,” he added, “speaks about Christ. It speaks of how he deprived himself to save sinners. Christmas is about how the Son of God became man and how he lived on earth. Christmas speaks of what Jesus accomplished on the cross and how he conquered death. Christmas tells us how a sinner can meet with God.”

In the capital, 25 December was also a day dedicated to the care of the poor and needy. The Missionaries of Charity, an institute founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, handed out a hot meal to hundreds of destitute.

“At the time of Jesus’s birth, no door was open and no one accepted him,” said Regional Superior Sister Olivet. “When we give food to the poor we remember the phrase ‘serve man is to serve God’.”

Tata Steel manager Abhisek Das, who visits the Sisters’ house every three months, offered the meal.

“When I see that my humble gesture brings a smile to the faces of orphans and poor, I feel immensely happy,” he said. “Every religion teaches us to do good. Charitable work makes us grow in love and unity; this way, we become agents of peace and harmony.”

– asianews

Massive procession in Thrissur for Christmas

December 28, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Kerala, December 28, 2016: More than 100,000 people of different creeds participated at the Buon Natale (meaning merry Christmas) parade with message of harmony at Thrissur on Dec 27.

The Thrissur Archdiocese in association with Thrissur Pauravali organized the event in connection with Christmas and New Year.

Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Minister of State for Minority Affairs, flagged off a procession from St. Thomas College at 4.30 p.m in the presence of Hindu, Christian and Muslim leaders.

State Tourism Minister Katakampalli Surendran was the chief guest.

The annual pageant had over two dozen big floats and over 6,000 in Santa Clause costumes dancing to Christmas carols while tens of thousands watched on both sides of the three-kilometers long round about in the heart of Thrissur.

The procession went around the city and ended at the St. Thomas College itself by 7.30 p.m., said Archbishop Mar Andrews Thazhath.

“Buon Natale is a cultural festival in connection with Christmas and New Year. The celebrations are aimed at strengthening communal harmony. People are cooperating with the celebrations irrespective of religion, caste, and political beliefs,” Mar Thazhath said.

The procession had more than 20 floats, which showcased the cultural heritage and communal harmony of the country. More than 50 artisans from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry made them, said Fr. Lijo Chittilappilly, working chairman of buon Natale, said. A flash mob by more than 5,000 dancers had another attraction.

A mini-pooram with three caparisoned elephants and percussion ensembles also added colour to the procession.

A procession of Harley-Davidson bikes, band sets, camels, 1,000-odd angels, cycle rickshaws, and many Santa Clauses was some of the other attractions of the procession.

The funds for charity in connection with buon Natale was declared at the valedictory. Houses were built and financial assistance was provided for the poor.

The buon Natale celebrations, which had already entered the Guinness World Records as the largest gathering of Santha Clauses, was marked in a more colourful manner this time, said Mayor Ajitha Jayarajan.

Ministers A.C. Moideen, V.S. Sunil Kumar, C. Ravidranath and MLAs also participated  at the event.

– matters india

Persecution of Iranian believers worsens in 2016, with more arrests and anti-Christian media reports

December 28, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Iran, December 22, 2016: The persecution of Iranian Christians has worsened in 2016. In the last year there has been a steep rise in organised, government-sponsored anti-Christian campaigns on radio and television, combined with a vicious crackdown on Farsi-speaking (Muslim-background) congregations; dozens of such house churches have been closed and members harassed, imprisoned and interrogated. The published figures record 92 Christian converts from Islam currently detained awaiting trial, although the real number held in Iran’s notorious prisons is likely to be far higher.

A series of anti-Christian programmes were broadcast on state-controlled media in 2016, which apparently aimed to discredit Christianity by providing false information and one-sided analysis by Islamic clergy. Iranian Christian news agency, Mohabat News, also recorded cases of deliberate defamation of well-known Iranian Christians, seemingly intended to portray them as morally and financially corrupt.

Authorities have continued efforts to restrict publication of Bibles and other Christian literature, whilst subsidising the publication of works which give a false and negative image of Christianity. Anti-Christian literature has also been distributed by government bodies, including the Iranian customs and border services. Whilst stepping up efforts to harass and arrest Iranian Christians, the government organised a series of stage-managed inter-faith meetings with high-profile Christian leaders from other countries, including Russia, Belarus, Croatia, Lebanon, Venezuela and Bulgaria.

Security services have also detained Iranian Christians with dual citizenship who have visited Iran, with some of those arrested then used as leverage in international talks or reportedly exchanged for significant ransom payments.

As Christians around the world celebrate the birth Christ, Iranian believers do so with trepidation as well as joy; in previous years, Iranian authorities have targeted Christians gathering to celebrate Christmas. Last year, when plain clothes officers came to arrest Soroush Hojati at his house in Isfahan they tore down the family’s Christmas tree.

– barnabas persecution update

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