Congolese Christians terrorized by ‘violent thungs’ desecrating churches, attacking nuns

February 23, 2017 by  
Filed under newsletter-world, World

Congo, February 23, 2017: Churches in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are being desecrated and Christian nuns terrorized by “violent thugs,” says Roman Catholic Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, following a wave of increased hostility against believers.

Pasinya told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that there was an arson attack last week on the Malole major seminary and violent thugs have “sown terror among the Carmelite Sisters” in nearby Kananga.

He warned that a “resurgence of fear, anger and insecurity” is spreading among the population as a number of Catholic churches are being targeted. In another attack last week on the parish church of St. Dominic in the Limete, a gang “overturned the tabernacle, ransacked the altar, smashed some of the benches and attempted to set fire to the church.”

“The material damage is considerable,” the archbishop said.

Pasinya shared his belief that the Church is “being targeted deliberately, in order to sabotage her mission of peace and reconciliation,” when it comes to bringing the country back from the brink of civil war.

Islamic extremism has been a significant source of Christian persecution in the Congo, with the militant Allied Democratic Force Islamic terror group killing eight people last December.

Persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA noted that the same group left another 30 people dead just weeks earlier.

“It was around 6 p.m. There were many of them. Some of them had guns, others machetes. They pushed me around for a while before someone forced me into the bush. Two of them slashed me with their machetes,” one of the victims of the attack in the town of Beni said in December.

“After the second blow, I laid still like a corpse. They watched me bleed for what seemed like forever and then left, thinking I was dead. Afterwards, they went to a nearby house and set it on fire before taking off.”

Allied Democratic Force members have reportedly killed well over 700 people in various attacks since 2014, with Christians suspecting that the militant group wants to uproot the Christian population from the region and take control of the East Africa Lakes area.

Pope Francis spoke out against the violence in August 2016, after at least 36 Christians were hacked to death by the jihadist group in the North Kivu region.

“My thoughts go to the people of North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who have been recently hit with fresh massacres, which have for some time been perpetrated in shameful silence, without attracting even as much as our attention,” Francis said at the time.

“Unfortunately, they are part of the too many innocent people who have no weight on world opinion.”

Cardinal Pasinya said in his latest remarks that the country’s politicians must better protection innocent victims.

“It is now down to the men of politics to acknowledge with humility, both before the nation and before the international community, their political weakness and the turpitude of their selfish choices that have led to a political impasse and the paralysis of the institutions,” he added.

– christian post

Pilgrims protest cross removal in central Philippines

February 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Philippines, February 23, 2017: Pilgrims in the central Philippine province of Leyte are protesting against a local government plan to tear down a cross on top of a hill and replace it with a new one.

The cross on top of Guinhangdan Hill, which offers a panoramic view of Leyte Gulf where American General Douglas MacArthur landed in 1944 during World War II, has become a landmark in the province.

The hill is also a favorite pilgrimage site during Holy Week when thousands of devotees climb 522 steps to the cross where candles and flowers are offered.

The government is looking for contractors willing to undertake the project.

Protesters, however, said the structure needs no alteration because it is “still strong and appears architecturally sound.”

Father Ivo Velasquez from the Archdiocese of Palo, said “improvements could be made to the surrounding area without touching the monument itself.”

“It would appear to be a waste to spend government money on something which is in no need of alteration,” said the priest.

Rolando Borrinaga, a member of the National Committee on Historical Research, said the age of the structure and the tradition it has created qualifies the cross as a “built heritage” structure under the law, making it worth preserving. “Destroying this structure, which was apparently built with contributions and volunteer labor from the community, would not only be sacrilegious, it is also against an existing law,” said Borrinaga.

– ucan

Son recalls how his parents were forced to stand in freezing pond for not denying Christ

February 23, 2017 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Jharkhand, February 17, 2017: Beneswar Urawn will never forget the day when villagers in one Indian state immersed his mother and father in a freezing pond for 17 hours with only their heads above water.

Their crime: They were followers of Jesus Chrst.

“It was last year in winter when the cruel villagers put my mother and father in cold water at 5 in the evening till 10 next day morning,” Beneswar told Global Christian News. “They made me sit outside the pond and watch my parents die.”

The Urawn family is from India’s eastern Jharkhand state.

His family and extended relatives were once followers of a tribal indigenous religion known as Sarna Dharam, which means “Religion of the Holy Woods.”

He says this ancestral faith left them empty and hopeless.

“We lived in utter poverty and did not have food for a single meal. There were series of young deaths in our family which broke us completely,” Beneswar said.

Ten years ago he, along with other members of his family, became followers of Jesus Christ after the Gospel was preached in their village.

Many others in the village also embraced Christianity, and people began to notice a change in their lives.

“We had food to eat, health in our bodies and above all peace in our heart,” said Beneswa.

He told GCN that villagers tried to force the new converts to recant their faith and return to their ancestral religion. They initially refused. But the daily threats and harrassment took their toll.

Seven of the families that accepted Christ ended up recanting their faith. The Urawn family refused to deny Christ and the persecution intensified.

Beneswar told GCN how villagers caught his father, Bartu, one day and forced him to attend a Sarna Dharam ritual that involved animal sacrifice.

Villagers reportedly took the animal sacrifice and forced it down his father’s throat then made him drink fermented liquor.

“They told my father that now the demons will not let him live,” Beneswar told Global Christian News.

Still, Beneswar says his father refused to deny Christ.

Then late last year, villagers grabbed his parents, tied the hands behind their back and dunked them in a freezing pond for almost an entire day.

“All throughout the night they were inside the cold water shivering and I along with 15-20 villagers were witness to the brutality,” Beneswar recounted. “The villagers kept asking my father, if he is ready to forsake Christ and return to the Sarna fold? He reiterated every time, ‘I will not deny Christ….I will continue to believe till my last breath’,” he added.

Next morning after pulling them out, they hit Bartu and his wife and pressured them once again to “stop being a fool.”

Again they refused.

But hours of being in that freezing water left them weak. Bartu and his wife fell serioulsy ill.  GCN says while Bartu’s wife recovered with time, Bartu suffered a paralytic attack and could not move.

“My father suffered a second attack and his body became stiff, he could not move his hands and legs and ultimately died on 20 January,” Beneswar said.

Villagers wouldn’t even allow Beneswar to bury is father’s body.

“I told the villagers that I will bury him in my own personal land, but they stood with wooden sticks to attack, if I tried,” Beneswar said.

On January 21st, Beneswar, along with four other Christians, carried his father’s body for six miles to another parcel of land to perform the burial service.

And to add insult to injury, the villagers demanded that upon Beneswar’s return to the village, his mother should feed the entire community as is custom in Sarna tradition.

She refused, insisting that as Christians they would hold a prayer meeting instead.

“The villagers said that they will kill us just like they killed my father,” Beneswar said.

Such stories of persecution in India are not uncommon.

“While the level of intolerance continues to increase, Christians are regularly attacked by radical Hindus,” says Open Doors, a group that monitors religious freedom around the world.

Since 2014, India has been ruled by a Hindu-led government that has often turned a blind eye to the persecution of the country’s minority Christian community.

“The level of impunity has gone up markedly, with communities of converts to Christianity from Hinduism bearing the brunt of the persecution,” said Open Doors, which has ranked India No. 15 in the list of 50 countries with the worst record on Christian persecution.

“They {Christians} are constantly under pressure to return to their old beliefs, and are often physically assaulted, sometimes killed. Protestant Christian communities are the second main target because of their involvement in outreach activities and conversions, and they also face regular attacks by radical Hindus,” reports Open Doors.

Meanwhile, after years of enduring persecution in the villlage, Berneswa, his mother, and other family members, decided it was time to move.

They relocated to village some 21 miles away where they brought the case of his father’s death to local authorities, but they did nothing.

“The police did nothing about the murder of my father calling it a ‘natural death’ but invited the villagers on 2 February for ‘peace talks’ and instructed them to not trouble us further, as faith is our personal matter and we are free to believe whom we want to,” Beneswar told GCN.

– cbn news

Is it time for India to change its constitution to stop Christian persecution?

February 23, 2017 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

India, February 17, 2017: The constitution of India is one of the main obstacles to curbing persecution of Christians, according to World Watch Monitor, an organisation dedicated to reporting on Christians who are attacked for their faith around the world.

The report says that, according to new information from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, some persecution in India is the responsibility of the legal framework of the country.

Things have deteriorated badly since the election of a new government. ‘The situation has worsened since the rise to power of Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP party,’ says the report. ‘Since 2014, when Modi took power, hate crimes, social boycotts, assaults, and forced conversion [to Hinduism] have escalated dramatically.’

India, home to 1.2 billion people, the majority of whom are Hindu, has had a small but significant Christian presence since the earliest days of the Church. About 2 per cent of the population profess to be Christians – around 27 million people.

USCIRF says these believers are not fully protected by the Indian constitution. ‘There are constitutional provisions and state and national laws in India that do not comply with international standards of freedom or religion or belief,’ it suggests.

The organisation is also calling for increased awareness and guarantees of the rights of other religious minorities, such as Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains.

– christian today

Kerala art lovers work to popularize Christian drama

February 23, 2017 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Kochi, February 22, 2017: Art lovers in Kerala have joined with Catholics to revive a Christian art form introduced by Portuguese missionaries to the southern Indian state centuries ago to help their evangelization efforts.

The art form, called Chavittunatakam (foot stamping drama), is believed to have been created by the Portuguese in the 16th century by blending European opera with local folk arts to tell Christian stories.

The performers pound the dance floor with great force to accentuate the drama. Historians say that the Portuguese missionaries used it in parishes as entrainment and as a means to evangelize.

“The stories in this art form were mostly heroic episodes from the Bible or tales of Christian warriors. Wearing glittering medieval costumes, the performers would tell the story through detailed gestures and body movements presented in time with music and percussion,” said Ajith Kumar, president of Kerala Chavittunataka Academy.

The art form gained popularity among the Latin-rite Catholics in the present-day districts of Ernakulam, Alappuzha and Kollam where the Portuguese mission was concentrated but over the centuries its popularity waned, Kumar said.

Kerala is home to three Catholic rites — the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara rites that belong to the Eastern churches and whose members trace their faith to St. Thomas the Apostle that tradition says landed on the Kerala coast in 52 A.D., and the Latin rite, which European missioners introduced in the 15th century.

Art enthusiasts, cutting across religions and rites have now joined together to revive the dance by shortening its length and introducing non-Christian and secular themes.

A typical show in the olden days used to last three to four nights and comprised 150-200 artistes. It was usually performed on open stages in parishes. A major reason for its decline was a lack of patronage, according to Thambi Payyappalli, an exponent of the dance-drama.

“The new generation does not have the patience to watch a show over multiple days. Moreover, producing a story lasting several days was huge cost … for the artistes, who hailed from poor families. They eventually abandoned it as their patrons moved away,” said Thambi.

In the revived from, the performances do not take more than three hours. “We have also developed capsules lasting 20 to 30 minutes for competition purposes. The stories are now based on modern themes. These have attracted the younger generation to Chavittunatakam in a big way,” Thambi said.

Thambi said they also brought the performances from parishes into secular auditoriums and other venues incorporating Shakespearian plays and even one about Hindu god Ayyappa, a popular deity among local Hindus.

A major step in the path of revival of Chavittunatakam was the establishment of the Kerala Chavittu Nadaka Academy, an institution set up exclusively to promote the art form in Gothuruth, an island village in Ernakulum district, considered to be its birthplace.

Since 2012, Kochi Biennale Foundation has run a five-day Chavittunatakam festival every Christmas season in Gothuruth.

Following these efforts, the Kerala government introduced Chavititunatakam in the annual school youth festival. The Cochin Shipyard constructed a permanent stage for the art from at Gothuruth.

The stage is part of the Maritime Arts Centre established by the shipyard on the island under its corporate social responsibility initiative within the premises of Holy Cross parish church.

Popular Kerala film actor, Mammootty dedicated it to the state on Feb. 15 at a public function after Bishop Joseph Karikkaserri of Kottappuram blessed and opened it.

Two short plays were staged on the occasion with several dignitaries expressing hope that the art from would become popular again, albeit with a different motive.

– ucan

Recovering from perfect mom syndrome

February 19, 2017 by  
Filed under newsletter-miscellaneous

There’s a mom I know. She makes homemade meals every evening for her family. Her children’s birthday parties are Pinterest pin-worthy. She’s patient with her children’s faults. She reads stories every evening at bedtime. She nursed all her babies for a full year. She does not grow weary of the incessant demands of raising a family. She bandages wounds, wipes away tears, and keeps her home running smoothly. Her laundry always seems to be folded and the dishes put back in their proper cabinets. Her children’s hair is neatly combed, and their clothing looks freshly pressed.

The Perfect Mom

Who is this woman of many wonders, you might ask? In my head (which is where she resides), she is called “The Perfect Mom.” Even though she’s mythical, she’s very much alive in my heart. If I’m not careful, I end up living joylessly in her shadow, always feeling the weight of my own inadequacies. There is nothing I’ve ever wanted to get right more than motherhood. Yet daily I fail to live up to my own image of the perfect mom.

Do you also suffer from Perfect Mom Syndrome? The symptoms include comparison with other moms, a sense of failure, judgmental attitudes, fearfulness, joyless performance of duties, incessant chasing of new activities, and a weary and worn heart. PMS consists of moments of elation: I’m a good mom because I cook healthier meals than she does! It also consists of moments of despair: I’m such a failure. How does she get her children to two sports and violin practice? As we vacillate between judging others and judging ourselves, the pressure to perform builds like a ticking time bomb, waiting to explode.

The Problem of the Pursuit

In my pursuit of perfection, I become worn and weary. Perfectionism is pride-based performance, a determination to live up to my self-appointed standard. The truth my soul needs to remember is that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Perfection is impossible. A chasm separates me from righteousness. It is a height I can never reach, an expanse I can never cross.

By accepting this first truth, I can believe in a second truth: I am justified freely by His grace through redemption in Jesus. The more we understand and experience God’s unmerited favor in our lives, the more we reflect Jesus in our parenting.

The remedy for our malady: His grace is sufficient.

Our weaknesses are not cause for despair. Our strengths are not cause for boasting. God is at work in both. Some areas of mothering may come easily. Other areas may involve difficult struggles that humble us. As Paul encouraged the Ephesians:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a results of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2: 8 – 10)

The Performance Pendulum

The extravagance of His favor leaves us with no room for boasting. Any good within us is from His gracious hand. He prepared these works in advance for us to do. Any failure that we fear is covered by His sacrifice. In Jesus the performance pendulum stops—both the pride of success and the despair of failure are absorbed by grace.

A grace-based response to both success and failure is worship. When we find ourselves growing into the moms we hope to be, we overflow with praise to the One who is at work in our hearts. When we find ourselves failing once again, we thank God that our sins are fully paid for in Jesus. His grace is sufficient for our weakness. His grace daily gives us strength. Motherhood is simply once more opportunity for us to live a life of worshiping our Savior, trusting in His power, rejoicing in this truth: “God is able to make all grace about to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all time, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

– cross walk

21 Coptic Christians beheaded by ISIS honored for refusing to deny Christ

February 19, 2017 by  
Filed under newsletter-world, World

Iraq, February 16, 2017: Relatives of the 21 Coptic Christians beheaded by ISIS in the infamous “A Message Signed With Blood to the Nation of the Cross” video are sharing the pain of losing their loved ones, but also their pride in the men’s refusal to deny Jesus on the two-year anniversary of their death.

International Christian Concern reported that family members of the beheaded Christians are not allowing the pain of their loss to eliminate the pride in how their loved ones stood up to the Islamic radicals, and refused to deny their faith despite the imminent threat of death.

One wife said that her husband “kept the faith, and was martyred in the name of Christ. His faith was very strong. I’m proud of him. He has lifted our heads up and honored us and all the Christians.”

Another family member added: “I’m very happy that my brother is in Heaven with Jesus now. I loved my brother when he was alive on the earth, but now I love him more than before. He was martyred in the name of Jesus Christ.”

The victims were kidnapped in separate incidents in Libya throughout December 2014 and January 2015, with IS releasing the video of their execution on Feb. 15, 2015.

The video shows the Christian men in orange jumpsuits kneeling on the sand as IS radicals stood behind them, ready to carry out the executions at a beach near Tripoli.

The massacre shocked the Christian world, and remains one of the prime examples of IS’ ongoing brutality and genocide against Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria.

Bishop Amba Angaelos, general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church, said at a service last year that one “profound gift” of the tragedy is that it brought people together.

“These men paid the ultimate price, but gave us a cause to advocate for all those persecuted; they also showed us that there was a level of evil that we must all stand in solidarity against, and a level of courage, faithfulness and defiance that we must all aspire to,” Angelos said about the Copts.

ICC’s Regional Manager, William Stark, also commented on the family members’ strong faith.

“We mourn both the deaths of these 21 Christian men and the brutality behind their execution. ISIS and other extremist groups like them continue to target, torture, and kill Christian men and women who dare to stand up for their faith,” Stark said.

“This anniversary, however, demonstrates the faith of the surviving family members. Their patience, hope, and love continue to stand as an example for the global Church,” he added.

The 21 Copts are being remembered as the “martyrs of Libya,” because they were killed specifically for their Christian faith. Last year they were officially registered in the book of martyrs by Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II.

– christian post

Florist who lost religious liberty case says all freedoms are at stake

February 19, 2017 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead, Persecution

U.S., February 19, 2017: A Washington florist fined for not serving a same-sex wedding out of conscience says the state’s supreme court “violated” her freedoms by ruling against her on Thursday.

“What the court decided was that now the government has the power to separate me from my livelihood and my faith,” Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Wash., told CNA in an interview.

“They’re trying to compel me to design something that goes totally against my personal conscience, and they violated my right to free speech and expression.”

Stutzman, sued by the state of Washington and the American Civil Liberties Union for declining to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, lost her appeal at the state’s supreme court on Thursday. She says she declined to serve a long-time customer’s wedding because of her Christian beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman.

The court had upheld a lower court’s decision, which ruled that Stutzman violated the state’s law barring discrimination on basis of sexual orientation. The lower court ordered her to pay a fine and legal costs, which stand because of Thursday’s decision. Stutzman will appeal her case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the 24 hours since the Washington Supreme Court’s decision, Stutzman admitted she has received both calls of support and “hate calls.” Her faith, she said, “just increases day by day,” however.

Although the court ruled that she violated an anti-discrimination law, Stutzman said she still serves gay and lesbian customers and had a 10-year friendship with Rob, the man whose wedding she would not serve.

“It’s not about discrimination at all. Rob was one of my favorite customers,” she said. When he approached her at the shop to ask her to serve his wedding and she declined, “we talked about his mom walking him down the aisle, and we talked about his marriage, and I recommended three other florists to him and we hugged each other and Rob left,” she recalled.

“I love working with Rob, and I would be so excited if he just came back into my shop today and I could wait on him for another ten years. I really miss him.”

Stutzman said she has not had contact with Rob recently other than seeing him at court, and the last personal contact was at the deposition where they hugged and talked. She has received support from other gay and lesbian customers to act according to her beliefs, she said.

Now Stutzman’s livelihood is threatened, as she is liable for the state’s fines and the legal costs were estimated to top $2 million by the end of the case.

Kristen Waggoner, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom who argued Stutzman’s case before the Washington Supreme Court, said that the American Civil Liberties Union is actively fighting other religious freedom appeals throughout the country.

“They are not about protecting freedom. They are about taking it away from those who don’t share their ideology and their radical beliefs,” she said.

“Civil liberties travel together,” she insisted, explaining that countries where freedom of religion is threatened “have less freedom in many other areas as well.”

“We know that this right that’s at issue in Barronelle’s case is essential to having a just and inclusive and a stable America. And we all need to stand for that,” Waggoner said.

President Donald Trump promised in 2015 to “preserve and protect our religious liberty” as a “first priority” in his administration, Waggoner noted, and he must sign an executive order establishing broad religious freedom protections for individuals and religious organizations.

Although a federal order would not affect Stutzman’s case at the state level, it would still be “a sign and good first step to restore balance and to show the states that this needs to be done,” she insisted.

Stutzman hopes her case “speaks in volumes” that “it’s not just my freedom, it’s everybody’s freedom, whether you’re religious or not” that is at stake.

“Rob has the freedom to act on what he believes about marriage and I’m just asking for the same,” she said.

– cna

China kicks out Christian missionaries

February 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

China, February 19, 2017: Officials from China’s communist government have expelled dozens of South Korean Christian missionaries following a series of police raids on church groups.

According to a recent report from Asianews, authorities arrested four missionaries and deported at least 32 more last week as part of an ongoing crackdown against Christian evangelizing. The missionaries had been working in the northeast Yanji region of the country, providing assistance to fugitives fleeing North Korea.

Dozens of South Korean Christian missionaries had traveled to China in past months and along with preaching the Christian gospel, they sought to help defectors navigate the perilous journey across the Yalu River, which separates China and North Korea.

The South Korean government in Seoul has confirmed reports that some Korean missionaries had been arrested in China, the Breibart website reported. Some of the missionaries had been working in China for decades.

Although foreign missionary work is illegal in China, local authorities have often turned a blind eye to evangelizing efforts by South Korean missionaries, taking advantage of the free humanitarian service they provide as well as the substantial bribes paid in order to avoid prosecution.

In recent years, however, China’s President Xi Jinping has tightened government control over religious activity in the country, often targeting Christians.

– ucan

Mumbai: Christians in Kurla protest after bikers attack statue of Mother Mary

February 19, 2017 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Mumbai, February 19, 2017: An entire Christian village in Kurla hit the streets on Sunday morning after two bikers pelted paver blocks on two statues of Mother Mary. This incident took place at 4 am.

Both the bikers were wearing helmets and so were not identified.

Advocate Sunil Gonsalves, who spoke to DNA about the incident, said that the incident has disturbed the community. “We had approached the police. However, no action was taken initially by the police. It took almost two hours for the police to register an FIR.”

Gonsalves also said that top cops had visited the area and assured them that action will be taken.

– dna

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