Coptic Christians pelted with rocks, Four Churches closed as government treats prayer ‘as a crime’

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

Egypt, October 30, 2017: Coptic Christians in Egypt have said that they have been pelted by rocks while the government in the southern province of Minya has closed down four churches this past month, much to the protest of the believers.

“We stayed silent for two weeks after the closure of a church hoping that the officials would do the job they were assigned to do by the state. However, this silence has led to something worse, as if prayer is a crime the Copts should be punished for. The Coptic Christians go to the neighboring villages to perform their prayers,” the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of Minya said in a statement, as reported on Sunday.

“What happened within two weeks, hasn’t happen over years; churches are closed, the Coptic Christians are being attacked and their property destroyed, and there is no deterrent. The bargaining and the balance are usually used under the name of peaceful coexistence. The Copts always pay the price of this coexistence, not the aggressors,” the statement continued.

It further called the reaction from Egyptian authorities “disappointing,” and argued that whenever there is an attack on Copts, aggressors are treated with impunity.

Coptic Christians have complained that they have been harassed and pelted with rocks at churches, Reuters noted.

The Minya security directorate has not yet commented on the statement from the Minya diocese. The government has vowed to protect Christians from violent Islamic attacks on a number of occasions, though Christians have complained that not enough is being done to secure their safety.

A number of families who have been forced to flee North Sinai said in a statement in May that they are “suffering” due to neglect.

“We are the families displaced from al-Arish to Port Said in February. We are living inside small rooms inside the youth camps and the aid building. We are suffering and none of the officials or the Port Said governor will listen to us,” the statement read at the time.

“As time passed, 28 families remained in the camps and aid buildings. Three months passed without any attention from the government or officials in Port Said. The governor then declared that there was a lack of residential houses to transfer the families to, in addition to a lack to jobs, which forced the martyr Nabil Saber to return to Arish, where he was killed — a message to every Copt thinking about returning.”

The statement came following a deadly attack by IS gunmen on a group of Copts traveling to a monastery in Minya, which left 29 believers dead and 24 others wounded.

Bishop Anba Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the U.K. also recently condemned the killing of priests in Egypt, such as the fate of Samaan Shehta, who was murdered in Cairo by a suspected IS radical.

“While recognizing that anger may often open a path to hatred or resentment, there are times at which it is a natural expression of a human emotion, and reaction to a sense of deep injustice. I am sure that I am not alone in my anger, but that it is shared by every law-abiding person of any belief and indeed of none, who has witnessed this vicious and inhumane attack,” Angaelos wrote about the killing.

– christian post

Tami Nadu Pastor arrested in trafficking investigation

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

Chennai, October 30, 2017: Tamil Nadu police have arrested a pastor on charges of trafficking girls two years after authorities took over a Christian-run orphanage in connection with an investigation into the unregistered children’s homes.

Police said they arrested Pastor Gideon Jacob on Saturday after he arrived from Germany and he has been charged under trafficking and juvenile justice laws, reported Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Denying the allegations, Jacob’s lawyer said his client had voluntarily appeared before the police and was cooperating with the investigation.

The Moses Ministries home in Tiruchy, run by Germany-based Christian Initiative for India that was founded by Jacob in 1989, housed 89 children, all said to have been rescued from female infanticide from Usilampatti in neighboring Madurai.

However, the home had no proper records of the children, all of whom are now aged 18 years and above.

In December 2015, the home was taken over by the social welfare department after a court directive.

A wave of claims by people saying they were the children’s parents prompted a local court to rule that all the children should undergo DNA testing to establish their real families.

In 2016, DNA results showed at least 32 matches. None of the girls, however, have yet been reunited with their families.

“We have been counselling the girls, who have known no other life since they were babies,” said Tiruchy district head Kuppanna Gounder Rajamani.

“We have also identified the parents willing to take back their daughters and, following Saturday’s arrest, things will move faster and we are hoping to reunite the girls soon.”

More than 40 percent of human trafficking cases in India in 2015 involved children being bought, sold and exploited as modern-day slaves, according to government crime data.

There has been a recent spate of reports of the trafficking of infants and children for adoption and raising funds through charity-run child homes and private hospitals.

In Tamil Nadu, state authorities closed 500 homes between 2011 and 2016, citing mismanagement, a lack of registration and misconduct.

Rights groups have long complained that children’s homes in India are poorly regulated, not inspected often enough, and that many privately-run institutions are able to operate without a license leaving thousands of children open to abuse.

“The arrest gives us hope that there will be justice,” said A. Narayanan, the director of advocacy group Change India, who outlined the scope of the problem in a petition filed in Chennai’s High Court.

“The real worry is when and how these girls will be rehabilitated. Right now, it seems like a life sentence, where they are resigned to live in an institutional home.”

– thomson reuters foundation

Violence-hit Odisha Christians await compensation

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

Bhubaneswar, October 30, 2017: An ecumenical delegation has called on India’s Odisha state government to finally implement the Supreme Court’s directive to increase compensation payments to victims of anti-Christian violence.

The Supreme Court issued the order more than a year ago.

The delegation of six Christian leaders on Oct. 25 met with officials of Kandhamal district to complain about the long delay.

In 2008, Hindu nationalists in the district attacked hundreds of impoverished villages, leaving at least dozens dead — including disabled and elderly people as well as children and women.

Thousands of homes, as well as churches, were destroyed.

The Supreme Court of India on Aug. 2 last year directed the state government to pay additional compensation for the worst anti-Christian bloodshed in Indian history.

Father Ajay Kumar Singh, who works for the victims of violence, said the top district official told him that further payments had been delayed by administrative complications, but would be made within two months.

The Supreme Court asked the state to pay extra compensation of 300,000 rupees (US$4,600) per death, in addition to the 500,000 rupees already allocated to families of 39 people killed.

Increased payments were also ordered for families who had homes fully destroyed or partially damaged.

Father Singh said not even all the initial compensation obligations had been met.

And the real number of victims — through death or destruction of personal and church property — had not been recognised, he complained.

For example, while compensation had only been agreed for 39 cases of death, the real number of deaths was more like 100.

Father Singh accused the state of being indifferent to economically poor and politically insignificant Christians who comprise only 2.7 percent of the state’s 42 million population.

And he cited Supreme Court criticism of the state administration’s failure to identify and prosecute hundreds of perpetrators of the attacks.

“Ten years is a long period in a person’s life and delayed justice is denied justice,” Father Singh said. “Our legal fight will continue for our people.”

– ucan

Halt to selective targeting of NGOs, activists demanded

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

New Delhi, October 30, 2017: A group of leaders and scholars from different backgrounds on Monday urged the central government to “refrain from targeting any organisation or group as part of its political agenda” so as to ensure their freedom.

The group includes senior lawyer Prashant Bushan, writers K. Sachidanand and Nivedida Menon and film producer Gopal Menon.

In a joint statement, they demanded a halt on “demonising social activists, NGOs, the impartial media, the progressive and minority organisations and Muslims” who seek a peaceful and secure life in harmony with their fellow citizens.

“While hate-mongers and extremist outfits connected with Hindutva politics roam free by dividing people and instigating violence on religious minorities and progressive sections, the central government and state governments under its control remain passive without fulfilling their constitutional responsibilities,” the statement said.

The signatories to the statement also included representatives of the Delhi State Minorities Commission, All India Milli Council, Rashtriya Dalit Mahasabha, South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre, Welfare Party of India, Alliance for Justice and Peace, Dalit Voice, Jamiathul Ulama-e-Hind and the National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations.

“A… vilification campaign is being intensified by some government agencies with the help of a section of media that are biased against minorities and progressive groups. The atmosphere of hatred being created against them is with a specific and calculated purpose,” they stated.

This campaign, they said, was an attempt by the Bharatiya Janata Party government to muzzle the voices of dissent.

– ians

Should you try to be the ‘fun’ parent?

October 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

A young teenage boy died recently, in a hotel room after an overdose of drugs. The partiers around him didn’t even know he was in trouble until it was too late. Sadly, that story is all too common. This story is different, though, because the partiers weren’t peers or friends. They were his mother and grandmother. This man’s mother, who didn’t have full custody, told police she had provided them with drugs because she wanted to be the “fun weekend mom.”

I have to admit that my first instinct is to judge this woman. After all, what kind of person would be this selfish to give her child what would destroy him, just so that he would view her the way he would his buddies? At the root here, though, is a temptation that every parent faces, though usually not to the extreme of dealing illicit drugs. We want our children to love us, and to like us, and many of us do this by asking what our children want and seeking to conform to that.

At one level, the desire to be a “fun” parent is to be commended. We are, after all, to model the Fatherhood of God in our own parenting. His household is not dour and withholding, but full of joy. Some parents interact with their children so much in rebuke and correction that they mimic the older brother of Jesus’ parable—not the joy-filled father who plans a party for his returning son (Lk. 15:11-32). Some families believe they are holy, when they instead are signaling to their children that the kingdom of Christ is a tedious seminar of Pharisees, not a household of those who bask in the favor and liberation of their God (Lk. 4:18-19). If laughter and joy aren’t part of your family, something is wrong.

That said, the overriding desire to be a “fun parent” is overwhelmingly selfish and counter-gospel. Contemporary popular culture prizes youth as the source of wisdom and authenticity, but the Bible sees the matter differently. Parents are to cultivate the kind of wisdom that sees what a child will need, long before the child himself sees the relevance of these things. The Proverbs are filled then with instruction from a father to a child. The Apostle Paul speaks similarly to his son in the ministry, directing him away from youthful lusts toward maturity (2 Tim. 2:22).

This is because that’s what the Fatherhood of God is like. God disciplines and trains us up for life in the future he has waiting for us. This isn’t a sign that we are out of his favor, but a sign that he loves us and has a plan for our lives (Heb. 12:3-11). God does not give us everything we want in our immaturity. That’s not because he is hostile to us, though it may seem so at the time. It’s because God is training us up to be heirs (Gal. 4:1-7). He knows what is best for us, and he prepares us for the Wedding Feast, not for the kind of Esau-meal we clamor for at the moment but will regret later (Heb. 12:16-17).

As parents, we will never get this completely right. Unlike the Father, we are not all-holy, and we are not all-knowing. We will stumble in many ways, and we will not see often what is long-term best for our children. But that should be our goal.

The desire to be a “fun parent” is not only wrong-headed but short-sighted. You might be able to keep your children from rebelling against you momentarily, as long as your concede to their desires or to what everyone else is doing. Your children, though, will soon recognize that you don’t have a longer term view for them than they have for themselves. If you train them to see you as a means to the end of indulging their appetites, they will ultimately choose their appetites over you. See the sad example of the priest Eli, whose sons took from the fat of the offerings (1 Sam. 2:12-21). Fully matured, their rebellion was their father’s great grief (1 Sam. 4:16-18).

Disciplining our children is not just about correcting misbehavior, but about training them in what’s to be loved and prioritized. That means disciplining ourselves to care about our children’s best interest more than our own. And it means seeing our children not just in terms of how they view us in the moment, but how they will view us as elders on their own deathbeds, and, beyond that, as subjects before the Judgment Seat of Christ. That sort of self-sacrificial parenting requires wisdom, patience, and a willingness to be unpopular. That sort of parenting will often be joyous but it will often be far less than “fun.”

– cross walk

Denver archbishop addresses teen social media use, suicide spike

October 27, 2017 by  
Filed under lead story, newsletter-lead

U.S., October 24, 2017: The growing problem of teen suicide is one that should be met with prayer and efforts to help young people develop healthy use of social media, said Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver in a recent column.

“Suicide by teens in Colorado is tragically on the rise,” Archbishop Aquila said in an Oct. 24 column for the Denver Catholic.

“In 2014 there were 50 students who took their own life, but in 2015 the toll rose to 72 and remained elevated with 68 in 2016,” he noted, pointing to several local middle school and high school students who committed suicide at the beginning of this school year.

As the community struggles to make sense of these increasing tragedies, it is important to address the role of social media and its effect on teens’ sense of self-worth and struggle with suicidal thoughts, he said.

While the teenage years have “always been a time of uncertainty, as physiological and emotional development takes place,” the archbishop said, the pervasive influence of social media in today’s world adds a new dimension to adolescence in the 21st century.

“Bullying has always existed, and it always attacks the basic dignity of another human being through demeaning the person. But when we crossed the threshold in 2012 of more than 50 percent of Americans owning a smartphone, bullies gained access to their peers on a scale never seen before.”

With studies showing that 3 in 4 teens use Snapchat and Instagram daily, these bullies have access to “a virtual megaphone,” around-the-clock availability, and a greater level of anonymity than in previous generations, he said.

“The introduction of these apps has also led to a new phenomenon in which about six percent of teens resort to ‘digital self-harm’ by posting anonymous hateful messages about themselves for their friends to see,” the archbishop continued. “This allows them to get attention from their friends while also airing their internal feelings.”

The problem is not just local. Data from recent government surveys indicate a huge spike in rates of adolescent depression and related mental health issues. And a new study in the journal Clinical Psychological Science shows a correlation between social media use and mental health problems among teenagers.

To counter this alarming trend, Archbishop Aquila asked the faithful of the archdiocese to pray for “those who are despairing and are searching for their true identity.”

“As Catholics, we need to be people who bring our experience of encountering Jesus’ love in prayer, the sacraments, and authentic community with others to those who are awash in the digital realm,” he said.

The archbishop also pointed to the words of Pope Francis in his 2014 message for World Communications Day: “It is not enough to be passersby on the digital highways, simply ‘connected;’ connections need to grow into true encounters. We cannot live apart, closed in on ourselves. We need to love and to be loved. We need tenderness.”

Archbishop Aquila pointed to some signs of hope in the culture, particularly an “Offline October” petition in which 1,600 students pledged to delete their social media apps for a month, with the hope that “morale and confidence will be boosted” by doing so.

Efforts such as the Offline October pledge can help today’s young people remember that their identity is not rooted in online interactions, the archbishop said.

“The most important thing that we can do for those who are consumed with their online existence is to persistently, lovingly show them that they are a son or daughter of God the Father, and that this is what matters most,” he stressed.

– cna

48 Christians massacred in Nigeria; Terrorists break through doors, burn houses, destroy churches

October 27, 2017 by  
Filed under newsletter-world, World

Nigeria, October 27, 2017: Forty-eight Christians were massacred in nine days of violent attacks in Nigeria, with some of the survivors describing the terror they felt at the hands of Islamic Fulani herdsmen who broke through their doors and destroyed houses and churches.

“Every one of us ran to save his life,” church elder Dauda Samuel Kadiya of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Zanwrua, told Morning Star News. “I was shot at, but the bullet only bruised my hand. You can see the wound yourself.”

The herdsmen slaughtered a total of 48 Christians in several attacks carried out in Plateau state between Oct. 8 and Oct. 17, survivors said, with believers fleeing villages and abandoning worship buildings.

“Some of the church buildings were destroyed by the attackers,” Kadiya added.

Agado Aura, 62, said he and his wife barely escaped after the herdsmen came one night from the eastern part of their Zanwrua village.

“They broke the doors to our rooms and then set fire on my house,” said Aura, a Roman Catholic.

“Having set fire on my house, they went to the next house and did the same. They continued burning houses until they were done, before they left. I was watching all they were doing from my hidden spot behind those rocks you see over there.”

International Christian Concern, which reports on the persecution of believers around the world, pointed out that although such raids are not new for the area, the “ferocity and number of attacks in this short period have caused major problems for the beleaguered citizens.”

“Also, the fact that there is a military force stationed in the area, that has been completely ineffective, raises even more cause for concern,” ICC stated.

Moses Tsohu, a Zanwrua village leader and ECWA member, also asked how is it that the Fulani are carrying out their attacks despite the presence of army soldiers at check points in the area.

“These attacks are being carried out daily. Every blessed day we witness the invasion, killing of our people, and the destruction of their houses,” Tsohu said.

Sunday Abdu, president of the Community Development Association of the predominantly Christian Irigwe ethnic group, noted at a press conference:

“It is painful to note that all these happened despite useful, timely information provided to security personnel, regarding movement and mode of operation of the assailants.”

The Fulani raids in Plateau State have sparked outrage from Christian leaders, who have accused the army of failing to defend villagers on a number of occasions.

“The soldiers had told the women and children to go and hide in the primary (elementary) school class at night while the men in the village constituted a vigilante group and join[ed] the soldiers in patrolling the area. Sadly, the militia descended and the soldiers fled, leaving the defenseless villagers to be massacred by the terrorists,” the Rev. Andrew Okebe, the Zonal Coordinator of Christian Association of Nigeria, Miango District, said after one of the major attacks earlier this month.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari himself has lamented the growing number of casualties.

“President Buhari believes that this madness has gone too far. He has instructed the military and the police to not only bring the violence to an instant end, but to draw up a plan to ensure that there are no further attacks and reprisal attacks by one group against the other,” said Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, in a statement earlier this month.

Reuters reported that Christians and other Nigerian civilians continue being terrorized not only by the Fulani but also by the Boko Haram terror group, whose eight-year insurgency has made it very difficult for hundreds of thousands of uprooted people to return home.

– christian post

Christian girl is abducted and tortured in Punjab, activists condemn the misdeed

October 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Pakistan, October 26, 2017: 12-year-old Christian girl was kidnapped, raped and tortured with cigarette butts by three Muslim men in Sheikhupura, Punjab (Pakistan).

Reacting to the latest case of anti-Christian violence, activists, Catholics and Muslims spoke to AsiaNews to condemn it in no uncertain terms.

The girl’s name is Meshal, a six grader. Her mother told a Pakistani television channel that she went to the police to file a complaint, but the agents refuse to file the case or start a criminal investigation. Punjab Chief Minister Mian Mohammad Shahbaz Sharif was informed of the incident today.

Activist Shahid Anwar condemns “this brutal act of persecution of a [member of a] religious minority. In Pakistan, girls are often taken, raped and converted by force. The competent authorities did not take any action.”

For the girl, “things are twice as bad. First, because she belongs to a religious minority. Secondly, because she is a woman. What is more, when minors go to police to file complaints, they are not treated the same way as other citizens, and their complaints are not taken seriously.”

“Minorities are vulnerable and marginalised, so they are easy targets,” said Benish Patras, coordinator of the National Justice and Peace Commission. “Local authorities and institutions must investigate and register the charges against perpetrators. The government must also ensure the application of laws against honour crimes and rape.”

“Our country has no good reputation when it comes to the defence of minority rights,” said Muhammad Aamir Kakkazai, an Islamic writer and researcher. “Poor people have no rights and minorities are even worse. They suffer discrimination at all levels of society, from the state to private employment. They are victims of intolerant attitudes even in public.”

Like writer Farahnaz Ispahani, who in her book ‘Purifying the Land of the Pure’ refers to the example of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan who envisioned a modern secular country in which everyone would enjoy religious freedom, Kakkazai said: “According to Ispahani, the religious lobby hijacked Jinnah’s Pakistan. [What happened] is not tolerable in a modern society. The Punjab government must take strong action against the perpetrators.”

– asia news

Christians arrested again over forced conversion charge

October 27, 2017 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

New Delhi, October 26, 2017: Police have arrested two Christian women in central India on charges of kidnapping children for conversion, which church leaders say is the latest example of Christians being harassed.

However, there have been admissions that in some such cases sloppy record keeping played into the hands of church opponents.

Anita Joseph and Amrit Kumar appeared Oct. 25 before the Indore district magistrate in Madhya Pradesh state a day after their arrest and were ordered to remain in judicial custody while police investigate further.

Indore police official Kunwarlal Warkade said the women were arrested after a group called Dharma Jagran Manch (Vigilant Group for Hindu Religion) complained that the children were being taken to Mumbai by train for conversion to Christianity.

Warkade told ucanews.com that the charges include kidnapping of minors and violating a state law restricting religious conversion activities.

The women could be jailed for seven years or more if convicted of the offenses, which Warkade said involved four girls and six boys aged below 14.

Families allege the women lured the children with promises of toys and overseas schooling, Warkade added.

The pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has governed Madhya Pradesh state for the past 14 years.

Bishop Chacko Thottumarickal of Indore said the arrests constitute an attempt by hard-liners to intimidate missionaries.

“We are always on their radar and it is quite scary,” he told ucanews.com.

The state has experienced three other such incidents so far this year.

In one episode four months ago, police arrested and temporarily detained a Catholic nun and four tribal girls travelling with her by train on conversion charges.

Bishop Thottumarickal said Church people are aware of the dangers.

He has asked priests, nuns and lay people engaged in social work to keep all their documentation up to date and to be transparent in their activities.

“We have to be extra cautious in managing our homes for children, women and aged people as even a minor mistake can cause big problems for us,” the Divine Word prelate added.

A state law prohibits religious conversions using force, allurement or fraudulent means.

Church leaders such as Bishop Thottumarickal say groups opposed to the church can misrepresent Christian social work as involving allurement or fraud for the purpose of winning converts.

The law makes it mandatory for a person to obtain permission from state government officials before converting to another religion.

Presentation Sister Anastasia Gill, a member of the Delhi Minority Commission, told ucanews.com that the latest arrest was a “conspiracy” by Hindu groups to portray Christians as indulging in illicit conversions.

“But everyone knows that it is not the case,” she said.

Extremist groups made false claims in order to represent themselves as protecting Hinduism, explained Sister Gill, who is a qualified lawyer in New Delhi.

However, the nun noted that in some cases there was a lack of responsibility by Christians who failed to keep adequate records needed to foil malicious complaints.

Christian leaders such as Shibu Thomas, founder of the ecumenical forum Persecution Relief, complain that attacks on Christian have become rampant under the BJP state administration.

Christian leaders have reported more than 80 cases of violence so far this year, including the murder of pastors as well as rapes of women and attacks on Christian places of worship.

Christians are politically insignificant in Madhya Pradesh state, as they make up only 0.3 percent of its 73 million population with the vast majority being Hindus.

– ucan

Pregnant Dalit woman killed for “defiling” bucket

October 27, 2017 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

New Delhi, October 27, 2017: An eight-month pregnant Dalit woman was allegedly beaten up so brutally by an upper caste woman and her son in Uttar Pradesh that she died six days later from the internal injuries.

Adding insult to injury, doctors at the local district hospital didn’t bother to check the woman properly when she was taken there after the attack and dismissed her since there was no external injury. Later, she died of internal head injuries. Her eight-month-old male fetus also died with her.

The Indian Express reports that Savitri Devi, a resident of Khetalpur Bhansoli village in Bulandshahr, made a measly Rs 100 a month by picking up trash from outside the homes of five upper-caste homes in her village. According to witnesses, she was her doing job as usual on October 18 when she lost balance and touched a bucket that was sitting outside another home she did not work for.

Anju, the resident of the house, rushed out and was infuriated that a Dalit woman had ‘defiled’ her bucket and started raining punches on her pregnant belly. She also banged her head against the wall, following which her son Rohit joined her in assaulting Savitri.

Savitri’s 9-year-old daughter, who was accompanying her, ran to the Dalit settlement to get help and managed to rescue her. On the same day, Savitri’s husband went to lodge a complaint with the police but didn’t manage to register one since the police pointed out that Savitri didn’t have any external injuries.

Police told The Indian Express that they lodged a complaint two days later after visiting the locality and speaking to eye-witnesses. Meanwhile, the hospital had returned the duo. On October 21, Savitri, who was in deep agony fainted from pain. She was rushed to the same district hospital which had sent her away. She was declared ‘brought dead’.

The assailants are absconding.

This comes roughly two months of the lynching of another Dalit woman in Uttar Pradesh. In Agra, 62-year-old Maan Devi was killed on the suspicion that she was a braid chopper and ‘witch’ who was cutting of women’s hair in the village and adjoining areas.

This month itself, the naked corpse of a 14-year-old Dalit girl was found in Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh. She had been raped and her throat was slit, and pouches of alcohol found near her body.

– matters india

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