Threat to protest against Christmas by India’s natives

November 28, 2017 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

India, November 28, 2017: Christian people in India have strongly condemned Jharkhand state in Eastern India, amending a law which allows the acquisition of tribal lands for industries and mining. The church and other social forums working for natives held many protests against the move. This law orders to ignore the widespread protest from poor tribal people against the law. The amendment “will hurt the poor tribal people in the state and their existence itself will come under jeopardy,” said Auxiliary Bishop Telesphore Bilung of Ranchi, based in the state capital.

State chief Minister Raghubar Das told the state assembly that the amendment was in the interest of the state and the people. He blamed the Christian community for inflaming the protest and said that Christian missionaries’ motive behind all such moves is to convert the poor natives to Christianity.

There are around nine million native people living in Jharkhand and the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rules it. Jharkhand has some 1.5 million Christians in a population of 33 million, most of them are the originator or indigenous population and almost half of them are Catholics. Repeatedly, missionaries are accused of religious conversion activities by Hindu groups in India. Some Christian leaders claimed about the political plotting which is designed to divide tribal people.

Catholic Nabore Ekka, president of the Delhi region of the Bharatiya Adivasi Sangamam (Indian Indigenous People’s Forum), noted that native groups led by Church workers had successfully fought against the government taking over of native land. He added that extremist Hindus target missionaries to prevent the education and development of native people.

Sarna Samiti (a conference of indigenous religions), at a meeting held on Nov. 19 accused foreign Christian missionaries of interfering with their culture by indulging in religious conversions. Sarna is the name given to local animist religions. The state Jharkhand in August 2017 passed an anti conversion law targeting Christian missionary work as offering temptations for people to convert from other religions. The forum said to oppose the local Christians celebrating Christmas this year.

Father Nicholas Barla, the secretary of the Indian Catholic bishops’ Commission for Tribal Affairs said that the aim was advance division in order to create a vote bank for national elections of 2019. He said that BJP portrayed Christians as enemies because they opposed some government policies.

– christians in pakistan

10 lessons learned from superhero movies

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

One of my fondest memories as a child was the night the very first X-Men movie came out. I was only thirteen at the time, but like many boys that age I loved superheroes. The X-Men in particular were my favorite; a group of rag-tag misfits who protected the world with amazing powers. My parents had always been careful about what I was allowed to watch, so it came as a complete surprise when my Dad suggested the two of us go see it opening night. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that mediocre movie would go on to shape my life in some surprising ways.

Fast-forward a couple years, and superhero films have now become a mainstay of today’s media. For the most part they’re still campy, action-filled, thrill-rides, but like that first X-Men movie, they can be important in their own way. This is especially true for Christian families with young children. Aside from being a great way families can bond, here are ten lessons learned from Superhero movies.

What about you? Do you see spiritual lessons in superhero films? Be sure to check out CrosswalkMovies.com for our reviews of this month’s superhero entries – Justice League and Thor: Ragnarok.

1. Real Courage Demonstrates Compassion

In Captain America there’s a scene where Steve Rodgers sits down with a friendly scientist and asks why he was chosen to become Captain America. He wasn’t the strongest or the fastest, in fact he came in last for almost every test. The doctor explains that strength and bravery are not the same thing. A strong man can become a bully, but a brave man remembers compassion. It’s a lesson many people have sadly forgotten.

As C.S. Lewis once said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality”. This life is filled with battlefields. Sometimes courage means protecting others from violence and cruelty, but other times, it’s daring to reach out with a compassionate hand

2. Your Actions Can Inspire Others

Everybody knows the origin of Batman. After witnessing the murder of his parents at a young age, billionaire Bruce Wayne donned the cape and cowl to battle crime under the cover of night. What few remember is how Batman wanted more than to just beat up criminals, he wanted to become a symbol which would inspire others. Furthermore, at the end of The Dark Knight, we see he succeded. When the Joker tries to turn the people of Gotham against themselves, they choose to save one another instead.

Our actions, big or small, can have a profound effect on those around us. Simply being a part of someone’s life can lead them to places they would never have thought to go. This is especially true for Christians, who are encouraged to live out the Gospel of Christ alongside our friends and neighbors. When you act in such a way that honors the Great Commission, others will takes notice.

3. We Can Overcome Prejudice

As mutants, the X-Men live in a world which fears and despises them. Of all the dangerous villains they’ve encountered throughout the years its clear their greatest enemy is a creeping prejudice hiding within the hearts of mankind. It would be simple for the X-Men to lash out with their powers in the face of such bigotry and discrimination, but the students of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters have chosen a different path instead. These heroes believe we can overcome our differences by striving to understand each other, and they fight to protect both mutant and human alike.

We exist in a combative and polarizing age. Fear often splits us down the middle, and even among believers there is an intense suspicion of anyone who doesn’t share our values. When surrounded by such overwhelming hostility it’s tempting to close ranks and view everyone outside as “the enemy”, but that is not how God commanded us to live. Rather, we are told to love our neighbors and meet adversity with courage. 2 Timothy 1:7 states, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” and it is through this power we overcome hatred.

4. Women Can Be Strong Too

Comic book movies are typically seen as a male pastime, but the Defenders of Justice have more than a few women within their ranks. In fact, while some areas of modern media are still laboring to bring us positive depictions of women, superhero movies have become trailblazers in gender equality. Where would The Avengers be without Black Widow? Or the Justice League without Wonder Woman? More than once it’s been a superheroine who swoops in and saves the day.

Characters like these show girls everywhere that they can be strong too. They can be smart, and driven, and passionate about helping others. For Christians, superheroines serve as terrific parallels to Biblical figures like Deborah (Judges 4), Esther (Esther 1), or Rizpah (2 Samuel 21), who demonstrated great courage and faith while under fire. Whatever their talents may be, women everywhere have the potential to be legendary.

5. Don’t Be Defined By What You Were

More than a few superheroes began their journey on the wrong side of the tracks. In Guardians of the Galaxy, audiences got to watch as a group of ne’er-do-wells discovered the hero inside each of them. Sure, they’d all made mistakes and were a little rough around the edges, but when the galaxy needed heroes, they stepped up and delivered. By the end of the film, their past crimes had been whipped away and they were free to start their lives anew. That sounds an awful lot like grace if you ask me.

In a way, we’re all a bit like the Guardians; broken, hurt, and struggling to make up for our past failures. Yet the cross stands as constant reminder that we aren’t defined by our past. As the Bible teaches, once we have accepted Christ we are a new creation, “The old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Who knew you’d find that in a movie about a talking raccoon

6. We Are Stronger Together

What’s better than a lone superhero? A whole team of superheroes, that’s what! Individually the members of the Justice League are all very impressive. Batman is the world’s greatest detective, Aquaman is King of the seas, The Flash is the fastest man alive, etc. But when united together, they become a part of something far greater than themselves. The Justice League has accomplished feats no single hero could reach on their own. By combining their gifts and abilities, they have learned to build each other up while standing strong against the forces of chaos.

It may sound cheesy, but the Church is supposed to operate a lot like the Justice League. It’s made up of Christians with different spiritual gifts and abilities, called together for the purpose of implementing Christ’s justice and grace on Earth. Alone, we can only achieve so much, but together, we can do the impossible! The Bible encourages believers to, “…agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). For together we greater than the sum of our parts.

7. You Don’t Need to Be Great to Be Good

In the grand pantheon of Marvel heroes, the Defenders are what you’d call “low-stakes players”. They don’t fight galactic tyrants or interdimensional beings, they stop muggers and keep neighborhoods safe from crime. This may seem trivial when compared to the likes of Thor or Iron Man, but just because the Defenders operate on a smaller scale doesn’t make their actions any less meaningful. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist have all rescued innocent lives from danger. They may never reach the heights of an Avenger, but these heroes understand you don’t need to be great to be good.

Some Christians look at their life and wonder if they’re really doing enough to serve God. If you’re not digging wells in Africa, or building houses for the homeless, can you even call yourself a follower of Christ? In reality, most of us will never achieve this level of spiritual commitment, and that’s okay. Small acts of faith can still play a significant role in the Kingdom of Heaven. Volunteering for Sunday school, helping a neighbor in need, treating others with kindness and grace, all of this can point others toward God. Always remember, you don’t need to be great to be good.

8. There is Value in Our Differences

Aquaman has always been an odd character, even in a universe filled with colorful heroes. Unlike the other members of the Justice League his powers work best underwater. His Atlantean heritage gives him a different perspective of surface life than his companions, and experience has taught him what it means to be an outsider. Yet nobody else can do what he can, and that’s what makes Aquaman so valuable. His unique gifts have become a vital part of the team.

The Bible teaches us that we are all part of the body of Christ and we all possess certain gifts.

“To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit.” – 1 Corinthians 12:8-9

Every gift is different, as is every person, and that’s a good thing. There is value in our diversity because it allows us to learn from each other and see this life through many eyes. Without these precious differences, the body of Christ would be paralyzed.

9. It’s Not about You

Dr. Stephen Strange begins his journey as a brilliant but self-centered surgeon, until a freak accident leaves him without the use of his hands. Desperate to reclaim his former glory, Strange seeks out the enigmatic figure known as the Ancient One in hopes of receiving healing. Instead, the Ancient One begins instructing Strange in the mystic arts. Though Strange excels in his training, he soon reverts back to his old, narcissistic habits. This eventually leads the Ancient One to confront Strange with a startling message, “Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all; it’s not about you.”

The first and simplest lesson we learn as believers is that it’s not about us, it’s about God. So many people come to Christ looking for healing, direction, or comfort, only to discover the plans of God are radically different from the plans of man. Like Strange, it’s tempting to turn our focus inward and think only of ourselves, but God commands us to put away selfish desires. As Jesus once said long ago, “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25)

10. The Power of Self-Sacrifice

Sacrifice has always been a running theme in comic book films, a common trope being the lone hero who willingly puts their life in danger to protect others. Look at Man of Steel, where Superman sacrifices his freedom to protect the people he loves. Look at Thor, where the humbled hero shields his friends despite being powerless. In the same way, Christians are called to “take up our cross and follow Jesus” (Matthew 16:24), sacrificing our dreams, our reputations, maybe even our lives for the sake of the Gospel. That being said, these films also demonstrate that self-sacrifice is not the same for everyone.

For some, it means standing up for what you believe regardless of the cost. For others, it means refusing to succumb to your inner darkness. In a few cases it even means admitting when you were wrong and seeking forgivness. What matters is that all selfish motives are left behind. As Corrie Ten Boom once sagely stated, “The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.”

– cross walk

Pakistan’s army ‘favors dialogue’ with Islamists over blasphemy row

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

Pakistan, November 26, 2017: On Sunday, Islamist activists clashed with police for a second day outside the capital, Islamabad.

Pakistan’s government on Saturday called on the country’s powerful military to be deployed in Islamabad after deadly clashes broke out between police and religious hardliners. But Pakistani media reported Sunday that after a meeting with the civil administration, military officials decided not to “use force” against the protesters and instead engage in political negotiations with them. Local media said the civilian administration was in agreement with top military officials on that.

There has been no official confirmation of the development, although Major General Asif Ghafoor, head of the military’s public relations department, tweeted Saturday that the country’s army chief, General Qamar Bajwa, advised PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to resolve the issue peacefully.

Violent clashes

At least seven people were killed and more than 200 people were injured — around 137 of whom were security personnel during clashes on Saturday and Sunday — when violence broke out as police moved to break up an Islamist blockade, which had paralyzed the capital for weeks.

Security forces fired rubber bullets and tear gas while protesters burned police vehicles and reportedly hurled stones at security forces.

Some 8,500 police and paramilitary troops in riot gear launched an operation Saturday to clear at least 2,000 protesters who have blocked a main junction between Islamabad and Rawalpindi for almost three weeks.

Police have arrested at least 150 protesters, according to local media.

Hardliners belonging to the Barelvi sect of Islam have reportedly demonstrated against police operation in other cities, including Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar.

On Saturday, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) ordered private TV channels to go off air, citing security concerns. Pakistani media is not allowed to broadcast live coverage of a security operation. Coverage was restored Sunday.

Michael Kugelman, an analyst at the Washington-based Wilson Center, told the Agence France-Presse news agency the success of the protest was “highly disturbing.”

“It speaks to the clout and impunity enjoyed by religious hardliners in Pakistan,” he said.

The ‘finality’ of Prophet Muhammad

The controversy erupted in October, when the government amended electoral laws, including the wording for the swearing-in of lawmakers, who must recognize the Prophet Muhammad as God’s final prophet. After protests from religious groups, the government restored the oath in its original form, which was seen as slightly more legally binding.

“Our sole demand is the authorities act against those members of parliament who amended the constitutional clause related to the ‘finality’ of Prophet Muhammad,” Hafiz Ullah Alvi of the hardline Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah Pakistan party told DW.

“The government said it was a clerical error. We don’t think it was the case. It was done deliberately by the West’s agents, who are also members of our parliament,” Alvi said.

“We will not leave. We will fight until end,” Ejaz Ashrafi, the spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Labaik party, told Reuters on Saturday.

Many Islamic groups in Pakistan are against parliamentary democracy and want it replaced by the Islamic Shariah model.

Since November 8, the Tehreek-i-Labaik party’s followers have blocked a main motorway interchange that connects Islamabad to Rawalpindi, causing severe traffic jams and inconvenience to the capital’s residents. Fearing the hardliners could storm government offices in Islamabad, the authorities, too, sealed off several roads, which worsened the traffic situation.

Usman Azam, an Islamabad resident, told DW the blockade was causing problems for citizens.

“Protest is the fundamental right of every citizen, but these protesters should not put the city under siege,” Azam told DW.

The main demand of the protesters is that Law Minister Zahid Hamid resign from his post, as by tampering with the oath, they claim, he has committed blasphemy.

“We will not unblock the roads and keep Islamabad under siege until our demands are met,” Alvi said.

Blasphemy ‘politics’

Blasphemy is a highly sensitive topic in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, where around 97 percent of its 180 million inhabitants are Muslim. Rights advocates have long been demanding a reform of the controversial blasphemy laws, which were introduced by the Islamic military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s.

Rights groups say the laws have little to do with blasphemy and are often used to settle petty disputes and personal vendettas. Religious groups oppose any change to blasphemy law and consider it necessary for Pakistan’s Islamic identity. Blasphemy allegations have often led to violent riots and vigilante justice in the country.

The ruling Muslim League of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is already under pressure from the judiciary after Sharif was ousted on corruption charges in July. While opposition politician Imran Khan is demanding early elections, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the leader of the Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan party, has also seen his popularity rise in the past few months.

In September, Rizvi entered mainstream politics and, to the surprise of political observers, won more than 7,000 votes in a Lahore by-election for the seat vacated by Sharif.

Experts say that the protection of blasphemy law is central to the Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan party’s political agenda. The outfit vows to continue the legacy of Mumtaz Qadri, who was hanged in February 2016 for murdering Salman Taseer, a governor of Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province. Qadri shot Taseer 28 times in broad daylight in Islamabad on January 4, 2011, and was sentenced to death in October the same year. Qadri said he had murdered the former governor for his efforts to amend the country’s blasphemy laws.

“We will not return [from Islamabad] until certain members of parliament tender their resignations,” Qari Sarfraz Ahmed Rizvi, a protester, told DW earlier this month.

Bowing to pressure

The government initially did not want to use force against the protesters. Senator Raja Muhammad Zafar Ul Haq, the leader of the ruling party in the upper house of parliament, told DW he hoped the standoff would be resolved through negotiations.

But Haq said the law minister and other members of parliament were unlikely to step down.

“We can’t punish the entire parliament that worked on the reforms bill,” he added.

Fatima Atif, an Islamabad-based activist and liberal analyst, says the government is powerless when it comes to confronting Islamic groups.

“The ruling party is already in hot water because of its conflict with the military establishment. Even if the government wants to confront the protesters, it lacks the political power to do that,” she told DW.

Pakistan’s credibility

Pakistan’s liberal analysts and activists say the government shouldn’t concede more political space to Islamists than they already have.

Tauseef Ahmed, a former professor at an Islamabad-based university, believes the “mainstreaming of jihadi outfits” in Pakistan could harm the country’s international reputation further.

“The military establishment is dividing Pakistani society along religious and sectarian lines. This policy has harmed the country. The generals do not realize that the international community is observing the situation,” Ahmed told DW.

“By mainstreaming such groups, Pakistan has put all its credibility at stake. Why should the international community accept our claims that we are fighting extremists?” Ahmed said.

But Islamic groups say the country’s constitution allows them to take part in politics, contest elections and oppose laws that they deem “un-Islamic.”

– dw

British missionary was shot dead in Nigeria after singing ‘Amazing grace’

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

Nigeria, November 27, 2017: A Christian missionary was shot dead in Nigeria after playing “Amazing Grace” on his guitar, two of the British survivors who were rescued earlier in November revealed.

Previous reports suggested that 57-year-old Ian Squire had died from asthma while held by kidnappers in Nigeria’s southern Delta region. But new accounts from rescued hostages David and Shirley Donovan reveal that he was killed.

“Ian was a man of faith, humor, music and invention,” David Donovan told The Telegraph on Friday.

The Donovans and Alanna Carson, another Christian missionary, were flown home to Britain earlier this month after their three-week kidnapping ordeal, where they were hidden in a bamboo hut in a swamp.

The kidnappers took the Donovans and the other two hostages at gunpoint, ignoring their pleas that they were missionary medics. The missionaries explained that the men who took them belonged to the “Egbesu Boys,” a cult-like gang named after an ancient war god in local Ijaw tribal culture.

After taking the four hostages to the hut, the kidnappers decided to hand back some of their belongings, which included Squire’s acoustic guitar.

The British optician decided to try and raise the spirits of the other captives by playing and singing “Amazing Grace,” which happened to be the only song he could play without using music sheets.

“It was the perfect song, and at that point things began to look not quite as bad,” David Donovan recalled, stating that it reminded the other missionaries about their decision to serve the Gospel and follow their calling.

“But then, after Ian finished playing, he stood up, and a salvo of gunshots killed him instantly. We didn’t see who did it, but it was obvious that someone in the gang had shot him. It was terrifying to see,” he explained.

“We jumped out of the shack and into the water as we thought they were coming for us next, but a member of the gang came and put us back in there with Ian for the rest of the day,” he continued.

It remains unclear why exactly the gunmen decided to kill Squire, though David Donovan speculates that the drug and alcohol intoxicated militants may have become paranoid and feared that the music could give them away.

The Donovans talked in the interview about their own decision to leave behind their comfortable lives — the husband working as a doctor and the wife as a teacher — in order to follow the Gospel.

“We had good jobs, our two sons in private schools, and a big house in Cambridge, and pretty much everything we wanted,” David Donovan said. “But we realized it didn’t satisfy us, and that to be true to the Gospel, we had to realign our lives.”

Shirley Donovan explained that in 2003 the couple decided to sell their house for a smaller one, move their children to a state school, and start their own medical charity, New Foundations.

“The children were fine as they wanted to move schools anyway, but our friends did think we were completely crazy,” she described.

Later, the Donovans decided to bring their missionary work to the dangerous Delta region in Nigeria after a talk they heard by a local pastor there about the high infant mortality rate.

The missionaries set up a clinic in Enekorogha, a poor Delta community, and for years trained locals to help them provide medical needs, which put them in good standing with the community.

The Donovans noted that they had not heard about the Egbesu cult before they were kidnapped, though the militants, who hold ritual scarring ceremonies that they believe make them bulletproof, have been sparking fear among civilians in the region.

Shirley Donovan said that the missionaries found inspiration by reading a Bible previously stolen by the kidnappers in one of their raids, and tried to explain to them that many of their workers came from impoverished backgrounds as well.

“There was a bit of a silence about that at first, but by the end two of them were asking for lessons on the Bible,” David Donovan stated, noting that he offered his kidnappers medical help.

Shirley Donovan added: “We told them about one of our clinic workers, Jerusalem, who had been a troubled man but had become a Christian and a transformed character. He’d been trained by Ian and could even do the maths for lens refraction. Then one of the guards said ‘stop this conversation now.’ I said ‘why?’ He said ‘because you are speaking to my soul.’ Jerusalem could have been one of them.”

After surviving three weeks in rough conditions, and witnessing the death of their friend, the British hostages were eventually freed. The kidnappers told them the Nigerian government had paid a ransom.

David Donovan said that they will not forget Squire.

“Ian was hungry to know more of God and lived his life with that purpose. He wasn’t afraid of going anywhere, including being in the Delta. As well as his expertise as an optician, he also brought a sense of fun — the people loved and appreciated him,” he said.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby also commented on the news earlier this month, sending thoughts and prayers to Squire’s family.

“We pray for his family and friends as they come to terms with his death, and for the three other hostages who will have to deal with the mental and physical scars they suffered while in captivity,” Welby wrote on Facebook.

“We pray for the areas in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria where there are high levels of crime and tension — for peace, restoration and reconciliation and God’s Kingdom to come in those communities and across all of Africa.”

– christian post

Museum of the bible opens in D.C.; Promises to engage people of all faiths

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

U.S., November 17, 2017: The highly-anticipated Museum of the Bible opens today in Washington, D.C. and promises to be accessible and engaging for all people, regardless of their religious beliefs.

Backed by Hobby Lobby CEO Steve Green, the $500 million museum is located steps away from the National Mall and contains eight floors of biblical artifacts and exhibits from over the centuries.

Some of the exhibits include a replica of the Gutenberg Press, 400 historical artifacts that show how the Bible has changed over time, first editions of the King James Bible, fragments of the Dead Sea Scroll, and an interactive Nazareth village. It also features the rocker Elvis Presley’s Bible, the world’s biggest private collection of Torahs, and walk-through scenes of biblical stories such as Noah’s flood.

“There hasn’t been another building this close to the National Mall that has become available since we acquired it in 2012,” Green previously told The Gospel Herald. “The location would be hard to beat. We just think God has gone before us and helped this building become available when He was ready for it…we just see God’s hand in this whole process.”

Additionally, the 430,000-square-foot museum includes a garden, a restaurant that serves “foods of the Bible”, and a 470-seat theater that will open with the Broadway play “Amazing Grace.” There’s also a rooftop garden with plant varieties that are mentioned in the Bible.

With a $42 million investment in state-of-the-art technology, the Museum of the Bible aims to be the “most technologically advanced museum in the world,” Green said.

“This is not your grandma’s museum,” he said. “If we just put a Bible in a language that I can’t read under a glass case, it only grabs our attention for so long. This book has the most incredible story to be told, and one of the ways to make it alive, to make it engaging, is to use some of the leading technology that is available.”

The museum, the result of seven years of planning, “is not about espousing any one faith,” president Cary Summers told GH back in February. Rather, it aims to educate individuals about the Bible – presented as a historical document – and its impact throughout history.

“Whatever faith a person is, we think that there would be an interest in them understanding the world they live in and how this book impacted their world,” Green said. “This is the best-selling book every year and of all time, there is no close second.”

Admission to the Museum of the Bible is free, although the museum suggests a donation of $15.

– gospel herald

Christians in India Praise God in spite of police brutality, month in jail

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

Jharkhand, November 27, 2017: Six Christians facing false charges, two of them beaten by police, were jailed for a month for praying for a sick woman in eastern India, they said.

After tribal Gondi villagers in Simdega District, Jharkhand state, attacked the Christians on Sept. 16, officers at the local police station refused to listen to the victims and hit two young men among them, 25-year-old Sajan Majhi and Kalender Majhi, 20, they said.

“The police hit Sajan Majhi and Kalender Majhi repeatedly,” said one of those arrested, 35-year-old Dasrath Karketta. “They didn’t give us a chance to speak. If they inquired of us, we could have explained what happened exactly, but they didn’t; instead, they scarred the face of Kalender Majhi. He bled also.”

The police beating followed the thrashing the Christians received from Hindu extremists in Ghosra village, who attacked them while they were praying for healing for the wife of Bikhru Majhi, sources said. Officers jailed the Christians and charged them with “promoting enmity between classes” and insulting religion. They spent a month in jail before being released on bail.

“We spent one month in jail joyously – we sang hymns, read the Bible, prayed and worshipped together in jail,” Karketta said. “We shared the gospel with other inmates in the district jail. There also, people came to Christ. We strongly felt the Lord was using us for His work and were happy about it.”

Karketta, the two young men and James Ba, 30, Balmuni Kumari, 19, and Jagdish Majhi, 50, went to the home of Bikhru Majhi after he asked them to pray for his wife, Nitu Devi, sources said.

“Bikhru Majhi heard our testimonies,” Karketta said. “He was amazed at how I got healed, and he wanted prayers for his wife.”

Before winning a battle against cancer, Karketta had visited several hospitals for treatment, exhausting his family’s financial resources, he said.

“We spent lot of money to a point that there was nothing left in our house, even no food for our children to eat,” Karketta said. “When I came to Christ, I got rid of all ailments, and now I am working, providing for my family and leading my life in Christ: ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”‘

Bikhru Majhi is Hindu but believes Christ can heal, and he routinely invites Christians to pray for his wife, who has long been ill, said Singhray Kullu, former pastor of the church in Ghosra village that the arrested Christians attend.

“Bikhru believes the prayers can heal her,” he said.

At around 8 p.m. on Sept. 16, a throng of Hindu villagers surrounded Bikhru Majhi’s house as the Christians prayed for his wife, said the only woman among the six arrested, Balmuni Kumari.

“They surrounded us and started beating the Christian brothers and me,” she told Morning Star News. “We told them it’s not conversion, we only came to pray for a sick woman.”

The villagers were furious, Karketta said.

“We tried telling them, ‘We did not come to murder, or get drunk, or steal, we came to pray at the request of Bikhru, and if this act of us offends you, we ask for forgiveness, please forgive us,'” Karketta said. “We tried our best to make peace, but they did not listen. They beat us, screaming, “Where is your God? Where is your Jesus? What can He do? Call him right now. We also want to see what He can do.'”

At around 11 p.m., police arrived and arrested the Christians, he said. They were taken to T. Tangar Police Station.

“We all are daily laborers, we depend on our earnings each day for our bread,” Karketta said. “From where arises the question of paying people and converting them?”

James Ba and Kalender Majhi of Banspahar village, Jagdish Majhi of Latapani village and Balmuni Kumari of Tukupani Baanstoli village were released on bail on Oct. 16. Dasrath Karketta of Khijri village and Sajan Majhi of Farsapani village were released on bail on Oct. 17.

Women’s Prison

The 19-year-old Kumari was arrested along with the others at 11 p.m., though arrests of women are not permitted in India after sunset, a legal expert told Morning Star News. He added that if special circumstances require the arrest of a woman after sunset, police are required to assign female police officer.

“No female police constable came for me,” Kumari said. “I was the only woman, and it was frightening. I trusted the Lord.”

Her family came under severe pressure from the Hindus extremists while she was in jail, she said.

“The assailants threatened my mother and father,” she said. “They were asked to leave the village.”

Her brother told Singhray Kullu about the threats in Kumari’s home village.

“The family faced severe opposition because of their faith,” Kullu told Morning Star News. “The Gondis plotted to expel them from the village. Balmuni’s mother went into depression. Things turned normal after her release.”

The time in the women’s jail interrupted her university studies, Kumari said.

“Even in the prison, I prayed and worshipped with other Christians,” she said. “Every Sunday believing sisters from outside visited us and led us in prayer and worship.”

Some of the assailants later apologized to her, she added.

“The people who beat me that day came and asked for forgiveness after my release,” Kumari said. “But there is still bitterness in the hearts of some.”

The Christians were charged with promoting enmity between classes (Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code), punishable by up to three years of prison and/or a fine; maliciously insulting the religion or religious beliefs of any class (Section 295-A), punishable by up to three years of prison and/or a fine; and acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention (Section 34).

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, the hostile tone of his National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), against non-Hindus has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians, religious rights advocates say.

India ranked 15th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of the countries where Christians experience the most persecution.

– gospel herald

Gujarat archbishop asked to explain seeking prayers for election

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

Vadodara, November 26, 2017: Gujarat Election Commission on Nov. 25 served a notice to on Archbishop Thomas Macwan of Gandhinagar asking him to explain his letter asking Catholics to pray to elect leaders who will “remain faithful to the Indian Constitution” so that the country can be “saved of nationalist forces”.

The notice, served through the District Election Officer of Gandhinagar, asked the Archbishop Macwan to explain why his appeal should not be viewed as a violation of the Model Code of Conduct.

Officials said the action was taken on a complaint received by the Election Commission of India (EC) from an organization, Legal Rights Observatory.

It sought “immediate action” against the Archbishop, as his public letter dated November 21 was an attempt to “generate fear” among voters to “divide people on the basis of caste and creed”.

Gandhinagar District Election Officer Satish Patel said that on EC’s order for inquiry, a notice was served on Archbishop Macwan on Saturday.

Archbishop Macwan said, “The letter has only been sent to the Christian community to pray. We can always pray for good humans to be elected as leaders. It has not been issued with any malicious intention to harm anyone.”

– indian express

Pope in South Asia, but no invite from India

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

India, November 26, 2017: Despite repeated requests from the Catholic Christian community, the government has not shown any interest in welcoming Pope Francis to India during his tour to South Asia which begins on Sunday, a senior official of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) said.

Speaking to The Hindu the official said the Vatican under Pope Francis has helped India in securing the recent release of Catholic priest, Father Tom from the insurgents in Yemen and therefore it would have been befitting to host him in India during the trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh.

“We have been in contact with the government and have conveyed our request at the highest level to invite Pope Francis to India, but we have not received any positive response so far,” said a senior CBCI official, who informed that the government is aware of the deep desire of the Catholics to host the Pope in India.

Pope Francis who arrives in Myanmar on Sunday is likely to take up the issue of the Rohingya refugees with Nobel laureate State Counsellor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi during his stay in the country. “As I prepare to visit Myanmar and Bangladesh, I wish to send a message of greeting and friendship to everyone. I can’t wait to meet you,” he said, in a social media message during the weekend.

The statement from the Catholic Church in India came days after the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) indicated that such an important visit needs to be finalised through a ‘proper mechanism.’

“India’s link with Christianity is nearly 2,000 years old. Indian Christians have immensely contributed to India’s growth and prosperity. Relations between India and the Holy See have always been cordial and strengthened over the years,” said spokesperson Raveesh Kumar on November 23. The MEA did not wish to comment on the statement of the CBCI official.

Though the Pope will not be able to visit India this time, several leading Indian Catholic clergymen and personalities will be present in Myanmar and Bangladesh to welcome him. Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai, Cardinal Mar George Alencherry, Cardinal Placidus Toppo, and Bishop Lumen Monteiro of the Diocese of Agartala will meet the Pope. A few other clergymen from West Bengal are also likely to meet Pope Francis in Dhaka.

Senior Catholic sources indicate that the lack of government support to welcome Pope Francis to India has not dampened their spirit and in fact the CBCI is trying to get a new slot to invite Pope Francis.

“We are continuing with our backchannel talks and are confident that with the support of the government we can welcome Pope Francis in India by the middle of 2018,” said Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas of the CBCI.

Apart from being the spiritual leader of the Catholics, the Pope is also the head of a state and that is why there is a need to have full protocol support of the government, he said and added, “We also need at least seven to eight months to prepare for such a visit.”

The visit of the Pope is likely to be a major point in the upcoming Plenary of Bishops that will be held in January in Bengaluru.

– the hindu

6 simple (but life changing) money habits

November 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

We’ve all heard it many times: It’s not how much you earn but how you spend what you earn that counts. Or how about this formula for financial success: Spend less than you make and do it over a long period of time.

So why are such simple principles so hard to live by? Why are they easier said than done?

The apostle Paul was very familiar with the struggles we face today as we attempt to wisely manage the resources God entrusts to us. Listen to Paul’s words from the book of Romans: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (>Romans 7:15).

Do you feel the same way when it comes to making financial decisions? Are you struggling with regrets, as you look back at mistakes and bad financial choices you have made? If so, don’t despair—there really is hope at the end of the tunnel.

Acquiring sound financial behavior is a journey, and you can begin by changing one thing, one habit at a time.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and making smart financial decisions, and seeing the results of those decisions, won’t happen overnight either.

So what are some simple changes you can make that will have a big impact on not only your pocket book but also on you as an individual?

Recognize that all you have is really…well…not yours. You are a manager of God’s resources. 1 Chronicles 29:11 tells us “Everything in the heavens and earth is yours, O Lord…”

Understand that God expects you to manage His resources wisely. As you are faithful with little, He’ll entrust you with more…as He deems appropriate. 1 Chronicles 29:12 tells us that wealth comes from Him, and Him alone.

Find out where the money is going every month. Track ALL of your spending for 30 to 60 days. It will be a very telling exercise. After all, you can’t get to where you want to be if you don’t know where you are right now. Proverbs 27:23 tells us, “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds…”

Make a PLAN. This is where you or you and your spouse sit down and decide how every dollar will be spent each month. You can use a simple Excel spreadsheet and list all of the “categories” you spend money on monthly (home, utilities, food, debt, and so forth). If you enjoy technology, the Mvelopes® budgeting system is a great free tool to help you make a plan and stick with it.

STOP using credit. Make a deal with yourself to wait 30 days before purchasing items that would require using debt. For some this may be a hard habit to break. It will require doing without, saying NO, and learning to be content. I promise you, the payoff is well worth it!

SAVE. SAVE. SAVE. There is really no way around it. If you want to break the debt cycle, you have to learn how to be a saver. If you don’t, then any emergency or unexpected life event will drive you deeper into debt. So make a commitment to set aside even as little as $30 to $50 a month. “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has” (Proverbs 21:20).

Often we keep going in the wrong direction because we simply don’t know what that first step in the right direction is. The financial problems may seem so overwhelming, and you may be looking for complicated solutions to solve your complicated problems.

Stop looking. Start trusting that God’s simple, ancient wisdom is the solution. So here it is again, in six simple steps:

  • Recognize that He is the owner.
  • Accept your responsibility as a manager.
  • Track ALL of your spending.
  • Make a plan.
  • Stop using credit—apply the 30-day rule for purchases.
  • Become a saver.

– cross walk

Egypt: Terror attack kills over 200 at mosque in north sinai

November 24, 2017 by  
Filed under newsletter-world, World

Egypt, November 24, 2017: Militants killed more than 230 people at a mosque in Egypt’s North Sinai on Friday, detonating a bomb and gunning down worshipers in the deadliest attack in the country’s modern history, state media and witnesses said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility, but since 2013 Egyptian security forces have battled a stubborn Islamic State affiliate in the mainly desert region, and militants have killed hundreds of police and soldiers.

State media showed images of bloodied victims and bodies covered in blankets inside the Al Rawdah mosque in Bir al-Abed, west of El Arish, the main city in North Sinai.

Worshipers were finishing Friday prayers at the mosque when a bomb exploded, witnesses said. Around 40 gunmen set up positions outside the mosque with jeeps and opened fire from different directions as people tried to escape, witnesses said.

“They were shooting at people as they left the mosque,” said a local resident whose relatives were at the scene. “They were shooting at the ambulances too.”

The public prosecutors’ office said in a statement 235 people had been killed and 109 more wounded.

Striking at a mosque would be a change in tactics for the Sinai militants, who have usually attacked troops and police and Christian churches.

Arabiya news channel and some local sources said some of the worshipers were Sufis, whom groups such as Islamic State consider targets because they revere saints and shrines, which for Islamists is tantamount to idolatry.

The jihadists have also attacked local tribes and their militias for working with the army and police, branding them traitors.

The Sinai branch is one of Islamic State’s surviving branches following the collapse of its self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq after military defeats by U.S.-backed forces.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a former armed forces commander who presents himself as a bulwark against Islamist militancy, convened an emergency meeting with his defense and interior ministers and intelligence chief soon after the attack, the presidency and state television said.

Security has long been one of the key sources of public support for the former general, who is expected to run for re-election early next year for another four-year term.

He promised the attack “would not go unpunished.”

“Justice will be served against all those who participated, contributed, supported, funded, or instigated this cowardly attack,” Sisi said in a statement.

U.S. President Donald Trump, in a post on Twitter on Friday, called the assault a “horrible and cowardly terrorist attack.”

“The world cannot tolerate terrorism, we must defeat them militarily and discredit the extremist ideology that forms the basis of their existence,” he added.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also condemned the attack and said Paris stood with its ally.

SINAI STRUGGLE

North Sinai, which stretches from the Suez Canal eastwards to the Gaza Strip and Israel, has long been a security headache for Egyptian security forces because of smuggling.

Sisi has support from some Bedouin tribal leaders, who have helped the army locate weapon-smuggling routes used by jihadi groups, security officials said.

Local militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, once allied to al Qaeda, split from it and declared allegiance to Islamic State in 2013.

Bloodshed in the Sinai worsened after 2013 when Sisi led the overthrow of President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Islamic State earlier this year posted a video of the beheading of two Sufis in northern Sinai, accusing them of practicing “sorcery.”

In July this year, at least 23 soldiers were killed when suicide car bombs hit two military checkpoints in the Sinai, in an attack claimed by Islamic State.

Militants have tried to expand their operations into Egypt’s heavily populated mainland, hitting Coptic Christian churches and pilgrims. In May, gunmen attacked a Coptic group traveling to a monastery in southern Egypt, killing 29.

– christian post

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