A super moon, blood moon and lunar eclipse all in one night: Are you ready?

January 30, 2018 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

Lovers of the sky, get ready. God has a special treat in store. On January 31, 2018, a celestial event dubbed the ‘Super Blue Blood Moon’ will treat stargazers to a supermoon, a Blue Moon, and a total lunar eclipse — all in one night!

Supermoons occur when the moon is closer to the earth in its rotation, making it appear bigger than usual. And the Super Blue Blood Moon will be the final event in a succession of three supermoons, which kicked off on December 3, 2017.

The trilogy of supermoons is already pretty cool. But to conclude with three lunar events in one night — that brings the wow factor. In fact, it hasn’t happened in over 150 years!

“Sometimes the celestial rhythms sync up just right to wow us,” NASA officials said.

So, what is a Super Blue Blood Moon anyway?


Let’s start with the supermoon, which has to do with the Moon’s orbit. Because of tidal and gravitational forces, which pull on the Moon, its orbit around the Earth is not a perfect circle.

“You have all of these different gravitational forces pulling and pushing on the Moon, which gives us opportunities to have these close passes,” said NASA’s Noah Petro.

So, the Moon’s distance from Earth changes by a few thousand miles as it orbits. The closest point is called the perigee, and the farthest point is called the apogee. And so, full moons occurring during the perigee (dubbed supermoons) appear about 14% bigger and 30% brighter than standard full moons.

Once a supermoon is high in the sky, it’s much more difficult for the naked eye to spot the difference from your run of the mill, full moon. So, Tuesday evening, just after sunset, is the best time to check out the supermoon portion of the Super Blue Blood Moon.

Blue Moon

If you’re looking forward to seeing a blue-tinged moon, I’m sorry to disappoint. The term Blue Moon actually has nothing to do with color.

Each month out of the year gets it’s very own full moon. But sometimes, when a month has been really, really good, it gets seconds.

Actually, it’s just something that happens about every two and a half years. One special month will end up having two full moons. And the supermoon on January 31st marks the second full moon of January, thus making it a Blue Moon. But if a color change is what you’re looking for, Wednesday’s Super Blue Blood Moon has that in store as well!

Blood Moon

The third element of Wednesday’s astronomical extravaganza has to do with a total lunar eclipse, resulting in a Blood Moon. As the Moon lines up with the Earth and Sun, it will fall into the Earth’s shadow.

Normally, the Sun’s light reflects off of the Moon. However, with the Earth in the way during the eclipse, the Moon will take on a reddish tint, hence the name Blood Moon.

Will I Get To See The Super Blue Blood Moon?

Location is going to be key in the experience. Everyone will have the opportunity to check out the supermoon portion as the Moon rises. Unfortunately, though, only some areas will get to view the effects of the lunar eclipse.

NASA reports most of South America, Africa, and Western Europe will not be able to view this lunar eclipse. Bummer.

“For those in the Middle East, Asia, eastern Russia, Australia and New Zealand, the ‘Super Blue Blood Moon’ can be seen during moonrise in the morning on the 31st,” Gordon Johnston of NASA said.

As for the United States, the West Coast has the upper hand.

“Weather permitting, the West Coast, Alaska, and Hawaii will have a spectacular view of totality from start to finish,” Gordon says.

The East Coast will have a tougher time because of the time difference. The best chance to catch the Moon’s reddish hue will be early Wednesday morning, and watching from a high place with a clear view to the West is recommended.

Now, it’s not uncommon for lunar events to draw attention as potential signs of an impending apocalypse. And the Super Blue Blood Moon does sound pretty epic. So, does that mean we’ve reached the End of Times?

Nah, probably not. But it should certainly be a spectacular sight!

– cross walk

Study suggests teenage girls don’t have tools to navigate pressure to sext

January 30, 2018 by  
Filed under lead story, newsletter-lead

U.S., January 27, 2018: In a recent study, teenage girls were found to feel powerless when asked for a nude image of themselves from young men, most often saying they felt trapped, bombarded, coerced, and confused when confronted with “sexting” requests.

Perhaps even more alarming is that most of the young women in the study reported that the pressure to sext was normal and accepted boys’ aggressive behavior as acceptable. Even more, the only negative language the girls used was not against their male counterparts – but instead to describe themselves or other girls.

The study, “What Should I Do?: Young Women’s Reported Dilemmas With Nude Photographs,” was conducted by Sara E. Thomas, a doctoral student at Northwestern University, and was published by Springer Science and Business Media in December 2017. The study looked at 7,000 stories from girls who posted their experience on the online platform “A Thin Line.”

Of the 7,000 experiences, Thomas focused on 462 stories in which girls reported sexting, sending nude photos, and related experiences from the years 2010-2016. The average age of the girls was 15.

Thomas noted the study’s limitations, saying that the shared experiences were the result of an anonymous online platform, which neglects to include important information such as the girls’ demographic backgrounds and may not be indicative of all young women’s experiences. Most of the girls were also adolescent and there was no information given about the male counterparts who reportedly pressured the girls into sexting.

However, the study is able to highlight a number of adolescent girls’ struggles when faced with requests for nude photos, most of whom reported that they did not want to send the images. Also noteworthy was the most common reaction among the girls when asked for photos: “What should I do?”

“Teenage girls know the potential risks and are disinclined to [sext], yet they continue to share their images anyway. They struggle to say no,” said Thomas, in an interview with Northwestern Now.

Thomas also noted that the girls seem to be ill-equipped with the resources and tools necessary to face pressured requests from young men.

Of the girls who sent nude photos, “more than 90 percent…engaged in what could be considered unwanted but consensual sexting to either prove their affections or avoid reproach or conflict with their partners,” the study reported.

The study also noted that none of the girls who sent nude photos felt relieved or good about their choice. In addition, 40 percent of the stories said their nude photos were sent to unintended audiences. One girl reported that her nude image ended up on the personal phones of over 300 people.

“It appears that a desire for status, love or pressure from boys to be ‘good girlfriends,’ threats, anger or relational consequences compel them to consider sending photographs,” the study said of the girls who were asked to send nude images.

Of the girls who refused, 31 percent said there were repercussions for not engaging in sexting or sending nude images, such as “having the boy get angry, break up with them, or make more requests despite their refusal.”

In addition, a number of the girls expressed a level of normalcy in being asked to provide nude images or engage in sexting. They also did not describe their male counterparts as blameworthy, but instead described themselves as “weak,” “pathetic,” having “ridiculously low self-esteem,” or a “horrible person.”

When not describing themselves, the girls sometimes used negative language against other girls, calling those who did not send nude images “prudes.”

Thomas concluded that her study was “not meant to suggest that all young women struggle with immediate day to day pressures, to represent all young women as victims of coercive tactics, or to represent all young men as coercive or threatening.”

“Rather, it is the aim of this study to explore the struggles young women experience and to elaborate on our current understanding of young women’s dilemmas as they develop romantic and sexual relationships in this digital era.”

Thomas also added that young women need support and information on how to navigate pressuring situations from males, while there is also an overwhelming need for males to act with respect and boundary acceptance.

– cna

Mass declared illegal in Nghệ An under a new law that hinders religious activities

January 30, 2018 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Vietnam, January 29, 2018: The Mass celebrated on 23 January in Song Ngọc parish, in the diocese of Vinh, has been declared “illegal” by the People’s Committee of Quỳnh Ngọc, a municipality in the north-central province of Nghệ An.

In an official note, the authorities censure the vicar and the parish’s pastoral committee, ordering Fr Nguyễn Đình Thục and his parishioners to “register all their religious activities” in accordance with a local bylaw (N.08/UBND).

Last week, the vicar had invited about 20 priests from the diocese to celebrate Mass in the parish. During the service, priests and faithful prayed for the victims of the environmental disaster at a plant owned by the Formosa Plastics Group.

They also mentioned in their prayers prisoners of conscience, like Hoàng Đức Bìnhe and Nguyễn Nam Phong, and called for peace in all Vietnamese families.

At the same time, parishioners prayed that local authorities be able to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong, and that the government behave in a fair way towards those who are committed to the peace of the nation.

Local authorities have been trying for a long time to stifle the religious life of the local community, which has fought for social rights and justice in the country, speaking out on behalf of dissidents who disagree with the government.

The People’s Committee of Quỳnh Ngọc sent the document on the afternoon of 23 January 2018, and Fr Thục and the Song Ngọc Parish Pastoral Committee of parish celebrated Mass with many participants and parishioners.

In their note, local authorities cite the new Law on Belief and Religion that came into effect on 1st January 2018. They cited Article 43 to say that “Religious organizations, dependent religious organisations, […] or religious organisations which have been granted the certificates of registration of religious activities have a duty to provide in writing the lists of annual religious activities at least 30 days after being recognised, approved or granted a certificate of registration of religious activity as prescribed” by the government.

Some officials claim that Song Ngọc parish has not yet informed the People’s Committee of its programme. As a result, they view the Mass celebrated by the community as contravening the provisions of the new law on religious freedom. By contrast, for local Catholics, “Article 43 is an expedient to obstruct the religious activities of the parish and of the faithful.”

The community has often been the victim of sometimes violent interference and pressure from the authorities through pro-government militant groups, as well as smear campaigns, such as the one against Fr Thuc.

Article 2, paragraph 10 of the law backs the parishioners of Song Ngọc, thus highlighting the its inconsistencies.

According to this provision, “Religious activities are to express religious beliefs, catechism practice, practicing canon law and religious rituals. So, the participation in the Mass of believers, communion and prayer together are ‘religious activities’ that take place every day, every hour in the country.” Thus, such practices in themselves already comply with the law of the state.

Before Vietnam’s parliament passed its new controversial legislation, the country’s religious leaders contributed to the discussions with their opinions in order to protect religious freedom, a principle recognised in the 2013 Constitution.

Starting in June 2017, organisations, legal experts and believers of various faiths shared their views with the Speaker and Members of the National Assembly. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam also made an important contribution.

Yet, critics note that the authorities “simply pretended to listen to the advice offered to improve the bill”. Believers and rights activists complain that the government later ignored the views expressed by religious organisations. This has allowed local authorities “to apply the Law on Belief and Religion as they please”.

– asia news

Cuban christian man jailed after police confiscate bibles, told ‘Our God is Fidel Castro’

January 30, 2018 by  
Filed under newsletter-world, World

Cuba, January 25, 2018: Details have emerged about the arrest and imprisonment of a Cuban Christian rights activist who was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison late last year after authorities raided his home and confiscated Bibles and crucifixes.

Misael Diaz Paseiro, a dissident who is a member of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo Civic Resistance Front, was arrested in November and charged with “pre-criminal social dangerousness” by the Communist government, according to the watchdog NGO Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

Paseiro’s arrest came after state security agents raided his home on Oct. 22 and confiscated two Bibles, several crucifixes and five rosaries. According to CSW, it was on Nov. 4 that Paseiro was beaten by “political police.”

“Misael, in addition to being a counter-revolutionary, you are also a Christian,” CSW quoted a police official as telling Paseiro. “You should look at us, we are revolutionaries and we don’t believe in your God. Our god is Fidel Castro.”

Paseiro was initially denied basic rights in prison, such as access to a Bible and visits from a priest. Paseiro’s mistreatment led his wife, Ariana López Roque, to go on a 19-day hunger strike.

During López Roque’s hunger strike, CSW reports that police officials prevented a pastor from going to their home to provide counsel. Pastor Bárbaro Guevara tried to visit López Roque twice but was physically blocked from doing so.

López Roque has since ended her hunger strike after receiving assurances that her husband’s rights will be respected in prison, according to CSW.

As the government agents who beat Paseiro reportedly told him that the deceased revolutionary and brutal dictator Castor was their God, Cuban pastor and rights activist Mario Barroso told The Christian Post on Thursday that it is not uncommon for people in Cuba to invoke the name of Castro.

Barroso, a missionary who’s been arrested many times by the Cuban government who came to the United States as a refugee with his family in 2016, told CP that invoking the name Castro as a deity is the “strategy of some people in Cuba to cover crimes and corruption.”

“Invoking Fidel Castro in Cuba helps cover acts of corruption and even crimes. This proves that the followers of [Castro as a God] are not really so adept as Fidel himself but rather at the benefits that are covered by invoking him,” Barroso explained. “Deep down they are imitating Fidel with this behavior since Fidel Castro was like that too: an opportunist, a blackmailer. So the believers in Fidel Castro act in the image and likeness of their god, Fidel. They are faithful followers of the evil example of their god.”

“There may be 5 percent of those who claim to have Fidel Castro as god who really adore him,” Barroso added. “The other 95 percent is just opportunists who imitate Fidel’s bad example.”

The news of Paseiro’s detention comes as a new CSW report on Cuba released this month relays that there were as many as 325 religious freedom violations in the island nation in 2017.

Although the 325 figure is lower than the number of religious freedom violations that CSW reported in 2015 and 2016, it still continues an increasing trend in violations since 2011, the organization reports.

“CSW is deeply concerned by the growing number and severity of [religious freedom] violations reported by a wide variety of denominations and religious groups, which seem to show that the government is attempting to tighten its control over the activities and membership of religious groups,” the CSW report reads. “Many of the documented violations were in line with the types of violations seen in previous years — for example the use of temporary arbitrary detention, harassment of church leaders, and attacks on property rights.”

“It appears, however, that the government is now also diversifying its tactics by threatening activists and religious leaders with trumped up criminal charges, arbitrarily preventing them from traveling out of the country and targeting their children,” the report continued. “It is essential that the European Union, the United States, and other governments in dialogue with Cuba use their positions to press for improvements to religious freedom and the general human rights situation in the country.”

– christian post

Right-wing Hindu groups are recycling Britain’s colonial ideas about religion

January 30, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

India, January 29, 2018: In late November, a state-level media coordinator from India’s ruling party, the BJP, offered a bounty of 10 crore rupees (about $1.5 million) for the beheadings of a Bollywood actress and a director of the feature film “Padmaavat,” which opened Jan. 25. The movie (originally “Padmavati”) depicts the life of legendary 14th-century queen Padmini and has sparked right-wing Hindu groups to denounce the would-be blockbuster, citing an alleged romance between the Hindu queen and a Muslim king. Last week, Delhi schoolchildren crouched on the floor as a mob threw rocks at their bus in Gurgaon in protest of the movie. Since Indian filmgoers are only now seeing the film, originally slated to release last year, much of the outrage has been based on the film’s speculated contents. While threats of violence have been rightfully denounced by other BJP leaders, chief ministers of a number of states — including Madhya Pradesh and Punjab — have demanded controversial scenes be removed before the film is screened.

The “Padmaavat” affair provides us with good reason to reconsider the growing influence of the right-wing Hindu groups.

In October, several politicians from the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), which accepts Hindutva (“Hinduness”) as part of its platform, argued that the Taj Mahal had no place in the country’s heritage because it was built by a Muslim. Meanwhile, vigilante mob attacks on people accused of selling or smuggling beef — most often Muslims — have spiked since 2015, with a data journalism organization called IndiaSpend reporting that vigilantes killed at least 28 people since 2015.

Yet, while recent events have sparked debate, one thing has too often been overlooked: Right-wing Hindu groups are recycling old colonial thinking. While Hindu communities of thought and practice have existed on the Indian subcontinent for millennia, the concept of “Hinduism” as a world religion, one with unified beliefs and rituals akin to “Christianity” or “Islam,” can be traced to the 18th-century colonial context. Although religious people thought of themselves more in terms of their region, family lineage or language, British Christian missionaries in India took aim at the “idolatry” and “savagery” of what they thought were unified “Hindoo” beliefs and practices. Orientalist scholars such as William Jones later countered these missionaries with defenses of the wisdom in Sanskrit texts.

Now, when right-wing Hindus emphasize that all Hindus share a common culture, history, and ancestry, they take a particular vision of “Hindu-ness” to be universal — appealing to a unified version created when India was still under the British. Regions in India traditionally venerate different gods or goddesses, but attempts at creating a pan-Hindu nationalism often paint over these strong regional, caste and cultural variances. For instance, Ram Navami, a festival that celebrates the birth of the Hindu god Ram, has never been central to regions such as Kerala and Bengal. Yet, last April, right-wing Hindu groups organized Ram Navami celebrations in both states with increasing intensity. It’s also easy to forget, when talking about cow-vigilantism and vegetarianism, that a vast majority of Hindus worldwide eat meat. According to Suhag Shukla of the Hindu America Foundation, that number is about 70 percent.

In allowing the Hindu right to define what forms of life count as properly Hindu, the victims most affected are those already overlooked. That includes people from regions outside of the BJP’s base in the Hindi-speaking heartland — Bengalis, Malayalis and Assamese among them. In trying to make Hinduism a unified religion, what was and continues to be left out of the picture are forms of worship and practice that don’t fit the model: rituals and practices common to women and lower-caste Hindus, tantra, Bhakti and the influence of Indian Sufism on Hindu ways of thought.

The attempt to get people to fit into created categories has colonial roots in India as well. As British civil servants gathered data on their Indian subjects, they separated people into discrete groups. But unlike the flexibility of communities and clans, census responses required Indian subjects to identify as Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or untouchable. This served the purpose of British governance then. Now it serves a new function: to rally Hindus against imagined others.

Of course, this didn’t happen entirely without Indian participation: “Hindus” came to see and organize themselves in terms of the created categories. This helped Indians promote British translations of ancient texts, resist missionary polemics in the 18th and 19th centuries, and later, mobilize the independence movement.

When anti-colonial movements gained traction toward the end of British rule in India in 1947, Hindu nationalism became the default way of reclaiming political power. Appealing to blood-and-soil nationality was a way for Indians to stand against colonizers, namely the British. Now, this anti-colonial rhetoric that was first marshaled against the British is being repurposed, with Muslims branded as the colonizers. The BJP website, for instance, speaks about India as a great civilization that weathered the storms of invaders from the “the Shakas to the Islamic armies of Turks and Afghans. It fought and resisted external oppression and its essential civilization and culture survived great challenges and attempts at effacement.”

None of this, though, means that India should abandon Hindu nationalism in favor of “secular values” such as rationalism and private belief. That model, as scholar Dipesh Chakrabarty has long argued, of treating religion as a purely individual matter doesn’t fit the Indian context.

What all this suggests is that the form of Hindu life being rallied around isn’t as deeply rooted in India as some have made it out to be. And that is politically important. As the 2019 general election looms closer, both Indians and the Indian diaspora — who in large part welcomed Narendra Modi’s election as prime minister in 2014 — must be more critical of what vision of Hinduism is on offer. This will mean demanding more than what is currently being presented: a narrow vision of Hinduism and an even narrower vision of India.

– washington post

HRW slams India’s treatment of minorities

January 30, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

New Delhi, January 30, 2018: Civil society groups in India have backed a Human Rights Watch report that condemns the unabated violence that religious minorities suffer at the hands of right-wing Hindu groups.

India’s federal government led by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has failed to contain rights violations on several fronts, according to the New York-based group’s 2018 World Report.

“The government failed to promptly or credibly investigate the attacks, while many senior BJP leaders publicly promoted Hindu supremacy and ultra-nationalism, which encouraged further violence,” said the Human Rights Watch report.

An increasing threat in 2017 was “vigilante violence aimed at religious minorities, marginalized communities and critics of the government” by groups claiming to support the ruling party, it said.

The report listed several cases of violations including army excesses in the disputed Kashmir region and unequal treatment of India’s indigenous and Dalit people, who were formerly considered untouchable.

“Dissent was labeled anti-national, and activists, journalists and academics were targeted for their views, chilling free expression,” the report said.

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, told reporters after the report’s release that Indian authorities have proved unwilling to protect minority religious communities and other vulnerable groups from frequent attacks.

Those responsible for such attacks need to be prosecuted to prevent future attacks, she said.

The report confirms what Indians have been witnessing in the past four years since the BJP government came to power, said Pravin Mishra of human rights organization Jan Sangharsh Manch (people’s resistance forum).

“India is passing through a very turbulent period. Such violence against minorities was never witnessed since the partition of the Subcontinent in 1947,” Mishra told ucanews.com.

The BJP now rules 19 of India’s 29 states and “one can see the graph of violence against Muslims, Christians and Dalits has spiraled specifically in BJP-ruled states,” Mishra said.

P.T. John, general secretary of a tea planters’ union in the southern state of Kerala, told ucanews.com that the government makes no effort to protect minorities.

“Hindu groups who keep targeting minorities defend their actions while protecting themselves as nationalists. They are making a mockery of the law and of the country’s Supreme Court,” John said.

Dalit leader Vinay Kumar, a member of the National Federation for Dalit Land in India, told ucanews.com that oppression of minorities is nothing new in India but it has deepened since the BJP came to power.

Hindu hardliners often present Christians and Muslims as foreigners in India, which belongs to only Hindus. “With such a mindset in place, how can minorities feel secure in the country?” Kumar asked.

Right-wing Hindu groups were once dismissed as “fringe elements” but they cannot be considered so any more as the ruling party depends on their support and attacks have become regular.

Hindus in India number 966 million in a population of 1.2 billion, but Muslims are a considerable minority as they form 172 million. Christians are hardly 28 million and constitute less than one percent in most northern states, where they mostly face violence from Hindu groups.

Persecution Relief, an ecumenical Christian forum that monitors persecution, claims it recorded 600 incidents in 2017 of violence on Christians, including destruction of churches, threats and harassment, social boycotts, hate campaigns, abductions, murder, physical violence and attempted murder.

– ucan

Catholic bishops’ biennial plenary to review “worrying” national scenario

January 30, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

New Delhi, January 30, 2018: About 200 Catholic bishops from all over India will gather in Bengaluru in early February to review the Church’s works of mercy and witnessing of Christian faith in current situation in the country.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has chosen “I am with you always, even to the end of the ages” (Mat.28:20) United in diversity for a Mission of Mercy and Witness” for its 33rd general body meeting to be held at St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, Bengaluru, capital of Karnataka state.

Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro will lead the opening Mass on February 2. The chief guest at the opening session is Cardinal Charles Bo from Myanmar. The plenary will end on February 9.

The biennial plenary is taking place at a time when the Church in India is facing “immense challenges to serve and witness,” says a press release from CBCI headquarters.

“The Church has been one of the greatest promoters of unity in diversity. But groups and organizations wishing to promote cultural and religious nationalism are becoming bolder,” notes the press statement from CBCI secretary general Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas

The bishops say incidents of mob lynching on the pretext of cow smuggling, cow slaughter or beef eating have created a fear psychosis in certain sections of the population. “Killing of dissenting journalists, the recent mob attacks including an assault on a school bus full of children in protest against a movie are disturbing signs in our traditionally secular and largely peaceful society.”

The conference which represents more than 20 million Catholics spread over 174 dioceses in the country also cites violence against Christians such as attacks on carolers in Satna town of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh and attempts by rightwing groups to storm a Catholic college in Vidisha, another town in the state to forcibly perform Hindu prayers “in the name of pseudo nationalism.”

These incidents have left the bishops worried and upset, says the press release.

At the same, the bishops say support from government authorities both at New Delhi and Madhya Pradesh has helped in keeping the situation under control. “However, the way the poison of communal, caste, and religious bigotism and hatred is being spread in the country is troubling and disquieting,” it adds.

At the same time, the Church reiterates it steadfast faith in the promise of Christ that he would be with his people. “The theme in its first part bases itself on Jesus’ assurance that he will accompany his Church at all times and in all circumstances. This is what gives it strength and courage in its mission of service and witness to all humankind.”

The bishops will discuss how the Church can be the leaven in the dough so that all men and women of good will, cutting across religious, social and political lines can unite to preserve the secular fabric of the country and uphold the constitutional values, the press statement says.

The bishops will also deliberate on how the Church can continue to witness the love of Jesus Christ and selflessly serve the nation. Reflections will veer around finding new ways of partnering the governments at the state and central level in nation building and developmental projects with a special concern for the dalits, tribals and the marginalized. The Church wishes to actively involve itself in open and full dialogue with followers of all religions and ideologies so that together we can promote peace and harmonious living.

The plenary is expected to elected the president and two vice presidents of the bishops’ conference for a two-year term. The current president is Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, head of the Syro-Malankara Church. The post of president rotates among the three rites in India — Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara. The plenary is expected to elect a Latin prelate to head of the Catholic Church in India for the next two years.

– matters india

3 questions to ask yourself before you quit

January 25, 2018 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

From hearing from you, I can tell that some of you are about to quit. Some of you are wondering whether to quit your jobs. Some of you are wondering whether to quit ministries you have within your local church. Some of you are wondering whether to quit other aspects of your life that I don’t even know about. You’re discouraged and you’re ready to give up. Should you?

Maybe. I’m not going to say “Don’t Quit.” After all, some of you should quit, if you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing or that doesn’t fit with your gifts. I would ask you though, before you quit, to consider some things I’ve found helpful.

I’ve learned much from leadership expert Seth Godin, with perhaps the most important thing being this: “Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.” This is the thesis of Godin’s The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick). Godin is not, to my knowledge, a believer. But his insights on human nature often resonate with a biblical vision of the way of wisdom. Moreover, I like his writing because he’s not the typical leadership guru, saying “You can do it!” He doesn’t know if you can do it or not. He just offers tools to help you determine whether you can or not.

Godin identifies “the Dip,” what he calls the sinkhole that causes people to give up. At the beginning of a project, it’s fun. After years and years, there comes expertise and wisdom. In between, though, is “the dip.” Godin writes: “The Dip is the long slog between starting and mastery; a long slog that’s actually a shortcut, because it gets you where you want to go faster than any other path.”

We fail, Godin writes, when we don’t quit the things we shouldn’t be doing. This is consistent with what the Bible tells us about the Body of Christ: the various gifts are distributed, all for the upbuilding of the church. Someone who tries to use all of the gifts, or those he or she doesn’t have, will not succeed. My deciding that I shouldn’t be a church planter isn’t a failure. The only way I can succeed at what God has gifted me to do is by letting others do the things I’m not gifted to do.

At the same time, though, Godin says that failure comes from people who quit things they should be doing too soon. If something is consistently easy, it’s probably something that doesn’t need to be done. A ministry, for instance, that is “safe” is probably a ministry that isn’t challenging problems, just repeating comfortable patterns that confronted problems already gone, or that belong to someone else. The resistance and discouragement you face is not necessarily a sign that you shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing. In many cases, it’s merely a sign that you are actually leading, doing something not currently existing in your context, and thus needed. Godin tells us not to be the woodpecker who pecks twenty times on a thousand trees and gets nothing, but rather the woodpecker who pecks 20,000 times on the one tree and gets dinner.

If it weren’t for “the Dip,” everyone would be doing what you’re attempting. There would be no need for you. Your value comes in surviving that Dip, for the sake of the future. The way one tells the difference between a Dip and a cul-de-sac is the question. Godin answers that with three questions.

1. Am I panicking?

People often quit when they hit resistance, and are scared. I’ve known pastors who quit when certain people in their congregations start grumbling, only to then go to other congregations and start the cycle all over again. They have in mind the kind of ministry they want, that they see one of their heroes having. That hero, though, didn’t get there without grumbling and resistance. Read biographies. Or talk to your heroes. Or read the Bible!

2. Who am I trying to influence?

No place of service will please everyone. You shouldn’t quit teaching Sunday school because some of the teenagers in your class yawn and roll their eyes. You shouldn’t quit the literacy project for the poor because some people think it’s a waste of time. Whatever it is that God has called you to do, recognize that if there weren’t people who hate what you’re doing it would only be because you were not doing anything needed. You endure the naysayers for the sake of those God has called you to serve (sometimes the future selves of those same naysayers!). Paul did not yield to the opponents of the gospel of grace, “so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you” (Gal. 2:5).

The false gospel seemed “normal.” Paul didn’t care about being in the mainstream of his immediate context. He knew the Law and the Prophets, and the gospel he received from Jesus. As Godin put it elsewhere: “If you cater to the normal, you will disappoint the weird. And as the world gets weirder, that’s a dumb strategy.” Actually, it always was (1 Cor. 1:21-31; 4:1-20)

3. What sort of measurable progress am I making?

This is easier, of course, in a business than it is in an endeavor with intangible, spiritual effects—like serving in your church or leading a neighborhood ministry. Have people in your life that can counsel you—people that you respect for spiritual maturity, and seek their input. I’ve found some people who quit too soon did so because they were listening to advice about themselves from people that they would never listen to on any other topic, while ignoring those they did listen to on other matters who were encouraging them to keep going.

Read Godin’s little book. Quit the things that you’re not called or equipped to do. Persist in those things that you are. Discouragement is no sign you should quit, and, in fact, might be a sign that you are doing exactly what you should be doing. In that case, press through the Dip, carry the cross, and walk on to the crown.

– cross walk

Indonesian Christian whipped for selling sharia-banned booze

January 25, 2018 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Indonesia, January, 2018: An Indonesian Christian was publicly flogged on Friday (Jan 19) for selling alcohol in conservative Aceh province, a violation of Islamic law, as a crowd of onlookers including children jeered.

Jono Simbolon grimaced in pain when a masked religious officer lashed his back with a rattan stick on a makeshift stage outside a mosque in the provincial capital Banda Aceh.

He is only the third non-Muslim to suffer a public whipping since Aceh, on Sumatra island, began implementing Islamic law after it was granted special autonomy in 2001 – an attempt by the central government to quell a long-running separatist insurgency.

“This is our government’s commitment to enforcing Islamic law,” said Banda Aceh mayor Aminullah Usman.

“If there is a violation (of the law) immediately report it to the sharia police and we will carry out a punishment like today’s caning,” he said, referring to religious authorities.

A doctor checked on Simbolon’s condition after 10 strokes before the flogging continued.

He was one of 10 people – eight men and two women – caned after Friday prayers for offences including pimping, prostitution and gambling.

One unmarried couple received 20 strokes each for being too physically close to each other – seen as a prelude to banned pre-marital sex.

Simbolon was arrested in October and sentenced to 36 lashes for selling illegal alcohol.

About 98 per cent of Aceh’s five million residents are Muslims subject to religious law, known locally as Qanun.

Non-Muslims who have committed an offence that violates both national and religious laws – such as selling bootleg liquor – can choose to be prosecuted under either system.

“(Simbolon) is a Christian but he decided to bow to Qanun,” chief prosecutor Erwin Desman said, adding that the man may have chosen a flogging to avoid a lengthy criminal prosecution.

Aceh is the only province in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, which implements Islamic law, or Sharia.

Last year, two gay men who admitted having sex were flogged in Aceh, with each receiving 100 strokes of the cane, drawing heavy criticism from rights groups.

Gay sex is not illegal in the rest of Indonesia, which mainly follows a criminal code inherited from former colonial ruler the Netherlands.

– afp

Christians flee ongoing violence in Central African Republic

January 25, 2018 by  
Filed under newsletter-world, World

Ouaka, January 24, 2018: Militia in the Ouaka region of the Central African Republic have threatened to attack a church offering shelter to refugees.

Around 15,000 people were displaced by violent attacks in Ouaka in mid-December. Many of those displaced sought shelter on the site of a Church and a separate health centre in the town of Ipply, around 220 miles north of the capital Bangui. Armed rebels, thought to be Seleka splinter groups, have threatened to attack the church site. The health centre has already been targeted, prompting around 7,000 of those displaced to flee into the bush.

A ceasefire between the government and 14 rebel groups agreed in June 2017 has failed to bring an end to violence in the country, which has been ravaged by conflict since Seleka Islamist groups temporarily overthrew the government in 2013. Despite the deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force, Christians communities continue to be targeted and have also been caught up in confrontations between Seleka-linked rebel groups and “anti-balaka” militia.

– barnabas persecution update

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