South Korea bans sending Bibles in balloons to North Korea due to Kim Jong Un peace talks

June 26, 2018 by  
Filed under newsletter-world, World

South Korea, June 26, 2018: One consequence of the ongoing peace initiatives between South Korea and the U.S. with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been the ban on balloon launches for Christian ministries, who used the tactic to send leaflets and Gospel messages to North Koreans.

Eric Foley with Voice of the Martyrs Korea explained that despite 12 years of efforts launching balloons into North Korea, the South Korean government has now banned ministries from continuing with such efforts.

Foley told Mission Network News on Monday that essentially, South Korea does not want to upset its northern neighbor and endanger the peace talks.

“What we’re facing now is a complete blockade for balloon launches and the justification for it, that the South Korean government is giving to us, is that it ‘fouls the air for peace.’ And what they mean by that is the North Korean government doesn’t like balloon launches,” the missionary explained.

“For many years in our work the government has said ‘not now, wait, don’t do anything to bother North Korea.’ And now, unfortunately, the international community is kind of supporting that rationale,” he added.

“We’ve faced restrictions in the past on balloon launching that were temporary and for a time, but it’s pretty clear that this time these restrictions are different. The government has issued a comprehensive ban on balloon launching.”

The Korea Times also reported that government officials have been banning private citizens and groups from launching balloons into North Korea, which beside Bible messages also typically contain USB sticks and leaflets with information about the outside world.

Some defectors, such as Park Sang-hak and his Fighters for Free North Korea group, have maintained that North Korean citizens remain in the dark about the realities of the world, having been exposed only to North Korean propaganda.

“If we the North Korean defectors can write letters, phone our relatives or family in the North or contact them via the internet, we would not have to send the messages and small gifts in the balloons,” Park said.

“Having risked our lives to come to South Korea, we defectors have an obligation to tell people in our hometown we are alive, that the South is not the hell the North regime pronounces it to be,” he added.

Foley separately told MNN that the current climate is a “particularly dangerous time for Christians in South Korea and North Korea, because the agenda that is being set is being set by [the] government in terms of ministry. And we know historically in missions that governments setting agendas for missions has not gone well for the church.”

Different ministries and organizations have participated in balloon launches to North Korea over the years, some using GPS technology to track the success rate of the efforts.

Jung Kwang-il, founder of a group called No Chain, revealed in September 2017 that his thousands of Bible-filled flash drives, donated by college and high school students in the United States, drop into North Korea’s Mount Kumgang area, as confirmed by GPS tracking.

“In recent memory, we’ve had the Jasmine Revolution [in Tunisia], and the Arab Spring,” Jung has explained about the mission of the launches.

“How come none of that is happening in North Korea? The reason is simple: Because the country’s such a closed-off country, information-wise. People don’t know that the situation they’re in is truly a terrible one. … We want to break that ignorance.”

– christian post

Pastor arrested while securing affidavits on converts’ faith

June 26, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Uttar Pradesh, June 23, 2018: A pastor in Uttar Pradesh state, India was filing affidavits stating that 16 people had become Christians of their own will this week when Hindu extremists came and accused him of forcible conversion – resulting in his incarceration.

After manhandling and jailing 58-year-old Dependra Prakash Maleywar on Monday (June 18) at the Sardhana lower court premises near Meerut, the Hindu extremists have since gone to the 16 new Christians’ homes and threatened to expel them if they do not recant their faith, sources said.

Members of the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal surrounded Maleywar while the Church of North India (CNI) pastor and a lawyer were securing notarizations of affidavits for baptisms signifying the faith in Christ of 16 people, sources said.

Someone on the court premises had informed the extremists about the affidavits, sources said, and at about 1 p.m. a few members of the Bajrang Dal, youth wing of the Hindu extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad, approached and questioned Pastor Maleywar about the affidavits as they man-handled him.

Checking the pastor’s bag and grabbing the affidavits, they accused him of forcible and fraudulent conversion, the sources said.

Officers at the adjacent Sardana police station noticed the commotion, took Pastor Maleywar into custody and transferred him to the Abdullapur jail near Meerut, 14 miles away, the sources said.

“They confiscated my father’s cell phone and all the affidavits – he could not even contact us,” the pastor’s 30-year-old son, Rohin Maleywar, told Morning Star News.

The affidavits are not legally required in Uttar Pradesh, but church leaders request them to avoid controversies and the very kind of accusations that occurred, said the Rev. Prem Prakash Habil, CNI bishop of the Diocese of Agra that encompasses the two churches the 16 people belong to. Two of the Christians belong to the church Pastor Maleywar leads, St. Thomas Church in Mulhera, and 14 belonging to Epiphany Church in Khatauli.

The affidavits are self-declarations that the signees willingly choose to follow Christ, want to get baptized and are not coerced or offered inducements.

“We always follow this procedure; they have to submit a hand-written application in their own writing, verification papers and an affidavit if they want to become a member of the church and receive baptism,” Habil told Morning Star News.

Usually, however, the candidates for baptism file the affidavits themselves, he said.

“The way my evangelist was working was not the right way – it was [supposed to be] the work of the individuals who believed to get their own paperwork done and then submit it to their respective churches,” he said.

Pastor Maleywar had gone to get the affidavits notarized in Mulhera, where his church is located, but he was unable and so went to the lower court Sardhana, fewer than seven miles away, sources said.

All 16 baptisms were still set to take place, sources said.

Pastor Maleywar has been leading the CNI’s St. Thomas Church for five years and working as an evangelist with CNI for 17 years.

Intimidation

The families of the 16 Christians have become the targets of both the Hindu extremists and local media.

“The members of the Bajarang Dal went door-to-door and met all the 16 families and spoke to them,” said Pastor Maleywar’s daughter, Ritika Maleywar.

Pastor Nirmal Jacob of the Ephiphany Church said that Bajarang Dal members are exerting severe pressure on all the families.

“The head of the village, along with Bajarang Dal members, went to the homes of these believers and threatened them with dire consequences,” Pastor Jacob said. “They said that they would be boycotted from the village, asked to leave, their educational certificates would be confiscated and their entitlement to government benefits would be withdrawn if they profess their faith in Jesus Christ.”

He said local and national television media visited him in Khatauli on Wednesday (June 20), along with local police, and interviewed him and many families from his church.

“People testified to the media how prayer and attending church has healed them from fatal diseases such as cancer and tuberculosis,” Pastor Jacob said. ‘One family boldly shared how they did not have a child after 12 years of their marriage, and after they got themselves prayed for and started to regularly attend church, they have two children now.”

The pastor was deeply troubled, however, when none of their testimonies were broadcast, and editing changed the meaning of the interviews entirely as they were shown saying only that they were once Hindus, he said.

He is receiving threatening calls, and friends have been warning him that he could be attacked at any time.

“I do not know where to find help in a situation like this,” Pastor Jacob said. “The police, media and judiciary are biased; I do not feel safe any longer.”

The pastor, 39, has been ministering with the CNI synod for 14 years.

Alwan Masih, general secretary of the CNI synod, said the churches will go forward.

“As citizens of our country, we have rights and we will execute our rights, but at places people have suffered for their faith,” he told Morning Star News.

Bail Rejected

At this writing Pastor Maleywar remained in the Abdullapur jail under Section 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, “Arrest to prevent the commission of cognizable offense,” after the Sub-Divisional Magistrate rejected his bail petition on Wednesday (June 20), sources said.

He has also been charged with causing voluntary hurt under Section 323 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 504 of the IPC, “Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace.”

“Local politicians created a ruckus in the courtroom,” his attorney, Reena Luka, told Morning Star News. “The judge said if he granted Maleywar bail, the peace of the area would be compromised.”

Luka said that the judge told them to wait a few days until tensions cooled.

“We are hopeful that we will be able to procure the bail on Monday (June 25),” she added.

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

India ranked 11th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians experience the most persecution.

– morning star news

Christian woman beaten, bloodied, chased out by Hindu attackers; vows to return with gospel

June 26, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

India, June 21, 2018: A 22-year-old Bible school student from India shared details of a violent attack where she and her mother were dragged and beaten by fellow villagers for their faith.

Bahia told persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA, whose ministry partners have been assisting her, that she had been a Christian for almost seven years.

Despite heavy pressure to convert back to Hinduism, she refused to do so, even though a number of family members gave in.

She described one incident where Hindu hardliners chased her across a bridge, and after she fell and lost consciousness, they dragged her from the stream below and began beating her.

The anger apparently stemmed from an incident where a woman in the village passed away, and for an unexplained reason the Christians were blamed for it and chased out.

“We were verbally abused, and the leaders of our village held a lot of meetings about us. But we didn’t see the violence coming. It was one week after we had returned to the village. It happened so suddenly,” Bahia recalled.

During the assault, she said that she held on to her Bible as men and women beat her with their hands.

When she asked them why they were beating her her, the attackers said:

“You are a Christian! You have to go. This is not your home.”

The young woman was beaten so badly that she started to bleed, and even though she held on to the Bible and protected it for as long as she could, one of the attackers finally pulled it away from her, vowing to burn the holy book.

“They dragged her away. While they pulled her through the village, a picture surfaced in her mind: an image of Jesus being pushed and kicked towards Calvary,” Open Doors wrote, describing the incident.

Bahia later woke up in the forest after she regained consciousness to find that her mother, one of the other 20 Christians in the village, had also been beaten, but had managed to bring her to safety.

She said that the Christians contacted the police over the incident, but were simply told they should try to live in peace with the Hindus.

Bahia revealed that she and the other believers that were chased returned to the village, only to be called to a meeting a few days later.

“We refused to give up our faith, which made them very angry,” Bahia said of the attackers.

“They became aggressive because we were so persistent in following Jesus. They told us to leave the village, saying: ‘Christians belong to foreign countries.'”

Bahia later decided to leave her village, and enrolled at a Bible school.

“Why? Because when they threw us out of the village, they threatened to rape or kill me if I returned. The situation in the village still hasn’t been resolved. I want to spend more time learning about God so that one day I can return with the Gospel. That’s the promise I made to my mother,” the woman revealed.

“It’s my deep desire to share God’s word. I want to tell everyone that Jesus didn’t just die for foreigners. He died for everyone. That’s my message to the people in my village, to the people in India and people outside of our country.”

Attacks on Christians in India have been ongoing for years, especially in villages and rural areas where they are offered little police protection and are targeted by Hindu radicals.

In March, a Christian pastor was forced to flee for his life in the village of Kondri, Madhya Pradesh state, after attackers beat churchgoers at his house church in the middle of prayers, and vowed to burn down his home.

“It was a horrible scene in the house church,” recalled 26-year-old pastor Chensingh Vasunia. “An aggressive mob of Hindu radicals forced themselves into the house where we were praying. They started to beat everyone.”

“The situation turned uncontrollable. Blood spilled all over the little room in a dim light.”

– christian post

Vice President cautions against intolerance in the name of cow, Love Jihad

June 26, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

New Delhi, June 26, 2018: Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu on Monday cautioned against practising intolerance in the name of cow protection, Love Jihad and eating habits, saying such actions spoil the name of the country and people can’t take law into their hands.

“… We need to guard against intolerance on the part of certain misguided citizens. We have been occasionally witnessing such words and deeds of intolerance by some citizens in the name of so-called cow protection, Love Jihad, eating habits, watching films.

“Such incidents lead us to the point that individual freedoms can be in full play only when every citizen respects such freedoms of fellow citizens. Post-Emergency, the State apparatus would think twice before riding roughshod over the liberties and freedoms of citizens. But it is enlightened citizens who would enable fuller manifestation of such liberties and freedoms,” Naidu said.

He was speaking at a function organised by Vivekananda International Foundation to release the Hindi, Kannada, Telugu and Gujarati editions of the book `The Emergency – Indian Democracy’s Darkest Hour’ authored by A. Surya Prakash, Chairman of Prasar Bharti and a veteran journalist.

The Vice President said such actions of individual intolerance spoil the name of the country. “You cannot take the right to hang anyone. One has to be tolerant of the views of others while one must also be tolerant of the verdict of the people. Dissent also has a place. Freedom must be valued and rights of citizen should be guarded.”

He also referred to the debate over nationalism and patriotism and wondered why some people had problem with even saying “Bharat Mata ki Jai”. The expression is not merely geographical and love for the land but it is love for all opinions, religions, communities and people.

Naidu said India was secular not because of political parties but it was in the DNA of people and added that democracy and secularism were there in the Indian civilization through ages.

Referring to the infamous Emergency of 1975, he said no sensible government would dare to resort to Emergency after the resounding pro-democracy verdict of people in 1977. “Now the threat to individual freedoms is from some misguided citizens. The Emergency was clearly a state-sponsored intolerance to democracy and individual freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.”

He asserted that the core Indian values and ethos have no place for intolerance due to which all major religions of the world flourish in India.

“On the 43rd anniversary of Emergency, I would like the message to go out that any citizen who violates the freedoms of fellow citizens would have no right to be called an Indian. It is because he is hurting the Constitution of India and all that India stood for.”

Naidu said it was time the “dark age of Emergency” became a part of the curriculum so that the young learnt to value the democratic freedoms they enjoy.

“It is time the dark age of Emergency becomes a part of the curriculum so that present generations are sensitised to the dreaded events of 1975-77 and they learn to value the democratic and personal freedoms they enjoy today.

“While our history books and textbooks talk of medieval dark days and the British Raj, the fallacious causes and consequences of Emergency is not made a part of the learning of the young,” he added.

He stressed that a crucial lesson of Emergency was that it was the responsibility of each citizen to uphold liberties and freedom of fellow citizens and that “intolerance” should not be accepted.

– ians

Longing for a father: A story about David Cassidy

June 17, 2018 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

I recently watched a documentary on the life of David Cassidy titled David Cassidy: The Last Session, and let me tell you, it was just absolutely heartbreaking.

To me, the story could be summed up this way: David had a deep longing for a father.

He had one, of course, in Jack Cassidy, who was a Broadway star and celebrity in his own right. But Jack divorced David’s mother, and in many ways, he walked out of his son’s life. For the rest of David’s life, he seemed to live in his father’s shadow.

I can relate, to a certain degree, with the difference being that I never knew my biological father, and I had a string of so-called stepfathers walk in and out of my life. Jack Cassidy, according to David, was also an alcoholic.

Even when David had his all-too-brief interactions with Jack, they never connected on the level David longed for. David was a struggling actor and musician when lightning suddenly struck: he was cast as Keith Partridge on the massive hit TV show The Partridge Family. Ironically, the woman casted as his mother on the show was David’s step-mom, Shirley Jones, who was married to David’s father, Jack.

As David’s stardom was rising, his father’s career was declining. Jealous of his son’s sudden rise, Jack’s pride kept him from having any significant conversations with his son. He couldn’t even bring himself to tell David he was proud of him. Tragically, Jack died one night in a raging fire after falling asleep with a cigarette. And although David had become a global teen heartthrob and had everything the world could offer at his fingertips—money, fame, sold-out stadiums, and adoring fan girls—he was still absolutely devastated and longing for more. His face graced the cover of every teen magazine—not to mention the lunchboxes, comic books, and anything else that could be merchandised. Yet, he still longed for the one thing money and fame couldn’t give him: a deep, meaningful relationship with his father.

At the peak of his fame, David hit rock bottom and wanted out of his hit TV show. He longed to be taken seriously as an artist, but that never actually came to fruition for him. David turned to alcohol, and it left an extremely devastating effect on his health. By 2017, he was in a fast and sharp decline.

His fans became troubled when he could not remember the lyrics to many of his older songs, and it was especially worrisome when he began to slur his words. He was arrested three times for drunk driving, the last two arrests coming within only six months of each other.

Originally thought to have dementia, Cassidy finally admitted all of his issues were actually due to his alcoholism. It was a shocking confession, and the fact is, David had followed in his father’s very footsteps. David Cassidy finally admitted, “There is no sign of my having dementia at this stage of my life. It was complete alcohol poisoning.”

In the documentary David Cassidy: The Last Session, David said, “I did this to myself to cover up the sadness and emptiness.” Cassidy died of liver failure in November of last year.

According to his daughter, David’s last words were, “So much wasted time!” In one of the most poignant scenes from the documentary, David is struggling to finish a vocal for a new project he was working on, called Songs My Father Taught Me. Unable to hit the notes, he asks the producer to play his father’s recorded version of the same song. Breaking out in tears, David cries out, “Dad, I miss you!”

It broke my heart to watch it.

How I wish I could have told David about how I never had a father growing up either. I wish I could have also told him that there is a Father in Heaven who could be the Dad his earthly father never was.

If you are a dad this Father’s Day, make sure you let your son or daughter know that you love them. It really does matter. Even if they are adults, they still long for your approval; they need to hear it. If you are a child estranged from your father, reach out to him today—not because he deserves it necessarily, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Jesus wanted to show us what God in Heaven is like, so he told a story of a boy who ran away from his father and dragged his family name through the mud. The young man finally came to his senses, and reluctantly decided to return home. According to Jesus, when the boy was a long way away, the father ran to his wayward son, threw his arms around him, and welcomed him home. This is how the Father embraces us—without hesitation, without a tally of what we’ve done wrong. His arms are always wide open, waiting to invite us back into fellowship with Him.

Maybe your heart is heavy this Father’s Day because you are estranged from your father, or perhaps your dad has passed on. Remember this: there is a Father in Heaven who loves you. He will welcome you home to a loving relationship with Him. He is always near you, even on days—like today—that may make you feel isolated and alone. Run to His arms.

Accept His open invitation. It made all of the difference in my life, and I know it will do the same for you.

Happy Father’s Day.

– cross walk

Nine years in prison for Asia Bibi

June 17, 2018 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Pakistan, June 15, 2018: A Pakistani Christian woman who was imprisoned under her country’s blasphemy laws has been remembered on the ninth anniversary of her captivity.

British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) held a gathering on Thursday in honour of Asia Bibi and presented a narration of her arrest and the incident leading up to her blasphemy conviction.

Young boys held signs saying, “Asia Bibi Pakistani Christians are with you,” and “We are praying for Asia Bibi.”

Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of BPCA told Premier’s News Hour Bibi has been the victim of intense persecution.

“She spoke about the wonderful sacrifice Christ made of his life for us and asked the simple question, ‘What has Mohammed done for you?’ For that, this torture, this beating, this isolation, attempts to assassinate her…

“We’ve never heard of such animosity that would result in, in essence, the whole country being against her. It has been really awful; she’s been separated from her five children for the whole period of that time.

Chowdry said it’s very unlikely she’ll be set free, but all her supporters are still praying for a miracle.

In an interview from 2015, Bibi’s husband Ashiq talked about her decision to stand firm in her faith.

He said: “Asia believes she will be set free and her face is unquestionable, unshakeable! She is extremely proud of her Christian faith and would never deny the God.

“We have received offers of asylum in several western nations, and I will not regret leaving Pakistan, the land of my ancestors, as we have seen too much animosity here. We will leave with no regrets.”

BPCA has launched a new petition in hope of bringing more awareness of the mistreatment of Bibi.

Chowdry added: “The nation of Pakistan must now release this innocent woman before her health fails her – she has suffered enough through no fault of her own.

“Moreover the pernicious blasphemy laws of Pakistan have to be terminated they serve no purpose in modern day society and are not even sanctioned by the Quran. Moreover what divine being would need man-made laws for protection?”

– premier

Pastor arrested for fin Eritrea released after 11 years of false imprisonment

June 17, 2018 by  
Filed under newsletter-world, World

Eritrea, June 15, 2018: A pastor in the small East African nation of Eritrea has been released after being falsely imprisoned for 11 years in one of the worst nations in the world when it comes to Christian persecution.

Voice of the Martyrs Australia has confirmed that Pastor Oqbamichel Haiminot, the senior pastor of Kale Hiwot (Word of Life) Church in Asmara, has finally been released from prison at the 5th Police Station.

Haiminot, a married father of three, was among over 60 evangelical Christians who were arrested in 2005 while participating in a wedding ceremony and were taken to the Sawa military center for “military punishment.”

The global persecution advocacy organization reports that while the police gradually released several of the Christians, Haiminot and about five others were kept in detention as military officials tried to get them to recant their faith in Christ.

After refusing the request to deny Jesus, Haiminot was placed in solitary confinement. He was also subject to cruel punishments and inhumane conditions that include being forced to carry rocks up a mountain.

Although he was later released after he suffered a mental breakdown, Pastor Haiminot was re-arrested in 2007 and would stay locked up for over the next decade.

While it is unclear why Pastor Haiminot was finally released after years of advocacy from international rights groups, Voice of the Martyrs reports that Haiminot was in need of medical attention following his release.

“Many pastors [in Eritrea] have been arrested. Many Christians have been arrested,” Todd Nettleton, chief of media relations for Voice of the Martyrs USA, said in a statement. “Typically, however, they’re not held as long as Pastor Oqbamichel was… We don’t know exactly why he was released at this time. Why not a year ago? Why not a year from now? We don’t know what the logic behind that is — or if there is any logic behind it.”

Haiminot gained international attention in 2003 after he became the first church leader in Eritrea to be imprisoned for religious activities.

His release comes as Eritrea ranks as the sixth worst nation in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians, according to Open Doors USA’s 2018 World Watch List.

“The arrest, harassment and murder of Christians accused of being agents of the West is commonplace [in Eritrea],” Open Doors reports. “At the same time, Muslims, who make up roughly half of the population, are becoming more radicalized, resulting in increased vulnerability for Christians living in their vicinity.”

According to Nettleton, Eritrea has gone through crackdown against the evangelical Christian community that started in 2002.

“The government actually closed all of the Evangelical churches in Eritrea,” he said. “[They] basically called in the church leaders and said, ‘Your churches can’t meet anymore.’ Every Christian activity after that became illegal.”

The crackdown was renewed in 2017 and rights groups reported that over 200 Christians were arrested in house-to-house raids, according to the U.S. State Department’s 2017 International Religious Freedom report.

“There were reports of deaths of members of minority religious groups imprisoned for their religious beliefs as well as physical mistreatment of persons in custody,” the report states. “In October the government’s enforcement of its ban on religious groups operating schools sparked demonstrations that led to the arrest of an Islamic school director and at least 40 other persons.”

Last August, Fikadu Debesay, an evangelical mother of three, died while she was imprisoned at the Metkel Abiet camp. It is possible that some form of “mistreatment” could have contributed to her death.

A relative at her funeral told Morning Star News that she saw a scar on the Debesay’s face and another scar on her hand that “could have been a sign of some mistreatment or intense sunburn that resulted to her untimely death.”

“It has been very difficult consoling [her] children,” the relative said. “They want to know what happened to their mother.”

Two Pentecostal Christians died last March while on a hunger strike to protest their mistreatment. Their bodies were reported to have shown signs of sexual abuse.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have also been arrested and died in Eritrean prison.

“Two Witnesses have recently died after their transfer to the Mai Serwa Prison. Habtemichael Tesfamariam died at age 76 on January 3, 2018, and Habtemichael Mekonen died at age 77 on March 6, 2018,” JW.org reports. “Eritrean authorities imprisoned both men in 2008 without charges. A total of four Witnesses have now died while imprisoned in Eritrea.”

– christian post

Pope says abortion of sick, disabled children reflects Nazi mentality

June 17, 2018 by  
Filed under lead story, newsletter-lead

Vatican City, June 16, 2018: In a speech to a family association Saturday, Pope Francis again stressed that God’s vision of the family is between a man and a woman, and compared the abortion of children who are sick or disabled to a Nazi mentality.

“I’ve heard that it’s fashionable, or at least usual, that when in the first few months of pregnancy they do studies to see if the child is healthy or has something, the first offer is: let’s send it away,” the pope said June 16, referring to the trend of aborting sick or disabled children.

This, he said, is “the murder of children…to get a peaceful life an innocent [person] is sent away…We do the same as the Nazis to maintain the purity of the race, but with white gloves.”

“It’s an atrocity but we do the same thing,” he said, according to Italian media.

Pope Francis spoke to members of the Forum of Family Associations, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

His words on abortion come just days after his home country of Argentina voted June 14 in favor of a bill that would legalize abortion as early as the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. The comments also come just over a month ahead of his Aug. 25-26 trip to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families, which will feature Jesuit Fr. James Martin as a keynote speaker on how to be welcoming to the LGBT community.

During his speech, Francis tossed his prepared remarks, telling participants that a prepared text “seems a bit cold,” according to Italian newspaper La Stampa.

The pope, the paper reported, said it is “painful” to think that society would accept the killing of children simply because they are sick or disabled, but this is the current mentality.

On the family, he noted that in modern society “one speaks of different types of family,” defining the term in different ways.

“Yes, it’s true that family is an analogous word, yes one can also say ‘the family of stars,’ ‘the family of trees,’ ‘the family of animals,’” he said, but stressed that “the family in the image of God is only one, that of man and woman…marriage is a wonderful sacrament.”

Turning to his 2016 post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis said that some have reduced the document to “you can, you can’t,” referring to the debate surrounding access to the sacraments for the divorced and remarried in the document’s eighth chapter.

“They have understood nothing,” he said, explaining that his exhortation “does not hide problems,” but goes beyond mere case studies. To understand the text, he said, one must read chapter four on the spirituality of everyday life, which he said is the “is the core” of the document.

Francis then pointed to the emphasis placed on marriage preparation in Amoris Laetitia, saying the family “is a beautiful adventure and today, I say it with pain, we see that many times we think of starting a family, getting married, as if it were a lottery. We go and if it works, it works, if not we end it and start again.”

What is needed, he said, is “a catechumenate for marriage…men and women are needed who help young people to mature.”

And this begins with small things, such as marriage preparation, he said, adding that “it’s important to love each other and receive the sacrament, and then have the party you want.” However, it is never acceptable for “the second to take the place of the most important.”

He also spoke about the importance of educating one’s children, but noted that this is not easy for parents, especially in a virtual world, which “they know better than us.”

The pope also pointed to the increasing difficulty for families to spend time with their children, especially in times of social and economic crisis.

“To earn money today one has to have two jobs, the family is not considered,” he said, and encouraged parents to take up this “cross” and the excessive hours of work, while also spending time playing with their children.

“Children are the greatest gift,” he said, even when they are sick. Children, he said, must be “received as they come, as God sends them.”

However, alluding to the growing trend to be “childless by choice,” Francis noted that there are people who simply don’t want children, and pointed to a couple who did not want to have kids, but who instead had three dogs and two cats.

Francis closed his speech talking about the need for patience in married life, saying “there are life situations of strong crisis, terrible, and even times of infidelity come.”

“There are many women – but also at times men – who in silence wait, looking the other way, waiting for their husband to return to being faithful.” This, he said, is “the holiness that forgives because it loves.”

– cna

Police slow to register case after church burnt down by suspected Hindu extremists

June 17, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Puducherry, June 15, 2018: A church in Puducherry in southern India was set ablaze recently, after upper-caste Hindu neighbours had objected to worship services in the area.

Puducherry, formerly Pondicherry, was a French colonial settlement until 1954.

A church in Puducherry in southern India was set ablaze recently, after upper-caste Hindu neighbours had objected to worship services in the area.

Puducherry, formerly Pondicherry, was a French colonial settlement until 1954.

Pastor David Santosham and members of the Bible Presbyterian church in Karaikal District left for home after concluding fasting prayers on 25 May.

At around ten past midnight, he received an anonymous call informing him that the church was on fire. “My rented flat is about five minutes away. I rushed immediately. The church was in flames,” Santosham told World Watch Monitor.

“My daughter called the fire brigade; she passed word to church members also.

“[Some who came] complained to the police of strong-smelling gases, suspecting that it could be the cause of the fire, urging them to investigate… My wife and I had taken care to switch off the lights and turn off the electricity supply before we left as usual.”

The church’s roof, made of tar sheets and bamboo supports, was reduced to ashes. Christian literature and musical instruments costing the equivalent of around $4,500 were also burned.

Santosham said that, after ten days of persistent visits to police in local Neravy, they finally lodged a First Investigation Report (FIR) on 6 June, citing section 436 of the Indian Penal Code against “unknown miscreants” for torching the church.

“I submitted my complaint on 26 May, but the police [at first] refused to register it,” the pastor said. “I was told if there has to be a FIR in this case, there will also be a counter FIR against me.”

‘No concrete evidence’

Asked why the delay, Station House Officer Jerome Jesmond told World Watch Monitor: “Even the fire department could not ascertain the cause of fire. We waited for their report to decide whether to register an FIR.

“As per the preliminary investigation, we suspect some unknown person, but the investigation is still in the initial stage… Pastor Santosham named some suspects, but there is no concrete evidence to prove his allegations.”

Over the past two weeks, the church has gathered in the open air under a tent.

“I met the district collector [in charge of local government administration], higher police officials and the chief minister also; they gave us verbal assurances,” the pastor said. “We left the burnt remains untouched, hoping there will be an investigation, but how can we gather in open-air in this monsoon season?”

His daughter, Evangeline, 18, told World Watch Monitor her father’s church had been attacked twice before – first in 2012, and then in 2016.

“On 30 September [2012], a mob of 80 RSS [a Hindu nationalist group] activists circled the main entrance of our church. My dad and I went to unlock the church gate. It was Sunday… But our neighbour and his counterparts would not allow us inside the church.

“A representation was made to the National Commission for Minorities, and we believed the problem had been solved … only to be attacked again in 2016, when we decided to repair the roof.

“We bought all the material for the repairs and were arranging the iron rods to stand as pillars. But our neighbour objected to it and the work was forcibly stopped.

“We could only put a tar sheet on as a roof and set some bamboo as supports. It was a very simple church.

“Some boys on their way to offer prayers at the mosque were the first ones to see the fire, and they knocked [on our neighbour’s] door, but he did not answer. The fire had spread a small way by then. But the neighbours living in the front lane came out; they told them.

“[The boys] got our number from those neighbours and phoned my dad.”

Hay in their neighbours’ compound, adjoining the church, was also in flames, but Evangeline said the neighbours “did not care”.

“They came out of their house only after fire brigade officers asked them,” she added. “It’s very expensive to rent a tent every week – 5,000 rupees [$75] for a day – and now that rains are here, even the tent will not be of any use. Our only hope is God.”

‘The situation is worsening’

Established in 2008, the Bible Presbyterian Church had been functioning with permission from district authorities. “The piece of land was also registered in the church’s name, and we received approval from officials to conduct worship services,” Evangeline said.

Religious freedom advocacy group ADF India’s records show that in May 2017, construction of a church in the Malagapudi Pattu area of Puducherry was forcefully brought to a halt by hard-line Hindus.

Nehemiah Christie, Director of Legislations and Regulations at the Synod of Pentecostal Churches, said: “The burning of the church in Puducherry is a call for Christians … to come together, leaving behind denominational differences.

“The situation is worsening because of the federal [BJP – also Hindu nationalist] government’s silence. Also the inaction of the authorities emboldens the extremists to attack Christians. It’s sad to see the spread of Hindutva [Hindu nationalist ideology] extremism from Tamil Nadu [the Indian state where most violent attacks against Christians have taken place] to Puducherry.

“No action has been taken by the authorities in the past against extremists who, in Tamil Nadu this year, have disrobed Christian women, attacked pastors, and burned Bibles. Police conveniently register the case ‘against unknown assailants’, despite clear evidence of video footage, including where the victim states the suspect’s name.

“It is sad that police complicity also exists in Puducherry, where the secular Congress government is in power. Filing an FIR ten days after receiving the complaint, without mentioning the suspect’s name, clearly shows who is linked with anti-Christian elements.”

– world watch monitor

Christian community members fear communalism under BJP rule will polarise 2019 Lok Sabha elections

June 17, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

New Delhi, Jun 12, 2018: With the 2019 general elections around the corner, several in the Christian community feel that another tenure for the current government will legitimise crimes against them and other religious minorities.

Recently, Open Doors, a Christian mission, enlisted 50 of the most unsafe countries for Christians, in which India was ranked 11th. The report published by Open Doors reads, “Because Hindu radicals view Christians as outsiders, they are experiencing increased persecution. These radicals are intent on cleansing the nation of both Islam and Christianity and employ violence to this end. Usually, converts to Christianity experience the worst persecution and are constantly under pressure to return to Hinduism.”

The report further says, “Campaigns known as Ghar Wapsi (or homecoming) are used to get Christians to denounce their newfound faith. These converts are often physically assaulted and sometimes killed for refusing to deny Christ. The government continues to look away when religious minorities are attacked, indicating that violence may continue to increase in the coming years.”

Issue more about caste than religion?

Tehmina Arora, who hails from Delhi and is an Indian representative of the Alliance Defending Freedom, says, “Christians are often blamed for trying to convert people by force or inducement, even though we form a minuscule population. Many new converts don’t share their new faith because they fear violence, either from their families, society or anti-social elements.”

“Many Christians, especially those who live in smaller towns and villages, are vulnerable,” she adds.

A study on violence against Christians by ADF — which recorded incidents of physical violence, threats/intimidation and restrictions on religious assembly received via the United Christian Forum helpline — shows that between January and April 2018 alone, there were 155 incidents. Last year, 242 incidents were recorded, and 216 were recorded in 2016. This is only a fraction of what the community is experiencing, she says, as many cases don’t get reported.

Responding to the question about the insecurities Christian community have, Father of Immanuel Marthoma Church (popularly known as ATS Green Church) Abraham Mathew says that hate crimes against Christians are increasing. “This has been a reality since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or other fringe elements commit crimes, and feel safe under this government,” he says.

Adding to this, Father Mathew says that his community is in panic, and they are worried that the government won’t take care of them. “We have participated in India’s struggle for freedom, we were at the front during many agitations, take for example North East and Kerala. However, we are still seen as ‘anti-nationals’ — this is a serious problem,” he says.

Shibli Peter, who works with Dalit Christians through a platform called Centre for Social Studies and Culture, says, “Majority of the Christian population is Dalits and tribals, and they are being continuously threatened. Hindutva outfits are launching campaigns such as ghar wapsi to attack and threaten them and convert them to Hinduism against their will, since the basic agenda of the RSS is to go against conversion.” He further says, “Interestingly, the issue is political. If you look at caste structure, Dalits and tribals form the majority, and for the RSS, it’s important to retain them to continue their rule. I think this is more about caste than religion.”

Justy Alex, who is also from Delhi and is pursuing her Masters in social work, says, “The most affected are the Dalit Christians, who face double the discrimination.”

‘Deliberate attempt to demonise Christians’

Earlier in May, the archbishop of Delhi, Anil Cuotto, wrote a letter addressed to all the parishes and religious institutions under the Archdiocese of Delhi to pray for the country and its political leaders as the general elections inch closer. He wrote that the turbulent political atmosphere right now is threatening the principles of the Constitution as well as the secular fabric of the nation. This received a lot of backlash from the right wing, who called it religious interference.

Anil Barghese, a Christian resident of Kailash Colony, says, “The BJP and RSS wanted to create a fuss about the archbishop’s letter due to elections. They should know that in all churches in India, every Sunday, we pray for all our political leaders, it’s in our liturgy and written in our prayers. I think more bishops should come out with similar letters.” He adds, “People part of churches are also voters, and you cannot isolate them.”

Defending Archbishop Anil’s letter, Father Mathew says that it was a personal one, and people should be vigilant enough to see what is happening in India. “A believer in democracy will see how it’s unnecessary to say that churches are against the BJP. Why it is so that a temple priest can become a politician, but a Christian priest cannot have an opinion?” he questions.

Justy expresses her concern over the upcoming elections. She says, “Next year is a crucial one, especially when it comes to India’s much-celebrated secularism, which is at stake in the hands of the current government. Since 2014, there has been an evident rise in the crimes against religious minorities. From vandalizing churches to mob lynching — we have seen it all in the past four years. Another tenure for the current government will further legitimize atrocities against minorities.”

Shibi says it’s a deliberate attempt by the RSS and BJP to demonise Christians and present them as outsiders and enemies. “This is being done to polarise the majority for the 2019 elections. Wherever Christians are in significant numbers, they are being made into enemies,” he concludes.

– firstpost

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