"This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him" - I John 4:9
Sight wishes all our readers a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year! We hope you've been informed, challenged and inspired by our coverage this year and look forward to seeing you again in 2012.
CHRISTIAN LEADERS' CHRISTMAS MESSAGES 2011
Australian Christian leaders give their messages of hope for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ... |
REFLECTION: THE MIRACULOUS BEACH WALK
Christmas holidays are a time for slowing down, contemplating the better things of life, enjoying family time and going for leisurely walks. In December 2010, while walking along the beach between Port Fairy and Warrnambool in south west Victoria, some thoughts struck me.
The beach is about 23 kilometres long. With a gentle breeze in my face and the sun’s warmth on my back I wondered:
• Are there enough stars in the cosmos for every grain of sand in this beach to represent a star?
• If so, which of all these sand grains represents the Sun at the centre of our universe?
• And if my wonderings are correct, surely it is a miracle that, of the nine solar planets, Earth is the only one that has living animals and vegetables. Here I am on that planet spinning around that star represented by just one grain of sand on this long beach.
GORDON ALDERSON reflects on what a beach walk - a not uncommon activity this time of year in Australia - showed him about Christmas... |
YOUR SAY: What does Christmas mean to you? What's been your most memorable Christmas and why? Have your say... |
CELEBRATING JESUS' BIRTH AT THE DORMITION ABBEY IN JERUSALEM
Fr Elias is the Benedictine Monk responsible for the church at the Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion. On the first Saturday of Advent, he shared his thoughts about how his community is preparing for the coming feast of the Nativity of Christ. "During Advent, we light four candles on the Advent crown, symbolising the four weeks before Christmas. Every week, we light one more candle. We have special songs, special prayers, and special readings, especially from the prophet Isaiah because he expresses a message of comfort and hope."
Fr Elias explains that the Benedictine community cherishes a particular German tradition: a special liturgy, every Friday evening of Advent, when they use no electric lights but only candle light to experience the darkness characteristic of the longing for the Messiah.
In an article first published by Travelujah, ARIEL BEN AMI talks to Fr Elias about how Christmas is celebrated at the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem... |
ESSAY: REMEMBERING ST NICHOLAS
The 6th December marked the beginning of the Christmas season for many people around the world. In fact, many people celebrate Christmas on this day - the anniversary of the death of a well-known Saint, Bishop Nicholas (which is why 6th December came to be regarded as St. Nicholas' Feast Day).
There are, of course, many legends about Nicholas, and these legends have given birth to other stories and legends surrounding Nicholas or, as he is become known by countless children around the world, "Santa Claus."
Many Christian parents struggle over the Christmas tradition of Santa Claus and whether or not they should share the Santa Claus legend with their own children - or even allow their own children to believe in such a mythical figure. In fact, some would argue that Santa Claus is a deliberate deception played on innocent children and created by the devil himself to take the focus off the true meaning of Christmas. And, if you arrange the letters of Santa around, you get the name "Satan!"
CHRIS PICK, in a piece first published by Assist News Service, looks at the life of the real St Nicholas... |
ESSAY: WHAT IS THE TRUTH ABOUT THE DATE AND ORIGIN OF CHRISTMAS?
So, exactly when was Jesus born? Every year, as the Christmas season approaches, many Christians ask the obvious questions related to the birth of Jesus. First, was Jesus actually born on 25th December? And second, if He wasn't born on this date, why in the world do we celebrate it as if He was?
Well, the Bible is absolutely silent about the precise date on which Jesus was born, but a careful and somewhat forensic investigation of the Scripture will give us a rough guideline related to the birth of Christ, and if nothing else, shed some light on whether or not 25th December has anything to do with Jesus' true birthday.
To begin, we have to take a minute to understand the way that ancient Jews lived and raised sheep in order to understand when Jesus was born. Does that sound crazy? Well, hang with me here for a minute. It was the Jewish custom for shepherds to send out their sheep into the fields in the early spring at about the time of the Passover. They did not bring these sheep home until the first rains started in early to mid-fall.
Writing in the US in an article first published on Assist News Service, detective, missions leader and church planter J. WARNER WALLACE looks at what the Bible tells us about the real date of Christ's birth... |
NORTH KOREA: DEATH OF KIM JONG-IL LEADS TO "UNPRECEDENTED OPPORTUNITY" TO "TURN A NEW PAGE ON HUMAN RIGHTS", SAYS INTERNATIONAL COALITION
The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il represents an "unprecedented opportunity" for the country's new leaders to "turn a new page" on human rights, according to the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea.
North Korean news agencies reported on Sunday night that Kim Jong-il had died of a heart attack at the age of 69 while on a train to Pyongyang. It is expected that his son, Kim Jong-un, will succeed his father.
The coalition, which brings together representatives of human rights organisations from around the world as well as survivors of North Korean prison camps, called on the government to cease human rights violations and ensure justice for victims, and immediately put an end to practices including forced labour, forced abortion of returnees, torture, executions, and political prison camps.
“The death of Kim Jong-il opens up an opportunity which the international community should seize, to help free the North Korean people from decades of brutal oppression," says Benedict Rogers, East Asia team leader for Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a member of the coalition.
CHRISTIANS EXPECT MORE PERSECUTION AFTER 'ARAB SPRING'
Nearly a year after uprisings tumbled repressive governments in North Africa and the Middle East, there are warnings the region's minority Christians will face more persecution in 2012.
Despite a wave of popular revolts, known as 'Arab Spring', "the future is all but clear" for Christians in Muslim-dominated countries like Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, warned Open Doors, an international watchdog supporting persecuted churches worldwide.
"Will 2012 bring more persecution and marginalisation for Christians or greater liberty to worship? So far, the signs are not encouraging," said Carl Moeller, who leads Open Doors USA.
While "many hail" the toppling of dictators as a "victory for democracy", within Arab Spring there "are troubling incidents against Christians, even those in countries yet unreached by the revolutionary wave," Dr Moeller added.
By 31st December, 2011, all US and NATO troops will have completely withdrawn from Iraq. Whilst the US and NATO had wanted to keep thousands of military trainers there, the Iraqi parliament - dominated by pro-Iran Shi'ites - ruled that any remaining military personnel would be subject to Iraqi laws and jurisprudence. Without immunity from prosecution, US and NATO forces would not stay. However, if the propaganda is to be believed, the decimated, imperilled, besieged Christian minority will have nothing to fear when the last US and NATO forces leave Iraq after Christmas.
On 12th December, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki met with US President Barak Obama at the White House in Washington. The two men had nothing but praise for how the Iraq adventure has turned out. PM al-Maliki boasted, "We have proven success. Nobody imagined that we would succeed in defeating terrorism and al Qaeda". President Obama likewise effused that Iraq can be "a model for others aspiring to build democracy". The reality, however, is somewhat different.
As America and NATO leave Iraq, religious liberty advocate ELIZABETH KENDAL reflects on what Christians living there are facing this Christmas... |
RUSSIA: RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH JOINS IN CRIES OF ELECTION FRAUD
After a week of mounting protest over alleged fraud in Russia's 4th December parliamentary election, the Russian Orthodox Church has called for stricter control over the election process - evidence of the extent to which anger has spread in Russian society.
A demonstration in Moscow on 10th December drew 25,000 people, according to police, but opposition leaders said the numbers were at least 80,000. Smaller protests were held across Russia. The voice of the church could play a significant role as activists plan for demonstrations on 17th December and 24th December.
"I think that the situation that has taken shape must stir the authorities and various social forces to begin a national dialogue on the format of the electoral process and civic control over it," Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, the Moscow Patriarchate's most prominent spokesman told Pravmir.ru, a widely cited Orthodox news site, after the demonstration.
Russia's Central Election Commission is often seen as allied with the Kremlin. Demonstrators have been calling for the resignation of commission chairman Vladimir Churov.
SOPHIA KISKOVSKY, of ENInews, reports... |
ENVIRONMENT: CHRISTIAN YOUTH LEARN ABOUT 'ECO-JUSTICE' AT CLIMATE CONFERENCE
Christian young people are bringing their passion for change to a UN climate conference in Durban, South Africa, eager to learn how to spread the message that God's creation needs better care.
About 28 youths from church and faith-based organisations on six continents are taking "Youth For Eco-Justice" training during the 17th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP 17, which runs from 28th November to 9th December.
Organised by Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and World Council of Churches (WCC), the courses include Bible study, workshops, training sessions on communication, campaign management and development of resources, and activities for promoting eco-justice.
"The idea is to bring young people together and impact communities at home. Young people have been demanding in our assemblies that they have to take action and this is the response," said Roger Schmidt, LWF Secretary for Youth.
MIKE LANGA-LULANGA, of ENInews, reports... |
YOUTH: NATIONAL MENTORING PROGRAM NEEDED TO HELP MORE YOUNG PEOPLE "SEE A NEW FUTURE"
Mentoring. It’s a concept that has gained considerable traction in the corporate world over the past couple of decades. And, says the Wesley Mission’s Rev Dr Keith Garner, it could help to better the lives of disadvantaged young people across Australia.
“What we’re concerned about is that every year, 50,000 young people in Australia are falling through the cracks as it were, dropping out of education, training and employment…” says Rev Dr Garner, chief executive at the mission, following the release of a research earlier this month showing some of the benefits of mentoring young people.
“One of the things which came out of our studies and also our conversations with young people was that young people actually welcome mentors – it’s not something that they’re afraid of. I think sometimes the image is that these kids are not ready to learn from anybody (and) it’s not true, I think these young people are ready to learn and want to learn.”
EGYPT: COPTIC CHRISTIANS ASK FOR PRAYER AMID CONCERNS OVER ONGOING VIOLENCE AND ELECTION OUTCOME
Christians in Egypt have asked for prayer amid concerns about deadly violence and political uncertainty ahead of the country's first parliamentary elections since the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak in February.
The call for prayer came amid reports that 70,000 believers had already gathered for an all-night prayer vigil in one of the poorest areas of Cairo, the capital.
Organisers described the 11th November gathering as the largest Christian event in Egypt "in more than a millennium".
It was held at St Simeon the Tanner Coptic Orthodox Church in Mokattam, known as Cairo's "garbage city" as its economy revolves around the collection and recycling of the city's garbage.
STEFAN J BOS and JOSEPH DeCARO, of BosNewsLife.com, report... |
BOOKS: CHILEAN PASTOR'S ACCOUNT OF "FAITH AND MIRACLES" IN THE RESCUE OF 33 TRAPPED MINERS
By the beginning of October 2010, a fresh spirit of hope and optimism had taken hold of Camp Hope above the Chilean mine where 33 miners had been trapped below ground for most of their 69 days underground.
All three rescue plans were advancing, the precarious structure of the mine had to this point maintained a necessary stability, and hope was now high that the rescue operation had reached its closing stages.
On Monday, 4th October, Plan B had reached almost 600 meters into the mountain. The next day, a rescue team of 14 specialists was chosen to descend into the mine to help the miners with the ascent when the time came.
"But the rescue authorities could make no concrete promises. The miners' families witnessed the extra flurry of activity with joy, but it was a contained joy," says Pastor Carlos Parra Diaz in Hope Underground: The 34 Chilean Miners - A Story of Faith and Miracles as told to writers Mario Veloso and Jeanette Windle.
MICHAEL IRELAND, of Assist News Service, reports... |
CLUSTER BOMBS: CHRISTIAN GROUPS OPPOSE PROPOSED ACCORD
Religious groups are opposing a proposed new international law on cluster bombs currently being discussed in Geneva since they say it would put more civilians at risk than an existing treaty.
The proposal is being considered at the Fourth Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons, which is taking place from 18th to 25th November at the United Nations offices.
The new law, supported by the US, Russia, Israel, China and India, would mandate the destruction of all cluster bombs produced before 1980, but allow stockpiled weapons to be used for up to 12 years. It would also allow the continued use of munitions that had a failure rate of less than one per cent.
A cluster bomb releases smaller "bomblets" designed to kill civilians and damage vehicles and enemy munitions. The Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions, enacted in 2010 and ratified by 111 countries, imposed a comprehensive ban on cluster bombs and mandated the destruction of existing stockpiles. The five countries supporting the new law have not signed the Oslo Convention.
JOHN ZAROCOSTAS, of ENInews, reports... |
WEAPONS: CHURCHES TO PLAY A CRUCIAL ROLE IN REGULATING INTERNATIONAL ARMS TRADE... |
SCHOOLIES: TO PARTY OR NOT TO PARTY?
The end of one era and start of another is worth celebrating - and that’s exactly what an estimated 70,000 Aussie school-leavers will be doing over the next four weeks.
They’ve survived 13 years of lessons, homework and teachers’ rules. They’ve endured an intense period of examinations and assessment. Now it’s time to party at the biggest party of them all - Schoolies.
Schoolies has become an Aussie rite of passage since it started on the Gold Coast in the Seventies. Over the past four decades, the concept has expanded into week-long parties at the iconic Queensland tourist hot spot, as well as numerous other holiday destinations around the country.
Indeed, many students book in their Schoolies accommodation before they even open their first Year 12 text book; the official Schoolies website started advertising accommodation packages for 2012 Schoolies long before this year’s Year 12 students started their exams.
Some school-leavers are forgetting about traditional Schoolies’ celebrations, writes FAYE MICHELSON in an article first published in the Salvation Army magazine Warcry... |
SUDAN: CHURCHES REMAIN UNITED DESPITE COUNTRY DIVISION
Despite this year's vote by South Sudan for independence, churches in Sudan and South Sudan have decided to remain united, mainly to help denominations in Muslim-majority Sudan.
Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church on 28th October approved maintaining one conference covering the two states, alluding to shared history and existing "very real practical human links." In July, the Episcopal (Anglican) Church decided to remain one body for the next two years and the Sudan Council of Churches has also said it will not split.
"It's more about solidarity," observed John Ashworth, an advisor with the Sudan Ecumenical Forum, which enhances churches' work for peace in Sudan, on 3rd November.
"They feel they are still united despite the political boundaries," said Ashworth in a e-mail sent to ENInews. Noting that Christianity is stronger in South Sudan, he commented that "the church in South Sudan will be much stronger and so in practice the church in Sudan will be supported by the South."
FREDRICK NZWILI, of ENInews, reports... |
THE BIG PICTURE: CHRISTMAS BOWL SHINES A LIGHT ON SUFFERING WOMEN IN PAKISTAN
Described as "one of the poorest, most remote and most culturally conservative regions in the world", the mountainous Kohistan region in Pakistan is also, according to Act for Peace, "one of the worst places in the world to be a woman."
The organisation - the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia - says once married, women, who have an average 10 to 12 children, are almost never allowed to leave their homes, meaning they almost always give birth at home without the aid of a health care assistant...|
IRAN: PASTOR "STRONG IN FAITH" DESPITE EXECUTION THREAT
A jailed pastor of one of Iran's largest evangelical house church movements remains "strong in his faith" in Christ, despite facing execution before Christmas for refusing to return to Islam, a church official has told BosNewsLife.
"Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani remains in Lakan Prison in Iran’s Gilan Province. He continues to stand strong in his faith and remains in good spirits and health," said Firouz Khandjani, a council member of the Church of Iran.
Wednesday's announcement came as the 11th circuit court in Gilan awaited an opinion from Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khameini. The court asked the leader in two letters to express his views about its earlier decision to hang the pastor for "apostasy", or abandoning Islam, trial observers said.
STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports... |
SURVEY: HYPOCRISY, ABUSE AND JUDGEMENT - RESEARCH IDENTIFIES KEY "BLOCKERS" TO EMBRACING CHRISTIAN FAITH
Abuse within the church, hypocrisy, judging others and issues around money and exclusivity. They’re just some of the top 10 barriers as to why people don’t embrace the Christian faith, according to new research released last week.
Other key “blocker issues” identified in the study include religious wars, suffering, the church being outdated, hell and condemnation, and homosexuality.
The survey of reasons why people don’t accept Christianity involved 1,094 people aged over 18 from across the country and was followed up with three focus groups made up of non-Christians. Carried out by McCrindle Research, the study was commissioned by Olive Tree Media who are hoping to use the data to develop a series of resources to help Christians to better answer some of the identified issues.
“It’s an interesting list,” says Karl Faase, chief executive of Olive Tree Media. “I think the thing that struck me most is that a lot of the issues are actually around the church and how the church functions more so than kind of major issues around belief. Things like church abuse and hypocrisy and judging others – I mean those top three are all about how we function as Christians more so than what it is we believe.”
DAVID ADAMS speaks to Olive Tree Media's Karl Faase... |
ESSAY: BURMA - INTERESTS, SMOKESCREENS AND ETHNIC CLEANSING
Burma has been subject to Western political and economic sanctions for decades because of its repression of democracy. However, since the mid-1990s ascendant China has been taking Burma into its embrace, supplying it with loans and commodities, trading freely and building infrastructure - but not out of benevolence. China is pursuing its own interests, in particular it interest in gaining access to Burmese ports on the Bay of Bengal, where there has long been a power vacuum. Motivated by this threat, the US is now pursuing engagement with Burma. Consequently Burma's geo-strategic value is rising in line with China's economic and military ascendancy, which means Burma (like Indonesia) can now play geo-politics to its own advantage. To this end, the regime is welcoming the US overtures as they offer a way to counter the anti-China sentiment rising inside Burma.
The West is highly excited over Burma's recent reforms: the release of some 200 political prisoners (despite over 1000 still behind bars); talks held with Aung San Suu Kyi; improvements in press freedom and the introduction of debate into its parliament. Burmese generally are highly sceptical of the reforms which need to be seen in the light of Burmese domestic realities. Domestically the regime needs to lessen its dependence on China, and it wants to chair the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2014 (which will be decided this month).
ELIZABETH KENDAL says that ethnic cleansing is continuing in Burma despite "token" reforms... |
WEAPONS: CHURCHES TO PLAY A CRUCIAL ROLE IN REGULATING INTERNATIONAL ARMS TRADE
Churches have an important role to play in the lead-up to negotiations of a global treaty in 2012 to regulate the conventional arms trade, a World Council of Churches (WCC) panel in New York has concluded.
Key human rights obligations must be embedded in the treaty and churches should lobby together, on the basis of faith, said the WCC general secretary, Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, host of the 21st October event at which the panel reported.
“Whether we represent a UN member state, a church or civil society, we are all here to connect the needs of ordinary people in our communities with an agenda for the robust control of weapons that threaten their daily life and peace,” said Rev Dr Tveit.
“From the Christian tradition, it is the least among us – the marginalised, the impoverished, those seen not to have power – they are the voice of what justice and mercy require of us all,” he added.
THE BIG PICTURE: AUSTRALIA'S COPTIC CHRISTIANS PROTEST KILLINGS IN EGYPT
28th October, 2011
Australia's Coptic Christian community gathered in Sydney last weekend in a show ofsolidarity following the killing of at 25 Coptic Christian protestors in Cairo earlier this month. Speaking at the event Coptic Christian Bishop Anba Suriel challenged the leaders of the caretaker Egyptian government to put an end to the ongoing persecution of Coptic Christians. Among other speakers, Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, reportedly said the Australian Government stood with the Coptic Christians. "Today we say: Let Egypt be different," he said. "Let Egypt shine the way forward for other countries in the Middle East. Let Egypt be a nation which gives all members of its community the right to live in freedom, regardless of their religion, regardless of their beliefs." Tony Abbott, Leader of the Opposition, described the killings as an "outrage". "(M)ay the people of Egypt come to see the tragedy the other week not just as a crime against Christians but as a crime against Islam too...no true religion can contemplate this kind of horror."
AFRICA: FAITH GROUPS SUPPORT VICTIMS OF SOMALI PIRACY
Faith groups in East Africa are offering counseling and aid to victims of sea piracy off the coast of Somalia, primarily in the Indian Ocean from the Gulf of Aden in the Arabia Sea to the Eastern Indian Ocean near the Mozambique Channel.
"Seafarers who have encountered the pirates need counseling, spiritual nourishment and a place to rest. We offer them these services as well as give them an opportunity to contact their families," said Anglican Bishop Julius Kalu of Mombasa, Kenya's main seaport.
On 19th October, seven Kenyan fishermen were rescued by a German Navy ship after being lost at sea for ten days following an attack by pirates, while on 10th October pirates briefly hijacked an Italian ship off the Somali coast; it was rescued by British marines.
FREDRICK NZWILI, of ENInews, reports... |
LIBYA: QUESTIONS REMAIN OVER GADDAFI'S DEATH WHILE UNCERTAINTY FOR CHRISTIANS CONTINUES
Updated 23rd October, 2011
Muammar Gaddafi, the autocratic former Libyan leader who ruled his country with an iron fist for over 40 years, has died in rebel hands but minority Christians remained concerned about their nation's future.
Video footage broadcast on Libyan television showed Gaddafi's bloodied corpse lying on the ground, surrounded by National Transitional Council forces who took custody of the body.
The head of Libya's NTC, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, confirmed Gaddafi's death at a news conference in Tripoli. He was 69 years old. The United States said it also received confirmation of his death from Libyan officials.
Yet, the circumstances of Gaddafi's killing remained unclear.
DAVID ADAMS reports (with additional reporting from BosNewsLife)... |
AFGHANISTAN: NO CHURCHES LEFT STANDING, SAYS US STATE DEPARTMENT
There are no Christian churches left standing in Afghanistan after local courts backed the destruction of the last known church building in the troubled nation, according to the US State Department.
The last public Christian church in Afghanistan was razed in March 2010, according to the State Department's International Religious Freedom Report.
US officials also said there are no Christian schools left in the country.
"There is no longer a public Christian church; the courts have not upheld the church's claim to its 99-year lease, and the landowner destroyed the building in March...(private) chapels and churches for the international community of various faiths are located on several military bases, PRTs (Provincial Reconstruction Teams), and at the Italian embassy."
JOSEPH DeCARO, of BosNewsLife, reports... |
THE BIG PICTURE: THE JESUS PRO-AM
Conner O'Leary gets some air at last weekend's Jesus Pro-Am surfing competition in Cronulla, New South Wales. O'Leary, of Cronulla, was the Men's Open event winner while Fraya Prumm, of the Gold Coast, won the Open Women's, Chris Robertson, also of Cronulla, was the Cadet Boys winner and Stephanie Single, of Duranbah, won the Cadet Girls. Speaking after his victory, O'Leary thanked the event organisers. “Jesus Pro Am attracts solid surfing talent – the competition pushes you to put it all on the line," he said. Dave Lovell, regional coordinator of Christian Surfers - the organiser of the event, added: “Today we saw incredible surfing talent with maneuvers that wowed the crowd. Jesus has blessed each of us with different talents. You can do great things with those talents in your own strength, but you can do mind blowing things in God’s strength.”
EGYPT: CALLS FOR AUTHORITIES TO EXPLAIN COPTIC CHRISTIAN "BLOODBATH"
Amnesty International this week called upon Egyptian authorities to explain how a Coptic Christian protest against religious discrimination on Sunday became a “bloodbath".
In what the organisation describes as the worst violence Egypt has seen since former President Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February, Amnesty said at least 25 people were killed and more than 200 people wounded when authorities attacked demonstrators protesting against an attack on a Coptic church in Aswan province on 30th September.
Amnesty reported that video footage showed military vehicles running over protesters and say witnesses described how security forces in armoured vehicles opened fire into the crowd.
The Egyptian military said that a group of protestors started the violence by shooting at them, a charge denied by the protestors. S ome reports suggested that members of the disbanded National Democratic Party, Mr Mubarak’s political party, were behind the violence.
ZIMBABWE: ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY ASKS MUGABE TO HALT ATTACKS ON ANGLICANS
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams met Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe on Monday and asked him to intervene to stop attacks on Anglicans by allies of an excommunicated bishop who has seized church property and intimidated clergy and worshippers.
The leader of the Anglican Communion handed a dossier to Mugabe with descriptions of attacks on parishioners and priests by supporters of former bishop Nolbert Kunonga, who formed a breakaway clique in 2007, seized church property and locked out Anglicans from their church buildings.
"We were able to present President Mugabe with a dossier compiled by the bishops in Zimbabwe which gives a full account of the abuses to which our people and our church have been subject," Archbishop Williams told journalists after a nearly two-hour meeting with Mugabe.
POVERTY: RESTORING THE "MARRED IDENTITY" OF THE POOR
Poverty is not just about injustice and oppression but about the “marred identity’” of the poor, according to Jayakumar Christian, the national director of World Vision India.
During an interview with Sight while in Australia recently, Dr Christian said “powerlessness” remains a key player in the creation of poverty with those in power “playing the role of God” in the lives. This includes reinforcing the “marred identity” of the powerless poor to such an extent that they themselves come to believe it.
But, he said, the good news is that inviting the poor into the Kingdom of God offers a solution.
“In Christian theology we have probably one of the most radical solutions to a marred identity understanding of poverty – namely the fact that all humans are made in the image of God. That is the most empowering response you can give to the poor who are struggling with issues of self-worth and marred identity.”
Dr Christian, who recently launched a revised edition of his book God of the Empty-Handed, said that understanding this means a radical rethink of existing theories of development.
DAVID ADAMS speaks to Jayakumar Christian, national director of World Vision India... |
CHRISTIANITY: MAJOR DEMOGRAPHIC SHIFT UNDERWAY SAY SCHOLARS
Scholars claim the biggest change in the history of Christianity is underway amid the religion's move to Africa, Latin America and Asia.
"The story of Christianity as a worldwide faith is being written before our eyes," declared Dr. Dana Robert of Boston University School of Theology, as she addressed a group of world church leaders at the Global Christian Forum (GCF) in Manado, Indonesia.
The gathering has brought together leaders from major church traditions, theological perspectives, and world communions, including the Anglican Communion, the World Council of Churches, the World Evangelical Alliance, the Pentecostal World Fellowship, and the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
According to Peter Crossing of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, in 1910 about 66 per cent of the world's Christians lived in Europe; a century later it was only 26 per cent.
KIM CAIN, of ENInews, reports from the Global Christian Forum in Indonesia... |
Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani learns early next week whether he will be executed for refusing to recant his faith in Jesus Christ and return to Islam, as the court needs more time to consult with the country's leadership, trial observers told BosNewsLife on Thursday.
"We have been informed that the verdict is to be delivered on Monday, October 10," said Jason DeMars, director of advocacy group Present Truth Ministries (PTM), which assists the pastor.
"There is speculation that the delay is a sign that the judges have decided to consult with key religious and political leaders," including Iran's "Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad," he told BosNewsLife.
On Wednesday, unidentified Iranian officials from Tehran reportedly interviewed the pastor in prison about the behavior of judges and charges against him.
THREATS TO KILL CHRISTIANS UNLESS THEY 'REPENT', CLAIMS RIGHTS ADVOCACY AND CHURCH GROUPS
Militants with suspected ties to Iranian security forces have threatened to kill nearly a dozen evangelical Christians who fled Iran unless they "repent" and return to Islam, according to well-informed sources.
At least 11 Iranian Christians received email messages from ‘The Unknown Soldiers Of The Hidden Imam’ calling on them to either repent or face extra-judicial execution, said an Iranian church group and religious rights organisation Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT: IMAGINING A WORLD WITHOUT NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Ask anyone if they can imagine a world without nuclear weapons, and as polls indicate, most will say they can. This is true even in countries that possess nuclear weapons according to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a new civil society initiative dedicated to the hope of a nuclear free world.
However, governments that possess nuclear weapons send a different signal. Their policies and expenditures say that “well...perhaps someday...but certainly not in our lifetimes”.
Still a coalition of some 2,000 organisations that want to abolish nuclear weapons met in Geneva on 16th September 2011. The programme included a panel of civil society representatives hosted by the World Council of Churches (WCC) to examine prospects for nuclear disarmament.
JONATHAN FRERICHS, of the World Council of Churches, reports on a new initiative dedicated to nuclear disarmament... |
ARCHAEOLOGY: DIGITISED DEAD SEA SCROLLS GO LIVE ON THE WEB
Five of the Dead Sea Scrolls are now available to be viewed online under a partnership between the Israel Museum and technology giant Google.
The Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Project allows anyone to access high resolution images of the scrolls, providing the chance to see them in a higher level of detail that previously possible.
The Dead Sea Scrolls, which include the oldest known Biblical manuscripts in existence, date from the third century BCE to the first century CE. The first seven of the scrolls were discovered in a cave on the north-western shore of the Dead Sea by Bedouins in 1947.
Further finds followed and between 1947 and 1956, fragments of as many as 950 different scrolls were located in 11 caves. The richest yield, found in cave four, consisted of 15,000 fragments.
MIDDLE EAST: UN ASKED TO RECOGNISE PALESTINIAN STATE
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas officially asked the United Nations to recognise Palestine as an independent state today, despite fierce resistance from the United States and Israel.
Abbas handed over the necessary paperwork, including a letter requesting UN membership, to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, before delivering his speech at the annual General Assembly. Ban was to submit the request to the Security Council, where the United States was expected to veto the bid.
The Palestinian leader's announcement came while at home clashes erupted in the West Bank ahead of his speech.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian man near Nablus in the West Bank after a confrontation erupted between Palestinians and Jewish settlers, news reports said. Palestinian protesters hurled rocks at Israeli forces in East Jerusalem and near Ramallah, according to reporters.
Australian Federal MPs queue up at a giant toilet outside Parliament House in Canberra in a bid to draw attention to the plight of 2.6 billion people around the world who still don't have access to a toilet. The event was organised by Micah Challenge which this week held it's four day lobbying event, Voices for Justice, in the city in an effort to ensure that global poverty remains on the political agenda. “The links between access to decent sanitation and global deaths are clear – particularly in children under five,” says John Beckett, Micah Challenge national coordinator. “Approximately 25 per cent of the 8.1 million annual child deaths could be prevented by sanitation interventions. That’s two million kids who could be saved.” Mr Beckett says lack of access to a toilet is "not only enormously dehumanising, it’s literally a matter of life and death". "No one in our world should be ‘dying for a dunny’,” he said. “That’s why we are calling the government to increase their aid allocation for water and sanitation to $500 million by 2015.” Micah Challenge says that while the bi-partisan committment to raise Australia's aid budget from 0.35 per cent of gross national income (GNI) to 0.5 per cent is "encouraging", it still falls shorts of the 0.7 per cent needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
The last few weeks have reminded us of how fears about the state of the global economy and a possible second global financial crisis can consume our thoughts and the media. While this potentially affects the lives and livelihoods of many people, we must put it in the context of the crisis that is happening in East Africa where millions of lives are at risk. According to estimates by the World Food Programme, more than 13 million people need urgent food assistance.
As I have said previously, this emergency engulfing countries like Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia is one of the worst in decades. It is like the 1984 Ethiopian famine all over again, and back then it was only after a BBC journalist brought attention to the crisis that the world took notice. It is our moral responsibility to not turn away this time.
This disaster is something we have seen responding to since last February. In north Kenya alone, poor rainfall late in 2010 and again in the ‘long rain’ period between March and May this year has meant that the number of people requiring food assistance is likely to rise to 3.7 million very soon, compared to 2.4 million earlier this year. The fact is that when rains fail for three years in a row, as they have in this part of the world, then the likelihood of avoiding the kind of tragedy we are facing now is extremely low.
TIM COSTELLO, CEO of World Vision Australia, says the crisis in East Africa is not just a humanitarian one but a matter of justice... |
FOR MORE ON THE EAST AFRICA DROUGHT, CLICK HERE...
TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF SEPTEMBER 11
AMERICA GRIEVES AMID CONTROVERSY OVER PRAYERS
Christians around the world were among those remembering the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States, but pastors expressed concerns that in New York no clergy-led prayer was included in a ceremony near where the World Trade Center towers collapsed.
On the eve of Sunday's emotionally charged ceremony at what is still known as "ground zero" some 50 pastors could be seen outside the chain-link fence around the site.
Singing the famous Christian traditional Amazing Grace and carrying Bibles they knelt down and prayed as part of an alternative ceremony. Pastors said they wanted to show their dismay over New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision not to include public prayer during the official, September 11, gathering.
STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports... |
A September 11 memorial service was held in St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney - one of many cities around the world which paused to mark the 10th anniversary of the attacks. Among those who attended was US Consul General Niels Marquardt (replaces earlier incorrect caption).
PICTURE: RAMON WILLIAMS
Read the message from the World Council of Churches General Secretary, Rev Dr Olav Fyske Tveit...|
ONLY KNOWN SURVIVOR FROM TRADE CENTRE IMPACT ZONE PAYS TRIBUTE TO GOD'S GRACE
The 9/11 Commission credits Stanley Praimnath as the only known survivor from the impact zone at the World Trade Center towers on September 11.
“The Lord saw fit for me to live,” says Praimnath, who works in the banking industry in New York. His riveting tale of survival is chronicled in Plucked from the Fire (Rosedog Books), co-authored with William Hennessey.
Mr Praimnath, born in Guyana, came to America with little money in his pockets in 1981. When he arrived, Mr Praimnath landed a job in the garment industry in Jersey City, New Jersey, where he earned $US125 a week. Then he got a job as a file clerk for a bank in downtown Manhattan.
Growing up in Guyana, his mother insisted he attend church, but he rebelled and drifted away during high school. “I woke up one day in America and decided I wanted to be a good guy, whatever ‘good’ means,” he recalls. Then a friend called and invited him to church. “The more I went, the more I liked what I saw,” Mr Praimnath says. He was born-again in 1983.
MARK ELLIS, of Godreports.com, tells the amazing story of Stanley Praimnath... |
THE PACIFIC: POLITICAL ISSUES HIGHLIGHTED AT 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF CHURCHES COUNCIL
Political issues affecting Tahiti and Fiji were highlighted at the 30th August to 4th September commemoration in Samoa of the 50th anniversary of the Pacific Council of Churches (PCC).
During the meetings, Tahitian President Oscar Temaru appealed to the churches for help in his country's fight for independence from France. "My country used to be free, and my people used to be in charge of their destiny. That changed in the 19th century after the European discoverers reached our shores," Temaru said.
"This suppression dates back to 1880, but continues to the present day." Tahiti is part of French Polynesia, a protectorate of France.
In addition, at about the same time as the commemoration, the government of Fiji cancelled the annual meeting of the Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma and then extended the crackdown by prohibiting any church meetings except Sunday worship and barring foreign travel, which meant that clergy were unable to attend the Samoa event. Methodist church leaders have opposed the military government, which has suspended a number of civil liberties.
ESSAY: OF REFUGEES, ASYLUM SEEKERS, AUSTRALIA AND MALAYSIA
“Open your mouth for the voiceless, for the rights of the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy” (Proverbs 31: 8,9). Australians are proving to be a difficult people to please on the issue of refugees and asylum seekers. The reality is that the majority of Australians really don’t know what they want done with refugees. Every suggestion has problems and most Christians are no better informed or clear in their thinking than anyone else. Often popular media images, and political alliances determine our thinking on issues like this. Sadly the compassion of Christ for the hurting person seems to be a lesser concern.
Consider our confusion over the issue:
• We don’t want boat arrivals even though they are only a tiny percentage of all applications we get for refugee status in Australia;
• We don’t want people to drown at sea but we don’t want to help them either;
• We just want the boats to stop coming, but we have no idea of how to see that eventuate;
In the wake of this week's High Court decision rejecting the Australian Government's plans to exchange asylum seekers for refugees already residing in Malaysia, JIM REIHER - in part one of a two part article - takes a look at some of the confusion - and some of the facts - surrounding the issue... |
The so-called 'Malaysian solution'
In May 2011, the Australian Government announced the Malaysian solution as their key response to the “boat people problem”. Australia plans to send 800 boat arrivals (asylum seekers) to Malaysia, and in return we will take 4,000 processed refugees from the 100,000 waiting in Malaysia. Any boat arrivals after the date announced, would be in the group to be sent to Malaysia.
Good things about the Malaysia solution:
• It does take 4,000 refugees from the refugee camps there. These folk might have been waiting years for placement somewhere;
• It is taking 4,000 processed and recognised refugees - security and health checks have been done, their claims about being real refugees agreed to officially, we are giving them a new home and a new life; and,
• It might be a stepping stone for Malaysia to actually begin treating their refugees and asylum seekers with more humanity. As the spotlight of the world looks a bit more closely at how they treat refugees, it could help them to change the way they do things there. It might be a step toward getting Malaysia to actually sign the UN refugee convention and the UN Convention Against Torture.
In part two of the essay, JIM REIHER looks at the pros and cons of the 'Malaysian solution'... |
LIBYA: CHRISTIANS PRAY AMID GUNFIRE AND UNCERTAINTY
Libyan Christians risked their lives to meet in prayer in the capital Tripoli this week as fugitive Muammar Gaddafi assured "martyrdom or victory" in the battle against his opponents who he called "aggressors", Christian aid workers said.
The believers reportedly prayed for the country and the future of Christians throughout the northern African.
Christian aid and advocacy group Open Doors cited its country co-ordinator for Libya as saying: "Every day around noon, a part of the small Christian community gathers to encourage each other."
He spoke on condition of anonymity amid security concerns amid ongoing fighting in several areas of Tripoli and outside the capital.
FIJI: GOVERNMENT AGAIN CANCELS METHODIST CONFERENCE
The annual conference of Fiji's Methodist Church, due to start on 23rd August, was cancelled by Fiji's military government for the third consecutive year after church leaders defied a government directive to step down from their positions.
Fiji's Land Force Commander Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, also directed that no Methodist Church minister be allowed to leave the country, and banned permits under the Public Emergency Regulation for all official Methodist Church meetings. There are concerns that the ban will lead to the collapse of the Methodist church administration and severely affect funding.
Michael King, World Church Relationships Team Leader for the Methodist Church in Britain, said the ban was a "massive setback" in church/state relations, given that it seemed that relationships had improved and the political situation had eased.
I was on summer holiday during the second half of July, spending time with family, former colleagues and other friends in my native Norway. As it happens, my travels took me into Oslo on 22nd July. As I was leaving the city, I heard the terrible news of the many murders in the capital and at the Utøya Island youth camp.
Like many Norwegians, I was acquainted with some of the victims and their distraught families. One of those killed on Utøya was the son of a Norwegian official who had visited me only months before in the Geneva offices of the World Council of Churches. Like many Norwegians, I am still struggling to realise that this actually happened.
The man who has confessed to causing this carnage insists that he acted in defence of “Christian culture”. He has adopted an attitude that diverse “civilizations” must inevitably “clash”. He is criminally mistaken.
As the world's attention turns toward the tenth anniversary of 11th September, 2001, WCC general secretary Rev Dr OLAV FYSKE TVEIT ponders what we may learn from more recent acts of terror in his homeland... |
EAST AFRICAN DROUGHT: CHURCH LEADERS SEEK LONG-TERM SOLUTIONS TO HORN OF AFRICA FOOD CRISIS
Religious leaders say they are exploring short and long term strategies for communities to end reliance on food aid in Africa, as relief organisations continue to minister to thousands suffering from drought and famine in the Horn of Africa.
The worst drought in 60 years is affecting more than 12 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia. Its epicentre is Somalia, where tens of thousands are fleeing to refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.
"We would not only want to work on the immediate needs, but we are thinking, because this is becoming a chronic problem, we have got to see the root causes and fight it," Archbishop Ian Ernest of the Indian Ocean Province and the chairman of the Council of Anglican Province of Africa told a news conference on 10th August in Nairobi.
FREDRICK NZWILI, of ENInews, reports... |
FOR MORE ON THE EAST AFRICA DROUGHT, CLICK HERE...
Scene of devastation in Clapham Junction, south London, after rioting on the night of 8th August. PICTURE: DAVID ADAMS
12th August, 2011
ESSAY: RIOT RESPONSE MUST CONSIDER ALL FACTORS INVOLVED
As England heads into what is hopefully the aftermath phase of this week’s riots, the rhetoric has ramped up on what started it all in the first place. It’s been fascinating to watch how quickly the debate has become polarised as politicians, columnists, and community representatives retreat to their respective corners.
Yet surely more level heads must prevail. The fact is that there is no simple answer to what happened in London and elsewhere around the country; no single, easily attributable reason which explains what led to the rampage which has shocked the world. And no single solution which will ensure it doesn’t happen again.
It would be foolish to ignore the role base human desires like greed, hatred and, yes, an overblown sense of entitlement have played in what has taken place. Those who took part in the orgy of violence and looting at some point made a decision to do so – there are many, many more people living in the same communities – youth included – who choose not to take part.
DAVID ADAMS looks at some of the issues that need to be considered in the aftermath of this week's riots in England... |
10th August, 2011
BRITISH PM SAYS POCKETS OF SOCIETY "NOT JUST BROKEN, BUT FRANKLY SICK" AFTER FOURTH NIGHT OF VIOLENCE
The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has said the riots which have now affected many cities across Britain show there are pockets of society which are "not just broken, but frankly sick".
Speaking at Downing Street in London, Mr Cameron added:
"When we see children as young as 12 and 13 looting and laughing, when we see the disgusting sight of an injured young man with people pretending to help him while they are robbing him, it is clear there are things that are badly wrong in our society."
The Prime Minister's comments come after the fourth night of rioting in the UK. While London was relatively calm on Tuesday night thanks to the presence of 16,000 police, there was rioting in several other major cities, including Manchester, Birmingham and Wolverhampton.
In Birmingham, three men were killed when they were allegedly deliberately run down by a car while trying to protect property.
The UK's Evangelical Alliance has called on Christians across London to join in praying for London following three nights of rioting in the capital.
The Alliance was holding a prayer vigil tonight in North London from 7pm and urged people to join in prayer where-ever they were.
General Director Steve Clifford said in a statement prior to the meeting that it was an "opportunity for Christians and Christian leaders to join together in unity and seek God on behalf of our communities".
"The arson, looting, violence and vandalism carried out in the past few days is both shocking and unacceptable," he said. "It's our communities that are being ransacked. Neighbours are losing their livelihoods and lives are being put at risk. Against such as background, the church is already taking immediate action.
ESSAY: NO EXCUSE FOR SUCH WANTON VIOLENCE AND DESTRUCTION
It’s a sad day to be living in London. The sounds of sirens can usually be heard from our home in the city’s south-west but today they, like the subdued conversations taking place in the suburb’s main street, speak of something else. Of a city under attack by some of its own.
London’s residents are waiting with bated breath, watching as shopkeepers close their shops early and take what security measures they can – pulling down shutters, boarding up windows and hiring security guards, to see what tonight will bring.
While there’s been various pundits appearing on television throughout the day trying to explain the reason for this sudden outbreak of violence and looting that London and other cities in the UK have witnessed, nothing can justify the wanton violence, theft and destruction that’s happened here.
Follow this link to see a video by Pete Greig, a "founding champion" of of 24-7 Prayer and director of prayer at Holy Trinity Brompton in London, made in response to the riots... |
CHRISTCHURCH: CARDBOARD STRUCTURE MAY REPLACE EARTHQUAKE-DAMAGED CATHEDRAL IN NEW ZEALAND CITY
New Zealand's second biggest city could have a temporary Anglican cathedral as soon as February - but the 700-seat structure will be made of recyclable cardboard. It would replace ChristChurch Cathedral, which was destroyed in the 22nd February earthquake that killed 181 people.
The $NZ4 million portable A-frame building is to be created primarily out of cardboard tubes, with shipping containers as the foundation. Architecture students will assist in its three-month construction. A $NZ50,000 feasibility study is currently being undertaken, which could include an extension of planned capacity to 1000 at additional cost.
A site has yet to be found, but the Dean of ChristChurch Cathedral, Peter Beck, said it would be in the inner city, "offering a sign of hope and confidence and a thing of beauty in the midst of all the desolation."
"A GIANT OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH": JOHN STOTT DIES AT THE AGE OF 90
ESSAY: JOHN STOTT - "A GREAT ENCOURAGEMENT TO MANY"
Let me add my tribute to the contribution made by John Stott who has died recently aged 90.
John Stott made his mark by developing, maintaining and promoting a spiritual discipline in which Christian leaders (whatever their denomination) would take up the difficult and exacting task of listening carefully to the up-and-coming generations of Christians - at home and abroad. In this way he led by example and then with quiet and persistent percolation sought to make a coherent, public and widely accessible response so that as many who might hear or read his views would benefit and grow in grace.
I met Stott once and spoke one-on-one with him for about half-an-hour. That was in January, 1971, at the Australian Intervarsity Fellowship Conference in Canberra. He was lecturing on Christ Jesus the "foot-washing servant" of His disciples. He listened to what I had to say about the way Christians of my own generation were drifting and giving up their faith. He took on board my expression of concern that for too many Christian students university studies had become a pragmatic means to a materialistic end. More Bible studies and more prayer meetings were not able to challenge the deep-down spiritual compromise that was being played out in interVarsity circles.
BRUCE C. WEARNE reflects on the impact of John Stott... |
ESSAY: GOODBYE 'UNCLE JOHN'
On 26th July, after some years of failing health, John Stott finally slipped quietly away to glory. I was one of many people blessed by his ministry and to me he was - and always will be - "Uncle John."
In days, months and years ahead there will be many careful and insight-filled evaluations of John Stott's importance. They will no doubt focus on such big aspects of life such as his role as a wide-ranging theologian, how he made evangelicalism intellectually respectable and how he restored a vision for social involvement to evangelicals. I look forward to them but here I simply want to mention some aspects of John Stott that impressed me.
Some of the titles given to John by the media (the "Prince of Evangelicals" and even "The Pope of Protestants!") were not just ridiculous but also misleading: they gave the impression of a mighty, aloof figure preoccupied with programs and power.
In an article first published by Assist News Service, Church of England Canon J. JOHN reflects on the passing of a friend... |
JOHN STOTT DIES AT THE AGE OF 90
John Stott, one of the most significant Christian leaders of the 20th century, has died near London at the age of 90.
Rev Dr Stott, who died on 27th July apparently from complications related to old age, had retired from public ministry in 2007 and was reportedly living at a home for retired Anglican clergy just south of London.
The former rector of All Souls Church in Langham Place, London, Rev Dr Stott was internationally renowned for his ministry work and his writings – the latest of his 50 books, The Radical Society, was published last year.
Born in 1921 to Sir Arnold and Lady Stott, he was educated at Rugby School before going on to Trinity College in Cambridge and then Ridley Hall where he trained for the pastorate. Following his ordination in 1945, Rev Dr Stott became assistant curate at All Souls and then, in 1950, was appointed rector. In 1975, he was appointed rector emeritus, a position he held until his death.
What influence did Rev Dr John Stott's life and work have on you? Have your say here... |
ESSAY: WHY CLIMATE CHANGE IS A "SPIRITUAL BATTLE"
Climate change is an immense environmental battle. It is an immense battle about poverty. The poorest, the most vulnerable, are already being the most impacted by changes we are seeing reported from our work in developing countries.
We know it's an intense political battle. That is what is going on with the fear and the confusion in our nation at the moment.
As a Christian and as a church leader, i want to say that this is also an intensely spiritual battle.
I say, to my shame, the church has history in being on the wrong side of justice.
We love to sing Amazing Grace, written by an anti-slave trader John Newton who encouraged Wilberforce to stay in Parliament in England and fight the slave trade.
TIM COSTELLO, chief executive of World Vision Australia, explains why he believes the need to address climate change is a spiritual issue as well as one about the environment, poverty and politics... |
EAST AFRICAN DROUGHT
ESSAY: TIME TO ASSIST IN THE WORLD'S WORST HUMANITARIAN CRISIS
The Ancient Egyptians referred to part of Somalia as Ta netjer, “God’s land”. At the time it was a thriving area, leading regional trade, including being the major producer of myrrh. Somalia today is a very different place.
A famine was declared in southern Somalia on 20th July and 10 million people in the region are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. The drought over the past few years has affected people across the whole Horn of Africa, which includes Kenya and Ethiopia. Many Kenyans and Ethiopians are in urgent need of assistance, and Act for Peace’s partners are at work there providing food packages and distributing water. They are easier to reach and more able to cope than the war-torn communities of Somalia which have, arguably, suffered more than any other country.
There has been civil war and no central government in Somalia since 1991. The lack of centralised control, combined with widespread insecurity and a thriving illicit arms trade has led to protracted periods of fighting and widespread use of small arms. This war has displaced 20 per cent of the entire population and made it the least peaceful country on earth according to the Global Peace Index.
ALISTAIR GEE, of Act for Peace, writes about the current humanitarian crisis unfolding in East Africa... |
SOMALIA OFFICIALLY IN FAMINE AS HUMANITARIAN DISASTER IN EAST AFRICA WORSENS
The humanitarian disaster unfolding in East Africa took another step towards catastrophe this week with the United Nations declaring a famine two regions of southern Somalia thanks to the worst drought in decades.
More than 12 million people in the region are now experiencing a severe food crisis including 3.7 million people in Somalia – half of the country’s population. Hundreds of thousands of people have already fled Somalia to Ethiopia and Kenya – themselves badly affected by the drought - where refugee camps are already overflowing.
It is the first time since the devastating famine of 1991-92 that part of the country has been declared to be in famine – a designation reached when acute malnutrition rates among children exceed 30 per cent, more than two people per 10,000 are dying every day and people are unable to access food and other basic necessities.
FOR MORE ON THE EAST AFRICA DROUGHT, CLICK HERE...
UPDATE (27th July, 2011): The death toll in Norway's mass shooting has been revised to 76 - eight of whom were killed in the Oslo bombing and 68 of whom were killed in the shooting on the island of Utoya.
CHURCHES PRAY AS DEATH TOLL RISES
Norway's churches called for prayers and opened their doors to those seeking consolation and comfort as officials confirmed on Saturday that a suspected gunman killed at least 85 people at a youth summer camp after he allegedly set off a bomb blast that claimed the lives of seven people in Oslo, the capital.
"We pray for all those impacted (by the attacks) and for everyone now confronted with fear about what happened to their loved ones," said Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien of the main (Lutheran) Church of Norway. She added that local churches would receive suggestions for a united prayer, while Sunday services would also focus on the country's worst violence since World War II.
"The tragedy reminds us about our vulnerability," the bishop said in a statement. "That (vulnerability) is faced by all people around the world. But we are not alone, God is with us. He gives hope and consolation."
JOHAN T.H. BOS and STEFAN J. BOS, of BosNewsLife, report... |
ESSAY: OSLO TRAGEDY - POLITICS, RELIGION AND PERSONAL EVIL
"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark," says Marcellus in Hamlet, a play set in that nation's famed Kronborg castle.
This morning, the citizens of Oslo may have awoken wondering where the rot, the source of a terrible tragedy, lies within their nation.
I have visited Norway and its capital many times over the past 20 years, especially as I lived in nearby Copenhagen for a decade. Norway is a nation blessed with stunning scenery and a largely laid-back lifestyle. It is also one of the world's richest nations, enjoying revenues from huge oceanic oil reserves.
Today, however, the nation mourns the deaths of at least 91 people killed after a downtown bomb attack, followed by a shooting massacre in an island youth camp.
MAL FLETCHER on search for answers in the wake of this weekend's tragic killings in Norway... |
THE BIG PICTURE: THOUSANDS TO PRAY FOR THE NATION, FAMILIES AND MARRIAGE ON SUNDAY
More than 500 people are expected to gather in the Great Hall at Parliament House in Canberra on Sunday to pray for revival, families and marriage as part of the National Day of Prayer and Fasting. Organisers say that more than 1,000 churches across Australia have also registered to take part and will be praying for parliamentary and media leaders and declaring "the righteousness and purpose of God" over the nation. Organisers say it's still not too late to register your church for the event. A video featuring around 12 prominent church leaders can be found on YouTube.
Harsh restrictions on the freedom of human rights organizations are on the rise and the threats include intimidation, persecution and even murder of staff and activists, according to a report released on 8th July by Geneva-based ACT Alliance.
The report, called Shrinking Political Spaces, recounts extreme cases of repression in countries ranging from Brazil, India, Indonesia, Peru and Malawi to Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay and Zimbabwe, according to ACT Alliance, an association of 111 churches and church-related organisations that work in humanitarian assistance and development in 140 countries.
In an increasing number of countries, social struggle is deemed a criminal offence. "This is about local people working for human rights and their survival. Governments must stop seeing civil society as a threat," says ACT advocacy officer Suvi Virkkunen.
AFRICA: SOUTH SUDAN CHURCHES HOPE FOR NEW NATION'S PEACE AND GROWTH
Church leaders in South Sudan expressed their readiness to help secure peace, stability, growth and development in their new nation, which was proclaimed an independent state on 9th July.
The leaders led citizens in thanksgiving prayers on 10th July, a day after thousands in Juba city witnessed General Salva Kiir Mayardit sworn in as the first president. "We stand willing to play our part in sharing the burden of responsibility which rests on the shoulders of the government of South Sudan," Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul of the Episcopal (Anglican) Church of Sudan said in a pastoral letter on Independence Day.
President Kiir will lead Africa's 54th state of nearly 9.7 million people, beset by serious social and economic issues. Most people live on less than one dollar per day. More than 10 per cent of children die before the age of five and more than 75 per cent of adults cannot read or write.
FREDRICK NZWILI, of ENInews, reports on the start of the world's newest country... |
ESSAY: NEWS OF THE WORLD - NEWSLITE CULTURE AND THE BREAKDOWN OF TRUST
Make no mistake about it; the News of the World saga carries implications for much more than the world of journalistic practice and culture.
The entire sorry episode started with fresh allegations about phone hacking and payments to police officers. It ended late this week with the announcement that News of the World will publish its final edition Sunday.
The story flags a number of questions that have already received wide coverage in the media, domestically and abroad.
Have politicians enjoyed too cosy a relationship with leading news organisations? Have police personnel routinely received payments for information given to journalists? Did British police effectively sweep earlier allegations about phone hacking under the carpet, rather than running a thorough investigation?
There are, however, two important aspects to this story that have received little or no comment in the mainstream press and media.
MAL FLETCHER gives his view on the controversy which has led to the closure of London's News of the World newspaper... |
THE BIG PICTURE: THE ERA OF THE SPACE SHUTTLE COMES TO AN END
The space shuttle Atlantis lifted off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida at 11.29am on 8th July on the final flight of the shuttle program. Atlantis is carrying a crew of four and a module containing supplies and spare parts for the space station in a 12 day mission. There have been 135 space shuttle flights since Columbia first roared into space off the launch pad on 12th April, 1981. By the end of the current mission, the six space shuttles will have orbited the earth almost 21,000 times and spend more than 1,320 days in space.
FOREIGN AID: FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AGREES WITH REVIEW RECOMMENDATIONS - TO THE APPLAUSE OF ANTI-POVERTY CAMPAIGNERS
Aid agencies have broadly welcomed the Australian Government’s response to an independent review of aid, with suggestions that it could benefit millions of people living in poverty around the world.
Launched in November last year, the review – the first since 1996 - looked at the effectiveness of Australia’s foreign aid in order to give direction to the future of the program. Around 300 submissions were received from Australia and the international community.
The review, overseen by a panel under the leadership of former Olympic chief Sandy Hollway, made 39 recommendations – which range from the establishment of a “transparency charter” for the aid program to an increase in funding for research by Australian and international organisations - all of one but which were agreed or agreed-in-principle by the Government.
Other recommendations included that decisions about which country’s aid goes to be based on “poverty, national interest, capacity to make a difference, and current scale and effectiveness”.
THE INTERVIEW: MARTIN JOHNSON, CHRISTIAN TELEVISION AUSTRALIA
You've recently launched a CTA YouTube channel. What's the reasoning behind this?
"Like all program production organisations and companies, we recognise that the methods of program distribution have changed. This is evidenced by the growth of sites like YouTube and the development of ‘catch-up’ web sites by broadcasters. We also want to make our programs available as widely as possible and a YouTube channel is a very cost effective way of doing that."
You've said you want the site to offer uniquely Australian content for Australian audiences. How does the Australian content differ from that offered in, say, the US or UK?
"There are very few outlets for Australian produced Christian television programs. We want to encourage Australian producers and program makers, by using CTA.tv to enable their programs to be more widely seen. Australian Christianity is a reflection of our culture and whilst the message of the Gospel is the same worldwide, we want CTA.tv to be an Australian expression of our faith."
As Christian Television Australia launches its own YouTube channel CTA.tv, DAVID ADAMS talks to CTA chief executive Martin Johnson about the organisation's origins, its future direction, and how the new YouTube initiative aims to tap into creative talents of churches across the country... |
EVANGELISM: CHRISTIAN BODIES AGREE ON NEW CODE OF CONDUCT
Three organisations, representing about 90 per cent of the world's Christians, this week launched a global code of conduct for proselytising in a bid to reduce tensions between different religious convictions.
"Today represents an historic moment in our shared Christian witness. This is the first time that a document has been issued by the World Council of Churches (WCC) together with the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) and the Pontifical Council for the Interreligious Dialogue of the Holy See," said Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.
The three groups represent nearly two billion Christians, according to a WCC spokesman. The text, Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct, is the result of five years of extensive consultations and negotiations.
Dr Geoff Tunnicliffe, CEO and secretary general of the World Evangelical Alliance, said the document addresses four areas of primary concern: Christian unity, human rights, a positive outlook on mission and evangelism and religious freedom.
JOHN ZAROCOSTAS, of ENInews, reports... |
RON NIKKEL, PRISON FELLOWSHIP INTERNATIONAL
What is Prison Fellowship International's World Convocation all about?
"It is the quadrennial gathering of the world's largest group of people involved in prison and justice related ministry. It brings together nearly 1000 leaders from over 130 countries for training, sharing experiences, encouragement and celebration of what God is doing in the midst of human failure and confinement. It focuses on transformed lives, reconciled relationships and restored families and communities."
PFI has more than 50,000 volunteers working in some 119 countries. What is the role of volunteers generally?
"Volunteers are the hands and feet of Jesus in the prisons of the world. They express the love and grace of Jesus among prisoners who are marginalised, judged, and cut off from society because of wrongdoing and injustice. Volunteers build friendships with prison inmates through sports, cultural activities, education, literacy, and a variety of other creative programs. The point of the programs is to brighten up the lives of people in confinement, to provide a meaningful activity to people who have time on their hands and often idle - but most importantly offer an opportunity for caring friendships that extend encouragement, counsel, hope, and help to needy people."
This week people from more than 100 different countries across the globe are gathering in Toronto, Canada, for Prison Fellowship International's World Convocation. DAVID ADAMS speaks to Canadian Ron Nikkel, the organisation's president and chief executive, about their work in the world's prisons... |
FOOD: GLOBAL SURVEY FINDS RISING FOOD PRICES A KEY FACTOR BEHIND DIET CHANGES
Rising food prices are causing people to change their diets, according to a global survey released this month.
The survey, carried out on behalf of Oxfam’s GROW campaign, found that a majority of people in most of the 17 countries included in the survey said they were not eating the same food as they did two years ago – before current food price rises began.
Thirty-nine per cent of all respondents who said their diet had changed blamed the food price rises. Kenya, Mexico, Tanzania, Guatemala, and Spain had the highest proportion of people whose diet has changed citing this as the key reason. Globall, 33 per cent said health reasons were behind their diet change.
The GlobeScan survey also revealed that cost was people’s “biggest food worry” with 66 per cent of people globally citing it as their top concern. Forty-three per cent of people said the healthiness or nutritional value of the food they ate was a key concern while in poorer countries, such as Kenya and Tanzania, the availability of food was also a key concern.
REFUGEES: THOUSANDS CALL FOR AN END TO MANDATORY DETENTION TO MARK WORLD REFUGEE DAY
Thousands of Australians marked World Refugee Day (20th June) on 19th June by rallying to demand an end to mandatory detention of asylum seekers. The turnout was sparked by a backlash against a federal government plan to deport 800 boat arrivals to Malaysia as early as next week as a "swap" for the resettlement of 4,000 refugees from Malaysian detention centres.
Australia's National Council of Churches, Catholic aid agency Caritas, the Uniting Church and 15 human rights groups released a joint statement criticising the policy. "We call on the Australian Government and Opposition to abandon policies aimed at punishing groups of asylum seekers as an example to others and to work cooperatively on the challenging task of developing a regional framework to protect people fleeing persecution," they said.
The Uniting Church, Australia's third largest, wrote to all Federal Labor parliamentarians expressing its shock over the 'cruel and punitive' plan and urged compassion.
Australia is one of a few countries that automatically incarcerate asylum seekers. Almost 8,000 people, including 1,000 children, are detained in Australian mainland and offshore detention centers, many for several years, while visa applications are processed.
MOST REFUGEES HOSTED IN DEVELOPING NATIONS, SAYS UNHCR REPORT
Eighty per cent of the world’s refugees are being hosted in developing countries but anti-refugee sentiment continues to rise in many industrialised nations, according to the findings of a new UNHCR report.
The report – released to mark World Refugee Day on 20th June – shows that the 43.7 million people are displaced worldwide with the largest refugee populations found in Pakistan (1.9 million), Iran (1.1 million) and Syria (one million).
Significantly, the data shows that the biggest economic impact of refugees is in Pakistan where there are 710 refugees for every dollar of its per capita GDP, followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (475) and Kenya (247). In Germany, the industrialized nation with the largest refugee population (594,000), there are only 17 refugees for every dollar of per capita GDP.
SUDAN: CHRISTIAN LEADERS CONDEMN TERROR IN THE KORDOFAN
Christian leaders from around the world are calling on the international community to intervene in the violence in Sudan's Southern Kordofan border state, where an air bombing campaign is causing "huge suffering" to civilian populations and endangering humanitarian assistance.
Church and aid officials say more than 300,000 people are trapped, cut off from relief and unable to flee the region where the Sudan Armed Forces has been fighting the Sudan People's Liberation Army, the former rebels aligned groups in the oil state. The fighting, which has been going on for a week, is raising fears of an increased death toll, after clashes escalated to include artillery and aircraft.
"This violence is a major threat to the stability of Sudan just as the new state of South Sudan is coming into being. The humanitarian challenge is already great, and the risk of another Darfur situation, with civilian populations at the mercy of government-supported terror, is a real one," said Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
FREDRICK NZWILI, of ENInews, reports... |
SYDNEY: CHRISTIAN GROUP LAUNCHES BILLBOARD CAMPAIGN IN RESPONSE TO POSTER LINKING JESUS AND ISLAM
Australian Muslims have been invited to come and chat with a group of Christians in a billboard campaign recently launched in Sydney.
The first poster in the campaign, which reads ‘Dear Aussie Muslims, glad you want to talk about Jesus. Love to chat more’ and directs readers to a website AussieChristians.com.au, was put up alongside the M4 motorway last week.
Its appearance comes after a series of posters appeared on Sydney billboards which said Jesus was “a prophet of Islam” and invited people to visit the MyPeace website and call a toll free number to find out more about Islam. The group, whose public face has been Diaa Mohamed, has also announced it intends running an advertising campaign on 40 Sydney buses.
AussieChristians is a loose coalition of organisations and individuals which include The City Bible Forum – which exists to “explain the Bible to city workers” - and Outreach Media - which produces monthly posters to be placed on billboards outside churches.
ESSAY: A CALL FOR SOME PERSPECTIVE IN THE RESPONSE TO CATTLE EXPORTS
I have always been intrigued and somewhat comforted by the final verse in the book of Jonah where God explains His decision to save Nineveh, noting that apart from the many thousands of people, there were also many cattle that would have been destroyed.
We have a kind and gracious God whose concern extends to the cattle in the field. Indeed Jesus declared that a sparrow did not fall to the ground without the Lord’s knowledge.
So we concur with the recent outcry stirred by the Four Corners' report, documenting the cruel treatment of cattle in Indonesian abattoirs.
Yet some aspects of this debate seem to have got all out of proportion, and it’s become something of a soap opera that I’m sure has a long way to go before the issue is back off the nightly news dinner menu. Rather than a reasoned, considered response to the problem, it seems the politicians have once again been provoked into a knee-jerk reaction by media-fuelled, public-hysteria.
PAUL CLARK says reason rather than public hysteria should define the government's approach to cattle exports to Indonesia... |
HOLLYWOOD: LOU GOSSETT JR - AN ACTOR AND A GENTLEMAN
Louis Cameron Gossett Jr - better known as Lou Gossett Jr - was born on 27th May, 1936, in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, New York, to Hellen Rebecca, a nurse, and Louis Gossett Sr, a porter.
His stage debut came at the age of 17, in a school production of You Can't Take It with You when a sports injury resulted in the decision to take an acting class. Polio had already delayed his graduation.
He is best known for his role as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and earlier, his Emmy Award-winning role of Fiddler in the 1977 groundbreaking television miniseries Roots which first brought Mr Gossett to the attention of a worldwide movie audience attention.
In an acting career that spans six decades, Mr Gossett has also starred in numerous film productions such as The Deep, Jaws 3-D (as SeaWorld manager Calvin Bouchard), Wolfgang Peterson's Enemy Mine, the Iron Eagle series, Toy Soldiers, and The Punisher.
DAN WOODING, of Assist News Service in the US, spoke with Lou Gossett Jr about film, faith and the new call on his life... |
THE BIG PICTURE: EXPERIENCES OF EGYPTIAN CHRISTIANS GO ON DISPLAY IN LONDON
One of a series of images created by artist Lorna Buchanan as part of Christian Solidarity Worldwide's No Way Out campaign calling for Christians in Egypt "to be able to practise their faith freely, without fear of violence or discrimination". The images will be on display at Methodist Central Hall in London on 11th June as part of the city's Pentecost Festival.
EUROPE: EVANGELICAL LEADERS AGREE TO TACKLE "DEATH CULTURE"
Hundreds of evangelical leaders have agreed to improve cooperation between their organisations amid mounting concerns about the moral and economic decline of Europe, organisers said.
"Some 500 leaders returned home from the HOPE•II congress in Budapest a few days ago, buoyed with fresh perspectives" to give "hope for Europe" as the continent currently faces a "culture of death" and "deep spiritual poverty," explained congress director Jeff Fountain.
Those attending the four-day gathering included politicians, artists, theologians, evangelists and pastors "against a background of crisis and scandal embroiling European institutions," he said.
The HOPE•II congress, organised by the 'Hope for Europe' movement, began on 9th May - "Europe's forgotten birthday," Fountain added. "Few Europeans are aware that on 9th May, 1950, the first move was made towards the creation of what is now known as the European Union."
On that day, "French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman surprised the world...by announcing a plan for France, Germany and other European countries to pool together their coal and steel production as 'the first concrete foundation of a European federation'," Fountain recalled.
STEFAN J. BOS, of BosNewsLife.com, reports on the recent HOPE•II conference... |
AFRICA: CHINESE CHRISTIANS FIND SUPPORT IN KENYA AND UGANDA
Anglican clergy in East Africa have expressed hope for an improved relationship between church and state in China, after a delegation from China's Ministry of State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) visited Kenya and Uganda.
"They wanted to see how they can build a relationship and trust with their churches. China is coming from a Communist background and there has been some mistrust of Christianity...They wanted to understand who is a Christian…Can he be trusted?" Rev Canon George Bagamuhunda, the Provincial Secretary of the (Anglican) Church of Uganda told ENInews on 20th May from Kampala as the Chinese delegation of 10 officials left the country.
Wang Zuo’an, the religious affairs minister who led the team, said they hoped to establish a relationship between African and Chinese churches. They also wanted to see how the churches relate with the state in the two countries. Archbishop John Chew of Singapore coordinated the visit, which was organised by the primates of the Global South Anglican Communion. The communion includes South America, Africa and Asia.
FREDRICK NZWILI, of ENInews, reports... |
MIDDLE EAST: PILGRIMS RETURN TO JESUS' BAPTISMAL SITE AS ISRAEL REMOVES LANDMINES
Pilgrims are flowing back to the traditional site of Jesus' baptism on the Jordan River as Israel removes 40-year-old land mines and improves the area, but barbed wire and armed soldiers testify to the area's tense past.
"It is a very sensitive place politically and religiously and is of importance to both Christians and Jews," said Lt Col Ofer Mey-tal, of the department of Civil Administration, who oversees the project. Jewish tradition holds this also is where the ancient Israelites crossed into the Promised Land following their flight from Egypt.
Located in a closed military area on the West Bank a few kilometers from Jericho, the site - Qasr el Yahud - has been revered since the fourth or fifth century as the place where John the Baptist recognised Jesus as the Messiah. It was marked in the sixth-century Madaba Map, a floor mosaic of an early Byzantine church unearthed in Madaba, Jordan.
Visitors have tripled since 2004, reaching almost 60,000 in 2010 and some 44,000 during the first four months of 2011, said site manager Saar Kfir, who works in the Civil Administration, which has jurisdiction over the site.
JUDITH SUDILOVSKY, of ENInews, reports... |
THE BIG PICTURE: MISSIONARY PILOT SETS AUSTRALIAN AVIATION RECORD
New South Wales pilot Ron Watts set a new Australian record for the number of aircraft landings in a single day earlier this month when he took off and landed 102 times in a feat marking the 60th anniversary of Mission Aviation Fellowship's first flight.
Mr Watts, a pilot and national bequest manager with MAF, made the landings when he completed 20 circuits flying out of Illawarra Regional Airport near Wollongong before flying on to Bankstown Airport in Sydney on 7th May.
As well as marking the 60th anniversary of MAF's first flight (which took place in Madang, Papua New Guinea, on 7th May, 1951), the 40 year flying veteran was also aiming to raise more than $10,000 for the organisation.
Mr Watts, who joined MAF in 1975 and lives in Wollongong, says MAF is "in the business of reaching isolated people to see them physically and spiritually transformed in Christ's name..."
"Often, a MAF flight saves lives," he says. "In Papua New Guinea last year we carried out 495 emergency medical evacuations (medivacs), many of which undoubtedly saved lives. Mothers experiencing childbirth difficulties or victims of snake-bite are common among the medical emergencies that we attend."
MAF operates 130 aircraft in more than 30 countries including Australia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Bangladesh.
As lead singer for Nashville-based Aussie rock band Alabaster Box, Naarah has shared songs with thousands of people. For 10 years or more, she has performed in churches, at festivals and in concerts throughout Australia and North America.
This young woman has experienced the joys and sorrows of life on the road; she has heard stories from scores of people motivated to share with her after hearing her sing; she has enjoyed life as a wife and a mother.
With the release of her first solo album The Story, Naarah has begun to share significant aspects of her own life story with those willing to listen.
The album offers 11 songs in which this seasoned performer reflects on her life experiences in an attempt to offer encouragement to others.
In the album’s liner notes she writes: “The songs I have written are not only part of my life story, but are stories of hope and salvation within reach of everyone who is willing to grab hold of it.”
JAPAN: CHURCHES URGED TO WORK TOGETHER AFTER "TRIPLE DISASTER"
Japan's churches and Christian councils should establish a consortium to respond to the devastating 11th March earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant accident, an ecumenical meeting said.
In addition, the National Christian Council in Japan should "convene a forum of all the Japanese partners to facilitate the exchange of information and activities and explore avenues of cooperation," according to a statement released at the end of the Japan Earthquake/Tsunami Relief Ecumenical Solidarity Meeting held In Seoul from 6th to 7th May.
About 40 representatives of Christian partner organisations and churches from the West and Asia attended the meeting, which was coordinated by the North East Asia Churches Forum of the Christian Conference of Asia. About 14,700 people were killed by the 11th March disaster, with about 10,700 listed as missing. The disaster also crippled the Daiichi Fukushima nuclear power plant.
"I had never expected that such people would come together for Japan," Rev Hiroko Ueda, acting office general secretary of the National Christian Council in Japan, told ENInews. "I was glad that they cared for such a developed country as Japan." She added, "I feel that God is telling us to rethink the ecumenical movement clearly through the disaster."
HISASHI YUKIMOTO, of ENINews, reports from Seoul, South Korea... |
FEDERAL BUDGET: CHRISTIAN ORGANISATIONS APPLAUD LIFT IN FOREIGN AID BUT SAY IT DOESN'T GO FAR ENOUGH
Updated 11th May, 2011
Australian Christian organisations have welcomed the Government’s decision to increase the size of its foreign aid budget by $486 million in Tuesday’s Federal Budget but say it doesn’t go far enough.
The move puts Australian’s foreign aid program at $4.836 billion which represents 0.35 per cent of gross national income. The federal government has said it was committed to reaching 0.5 per cent by the 2015/16 budget, a figure which is still below the Millennium Development Goals target of 0.7 per cent.
DJ Konz, executive director of child advocacy at Compassion Australia, said he applauded the recognition that “if we are doing it tough in Australia, millions of children, mothers and families are literally struggling to survive in our neighbouring countries and beyond”.
“Keeping our international aid commitments at this time is a deeply human gesture of concern for those who live in much worse circumstances than we do, and is critical to helping prevent the deaths of over 22,000 children who die, most needlessly, every day.”
Some of the thousands of people of Sierra Leone arriving for screening of potential patients to receive free surgery onboard the Africa Mercy to correct disability, deformity or blindness. PICTURE: Courtesy of Mercy Ships Australia.
Today, 9th May, is the inaugural Mercy Monday, a day aimed at recognising the service of volunteer doctors, nurses and support staff who work onboard the hospital ship, Africa Mercy. Across Australia today, people will be joining in a meal - morning tea, lunch or dinner - with the aim of raising funds to support the charity which, for more than 30 years, has been providing
medical, dental and community development aid to the poorest nations of the earth.
Gary Regazzoli, chief executive of Mercy Ships Australia, says the date - 9th May - was chosen to coincide with three important existing national events: National Volunteer Week (which runs from 9th to 15th May),
International Nurses Day and the anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birth (12th May), and Mother's Day, celebrated in Australia on 8th May. More than 7,000 free surgeries are performed every year on the Africa Mercy which this year is operating in Sierra Leone. The volunteer medical and support staff pay their own way to the ship. To find out more about Mercy Monday and Mercy Ship's work, and how you can support it, see www.mercyships.org.au.
THE DEATH OF OSAMA BIN LADEN
ESSAY: BIN LADEN, JUSTICE, AND THE VICTIMS OF 9/11
This is where President Obama is wrong. Justice has not been done in the killing of this terrorist. The words of America’s greatest prophet, Martin Luther King Jr, echo through the ages: “Peace is not the absence of conflict; it is the presence of justice.” Because justice has not been done in the killing of Bin Laden, peace will not be the result. As surely as night follows day, the forces of al-Qaeda will be planning revenge attacks, and the cycle will continue. And where will it end? In this day when we have the capacity to destroy the only planet we have, King’s words cry out to us again: “it is no longer a choice between violence and non-violence in this world; it's non-violence or non-existence.” Rejoicing in the death of Bin Laden reduces us to the level of his brutal actions.
NILS VON KALM provides his perspective on the reaction to the death of Osama bin Laden... |
ESSAY: REJOICE? BIN LADEN AND THE CYCLE OF VIOLENCE
This morning I woke to an orgy of media-fed delight about a violent death. According to Irenaeus, the second century Bishop of Lugdunum, “the glory of God is a human being fully alive.” According to at least one politician I listened to on the radio, what pleases God most is an enemy brutally murdered.
A Vatican spokesperson appropriately noted in response to the news of the killing of Osama bin Laden, that he was “a man who sowed division and hatred and who caused innumerable deaths.” His demise should prompt serious reflection about human responsibility before God, said Federico Lombardi.
But he began by saying that “in the face of a man’s death, a Christian never rejoices.” Rather, the ending of a life is always another occasion for looking to sow seeds of peace and to explore the necessity of repentance.
By contrast, President Obama, whose Christian convictions have been on display a good deal lately, used a Medal of Honor ceremony to declare that the world is a safer place because of the death of bin Laden. This is most unlikely to be true. Already announcements are being made about the cycles of revenge that will almost certainly follow.
In a piece written as news of the death of Osama bin Laden broke this week, SIMON BARROW, co-director of UK thinktank Ekklesia, explains why it's not a time for rejoicing... |
RADIO: AFTER FIVE YEARS AND 1,500 INTERVIEWS, SHERIDAN VOYSEY BIDS FAREWELL TO OPEN HOUSE
Sheridan Voysey's face may not be familiar to many. But his voice? Now that’s a different story.
For the past five years Mr Voysey has been the host of Open House, a weekly Christian radio show dedicated to interviewing people about, in Mr Voysey's words "life, faith and culture". That all changed in March when Mr Voysey recorded his last show and handed the reigns over to former Sky TV news presenter Leigh Hatcher.
“I have to say that it’s a great honor for me to be followed by somebody of such high calibre,” Mr Voysey told Sight shortly before presenting his last show. “He’s a guy who’s got immense professional qualifications, a deep Christian faith, he can empathise with people who are going through some tough times and I think can bring some wonderful new direction to the show.”
It’s been a long road for Mr Voysey since he first had an inkling that he might one day be on radio. Speaking to Sight just before he stepped down from his role as presenter on Open House, Mr Voysey recalled how he’d never really had an interest in radio until, after he’d became a Christian, he started praying about what God wanted him to do with his life.
DAVID ADAMS interviews the interviewer, Sheridan Voysey, about his time at national Australian radio show Open House... |
THE ROYAL WEDDING
ESSAY: BEING PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER THAN ONESELF
A cheer erupted from the crowd in The Mall in London where I was standing when the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, announced via a loudspeaker that Prince William and Kate Middleton were man and wife.
It was a special moment – clearly for the newly named Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, their family and friends, and, yes, for the many thousands of people that lined the route along which they would shortly process, most of whom had certainly never met them.
The reaction of the masses says a lot about our view of happiness and what that means in our lives – how love, marriage, and commitment remain so important for so many, even in this fast-paced, modern world.
DAVID ADAMS, among those watching the Royal Wedding celebrations in London, reflects on what they tell us...|
ANGLICAN CHURCH PLAYS A CENTRAL ROLE
An estimated two billion people around the world tuned in on 29th April to watch the wedding of Prince William, grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, and Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey, a ceremony infused with British pageantry and steeped in elements of Anglicanism -- past, present and future.
The streets of London bulged with thousands of well-wishers, some who'd camped for days to ensure a glimpse of the happy couple, named just before the wedding as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Episcopal News Service reports.
Inside the abbey, the Very Rev John Hall, dean of Westminster, conducted the service according to a 1966 version of the liturgy of matrimony from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, while Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, as head of the officially established Church of England, presided over the royal wedding and solemnized the marriage.
MATTHEW DAVIES, ENInews/Episcopal News Service, reports...|
ESSAY: IT'S A MARRIAGE, NOT JUST A ROYAL WEDDING
"That married couples can live together day after day," quipped Bill Cosby, "is a miracle that the Vatican has overlooked."
Considering the pressures on the modern marriage - two partners working to pay the bills, competition for places in the better schools, the threat of rising prices and falling living standards - it is indeed a wonder that more marriages don’t fall apart.
For most of us who are married, there is one pressure we will never experience. We don’t have to concern ourselves with how we appear in the public eye.
Most married couples are conscious of how our friends and colleagues may see their relationship - we are social creatures at heart. But the wider world is neither interested nor impacted by the strength of our ties.
MAL FLETCHER says Prince William and Kate Middleton's life together shouldn't be viewed as reailty TV fodder...|
DAVID WILKERSON: CAR CRASH BRINGS AN END TO A LIFE "SPENT WELL"
David Wilkerson, co-author of the best-selling book The Cross and the Switchblade and founding pastor of New York’s Times Square Church, has been killed in a car accident.
The 79-year-old’s car reportedly ploughed into a tractor trailor on a Texan highway on 27th April. His wife Gwen, who was also in the car, is reportedly in a critical condition.
The news has sparked reaction from around the world as people expressed their sadness at his death.
In a statement on the World Challenge website – an umbrella organisation for his ministries – the Wilkerson family said that they appreciated people’s prayers, saying that “our hearts are sorrowful, yet we rejoice at the joy of knowing David Wilkerson spent his life well”.
The last entry on his blog was posted on the day of his death. Titled "When All Means Fail”, he encouraged those facing difficulty to “hold fast” and stand strong in faith.
DAVID ADAMS (with DAN WOODING, of Assist News Service), report... |
HOW DID DAVID WILKERSON'S LIFE - AND BOOKS - IMPACT YOU? HAVE YOUR SAY HERE...
THE BIG PICTURE: 'JESUS' CARRIES THE CROSS DOWN SYDNEY'S PITT STREET
'Jesus', flanked by Roman soldiers wearing contemporary dress, carries the Cross down Pitt Street in Sydney as part of the Wesley Mission's annual Good Friday procession.PICTURE: Ramon Williams
As we come to another Easter, we think again of the amazing sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross. Dying for the sins of the world and triumphing over evil, this was God coming to earth in human flesh, walking among us, making the ultimate sacrifice, and then rising from the dead. But is that what it is really all about?
In 1997 author J.B. Phillips wrote a book called Your God is Too Small in which he lamented the fact that our conception of God does not do justice to who God really is. In 2011, the same is true amongst many Christians in Australia. Our God is too small. We see Easter as Jesus coming to die for our sins and we’re not quite sure what the resurrection is really about, save for the fact that we rejoice over it because we believe that, through the resurrection, God has defeated death. If we progress through our walk of discipleship leaving the resurrection at that, we have short-changed the Gospel.
The question we as Christians must wrestle with is what the death and resurrection of Jesus 2,000 years ago has to do with the realities of today’s world. What link is there between the truth of the Gospel and today’s world of the recent spate of earthquakes, the fighting in Libya, the fact that most of the chocolate we will consume over the next couple of weeks is made through child labour, the carbon tax, and Easter?
NILS VON KALM, of World Vision, asks us to take another look at the meaning of Easter...|
THE INTERVIEW: DARLENE ZSCHECH
Why did you decide to leave Hillsong after attending there for so long?
"Well, it was no easy decision as you can imagine. But we felt God was tugging at our hearts for a couple of years before we actually made the move, and, after many conversations with trusted friends, our pastors, and really just seeking God for direction, we decided to step out for a new challenge. We were really compelled by the need we saw on the Central Coast of NSW. And God clearly spoke to our hearts that He would go before us."
Was it hard to do so?
"It was definitely hard, but actually easier than I thought it would be. I guess because God is totally in the centre of it all. And, the lovely thing is, that we will still be involved in certain elements of Hillsong conference and projects, especially in relation to the worship."
Early this year Darlene Zschech and her husband Mark left Sydney's Hillsong Church after 25 years to take up new roles as senior pastors at Hope Unlimited Church in Charmhaven on the New South Wales' Central Coast.Ms Zschech, whose contribution to music as a singer/songwriter and worship leader has made her a household name in many places across the globe, spoke to DAVID ADAMS via email about the move, what's next for her musically and the Hope:Rwanda project...|
ESSAY: WHY CHRISTIANITY SHOULD BE TAUGHT, PROPERLY, IN OUR SCHOOLS
Christian education in government schools is suddenly controversial, as secularists make it the latest battleground in their efforts to wind back what they see as the malign influence of religion.
A case alleging discrimination has been brought to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission; interfaith groups and a new multi-faith education network of academics want to end the present system; and the Education Department is under pressure over what seems an odd interpretation of the Education Act, arguing that the phrase "may" provide special religious instruction actually means "must" provide it.
This battle is one the advocates of what is called special religious instruction are doomed to lose, because the high ground belongs to their opponents.
There is also an important battle taking place within secularism as to whether atheism should be an unofficial state ideology; more on that question later.
In an article first published by The Age newspaper in Melbourne, BARNEY ZWARTZ explains why Christianity should be taught in schools...|
PERSECUTION: EUROPEAN CHURCHES DEBATE RESPONSE TO ANTI-CHRISTIAN VIOLENCE
When Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's only Christian cabinet minister, was assassinated on 2nd March, it was only the latest act against Christians to provoke outrage worldwide. Now, church leaders in Europe are debating the best course of action to be urged on governments to counter the wave of violence.
Bhatti, 42, was gunned down after he criticised his country's laws against blaspheming the name of the Prophet Muhammad. Taliban militants and Al-Quaeda militants took responsibility.
"We're living in globalised times, which have made many groups feel insecure about their own identity, an identity which has then become radicalised and closed rather than open to others," said Rudiger Noll, director of the Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches (CEC).
JONATHAN LUXMOORE, of ENInews, reports...|
BURMA: THOUSANDS LEFT HOMELESS AFTER EARTHQUAKE STRIKES
Christians were among thousands of families trying to rebuild their homes and churches in northeastern Burma following a 6.8 magnitude earthquake that killed scores of people, Christian missionaries said.
Most of the death and destruction occurred in the northeastern 'Golden Triangle' area where Burma, Laos and Thailand's borders meet each other, said Christian Aid Mission (CAM), a group closely working with native missionaries in the area.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) said on Tuesday that at least 74 people were killed and 120 injured in the earthquake, which struck last Thursday just north of the Thai border.
Burma's military government has been reluctant to publish exact death tolls in previous disasters and CAM cited officials as saying as many as 300 may have been killed in the quake, with aftershocks continuing over the weekend.
Are you surprised by the events we've seen taking place in Libya in recent weeks?
“I have been working in Libya for the last four-and-a-half years and on my multiple visits to Libya, I have heard the stories of the people about Gaddafi's oppression and horrific acts against them. But I thought that after years of being isolated by the world community and punished for his terrorist acts, that he had learned. But what we are seeing is that he cares nothing for the people of Libya, and will continue fighting until he regains control or is stopped."
Do you support the Western enforcement of the no-fly zone?
“I believe that the world community tried to reason with him first. But unlike the other dictators in the region who stepped down in response to the demonstrations, he refused. I realised when Libya's ambassadors around the world so quickly turned on him, that they knew he had no intention of stepping down. As such, the only realistic option was to enforce the no-fly zone. The complicated issue is what our exit strategy is and whether air strikes will be sufficient to bring the fighting to an end.
American Lisa Gibson, who founded the Peace & Prosperity Alliance after her 20-year-old brother Ken died in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, spoke to DAVID ADAMS about recent events in Libya… |
ESSAY: CHRISTIANS, LIBYA AND THE CYCLE OF VIOLENCE
"Is it ever right for Christians to support military action in places like Libya?" That was the question posed to me on Premier Christian Radio this morning, alongside the pragmatic issue of what is happening following the Western bombing raids and what the wider implications are.
My response (doubtless inadequate) was to ask what practical responsibilities Christians have in light of the awkward fact that the Gospel story clearly contradicts the notion of "salvation by bombing". Instead, the message of the crucifixion and resurrection, which lies at the core of the Christian narrative, is about absorbing murder and violence, not inflicting it. Moreover the "revenge" meted out in response to unjust killing in the events concerning Jesus is divine life-giving, not more death-dealing.
So Christians are not, it seems to me, required to be armchair generals dishing out moral sanction for armed force. Nor can they sit idly by. Instead, they are called to act responsibly - by "telling it as it is" on the one hand, and by using every means at their disposal (not someone else's blood and guts) to support victims of injustice and to work for a just-peace, on the other.
SIMON BARROW, co-director of UK thinktank Ekklesia, argues for different approach to the issue of Libya... |
FOR OUR FULL COVERAGE OF THE CRISIS IN LIBYA... |
ESSAY: HAITI, ONE YEAR ON - "BUDS OF HOPE IN A FIELD OF THORNS"
Last year, I travelled to Haiti just a few months after the devastating earthquake. Having returned to the country in February, over a year since that dark day of 12th January, the question I am being asked most is, “what has changed?”
I must admit, I generally answer with what I think people want to hear. It goes something like: “Well, the media likes to paint the worst picture possible. Progress is happening but is happening slowly. It’s a very complicated environment to work in.”
In all honesty, I have no qualifications to answer the question. I cannot answer for the 10 million or so people that live in the “lovely-ugly” paradox of Haiti. What I should tell of, is the smatterings of interactions I had with Haitian people. The stories that form a wild palette of extreme pain, overwhelming hope, heartbreaking dejection, unswerving commitment, unanswered questions, flickers of light in a dark place.
Having recently returned to Haiti a year after the capital, Port-au-Prince was devastated by an earthquake, ALEX DAY, of Samaritan's Purse in the UK, reflects on "what has changed"...|
ESSAY: SHOPPING ON EASTER SUNDAY? ERIC LIDDELL WOULD ROLL OVER IN HIS GRAVE
In the brilliant 1981 movie Chariots of Fire, the handsome and devout 'Flying Scotsman' Eric Liddell (played by Ian Charleson) takes a stand for his faith by refusing to run the 100 metres for his country in the 1924 Paris Olympics simply because the race is set to run on a Sunday. Despite intense pressure, even from royalty, he stands his ground and misses his best chance for a gold medal and glory.
The movie, of course, has a happy ending (don't they all?) for it seems as though God gives him wings and he gets the gold and the accompanying glory in the 400 metres anyhow. Then of course, if you follow the real life story, he goes on to serve as a missionary in China and died there in 1945 in an internment camp just before the end of the Second World War.
What then would the devout missionary make of the decision made in the Victorian Parliament to allow open slather trading on Easter Sunday? Not just any Sunday but on what might be considered the most important Sunday in the Christian calendar.
Victoria's Parliament has just eased trading restrictions on Easter Sunday. ROB WARD, Victorian director of the Australian Christian Lobby, explains why that's not a good idea... |
CRISIS IN JAPAN
UPDATED 17th March, 2011
NUCLEAR CRISIS ESCALATES AS DEATH TOLL PASSES 4,300
Concerns continue to grow over the state of nuclear generators on Japan's north-east coast as the official death toll from last Friday's earthquake and tsunami passes 4,300.
International experts were reported as questioning Japan's handling of the nuclear crisis which has seen at least a partial meltdown in one reactor and rising fears that a Chernobyl-style incident could yet occur.
Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Authority announced on Wednesday that he would travel to Japan as soon as possible,
"to see the situation for myself and learn from our Japanese counterparts how best the IAEA can help".
HOLY SPIRIT TSUNAMI NEEDED, SAYS MISSIONARY SOCIETY CHIEF
In the face of heartbreaking images of damage and destruction in northern Japan, one ministry leader sees an unprecedented opening to reach the Japanese people with the love, grace, and truth of Jesus Christ.
“God is using this tragedy to put Japan back on the map for Western Christians,” says Rick Chuman, executive director of the Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society (JEMS). “Some have thought we’ve put 150 years of effort into reaching Japan and it’s time to move on,” he notes. “So it’s exciting to see it’s back on the radar for Western Christians who now want to pray for Japan.”
Chuman hopes for a very different kind of tsunami to hit Japan. “Now there’s another kind of tsunami – and hopefully it’s the Holy Spirit descending on that country and doing something with the returnees and the in-country missionaries.”
While many Asian countries have large, vibrant Christian populations, in Japan only about 1.5 per cent identify themselves as Christian. Some consider the Japanese to be the largest unreached people group in the world.
MARK ELLIS, of Godreports.com, speaks to Rick Chuman of the Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society... |
The earthquake and subsequent tsunami has devastated numerous communities on Honshu's north-east coast. PICTURE: Courtesy of World Vision Australia.
JAPAN IN CRISIS: AID AGENCIES MOBILISING RELIEF TO STRICKEN COMMUNITIES
Updated 17th March, 2011
Aid agencies are mobilising for the relief effort in Japan in the wake of last Friday's devastating earthquake and tsunami.
World Vision announced on Monday that an assessment team had arrived in Sendai, one of the coastal communities which bore the full brunt of the 10 metre high tsunami. The death toll in Sendai alone is expected to exceed 10,000 - at least 1,800 have so far been confirmed dead.
"We are here on the outskirts of Sendai, about 10-15kilometres from the downtown area, an area called Arahama," said Kenjiro Ban, Wordl Vision Japan's humanitarian emergency affairs manager and a veteran aid worker who had been part of the organisation's response to the Haiti earthquake.
"This is the most severely hit area by the tsunami. Rice paddies are covered by sea water, and big trees have been flushed away. There is total devastation. There is no one here, it is silent."
BASEBALLER LOOKS TO STRENGTH IN GOD
American professional baseball player Matt Murton, who plays for Japan's Hanshin Tigers, was in Japan when the earthquake hit... |
THE ISSUE: NUCLEAR POWER
16th March, 2011
There are growing concerns over three damaged nuclear reactors in Japan with tens of thousands of people evacuated amid fears of a meltdown which would spew large amounts of radiation into the air. The situation has reopened the debate over nuclear power with those opposed to its use claiming the situation aptly illustrates the dangers involved. What's your view?... |
HOW YOU CAN HELP?
Red Cross Australia 'Japan and Pacific Disaster Appeal 2011'
FOR ALL OUR COVERAGE OF THE EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI IN JAPAN, click here...
EAST TIMOR: MORE YET TO BE DONE TO EDUCATE PEOPLE ON THE DANGERS OF LEPROSY
The World Health Organisation is moving closer to eliminating leprosy as a public health problem in East Timor but the disease is far from being eradicated in the country, according to one Australian leprosy health worker.
Natalie Smith, interim country leader of The Leprosy Mission in Dili, said there was still a strong need to educate government health workers and the community at large in leprosy awareness to ensure diagnosis and treatment were sought early to stop the disease in its tracks.
Community education to correct the myths and stigma towards the disease was also needed to prevent people from feeling shame, hiding their condition and failing to seek medical treatment such as multi-drug therapy, she said.
Ms Smith, an occupational therapist, made her comments to a group of supporters with The Leprosy Mission Australia, while on home-leave in Melbourne.
“Announcing that leprosy is eliminated as a public health problem in East Timor will not mean that leprosy is gone, it is still there, it just means that leprosy is below one case per 10,000,’’ she said.
ESSAY - INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY: RAHAB, THE WOMAN MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD
As a male, I am aware of the responsibility I have to present a woman of history in a way that does justice to their real struggle. Let's take a look at the story of Rahab, a woman we know about through the book of Joshua in the Old Testament.
To give some background, Joshua had been Moses’ right-hand man. So when Moses died, Joshua took over as leader of the Israelites. As they were about to go into the land that God had set aside for them, Joshua sent two spies to Jericho to check it out before the rest of them went in there. That night the spies were taken in by Rahab. She had heard about Israel’s God and was afraid of the mighty deeds of this God and so wanted to do something to help.
When soldiers of the city guard came to look for the spies, Rahab hid them on the roof of her house. After escaping, the spies promised to spare Rahab and her family after taking the city, even if there should be a massacre, if she would mark her house by hanging a red cord out the window. What is interesting in all of this is that Rahab was a prostitute, and some have claimed that the symbol of the red cord is the origin of the "red light district".
In a piece written to mark International Women's Day on 8th March, NILS VON KALM takes a look at the Biblical story of Rahab... |
CATHEDRAL STILL IN GOOD HEART
ChristChurch Cathedral is in ruins but it still worships with gusto. Which proves that the church is much more than an edifice of stones and mortar; it’s a community of faith that seems to grow stronger in the face of adversity.
The weather was certainly adverse when the cathedral congregation gathered for eucharist this morning in the grounds of Fendalton Primary School.
Up to 170 people – mostly cathedral regulars – huddled in a covered way between classrooms as an icy southerly rattled the plastic roofing and rustled service sheets.
The altar linen was splendid, as always, and the chalices shone as high as a catholic mass – except that the candles waxed and waned with every gust. Never mind: there was light, and even laughter, as the community re-earthed itself in the Word of God and braced for challenges that lie ahead.
In an article first published on New Zealand's Anglican Taonga website, BRIAN THOMAS writes of how he found congregants of the ruined ChristChurch Cathedral still "worshipping with gusto" last Sunday... |
ESSAY: IN CHRISTCHURCH, THE AFTERSHOCKS CONTINUE
“If” can be a nasty word at the best of times. For Canterbury citizens, it seems attached to most conversations and thoughts since last September when a 7.1 earthquake appeared out of nowhere on an unknown fault line. Two weeks back, the shallow 6.5 shake (still being debated as to whether it was an aftershock or earthquake in its own right) that exploded from another unknown fault has blown any sense of stability away and “if” is now a constant fear living in many thoughts. What if there is another unknown fault waiting to rock us? What if the next aftershock brings down the house? What if I stay here with the children and they see more damage and deaths? What if no one will buy my house – can I afford to live somewhere I feel safe? What if the devastating aftershocks don’t stop?
Christchurch citizens are reeling from the overwhelming reality that the city is no longer the stable base on which they can base themselves. The huge damage to the city’s buildings, the vital infrastructure and the huge loss of life in the area means that Christians, along with the many others, are questioning their place in the region and wondering what the future holds for them.
Now living in Australia, former Christchurch resident TRACEY PARR, who still has family and friends living in the city, talks about why we need to keep New Zealand in our prayers... |
FOR MORE COVERAGE OF THE CHRISTCHURCH EARTHQUAKE, click here...
PAKISTAN: CHRISTIANS MOURN ASSASSINATED MINISTER BHATTI; MUSLIM MILITANTS SUSPECTED
Pakistani Christians and leading rights groups mourned Pakistan's Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, who was shot and killed on Wednesday by suspected Muslim militants after publicly criticising controversial blasphemy legislation.
Bhatti, the only Christian in the cabinet, was assassinated outside his parents home in Islamabad, police said. He was 42.
The politician had just pulled out of the driveway when three men standing nearby opened fire, witnesses said. Two of the men reportedly opened the door and tried to pull Bhatti out, while a third man fired his Kalashnikov rifle repeatedly into the dark-colored Toyota.
Three gunmen then sped away in a white Suzuki Mehran car, according to police and witnesses. In leaflets left at the scene, al-Qaida and the Pakistani Taliban Movement in Punjab province claimed responsibility for the assassination. They blamed the government for putting Bhatti, an "infidel Christian," in charge of an unspecified committee, apparently in reference to his support for changing the blasphemy laws.
STEFAN J. BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports... |
ESSAY: WE'RE ALL BOAT PEOPLE - A BIBLICAL VIEW OF REFUGEES
At a time of incendiary debate about our nation’s treatment of asylum seekers it is vital that we remember to connect their stories, the stories behind the statistics, with the stories of our nation’s origins, and the stories of Scripture, of a refugee people, and a refugee King. Both Biblically (all creation, Israel and Jesus) and historically in Australia - ‘we’re all boat people’. Because of this common origin and identity we ought to identify with boat people in their insecurity and not treat them merely as the threatening ‘other’. We should therefore develop far more welcoming and hospitable policies towards asylum seekers.
It is first and fundamentally in the light of Noah’s Ark that we are all boat people, or at least descendents of them. We are refugees from a raging tide of violence in the world. This began with Adam’s vertical violence, or fist in the face of God. Sin snowballed so that the earth was ‘filled’, not with a God-centred culture, according to the creation mandate (Genesis 1: 26-28), but with violence (6: 11, 13) - domination, not mutual dominion, killing, not keeping the earth (Genesis 2).
With the issue of the Australian Government's policy towards asylum seekers still making headlines, Rev Dr GORDON PREECE, the director of Ethos: EA Centre for Christianity and Society, provides a Christian perspective on the issue... |
CRISIS IN EGYPT
WORLD CHURCHES HEAD PRAISES "MIRACLE" OF CHANGE THROUGH NON-VIOLENT MEANS
The head of the World Council of Churches has said recent events in Egypt were an example of how change can be achieved without violence, saying it was a “miracle and an encouraging sign” when justice and freedom are established through peaceful means.
Referring to events in Egypt, the WCC’s General Secretary, Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, said earlier this week that “the last weeks have seen the people of Egypt moving together towards justice and democracy.”
“It is a miracle and an encouraging sign for all of us that justice and freedom can be established through peaceful and non-violent actions.”
Presenting his first report to the WCC’s central committee in Geneva, Rev Dr Tveit also praised the head of the Coptic Christian church in Egypt, Pope Shenouda III, for his response to the killing of 23 Christians and wounding of dozens more at a church in Alexandria on New Year’s Eve.
COPTIC CHRISTIANS PRAY AMID FEARS OVER AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE
Coptic Christians in Australia have been anxiously watching recent events unfolding in Egypt amid concerns over the future of communities there.
Speaking as protestors urged a million people to take to the streets of Cairo in a demonstration against the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak , Bishop Anba Suriel, who oversees a Coptic Christian diocese of 30,000 people covering the lower states of Australia as well as New Zealand and the South Pacific, says there are fears that if the Mubarak regime falls, extremist groups could take hold of the country.
“I think that would be detrimental not just for the Christians but I think for all of Egypt and for all the region and I think there would be consequences for the whole world…”
He says this could mean instability inside Egypt but also that Christians living in the country will “never see their human rights”. “So I really pray and hope that that will never take place.”
DAVID ADAMS speaks to Australian Coptic Bishop Anba Suriel... |
EASTERFEST: RECORD CROWDS EXPECTED TO SUPPORT TOOWOOMBA'S RECOVERY AFTER DEVASTATING JANUARY FLOODS
When the Queensland town of Toowoomba hosts the annual Easterfest event in April, the community will still be battling with the aftermath of the floods which swept through the town in January.
“It’s going to have a whole lot of special meaning this year because it’s not just coming to a festival to be entertained but coming to a festival where, just by even having a coffee in the city, you will help, literally, the city recover from the floods,” says the festival’s chief executive Isaac Moody.
Mr Moody says that as a result, the bookings are the highest they’ve ever been for Easterfest. He says this is undoubtedly partly due to the fact the festival boasts the biggest artist line-up to date – where they’d normally have eight or so lead acts, this year, they’ve confirmed, at the time Sight spoke to Mr Moody, at least 17 including Switchfoot, Petra, Newworldson and Darlene Zschech.
“But on top of all of that, I think there’s this whole sense of community that’s coming out the flood," Mr Moody adds. "And while we wouldn’t have wished this on anybody, I think one of the upsides of it is that people are wanting to come to the city and support it and that means coming to Easterfest in bigger numbers than the ever have before.”
DAVID ADAMS speaks with Easterfest CEO Isaac Moody about the floods and the upcoming festival... |
THE BIG PICTURE: HAITI, ONE YEAR ON
Having been in Haiti after the earthquake last February, I've now returned to help with the cholera relief project. It's a powerful illness. People get ill and can die within a few hours. The blessing is that it's very easy to treat. Intravenous fluid can turn people round in a few minutes. It's been wonderful to see that happen.
PHILIPPA YOUD is a doctor from London who was recently in Haiti where she worked with an humanitarian organisation. Here, in a piece written before her return to the UK, she writes about her experience in battling the cholera epidemic currently sweeping through the island nation... |
INTERNET: AUSTRALIAN ANGLICANS ENGAGE ATHEISTS ONLINE
Outspoken atheists have captured attention worldwide; now, Australian Anglicans have launched a website encouraging Christians to enter the debate.
The Anglican Diocese of Melbourne's new website offers a set of resources answering the hard questions about why people can believe in God.
Prominent atheist thinkers such as Richard Dawkins have attacked Christianity through their books and media appearances. They claim that is not rational to believe in God, and question the moral foundations of Christianity. "What makes my jaw drop is that people today should base their lives on such an appalling role model as Yahweh," Dawkins wrote in his 2006 book The God Delusion.
The new website was created by a committee of Anglican theologians and thinkers, including Professor John Pilbrow, its deputy chair and a prominent physicist. "We want to equip people in the pews with the courage to sit down and talk to people who don't have the same beliefs," he told ENInews.
REMEMBRANCE: MANY GENOCIDES TO BE COMMEMORATED ON HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY
After the Nazi slaughter of six million Jews during World War II, the world cried out "never again." But one of Britain’s best-known young rabbis, Jonathan Romain, of Maidenhead Synagogue in Berkshire, said that although it was a wonderful phrase, "never again" has proved tragically wrong.
"Genocide has happened again and again and again," he said in an interview with ENInews ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, 27th January. The United Nations declared it an international event in November 2005.
"We only have to think about Biafra, Bosnia, Darfur and there are other examples," said Romain, who is often a spokesman for Reform Judaism in the United Kingdom. "The list is deeply depressing and screams out that Holocaust Memorial Day is needed as much now as ever before."
SPACE: HOW AN ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS ON THE MOON LEFT AN ASTRONAUT CHANGED
In the rounded gray Apennine mountains of the moon, Apollo 15 astronaut James Irwin had an encounter with God he would never forget.
Irwin was the eighth man to walk on the moon and the first to ride in the Lunar Rover. Apollo 15 was a ‘J-Mission,’ which meant he and fellow astronaut David Scott spent an extended period on the lunar surface - almost three days, where they collected 170 pounds of geologic material including the famous “Genesis Rock.”
Scientists believe the rock dates back to the time the original lunar crust was formed, which they estimate at 4.5 billion years. “It was remarkable,” Irwin commented later. “It was sitting on a pedestal rock almost free from dust. It seemed to be saying, ‘Here I am, take me.’”
Irwin and Scott worked for an extended period with little rest prior to their liftoff. “Apparently, when Jim was suiting up his water tube kinked so he wasn’t able to get any water,” recalls Mary Irwin, his wife.
MARK ELLIS, of Godreports.com, recounts the amazing story of James Irwin... |
FILM: FAITH GETS STAR TREATMENT AT SUNDANCE
Celebrity sightings and up-and-coming indie flicks are a given at the annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, but this year something else is drawing attraction on the red carpet: faith on film.
A small but noticeable number of films at Sundance – where crossover movies like Reservoir Dogs and Little Miss Sunshine broke into the mainstream -- tackle issues of religion, spirituality and faith, Religion News Service reports. Out of 120 Sundance features scheduled to show at the 20th to 30th January festival, 12 are overt stories about religion, or chronicle protagonists largely defined by faith, says John Nein, senior programmer for the festival.
"There are definitely more films (exploring spirituality) that ended up in the program this year than in years past," he said, noting an uptick in the number of submissions that touch on religious themes.
Christianity is a central theme in most of the films, from the star-studded satire Salvation Boulevard, featuring Pierce Brosnan as a popular preacher who frames a born-again Christian follower for a crime, to the riveting documentary The Redemption of General Butt Naked, about a Liberian warlord-turned-preacher facing the loved ones of people he killed.
PIET LEVY, of Ecumenical News International, reports from Utah... |
AUSTRALIA'S FLOOD DISASTER
QUICK UPDATE, 23rd January, 2011: The death toll from Australia's floods crisis has reached 20 amid warnings the impact from the disaster on the Australian economy will be "enormous".
ESSAY: HOW YOU CAN HELP RIGHT NOW
Queensland is currently experiencing difficult and life transforming times. It is with extreme sadness and grief to hear that lives have been lost and as the stories unfold it is our heartfelt yearning and responsibility to reach out and help the people of Queensland as much as we can.
New Hope Brisbane has transformed our building into a flood appeal drop-off centre. We have had scores of churched and unchurched volunteers doing shifts while the crisis unfolds. As the waters recede there will be other
ways we all can be used to assist individuals and families to get their lives back to normal.
How can you help right now?
Brisbane pastor MATT PRATER reflects on Queensland's flood crisis...|
CHRISTIAN LEADERS DECLARE SUNDAY A NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER
A group of Christian leaders from across the nation have joined in declaring Sunday a National Day of Prayer for Flood Victims following devastating floods in Queensland and other states.
The move comes as the death toll from the floods stands at 16 with more than 50 people still missing. Among those who have died are 13-year-old Jordan Rice who was swept away with his mother after telling rescuers to take his 10-year-old brother Blake first.
More than 25,000 homes in Brisbane alone have been affected - at least 11,000 of them been completely submerged. Three quarters of the state has been declared a disaster zone.
In a statement issued this week, the leaders said it was important that Christians pray and give generously to appeals. Among those named on the statement are Warwick Marsh, of the Australian Christian Values Institute, Brian PIckering, coordinator of the Australian Prayer Network, Don Reddin, a Baptist pastor from Adelaide and host of the Reality Zone radio programme, Matt Prater, pastor of the New Hope Church in Brisbane and host of the History Maker radio show, and David McDonald, pastor of the Edge Church in Toowoomba.
SALVATION ARMY DRAFTS IN VOLUNTEER 'TROOPS' TO AID IN RELIEF EFFORTS
“There is so much water…” says Salvation Army Captain Meaghan Gallagher, speaking from Rockhampton which, like so many towns in central and northern Queensland, is facing its worst floods in decades.
“Roads that you wouldn’t expect are rivers. I’ve only been here two years but people tell me they’ve never seen anything like it before.”
With thousands of people evacuated from their homes, Salvation Army volunteers have been helping to man evacuation centres to provide food in three of the most affected communities - Emerald, Bundaberg, and, most recently, Rockhampton.
“The response we have in those emergency circumstances is to feed (people) at the emergency evacuation centres,” explains Captain Gallagher.
The Salvation Army had about 25 volunteers working at the four Emerald evacuation centres and another 25 working in Bundaberg. In Rockhampton, there’s around 70 volunteers involved in making and serving meals.
MISSION TO ECUADOR: VETERAN MISSIONARIES FRANK AND MARIE DROWN RELEASE BOOK ABOUT FINDING THE BODIES OF FIVE AMERICANS IN 1956
For veteran American missionary, Frank Drown, 88, that fateful January day in 1956, when he discovered the bodies, in the dense Ecuadorian jungle, of Jim Eliot, Pete Fleming, Nate Saint and Roger Youderian, was something he will never forget.
Trying to hold back the tears, Frank Drown who, along with his wife Marie, had worked for 37 years with the Jivaro Indians of eastern Ecuador, who were known for their head shrinking, spoke first about the occasion when he found the body of his friend, Nate Saint, the MAF pilot.
During an interview during the "Meet the Missionaries Day" at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, California earlier this month, Drown said, "Nate had a spear at the top of his head, and a big cut on his face. We didn't find Ed McCully (the other murdered missionary), but the Indians found him weeks later, and they said they buried him. However, I don't know whether they did or not.
DAN WOODING, of Assist News Service, speaks to Frank and Marie Drown about their new book, Unmarked Memories: Five friends buried in the jungle of Ecuador... |
BRAZIL FLOODS: DEATH TOLL PASSES 800
QUICK UPDATE, 23rd January, 2011: The death toll in Brazil has now passed 800 and there are fears the final number of those killed could pass 1,000.
Almost 600 people have been confirmed dead and more than 13,000 left homeless following floods Brazil following the country’s worst natural disaster in 40 years.
Catholic relief agency Caritas report that mudslides have wiped out entire neighbourhoods and say that limited access to the affected region, which includes the towns of Teresopolis, Novo Friburgo and Petropolis and lies about 100 kilometres to the north of Rio de Janeiro, is hampering relief efforts.
Maria Cristina dos Anjos, Secretary General of Caritas Brazil, said in a statement this week that many phone lines had been cut and roads were unable to be used.
“The Bishop of Petropolis told me there is total chaos where he is,” she says. “People urgently need drinking water, food and hygiene articles. Many have lost their homes.”
HAITI EARTHQUAKE, ONE YEAR ON: HAITIANS MARK A "VERY, VERY DIFFICULT YEAR"
From the streets of Port-au-Prince to the hills of northern Haiti, Haitians were commemorating the anniversary of the 12th January, 2010, earthquake that killed some 250,000 persons, devastated major cities and fueled Haiti's uncertain political future.
Formal and informal commemorations were planned throughout the country, capping what Louis Dorvilier, the Haiti representative of the Geneva-based Lutheran World Federation, called "a very, very difficult year."
Like other Haitians, Dorvilier has been frustrated by the slow pace of overall reconstruction work and by often overlapping and uncoordinated humanitarian efforts. And as a member of the Haitian diaspora, Dorvilier returned to Haiti only three months ago, having served as a representative in West Africa of the Chicago-based Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Dorvilier said he was stunned when he realised the full extent of the quake's effect on Haiti.
"I thought the entire country was lost," he said in an interview on 11th January, recalling the events of a year ago. But Dorvilier said he remains hopeful that if Haitians are given the opportunity to drive and lead rebuilding and reconstruction efforts, a new country can emerge. He said the efforts of non-governmental organisations -- humanitarian groups -- can only "fill in gaps".
CHRIS HERLINGER, of Ecumenical News International, reports from Port-au-Prince... |
ESSAY: THE UPSIDE OF ANGER - CHANGING THE WORLD, ONE GRIPE AT A TIME
Last year I was in India visiting a number of community development projects facilitated by World Vision to alleviate poverty and injustice. The people working in these projects, both the World Vision staff and the community members were inspiring – something I am constantly reminded of as I visit projects around the world. However, God used this particular opportunity to reinforce a lesson I’d already learnt, but time had somehow robbed it of its potency. The lesson was the power and integrity of “righteous anger”.
Journeying through the tight lanes of vast slums, I was struck afresh by the determination and productivity people who work much, much harder than I do from day-to-day. Yet despite their determination, they rarely received the fruits of their labour in full. People work tirelessly for a wage they know will not be enough to provide for their families; but what choice do they have?
What’s more, some people in poorer communities become victims of human trafficking, and children take on hard and dangerous jobs when, by all standards of childhood, they should be learning in schools or playing with other neighbourhood children. Many somehow balance their work with reduced hours at school, but most accept the reality that school is just not possible when every effort is needed to contribute to a household income.
With the second annual Abolitionist Sunday to be held across Australia later this year, World Vision's STEVE COOKE says "righteous anger" is growing about the millions of people still being bought and sold as commodities... |
SUDAN: CHURCHES CALL FOR PEACEFUL VOTE
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has urged all Anglicans and Christians from other denominations to stand with the Sudanese people as that country prepares for its historic referendum that started yesterday and ends on Saturday, 15th January.
In a statement issued on 7th January from Lambeth Palace in London, Dr Williams, who is the spiritual head of the 87 million-member worldwide Anglican Communion, described the referendum that will determine the fate of mainly Christian and oil- rich Southern Sudan as "an immensely important day." He urged Christians to stand with the Sudanese people "to ensure that the referendum takes place peacefully and that the process and the results are fully respected."
The referendum was the final provision in Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which was brokered by Britain, the US and Norway in 2005 and which brought to an end the decades-long civil conflict that has claimed more than two million lives.
TREVOR GRUNDY reports for Ecumenical News International...|
ESSAY: TREKKING IN THE "ROOF OF THE WORLD" TO RAISE FUNDS FOR THE LEPROSY MISSION
Today at about 7.20am, under mostly clear skies, we reached the summit of Island Peak at 6,180 metres above sea level after six hours of climbing.
The path to Island Peak base camp was steep and made up of loose rock and shale. The temperature slowly dropped as we pushed higher.
With every step the air got increasingly thinner, but our well staged days of acclimatisation seemed to be working, with everyone in the group moving up the rocky terrain wall.
Melburnian DAVID DUNCAN was one of 10 people from around Australia who trekked to Mount Everest Base Camp and nearby Island Peak in Nepal to raise funds for The Leprosy Mission. Here David shares his thoughts on a journey which stirred heart-felt emotions about his own spiritual and family life...|
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Wishing all our readers a happy and safe New Year and blessed 2011!...
2010 - SIGHT'S YEAR IN REVIEW
2010 is drawing to a close so here's your chance to have a look at some of the stories we told and issues we covered during the past year...|
YOUR SAY: What do you think were the most important stories of 2010? And who were the most influential people? What did - or didn't - you like about Sight this year and what would you like to see more coverage of in 2011? Have Your Say here... |
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord."
- Luke 2: 10b-11
WISHING ALL OUR READERS A BLESSED CHRISTMAS!
CHRISTIAN LEADERS' CHRISTMAS MESSAGES
The nativity of Jesus Christ is proclaimed by angelic choirs in the heights of heaven, and the joyous news is echoed afterwards by modest shepherds in fields near Bethlehem. Meanwhile, a mother and father care for their newborn child. No place for this family could be found in the inn, so they shelter among livestock. The circumstances are strikingly humble, yet their infant is the occasion of the angels’ song:
"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude
of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
'Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom God favours!'”
- Luke 2: 13-14
The splendour of Christmas highlights many contrasts in our surroundings. First of all – it is all about what we are given – surprisingly – by God. This revelation of glory in heaven is given to people living off the land, dependent on simple blessings found in fields and farmyards, in caring for sheep and celebrating a new birth. It is they who first hear the promise of so much more than bare survival or the simplest pleasure. They dare to imagine the real possibility of peace on earth. The song of angels encourages them to give glory to God alone and to seek peace with others, far and near.
Read the rest of this message from Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary, World Council of Churches, and other messages from world and Australian Christian leaders here...|
ESSAY: THE OUTSIDERS' CHRISTMAS
Singer Jackson Browne - who does not profess a Christian faith - laments the mad consumerism that overtakes us even more at Christmas than it normally does. In his song, The Rebel Jesus, Browne says the following:
Well we guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why there are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus
Jackson Browne sympathises with the treatment Jesus gets for raising awkward questions – the questions no one wants to hear, the issues that no one wants to face. Julian Assange would also sympathise with both Browne and Jesus right now. But most of us would rather have it easy. It is the troublemakers who raise these questions, and the easiest way to deal with our insecurity of not knowing how to handle them is to shut them up. We do it with our children too when they constantly pester us with that eternal question, “why?”
NILS VON KALM takes a look at what Christmas is...and isn't...|
ESSAY: TIME TO CANCEL CHRISTMAS? A couple of weeks ago I was in a large department store buying supplies for the filming of the Cancelling Christmas special. The lady serving me, your average middle aged female shop assistant, asked out of interest what we were doing. When I explained it was for a TV show for Channel 7 she probed further about the details. Eventually I told her it was for a show called Cancelling Christmas. She looked horrified and responded with an assertive "No - you can’t cancel Christmas, it’s wonderful!” She is right and most Australians would agree with her but for many, Christmas is not always a pleasant experience.
I know several people who struggle with emotional balance and mental health and for them, the pressure and tension of Christmas is very difficult. Christmas is the most likely time of the year for people to experience depression. The suicide rate is higher during December than any other month. In fact many counseling services report an increase in referrals and appointments after the Christmas rush is over.
Many families find that the “must have” Christmas gatherings just end in tension and conflict. They spend the day with people they don't see very often and don’t get on with. Alcohol is often consumed to excess and the combination of family tension and alcohol can lead to disastrous results.
Australia's Christian Television Association special, Cancelling Christmas, will air on national TV on Christmas Day. Here, program host KARL FAASE takes a look at the arguments for and against cancelling Christmas...|
YOUR SAY: Oliver Cromwell did it in England in the mid-1600s and we can too. But should Christmas be cancelled? What do you think?...|
RURAL COMMUNITIES: REMEMBERING AUSTRALIA'S FARMERS THIS CHRISTMAS
Farmers are known for their love of the land. We think of them as grafters, those who know the meaning of the word ‘work’ and admire them for their tenacity and strength in the face of adversity.
Farmers all over the world are struggling today and farms that were doing well a few generations ago are "doing it tough" today.
According to Nick Rose, of the Food Connection Foundation, five Australian farmers leave their farms every day. “Depression and suicide rates,” he says, are “double that of the non-farming population” and we are facing what Mr Rose calls, “an unfolding silent rural crisis” in Australia.
In April this year, an event called La Via Campesina was held to "highlight the plight of small farmers worldwide". In support of this initiative, Rose said, “Food is not simply a commodity like any other. It is the very basis of our existence and of our culture. Valuing and respecting food means valuing and respecting our farmers, and ultimately ourselves". He also made mention of the "one billion hungry people on the planet" and of the need to "ensure farmers are able to stay on the land".
BEV HOLMES-BROWN reports on initiatives to help support farmers in the Australian outback...|
ENVIRONMENT: WRONG READING OF BIBLE STORY 'LEGITIMISES' EXPLOITATION
Asian Christian leaders have challenged what they describe as a distorted interpretation of the Bible's Genesis story about God telling Adam and Eve to "subdue" the earth and to "have dominion" over other living species and non-living resources on the planet.
"The misinterpretation, which has been blamed on Christians, has helped legitimise the wanton profit-oriented exploitation of the planet and its resources," said Hrangthan Chhungi of the Presbyterian Church of India.
She said that the more appropriate translation from Hebrew, the language in which Genesis is written, is "to over-see and take care, rather than to subdue and have dominion".
Chhungi, who is also the executive secretary of the Commission on Tribals and Adivasi, a programme of the National Council of Churches in India, is a theologian who was presenting a Biblical and theological perspective at a 28th November to 3rd December consultation on "communities rights to water and sanitation in Asia" held in Manila.
A HAND UP: LIFE-CHANGING OPERATION GIVES ABEL A NEW FUTURE
Abel is an exuberant 11-year-old from Togo, West Africa. He’s friendly and curious – and, like most boys his age, very active. Abel has an infectious smile that lights up a room. But for most of his young life, people did not notice his smile. The only thing they saw was his shocking disability. Abel’s legs bent backwards at the knees in an astonishing manner.
The problem started following an injection in his early childhood. Abel’s muscles stopped growing while his bones continued to develop. Without sufficient muscular support, his legs began to bend backward at the knee, forcing his upper thighs out behind him. His parents took him to three doctors, but none of them knew how to correct his disability.
To make the situation even worse, Abel’s physical deformity made him the target of ridicule from his classmates.
December 3rd is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. In an article marking the occasion, AMOS BENNETT, of Mercy Ships, tells of how surgery completely transformed 11-year-old Abel's life...|
ESSAY: "THEY HAVE NO WINE"
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) invites us all to read, digest and reflect on the 2010 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic and to join in the vision: “Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths.”
Despite all the well articulated progress, the report highlights that infections are outpacing treatment by two to one and 10 million people are still waiting for treatment. On the other hand, people living with HIV who have shared their experiences remind us always that living with the virus is a very difficulty journey but confronting stigma, discrimination and rejection is even harder and very painful reality.
Certainly, many people are out promoting universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support campaign but the number is still small given the huge magnitude and intensity of the social injustices that drive the pandemic. Put differently, in the words of Jesus in the Christian Gospels “the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few” (Matthew 9: 37 and Luke 10: 2).
Rev Dr NYAMBURA NJOROGE, programme executive for the Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiative in Africa of the World Council of Churches, responds to the 2010 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic...|
UNAIDS SAYS POPE'S CONDOM MOVE MAKES HIV COOPERATION EASIER
The head of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, says a statement by Pope Benedict XVI that the use of condoms is justified when intended to reduce "the risk of HIV infection" will make it easier for international organisations to cooperate with faith-based organizations in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Sidibé is the executive director of UNAIDS, the United Nations program on HIV and AIDS. He was answering a question about the Pope's statement during a 23rd November media conference in Geneva.
"The announcement will make cooperation easier with faith-based organisations, in the fight against HIV and AIDS," said the head of UNAIDS. "This is an important step forward." The Roman Catholic Church rejects condoms as a means of birth control and had for many years said they are not a means of preventing AIDS.
In 2009, Pope Benedict had said on a trip to Africa that distributing condoms will "increase the problem" of AIDS.
PETER KENNY and LUIGI SANDRI report for ENInews...|
YOUR SAY: What do you think of the Pope's recent comments regarding the use of condoms...|
PAKISTAN: MINISTER DENIES RELEASE OF CHRISTIAN BLASPHEMY ACCUSED
There is confusion about the fate of a Christian woman sentenced to death under Pakistan's draconian blasphemy law after a minister in the country's government denied reports that President Asif Ali Zardari has ordered her release.
"This is not true," Shahbaz Bhatti, the federal minister for minorities, told ENInews on 22nd November from his office in Islamabad regarding the release of Aasia Bibi, who was sentenced to death on 9th November for blasphemy.
The verdict had led to widespread international criticism ranging from human rights groups to the churches, with Pope Benedict XVI calling for her release.
The government minister had been contacted to confirm news reports that President Zardari had ordered the release of the 45-year old Christian mother of five who had been in custody since June 2009 on the blasphemy charges.
PAKISTAN: CHRISTIAN BECOMES FIRST WOMAN SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR BLASPHEMY...|
THE INTERVIEW: THE '2,000 WALKERS' - ANDREW CARNELL AND ANDREW SAV
What was the best moment on the walk? Carnsey - "I would have to say the finish. It was awesome walking with over 100 people who represented all those who had followed and supported us. I guess it was also a picture of those who had got behind the cause also.
"Throughout the walk it was really encouraging to see how many people got behind what we were doing. I also loved hearing stories of what people had done after hearing about the walk.
"We heard of a Sunday school class in Ireland that adopted a people groups, a prayer meeting that started in a ladies workplace and another church who presented our updates each week at church. These are people we didn’t have direct contact with but it just showed me that there was a ripple effect that was going out continuing to raise awareness for this need."
Sav - "I was never really sure that I could walk the 2000 kilometres, but when we reached the 1500 mark it suddenly struck me that I could do it. That was an awesome moment. But of course nothing compares to the thrill of walking up to the finish line...and feeling the tears come with the relief of it all being over."
Back in August, three Australian mates - Andrew Carnell, his cousin Dave Carnell, and their friend Andrew Sav - walked out of the Queensland town of Cairns on a mission to raise awareness of the 2,000 or so language groups around the world which don't currently have the Bible in their own tongue.
Having arrived at their final destination, the New South Wales-Queensland border town of Stanthorpe, last week after spending more than than 80 days walking 2,000 kilometres, two of the walkers - Andrew Carnell, known as 'Carnsey', and Andrew Sav, known as 'Sav', reflect on the walk's ups and downs and the lessons they drew from it. They spoke with DAVID ADAMS...|
DAVE, SAV AND CARNSEY'S 2000 WALK BLOG... |
LONG ROAD AHEAD: THREE QUEENSLANDERS PREPARE TO WALK 2000 KILOMETRES TO RAISE AWARENESS OF BIBLE TRANSLATION NEED... |
ESSAY: BURMA'S "CARPE DIEM MOMENT"
From time to time, Burma hits the world headlines. It did so in September 2007, when Buddhist monks courageously led peaceful protests against the country’s brutal military regime, and faced a bloody crackdown. The following year, when Cyclone Nargis struck and the regime initially rejected international aid and access for aid workers, horrific stories of the dead, dying and displaced were again on our television screens. Then last year, after an American Mormon, John Yettaw, swam across the lake to the home of detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the international spotlight was briefly on Burma. Ironically, it was Aung San Suu Kyi who was put on trial, and sentenced to a further three years for having a visitor without permission – even though he arrived uninvited. Burma’s dictator, Senior General Than Shwe, reduced the sentence to 18 months, in an act deliberately designed to make him look compassionate while keeping her out of the way until after the regime’s sham elections.
Once again, Burma is in the news. The scenes last weekend of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi emerging from her latest stretch of seven years’ house arrest, and greeting crowds of thousands waiting at the gate of her home, were as visually inspiring as Nelson Mandela’s walk out of prison twenty years ago. Scenes of her addressing crowds the next day from the offices of her banned party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), and giving interviews to the BBC and ABC, had been unimaginable even a few weeks ago. She has, after all, spent a total of 15 of the past 20 years in detention.
BENEDICT ROGERS, a human rights activist working with Christian Solidarity Worldwide, on why the international community must keep up pressure on Burma's military junta in the wake of Aung San Suu Kyi's release...|
ESSAY: TREASURING OUR PASTORS
It takes great trust in God to be a pastor.
Pastors often give up much that others enjoy. Taking years of study to prepare. Taking many responsibilities as a leader, yet caring for many as a servant. Available at all hours to people inside and outside the church to listen and care with grace and patience.
Bringing hope and comfort to situations of sadness and tragedy and rejoicing with those who rejoice. Often seeking to bring change for the sake of people who oppose it. Seeking God in prayer with and for people in all conditions of life. Being gentle with the weak, supportive for the broken, patient despite frustration, forgiving to those who are uncaring, gracious to those who are hurtful and yet loving and blessing all people.
Working with others to build community, providing leadership that is humble yet strong, wise and Godly, and being quick to listen, willing to learn, and equipping people for their ministry and releasing them to become leaders.
This week- 15th to 21st November - has been declared Pastor Appreciation Week. Former Anglican church pastor and founder of Transforming Melbourne, Rev ROB ISAACHSEN talks about why we should treasure our pastors...|
MIDDLE EAST: PALESTINIAN WHO ONCE HATED JEWS NOW PLANTING SEEDS OF HOPE IN THE WEST BANK
He was a Palestinian fighter trained to kill Jews. His hatred was so strong he dreamed of poisoning Jews who frequented the restaurant where he worked.
“I hated the Jewish people,” says Taysir Abu Saada (“Tass”), founder of Seeds of Hope, a humanitarian organisation operating in the Middle East. His objective is to bring long-term change to families through education, economic development, cultural exchange, and humanitarian aid.
He was born in the Gaza Strip and grew up in Saudi Arabia under Muslim teachings. Trained as a sniper by the Fatah movement to kill Jews, he even instructed children about their duty to fight and kill Israelis.
Tass left the cauldron of the Middle East in search of a better life in America. After he arrived in the US, he worked in the hotel and restaurant industries in Kansas City, Missouri, where he dreamed of poisoning Jewish clientele. “These Jewish customers loved me, but I couldn’t find any liking for them at all,” Tass says.
MARK ELLIS, founder of Godreports.com - where this article first appeared, reports...|
IRAQ: CHRISTIANS ASK FOR PRAYER AFTER EXPLOSIONS KILL AT LEAST 50 IN WAKE OF CHURCH MASSACRE
Iraqi Christians called on people to pray after a series of explosions killed at least 50 people across Baghdad, shortly after nearly 60 people this weekend in a gun battle at a Syrian Orthodox Church.
Investigators said at least 10 explosions rocked Baghdad neighborhoods late Tuesday, 2nd November. The combination of roadside bombs and car bombs also wounded at least 70 people, news reports said, mainly in predominately Shi'ite areas. Some of the bombs exploded near areas that include crowded markets and restaurants, witnesses said.
The attacks took place on the same day that hundreds of mourners gathered to pay last respects to the victims of Sunday's attack in a Catholic church in Baghdad.
C said at least 57 people were killed and nearly 70 wounded after militants attacked the Our Lady of Salvation Church and took more than 100 people hostage Sunday. An al-Qaida-linked group, the Islamic State of Iraq, claimed responsibility.
STEFAN J. BOS reports for BosNewsLife...|
ESSAY: WHO WILL ANSWER "THE CALL" TO PRAY FOR AUSTRALIA?
I have been praying about Australia having another “Call” prayer gathering. Six thousand people gathered in 2004 at Homebush Stadium to pray for Australia and I think it’s time to gather again. So I went to the US to check-out “The Call” Sacramento with three mates from our church, New Hope Brisbane. Dan, Tony and Chris and I had a life-changing trip! With lots of laughs, journalling together, and enjoying the American culture.
The US is 400 years old, has 300 million people - 40 per cent of whom attend church regularly, and it is the country that influences the most and is the most powerful country in the world. I learnt that John Winthrop, one of the pilgrim settlers of the US proclaimed that America would be “a city on a hill, and a light in the darkness.” Right now, despite a Christian foundation, their moral standards are lowered. Can a nation be turned back to God through prayer?
In the year 2000, one million men from Promise Keepers ministries prayed for America in the mall in Washington DC. A year later 400,000 young people gathered to pray for the first “Call”. They prayed for a nation to turn back to God, to end abortion, for Godly marriage, and for revival. At the time 38 per cent of the US were pro-life.
One of the instigators of the National Day of Prayer and Fasting for Life, Ps MATT PRATER, explains some of the background to the day...|
LAUSANNE CONGRESS: CALLS FOR A "SECOND REFORMATION" LEADING TO A CHURCH THAT RESEMBLES CHRIST
As the Third Lausanne Congress neared its conclusion on Sunday, 24th October, 2010, the international gathering of over 4,000 delegates from 197 countries turned from discussing the role of the church in the world to a hard glance at internal issues crippling the evangelical church worldwide.
During the morning Bible study on Ephesians 4: 17-6:9, Rev Calisto Odede, senior pastor of Nairobi Pentecostal Church, warned the assembly that Christians must not resemble the world around them but rather reflect the Lord they serve. He emphasised that “transparency is not an option” for Christians but an imperative for a true walk with Jesus. “Cover-ups lead to flare-ups (but) exposure leads to healing,” he added.
Participants were then encouraged to share their own burdens around table discussions.
In the first plenary session, Chris Wright, the international director of Langham Partnership International and the retiring chair of the Lausanne Theology Working Group, proclaimed boldly: “Evangelicals worldwide have a lot to be ashamed of...we need a second reformation.” His proclamation was immediately welcomed with applause throughout the convention centre.
In a story first published by Assist News Service, Rev CHRISTIAN ZEBLEY reports from Cape Town on the Third Lausanne Congress...|
ESSAY: MARY MACKILLOP AND THE AUSTRALIAN SOUL
The extraordinary media outpouring over the canonisation of Mary MacKillop this week shows that there is still a deep yearning for something spiritual in the Australian psyche.
Despite our insanely hedonistic and materialistic outlook on life in this culture, there is still something deep in the hearts of Australians that is searching for something more. Whatever we might think of the theology of having someone made a 'saint', the fact that it has created such an outpouring of interest is evidence that Australians are not satisfied with what we can simply see and touch. We have a longing for something more than what this life offers. There is a yearning deep in the heart of everyone - a 'God-shaped hole' as it has been called in the past.
The irony of all of this though is shown in the fact that the marketers have been cashing in big-time on the whole show. You could buy anything from Mary MacKillop T-shirts to jewellery to key rings in the last couple of weeks. The Sunday Age even had a poster of her. As Midnight Oil sang many years a go, who can stand in the way when there's a dollar to be made?
NILS VON KALM reflects on the recent canonisation of Mary MacKillop and what the reaction tells us about Australia today...|
ISRAEL: ANCIENT CITY OF JERICHO MARKS 10,000 YEARS
The ancient city of Jericho is literally older than history itself. Recorded history started in the 4th millennium BC with the advent of written language. By that time, Jericho had already existed as an ancient walled city for 4,000 years.
During its long 10,000 years, Jericho has seen much. If the city's ancient stones could talk, they would fill several libraries with their stories. Empires have come and gone, but still the ancient city of Jericho thrives as an oasis in a dry and arid region.
In a story first published by the Jerusalem Post, Travelujah's RYAN JONES takes a look at how the city of Jericho is marking 10,000 years of history...|
UGANDA: INTERNATIONAL PRAYER CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED TO END CHILD SACRIFICE
In October last year, seven-year-old Allan Ssembatya was walking home from school with friends when he was kidnapped.
A frantic search followed before he was found, whimpering, under a bush, laying in a pool of his own blood. He had suffered injuries that can only be described as horrific – an axe had torn open his skull and a section removed. He had been stabbed in the neck and had been castrated.
Allan, who lives in the Kayunga District of Uganda - just to the north of the capital of Kampala, is one of the many children taken each year by people looking for children to sacrifice to their gods. Thankfully Allan survived his wounds – although a stroke caused as a result of the horrific attack has left him with epilepsy and weakness and numbness in one arm – but many don’t.
One organisation attempting to tackle the rising problem is Uganda-based Kyampisi Childcare Ministries (KCM) which aims to help vulnerable children. Its data, based on police information, shows that the numbers of children believed to have been killed or disappeared as a result of child sacrifice are growing.
DAVID ADAMS speaks to Pastor Peter M. Sewakiryanga about a campaign to end the tragedy of child sacrifice in Uganda...|
ESSAY: THE DRAMA AT ATACAMA - WHAT KEPT CHILEAN MINERS GOING
"The story of (the Holocaust) survivors," wrote sociologist William Helmreich, "is not a story of remarkable people. It is a story of just how remarkable people can be."
The same might be said, albeit in a very different context, of the 33 hardy Chilean miners who emerged from Hades this week. It may not quite match the sheer hold-your-breath daring of, say, the Apollo 11 lunar landing, but the rescue of these Chileans – and one Bolivian – will live long in our collective memory as one of humanity’s most daring feats.
Their rescue, of course, would not have been possible without their own extraordinary demonstrations of resilience and courage. Above all else this is a story about the resilience of the human spirit.
In an age where we’re prone to react with a passive ‘ho-hum’ to things that would have seemed awe-inspiring a generation ago – our technology, for example – this story reminds us that our greatest resource is to be found within us and in those around us.
This week's dramatic rescue of 33 Chilean miners, trapped for 69 days in the San Jose mine, has captivated the attention of people around the world. MAL FLETCHER reflects on what we can draw from their survival...|
THE BIG PICTURE: SURFERS SERVE IT UP AT CRONULLA IN JESUS PRO-AM
12th October, 2010
The Jesus Pro-Am, Christian Surfers Australia's annual surfing competition, was held off Cronulla in Sydney last weekend (9th to 10th October).
Nick Squires (above), of Corrimal, took out the Open Men's while 15-year-old Ellie-Jean Coffey, of Crescent Head, won the Open Women's and Cadet Girl's category and Chris Robertson, of Cronulla, snared the Cadet Boy's. Dru Adler won the expression session with a "single front side air-reverse".
Presenting the awards, Dave Lovell, Christian Surfers' regional coordinator, reminded the crowd what life was all about. “Surfers are often so busy chasing the next wave or experience; they may miss the free gift of eternal life offered by Jesus."
The annual event has been held for the past 26 years.
FILM: SECRETARIAT'S DIRECTOR PONDERS THE BIG QUESTIONS
With the heft of Walt Disney Studios behind his latest film, Secretariat has the potential to be the kind of blockbuster that propelled director Randall Wallace's first movie to five Academy Awards.
However, while even casual movie fans recognise Braveheart as capturing the Oscar for "Best Movie" in 1995, many don't realise Wallace failed to take home the golden statue for "Best Original Screenplay."
"One of the greatest experiences of my professional life was also one of the most jolting," says Wallace, whose other credits include such films as Pearl Harbor and We Were Soldiers. "It was an extremely harsh experience to be sitting there, knowing that my family in Tennessee was gathering around the TV set, expecting me to win. A lot of my friends felt sure I was to win. And I did not get that award."
In a story first published on Assist News Service, KEN WALKER speaks to Secretariat director Randall Wallace... |
SUDAN: "KEEP TRAIN ON TRACK" FOR PEACE PLEADS WORLD CHURCH LEADER
The general secretary of the World Council of Churches has pleaded for the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement for Sudan so that Africa's biggest country can achieve stability.
Rev Olav Fykse Tveit said he understands from visits to the country, made before the signing of the pact in 2005, how Sudan desperately needs the peace agreement that ended a decades-long civil war.
"For me, this peace agreement is such a costly gift and such an opportunity that should not be lost," Rev Tveit told ENInews in an interview on 21st September at the beginning of a seven-day visit to Kenya and Ethiopia.
EUTHANASIA: DRAWING BATTLELINES ON THE RIGHT TO LIFE
ESSAY: DEATH BY WHOSE CHOICE?
The fear of seeing a loved one suffer has led many to believe that the compassionate response is to send them on to an early death. Indeed, as medical science enables people to live longer and to overcome more and more disease, there is a fear that many elderly patients are being kept alive artificially and against their will.
The real problem today is not that of over-treatment, but really one of under-treatment. That is, we have become all too willing to allow loved ones to die, without always looking at all the options, or exhausting all the alternatives.
It must clearly define our terms before proceeding. Euthanasia is not about halting futile treatment. Nor is it about the alleviation of suffering (this is known as palliative care). Euthanasia is an act that directly and intentionally causes a person’s death. Euthanasia has little to do with refusing futile or extreme treatment. The man who rejects a heart transplant or declines a third bout of chemotherapy is not committing suicide, but rather is accepting the inevitability of his own death. The doctor who withholds or withdraws undue treatment at the request of a terminally ill patient is not killing his patient but rather is refusing to prolong his patient’s life at any cost.
Rev Dr GORDON MOYES outlines his opposition to proposed euthanasia legislation...|
AUSTRALIAN CHRISTIAN LOBBY TO CONTINUE EFFORTS TO DEFEAT PROPOSED LEGISLATION
The Australian Christian Lobby will continue its efforts to defeat proposed legislation aimed at allowing euthanasia, according to Lyle Shelton, the lobby’s chief of staff.
Greens leader Bob Brown introduced a private members bill to the Federal Parliament this week that would reinstate the rights of territory governments to legalise euthanasia.
Speaking to Sight prior to the introduction of Mr Brown’s bill, Mr Shelton said defeating it would be a “top priority” of the ACL over the next few months.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has already announced that Labour MPs will be able to make a “conscience vote” on the bill and it’s expected the Coalition will follow suit.
Five books in five years is pretty impressive. Is the act of writing novels becoming easier for you, and is it still as much fun as it was when you first became a professional author?
“It's not becoming easier, because I intentionally push myself to grow with every book. By that I mean, I come up with a story idea that forces me to expand my skill set and try things I haven't done before. The craft of writing fiction has become very second nature to me, yes, but I don't think it will ever be so easy that I can do it in my sleep. If that happens, then I'm probably doing it wrong! I don't ever want to get stale.
"And yes, absolutely it's still as much fun. Probably more so, because I feel like I have a better handle on what I'm doing now.”
How has the issue of Christian entertainment versus mainstream acceptance changed since the release of Relentless? Is the 'Christian' label still a hot topic for Christian artists?
“I think Christian readers are slowly becoming more open minded about what all the term 'Christian fiction' encompasses, though some will always have a list of requirements that must be met for that term to apply, and they're never going to change their minds. As for non-Christian readers...I haven't noticed any significant change. They're still as disinterested as ever in 'Christian fiction'."
American writer Robin Parrish has put his stamp on more than one genre and format and - with his passion for technology, creativity and faith - is a unique voice in the marketplace. KRIS BATHER caught up with him via email...|
THE MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS - WHERE TO NOW?
ESSAY: WHAT DOES THE FIGHT AGAINST GLOBAL POVERTY LOOK LIKE AFTER THE UN SUMMIT?
This week world leaders have been meeting in New York for UN talks on the future of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). With just five years to go until 2015 – the deadline world leaders set for halving global poverty – progress so far has been inconsistent, with many of the goals lagging or off track. So can the MDGs be achieved, and what should the outcome of the UN talks be?
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, addressing the leaders during the opening session on Monday, said, “We have much more to do but the goal can be met.”
Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, who represented Australia at the summit, also used the opportunity to call on Australia and the international community to increase their efforts to see the MDGs to be achieved.
“Let us be honest. Donor countries have made commitments that they have not honoured,” said Mr Rudd. “(But) if we strengthen our collective commitment, and work hard to accelerate progress where it is lagging, the goals lie within our reach” he said.
MATTHEW DARVAS, of Micah Challenge Australia, takes stock of the situation in the wake of this week's UN Summit in New York... |
TEN YEARS ON, CHRISTIANS URGE RENEWED EFFORTS TO TACKLE GLOBAL POVERTY
Christians gathered in New York earlier this week to take part in a worship service hosted by Micah Challenge International ahead of the UN Summit looking at progress on the Millennium Development Goals.
Bishop James Tengatanga, Bishop of Southern Malawi (right), urged those gathered not to wait until the "next generation" to tackle the issue of global poverty.
"Right and reverent use of resources are the order of the day," he said. "The MDGs are the barest minimum that world leaders can do. What does God require? The humility to accept that we have not done what we should have done."
This week's three day summit is being held amid concerns many of the Millennium Development Goals - a series of targets agreed by world leaders in 2000 which cover eight broad areas including eradicating extreme poverty, reducing child mortality rates, achieving universal primary school education and combatting diseases including HIV/AIDS and malaria - may not be met.
Opening the summit earlier this week, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said there remains "much more to do" in order to achieve the goals.
INTERNATIONAL CHURCH GROUPING SAYS ACTION NEEDED IF ONE SIXTH OF WORLD STILL HUNGRY
An international grouping of churches and Christian organisations says that if one sixth of the world's population is hungry when there is sufficient food to feed the world, then action to address the problem's root causes is needed.
The Geneva-based Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, which campaigns for food justice, said in a statement on 14th September that new figures on world hunger highlight that the food crisis is still acute for one-sixth of the world's population.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Food Programme had on the same day announced that 925 million people are estimated to be suffering from chronic hunger in 2010, down from the 1.023 billion estimated in 2009.
The release of the statistics from the UN organisations came in advance of New York's 20th to 22nd September United Nations Millennium Development Goals summit and the publication of FAO's annual flagship report, The State of Food Insecurity in the World, known as SOFI.
THE BIG PICTURE: HUNDREDS MARK SUICIDE PREVENTION DAY AT SYDNEY HARBOUR
A record crowd of more than 350 people took part in Wesley Mission's annual LifeForce Memorial service outside the Sydney Opera House on Friday, 10th September. The service, held on World Suicide Prevention Day, aims to support those who have lost relatives or friends through suicide. As part of the service, Mrs Carol Garner released a dove after Rev Peter Pereira gave the benediction. Hundreds of sunflowers were also cast into Sydney Harbour as a gesture of love and remembrance. Rev Dr Keith Garner, Wesley MIssion's chief executive, described the event as "an opportunity for those left behind to come together in a spirit of comfort and hope". “God is near in our sorrow; he is present in those who comfort and support us," he said. Around 2,200 people commit suicide in Australia each year. Lifeline can be reached on 13 11 14.
MUSIC: FIVE YEARS AFTER ACCLAIMED DEBUT, NEW ZEALAND'S JULIAGRACE MAKES IT TWO
There are times when New Zealand's Juliagrace knows as she’s writing a song that it’s going to make an impact.
“Sometimes you just write a song and you think, ‘This is going to make a difference’…,” says the 38-year-old singer-songwriter. “If it makes me cry it’s going to hopefully heal a heart somewhere along the line. I’m a great believer that God uses music in a really personal way and sometimes people hold on to songs because that’s all they have.”
Juliagrace (aka Julia Vucich) worked as a school teacher before “inching” her way into working fulltime in the music business in her late 20s and early 30s.
While she describes herself as a “late bloomer”, Juliagrace was introduced to music at a young age and prior to the release of her much acclaimed debut solo album in 2005 had been in bands including a Christian electronica group called Elevator and New Zealand’s world-renowned Parachute Band – the latter an experience she describes as the “ultimate kick-start” for a career in music.
MIDDLE EAST: FOCUS ON HUMAN ASPECT OF HOLY LAND CONFLICT, SAYS CHURCHES' LEADER
Politicians need to focus on the human face of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and not discard it in favour of their own political agendas, the head of the World Council of Churches has said in the Middle East.
"Politicians need to act and prevent this human tragedy," WCC general secretary, the Rev Olav Fykse Tveit, told ENInews after a visit to Palestinian families who have been evicted by Israelis from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheik Jarrah.
He said that although there are many holy sites in the Holy Land, the people who live on the land are also holy. "This is not about political principles, this is about human beings. It is a shame that politicians are interested more in their own political interests than in bringing basic human rights," said Rev Tveit, a Norwegian Lutheran theologian.
JUDITH SUDILOVSKY reports for Ecumenical News International...|
ESSAY: SALVATION, SHALOM AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
I am grateful to God for His salvation. I grew up in Asia and became a Christian in the early 1980s. It was a genuine conversion experience from a mixture of Confucianism, Taoism and ancestral worship. It was not a one-off decision though. It took me about one year to come to a place where I knew that the God revealed in the Bible was indeed the very God I had been searching for.
But little did I know that this journey would be so challenging. I came to Australia in 1989 and found myself in an exceedingly affluent nation. There is every temptation to pursue material prosperity rather than following a Saviour who died for our sins and demands His disciples to carry the cross and follow Him. I kept asking how I could be a faithful disciple of Jesus.
I became an active member of a local church, and eventually I became one of the pastors there. I enjoyed the contemporary worship and the wide range of programs at the church. Things were going well. I baptised dozens of people in a short space of two years. I did a lot of preaching and teaching. But I became increasingly unsettled with the fact that every Sunday there were homeless people knocking at the church’s door, and I did little for them. There were many low-income people living in our neighbourhood and I hardly spent any time with them.
A speaker at an upcoming World Vision-hosted theological forum on the nexus between social justice and salvation, SIU FUNG WU reflects on his personal journey...|
ELECTION 2010 - AUSTRALIA VOTES!
YOUR SAY: Australia remains in political limbo after voters delivered the closest election result in years with the country set to face its first hung parliament since World War II. What do you think of the election result and what does it say about Australia?...|
Sight's created a single page where you can view all our recent stories related to today's federal election. Have a look and help inform your vote!...|
YOUR SAY: What issues are most important to you in deciding your vote this election? Join in our Your Say special here... |
ESSAY: CONFUSED? DON'T WORRY, HELP IS AT HAND
As we enter the final week of the 2010 federal election campaign many voters are still trying to make up their mind who to vote for or even who the candidates are in their electorate or state.
And while we are being inundated with mindless campaign advertising, there are some great online resources for doing personal research.
For some voters, the main concern is to discover the policies of the various parties on the issues that matter to them, and there is a wealth of material available.
The Australian Christian Lobby has published a checklist on 24 key issues affecting Christians and this can be found on the Australia Votes website. Each party can be checked out individually or compared in various combinations covering broad topics such as public Christianity, international justice, poverty, family or indigenous issues. The ACL also provides candidates forums in a range of electorates across Australia.
PETER HALLETT, pastor and writer of the Australian Christian Voter blog, provides a detailed list of where you can go online to find out more about parties, their policies and the questions that matter most to you...|
ESSAY: A DIFFERENT VISION FOR A 'BIG' AUSTRALIA
I am in favour of a big Australia.
But I don't mean a big Australia in population terms which has dominated so much of the federal election campaign. I mean a nation that is big in terms of its vision, its compassion and in identifying its place in the region and the world.
Sadly the election campaign appears to have become a foreign policy-free zone. It is also a campaign bereft of hope. Neither of the major political parties has sought to define Australia's role in the world. For a host of reasons we are a fortunate nation that has escaped the worst impacts of the global financial crisis.
Little wonder that more than one political commentator has lamented the domestic, poll-driven nature of this election by citing the acerbic reflections of 19th-century French democrat Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin: "There go the people - I must follow them, for I am their leader."
In article first published in the Sydney Morning Herald, TIM COSTELLO, chief executive of World Vision Australia, puts a different spin on why Australians should be thinking big...|
FOR PREVIOUS ELECTION COVERAGE:
CHRISTIAN VALUES: 'CANBERRA DECLARATION' UNDERLINES IMPORTANCE OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, MARRIAGE AND FAMILY AND SANCTITY OF LIFE
PAKISTAN: CALL FOR URGENT AID RESPONSE TO STOP FLOODS TURNING INTO A 'MAN-MADE CATASTROPHE'
Up to 20 million people have been affected by the worst floods in Pakistan in 80 years, prompting calls for the a greater international effort to address the disaster.
The United Nations said this week that while the response to their request made earlier this month for more funds to address the disaster has been encouraging, they still only had less than half the $US460 million needed.
“Watching this disaster unfold, the world increasingly understands its immense magnitude,” said John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.
More than 1,600 people have died as a result of the floods and, according to UN estimates, eight million people require urgent relief while more than four million are homeless. Pakistani Government estimates suggest as many as 20 million people – one in nine of the entire population - are affected.
AT LEAST 1,500 DEAD IN WORST FLOODING FOR 80 YEARS
At least 1,500 people are believed to have died in Pakistan thanks to landslides and floods caused by the heaviest monsoon rains in years.
Entire villages have reportedly been washed away and, according to UNICEF, around 3.5 million people – a third of them children - have been affected by the deluge in the north with homes flooded, damaged and destroyed and crops lost.
Experts have said the flooding, which has impacted a third of the country’s 135 districts, is the worst since 1929. Khyber Pakhtunkha (KPK), in the mountains of north-western Pakistan, is the worst-affected province, along with Baluchistan and Punjab.
With the approach of Marriage Week, let's take a brief look at marriage and its importance.
Through Scripture we can see how important marriage is to God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer whilst in prison at the hands of the Gestapo in the Second World War wrote a sermon for his nieces wedding. The sermon was smuggled out on the eve of her wedding and read out at the service. This is a part of that sermon, taken from his Letters and Papers from Prison:
"God is guiding your marriage. Marriage is more than your love for each other. It has a higher dignity and power for it is God's holy ordinance through which he wills to perpetuate the human race until the end of time. In your love you see only your two selves in the world, but in your marriage you are a link in the chain of the generations, which God causes to come and to pass away to his glory, and calls into his kingdom. In your love you see only the heaven of your happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind. Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal - it is a status, an office."
With the approach of Australia's National Marriage Week (12th to 18th September, organiser DENNIS OUTRED takes a look at why marriage is so important for a happy, healthy society...|
ISRAEL: RIVER WHERE JESUS WAS BAPTISED "TOO POLLUTED" FOR PILGRIMS
Health concerns relating to water quality have triggered an environmental advocacy group to call for the banning of baptisms in the lower Jordan River, where the Bible says Jesus was baptised.
"For reasons of public health as well as religious integrity, baptism should be banned from taking place in the river," said Gidon Bromberg, the Israel director of EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME), which has offices in Tel Aviv, Bethlehem, and Amman.
Israeli authorities said on 27th July that tests done on the water of the lower Jordan River show the popular site for baptismal ceremonies at Qasr el Yahud on the West Bank meets health ministry standards. Mr Bromberg said, however, they should not take place until pollutants are removed from the water.
JUDITH SUDILOVSKY, of ENInews, reports...|
ESSAY: THE GOOD BOOK'S GUIDE TO GREAT SEX
Sex is God's gift to humanity and healthy sexual behaviour should be the church's gift to the world. As reported in The Age this week, we are neurologically wired to desire sex, to fall in love with the person we desire sex with, and for that love to develop into a deep personal attachment. Our bodies are wired to operate best with one sexual partner for life.
The Christian church has a positive duty to help all people form healthy sexual self-identities, which lead to healthy sexual behaviour, particularly in a world where highly sexualised images are commonplace.
The church has renounced this responsibility for far too long. We have been far too insular and defensive, merely giving the ''good'' Christians a list of rules - most of which start with ''don't'' - to try to immunise them against the ''bad'' world. At best, this means Christians are regarded as irrelevant, marginalised eccentrics. At worst, it leads to self-destructive hypocrisy.
In a story first published on the National Times website, KAMAL WEERAKOON explains why people who follow the Bible's guidance on sexuality lead happier and healthier lives...|
ANGLICAN CHURCH: PLANNED NEW ALLIANCE ON RELIEF, DEVELOPMENT AND ADVOCACY
A working group from across the worldwide Anglican Communion has met at Lambeth Palace in London to plan how to turn a proposed Anglican Alliance on relief, development and advocacy into a reality.
Professionals from five continents working on advocacy, relief and community development programmes reviewed responses to a public consultation on the foundational document and the issues arising from them, and worked together to chart a way forward for the first few years of the Alliance.
On the consultation’s final afternoon, the group reported back to both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Canon Kenneth Kearon.
Their report included inspiring stories of local church action on relief, development and advocacy currently taking place around the Anglican world and comments on how the Alliance could support this work.
CHRISTIAN VALUES: 'CANBERRA DECLARATION' UNDERLINES IMPORTANCE OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, MARRIAGE AND FAMILY AND SANCTITY OF LIFE
A group of prominent Christians say they expect hundreds more people to sign up to a document declaring the importance of issues such as religious freedom, marriage and the sanctity of human life in the lead up to next month’s federal election.
Called the Canberra Declaration, the document was formally launched at Parliament House in Canberra on Friday. Among the more than 20 Christian leaders involved in drafting the document were Dr Graham McLennan, convenor of the National Alliance of Christian Leaders, Bill Muehlenberg, founder of ethics and apologetics ministry CultureWatch, Dr Lachlan Dunjey, of Morality in Medicine, and Ros Phillips, of FamilyVoice Australia.
Release of the document follows that of the Westminster Declaration – released in the UK ahead of the British election earlier this year – and the Manhattan Declaration – released in the US in late 2009.
YOUR SAY: What do you think of the 'Canberra Declaration'?...|
ESSAY: LET'S VOTE FOR OTHERS
“Why do we vote for ourselves and not for others?” A friend asked this question some years ago. This certainly challenged the way I voted in that year’s election. As a voter, it is natural for us to vote according to how a prospective government would affect ourselves. It is natural for us to ask how it would affect the future of our children, how much tax we would have to pay, and whether our mortgage payment would increase. This is not wrong. But, as Christians, we should carefully examine our value system in everything we do. We need to remember that our whole Christian life is based on Christ's self-giving love. The cross itself is a symbol of Jesus’ sacrificial life, and he has called us to love our neighbour as ourselves. How we vote in an election is an expression of that. Do we vote for ourselves? Or do we vote for others?
Throughout the election campaign period, we hear all sorts of news about the political parties’ policies. They include, for example, macroeconomic policies, healthcare reform, funding of government and independent schools. It is easy for us to think first about ourselves when we hear these policies. Will we pay more or less taxes? Will the private health insurance premium increase? Will our children’s school get more funding? These are important questions, and cannot be dismissed.
With Australia's federal election to be held on 21st August, SIU FUNG WU says it's important Christians consider the wider ramifications of their vote...|
AIDS: FAITH LEADERS WARNED ON STATEMENTS ABOUT HIV/AIDS
Faith leaders can play a key role in the fight against the HIV pandemic if their public statements help combat stigma and discrimination, a meeting of faith groups in Vienna in advance of the 18th International AIDS Conference has heard.
"Religious leaders have the trust and confidence of their communities and can help break these barriers and create a more supportive environment," the Netherlands AIDS ambassador Marijke Wijnroks told a 17th July multi-faith conference in the Austrian capital.
Wijnroks acknowledged that faith communities have been "on the frontline of the response to HIV and AIDS". Still, religious leaders through their language have also contributed to the burden of the disease, she warned.
THE CAPTAIN'S TALE: JEREMY SCHIERER TELLS OF LIFE ABOARD THE YWAM MEDICAL SHIP, MV PACIFIC LINK
Jeremy Schierer can still vividly remember the day in 2008 when he saw two men’s eyesight restored in Apia, the capital of Samoa. It’s one of the reasons he does the job he does.
The captain on the Youth With A Mission (YWAM) medical ship MV Pacific Link, the 35-year-old was aboard the ship in port one morning when he noticed the medical team were packing up early after only three of 10 people scheduled for eye surgery had turned up for their appointments.
He decided to head down to Apia's main fruit and vegetable market to see if there was anyone else who they could help.
“So I literally ran out to the street and jumped in a taxi and went down to the market…” he recalls. “I was the only white guy in the whole market at that moment and making eye contact with everybody...And finally at the very end of the market there was a fellow sitting there whose eye didn’t look right.”
As the YWAM medical ship, MV Pacific Link, prepares to head to Papua New Guinea following the completion of its tour of Australia's east coast, DAVID ADAMS speaks with the ship's captain, Jeremy Schierer, about his job...|
HAITI EARTHQUAKE - SIX MONTHS ON
Six months ago on 12th January, the Caribbean island nation of Haiti, already one of the poorest in the world, was devastated by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake which killed more than 230,000 people and destroyed most of the capital, Port-au-Prince. In a special photo gallery to mark the passing of six months since the disaster, World Vision photographers capture life in Haiti today...|
SIX MONTHS LATER, MANY FEEL 'IT JUST HAPPENED'
Some Haitians feel as if it happened just days ago, the Rev Kerwin Delicat, an Episcopal (Anglican) priest based in the city of Léogâne, said as people prepared to mark six months since a calamitous earthquake struck on 12th January.
While some progress is discernable such as students being back at school for some time, Léogâne, like the capital of Port-au-Prince, is still years from recovery.
"Eventually, there will be a return to normal life," Rev Delicat said in interview. "But it's been just less than six months. It's like something that just happened."
POSTCARDS: HAITIAN PEOPLE'S RESILIENCE SHOWS THROUGH AS LIFE REGAINS SOME SEMBLANCE OF NORMALITY
At the end of April, I went to Haiti for four weeks with the organisation I work for, Samaritan’s Purse, to evaluate our work there.
“A beautiful country in a complete mess” is how Mac, a Haitian man I met living an internally displaced person camp, described his own country. I would agree.
ALEX DAY, of Samaritan's Purse, writes about his recent visit to Haiti...|
RESOURCES: 'WATER AS A HUMAN RIGHT' CAMPAIGN GETS GLOBAL PROTESTANT BACKING
Church-backed campaigners on water issues say they have received a boost from a global body representing 80 million Protestants that has called on its members to support access to water as a basic human right.
"Preserving the world's water resources, and securing access to water for all, is one of the greatest challenges we face," Maike Gorsboth, the Geneva-based coordinator of the secretariat of the Ecumenical Water Network told ENInews.
Gorsboth was speaking after the World Communion of Reformed Churches at its 18th to 28th June founding meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan, urged its churches to support and adopt a declaration on "Water as a Human Right and a Public Good".
You founded Operation Mobilisation more than 50 years ago. Did you ever imagine it would grow into the international organisation – with more than 5,400 people working in 110 countries – that it is today?
“No I don’t think I did. I was only 19 when I went to Mexico and started this thing and it’s 50 years that my wife and I, after six months in Mexico, moved to Madrid. My vision was very narrow and I wasn’t sure how it was all going to work out – it was for Muslim countries like Afghanistan and Iraq and Turkey, it was for closed countries like (those) in the Soviet bloc and Communist countries, but, through get arrested by the KGB the next summer, in ’61, I realised maybe I was running too fast.
“So I had a day of prayer and that’s when God gave me the name – the original name was Send The Light (STL) – and…the vision for Western Europe: that He wanted a significant mission mobilisation to take place through the churches in Western Europe and I was to be just a servant of the churches. So that was a huge shift. I moved to from Madrid, Spain, to London, England, and I started taking meetings in places like Cambridge and Oxford and that became the real birthplace of OM as it is today...Europe seemed to be ripe for this vision and Europeans took the leadership and then, of course, it spread to international leadership. It really is the grace and mercy of God – I don’t feel I’ve really led it very well; I feel the Holy Spirit has led a whole team of us to keep pressing on, especially toward the more unreached places of the world.”
George Verwer, the 72-year-old founder of global mission organisation OM (Operation Mobilisation), was recently in Australia where he gave a series of talks in major cities. Here, the grandfather of five talks to DAVID ADAMS about OM’s beginnings, his vision for the ministry and his heart for mission...|
APOLOGY: REFORMED CHURCHES REPENT OVER ROLE IN OPPRESSING FIRST NATIONS
A global Protestant body representing 80 million Christians has issued an apology for the role played by churches in perpetrating abuse against Native Americans, First Nations and other indigenous peoples.
"We...repent of our history littered with ways in which we have betrayed Gospel values of justice, fairness, and love for our neighbour...by the confiscation of land, and mass killings," delegates at the founding meeting of the World Communion of Reformed Churches said in a 26th June statement.
The 18th to 28th June gathering in Grand Rapids, in the state of Michigan, took place on the traditional territory of Native American peoples, delegates noted.
In their statement, they said they hoped that through "genuine repentance" they would have courage to repair broken relationships and begin new paths of reconciliation. They also said they were repenting for manifesting, "cultural, economic and theological arrogance", and the way their church structures had "perpetrated abuse".
WORLDVIEW: NATIVE AMERICAN TELLS CHURCHES "IT'S TIME FOR A TRUTH COMMISSION"
A Native American leader has challenged a global Protestant body to create a truth and reconciliation commission to redress the injustice of church involvement in cultural assimilation against indigenous peoples. STEPHEN BROWN, of Ecumenical News International, reports... |
ESSAY: NIGERIA'S "WOMENS' DIPLOMAT" SHARES HER PASSION FOR EMPOWERMENT
The customs officer was abrupt and rude. He even admitted that he pulled Funmi Para-Mallam out of the line simply because she was Nigerian. “Because some of the Nigerians who travel around the world are drug dealers, do you think we all are? Some Americans and Australians deal drugs too: do you pull all Americans and Australians out and search them and grill them?” Despite the time delays and the rude officials that she dealt with, Funmi could be gracious as well. She commented later, “Of course nations have to be vigilant and fight the drug trade. But it was the worst customs experience I have ever had, and I have visited 16 different nations”.
What causes a mother of five to fly from Nigeria to Melbourne, to spend a week at a conference on gender equality in the church and society, the Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) conference? Why do this to yourself? Endure jet lag at both ends, and have a full schedule during her time here? What makes her endure the indignity of rude customs officers and delays at the airport in the middle of the night? What would make her do it all again if the opportunity arose? Passion for the empowerment of women.
Dr Funmi Para-Mallam was recently in Australia to address the Christian for Biblical Equality conference. JIM REIHER tells of her passion for gender equality... |
VOICES FOR JUSTICE
ESSAY: VOICES FOR JUSTICE - STORIES OF INTEGRITY AND PROPHETIC ENGAGEMENT
Taken from the prophet Micah’s call in Micah 6: 8 to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God, the aims of Voices for Justice are well expressed in the first two (doing justice and loving mercy), but Christians of a more activist mindset can find it more difficult to walk humbly with our God.
So it was with great solemnity that, on the Sunday night, we held a public service of repentance on the front lawns of Parliament House. Earlier in the day we had all made pledges to repent of behaviours and attitudes in our lives that were damaging to the poor of the world. Invariably they had to do with our Western lifestyle. We each wrote our pledges on little flags which we then pegged to a giant map of the world laid out on the lawn. A number of Christian leaders then came forward and declared what they were now committing themselves to do to live out the call of Micah in their own lives. It was a very moving time. In this type of work we need to constantly be reminded that if we do not live out this way of life ourselves, we have nothing worthwhile to say to those in power.
Along with Nadja Leffler, NILS VON KALM was among those who attended Micah Challenge's recent Voices for Justice gathering in Canberra. He gives this thoughts on what happened... |
ESSAY: CHRISTIANS MAKE POLITICS PERSONAL AND CALL FOR JUSTICE
More than 320 members of churches from every denomination met face to face with MPs at Parliament House, Canberra, this week to call for justice for the 1.4 billion people still living in extreme poverty.
They were part of Micah Challenge’s Voices for Justice campaign which annually gives Christians interested in helping poor communities two days of training on aid issues and lobbying. It then arranges events and appointments at Parliament House.
This was my first year and as we stood in the cold at 7am on Monday morning waiting for security to let us into Parliament House, I don’t think I was the only one thinking - surely this isn’t real? I, a mum of three from Lindfield, Sydney, am part of a group of seven Christians, none with lobbying experience, and four of them school students.
Over two days last week people from churches across Australia met with federal MPs to call for justice for the 1.4 billion people around the world still living in poverty. NADJA LEFFLER was among them... |
POLITICS: JULIA GILLARD BECOMES AUSTRALIA'S FIRST FEMALE PRIME MINISTER AFTER LEADERSHIP SPILL
CHRISTIAN LOBBY WELCOMES NEW PM BUT THANKS RUDD FOR COMMITMENT TO
HOMELESSNESS, POVERTY, RECONCILIATION AND MARRIAGE
The Australian Christian Lobby said it would expect Labor under new Prime Minister Julia Gillard to “confirm its concern for the poor and the disadvantaged” along with “the values in society that proved attractive to many Christians throughout Australia” under former PM Kevin Rudd.
Ms Gillard was sworn in as Australia’s 27th prime minister at Government House in Canberra this afternoon after Mr Rudd stepped down from the office following a leadership challenge this morning.
The Australian Christian Lobby’s managing director, Jim Wallace, congratulated Ms Gillard on what he said was an "historic occasion".
“However, we also want to thank Kevin Rudd for the commitment and energy he brought to issues such as homelessness, poverty, reconciliation and the importance of marriage in particular,” he said in a statement.
When the former Prime Minister announced that there would be a leadership vote in the caucus, he made this telling remark: "I was elected by the people of Australia as prime minister of Australia. I was elected to do a job."
He also pointed out that he was not elected by the Labor Party's parliamentary factions. Sadly, at least for those who put their trust in the "Kevin 007" campaign at the 2007 election, Mr Rudd decided that he would not contest the challenge and has stepped down. So even this final phase of his prime ministership, presents us with a problematic interpretation of how Mr Rudd saw the office of prime minister in the Commonwealth of Australia.
Put it this way: even in the terms by which he defended his office as PM against the caucus vote, Kevin Rudd's explanation presents us with ambiguity. It is an ambiguity basic to Australian political life. BRUCE C. WEARNE takes a look at what today's dramatic events reveal about the Australian political system... |
POLITICS: RUDD AND ABBOTT ADDRESS CHRISTIANS ACROSS THE NATION
Tens of thousands of Christians gathered in churches across Australia this week to watch Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott talk about their Christian faith and to address issues ranging from asylum seekers to climate change, marriage, school chaplains and the sexualisation of children.
The event at Old Parliament House in Canberra, hosted by the Australian Christian Lobby and attended by 200 Christian leaders, was beamed out live via the internet to churches across the country.
Called ‘2010 Make It Count’, it followed a similar event ahead of the 2007 Federal Election which was addressed by then Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd.
Speaking at the event on Monday night, Mr Abbott, in his first appearance at such an event, stressed that he was “a Christian in politics, not a Christian politician”.
“(A)nd I am not asking Christians to vote for me because I am of like mind. Faith has influenced my life but it does not and I believe should not shape my politics.”
ESSAY: LEADERS' QUESTION TIME REVEALS STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
On Monday night, 21st June, Rudd and Abbott both spoke in turn to an audience full of church leaders assembled in Canberra to hear them, and to ask them questions.
The event was telecast and hundreds of churches around Australia put up big screens and watched the event live. I sat in the Doveton Baptist Church in Melbourne, to observe and take notes.
How did it go? Will it influence people to vote for one or the other major party? Or will it reinforce in people’s minds the party they prefer already?
A former Federal Greens candidate, JIM REIHER was among the tens of thousands who watched the live event. He gives his view on how he thought the two leaders performed... |
YOUR SAY: Did you watch the event live? What did you think? Have your say here... |
ESSAY: WHY SOCCER ISN'T ALWAYS FAIR PLAY
With the World Cup in full swing, fans across Australia are glued to their TV sets enjoying the thrills, spills and drama of the biggest global sporting event since the Olympics. But sadly, on a recent trip to India, World Vision discovered it’s not all fair play when it comes to soccer balls.
Most of the world’s soccer balls are hand-stitched in countries where worker conditions are questionable at best. Most balls branded Nike and adidas are made in Pakistan and India, which together produce 90 per cent of the world's hand-stitched soccer balls.
World Vision’s Don’t Trade Lives campaign leader Susan Mizrahi said while there had been some big improvements in how soccer balls were made for the export industry, there was still a risk that child labour was used to make sports balls.
World Vision Australia's SACHA MYERS writes about why we should think about where our soccer balls come from... |
THE INTERVIEW: CAROLYN SKINNER, 'LOVE ALL, SERVE ALL'
What does 'Love All, Serve All' involve?
"'Love All, Serve All' is about a group of local Christians demonstrating the love of God to the overnight tennis fans who queue for the Wimbledon Tennis Championships each year. We go out every night offering free drinks and snacks, and a leaflet that explains who we are and why we do this. We have discovered that acts of kindness open up great opportunities for deeper conversation, so we also spend time talking to people about life and faith, we offer prayer and share our stories."
Who are the participants - are they all tennis fanatics?
"The volunteers are made up of people from local churches who want to bless the people who visit our town each year. Some of them are tennis fans but that’s not a requirement! The only requirement is that you love God and love people!"
Carolyn Skinner is the team leader for 'Love All, Serve All', a joint church initiative centred around outreach at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships which start this week in London. She speaks with DAVID ADAMS... |
KYRGYZSTAN: CHRISTIANS RECEIVING DEATH THREATS AS ETHNIC VIOLENCE KILLS 190
Kyrgyz Christians were risking their lives to help and shelter Uzbek believers in southern Kyrgystan, where ethnic clashes killed at least 190 people and uprooted some 400,000 people, Christian aid workers said.
"Amid the carnage, Kyrgyz Christians are trying to help their Uzbek brothers and sisters escape the violence – despite the prospect of severe retribution from fellow Kyrgyz if they are caught," explained Barnabas Fund, a group supporting minority Christians in predominantly Islamic nations.
A Kyrgyz pastor, identified only as 'Pastor K' for security reasons, his wife and church members are among Kyrgyz Christians receiving death threats for supporting Uzbek Christians, added the group.
STEFAN J. BOS reports for Bosnewslife...|
SOCCER WORLD CUP: INTERNATIONAL SOCCER PEACE TOURNAMENT SHOWS THE WAY
An International Soccer Peace Tournament organised by Catholics has brought together “South Africans, immigrants, and fans from around the world, united in the greatest challenge, peace".
"We want to involve all South Africans in the world, especially those who remain on the margins of this event," Antoine Soubrier from the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference explained to the news agency Fides.
He continued: "We've organised a parallel World Cup, to complement the official one, with the soccer teams from all the realities of South Africa, from the townships to the more affluent neighbourhoods."
“The aim is to bring together fans of different social classes, different ethnicities, and national origins as well as fans from all over the world," said Soubrier.
CHRISTIAN THINKING: NEW BODY AIMS TO PROVIDE GREATER ENGAGEMENT WITH LAY CHRISTIANS "BEYOND THE SUNDAYS"
Two leading national organisations aimed at promoting Christian thought have joined in a new initiative which aims to increase the collaboration and the exchange of ideas between Australia’s "Christian thinkers and activists".
Ethos – the EA Centre for Christianity and Society has been jointly formed by the Zadok Institute for Christianity and Society and the Evangelical Alliance’s Department of Public Theology.
Launched in late March with a discussion on the issue of climate change, the new body adopt a “multi-disciplinary and conversational” approach towards issues and help avoid duplication by the organisations involved, according to Ethos assistant director Ian Packer.
EDINBURGH 2010 CONCLUDES WITH A CALL TO CHRISTIAN ACTION AGAINST INJUSTICE
Dr John Sentamu issued a reminder at the closing worship service of the Edinburgh 2010 conference that the verdict on Christianity rests on the shoulders of its adherents.
The Anglican archbishop of York appealed on behalf of “the crucial importance of Christian witness.”
Alluding to the Gospel account of Peter’s denial of Christ before his crucifixion, Dr Sentamu added: “Jesus today is on trial in the court of the world by our lips and lives. Jesus and His Gospel are being judged.”
Encouragement to exercise loving hospitality towards others and humility in Christian outreach formed the refrains of Edinburgh 2010’s closing celebration and of the meeting’s Common Call in which delegates expressed “full awareness that God resists the proud, Christ welcomes and empowers the poor and afflicted, and the power of the Holy Spirit is manifested in our vulnerability.”
WARNING ABOUT "EVANGELISM" THAT DIVIDES CHRISTIANS
"Good evangelism" and "bad evangelism" came under discussion when a diverse group of Christians met to discuss the 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference 100 years later in the capital of Scotland.
Antonios Kireopoulos, the associate general secretary dealing with faith and order issues and interfaith relations for the US National Council of Churches, alluded to, "what I like to call good - or appropriate - evangelism, and bad - or inappropriate- proselytism".
After his 4th June keynote speech at the 2010 Edinburgh Missionary Conference, a number of evangelical and Pentecostal speakers from the floor criticised Kireopoulos' stance.
PETER KENNY, of Ecumenical News International, reports...|
INTERVIEW: DR TINYIKO SAM MALULEKE, PRESIDENT OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN COUNCIL OF CHURCHES
During Edinburgh 2010, you’ve sometimes been wearing a South African football shirt and carrying around a vuvuzela (a traditional South African stadium horn). Can you tell us your motivation behind that?
"I think the awarding of the FIFA world cup to an African country for the first time is quite historic, because the FIFA World Cup is easily the biggest sporting event in the world. So I wanted to acknowledge and celebrate that, to start with. Secondly, I wanted to emphasise the affirmation for and of Africa in the process. It’s a massive affirmation in a world where Africa has often been suspect and thought of negatively. This is one major morale boost for Africa. More than that, I wore that shirt and brought the vuvuzela because Africa continues to be heard and seen in ways that Africa would not want to be heard and seen. And so I see the vuvuzela as a desperate attempt by Africa to be heard. It’s a very loud instrument, and probably much louder when you have thousands of people playing them. But here is a continent which continues to cry out for recognition, for dignity, to be interpreted positively.
Among those attending Edinburgh 2010 is Dr Tinyiko Sam Maluleke, director for research at UNISA in Pretoria and president of the South African Council of Churches. He spoke with ANNA MOYLE of the UK Evangelical Alliance...|
ESSAY: MOBILISING YOUTH FOR MISSION?
It’s been 100 years since delegates met in Edinburgh to discuss the state of world missions, and many momentous, world-changing decisions were made. I sit now, a young South African, in 2010, part of the centenary celebrations. My presence here shows just how much the times have changed. In 1910, a mostly male, all-Western, all-adult delegation met. I represent the opposite of all that - young, female and African. But I have to ask myself, what does this conference mean: for me personally; for the youth I represent; for the country I am from?
Mission is no longer an activity solely of the West - young Christian South Africans are as able to go into all nations and make disciples as any other. Africa is no longer a dark continent. The Gospel and light of Jesus shines strong here. And it shines out of the youth. It’s time we mobilised and released our young people into mission, instead of only being a nation that receives missionaries. Edinburgh 2010 should not only be a meeting of minds, of discussions and academia. It needs to be a springboard, a reminder that all Christians everywhere carry the light of Jesus and can go into all the world, and that young South Africans (and indeed young people the world over) are a powerful missionary force.
Young South African FOFO LEREFOLO talks about the important role youth can play on the mission field... |
CHRISTIAN MISSION SHOULD REFLECT "HOPE AND HUMILITY", CONFERENCE HEARS
The shape and priority of Christian mission in the 21st century should show "the love of Jesus Christ for all the world,” Professor Dana L. Robert of Boston University told a Friday press briefing at the Edinburgh 2010 conference on world Christianity.
“The mystery of salvation is not ours to know,” she added, yet Christians feel compelled to bear witness to the gospel with an urgency “as inevitable as breathing”.
This proclamation happens locally and in broader contexts, she said, whenever believers “inhale the Gospel” through worship and Biblical meditation and then “exhale mission” as practical concern and generosity towards others.
MISSION: EDINBURGH CONFERENCE MARKS 100 YEARS OF MODERN ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT
Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (centre), and Rev Dr Geoff Tunnicliffe, international director of the World Evangelical Alliance (right), talk at the beginning of the Edinburgh 2010 conference in Scotland.
The international gathering, which takes place from 2nd to 6th June, marks 100 years since the 1910 World Mission Conference in the Scottish capital - widely considered the start of the modern ecumenical movement.
In his opening speech to the 300 delegates, Rev Dr Tveit said being a witness for Christ is both evangelism and the "prophetic stand for Christ’s will for justice, peace and care of creation".
"Christian mission is called to offer reconciliation to humanity - with God, with fellow human beings and with creation - a life that has the quality of the eternal life," he said. "The churches can be witnesses of hope in times of injustice, of financial crises, of violence and tensions between peoples of faith, and of environmental threats."
For the full text of the speech, go to the WCC website here.
OUTREACH: AT THE TOP SENDS GOD'S MESSAGE OF "ABUNDANT LIFE" ACROSS NORTH QUEENSLAND'S AIRWAVES
When seeking professional life coaching content to play on air, Australia’s community radio stations are often forced to rely on American programs due to a lack of locally produced ones. While the quality of the content from overseas may be excellent, the presenters’ accents can frequently fail to engage local audiences.
In an initiative to better connect Australian community radio stations with their listeners, the North Queensland Uniting Church has produced a series of free 60 second radio spots, called At the Top.
At the Top was designed for a secular audience and promotes the Christian worldview. It addresses modern issues in a non-confronting, conversational way - such as how to maintain a good work/life balance and why all of us need God’s forgiveness.
MIDDLE EAST: PALESTINIAN CHRISTIANS URGE PROTESTS AFTER ISRAELI ASSAULT ON FLOTILLA
Palestinian Christian organisations have urged protests by church groups around the world against an Israeli assault on ships bringing aid to Gaza, which Israel says has led to the deaths of at least 10 activists on board the convoy.
The Joint Advocacy Initiative of the East Jerusalem YMCA and YWCA of Palestine said on 31st May it "strongly condemns this massacre against unarmed civilians which visibly violates international law and human rights".
Activists say Israeli troops came on board shooting; Israel says its soldiers were shot at and attacked with weapons, the BBC reported, quoting an Israeli spokesperson.
The YMCA and YWCA urged sister movements throughout the world as well as church leaders and groups to organise demonstrations in front of government buildings or Israeli embassies to protest against the action.
JUDITH SUDILOVSKY and STEPHEN BROWN report for Ecumenical News International...|
ESSAY: FAITH AND FIDELITY IN BANGKOK'S URBAN CHAOS
On 19th May, I looked up from where I was at the Klong Toey Community Centre and saw plumes of smoke rising up into sky from not too distant business buildings. Along with the adults and children gathered there, I was transfixed as army helicopters started to land on the very top of one of the closest, the burning ‘Channel 3’ sky scraper, rescuing TV execs and staff from the fires, looting and rioting going on below.
The Red Shirt leaders had just surrendered after the army crashed through their protest areas in downtown Bangkok with tanks. Now their supporters, some armed with M-16s and grenade launchers, were moving across the city exacting revenge. Banks who had held on to former Prime Minister Shinawatra Thaksin’s assets, media outlets that had not fully supported their cause (including Channel 3), and some of the largest shopping malls were set alight and turned to rubble.
Urban Neighbours Of Hope (UNOH) workers, including myself, quickly gathered together with our children at the community centre, trying to work out what was next for us and our neighbours. Even getting in and out of Klong Toey was difficult now and there was a rumour Red Shirts were coming to burn our slum down.
ASH BARKER, Bangkok-based international director of Urban Neighbours Of Hope, reflects on the recent turmoil in the Thai capital...|
ESSAY: PLAYING GOD? NOT JUST YET
The development of a fully synthetic DNA transplanted into a bacterial cell was hailed by the world's media as "the first creation of synthetic life" and was followed by the usual concern about scientists "playing God". Quoting the book of Genesis, the Financial Times trumpeted "Let there be life!" - as if we had just witnessed a re-run of the dawn of time.
Such unashamedly theological language certainly caught the eye of this theologian. It's by all accounts a brilliant achievement: Craig Venter and his team at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) have, they claim, implanted a microbe with a synthetic genetic code. As a result, a new strain of the bacteria called Mycoplasm mycoides has begun reproducing in the petri dishes of the institute. According to Venter, the code includes "watermarks", such as a website and an email address, which prove the man-made origin of the genome. It also includes some words of the Irish novelist James Joyce: "To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, and to recreate life out of life".
In an article first published on Fairfax's National Times website, Dr MICHAEL JENSEN reflects on the implications of the work of geneticist Dr Craig Venter, hailed as the creator of the first synthetic life...|
SRI LANKA: FLOODING "WORST" NATURAL DISASTER SINCE ASIAN TSUNAMI
At least 20 people are confirmed dead and hundreds of thousands are homeless as a result of flooding on the island nation of Sri Lanka.
"This is the worst flooding to hit the country since the Asian tsunami devastated Sri Lanka in 2004," said Gospel for Asia president Dr K P Yohannan. "They had absolutely no warning that this huge storm was on the way. It took them totally by surprise."
Dr Yohannan had just spoken with Lal Vanderwal, GFA's country leader in Sri Lanka, who reports that entire villages are underwater.
"Their homes are flooded and they've lost everything," Dr Yohannan said. "The children don't have any clean clothes to wear and their schoolbooks have been destroyed."
MICHAEL IRELAND, of Assist News Service, reports...|
LONG ROAD AHEAD: THREE QUEENSLANDERS TO WALK 2000 KILOMETRES TO RAISE AWARENESS OF BIBLE TRANSLATION NEED
It was in 2001 that then school teacher Andrew Carnell first heard there were 2,000 languages spoken around the world into which, as yet, any of the Bible had been translated.
“I heard that statistic and it was really like ‘Well, what am I going to do about that?’,” recalls the 31-year-old Queenslander. “Before that moment I was totally ignorant of the fact that there were 2,000 people groups, language groups – the equivalent of 350 million people…who didn’t have Scriptures.”
The statistic has since changed his life, awakening and stoking within him a passion for world mission. Not only did it help to lead him into his current job as the state director for OM (Operation Mobilisation) in Queensland, it’s also leading him and two friends to walk 2,000 kilometres from Cairns to the New South Wales-Queensland border town of Stanthorpe in a bid to raise awareness about the need for new Bible translations.
Together with his second cousin Dave Carnell - a 24-year-old phys-ed teacher who has trekked through Nepal with OM, and Andrew Sav - a 48-year-old former sign writer who has previously spent three years working as a linguist in the Sahara Desert in Mali, Andrew will head off on the walk this August.
ESSAY: THE ROBIN HOOD TAX - A TINY TAX THAT COULD SAVE MILLIONS OF LIVES
What if we could reshape the lives of hundreds of millions of people who are suffering from poverty and at the same time stabilise financial markets to help prevent catastrophes like the Global Financial Crisis? What if we could generate substantial sums of money for practical action on climate change and for social services like health and education? And what if we could do it all without any cost to the average citizen? Would it be worth doing?
Absolutely. This is exactly what economists and campaigners are arguing is on offer with the Robin Hood Tax: a tiny tax on the transactions of financial institutions that could raise billions of dollars to fight poverty, tackle climate change and provide money for domestic spending priorities.
The idea itself is rather simple; it’s a tiny 0.05 per cent tax on financial transactions – that’s just 50 cents on every $1000 traded. It taxes things like currency and share trades as well as the trade of financial derivatives like credit default swaps (If you don’t know what they are, don’t worry - half the time the people trading them don’t understand them either).
GERSHON NIMBALKER puts forward the arguments for a 'Robin Hood' tax...|
CLIMATE CHANGE: IT'S TIME TO TALK ABOUT THE RIGHTS OF 'CLIMATE REFUGEES'
The international tug-of-war over carbon emission thresholds and other instruments meant to limit the deterioration of the earth's climate has caused a big stir in recent months, but yielded little results. Therefore the international community must now get ready to take care of those who will be forced from their homes by climate change.
As the global climate changes, millions of people will be uprooted by sea-level rise, extreme weather events, droughts and water scarcity. While many players - ranging from development consultants to security pundits - have incorporated this fact into their rhetoric, the international community so far has done little to protect the rights of "climate refugees".
When it comes to climate change induced migration "everybody jumps the bandwagon and waves their own agenda" said Professor Dr Frank Biermann, an expert in global environmental governance, in a keynote presentation at a recent conference in Geneva, Switzerland.
In an article first published by the World Council of Churches, ANNEGRET KAPP reports on moves to protect 'climate refugees'...|
AFGHANISTAN: 'JUST PEACE' NEEDED SAYS WORLD CHURCHES' LEADER
Seeking military victory against the Taliban will not guarantee a "just peace" for the people of Afghanistan, says the head of the world's largest grouping of churches.
"Violence will only come to an end if at the same time we build up Afghan society," the Rev Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the Geneva-based World Council of Churches, said in an interview with the Rheinischer Merkur, a German weekly newspaper, published on 6th May.
Rev Tveit was interviewed in advance of the 12th to 16th May Ecumenical Kirchentag, or church convention, in Munich organised by German Protestant and Roman Catholic groups. The WCC leader is to speak at the opening of the five-day event, which is expected to draw more than 100,000 participants.
STEPHEN BROWN reports for Ecumenical News International...|
FILM: AUSTRALIAN DIRECTOR LIVING HIS DREAM AS HE TAKES THE GOSPEL TO THE SILVER SCREEN WITH LETTERS TO GOD
It’s probably not typical practice on a movie set to start every day with a 10 minute devotional. Nor would it be considered the norm in Hollywood to have ‘prayer warriors’ standing by during filming, charged with the task of ‘bathing the set in prayer’.
But Christian film-maker David Nixon – who’s just finished production of Letters To God - believes both are critical to the success of his latest production, Letters To God.
An Australian who’s worked for more than 30 years in the US film and television industry, Mr Nixon says that throughout filming of the movie, the set was "bathed in prayer", an approach to film-making he learnt from working with the Georgia-based Sherwood Baptist Church when making the 2006 release Facing The Giants and the 2008 film Fireproof.
“(T)hey just bathed those projects in prayer and that’s really the key to the whole thing,” he says. “We have what we call prayer warriors on the set with us everyday while we’re shooting.
DAVID ADAMS speaks to Christian film-maker David Nixon...|
THE BIBLE: TRANSLATION TEAM REACHES OUT TO INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIA WITH NEW 'SIMPLIFIED ENGLISH VERSION'
Indigenous Australians will soon be able to read the entire New Testament in simplified English - a basic version of English consistent with the linguistic and semantic features of Indigenous languages.
The Simplified English Version (SEV) Translation Project team includes translators from Bible Society SA, Bible League Australia, Wycliffe Bible Translators, Australian Indigenous Ministries and Church Missionary Society. Its purpose is to make the Bible more easily understood by Indigenous Australians, many of whom speak English as a second language.
"This is one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever been involved in,’ says Grahame Smith, the CEO of Bible League Australia. "We’re providing Indigenous Australians, for whom English is a second language, with a copy of the New Testament and parts of the Old Testament, in a translation they understand."
KARYN MARKWELL reports on a project aimed at taking the Bible to Indigenous Australians...|
THE PHILIPPINES: "ACCIDENTAL" SOAP ENTREPRENEURS HELP LIFT UP POOR PARISHIONERS
A Filipino couple who are both pastors have become accidental entrepreneurs after their daughter's search for body care products for her allergy-sensitive skin led to the creation of a home-based industry, which the family sees as its ministry.
"With this evolving business, poor parishioners can earn extra income, which can sustain their local churches," Pastor Robinson Ayupan told Ecumenical News International. "With more income, parishioners can give tithes, support their pastor, and sustain their ministries."
Ayupan's wife, Lorna Jane, says many of the 100 dealers, who retail the family's bath soap and other body care products, are poor parishioners, some of whom are students working their way to college, others unemployed housewives.
MAURICE MALANES, of Ecumenical News International, reports...|
SOUTH AFRICA: ANGUS BUCHAN URGES HUGE CROWD OF 'MIGHTY MEN' NOT TO BE 'WIMPS'
An estimated 350,000 men gathered on a farm belonging to South African farmer/evangelist, Angus Buchan, over the past weekend for the Mighty Men conference in what was one of the largest gatherings of men for a Christian event ever. Some came from as far afield at Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Pakistan, and the UK.
Buchan is a farmer turned evangelist who exhorts people to trust God for the impossible, drawing on his personal experience of the miraculous. The author of the book, Faith Like Potatoes - released as a movie in 2006, says he has seen God intervene in his life many times including when his farm was saved from a raging bushfire by his family’s fervent prayers for rain, when a farm worker was raised from the dead after she was struck by lightning, and when God came through for him with a miracle crop of potatoes in the face of the severest drought.
Buchan refused to comment on the numbers attending the conference, referring to the Biblical story of David who commissioned a census out of pride and was later punished. However he was prepared to say it was the largest gathering of Christian men in the world as far as he knew. He added, “there is no stadium in the world that could hold this number of men.”
In an article released by Assist News Service, NICO BOUGAS reports on Angus Buchan's 'Mighty Men' conference...|
EUROPE: CHRISTIANITY IS "STILL RELEVANT" FOR MOST EUROPEANS, SURVEY FINDS
Almost two-thirds of Europeans think Christian values are still relevant to contemporary life and are ready to acknowledge the Church's efforts to promote them, a recent survey carried out for La Croix daily newspaper has found.
"Whether rooted in Christianity or not, Europeans recognise a privileged place for this religion in its Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox forms," France's Roman Catholic-linked newspaper commented on 1st April.
"Yet while two-thirds think Christianity's message is still up-to-date, this isn't the case for the other third. So, Christianity remains an element marking the religious culture of the Old Continent, but no longer claims exclusivity," the newspaper noted.
In the survey, conducted during March by France's Institut Francais d'Opinion Publique (IFOP) in Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, 57 percent of respondents said they believe Christians are "sufficiently visible" in society. That was compared to 28 percent who thought they were "not visible enough" and 15 percent who considered them "too visible".
JONATHAN LUXMOORE reports for Ecumenical News International...|
THE BIG PICTURE: EASTER IN SYDNEY
Photographer RAMON WILLIAMS was there for some of this year's Easter celebrations in Sydney...|
MOOGERAH PASSION PLAY MAKES ITS MARK IN SOUTH-EAST QUEENSLAND
It’s become something of an Easter tradition in south-east Queensland and, just as they have in previous years, this year once again hundreds of people are expected to make the trek out to Lake Moogerah to watch a passion play about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ under the open sky. This year, organiser Kosti Simons expects, will be no different.
The first passion play was staged at Moogerah, located about 60 kilometres southwest of Ipswich, in 1993. Mr Simons and his wife Carroll had returned to Australia after 12 years of living on their sloop in Barcelona inspired by a vision he had received during a holiday in Queensland that he was to write a passion play.
“(I) was meditating in a park when an interior voice quite clearly told me I had to return to Australia,” he recalls. “It actually repeated itself lest it fall on deaf ears. As I opened my eyes I saw dead ahead a bright star (and) I knew…I was to write a passion. I was to found a passion play organisation.”
AUSTRALIAN CHURCH LEADERS REFLECT ON THE MEANING OF THE DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST
This week will see millions of Christians around the world celebrating the same date for Easter by attending church and again reflecting upon the meaning of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
What does Easter mean for us in Australia? Is it just another long weekend or is it more than that? For some it may just be another day but for others it does have a special significance, even if only for the chocolate. This Easter weekend will once again see many attending local churches searching for a deeper meaning.
Easter reminds us that God is no stranger to suffering and pain. Easter reminds us that God is not just watching from a distance. God comes near to us in Jesus Christ, the one born in a manger in Bethlehem, schooled in the ways of the world in Nazareth and spent three years actively showing people God’s mercy and compassion.
- Rev Tara Curlewis, General Secretary, National Council of Churches in Australia
For this and other Easter statements from Australian Christian leaders, follow the link...|
ESSAY: THE GOD WHO DIES
‘Died He for me who caused His pain, for me who Him to death pursued. Amazing love how can it be, that thou my God shouldst die for me?’ – Charles Wesley, ‘And Can It Be?’, 1738
As we prepare to celebrate another Easter, I have been thinking about Jesus’ death on the cross and what it really means. The view I was always taught was that Jesus is the substitutional atonement for our sins and that He took our place and became sin for us (II Corinthians 5: 21). Therefore God the Father turned His back on Jesus because He couldn’t look on sin. Jesus took the punishment we deserve. I have a problem with that last sentence. For a start, it is not Biblical. Let me explain why.
Firstly, it goes against the fact that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (II Corinthians 5: 19). This was God Himself up on that cross. Later in the New Testament, the letter to the Hebrews tells us that God will never leave us or forsake us, so it hardly follows that He would forsake His own son.
NILS VON KALM writes about the meaning of Easter...|
HAITI: STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL GOES ON THREE MONTHS AFTER QUAKE
More than three months on from a devastating earthquake in January, the world’s media have largely turned their attention away from Haiti. Yet, for those worst affected by the disaster, even as rebuilding begins, the fight for survival is far from over.
Philippa Youd, a British doctor who recently spent time in Haiti, says the tens of thousands of people remain living on the streets of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and surrounding communities in “tent villages”.
“The village our hospital served had 6,000 people and 100 tents. The rest of the people are living under plastic sheets or curtains and the rainy season had already started..." she says, describing the city as "devastated".
"It is worse than it appears on the news because the news only gives a snapshot. Flying over Port-au-Prince or driving through miles and miles of rubble and collapsed buildings is breathtaking.”
WINTER GAMES: AUSTRALIAN CHAPLAIN FINDS INSPIRATION IN UNLIKELY PLACES
For chaplain Matthew McBurney, the highlight of the recent Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, didn’t involve him witnessing a gold medal win.
Rather, for him, the most special moments included the time he spent with an inspirational young US female athlete, Caitlin Compton, who had paid her own way to Canada to be able to compete as part of the Cross Country Team as well as coaching herself and caring for her ill mother at the same time.
Not to mention meeting the ‘Snow Leopard’ - 33-year-old Kwame-Nkrumah Acheampong - who made up Ghana’s one man ski team and whose story, according to Rev McBurney, was simply “inspirational”.
The 45-year-old father of five was one of two Australian chaplains at the Games (the other being Nett Knox). In recent years he’s been more usually based in Jindabyne, in New South Wales, where he serves as chaplain for the three nearby ski resorts of Thredbo, Perisher, and Charlotte Pass as well as for the NSW Institute of Sport’s winter development program
DAVID ADAMS speaks with Olympic chaplain, Rev Matthew McBurney...|
FOR MORE ON THE WINTER OLYMPICS:
GOLD AND SILVER, SALT AND LIGHT
In an article first published on Canadian Christianity.com, JIM COGGINS looks at how Christians are reaching out to others at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver... | more...|
THE INTERVIEW: NETT KNOX, OLYMPIC SPORTS CHAPLAIN
Sydneysider Nett Knox is a sports chaplain who will be working at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. She spoke with DAVID ADAMS... |
COMBATTING RACISM: AUSTRALIAN CHURCHES URGE PEOPLE TO "HEAD OUT FOR A CURRY" IN SUPPORT OF INDIAN STUDENTS
Church leaders have taken to eating curry meals to support campaigns to overcome violence and racism against Indian students living in Australia.
"Vindaloo against Violence" was a recent event where Australians were invited to have a curry lunch or dinner on 24th February as an act of appreciation and peace between local citizens and the Indian student community.
The Rev Alistair Macrae, leader of Australia's largest Protestant church, the Uniting Church in Australia, had urged church people, "to head out for a curry...to the local Indian restaurant and order a vindaloo or a curry and while giving thanks for the food, pray for Indian students in this country and pray for the generous Spirit to soften our hearts".
KIM CAIN reports for Ecumenical News International...|
NIGERIA: HUNDREDS KILLED IN ETHNIC AND RELIGIOUS VIOLENCE
UPDATE: FURTHER KILLINGS REPORTED IN NIGERIA IN WAKE OF JOS MASSACRE
A group of Muslim herdsmen disguised as soldiers "butchered" and then burned over a dozen Christians Wednesday, 17th March, in a small Christian village in central Nigeria, near the location where hundreds were killed last week, witnesses and officials said.
The attackers were also seen cutting out most of the victims' tongues, in the latest violence in a region where religious fighting already has seen several massacres this year, news agencies reported.
Officials said the attack resembled tactics used by those who carried out similar massacres in Christian villages last week when some local authorities said over 500 people were slaughtered, although other sources put the death toll at roughly half that figure.
HUMAN RIGHTS AGENCIES CALL FOR "PROMPT INVESTIGATION" INTO JOS MASSACRE
Human rights groups are putting pressure on the Nigerian Government to ensure the prompt investigation into a massacre in which hundreds of Christians are believed to have been killed earlier this month.
Human rights organisations Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Human Rights Watch are among those who have called on the Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan, to ensure the perpetrators of the violence are prosecuted and that citizens of all ethnicities are protected from further attacks or reprisal killings.
The latest killings in Nigeria’s Plateau State – which also drew calls from US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, for the perpetrators to be prosecuted - took place in the early hours of 7th March when, according to Human Rights Watch, “groups of men armed with guns, machetes, and knives attacked residents of the villages of Dogo Nahawa, Zot, and Ratsat, 10 kilometres south of Jos, the capital of Plateau State”. The organisation said the dead included “scores of women and children”.
MARY MACKILLOP: QUESTIONS ARISE AS "MOST GODLESS PLACE" GETS FIRST SAINT
Australia - described in the 19th century by a Scottish church minister as "the most Godless place under heaven" - will get its first saint when Sister Mary MacKillop is canonised by Pope Benedict XVI later in the year.
Some Protestant church leaders have, however, raised questions about the need to find "proof of a miracle" in order for her sainthood to be confirmed.
Mary MacKillop, the daughter of a Roman Catholic, Scottish immigrant, at just 24, established the Order of the Sisters of St. Joseph in South East Australia in the late 1800s.
A teaching order, known locally as the "brown Joeys" after their brown habits, brought the first educational experiences to many of Australia's rural poor then.
The recognition in 2009 of a second miracle attributed to MacKillop, has ensured she has passed the last stage of the three stages needed for her to be granted sainthood.
KIM CAIN reports for Ecumenical News International...|
ART A. AYRIS, COMIC EVANGELIST
What was the reasoning behind embracing comic books as an evangelistic tool?
"'The truth is like a lion, just let it out of its cage and it will do its work.' (John MacArthur) We do many different stories, such as sci-fi, action-adventure, Biblical epics, historical fiction, and biographical. Some are positioned so as to expose people to Biblical truth and stories and others are genre stories framed within a Christian worldview. We just signed well-known writer Dr Marvin Olasky to a 15 comic, three graphic novel deal and his stories are imagination-expanding tales that I think will have a big impact. We should have about 30 to 35 books out by the end of this year. The goal is to have 75 plus by the end of 2011.
"The power and authority are already there in God’s Word in His story and the way the Spirit takes those stories and then reaches into the human heart with them. We are simply setting the table and giving people reasons to believe. CS Lewis viewed reason as the natural 'organ of truth' and imagination as the 'organ of meaning'. He believed that the only way we grasp any idea with clarity is if we have an image associated with it.
Pastor Art A. Ayris is founder and chairman of Florida-based comic book company Kingstone Media which, as well as producing the award-winning feature film The Touch and publishing books including Pastor Ayris' own novel, Sudan, has published comic books focusing on stories such as those of Exodus, Moses and Revelation, sci-fi tales such as the two volume series 2048, in which the future of genetic engineering takes a dark turn, and a true tale, fittingly called The Last Convert of John Harper. Pastor Ayris spoke with KRIS BATHER...|
BURMA: THOUSANDS OF CHRISTIANS TO PRAY ON GLOBAL DAY OF PRAYER
Thousands of Christians worldwide will unite in prayer for Burma next week as part of global day of prayer for the nation, organisers said.
It comes amid reports that thousands of predominantly Christian Karens have fled their homes amid fresh attacks by government backed troops on their villages.
The Global Day of Prayer for Burma first began in 1997, initiated by Christians Concerned for Burma at the request of Burma’s democracy leader, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
“It has since become an internationally recognised event attended by those struggling to see an end to suffering in Burma,” said Britain-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which has investigated the situation of Christians in Burma, also known as Myanmar.
THE SHIPPING NEWS: YWAM MEDICAL SHIP SPREADS THE WORD AMONG AUSTRALIANS BEFORE HEADING TO PAPUA NEW GUINEA ON A MISSION OF MERCY
It’s the life affirming stories, the good news stories, which keep Youth With A Mission (YWAM) volunteer Hannah Peart from being overwhelmed by the needs of a place such as Papua New Guinea.
Stories like that of Bonnie, who, when she first met him, was only a month-old and already an orphan after his mother died in childbirth. When Hannah, a registered nurse who visited his community as part of a team providing healthcare and education, the village had declared him “as good as dead” and decided to throw him in the river. But a couple, with whom the decision didn’t sit well, decided to take him and adopt him. While his life was saved temporarily, they had no milk to feed him with and he just grew weaker by the day.
“When I met him, I didn’t think he had much longer than a day to live.,” recalls the 28-year-old New Zealander. “But I really didn’t think this was the plan for this small child so I really encouraged this family to believe that this child could live and declare life and the value of life over this child.
CHILE: HUNDREDS DEAD AFTER "DOUBLE TRAGEDY" OF EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI
Aid agencies are scrambling to respond after news that at least 700 people have died after an 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck the South American nation of Chile on Saturday.
As many as two million people have reportedly have been affected by the quake and subsequent tsunami.
There has been extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure – particularly in the city of Conception, the second largest in the nation which lies close to the epicentre of the quake, and in coastal communties where entire populations are feared lost.
Repeated aftershocks, some as strong as magnitude six, have continued to affect the area.
Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet has described the disaster as “a catastrophe of such unthinkable magnitude that it will require a giant effort (for Chile to recover from it)”.
AFRICA: CHURCHES USING MOBILE PHONES TO RING UP GROWTH
A mobile phone suspended on a belt round the waist, or from the neck, is a common sight among members of church congregations in Africa. Now, church leaders are heaping praise on mobile phones, sometimes called cell phones, because they say the instruments help congregations grow.
Mobile phone use increased rapidly in Africa about 10 years ago. At that time, however, some Christians on the continent criticised the phones for being "marks of materialism". Now, that has changed.
"It is as if cell phones have come to revolutionise everything, even Christianity," says Anglican Bishop Charles Gaita of Nyahururu in central Kenya. "They are making things happen quickly."
Bishop Gaita says mobile phones make it easier and cheaper for the church to spread word about its activities, such as Bible studies and meetings. The phones also make it quicker to get information, and help improve lives.
FREDRICK NZWILI, of Ecumenical News International, reports... |
ESSAY: RETHINKING RESURRECTION
Lent, iPod and ‘carbon fast’
When the Lent season started, a friend of mine decided to fast from Facebook and take-away food. Meanwhile, Bishop Richard Chartres in London, and Joel Edwards, Head of Micah Challenge International, are calling on Christians to give up using their iPods and mobile phones, as well as participate in a ‘carbon fast’ to reduce their carbon footprint. The reason for the ‘carbon fast’ is that Christians can show their solidarity with those suffering from the effects of climate change.
Lent is, of course, about Christians preparing themselves for Easter. And Easter is, of, course about Christ’s death and resurrection. Most people will agree that giving up social networking and junk food will help us to focus on God. But some may question whether the emphasis on ‘carbon fast’ runs the danger of reducing the meaning of Easter to some social justice agenda.
In the past I thought that Christ’s resurrection was all about the victory He had won for me so that I might have eternal life. But now I think that it’s much more. In the following I want to affirm the absolute importance of proclaiming Christ’s death and resurrection, but at the same time suggest that the implications of the resurrection are much more profound and far-reaching than we normally think.
SIU FUNG WU argues that the 40 days of Lent is a good time for Christians to take another, deeper, look at the implications of Christ's resurrection... |
WINTER OLYMPICS: GOLD AND SILVER, SALT AND LIGHT
Christians are finding many ways, in and around the Vancouver Olympic Games, to be the 'salt and light' Jesus spoke of in the Sermon on the Mount.
The initiatives range from offering 'radical hospitality' and quality arts presentations, to addressing social issues through both advocacy and protest.
Christian volunteers are pleased with "how responsive people are" said Karen Reed, executive director of the joint Christian outreach effort, More Than Gold (MTG).
While the main Olympic venues are in Vancouver and Whistler, some Games events are being held in nearby British Columbia municipalities.
The City of Richmond has a newly constructed 'Oval' speed skating track. With the Skytrain transit system now connecting Richmond and Vancouver, the city anticipated an influx of crowds and converted its large central park and sports complex into the 'O Zone,' with a performance stage, food venues, a pub, a small outdoor ice rink and other attractions.
In an article first published on Canadian Christianity.com, JIM COGGINS looks at how Christians are reaching out to others at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver... |
ESSAY: IN SEARCH OF A "REAL WOMAN"
There has been much fuss in the media of late, applauding the trend of putting “real women” on the covers of our magazines in a bid to promote positive body image. Think Sarah Murdoch without air-brushing, or Jennifer Hawkins posing nude. Never mind the fact that Sarah and Jen are both supermodels to begin with! You have to wonder that if they need their flaws disguised or erased, what hope is there for the rest of us mere mortals?
Like many readers, I am rather cynical about this abrupt departure from the usual idealised images. Despite the media patting itself on the back, I can’t help wondering...Where are the real women on our magazine covers? The women of different ethnic origin? The ladies with killer curves? The women in the 50 plus age bracket? Are they not considered attractive enough to appear on a magazine cover?
Christian women's magazine, Footprints, is searching for a "real woman" to grace the cover of its 50th issue. Editor JANET CAMILLERI explains why... |
JAPAN: GERMAN SNOW CHURCH IS SAPPORO'S TALLEST STRUCTURE
One of the outstanding sculptures of the week-long Sapporo Snow Festival in the far north of Japan is of the Frauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady, dedicated to Mary the mother of Jesus, in Dresden, Germany.
For seven days each February, snow and ice statues and sculptures of all shapes and sizes turn the city of Sapporo on Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan's four main islands, into a venue for winter images representing different themes.
The Frauenkirche, in the eastern German city of Dresden near the border with the Czech Republic, presents itself at the festival, "as a symbol of a reunited Germany". The church is considered unusual because, though it is Protestant, it bears the title of "Our Lady", which Roman Catholic churches more commonly use.
HISASHI YUKIMOTO reports for Ecumenical News International... |
HAITI: IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE EARTHQUAKE
FEARS THAT FINAL DEATH TOLL LIKELY TO EXCEED 250,000
The authorities in Haiti have increased their estimate of the number of people killed by the devastating 12 January 2010 earthquake from 212,000 to 230,000, with the final figure likely to be much higher.
Twelve days afterwards, it was believed that 150,000 people had perished in the immediate aftermath of the tremor which measured 7.0 on the Richter scale. But many more lives were lost in the succeeding days and weeks, and the capacity to monitor the situation was almost wholly absent at the beginning, such was the appalling impact of the disaster on the country's fragile infrastructure.
Rescue workers and officially believe the final figure for fatalities will exceed a quarter of a million people, making the earthquake a catastrophe on the scale of the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004-5.
CHURCHES APPLAUD AS G7 CANCEL HAITI DEBT BUT SAY MORE MUST BE DONE
The World Council of Churches has applauded the decision of G7 nations to cancel Haiti’s debts and urged others to follow suit.
The council’s general secretary, Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, has called upon the International Monetary Fund and other international financial institutions to follow the example of the G7 nations - which include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US. He added that the international financial community should also ensure financial support being offered to Haiti in the wake of the 12th January earthquake, is “grant-based and not debt-creating”.
An estimated 200,000 people died after the earthquake struck the capital, Port-au-Prince, and a further 250,000 people were injured. It’s estimated that around 1.5 million people have been left homeless.
FOR MORE OF OUR COVERAGE OF THE HAITI EARTHQUAKE CLICK HERE...
THE BIG PICTURE: 'WIPED OUT'
Like most other Victorians, I was shocked by the bushfires that swept through the Marysville region in February last year. Having personal connection with people who lost loved ones drove home the devastation more deeply. Blackness befell everyone, both physically and emotionally.
Visiting the burnt out area six months on, whilst the regrowth was evident, the solemn feeling was still all pervasive.
A year on from Victoria's devastating 'Black Saturday' bushfires in which 173 people died, NELL POTTER talks about her inspiration for 'Wiped Out'...|
ESSAY: WHO IS TO BLAME FOR NIGERIA'S ATROCITIES?
Every now and again we are reminded of the continuing Christian/Muslim conflicts in the Sudan, in Nigeria, and in the Middle East. Most recently blood was shed in Jos, Nigeria, an area close by a seminary for training pastors I have supported.
Most reports of these violent conflicts have blamed the jihadists. The anti-Muslim groups in Australia always describe atrocities in such a manner. But reliable eyewitnesses are now saying that as people lost loved ones and began to retaliate, mistrust widened between the Christian and Muslim communities. Many Christian young people have taken up their machetes to gain revenge.
The majority of people in Jos, Muslim and Christian alike, live in peace and want to continue to live that way. In some areas of Nigeria the two religious groups have co-existed for decades. But the Government media is largely Muslim and their reports are often suspect. At least Christians make that complaint.
Rev Dr GORDON MOYES provides his perspective on the recent violence in Nigeria... |
THE INTERVIEW: NETT KNOX, OLYMPIC SPORTS CHAPLAIN
Are the athletes generally receptive to your presence? Have you forged ongoing relationships with athletes at previous Olympics?
"The Olympics is a unique experience for athletes and all the emotions they feel each day are heightened in an Olympic environment. It's important for athletes to have an outlet where they can let off steam, be consoled, find support, debrief and/ or relax. Often, being with a
chaplain can foster that.
" The confidentiality of the relationship between the athlete and the chaplain is crucial for them trusting us and feeling comfortable and safe to unload whatever they need to unload. That may be feelings arising from their performance; it may be feelings about being isolated from family and friends back home; it may be issues with team members, coaches or other support staff, their boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife.
"Sometimes the relationship begins at the Olympics and continues to be supportive and helpful for them after the Games are over. For many athletes, post-Games support is even more important. For that reason, I believe follow-up is crucial and I spend a
lot of time following up athletes once the Games are over."
Sydneysider Nett Knox is a sports chaplain who will be working at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. She spoke with DAVID ADAMS... |
THE BIG PICTURE: THOUSANDS MARCH IN SYDNEY IN SUPPORT OF EGYPT'S COPTIC CHRISTIANS
PICTURE: RAMON WILLIAMS
21st January, 2010
Thousands gathered in Sydney this week to march in protest at the treatment of Coptic Christians in Egypt.
Peter Tadros, from the Coptic Orthodox Archidiocese of Sydney, told the ABC their plight has been ignorned by governments and the media. "We've had hundreds and hundreds of Christians killed over the last decade, hundreds of churches have been burnt down," he said.
In one of the latest incidents - and the deadliest attack in years, six young Coptic Christians and a Muslim security guard were killed and others injured when three gunmen opened fire on churchgoers as they celebrated in Nagaa Hammadi, Egypt, on 6th January, the eve of the Coptic Orthodox Christmas.
Egyptian officials have since labelled the attack as 'criminal' rather than sectarian.
The Sydney rally - held on 19th January - followed one in Melbourne on 13th January.
Copts account for almost 10 per cent of Egypt's population of 80 million.
- DAVID ADAMS
DEVASTATION IN HAITI
RECONSTRUCTION MUST BE BASED ON JUSTICE, SAY CHURCHES
As churches and church related organisations mobilise resources to bring immediate relief to the people of Port-au-Prince, they are also advocating for the international community to waive Haiti's foreign debt while building a more sustainable future for the country.
Two weeks after the country's worst earthquake in two centuries struck on 12th January, the plight of the victims has prompted a worldwide mobilisation of churches' resources.
Pledges of funds, delivery of emergency aid items and appeals for donations are reported from every corner of the globe, while messages of solidarity, prayers and even hymns to express the sorrow flow in from near and far.
The situation of Haiti's devastated capital justifies such a level of mobilisation and much more, according to church witnesses there. "Thousands of houses are flattened", reported the president of the Protestant Federation of Haiti, Rev Sylvain Exantus, soon after the earthquake in an email calling for international solidarity.
JUAN MICHEL reports in a story first published on the World Council of Churches website... |
AFTERSHOCK ROCKS CITY AS AID EFFORTS GATHER MOMENTUM
A 6.1 magnitude aftershock rocked Haiti earlier this week in the wake of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake which devastated the nation on 12th January, estimated to have killed anywhere from between 100,000 and 200,000 people and to have made another 1.5 million homeless.
Damage from the aftershock - centred about 60 kilometres south-west of Port-au-Prince - was not known but it added to the fear of the tens of thousands of people who are now living on the streets following the destruction of their homes.
"Uncertainty is what most people I met spoke about," Simon Schorno, the Haiti spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross was quoted as saying. "However, the people of Haiti are incredibly resilient and despite the pain, hardship and chaos, a semblance of normality seems to be returning to Port-au-Prince."
"AUSTRALIANS NEED TO KNOW THAT THE SITUATION IS PRETTY DIRE"
"I spent today trying to support the team here to give medical support to Haitians who are teaming in from Port-au-Prince in search of medical support, water, and food. The people were coming in by car, truck loads, and motor bike.
"The search and rescue teams have finally arrived, aid organisations are distributing water, and giving supplies to support the dwindling supplies from hospitals. So many people had to wait outside.
"The only hospital here was full to capacity and people were waiting on floors and in the street. People also waiting outside.
"They soon ran out of simple first aid supplies and so we have given them our own personal travel kits.
RUTH MLAY, World Vision Australia's country program coordinator for Haiti, was in the Caribbean nation when the earthquake hit. Now located about an hour out of the capital, Port-au-Prince, she speaks of her experience in a communication to World Vision staff in Australia on Thursday, 15th January...|
World Vision staff attend some of the victims of the earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT: US MISSIONARIES SURVIVE HARROWING ORDEAL
Two missionaries from a Calvary Chapel in Wisconsin credit God’s hand of protection for their narrow escape from danger in the Port-au-Prince earthquake.
Pastor Huguener “Bastia” Bastia and his wife Betty minister at a Calvary Chapel located in rural Caneille, Haiti. They had arrived in Port-au-Prince to celebrate their wedding anniversary on the day the earthquake struck, according to Mary Danielsen, a secretary at their home church in Wisconsin.
“Bastia and I are both safe and unharmed due to nothing short of a miracle of God,” writes Betty, in a 13th January email sent to their home church.
MARK ELLIS, of Assist News Service, reports... |
Troy Livesay works for Christian organisation, World Wide Village, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. On his blog, he talks about the devastation in the city. Click HERE to read Troy's account on his blog (note that by clicking on the link, you are leaving Sight)...
Want to express your thoughts or say a prayer about the devastating earthquake in Haiti? Click here to have your say...
On Wednesday, 27th January, Sight held a day of prayer and fasting for the nation of Haiti, as it faces the devastating aftermath of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake which struck on 12th January...|
SUDAN: AID AGENCIES WARN OF THREATS TO PEACE AGREEMENT
A group of international aid agencies has warned of renewed conflict in southern Sudan if urgent international action is not taken to bolster a five-year-old peace agreement that ended a two-decade civil war.
"A return to war is by no means inevitable, but it depends whether the world heeds the warning signs of the past year and has the political will to save the peace," Paul Valentin, international director of the British agency Christian Aid, said in Nairobi on 7th January.
Valentin was launching the report, "Rescuing the Peace in Southern Sudan", drawn up by 10 agencies ahead of the 5th anniversary of signing of the peace agreement on 9th January.
The report warns that a mixture of rising violence, chronic poverty and political tensions has left the pact on the brink of collapse.
FREDRICK NZWILI reports for Ecumenical News International... |
PERSECUTION: NORTH KOREA AND IRAN TOP ANNUAL LIST OF WORST OFFENDERS
North Korea has topped the annual list of nations where the worst persecution of Christians occurs for the eighth consecutive year.
The 2010 list, published by mission organisation Open Doors this week, lists Iran as the second worst nation for the persecution of Christians followed by Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and the Maldives. Afghanistan, Yemen, Mauritania, Laos and Uzbekistan round out the top 10.
Addressing North Korea’s number one ranking, Carl Moeller, president and chief executive of Open Doors USA, says the listing of North Korea as number one was “certainly not a shock”.
“There is no other country in the world where Christians are persecuted in such a horrible and systematic manner...Three generations of a family are often thrown into prison when one member is incarcerated.”
COPENHAGEN: UNHAPPY WITH ACCORD, CHURCHES URGE ONGOING ACTION
Faith groups have expressed disappointment and anger over the outcome of the United Nations talks on climate change that have ended in Copenhagen, pledging to continue to press for climate justice.
"With a lack of transparency, the agreement reached this past week by some countries was negotiated without consensus but rather in secret among the powerful nations of the world," the World Council of Churches' programme executive on climate change, Guillermo Kerber, stated.
Kerber said an agreement "called the Copenhagen Accord, was negotiated between five countries, the US, China, India, South Africa and Brazil". He said, "It maintains that the scientific thinking for keeping temperature increase below two degrees Celsius is important, but failed to make commitments to reduce emissions to keep the temperature rise in check."
PETER KENNY reports for Ecumenical News International... |
ESSAY: SEEING THROUGH THE CONSUMERISM TO THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS
My wife and I recently saw the movie, What Would Jesus Buy? It's a brilliant spoof of all that Christmas has become for millions of people trapped in the shopping frenzy that is the silly season. The film follows Reverend Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir throughout the United States as they try to help consumers open their eyes to the madness that they are participating in every December.
One of the scenes that captured me the most in this movie was when the choir would roll up to the front door of unsuspecting families and start singing their carols. How nice you might say, until you heard the brilliantly farcical take on some well known lyrics. Take their version of Joy to the World.
NILS VON KALM reflects on the true meaning of Christmas...|
CELEBRATING CHRIST'S BIRTH AROUND THE WORLD
‘Merry Christmas’ in Swahili: ‘Kuwa na Krismasi njema’.
Christmas in Tanzania is characterised by great rejoicing, despite widespread poverty and hardship.
Christmas is a time of celebration for Christians all over the world, but nowhere is this more obvious than in the poverty-stricken nation of Tanzania. Here, local Christians have few possessions and their Christmas dinners may be meagre, yet they celebrate the birth of Christ with genuine joy and love for Him.
About a third of all Tanzanians are Christians. They celebrate Christmas during their rainy season when schools are closed for the summer holidays. There’s very little lead-up to Christmas by Tanzanians, as most have very few resources to decorate their homes, purchase or make gifts, or attend pre-Christmas festivities.
In the final part of a series examining Christmas celebrations around the world, KARYN MARKWELL finds out what happens in the African nation of Tanzania...|
In a series examining Christmas celebrations around the world, KARYN MARKWELL looks at what happens in Japan...|
In the fourth of a series examining Christmas celebrations around the world, KARYN MARKWELL uncovers some interesting traditions in Brazil...|
In the third part of a series looking at how Christmas is celebrated around the world, KARYN MARKWELL relates how Christ's birth is celebrated in Israel...|
In the second of a series looking at how Christmas is celebrated around the world, KARYN MARKWELL takes a look at Denmark...|
Christmas is only six weeks away and already decorations are starting to appear in cities across the world. In the first of a weekly series looking at how Christmas is celebrated around the world, KARYN MARKWELL takes a look at how South Africans mark the birth of Christ...|
How do you celebrate Christmas? Share your customs, traditions and celebrations with others... |
CHRISTMAS SPECIAL - THE SIGHT GOOD GIFT IDEA LIST
This year in the lead-up to Christmas, we're publishing a list of gift ideas we've come across which might make for a good alternative. But we'd love to hear from you too - if you have a good gift idea, just add it to the list!... |
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THEY SAID IT
"I called but nobody heard me. I heard noises, but nobody listened to me."
- Reshma, an 18-year-old Bangladeshi seamstress rescued after being trapped under rubble for more than 17 days. Reshma was trapped when a factory complex in Savar, Bangladesh collapsed on the morning of 24th April, 2013. The death toll from the disaster has climbed past 1,000 (as quoted on www.theaustralian.com.au on 11th May, 2013). For more of They Said It, follow the link... | more... |
THIS WEEK ON THE WEB
16th May, 2013
Writing in Eureka Street, Frank Brennan explains why it is time Australia committed to negotiating final maritime boundaries with East Timor. You can read the article here...
Sight now has a Pinterest page where you can see some of our images. To see it, head here...
15th May, 2013
Loss. What a scary word. We all experience loss to varying degrees. Loss of friendships, loss of health, loss of status, and loss of employment. We are fearful, or even terrified of loss because we so desperately cling to the things around us, rather than surrendering them to God.
Our life should stand for more than simply gathering praise and possessions, for we can too easily place our pleasure and identity in those things, rather than in God. Jesus warns us that our life is short, He warns us that we should not chase riches, and He tells us to be thankful and hopeful, as God knows what we need, and as He feeds the birds, so will He feed us (Matthew 6).
Musings is a regularly updated, column featuring short snippets reflecting on daily life from a Christian perspective...|
INSECTS ON THE MENU?; A 'SPACE ODDITY'; BACK FROM THE DEAD; AND, A FOUR-YEAR-OLD MAYOR...
Insects already form part of the diet of an estimated two billion people but they may well be on even more menus in the future as experts look to alternative means of feeding people. The Food and Agriculture Organisation says that insects (and there are about a million known species) could provide a "readily available source of nutritious and protein-rich food".
ADAMS writes about the odder side of life...|
THOUSANDS OF EASTERN ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS JAM STREETS FOR 'HOLY FIRE' CEREMONY... While Roman Catholics and Protestants in Israel and across the world celebrated Easter Sunday on 31st March this year, for hundreds of millions of Eastern Orthodox in Russia, Ukraine, Greece, the Holy Land and elsewhere the highlight of Easter 2013 came on Saturday, 4th May, when tens of thousands of the faithful packed Jerusalemâ€™s Church of the Holy Sepulcher to witness the Holy Fire ceremony marking the resurrection of the Christian messiah.
MEMORIAL TO QUAKER SERVICE INAUGURATED AT UK'S NATIONAL ARBORETUM...
A memorial to Quaker service opened at the National Arboretum at Alrewas near Lichfield on 20th April. It commemorates the work of the Friends Ambulance Unit and Friends Relief Service during World War II.
The Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) was an independent body led by Quakers but open to all. During the Second World War over 1,300 men and women served in 25 countries, building a record of goodwill and positive service.
It's Easter week and I'm watching that delicious softness in the autumn atmosphere start to blur the sharpness of summer down here in southern Victoria. The dry grass in the paddocks has the colour and look of a grommie's* surf-bleached hair - all oaten white and fly away, the sunrises pastel soft and the shadows at the end of the day are long in the golden light before slow sunset. Summer crowds recede and Easter tides increase.
It's back! ANN
WOJCZUK's blog about life, the universe and possibly everything...|
EVERYTHING IS RELATIONAL...
Over the last year or so I've been realising how everything in life is related to our relationships, whether we realise it or not. All of our interactions are either constructive or destructive for our relating. That's why life is so difficult. I thought of saying during a sermon once that life is easy until you have to relate to someone! It is for this reason that doing our best to get our relationships to work is the most important thing we can do with our lives.
NILS VON KALM'S blog on faith, life and how it all might fit together...|
OUT OF AFRICA: TAKING YOUR BLESSINGS FOR GRANTED...
I have been thinking a lot lately about how blessed I was living in Australia. Sadly much of that blessing was in a sense ‘lost on me’ because I didn’t see it for what it was. The longer I live here the more I realise the day-to-day difficulties people face in the majority of the world. I am amazed that people are able to keep their hope when so many things seem so difficult.
Things I have always taken for granted - access to water, nutritious food and good medical assistance - are, at times, just not available here. I am horrified at the number of times people come back from our local medical clinic saying that there is no medicine or even occasionally no doctor.
LENA JOHNSTONE's blog about life in Malawi, Africa, where she works with the Mphatso Children's Foundation...|
THE STOREROOM: HOW TO ABOLISH SLAVERY? GUEST POST BY THE APOSTLE PAUL... From Paul a servant of Christ Jesus, and Richard his brother.
So, as I wrote, my hope was that in the homes of the Church in Ephesus the relationships between slaves and masters would be transformed.
Also, I left Timothy in Ephesus and wrote this to him: “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers – and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, which He entrusted to me.”
Emphasis is mine. Well, actually, the whole thing is mine.
RICHARD THOMAS' sometimes weird and sometimes wonderful 'storeroom' of ideas...|
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