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ESSAY: OHIO - WHEN NEXT DOOR IS A WORLD AWAY
The story is told of a man who stood, day after day, by the doors of a bank of elevators in a New York skyscraper. Asked why he loitered there for hours on end, he replied simply: "I wait for people to brush past me - I just need to be touched."
The story may well be apocryphal but its central theme, urban isolation, will resonate with many Americans as they consider the dramatic tale of three young women released from virtual slavery on Monday evening.
The three women were allegedly kidnapped and held captive for the best part of a decade. The mother of one of the victims died in 2006, heartbroken by the belief that her daughter, though perhaps still alive, might never be found.
Aside from the obvious questions about what motivates men to behave in such inhumane and depraved ways, we should also consider the question of how the neighbours remained unaware of the situation for so long.
News reports emerged this week in which people living nearby claimed to have seen naked women in the garden. Other reports spoke of a small child who was seen looking out of an upstairs window during the day, apparently without adult supervision.
MAL FLETCHER reflects on events in the US this week...|
DEVELOPMENT: NEW INDEPENDENT RESEARCH SHOWS THE BENEFITS OF CHILD SPONSORSHIP
New independent research has shown that children sponsored through child development and advocacy organisation Compassion stay in school longer, are more likely to have salaried employment and are more likely to be leaders in their communities and churches than their peers.
The research, the results of which were published in the Journal of Political Economy last month, was carried out by Dr Bruce Wydick and a team of researchers from three US universities - San Francisco, Minnesota and Washington - over almost three years, from June, 2008, to August, 2010.
It involved almost 10,000 people across six nations - Bolivia, Guatemala, India, Kenya, the Philippines and Uganda, including 1,860 adults who were registered in Compassion’s child sponsorship program between 1980 and 1992. Others involved in the study included siblings of the adults who had been sponsored as children and people of the same age from both within and without the communities in which children had been sponsored.
DAVID ADAMS reports on the findings of ground-breaking research showing the positive effects of child sponsorship …|
ESSAY SPECIAL: A BEACON OF HOPE
Compassion's programs work for one of three reasons: Christ, the church and sponsors. When it comes to the church, there is none better placed to bring love and transformation to struggling communities.
Poverty is often economically defined as living on less than $2 per day. But poverty, in its entirety, is complex. Not only does it manifest in a lack of food or access to safe water, but it can affect every aspect of a person’s life denying them opportunities and hope for a better future.
Compassion child sponsorship confronts the complexity of poverty, addressing the spiritual, economic, social, physical and emotional needs of every child. Thanks to local churches in countries where Compassion exists, sponsored children have safe places to play and laugh, the chance to see a doctor when they’re sick, access to education and the chance to discover Jesus’ incredible love for them. It’s the local church who works day in and day out to identify and meet the individual needs of children living in poverty. And through the ministry of their local church, children are shown and given the chance to respond to the love of Christ.
In the first of a new monthly series of articles surrounding the launch of Compassion Australia's new campaign - Compassion Child Sponsorship. IT WORKS - LINA ALARCO and CHOE BRERETON report on the difference child sponsorship in making in one Colombian neighbourhood…|
ESSAY: ZAHLE DISPATCH - LIFE AMONG SYRIA'S REFUGEES
About 30 kilometres outside Syria’s western border, the Lebanon town of Zahle is full of refugees: Many make it across the Syria-Lebanon border and not much farther. With new refugees arriving every day, it seems that every spare building, shed and patch of ground is being rented by families or groups of families, at crippling prices. Even those leaving Syria with money can afford almost nothing in Lebanon. Before the uprising, Lebanese prices were several times higher than those in Syria. A colleague in Beirut, 90 minutes from the border, used to travel to Syria to shop for clothes because it was so much cheaper. Now, with more people competing for the same land, rooms or bunch of bananas, prices in the border town have rocketed, putting many essentials out of reach of desperate refugees.
On arriving at a church to meet our host for a few days, I was struck by how tiny it was: All we saw was a network of small rooms. And with only 50 members, it was greatly outnumbered by the refugees flooding into the town. Even so, they started going out to sit with a few families and understand their needs. They gathered what food, blankets and mattresses they could, and gave them to the families. They arranged for a doctor to come and visit the sick; They prayed with those who wanted prayer.
In an article first published by the World Watch Monitor, LISA PEARCE, the CEO of Open Doors UK and Ireland, reflects on the time she recently spent with Syrian refugees in the town of Zahle in Lebanon…|
MUSIC: BRITTANY CAIRNS' VOICE RISES TO NEW HEIGHTS
It was a friend of Brittany Cairns who sent the Sydney singer a link with information about online auditions for Channel Nine's, The Voice. An audition which, it turns out, would lead to dramatic changes in her life.
“And at first I thought, no, that’s not for me, and then I kind of just palmed it off…But then I thought who cares if I make it, I’ll just try and see how it goes.”
Well enough that Ms Cairns made the finals and garnered a nation-wide following for her music as she’s gone on to produce a couple of chart hits and a tour in New Zealand as well as performances at various festivals around Australia. She’s also already seen some chart success with her rendition of Jes Hudak’s Different Worlds hit number one on the iTunes chart and number seven on the ARIA chart.
Ms Cairns – whose self-titled EP comes out in June with a second single from it to be released before then (the first was Behind the Scenes) - says she never imagined her singing would take her this far.
DAVID ADAMS speaks with Brittany Cairns about how doors have been opening up after The Voice…|
EUROPE: BORN WITHOUT LIMBS, AUSTRALIAN EVANGELIST NICK VUJICIC BRINGS HIS MESSAGE OF HOPE TO HUNGARY
A Serbian Australian evangelist who was born without all four limbs says thousands of Hungarians attended his gatherings aimed at restoring hope and impacting Hungary "for Jesus Christ".
Nick Vujicic, 30, said he had the opportunity to pray privately with Hungary's President János Áder shortly before his 19th and 20th April 'This Is The Day' rallies in the capital Budapest and cities of Pecs and Debrecen .
"I had the incredible opportunity to meet with and pray for the Hungarian president and his wife," he recalled. While many were believed to have accepted Jesus Christ as what evangelicals call "their personal Lord and Savior" during the meetings in stadiums, Mr Vujicic stressed that “If just one more person finds eternal life in Jesus Christ...it is all worth it”.
The trip to Hungary is part of the 2013 World Outreach tour through some 26 countries of his 'Life Without Limbs' organisation, which wants to encourage desperate people, including youngsters.
STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports on Australian evangelist Nick Vujicic's recent visit to Hungary…|
THE INTERVIEW: JACK DUNFORD, THE BORDER CONSORTIUM
Could you tell us a little bit about what The Border Consortium is, for those who aren’t familiar with it?
“Well, The Border Consortium is a consortium. We are 10 member agencies from eight different countries – one of which is Act for Peace (the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia) – and we have been working with refugees from Burma along the Thailand border since 1984, for some 29 years.
“The origins (go back to) a small group of Christian agencies who agreed to provide food to refugees…at the invitation of the Thai Government, for what was then anticipated to be for three months…Ten thousand refugees had arrived and the Thai Government expected they would go back in the rainy season when the Burmese Army would have to withdraw…
“That was the humble beginning and here we are 29 years later with a $30 million budget and we have been taking care of as many as a quarter of a million refugees and internally displaced (people at the one time).”
After almost 30 years of working with Burmese refugees on the Thai border, Jack Dunford has finally stepped down as head of The Border Consortium which continues to provide food shelter and other assistance to just under 130,000 refugees still living in border camps today. In Australia recently for a fleeting visit, he spoke with DAVID ADAMS…|
ESSAY: BEYOND BOKO HARAM - THE LETHAL PERSECUTION OF NIGERIA'S CHRISTIANS
The publicly reported Christian casualties in Nigeria last year were greater than the Christian casualties of Pakistan, Syria, Kenya and Egypt combined. In fact, Nigeria alone accounted for almost 70 per cent of Christians killed globally. This makes Nigeria the most lethal country for Christians by a huge margin.
While media reports do not tell the whole story, and death tolls are not the only factor in persecution, such a great list of martyrs demands our attention. In 2012, more than 900 Christians were killed in Nigeria in attacks that specifically targeted Christians for their faith. By the first quarter of this year, at least 128 people have been killed in northern Nigeria, mostly Christians.
Much of the violence in 2012 was attributed to the Jihadist terror group Boko Haram. With 3,000 casualties affecting citizens from a dozen countries in three years, Boko Haram has earned a dubious distinction as one of the top five lethal terrorist organisations in the world.
In an article published by Morning Star News, ANN BUWALDA - executive director of Jubilee Campaign, and human rights attorney EMMANUEL OGEBE - Nigeria expert for the organisation, argue that the focus on terrorist group Boko Haram has overshadowed "a pattern of systemic religious violence in Nigeria"... |
CONCERNS OVER ESCALATING VIOLENCE AS AT LEAST 185 KILLED
A Catholic aid group warned this week that a long-running insurgency in northern Nigeria is escalating after at least 185 people were killed in fighting between the military and the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.
The fighting in the northeastern fishing town of Baga, which began Friday and lasted for hours, marked another setback for Christians and other residents in the region, explained priest Evaristus Bassey, national director of Caritas Nigeria.
"It’s actually disappointing because there has been talk of amnesty and one of the leaders of Boko Haram came out to say that they were going to go on a ceasefire," he told Vatican Radio.
BosNewsLife reports on concerns over the escalating violence in Nigeria... |
BOOKS: THE STORY OF HOW RBS HAMMOND'S "RADICAL GENEROSITY" HAS HELPED AND INSPIRED THOUSANDS
“A compelling and compassionate Christian man,” is how historian Meredith Lake describes Robert Hammond, founder of the Sydney suburb of Hammondville and a man renowned for putting his faith into action with what she describes as a “radical generosity”.
“He was a ‘practical Christian’ – he cared about doctrine, he cared about what’s true and what’s not, but at the end of the day, he wasn’t going to sit around in a coffee shop debating; he was going to get on with the job as he saw it of bringing real hope into people’s lives,” she says.
“And hope, as he saw it, was not just otherworldly, it was about the here and now - it was about community, it was about families and about actually making a good go of things and having half a chance in life, knowing that God would meet you where-ever you were at…I think he was part of a long tradition of ‘practical Christians’ in that way.”
Hammond (known to many as RBS Hammond) and his legacy – in particular the establishment and ongoing work of the HammondCare organisation which today operates in various locations across New South Wales - are the subject of Dr Lake’s recently released book, Faith in Action: HammondCare.
DAVID ADAMS speaks to historian Meredith Lake about her new book looking at the history of the ground-breaking mission of Sydney minister RBS Hammond and the HammondCare organisation... |
There's been a deadly wave of bombings in advance of Saturday's 450-seat provincial elections.
On Monday, police say insurgents coordinated 24 separate attacks in six different provinces, killing nearly four dozen people and wounding more than 257 others.
Based on the targets and who claimed responsibility, the violence appears to be sectarian. Greg Musselman, a spokesman with the Voice of the Martyrs Canada, explains, "There is a lot of instability. You've got al-Qaeda who definitely wants to make it their mission to take over the country and what they believe - their brand of militant Islam - and they will use any means to do that."
Noting what seems to be a spike within the last few weeks, Mr Musselman attributes some of it to bad timing. "Part of that is with the US pullout, they are really testing to see how strong the military - the police - are in the country. Obviously, they're finding out that there are some holes. That's become a very big challenge for the Iraqi officials and security."
A report from Mission Network News looks at the ongoing violence in Iraq - particularly in light of the upcoming elections - and what it means for Christians living there... |
WORLDVIEW ESSAY: IRAQ - WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OFF AND THE DUST SETTLES
In an article first published by Morning Star News, JULIANA TAIMOORAZY - president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, writes of the plight of Assyrian Christians in Iraq... | more... |
NORTH KOREA: CHRISTIAN BROADCASTER BOOSTING PROGRAMS AMID WAR THREAT
Global Christian broadcaster Trans World Radio (TWR) said this week it is launching new programs aimed at North Korea to bring "a message of peace and hope" to "counter the swirling rumors of war" in the troubled region.
TWR's announcement came after South Korea’s foreign minister warned that North Korea was expected to conduct a nuclear capable missile launch, a development that prompted that country and the US to increase their military alerts levels.
“Based on intelligence we and the Americans have collected, it’s highly likely that North Korea will launch a missile,” Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said. Yun said North Korea has a medium-range missile known as the “Musudan” that has a range of about 3,500 kilometres, which would make it capable of flying over Japan.
Experts said the Musudan is mainly designed to reach the US territory of Guam, where TWR has a 100,000-watt transmitter site, which it said "beams shortwave messages of Biblical reconciliation to people who are hungering for God’s love rather than political confrontation".
BosNewsLife, with STEFAN J BOS, reports on moves to increase Christian radio broadcast into troubled North Korea... |
ESSAY: RESTRAINT JUST THE FIRST STEP IN HOW WE SHOULD REACT TO NORTH KOREA'S POSTURING
PAUL CLARK gives his thoughts on how the world should react to North Korea's provocations - and talks about his fears if they don't... |
EGYPT: AUSTRALIAN CHRISTIANS EXPRESS CONCERN OVER ESCALATING ANTI-CHRISTIAN VIOLENCE
The National Council of Churches in Australia has joined with an international chorus of voices expressing concern over anti-Christian violence in Egypt.
Two people were killed and more than 90 injured when an angry mob reportedly attacked Christian mourners outside St Mark's Cathedral in Cairo on Sunday. The Christians were burying four Copts who were killed in sectarian violence on 6th April in Khosous, about 15 kilometres north of Cairo. A Muslim was also killed in the gun battle.
"The safety of Coptic Christians is of increasing concern," said Rev Tara Curlewis, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Australia.
Noting that the latest attacks had taken place inside the St Mark's Cathedral complex - which also contains the papal residence of Pope Tawadros II - Rev Curlewis said the attacks struck at people "when they are most vulnerable and at the place where they should feel safest". "Attacking the cathedral complex is actually attacking the church and all is stands for."
DAVID ADAMS reports on Australian reactions to the latest anti-Christian violence in Egypt... |
ESSAY: RESTRAINT JUST THE FIRST STEP IN HOW WE SHOULD REACT TO NORTH KOREA'S POSTURING
Kim Jong-un has only been in leadership of North Korea for a little over a year – and his ascension to power wasn’t immediate as many considered him too young and inexperienced for the role. Now the world’s youngest head of state seems to be trying to flex his muscle and prove to his own people, if not the world, that he can live up to the cult of personality that surrounds being the supreme leader of North Korea.
Are his recent threats all bluff and bluster to bolster his leadership credentials, and get a heap of hits on YouTube? Or do they represent a clear and present danger to world peace?
Having grown up during the cold war – when the imminent threat of thermonuclear war saw me going to sleep in a cold sweat on not a few nights – such rhetoric brings back bad memories. These are memories I don't want my own children to have to grow up with.
How should the rest of the world react to such bluster? Should we flex our own muscles to put Jong-un in his place, or will such reactions just unnecessarily escalate this situation? In the shadow of Easter, does the message of Christ - a message we have long seen as bringing peace - teach us how to respond to such world events? I think it does.
PAUL CLARK gives his thoughts on how the world should react to North Korea's provocations - and talks about his fears if they don't... |
MERCY MONDAY: YOUR CHANCE TO HELP CHANGE THE LIVES OF WOMEN IN AFRICA
With as many as two million women in Africa suffering from the obstetric fistulas as a result of a difficult birth – a problem which is relatively easy to correct but if left untreated one which can have devastating consequences for the woman’s life, the medical volunteers aboard the Mercy Ships vessel, African Mercy, know they have a huge task ahead of them.
But they are making headway and it’s to raise more awareness and funds to tackle this women’s health issue that the organisation is holding its annual Mercy Monday next month.
“It’s a relatively easy operation – it takes about 30 to 45 minutes,” says Gary Regazzoli, chief executive of Mercy Ships Australia. “But unfortunately there’s about two million of these ladies in Africa with this particular problem. So we’re trying to raise awareness of that and also get the funds to be able to not only treat those who have the injuries but also to help with the prevention of it as well.”
While obstetric fistulas – which can occur during prolonged or difficult labours - are relatively unknown in countries like Australia where caesarian sections are widely available, they can have devastating consequences in Africa.
DAVID ADAMS reports on why it's important people get behind the upcoming annual 'Mercy Monday' ... |
NIGERIA: AT LEAST 80 PEOPLE DIE AND THOUSANDS DISPLACED IN EASTER SEASON VIOLENCE
Nigerian Christians have appealed for prayer after Easter season violence in troubled central Nigeria left as many as 80 people dead and displaced some 4,500 others.
At least 19 people were killed since Easter Sunday when gunmen believed to be nomadic Muslim cattle herders attacked the mostly Christian Atakar group in Kaura district, a remote area of Kaduna state, officials said.
Witnesses said the attacks on three communities, including the Mafang and Zilang villages, killed many women and children. Kaduna police spokesman Aminu Lawan told reporters his forces were still investigating.
Ataka Christians live near Plateau state where authorities claimed fighting between cattle herders, who are mainly Fulani Muslims, and Christian villages killed nearly 60 people in recent days.
BosNewsLife reports on the latest violence against Christians in Nigeria... |
CELEBRATING THE RESURRECTION ON EASTER SUNDAY!
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
"Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.’"
- Mark 16:1-7 (NIV)
IMAGE: James Steidl/www.istockphoto.com
ESSAY: PUTTING ALL MY EGGS IN ONE BASKET
Most of us, including urban people who never lived on a farm, are acquainted with the old saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” We often hear that from those who are planning for retirement. That may be good advice.
Christians, however, do put all their eggs in one basket – an Easter basket. If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, then all is lost. If He did rise from the dead, then what Christianity is doing in His name is true and valid. There is not one egg to lose from that basket of eternal faith and truth.
Easter eggs, hard-boiled and beautifully decorated, speak to us of the buried Christ who is resurrected to eternal life. I recall childhood days when a “setting hen” would sit on a nest of eggs keeping them warm and protected. It was an exciting day when the live chicken inside the egg wanted out. We could hear that unborn baby pecking on the shell until it broke and the new little chick came out.
Those baby chickens, once born, grew rapidly and soon were giving birth to other “hatching little chickens.” Some of them grew up to lay eggs that we enjoyed immensely or become fried chicken with delicious chicken gravy for Sunday dinner.
In a piece first published by ASSIST News Service, BILL ELLIS tells why his eggs are all in one basket at Easter... |
ESSAY: FIG TREES, FAITH AND FORGIVENESS
In chapters 10 and 11 of Mark's Gospel, the writer tells of how Jesus and His disciples were travelling up to Jerusalem. They were headed toward the Passover celebration. It also seems that Jesus had, unbeknownst to them, been arranging a donkey and rented room for the Passover meal.
Healed of his blindness, Bartimaeus of Jericho has joined the throng of people going along the road with the rabbi from Galilee. And as the crowds swell, and there are cries of “Hosannah” and the air is full of expectation about the coming of David’s restored kingdom. But alongside the cleansing of the temple we also read about this curious incident with the fig tree that is played out before Jesus’ disciples. Jesus seems to have left His disciples, and us, pondering over what Peter called the “curse” of the fig-less fig tree.
Could Mark have told us this story to indicate that Jesus was under so much pressure that He finally cracked and took it out on a poor old fig tree? Are we, perhaps, to feel sorry for the tree? Mark does seem to be telling his readers that Jesus, once more, confused His disciples. But what did He intend by this? What did the incident with the fig tree signify?
BRUCE C WEARNE looks at what a story about Jesus cursing a fruitless fig tree has to do with Easter... |
MESSAGES FROM AUSTRALIAN CHRISTIAN LEADERS
Rev Tara Curlewis, general secretary, National Council of Churches in Australia
Easter is running into the unexpected
"The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. ...Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed" (John 20:4, 8)
The first century events that are recalled at Easter are filled with people being met by the unexpected. Jesus repeatedly surprised people with the unexpected, talking to the outcast and healing the sick. These events started to open people’s eyes to see Jesus as one who transforms situations. Then when he raised his friend Lazarus to life it pointed to what was to come. That first Easter morning as the disciples went to the tomb to grieve for their friend they ran up the path into the unexpected. The grave clothes lay there and Jesus was not.
Read the rest of this message and messages from other Australian Christian leaders here... |
AFRICA: ANXIETIES HIGH AS REBELS TAKE OVER CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
A three-month-old rebel uprising in the Central African Republic swept into the country’s capital Sunday, ousting the president and leaving ransacked Christian homes and churches in its wake.
A source close to the Episcopal Conference of the Central African Republic told World Watch Monitor that many Christians’ properties have been looted. Cars, electronics and other goods were stolen.
The main Cathedral of Bangui, the premises of Caritas Charity, and the houses of a number of religious communities were targeted by armed men, said the source, who is a Catholic priest and asked not to be publicly identified, for security reasons.
Several rebel groups unhappy with the government of President Francois Bozizé, joined forces in December under the banner Séléka and within weeks had taken control of much of the country’s north, northeast and the central regions.
Landlocked and largely impoverished, the French-speaking Central African Republic has a long history of unstable, military governments since it gained independence in 1960. Bozizé, who rose to power in a coup 10 years ago, fled Sunday to neighbouring Cameroon.
The World Watch Monitor reports on concerns among Christians following a coup in the Central African Republic... |
BURMA: INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY URGED TO PRESSURE FOR END OF CRACKDOWN ON ETHNIC AND RELIGIOUS MINORITIES
Rights groups have urged the world to pressure Burma to end a crackdown on ethnic and religious minorities after government troops reportedly killed and raped dozens of mainly Christian civilians while burning hundreds of churches and homes.
In a statement obtained by BosNewsLife, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) and the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) said the "international community" should "push ethnic and religious minority rights higher up the reforms agenda for Burma".
In one of the most reasons incidents, CHRO said a 13-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by a Burma Army soldier in the Paletwa area of southern Chin State. "A ceasefire agreement between the Chin National Front and the government has been in place since January last year, but Chin State remains heavily militarised with more than 54 Burma Army camps," the group said.
Elsewhere, in predominantly Christian Kachin state, government troops killed at least nine civilians and wounded more than a dozen others in mortar attacks from September 2012 to February, explained the the Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (KWAT).
BosNewsLife, with STEFAN J BOS, report on calls for international pressure to be placed in Burma to end a "crackdown" on ethnic and religious minorities... |
HUMAN RIGHTS GAP REMAINS SERIOUS, SAYS UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR
Tomás Ojea Quintana, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights situation in Burma, talks about what progress is - and isn't - being made in the Asian nation in this report from Ekklesia... |
ANGLICAN CHURCH: NEW ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY ENTHRONED
The Most Reverend Justin Welby was enthroned as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday, marking the official start of his public ministry.
In a ceremony amid African dancers, to the sounds of Punjabi music, at Canterbury Cathedral, the 57-year-old was formally sworn in as head of the Church of England and spiritual leader of the 77 million-strong Anglican global communion.
Of the 2,000 guests attending, they included the Prince of Wales, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, and archbishops and bishops from around the world, as well as representatives of other faiths.
The African aspect of the ceremony was highlighted Welby's links with the continent in both his former position as an oil executive and as a conflict negotiator during his time at Coventry cathedral.
PETER WOODING, of ASSIST News Service, reports on the enthrone of Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury... |
BURMA: HUMAN RIGHTS GAP REMAINS SERIOUS, SAYS UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR
The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights situation in Burma (Myanmar) says that reform in the country needs to go far deeper.
Tomás Ojea Quintana noted that there are "ongoing improvements" to the human rights situation, but warned that a large gap still remains between reform at the top and implementation on the ground.
“While the process of reform is continuing in the right direction, there are significant human rights shortcomings that remain unaddressed, such as discrimination against the Rohingya in Rakhine State and the ongoing human rights violations in relation to the conflict in Kachin State,” the expert said during the presentation of his latest report to the UN Human Rights, stressing that “now is the time to address these shortcomings before they become further entrenched and destabilise the reform process.”
“The Government must establish the truth about what happened in Rakhine State during after the two waves of communal violence last June and October, and hold those responsible for human rights violations to account,” he said.
Tomás Ojea Quintana, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights situation in Burma, talks about what progress is - and isn't - being made in the Asian nation in this report from Ekklesia... |
CATHOLIC CHURCH: POPE FRANCIS
"I WISH FOR A CHURCH THAT IS POOR AND FOR THE POOR", SAYS POPE FRANCIS
The new spiritual head of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics has told them and the world's media, "I wish for a Church that is poor and for the poor."
The comment, in front of an audience of 6,000 correspondents in Rome, came as part of an explanation from the pontiff as to why he had chosen the name Francis.
The Pope explained: "Some people didn't know why the Bishop of Rome wanted to call himself 'Francis'. Some though of Francis Xavier, Francis de Sales...I will tell you the story. At the election I had the archbishop emeritus of Sao Paulo next to me. He is also prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes: a dear, dear friend.
"When things were getting a little 'dangerous', he comforted me. And then, when the votes reached the two-thirds, there was the usual applause because the Pope had been elected. He hugged me and said: 'Do not forget the poor.' And that word stuck here (tapping his forehead); the poor, the poor.
At his first press conference, Pope Francis talks about his heart for the poor, report Ekklesia... |
ARGENTINE CARDINAL NAMED POPE FRANCIS
Argentine cardinal, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, has been elected the 266th pope, taking the name Pope Francis.
Appearing in front of a huge crowd packing St Peter's Square last night, he asked the faithful to pray silently for him at a time of turmoil in the church.
Bergoglio, a Jesuit and former archbishop of Buenos Aires, is the first pope ever elected from Latin America, a region of the world with 480 million Catholics. He is also the first non-European pope in more than 1,200 years.
He replaces Pope Benedict XVI, who became the first pontiff to retire in 600 years. His surprise resignation last month prompted the 115 Roman Catholic cardinals to initiate a conclave, a Latin phrase meaning "with a key," to pick a new leader for the world's over 1.2 billion Catholics.
Pope Francis, reportedly believed to have been runner-up when Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005, won the necessary two-thirds vote after only two days of the conclave. The cardinals reportedly came to agreement after five votes.
DAVID ADAMS reports on the election of Pope Francis - the first Latin American pope and first non-European pope in 1,200 years... |
POVERTY: NEW CAMPAIGN AIMS TO KEEP THE POOR ON AUSTRALIA'S ELECTION AGENDA
As many as 1,000 young Australians gathered in Canberra on Thursday to launch the Movement to End Poverty, a joint campaign being run by the Micah Challenge and Make Poverty History coalitions in the lead-up to this year's Federal Election.
Young Australians stood outside Parliament House with their politicians in a giant map of Australia with electoral banners made to look like Google drop pins.
The campaign aims to collect 500,000 signatures by the election on 14th September, asking politicians to agree to raising our foreign aid to 50 cents of every $100 of gross national income by 2016 and 70 cents by 2020.
Jody Lightfoot, Make Poverty History spokesperson, said the goals are achieveable.
"We are asking our nation's leaders to ensure we give a fair share to help the poorest people overcome poverty."
DAVID ADAMS reports on a new movement to keep the global poor in the minds of Australia's politicians... |
PAKISTAN: LAHORE RIOTS BURN CHRISTIANS OUT OF THEIR HOMES
Pakistan’s national assembly joined a chorus of condemnation Monday following Saturday’s rioting in Lahore by Muslims that prompted Christians to flee before scores of their houses were burned.
“We fled for our lives, do not ask us where we are,” a Christian teacher sobbed to World Watch Monitor before her phone went dead.
“Everything is gone and they will come and get us next,” said another Christian, who refused to leave Badami Bagh, a working-class urban sector of Lahore. “We have decided it is best to stay and lay low. If they come we will also flee, but we pray they will not. We do not know if their rage has been satisfied.”
News reports quote Lahore police as saying the rioting was sparked by an argument between a Christian and a Muslim who had been talking over drinks. Savan Masih, a sweeper, had been drinking with a friend, Shahid Imran, in Shahid’s barber shop, as was their custom, according to the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement, a Christian organisation.
The Watch World Monitor reports on riots targeting Christian homes in the city of Lahore in Pakistan over the weekend... |
ESSAY: INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY 2013 - UNTYING THE KNOT
Today is International Women’s Day: one day set aside to focus on women and girls, to celebrate their resilience and courage and draw attention to the discrimination and violence they continue to face. In my travels, I’ve certainly seen progress for women and girls in accessing the same status, rights and opportunities as men and boys, but there is still much to be done.
For me, one of the most confronting issues is early child marriage – where girls are married before the age of 18. One in seven girls in the developing world is married by the age of 15. While early child marriage is motivated by a range of factors, the practice often occurs due to cultural beliefs that a girl’s main purpose is to get married, have children and look after a household. Educating a girl is not seen as a priority.
The consequences of early child marriage are enormous. Girls aged between 10 to 14 are five times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth than women aged 20 to 24 (UNFPA, 2011). They are less likely to remain in school. These girls are often married to men older than them, making it difficult for them to negotiate issues like when sex occurs, whether contraception is used and how their children will be spaced.
MICHELLE LOKOT, a gender advisor with World Vision Australia, writes about the issue of child marriage... |
EASTERFEST: A RENEWED FOCUS ON WORSHIP AS THE FESTIVALCONTINUES TO EVOLVE
There’s the usual array of headline acts from both Australia and around the world but this year's Easterfest also promises a greater focus on worship than it has previously.
Held in the Queensland town of Toowoomba over the three days of the Easter weekend (29th to 31st March), this year's acts include international groups like the Canadian band Newworldson and the US bands Relient K and Sanctus Real as well as more locally-based performers such as trumpeter James Morrison, jazz vocalist Emma Pask, former Newsboys lead Peter Furler and New Zealand band Evermore.
Dave Schenk, in his second year as festival director, explains that for the first time this year the festival will feature 72 hours of non-stop worship over the weekend.
Kicking off from 9pm on Thursday night at the chapel in the Empire Theatre and then running at that venue throughout the weekend, it will conclude with five hours of worship music in a grand finale on Sunday night, an event which replaces the traditional 90 minute worship service.
DAVID ADAMS reports on this year's Easterfest - and how worship is a particular focus... |
CATHOLIC CHURCH: BENEDICT XVI RETIRES
As the doors closed and the Swiss Guards left his summer residence, Benedict XVI became the first pontiff to retire in some 600 years, following a moving farewell address to thousands in which he urged the Catholic Church to remain united in one of the most challenging times in its history.
"As you know, today is different to previous ones," he told an emotional, cheering crowd in the small town of Castel Gandolfo in his last public remarks as pope. "I will only be the supreme pontiff of the Catholic Church until 8pm and then no longer," he said.
He will remain in Castel Gandolo palace till renovations are completed at the monastery in Vatican City, where he will take up residence, the Vatican said.
Benedict arrived at the papal summer residence south of the capital in a white Italian air force helicopter. Bells rang out from St Peter's Basilica and churches all over Rome as the helicopter circled Vatican City and flew over the Colosseum and other landmarks to give the pontiff one last view of the city where he is also bishop.
A report from BosNewsLife on the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI... |
MIDDLE EAST: JEWISH HOSPITAL PARTNERS WITH CHRISTIAN GROUP TO OFFER FREE MEDICAL CARE TO PALESTINIAN CHILDREN
A top Israeli medical centre and a Christian organisation that ministers to Palestinian refugees have launched a new project, 'Rescue the Child', to provide free medical care to Palestinian babies and children from the West Bank and Gaza.
“It is such a move of God to reach out in love and compassion to these children, who were dying and had such little hope,” says Karen Dunham, director of Living Bread Church International. “Isn’t it like God to team up a Christian organisation and a Jewish hospital to show love to the enemies of Israel during this time?”
“That’s what Jesus did, reached out to the least of these. There are no borders that the Lord cannot move,” she says.
Ms Dunham received a green light from the chairman of the Assaf Haroef Medical Center in late January and has already begun moving children in need of attention. “Living Bread will be moving the patients to them and back to Gaza,” Ms Dunham notes. “It is an amazing door of love God is opening up.”
MARK ELLIS, of Godreports.com, writes about a new initiative to help Palestinian children... |
THE INTERVIEW: ROB DRAPER, DIRECTOR OF NICAEA
I gather this is the first time there's been a film directly about the Council of Nicaea - why do you think that is? What attracted you to the film and the story of the council?
"The story is quite amazing and, to be honest, I did not know the history of the period before joining the project. What really inspired me with this was the story, but more important (was) the passion of the man who's dream was to bring this to the screen, Mr Charles Parlato.
"He has had the story in his mind for more than 20 years and has been trying to get it made for the past six years. He has had an uphill battle trying to get it done as many have resisted the content. However he sees a similarity between what happened then, and what is going on in the world now, and sees this movie as an opportunity to have people question who they are, where they are from and where they are going. He is quite an inspirational guy.
"I have also wanted, for some time, to somehow use all my skills to do something that might make a difference. Something that would have an impact on peoples lives. I see Nicaea almost as a gift fulfilling that dream of mine."
A film and TV cinematographer of many years standing in the US, Australian Rob Draper is directing the upcoming feature film - Nicaea. Being shot in Rome later this year, the film looks at the life of the Emperor Constantine and his role in the Council of Nicaea held in 325 AD - a key event in the early life of the church. He spoke with DAVID ADAMS via email... |
Twenty-three days ago, Nigeria's Islamist faction, Boko Haram, offered a truce.
The government responded with a 30-day "wait and see." Their cautious optimism came in light of the intensified 42-month multi-prong attack strategy. It seemed that under the "Western education is forbidden" motto of Boko Haram, everyone was fair game: military, police, security facilities, schools and churches.
The goals of the extremist group were two-fold: instill Sharia law throughout the country, and create an Islamic state. A subset goal was the eradication of Christian presence.
Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for The Voice of the Martyrs USA, notes confusion over the ceasefire offer. Violence was supposed to stop, but "there are news reports that since the announcement was made, 53 Nigerians have lost their lives in violence. Not all of those have been claimed by Boko Haram. but they are assumed to be Boko Haram, so it doesn't seem like there's been a significant change of direction."
Mission Network News talks to Voice of the Martyr's Todd Nettleton about the situation in Nigeria following Boko Haram's offer of a truce last month... |
MIDDLE EAST: THE SILENT EXODUS OF SYRIA'S CHRISTIANS
In Syria's rebellion, no religious or ethnic group has been spared horrific levels of loss and suffering, but its 2,000-year-old Christian minority is now facing a distinct persecution.
Under the cover of war and chaos, this group, which alone lacks militias of its own, is easy prey for Islamists and criminals, alike. These assaults are driving out the Christians en masse. This 2,000-year-old community, numbering around two million is the largest church in the Middle East after Egypt's Copts, and it now faces extinction.
Archdeacon Emanuel Youkhana of the Assyrian Church of the East, despite recent heart surgery, is now constantly on the road in Lebanon and Iraq trying to cope with the refugee crisis. He wrote to me earlier this month:
"We are witnessing another Arab country losing its Christian Assyrian minority. When it happened in Iraq nobody believed Syria's turn would come. Christian Assyrians are fleeing massively from threats, kidnappings, rapes and murders. Behind the daily reporting about bombs there is an ethno-religious cleansing taking place, and soon Syria can be emptied of its Christians."
In an article first published on the National Review Online's Corner Blog in the US, NINA SHEA, director of Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom in the US, writes about the plight of Syria's minority Christians... |
SITUATION IN SYRIA "NOTHING SHORT OF CATASTROPHIC"
The situation in Syria is "nothing short of catastrophic," according to Pierre Krähenbühl, director of operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Following a four day visit to the country, Mr Krähenbühl and Walter Cotte, under secretary general for programme services at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told a press conference that civilians are being killed an injured, thousands of people are missing and millions have been displaced from their homes.
America’s killing by drone program finally became frontpage news this week with the leak of a memo arguing the legality of targeting US citizens suspected of being al Qaeda leaders. But the debate remains too small. Whether the president has the legal authority to order the killing of US citizens is certainly an important question, but there are more fundamental issues not being given as much scrutiny. Some were touched on in the confirmation hearing of John Brennan, but much remains unanswered.
Beginning under President George W. Bush, and escalating under President Barack Obama, the United States is currently using armed drones in four countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia), has used them in two others (Iraq and Libya), and is considering using them in northern Africa. Why should we oppose this means of warfare?
In an article first published in the Sojourners God's Politics blog in the US, DUANE SHANK writes about why the use of drones should be opposed... |
ESSAY: FAIR GO A FALLACY AS SELF-INTEREST TRUMPS REAL NEED
Ever since the Prime Minister called the election, I’ve had three words repeating in my head. Fair - By - Instinct. That’s how the PM described our nation and it’s an assessment I think most Australians would agree with. Fairness is the cornerstone of our constitution and our national identity. But as we head into an election year, I think we need to ask ourselves whether we really believe in a fair go for all.
A leaked Coalition discussion paper which floats the idea of diverting overseas aid money to build a medical centre in far north Queensland is just the latest development in a series of alarming developments in the aid sector. It’s a trend that’s seeing our political leaders play with the definition of aid and it deeply concerns me. I believe that it also belittles our aspirations for fairness.
I hope our major political parties are focused on a broader notion of justice, one that includes the poorest and most vulnerable people beyond our shores. These are the people our overseas aid program aims to help, and a recent government report concluded that our taxpayer dollars are making an extraordinary impact in their communities.
In an article first published in the Sydney Morning Herald and Fairfax Online, TIM COSTELLO - chief executive of World Vision Australia - says Australia mustn't forget its promises to the world's poorest people... |
POPE BENEDICT XVI RESIGNS
QUEST FOR THE NEXT POPE BEGINS IN THE WAKE OF POPE BENEDICT XVI'S RESIGNATION
While it's been suggested the next Pope could be an African, Melbourne-based academic Professor Desmond Cahill suggests it may be a Canadian or South American who is elected by the papal conclave.
While reports have suggested that Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana and Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria are among contenders, Professor Cahill – professor of intercultural studies at RMIT University and Vatican watcher – says he doesn’t think that “at this stage the church would take so bold a step as to have a black African cardinal”.
He says French Canadian Marc Ouellet, currently head of the Congregation of Bishops, would “in my view, be the favorite, but there’s no real front-runner”. Others who may be considered include the South Americans Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa in Honduras, and Cardinal Odilo Scherer, Archbishop of Sao Paulo in Brazil.
DAVID ADAMS speaks with Melbourne-based Vatican watcher, Professor Desmond Cahill... |
POPE BENEDICT XVI BECOMES FIRST PONTIFF SINCE 1415 TO RESIGN OFFICE
UPDATED, 4pm, 12th February, 2013
Pope Benedict XVI has announced his resignation on the grounds of failing health, becoming the first pontiff in almost 600 years to step down as head of the Roman Catholic Church.
In a surprise announcement, the 85-year-old, spiritual leader of the world's estimated 1.2 billion Catholics, said he will step down at the end of the month.
"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry," he told a meeting of cardinals at the Vatican on Monday.
A new pope is expected to be in position by Easter Sunday following their election by the conclave of cardinals. Among those being mentioned as possible successors are Ghana's Cardinal Peter Turkson, Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada.
Since his arrest and imprisonment for evangelism in 2009, Azerbaijani pastor ‘Izzat’ has made the decision not to marry and have children. In a country where family is foundational it’s not an easy sacrifice − but one he feels ready to make if necessary.
‘If I am imprisoned again, who is going to look after my wife and children?’ he asks matter of factly. And it’s not just while he’s in jail: prisoners, especially Christians, also find it hard to obtain work after they are released.
However, Izzat recognises the price that has to be paid if the Gospel is to spread in his nation.
"Before I was arrested I was spreading the teaching of Jesus throughout our district and I was helping some brothers to build up the church. Several times the police stopped me and warned me that it was illegal to spread the words of Jesus Christ in Azerbaijan. The mosque leaders had complained to the police that this guy was putting out some literature about Jesus and Christianity."
Despite the increasing pressures faced by Christians in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, the Gospel is spreading and the church is growing, reports Release International's TOM HARDIE... |
COLOMBIA: JUSTICE IS THE KEY TO PEACE
In a recently published article, Dr Lilia Solano described the impact of Colombia’s armed conflict on its people. A long-time human rights activist, Dr Solano reported that in the decades-long conflict, Colombia has seen five million people displaced, sixty thousand declared as “missing”, thousands killed, and a million hectares of land snatched away from the rightful owners.
Dr Solano works as director of the Justice and Life project in Bogota, the capital city of Colombia. She is among the leadership of social movements in Colombia. Through this work she began to be engaged with the World Council of Churches (WCC) programme for human rights advocacy.
Following a round of peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC rebels (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in November 2012, Dr Solano reports that she sees human and environmental rights integral to the peace process.
In a story first published by the World Council of Churches, Dr MARCELO SCHNEIDER talks to Dr Lilia Solano about why human and environmental rights are central to the peace process in Colombia... |
ESSAY: WHY WE NEED TO RECOGNISE OUR CHRISTIAN HERITAGE
As Christians who have just celebrated Australia Day, we need to reflect on our foundations and recognise the hand of God in the commencement of a Christian nation in the Pacific within reach of the great Asian nations.
While many Australians look to a convict past with its fear of authority and feeling of inferiority, rejection, isolation and loneliness, there is another history yet to be written, that of our Christian forefathers and their faith and contribution to the kingdom of God - a positive affirmation of a nation with a providential destiny. It is encouraging to look at some of the Godly elements in Australia’s foundations. Law and Parliament
Our Common Law has been based on the Christian faith, exemplified by the statue of Jesus occupying the central place above the Royal Courts of Justice in London, and by many statements by scholars such as one chief justice who declared: "Christianity is parcel of the Common Law of England and therefore to be protected by it. So whatever strikes at the very root of Christianity tends manifestly to the dissolution of civil government."
With the inaugural National Christian Heritage Sunday to be marked on 3rd February, organising committee member GRAHAM McLENNAN writes about why it's important we recognise Australia's Christian heritage... |
IRAN: WIFE WORRIES SHE WON'T HEAR HER HUSBAND'S VOICE FOR EIGHT YEARS
The wife of an American citizen sentenced to an Iranian prison for eight years expects she won't hear from her husband until 2021, unless US pressure is able to pry him free.
Naghmeh Shariat Panahi told World Watch Monitor that the last time she heard Saeed Abedini's voice was on 9th January, during a three minute cell phone call between Boise, Idaho and Tehran, Iran. Abedini's family in Iran held two cell phones together -- one linked to Panahi in America, the other to Abedeni in a holding cell -- so the two could exchange words.
"He wanted to hear the kids' voices," Panahi said Tuesday from her Idaho home. The couple has a six-year-old girl, Rebekkah, and a son, four-year-old Jacob. After the three minutes were up, "we heard there will be no more phone calls," she said.
Abedini, 32, was sentenced Sunday by a Revolutionary Court judge who concluded that Abedini's work to establish Christian churches threatened Iran's national security. A native of Iran and born Muslim, Abedini converted to Christianity in 2000 and spent several years establishing small "house churches."
A World Watch Monitor report on the case of Saeed Abedini, sentenced to eight years in an Iranian prison... |
POVERTY: CALL TO ADDRESS INEQUALITY TO HELP THE WORLD'S POOR
The combined income of the 100 richest billionaires in the world - $US120 billion - could end extreme poverty four times over, according to international aid agency Oxfam.
The briefing paper, The cost of inequality: how wealth and income extremes hurt us all, was released in the UK last week in the run up to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum which kicks off in Davos, Switzerland, today.
It says that the richest one per cent of people around the globe have increased their income by 60 per cent in the last 20 years - with the level of growth even larger among the top 0.01 per cent - and notes that the financial crisis has accelerated rather than slowed down the process.
The paper says inequality between rich and poor has grown dramatically in many countries over the past 30 years.
In the US, for example, the share of national income going to the richest one per cent of people has doubled from 10 per cent in 1980 to a figure of 20 per cent while in the UK the report says inequality "is rapidly returning to levels not seen since the time of Charles Dickens".
DAVID ADAMS reports on a call for world leaders to address inequality between the world's richest and poorest... |
IRAN: "SYSTEMATIC PERSECUTION AND PROSECUTION" OF PROTESTANTS AND MUSLIM CONVERTS, CLAIMS REPORT
Iran has launched the "systematic persecution and prosecution" of "Protestants and Christian converts" with a Muslim background, closing churches, detaining believers and threatening some with execution, a new report claims.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, a major network of Iranian activists, said believers "face severe restrictions on religious practice and association, arbitrary arrests and detentions" for practicing their faith, "and violations of the right to life through state execution for apostasy and extrajudicial killings."
Its extensive report, The Cost of Faith: Persecution of Christian Protestants and Converts in Iran, cites cases of 31 Christians throughout Iran from April 2011 to July 2012, including Farshid Fathi, a Christian leader from Tehran who was detained in December 2010 as part of "a Christmas crackdown" on Christians.
BosNewsLife looks at the findings of a new report from the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran... |
US DEMANDS RELEASE OF AMERICAN PASTOR FROM IRANIAN PRISON
Stepping up the urgency of American response, the White House on Friday called on Iran to release a jailed American pastor facing a trial that could send him to the gallows.
THE INTERVIEW: MAL FLETCHER, SOCIAL FUTURIST AND COMMENTATOR
Many of the essays in your latest book are concerned with questions which have been raised thanks to the advent of new and emerging technologies. Are we seeing new ethical dilemmas created as a result of technology or are these essentially the same questions mankind has always struggled with?
"The study of ethics is primarily concerned with two questions: What is the right thing to do? How do I apply that in any given situation? Our ethical positions are very closely tied to our sense of morality – both individually and collectively, as a society. In a sense, ethics is applied morality.
"Arguably the really big tenets of human morality have remained much the same across differences in time and culture. In that sense, the ethical questions we face today are similar to those shared by people thousands of years ago. In fact, when we discuss ethics we still often call up the ideas of people like Plato and Aristotle.
"In some ways, though, today’s technologies – and, more specifically, the rate at which they’re emerging – throw up some unprecedented challenges. Technology is amoral; it is neither good nor evil in and of itself. Debates about morality and ethics only arise when we start deciding how we’re going to use a certain technology. Today, debates about the ethical use of one technology hardly have time to get off the ground before a new technique arises.
Mal Fletcher is a social futurist and commentator who heads London-based international think tank 2020Plus. A regular commentator on Sight, he speaks with DAVID ADAMS about his latest book - a collection of essays called Fascinating Times... |
PERSECUTION: NORTH KOREA TOPS LIST FOR 11TH YEAR BUT AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST SEE SIGNIFICANT INCREASES
North Korea has topped Open Doors International's annual World Watch List - which ranks countries according to the level of persecution faced by Christians - for the 11th year in a row.
Published early this month, the list - which features the 50 countries where the persecution of Christians was most severe in the year to the end of October - also places Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia in the top five.
The organisation says North Korea is likely to remain at the head of the list as long as the combination of “communist oppression” and “dictatorial paranoia” within the country - which is home to an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 Christians - remains in place. Christians living there can face everything from arrest and detention through to torture and even execution.
Chinese Christians are sharing their faith on Weibo, China’s giant, state-regulated, social network - and some are beginning to challenge the censor by speaking out against religious persecution.
When Christian band Rainbow Come appeared on China's equivalent of The X Factor, Christians turned to social networking to drum up votes for the band so their music could reach more Chinese.
Within a few days, thousands of votes had been posted for Rainbow Come, according to China’s Gospel Times, enough to propel them this month to a leading position in the seventh round of Chinese Dream on Zhejiang Television. Such is the power of social networking – even in China, which has officially banned Facebook and Twitter.
In the place of these established but unregulated sites, the Chinese authorities have permitted Weibos – microblogs. From its inception in 2009, China’s leading microblog company, Sina Weibo, now boasts 400 million users, and the number is rising. Rival companies also lay claim to hundreds of millions of subscribers.
The World Watch Monitor reports on how Chinese Christians are using the internet to reach others and speak out against persecution... |
PICTURE: Jelena Popic/www.istockphoto.com
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
- Isaiah 9: 6 (NIV)
MAY YOU HAVE A BLESSED CHRISTMAS!
ESSAY: "THEY SAID THERE'LL BE SNOW THIS CHRISTMAS..."
"...they said there'll be peace on earth." - Greg Lake
I've been thinking recently about writing a reflection on how Christmas, and the Christmas spirit, brings alot of peace and goodwill at this time of year. I was going to write about how people are generally nicer to each other and look out for each other a bit more in the weeks leading up to this time of year. John Smith said many years ago that if it wasn't for Christmas, the violence and suffering in our society would be even greater.
That may have been true back then, but it doesn't quite ring true after the unimaginable horror of Newtown, Connecticut. The truth about Christmas for most of us is that it is actually a time of great paradox. It is a time when emotions are heightened, both in a positive and negative sense. As Greg Lake sang in his profound I Believe in Father Christmas almost 40 years ago, "they said there'll be snow at Christmas, they said there'll be peace on earth". But there is no peace in Newtown this Christmas in the families of those grieving the loss of their innocent children; there is no peace in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine, and we find no peace in the families of those for whom Christmas is a time when loneliness and poverty are heightened.
NILS VON KALM says it's important we look at the whole of the Christmas story... |
ESSAY: JOSEPH'S PART
When Mary told the story of her eldest son, her first-born, she also needed to explain the part played by Joseph, her husband. It was not an easy story to tell. It seems likely that Joseph had died some time before she told her story to Luke and Matthew. We do not know if Joseph lived to witness the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, but we do know he had accepted God's call to be the child's earthly father - he had played a very important part in Jesus' story. I suspect that Jesus' resurrection was the trigger that helped Mary tell the story. It was very strange. But she trusted God and she also was a faithful witness to what God had done in her life by bringing His Son into the world.
Mary collected all the stories she could about her son. She passed them on with the help of God's Spirit to others and ever since these stories have helped students in Jesus' school to understand their Rabbi and what He had come to do. Mary was part of an artistic family network. Elisabeth, her cousin, was married to Zechariah, a priest, who wrote songs. Mary wrote lyrics for songs, and, I guess, she kept a diary.
BRUCE C WEARNE'S reworking of what Luke and Matthew (chapters one and two) tell us about the birth of Jesus and His early life... |
ESSAY: CHRISTMAS HERALDS HOPE TO THE WORLD
We are 12 years into the 21st century; 64 years on from the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; 23 past the fall of Communism in Europe and end of the Cold War, yet the world is not a safer place, especially for Christians. For while positives have progressed, so too have negatives. And while proud, self-sufficient humanity likes to congratulation itself on the positives, it is not very good at tackling the negatives.
For decades now, dangerous religious nationalism has been building in post-colonial emerging democracies such as Sri Lanka, but especially India. It is 33 years since the successful Shi'ite Revolution in Iran and the failed Sunni Revolution in Saudi Arabia triggered the Saudi-funded global expansion of Sunni Islamic fundamentalism, which is pro-Sharia, pro-jihad, supremacist, imperialist and intolerant.
ELIZABETH KENDAL, an international religious liberty analyst, advocate and member of the Australian Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission, writes about what Christmas means to those Christians living in hostile environments around the world... |
MESSAGES FROM AUSTRALIAN CHRISTIAN LEADERS
Rev Tara Curlewis, general secretary, National Council of Churches in Australia
Discovering God with us “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4.4-5)
Christmas is a time to rejoice and look at the world with fresh eyes. We see signs all around that remind us how Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Nativity scenes are seen at community carol services, school plays and in churches. These signs help us discover God with us.
After hearing the message of the angels on the hills outside Bethlehem the shepherds responded; “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. (Luke 2:15-16).
To read the complete version of this and other Christmas messages from Australian Christian leaders, follow this link... |
SIGHT'S 2012 CHRISTMAS GIFT LIST
Looking for a Christmas gift idea that's a little out of the ordinary? We've racked our collective brains and, in no particular order, come up with 10 Christmas gift ideas we reckon you might like (and, more importantly, so will those you give them to)...|
BOOKS: NOAH'S ARK IS NOT ON MT ARARAT, SAYS AUTHOR
Apollo 15 astronaut James Irwin led multiple expeditions to Mt Ararat in search of Noah’s ark. If found, it would likely be the greatest archaeological discovery in history. Tragically, Irwin died of a sudden heart attack in 1991, with his quest to find the ark unfulfilled.
Now his widow, Mary Irwin, is convinced she and her husband were searching on the wrong mountain. In her new book, The Unsolved Mystery of Noah’s Ark (West Bow Press), she reveals her findings after 20 years of painstaking research following her husband’s passing.
Irwin decided to write the book after watching a National Geographic documentary production, 'Truth behind the Ark', in which she appeared. After she viewed the documentary, she felt the project’s title was highly misleading.
“There was barely a shred of truth in any of it,” she says, because the filmmakers’ agnostic bias drove their conclusion that the story of Noah had its roots in Mesopotamian folklore.
MARK ELLIS, of Godreports, speaks to Mary Irwin about her new book investigating the location of Noah's Ark... |
US: CHURCH LEADERS EXPRESS SORROW OVER NEWTOWN KILLINGS AMID RENEWED CALLS FOR GREATER GUN CONTROL
Church leaders have expressed their shock and grief over the latest gun massacre in the US amid renewed calls for greater gun control.
Twenty children and six adults died at the hands of a gunman who opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut (about 95 kilometres north-west of New York City) on Friday. The suspected gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, is also believed to have killed his mother prior to the school attack, and, later killed himself.
Kathryn Lohre, president of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA - which represents some 40 million Christians, expressed her "shock and profoundest grief" over the killings.
"As a parent, I cannot comprehend the grief other mothers and fathers are feeling tonight," said Ms Lohre. "I share President Obama's instincts to hug my own child especially close tonight. And my heart breaks to know so many parents in Connecticut are no longer able to do that."
ESSAY: TAKING ANOTHER LOOK AT THE CHRISTMAS STORY IN THE WAKE OF NEWTOWN, CONNECTICUT
A great crowd no-one can number
- from Revelation 7:1-17
Nowadays, news of shootings, like the recent massacre of 20 school kids in Newtown, Connecticut, meet our ears as we drive into the shopping mall's car-park, ready to do our Christmas shopping.
We hear it as we live right there in that small town, and we cringe when we hear of these shots "heard round the world". This news reminds us how Americans celebrate the beginning of their war of independence in April, 1775, at Lexington but there is no glory here. Father Christmas himself turns pale in shock and the jingle bells have lost whatever tingling, jingling joy they had.
And then the question....what's the point of all this? A massive execution of innocent children by a deranged gun-man. Is this a dream or what?
BRUCE C WEARNE looks again at the Christmas story in the light of last Friday's killings in the US... |
EGYPT: YOUR PRAYERS NEEDED AS COUNTRY HEADS TO THE POLLS
Mass demonstrations and violent clashes are nothing new for Egypt. The most recent turmoil started in late November, when President Morsi made a huge power-grab. Then came the draft constitution, pushed through Parliament at super speed without input from Christian or liberal members.
But the results of Saturday's vote could alter the face of Egypt. On 15th December, Egyptians will head to the polls to vote on a constitution that's heavily influenced by Sharia law.
"The concerns about the constitution are many," says Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs USA. According to human rights experts, Muslim clerics could lawfully restrict freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and women's rights, if the new constitution stands as-is.
The new constitution is especially restrictive to Egyptian's Christians, comprising 10 per cent of the country's total population. After Christian voices were "muted" in the composition of Egypt's draft constitution, believers turned to the newly-elected pope to speak up for their rights.
AFRICA: IN THE 'RAPE CAPITAL' OF THE WORLD, ONE MINISTRY IS MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Between five and six million people have died as a result of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which some have termed “Africa’s World War.” This makes it the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II, with a death toll exceeding Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda and Darfur in Sudan.
Beginning in 1998, the conflict has involved nine African nations. Despite the signing of peace accords in 2003, fighting continues in the mineral-rich eastern portion of the country. The prevalence and intensity of rape and other sexual violence in eastern Congo has been described as the worst in the world.
“One out of three women have been raped in the eastern DRC,” according to Camille Ntoto, founder of Africa New Day, citing figures from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
MARK ELLIS, of Godreports.com, talks to Camille Ntoto about his mission to stop sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo... |
SYRIA: CHRISTIANS FACING A BLEAK WINTER AMID ONGOING CONFLICT
Minority Christians in Syria's largest city Aleppo said on Friday that they face starvation this winter with dozens of believers already having been killed in targeted attacks rocking Christian areas of the war-torn country.
"Bread isn't found since last week, there is no wheat in the city and of course fuel is not available so...bakeries are not working," said Majd Ajji, whose father runs a Baptist church in Aleppo, where airstrikes and gun battles transformed buildings into heaps of rubble.
Witnesses saw children fighting for food.
Most of the city, 310 kilometres northwest from capital Damascus, is now reportedly under rebel control but the situation remains tense, Ajji said in an email obtained by BosNewsLife.
"Fighting didn’t stop in the city," Lebanon-based Ajji wrote on behalf of his father, Rev Mouner Ajji, who remained in the besieged Aleppo.
A report from BosNewsLife (with Dr JOHN M LINDNER and STEFAN J BOS)... |
THE INTERVIEW: STEPHEN HEFFERNAN, REDRUTH
"Keith and I have...played music together basically our whole lives. We started as kids in church, then played in different bands right through high school. After we both finished school, we did some study and worked some different jobs, but for the both of us it was a real time of soul-searching, and looking for God's purpose for our lives. I was asking all the questions: 'Why am I here?', 'Does God want me to pursue music, or am I wasting my time?'. I know many people go through the same experience. I was in a mess, really, so confused about everything I was doing. But eventually I became that desperate to find God's will for me - I laid everything down, all my desires, ideas, dreams, I just gave them to Him and surrounded my life totally, including music. I hadn't really done that before, but I was willing to give up what was most important to me to find His will, because I believed He had a good plan for my life - that's what the Word says. So I went for it."
Sydney-based Christian rockband Redruth are about to start a tour of venues in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory in the lead-up to Christmas. DAVID ADAMS catches up with Stephen Heffernan, one of the brothers who founded the band... |
AFRICA: SADDLEBACK'S PLAN TO EMPTY RWANDA'S ORPHANAGES
An ambitious plan to empty Rwanda’s orphanages of children was unveiled by Saddleback Church – home of high profile Christian identities Rick and Kay Warren - in the US last week.
The initiative was announced to mark World AIDS Day, held on Saturday, 1st December, and will see the more than 3,100 children now living in orphanages in Rwanda found homes outside by 2015. It has been designed to supplement the UNAIDS 'Getting to Zero' strategy which aims to have zero babies born of HIV, zero AIDS-related deaths, zero new HIV infections and zero discrimination surrounding the disease in the same time period.
In a statement released last week, Kay Warren - who founded the church's HIV&AIDS Initiative after becoming "seriously disturbed" by the plight of those affected by HIV and AIDS, says that while the goal is "audacious", "we know in God all things are possible".
"The church has the largest participation, widest distribution, simplest administration, fastest proliferation, longest continuation, strongest authorisation and highest motivation to help with this health crisis. For that reason, the local church is key to getting to zero."
INDIA: COURT JAILS A DOZEN OVER COUNTRY'S DEADLIEST ANTI-CHRISTIAN VIOLENCE
Human rights watchers have cautiously welcomed the sentencing of a dozen people to six years imprisonment for their involvement in India's deadliest anti-Christian violence in decades.
At least 90 people were killed and 54,000 displaced when violence broke out in August 2008 in India's eastern state or Orissa.
The fast-track court in the town of Phulbani in Orissa's Kandhamal district also fined the 12 defendants 5,000 rupees ($US90) for arson, rioting and the torching of houses in Jarkinaju village on 25th August, 2008.
Ten others who had been accused in the case were acquitted due to lack of evidence, trial observers said.
The attacks against Christians began in Orissa's Kandhamal district after the assassination of local Hindu leader Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati and four of his followers. Hindu militants blamed Christians, though Maoist insurgents claimed responsibility for the murder.
PAKISTAN: THE SHOCKING CASE OF RIMSHA MASIH, FALSELY ACCUSED OF BLASPHEMY
It was around midnight on that fateful August night of this year in Pakistan, when a young Christian girl was brought into the Ramna Police Station, Islamabad, and accused of blasphemy and then sent to jail.
She was Rimsha Masih, a simple 14-year-old illiterate and mentally-challenged girl, had been foraging around her area in search of paper that could be used for heating and cooking in her poverty-stricken home in a Christian conclave of Islamabad, the Pakistani capital city.
It had been alleged by a neighbor that girl had desecrated pages of a book containing verses from the Qu'ran by burning them, and this news soon spread like wildfire and caused panic in the area where she lived with her family.
“Due to the fear, about 250 Christian families from the area fled into the jungle,” said Shamim Masih, an ANS correspondent in Pakistan and also a human rights activist. “The displaced families tried to settle down there but the local residents chased them out and didn’t allow them to live there for the time being, but fortunately the Capital Development Authority (CDA) chairman told them to set their tents for the time being.”
Following last week's news that a blasphemy case against 14-year-old Rimsha Masih has been dropped, DAN WOODING, of ASSIST News Service, takes a look back at a case that made headlines around the world... |
A tense ceasefire began late Wednesday between the ruling militant Hamas group in the Gaza Strip and Israel following weeklong fighting, but Christians in Israel urged prayers amid fears of an all-out war.
The ceasefire, brokered by Egypt, was announced in Cairo by Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Cairo.
They said the truce would take effect at 9pm local time. A published copy of the agreement said Israel and all Palestinian militant groups agreed to halt "all hostilities."
It was aimed at ending Israeli airstrikes and assassinations of wanted militants, while for Israel, it was supposed to halt rocket fire and attempts at cross-border incursions from Gaza.
MINISTER FROM GAZA SAYS GOD LOVES THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE
As the world watches and waits to see if a cease fire will take hold, one courageous woman who ministers in the refugee camps in Gaza prays for God to shield the innocents.
“God doesn’t hate the people of Gaza,” says Karen Dunham, founder of Living Bread International Church. “This is a war against the principality of terror,” she maintains.
Now based in east Jerusalem, Dunham says she lost communication five days ago with her office in Gaza. “All the phone communication was cut,” she notes. “You have 1.5 million people who can’t communicate with each other.”
Using a generator for a few minutes, her office manager in Gaza managed to get out one email to Dunham. “We are all really prisoners, prisoners of terror. We are suffocating,” the message read. All the windows in their Gaza office were blown out by the concussive effects of nearby explosions.
MARK ELLIS, of Godreports.com, speaks with Karen Dunham... |
HUMANITARIAN AND CHURCH GROUPS JOIN GROWING CHORUS OF VOICES CALLING FOR VIOLENCE TO END IN GAZA AND ISRAEL
Humanitarian groups and church leaders have joined in the growing chorus of voices expressing concerns over the escalation of violence in Gaza and Israel.
Rev Dr Olav Fyske Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, urged both sides to cease hostilities to ensure the protection of civilians.
In a statement, Rev Dr Tveit said the council was "closely following the tragic violent developments that occurred the last days in Gaza and Israel, which have resulted in the loss of many lives, including children and women".
"This violence should stop immediately so that the lives of civilians, who are always the main victims, be spared. The loss of peoples’ precious lives in the eyes of God, on both sides, cannot be accepted as a price to be paid for the unresolved political problems and political agendas."
ESSAY: CHRISTIANS UNITING TO END MODERN-DAY SLAVERY
Human trafficking is an abuse of rights and human dignity. Despite state-sanctioned slavery being outlawed over 200 years ago, up to 27 million people around the world are still trapped in slave-like conditions. On Sunday 25th November churches around the country will come together to call for the end of modern-day slavery.
When looking at the history of successful social movements, you can quickly see that they were not just about protest; they also had a positive message of hope that was a distinct and better alternative to remaining with the status quo. They challenged the status quo, but they also put forward a vision of a better future and appealed to humanity’s better nature.
Abolitionist Sunday, a campaign organised by World Vision Australia, is focused on the abolition of human trafficking and exploitation. This goes right to the heart of what we decide to purchase our loved ones at Christmas. Much of our clothing for example is made through child labour, and it is incumbent on us, now that we are more aware of this reality, to make purchasing decisions that are ethical and that do not exploit the innocent and vulnerable of this world.
NILS VON KALM, of World Vision Australia, talks about why Christians - and churches - should be involved in this weekend's Abolitionist Sunday... |
WORLD TOILET DAY: CALL FOR GOVERNMENTS TO MAKE CLEAN WATER AND SANITATION A PRIORITY
About 780 million people around the world still lack access to safe water supplies and 2.5 billion people don't have "decent sanitation", according to figures released by groups promoting World Toilet Day.
Micah Challenge Australia - part of a global network of Christian organisations aimed at lobbying governments to meet the Millennium Development Goals - says World Toilet Day - 19th November - is a good opportunity to call on governments all around the world to increase the amount of overseas aid allocated to providing adequate sanitation and safe water for the world’s poorest people.
“World Toilet Day is a good time to focus our attention to the 780 million people around the world who lack access to safe water and the 2.5 billion people who do not have decent sanitation,” says John Beckett, national coordinator of Micah Challenge Australia.
ART: VINCENT VAN GOGH'S UNAPPRECIATED JOURNEY WITH CHRIST
A record 1.2 million visitors came to the giant retrospective of Van Gogh’s work in Amsterdam in 1990, which coincided with the 100th anniversary of the Dutch post-Impressionist’s death. What visitors did not see at that major exhibition were van Gogh’s Christian-themed paintings, which were left in the basement of the museum.
“None of the religious imagery was in the show. It was deliberately kept in the basement,” says William Havlicek, PhD , author of Van Gogh’s Untold Journey (Creative Storytellers). “In Western art there has been a move toward secularisation through existential thinking,” he notes, which followed the disillusionment of many artists after two world wars.
Dr Havlicek spent 15 years researching and studying more than 900 of van Gogh’s letters. His revealing book dispels many of the myths that surround the painter’s tumultuous life.
“Vincent’s letters portray a very different story than the popular tale of the mad artist who cuts off his ear,” Dr Havlicek notes. “What emerges instead is a story of selfless loyalty, the epitome of the Gospel’s sacred counsel - ‘love one another.’”
MARK ELLIS, in an article first published on Godreports.com, talks to Dr William Havlicek about what his research has uncovered about the life of world renowned artist Vincent van Gogh... |
ANGLICAN CHURCH: EVANGELICAL BISHOP JUSTIN WELBY NAMED AS NEXT ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
An announcement was made from Downing Street on Friday that the Rt Rev Justin Welby, Anglican Bishop of Durham, will be the new Archbishop of Canterbury.
The new incumbent will be enthroned and take up his role in the New Year. The current Archbishop, Dr Rowan Williams, retires from the post at the end of 2012. He is resuming academic life in Cambridge.
After extensive and difficult negotiations, including a delay on a previously anticipated announcement, the Crown Nominations Commission has put a name forward to Downing Street.
The name will be presented to the Queen, who is "supreme governor" of the Established Church "in all matters, temporal and spiritual."
His has been a meteoric rise within the church. After a background as a high-paid executive in the oil industry, Justin Welby was ordained in 1992, and he has been Bishop of Durham, the fourth most senior position in the Church of England, for only a year.
CHURCH LIFE: CHURCHES ARE IN GOOD HEALTH AND PUTTING MORE EMPHASIS ON SPIRITUAL GROWTH
Australian churches are in good health and vitality and are putting an increasing emphasis on activities aimed at spiritual growth, according to preliminary findings from the latest snapshot of church life in Australia.
The findings come from the 2011 National Church Life Survey, a five yearly census of the church, also show that while the decline in church numbers appears to have flattened out but that the average age of church members - at 55-years-old - remains above that of the average age of Australians - 52-years-old.
The survey involved more than 3000 churches from 23 denominations and independent churches and involved some 260,000 adult church-goers, 6,000 church leaders and 10,000 children aged between 10 and 14 years.
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at the first impressions of last year's National Church Life Survey... |
EGYPT: COPTS CAN'T RELY ON NEW POPE TO SECURE THEIR RIGHTS - A CONVERSATION WITH YOUSSEF SIDHOM
Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church found its 118th pope on Sunday. During a televised mass rich in tradition and drama at Cairo’s St Mark Cathedral, the fingers of a blindfolded boy reached into a crystal chalice, wrapped around one of three transparent spheres, and pulled it out.
The small, clear globe was opened, revealing the name of Bishop Anba Tawadros, one of three finalists in the church’s search for the successor to Pope Shenouda III, who died in March after a 40-year reign.
When he takes the throne on 18th November, Bishop Tawadros will move from oversight of a bishopric in the Nile delta northwest of Cairo to the head of the Coptic Church, whose estimated 10 million members comprise the largest Christian denomination in the Middle East.
Following the selection of the new pope of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church - Bishop Anba Tawadros - on Sunday, Open Doors News spoke with Youssef Sidhom, chairman of Egyptian news organisation Watani, about what it means for the country's Coptic Christians... |
CHANGED LIVES: 'RODE2RECOVERY' RIDERS SHARE THEIR STORIES OF TOUGH TIMES ON A 1,000 KILOMETRE ODYSSEY
It’s a long road back to recovery from lives devastated by alcohol and drug abuse. For eight men, the 1,000 km they rode last month is just part of their journey to break the cycle of addiction.
The participants and two staff members from The Salvation Army’s Miracle Haven Recovery Services Centre (Morisset, NSW) set off on 16th October to pedal an incredible 1,000 km on their ‘rode2recovery’ bike ride, telling their stories to thousands of young Aussies along the way.
Rode2recovery started at Miracle Haven, with the cyclists heading to Tamworth via Singleton and Merriwa, through Walcha to Wauchope and Port Macquarie, on to Taree, Gloucester, Raymond Terrace, Maitland and Kurri Kurri (NSW). They finished their gruelling ride at the Salvos’ Dooralong Transformation Centre.
In an article first published in the Salvation Army's Warcry magazine, FAYE MICHELSON looks at how the rode2recovery initiative is helping to transform lives... |
ESSAY: WILL THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT CHANGE THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT NEXT WEEK?
On our Melbourne Cup Day (the first Tuesday in November) citizens of the US will vote on who will be the 45th President. The Republican candidate and the incumbent President are drawing closer in the polls.
In the past Jimmy Carter (Democrat) Ronald Reagan (Republican) George H. W. Bush, (Republican) Bill Clinton, (Democrat), George W. Bush (Republican); Barack Obama (Democrat) has each courted the American Religious right, especially the evangelical/Pentecostal and Fundamentalist denominations, their mega churches and powerful television pastors. They came into the White House mainly because of the support of this noisy Religious Right. In terms of real policy they added little.
That will not happen this time. The Religious Right is losing its clout. They hate Obama but are suspicious of Mormon Romney. Not only that, the two most significant groups in numbers are no longer unionists and the religious right, but Hispanic and Afro Americans. They will both support Obama.
Rev Dr GORDON MOYES shares his views on the role the Religious Right will play in the upcoming US election... |
MIDDLE-EAST: BISHOP WARNS OF MASSIVE INFLUX OF REFUGEES FROM SYRIA AND LEBANON
The Bishop responsible for Maronite Christians in Europe has warned the West that recent deadly attacks in Christian districts of Beirut and Damascus could "unleash" a massive "new wave" of Christian refugees.
In remarks published by the Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) group, Bishop Maroun Nasser Gemayel said Christians in the Middle East were longing for freedom and security and could therefore "be tempted to emigrate" to Europe or the United States, "despite their great love of their homeland."
Bishop Gemayel said the situation in Syria's capital Damascus already was dramatic, and "now many, including those in (Lebanon's capital) Beirut, will believe that they can no longer live in safety even in the Christian quarters" despite their "great love of their homeland."
Anti-Christian attacks last Friday, 19th October, in Beirut, and on Sunday, 21st October, in Syria's capital Damascus killed eight and ten people respectively while over a hundred were injured, according to church sources.
CORRUPTION: NEW GLOBAL CAMPAIGN AIMS TO PUT SPOTLIGHT ON ILL-GOTTEN GAINS
A new global anti-corruption campaign has been launched in a bid to raise awareness of the issue, identified as a major factor in keeping millions of people trapped in poverty.
Launched in London last week, the 'Exposed' campaign is being supported by a coalition of Christian organisations from around the world including Micah Challenge – a global network of Christian organisations and individuals concerned with lobbying world leaders to meet the Millennium Development Goals, the US and UK Bible Societies, the Salvation Army and African-based group Unashamedly Ethical.
They are looking to challenge churches, businesses and governments over the more than $US1 trillion which goes missing annually through mismanagement, illicit business practices and poor governance and aim to mobilise 100 million Christians to “practise and promote ethical and just behaviour in all spheres of life” in the lead-up to a week of prayer and action to be held in October next year.
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: "GROWING CONCERN" OVER ANTI-RELIGIOUS DEVELOPMENTS IN WESTERN EUROPE
At least 200 million Christians suffer discrimination and persecution worldwide, including in European Union countries such as Hungary, which now has Europe's "most restrictive" church registration law, according to a new report obtained by BosNewsLife.
The Religious Freedom in the World Report 2012, released by the Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) relief and advocacy group, also noted "growing concern" about perceived anti-religious developments in Western EU states Britain, Spain and the Netherlands.
"Increasingly there are attempts in these countries to impose an extreme form of secularism that excludes the role of religion in public life," said Peter Sefton-Williams, chairman of the report's editorial board.
"While these developments can't be called religious persecution (yet),they are part of a worrisome tendency," he added.
PAKISTAN: CHRISTIANS PRAY FOR TEENAGE ACTIVIST SHOT BY MILITANTS
Christians across Pakistan are praying for a 14-year girl, who was shot by Taliban militants for advocating education for girls, amid hopeful signs she is recovering in a British hospital.
Malala Yousafzai, viewed as a symbol of peace, gained the world`s attention at the age of 11 when the Taliban group banned girls from going to schools in the Pakistan's turbulent Swat valley.
The militants also destroyed over 400 schools for girls, including Christian institutions.
She wrote about the attacks of the Taliban regime and the military operation and her passion for education. People who knew her say she was not afraid to take "an initiative for peace and education for women."
Despite the militancy, she went to school anyway, encouraging others to go with her, and was awarded the National Youth Peace prize.
XAVIER P WILLIAM, of BosNewsLife, reports... |
ESSAY: NOT MARCHING FOR BABY FISH
Thousands of Victorians marched through Melbourne's CBD on Saturday. Why? Who needs their protection?
This month snapper commence their annual migration into Port Philip Bay. These fish are highly prized by recreational anglers and in accordance with sustainable fisheries priorities Fisheries Officers will enforce size limits to protect juvenile fish.
If you are caught taking or being in possession of an undersized snapper it will be returned to the water and you can expect an infringement notice. If your offending involves numerous undersized fish, they will be returned to the water and you can expect to be charged, face court and be fined or worse. Something in a previous life I was employed to ensure.
Tragically, unborn babies in Victoria are not afforded the same protection as our undersized fish.
In 2007, the then Premier John Brumby announced that Victoria's abortion laws were "out of step with community sentiment" and he commenced a process that lead to the liberalisation of abortion law.
In an article first published on Online Opinion, DAN FLYNN, Victorian state director of the Australian Christian Lobby, argues that under-sized fish are given more protection in Victorian than unborn children... |
SYRIA: CHRISTIANS CONTINUE TO SHARE GOSPEL AMID THE HORRORS OF WAR
Conditions in war-torn Syria continue to deteriorate for Christians living there with thousands displaced from their homes, according to a pastor located within the country.
The pastor, who was not named, has told Open Doors - which works to support persecuted Christians around the world - that the violence has caused many people to abandon their homes as they flee for their lives.
"Many are displaced internally and many others are external refugees living in the most humiliating circumstances, deprived of even shelter, clean water, power, food and medical care," he says in what they have described as a "lament" to the Western Christians.
"Millions are not sleeping in their own beds, forced out of their homes to find themselves with their children homeless and living in public parks or in the wilderness. Others are not sure if they or their children and loved ones will see the light of a new day. Tens of thousands of families lost loved ones -- a child, a father, a mother or a husband."
ESSAY: MIDDLE-AGE SUICIDES - DOES X MARK THE SPOT?
"The only time you really live fully," said Theodore Roosevelt, "is from 30 to 60. The young are slaves to dreams; the old servants of regrets. Only the middle-aged have all their five senses in the keeping of their wits."
Perhaps the 26th US president was right; perhaps middle-age ought to be the time when we’re most fully alive. According to a report released recently by the Samaritans, however, it may be the time when British men are at their lowest ebb.
Men aged 34 to 54 are now more likely to commit suicide lives than any other group in the UK, according to the report. Males in this middle-age bracket are more likely to take their lives than teenage boys and four times more likely to do so than women of the same age. Men in this group account for just under half the 5,600 suicides per year in the UK.
According to the Government’s suicide prevention strategy published last month, the economic cost of a life lost to suicide is around £1.67 million. Far more important, however, are the waste of life and the emotional and psychological costs for those left behind. There is no way to quantify this kind of suffering.
Writing from London, MAL FLETCHER looks at the issue of suicide among middle-aged males... |
THE BIBLE: NEW AUSTRALIAN CAMPAIGN ENCOURAGES DAILY BIBLE READING
A national campaign to encourage Australian Christians to make reading their Bible a daily habit is being run by the Bible Society Australia over the month of October.
The ‘Live Light in 25 words’ campaign, which kicks off on Monday, was created to address the poor Bible reading habits of Australian churchgoers and involves reading just 25 words of the Bible a day for the month.
More than 5,000 individuals and almost 2,500 churches and schools have committed to joining the initiative.
The Bible Society’s Chris Melville, says that with National Church Life Survey research showing 80 per cent of Christians are not reading their Bible on a daily basis often because of a lack of time, there was a need to develop a Bible study which would help to address that.
“(T)hat’s the whole basis of it – let’s try to get Christians back to have a daily reading habit,” he says. “They say that it takes about 30 days to form a habit, so we said ‘Lets do it over a month’ and we chose October. And so we are trying to engage people with the Bible for 31 days to try to form a habit.”
THE INTERVIEW: CHRISTINE PLATT, GLOBAL RECORDINGS NETWORK AUSTRALIA
Firstly, can you tell us a little about what Global Recordings Network is all about?
"Our passion at GRN is that everyone can hear the Good News of Jesus in his or her first language, what we call the 'heart language'. We specialise in small language groups that are typically too small for a Bible or even a New Testament. We are also dedicated to providing our audio recordings to the two thirds of the world’s population who can’t read or prefer not to read."
I understand the organisation was founded more than 70 years ago. What are its origins?
"Global Recordings was founded in Los Angeles (in the) US, in 1939. At that time Joy Ridderhof, a missionary, had returned home ill and came up with the idea of producing recordings of Bible stories on phonograph records. Since that time we have expanded to have bases in over 30 countries."
Christine Platt, who only took up the post of CEO of the Australian arm of global mission organisation Global Recordings Network this month, spoke with DAVID ADAMS about GRN's work in using audio technology to take the Gospel to some of the world's smallest language groups as well as those who can't read... |
THE 'JESUS WIFE' DISCOVERY: FIVE BIG QUESTIONS
In a surprise announcement that seemed scripted by the novelist Dan Brown, a Harvard professor revealed an ancient scrap of papyrus on 18th September that purports to refer to Jesus' wife.
The so-called "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" presents a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples, said Karen King, a well-respected historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School, Religion News Service reports.
The fourth-century fragment says, "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...,'" according to King. The rest of the sentence is cut off. The fragment also says "she will be able to be my disciple," according to King. The discovery that some ancient Christians thought Jesus had a wife could shake up centuries-old Christian traditions, King suggested.
But even King acknowledged that questions remain about the receipt-sized scrap, which contains just 33 words and incomplete sentences. Here are five of the biggest questions.
DANIEL BURKE and DAVID GIBSON, of ENInews/RNS, report... |
TUNISIA: CHRISTIANS WORSHIP AMID DEATH THREATS
Some 1,500 devoted Tunisian Christians, most of them former Muslims, worship in church buildings or in house churches despite death threats and growing influence of Islamic extremists, a well-informed advocacy and aid group told BosNewsLife this week.
Open Doors, which supports "persecuted Christians" worldwide, mentioned a man identified only as Steve who was allegedly threatened by Islamists. "They said to me: 'Do you know that it is not forbidden to kill you?' But I didn't really feel afraid," Steve was quoted as saying.
"I could answer them: 'Yes I know you can do that (you can kill me)'. They responded that I was crazy saying that. I said to them: 'Yes, I am crazy for Jesus'."
The Islamists reportedly left and didn't come back, but pressure was expected to increase on Christians like Steve amid mounting protests across the region against an anti-Islam film, posted in part on the YouTube website.
A report from BosNewsLife... |
GLOBAL POVERTY: IN CANBERRA, VOICES CRY OUT FOR JUSTICE FOR THE WORLD'S POOREST
Hundreds of Christians have converged on Canberra this weekend to campaign for the halving of global poverty by 2015.
Voices for Justice, a four day annual event of worship, training and lobbying taking place from today until Tuesday, is an initiative of the Australian arm of Micah Challenge, a global Christian movement aimed at pushing for politicians to ensure the Millennium Development Goals agreed in 2000 are met by the deadline of 2015.
John Beckett, national coordinator of Micah Challenge Australia, says that while recent years have seen the Australian Government take some "significant steps" to alleviate global poverty, "there is still much to be done".
“Australia is currently giving just 35 cents in every $100 we make as a nation to overseas aid," he says. "In a world where more than seven million children die before their fifth birthday each year from preventable causes, we can and should do more.”
DAVID ADAMS reports... |
VOICES FOR JUSTICE BLOG: DAY 4 - POLITICIANS FACED UP TO THE FACTS
It was a giant toilet last year. This year, a giant puzzle graced the front lawns of Parliament, spelling out: 2015 Halve Poverty. More than 30 politicians attended the media event, adding their jigsaw-shaped photo to the puzzle. It symbolises the team effort and support across the political spectrum, and that all of us have a part to play in finishing off what we started.
I have to say I am exhausted. It’s been a busy day of lobbying, speaking to politicians and brainstorming ideas for local action. We’ve been hearing many inspiring stories from the various lobby groups and the encouragement from politicians to keep on advocating.
Our group met with our local MP, the Hon Daryl Melham MP from Banks. We were pleasantly surprised at his support this year and shared some entertaining moments. He will be making a speech in Parliament on the issue and looks forward to attending a Micah ‘Finish the Race’ event.
PHILIP CHAN reports on day four at the Voices for Justice gathering in Canberra... |
VOICES FOR JUSTICE BLOG: DAY 3 - VOICES FOR JUSTICE
We’re finally here and there’s a hive of activity at Parliament House! After a morning prayer session on the front lawns, we’ve been busy today meeting with politicians, attending panel discussions and question time, which was unsurprisingly rumbustious.
PHILIP CHAN reports on day three at the Voices for Justice gathering in Canberra... |
VOICES FOR JUSTICE BLOG: DAY 2 - WE ARE A PECULIAR PEOPLE
Voices for Justice 2012 began last night and 300 Christians, converging into Canberra to campaign for the world’s poorest, joined me. From electorates all around Australia, we represent different denominations and backgrounds, spanning across numerous generations. From teachers, retirees, advertising consultants to development workers, students and journalists, we are indeed a peculiar people.
PHILIP CHAN reports on day two at the Voices for Justice gathering in Canberra... |
VOICES FOR JUSTICE BLOG: DAY 1 - THE MICAH SUMMIT
Rewind your memories back to New Year’s Eve 1999. What were you doing to welcome in the new millennium? Were you celebrating this momentous milestone by wearing novelty glasses shaped like ‘2000’? Were you gathering supplies in anticipation of the Y2K bug?
As a 10-year old, I remember watching the fireworks on television with my family, and together with the rest of Australia, we were excited to be part of this once-in-a-thousand year occasion.
PHILIP CHAN reports on day one at the Voices for Justice gathering in Canberra... |
SEPTEMBER 11: HOW THE LORD'S PRAYER SAVED A 9/11 SURVIVOR
For John Mahony, a retired US Army colonel who was managing projects for the Blue Cross/Blue Shield health insurance organisation, instinct came before analysis as he fought to stay on his feet the morning of 11th September, 2001.
"The building jerked hard, throwing everyone off balance," remembers Mahony in the account he has written of surviving the 9/11 attacks, reports Religion News Service via The Huntsville (Alabama) Times.
Mahony was working on the 19th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York that morning. "My support was gone, and I had to catch my balance to remain on my feet."
He had lived in California. "Earthquake," he thought, even as his military training diagnosed "bomb." Mahony directed his co-workers to a stairway, checked the area for anyone else, and headed down through what was quickly a haze of smoke and dust.
As people around the world this week remembered the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US 11 years ago, KAY CAMPBELL reports, via ENInews/RNS, on how the Lord's Prayer helped survivor John Mahony... |
IRAN: PASTOR SENTENCED TO DEATH RELEASED AND REUNITED WITH HIS FAMILY
Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who was sentenced to death and became a symbol of what his church called "suffering Christians" in this heavily Islamic nation was unexpectedly released from prison on Saturday.
"Thanks to all who have supported me with prayers", he told BosNewsLife in a statement through an interpreter.
The 35-year-old pastor appeared tired, but said he always kept his faith, even behind bars. "I experienced especially the presence of the Lord on my side every time," Pastor Nadarkhani said in brief remarks.
Pastor Nadarkhani had urged Christians not to give up hope that he he would be released one day.
In a major turnaround the court in his home city of Rasht acquitted him of "apostasy" or abandoning Islam. He was found guilty of evangelising among Muslims and sentenced to three years in prison, time he already served.
STEFAN J BOS, of Bosnewslife, reports... |
ESSAY: PAPUA NEW GUINEA'S FUTURE DEPENDS ON AUSTRALIA
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has just returned from a meeting with Pacific Island leaders where she announced a major aid initiative to tackle gender inequality. We know that promoting gender equity can increase economic prosperity and transform community well-being so the PM’s announcement is a great step forward. But having just visited the Pacific region, I am also struck by the immense challenge that lies ahead for our island neighbours, and the responsibility that Australia must face up to.
On the flight over to Papua New Guinea last month, I realised that the patch of water below me carried with it a moral significance. At one shoreline, state-of-the-art healthcare for all; at the other end, complications at birth carry with them a death sentence. Papua New Guinea is our nearest neighbour, just a stone’s throw from our own coast, and yet the two nations sit 151 places apart on the Human Development Index. There is a profound challenge here.
In an article first published by The Australian newspaper, TIM COSTELLO, chief executive of World Vision Australia, looks at the disparity between life in Australia and that of our nearest neighbour... |
Following in the wake of the recent Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games opened amid much fanfare in London this week. Here are some of the stories coming out of the Games...
RECORDS ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN
One of the top competitors at the Paralympics, American swimmer Jessica Long has already won five gold medals and two silvers here in London. And with two more finals to come, she's not finished yet.
Born in Russia and adopted by an American family at 13 months old, Jessica's lower legs were amputated when she was just a year and a half old due to a bone deficiency in her feet and legs. But she hasn't let that slow her down...
RICH CLINE, of 2K Plus International Sports Media, reports... |
ONE OF THE BIGGEST ATHLETES
One of the more inspiring stories to emerge from the Paralympics is that of Haitian cyclist Gaysli Leon, who sustained spinal cord injures during the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake, which took the lives of his wife and eight children.
Leon was a late entry to the Games, and was overwhelmed by the reception he got from the fans at his Paralympic race along the road in Brands Hatch on Wednesday.
RICH CLINE, of 2K Plus International Sports Media, reports... |
THE 'MAKE A DIFFERENCE' FESTIVAL
Just a few miles from the Olympic Park, in the shadow of the Olympic stadium, a collection of churches gathered together to put on the Make a Difference festival. The festival, known as MAD, involved theatre performances, workshops and exhibitions in several different venues - all of which were aimed at engaging the community in this Olympic borough.
PHOEBE THOMPSON, of 2K Plus International Sports Media, reports... |
FOR ALL OF OUR OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC COVERAGE, HEAD TO OUR SPECIAL OLYMPICS 2012 PAGE HERE... |
ESSAY: WHAT CHRIST'S ENCOUNTER WITH A FATHER AND HIS SON CAN SHOW US
Let’s face the celebration of Father's Day with the account from Mark’s Gospel where Jesus showed His care and respect for a father and his son. I have in mind Mark 9:14-29.
If you have ever witnessed someone in an epileptic fit, you'll know it's not pretty. And the crowd that had come out to catch up with Jesus were not just ignorant, uneducated people. They had the benefit of a system of public health and lived with the conviction that they could interpret God's law for every situation. Here they were busily arguing about the fit and how to get the boy well!
Jesus, however, proclaimed a plain message; epileptics and sick people are not here so professional faith healers can show how powerful they are. Jesus' healing of the boy also involved making sure he and his dad could be together quietly so they could find their way in the next few minutes, let alone in the future.
And only when the boy and his dad had gone was Jesus ready to answer any questions. When they asked, "Why couldn't we cast this evil spirit out?", His reply was straight. This can only happen after much prayer...
As Australia prepares to celebrate Father's Day this weekend, BRUCE C WEARNE reflects on an encounter between Jesus and a father and a son... |
REFUGEES: NEW NETWORK OF CHURCH ORGANISATIONS AIMS TO GIVE REFUGEES A GREATER VOICE IN PUBLIC POLICY DEBATES
Looking to increasingly engage in the debate on refugees and asylum-seekers, the National Council of Churches in Australia has established a new network of church organisations working with refugees.
About 15 organisations including the Brotherhood of St Lawrence, Anglicare, Jesuit Refugee Services and UnitingJustice Australia have so far joined the Australian Church Refugee Network (ACRN) and the position of national coordinator has recently been advertised.
Alistair Gee, executive director of Act for Peace – the international aid agency of the NCCA which, as well as being a member of the network, is providing secretariat support, says the network has been established to help better co-ordinate the service churches provide to refugees in Australia and overseas.
“There is a lot that the churches are doing both down at a parish level of helping out refugees in the local community up to engaging on national policy and assisting in refugee camps in other countries in the region…” he says.
DAVID ADAMS reports... |
SYRIA: CHRISTIANS TARGETED BY ISLAMIST REBELS AMID MASSIVE EXODUS
Syrian Christians are reportedly targeted by rebels linked to Islamic terror groups and it remained unclear whether everyone fleeing the violence would be able to reach neighboring Turkey.
"Religious minority groups have become a primary target" of rebels linked to terror group "al-Qaida and other Islamists who are executing attacks in 'the name of Allah'," said International Christian Concern, a major advocacy group.
"Recent threats and killings of Syria’s Christian minority include the murder of a Christian family in the Damascus neighborhood of Bab Tuma on July 23 by rebels belonging to the group Liwa al-Islam, or 'The Brigade of Islam'," ICC said in a statement to BosNewsLife.
"The flight of thousands of Christians from the city of Qusayr in June after an ultimatum to leave the city was issued by a rebel commander," it added.
A report from BosNewsLife... |
AFRICA: 'PROSPERITY GOSPEL' ATTRACTING MANY CHRISTIANS
Segun Ilori spent much of his time cleaning a local Foursquare Gospel Church in 2005 when he won an immigration lottery enabling him to move to the United States.
Today, he drives a 2010 Toyota Camry and has been able to share his comfortable life in the US by sending six cars back home. He attributes his good fortune to the grace of God.
Tedius Makwari heard promises of faith leading to health and wealth while attending the United Family International Church in Zimbabwe. But he said he never realised any benefit of going to the church besides being stripped of his hard-earned money in the name of offerings.
In a continent where many churches are growing by emphasising both the material and spiritual benefits of faith, Ilori and Makwari represent different faces of a religious movement that can evoke both spiritual revival and disillusionment.
SAMUEL OKOCHA and MISHECK RUSERE report for ENInews... |
CHURCHES LOOK TO CONTINUE BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS WITH COMMUNITIES FOLLOWING GAMES SUCCESSES
As London celebrated the end of the Olympic Games, Australian Marty Woods was already thinking about its legacy.
Mr Woods, the European coordinator of Fusion – an Australian-founded youth and community organisation - for the past nine-and-a-half years, has been leading the festivals team of More than Gold, the umbrella organisation resourcing churches for outreach during the Games.
While the rest of his team was out watching the marathon last Sunday – the last day of Games – the 56-year-old was planning a ‘legacy tour’ which involved reconnecting with people in nine regional areas of the UK who’d been involved in running festivals during the Games but were now looking at the next steps of connecting with their communities.
“We’ve never seen such a strong response from the churches,” says Mr Woods of the response from Christians before and during the Olympic Games. “(T)he level of churches wanting to use the Games for outreach has far exceeded everyone’s expectations… I just want to celebrate the way the church has taken hold of the moment - they’ve really embraced it.”
ESSAY: PASSING THE TORCH TO RIO
London Mayor Boris Johnson has every reason to boast. The 2012 London Olympic Games has seen Team GB climb up the medals chart to the joy of crowds filling stadiums and streets, waving Union Jack flags.
Mr Johnson says that the city’s transport system that underwent a £5.6million upgrade has also coped well with the record number of passengers travelling to different events and that the Games have passed without any major eventuality.
Now the London mayor is keen to pass on his pearls of wisdom to his Brazilian counterpart Eduardo Paes, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, whose country received the Olympic flag at the closing ceremony. Rio is to host the FIFA World Cup in two years and the Olympic Games in 2016.
LIZZY MILLAR, of 2K International Sports Media, reflects on the legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games... |
CHRISTIAN ATHLETES HONORED WITH ERIC LIDDELL LEGACY AWARD WHILE MORE THAN GOLD CELEBRATES CHURCHES' COMMUNITY-BUILDING ROLE
As the London 2012 Olympic Games drew to a close, More Than Gold, a Christian outreach organisation that seeks to enable local churches to engage with big sporting events in host cities around the world hosted the inaugural Legacy Award breakfast in honour of Eric Liddell.
The Eric Liddell Award honours one male and one female Olympian who display outstanding character at home, in their community and on the field of competition. The award is given in memory of Eric Liddell, winner of the gold and bronze medals for Great Britain at the 1924 Paris Olympics. Liddell is best known for the portrayal of his Olympic experience in the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire.
The male recipient of the award was the 2008 Olympic decathlon gold medallist from the US, Bryan Clay.
SOLOMON IZANG ASHOMS and LIZZY MILLAR, of 2K International Sports Media, report... |
FOR ALL OF OUR OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC COVERAGE, HEAD TO OUR SPECIAL OLYMPICS 2012 PAGE HERE... |
YOUR SAY: GREAT MOMENTS IN SPORT...
What do think is the greatest Olympic moment of all time and why? What about at this Olympics or sport in general? Come and join our discussion of some of the most inspiring moments sport has ever witnessed... |
AFRICA: CONGOLESE CHURCHES ISSUE "CRY OF DISTRESS" OVER WAR
Protestant churches in the Democratic Republic of Congo have issued a "cry of distress" following increased killing and displacement of civilians in the fighting between the army and rebels in the eastern parts of the country.
The churches, speaking as the Church of Christ of Congo (Église du Christ au Congo-ECC), said more than 30,000 people had been displaced in North Kivu Province in the three months fighting between the March 23 Movement (M23) and the Congolese army, the FADRC (Forces Armees de la Republique Democratique du Congo).
Hundreds of people have been killed, according to various reports, but exact numbers are difficult to ascertain. More than 15,000 have sought refuge in Rwanda and Uganda, according to the churches.
"We denounce these wars and the attempt by the rebels to 'Balkanize' our country," said Rev Josue' Bulambo Lembelembe, a vice-president of the Church of Christ in Congo in North Kivu in a statement on 4th August.
FREDRICK NZWILI, of ENInews, reports... |
THE INTERVIEW: ROMA WATERMAN
How would you describe your music? "I’ve worked as a Christian singer-songwriter for many years and I’ve loved that season of my life. But the more that I’ve developed my relationship with God, the more my heart has been drawn towards more intimate songs – songs that are about His presence and songs about being in His presence. One of the things I’ve often pondered is what songs are being sung in Heaven? What would it be like if I could be in the Throne Room and hear the songs being sung? And what would it be like to hear that and portray it on the Earth? So in some ways my new record attempts to reflect that. I’m hoping it’s the beginning of a new sound in my life." Having toured with some heavy hitters and garnered extensive airplay of her own music on Christian radio, Roma Waterman's seventh album, Release The Sound, transitions her from a story telling singer/songwriter to a creator of artistic songs of contemporary worship. She recently spoke with broadcaster and Christian music historian WES JAY... |
FROM BARBADOS TO BECKTON - YWAM VOLUNTEERS MAKE A DIFFERENCE
While the world spotlight has fallen on Stratford – the site of the 2012 London Olympic Park – a group of people from Barbados have their sights set on Beckton, a new community at the end of the line.
They are from Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in Barbados, an international organisation that trains and deploys Christian volunteers.
In Beckton, the group from Barbados has teamed up with XLP, a London-based youth charity that mentors young people at risk of falling into crime and gangs. The group is seconded to the Parish of St Marks where they are hosting a six-week programme of social and sports activities for the whole family to coincide with the Games.
LIZZY MILLAR, of 2K International Sports Media, reports... |
THE NIGERIAN ATHLETE RUNNING FOR JESUS
A Nigerian athlete competing in the Olympics for the first time has revealed the importance of her Christian faith - both in the good times and bad.
Stanford University-graduate Idara Otu, running in the women’s 4x400 relay which begins on Thursday, was born in the US and only visited her native Nigeria for the first time earlier this year. There she experienced the high of qualifying for the Olympics, and believes God has been instrumental in bringing her to this stage.
"God is the author and finisher of everything I do," she told 2K Plus International Sports Media outside Olympic Park in London. "My faith is very important to me. It’s been the rock of my training, the rock of my life.
"Especially this year, God has really shown me what He can do with my talent. He’s opened a lot of doors for me that wouldn’t have been open without his help."
PAUL HOBSON, of 2K International Sports Media, reports... |
'GAMES PASTORS' LEND A HELPING HAND TO TRAVELLERS
Some 300 volunteer 'Games Pastors' have spent the past week helping travellers at major Olympic transport hubs in London in what is a first for an Olympic Games.
The initiative, which has been supported by various church denominations and will now form a blueprint for future global sporting events, is being organised by More than Gold, an umbrella organisation resourcing churches with outreach materials and support during the Games.
The Games Pastors, who wear a powder blue uniform, are based in London, Luton, Newcastle and Coventry during the Olympics. While most of them usually live in the UK, some have come from as far afield as Cyprus, Germany and the US.
Mike Freeman, a former police training officer and now operations manager of the Games Pastors Team, says the job of the pastors is to offer support to travellers.
"YOU CAN BE A TOP ATHLETE - AND HAVE A DEEP CHRISTIAN FAITH"
Turning professional has actually deepened the Christian faith of an up and coming South African cyclist.
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, 26, revealed that her relationship with God has improved in an environment that is more “selfish and self-centred” than Christian.
Like any aspiring female cyclist in South Africa, Ms Moolman-Pasio had to move to Europe to be able to compete with the world’s best. But her battle to establish herself was hampered by breaking her collar-bone three times in 12 months in 2009-10.
However, she kept going and was rewarded with a creditable 16th in the women’s road race on Sunday.
She said her faith has enabled her to get through these tough times. "Taking my cycling more seriously has actually strengthened my faith," she said. "I’ve really relied on my faith to keep me going, especially in tough times, like breaking my collar-bone three times. If I didn’t have faith in God I think I would have given up. It’s just about having the patience and trusting in Him."
PAUL HOBSON, of 2K Plus International Sport Media, talks to South African cyclist Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio about her faith... |
MISSION TEMPLATE IN THE SHADOW OF THE OLYMPIC PARK
For a small inner city church with limited resources Victoria Park Baptist in Bow is having a busy Olympics.
Not only has it opened a café with free wi-fi, run a children's holiday club, provided large screen coverage of the opening ceremony (which saw more than 100 people pack out the church) and created both a quiet space and a prayer room, it is also reaching out to people using the Victoria Park Live Site at the end of its road. And that's not to mention a couple of sports clinics and live performances planned for next week.
Several members of the congregation have taken their annual leave to support these activities, but the key is the partnerships it has been able to build.
"We are a small church. We could not do what we are doing if not for the support of Youth With a Mission (YWAM), local churches, and the funding of the London Baptist Association," said Geoff Thorington-Hassell, who belongs to the church.
PAUL HOBSON, of 2K Plus International Sport Media, reports on how one London church is engaging with the Games... |
FOR ALL OF OUR OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC COVERAGE, HEAD TO OUR SPECIAL OLYMPICS 2012 PAGE HERE... |
YOUR SAY: GREAT MOMENTS IN SPORT...
What do think is the greatest Olympic moment of all time and why? What about at this Olympics or sport in general? Come and join our discussion of some of the most inspiring moments sport has ever witnessed... |
LOANS SCHEME: WHEN FINANCIAL DOWNTURNS BITE, DUBBO'S RIVERSIDE CHURCH ARE THERE TO LEND A HELPING HAND
Tough economic times can play havoc for families no matter how well-off they are. It’s normally at these times that people lose their jobs and need to rely on public welfare to see them through. Rent and bills need to be paid and sending children to school means that parents constantly have their hand in their pocket.
So what happens when a major appliance like a fridge or a washing machine needs to be replaced? Those on welfare don’t have the money to replace such appliances outright and the only other options are loans or credit. However, the interest on these solutions can stretch an already tight budget to breaking point.
These types of financial pressures saw Riverside Church in Dubbo launch their no fee, no interest loan program. Officially called the No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS), the program is offered under the Riverside Lifehouse Global Care ministry.
ALAN TAYLOR reports on a scheme to help people in tough times... |
OLYMPICS AND PARALYMPICS 2012
ESSAY: ERIC LIDDELL, PARALYMPIANS AND GREAT OLYMPIC VALUES
There are probably few things that stir the human soul like the story of a winner against seemingly insurmountable odds.
During the 2004 Paralympics in Athens, I watched a spectacle on TV that I think will stay with me for the rest of my days.
All the able-bodied – or perhaps we should just say, less-physically-challenged – competitors had gone home. The hype and hoopla were dying down and a smaller but still enthusiastic crowd had remained to watch the competition between physically challenged athletes from around the world.
I watched in amazement as one young Chinese man, probably no more than a teenager, surged quite early to the front of the field. He stretched his lead lap-by-lap until he was entire body-lengths ahead of his nearest rival.
Writing from London, MAL FLETCHER looks at what the Games are really all about - the role people, whether a Paralympic swimmer from China or British runner Eric Liddell, can play in inspiring us all... |
RELIGION PLAYING A STRONG ROLE IN BACKGROUND OF OLYMPIC GAMES
In a BBC radio broadcast Friday, Anglican canon Duncan Green called on people everywhere in the world to live together in peace and harmony, in the spirit of the Olympic Games.
"I was very moved last week when the Christian chaplains on the team helped their Muslim colleagues prepare a large hall for the Friday prayers of Ramadan. A young Muslim man hugged me for providing such a facility. This week, I've witnessed young men and women from all over the world living side by side, greeting one another, making new friends, laughing, and sharing their love of sport. I pray that the world will watch and learn to live in harmony."
The Religious Services Centre at the Olympic Village will be run by 50 chaplains working on shift around the clock and catering to the spiritual health needs of athletes from countries where Judaism, Islam, Christianity, and other religions prevail.
AUSTRALIANS ON A MISSION IN LONDON TO SHARE THE LOVE OF CHRIST
With the Opening Ceremony now just around the corner, DAVID ADAMS speaks with some of the Australians who will be sharing their faith at the London Olympics... |
FOR ALL OF OUR OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC COVERAGE, HEAD TO OUR SPECIAL OLYMPICS 2012 PAGE HERE... |
AIDS: FAITH LEADERS AT WHITEHOUSE AIDS FORUM EMPHASISE NEED FOR PARTNERSHIPS
A White House forum on 24th July attended by Obama administration officials and faith leaders took stock of the faith-based response to HIV and explored partnerships between faith communities and governments to uphold dignity and justice in the context of the HIV epidemic, according to a news release from the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance.
Leaders expressed appreciation for the US government's bipartisan commitment to the global and national HIV response, and administration officials highlighted the services, reach, and leadership of the faith community. But both groups flagged patent barriers to treatment and anti-stigma advocacy within faith communities as challenges that must be addressed.
ZAMBIANS WITH HIV LEARNING TO LIVE A "POSITIVE LIFE"
By their daily lives and examples, Zambians are living the theme of the 19th International AIDS Conference, 'Turning the Tide Together.'
Collins Mulenda, 33, says he is "living a positive life" both by being treated for the HIV virus himself and by acting as a peer counselor at Our Lady’s Hospice, a church-affiliated institution, in the Zambian capital of Lusaka that treats both inpatients and outpatients for various HIV-related conditions.
OLYMPICS 2012: AUSTRALIANS ON A MISSION IN LONDON TO SHARE THE LOVE OF CHRIST
Along with the host of athletes, coaching staff and officials arriving in London this week for the Olympic Games is another group of people charged with the task of sharing their faith in Jesus Christ with those they encounter there.
Among them is Nett Knox, a veteran of several Olympic, Paralympics and Commonwealth Games, having attended her first – the Sydney Olympics – in 2000.
She will be working as one of the official Christian chaplains based at the Olympic Village’s Religious Services Centre along with representatives of other faiths.
As well as holding Bible studies and church services, Ms Knox - who can more usually be found teaching Religious Education at Knox Grammar School in Sydney - says the chaplains are “available to anybody who wants to come in and have a chat”.
“Really it’s kind of a ministry of presence to support people in any way we can,” she says.
With the Opening Ceremony now just around the corner, DAVID ADAMS speaks with some of the Australians who will be sharing their faith at the London Olympics... |
ON A MISSION IN LONDON
DAVID ADAMS and DAN WOODING, of Assist News Service, take a look at some of the key Christian organisations that will be working in London... |
HUNGER: HOPE SHINES DESPITE WEST AFRICA FOOD CRISIS
West Africa is in the grip of a crippling drought. About 18.7 million people across the Sahel region are affected by a serious food and nutrition crisis. More than one million children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition. The United Nations report that it will cost about $1.6 billion to deal with the crisis in West Africa, but to date only 49 per cent of that amount has been raised.
Niger is one of the worst affected countries with 6.4 million people at risk of hunger. World Vision Australia chief executive Tim Costello has just returned from Niger where despite the suffering he saw many people carrying a sense of hope. Hope that the rains would bring new crops and that they would not suffer the number of deaths seen in East Africa.
“I have been inspired by the tremendous examples of resilience and determination in some of the most desolate places I have ever seen,” Mr Costello says.
“Fathers risking their lives in a disused goldmine to try to feed their families, or mothers determined to get treatment for malnourished children despite the obstacles they face shows the tenacity of the human spirit.”
GABRIELLE BROPHY, of World Vision Australia, finds there is hope among those most affected by the ongoing food crisis in West Africa... |
ESSAY: EGYPT'S POWER STRUGGLE AND THE FATE OF CHRISTIANS
In defiance of Egypt’s top generals and highest court, Muslim Brotherhood presidential-elect Mohammed Morsi reopened parliament on Tuesday. In only his third week in office, Morsi’s rapid-fire pursuit to broaden the Brotherhood’s power openly challenges the country’s ruling military council. Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority fears that the restoration of parliament, which will grant greater powers to Islamists, will be used to institute Sharia law and stifle religious freedoms.
On 10th July, Egypt’s lower chamber, the People’s Assembly, convened despite a ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court on 14th June ordering the parliament’s dissolution. Saad el-Katatni, the assembly’s speaker, told lawmakers the session was being held to seek a “second opinion” by an appellate court in an effort to reinstate the Islamist-dominated legislature. The court, however, did not concede to the chamber’s request, upholding its earlier ruling that the parliament had been elected unconstitutionally and that its dissolution was “final and binding.”
If the parliament were to be reinstated, the Muslim Brotherhood - which holds nearly half the seats in the Islamist-dominated assembly - would head both the legislature and the presidency. Yet, a Brotherhood-controlled civilian government appears to be what Egypt’s ruling generals fear most.
In a report first published on Assist News Service, AIDAN CLAY of International Christian Concern looks at events in Egypt and how they may affect the Coptic Christian population... |
PRESIDENT-ELECT MORSI SAYS HE WILL LEAD "ALL EGYPTIANS" AMID CONCERNS AMONG COPTIC CHRISTIANS... |
NIGERIA: REPORTS OF MORE THAN 100 KILLED IN VIOLENT ATTACKS
Nigerian authorities said on Sunday that at least 63 people were killed when suspected Muslim herdsmen armed with guns and machetes stormed Christian villages, while missionaries claimed over 50 pastors and missionary leaders died in separate violence.
The attacks rocked Christian villages near the city of Jos in central Nigeria’s Plateau State, said Mustapha Salisu, spokesman for a special taskforce made up of policemen and soldiers deployed in the area to curb years of violence.
Officials initially said that as many as 37 people died in the raids and reprisal attacks that followed, but death toll estimates later rose to over 60 killed.
The Associated Press (AP) news agency quoted Mark Lipdo, who runs a Christian advocacy group known as the Stefanos Foundation, as saying that 13 villages have been attacked. He said they were all Christian.
MUSIC: HOOTIE AND THE BLOWFISH DRUMMER, JIM SONEFELD, ON HIS SECOND CHANCE AT LIFE
Hootie and the Blowfish drummer, Jim Sonefeld is sharing his faith with a new EP titled Found. The project reflects on his new life and direction, as it shares that same hope in Christ with others.
“I was 40 before I realised something was off. I want to challenge people that if there’s a void; if there’s a little hole in your heart - or a big hole - it’s for Jesus,” said Sonefeld. “I have lived trying to stuff it full of every other thing - money, material goods, sex, drugs, alcohol- I’ve tried everything, and believe me, it doesn’t work. It keeps running out; it keeps leaking. The only thing that doesn’t leak is Jesus.”
His musical journey started as a student at the University of South Carolina in the late ‘80s, when the budding songwriter befriended three other men who shared his passion for music, and together they called themselves Hootie and the Blowfish.
In an article first published on Assist News Service, GINNY McCABE talks to Hootie and the Blowfish drummer, Jim Sonefeld, about the difference Christ has made in his life... |
SYRIA: TORTURE ALLEGATIONS AIRED AS THOUSANDS OF CHRISTIANS FLEE VIOLENCE
Thousands of Christians have fled their homes in Syria where news emerged on Tuesday that intelligence agencies are running dozens of torture centres where detainees are beaten with batons and cables, burned with acid, sexually assaulted, and have fingernails torn out.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) group said it identified 27 abuse centres which have been used since President Bashar al-Assad's government began a crackdown in March 2011 on pro-democracy protesters trying to oust him.
HRW added that it conducted over 200 interviews with people who were tortured, including a 31-year-old man who was detained in the Idlib area in June and made to undress.
"Then they started squeezing my fingers with pliers. They put staples in my fingers, chest and ears. I was only allowed to take them out if I spoke. The staples in the ears were the most painful," the man was quoted as saying in the report.
PRESSURE GROWS ON BASHAR AL-ASSAD IN WAKE OF MASSACRE...|
CHRISTIANS LIVE IN UNEASY ALLIANCE WITH BASHAR AL-ASSAD... |
PARALYMPICS: CHURCHES PREPARE FOR UPCOMING GAMES AMID QUESTIONS OVER CHURCH FACILITIES
Churches in Britain are organising celebrations and activities in the run-up to the London Paralympic Games, which take place after the Olympics, but critics are also wondering whether churches will be inspired to improve their own facilities for the disabled.
The Paralympics -- sports competitions for athletes with a range of disabilities -- will take place from 29th August to 9th September, two weeks following the Olympics.
"There is a sharp contrast between the facilities provided for this...event and those available in most churches...We are told that there between 10 and 18 per cent of people are disabled - but we don't see that number in our congregations," said Tim Wood, CEO of Through the Roof, an ecumenical charity which campaigns for the inclusion of disabled people in faith communities.
In spite of years of campaigning and changes to legislation that in theory require public buildings to have accommodations such as wheelchair ramps and designated parking spaces, more than half the churches in the UK still lack such features.
Walt Disney, world-class dreamer and founder of the fantasy empire that bears his name, once said: "I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn't know how to get along without it."
In the age of so-called mass collaboration, international sporting endeavour has the potential to remind us that not all competition is unhealthy; that testing one’s mettle against one’s peers can bring out the best in all concerned.
Nothing has the potential to celebrate the virtues and values of sporting endeavour like the Olympic Games. Yet the modern Olympiad and the organisation that supports it have arguably become little more than a celebration of jingoism and a promoter of market values.
The virtues that once defined sporting competition at the elite level now seem but a secondary consideration. The success of any modern Olympiad is, at the end of the day, measured in terms of the potential monetary gain for the host nation and for those nations which produce winning competitors - especially in the big sports.
Writing from London - host of this year's Olympic Games, MAL FLETCHER reflects on the relationship between sport and money... |
EGYPT: PRESIDENT-ELECT MORSI SAYS HE WILL LEAD "ALL EGYPTIANS" AMID CONCERNS AMONG COPTIC CHRISTIANS
Egypt's President-elect Mohammed Morsi said Sunday he will be the leader of "all Egyptians" amid concerns among the country's minority Coptic Christians about their future.
Addressing his nation in live televised remarks, the Muslim Brotherhood's Mr Morsi also said he would respect "international agreements" in a clear message to Israel which is closely watching how Cairo will implement the peace agreement it signed in 1979.
Yet, the 60-year-old Mr Morsi earlier said that he would not meet Israeli officials, promising instead to prioritise the Palestinian issue.
One of his supporters, cleric Safwat el-Hegazy, also issued a direct challenge to Israel, calling for a Muslim super-state across the Middle East with Jerusalem as its capital.
Mr Morsi later distanced himself from the cleric’s comments.
He reiterated on Sunday that he wants to be seen to be unifying all Egyptians, including Christians, adding that those who died while protesting more than a year ago will be remembered. "Their blood will not go in vain," he said.
In South Sudan earlier this year, 6,000 young fighters from one ethnic group attacked another ethnic group in a dispute over cattle stealing. They killed about 600 people. The attackers were from an ethnic group that had been through a disarmament process just two years ago. Now they have brand new guns. “Where does one get new guns for 6,000 young men?” asked South Sudanese MP and faith leader Joy Kwaje.
There are currently more global trade regulations for bananas than there are for weapons. But things are due for a change. In July, the member states of the United Nations - including Australia - are meeting in New York to negotiate a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).
To ensure world leaders don’t walk away from such a vital and potentially lifesaving agreement, an ecumenical campaign is under way to lobby for a strong and effective treaty.
Convened by the World Council of Churches, the campaign brings together some 60 churches and organisations in 31 countries, including Act for Peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia.
SARAH GREGORY and CORINNE ROBERTS, of Act for Peace, talk about why a global Arms Trade Treaty is so important... |
WALKING THE TIGHTROPE: NIK WALLENDA "PRAYED NON-STOP" IN DARING FEAT OVER NIAGARA FALLS
Swirling winds and heavy mists from the falls below completely soaked famous aerialist Nik Wallenda as he gingerly balanced on a steel cable 200 feet above the raging torrent.
“I prayed non-stop,” Mr Wallenda, 33, a born-again Christian told ABC’s Good Morning America. “The Bible says to pray without ceasing and I’m always praying."
Mr Wallenda made history Friday night when he became the first man to walk over Niagara Falls on a tightrope in a 25-minute spectacle televised live on ABC News.
Before he began the audacious attempt, he fasted for eight hours. Then his wife, Erindera, and three children joined hands in a small circle and prayed along the riverside before he set out, just after 10pm. The mist was so thick it obscured him from the Canadian side for the first 10 minutes.
MARK ELLIS, of Godreports.com, writes about Nik Wallenda's amazing walk... |
First of all, congratulations on being appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia. What does it mean to you? "Very humbled. I hope it means that more people are aware of the terrible state of women’s health in developing countries. Hopefully by creating awareness, more can be done to assist these women. I also hope that as more people are aware, it will assist in fund-raising for the treatment of women with childbirth injuries."
How long have you been working with groups like Mercy Ships and how did you initially become involved?
"I have been doing volunteer work, in particular fistula surgery, since 1995. I initially got involved with overseas work when I was a medical student . At some stage during the medical curriculum, there is an elective term that one can do overseas – most choose to go to Europe etcetera. A woman at church (ex-missionary in India) suggested I go to India. In 1985, I spent three months in rural India as a medical student and had a great time and it stimulated me to do my specialty training in obstetrics and gynaecology so that I could go back overseas at some stage as a volunteer.
Queensland gynaecologist Judith Goh was recently appointed an officer of the Order of Australia in the recent Queen's Birthday Honours list in recognition of her service to gynaecological medicine, in particular the field of fistula medicine, and the promotion of the rights of women and children in developing countries.
She talks to DAVID ADAMS about her work with international Christian medical charity Mercy Ships in helping some of the estimated two million women who suffer from obstetric fistulas around the world... |
Abra quietly remembers the journey of her life. For 24 years, she has known suffering and great emotional pain. One day and one event changed the course of her life for over two decades.
On that day, Abra went into labour. It was her fifth child, and after struggling with the pain and pressure, she was taken to the hospital for a caesarian section. “There was no hope,” Abra remembers sadly. “Even the doctor lost hope.” The baby died, and Abra remained in a coma for five days.
When she awoke, she learned that her husband had decided to leave her. Then, a few days later, she realized she was incontinent, as a result of obstetric fistula. The injury is caused by obstructed labor. Unfortunately, it is a condition that is much too common in developing countries, where women have little access to medical care.
In the lucrative bottled water industry having a good brand is the key to success. After all, for many consumers one bottle of water tastes much the same as another, so turning your brand into something they want to buy is the key to making a profit.
Add to this the difficulty of advertising bottled water and you have a quandary. How do you make your bottled water stick out from the competition?
For some businesses, the answer is linking their water to a charitable cause. Mt Franklin has a partnership with the McGrath Foundation and Coolridge supports Movember. But, for the team at Thankyou Water, supporting a charity for a month each year isn’t going far enough.
"If you went shopping for bottled water and had a choice between Mt Franklin or a Thankyou Water and you didn’t know about much about either brand, you’d probably buy Mt Franklin because it’s a safe choice," says Jarryd Burns, one of the company’s directors.
Thankyou Water is in the business of selling water, but there’s a difference in their bottom line, writes RYAN ENGLISH in an article first published in the Salvation Army's Warcry magazine....|
THE BIG PICTURE: THE TRANSIT OF VENUS
An amazing picture showing the transit of Venus across the sun, taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. The almost seven hour transit is a very rare event - they occur in eight year pairs (this was the second event with the first in 2004) with the first in the next pair of events not to occur until 2117, meaning it's likely that no-one who saw this week's event will likely see the next one.
My friend went to jail last month. He is not someone we would usually consider a common criminal. My friend is Graham Preston, the father of seven, whose arrest for non-payment of fines relating to his non-violent protests at abortion clinics has seen him sentenced to the longest jail term of any anti-abortion campaigner in Australia.
I first met Graham when he became the illustrator of the children's book I write (www.carparkparables.com). We slowly got to know each other and I became aware of his activism for protect-life.info. We talked and corresponded on the issue, including when he went to jail previously. I don't agree with everything Graham believes or does, but I respect his integrity and conviction, and I am challenged by them.
There is a huge irony between Graham and myself. Essentially we share pretty much the same ideals and beliefs. Yet while I was winning community service awards for the application of my faith, Graham was going to jail for acting on the same faith. How can Christianity out-lived, lead to such different outcomes? Am I just playing safe with my faith; purposefully ignoring the unpalatable bits and highlighting the nice bits? Is my faith an anaemic version of the real thing? Or is Graham misguided and misdirected; another one of those fanatics we can dismiss?
PAUL CLARK wrestles with a Christian response to the fraught issue of abortion...|
THE INTERVIEW: BISHOP MOSES DENG BOL ON ADDRESSING THE HIV PANDEMIC IN SOUTH SUDAN
How is South Sudan responding to the challenges of HIV and AIDS?
"The country is responding in various ways, including awareness raising campaigns aimed at preventing new infections and providing treatment and care for those who are already infected. These campaigns are waged by various institutions, including the government, churches and non-governmental organisations.
"The response is, however, still limited; and in major towns as well as rural areas a majority of people are vulnerable to the disease. Voluntary counselling and testing (VCT), also known as client-initiated HIV testing and counselling, is rarely available and known in the country.
"HIV is considered a generalised epidemic in South Sudan, with a rapid increase in its spread and with more than 128,000 people living with HIV. People who are more at the risk of HIV infection include refugees and internally displaced people, with women in the majority."
BISHOP MOSES DENG-BOL, of Wau Diocese of the Episcopal Church in South Sudan, believes in a church that encourages forgiveness, reconciliation and peaceful co-existence. In a recent interview with representatives of the World Council of Churches he shared how churches in his country are trying to address issues presented by the HIV pandemic...|
SYRIA: PRESSURE GROWS ON BASHAR AL-ASSAD IN WAKE OF MASSACRE
The World Council of Churches has joined with the United Nations and countries around the world in condemning the ongoing violence in Syria which hit a new low when 108 people were massacred near the town of Houla on the weekend.
Reports had initially put the death toll from the attack on 25th and 26th May at around 80 but this was revised to 108, including more than 30 children. Many of the dead, who also included women, had apparently been shot at close range. Hundreds were also wounded in the attack and UN observers have verified that artillery and tank shells were fired in the area.
Rev Dr Olav Fyske Tveit, general secretary of the council, said churches "cannot but condemn this inhumane act and manifest our feelings of solidarity with the families of the victims, mourning their beloved ones".
CHRISTIANS LIVE IN UNEASY ALLIANCE WITH BASHAR ASSAD... |
WORLDVIEW: PROTECTING AND LISTENING TO SYRIA'S CHRISTIANS... |
DEBT: THREAT RETURNS TO GLOBAL SOUTH
Startling new research by the Jubilee Debt Campaign has found that debt burdens in impoverished countries have increased significantly since the debt cancellation of the 2000s.
This follows the fallout from the global financial crisis as well as private sector expansion in the global south. The report finds this threatens to extend the 30-year pattern of debt crises across the globe, from the Mexican debt crisis of 1982 to the Eurozone debt crisis of today.
Campaigners have responded by calling for a “new debt jubilee”. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, churches and Christian groups joined with wide range of civil society groups, charities and NGOs to lobby for cancellation of debts owed by the global south to the west. They celebrated partial success, but the results now appear to be under threat.
The report, The State of Debt: Putting an end to 30 years of debt crisis, investigates for the first time the external debts of both governments and the private sector in low and lower middle income countries.
I got the news early Monday morning that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi had finally succumbed to his battle with terminal prostate cancer. By some of the Lockerbie family members, his death was met by cheers that justice was finally served. Others espoused more vengeful statements. My response was far more sobering. When I heard the news I simply thought, “Today is Megrahi’s day of reckoning.”
Maybe now the Lockerbie family members can finally close this chapter of our lives. Hopefully now the victims' families can finally have peace. For the family members of the Lockerbie victims this has been a 24 year journey of loss, pain, anguish, disbelief, and constant fighting for the truth to be known. It has consumed the lives of many of the victims relatives as we have ridden the tied of ups and downs while all along just trying to find resolution.
This tragedy has destroyed more lives than just the victims. There have been suicides, mental breakdowns, and families destroyed. Imagine fighting a war for 24 years? That is what it has felt like. For many, the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder were very real in their lives.
In article first published by Assist News Service, LISA GIBSON, whose 20-year-old brother Ken was among the 270 people killed in 1988's Lockerbie bombing, writes of her reaction to news of the death of the only man ever convicted of the bombing, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi... |
SCRIPTURE: SCHOLARS JOIN WITH WRITERS, POETS AND MUSICIANS TO CREATE NEW BIBLE TRANSLATION - THE VOICE
“For God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction but will have everlasting life.” - John 3: 16
Sound familiar and yet…not? The verses come from a new translation of the Bible. Called The Voice, it has been written with the idea of creating a version that reads more like a story while still remaining true to the original text in a bid to engage more people in reading Scripture.
The translation project, which involved about 120 people based in the US and Europe and was a joint project between Houston-based Ecclesia Bible Society and publishers Thomas Nelson, kicked off in 2004 and was only completed in the second half of last year.
David B. Capes, Thomas Nelson Research Professor in the School of Theology at Houston Baptist University and author of several books, was the lead scholar on the project. He says the idea for the new translation stemmed from a meeting he had with Chris Seay, pastor of Ecclesia Church in Houston, at which the pastor expressed concerns that some of the translations they were using in church didn’t seem to communicate very well to people in a public forum.
DAVID ADAMS speaks with Professor David B. Capes, lead scholar for a new Bible translation called The Voice... |
YOUR SAY : WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE VOICE? WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE BIBLE TRANSLATION AND WHY? HAVE YOUR SAY.. |
SYRIA: CHRISTIANS LIVE IN UNEASY ALLIANCE WITH BASHAR ASSAD
Hani Sarhan is a Christian who says none of his relatives works with Bashar Assad's regime or has anything to do with it.
"But what we heard from (the protesters) at the beginning of this revolution saying, 'Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the coffin,' started us thinking about the real aim of this revolution," he said. "So from this point of view, fearing for my life, I declared my support for President Assad."
Muslims dominate this nation of 22 million people, but Christians can be found at all levels of Syrian government, business and military, reports Religion News Service via USA Today. The two million Christians here trace their roots to ancient communities and have survived under many rulers as Christian enclaves in other Arab nations, such as Saudi Arabia, have withered.
The rebellion of hundreds of thousands of Muslims against Assad that began in March 2011 has not seen Christians abandon their support for the Alawites, the Muslim sect to which Assad belongs and that has controlled Syria for decades. Christians have largely remained quiet as Assad's forces pummeled rebel cities and towns with artillery, killing close to 10,000 people, according to the United Nations.
In a report from ENInews/RNS, STEPHEN STARR and S AKMINAS look at the situation for Christians amidst the unrest in Syria... |
ESSAY: MAKING 'REAL' PREGNANCY CHOICES
This weekend Real Choices Australia is holding its second annual conference in Melbourne. This year’s theme of ‘Setting the Standard’ is fulfilled by the calibre of national and international speakers, addressing vital topics. Dr Priscilla Coleman, is the world’s most published researcher on the impact of abortion on women, particularly the negative impact on mental health.
According to a study by Dr Coleman published in the highly regarded British Journal of Psychiatry, women who had undergone an abortion experienced an 81 per cent increased risk of mental health problems. This study was a meta-analysis of 22 studies published between 1995 and 2009 involving almost 900,000 women across six countries.
The results of these combined studies reveal higher rates of anxiety related disorders (34 per cent), depression (37 per cent), alcohol use/abuse (110 per cent), marijuana use (230 per cent), and higher rates of suicidal behaviour (155 per cent).
DEBBIE GARRATT, executive director of Real Choices Australia, writes about the need for more information over the effects of abortion... |
HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY? NIGER WORST PLACE TO BE A MOTHER, SAYS SAVE THE CHILDREN REPORT
Niger has replaced Afghanistan as the worst place in the world to be a mother, according to Save the Children's annual Mothers' Index.
The drought-ravaged West African nation of Niger, where the lives of a million children are currently threatened by the worsening hunger situation, is ranked last out of the 165 countries for which data is provided while Afghanistan has moved up one to 164th place.
A typical girl in Niger only receives four years of education and only lives to be 56-years-old. One in seven children die before their fifth birthday meaning that every mother in Niger is likely to suffer the loss of a child.
On the positive side, the situation for mothers in Afghanistan - which has been at the bottom of the list for the last two years - has been improving. While Save the Children still rank it close to the bottom of the table in their Mothers' Index, research shows that while in 2006, one of five children died before reaching their fifth birthday, this number had dropped to one in 10 by 2010.
FOREIGN AID: CHRISTIAN AND HUMANITARIAN ORGANISATIONS "DEEPLY DISAPPOINTED" AT GOVERNMENT'S FAILURE TO HONOR PROMISE
Christian and humanitarian organisations have expressed disappointment at the Federal Government's decision not to increase foreign aid in line with promises made at the last election.
In a decision announced as part of the Federal Budget on Tuesday night, the Federal Government made clear it will not be lifting its foreign aid commitment to 0.5 per cent of gross national income (GNI) - which equates to 50 cents in every $100 - by 2015 but would do so in 2016-17, a year later than promised. Australia currently gives 0.35 per cent of its gross national income towards foreign aid.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr said that while funding for overseas aid would continue to grow each year, "(i)t will, however, grow at a slightly slower rate so that 0.5 per cent of GNI is reached in 2016-17."
The move will save the government $2.9 billion over the next four years.
Rev Paul Perini, chairperson for the Australian arm of Micah Challenge - a global movement of Christians formed to lobby against poverty and injustice in support of the Millennium Development Goals, said the group was "deeply disappointed" at the decision.
UPDATE: The Coalition has said Labor's decision to defer increasing foreign aid meant it would be impossible for a future Coalition government to raise aid to 0.5 per cent of GNI by 2015... |
THE INTERVIEW: MARTIN THOMAS, WORLD VISION
What’s all the fuss – after all, hasn’t the aid just been delayed a year?
“It has been delayed by a year and I think we’re trying to acknowledge that there has been an increase – and that’s important – but when you look at the actual difference, over four years there’ll be $2.9 billion that essentially won’t be available for the aid budget. And that means…programs that in some cases save lives, in other cases put kids in schools, vaccinations, food, agriculture – all these programs that really make a massive difference in people’s lives and what we’re so proud of in the aid budget - just won’t be able to happen because that money won’t be there in the next four years.”
How do you calculate the impact the delay of foreign aid will have on the world’s poor?
“There is one calculation which we have been using, which is to say: if you look at this $2.9 billion…(and) if we say that on average 20 per cent of that money would go towards just health outcomes – and that seems a reasonable kind of rule of thumb – we’re saying that it basically could have saved about 290,000 lives through health programs.”
DAVID ADAMS asks Martin Thomas, head of public affairs at World Vision Australia, some of the questions you want answered about Tuesday's budget and foreign aid...|
ESSAY: AID PROMISE SACRIFICED TO BUDGET SURPLUS
So, let's get the headline out of the way. The Government broke its promise. It will not increase aid to 0.5 per cent of gross national income by 2015. Instead, it has decided to defer that commitment by one year.
The Government will not increase aid to 0.38 per cent of gross national income (GNI) in the coming year as previously indicated. Instead, a much smaller increase of around $300 million will see aid remain static at 0.35 per cent of GNI.
In order to save $2.9 billion over four years, the Government has chosen to break a promise it made to the Australian public and to the world's poor. Our aid will continue to do good (and more on this below), but we will be saving fewer lives, helping fewer children receive basic education, helping fewer communities recover from disaster, than we had committed to.
The child who can't attend school today will just have to wait another year. The community that is afflicted by hunger today will just have to wait. The woman who goes through the trials of pregnancy and childbirth without skilled assistance today, well – you know – she can wait because Australia needs a surplus.
BEN THURLEY, political engagement co-ordinator at Micah Challenge Australia, gives his take on Tuesday night's Federal Budget... |
YOUR SAY: What do you think of the Federal Government's decision to delay lifting Australia's foreign aid? Have your say here... |
MUSIC: HOPE PUTS A POSITIVE SPIN ON LIFE
We all need hope. That’s the premise behind a new album, Hope: Songs of Faith and Inspiration, which aims to provide a positive alternative to the often negative music landscape in Australia.
The album, which is being produced as a partnership between ABC Music, Universal Music Australia and World Vision Australia, features artists including world renowned stars like Olivia Newton-John and Darlene Zschech as well as recent chart toppers Mark Vincent and Stan Walker, and was produced by Chong Lim. It debuted at number 46 on the ARIA top 50 best selling albums chart in mid-April.
The vision for its creation came from banker Andrew Hagger. Mr Hagger, currently group executive, people, marketing and communications at the NAB, says the idea for the album partly came out of time he was spending with cancer sufferers as part of his involvement on the appeal committee of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer & Wellness Centre. He first approached Rev Tim Costello, chief executive of World Vision Australia, in 2005 about the possibility of making the album.
ANNIVERSARY: ANGLICAN WORLD MARKS 350 YEARS OF THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER
"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust." "All the deceits of the world, the flesh and the devil." "Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest."
Shakespeare? The King James Bible? Close - the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, the liturgical and literary masterpiece that (next to the previous two sources) has helped shape the English language and marks its 350th anniversary this year.
St Paul's Cathedral in London celebrated the occasion on 2nd May with a special service of evensong, or evening prayer, from the 1662 volume, often shortened to the BCP or Prayer Book. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams attended, along with members of Prayer Book societies in Australia, Canada and the UK that are dedicated to keeping the work alive.
"I hope and pray that people in Britain and around the English-speaking world realise the importance of this great work," Prudence Dailey, chair of the Prayer Book Society in the UK, told ENInews.
ADVOCACY: GOSPEL CALLS FOR SOLIDARITY WITH THE OPPRESSED, SAYS CHURCHES LEADER
Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, has called for solidarity from churches with those "groaning" under pain, suffering and oppression, in an address to the National Council of Churches in India.
Referring to the theme of the 27th general assembly -- "The Gospel in a Groaning World" -- Rev Dr Tveit said the church is called upon "to share the groaning and suffering of the world" and "to share in the hope that change is possible, that redemption can become reality and injustice and conflicts shall not have the last word."
More than 500 delegates representing 30 Orthodox and Protestant churches, 17 regional councils and two dozen national organisations under NCCI attended the 25th to 28th April assembly in Bangalore.
AFRICA: GLOBAL CHRISTIAN LEADERS DENOUNCE ATTACK ON SUDAN PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
Global Christian leaders are condemning the destruction on 21st April of the Sudan Evangelical Presbyterian Church Bible School in Khartoum, an incident that occurred amidst escalating hostilities between Sudan and South Sudan.
Nearly 500 people, said to be members of a fundamentalist Islamic group, attacked the church compound in the West Gerief district of the Sudanese capital, burning Bibles and destroying and looting property. The attack has since increased fear among Christians in the north.
"We express a grave concern over the increasing incidents of attacks on Christians and destruction of Church property in Sudan," said the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) general secretaries in a joint statement on 24th April.
FREDRICK NZWILI, of ENInews, reports... |
THOUSANDS OF SUDANESE CHRISTIANS SEEKING SHELTER AMID "ALL OUT WAR" THREAT... |
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF CHRISTIANS FACE EXPULSION...|
ESSAY: COUNTING THE COST ON ANZAC DAY
When I was younger I detested thinking about war. I didn’t like watching war movies. I didn’t give much thought to the people who went to war. That changed when I was asked to write a story on the RSL and how it came to be. As I researched for that story, my eyes were opened to why it is so important to observe Anzac Day.
So as Anzac day approaches, my thoughts turn to the many men and women who have given their lives in service to this country. They weren’t forced. They voluntarily went so that their families could continue to live freely. They didn’t go with the fear they would die; they went for the purpose of seeing their country live.
Many people see war as unnecessary. Many see it as a waste. And I suppose a waste is true in a sense. Young lives are lost, lives that could have gone on to be so much more. However, is it a waste of a life when that life has been given for the freedom of others? I don’t think that the giver of that life would see it as a waste.
ALAN TAYLOR reflects on what Anzac Day means to him... |
SIGHT-SEEING: OF DESENSITISATION, ANZAC DAY AND A CALL TO PRAYER
Against the backdrop of Anzac Day, BRUCE C. WEARNE looks at how the desensitising of soldiers should help shape our response as Christians...|
CHUCK COLSON: PRISON FELLOWSHIP FOUNDER AND WATERGATE FIGURE DIES AT AGE 80
Prison Fellowship founder and influential evangelical Christian voice in the US, Charles W. "Chuck" Colson, died on Saturday afternoon from complications resulting from a brain hemorrhage.
According to a statement on the Prison Fellowship website, Mr Colson was a "Watergate figure who emerged from the country's worst political scandal, a vocal Christian leader and a champion for prison ministry."
Aged 80 at the time of his death, he spent the last years of life leading Prison Fellowship, the world's largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families, and the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, a Christian teaching and training centre.
In late March, Mr Colson was speaking at a Colson Center conference when he was overcome by dizziness. Quickly surrounded by friends and staff, Mr Colson was sent to the Fairfax Inova Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia. The following day, on 31st March, he underwent two hours of surgery to remove a pool of clotted blood on the surface of his brain.
THOUSANDS OF SUDANESE CHRISTIANS SEEKING SHELTER AMID "ALL OUT WAR" THREAT
Christian aid workers have warned of a looming "all-out war" between Sudan and South Sudan with thousands of Christians in both nations seeking shelter.
Sudan has been "indiscriminately dropping bombs in the border regions" and in South Sudan for almost a year, said the Barnabas Fund which supports Christians in the region.
The group said it learned that Karthoum has threatened "to chase Southern troops" and hit them deep "inside South Sudan" if they do not comply with a United Nations backed order to withdraw from the Heglig oilfields.
These tensions threaten a return to the deadly civil war that devastated the South and killed more than two million people, "mainly Southern Christians", explained Barnabas Fund's international director, Patrick Sookhdeo.
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF CHRISTIANS FACE EXPULSION...|
ESSAY: SURVIVING "THE LION'S DEN"
Last Friday I wrote that I was disappearing Daniel like into the cavernous space of the lions’ den also known as the Melbourne’s Convention Centre. Well, I survived, I kept my anonymity, but truth to tell it was a close run thing when PZ Myers likened Christians to sheep and atheists to wolves and then to thunderous applause from the 4,000 wolves present, warned that the eyes and claws of all those wolves were upon the sheep present.
The organisers are to be congratulated for a very well run programme with a number of outstanding speakers, both Australians and the big names from overseas.
I mentioned in my earlier article that I would “certainly be interested in seeing who attends the convention, their demeanour, what excites them, do they find joy in their atheism?” What struck me about observing these atheists was how much they resembled in appearance the Christians I meet at church in all respects bar two.
In an opinion piece first published at Online Opinion, Presbyterian minister DAVID PALMER, reflects on what he experienced when he visited the Global Atheist Convention held in Melbourne last weekend... |
The Reason for Faith Festival is running in Melbourne this week to coincide with the Global Atheist Convention. To find out more, head to reasonforfaith.org.au.
ESSAY: FOREIGN AID PLEDGE CRITICAL TO OUR REGION
Australia is a generous nation, right? We give a lot of our wealth to poor nations. Some think we give too much.
So just how much aid do we give? If you lined up 200 fifty cent coins on the ground and said that represented our annual national income. How many of these 50 cent coins would we give in overseas aid? Would we give 10 coins, or five or even just one? The answer is actually, less than one 50 cent coin. Our current level of overseas aid sits at just 35 cents per every $100 of gross national income.
In fact in the league ladder of rich nations, which was released this week, Australia languishes in 13th place out of the 23 OECD nations and well below the average of 0.46 per cent of gross national income.
And this from a nation that was recently ranked by Credit Suisse as the world’s second wealthiest country.
In an opinion piece first published in the Herald Sun, TIM COSTELLO - chief executive of World Vision Australia, explains why any move to cut Australia's foreign aid commitment would be a tragedy for our region... |
"Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed - for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead."
- John 20:6-9 (NLT)
ESSAY: GOD'S GIFT TO A BROKEN WORLD
We live in a world of immense suffering, and whether we call ourselves Christian or not, we are often faced with the universal question of why such suffering occurs in a world which was made by a good and loving God.
At Easter we remember that when Jesus was dying on the cross, He also asked why, and said “into your hands I place my spirit.” It was an act of trust that God is good despite what we see around us.
In our society we are bombarded with the message every day of our lives that life is found in having more. Gordon Gekko’s "greed is good" mantra from the heady days of the late 1980s is the philosophy we are encouraged to live by today. Yet study after study shows that "money can’t buy me love", as The Beatles sang 50 years ago. The American psychologist Martin Seligman has conducted research showing that the rate of depression in Western nations has increased tenfold since the Second World War - that is, we now have 10 times the amount of people who are depressed than we had 70 years ago. On top of that, Brene Brown points out that we are the most in-debt, obese, addicted and medicated people in history. All this is during a period in which we have never been wealthier. Something is not adding up; it looks suspiciously like we have been sold a lemon.
In the midst of the world's suffering, NILS VON KALM reflects on the hope Easter brings in the person of Jesus... |
ESSAY: THE BOY WHO LOST HIS PJs ON GOOD FRIDAY
Running starkers! That's what he was doing. Running into the night without his pyjamas. It was Good Friday or at least it was a day long ago and in the dead of night before the day we now call Good Friday had dawned. He would never forget this. It terrified him and it would be impressed upon his memory, even upon his sub-conscious, for the rest of his life. This self-appointed band of thugs had arrived to arrest the Teacher, his Teacher, and take Him away. Somehow all the older men had fled in terror, and he was left there standing with the Teacher and that was when they tried to take hold of him, too.
Grabbing a small boy in his pyjamas is not easy, especially if he is wriggling vigorously and trying to get away. But this was no game. This was a night of terror and the lad wrested himself free and ran. Ran for his dear life. What else could he have done? But his struggle had earned him a whack on his hand. His fingers ached, and Stumpy Fingers was his nickname ever after.
Drawing on part of the story surrounding the arrest of Jesus contained in Mark 14:51-52, BRUCE C WEARNE reflects on the real meaning of what Good Friday is all about... |
ESSAY: TIME TO EXAMINE THE NATURE OF JESUS
It's Easter Season once again, and it's definitely the time of year when people are curious about the life and nature of Jesus of Nazareth. Have you ever thought about what separates Jesus from other wise religious men from history? Have you ever been challenged to defend the divinity of Jesus?
Jesus claimed to be God and He demonstrated His divinity in several important ways. When people think about the nature of God (even those who doubt God's existence) they typically think of God as all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving. The Gospel eyewitnesses described Jesus as having all three of these Divine characteristics:
• Jesus is All-Knowing?
Jesus demonstrated His "omniscience" to the woman at the well. "Leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 'Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?'" (John 4:16-19, 28-30). In addition, the Gospels tell us repeatedly that Jesus knew the thoughts of people around Him (Luke 6:8 and 11:17, for example) and He also knew who would betray Him (John 6:70). More importantly, Jesus knows the very nature of our hearts (John 2:24-25)
In an article first published by Assist News Service, cold case detective J WARNER WALLACE takes a look at the divinity of Jesus... |
MESSAGES OF HOPE FROM AUSTRALIAN CHRISTIAN LEADERS
“On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they (the women) came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.” (Luke 24:1-3)
Easter is filled with surprise and amazement. In the first Easter we recall the women coming to the tomb of Jesus and saying “but when they went in, they did not find the body”. As they stood there perplexed they heard the message “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”(Luke 24:5) Today people still go to the tomb, recently I attended a service at the site the church remembers as the tomb where Jesus was laid in Jerusalem. The words that struck me then were “we stand here today not because of what is here but because of what is not here. We are here because Jesus has risen from the dead.”
Read the remainder of this message from Rev Tara Curlewis, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Australia, and other Easter messages from Australian Christian leaders... |
ESSAY: PARENTS MUST SHARE THE BLAME FOR THE RIOTS OF 2011
Who was to blame for the English riots of 2011?
Was the government primarily responsible? Was it the child welfare system?
Or should the blame be placed fairly and squarely on the mainly teenaged offenders, who threw themselves smash-and-loot parties and burned out cars and buildings?
A report released this week recognised that there is enough blame to share around. The report, by the Riots Communities and Victims Panel, presented David Cameron with a litany of deficiencies.
Poor education for marginalised children and high youth unemployment in major cities both featured strongly in the report. Yet the area that should receive perhaps the most attention is the lack of adequate parenting cited by the panel.
Writing from London, MAL FLETCHER looks at some of the causes of last year's riots... |
SYRIA: "ETHNIC CLEANING OF CHRISTIANS" CLAIM AID WORKERS; 50,000 HAVE FLED
Islamic militants with ties to terror group Al-Qaeda have launched the "ethnic cleansing of minority Christians" in Syria, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee the embattled Syrian city of Homs and other areas, aid workers confirmed this week
At least 90 per cent of Christians living in Homs have fled after "fanatics" forced them to leave their homes, said Dutch aid group 'Kerk in Nood', or 'Church in Need'.
It added that the exodus of 50,000 people mainly took place in the last six weeks. "They have fled to villages and in the mountains, sometimes as far as 50 kilometres from their homes. We have reports that Islamists 'cleansed' the Homs areas of Hamidiya and Bustan al-Diwan without giving (Christians) the opportunity to take anything with them," the group told BosNewsLife in a statement.
STEFAN J. BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports... |
CALLS FOR PEACE PLAN TO BE IMPLEMENTED; UNICEF HIGHLIGHTS PLIGHT OF CHILDREN
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called upon the Syrian President Basher Al-Assad to implement a six point plan aimed at stopping the violence and the killing in the Middle Eastern country, and give access to humanitarian agencies... |
GLOBAL CHRISTIANITY: CHURCH LEADERS STRESS PARTNERSHIP AS CHRISTIANITY GROWS IN WORLD'S SOUTH
As delegates to a World Council of Churches (WCC) gathering noted Christianity's growth in the global South, church leaders from Africa and Asia stressed that partnership in mission and evangelism is needed more than ever.
"We acknowledge that the growth of Christianity in the global South (Africa and Asia) is the result of the success of the North's mission and evangelism work," Rev Opoku Onyinah of the Pentecost Bible College in Ghana told ENInews on 23rd March.
Speaking before a pre-assembly of the WCC Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME), Rev Onyinah said Pentecostal churches' emphasis on personal religious experiences and encounters with the Holy Spirit has helped many churches in Africa grow.
"But as the North needs missionaries from the South to help them in their evangelism and mission work, we still need each other's partnership," he said. The North, for example, can help provide theological training on mission and evangelism, which many Pentecostals lack, he said.
MAURICE MALANES, of ENInews, reports from the Philippines... |
IMMIGRATION: GLOBAL CALL FOR AN END TO CHILD DETENTION
An international coalition has called for an end to the practice of holding children in immigration detention which they claim has “a devastating effect on their physical, emotional and psychological development”.
In a report released this week, the International Detention Coalition – which represents more than 250 non-government organisations and individuals in 50 countries - says tens of thousands of children are currently believed to be held in immigration detention around the world, including in Australia.
James Thomson, policy director of Act for Peace – the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia and a founding member of the coalition, says there are 528 children in Australian detention centres, some as young as six years-of-age and without parents or carers.
“It is appalling. What’s more, we have been doing it for 20 years,” says Mr Thomson, who is a member of the coalition’s governing board.
SUDAN: HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF CHRISTIANS FACE EXPULSION
Hundreds of thousands of Southern Sudanese Christians are "effectively being forced to leave" Sudan within three weeks having been stripped of their citizenship, Christian aid workers have confirmed.
Barnabas Fund, a Christian advocacy and aid group, told BosNewsLife that as many as 700,000 people originating from neighboring South Sudan, are effected by the ultimatum.
"They have until 8th April either to leave the strongly Islamic" Sudan or "be treated as foreigners under a regime that is extremely hostile to non-Muslims and non-Arabs," the group said in a statement.
Most of the Christians fled north to Sudan during the long civil war which eventually led to the creation of the new state of South Sudan.
After the South voted to secede in January 2011, the northern state of Sudan removed citizenship rights from all those of Southern origin.
ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY TO STEP DOWN, ACCEPTS POSITION AT CAMBRIDGE
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, announced on 16th March that he will step down from the post at the end of 2012 and has accepted the position of Master of Magdalene College at Cambridge University.
Archbishop Williams, 61, was appointed in 2002 and will take up the academic post as of January, 2013, according to a news release from Lambeth Palace in London, residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. He will continue to carry out all the duties and responsibilities of his office until yearend, the news release said.
"It has been an immense privilege to serve as Archbishop of Canterbury over the past decade, and moving on has not been an easy decision. During the time remaining there is much to do, and I ask your prayers and support in this period and beyond," Archbishop Williams said in a statement.
IRAN: GLOBAL PRESSURE MOUNTS TO HALT PASTOR'S EXECUTION
Global pressure was increasing on Iran this week aimed at halting the execution of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, with over one million people reportedly participating in an online social networking service demanding his release and actions across Europe.
The conservative American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) group said more than one million people now follow the "Tweet for Youcef" campaign. The ACLJ use Twitter to post daily Nadarkhani updates and the number of days he has been jailed for refusing to recant his faith in Christ and return to Islam.
In the Dutch city of The Hague, a petition to save the life of the 34-year-old pastor was hand delivered to the Iranian ambassador.
Joël Voordewind, a Dutch member of Parliament, and rights group Jubilee Campaign offered the petition with over 20,000 signatures directly to the Iranian Ambassador, the group told BosNewsLife.
A report from BosNewsLife and MICHAEL IRELAND, of Assist News Service... |
EASTERFEST: CELEBRATING CHRIST AND INSPIRING CHRISTIANS TO GOSPEL-FUELLED ACTION
As Australians celebrate Easter next month, thousands of people from across Australia and the globe will have made their way to Toowoomba in Queensland for Easterfest, billed as “Australia’s largest event about Easter”.
The three day event – now in its 14th year in Toowoomba - is headlining with triple Grammy award-winner Michael W Smith and will also feature artists including P.O.D., MercyMe, Darlene Zschech and New Empire. In all, there will be up to 200 acts spanning an eclectic range of musical styles – from jazz and blues through to rock, pop and metal – as well as illusionists, mimes and other performers performing in both Queen's Park and locations throughout the city.
“It is incredibly challenging to try and program a festival that kind of works for everyone all the time but that is exactly who we feel we’re meant to be,” says director Dave Schenk. “So we’ve got everything from jazz to blues to pop-rock to hardcore stuff as well. We’ve got mime this year and illusion and extreme sports. Obviously we have rides and... a brilliant kids’ world area that we’ve got The Lads amongst others, performing in this year. So it is pretty diverse. And we do like to think that we’ve got something for everyone.”
DAVID ADAMS speaks with Easterfest director Dave Schenk... |
ESSAY: MARKING THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR DISASTER
A year ago we were all confronted with the chain of tragic events unleashed by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster which followed the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of 11th March, 2011.
We still don’t have a clear picture of all the consequences of this disaster, but we know that significant amounts of radioactive material have been released into the atmosphere, the ground and ocean waters.
Some people died because of the direct radiation exposures or related consequences. The estimation of future cancer deaths due to accumulated radiation exposures in the population living near Fukushima range from 100 to 1000. Furthermore, more than 100,000 people have been forced to leave areas with high levels of radiation, which has meant losing their homes, communities and livelihoods. And many still live in contaminated areas, including pregnant women and children who are more vulnerable to the effects of radiation exposure.
In a statement released to mark the anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, the World Council of Churches urges churches, communities, nations and individuals to formulate a concrete response to the issue of nuclear energy to protect people from nuclear disasters like the one in Fukushima... |
ESSAY: WHY I STILL HAVE HOPE FOR LIBYA EVEN AMID "VENGEFUL ACTS OF DESTRUCTION"
I was saddened when I heard the news about the Islamists in Libya who destroyed the graves of British soldiers (as well as those of other Commonwealth nations - including the graves of 50 Australians) at a World War II cemetery in Libya. In my culture it is wrong to desecrate a grave. I would imagine it is wrong in Islam as well, which is why they did it. But even more scandalous was the desecration of the cross that hung above the graves of the soldiers who died there. As Christians, that speaks a very clear and hate-filled message.
When I saw the copy of the self- promotional video created by the vandals that was so brazenly aired on YouTube, I was caught off guard. The vandals wore no masks to cover their faces while committing the crime. Instead, they openly and unabashedly engaged in the crime and destruction while all along chanting “Allahu Akbar”, God is great.
In an article first published by Assist News Service, American LISA GIBSON, founder of the Peace and Prosperity Alliance - which is working to help Libyans, writes about her hopes for the country's future... |
SYRIA: AID RUSH TO HELP CHRISTIANS IN EMBATTLED CITY
Minority Christians in Syria's embattled city of Homs and surrounding areas were among those facing a major humanitarian crisis last weekend, but Christian aid activists told BosNewsLife they were trying to reach them.
The news came shortly after rebels of the anti-government Free Syrian Army said this week they were pulling out of the area, which has been devastated in a month-long siege.
"A major humanitarian relief effort is now underway to help Baba Amr residents", including Christians, who are without power and running out of basic supplies in freezing weather conditions," said Christian aid group Barnabas Fund.
The group told BosNewsLife that it is working through church partners on the ground in the Homs region to get food, clothing and medicine to Christian families in urgent need.
UN PASSES RESOLUTION CALLING FOR AN END TO HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES... |
LENT: REFLECTIONS FOCUS ON WATER AS GOD'S GIFT AND A HUMAN RIGHT
A series of weekly reflections are available during Lent focusing on the "economy of water," offering suggestions for how people can work toward water justice in their communities.
The Seven Weeks for Water began on 20th February, with additional resources produced for 22nd March, which is World Water Day.
The reflections have been produced by the Ecumenical Water Network, an international group of churches coordinated by the World Council of Churches, promoting people's access to water around the world, based on the understanding that water is a gift of God and a fundamental human right.
"Water is the lifeblood of the planet as well as the economy," said EWN coordinator Maike Gorsboth in a news release.
IRAQ: "WE HAVE BEEN LEFT AND WE HAVE NOTHING", SAY CHRISTIANS
Following the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, the Christian minority faces continued sectarian violence, political mayhem, unemployment, lack of security, failing health care and the inability to buy food.
According to the popular cleric, Canon Andrew White, the 'Vicar of Baghdad' who serves St. George's Church in Baghdad, conditions have grown worse for the Christian community since the American departure. Among the exclamations of the Christians in Iraq is the statement: "We have been left and we have nothing!"
Canon White says in a recent update: "None of us thought there would be any change here after the US troops left. They had not been seen on the streets for two years. We were totally wrong: from the day that the US military left we were in total chaos and disarray.
"Violence increased, religious sectarianism increased again in force. We could not even enter the Green Zone, as any badges issued by the US were no longer valid; the new badges were simply not being issued. Total mayhem politically began with the prime minister issuing a warrant for the arrest of the Vice President Tariq Al Hashami. He was accused of terrorism, and sadly there was a lot of evidence to suggest this was true."
MICHAEL IRELAND, of Assist News Service, reports... |
IRAN: PASTOR URGES CHURCH TO REMAIN "FIRM IN CHRIST" DESPITE FACING EXECUTION FOR APOSTASY
Facing imminent death, Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has urged his church to remain "firmly in Christ" shortly after a court apparently ordered his execution, a church official told BosNewsLife.
Pastor Nadarkhani was still alive on 22nd February, but it remains unclear when he would be hanged on charges of "apostasy" or "abandoning Islam", confirmed the pastor's Church of Iran council member Firouz Khandjani.
The Lakan Prison, near the pastor's northern home city of Rasht, is viewed as notorious by rights activists as several inmates were allegedly "secretly hanged" their, without a fair trial. Pastor Nadarkhani, who is married with two children, was however "allowed yesterday to speak with his wife from prison," said Khandjani.
"He did not speak with her about the court order. However he urges his church to stay firmly in Christ," the church official added. A lawyer of Pastor Nadarkhani was informed about the execution order, although the defense team has not yet received official written notification from the court.
STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife.com, reports... |
BOOKS: THE VOW BOOK GIVES THE TRUE STORY BEHIND THE FILM
B&H Publishing Group has released an updated version of The Vow book, the amazing true story of commitment and faith that inspired a major motion picture by the same name.
Krickitt and Kim Carpenter live in Farmington, New Mexico, in the United States with their two children, Danny and LeeAnn. An updated book about their life - The Vow - has been re-released, telling the story how an auto accident left Krickitt with no memory of her husband or their marriage. The Vow movie premiered recently and tells the fictionalised story of Kim and Krickitt Carpenter who made national news in the 1990s when an auto accident left Krickitt with no memory of her husband or their marriage. The book, initially released in 2000, tells the true story of the couple's commitment to their wedding vows, the rekindling of their romance, and their strong faith in God.
"This story is not about me, and it's not about Krickitt," husband Kim writes in the book. "It's about the Lord and how He brought my wife and me through a terrible time to a life that is greater than we could have ever imagined. It's about a commitment to the Lord and to each other."
MARTY KING reports in an article first published by the Baptist Press... |
SYRIA: UN PASSES RESOLUTION CALLING FOR AN END TO HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES
The United Nations' General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a new resolution condemning "continued and widespread" human rights by the Syrian Government and calling for President Bashir al-Assad to step down.
The non-binding resolution - which was introduced by Egypt on behalf of 27 other countries including Arab nations, Britain and the US - received 137 votes in support and 12 against - including China, Russia and Iran. Seventeen nations abstained. The passing of the resolution follows the failure of a similar resolution which was vetoed by Russia and China when brought before the UN Security Council earlier this month.
Welcoming the resolution, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it was critical for the world "to speak with one voice to put an end to the bloodshed and to exert maximum efforts to resolve this crisis peacefully".
"The Secretary-General joins the General Assembly in calling on the Syrian Government to immediately put an end to all human rights violations and attacks against its citizens, and to fully comply with its obligations under international law," he said.
DAVID ADAMS reports (with STEFAN J. BOS, of BosNewsLife)...|
ADVENTURE FUNDRAISING: HOW A BALLARAT GP WILL HELP SOME OF THE WORLD'S POOREST KIDS AS HE PADDLES ACROSS BASS STRAIT
Padding 330 kilometres in an island hopping journey across Bass Strait on an ocean racing ski sounds an almost impossibly daunting task. But Ballarat GP Mike Pickavance says he’s looking forward to the spectacular scenery and wildlife he’ll be seeing. Not to mention the challenge itself.
“There’s also something good about pushing yourself beyond what you think you’d normally be able to do, says the 50-year-old father of three. “I find that my character changes every time you push through something difficult. It develops something in you. And it helps just with daily living having done things like this…It helps you put things in perspective a little.”
The group of five – which includes Dr Pickavance, the expedition’s leader Jarad Kohlar, and three others – intend setting out from Port Welshpool in Victoria on 28th February. Their route will take them via Wilson’s Promontory, Deal Island and Flinders Island (they will spend two days going around this) before heading across Bass Strait to Little Musselroe Bay in north-east Tasmania.
Most people’s reaction would be to just dismiss these end of the world shenanigans as preposterous but as you did your research, did you find yourself gaining greater understanding and empathy for some of these desperate Armageddon believers?
“Oh, maybe a little. At least, for the religious ones. I don't have much patience for the secular conspiracy theorists, who rank right up there with Obama Birthers and 9/11 Truthers in terms of hateful lunacy. But I do have some empathy for religious Armageddon enthusiasts, because behind their beliefs is hope - hope for a world better than this one. I think most of these believers are dealing with a lot of fear. The world is changing dramatically and there's a lot of uncertainty that comes with those changes. Hopeful escapism (even if attached to a doomsday scenario) is a coping mechanism for that kind of uncertainty.”
Texan writer Jason Boyett talks with KRIS BATHER about his latest book is Pocket Guide to 2012, in which he examines all the wild end of the world scenarios and doomsday prophets over the last few centuries...|
OLYMPICS: "GAMES PASTORS" TO HELP VISITORS AT LONDON 2012
More than four million visitors are expected to arrive in London during this summer's Olympic Games. More Than Gold, an ecumenical charity originally launched during the 1996 Atlanta Games, is recruiting and training 1,000 volunteer "Games Pastors," who will be deployed at airports, bus and railway stations.
"They will be there to serve, whether people need directions, advice or simply a listening ear. We're not doing this to evangelise, but we want to show people the love of God by the support we give them," Jon Burns, UK director of More Than Gold, said.
The organisation began recruiting last year, when it launched a countrywide 'Get Set' tour visiting churches and other Christian communities, running workshops and information evenings. They have also produced packs suggesting practical ways churches can engage with the Games, including festivals, street parties, children's games, sports quizzes and competitions.
EGYPT: HUMANITARIAN PROBLEMS NEED ADDRESSING, SAY CHRISTIAN REPRESENTATIVES
Egyptian Christian humanitarian leaders say while politics and religion are garnering the most attention in their country right now, Egypt's serious humanitarian problems will soon have to be addressed.
As one example, rising food and fuel prices and a drop in foreign currency reserves are making it harder to Egyptians to put food on the table, causing the level of malnutrition to rise in the country.
"This is going to be a serious situation," said the Rev Andrea Zaki Stephanous, general director of the Cairo-based Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS), a Christian development organization that serves Egyptians regardless of religion and which promotes religious pluralism within Egypt.
In a 2nd February interview in New York City, Rev Zaki and other CEOSS staffers said the food problem -- which is particularly acute among Egyptian women and children -- is one of a number of grave problems facing Egyptians as the country undergoes a period of continued political change and uncertainty.
THE BIG PICTURE: CELEBRATING VALENTINE'S DAY...WITH THE GIFT OF A PIGLET
Forget the flowers or chocolates, Oxfam Australia is offering the chance to mark Valentine's Day this year with the gift of piglets or chickens.
The gifts cost between $35 and $38 and provide poor families with a source of income to help them escape the cycle of poverty. They come with limited edition cards (pictured left) which can be given to your loved one to mark the occasion.
Noting that Australians have spent more than $800 million on Valentine's Day gifts in past years, Leigh Stewart, Oxfam Australia's fundraising manager, says the gifts offer a meaningful alternative for those wanting to avoid the consumerism typically associated with the day.
UNITED STATES: AS NEW ORLEANS STILL RECOVERS, PRAYER TEAMS COVER ONE BLOCK AT A TIME
Millie Campbell, 76 years old, is one of the people praying for New Orleans, a city still recovering from the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster and experiencing a murderous crime wave.
A couple of times per week, Campbell and her companion Betty Minor, 69, drive slowly around assigned neighborhoods, praying for their city, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune via Religion News Service.
On a recent trip, Campbell backed her blue Chevrolet away from her spotless brick home. "Oh God," she said, "we thank you for the blood of Jesus." Then she cranked the wheel straight, put the car into drive, and headed slowly up Frenchmen Street, one hand on the wheel, the other turned upward toward the heavens.
"Touch this block in the name of Jesus," she continued. Also in the front seat, Minor filled in the gaps between Campbell's appeals: "Hallelujah...Glory, glory."
Rev Dr Nyambura Njoroge is always reminding herself of the daily lives of people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. Their battle for dignity and enormous resilience keeps inspiring her while she coordinates World Council of Churches Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiative for Africa (EHAIA).
Rev Dr Njoroge is a Presbyterian minister, a leading theologian and ecumenist from Kenya. She has been associated with EHAIA since 2002. This is a project which has accompanied churches in Africa in dealing with HIV through information, training, sharing of resources and networking.
Amidst the looming challenges of reduced income for HIV work, Rev Dr Njoroge finds her strength from faith, saying that “God is faithful and God’s granary never depleted”. Yet she admits the significance of the challenge, which requires profound reflections.
For her, the inspiration comes through the “life giving stories” of the people living with HIV, who she says, “manifest courage in the face of enormous challenges, difficulties, stubborn stigma and judgemental attitudes.”
A report from the World Council of Churches... |
IRAN: IMPRISONED PASTOR REJECTS RELEASE OFFER
Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has rejected an offer to be released from prison if he publicly acknowledges Islam's prophet Mohammed as "a messenger sent by God", well-informed Christians and rights activists said earlier this month.
Iranian authorities reportedly summoned lawyers for Pastor Nadarkhani to his home city of Rasht on 30th December to explain the deal. Local officials indicated they would release the pastor if he agreed to make the statement about Mohammed, Christians with close knowledge about the situation explained.
"However, Pastor Nadarkhani has refused to do so, and remains in prison awaiting a final decision on his case," confirmed advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
Christians said the pastor has made clear that making the demanded statement about Muhammed would amount to abandoning his faith in Jesus Christ.
STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports... |
IRAN: PASTOR "STRONG IN FAITH" DESPITE EXECUTION THREAT
STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports... |
INDIA: CHURCHES AID VICTIMS OF DEVASTATING CYCLONE
Following the devastating cyclone that wrecked havoc in India's southern Tamil Nadu state at yearend, church charities are getting aid to affected families.
"People are still struggling without electricity, (with) roofless houses and roads blocked by fallen trees," said Florina Benoit, chief zonal officer of Churches Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA). Benoit was speaking to ENInews on 16th January from Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, after a weekend visit to the worst-hit remote villages around Cuddalore.
"We have distributed emergency relief material in 40 villages. But the task is enormous," said Benoit.
Cyclone Thane pummelled the east coast of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry on 30th December, killing nearly 50 and damaging more than 350,000 houses, schools and roads.
SOUTH AFRICA: CHRISTIAN ROOTS OF ANC RECALLED DURING ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS
The Christian roots of the African National Congress (ANC) were cited during weekend celebrations in South Africa marking the centennial of Africa's best known liberation and political movement. More than a dozen African heads of state and representatives from around the world attended to honor the movement that eventually overcame the apartheid system of racial segregation.
On 8th January, hundreds packed into the recently-renovated Waaihoek Wesleyan Church in Bloemfontein, where the ANC began. The church echoed with the haunting sounds of the anthem "God Bless Africa" and stomping feet before ANC Chaplain General Vukile Mehana began an hour-long service.
The movement was founded by Christian pastors, mission-educated journalists, lawyers and social workers on 8th January, 1912. Bloemfontein, about 200 miles southwest of Johannesburg, was the centre of white Afrikaner power in a country ruled exclusively by Europeans until ANC leader Nelson Mandela became president in 1994.
NIGERIA: WARNINGS OF CIVIL WAR AFTER DOZENS OF CHRISTIANS KILLED IN VIOLENCE
Christians in Nigeria are mourning dozens of believers killed since last Thursday amid warnings from the head of Nigerian Christians that the violence is reminiscent of the outbreak of the 1960s civil war.
"We are reminded by the occurrences of these killings of the genesis of the civil war that took place here in Nigeria," said Ayo Oritsejafor, head of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), in comments monitored by BosNewsLife Sunday, January 8. That conflict claimed more than a million lives in the late 1960s.
At least 30 Christians have been shot dead in northeast Nigeria in recent days, many of them while praying in churches, after the expiration of an ultimatum from Islamic group Boko Haram for Christians to leave mainly Muslim northern Nigeria.
CHRISTIANS WARNED AGAINST RETALIATION AS DEADLINE LOOMS TO LEAVE
With a deadline looming to leave their homes or be killed, Christians in northern Nigeria were urged not to retaliate against Islamic violence.
"We have appealed that there be no retaliation and we continue to preach peace..." said Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of the volatile city of Jos where hundreds of Christians have been killed since last year.
On Sunday, fighters of the Islamist group Boko Haram, or "Western education is a sin", issued a three-day ultimatum for Christians to leave the African country's northern state and called on Muslims in the south to move north.
However, Archbishop Kaigama said, he is still "hoping that all of us in Nigeria, Muslims and Christians, will be able to work and live happily" and added: "We continue to appeal to reason, for dialogue."
NIGERIAN CHRISTIANS MOURN DOZENS KILLED IN CHURCH BLASTS
Nigerian Christians were mourning their dead on Monday after at least 35 people died in a Christmas Day bombing at a Catholic Church and at least four others died in similar blasts elsewhere.
Witnesses said hundreds of mourners attended a memorial service in the attacked St Theresa Church in the town of Madalla, near the capital of Abuja, surrounded by armed soldiers and bloodstained walls.
The priest of St Theresa's, Isaac Achi, reportedly told the crowd that Sunday's attack made him really cry for the first time in his life.
"I've never cried before, but yesterday, I cried," he said. "This morning, I cried, but with all of you around today, I'll not cry again. Yesterday more than 40 army men protected me while I slept."
The blast at St Theresa's was one of four coordinated explosions which rocked Nigeria on Christmas Day, killing at least 39 people.
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THEY SAID IT
"This is a long journey and there is still much more to be done. The displacement of people, the violence directed towards them, needs to stop."
- US President Barack Obama speaking to Burma's President Thein Sein during the latter's visit to the White House this week - the first such visit in almost 50 years (as quoted on www.washingtonpost.com on 21st 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...
23rd May, 2013
Haven’t times changed since we were young? These days our young people face relentless pressure to abuse alcohol, drugs, sex; you name it!
We are seeing a generation grow up in a vacuum of values where violence is all too common.
This is no time to sit on your hands. If we want our children to grow up as healthy, responsible adults, we must give them safe, healthy communities to be a part of; where they can develop the internal strength of character to see them through.
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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