Friday, January 25, 2008

Kenyan children pray for peace in this violence-torn country

NAIROBI, Kenya-A group of children runs up a muddy path, drenched from an unexpected downpour. A 5-year-old boy speeds in front of the pack when he suddenly spies the perfect puddle.He waits until his older sister and friends are almost parallel with him and then practically "cannon balls" to get the biggest splash. He giggles and dashes inside a small, tin shack of a Baptist church as the 8-year-olds squeal and chase after him.After three weeks of post-election violence, it's good to hear the sounds of children laughing and playing-especially in the hard-hit slums of Nairobi.Inside the church, it's wall-to-wall children-and a sound even more precious than laughter can be heard-a child's sweet, innocent prayer."Father, our country is in trouble. We pray for peace to come," an 11-year-old boy prays. "Protect us, Father. Teach people to love one another and not to fight anymore."For the last two weeks, children in this small slum area have gathered to pray for their country. The church's pastor says the children started gathering on their own, so he let them in the church. The daily prayer meeting now attracts more than 200 children ranging in age from 3 to 17.Ever since the children started praying together, the pastor says there have been no deaths, houses burned or even violence in their section of this slum. Adults recite this fact in amazement. The children, however, don't even mention it because it's exactly what they expected to happen."Pastor told us that there is power in prayer. He said we can change the country through prayer," 12-year-old Boniface explains. "So that is what we are doing, changing the country."The children evidence a depth of understanding of the issues surrounding Kenya's post-election chaos.The 12-year-old prays for President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga to sit at one table and talk peacefully. Votes cast in the election for these two candidates are under contention. The two leaders have yet to talk to each other in an effort to bring the strife in Kenya to a peaceful resolution.Caroline, 16, shows her concern for the 250,000 internally displaced people around the country. She prays they will be able to go to school somewhere and that they feel safe. UNICEF estimates that more than 40 percent of the displaced are children. Parents put their children on trucks headed to the camps for displaced people but stayed behind to protect their houses and belongings. Many sit in camps, unable to attend schools that just opened in mid-January.Another young boy prays for the people hurting others who are not from the same tribe, referring to reports of ethnic animosity throughout the country. He asks God to help them all be brothers and sisters and one people.The pastor smiles and whispers to me, "A few days ago that one asked if I knew what tribe he was. I told him no. He didn't know, either. So he told me, 'I think I belong to the tribe of Kenya.'"When it's time for the "babies" to pray, a fearless 4-year-old clasps his hands and closes his eyes so tight that his entire face scrunches up. "God, people die," he says in prayer. "Please do not let anyone die in front of my house."More than 600 people have died since elections Dec. 27. The number increases daily as violence and protests continue.An adult's concluding prayer simply thanks God for the innocent prayers of children and their faith in His answers.As soon as the "Amen" is said, the church buzzes with little voices and bottled-up energy spurts out freely. Laughing and holding hands, the children rush into the rain and head home.Even though it's the dry season and rains are not supposed to come for another month, no one complains about getting wet or muddy. The rain is an answered prayer.The children had prayed about a three-day countrywide protest called by the opposition party. They had asked God to take control and keep people from dying.Because of the rains, turnout for the protest was much smaller than expected. While there was still a lot of property damage, it was much less than predicted. Death tolls for the week were the lowest since the incidents started."See," 7-year-old Natasha whistles through her missing two front teeth. "God answers prayers."

As in the days of Noah.....


"Set to be baptized in February, 70-year-old suffers burns on 70 percent of body..."
DHAKA, Bangladesh-Unknown attackers tried to burn a 70-year-old woman to death on January 7 after learning that she would be baptized as a Christian next month.Rahima Beoa, who was planning to be baptized on February 13 in Muslim-majority Rangpur district, 248 kilometers (154miles) northwest of the capital city of Dhaka, suffered burns on 70 percent of her body.“The unknown people wanted to burn alive the elderly woman because they came to know that she would be a Christian in the next month,” said Khaled Mintu, a regional supervisor of the Rangpur district of the Isha-E-Jamat Bangladesh denomination.“It was a devilish conspiracy to stop her being a Christian.”Beoa is the mother-in-law of Ashraful Islam, who along with his wife became a Christian two years ago. Close relatives and neighbors were said to be angry with the couple for their conversion from Islam.The 40-year-old Islam lives in Cinatuly village, located on silty land on Bangladesh’s major Tista river, with his three children and mother-in-law. “Generally local people become baptized going to the capital city, Dhaka, so that nobody knows anything about the new believers,” said Mintu. “Beoa is so geriatric that it was not very easy to bring her to Dhaka for baptism. Otherwise she would have been baptized long ago.”Roads from the silty village to Dhaka are rough, and leaving the area means villagers must walk miles to catch a bus.On the night of the attack, Islam went to the Isha-E-Jamat church with his wife and two smallest children, a service that usually takes place at night as all the villagers are day laborers or vendors.The service went late into the night as the pastor taught on baptism. News that Beoa and others would be baptized in February was said to have reached the entire village.
While Islam’s mother-in-law and 9-year-old son were sleeping at home, the attackers set their bamboo and wood home ablaze. There were two head of cattle in one corner of the house, which was built with a mansard roof of corrugated tin.“The boy managed to escape the fire,” Mintu said. “But the elderly woman was injured and got 70 percent burnt on her body, and the cattle and other stuff of the house were incinerated.”No relatives or neighbors came to put out the fire, he added.A “quack doctor” treated the elderly woman’s burns in another house, he said, because the family cannot afford treatment in a hospital.“We did not file any case in the police station against anyone, because we could not trace anyone for that arson attack,” Mintu said.In 2006, he said, more than 7,000 local Muslims came to vandalize the houses of area Christians. “They wanted to evict us because are Christian,” Mintu said. “With the help of the local government officials and police, we manage to live in this land against the strong opposition of the majority Muslims.”There are 50 Christian families within two miles in that area, he said, most of them of Muslim upbringing.
As in the days of Noah....

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

City sued for arresting pastor on public sidewalk:Police take just 195 seconds to detain 'peaceful' Christian leader

A lawsuit has been filed against the city of Wichita, Kan., and several of its police officers on behalf of a Christian pastor arrested just for being on public property.The civil-rights suit was filed by the Alliance Defense Fund, an advocacy organization that defends constitutional rights, on behalf of Mark Holick, pastor of Spirit One Christian Center.Spirit One also has been threatened by the Internal Revenue Service with an audit for posting messages on its marquee dealing with the value of human life, based on dozens of Bible references.Holick's arrest happened last summer when a homosexual festival was being held in a public park in Wichita.He went to share his Christian faith on public property, and it took only a little longer than three minutes after his arrival for police officers to arrest him.The trespassing charges later were dropped, but that doesn't solve the issue, according to the ADF."Exercising your First Amendment rights is not a crime," said Joel Oster, ADF senior legal counsel."Arresting Christians simply because they choose to exercise those rights in a public place is unconstitutional."The law firm noted that Holick was "attempting" to express his faith on a public sidewalk outside of an event in a public park that was celebrating homosexual behavior.
According to the records in the case, Holick had contacted the police department a week before the event and expressed his desire to communicate his religious views on the date of the homosex-fest. He was told he couldn't go into Heritage Square Park where it was being held but was told the sidewalk would be his "friend."Then on the day of the event, Holick and other church members arrived at the sidewalk outside the event and "immediately" were confronted by about 10 officers. He was ordered to leave the sidewalk or be arrested.He asked where he could go, and he was told the public sidewalks were off-limits to him, and he could go into a nearby privately owned parking lot, the lawsuit said.Since that was unreasonable, he refused, and was arrested, the lawsuit said.The trespassing count later was dismissed at the city's request after officials watched a videotape that revealed the pastor was conducting himself peacefully on a public sidewalk. But when ADF lawyers sent a request to the city asking for assurances that Holick would not be "similarly harassed" at future events, the request was ignored."Cities should not be able to silence Christian speech by arresting the speaker, only to later drop the charges after the event is over," said Oster."Such actions only serve to threaten future speakers and silence the Christian message."The claim alleges violations of the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.WND calls to the city went unanswered yesterday.
"Plaintiff seeks a permanent injunction and a declaration prohibiting Defendants from arresting him, or from otherwise restricting his speech, on traditional public fora due to the content and viewpoint of his speech, or because of his religion beliefs," the lawsuit said.It describes how he "wanted to communicate the gospel message to those persons participating in and attending the Event" and "wanted to attend the Event to build connections with attendees so that he might be able to share the gospel with them later."However, he never was allowed even to express his beliefs, because he was confronted by police officers "immediately," and within three minutes, 15 seconds, he had been arrested.The lawsuit alleged the city's policies and actions were arbitrary and capricious and denied Holick's fundamental rights."By forcing plaintiff to choose between abandoning his religious beliefs in order to gain access to speech in the traditional public forum, or abiding by his religious beliefs only to be arrested and prosecuted, defendants have imposed a substantial burden on plaintiff's sincerely held religious beliefs," it said.WND has reported on a series of such cases, in which Christians are arrested for praying at a homosexual festival or for nothing more than having a protest sign that is "wider than their torso."In Elmira, N.Y., police arrested seven Christians who went into a public park where a "gay" fest was beginning and started to pray, faces down, while holding their Bibles.They were cited for "disturbing the peace," and Assistant Police Chief Mike Robertson told WND the seven are accused of a "combination" of allegations under that statute, which includes the "intent" to cause a public inconvenience, any "disturbance" of a meeting of persons, obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic or taking part in "any act that serves no legitimate purpose."Another case developed when police in St. Petersburg, Fla., arrested five Christians for carrying signs "wider than their torsos" outside an officially designated protest area at that city's homosexual festival.St. Petersburg officials, following disturbances at a previous homosexual pride festival, implemented rules governing outdoor events that set aside "free speech zones" where protesters are allowed.
Holick's church earlier was targeted by the Internal Revenue Service for the moral statements he posted on the church's sign.The notice he got from the IRS warned him about putting his Christian beliefs on the sign, and he responded that he would continue to preach the Word of God. Attorneys said the church has responded to the IRS demands, and has not had further contact yet.In that case, Holick explained the signs all "are spiritual messages that communicate God's truth or are directly related to messages in the Bible." He also provided the IRS with a list of dozens of biblical instructions "to lift up Jesus, to rebuke sin, to save babies, to be honest, to take a righteous stand" and others.

As in the days of Noah....

Friday, January 18, 2008

Malaysian wins religion-tied battle over wife's body

KUALA LUMPUR-A Malaysian has won a battle to give his dead wife a Christian funeral after Islamic religious authorities dropped their claim to the body on the grounds of her conversion to Islam.The row over the corpse of Wong Sau Lan, a 54-year-old ethnic Chinese woman who died on Dec. 30, was the latest in a series of disputes in mostly Muslim Malaysia that have upset non-Muslims, who fear authorities are trampling on their religious rights."It was harrowing to wait for 18 days," said Ngiam Tee Kong, who was at his wife's bedside when she died in a Kuala Lumpur hospital and then suffered several sleepless nights during the custody fight for the remains."I'm definitely relieved. Hopefully it will be over in a few days."Ngiam, 53, the manager of a snooker game centre, said his ordeal began the day his wife died of kidney failure, when police told him she had converted to Islam by reciting Arabic verses during a session with a traditional healer a week earlier.But Ngiam, himself a Buddhist, challenged this version of events, maintained that his wife was a Christian baptised in November, and asked a Malaysian court to intervene."The high court has ordered that the body of the deceased be released to the husband forthwith," his lawyer Karpal Singh told reporters outside the court, adding that the body would be cremated according to Christian rites after a two-day wake."The Islamic affairs council has said the conversion of the deceased was not in accordance with Islamic law, and therefore they have no objections to the body being released to the husband," he said.Race ties, always a delicate issue in multi-racial Malaysia, have become increasingly sensitive as speculation grows that the government could call for snap polls as soon as March.
The spectacle of non-Muslims battling for funeral rights of relatives is not new in Malaysia, where disputes over religious conversions and complaints about demolitions of churches and Hindu temples have fuelled fears of a surge in hardline Islam.In another case in 2006 involving an ethnic Indian said to have converted to Islam, religious authorities also eventually climbed down and allowed the family of van driver Rayappan Anthony, 71, to reclaim his body for Christian burial.But in 2005, as Islamic officials prepared to bury former soldier and mountain climber M Moorthy against his Hindu widow's wishes, the High Court said it had no jurisdiction over such religious matters, leaving non-Muslims unsure of their rights.Politically dominant ethnic Malay Muslims form about 60 percent of Malaysia's population of roughly 26 million, while the ethnic Indian and Chinese minorities include Hindus, Buddhists and Christians."This is a very serious case because the council should be more careful in future," said Singh."It must ascertain that any conversion is made according to Islamic law, not snatch a body and refuse to release it on the grounds that there is a conversion when there is not one, later admitting there was no lawful conversion."Ngiam and his two children would seek damages from the hospital and the Islamic affairs council for the trauma they suffered, the lawyer added.

As in the days of Noah....

Monday, January 14, 2008

More arson attacks reported in Alabama

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.-A spate of arson attacks have affected five churches in east Alabama-attacks that follow a string of nine church-burning incidents nearly two years ago in which three college-age men were arrested.Two 21-year-old men, both professed Satanists, were arrested Jan. 6 in connection with blazes at Woodland Baptist Church in Phenix City, Greater Peace and Goodwill AME Church in Crawford and Greater Bethelpore Baptist Church in Smiths Station in early January.Still on the loose is the person who set fire to Providence Baptist Church in rural Chilton County Jan. 12, destroying the church's fellowship hall, education space and church office. Another church in the Chilton Baptist Association, Maple Springs Baptist Church in Clanton, burned in the early hours of Dec. 29.Geoffrey Tyler Parquette, 21, and James Scott Clark, 21, were apprehended after a cross stolen from one of the first three churches was found in Parquette's grandmother's home, according to The Associated Press.In a classroom at Woodland Baptist, "Teach children to worship Satan!!" was scrawled with red paint on the wall, along with an upside-down pentagram. The church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Amid the attacks, Concord Baptist Church in Salem, also an SBC church, was vandalized.Parquette and Clark entered not guilty pleas Jan. 7, a day after being arrested, according to AP. Between them, they face a slew of arson, burglary and criminal mischief charges."Everyone has been so great to us since the fire," Bobby Watford, pastor of Woodland Baptist, told The Alabama Baptist. "There's been a great outpouring from Alabama Baptists and others, and we are grateful. We're doing really great. We're trying to get everything together now, but everyone is optimistic."For now, the congregation, which averages 80–100 on Sunday mornings, is meeting in the local Woodland Christian School.While the church's insurance company is debating whether to pay toward repairs or rebuilding, the church is hoping for a new start in a new building."The smoke went into the blocks of that old building, and so much was lost that the people would rather just tear it down and start over," Watford said. "Some of the older members were saddened because some of them had been there as long as the church had been there, but we're looking forward to what the Lord is going to do."Roland Davis, pastor of Maple Springs Baptist, said Jan. 11 that the church was still awaiting word from the state fire marshal on the cause. But after the Providence Baptist fire, The Birmingham News reported that a spokesman for the fire marshal said the cause was "unknown, but suspicious," pending the results of tests being performed on evidence. Both fires happened just after 3 a.m."We're hoping we'll hear something shortly," Davis said.But the congregation is moving forward while it waits, he said. A building committee was to be chosen Jan. 13 so that the church can begin to move toward rebuilding. For now, Maple Springs Baptist's congregation is meeting in the old sanctuary of nearby Samaria Baptist Church."We've just had so much support, and that has made the difference," Davis said. "We really appreciate that."Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, visited the church and presented Davis with a check from state disaster relief funds."I believe that good will come from this bad situation, and I am pleased that Alabama Baptists have cooperated together to make such disaster relief funds possible for quick response," Lance said.As for the Providence Baptist fire, officials are working to chase down the culprits."The officials say they have gotten some really good fingerprints, footprints and tire prints," said pastor Allen Foster, noting that his church is thankful that the sanctuary -- located just feet from the charred remains of its neighboring buildings-suffered some vandalism but little else.The arsonists attempted to set fire to the sanctuary on the downstairs level, but the fire burned half a poster of the books of the Bible and went out, Foster said."We're just thankful no one was hurt and that we have a place to go home to," Foster told The Alabama Baptist, speaking of the church's relatively undamaged sanctuary.The Providence congregation, emotional but in good spirits, met for services Jan. 13 a couple of miles down the road at Camp Dawson, a facility lent to them by Dawson Memorial Baptist Church in Birmingham."We hope if we can get the burned part cleaned up and get the water fixed up to the sanctuary we can meet in our own facilities next week," Foster said.In addition to the check Lance presented Maple Springs Baptist, the State Board of Missions provided Providence Baptist and Woodland Baptist with checks from the disaster relief fund and offered mobile chapels if needed."We've got lots of decisions to make, but we're going to make them as a family," Pastor Davis said to the congregation during the service Jan. 13. "We're going to get through this thing. It's bigger than you and I but not bigger than the God we serve. It felt like a death, didn't it? But it wasn't. The church is still alive."

As in the days of Noah....

Dallas Man Can Share His Faith at Transit Station

A man told by police that he can’t engage in free speech at a Dallas transit station without purchasing a ticket has been restored his First Amendment rights. Upon receiving a letter from the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) agreed to allow Daniel Bailey to continue his activities without buying a ticket.Bailey has been sharing his faith and handing out Gospel tracts at the station for two years.“Christians should not be treated as second-class citizens simply because they choose to exercise their faith in public,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “We appreciate the quick and courteous response of DART officials in resolving this matter and are pleased that Mr. Bailey will now be able to return to his activities.”

As in the days of Noah...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Christian activist to be arraigned today for refusing to honor 'free speech zone'

The director of Christian activist group Repent America will be arraigned today in a Philadelphia courtroom on charges of unlawful preaching. Michael Marcavage had been preaching to people on a public sidewalk outside the Liberty Bell Center this past October when he was arrested by officers from the National Park Service. The arrest came after he refused to move to a so-called "free-speech zone" across the street from the building housing the Liberty Bell. The incident occurred during Repent America's annual pro-life evangelism tour, and according to Marcavage, he was just exercising his constitutional right to free speech."It's a very dangerous case and another example of how our nation is headed down this path of destruction when people are not free to speak," he cautions. "Then we find ourselves in a society in which we're no longer enjoying the liberties God has bestowed upon our nation." And it is ironic, he adds, that his right to free speech was challenged in Philadelphia, the birthplace of American freedom.The chief ranger at the site told Marcavage that due to policy changes, freedom of religion and speech are prohibited anywhere on the public park grounds without a permit, and only then if in the free-speech zone.

As in the days of Noah....

China Frees Tragedy-Laden N. Korean Activist

A North Korean activist who was imprisoned in China for helping North Korean refugees has been freed, reported a Christian human rights group Monday.Yoo Sang-joon is now safely in South Korea after spending the last four months in a prison located in northern China, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). He is said to have endured extreme cold during his imprisonment and was believed he would die while being confined in China.Although he was sent winter clothes early in his prison term, he was only given them on the day of his release. Yoo reportedly still suffers from a number of physical problems as a result of his incarceration.“I am grateful from the depths of my heart to CSW and CSW supporters for all the deep concern, prayer and advocacy on my behalf while I was in prison,” said Yoo, according to CSW.Yoo, a North Korean survivor, was arrested near the Chinese-Mongolian border while trying to rescue other North Koreans from danger in China. He had lost his wife and youngest son in the North Korean famine. He realized the same fate awaited him and his remaining son if they remained in the country, and decided to flee to China.But unable to travel together, his 10-year-old son, Chul Min, attempted to cross the Mongolian border by himself. Unfamiliar with the inhospitable terrain, he wandered 26 hours and-suffering from dehydration and weakened from the famine-died before crossing the border.Yoo himself was able to reach South Korea and is a citizen, but he continues to be haunted by the loss of his family. As a result, he has dedicated his life to helping North Korean refugees in China, especially children, at the risk of his own safety.South Korean activists consider Yoo’s case unique because of his tragic personal story.It is said that at least 500,000 North Koreans have crossed the border over to China in the past 10 years. North Koreans who flee to China are considered “refugees” deserving of protection by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on North Korea, but China has claimed they are “economic migrants” and not refugees.China has used the status as an excuse to return North Korean refugees back to their country where they face imprisonment, torture, and sometimes execution for leaving the country – a state crime.North Korea is one of the most repressive regimes in the world and is ranked by the watchdog Open Doors as the world’s worst persecutor of Christians. Citizens of the communist state are forced to adhere to a personality cult that revolves around worshipping current dictator Kim Jong Il and his deceased father, Kim Il Sung.In the face of these grave consequences, Yoo’s punishment is considered light.“The fact that Yoo Sang-joon was released after only four months, in contrast to other activists who have served up to and surpassing four years, is surely a testament to your prayers, network and fervent advocacy,” said a CSW contact on the ground in Asia (location cannot be identified for security reason). “We thank you all so very much!”

Bible Society of Kenya Appeals for Prayer

The Bible Society of Kenya asked for prayers on Tuesday as a quick solution to the post-election crisis which has slipped further out of reach. Kenyans reach out to receive food aid handed out by the Kenyan Red Cross, Tuesday, Jan.8, 2008 in the Kibera slum in Nairobi. Kenya's president and his chief rival made key concessions to end the dispute over the country's elections, calling off protests and agreeing to talks under pressure from the United States as the death toll from a week of violence reached nearly 500.Elizabeth Muriuki, the General Secretary of the Bible Society of Kenya, has asked that people pray for President Mwai Kibaki and the leader of the opposition Raila Odinga, who remain at loggerheads over the disputed outcome of the December 27 election that secured Kibaki’s re-election and triggered mass violence and rioting.More than one week later, as many as 500 people are believed to have died in the ethnic violence and clashes between police and protesters. Looters have only added to the fatal mix, to the dismay of ordinary Kenyans who have crossed the borders into Uganda or sought refuge in schools and churches.“The general elections resulted in chaos we have never experienced in our lives,” said Muriuki. “Innocent people lost their lives and thousands were displaced from their homes. We are calling on all of you to join us in prayer that God may intervene.”Churches were filled on Sunday with thousands of Kenyans worn down by the turmoil and praying that God would intervene in the country, which was until last month’s election regarded as a bulwark of democracy and economic progress on the largely volatile African continent.“We are praying for peace which only God can give us,” Muriuki said. “Above all, the escalation of the political problem is due to a lack of personal commitment to God by the perpetrators. Please pray that they may know God in a personal way.”Outbreaks of violence and demonstrations on the streets of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, have prevented most Bible Society staff there from reaching the office, which remains open and manned by three staff members. They say they fear for their safety.The international community has heaped pressure on Odinga and Kibaki to meet face to face, yet the two remain as hostile as ever.Odinga and his opposition Orange Democratic Movement rejected Kibaki’s offer to form a government of national unity, saying that he stole the election and must therefore step down from the presidency and enter talks with an international mediator over the prospect of a new election in a few months time. Most recently, Kibaki invited Odinga for face-to-face talks.The head of the African Union, Ghanaian President John Kufuor, was due to arrive in Nairobi Tuesday night to start mediation talks.
Muriuki added, “Please pray for those who have lost their loved ones in the skirmishes. Pray for the thousands of ordinary people who have been displaced and whose property has been burned down or looted.”

As in the days of Noah....

Seven Churches Bombed in Iraq

At least seven churches in Iraq were bombed Sunday in what appears to be coordinated attacks on Orthodox Christians celebrating New Year’s Eve.Mortar shells, explosive devices and car bombs were used in attacks targeting churches and monasteries in Baghdad and Mosul, according to Dubai-based Khaleej Times newspaper. At least six people were wounded, including two guards, reported Voices of Iraq news agency.In the explosion at Saint Maskinta Church in Mosul, the bomb destroyed the external wall of the church and caused panic among children and nuns inside where the church had an orphanage for girls.“I’m very upset. That the explosions went off at the same time proves that this was part of a plan,” said Mosul’s Chaldean archbishop, Farac Raho, on the TV channel Ishtar, according to the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA).“Both our Muslim brothers and we had just celebrated Eid and Christmas at the same time this year and everything went well,” he said, referring to the Gregorian calendar still used by the Eastern Orthodox Church where Christmas and New Year fall on a later date.“But the opposition has never really stopped pointing their weapons at us…Iraq’s government must immediately act against violence directed towards us Christians,” the archbishop pleaded.On Monday, Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni, condemned the attacks and expressed sympathy with the Christian “brothers.”“I stand with them against this brutal attack that turned happiness into misery and concerns,” he said, according to the Khaleej Times.“Iraqis have a lot more to do to free themselves from the phenomenon of violence and terrorism, despite indications of relative improvement to a level of security,” according to Adnkronos International news site.He called on Iraqi president Jalal Talabani to use “care and prudence to cure Iraq from this phenomenon. ”Persecution such as church bombings, kidnappings, as well as general violence and instability has forced a disproportionate number of Christians to flee Iraq – nearly half of all refugees leaving the country are Christians, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Christians in Iraq, composed mostly of Chaldeans, accounts for less than three percent of the country’s population. Today there are about 600,000 Iraqi Christians – down from 1.2 million before the 2003 U.S.-led offensive.Many Christians in Iraq and abroad, as well as religious freedom advocates, have expressed concern of the extinction of Christians in Iraq – either through death or forced emigration – if more is not done to protect the powerless minority group.“Many believe that it had become a little safer for non-Muslims in Iraq but now even those who held that hope have begun to waver,” said Iskander Bikasha, an editor of the Iraq-focused news site, to AINA. “It’s not just churches that are being bombed but even monasteries and convents.”“It’s a war but we are not at war,” he added emotionally. “We are not a part of this war. We carry no weapons. We kill no one. We turn the other cheek. A day doesn’t go by without us hearing reports about Assyrians, also called Chaldeans and Syrians, who have been killed.”But some Iraqi Christians are defying the violence by refusing to allow persecution to stop their worship service. At one of the bombed churches in Baghdad on Sunday, believers still met after the attack to hold the Epiphany mass.“We have decided to continue to go to church, let them bomb us, we’ve had enough,” said “Daniel” (name withheld for security reason) to AINA. “It’s our country too. If they want to wipe us out, they’ll be able to do it anyway. I will die proud,” he said in defiance of increasing Christian persecution.Christians are especially vulnerable in Iraq because they hold no political or military power. In October, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had vowed to protect and support Iraq’s Christian community.

As in the days of Noah....

Worst Christian Persecution Expected in Saudi Arabia, N. Korea

Islamic Saudi Arabia and communist North Korea are expected to be the world’s worst persecutors of Christians in 2008, a church persecution advocacy group predicted.In both countries, Christianity is illegal and practice of the religion is strictly forbidden and results in severe punishments.“In 2008 millions of Christians will face persecution,” said Andy Dipper, CEO of U.K.-based Release International, which released the survey of Christian persecution in the new year.“They’re our family. If it was your husband, wife, daughter or son behind bars you’d move heaven and earth to help them,” he said. “So what better new year’s resolution than to take your stand with your brothers and sisters imprisoned for their faith?”According to Release, most of the persecution of Christians in 2008 will take place in four “zones” – Islam, Communism, Hinduism and Buddhism. Harassment can originate from the government or its agents – such as the secret police, military, and judiciary – or from non-governmental movements, such as militant Islamic groups.In the Islam zone, Saudi Arabia stands out not only for its extremely harsh laws against all religion other than the Wahhabi branch of Islam, but also because it spends millions each year disseminating Islamic teachings around the world.These religious literatures have been accused by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) of spreading intolerance among young Muslims by teaching them to hate “infidels,” or non-believers.Besides Saudi Arabia, moderate Muslim countries are also guilty of not providing enough protection for their Christian minorities.In moderate countries such as Egypt and Turkey, Christians still suffer from kidnapping, forced conversion to Islam, imprisonment, destruction of churches, execution, rape of Christian girls, torture, and discrimination in education, employment, housing and legal system.“Islamist militants often view Christians and non-Muslims as infidels, who must be converted, by force if necessary, or be killed or driven out of Islamic lands,” according to Release. “They believe it is their religious duty to impose Islamic Sharia law throughout their nation.”Meanwhile, in communist regimes such as China, Cuba, and North Korea, believers face a more systemic form of persecution that involves house arrest, interrogation, fines, and imprisonment.But in North Korea, which remains arguably the world’s worst persecutor of Christians, believers are imprisoned in special labor camps, brutally tortured and even publicly executed.“Pressures include an absolute ban on owning a Bible, assembling to pray or to read the Scriptures, and evangelism – even of one’s own children,” said Tim Peters of Helping Hands Korea. Helping Hands, a partner of Release International, helps refugees escape North Korea.Peters added, “Being discovered as a member of the underground church inside North Korea can result in one’s entire family being sent to a prison camp, and even torture and summary execution in extreme cases.”In the Hindu zone, Christians face extremists who have lately increased attacks against not only believers in Jesus but also Muslims. This Hindu nationalism is linked to one of the country’s largest political parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is associated with a number of militant Hindu groups.
Believers are also persecuted in Buddhist Burma and Sri Lanka where religious militants regard Christianity as a threat to national identity and unity.“Persecution is part of the normal Christian life – just as Jesus warned. But Jesus also told us to love one another, sacrificially,” said Release International’s Dipper. “And the Bible encourages us to bear one another’s burdens.“At Release we’ve found it an immense privilege to stand with these faithful, overcoming Christians in prayer and in providing practical support,” he said, “And we have so much to learn from them.”Release International works to support persecuted Christians in some 30 countries through its global network. The organization supports Christians imprisoned for their faith and the family they left behind. It also helps church workers, pastors and evangelists by providing training, Bibles, Christian literature and broadcasts.Other efforts include reconstructing Christian homes destroyed in riots and providing legal aid, shelter, medicine and welfare.Release International is a member of UK organizations Global Connections, the Evangelical Alliance and the Micah Network.

As in the days of Noah....

Malaysian Christians Respond to Gov't Flip-Flop on 'Allah' Ban

Malaysian Christians have expressed deep disappointment and regret over the comment made by a local government minister regarding the prohibition of non-Muslims from using the word ”Allah.”In a statement to the media, Bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing, the head of the Malaysian Christian Federation, reiterated the fact that the term ”Allah” was used by Arab Christians before the founding of Islam and said the ban was contravening the right to the freedom of religion as outlined in the constitution."The word 'Allah' is a pre-Islamic word used by Arab Christians before Islam came into being," Ing stated."We maintain and we have always told the government that we have the right to use the word 'Allah' whether in our Bahasa Malaysia publications or otherwise."The battle over the use of ”Allah” started when the Malaysian government threatened to revoke a local Catholic tabloid’s permit to publish . In response, The Herald, the weekly newspaper of the Catholic Church in Malaysia, filed a lawsuit last month against the government, claiming that the ban is unconstitutional and violates freedom of religion.Not long after the Herald filed its suit, the government back-tracked, stating in a fax to the Herald's editor that the newspaper will get its 2008 permit with no conditions attached, according to the British Broadcasting Corp.The government’s position appeared to change again, however, when the de-facto minister for Islamic affairs, Abdullah Zin, told reporters that cabinet agreed the term should only be used by Muslims.Zin said the cabinet is of the view that "Allah" refers to the Muslim God and can only be used by Muslims, who comprise about 60 percent of Malaysia's population.Earlier this month, Zin had explained that the use of the word “Allah” by other religions “may arouse sensitivity and create confusion among Muslims."

As in the days of Noah....

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Chinese Christians to use Olympics for outreach

China-The Summer Olympics in China will be a moment of pride for the country, as well as one of scrutiny. While China gets a chance to display its best, world attention will also shed light on its failings.The Chinese government's emphasis on the Games has reached a frenzied pitch as they try to shake off the negative image. They're hoping their success will help them re-draw that and showcase the country as a global power. That's forcing an obsession that could work to the church's advantage.China Partner Ministries' Erik Burklin agrees."They want to show the world that China is progressively thinking forward, not backward."As with every Olympic contest, hundreds of faith-based groups turn out to welcome the thousands of spectators. But, ministry is not limited to just the outside partners.Burklin says it's a strategic time for believers and those they've trained as church leaders."The Chinese church is looking to the Olympics as an opportunity for Gospel advancement and for sharing Christ with those who are coming to their country. I find it significant in that not just foreign organizations are looking to the Olympics to see how this could possibly be a positive for Gospel advancement, but the Chinese church itself is looking towards this as an opportunity."Their excitement continues to build. It was felt during one of Burklin's visits to a partnering church in Chengdu. "It never stops to amaze me how many people gather to worship God on a Sunday morning," he said. "There is a genuine hunger for God's Word and a deep desire to grow spiritually."The ministry has been serving the church in China by equipping more pastors and lay pastors to carry out the work of Christ. Pray that God would raise up more Chinese Christian leaders who will faithfully proclaim the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. Pray that God would open the doors for Chinese teams to minister freely during the Games.
As in the days of Noah....

Muslim clerics want evangelistic work restricted in Algeria

Algeria-Disconcerting news is coming from Algeria and Afghanistan. Glenn Penner of Voice of the Martyrs' Canada says Islamic scholars there are calling for a crackdown on Christians. "This head of the Islamic Association is claiming that a convert gets paid over seven thousand dollars if they become a Christian. So all you have to do is start spreading these lies around enough, and the government might say, 'We probably should do something about this.'"He's referring to Sheikh Abdul-Rahman Al-Shayban who says Christian missionary campaigns have "reached the point of aggressions against Algerians." According to the Arabic TV station, "Al Arabiya," Shayban called for the crackdown under the religious practice law for non-Muslims.The tone isn't limited to Algeria. It's also being felt in Afghanistan. According to Penner, members of the Afghanistan Islamic Council warned President Hamid Karzai not to allow foreign missions into the country, especially to the impoverished areas.The council claimed that missionaries in Kabul and in the provinces were forcibly converting Muslims, enticing them by giving them Bibles and promising to send them abroad. The Islamic scholars warned of serious consequences if the government did not stop Christians from preaching and evangelizing.Penner believes the Islamists are spreading misinformation to stir nationalist sympathies. As to whether this will curb evangelism, he says,"They take what is a very innocent act and give it serious implications. For those who are ministering in that country, both nationals and expatriates, certainly, they're going to be looked at with more scrutiny and suspicion. We need to be praying for them that they'll continue to operate with integrity and yet continue to operate fearlessly as they try to win men and women to Christ."Ask God to thwart the attempts of those who seek to hinder His work in Afghanistan and Algeria. Pray that His servants in these countries will be emboldened to carry on their service to Christ wherever God leads them. Pray that those who accuse Christians of forcible conversion will see that that the Gospel message is one of a free gift, not coercion.
As in the days of Noah....

Attack on church leaves Christians wondering in Russia

Russia-A previously-unknown youth movement has attacked a church in Kaluga, Russia, which is southwest of Moscow. Many Christians are wondering if this was an isolated incident or a sign of things to come.According to the Slavic Legal Center, an organization that defends the rights of minority Christians in Russia, a watchman at a Baptist church noticed a group of youths scoping out the building and asked them to leave. A short time later, he heard the sound of breaking glass, but he was too frightened to investigate. Bottles and pellet guns were used in the vandalism.A pastor told the Legal Center that this is not the first time the church has been targeted by vandals, but the note attached to one of the bottles was unprecedented. It read: "We are not happy to see you here and ask that you leave our city. If you refuse, we will help you to leave... Get out of here, you pitiful American lackeys of Satan."That same night, a Pentecostal church nearby was vandalized. The culprits left a note claiming to represent the pro-Kremlin youth group "Nashi," which in the past has issued strong "anti-sect" statements. According to the Legal Center's earlier reporting, "anti-sect" leaflets were circulated around the city in recent weeks.Russian Ministries Moscow Regional Director Paul Tokarchuk says, "I think this is a growing trend in Russia. We already have many cases in many other places in the country."Tokarchuck says this incident has affectd their work. "The pastor was a Russian Ministries Missionary. And also, the church was the home of a 'School Without Walls' training program. Up to 45 students are going through the seminars.He continues: "We'll not stop. We will carry on, and we will continue doing seminars like School Without Walls to bring more young leaders to reach this next generation."
MNN's Greg Yoder is traveling with Russian Ministries this week to help with their Russian Christmas outreach called, "Greatest Gift Exchange - Project of Hope." Thousands of young people around Russia will be receiving gifts along with copies of God's Word during Christmas, which in Russia is January 7.Pray that God would move in the hearts of young people. Pray that there would be incredible "Paul like" conversions for the youth who are attacking churches across the country.
As in the days of Noah....

Coordinated blasts rock churches in Iraq

Iraq-Compass Direct reports that four Iraqi churches and three convents were damaged in coordinated bomb blasts Sunday. It's a day on which many Iraqi Christians celebrate either Epiphany or Christmas Eve, according to some Eastern liturgical calendars.
Sites hit in Mosul:
- Chaldean Church of Saint Paul
- Nunnery of Dominican Sisters
- Orphanage of the Chaldean Sisters
Sites hit in Baghdad:
- Rum Orthodox Church (where the guard was injured)
- Mar Ghorghis chaldean church in Ghadir area
- Saint Paul Chaldean Church in Zafaraniya area where, according to Mgr. Warduni, the carbomb was discovered before its explosion and defused.
- Chaldean Sisters Nunnery in Zafaraniya
According to the reports, the blasts occurred within five minutes of each other at approximately 11:00 a.m. There were no fatalities, but Open Doors' Carl Moeller confirms the report and thinks it was geared to send a message to the remnant church. "The message that the terrorists want to send to the Christian community is, 'We don't want you here'."With the vast majority of Iraq's violence stemming from Sunni-Shiite fighting, it's hard to say whether the typical association of Christianity with the West is the main cause of attacks against Iraqi Christians. The violence has forced nearly 40% of the Christian population to seek refuge in the North in Kurdistan. Pope Benedict XVI on Monday called for Iraq's constitution to include provisions to protect minorities, including Christians."Our call to the church is to stand with them, to answer their requests for help. It's not that they want to flee: they want to stay in their homes; they want to stay in their communities. But they need help," Moeller explains. Many are forced to live hand-to-mouth and are in dire need of supplies. Fleeing North presents a whole different set of problems.There are some groups of Christians who fled with the clothes on their backs.That means they're facing a winter without enough warm clothes or shelter.Many of them stayed until the last possible moment. Moeller says that's where Open Doors comes in."They need the assistance of particular organizations like Open Doors to provide the necessary means for them to stay."Christian IDPs and refugees need relief supplies, structural help and spiritual counseling. Open Doors supports them in the basics of every day life: food, housing, heating, clothes and medical care. In Syria and Jordan, Open Doors helps with similar relief for the neediest families among the refugees.The situation isn't improving much. Islamist groups are reputed to have purged Christians from entire neighborhoods. The blasts brought an end to a fragile peace that Iraq's Christian minority had begun to enjoy in recent months.Moeller explains, "That is why Open Doors and other agencies are working very hard right now to strengthen the Christian community there, to make sure that a witness remains in that country, and that the cause of Christ continues to go forward, despite the attacks of the enemy."Through helping the refugees, Open Doors has the opportunity to establish a relationship of trust, which could revive the faith of nominal Christians who are frustrated with religion because they feel that their spiritual leaders did not care for them as they should.
As in the days of Noah....

Religious tensions erupt in deadly riot in Nigeria

Nigeria-Last week, a second violent attack in the same Nigerian town in the last few months resulted in ten deaths and three Christian churches burned.Glenn Penner of Voice of the Martyrs Canada says this violence is evidence of ongoing tensions in northern Nigeria. "It's certainly not unusual for it to take place in Northern Nigeria, although for it to take place in the same city so close together is a little bit unsual."The tension spilled over when suspicions leaked that Christian students had removed foundation blocks from a new high school mosque under construction.Eyewitnesses say Muslim students began attacking their Christian peers during school.The violence gradually spread into town, where others joined in.Dozens of Christian homes were set on fire along with the three churches."They see each other as threats to their religion, and so they believe, as the apostle Paul did when he was still a persecutor, that what they're doing is in the name of God," said Penner.A committee of Christian and Islamic elders convened to prevent the violence from spreading.They invited Muslims to serve on the security committee as well, but the committee was seemingly unsuccessful as violence continued into the next day.One associate pastor of a local church ran to his nearby church, where he watched as Muslims set fire to his home.He lost everything.While it seems obvious that the incident began as a result of religious friction, the governor has told new sources that he believes his political enemies hired hoodlums to initiate the incident.He delayed his pilgrimage to Mecca to attend to the crisis.Penner said that the older generation does what it can to prevent incidents like this from occurring."Both Muslim and Christian leaders often try to talk to these young people to tell them to realize that acts of violence are not the way to solve problems. But unfortunately, these young men don't always listen to their elders."
As in the days of Noah....

Pastor Begins New Ministry After Attack

India-Gospel for Asia reports that a persecuted native missionary in Madhya Pradesh has now begun a fruitful ministry.Pastor Roshan was threatened by anti-Christian extremists in one village.Death threats were posed to Roshan if he returned to share the Gospel again.Roshan did return-the next day.He was attacked by the extremists with knives, rods, and other weapons. The attackers also stole his belongings and threw him out of the village gates.The GFA district leader and Roshan went to police to file a report.However, police informed them that there was nothing they could do.The district leader went to the extremists later asking that they return Roshan's belongings.They refused unless Roshan agreed to never return to the village.With no options, Roshan agreed.This incident did not stop Roshan's passion for sharing the Gospel. Roshan now has a growing ministry in a neighboring village where he works with two established GFA missionaries.Roshan would like to, someday, be able to reach out to the extremists who persecuted him.
As in the days of Noah....

Bible college classes delayed due to violence in Kenya

Kenya- Association of Baptists for World Evangelism's missionary team in Kenya has decided it is not safe enough yet to commence classes next week at their Bible college.The situation is hard for students to grasp, especially in light of their most recent studies in Christian ethics. Many of them have neighbors who have lost everything during the violence, and one student witnessed a murder.Missionaries Gary and Mary Strange have been taking care of friends and neighbors as the need arises. One friend they're caring for is Mourice, who moved to Nairobi for work to support his family living in the country. The Chinese restaurant he was working at closed, like most other businesses. The Strange's provided for Mourice who cannot get his paycheck until the restaurant reopens. Mourice came to the Strange's for shelter when the area he was staying in became increasingly dangerous. He was the only person from the Luo tribe in a place where everyone else was from the Kikuyu tribe.Another man named Patrick came to the Strange's when his house was burned down. Patrick, his wife and three children are now homeless. Although they own a shop where they make maandazi-a type of donut, they are unable to find out if the shop is still standing.
Though the Stranges said the protests are dying down, the chaos has given troublemakers a reason to loot and murder. The tribal undercurrent of Kenya usually moves along peacefully. However, with politics involved, the spark has been lit for people to bring up old wounds with other tribes.
As in the days of Noah.....

Ministry responds to refugee needs in Kenya

Kenya-Africa's Union head is now stepping in to try and bring an end to the political standoff in Kenya. Fresh violence broke out when President Mwai Kibaki announced his cabinet.The protestors have created roadblocks, which effectively cut off supplies to the hardest hit area.200,000 people are already displaced within the country and in need of emergency aid. Christian Reformed World Relief Committee's U.S. Executive Director Andrew Ryskamp says, "It's very difficult to get supply trucks.Transport companies are even hesitant to put their trucks on the road.But fortunately, we had some food that was already stored in the Eldoret area. So we have staff who are dedicated to the long term work, as well as staff who are dedicated to the relief operation."Because CRWRC has worked for many years in Kenya, it is in a position to play a role in providing long-term relief that Ryskamp says could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars before affected communities can return to building their capacity and developing local resources. "We have set up a relief fund for Kenya and are asking people to give financially if they are able."Ryskamp says their team's response is an evangelistic declaration. "Standing next to them is a way of demonstrating that we are the community of Christ together. Our staff are continuing to work with people--that's an element of hope that's being brought to them. One of the aspects of our programs is also to work at peace and reconciliation."CRWRC has five full-time staff members in Kenya. The country is also a hub for CRWRC's HIV/AIDS coordinator for the East/South African region. Partners Worldwide, a CRC business-development ministry, also has a staff person in Kenya. All personnel are reported to be safe.Chris Shiundu, national relief manager for CRWRC in Kenya, will meet with a relief consortium consisting of Dorcas Aid, Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) and Nazarene Compassionate Ministries in Nairobi this Friday to explore additional ways of working together. Click here if you can help.
As in the days of Noah....

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Woman loses right to wear cross:Court decides in favor of British Airways in discrimination suit

A Christian British Airways employee who sued the company after it required her to cover up a cross necklace while on the job has lost her discrimination suit, but she vows to return to work tomorrow wearing the cross.As WND reported, Heathrow check-in worker Nadia Eweida, who is a Coptic Christian and whose father is Egyptian and mother English, was sent home after refusing to remove the cross, which British Airways claimed violated its dress code.Eweida, who was placed on unpaid leave, sued her employer, charging religious discrimination, since the company allowed employees of other religions, such as Islam and Hinduism, to wear faith-related items, including clothing, jewelry and religious markings.The suit continued despite the airline loosening its cross prohibition last year. An attorney affiliated with the Alliance Defense Fund represented Eweida in court."Christian employees should not be singled out for discrimination. This decision will be appealed," said ADF Chief Counsel Benjamin Bull, in a statement. "According to British Airways, it's OK for employees to wear a symbol of their faith unless it's a Christian cross. The airline took no action against employees of other religions who wore jewelry or symbols of their religion. That type of intolerance is inconsistent with the values of civilized communities around the world." The 56-year-old Eweida is quoted by BBC as saying: "I'm very disappointed. I'm speechless really because I went to the tribunal to seek justice. But the judge has given way for BA to have a victory on imposing their will on all their staff."Eweida lost her initial suit against the company but won an injunction on appeal in the Reading Employment Tribunal. However, in yesterday's ruling in the case, Eweida v. British Airways, the court ruled the airline can continue to prohibit Eweida from visibly wearing her cross. The court concluded that other types of religious symbols, such as turbans, bangles and other religious markings, are unable to be concealed and are therefore acceptable."No Christian should be forced to hide her faith in the workplace, particularly when a double-standard exists targeting only Christians for discriminatory treatment," said Bull. "This case should be of particular interest to the American customers of British Airways who understand and value religious liberty."In a statement, British Airways said: "We have always maintained that our uniform policy did not discriminate against Christians, and we are pleased that the tribunal's decision supports our position."Our current policy allows symbols of faith to be worn openly and has been developed with multi-faith groups and our staff."Nadia Eweida has worked for us for eight years and continues to be a valued member of our staff."Regarding appealing the case, Eweida commented, "It's not over until God says it's over."

As in the days of Noah....

Chinese police release bookstore owner:'This is a clear victory of rule of law and international intervention'

The owner of a Christian bookstore in China, along with several others associated with his case, have been released by police, more than a month after being summarily jailed without explanation, according to China Aid Association.Shi Weihan, who was taken into custody shortly after Thanksgiving during police raids on his home and office, is a businessman who works as a travel agent, and recently got governmental permission to publish some Christian book titles, a friend, American businessman Ray Sharpe, told WND.The government had declined to release information about Shi or where he was being held. The individuals apparently were under suspicion of illegally printing and distributing Christian literature.But China Aid this week confirmed his release, and reported eyewitnesses said he was in good spirits and relatively stable physical condition."Shi's family members asked CAA to thank the tireless efforts of the international community for his release," the organization said.The release apparently means that Chinese authorities have decided against a formal trial, and that criminal charges have been dismissed, China Aid said. The organization said under Chinese law, people can be detained administratively for 37 days, but then either a formal arrest warrant must be issued or the people released."The Chinese government has made a positive step … regarding this case," said Bob Fu, president and founder of China Aid. "This is a clear victory of rule of law and international intervention."China Aid sources reported that the Beijing Haidian District prosecution office assigned to the case ruled it was unable to proceed with formal charges because of "insufficient evidence."China Aid said the decision follows the Communist party's conference, held while Shi was jailed, on the collective study of religion and religious policy. "During the conference, President Hu Jintao reiterated the government's stance on the 'implementation of free religious policy' stressing law-abiding management on religious affairs and support to self-governances of religious groups," China Aid said.The organization, however, said China isn't consistent in such decisions yet."While the government's decision in the Shi Weihan case should be lauded, hundreds of prisoners persecuted for their beliefs still remain in custody," the group said. "As is the case of Xinjiang church leader Zhou Heng, who was arrested in August of 2007 for receiving 'illegally printed' Bibles. Zhou, who was arraigned on the same charges as Shi Weihan, continues to serve an unjust sentence behind bars."These accounts, and others, are examples of the Chinese government's failure to remain consistent in cases receiving less international attention," China Aid said.The case against Shi had gotten considerable attention at least partly because he is the father of a U.S. citizen.Sharpe told WND questions were directed to both the Chinese government and the U.S. embassy because the man's daughter, Grace Shi, 7, is a U.S. citizen, and was forced into hiding with her Chinese mother and 11-year-old sister.Sharpe, who said he was able to confirm information about the family because he lived for a number of years in China, told WND Shi is a life-long resident of Beijing, but was arrested "in his Christian literature bookstore in a high-class business tower near the Olympics Village."He said Shi's younger brother and Shi's wife, Jing Zhang, also were taken into custody but were released after questioning.The family's home also was raided at 5 a.m. on Nov. 28 by members of the Beijing Public Security Bureau, Sharpe said. Officers confiscated Christian literature from the home, the family's company office, and the bookstore, he said.The daughter, Grace, is an American citizen because she was born during the family's visit to the U.S. in 2000. She and her older sister, "Lily," were distraught because they witnesses the raid on their home, Sharpe said.He told WND publishing Christian material is a "rarity" in China, but his friend recently had gotten permission from various authors, and had translated several books.It was feared the move was part of a larger crackdown several organizations have noted by China of anything or anyone who doesn't subscribe to government propaganda as the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing approach.Sharpe told WND he is convinced, "China will not tolerate one dissident voice during the Olympics."WND already has reported on China's Olympic blacklist. Fu confirmed documentation reveals that the nation will target 43 types of people with investigations – and possibly bans – when the 2008 Olympics are held.And those targeted will include "religious infiltrators," employees of media organizations, those tied to "illegal" religious organizations and others, the report said.The the information comes from a "secretly issued" notice from China's Ministry of Public Security that went to security officials and departments throughout the nation, Fu said."CAA learned from reliable internal Chinese government sources that in April of 2007, the Ministry of Public Security of the Chinese government issued a general nation-wide order, requiring strict examinations on all people both in China and overseas who will participate in the Olympic Games," the organization said. "These include members of the Olympic Committee, athletes, media and sponsors. With this, they also provide a list of 43 types of people in 11 categories to be barred from attending the Olympic Games."The document, a "Notice on Strict Background Check on Applicants for the Olympic Games and the Test Events," targets those who are considered "antagonistic elements," followers of Falun Gong and other "cults," as well as "religious extremists and religious infiltrators."Other categories include media employees "who can harm the Olympic Games," non-government organizations that "pose a real threat to the Olympic Games," those with grievances against the communist party, those under investigation by Chinese authorities, as well as "terrorists" and "members of illegal organizations."The report, China Aid Association said, lists among the targets anyone who belongs to an independent house church in China, which are identified as "illegal religious organizations" and those who have given "illegal sermons."Also targeted and banned will be "people who illegally distribute religious publications and video-audio materials" and "people who have illegally established both in China and abroad religious organizations, institutions, schools, sermon sites and other religious entities.""While CAA understands the legitimate security concern during Olympics, nevertheless we urge the Chinese government to be more transparent regarding the preparation of [the] 2008 Beijing Olympics," CAA said. "We call upon the Chinese government not to use Olympics as a cover to engage [in a] crackdown on peaceful people of faith both in China and abroad."The warning about the investigations came just after China heatedly repudiated a media report that Bibles were being banned from the housing complexes for athletes during the 2008 Games.The officials, who have expelled dozens for Christian missionaries in an apparent crackdown on Christianity in advance of the 2008 Beijing Games, called the report a "total rumor.""The Chinese government has not come up with any such rule," said spokesman Liu Jianchao.However, the official website for the 2008 Games has held a warning that visitors should not bring more than a single Bible with them.WND previously has reported on China's apparent crackdown on Christians and Christianity in advance of the 2008 Games, including the expulsion of more than 100 foreign Christians in China in just a 90-day period, the biggest assault on the presence of Christianity in China since 1954.
As in the days of Noah....

'Jesus moment' starts healing for church shooting victims:'What the enemy meant for harm turned into forgiveness, redemption'

New Life Church Pastor Brady Boyd calls it a "Jesus moment" and describes a meeting of the families of church shooter Matthew Murray and victims Stephanie Works, 18, and Rachael Works, 16, as "the greatest testimony of forgiveness I've ever seen."It was a meeting he had suggested between Ron and Loretta Murray, whose son, Matthew, shot and killed the Works sisters in an attack on New Life Church in December, and the sisters' parents, David and Marie Works.As WND reported earlier, weeks before Murray armed himself with enough weaponry and ammunition to kill hundreds and staged attacks on a Youth With A Mission ministry center in the Denver metro area and then on New Life Church in Colorado Springs, he boasted in an e-mail that he had discovered and practiced the teachings of controversial British occultist Aleister Crowley, called during his lifetime "the wickedest man in the world."But his beliefs clearly departed from family teachings, as the Murray family members said thanks "to God, these remarkable families and their pastors and churches, healing and reconciliation have begun."Boyd said he was praying about the situation during the Christmas holidays, and decided to contact Matthew Murray's parents to see if they wanted to come to the church campus, see the location where the attack happened, and grieve for the loss of their son, who committed suicide after being shot by a volunteer security patrol team member. "I called them and asked, would you like to come to the New Life campus and see the place where your son passed away," Boyd told his congregation over the weekend. "When someone's gone through a tragedy, it's very important to see the place where it happened."He said the Murrays had been wanting exactly that, but didn't want to "invade" the church still recovering from the attack.Boyd then arranged for the Murrays to meet not only the Works family, but also Jeanne Assam, the volunteer security guard who confronted Matthew Murray as he was entering the mega-church complex where several thousand people were leaving a worship service, and shot at him when he refused to put down his weapon. The coroner later determined he actually died of self-inflicted wound. "It was very emotional. They just wept and cried and we prayed for them and hugged them," Boyd said. "What the enemy has meant for harm, turned into a moment of forgiveness and redemption."Matthew Murray, 24, killed two staff members at the WYAM center in Arvada in the early morning hours of Dec. 9, then posted some writings online, and then traveled to Colorado Springs to shoot the sisters in the church parking lot. He was loaded with weaponry and ammunition and heading toward the church sanctuary when Assam confronted and stopped him. The Murrays earlier met with the families of Tiffany Johnson, 26, and Philip Crouse, 24, who died at the YWAM center.Boyd said he retraced Matthew Murray's steps for the family, from the place where he parked his car to the point inside the building where he killed himself.In a statement after the meeting, the Murrays expressed their continuing sorrow over the deaths.[[["Words cannot adequately express our deep, deep gratitude to David and Marie Works, Pastor Brady Boyd, Jeanne Assam, and the entire New Life Church family. God is good and our entire experience last Thursday was filled with His loving and healing presence," they said. "We also want to once again express our appreciation for the Johnson and Crouse families for receiving us in love last month together with everyone at Youth With A Mission and the New Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada."The depth of our sorrow and our grief is greater than we can possibly describe. But with thanks to God, these remarkable families and their pastors and churches, healing and reconciliation have begun," the Murray statement said. "We are committed to finding a way to move forward in the service of The Lord and our community."When the Murrays met Assam, "the Murrays released her from any guilt or remorse over what she had had to do," Boyd said.Boyd told his congregation that such forgiveness and reconciliation is "rare in most cultures and religions.""What happened was Jesus Christ on display," he said.]]]According to reports from authorities, found in Matthew Murray's bedroom were items including information about YWAM as well as New Life Church, dozens of doses of a drug used to treat anxiety disorders, a pamphlet called "Fall of America," ammunition and another gun, and a pamphlet from The Rosicrucian Order, an ancient group that stresses mysticism.A tabulation of church shootings, or those closely related to a church setting, was done by Gary Cass, chairman of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, and include 10 such attacks over the last four years, including Murray's two attacks, revealing that such incidents are on the rise."Churches used to be sanctuaries that were regarded as sacred, now all church leaders must be prepared to effectively defend themselves and use deadly force if necessary to protect their congregations from violent acts," Cass said."Self-defense is not just a right, but a Christian duty. Jesus told his followers, 'if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one,'" said Cass. "Christians are not to be a soft target for the hateful and deranged. Church leaders have a duty not to allow a crazed gunman to come and shoot up their congregation. Thank God for security officer Jeanne Assam and for New Life Church's security preparations."WND has reported on the disturbing rantings Murray apparently left on several websites before-and even between-the attacks, including those reported by National Terror Alert, which documented a series of postings by "nghtmrchld26," which said, "You Christians brought this on yourselves … All I want to do is kill and injure as many of you ... as I can especially Christians who are to blame for most of the problems in the world."[[[[["It is a sad reality of our times, but Christians must take up arms to protect themselves at church," ]]]]]said Cass. He cited the postings by Murray, including the following:
"I'm coming for EVERYONE soon and I WILL be armed to the @#%$ teeth and I WILL shoot to kill. …," a statement also attributed to Murray's Internet postings.
"Matthew Murray was obviously a very troubled young man, but unfortunately he is not the only one," Cass said.
The pastor behind the Good Fight website, which documents reports from rock stars themselves of their encounters with the occult and satanic influences through their experiences with rock music, says he believes an e-mail he got weeks earlier was from Murray, and indicated trouble.Pastor Joe Schimmel told WND he recalled the October e-mail when he read the postings, included in WND stories, attributed to Murray. He said he thinks it's important for people to know what the attacker himself was feeling and thinking prior to his homicidal attack, especially since he's been described in the media as a homeschooled student from a religious family.The e-mail, although it came from a man who identified himself as "Brian," most probably was from Murray, Schimmel says, because of long list of similarities. The e-mail notes the writer has "studied and practiced the teachings of Aleister Crowley/Thelema/The Golden Dawn, Qabbalah, H.P. Blavatsky/Theosophy, Manly P. Hall, Alice Bailey, and others."Crowley, who lived during the late 1800s and first half of the 1900s, was a bisexual, drug-addicted occultist practitioner and author who almost reveled in the media description of him as "the wickedest man in the world."During a court case in the 1930s, Crowley was described by a judge as dreadful. "I thought that everything which was vicious and bad had been produced at one time or another before me," the judge concluded. "I have learned in this case that we can always learn something more … I have never heard such dreadful, horrible, blasphemous and abominable stuff as that which has been produced by [Crowley.]"Crowley also founded Thelema, a religious belief that was drawn from his book, "Liber Al Vel Legis," or Book of the Law, which gives only two commands: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" and "Love is the law, love under will."Crowley espoused a wide range of occultist activities and practices, and one of his compatriots reportedly died from drinking the blood of a cat during one ceremonial episode, according to documents on Crowley's life. Many believe Crowley was a forerunner to Anton LeVay, who formalized his beliefs in "The Satanic Bible" and established the Church of Satan.While Crowley dabbled in the occult, magic, trances, drugs, sex and blood rituals, Schimmel told WND the writer apparently had sold his soul to another devil: rock music.The e-mail attributed to Matthew Murray noted that "music is a very powerful thing," and then continued with writings that appeared to have been assembled in the form of an article titled, "My Secret Drug Addiction":
"I have a powerful addiction to a powerful drug that most people in my life don't know about. … I have found this drug to truly be a force to be reckoned with. This drug can completely alter blood pressure, heart rate, brainwave patterns and other bodily functions. … This drug will completely control a person's mind, what thought's (sic) they think and their emotions and how they feel. I found that this drug has the power to completely alter a person's religious beliefs, their morality, and their values and their entire lifestyle. … I found this drug to be a powerful driving force and easy gateway into a world of sex, other drugs, rebellion, homosexuality, alcoholism and many other dark things. … The drug … is commonly known in our culture as … Rock Music."

As in the days of Noah....

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Malaysia Embroiled in Another Conversion Court Battle

Malaysia is engaged in yet another conversion court battle, with the country’s high court deciding whether the Christian widower of a Malaysian woman has the legal right to stop Islamic authorities from burying her in accordance with Muslim rites.The judges in the court have to decide whether Wong Sau Lan, 53, converted to Islam before she died. The conversion claim made by the Islamic Council is being contested by her husband, Ngiam Tee Kong, who had received a notice from the council that she converted to Islam on Christmas Eve.The case is the latest in the string of cases brought before the court that tests the strength of the Malaysian Constitution in defending religious freedom for minority groups.Last year, Lina Joy, one of Malaysia’s best known Christians, lost a six-year battle with the government over its refusal to remove Islam from her national identity card even though she converted to Christianity.In his judgment against Joy, Federal Court Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim had stated [[[[that individuals “cannot simply convert from one religion to another (at the whim and fancy of the individual)” even though religious freedom is protected by the constitution.]]]](1)The National Evangelical Christian Fellowship of Malaysia had condemned the court decision and claimed that it was retreating in the face of ”relentless onslaught” on their position.

PS:(1)I have news for Mr.Halim....YES PEOPLE CAN CONVERT THAT EASY...!!!!Thta's how much muslims regard about freedom....There is no liberty or freedom in Islam,but the enslavery of the soul.....

As in the days of Noah...

Riot-Hit Indian Christians Still Hiding in Jungles:Seven teenaged Christian schoolgirls missing

Several Christian families in a violence-stricken area of India’s Orissa state are hiding in nearby jungles while seven teenage girls are reportedly missing.Since Christmas Eve, mobs led by Hindu activists have attacked Christians in the Kandhamal district, reportedly killing nine people and damaged 60 churches, according to the latest official report from the state government. At least 100,000 Christians reside in the 650,000-person district.Many Christian families are reportedly afraid to return to their homes due to fear of violence. Meanwhile, 142 homeless families are taking shelter at the relief camps set up in Baliguda, Orissa.The administration has urged all homeless victims of the communal violence to return to their villages.Those reportedly missing include seven ninth grade Christian girls. A boarding school informed police about the missing students on Saturday, said Satyenbrata Sahu, a divisional commissioner."We suspect they have run away out of fear," he told The Associated Press, also reporting that police were searching for the girls.All Christian institutions in the area, including a convent and seminary, were attacked. Rioters also targeted two church-run hostels and high schools as well as a few shops managed by Christians in the small town of Bamunigam.According to Dadini, a victim of the violence, several families that fled Barkhama were hiding in the jungles within a range of six to seven kilometers from Baliguda.Ludinga Digal, who had reached the Baliguda camp, had no news of his son and daughter-in-law. Digal said the people hiding in the jungle and hills were living without proper food and water since Dec. 25.Tejeswar Nayak, a college lecturer, meanwhile alleged that he was getting threatening calls from unidentified persons because he had given shelter to pastors and the priests of ransacked churches and Christian establishments at Baliguda. Miscreants continued their threats to burn up his house as well.Fr. Laxmikant Pradhan, parish priest of a ransacked Baliguda church, wondered how the victims of police and administrative negligence could return in a few days.
More patrolling sought
The local people reportedly want more patrolling by armed policemen. But Suresh Kumar Panda, Kalahandi’s additional superintendent of police who is now camping at Baliguda, said it might not be possible to increase patrolling in the area now.Many other families are believed to be hiding elsewhere.This past Sunday, more than 1,000 Christians held protest in the capital urging the government to punish the attackers and protect the Christian community in the state.Orissa is the only Indian state that has a law requiring people to obtain police permission before they change their religion. The law was intended to counter missionary work.

As in the days of Noah....