Friday, June 27, 2008

Fine for preaching in public challenged:'If they shut down our ability to speak, they shut down the Gospel'

A man arrested for preaching on a public sidewalk too close to the one of the nation's premiere representations of freedom, the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, is appealing his conviction and $400 fine.On Oct. 7, Michael A. Marcavage, director of the evangelistic organization Repent America, was arrested while preaching on the sidewalk outside the Liberty Bell Center and urging Americans to halt abortion."We need to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ," he told the crowd.But he soon was approached by a police officer who gave him a verbal permit to preach in a different area, a so-called "free speech zone." He declined, saying such restrictions violated his freedom of speech.Then on June 13, U.S. Magistrate Judge Arnold C. Rapoport found Marcavage guilty of violating a verbal permit granted to him by the police officer."The only thing that I was guilty of that day was preaching the Gospel and against the shedding of innocent blood," Marcavage said. "The government not only put me on trial, but also the liberties of the American people."If they shut down our ability to speak, they shut down the Gospel; they shut down any message. If the government prevails in this case, America's experiment in liberty has finally reached its demise," Marcavage said.He has told WND he did not accept the "verbal permit" so should not be convicted of violating something he didn't accept. He also said he had preached in the same location a number of times earlier without difficulties.Scheduled to hear the appeal is U.S. District Court Judge Legrome D. Davis.On his blog, Marcavage noted that such government-mandated "free speech zones" are being assembled all across the country in an effort by cities, colleges and other institutions to hinder free speech outside of those specific "zones."The blog cited a 2007 study by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which found 259 of 346 colleges studied maintained such free speech restrictions.In the aftermath of 9/11, government officials established a free speech zone near the Liberty Bell Center, where, according to government statistics, more than 100,000 protesters demonstrate each year.In United States vs. Michael A. Marcavage, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Goldberg stood behind the practice of government-regulated zones, stating in court that "nowhere does the law say that the government cannot regulate speech on a sidewalk used by the public."Four years ago, Marcavage made headlines for being arrested as a member of the "Philadelphia 11," a group that preached on sidewalks during a homosexual rally in downtown Philadelphia. The group was charged under Pennsylvania's hate crime laws, though the charges were later dropped.
As in the days of Noah...

Turkish Government Denies Water to Church in AnkaraTurkish officials continue harassing legal church in an attempt to force it to close:

The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) has just learned that the Turkish government is now attempting to shut down the Batikent Protestant Church in Ankara by shutting off the church building's water supply. On June 18th an official from the government office of the Ankara Department of Water came with an order to take out the water meter from the Batikent Protestant Church. The reason cited in the order to remove the water meter was because of alleged unpaid water bills dated between Aug 27, 2007 and June 6, 2008. However, between 2005 and 2007 the Batikent Protestant Church won several court decisions granting them the right to have free water from the Government. In Turkey, the government gives mosques free water. However, Turkey's constitution is based on secularism, and thus it seems logical that whatever rights a mosque may have to free water should be afforded to churches as well. Accordingly, in 2002, when Pastor Daniel Wickwire founded the Batikent Protestant Church of Ankara for Turkish-speaking Christians, he applied to the Municipal Government of Ankara asking for free water. This request for free water was denied by the local government, so Wickwire and the church's Turkish Pastor Ali Pekta? opened a series of court cases going all the way up to the Supreme Court where they eventually won the right for the church to have free water. Not only did they win the right to have free water provided to the church, but the Supreme Court ordered the Ankara Department of Water to repay all of the water bills the church had paid since it opened. Despite the Supreme Court's ruling, the Turkish government has refused to repay the church for their previous bills and continued to harass them by sending water bills and attempting to remove their water meter on 10 different occasions. Twice this left the church without water, and the water was turned on only after the church paid the water bills that it did not rightfully owe. ICC reported on a different attempt by the government to shut down Batikent Protestant Church in a press release earlier this month on June 10. On June 2, police delivered a government order to shut down the church in three days because it was in violation of the zoning code. However, the church had already won a court case on this same issue. Yet again, they have been forced to open another expensive counter court case in order to stop its impending closure. The opposition faced by Batikent Protestant Church is part of a wider problem. The present government of Turkey has been enacting new laws designed to close down existing churches and make it difficult to open new ones. Jeremy Sewall, Policy Analyst at ICC, said, "Adding to its human rights violations, the government of Turkey is also lacking in creativity. They could at least invent a different pretense to try to shut the church down than ones that it has already lost. For the government to completely disregard its own court decisions reveals either an impotent court system or a deeply conflicted political struggle within Turkey. Either way, their decision to childishly harass Batikent Protestant Church is an embarrassment to their country." Please contact the Turkish embassy in your country and ask them to stop harassing Batikent Protestant Church in Ankara. Turkish Embassies:
(202) 612-6700
(202) 612-6744
(613) 789-4044
(613) 789-3442
020 7393 0202
020 7393 0066
(02) 6234 0000
(02) 6273 4402
As in the days of Noah....

'Religion in private' OK, declares ACLU:New limits on Christians leave family groups reeling

Colorado's new state law that critics say criminalizes expressing biblical beliefs regarding homosexuality is scaring residents who fear their overheard statements could be used to put them in jail.WND reported the law, SB200, which was promoted as an "anti-discrimination" plan favoring alternative sexual lifestyles and gender perceptions, has made it a criminal offense to discriminate against someone based on those lifestyles or perceptions.The Christian publishing house Focus on the Family has called it a payback by the Democrat-controlled legislature and Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter((picture left)) to homosexual activists such as millionaire Tim Gill, who has donated widely to pro-homosexual political candidates.The Focus analysis of the plan, according to spokesman Bruce Hausknecht, shows that besides the obvious impacts of opening restrooms and locker rooms statewide to members of either sex, depending on a perception of their gender, "the biggest danger this law poses is to the religious or moral consciences of small business owners who may object to doing business with people whose lifestyle they do not want to promote.""Who would have believed that the Colorado state legislature and its governor would have made it fully legal for men to enter and use women's restrooms and locker-room facilities without notice or explanation?" Focus founder James Dobson said. "Henceforth, every woman and little girl will have to fear that a predator, bisexual, cross-dresser or even a homosexual or heterosexual male might walk in and relieve himself in their presence."Other groups also have issued warnings. Colorado Family Action wrote of the plan: "This bill lays groundwork for state-sanctioned abuse of individuals and organizations who have faithfully held religious convictions and refuse to offer or sell goods or services to homosexuals, bisexuals, transgendered, or transsexual individuals because of such beliefs."This desire to limit the constitutionally guaranteed right to the 'free exercise of religion' can be seen in Cathryn Hazouri's, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, testimony given before the Colorado House Judiciary Committee," the group said."One may practice one's religion in private; however, once a religious person comes into the public arena, there are limitations in how the expression of their religion impacts others," she had said.Individual residents also now are beginning to realize the potential of the new law, which was approved by the legislature with a declaration that it is needed for "public safety," so it is not subject to any vote of the people."Now, as I stand outside of a movie theater bathroom or a swimming pool shower room door and guard the most precious thing in my life: my wife and daughter's safety, modesty and privacy, I can no longer stop a man from entering a woman's domain," wrote a concern resident whose name was withheld. "(I will anyway, that's why I'm a criminal!)""An act that once was criminal is now legitimate, and what was taught to me as a virtue is now a vice. Not only am I liable for civil penalties but criminal, as I can be sentenced for up to a year in jail," he wrote."I immediately contacted my state representative, Wes McKinley, to ask him what his stand was on this bill. He proudly told me he supported it. I brought to his attention the recent case in New Mexico that was in national news. A photographer refused to photograph a lesbian ceremony. The lesbian couple found another photographer who would and then turned around and sued the Christian photographer for refusing. They won the suit and the photographer was fined over $6,000.00. I asked Rep. McKinley if he thought this was right. He told me no and assured me that wouldn't happen with this bill," the resident wrote."I then contacted my attorney who told me that SB200 does, indeed, open the door to this kind of litigation, and that I would have to be careful to not express my convictions in public in this kind of situation," he wrote.He also reacted to Hazouri's comments, which were unchallenged by the state legislature.She said, "You give up some of your rights when you go into the public square," the resident said. "Wow, I didn't know that. I was taught in school that these rights of free speech were 'unalienable.' Apparently, gay rights trump heterosexual rights, as well as the First Amendment.""So, as long as I keep my convictions to myself and only express them in my home or church, I'm legal. Somehow, I don't think this is what the Bill of Rights meant," he said."Will SB200 be the end of it? No. Next, hate crime legislation must be passed so that it is illegal for me to write this letter (as it is now illegal in Canada); then enforced homosexual/transsexual indoctrination of our children in the public educational system; finally, all other alternative forms of education must be outlawed. Impossible, you say? It's already happened in California," he said. "As I'm being forced into this 'shotgun wedding' with the radical homosexual agenda, I hope it's not too late to 'speak now, or forever hold my peace.' What is it called when you are forced, against your will, to participate in a sexual lifestyle that you find objectionable? I believe that is called 'rape.' My state legislature has 'violated' me and charged me with the crime."Tom Minnery, the senior vice president of government and public policy for Focus, told the Denver Post there are "multiple problems" with the plan, "but the problem of restrooms is the most breathtaking one...With SB200, however, we no longer have two 'sexes,' we enter a brave new world with a myriad of 'sexual orientations' that must not be discriminated against, upon pain of the substantial civil and criminal penalties contained in the bill."Woe to the first women's fitness facility or mall owner who objects to a man dressed as a woman who wants to enter previously forbidden territory. And what an opportunity for sexual predators," he wrote.He said every Christian, Jewish or Muslim business owner now is under a threat."We've seen … charges brought by homosexuals against a video reproduction business in Virginia, a medical clinic in California, an adoption service in Arizona and a church in New Jersey," he continued. "Colorado tops them all on the potential outrage meter, however, because in addition to civil fines and penalties, small-business owners can be prosecuted under the criminal laws of Colorado and spend up to one year in jail for trying to live according to their faith."There are other groups preparing for full-scale war in Colorado."American RTL [Right to Life] Action is a political 527 group headquartered a half-block from the Colorado capitol, and we're not going to hire someone cohabitating outside of marriage, let alone a homosexual," said Steve Curtis, the group's president and former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party. "SB200 also makes it a crime for us to publish biblical teaching on immorality, so we are prepared to violate this anti-Christian government censorship. The liberals always said what homosexuals do in private could never affect anyone else; of course that was always a lie; they're trying to criminalize traditional Christianity. The fight is on."
As in the days of Noah...

ZIM WATCH:Violence,Intimidation Marks Zimbabwe's Presidential Election Run-Off(((WARNING:GRAPHIC CONTENT)))

Gaza Christians warned to submit to Islam

Gaza-based Muslim groups affiliated with Hamas and possibly Al Qaeda have warned local Christians that Hamas' military conquest of the volatile coastal strip means they must now fully submit to Islamic ritual law.In an interview with WorldNetDaily, Sheikh Abu Saqer, leader of the group Jihadia Salafiya, said that Gaza's Muslims “expect our Christian neighbors to understand the new Hamas rule means real changes. They must be ready for Islamic rule if they want to live in peace in Gaza.” “Missionary activity” will no longer be tolerated, and those suspected of trying to covert local Muslims to Christianity will be “harshly punished,” said Abu Saqer. Additionally, the consumption of alcohol is now prohibited in Gaza, and all women must fully cover themselves in public.In order to ensure compliance with these regulations, Abu Saqer announced the formation of a new “military wing” that will a close eye on the subjects of “Hamastan.”Following last week's unprovoked assault on a Catholic church and school in Gaza City, most are unconvinced that even full submission to Gaza's new conservative Muslim overlords will afford any degree of peace and security to the area's tiny Christian population.
As in the days of Noah...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Algerians on trial for spreading Christianity

ALGIERS, Algeria - The trial of two religious converts accused of illegally promoting the Christian faith opened Wednesday in Muslim Algeria.The defendants had been convicted in absentia for illegal practice of a non-Muslim religion in 2007 but asked for a new trial, as Algerian law allows, their lawyer said.Rachid Mohammed Seghir, 40, and Jammal Dahmani, 36, both converted from Islam to Christianity and are charged with praying in a building that had not been granted a religious permit by authorities, the court said. They are also accused of proselytizing, or trying to spread the Christian faith among Muslims.The trial, which was already postponed twice, opened early Wednesday in Tissemsilt, 155 miles southwest of Algiers, the capital.
Lawyer confident
The lawyer defending the two said she felt confident her clients would not be jailed."Things have taken a good turn, and it's good sign this affair will be solved," defense lawyer Khelloudja Khalfoun told The Associated Press on the phone from Tissemsilt.The trial was adjourned until July 2, when the verdict was expected.Only a tiny fraction of Algeria's 34 million people are not Muslim, with Christians and Jews making up 1 percent of the population, according to a U.S. government estimate.Algeria's constitution allows freedom of worship. But a law passed in 2006 strictly regulates how religions other than Islam can be practiced.
Faiths targeted
The law is viewed as primarily targeted at Protestant faiths, which have become increasingly active in Algeria. It provides for jail sentences of up to five years and a $15,570 fine for anybody trying to incite a Muslim to convert to another faith.The Open Doors Christian activist group said the two defendants are evangelical Christians who were first prosecuted when Bibles were found in one of their cars in 2007 during a routine check. It says Protestant missions have faced growing obstruction in Algeria.Habiba Kouider, a 37-year-old kindergarten teacher who converted to a Protestant denomination, is also on trial in the central Algerian town of Tiaret, and several other converts are being prosecuted in separate trials.Algeria has a tradition of tolerance of other religions but went through a decade of near-civil war between the secular army and radical Islamist groups in the 1990s. Religion is a sensitive political issue in the country.
As in the days of Noah....

Baptist Pastor Arrested in Aliabad

Azerbaijan-Police arrested Hamid Shabanov, a Baptist pastor from the village of Aliabad in northwestern Azerbaijan, on June 20. He is now in detention at the Zakatala Region police station.Slavic Gospel Association reports that the police claim to have found an illegal pistol in Shabanov's home, but his family adamantly deny this claim, saying the police planted the weapon. His brother Badri insists that the arrest is an attack on the Baptist community in Aliabad."Their aim is also to bring this as a criminal case and put him in prison. Their target is the church," he said."We're in shock. This was a provocation by the police, a deliberately-targeted action," said Pastor Ilya Zenchenko, president of the Azeri Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists.Baptist pastor Zaur Balaev(picture left) lives in the same village as Shabanov. After several months in prison, Balaev was finally released three months ago.Police have inflicted repeated raids, threats and confiscation of Christian literature on the Baptist churches in Aliabad, of which there are several. Officials have denied birth certificates to children given Christian first names."Fellow believers have found a wide door for effective service in Azerbaijan, but the adversaries have arisen to hinder the work of the Gospel. Our brothers and sisters in this largely Muslim country urgently need our prayers," said Bob Provost, President of SGA.Police took only twenty minutes to search Shabanov's home and arrest him, his family told Forum 18.They are convinced that he was only arrested because of his religious activities. "They threatened him because we meet for worship and pray together. They said we shouldn't do it. They came in claiming to be looking for drugs and guns. They searched the house and claim to have found a gun, but they planted it themselves. He has got no weapons." "He's a criminal," police chief Faik Shabanov (no relation) insisted. When Forum 18 asked Shabanov by phone why police had threatened the pastor about holding church services at his home before charging him with having an illegal weapon, Shabanov said, "Who are you to talk to the chief of police like that?" and hung up.
Pray for the Balaev and Shabanov families.
Pray for the churches of Aliabad.
Pray that God will change the hearts of the many officials responsible for this troubling persecution.
As in the days of Noah...

Taliban Kidnaps 16 Christians:Christians Kidnapped for Renting Homes that were Formerly a Muslim School

(June 23, 2008)-The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) has just learned that 16 Christians were kidnapped at gunpoint in Peshawar, Pakistan on June 21, 2008, and have since been released. Muhammad Siraj, a Muslim from Academy Town in Banarasabad, near Peshawar, has been renting out a compound to eight Christian families for the past year.The compound had previously been used as an Islamic Seminary (madrassa). However, Siraj was unsatisfied with the Muslims’ maintenance of the buildings and tardiness in paying their bills. Finally, Siraj evicted the Muslims and decided to rent his buildings to several Christian families.Several times this past year, the Taliban had ordered the Christian families to vacate their homes because they had been part of an Islamic Seminary, but they refused to leave. At approximately 8pm on Saturday, June 21, the militants stormed the home of Salamat Masih where over 50 Christians had gathered for a prayer service before a child’s birthday party. The attendees included two neighboring pastors, Reverend Bashir and Reverend Karamat of the Apostolic Church, and the Muslim landlord, Muhammad Siraj.The militants arrived heavily armed at Salamat Masih’s home and kidnapped 16 Christians and the Muslim landlord at gunpoint, transporting them to the Khyber area near the border with Afghanistan. The group was thrown into five different vehicles and stripped of their cell phones, money, and other valuables. ICC was able to talk to one of the kidnapped Christians by phone, Saleem Masih, who reported that the Christians were not severely tortured, but that the kidnappers did hit a few individuals. Saleem Masih said, “We were not allowed to talk to each other or our families on our cell phones during the period of our abduction. Our assailants blindfolded us and transported us to three unknown places before finally holding us captive in a cave.”Miraculously, all of the kidnapped Christians were recovered and reported to be ‘safe and sound’ within twelve hours of their abduction, after the speedy intervention of local police officials and politicians. The Taliban has not, however, released the Muslim landlord, Muhammad Siraj.Reflecting on the incident, Saleem said, “I will never leave my faith and stop going to the Church even if I am persecuted more than this." Mano Romalshah, the Church of Pakistan Bishop of the Peshawar Diocese, told ICC, “It was a blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ that our brothers were able to come back to their families within such a short period of time.”The Bishop also said, “We, the Christians of this country, do not demand protection but equal citizenship, religious freedom, and the right to live.”Bishop Mano Romalshah has urged the authorities to take action against the elements that divide Pakistani society on the basis of religion. He believes that discriminatory laws have brought disharmony among religious communities and hardship to many innocent people, and has demanded that the discriminatory laws be repealed and that action be taken against the perpetrators.Christians in this location are an extreme minority and are constantly under the threat of groups affiliated with the Taliban, especially now that the Taliban is gaining more power and challenging the state. In May 2007, two incidents were reported of Christians receiving letters from militant groups telling them to convert to Islam or face death.It is important for the Body of Christ to continue to pray for our brothers and sisters to remain strong in their faith in the midst of persecution.
As in the days of Noah...

Messianic Jews to protest 'discrimination'

A contingent of about 300 Messianic Jews from the US will protest this weekend against what they call Israel's discriminatory immigration policy against Jews who believe that Jesus is the messiah.The Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, an umbrella body for about 80 US congregations, is holding a three-day conference in Jerusalem that starts Thursday.During the conference a number of issues will be discussed - including the recent public burning by haredim of New Testaments distributed by missionaries in Or Akiva, a bomb attack that seriously wounded the son of well-known Messianic Jew in Ariel and the attempt to disqualify a Messianic Jewish high school girl from this year's International Bible Quiz for Jewish youth."We are planning to call on the Israeli government to address the problem of discrimination against Messianic Jews who wish to make aliya," said Rabbi Russ Resnik, executive director of the US-based Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations. "Messianic Jews see Israel as the place of our past, from the earliest visit by Abraham to the modern rebirth of the Jewish state. And it is the place of our future, which will culminate in the messiah's return," Resnik said."We are avid supporters of Israel in the present, and that's why we brought our conference here. But we are also concerned about recent expressions of violence against Messianic Jews."Messianic Jews include all people with Jewish ancestry who identify as Jewish but who believe that Jesus is the messiah, Resnik said.Like Reform Judaism, Messianic Jews recognize both matrilineal and patrilineal descent. Orthodox Judaism recognizes only matrilineal descent.There are an estimated 12,000 Messianic Jews living in Israel, most of whom made aliya under the Law of Return. There are about a quarter of a million Messianic Jews living in the US.According to the Law of Return, anyone with a Jewish parent or grandparent is eligible for automatic Israeli citizenship.The law was designed to turn Israel into a safe haven for any Jew in the world who would have suffered persecution under the Nazi regime's Nuremberg racial laws.In principle, the Law of Return grants automatic citizenship to all descendants of Jews, regardless of religion.Nevertheless, in 1962 the Supreme Court ruled that Daniel Rufeisen, a Polish Jew who converted to Catholicism and became a Carmelite monk, could not be granted citizenship under the Law of Return. The court based itself on "common sense" criteria, assuming that the average person would agree that Rufeisen was not Jewish.
The Chief Rabbinate argued at the time that Rufeisen should be considered a Jew since according to Halacha a Jew can never repudiate his or her Jewishness.Since then the Supreme Court has ruled that Messianic Jews whose mothers are Jewish can be denied Israeli citizenship. In contrast, those who are Jewish solely through their fathers cannot be denied citizenship. This is based on an interpretation of a 1970 amendment to the Law of Return."An absurd situation is created in which Messianic Jews have to prove they are not Jewish in order to make aliya," said Calev Myers, a Messianic Jewish attorney who specializes in immigration cases. "The Law of Return as envisioned by David Ben-Gurion was originally created to ensure that if you are Jewish enough to die in Auschwitz you are Jewish enough to be granted automatic Israeli citizenship. But that is no longer true."Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of the Ataret Yerushalayim Yeshiva and a leading religious Zionist leader, said Messianic Jews should not be considered Jews."It is true that a lot of righteous people were persecuted and murdered by the Nazis," Aviner said. "But that does not make them Jewish."He said that Messianic Jews living in Israel should be marginalized and distanced from Jewish communities."Those people are proselytizers. They should not be allowed to have an influence on Jews who might be too weak to resist," Aviner said.Resnik admitted that he wanted to spread the word about the "good news of the messiah" among the Jews."People need to hear that message. But just because it is such a vital message does not mean that everything goes. Our way is by showing solidarity with the Jewish people, by being part of the people," he said.
As in the days of Noah....

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

School Repents for Stopping Student’s Bible Distribution Plan at Graduation

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bible citation costs couple jobs, home:Apartment managers evicted, fired for being 'too religious'

For eight years Daniel and Sharon Dixon, apartment managers in Lake City, Fla., displayed in the apartment complex's management office a stained glass depiction of flowers with the words "Consider the lilies … Matthew 6:28" written in the lower left corner(picture left)an act for which they were suddenly fired from their management jobs and evicted from their apartment.Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom that is representing the Dixons, told WND that neither before nor after the incident were the Dixons charged with any wrongdoing other than protesting the removal of the artwork and loss of their jobs."They were suddenly terminated as a result of the religious bigotry of one supervisor," Staver said in a press release."The Dixons lost their jobs and were booted out on the street, solely because artwork in their office made reference to the Bible."The Dixons managed and provided maintenance for the Thornwood Terrace Apartments, a government-subsidized complex owned and operated by the Hallmark Companies and Hallmark Management. The couple was permitted to live in the complex as part of their compensation.Last September a regional manager for Hallmark, Christina Saunders, visited the complex in anticipation of a government inspection and saw the glass artwork. According to a Liberty Counsel release, Saunders asked Sharon if the words on the artwork referenced the Bible. After Sharon confirmed they did, Saunders instructed her to take it down.Sharon replied that she needed to consult her husband and co-manager, Daniel, and left the office to find him.When the couple returned, Saunders had already removed the artwork, entered the Dixons' apartment without their permission and deposited the artwork there. According to the press release, she then said Sharon and Daniel were "too religious," fired them and demanded they vacate their apartment within 72 hours."Hallmark could have separated the Dixons' residence from their job, even with the termination," Staver told WND. "They could have stayed in their apartment, but (Hallmark) both fired and evicted them."WND attempted to reach Hallmark Management for comment, but phone calls were not returned.The Dixon's story moved to court today, as Liberty Counsel filed a suit in the Jacksonville federal court on the couple's behalf, claiming the Dixons were discriminated against on the basis of their religious beliefs.According to the lawsuit, the only reasons given for the Dixons' termination were that the couple was "too religious" and that Sharon was insubordinate for not immediately removing the artwork before consulting with her husband.The Agency for Workforce Innovation, however, which ruled in the Dixons' favor in their request for unemployment compensation, agreed that the termination was not based on job performance, finding that though the Dixons were charged with insubordination, "no information has been submitted which substantiates misconduct" and "the discharge was for reasons other than misconduct connected with the work."The Dixons originally left their apartment in compliance with the eviction and currently reside in Jacksonville, Fla.
As in the days of Noah....

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Messianic Jews say they are persecuted in Israel

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) - Safety pins and screws are still lodged in 15-year-old Ami Ortiz's body three months after he opened a booby-trapped gift basket sent to his family.The explosion severed two toes, damaged his hearing and harmed a promising basketball career. Police say they are still searching for the assailants. But to the Ortiz family the motive of the attackers is clear: The Ortizes are Jews who believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Israel's tiny community of Messianic Jews, a mixed group of 10,000 people who include the California-based Jews for Jesus, complains of threats, harassment and police indifference.The March 20 bombing was the worst incident so far. In October, a mysterious fire damaged a Jerusalem church used by Messianic Jews, and last month ultra-Orthodox Jews torched a stack of Christian holy books distributed by missionaries.I srael's Foreign Ministry and two chief rabbis were quick to condemn the burning, but the Ortiz family says vigorous police action is needed."I believe that it will happen again, if not to us, then to other Messianic believers," said Ami's mother, Leah Ortiz, a 54-year-old native of South Orange, N.J.Proselytizing is strongly discouraged in Israel, a state that was established for a people that suffered centuries of persecution for not accepting Jesus and has little tolerance for missionary work.At the same time, Israel has warm relations with U.S. evangelical groups, which strongly support its cause, but these generally refrain from proselytizing inside Israel. Even the Mormon church, which has mission work at its core worldwide, agreed when it opened a campus in Jerusalem to refrain from missionary activity.
[[[["Historically the core of Christianity ... was 'convert or die,' so it was seen and is still seen as an assault on Jewish existence itself," said Rabbi David Rosen, who oversees interfaith affairs for the American Jewish Committee. "When you are called to join another religion, you are being called on to betray your people."]]]](1)Messianic Jews consider themselves Jewish, observing the holy days and reciting many of the same prayers. The Ortiz family lights candles on the Jewish Sabbath, shuns pork and eats matzoth on Passover.Ami Ortiz, interviewed at the Tel Aviv hospital where he is being treated, comes across as no different from any Jewish Israeli his age. He's a sabra, or native-born Israeli, who speaks English with a Hebrew accent, has an older brother in an elite Israeli army unit and was hoping to join the youth squad of Maccabi Tel Aviv, a league-topping basketball team.But his religion also holds that one can embrace Jesus—Ami calls him by his Hebrew name, Yeshua—as the Messiah and remain Jewish. Orthodox Jews, on the other hand, believe that the Messiah has yet to come, that he will do so only when he chooses, and that any attempt to pre-empt his coming is a grievous sin.Rabbi Sholom Dov Lifschitz, head of the ultra-Orthodox Yad Leahim organization that campaigns against missionary activity in Israel, says Messianic Jews give him "great pain.""They are provoking ... it's a miracle that worse things don't happen," he said.Messianic activists appear to have had some success among couples with one non-Jewish spouse, as well as immigrants from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union who have loose ties to Judaism.Or Yehuda, a town in central Israel with many immigrants as well as ultra-Orthodox Jews including a deputy mayor, Uri Aharon, was the scene of the May 15 book-burning.Ami Dahan, a local police official, says hundreds of Christian religious books were burned on May 15 in an empty lot in town. He said Deputy Mayor Uzi Aharon, has been questioned on suspicion that he instructed youths to collect the books from homes where they had been distributed and told them to burn them.
Aharon denies ordering the burning. He says the books were collected from a neighborhood of mostly Ethiopian immigrants who are easily persuaded by missionaries."There are three missionaries who live and work in the town, and every Saturday they take people to worship and try to brainwash them," Aharon said.Many Messianic Jews say they recognize the sensitivities involved and do not distribute religious material or conduct high-profile campaigns. But Aharon noted a recent "Jews for Jesus" campaign with signs on buses that equated two similar Hebrew words—"Jesus" and "salvation." Public outrage quickly forced the bus company to remove the signs.Lawyer Dan Yakir of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel says the law allows missionaries to preach provided they don't offer gifts or money or go after minors."It is their right according to freedom of religion to maintain their religious lifestyle and disseminate their beliefs, including through literature," he said.But the obstacles are evident, raised not just from religious activists but by the state.Calev Myers, a lawyer who represents Messianic Jews, said he has fought 200 legal cases in the past two years. Most involve authorities' attempts to close down houses of worship, revoke the citizenship of believers or refuse to register their children as Israelis. In one case, Israel has accused a German religion student of missionary activity and has tried—so far unsuccessfully—to deport her.In incidents of violence, police are reluctant to press charges, Myers said.The book-burning caused shock among U.S. evangelicals.Dave Parsons, spokesman of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, which represents evangelical Christian communities, said the test would be how vigorously authorities pursued the case."We believe there is a link to a series of incidents here in the land that involve harassment, intimidation and physical violence," he said.The Ortiz family moved from the United States to Israel in 1985, qualifying as immigrants under Israel's Law of Return because Leah, the mother, is Jewish. In 1989 they moved into Ariel, a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, and established a small Messianic group which now numbers 60, most of them immigrants from the former Soviet Union, according to David Ortiz, the pastor and Ami's father.He said that he built the community through conversations with friends and neighbors, but did not actually go door-to-door distributing religious material to strangers in the traditional sense of missionary work. David Ortiz says he has also proselytized in the Palestinian areas—prompting Islamic leaders there to warn against contact with him. Ortiz said he had "no problem" if Messianic Jews discuss their religious views with others and persuade them to believe in Jesus. When the family began holding study sessions, a rabbi warned Ortiz not to speak about Jesus outside the home.In 2005, fliers were distributed in Ariel warning that there were believers of Jesus in the community. One day, two men wearing the black skullcaps of Orthodox Jews knocked on the door and photographed Ortiz when he answered. Recently the photo turned up on a flier with the family's address.When the basket was left at the door Ami wasn't surprised, since it was Purim, a holiday when Jews exchange gifts."I opened it up and I heard it and then I was on the floor and I didn't hear anything, I didn't see anything," the lanky boy recalls.Ami was in critical condition, with severe gashes in his legs and feet and one that just missed his jugular vein. His tryout for the Maccabi team was canceled.His family initially suspected Palestinians; Ariel is in the heart of the West Bank and surrounded by Palestinian towns and villages and, like most Jewish settlements, has been the target of Palestinian attacks.But police immediately told him the bomb was more sophisticated than those made by Palestinians since it contained plastic explosives."Nobody ever suspected that a Jewish group would do such a thing, that they would put a bomb in somebody else's house," David Ortiz said.
Police have since told the family that Palestinians were not behind the bombing. The family has footage from a security camera of a man delivering the package, according to a person close to the family who spoke on condition of anonymity because police say disclosing details could harm the investigation.Police spokesman Danny Poleg would not discuss the case, saying only that no arrests have been made.Meanwhile, the Messianic Jewish believers are taking no chances.These days they worship under the protection of an armed guard.
PS:When I first got saved the worst attacks came from Roman catholics in my family and outside the family and amazingly from jews that knew me from before...Actually the only threats and bullying Ive got thru emails regarding this blog were--amazingly--from"religioius jews"Ain't that something...???Religion can KILL us spiritually....that's why Jesus-Yeshua-the messiah came for us to have LIFE and it MORE ABUNDANTLY....
He also told us that if we didnt FORGIVE OTHERS we wouldn't be FORGIVEN OURSELVES....
The Gospel of Jesus--the Messiah--is one of LOVE and FORGIVENESS and REDEMPTION and PEACE and NEW LIFE and ETERNAL LIFE...
It's amazing that supposedly"religious rabbis"even though they have all the knowledge in word in their heads the truth is far from their hearts...Too much greed...???I think rabbis like anybody else that hasn't yet repented of their sins is still lost--no matter how much scripture they can quote by heart.
I respectfully disagree with the words of rabbi David Rosen that the core of christianity was "convert or die"May be that was--and I think that was indeed the core of Roman Catholicism,which has caused so much damage to TRUE BIBLICAL CHRISTIANISM along the ages--even to teh point of persecuting TRUE CHRISTIANS and burning them at the stake....Well that is another issue that I wont get in now,but it's a true historical fact.
A true christian will share the good news of the gospel and pray for the person with which he/she shared the Word of God and leave it all to the Lord.
According to the Bible that is the job og the Holy Ghost of convincing of sin...he is the one that speaks to the hearts of people and bring them to the point of REPENTANCE not us.
How sad that a rabbi Sholom Dov Lifschitz says that messianic jews cause him a great pain and that it is a miracle that worse things dont happen....
As christians we may disagree with other people in matters of faith,but we PRAY for them and live the burden at the feet of the cross.We dont LURK EVIL and how to do HARM to them.We just pray for them.....
JESUS IS THE LIGHT--that's a biblical truth and WITHOUT HIM,people stumble in DARKNESS no matter how many "religious diplomas" they may have.....
May the Lord help this rabbis and this orthodox community to someday see the TRUTH and believe it.
May the Lord grant Peace over Jerusalem.....!!!!!
Let's pray,cause the fervent efectual prayer of a righteous person availeth much!!!!!
As in the days of Noah....

Friday, June 20, 2008

Group Asks Wisconsin Assembly to Stop Prayers

MADISON, Wis. - The Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking Wisconsin's state Assembly to stop opening its sessions with prayer.The foundation says its review of 16 prayers led by legislators in the past year found all but one of them were explicitly Christian. The group says some of the prayers appeared to denigrate other faiths while promoting Christianity, which it says violates separation of church and state.In one case last July, state Representative Terry Moulton prayed to Jesus, "In your name, and by the power of your spirit, I come against the Evil One. And I ask that he be cast from this place."In an interview, Moulton stood by his prayer and called the Freedom From Religion Foundation "a very wacko group that is completely out of tune with mainstream America."
As in the days of Noah...

Myanmar's Christians Tell Stories of Hope, Burma - In the midst of tragedy and what seems like countless deaths, there are many stories of survival and hope here in Myanmar.Orphans here are cramped into a house church on their knees praying that God will provide them with the means to rebuld their house. They are thankful they escaped the bamboo shack just moments before it was blown to pieces by Cyclone Nargis.Cin Khan Lun shares how the big church next to her house swayed back and forth in the wind when the cyclone struck at midnight.She believes God miraculously saved her and her family."I prayed to God to send His angels to protect us," she said. "He gave me the verse in Nahum 1:7. 'The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble for those who trust in Him.' I believe the angels stretched their big wings to keep the big church from falling in the direction of our house."Pastor Steven Len Piang is deeply saddened by the death of one of his church workers and family who were serving in the Irrawaddy Delta area.Zaw Moe Aung, 29, along with his wife and 10-year-old daughter were swept away into the sea at the height of the cyclone. But in the midst of this tragedy, Pastor Steven believes in God's divine purpose."Nargis is a Hindu term for snake. In the bible snake symbolizes Satan but Satan can't work without God's permission. I believe this is a wake up call to all Christians especially to the Karen tribe who is the biggest Christian tribe in Myanmar and the first recipients of the gospel," he said."Most of the people living in the Irrawaddy delta are Karen. Imagine 100,000 Karen die and their churches have spiritual revival. Because of their size it will be revival for the whole country," he said.David Vunga, director of the Myanmar Center for Church Planting, says the desperate situation is not only stirring revival among Christian churches but also causing Buddhists to open their hearts to the gospel."We went to this village with 500 families all Buddhists," he began. "My dad had the privilege to preach about the living God and that He is sovereign. It was the first time that a Christian preach in their village. They begin to see a different light and they see that Christians are a loving people and care for their well-being."With the Burmese government's recent decision to open its doors to foreign aid workers, Christians in Myanmar and worldwide believe the door is likely to be opened to them only a short while, not only to save lives, but souls as well.
By Lucille Miranda
As in the days of Noah....

Coach fired for assistant's evangelism

A Michigan wrestling coach has lost his job because a former assistant coach tried to convert Muslim students to Christianity.According to the Detroit News, Jerry Marszalek had served as the wrestling coach at Fordson High School in Dearborn for 35 years. But recently the school's principal, Imad Fadlallah, decided not to renew the coach's contract because parents in the heavily Islamic community complained that Trey Hancock, Marszalek's former assistant and an Assemblies of God pastor, tried to convert Islamic students to Christianity. Hancock admits he has attempted conversions, but never while coaching at the school. Marszalek says Fadlallah had never attended practices or a wrestling event, but based his judgment on the complaints of an Arabic student's parent. Jan Markell, founder of Minnesota-based Olive Tree Ministries, says this termination is outrageous."The teacher...had a 35-year track record there in Dearborn, Michigan, and it was not the teacher who was doing any kind of...evangelism; it was his assistant," she argues. Markell says she knows what would happen if this had been a Christian principal who tried to fire a Muslim coach under similar circumstances. "They could never get away with doing something to a teacher who had been there for 35 years but who hadn't committed any kind of an offense whatsoever," she points out. She argues that in a scenario such as that, the American Civil Liberties Union would have intervened immediately-but says they are nowhere to be found in this case.
As in the days of Noah....

Betrayed pastor forgives his enemies

Kenya-This month, about 100,000 Kenyans displaced by post-election violence have returned home, the AP reports. Africa Inland Mission has established a Kenya Crisis Fund to help rebuild churches and pastors’ homes and provide for other material needs, in partnership with the Africa Inland Church.Pastor Steve Munyambu, youth minister at the Africa Inland Church, has moved back to the Kibera slums of Nairobi. There, people he knew torched his previous home just minutes after the announcement of the disputed election results on December 27.“We knew each other by name. These were young people I had worked with in rehab programs. These were young people I had worked with in tutorial classes. These were young people I had mentored for a long time,” he said. “I didn’t see it coming, so I was hurt.”The neighbors helped him put out the fire resulting from the first petrol bomb, but three more petrol bombs followed, Munyambu said. “After the fourth one, we had to say, ‘Lord, You’ve seen our struggle. There is nothing more we can do.’”Although he has struggled with emotions of bitterness and revenge, Munyambu is committed to forgiving the arsonists. He has seen them and talked to them many times since he volunteered for the Red Cross and they came to his food distribution line.“God has His own way of programming,” he says. “Instead of them going to the different line, God brought them to my line. Again and again, we saw each other—face to face.”Pastor Munyambu is not running away from the people who hurt him. He is deliberately moving back to the same neighborhood.“How can we forgive these people if we don’t see them face to face?” he asks. “For me, it’s easy to say I’ve forgiven you, because I don’t see you. But immediately, when I see you, something grips within my spirit—bitterness, rage and revenge come back.”Three weeks after his house was burned, Pastor Munyambu preached at a service attended by people from different tribes. At the end of the service, he offered to wash their feet - no matter what tribe they were from.
Pray for peace, repentance, and reconciliation in Kenya.
Pray that the Holy Spirit will enable victims of violence to forgive the perpetrators.
Pray that those who are Christians in name only would be convicted by the Holy Spirit.
As in the days of Noah....

Christians Caught Up in Crackdown on Hindu Faith Healers

Several Christian pastors in the state of Kerala in India have been targets of police raids."We are not against any religion or spiritual leader. But we have received several complaints against many faith healers, who have mushroomed in the state,"Kerala Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan told India's UCA News.The minister further added that the Indian government wants to keep an eye on spiritual leaders who become "rich within a short period."Last week, police raided the office and residence of Abraham Kuruvilla, a famous Christian who started Heavenly Feast Ministries in 1998.The ministry’s weekly Sunday prayer meetings in Kottayam claims to gather more than 20,000 people and boasts of 100,000 members from various religions.A representative of the Heavenly Feast Ministries said the police raid does not bother them and that "it is all a media creation.""If we have done anything wrong, let the law punish us. But the media is trying to tarnish our image among the public," said the representative.Also being investigated is Bishop K.P. Yohannan, who heads the Believers Church and Gospel for Asia. The church owns vast properties, including schools, theological colleges and even rubber plantations. Bishop Samuel Mathew, the group's second-highest official, said the Believer's Church has 1.5 million followers in Bangladesh, India, Burma, Nepal and Sri Lanka. In India alone, it also has more than 200 staff, who manage a seminary, Bible colleges and daily programs for around 43,000 children in 400 locations.Mathew said his church has nothing to hide, and that it has cooperated with the police investigations and recorded all received donations.The crackdown on spiritual leaders and "faith healers" began last month after police arrested a Hindu godman, Amritha Chaithanya alias Santosh Madhavan, on fraud cases, and for allegedly amassing illegal wealth. Police also allegedly recovered pornographic CDs from lockers in his home showing sexually indecent acts with minor girls.The incident has led to a crackdown on several Hindu godmen, including Himaval Maheswarananda Bhadrananda, who tried to shoot at the media during a police raid.“The police are involving and investigating Christians due to the framed allegations of Hindu fundamentalists who are irked by the crackdown against many Hindi godmen,” Pastor Abraham Kotaikal from the Revival Ministries in Kerala told Christian Today.“It is a testing time, and the ministries in the state require prayers from all believers,” he added.
As in the days of Noah....

Church Fights to Stay Open in Turkey

A legally recognized church in Turkey is fighting to stay open after police last week delivered a letter from the government stating that it will be closed within days.The letter said Batikent Protestant Church in the capital city Ankara would be closed because it is meeting in a building that is not approved as a place of worship, according to International Christian Concern on Tuesday.But the church argues that it had won a court case last year against the local government over zoning code violations, and was essentially fighting a legal battle over a case it had already won.“It is very obvious that what is happening to our church is a pre-meditated, continuous and jointly orchestrated direct attack against the Church as a whole in Turkey by the right-wing Islamic government (AK Party) that is currently in control in Turkey,” said the church’s founding pastor Daniel Wickwire, according to ICC.Wickwire, who has been a missionary pastor in Ankara for the past 23 years, and his lawyers opened a court case to challenge the police notice on June 4. He accused the Yenimahalle Municipal Government and the national Ministry of the Interior of trying to shut down the church.The government has also been the source of the pastor’s personal legal difficulties. Turkey refuses to give Wickwire a residence permit or a work permit as a missionary, so he has been forced to stay in Turkey as a tourist for the past 19 years, having to leave the country every 90 days.Also, his applications for a work permit at the Turkish Consulate in Chicago were mysteriously “lost,” Wickwire claims.“The consulate officials became very nervous and said that they would lose their jobs if they were to give out this information,” said the pastor, recalling when his wife had returned to the consulate to ask for updates on his application process. “They said that if we were Muslims we would not be having this kind of trouble.”Turkey’s population is nearly all Muslim, with 99.8 percent of its people reportedly followers of Islam, according to the CIA World Factbook.The country has a history of Christian persecution, including the gruesome murder of three Christian workers last April. Muslim extremists had slit their throats in the Bible publishing house where they worked.The murders had raised serious concerns within the European Union as to whether Turkey, which is applying for entry into the 27-member bloc, can protect the religious freedoms of its Christian population, which numbers only about 100,000. The issue of religious freedom in Turkey has been an issue since talks on Turkey’s entry began in 2005.In ICC’s latest report, Pastor Wickwire said he has been involved in over 15 court cases in the last six years to keep his church open.“It is high time for the international community to speak out against such overt, blatant and continual harassment and persecution of the church,” Wickwire urged.
As in the days of Noah...

Indonesia Less Tolerant of Minorities, Say Faith Leaders

Indonesia is becoming more intolerant of religious minority, declared both a Catholic priest and a moderate Muslim leader on Wednesday.In general, the overwhelmingly Muslim country of Indonesia is considered as tolerant of Christians and other religious minorities. But reports show an increase in church closures throughout the archipelago. More than 100 churches have been closed in Indonesia by attacks from radical Muslim groups or by local governments, according to Compass Direct News.Also in recent months, there have been attacks on mosques and buildings belonging to the Muslim sect Ahmadiyya, which many Muslims deem “heretical,” as reported by Reuters."This (religious tolerance) is a situation you don't have in many other countries with Muslim majorities, but tolerance is now under attack," said Catholic priest Franz Magnis, a German-born Jesuit priest and long-term resident, according to Reuters."For Christians, attacks against churches, very often against churches which did not have the full set of permits, began to increase enormously since 1990," he noted.The priest complained that police often fail to protect religious minorities from the attacks of radial groups."In general, religious freedom is still a fact, but it is also a fact that our state is a weak state and doesn't dare to enforce the law if state people think that it is against religious feelings of the majority," he noted.Specifically, Magnis said the government failed to take strong action against militants accused for a series of bomb attacks, including blasts at churches in 2000 that killed 19 people. But officials were fast to act when the militant group Jemaah Islamiah attacked nightclubs in Bali in 2002."To my great astonishment within six weeks (of the Bali bomb) they caught the terrorists," Magnis said."But of the 30 bombs that exploded on Christmas night in the year 2000 they caught nobody except a few people when the bomb exploded before it was brought there," he added.Zuhairi Misrawi, executive director of the Moderate Muslim Society, said moderate Muslims are concerned about the increase of radical groups and need to respond to protect the rights of minorities.“We are afraid that in the future the radical groups will ban the activities of Christians,” he said.The country has experienced much sectarian violence over the years with at least 1,000 people dying due to Muslim-Christian violence from 1998 to 2001 in Central Sulawesi province, where there is roughly equal numbers of both communities.High profile cases of Christian persecution in Indonesia include the 2005 arrests of three Christian Sunday school teachers who were accused of attempting to convert Muslim children. The Muslim parents had reportedly given full consent for their children to join Christian students in singing Christian songs, playing games and hearing Bible stories, but the court nevertheless sentenced the women to three years in prison. The women served two years and were released early for good behavior last June.Also in 2005, Islamic militants on motorcycles beheaded three Christian schoolgirls who were on their way to school. The girls’ heads were dumped in villages nearby and a handwritten note by the bodies warned of more killings in revenge for sectarian violence on Sulawesi Island.Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country with about 85 percent of its 220 million people saying they are followers of Islam. Christians make up only about 8.7 percent of the population, according to the CIA World Factbook.

As in the days of Noah....

Judge: Homeschooling like driving drunk:Parents facing 3-month prison terms

An advocate for homeschooling in Germany, where the activity has been illegal since Hitler's golden days in 1938, says his nation has aligned itself with China and North Korea regarding human rights with the sentencing this week of two parents to three months in jail – for homeschooling.Joerg Grosseleumern works with an advocacy organization that is part of the Netzwork-Bildungsfreiheit, the German organization promoting in that nation the recognized European Union right of parents to determine their children's schooling."Homeschooling is a criminal offense, comparable to a trucker who repeatedly gets behind the wheel drunk," he told WND in an e-mail today. "At least this is the opinion of Chief Judge Becker, who has sentenced the Dudek family to three months imprisonment without parole."
WND had reported yesterday when word of the jail sentences, similar to those convicted of driving under the influence, came to the United States from the family.The sentences for Juergen and Rosemarie Dudek came in Germany's equivalent of a district court in the state of Hesse, according to a staff attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association. The group, the premier homeschooling advocacy organization in the world, has been monitoring and helping in the Dudeks' case since before a federal prosecutor announced his intention more than a year ago to see the parents behind bars."Words escape me, it's unconscionable, incredible, shocking," HSLDA staff attorney Mike Donnelly told WND after he got word of the sentence. "They'll appeal of course.""With this verdict the judge maintains the ignoble tradition begun on July 6, 1938, with the signing of the Reichsschulgesetz (Reich/Imperial School Legislation) by Adolf Hitler and Reichsminister Rust," Grosseleumern wrote. "This tradition reached its high point in 2007 with the deplorable decision of the German Federal Supreme Court to legitimize revocation of parental custody rights for homeschooling."These verdicts have their origins in a common spirit of political despotism, as has twice been gleefully celebrated during the infamous period of the German dictatorship. The justifications offered for such harsh measures against families providing education in the home always present the same old stereotypes, but cannot stand up under any serious legal examination from the bench," he said.Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, has commented on the issue on a blog, noting the government "has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion."Drautz said schools teach socialization, and as WND reported, that is important, as evident in the government's response when a German family in another case wrote objecting to police officers picking their child up at home and delivering him to a public school."The minister of education does not share your attitudes toward so-called homeschooling," said a government letter in response. "... You complain about the forced school escort of primary school children by the responsible local police officers. ... In order to avoid this in future, the education authority is in conversation with the affected family in order to look for possibilities to bring the religious convictions of the family into line with the unalterable school attendance requirement."WND has reported several times on custody battles, children being taken into custody and families even fleeing Germany because of the situation.One of the higher-profile cases on which WND has reported was that of a teen who was taken by police to the psychiatric ward because she was homeschooled.The courts ruled it was appropriate for a judge to order police officers to take Melissa Busekros, 15 at the time, into custody in January 2007.
Officials later declined to re-arrest her after she turned 16. She was subject to different requirements and simply fled state custody and returned to her family.But Grosseleumern said, "To say that 'the community has a justifiable interest' to 'counteract the establishment of religious or other parallel societies motivated by a worldview, and to integrate minorities in this area' is not a legal justification, but is actually a purely political declaration. The politicization of the judiciary is a well known hallmark of dictatorship. This is completely incompatible with a constitutional state."The oft-cited motto of a 'state educational mandate; is nowhere to be found in the Grundgesetz, the German constitution," he said. "The frequently misquoted Article 7 of the constitution only places the overall system under the supervision of the state. However, the cafe and restaurant industries are also subject to supervision by the state, and yet no one has had the idea to forbid eating at home on that basis, or to speak of a 'state nutritional mandate,'" he said."Germany has isolated itself worldwide by its harshly repressive position against homeschool families. U.N. Special Representative Vernor Munoz writing in his report 'Mission on Germany' last year pointed out that 'education cannot be reduced simply to attendance at a school.' 'Distance learning and homeschooling represent . . . . valid options,'" Grosseleumern said.
"Almost all nations of the world, excepting China and North Korea, have long since reached agreements to freely allow learning in the home, empowering families to avail themselves of alternative educational methods," he said.It was just a year ago when WND reported the prosecutor, Herwig Muller, appealed a lower court's imposition of fines against the Dudeks.
The prosecutor said at the time he would demand jail sentences of three months each for the parents. Muller also said he would not permit the case to be resolved with probation for the parents.A newspaper reporter in Hesse, Harald Sagawe, said the parents previously paid fines because "they did not send their children to school, for religious reasons."He continued, "The parents, Christians who closely follow the Bible, teach their children themselves. Two years ago the court had also dealt with the Dudeks. That case, dealing with the payment of a fine, had been dropped."Judge Peter Hobbel, who imposed the fines, also criticized school officials for refusing to answer the family's request for approval of their "private school."Arno Meissner, the chief of the government's local education department, said he would enforce the mandatory school attendance law against the family, and he said he resented the judge's interference."His duty is to make a judgment when the prosecutor brings a charge and to stay out of administrative matters," Meissner said at the time. HSLDA officials estimate there are some 400 homeschool families in Germany, virtually all of them either forced into hiding or facing court actions.
As in the days of Noah...

Bookstore owner in China due to appear in court

Christian bookstore owner Shi Weihan, detained in a Chinese prison without his medication for diabetes, is due in court Thursday (June 19) to face as yet unspecified charges. As Shi’s health deteriorates, friends say his wife and two daughters are suffering extreme emotional distress as they are forbidden to visit or pass on the much-needed medication.Police initially arrested Shi on November 28, 2007, charging him with “illegal business practices,” but officials ordered his release on January 4, citing insufficient evidence. Shi was arrested again on March 19 and police have held him virtually incommunicado, denying all but one visit from his lawyer, and refusing family visits.Shi’s store, located near the Olympic Village, operated legally and sold only books for which he had obtained government permission. Under his Holy Spirit Trading Co., Shi printed Bibles and Christian literature without authorization for distribution to local house churches, according to Asia Times Online. Last January, his wife Zhang Jing told the news service that Shi was concerned about publishing the unauthorized books but felt the risk was worth taking because churches needed them.
Family, lawyer under surveillance
According to Compass sources, police have placed Shi’s wife and their two daughters under constant surveillance, following Zhang even when she takes the girls to school. Zhang has asked several times for permission to visit her 37-year-old husband and to pass on medication and changes of clothes, but police have refused; she is now suffering from depression. Her daughters cry often and are sometimes afraid to go to school because of taunts from other children.Police are also monitoring the movements of Shi’s lawyer, sources said, to ensure that he makes no contact with foreign human rights groups. Officers have justified the surveillance by telling the lawyer that they are “protecting” him to ensure that his work is not interrupted. After Shi’s lawyer visited him on April 23, prison guards moved him from the Beijing Municipal Detention Center to an unknown location. When questioned, officials at the Beijing detention center would only say that Shi was no longer there.There is some speculation that officials have charged Shi with distributing illegal publications, but sources said this is unlikely as materials confiscated from his Christian bookstore were all returned and the store was allowed to re-open.Shi’s friends, both local and foreign, insist that he is an honest citizen with an “infectious” love for China. A foreign businessman who worked with Shi and considered him a friend told Compass that Shi was grateful to the Chinese government for granting permission to openly publish and sell Christian literature. The government may have mistaken Shi for a religious zealot, the source said, but “Shi believes Christians should work toward a more fair and harmonious society in China.”

As in the days of Noah...

Turkish pastor facing 'nightmarish' prosecution

A Turkish pastor is in trouble with prosecutors, and it is turning out to be a nightmarish event.International Christian Concern 's Jeremy Sewell says when the pastor came to church, he found notice from the town prosecutor that he was a suspect in a court case and had to immediately report to the court. The pastor is now facing charges of insulting Mohammed, insulting the police, and performing a marriage ceremony in his church-charges that could send him to prison."The accusation was a handwritten note, and the person who had accused him had given their identification number," reports Sewell."That identification number turned out to be false." Sewell contends the charges are also false, and the prosecutor is just bowing to Muslim extremists out of a sense of fear.
He now asks people to pray that God will dismiss the charges against the Turkish pastor.
As in the days of Noah....

Gideons emerge victors in Florida case

A Florida law that was used to arrest two Gideons for handing out Bibles on a public sidewalk has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge.Members of the Gideons International Key Largo Camp planned to distribute Bibles on the public sidewalk outside a local school. But when they began their evangelistic mission, sheriff's deputies told them to leave or face arrest under a state loitering statute. That statute said a person cannot be within 500 feet of any school in Florida without either "legitimate business" or permission from the school principal. "... And what's interesting in this case is, the Gideons gave advanced notice both to the local sheriff's office and to the school themselves, " says David Cortman, senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund. He also pointed out in a federal lawsuit-on behalf of one of the Gideons who left before being arrested-that the 500-foot exclusionary zone included all of the public sidewalks and U.S. Highway 1, the only road leading into the Florida Keys."There are thousands of people in that zone every day that no one bothers," the attorney contends."Yet, for some reason, these gentlemen were specifically selected to be arrested under this law..."U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore agreed and ruled the law unconstitutional because it was too "constitutionally vague" and in violation of the 14th Amendment. Cortman says this victory is another example of why Christians should stand up for their legal rights. He says Christians need to realize that they have constitutional rights to share their faith in public without fearing arrest.
As in the days of Noah...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Myanmar still struggles with post-storm problems

Myanmar-Cyclone Nargis' damage is unspeakable. Weeks after the storm hit, survivors are wading through waist deep water and debris to get aid. Food and shelter remain scarce because the government is stockpiling relief supplies. Despair is rampant.Bright Hope International's Mike Rutter says they're collaborating with two local Christian groups who have found a way to bring supplies and hope into the worst hit, under-resourced regions in Myanmar."They're working through the local church. They're able to get the rice, the mosquito nets, tarps. Right now, things are very much still in a disaster relief mode," but costs have risen astronomically.Bright Hope acknowledges they're paying a lot more for the supplies they distribute, but there isn't much choice. Waiting for a government distribution means more people could die. That's not an acceptable alternative for the ministry.They're working with the national believers because that's the only way to get in. "Our partner has scheduled 10 relief distributions, basically one per week. He just finished the fifth one last week. We'll be sending money on a weekly basis to support his efforts."One partnership is a network of churches working to get relief supplies to the people who need them most. So far, these churches have been able to distribute rice, noodles and blankets. Additional items such as candles, charcoal, clean water and medicines are desperately needed.The other part of the support team is a Christian relief organization based in Thailand. Their network of Christian relief workers already stationed in Myanmar's delta region has allowed them to bring in relief supplies to the most devastated communities.They are providing food, water purification, medical aid and workers.Funds equip these churches with the relief supplies needed in their communities.Rutter says $80 will provide food and shelter for a family of five for one month. "We're acting as the hands and feet to the people that need it. We're helping the most needy people as quickly as possible and using those actions to show the love of Christ."
Click here if you can help.
As in the days of Noah....

Christians homeless since Christmas

India-Christians are still homeless in India's Orissa state following violence that erupted 6 months ago during last year's Christmas season.During those attacks, Hindu nationalists burned 730 houses and 95 churches to the ground. Four Christians were killed in the violence, according to a Compass Direct News report. When MNN reported on the situation in December, curfews had been imposed in four Orissa districts to prevent further violence.The attacks were not a total surprise simply because of Orissa's past. However, an attack during Christmas was a surprise. "This is just a real hot-bed of persecution against Christians by the Hindu nationalists," said Jerry Dykstra of Open Doors. Christians were not being allowed to celebrate the holiday in their churches and were not being allowed to be in the main streets.Dykstra said the number of attacks on Christians in India numbered more than 1,000 for the first time in 2007 since the country became independent in 1947.Christians who were self-employed were particular targets for attacks during the Christmastime violence. Those people have not been able to rebuild yet, since the government is not giving much money to do so, in part, because of societal pressures. "They're being ostracized, so then they cannot earn a living in that community. Because of threats against them and their families, some of the children cannot go to school," said Dykstra.In Compass Direct's report, Dr. John Dayal said he was "deeply disappointed and saddened" by the "lethargic and insensitive, almost inhumane response."Christians are waiting in relief camps until they can rebuild. "Malaria is running rampant. Many people are sick. So it's just a combination of many things in that state," said Dykstra. With Orissa lying on the Bay of Bengal and so many people living without homes, the soon-coming monsoon season is even more of a threat than usual.Dykstra said, "To many people in the West who are just absorbed by the economic boom of this, obviously, Asian giant of India, which is of course the largest democracy in the world. But people sometimes close their eyes to the persecution on Christians there, and I think we need to expose that and bring it out into the open."Dykstra asks for prayer that "the government will increase the amount of money they're giving to some of the refugees and that the government will realize that these people need equal protection and equal rights, not only, of course, for rebuilding, but also freedom to worship."
Pray for the government to provide the money needed for everyone to rebuild.
Pray that God will be glorified as Christians await the help they need.

As in the days of Noah....