Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law and Holy Week

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Lord https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Lord https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

Indiana’s governor is at the center of a firestorm because he signed a religious freedom law.

I am aware that any Catholic blogger, especially a Catholic blogger who writes about politics, should be all over this.

But I’m not going to do it. Not this week.

This is Holy Week, and I need the time with Christ. I think a lot of other people do, too. Sad to say, this issue, and its many ramifications, is not going to go away. Religious freedom is under attack in this country.

I could easily write a strong post about this, as well as the outrageous attempt at intrusion into Church governance that is occurring in San Francisco.

However, this is Holy Week.

I write this blog for one reason: To contribute to the work of equipping Christians to stand for Christ at the intersection of public life and faith. However, I understand something that I’ve seen a lot of Christian culture warriors forget: This is not about changing the culture to our viewpoint. It is about faithfulness to Christ.

We must take time to be with Jesus. That means, among other things, deep prayer on a daily basis, reading the Scriptures every day, and mass as often as you can get there. It also means relaxing a bit and trusting Him.

I’ll say this again: This is Holy Week.

This is the week when God showed all the world for all time the depth, width and breadth of His love for us.

We are in a serious struggle to retain religious freedom in this country. The reason we are in this struggle is not because we have failed at power politics — although by every objective criteria, we have failed.

We are in the situation of fighting for religious freedom in a culture that engages in Christian bashing because we have failed in our mission to be the light. While we were blasting away at our enemies with the full-tilt ugliness of power politics, we forgot that our first call is to bring people to Christ.

Redemption is not won at the ballot box. Redemption was won once and for all by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at the cross.

This is Holy Week, when each of us should be thinking on that Cross. We should consider, for at least one week, the miracle of our salvation. We need to ponder and appreciate the unfathomable mercy of a God who poured out His life’s blood in an agony of public shame, humiliation and torture that we might be washed clean by that blood and given eternal life.

It is no accident that this final Passover on Calvary took place at the time of year when the first Passover is celebrated. In Egypt, the Israelites slaughtered a perfect lamb and then marked their doorways with the blood of the lamb so that the angel of death might pass them by. Scripture tells us that it was “the Lord’s Passover.”

When Jesus approached John the Baptist at the Jordan, John announced Him by saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” This was a clear prophecy of Jesus’ Passion. It was also a public testimony that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God.

Jesus is our Passover from death to life. He is the perfect lamb whose blood redeems all humanity with one perfect atoning sacrifice. If we are marked with His blood, the angel of death will pass us by.

Jesus died that we might have eternal life. That is how much He loves us. It demonstrates as nothing else can the depth of His mercy towards us.

This is Holy Week. We need to think on these things, to take time apart from the yelling and carrying on of political fighting and pray for guidance and strength in how we proceed in the days ahead. Because we are not called to leadership in the broader world. We can called to followership in the Kingdom of God.

We need to go to the cross and kneel there in the dirt and blood of our own sinfulness and be converted to an ever deepening life of following Him, wherever that leads, whatever it costs.

We are going to be called to much more than ballot box Christianity. We have a harder task before us than political activism. We must convert the culture for Christ, and we must do it one person at a time.

This is Holy Week.

Take time to worship, pray, meditate and recommit to the fight ahead. Consider the viciousness of the attacks the Governor of Indiana is suffering and understand who is behind them. You are not part of that dark army. Turn your back on replying with equal viciousness.

Go to the cross and fit yourself for this battle by believing that this Jesus who is dying there is Lord of all creation. Understand that even though He is God, the God, He will not force us to follow Him. We, like Mary when the Angel Gabriel stood before her, must give our fiat to His grace and His dominion over our lives.

Give Him your will. Decide to do what He wants from now on instead of following your own understanding. Do the holy thing, even when it’s not the smart thing as the world reckons smartness. Enlist in the Lord’s army for real.

We need to be far more holy than any of us have been up to now. We need to become true disciples.

We can only do that if we follow Him without question. Trust and obey, the old hymns says. There is only one way to be happy in Jesus, and that is to trust and obey.

Scripture tells us that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.

Draw near to God this week. Therein is our strength and our power. We will not win this fight if we battle for our own selves and our goals. Forty years of political fighting that has left us with dust and ashes is proof of that.

We will only succeed in our call to convert the culture if we yield up ourselves and become part of that great army of the cross. Our message is salvation paid for by the incomprehensible price of the death of God.

That is our faith. It is who we are. It is who we must be if we are to be pleasing to Him. Before we convert the culture, we must first be converted ourselves.

Sprinklergate: Is it Real, or Is It Politics?

Market Street, San Francisco Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by William Welch https://www.flickr.com/photos/20098477@N02/

Market Street, San Francisco Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by William Welch https://www.flickr.com/photos/20098477@N02/

I’ve been sick as the proverbial dawg these past few days. I managed to put together a couple of posts, but then I fell back into bed and pulled the blankets over my head.

I’m not feeling all that great today, either, but I have roused myself from my coughing and hacking and moaning and complaining long enough to realize that there’s another oddball “scandal” about the Catholic Church leap-frogging around the internet.

From what I gather, a cathedral in San Francisco (of all places) attempted to use a sprinkler system to encourage homeless people to vacate the steps leading into their building. Or some such.

Needless to say, the story has fueled the tanks of Catholic bashers. It’s also brought out quite a few disappointed and sad comments from faithful Catholics, as well. The story seems to be all about whether or not the Catholic Church and the Archbishop of San Francisco should be keel-hauled and sentenced to extinction over Sprinklergate.

I haven’t read too much about a couple of issues that I think are somewhat pertinent.

First, the Archbishop of San Francisco is engaged in a battle over the future of the Catholicism in that great city, i.e., whether or not the Church will be run by its own teachings or by secular authorities and the mob actions of “activists” who don’t agree with those teachings. This particular argument is about homosexuals.

Second, digging up dirt on someone who opposes them is a standard tactic of the gay rights movement. Demands for  civil and human rights for gay people are just. Homosexuals have been subjected to unjust discrimination and violence for a long time.

But that does not justify advancing this cause by denying the human rights of other people. Far too often, the gay rights movement has advanced its cause by the ignoble method of organized and manufactured character assassination of those who oppose it.

Using character assassination as a method of political bullying is an effective tactic. It harms, sometimes destroys, the ability of the person who is attacked to put their ideas forward in a credible manner. It also serves as a warning to anyone who might be inclined to join them that they, too, will be destroyed. In this case, it sends a signal to other bishops to duck and cover or be personally attacked as well.

I’m not going to take a position on Sprinklergate in this post, but I am going to raise a simple question: Is the whole scandal and the sudden media focus on this rather obscure action by the cathedral an example of attacking the Archbishop because he’s standing for Catholic teaching?

I’m not saying that turning the sprinkler system on homeless people to get them to move off the church steps is a good thing. What I’m saying is that the reason it has been so widely reported may very well be politically motivated.

Archbishop Cordileone has been attacked, picketed and and smeared ever since he took office in San Francisco. These attacks are because  he has taught actual Catholic teaching as regards gay marriage. This latest series of attacks are precisely and directly because he has been doing his best to create a Catholic Church in San Francisco (again, of all places) that is actually Catholic.

In a back-handed way, Sprinklergate is a compliment to Archbishop Cordileone. If this is the best his opponents could do, then he must be an honest man.

There are other issues about Sprinklergate which need to be discussed. But that really is the topic for another post.

My point here, dear Catholics, is don’t be so quick to join in with public lynchings of our clergy when those public lynchings are so obviously linked to actions by that clergy to defend the teachings of the Church in a Catholic-bashing world.

Now, I’m going back to coughing and hacking, moaning and complaining. As soon as I feel up to it, I’ll write another post talking about other overlooked issues in Sprinklergate.

Pope Francis: Our Brothers and Sisters are Shedding Their Blood.

 

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by thierry ehrmann https://www.flickr.com/photos/home_of_chaos/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by thierry ehrmann https://www.flickr.com/photos/home_of_chaos/

“Our brothers and sisters are shedding their blood only because they are Christians.”

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14 Dead in Terrorist Bombings of Pakistani Churches

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by ResoluteSupportMedia https://www.flickr.com/photos/isafmedia/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by ResoluteSupportMedia https://www.flickr.com/photos/isafmedia/

Fourteen people are dead and at least 78 people were injured in deadly terrorist bombings of two Christian churches in Pakistan. One of the Churches was Catholic the other protestant.

Churches in Pakistan have been forced to post guards during Church services because of the threat of violence against Christians in that country. One of the guards, spotted the suicide bomber, trying to enter the Catholic Church and tried to stop him. This forced the terrorist to detonate the bomb before entering the church. This saved many lives.

At Christ Church, guard Zahid Goga confronted the bomber, but was shot in the head by the bomber’s accomplice.

Pakistani Christians took to the streets in mass demonstrations following the attacks.

According to news reports, this particular slaughter of unarmed Christian civilians was the work of the Taliban. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistan Taliban has claimed responsibility for the murders. He says that the Taliban plans to carry out similar attacks in the future.

There has been little coverage of these attacks in the mainstream media.

From Catholic Herald:

Although the incident has been condemned by Pakistan’s Prime Minister, President and the majority of politicians, and compensation has been announced for the dead and injured, this is not enough,” he said.

Christians are constantly under attack, especially with their churches and colonies being attacked under the cover of blasphemy accusations, and sometimes by Taliban and extremists. Christians are living under constant fear for their lives and many have fled the country.

I believe these attacks are sustained attempts to force Christians out of Pakistan.”

There is a constant demand to provide security to Christians and even the Supreme Court of Pakistan has ordered security to be provided to them, but the government has not done anything about it, Mr Saeed continued.

I would like to salute to the bravery and sacrifice of Zahid Goga who martyred himself to save hundreds of faithful who were worshiping in church. I also salute the bravery of the policeman who was killed at Catholic church in his attempt to stop the attacker,” he said.

Mr Saeed added that the government had failed to provide justice to Christians in light of previous attacks.

From Voice of America:

Hundreds of Pakistan’s minority Christians rallied in the eastern city of Lahore, blocking roads and shouting slogans in a second day of protests against twin suicide bombings outside two churches in the city that left 15 people dead.

Hundreds of police were deployed to the area Monday as Christian schools were closed for the funeral services for the victims.

Seventy people were wounded Sunday in the attacks when two gunmen tried to shoot their way into the churches during services in the majority-Christian Lahore suburb of Youhanabad. When security guards stopped them at the gates, the attackers detonated explosives.

After the attack, angry Christian mobs blocked highways, ransacked a bus station and killed two people they suspected of being involved in the attacks.

A militant group allied to the Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the blasts.

Pakistan Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan denounced the bombings as an “inhumane act” and said terrorists are hitting soft targets like churches and mosques in utter desperation following increased military action against them.

From CatholicCulture.org

Members of the Taliban launched suicide bombings against a Catholic church and a Protestant church in Pakistan, leaving at least 14 dead.

Arriving at the bombed church in the afternoon, Archbishop Sebastian Shah of Lahore complained, “The government has failed to protect us.” The bishop said that Christians have pleaded for protection, warning of impending attacks, to no avail. He praised the members of the congregation who had blocked the terrorists from entering the church, at the cost of their own lives, describing them as martyrs. “We are already on the road to Calvary,” the archbishop said.

Later the Pakistani bishps’ conference issued a statement deploring the bombing and calling upon all of the people of Pakistan to “stand alongside their Christian brothers and sisters, against extremist forces.” The statement demanded “extraordinary measures” by the government to protect religious minorities, and instructed Christians to “avoid violence and to cooperate with the police in their investigations.”

History of the Crusades: President Obama’s Prayer Breakfast Comments

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by http://maps.bpl.org

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by http://maps.bpl.org

I’m going to backtrack for today’s video. This video is a discussion of President Obama’s comments about the Crusades at the 2015 National Prayer Breakfast.

I decided to put these videos on Public Catholic because of the president’s comments. Inaccurate history is used by Christian bashers to attack Christianity every single day. Christians do not know enough history to reply or deal with this intelligently. That needs to change.

After I finish with this series of videos on the Crusades, I’m going to take up the ignorant mis-use of Scripture to bash Christians.

We are living in a time in which Christians are the new group of people that it is ok to attack, bash, haze and hate. I see it all the time in crazy mean hate blogs and their crazy mean authors. I’ve encountered it repeatedly at certain political gatherings. It’s out there for everyone to see in the constant drip-drip-drip of anti-Christian articles in the press. We get a continuous battering from televised specials about Jesus which consistently seek to attack the veracity of the Gospels. It’s Lent, with Easter coming, so we’re going to see a lot of that right now.

Then there is the false history, the anti-history, about the Crusades and all other Christian history. You can be sure that whether the topic is the Black Death or the fall of Rome, there will be a jibe against Christians and Christianity in there somewhere. In fact, most of the time, anti-Christian propaganda pretending to be history will be prominent. What you will not see is any mention of the civilization-building power of Christianity, or the development of human rights because of the teachings of Christ. Some of these slanders in the popular media are distortions, but  a lot of it is direct lying.

Americans aren’t just ignorant of the truth, they are actively and aggressively being taught lies about Christianity and Christian history by the popular media. The media appears to be working in tandem with aggressive Christian bashers in an effort to destroy the faith of Christians in this country. The president’s speech, as well as a lot of other things he’s said and done, is an indication of how deep this hatred of Christians runs in certain circles.

It is no accident that we are witnessing an on-going genocide of Christians in a whole region of the world. These two things are, as they always are, tied together. Verbal hazing, degrading propaganda, lies and slanders of a whole people, are the intellectual scaffolding on which those who would commit genocide stand.

We really need to stop dismissing these constant attacks on our faith and ourselves as if they don’t matter. We also need to stop being overawed by the verbal violence and self-proclaimed authority of our attackers. I am not counseling a descent into the slime pit of public discourse alongside them. What I am suggesting is that Christians make the effort to learn the truth so that the lies will not impact us.

Equipping Christians to deal with this post-Christian culture is the primary purpose of Public Catholic. The first step is overcoming ignorance of their faith and their history among Christians themselves.

Christians do not need to apologize for Jesus Christ. We need to stand for Him without fear or equivocation.

I am aware that there are Islamic teachings which lead to a more peaceful application of that faith. I think that the interpretation referenced here is an accurate depiction of of the application of Islamic teachings of a thousand years ago. It also seems that it is still relevant to Islamic extremists today.

I want to emphasize that this video discusses events which happened almost over a thousand years ago. The reason I am posting it here is to correct the inaccurate  history of the Crusades which is being used in the popular media to attack and degrade Christians and Christianity.

 

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/publiccatholic/2015/03/history-of-the-crusades-the-first-crusade-1099/#ixzz3TWbP6IeR

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Conversion on the Beach: One Man’s Conversion to Christ Before ISIS Execution

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Harrison Staab https://www.flickr.com/photos/harrystaab/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Harrison Staab https://www.flickr.com/photos/harrystaab/

ISIS march 21 men onto a beach in Libya. Twenty of these men were Christians. One, a Chadian Citizen, was not.

He watched the Coptic Christians die for Christ. When the terrorist murderer demanded that he reject Jesus Christ as his God, he replied, “their God is my God.” He was then beheaded with his Christian brothers.

The joy in this story is that 21 martyrs to Christ entered heaven that day. They are praying for us now.

From the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church of the Diocese of Bombay:

ISIS announced the execution of 21 Copts but only 20 names were confirmed, most of them were from the province of Minya(Upper Egypt). There was an inaccuracy in the number of Egyptian Hostages; there were only 20 Egyptians(Copts). Then who was this remaining one non-Coptic victim?

Ahram-Canadian News was able to gather information about this man. He was a Chadian Citizen (Darker skin shown in picture) who accepted Christianity after seeing the immense faith of his fellow Coptic Christians to die for Christ. When Terrorist forced him to reject Jesus Christ as God, looking at his Christian friends he replied, “their God is my God“ so the terrorist beheaded him also.

ISIS Plans Video Release About the Fate of Kidnapped Christian Civilians

Martyrs Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Willstephe Vaho https://www.flickr.com/photos/willstephe/

Martyrs Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Willstephe Vaho https://www.flickr.com/photos/willstephe/

Reports indicated that ISIS release a video today concerning the 150 Christians civilians they have kidnapped.

Assyrian Human Rights Network says that the video will contain threats to kill the defenseless people. First reports put the number at 90 kidnapped Christians, but the number has now risen to 150.

“They are facing death, people are unarmed, they are peaceful. And they need help, they are just left alone — no one’s protecting them,” said Osama Edward, founder of Assyrian Human Rights Network.

Original reports said that 90 Christians had been taken prisoner by ISIS. But the number is now 150.

From New York Daily News:

The Islamic State militants who stormed Assyrian Christian villages in northeastern Syria before dawn on Monday took substantially more hostages than previously thought, and the terrorist group will release a video message on Wednesday threatening to kill the defenseless civilians, according to the Assyrian Human Rights Network.

Despite initial reports that ISIS abducted between 70 and 100 Christians during the night raids on villages along the Khabur River near the city of Tal Tamr in the Hassakeh province, the founder of the rights group, Osama Edward, told CNN his organization’s ground-level now sources place the number of hostages at 150.

The video, which Edward said will be directed to President Obama and other world leaders whose countries have joined the fight against ISIS, will warn that the Assyrians could face the same fate as the 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt that ISIS militants beheaded in a video released earlier this month.

“Maybe they are facing the same destiny. That’s why we call on all over the world, like the U.S, Europe, coalition forces — protect Assyrians, save Assyrians in Syria,” Edward said on CNN.

Holy Martyrs of ISIS, Pray for Us

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Harrison Staab https://www.flickr.com/photos/harrystaab/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Harrison Staab https://www.flickr.com/photos/harrystaab/

As they now stand amid the white-robed multitudes, and behold the Throne of the Almighty One, let us speak their names in prayer. As they shimmer within the great cloud of witnesses, let us — in the Communion of Saints — ask their intercession before the Lamb.

+Holy Martyr Milad Makeen Zaky, pray for us, and for the whole world,
+Holy Martyr Abanub Ayad Atiya, pray for your ISIS murderers,
+Holy Martyr Maged Solaimain Shehata, pray for their salvation,
+Holy Martyr Yusuf Shukry Yunan, pray for the release of all their captives,
+Holy Martyr Kirollos Shokry Fawzy, pray for all in the path of ISIS,
+Holy Martyr Bishoy Astafanus Kamel, pray for the displaced, for those made refugees by ISIS,
+Holy Martyr Somaily Astafanus Kamel, pray for the protection of our Holy Lands and our history,
+Holy Martyr Malak Ibrahim Sinweet, pray for those who act now in resistance against ISIS,
+Holy Martyr Tawadros Yusuf Tawadros, pray for those in immediate danger from forces of evil,
+Holy Martyr Girgis Milad Sinweet, pray for those infected with the virus of hatred and extremism,
+Holy Martyr Mina Fayez Aziz, pray for families being challenged, throughtout the world, by ISIS,
+Holy Martyr Hany Abdelmesih Salib, pray aid workers may work together unmolested, to give assistance,
+Holy Martyr Bishoy Adel Khalaf, pray for the targeted clergy and religious of the Near East churches,
+Holy Martyr Samuel Alham Wilson, pray for all people of good will, in every religion, every nation,
+Holy Martyr Whose name we do not know — you “Worker from Awr village” — pray for those in leadership, whose names we know all too well, that that their motives may be purified of political intrigue, and for their salvation,
+Holy Martyr Ezat Bishri Naseef, pray for Jews, throughout the world, chosen of God and so despised,
+Holy Martyr Loqa Nagaty, pray for the “two lungs” of Christianity, East and West, to breathe together,
+Holy Martyr Gaber Munir Adly, pray for the illumination of that which is All-Good,
+Holy Martyr Esam Badir Samir, pray that in beholding it, we will wish to serve it,
+Holy Martyr Malak Farag Abram, pray for the generation in power, that their egos may be put aside and their hearts might be opened to the Way, the Truth and the Life,
+Holy Martyr Sameh Salah Faruq, pray for the generations to come.
O new martyrs, now numbering among the ancients through a malevolent force as old as Eden, keep us particularly in your prayers. Once again, we are focused on the mysterious lands where humanity first came into being, and into knowing, and where all will finally be revealed. Pray that we may put aside all that is irrelevant to the moment and, looking forever to the East, prepare our spirits for the engagements into which we may be called, whether we live amid these places of ancient roads and portals, or in the most modern of dwellings.
Mary, the God-bearer, pray for us,
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us,
Saint John the Forerunner, pray for us,
All Holy Men and Women, pray for us.
Amen, Amen.

 

Written by The Anchoress, Elizabeth Scalia

 

Patriarch Urges Prayer for 90 Syrian Christians Kidnapped by ISIS

Patriarch Ignace Joseph Younan, Syria. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Custody of the Holy Land https://www.flickr.com/photos/ctsterrasanta/

Patriarch Ignace Joseph Younan, Syria. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Custody of the Holy Land https://www.flickr.com/photos/ctsterrasanta/

ISIS murderers have captured at least 90 Christians from villages in Syria. It is unknown whether they plan to slaughter these people, sell them as slaves or use them for barter in prisoner exchanges.

Patriarch Ignace Joseph Younan, Syriac Patriarch of Antioch, asks for prayer for the captives, saying that ISIS terrorists are “full of hatred and venomous feelings” toward Syrian Christians and that they are “ready to do … horrible acts without any human feelings,” adding that it is “so easy” for the ISIS terroriests “to kill and to cut the throat” of non-Muslims.

From Catholic Daily News:

.- With reports circulating saying that ISIS forces have kidnapped at least 90 Christians from villages in northeast Syria, Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan said prayer is the only possible response.

“Let’s pray for those innocent people,” Patriarch Younan told CNA over the phone from Beirut Feb. 24.

“It’s a very, let’s say, very ordinary thing to have those people with such hatred toward non-Muslims that they don’t respect any human life,” he said, noting that the only reaction to Tuesday’s kidnappings is “to pray.”

Patriarch Younan, Syriac Patriarch of Antioch, made his comments after the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday that at least 90 Assyrian Christians were kidnapped by ISIS militants after they seized two villages near Tal-Tamr, located in the Al-Hasakah region of Syria.

The two villages attacked are inhabited primarily by the country’s ancient Christian minority.

Also known as “Hassake,” the Al-Hasakah region is located along the country’s border with Iraq, and is not far from Mount Sinjar, where many Yazidis were trapped and faced starvation after fleeing Mosul and surrounding villages when ISIS began its assault last June.

Although he said exact numbers of those kidnapped and killed are still not confirmed, the patriarch revealed that he maintains close contact with the area’s bishop, who says that the situation there has been “very, very tense.”

Patriarch Younan said that he has tried to get in touch with Al-Hasakah’s archbishop, Jacques Behnan Hindo, regarding the situation, but has not yet been able to reach him.

Coptic Christians Cry Out to Jesus

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by gkaruna karan https://www.flickr.com/photos/35888164@N06/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by gkaruna karan https://www.flickr.com/photos/35888164@N06/

This is the real deal. Coptic Christians know and understand martyrdom.

Evidently, before the 21 Christian men were beheaded by ISIS a few days ago, they testified to their faith in Jesus Christ. They are true martyrs, saints of the Lord, who are in heaven right now.

This video is, like so much that comes from our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ, deeply humbling.

Lent is a good time for us to consider the question: What will we do with this Jesus they are crying for? How will we stand for Him?

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