Tyndale Publisher Wins Again on HHS Mandate

Tyndale Publishers won by default at the Appellate Court level on a case against the HHS Mandate  Friday. The victory was automatic when the Obama Administration withdrew its appeal of an ruling by a lower court.

The publisher, which specializes in publishing Bibles, won a preliminary injunction in November from a lower court. The injunction prevented the government from enforcing the HHS Mandate against Tyndale, at least until the Supreme Court decides how to rule on the issue. The Obama Administration filed an appeal to this decision, which it withdrew on Friday, May 3.

The HHS Mandate forces religious businesses such as Tyndale pay for insurance coverage of abortifacient drugs. 

Alliance Defending Freedom, which is a legal group, has made statements that the reason the Obama Administration withdrew its appeal is that “The government dismissed its appeal because it knows how ridiculous it sounds arguing that a Bible publisher isn’t religious enough to qualify as a religious employer.”

Perhaps the person who said this has inside knowledge as to what the administration’s motives were for withdrawing the appeal. I am guessing that the administration thought they were going to lose the appeal, but I don’t know. 

Tyndale, functions as a Christian organization. It’s states that one of its “corporate goals is to honor God.” It holds weekly chapel service for employees, opens business meetings with prayer, and sends employees on Christian missions projects that are paid for by the company. Tyndale’s trustees must affirm a statement of faith says “there is one God, eternally existent in three persons.”

I want to emphasize that, while this victory is a good thing, it is not final. All roads in this case lead to the Supreme Court and what it decides.

From the Baptist Press:

WASHINGTON (BP) — A leading Bible publisher won another court victory against the Obama administration’s abortion/contraceptive mandate Friday (May 3), thanks in part to the administration’s own partial retreat in the case.

The publisher, Tyndale House, had won a preliminary injunction in November from a lower court that prevented the government from enforcing the mandate, which forces businesses such as Tyndale to cover contraceptives that can cause chemical abortions. The drugs often are called “emergency contraceptives” and can act after conception and implantation, and come under brand names such as Plan B and ella.

The administration appealed that injunction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, but eventually asked that the appeal be dismissed. The three justices on Friday granted the administration’s request and dismissed it.

The injunction will remain in place while the case itself, Tyndale House Publishers v. Sebelius, moves forward. The lower court judge, Reggie B. Walton, had said in his November injunction ruling that Tyndale likely would win the overall case.

The legal group Alliance Defending Freedom says the government’s desire to withdraw its own appeal is a good sign for religious liberty. ADF is representing Tyndale.

“Bible publishers should be free to do business according to the book that they publish,” said ADF senior legal counsel Matt Bowman. “The government dismissed its appeal because it knows how ridiculous it sounds arguing that a Bible publisher isn’t religious enough to qualify as a religious employer. For the government to say that a Bible publisher isn’t religious is outrageous, and now the Obama administration has had to retreat in court.” (Read the rest here.)

Vocations, Conversions and Preaching Christ Crucified

 

Deacon Greg Kandra has the story.

Remember Father Greg Shaffer?

He’s the priest at George Washington University who is under attack by a couple of homosexual activists. The reason? Father Shaffer told them that homosexual people are called to celebacy.

It turns out that people are attracted to this simple formula of preaching Church teaching. The parish at the Newman Center where Father Shaffer is assigned has grown from 100 parishioners to 400 in the time he’s been there.

Perhaps even more amazing, this small parish now has four young men who are entering seminary.

I’ve been saying for a long time that all the Church has to do is preach Christ and Him crucified.

The Church cannot approach its ministry from a social work/business model. It’s as clear as anything I’ve ever seen that God does not honor that approach. Vocations fall. Parishioners drift.

People do not get out of bed on Sunday morning week after week to hear a watered down version of the Gospels that are shorn of their life-saving power. They go for Christ.

Christ’s followers have been willing to lay down their lives throughout the 2,000-year history of our faith. They are doing it now all over the world. But they will not do this for a vague politically-correct, weak kneed sham Jesus. They will follow and die for the real Jesus; the one who said “no” to the kingdoms of this world, and by so doing set his foot on the pathway that led to the cross.

The jesus that fits in with polite dinner party conversation among the politically correct is a sham and a lie who cannot save anyone and does not attract followers of any sort. You cannot dilute Christ to make Him socially acceptable among those who want to walk down the wide way that leads to destruction. When you try to do that, you are not diluting Christ. You are denying Him.

It takes courage to follow the real Jesus Who was sent to the cross. I would guess that it also takes courage to preach Him. The attacks on Father Shaffer are an example of why it takes courage. But the results he’s seen in his parish are what happens when you do it.

Preach Christ, and Him crucified. Do that, and the vocations and fallen away Catholics problems will take care of themselves.

From the National Catholic Register:

by JOAN FRAWLEY DESMOND

WASHINGTON — Father Greg Shaffer, the Catholic chaplain at George Washington University, learned early that a good pastor can defy the odds and lead the young to embrace a priestly vocation. Growing up in Bethesda, Md., Father Shaffer was inspired by the example of Msgr. Thomas Wells, a charismatic figure in the archdiocese who possessed a deep and infectious love for the Eucharist. Msgr. Wells brought many young men to the priesthood before he was murdered during a 2000 robbery at his Maryland parish; he was 56 years old. Now, 13 years later, that beloved pastor remains a source of inspiration for Father Shaffer, who has revealed a knack for fostering vocations at a secular university better known for jump-starting careers in government. Since the priest’s arrival four years ago, Sunday Mass attendance at the campus Newman Center has increased from 100 to about 400 people — and, this year, four men will enter the seminary.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/george-washington-chaplain-leads-four-men-to-the-priesthood/#ixzz2SWOzg2VP

Missionary Sister Talks about Christians in the Holy Land

I have friends who spent a long time in Papua New Guinea, working as missionaries for Wycliffe Bible Translators.

It is true that God calls special people for this work. They don’t look different than the rest of us. The differences are inside, but they are profound.

In this video, a missionary sister in the Holy Land talks about the challenges Christians who live there must face.

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15 Countries Named for ‘Systematic, On-Going’ Abuse of Religious Freedom

The US Commission for International Religious Freedom issued a recent report that named 15 Countries of Particular Concern because of the threats that their governments pose to religious liberty.

These countries are: Burma, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Viet Nam. The governments in these countries have “either engaged in or tolerated systematic, on-going, egregious abuse of the right to freedom of religion or belief.”

Based on the stories I’ve seen since I’ve been writing about Christian persecution, I would guess that the most consistently persecuted group in these countries is Christians.

From CNA:

Washington D.C., May 4, 2013 / 04:11 pm (CNA).- A recent report on international religious liberty cautioned that severe threats to freedom of religion exist in diverse communities through the world and should be discouraged through actions by the U.S. government.

“The Annual Report ultimately is about people and how their governments treat them,” said Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, chair of the commission that released the report.

“Religious freedom is both a pivotal human right under international law and a key factor that helps determine whether a nation experiences stability or chaos,” she explained.

The U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom gathers information throughout the year by meeting with government officials, citizens, analysts and non-governmental organizations across the globe in order to assess the state of international religious liberty. The independent, bipartisan group then advises the president, U.S. Congress and State Department on recommended actions to be taken.

Issued each year, the commission’s report marks “countries of particular concern” (CPCs), which are defined as “countries whose governments have engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of the universal right to freedom of religion or belief.” The State Department has the opportunity to officially label CPCs and decide whether to impose sanctions or other penalties on each country.

The 2013 document recommended 15 countries to be designated as CPCs: Burma, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. (Read the rest here.)

Who is This Christian Basher? Separating Fact from Internet Legend

Michael Weinstein is a self-styled “civil rights advocate” and Founder and President of a hate-tank called the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

He is also the author of a Christian-bashing article that was published by the Huffington Post. 

I wrote about an article yesterday about this article, Christian Bashing: Are There Any Limits? and readers followed through with a plethora of information on Mr Weinstein. One of the claims was that he is a religious adviser for President Obama. However, I don’t think that Michael Weinstein is a religious adviser for President Obama or the Pentagon.

I’ve googled quite a bit, and I found that claim splashed all over the internet. However, I could not track it back to a reputable source. What I found instead were circular sources linking to one another. 

I did find a Department of Defense document that says this:

Internet posts are attributing a statement that superior officers who try to convert those under their command should face court-martial to Mikey Weinstein, president of the Albuquerque, N.M.-based Military Religious Freedom Foundation, and are identifying him as a Pentagon advisor, Christensen noted.

“Mr. Weinstein is not part of any DOD advisory group or committee, nor is he a consultant to the Defense Department regarding religious matters,” Christensen said. “Mr. Weinstein requested, and was granted, a meeting at the Pentagon April 23, with the Air Force judge advocate general and others, to include the deputy chief of chaplains, to express his concerns of religious issues in the military.”

Based on the unabashed self-promotion I saw on the Military Religious Freedom Foundation web site, I doubt that Mr Weinstein would leave something like this out if it was true. If someone has a link to an original source saying that Mr Weinstein is a religious advisor for either President Obama or the Pentagon, please share it with me. Otherwise, I’m going to round-file that story as internet legend. 

Here, from the MRFF website, are a few things about Mr Weinstein, who often refers to himself as “Mikey,” that did turn out to be true:  

  • “Mikey” is a 1977 Honor Graduate of the United States Air Force Academy. Served in a Federal prosecutor in the JAG corps. 
  • A registered Republican.
  • Former legal counsel for the Reagan White House. Committee Management Officer of the much-publicized Iran-Contra Investigation in his capacity as Assistant General Counsel of The White House Office of Administration, Executive Office of the President of the United States. 
  • Mikey served as the first General Counsel to Texas billionaire and two-time Presidential candidate H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corporation.
  • In December 2012, Defense News named Mikey one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense. As a distinguished “Opinion shaper” exercising a hard-fought influence over the U.S. Armed Forces, Mikey’s influence has been recognized as exceeding that of former General David Petraeus himself by a publication that represents “the world’s biggest military newsroom.” 
  • On November 7, 2011, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State presented Mikey Weinstein with AU’s first ever Person of the Year Award. 
  • On November 18, 2012, for the fourth consecutive year, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation was officially nominated again for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize (its fifth total nomination)

Here, in the order in which they appear, is a list of the organizations that have submitted “partnering links” to the MRFF:

    • Jews for Racial and Economic Justice
    • California Church IMPACT
    • Atheist Alliance International
    • Constantine’s Sword
    • Jews on First!
    • Mainstream Baptist
    • Town Hall, Los Angeles
    • Americans United for Separation of Church and State
    • Calvets Investigation Committee
    • Society-Links.com
    • womenstanding
    • Working Minds
    • Humanists of the Treasure Coast
    • Pacific Palisades Democratic Club
    • American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado
    • Center for Inquiry
    • Free Range Longmont
    • Chasing Evil
    • the Horn, The Head on Radio Network
    • Foundation Beyond Belief
    • United Atheist Front

 

 

Should Pastors Who Preach Against Gay Marriage Be Allowed to Speak at the National Day of Prayer?

 

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Should pastors who preach against gay marriage be allowed to speak at the National Day of Prayer?

I have never attended the National Day of Prayer services here in Oklahoma. I can’t pray in public. When I have to stand for public prayer — as I often do — I don’t feel God. All I hear is the echo chamber of my own thoughts. A lot of times, if the matter is grave, I pray my own private prayer while the public prayer runs as background noise. The National Day of Prayer just isn’t my cup of tea. 

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National Day of Prayer, Tulsa, OK

I never gave the National Day of Prayer much thought until atheist cranks started trying to make it illegal. Then I realized that while I don’t attend because it’s not my personal religious flavor, I do think that it’s up to Congress, and not a smattering of nobody-can-do-anything-I-don’t-agree-with zealots whether such an event should happen. 

So, if the topic is the National Day of Prayer, my reaction is going to be along the direction that those who want to have this day can have it rather than anything based on my personal plans to participate. I don’t intend to change my plans for this year’s National Day of Prayer. I won’t attend the event. However, if the cranks keep on cranking, I may change my mind and show up next year, not for prayer so much as for solidarity with my Christian brothers and sisters.

Once again, the war is being forced upon us.

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National Day of Prayer at Oklahoma City Bombing memorial

This year’s National Day of Prayer is receiving flak from a new quarter. Rather than just the usual atheist crankery aimed at driving Christianity from the public square, we now have the LGBTQ crowd. They don’t want to end the event. They want to chose who leads it.

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Small group prays after official Day of Prayer ceremony, Oklahoma State Capitol 

The Human Rights Campaign is seeking to stop participation by a pastor who has preached against gay marriage, or, as they call it, “equality.” They are asking that Pastor Greg Laurie not be allowed to lead the event.

So, the question arises: Should pastors who preach against gay marriage be allowed to speak at the National Day of Prayer? 

As nutty as it sounds, the Human Rights Campaign, seems to say no. 

Their reason is that he says things like this:

“Sin is sin,” he said during the Thursday night Bible study at Harvest Orange County in Southern California.

Laurie addressed the “hot-button” issues of homosexuality and marriage while preaching on the fifth commandment of honoring one’s father and mother.

“It doesn’t say honor your mother and mother as in two women married, or honor your father and your father, or honor your mother and her live-in lover,” he said.

“God established the family … He and He alone defines the family. Maybe that’s why Satan hates the family so much and has effectively declared war on it because God loves the family.

“Tamper with God’s formula, if you will, at our own peril.”

Like many pastors who have spoken on the issue of marriage, Laurie said the issue is not political, but rather moral and biblical. (Read the rest here.)

I do not understand why gay people seem to be so blind to the fact that the same rights which allow them to promote their cause belong to everyone.

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Demonstration at Oklahoma State Capitol 

Some leaders in gay rights organizations seem committed to a program of harassment and hazing of anyone who disagrees with them. At the same time, they appear to be equally committed to creating a world where those who refuse to participate in gay marriages will lose their jobs and have their businesses closed down.

Now it appears they want to make sure that those who speak against gay marriage are locked out of public events. 

The question remains: Should pastors who preach against gay marriage be allowed to speak at the National Day of Prayer? 

From C.P. US:

Homosexual activists are labeling evangelist Greg Laurie as the “anti-gay California pastor” and are asking government officials to rescind Laurie’s invitation to lead National Day of Prayer-related events in Washington, D.C. as the event’s honorary chairman.

The Human Rights Campaign, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) advocacy group in America, contends that Laurie has a history of speaking out against LGBT Americans. And OutServe-SLDN, an association of actively serving LGBT military personnel, is calling on the Pentagon to remove the pastor from the agenda, citing “his blatantly anti-LGBT message.”

“Pastor Laurie’s message is out of step with what the majority of people of faith across this country believe,” said Dr. Sharon Groves, director of HRC’s Religion & Faith Program.

“In greater numbers than ever before, people of faith are feeling compelled to speak up and organize for equality – because of their faith.” (Read the rest here.) 

Religious Freedom Resolution Passes Council of Europe

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The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly passed a ground-breaking resolution that recognizes the right of religious and conscience rights in the public arena. 

According to the National Catholic Register, the resolution says that “The Assembly therefore calls on member States to … accommodate religious beliefs in the public sphere by guaranteeing freedom of thought in relation to health care, education and the civil service.” 

The resolution passed by a vote of 148-3, with seven abstentions.

Supporters of religious and conscience rights hail the resolution as “an important step.” Gregor Puppinck, general director of the European Centre for Law and Justice said that the resolution is  ”… is the first time that … a source of law, saying that there is a right to conscientious objection and freedom of conscience in all ‘morally sensitive matters.” He said that the resolution applies to the fundamental right of parents to educate their children.

I do not understand the the workings of the European Union and the Council of Europe. For instance, I don’t know if this resolution carries the force of law, or is just a statement of intent.

However, since supporters say it is the first legislative recognition of the right to conscience at this level, it is, at the least, an important first step.

From the Catholic Register:

STRASBOURG, France — A resolution passed by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly is being lauded as an important — although limited — recognition of religious and conscience rights in the public sphere.

“The important step with this resolution is the mention of the right to conscientious objection and the enlargement of its scope of application,” Grégor Puppinck, general director of the European Centre for Law and Justice, told CNA April 29.

“It is the first time that I see a document, a source of law, saying there is a right to conscientious objection and freedom of conscience in all ‘morally sensitive matters,’” he said, which means it applies to the fundamental right of parents to educate their children.

Resolution 1928, passed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on April 24, says, “The Assembly therefore calls on member States to … accommodate religious beliefs in the public sphere by guaranteeing freedom of thought in relation to health care, education and the civil service.”

However, this accommodation is “provided that the rights of others to be free from discrimination are respected and that the access to lawful services is guaranteed.” This has made some critics wary that rights of religious freedom will be viewed as inferior and secondary to abortion and “gay rights.” (Read the rest here.)

Christian Persecution: Six Quick Takes

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This week’s six quick takes on Christian Persecution include one that I’m not entirely sure about, another that deals with a 100-year-old genocide, and the usual dismal roundup of wanton killings, abductions and imprisonment of Christians around the globe. 

I think there are two reasons why Christianity is attacked. First, as President Obama said in a speech a few years ago, it is revolutionary. His complaint at the time was that the Sermon on the Mount, would, if it was followed, lead to disarmament.

Indeed.

Governments the world over have tried to control the revolutionary message of Christ in one of two ways: Co-opt it, or attack it. Hitler was an example of co-opting coupled with attacks against those who didn’t buy into his program, while Stalin and the Communist states are examples of outright attack.

That division seems to hold up right to this day and even here in America. Right wing politicians are more prone to claim their religiosity while attempting to twist the Gospels to support their goals and left-wing politicians tend to veer toward limiting religious freedom with ironic claims of inclusion and tolerance.

Christianity has a better record of standing up to outright attack than it does co-option. I suppose that’s only natural. If somebody punches you in the nose, you know you’ve been hit. But if they flatter you and tell you how great you are while they ask you to sign the title to your house away, it’s harder to catch. Or, at least it is for some people.

The second reason is that Christianity is attacked is that it is true. Jesus really is the Son of God. He really did die for our sins and He really did rise again on the third day. He really is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

It is politically incorrect to say that, but taking offense to the truth does not make it untrue. People resent the claims that Jesus makes on their hearts and their lives. They want to be their own little gods, but they are unwilling to admit what that means. So … they attack the only hope they have.

Pope Francis talks about satan more than is politically correct, even for a Pope. But he is right to do this. Christianity is attacked because it is the Light, and the darkness hates it.

This week’s quick takes focus mainly on the nose-punching type of attack on Christians, rather than the soft-soap of the co-opters. As always, there’s a heavy dose of persecution from the Middle East. I decided to include the Armenian genocide because these people have been forgotten in the name of political expedience. I’ve read that out of a population of 2 million Armenian Christians, 1.5 million were murdered. Their blood, like Abel’s, cries out from the ground. 

I also included a story about the Pentagon blocking the Southern Baptist web site. I had read about this in several places, but only decided to take it seriously (I’m still confused by it.) because Fox News carried it. Note: I was wise to doubt this story. The Pentagon has explained that their computer detected malware on the SBC website. They say they were not blocking the site. You can read about that here

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Here are the Six Quick Takes about Christian Persecution this week. I hope that you read each of them prayerfully. 

1. NIGERIA 

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18 More Followers Of Christ Slaughtered By Muslim Attackers In Christian Village Of Mile Bakwai

Morning Star News – “Hosea Mashaf was resting in his village of Chirang Mangor, Nigeria, when area Christian youths told him that armed, Muslim Fulani herdsmen were attacking the Christian village of Mile Bakwai.

The 45-year-old farmer and other Christians rushed to Mile Bakwai, three kilometers away in the Bokkos Local Council Area of Plateau State, the night of March 27 to see how they might aid the Christians there, he told Morning Star News.

‘When we got there, the gunmen had already retreated,’ Mashaf said. ‘I saw dead bodies scattered all over the village. I counted the dead bodies we recovered, and in all we had 18 Christians who were killed by the Muslim attackers.’

They found five of those bodies in a minibus, he said.

‘They were travelling in a bus back to our village when they ran into the attack going on at Mile Bakwai village,’ Mashaf said. ‘They were killed by the attackers when they shot at the bus, which crashed into a building, but the attackers went to the place where the bus was and shot the occupants. Five of them were killed, while two others were injured.’

Dead were Geofrey Mafuyai, 35; Mahana Jamok, 50; Arandon Yusuf, 18; Dung Dalyop, 38; and, Mbata Machif, 36. Maju Mahana, 25, and Nanle Enoch, 18 were wounded and received treatment at the ECWA Evangel Hospital in Jos, he said.

The 18 slain were members of Nigerian Baptist Convention, Christ Apostolic Church and Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) congregations, sources said. The Rev. James Danladi Mahwash of the Bishara Baptist Church in Mile Bakwai village said five of his church members were killed, including the financial secretary of the Men’s Missionary Union of his church, 25-year-old Jamle Benjamin Sunday. (Read more here.)

2. USA

Cross Flag

Pentagon Blocks Access to Southern Baptist Website

By Todd Starnes

NOTE: A reader passed along the Pentagon’s response to this. They say that the problem was a result of their software detecting malware on the SBC’s website. You can read that story here.

The U.S. Military has blocked access to the Southern Baptist Convention’s website on an unknown number of military bases because it contains “hostile content” — just weeks after an Army briefing labeled Evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics as examples of religious extremism, Fox News has learned.

The Southern Baptist Convention is the nation’s largest Protestant denomination known for its support of the pro-life movement and its strong belief in traditional marriage.

Southern Baptist chaplains reported that SBC.net   had been blocked at military installations around the nation. An Air Force officer told Fox News that when he tried to log on to the website he received a message that his Internet usage was being logged and monitored for trying to access a blocked site.

The censorship was made public after an Army officer tried to log onto the denomination’s website and instead — received a warning message.

“The site you have requested has been blocked by Team CONUS (C-TNOSC/RCERT-CONUS) due to hostile content,” the message read.

Team CONUS protects the computer network of the Dept. of Defense. The SBC’s website was not blocked at the Pentagon.

It’s unclear what the “hostile content” might have been. The SBC is pro-life and opposed to same-sex marriage. (Read more here.)

3. EGYPT

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Egyptian Muslims murdering Christians with impunity

Ten people are dead following clashes between Muslims and Coptic Christians in Egypt. The people have been killed over the past few weeks which have seen spates of violence between Christians defending their churches and homes from angry Muslims. Few Muslim attackers ever face justice.

CAIRO, EGYPT (Catholic Online) – Clashes between Muslims and Christians have claimed 10 live in Egypt where sectarian violence between the groups has been renewed in the face of Mohammed Morsi’s administration.

The most recent spate of violence started after children drew crosses on the walls of an Islamic institute in Khosoos, just north of Cairo. That acts of children’s vandalism sparked a bloody retaliation from Muslims in which four Christians and a Muslim were killed.

At the Christian funeral, Muslims struck again, this time carrying on until they reached the Coptic cathedral and damaged the structure. More Christians were murdered. (Read more here.)

4. TURKEY

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The Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s Attempt to Deny It

From 1915 to 1917 the Young Turk regime in the Ottoman Empire carried out a systematic, premeditated, centrally planned genocide against the Armenian people.  One of the documents authenticated by Turkish authorities in 1919 is a telegram sent in June 1915 by Dr. Sakir, one of the leaders of the secret organization that carried out the planning and implementation of the Genocide.  He asks the provincial party official who is responsible for carrying out the deportations and massacres of Armenians within his district: “Are the Armenians, who are being dispatched from there, being liquidated? Are those harmful persons whom you inform us you are exiling and banishing, being exterminated, or are they being merely dispatched and exiled? Answer explicitly….”

The evidence of intent is backed also by the outcome of the actions against the Armenians: it is inconceivable that over a million persons could have died due to even a badly flawed effort at resettlement.  Moreover, the pattern of destruction was repeated over and over in different parts of Turkey, many of them far from any war zone; such repetition could only have come from a central design.  Further, the reward structure was geared toward destruction of the Christian minority: provincial governors and officials who refused to carry out orders to annihilate the Armenians were summarily replaced.

More than one million Armenians perished as the result of execution, starvation, disease, the harsh environment, and physical abuse.  A people who lived in eastern Turkey for nearly 3,000 years lost its homeland and was profoundly decimated in the first large-scale genocide of the twentieth century.  At the beginning of 1915 there were some two million Armenians within Turkey; today there are fewer than 60,000.

Despite the vast amount of evidence that points to the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide, eyewitness accounts, official archives, photographic evidence, the reports of diplomats, and the testimony of survivors, denial of the Armenian Genocide by successive regimes in Turkey has gone on from 1915 to the present.

The basic argument of denial has remained the same, it never happened, Turkey is not responsible, the term “genocide” does not apply. (Read more here.)

5. SYRIA

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Kidnapped bishops raise fears of Christian nightmare in Syria

ICC Note: Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, condemned the kidnapping of two archbishops and said Pope Francis is “following [the] events with deep participation and intense prayer.” The bishops were abducted by armed rebels on Monday in the village of Kfar Dael, near Aleppo, Syria while carrying out humanitarian work. The bishops are the most senior church leaders abducted in the conflict which has now killed more than 70,000 people across Syria. The kidnapping “is a dramatic confirmation of the tragic situation in which the Syrian people and its Christian community are living,” Lombardi said.

By John L. Allen Jr.

4/23/2013 Syria (National Catholic Reporter) – Rome on Tuesday reacted with alarm to the kidnapping of two Orthodox bishops in Syria, fearing it may mark the beginning of the nightmare scenario: that Syria will become the next Iraq, meaning the next Middle Eastern country where Christians emerge as primary victims of the chaos following the disintegration of a police state.

A Vatican spokesman called the kidnappings “a dramatic confirmation of the tragic situation in which the Syrian people and its Christian community are living.”

According to a report from the Asia News agency, the two bishops were stopped at gunpoint by armed men Monday on their way to the city of Aleppo. A catechist traveling with them was shot to death while the two bishops were forced out of the car and taken away.

The prelates involved are the Syriac Orthodox bishop of Aleppo, Msgr. Youhanna Ibrahim, and the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo and Iskenderun, Msgr. Boulos al-Yaziji. Both are well known in Rome as veterans of ecumenical dialogue with the Catholic church.

The identity of their kidnappers remains unclear, but sources in Syria say kidnapping of Christians has become a growth industry as various armed factions look for ways to fund their activities. (Read more here.)

6. CHINA: 

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Seven House Church Leaders Sentenced to Prison

4/21/2013 China (ChinaAid) – Also in Henan, seven house church leaders were sentenced on April 1 to prison sentences ranging from three to 7-1/2 years, according to the well-known Christian lawyer Li Baiguang. Their defense lawyers received the verdict and sentencing papers just last week.

Han Hai, 7-1/2 year sentence, male, aged 60, previously administratively detained twice, was also sentenced to a labor camp for three years. Now held in the Ye County Detention Center.

Hu Linpo, seven year sentence, from Singapore, male, aged 49, the house church’s main preacher, was detained in 1989 for 30 days. Criminally detained on April 18 and is now held in the Ye County Detention Center.

Yang Lianbing, three-year sentence, male, aged 23, working in Zhengzhou. Now held in the Ye County Detention Center.

Zhang Mian, four-year sentence, female, aged 37, owner of the residence where the church meets. Criminally detained on April 20, now held in the Pingdingshan Detention Center.

Cao Xia, 3-1/2-year sentence, female, in her 50s, owner of another residence where the church meets. Police seized from her home CDs of Hu Linpo preaching and a computer used to make copies of the sermon CDs. Police also confiscated a Chinese-made Liebao SUV parked outside Cao’s home that belonged to a Christian man who was there to listen to the preaching. Cao was criminally detained on April 20 and is now held in the Pingdingshan Detention Center.

Wang En, three-year sentence, female, in her 20s, taken from Cao Xia’s home, said to have helped make copies of Preacher Hu’s sermon CDs. Held in the Ye County Detention Center.

Li Dan, three-year sentence, female, in her 20s, taken from Cao Xia’s home, probably for copying CDs. Held in the Pindingshan Detention Center. (Read more here.)

 

Cardinal Dolan Receives William Wilberforce Award

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My idea of ecumenicism isn’t that Christians should try to undo the Reformation. My idea is that we should all stand up for Jesus together. 

When someone cuts one of us because we are Christians, as in Syria, Nigeria and in many other places, we all should bleed. When the freedom to follow Christ of any Christian is attacked, we should all stand together with our beleaguered brother or sister. When Christian bashers bash Christ, they are defaming my Lord and Savior and yours. We need to stand against them together.

ArchbishopTimothyDolan

That’s why I find it is important that Cardinal Timothy Dolan will receive the 2013 William Wilberforce Award this weekend. 

The award, which is bestowed by the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, has a decidedly evangelical origin. This doesn’t stop the organization from recognizing that Cardinal Dolan’s work for religious liberty is a Christian, rather than a Catholic endeavor. 

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Dr Timothy George, chairman of the Center, said that Cardinal Dolan has “taken a very courageous and bold stand” for conscience and religious liberty in the face of the HHS mandate.

“We’re concerned about the dignity of marriage, the sanctity of every human life, including children waiting to be born, and religious freedom,” he added. “On these particular issues as well a concern for the poor and the marginalized, Cardinal Dolan is a hero to so many of us.” 

These are excellent words. Christians need to lay aside our petty differences and stand together for Jesus. If we do that, we will be unstoppable. 

From CNA:

.- Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York will receive the 2013 William Wilberforce Award this weekend from a group of Christians for his leadership in standing up for religious freedom.

“I resonate with Cardinal Dolan as much as any public religious leader in our country today,” Dr. Timothy George, chairman of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview which is bestowing the award, told CNA April 16.

“Cardinal Dolan has just been tremendous, he’s one of the major leaders not just of the Catholic Church in the United States today, but of all Christians, and really all people of goodwill.”

George, who is also a Baptist minister and dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, noted that the prelate has “taken a very courageous and bold stand” for conscience protection and religious liberty in the face of the HHS contraception mandate.

“But that’s only one of a variety of concerns,” he added. “We’re concerned about the dignity of marriage, the sanctity of every human life, including those children waiting to be born, and religious freedom.”

“On these particular issues as well as concern for the poor and the marginalized, Cardinal Dolan is a hero to so many of us.”

The William Wilberforce Award was established in 1988, and honors those who “have done something significant, noteworthy and consequential to show the importance of a positive witness related to the values and character of the Christian faith in our time today,” George said.

Cardinal Dolan is the third Catholic to be given the award, following Father John Neuhaus in 1998 and Bishop Macram Gassis of El Obeid, in Sudan. (Read the rest here.) 

Orthodox Bishops Kidnapped in Syria

Kidnapped Archbishop Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim

Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syrian Orthodox Church and Archbishop Paul Yagizi of the Greek Orthodox Church were kidnapped April 22 near Aleppo, Syria. Their driver was killed.

Kidnapped Archbishop Paul Yagizi

The archbishops were on a humanitarian mission to try to secure the release of hostages who had been kidnapped previously.

A Vatican spokesman said that Pope Francis is following this situation closely and with “intense prayer.” The Vatican Press Director, Fr Federico Lombardi, said:

The assault on the archbishops “and the killing of their driver, while carrying out a humanitarian mission, is a dramatic confirmation of the tragic situation faced by the people of Syria and its Christian communities.”

Pope Francis, he said, is praying that, “with the commitment of all, the Syrian people will finally discover effective answers to the humanitarian tragedy and see on the horizon real hopes for peace and reconciliation.”

On April 17, Greek Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham said that 2 million Syrians have been forced to leave their homes and over 1,000 Christians have been killed and 20 churches destroyed in Syria’s conflict. 

Christians make up between 5 and 10 percent of Syria’s population.

As often happens in these situations, there is confusion about who is responsible for the kidnapping. According to an article in the Gaurdian:

The Syrian opposition coalition has accused the Assad regime of being behind the abduction of Bishops Yazigi and Ibrahim.

In a statement it said all kidnappings, particularly those against the clergy, were a blow to its attempts to build a new Syrian society based on freedom from tyranny.

It said there were indications that government was to blame for abductions after Bishop Ibrahim’s interview with the BBC when he stated that the fate of Christians in Syria was not linked to the survival of the Assad regime.

“Initial investigations conducted by the Syrian Coalition regarding the kidnapping and killing of Father Ibrahim’s bodyguard implicate the Assad regime in this crime. The Assad regime was angered by Father Ibrahim’s latest statement, in which he stated that the survival of Christians in Syria is not linked to the survival of the regime. The Free Syrian Army categorically denies any responsibility for this kidnapping.”

The statement urged Syrians to work with the Free Syrian Army to try to secure their release.

Deacon Greg Kandra has more details here


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