Displaying items by tag: Religion
In April 2022, Finnish MP and former government minister Päivi Räsänen was declared innocent of all charges over her beliefs on sexuality, but the prosecutors appealed the verdict. The latest trial involves expressions of her Christian faith in a tweet, in a church pamphlet twenty years ago, and in a 2019 radio interview. She is accused under the ‘War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity’ for ‘agitation against a minority group’. She says it is a very important verdict for freedom of speech and religion in Finland, which has consequences across Europe. Räsänen’s tweet challenged her church leadership for sponsoring a Pride event, and included a picture of a Bible verse from Romans. The prosecutor said she wasn’t putting God in the dock, but rather those who interpret what the Bible says: ‘You can cite the Bible, but it is Räsänen’s interpretation and opinion about Bible verses that are criminal.’ The court will deliver a verdict by 30 November.
On 1 September, new rules came into force to limit all religious activities to official venues only and forbid displaying any religious symbols outdoors. All religious activity must be supervised by the state so that places of worship support the leadership of China’s Communist Party. Release International’s Paul Robinson says the new rules are tantamount to a complete ban on Christianity, but in fact Christianity in China is growing. The number of Christians in China has long surpassed the membership of the Communist Party. ChinaAid said they have not seen the Communist Party as bold as they have been this summer in playing God and twisting how the Gospel is taught. The only correct perspective in the eyes of the Communist government is worship of the state and placing faith in Xi Jinping.
The Catholic Union, Christian Institute, and Evangelical Alliance have written to the chair of the human rights committee, asking for religious freedom to be a ‘key part’ of a parliamentary inquiry into human rights at work. Catholic Union director Nigel Parker says that it is becoming increasingly difficult to be a faithful Catholic in many workplaces in this country, and his concerns are shared by people from other denominations and other faiths. A Catholic Union survey found that almost five in ten workers do not feel able to talk about their faith openly with colleagues, with 41% of respondents saying they didn’t believe religious discrimination was given the same weight as age, race, sex, and sexuality discrimination. Although the inquiry's focus includes ‘freedom of thought, conscience, and religion’, they worry this won’t receive enough attention. They want a separate session discussing religious freedom at work to help shape the final recommendations for the Government.
Recently we have seen waves of Islamic unrest across France; Muslims engaging in street skirmishes in Spain; and Muslim migrant-related assaults in Germany. Hundreds of Muslims in an English mosque, holding Qurans high, have pledged their allegiance to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and praised martyrs who ‘bled red’ for the ‘axis of resistance’. Two Austrian Muslim teenagers confessed that they intended to attack a Christian school and ‘restore the caliphate’. When confronted in court on 16 July, they admitted, ‘We wanted to shoot all the Christians in the classes.’ When asked what they would do if police intervened, they said they would have surrendered: ‘Allah forgives, and killing Christians takes us to paradise’. Meanwhile, Sweden has elevated the threat level from three to four on a scale of five due to recent Quran burnings.
Jews in Paris face enormous pressures from more and more antisemitism acts. The International Jewish Mission (IJM) is there this summer to reach out to Paris’s Jewish community with the truth and hope of Jesus. Over 250,000 Jewish people live in Paris and its suburbs. IJM is seeking our prayers today for people like Harry. He still struggles to believe, because the horrors he and his family experienced during the Holocaust made him an ardent atheist. Since meeting Aurel from IJM and hearing the Gospel, he has softened a bit, admitting that he is not sure now if there is a God. He recently said to Aurel, ‘I really wish I had your faith.’ Aurel is leading the outreach, and knows God will help them connect with more Jewish people so they can hear about Jesus and be saved. Pray for God to open Jewish eyes and hearts as the Good News is shared with them.
Freedom has brought good progress in Lithuania. Doors for the gospel remain open. However, freedom has also brought dangers like greed for material goods, selfish pleasure-seeking, and a belief that traditional morals have no value. Substance abuse, suicide, and trafficking of women for prostitution all damage the social foundations. Spiritual transformation must accompany economic growth. Lithuania was the last European nation to be Christianised.
Over 100 people were arrested in Jaranwala after thousands of Muslims burned churches and vandalised homes. The unrest was sparked by claims that two Christian men tore pages from the Quran. The historic Salvation Army Church was still smouldering on 17 August, one day after the riot. The ruins are surrounded with barbed wire, The situation remains tense. Public gatherings have been restricted for seven days. The men accused of damaging the Quran have been charged with blasphemy, punishable by death. An accusation of blasphemy can result in widespread riots, lynchings and killings. Yassir Bhatti, a 31-year-old Christian, was one of those forced to flee their homes. ‘They broke the windows, doors and took out fridges, sofas, chairs and other household items to pile them up in front of the church to be burnt. They also burnt and desecrated Bibles, they were ruthless.’ Videos on social media show protesters destroying Christian buildings while police appear to look on.
Generation Z grew up with iPads and iPhones. They are connected to technology. American Survey Centre calls 1/3rd of this age group 'religious nones' (no religious affiliation). A summer camp leader says, ‘It’s essential we preach and teach the Bible, sharing the love of God to them when they're young - before the world has a chance to beat them up, chew them up and spit them out.’ This year, 3,000+ campers accepted Jesus as their personal saviour at Crossroads Summer Camp. The camp leader attributed this surge in salvations to the goodness of God compared to what the world has to offer. The Crossroads leader said,‘I think they've seen the materialism of our world. The ideologies that are being shoved down their throats. They're all empty. When they feel the presence of God, when they taste and see that the Lord is good, nothing else will satisfy them.’
A group of Christians in Hampshire who took over the local tourist information office when it was in danger of being closed say it has become a valuable way of engaging people with faith. Their organiser said, ‘Tourist information centres everywhere are closing because everything is online. But older people prefer to go to a tourist information centre to pick up a leaflet etc. When we took the centre over from the council they were delighted. We open on reduced hours, giving out leaflets and selling books to pay the bills. It's now quite a ministry. People come in asking questions like where are the toilets, or when does the next bus go? Then they start coming up with issues that as Christians we feel qualified to signpost them in the right direction’.
Adam Smith-Connor has pleaded not guilty to charges related to breaking a local ‘buffer zone’ around an abortion clinic and praying silently outside the medical facility. He was approached by police outside the clinic earlier this year. He thought he would not be prosecuted, as the statutory time-limit for pressing charges had elapsed. At his hearing on 9 August he said, ‘We are standing in the nation of the Magna Carta, the nation which has championed democracy and freedom. We have a history of upholding human rights we can be proud of and a respect for freedom that I fought to uphold when I served this country for twenty years in the army reserves, including in Afghanistan. Yet here I stand before you, being prosecuted for a thought crime.’ His legal team contend that freedom of thought is protected absolutely through the Human Rights Act and therefore, the local council has no power to prohibit silent prayer.