Displaying items by tag: Religion
President Mahmoud Abbas has guaranteed that at least seven seats of a new legislative council will go to Christians in the elections in the occupied territories to be held on 22 May. Hanan Ashrawi, a Christian who recently resigned her position on the PLO’s executive committee, said she is uneasy about reserving seats for specific communities. However, the president of Bethlehem Bible College said, ‘This is an important and long-awaited opportunity for young Palestinian Christians to participate in this public process, whether as candidates or as voters’. Emigration due to violence has produced a huge drop in the Palestinian Christian population. Many believe the way to fight emigration is to give them reasons to stay. What is needed is a system that protects people and provides for their rights, not allow churches to become museums.
Following last week’s intercessions for our Christians in Parliament as they meet up virtually to read the Bible and offer pastoral support, pray for God to anoint them as they walk alongside other people in difficult circumstances and for new opportunities to give one-to-one support. Our Christian MPs also hope to run a course exploring the Christian faith soon; please pray that those who would benefit from such a course would be able to find the right time to meet. Also, plans are being made for this year's National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast. Please pray for God to give the organisers wisdom as they work out what will be feasible given the ongoing Covid restrictions. Pray that whatever format the event takes, it will be an encouragement for all who attend and a vehicle for strengthening relationships between church leaders and their local MPs.
We are now in the season of Lent, setting aside time to make deeper connections with the Bible and Jesus. Pray that we, the body of Christ, will not find isolation a hindrance to our Lent devotions, but rather may we all experience a renewed desire to worship, pray and study the word of God. The Bible Society is providing a free 40-day Lent email journey that includes Bible verses, images that can be saved as screensavers, video reflections and practical challenges. Resources are also available through All We Can with Lent ideas to grow faith, pray, connect with others and discover how to help change lives in marginalised communities around the world. Christians can join one of their online community groups to share faith, fellowship and be inspired by Colossians 2:17 ‘In Christ all things hold together.’
Throughout the pandemic, the Christians in Parliament team have been sharing regular psalm reflections with Members and staff to encourage them in this challenging season. Psalms remind us there are so many reasons to praise God, he is still in control and offers us true stability. Please pray for the weekly video conferencing services every Tuesday lunchtime. They are attended by a good range of Members and staff. May they all be blessed as they work through John’s Gospel, looking at what happened when different people encountered Jesus. Please pray for the speakers as they prepare and that everyone attending will grow in their knowledge and love of Jesus through these different encounters. Pray also for the two weekly Bible studies, now beginning to look at Philippians. Please pray that all those attending will continue to fix their eyes on Jesus.
A common theme is emerging among church leaders experiencing lockdowns: the importance of connection and how to connect as a church. Refreshments after church, shared events, coffee shop catchups, Sunday dinner get-togethers have been stripped away. Leaders have lost the thermostat of knowing how church people are. Many are wondering if and how online church is translating into everyday life. It is encouraging that this season has produced worship that is decentralised, has moved out of the building, and is more tightly woven into the daily fabric of life. Mission no longer has a visiting evangelist. Evangelism is now central in conversations with neighbours and colleagues. We are sharing our faith. Another common theme is how Christians have taken hold of their own discipleship because of the decentralisation of worship and the democratisation of mission.
Christian MP Gregory Campbell has defended his claim that the BBC's Songs of Praise Gospel Singer of the Year Competition was ‘the BBC at its Black Lives Matter worst’. The semi-final featured five black singers and three black judges. He believes the singers were not representative of the best gospel singers in the country, the BBC is not diverse, and the show had ‘one colour scheme’. The presenter of the competition said very few white people applied, and the best singers were chosen. The MP then asked him if he was trying to make him believe there wasn't a single white person good enough when both black and white sing gospel. The presenter said the show celebrated a style of music that came out of black communities and black experience in this country; Campbell's comments show a lack of understanding and ignorance about gospel music.
On 29 January Al-Qaeda’s Somali affiliate Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen released a video documenting preparations for a raid on Camp Simba US military base. The 55-minute video features a meeting between Al-Shabab leaders and the attackers; of training and preparations for the raid; final messages from the attackers; and drone footage of the raid in progress. The leader vowed more attacks on US targets and rallied his ‘soldiers of Allah’ saying, ‘I hope that base becomes the place where we hear the defeat of the disbelievers’, and encouraged Muslims in the Horn of Africa to join the ranks of his group. Also five churches were set ablaze in quick succession between 21 and 26 January. Pray for the fearful residents living in the area and the congregations of Seventh Day Adventist, Pentecostal and Catholic churches. See
Covid-19 and the lockdowns have brought a wide range of new challenges for church leaders in a short space of time, and a significant number are feeling the effects. Savanta ComRes, in partnership with the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), surveyed 201 leaders of different denominations during the period between the two lockdowns. They were asked to think about the two years before Covid, then about the period since restrictions began, and to assess their mental health during that time. 93% of them said that in the two years leading up to March 2020, they had very good or fairly good mental health. It is impressive that church leaders overall reported this level of happiness with their mental health. But in the period since then, that went down to 85%, and 15% said it was poor or very poor.
The Prayer Shield is a 365-day prayer initiative for God's plans and purposes to be manifest in the UK. The vision is to unite thousands in a shield of prayer over the nation for 365 days. Leaders of diverse denominations and expressions will lead daily prayers, declarations, and blessings for the nation. Christians across the country are invited to join this initiative for a few minutes each day to say a short prayer, make a declaration from God’s Word, and pronounce a blessing for the United Kingdom. At a time when issues of racial injustice and discrimination are causing so much pain in our society, intercessors are catching the vision of God changing things.
Open Doors reports Christian persecution at a record high globally. The number of Christians murdered for their faith rose 60% in 2020. 340 million Christians suffer high levels of persecution through Islamic or communist oppression or Hindu nationalism. Even the pandemic has been used as an excuse by extremists and governments as a justification in several places. Indian local governments use pressure on Christians to withhold food and medical care. Over 115,000 incidents have been documented. In Nigeria Boko Haram attack Christian villages and take food and medical supplies. Pray for an end to the extra persecution because of Covid. New data show that China is using Facebook, Zoom, and Apple to threaten and censor Christians. There are 100 million Christians in China; the regime is using technology to watch their every move. When they go into church they are subject to facial recognition; their online searches are examined, and massive surveillance systems are monitoring religious practice.