Displaying items by tag: Religion
The trials brought on by the Covid crisis have created a window of incredible opportunity. International evangelical agencies are hurrying to distribute the gospel to the most dangerous places on the frontlines of persecution where people have had their world shaken. Their hearts are open to the Good News. Wherever Satan is spreading death and destruction, God is there, working in the hearts of those affected. In the darkest periods of life, the lost can see clearly that the world has no answers for them. They see God is the answer. In these times, their willingness to turn to Him is greatly elevated.
Pastor Paul Song was a volunteer prison chaplain at HMP Brixton for 19 years, bringing many to Christ. In 2015, a Muslim imam became senior chaplain and placed heavy restrictions on the pastor's ministry, eventually banning him from the prison without explanation. Numerous other Christian prison volunteers leading Alpha courses, Christian drama courses, prayer groups and other vital ministries were banned from the prison. After taking the Ministry of Justice to court, Pastor Song was promised he would be allowed to return. But then he spoke to the media about the reality of Islamic extremism and radicalisation at HMP Brixton (see). As a result, he was suspended from prison work for ten years. He sought a judicial review of this decision on 12 January. At the time of writing the outcome is not known.
Mary, a former resident of Marianvale Home for mothers and babies in Newry, said, ‘My baby was taken from me. We have been asking the Executive to set up an inquiry for years. Ministers have brushed us aside.’ Her statement echoes the cry of women and babies in near-identical institutions who suffered arbitrary detention, forced labour, ill-treatment, and the removal and forced adoption of their babies. These criminal acts were carried out by both Catholic and Protestant churches and organisations. They enforced a regime of praying, knitting and scrubbing floors. Women were treated as prisoners, not expectant mothers. There were over a dozen of these institutions, where 7,500 women and girls gave birth. The last one closed in the 1990s. Two UN committees have recommended that the government should establish an inquiry into these abuses.
The following is based on prayers by Suzanne Ferrett. God is changing the face of the Church and resetting society values. Pray that across our nation, every shift and change which is taking place will move us closer to the way He created us to live, aligning the lives of individuals, families, and communities with His heart, His values and the plans within His word. For those changes to last beyond the limits of our current lockdown, forming a new foundation on which society will rebuild. God is re-aligning this nation. Pray for righteousness, justice, honesty, truth, mercy, godly discernment, and divine wisdom to be the foundations upon which this nation will build. Pray also for the Lordship and Sovereign will of God over all trading negotiations taking place, so that this nation will be aligned and connected for trade according to God’s design. May the complexities of new arrangements be understood and smoothed.
On 8 January Karnataka state police banned a community of fifty Christians from having worship services indefinitely. They claimed that none of them were Christian by birth and must have been coercively or fraudulently converted to Christianity. They were also accused of collecting government benefits as both Christians and Hindus. Hindu radicals use the state police to clamp down on Christian activities. They have tried social boycotts and physical beatings. However, local Christians remain faithful in the midst of continued harassment.’ One of the biggest threats to Hindu nationalist ideology is the gospel of Jesus Christ, which frees Hindus from the bondage of trying to appease or earn the favour of millions of false gods. If the gospel continues to spread, India cannot become the land of the Hindus. Hindus believe Christians must be treated as enemies. However the constitution states that citizens have the freedom to profess, practice, and propagate the religion of their choice. See also
Raja Waris, a 25-year-old Christian lay reader, is in police custody in Lahore after he shared another person’s post critical of Islam on his Facebook page. Raja apologised to the Muslims in person, saying he had shared the post for academic understanding between Christians and Muslims and did not mean to offend any Muslims, and the issue appeared to be resolved. But then a huge mob gathered demanding his beheading. Fearing violence, hundreds of Christian residents fled their homes while around 400 anti-riot policemen were deployed to the area to thwart violence. When local church elders were taken to the police station, a large mob gathered outside, chanting slogans against Christians. Negotiations failed, and Raja was hiding due to threats to his life. Mob leaders only called off the siege after he was held under blasphemy laws that call for up to ten years in prison. He and his family are currently in a safe house for their security.
A Church of England spokesman has said, ‘At Christmas around six million people of all ages wish to attend services to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Covid-19 has meant it is necessary to limit the capacity of church buildings to keep everyone safe.’ Those wishing to attend services this Christmas are being encouraged not to leave it too late to book their seats. Churches have been advised to set up free online ticket booking systems to ensure adequate physical distancing can be maintained. The popular Christmas services are quickly filling up. St Paul's Cathedral has no tickets left for Christmas services. York Minster tweeted, ‘Tickets for 23rd and 24th carol services are sold out, although they will be livestreamed’. Some churches have added additional services to their programmes to keep up with demand, while advising online bookings. Churches are urged to add their Christmas events to the CofE’s 'A Church Near You' page.
Christians in Egypt are not safe, despite the authorities’ claims to the contrary. The following tragedy shows the dangers Christians must navigate in Egyptian society, and their disbelief that help will come in the form of justice. Persecution is more than violence; it is also about how the authorities respond to these injustices. On 10 December three Muslim brothers attacked Coptic Christians living in Alexandria, murdering one man and significantly injuring two with knives and clubs, then damaging three Christian shops. The brothers have a history of thuggery and escalated harassment of Christian shop owners. They were arrested, but local Christians fear that they will be declared mentally unstable and not fully punished, as has happened before in similar cases. Violence against Christians is commonplace in Egypt, but this happened in Alexandria, where sectarian tensions are normally subtler than in Upper Egypt.
Pastor and author John Piper has said, ‘Those who choose to marry non-believers are acting in open defiance of the teaching of the apostles and of God’. Piper is known for strict Calvinist theology. He said not marrying a Christian indicates how deeply compromised the believer’s love for Christ is; Christians who marry non-believers and ignore their pastors’ warnings ‘should be excommunicated from their church community’. Opposers to excommunication might say, ‘You won’t be able to win them to Christ by putting them out of the church’. But elders must be prepared to hear criticism before declaring this is ‘emphatically not what the Bible teaches’. Not everyone agreed with Piper. Twitter comments included ‘quite literally one of the worst things I have ever read’ and ‘I benefited from Piper’s teaching in the past, but this HAS to be the worst’.
Catholic leaders are encouraging people to receive Covid vaccines despite some ethical concerns regarding their creation, and fears of committing a sin by being immunised. The bishops’ conference has urged people to disregard the rumours that the AstraZeneca vaccine may have been made from aborted foetal tissue, namely the lung tissue of an aborted male foetus. However, researchers at the University of Bristol said that the aborted tissue was not part of the vaccine, but only used for testing it. While the researchers said they injected the vaccine into MRC-5 cells derived from an aborted foetus to test its effectiveness, the vaccine itself does not contain MRC-5 cells.