Displaying items by tag: Religion
Ecuador, one of four Latin American teams in the 2022 World Cup, is drawing attention not only for its impressive start to the tournament but also for the way the players are celebrating their goals. On 20 November former West Ham player Enner Valencia scored twice, securing the win against host team Qatar. Both goals were dedicated to God as the players came together to form a circle and fall to their knees before pointing and looking up to the sky to celebrate. It is understood most of the team’s players are Christians, with several videos on social media showing them praying before each match.
Bishop Paul Mason, the lead bishop for safeguarding in the Catholic Church in England and Wales, has defended the seal of the confessional even when a priest may hear disclosures of abuse. He said this after the biannual plenary meeting of bishops where a report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) recommended that failure to report a disclosure of child sexual abuse should be a criminal offence, including disclosures made in the confessional. Bishop Mason said that it’s an extremely sensitive and difficult area, and IICSA noted that they didn’t come across priests who have described having had a paedophile in the Confessional. Bishop Paul said if we do have contact with these people, we have an opportunity to turn their lives around and report themselves to the authorities.
Polish video game company PlayWay SA has announced it will launch the first instalment of the world’s first game that allows players to simulate the life of Jesus, including performing miracles and battling Satan. The prologue, I Am Jesus Christ, is a stand-alone game which serves as an introduction; it will be available from 1 December. The full version, which will be published in the second quarter of next year, will allow players to walk in the footsteps of Jesus ‘from birth to resurrection’, recreating key events from his life, such as the Last Supper. Players will be able to perform miracles and carry out quests, including a fight with Satan in the desert. Along the way, players discover Jesus’s story from his perspective and will be able to cure the sick, help the needy and interact with over sixty characters, including Christ’s disciples.
In under two weeks, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine became a full-fledged humanitarian crisis. The turmoil is affecting gospel workers in Ukraine and throughout the region in significant ways. The Slavic Gospel Association (SGA) reports a sense of excitement. Kherson, a very important city to Ukrainians, is now accessible. Battlefields are constantly changing, with villages and cities burned to the ground. People are hiding in their basements: drones, missiles, and rockets are attacking their infrastructure, and they are bracing for a terrible winter. A new SGA initiative, Heat and Hope, will provide heating, blankets, and food to Ukrainians. They work through over 240 local churches across the embattled regions. They will not only be centres of warmth when all else has been destroyed, but centres of hope. In the middle of a bitter cold winter, these churches are proclaiming the hope and love of Jesus.
Golden Hills Elementary School in California is facing backlash from parents after promoting an after-school Satan club aimed at children as young as five. The controversial club is scheduled to hold monthly meetings starting in December. It was created by the Satanic Temple - not to be confused with the Church of Satan - as an antidote to the evangelical Christian groups cropping up in public schools. The organisation’s website states, ‘The Satanic Temple does not advocate for religion in schools. However, once religion invades schools, as the Good News Clubs have, the Satanic Temple will fight to ensure that plurality and true religious liberty are respected.’ In this instance, the after-school club was created in response to the Good News Club, a weekly Christian programme for 5- to 12-year-olds at the school. Many parents believe the Satan club is a Trojan horse to promote devil worship in schools.
Officials in Algeria are making it increasingly difficult for missionaries to evangelise or challenge Islam in any capacity. Algeria’s government-issued ordinances and restrictions on non-Muslim organisations attempting to attract Muslims to Christ are enforced with animosity, hefty fines, and the very real possibility of between three and five years in prison. Algeria’s population is 99% Sunni Muslim. The laws against blasphemy, proselytisation, and worship make ministry work extremely difficult and can come at a high price. They criminalise any individual offending the Prophet or belittling the precepts of Islam through writing, artwork, speaking, or other mediums. Laws regulating worship keep Christians confined to approved worship spaces made purposely in places difficult to attend regularly. Pray that church leaders will be strong and wise while enduring hardship, and for opportunities to distribute Bibles throughout the country, especially in the south.
The Anglican Church of South Africa has passed anti-Israel resolutions, including the call on members to observe Nakba (Catastrophe) Day, which effectively means believing that Israel has no right to be a nation. Nakba, the name applied by Palestinians to Israel’s annual Independence Day, is normally marked by protests. The approval by Anglicans of such behaviour is a challenge to God’s promises, as they allow themselves to be used as a mouthpiece of the ‘father of lies’. It also goes against the grain of the growing movement of reconciliation between Jews and Arabs who follow Jesus (most Messianic congregations in Israel are mixed). The apartheid regime was defeated mostly thanks to South Africa’s leading Jews: now clerics are accusing Israel of the same type of discrimination. Meanwhile, English Anglicans recently held a service of repentance in Oxford Cathedral for historic anti-Semitism perpetrated by Christians.
Governments in both Iraq and Lebanon struggle to function and pass legislation. Political parties tied to ethnic and religious groups vie for control. Iran-backed militias hold more power than the military. There are many parallels between Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq because the nation-state borders were drawn around them by colonial nations around a hundred years ago. Ethnic groups thrown together by these borders often find it difficult to make their own voices heard and cooperate. It is an ongoing process that is only successful if there has been a dictator or authoritarian government. There is government corruption. Young Iraqis are dissatisfied and are opening their eyes to opportunities for truth. South Iraq is seeing a time of harvest among the Shia community. Even though they face persecution by larger religious groups, they are boldly proclaiming the Gospel repeatedly to all peoples and all backgrounds or ethnic minorities or majorities in their communities. God is doing amazing things in the south.
India’s religious diversity is under threat from the spread of religious intolerance as well as government policies and laws. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh arm of the BJP promotes a Hindu nationalist agenda and is dividing communities on religious grounds, leaving the nation’s religious minorities unsettled about their future. Pray for India’s government today: transform their hearts to treat every individual and community with respect and to protect their right to freedom of religion or belief. Pray also that the appointment of India’s first president from an indigenous community, President Draupadi Murmu, will bring positive changes for all India’s indigenous communities. Heavenly Father, we pray for Your protection over all the nation’s religious minorities. We pray that those in power will respect and acknowledge the right of everyone to freedom of religion or belief. Where there is unrest, bring peace, and where there is persecution, we ask for impartiality.
Christians in Qatar are inviting the global church to join with them in praying for a move of the Holy Spirit during the World Cup, which begins on 20 November. The country is number 18 on the World Watch List. Although foreign Christians can worship in relative freedom, Qatari Christians are forbidden from having their own churches or even entering a church. Converts can also face extreme pressure from their family and community. Despite these challenges, the church in Qatar is growing - and there is the expectation that it will continue to do so during the World Cup. ‘We’re expecting a big move of the Holy Spirit during the World Cup,’ says a church leader for expats and migrant workers. ‘We already see the move of the Holy Spirit in Qatar. God is visiting people in their dreams. God is doing miracles. God is doing healings among the Qatari people.’