Displaying items by tag: Religion
How should we respond to a world that is increasingly estranged from Christian beliefs? This is a question that Finnish MP Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola are confronted with. Last year, Ms Räsänen was accused of “hate speech” for publicly voicing her deeply-held beliefs on marriage and human sexuality. The former minister of the interior, mother of five, and grandmother of seven now faces a daunting trial on 24 January in Helsinki. Rev. Dr Pohjola, who was consecrated as a Lutheran bishop in August 2021, assumes his new role at a very challenging time. He faces criminal prosecution with Ms Räsänen for publishing the pamphlet she wrote on human sexuality for his church congregation. Pray for a just outcome of their trial, that no one would be intimidated into silence, but that people would be encouraged to share their beliefs with confidence.
In October we asked you to pray for the release and safe return of missionaries held hostage in Haiti. On 16 December the twelve Canadian and American missionaries made a daring night-time escape walking on rough moonlit terrain following the sheer guidance of the stars. After a number of hours of walking, day began to dawn, and they eventually found someone who helped them make a phone call for help. They were finally free. They had faced difficult and intense circumstances in captivity, including sweltering heat, mosquito bites and limited access to food.
The EU's LGBTQ+ goodwill ambassador cross-dressed as a bearded Virgin Mary for a same-sex rendition of the Holy Family draped in the colors of the transgender flag. Riccardo Simonetti appeared on the cover of a queer community magazine boasting thick facial hair in a white robe, blue head veil and holding a baby doll representing Jesus. He posted the photos to his Instagram feed with the caption, ‘If we ignore the fact that Jesus wasn’t white, we could believe the Virgin Mary had a beard, why not?’ Another photo depicts Simonetti, still dressed as Mary, with a man in a pink robe embracing him from behind. ‘Very proud and honoured to be on the cover of December’s issue of a queer institutions magazine. Special thanks to my friend @akwantu for playing Joseph in our newly-interpreted holy family photo using the trans flag as inspiration.’ The photo shoot drew backlash from Christians online, but he accused them of homophobia.
A court in China has upheld the sentences against booksellers Chang Yuchun, 53, and his wife, Li Chenhui, 44, for 'inciting subversion of state power'. They each face a seven-year jail term and must both pay fines of 250,000 yuan (approximately £29,700). A local source said this is not the first case of religious booksellers being given a jail sentence, but seven years plus a hefty fine is rare. In recent months, authorities have clamped down further on the distribution of Christian resources including audio Bible players and a Bible app.
Atheism assumes various disguises, including wokeism – politically correct views on gender, race, sexuality etc. It comes in the wake of secular humanism and challenges Judeo-Christian principles in our culture. An example of wokery is Church of England’s Jayne Ozanne calling for a ban on ‘hate prayer’, asking the government to ban consensual prayer that helps same-sex people abstain from sex. It’s a reminder of Jesus’ warning that there will come a time when believers will betray one another (Matthew 10:21). See Meanwhile 1,700 church leaders and pastoral workers warned the Government over the conversion therapy ban and say they will continue to proclaim Jesus Christ’s lordship even if it means going to prison TalkRadio discussions on 'conversion therapy' turned into a rant about Christianity - a sad reminder of how far this culture is from discovering Jesus and his pattern for our lives. The Government’s consultation on conversion therapy ends on 4 February.
An Algerian message: ‘Christians eagerly wait for Christmas. We wait for joyous worship services, time to gather with family and friends, presents to open, and the celebration of the hope we have in Christ. But since authorities closed our churches in 2019, we won’t be able to celebrate Christmas together for the third year running. The churches are doing their best to take care of their sheep in an impossible situation and are waiting for heavenly intervention. In the midst of these hardships, Christians meet on Zoom, and watch church services on TV. We believe in a mighty God: nothing is impossible with Him.’ Pray for God to renew the spiritual strength of Algerian Christians waiting on God to shift the things beyond their control. May we join with the pastors who proclaim that the best is yet to come. Pray that Algerian churches will be permanently re-opened.
A Christian children’s home has filed a federal lawsuit against the Biden administration, challenging its rule requiring the agency to place children in the homes of unmarried, cohabitating couples, same-sex couples and non-Christian couples. Holston United Methodist Home for Children has operated in Tennessee and Virginia since 1895 and helped over 8,000 children reunite with family or find a new adoptive family through to transition into adulthood. Their core mission is facilitating relationships so children can be ‘raised by families which prepare them to live the fulfilling adult lives that God intended for them.’ The lawsuit argues that by forcing the home to place children with couples that do not share in its Christian statement of faith, the department of health is violating the right to free exercise of religion under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
For the second time in less than a year, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has blocked an attempt to make it legal for Portuguese doctors to kill their patients. The latest version of the Bill, approved by members of the National Assembly was judged to be too radical by the Roman Catholic president and returned to them unsigned. De Sousa said, If ‘fatal disease’ was no longer a prerequisite for ‘medically assisted death’, he considered the bill to be out of step with ‘the values of life and self-determination, in the context of Portuguese society’.
Over two millennia have passed since Jesus said ‘Go out and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame’ (Luke 14:2b). 39 million of the world's people are blind, 70 million are deaf. See In Victorian times some churchgoers gave to institutions that housed the disabled. Do we still see a disabled person as someone we do 'good things to' rather than teach, disciple and even allow to lead? When we see a disabled person in Christian ministry, do we see them as 'an inspiration' just because of their disability, or do we recognise them as a person gifted by God to minister? How welcoming are our churches to disabled people? Ask God to help us to include and disciple more people with disabilities just as much as anyone else. Pray for more churches to encourage and train disabled people into leadership roles.
The government wants a ban on 'conversion therapy' - a broad term covering encouragement to change or control sexual feelings or gender identity. Genuinely harmful therapies or practices are already illegal and / or not practised in the UK. A ban on legitimate talking therapies, pastoral support and prayer is what anti-'conversion therapy' campaigners want. The Christian Institute (CI) warned a House of Commons committee that any conversion therapy ban must be clearly defined, as activists want a broad ban encompassing Christian parenting, prayer, preaching and pastoral care. CI believe campaigners are attacking Christian beliefs and doctrine. It contends that if a church friend asks another to pray with them, or if a pastor teaches Christian sexual ethics from the Bible, or parents encourage children to follow them in their faith, it is not conversion therapy. Some want a ban which encapsulates those things. The consultation period ends on 10 December. All comments and suggestions will then be analysed for a spring 2022 draft bill. See