Here are a handful of news-bites from around the UK included in the December issue of en. May these spur us on to pray for our country and issues we all are facing.
Christians = terrorists?
Pro-marriage and pro-life Christians have been listed next to terrorists by a group of secularists and atheists in a manifesto calling for the establishment of an ‘international front against the religious-right and for secularism’, launched in mid-October.
Signed by homosexual-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, the National Secular Society’s president Terry Sanderson and prominent atheist A C Grayling, concerns have been raised that genuine concern about murderous terrorists is being hijacked to attack evangelical Christians. The Christian Institute
NI: against exploitation
The Northern Ireland Assembly voted in mid-October to criminalise paying for sex, and voted to support the introduction of statutory child trafﬁcking guardians alongside statutory victim support.
In voting for these provisions Northern Ireland now leads the way in having the very best anti-trafficking and exploitation legislation in the UK. CARE
The Prince & persecution
Muslim leaders have a duty to warn their own followers about the ‘indescribable tragedy’ of the persecution of Christians around the world, Prince Charles insisted in November.
He said that faith leaders must not remain silent. His comments coincided with the publication of a new report which concludes that Christians are the ‘most persecuted religious minority’ in the world and that Muslim countries dominate the list of places where religious freedom is most under threat. The Daily Telegraph
Here are a handful of news-bites from around the world included in the December issue of en. May these encourage us as well as spur us on to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world facing severe persecution.
North Korea: investigation
A UN report has called in late October for North Korea to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The report concluded that ‘a number of long-standing and ongoing patterns of systematic and widespread violations [meet] the high threshold required for crimes against humanity in international law’ and that these crimes ‘clearly merit a criminal investigation’. The report found that ‘grave human rights violations and crimes against humanity are ingrained in the institutional framework’ of North Korea. Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Thailand: wise proverbs
A new multi-media project has been launched in Thailand, it was reported in mid-October.
The Proverbs Project from Voice of Peace is designed to introduce modern, educated Buddhists in Thailand to the gospel. It consists of a book with 52 chapters, 52 radio and television programmes, a correspondence course, social and mobile media. In Thailand proverbs are used for teaching children and youth so it is therefore ideal as an entry point for presenting the gospel to the Thai people. Fellowship of European Broadcasters (FEB)
USA: ironic equality
It was reported in late October that Christian groups at California State University have been stripped of recognition because they refused to sign a policy which would require them to open their membership and leadership to all students, including non-Christians.
Groups that do not sign the new policy lose free access to meeting rooms, are barred from student fairs and cannot receive funding from student associations. The move has been heavily criticised by members of a nationwide campus ministry. The Christian Institute
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I was visiting an older couple who had come along to one or two church events.
They told me a little of their own life in business and their travels. I can’t quite remember how the conversation turned, but suddenly the wife said something which took me aback but was very heartening. ‘The people at your church’ she said, ‘are like a different race – they are all so kind’. I quickly assured them it was the Lord’s church, not mine, and that despite God’s goodness to us we are far from perfect. But here a couple of outsiders had sensed something wonderful among us and as soon as I was able I related this comment to the church for folk’s encouragement.
Holiday at home
Where did this comment originate? This couple had first come along to a three-day ‘Holiday at Home’ hosted in the church during the summer. They had been thrilled by the fun and the love they had enjoyed. In particular they had been struck by the fact that during the school holidays many of our teenagers had been happy to get involved with older people and serve as waiters and waitresses. This had affected this couple so much that at the close of things, with tears in his eyes, the husband had got up and said how much they had both enjoyed themselves and that the way our society is going he had come to think that such young people had ceased to exist – but here they were. ‘I don’t understand why you do it’ he said, but then, probably with the short lunchtime messages he had heard about God’s love in mind, he concluded, ‘but perhaps I think I do’.
Hearing these comments about loving Christians seeming like a new breed of human beings, we are reminded of our new birth and Peter’s words: ‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation… Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God’ (1 Peter 2.9,10). And even hardened atheists and agnostics sometimes have to admit that there is something different about God’s people when they encounter Christian love.
In her Scenes of Clerical Life, the great doubter George Eliot grudgingly highlights this, concerning evangelicalism: ‘No man can begin to mould himself on a faith or an idea without rising to a higher order of experience: a principle of subordination, of self-mastery, has been introduced into his nature; he is no longer a mere bundle of impressions, desires and impulses. Whatever might be the weaknesses of the ladies who pruned the luxuriance of their lace and ribbons, cut out garments for the poor, distributed tracts, quoted Scripture, and defined the true gospel, they had learned this – that there was a divine work to be done in life, a rule of goodness higher than the opinion of their neighbours… that fitness for heaven consisted in purity of heart, in Christ-like compassion, in the subduing of selfish desires… Miss Rebecca Linnet, in quiet attire, with a somewhat excessive solemnity of countenance, teaching at the Sunday-school, visiting the poor, and striving after a standard of purity and goodness, had surely more moral loveliness than in those flaunting peony-days, when she had no other model than the costumes of the heroines in the circulating library’.
Often, so aware of the sins with which we battle and the missed marks which attend our lives, Christians can fail to appreciate who we really are by God’s grace. And sometimes outsiders can perceive more clearly than ourselves our true identity.
Last month’s commentary mentioned the editor’s poorly mother. She went to be with Lord, peacefully, on 7 November.
Here are a handful of news-bites from around the world included in the November issue of en. May these encourage us as well as spur us on to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world facing severe persecution.
The Colombian Constitutional Court upheld the right to conscientious objection, freedom of worship and religious freedom on September 16 in the case of Jhonatan David Vargas Becerra, who was forcibly inducted into the military in March 2013 and later arrested and imprisoned on charges of going absent without leave.
His right to object to military service should have been respected from the outset as he had made a verbal declaration of his status in 2013. The court has given the National Army 48 hours to free him. Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Germany: taboo broken
Laws prohibiting incest between siblings in Germany should be removed, according to a top government committee which said, in early October, it is ‘not appropriate for a criminal law to preserve a social taboo’.
‘The fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination is to be weighed more heavily than the abstract idea of protection of the family’, stated the German Ethics Council. Incest remains illegal in the UK and in most European countries. The Christian Institute
Nepal: free to convert?
The Prime Minister of Nepal, Sushil Koirala, has committed to guaranteeing religious freedom in the forthcoming constitution, a pledge included in his message to Muslims and people of other faiths on the occasion of the Muslim festival of Bakra Eid on October 6.
An anti-conversion clause for the new constitution had been proposed, and there were also calls by prominent political leaders in the last few months for a constitutional ban on all conversions from one religion to another. Christian Solidarity Worldwide
USA: chicken out
Chick-ﬁl-A, a fast food chain, has, in September, been banned from donating meals to a high school fundraising event in California because of its support for biblical marriage.
The school’s principal, Val Wyatt, banned the donation, saying: ‘With their political stance on gay rights and because the students of Ventura High School and their parents would be at the event, I didn’t want them on campus’. Christian Concern
Here are a handful of news-bites from around the UK included in the November issue of en. May these spur us on to pray for our country and issues we all are facing.
Stonewall, announced in early October that it is dropping its controversial ‘Bigot of the Year’ Award.
In the past, those who have spoken out against the redefinition of marriage have been nominated – provoking a campaign against the award. In 2012 Coutts advised Stonewall that they would withdraw funding unless the category was removed. In 2013, Barclays and PwC dropped their sponsorship of the event after being contacted by Christians who objected to the award. Christian Concern
A ban on thinking
The decision to ban a pro-life group from the freshers’ fayre at Dundee University early in September has been criticised by sociologist Dr Tiffany Jenkins.
Writing in The Scotsman, she said that such actions mean ‘denying youngsters the chance to formulate their own views’. The sociologist defended the right of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), to share its views with students despite disagreeing with them. The Christian Institute
New pregnancy centres
A new national network for pregnancy centres with a Christian ethos was launched on September 27 at St Michael’s Church, Chester Square, London. There were around 90 delegates from 30 centres nationwide.
A new initiative to reach the churches about abortion called ‘Open’ was introduced. The keynote talk was delivered by Prof. John Wyatt, author of Matters of Life and Death and Professor of Neonatal Paediatrics at UCL. He re-established the heart of the pregnancy centres’ work in an inspiring way: that we are called to be Jesus to our clients and that we are called to see Jesus in our clients.
Here are a handful of news-bites from around the world included in the October issue of en. May these encourage us as well as spur us on to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world facing severe persecution.
China: lost appeal
Chinese Pastor Zhang Shaojie, sentenced to 12 years in prison and ﬁned 100,000 RMB (approximately £9,400) for fraud and ‘gathering a crowd to disturb public order’, lost his appeal on August 21.
The appeal hearing took place without the knowledge or presence of the pastor’s lawyers. The original detention of the pastor and several others took place without formal documentation, and lawyers were repeatedly denied access to their clients. Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Iran: ISIS in prison threats
Christian prisoner Farshid Fathi was moved with no known reason from Evin prison (Tehran) to Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj on August 19 and has found himself threatened by other prisoners who are members of ISIS.
He is detained in an open cell with hardened criminals and drug addicts and in this tense atmosphere he has asked for prayers for his safety. Due to the more aggressive nature of this prison, a guard is constantly present in the cell to try to prevent the inmates from attacking each other. Elam Ministries
USA: Navy Bibles unbanned
Bibles, which had been removed from US Navy rooms following complaints from an atheist group, have been returned, it was reported in early September.
A review is taking place with regard to the placement of religious materials, and so the Bibles have been returned pending an outcome to this review.
Fellowship of European Broadcasters (FEB), Christian Post.
For more news and prayer fuel from around the world, subscribe to en for monthly updates.