Rise of Hard-liners Alarms Moderates in Indonesia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

World

Rise of Hard-liners Alarms Moderates in Indonesia

Protesters take to the streets in Jakarta on April 28 to demonstrate against outgoing Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama. (Goh Chai Hin/AFP via Getty Images)

Jakarta, Indonesia- In¬mid-February, Muhammad al-Khaththath, leader of the hard-line Muslim Community Forum, held court on the top floor of a Jakarta fast-food joint. With key deputies gathered around, he explained the direction in which he hoped to push relatively secular, democratic Indonesia.

Sharia would become the law of the land, non-Muslims would lose their leadership posts and thieves, in accordance with Islamic law, would have their hands lopped off, he said. He also criticized Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s pluralist president.

Widodo “isn’t a liberal Muslim,” Khaththath said. “He’s a Muslim who doesn’t get it.”

Six weeks later, Khaththath was detained on treason charges, accused of plotting a coup. But in an April 19 runoff election for governor of Jakarta, his preferred candidate, fellow Muslim Anies Baswedan, defeated the Christian incumbent, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, after a campaign laden with religious overtones.

Since then, hard-line Islamist groups have gained stature; their ability to mobilize huge crowds was considered crucial to securing Baswedan’s lopsided victory. But a strong backlash also has emerged, led by moderate Muslims who worry that conservative Islamists are wrecking Indonesia’s tradition of religious tolerance.

Khaththath had taken over as the leader of a powerful protest movement against Purnama, a Widodo ally, in the months leading up to the gubernatorial election, after the previous leader was summoned by police on pornography charges.

But police came for Khaththath in late March, escorting him from his hotel room to the detention facility where he remains. A few weeks later, on the eve of the election, Khaththath managed to send a letter to his supporters.

“From my detention room, I tap on the sky door,” Khaththath wrote. He hoped the tap would be felt by “every Muslim heart” and would persuade the faithful to “choose a Muslim governor.”

Not every Muslim heart felt the tap, but enough did to secure a clean victory for Baswedan. The high-stakes election campaign was marked by the largest conservative rallies in generations, as well as by intensifying — and controversial — legal efforts by the Indonesian government to rein in the hard-line groups’ leadership.

Now that the election is over, many moderate Muslim leaders say they are treating it as a wake-up call about the growing power of Indonesian hard-line organizations and the need to take stern action to stop them.

“I am not worried about the candidates who won,” said Sidarto Danusobroto, a former speaker of the Senate and key adviser to the president. “I am worried about the groups that supported them — the Islamic Defenders Front and Hizbut Tahrir.”

“Islam is different from how the Islamic Defenders Front portrays it,” said Mohammad Nuruzzaman, head of strategic research for Ansor, a moderate Muslim youth movement that has been working with the police to break up hard-line Muslim gatherings.

In one of a number of efforts in the past few weeks to curb extremists, police officials and nationalist groups in the central Javanese town of Semarang prevented the Islamic Defenders Front from opening a branch.

“We have a tolerant city,” said Iwan Santoso, a representative from the Red and White, a group that takes its name from the colors of the Indonesian flag. “We don’t want students to be instigated.”

This past week, police in East Java, apparently acting at the urging of moderate Muslims or nationalists, shut down a planned university event featuring Felix Siauw, a Chinese Indonesian convert to Islam who has become a major hard-line preacher. In a Web video subsequently uploaded to his Facebook page, Siauw said, “We should have a nation of laws, and the laws should apply to all.”

But moderate Muslim and civil society groups increasingly are calling for bans on organizations that push for the creation of a caliphate. Nuruzzaman, of Ansor, compared such organizations to the Indonesian Communist Party, a boogeyman from Indonesia’s past.

“The goal of Communists and those who support the caliphate are similar — both want all countries in the world to be run under one system,” he said.

Last Tuesday, police announced that they were reviewing the legality of Hizbut Tahrir because of the international Islamist group’s embrace of a global caliphate. Muhammad Ismail ¬Yusanto, a spokesman for Hizbut Tahrir here, protested that its goal of establishing a caliphate does not violate the Indonesian constitution.

“All we do is convey Islam’s teachings,” he said in an interview. Besides, he argued, the constitution can be amended.

Hizbut Tahrir is banned in many countries around the world, including Germany, China, Egypt and numerous other Arab states. But it has operated for nearly 20 years in democratic Indonesia.

Some rights activists oppose banning the group. Andreas Harsono, Indonesia representative of Human Rights Watch, said that although Hizbut Tahrir’s ideology is deeply discriminatory — toward women, LGBT people and minority faiths — that does not mean the organization should be shut down.

“It is not illegal to say, ‘I want to discriminate against women,’ ” he argued, acknowledging that the case is “complicated.”

More worrying to Harsono are the Indonesian government’s efforts to pursue radical religious leaders for alleged offenses unrelated to their Islamist activism, or on exaggerated charges. Habib Rizieq, perhaps the nation’s most powerful hard-line figure, was brought in for questioning by police over pornographic images he is alleged to have exchanged with a woman who is not his wife, while Khaththath was charged with trying to organize a coup.

“It’s very concerning,” said Harsono, who said he knows of no evidence that Khaththath was plotting the violent overthrow of the government.

Marcus Mietzner, an associate professor at Australian National University, expressed concern that heavy-handed charges would harm Indonesia’s democracy.

“What they should not do is arbitrarily throw criminal charges at individual leaders that are either excessive, like the treason accusation, or unrelated, as the pornography case,” he wrote in an email. “This, in turn, will only increase the sense of victimization among conservative Muslims.”

That already appears to be happening. Achmad Sofyan, a Khaththath deputy who was also investigated by police, said: “It isn’t fair. The case was engineered.”

Mietzner suggested that the government has legal ways to handle hard-line groups but has opted for different tactics in part to avoid a messy public debate. If the state prosecuted these groups, “it would have to argue in front of the courts why Islam should not be Indonesia’s primary legal-political foundation,” he wrote.

For Nuruzzaman, it is crucial to oppose the hard-liners, whatever the difficulties.

“We don’t want the government to take repressive measures,” he said. Nonetheless, “we have to confront them.”

The Washington Post

The Cycle Of Male On Male Rape Within The Family: The Cycle Possibilities

A couple of evenings ago my Wife said something to me that startled me into a line of thought where my mind had never gone before. There will always be families and especially these days, mixed families, where the boys gotta prove who is the Alpha, I was thinking of who could whup whom. But I am going to put a more sinister thought into your head. This sounds like a very badly written Class B Movie Script on an X Rated piece of life called reality. It is a film that should not be made and it is a reality of millions of young boys I fear. It is not just Priests or the ‘odd’ Uncle who do these sickening issues.

 

Lets start this off with a young boy whose Dad had just died. While the boy is still grieving Mom meets and moves in with this wonderful man, you now have a step-dad. Mom’s new man left after a few years, when he found out she was pregnant. Damage done was this former step-dad had done things to the boy he shouldn’t have done. Now this man’s son is in your home with you every day so you do the same humiliating disgusting things to him that his Dad had done to him. The male ego being shattered at such a young age it seems that the cycle just goes on and an on.

 

First: who should we blame? To me it seems obvious, the new ‘step-dad’, right? The horrible things he did to his ‘step-son’, his step-son then did to his new half-brother. Did this child break this chain of abuse, or did he fall victim to this horrible sin himself? That issue is being played out in homes all over the world each and every day. There is another issue or angle that I would like you to consider. The new step-dad, what chances do you think there is that that man, when he was just a boy, his daddy did these same horrible things to him, destroying his faith in his manly-hood? There is an old Gospel Song called ‘Will The Circle Be Unbroken’, I pray that ‘this cycle’ could be destroyed soon, but I have little faith in humanity to do that which is good. I went with the ‘male’ gender simply because that is what I am but another writer whom is female could write the exact same philosophy just in reverse of the male angle, that is something that I would totally expect to be true. Folks, this sickness has got to stop, in any Country that calls itself Righteous these ‘shadows’ have got to get addressed or it leaves all our belts and shoe strings dangling waiting for one of the Demons to jump up through the fog, and grab ya.

 

 

 

What a new report reveals about white economic hardship and Trump’s big win

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

What a new report reveals about white economic hardship and Trump’s big win

May 10 at 6:30 PM

Roughly a third of white working-class Americans said that they have cut back on food or meals in the past year to save money. A similar share it would be difficult — if not impossible — for them to cover an emergency expense of $400. And among those who live in the same town where they grew up, only 17 percent say the quality of life there has improved.

Those are a few of the results of a detailed new survey by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic magazine. The report reveals the economic and material hardships afflicting the white working class, one of the report’s authors says, lending insight into why so many people in this group were willing to gamble on Donald Trump, a candidate with no governing experience.

As many of these voters felt they had little to lose, they were undeterred by the President’s failure to spell out — with any degree of detail — how he would deliver on promises that experts repeatedly cautioned were unrealistic, said PRRI’s Dan Cox, one of the authors of the report.

“Many folks — they can’t wait for a white paper, or a 12-point plan. They need help immediately,” Cox said. There was, he said, “a recognition that there was some danger with it too, but that it was, sort of, worth the risk.”

Indeed, when it comes to policy details, the white working class supports many economic proposals associated with Democrats, not Republicans. Fifty-three percent of those surveyed supported increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and 58 percent said the rich should pay more in taxes. (Those figures are similar to the results for the general population.)

Global trade was one specific issue on which Trump may have appealed to many of his voters by deviating from GOP orthodoxy, and by distancing himself from Hillary Clinton, who during the campaign turned against a prominent free trade agreement that she had previously supported. Among the white working class, 60 percent said that free trade agreements were mostly harmful.

Following Trump’s surprise victory, many observers continue to debate whether economic distress or anxiety about race, immigration and cultural change motivated his supporters. The survey suggests that all of these were important to Trump’s success, but also that a sense of cultural displacement has been an especially powerful of the president’s appeal among the white working class, Cox said.

Those who agreed that they sometimes felt like a stranger in their own country, or that U.S. culture had to be protected from foreign influences, were much more likely to support Trump, the survey found. “The cultural touchstones were really salient in the election,” Cox said.

At the same time, he added, it is difficult to distinguish among the many motivations of Trump’s supporters, Cox said.

“You can’t completely divorce it from the economic experience of these folks — the fears of economic insecurity,” he said. “That’s certainly in the mix.”

On the whole, about as many white-working class people say they are worse off financially today than they were as children as say they are better off, according to the survey.

The analysis defines as those without a four-year college degree and who are paid by the hour or by the job, a definition that excludes many white-collar employees in salaried positions regardless of their education. Retirees were included based on the work they did before they retired, and students were excluded unless they explicitly described themselves as working or lower class in the survey.

The stress of making ends meet from day to day contributes to elevated rates of depression and addiction in white working-class families, Cox said: “It’s really tragic and heartbreaking that that kind of insecurity and stability causes all sorts of problems downstream.”

Among the white working class, 38 percent said that they or someone in their household had suffered from depression, compared to 26 percent of white college graduates. Eight percent of white working-class respondents said the same about drug addiction, while the figure for white college graduates was just 3 percent. Alcoholism also appears to be somewhat more prevalent in white working-class households than among white college graduates (12 percent vs. 9 percent).

The white working class seems to be giving up on the kinds of institutions that have traditionally provided a measure of stability and economic opportunity to American life, particularly colleges and universities. Among white Americans with college degrees, 63 percent said getting a degree was “a smart investment in the future,” but among the white working class, that figure was just 44 percent. In this group, a majority (54 percent) described it as a risky decision “that may not pay off in the end.”

This group’s skepticism about higher education parallels their detachment from other prominent institutions, including churches. Aside from weddings and funerals, just 58 percent of the white working class goes to church even once a year, the survey shows. Among white college graduates, that figure is 66 percent.

The white working class is less involved in their communities outside of religion as well. Thirty-six percent said they never participated in secular organizations such as book clubs, sports teams, neighborhood associations or parent-teacher associations. Just 16 percent of white college graduates said they never took part in these groups.

“It’s, sort of, been part of the American Dream, that you work hard, you get an education, you can get ahead,” Cox said. “The fact that white working-class Americans are less likely to believe that I think really shows the dire situation that they believe themselves to be in.”

Fewer than half of the white working class believes that people who work hard can still get ahead, the survey found, while 61 percent say America’s best days are in the past.

That pessimism contrasts with white college graduates — just 43 percent of whom say the country’s best days are behind it — and with people of color. Although black and Hispanic Americans are often worse off economically than those in the white working class, they have found reasons to be optimistic about the future, Cox explained. For instance, 56 percent of black respondents in the survey and 68 percent of Hispanic participants viewed a college degree as a way to get ahead.

If their bet on Trump doesn’t pay off, Cox warned, the president might find the white working class abandoning him. Asked how well they felt Trump understood their communities’ problems, a majority of the white working class — 51 percent — answered “not too well” or “not well at all.” Those figures suggest Trump might not have long to deliver.

“It’s unclear how loyal this group will be to him,” Cox said.

Four Thoughts Of Philosophy; 2 From Scripture, Then 2 Thoughts/Questions from Me

 

Two of these peaces of thought are from two Old Testament Scripture, the first is part of a prayer from Moses in the Book of Psalms the 90th Chapter. I got this idea from another blog about 2 or 3 days ago but I don’t remember which one, this prayer was part of that article. In slots number 2 and 3 I am going to drop in a couple of pieces of thought that I have jotted down the past couple of days. Then I am going to finish off this article today with a ‘thought’ from the Prophet Daniel. Please feel free to leave me comments on your thoughts, it is good to try to learn what other people think, and sometimes maybe even why they think different from we do, or maybe the same as we do.

1). The very strength of age is sorrow. What then is its weakness? Covet not extreme old age; but know that if it comes God must be our portion, or else life will be a burden.

2). This is why the whole world needs to be under a Socialists system folks: because that at the end of the day the only thing counts is who made the most cash today! When the masses are not needed even if their labor were totally free. When you are not making anything and you are costing someone else, then why should the top .1% continue to pay your way. O, but now what? Do those “little people” get to live a free breath? Or to be allowed to breathe at all? If all do not care for each other than there is no chance for the whole to survive without massive bloodshed at some point in time to either eliminate, or to care for each other.

3). Should there be storage sheds filled with excess food set back for the wealthiest of the world’s population? Personally I don’t see anything wrong with that being reality for some people if that is what they wish to do. With one notable exception or disclaimer if you will. That being okay as long as there are no people in the world going hungry at this same snapshot in time. If I have extra food and water yet I allow my neighbors to die from starvation or thirst, I fear looking our Lord in His eyes if we are guilty of such at on our Judgement Day.

 

4). This is from the Book of Daniel 9:3-4

And I set my face unto the Lord, to seek by prayer an supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth and ashes:

And I prayed unto the Lord my G-d, and made my confession and said, O Lord, the Great and Dreadful G-d. Keeping the Covenant and mercy to them that love Him, and to them that keep His Commandments.

 

Just wondering what your thoughts on these pieces of thought are. I hope you are all able to have a great weekend, stay safe, God bless.

 

Our Faith: Do We Really Have Any At All?

 

Faith is a beautiful word and if one truly has faith in what they are speaking or doing the chances are that they will do better regarding that subject matter than if they are lacking in the faith there of. Most of the time when I have heard the word faith it is being spoken of in a ‘religious’ context yet faith is not exclusive to religion. We can have faith in just about anything. We can have faith in our athletic ability, or our ability to make our car or house payment each month, or that our spouse will not cheat on us with another. It is not wrong to have faith in things other than God, yet if we have more faith in something above what we have in God then that subject has become our God. I have faith that the Sun will come up tomorrow just as it did today, but only if God ordains it to be so. I have faith that the Sun will set this evening yet I do not know if I will still be alive to see it, that is up to God. I have faith in God, not the Sun or the Moon, I by my own strength can not cause the Sun or the Moon to do anything, only by God’s strength do they or I exist.

 

There are a few Scriptures that I will add at the end of this article that concern ones faith in God that you can browse through if you wish to. But this article today is going to be about our faith in God and the main Scripture I am going to refer to is found in the Book of Hebrews, the 11th Chapter, verses 1-4 and 6-9.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for. The evidence of things not seen.

For by faith the Elders won God’s approval.

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: And by it he being dead yet speaks.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.

By faith Noah, being warned by God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear. Prepared an Ark to the saving of his house (family), by which he condemned the world.

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go into a place which he would later receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went.

By faith he (Abraham) journeyed in the land of promise, as in a strange country, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise.

 

Okay, that is it for the Scripture quotes of this article today. In my belief there is one main theme that runs throughout those 8 verses and that theme is ‘faith’ in God our Creator. Faith, to me, is the actual base of each and every person. Each person has faith in something, the core of their personality is what their faith is in, even if one only has faith in themselves. I have met many people in my life who do not believe in “a God”, the government, their education system, or even in any member of their family. These tended to be people whom in their own eyes had been let down by pretty much everyone and everything they have experienced in their own lives. All of a persons possessions, all of our family and friends, just like our own bodies, will pass away. There is only one thing we have that is eternal and that is our own Soul and it came from God and after we die it will go back to God. So, personally, if I am going to have total faith in anything or anyone, it will be in He who created us, and who will judge us at the end of our life. He who will decide, from our own actions while we lived, as to where we will spend ‘forever’ at. Our actions while here in this life are dictated by the things we believe in, or do not believe in. I chose to have faith in God before and above all else. If a person has a ‘Godly’ Soul they will put God first and being that God is the foundation of all that is good, if we do honestly put God first then we will tend to walk the path of light that He request of us.

 

Concerning religion it is common to hear term’s concerning the ‘path’ of life that we are walking just as in the business world when it is spoken of our ‘career’ path which decides our advancement in the ‘firm’. What we want the most in our lives is what we tend to believe in most, even if that faith is only in ourselves. When we tell someone that we will walk somewhere with them, would it not help if we move our feet? Lip service to ones faith does not compute to actual faith if there is no physical movement toward that which we say we believe in. We can say we are a rocket scientist because we have done a lot of studying in that field and we may enjoy hearing all about the fields scientific accomplishments, but if all we do is sit on our behinds and do not engage that entity, are we really a rocket scientist?

 

Many people say they are Christians because they do believe that Jesus Christ and the Holy Father Jehovah do exist yet they do not study God’s ‘instruction’ Book at all nor do they attempt to walk a ‘Holy’ lifestyle. We all know of cases where Preachers/Ministers have seriously hurt peoples faith in God because of their personal horrible actions. I was once in the break room of a company I was visiting shortly after a certain well known Preacher in Baton Rouge Louisiana had disgraced himself by his personal actions and a lady in the break room said because of this Preachers action whom she had been a long time follower of that “I will will never believe in God again” because this ‘great’ man had fallen to his temptation.” Everyone of us a human, we all have weaknesses and the Devil and His Angles know exactly what those weaknesses are, this is where they attack us, in our weaknesses, not at our strengths.

 

There will be an event that all of us must face and that event is ‘The Judgement Seat Of Christ’. If our own personal faith was weak or non-existent during our lives, Jesus will know it. Our Creator knows how each of us think and how we believe, or don’t believe, concerning Him and His teachings that He left for us to learn and live by. Our faith toward something is measured by our actions, if we believe in something very strongly, our actions show that belief, that faith, to the rest of the world around us. If we are lacking in that faith, our actions show that to the rest of the world around us also. I will finish this article with one question, when Jesus looks us straight in our eyes, and He will, what then?

 

These are the Scripture verses I spoke to you about at the beginning of the second verse of this letter to you:

Galatians 5: 22-23

John 6: 29

Ephesians 2: 8

I appreciate your time folks, I hope that you obtained some enjoyment and maybe even a little knowledge from the article. I pray that you and your loved ones will choose to have faith in God and in His love for you.

Pope Urges End Of Violence In Venezuela And For Government To Respect Human Rights

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Pope Francis urged on Sunday for an end to the violence that has marred the anti-government protests in Venezuela.

He called for the respect of human rights where nearly 30 people were killed in unrest this month.

Francis, speaking to tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly address, decried a “grave humanitarian, social, political and economic crisis that is exhausting the population”.

Venezuela’s opposition is demanding elections, autonomy for the legislature where they have a majority, a humanitarian aid channel from abroad to alleviate an economic crisis, and freedom for more than 100 activists jailed by President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

“I make a heartfelt appeal to the government and all components of Venezuelan society to avoid any more forms of violence, respect human rights and seek a negotiated solution …,” he said.

Supporters say Leopoldo Lopez, the jailed head of the hardline opposition Popular Will party, and others are political prisoners whose arrests symbolize Maduro’s lurch into dictatorship.

Maduro says all are behind bars for legitimate crimes, and calls Lopez, 45, a violent hothead intent on promoting a coup.

Vatican-led talks between the government and the opposition have broken down.

Francis told reporters on the plane returning from Cairo on Saturday that “very clear conditions” were necessary for the talks to resume.

On Friday, Venezuela formally notified the Organization of American States of its intention to leave the regional body amid the protests at home and international calls for its embattled government to hold delayed elections and release prisoners.

Venezuelan interim ambassador Carmen Velasquez submitted a letter announcing the move in Washington to OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, a strong critic of socialist President Maduro.

The notice begins a two-year exit process from the Western Hemisphere’s largest diplomatic body, which had become a forum for its neighbors to exert pressure on Venezuela.

“This is a historic moment that marks a new independence for Venezuela and the region,” said Velasquez, adding that Venezuela would be the first country to leave the Washington-based bloc this way. “We are not going to be participating in any OAS activities.”

On Friday, hundreds marched to a military prison outside Caracas to demand the release of opposition Lopez and other jailed activists they consider political prisoners.

The march was part of an intensifying campaign by the opposition to force Maduro from office. More than 1,300 people have been arrested in almost four weeks of street clashes.

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Pope Francis Gives A Message Of Tolerance And Peace At A Mass In Cairo Egypt

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Cairo (CNN) Pope Francis sent a message of tolerance and co-existence Saturday in a Mass at a Cairo stadium before concluding his two-day trip to Egypt.

Francis’ trip came nearly two weeks after the Palm Sunday bombing of two Coptic churches, which left at least 45 people dead.
Heavy security surrounded Francis as he entered Cairo’s Air Defense Stadium in an open golf cart.

Security surrounds Pope Francis at the Air Defense Stadium in Cairo.

He waved at worshippers and stopped momentarily to bless a group of children in costume. Parts of the stadium stands were draped with his photo as well as Egyptian and Vatican flags.
“Religiosity means nothing unless it is inspired by deep faith and charity,” Francis said.
“True faith is one that makes us more charitable, more merciful, more honest and more humane,” he said.
“God is pleased only by a faith that is proclaimed by our lives, for the only fanaticism believers can have is that of charity! Any other fanaticism does not come from God and is not pleasing to him.”
The Pope started his Mass with the “As-Salaam Alaikum,” the traditional Muslim greeting in Arabic that means “Peace be upon you,” and ended it with “al-Masih qam! Bi-l-haqiqa qam! (Christ is risen! He is truly risen)”.
A Vatican spokesman said 15,000 people attended the Mass at the stadium, which holds 30,000.
The Pope later met with members of Egypt’s small Coptic Catholic community at St. Leo’s Patriarchal Seminary in Cairo’s Maadi neighborhood.
In a more intimate setting than his earlier Mass, Francis urged gathered priests, nuns and worshippers to be the religious builders of peace in Egypt, saying that despite “difficult circumstances, you must endure.”
“Although there are many reasons to be discouraged, and many prophets of destruction and condemnation … may you be the sowers of hope, builders of bridges and agents of dialogue and harmony,” he said.
Later Saturday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and an honor guard met the Pope at the airport in a farewell ceremony before he departed for Rome.

Tackling roots of violent extremism

On Friday, Francis stressed the importance of unity between Muslims and Christians to shape world peace.
“Let us say once more a firm and clear ‘No!’ to every form of violence, vengeance and hatred carried out in the name of religion or in the name of God,” he said in Italian in a speech at a peace conference at Al-Azhar University, the premier seat of high learning among Sunni Muslims.
Francis met with Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb and became the first pontiff to visit the institution since Pope John Paul II in 2000.
The two religious leaders spoke at the closing of the International Conference for Peace, organized by Al-Azhar. Greeting the grand imam, Francis called him “my brother” and sat by his side at the conference.
The Pope took on a familiar theme: the roots of violent extremism.

Eliminating poverty and exploitation

Francis opened his speech with “As-Salaam Alaikum” after the imam’s address.
“In order to prevent conflicts and build peace, it is essential that we spare no effort in eliminating situations of poverty and exploitation where extremism more easily takes root, and in blocking the flow of money and weapons destined to those who provoke violence,” he said.
Francis called for an end to the “proliferation of arms” and lambasted “demagogic forms of populism.”
“If they are produced and sold, sooner or later they will be used,” he said. “Only by bringing into the light of day the murky maneuverings that feed the cancer of war can its real causes be prevented. National leaders, institutions and the media are obliged to undertake this urgent and grave task.”
Tayeb addressed the status of faith in modern life.
“With all these accomplishments (of the 21st century), how come peace has become a lost paradise? The answer, I assume, is that modern civilization has ignored religion,” he said.
After the peace conference, Francis and the Egyptian President addressed religious and political dignitaries at Al-Masa Hotel.
The Pope, again speaking in Italian, focused on Egypt’s role in fighting terrorism, evoking events from biblical and modern history. He ceremonially greeted all Egyptian people, including minority Christians — Coptic Orthodox, Greek Byzantines, Armenian Orthodox, Protestants and Catholics.

12-point declaration

Pope Tawadros II, head of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, then greeted Francis at St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo’s Abbassiya district, state TV said. They walked together in procession and took part in ecumenical prayers at the adjacent church of St. Peter, the site of a deadly blast in December that left at least 23 people dead.
Francis commended the efforts of Tawadros II, whom he called a brother, in organizing meetings between the Coptic Orthodox and Catholic churches.
Francis and Tawadros II signed a joint, 12-point declaration reiterating the fraternity between their churches. “Let us intensify our unceasing prayer for all Christians in Egypt and throughout the whole world, and especially in the Middle East,” the declaration says.

Jakarta Ex-Governor Ahok Standing Strong In His Christian Faith Through The Storm

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘OPEN DOORS’ CHRISTIAN WEBSITE)

EX-GOVERNOR AHOK STANDING STRONG THROUGH THE STORM

April 26, 2017 by Open Doors in Prayer updates

Basuki Cahaya Purnama “Ahok,” a Christian and ethnic Chinese, and Jakarta’s first non-Muslim governor in 50 years, lost re-election on April 19. The next morning, his blasphemy trial continued with the prosecutor demanding a sentence of 1 year imprisonment and 2 years’ probation.

What is surprising in this development is that the prosecutor did not use the original charge of blasphemy, which had resulted in mass protests against Ahok for several weeks. Instead, he is now charged for “expressing hostile feelings or hatred towards a particular group.” In this case, the particular group refers to his political opponents.

“God gives the authority and so God alone can take it back,” said Ahok to his supporters after the quick count which confirmed his loss. “No one is allowed to rule without God’s permission. I once lost in the governor’s election in 2007, but then I still became Jakarta’s governor. So, don’t be sad. God knows best.”

As much as they could have anticipated the election results in the current political climate, the Christian community could not help but feel deeply sadden and disappointed. Pray for God to continue to work good for Ahok and his future. Pray also for peace to be restored and for God’s justice to prevail in Ahok’s trial.

Father, we pray Your protection over Ahok in the wake of this political defeat as he faces a trial because of his faith in Christ. As he proclaimed, You put him in office and even now, in the midst of defeat, You still know best. We pray now for the Christians in Jakarta, that You will protect and encourage them in this disappointment. We pray for peace to be restored following the bitter election season and we pray for Ahok’s protection and for justice to be accomplished as the trial progresses. In the name of Jesus, who “works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed” (Psalm 103:6). Amen.

The Skeptical State of Bible Reading in 2017

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘CHRISTIANITY TODAY’ NEWS)

The Skeptical State of Bible Reading in 2017

Two surveys examine who studies Scripture, who doesn’t, and why.

For the most part, Americans have positive things to say about the Bible. More than half call it a good source of morals (52%). About a third say it’s helpful (37%), true (36%), and life-changing (35%), according to a new LifeWay Research survey.

Even more told the American Bible Society (ABS) and Barna Group that they believe it’s the actual or inspired word of God (81%).

But a growing segment— 19 percent in 2017, up from 10 percent in 2011—say it’s simply a book of teachings and stories written by men.

That group has remained fairly stable in recent years (17% in 2013, 19% in 2014, 21% in 2015, and 22% in 2016). So this year for their State of the Bible report, ABS and Barna asked the people in that category a new question: If you think the Bible was written only by humans, do you think it was meant to be manipulative or controlling?

Almost 4 out of 5 skeptics said yes, which adds up to 13 percent of the US population. (A similar number of Americans told LifeWay that the Bible was bigoted (8%) or harmful (7%).)

ABS and Barna labeled them antagonistics. They used the same tag in 2013 for the entire group of skeptics, but then reconsidered.

“‘Antagonistic’ may too strongly pigeon-hole those who have not yet embraced the Bible,” Geoffrey Morin, ABS chief communications officer, told CT then. “The new categorization, ‘Bible Skeptics,’ is both more accurate and more hopeful.”

But this year, the survey broke the group in two, and found a marked difference between the resulting 32 percent that remained “skeptics”—those who believe the Bible was not divinely inspired, but neither was it written with the intent to manipulate—and the 68 percent that qualify as “antagonistics.”

Researchers summarized the two groups: “Antagonistics’ average age is 41. He is more likely to be an unmarried male from the Gen-X or Millennial generation. Antagonistics are largely non-Christian, do not attend church, and a small 5 percent report reading the Bible at least three to four times a year.”

Skeptics are slightly older—on average, 43 years old. “More college graduates fall into this category than any other category. … [T]hey are largely single and not Christian, and most are unchurched.”

Antagonists are more likely than skeptics to be white (68% vs. 56%) or Hispanic (18% vs. 13%). They’re less likely than skeptics to make under $50,000 a year (39% vs. 47%) and more likely to make over $100,000 a year (27% vs. 14%).

They’re notably less open to the Bible—91 percent of antagonists have no desire to read the Bible more, compared to 74 percent of skeptics. They’re more likely (53%) than skeptics (37%) to say that none of the traditional sacred texts—the Bible, the Qu‘ran, the Torah, or the Book of Mormon—are holy.

Nearly three-quarters of antagonists believe the Bible has too much influence on US society (72%), compared to less than half of skeptics (42%).

Fewer antagonistic adults believe the Bible is important for the country’s moral fabric (9%, compared to 30% of skeptics), while nearly all (91%, compared to 70% of skeptics) believe the Constitution is morally important.

They also don’t care about being labeled immoral: only 21 percent are bothered, compared to 41 percent of skeptics and 36 percent of the Bible-engaged or Bible-friendly.

However, “being called ‘intolerant’ is particularly bothersome to antagonistics,” the ABS study reported. A quarter would find that offensive, compared with 4 percent of skeptics or the Bible-engaged.

Skeptics report that they wouldn’t care if they were called either intolerant or immoral (40%, compared to 30% of antagonists and 23% of the Bible-engaged).

More antagonists (63%) than skeptics (59%) told Barna that morality is on the decline, though they’re far less likely to believe that than the Bible-engaged (95%). And they’re more likely to blame it on corporate greed (71%, v. 52% of skeptics and 18% of the Bible-engaged) than on a lack of Bible reading (2%, vs. 6% of skeptics and 53% of the Bible-engaged) or a negative influence from movies, television, and music (27%, vs. 42% of skeptics and 29% of the Bible-engaged).

Despite their antipathy, you can find a Bible in most antagonist (62%) and skeptic (67%) homes; in fact, half of them own more than one. Antagonists and skeptics equally report being at least somewhat knowledgeable about the Bible (61%), and they are. More than 3 in 10 knew that Jesus was betrayed by Peter (36% of antagonists vs. 30% of skeptics); even more knew Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus after his resurrection (44% of antagonists vs. 38% of skeptics).

And most said the Bible encourages serving the poor (86% of antagonists, 79% of skeptics), patience (83% of antagonists, 78% of skeptics), and generosity (85% of antagonists, 96% of skeptics).

About 3 in 4 Bible skeptics said the Bible had no influence on their views on abortion, Israel, LGBT issues, refugees, money, immigration, and war. More than 9 in 10 antagonists said the same.

Antagonists are more likely to say that the Bible has exacerbated racial tension (79% vs. 70%) and gender inequality (93% vs. 83%) over the years. They’re also far more likely to say that the Bible oppresses the LGBT community (58%, compared to 22% of skeptics), women (43% vs. 14%), and different races (29% vs. 12%.)

Bible antagonists are more likely to describe a daily Bible reader as judgmental (39%, compared to 19% of skeptics), narrow-minded (38% vs. 21%), or foolish (23% vs. 6%).

Antagonistic adults are significantly more likely than any other group to report experiencing or witnessing trauma (9%), and most of them experienced that trauma personally (50%).

ABS noted that the rising trend of Biblical skeptics seems to be leveling off, but that it was “too early to say the decrease in Bible skepticism is a trend.”

“We are optimistic,” stated Morin, now ABS executive vice president of ministry mobilization. “[We] will continue tracking the data in the coming years to measure how the number of people who are skeptic[al] toward the Bible changes.”

The percent of those who are Bible-engaged—believe the Bible is the actual or inspired word of God and read it at least four times a week—has remained steady at around 20 percent of the population for the past seven years.

The translation they engage with most is the King James Version at 31 percent, though it’s down from 40 percent in 2016. The New King James Version also dropped slightly, from 12 percent to 7 percent, while the New International Version (11% to 13%), English Standard Version (5% to 9%), and Amplified Bible (1% to 7%) all saw increases in use.

Those who read the Bible were more likely to say that it brought them close to God (68% vs. 57% in 2016) and less likely to say that they sought directions or answers for problems (9% vs. 17% in 2016).

Overall, about a third of Americans have read through all or almost all of the Bible, LifeWay reported this week. Another 23 percent haven’t read more than a few sentences.

The amount of the Bible that Americans have read seems to correlate with the way they read it.

“Twenty-two percent read a little bit each day, in a systematic approach. A third (35%) never pick it up at all, while 30 percent look up things in the Bible when they need to,” reported Facts & Trends. “Nineteen percent re-read their favorite parts, while 17 percent flip open the Bible and read a passage at random. A quarter (27%) read sections suggested by others, while 16 percent say they look things up to help others.”

About half of evangelicals said they chose the systematic approach, reading a little each day (49%).

 

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History Made in South Africa as #NationalDayofPrayer Draws Over a Million Believers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN CHRISTIAN NEWS AGENCY)

History Made in SA as #NationalDayofPrayer Draws Over a Million Believers

IT’S TIME!!!

A crowd of over a million believers from across the country made their way to Free State on Saturday for the National Day of Prayer, organized by Evangelist Angus Buchan.  People from all walks of life were gathered at the Wilde Als farm just outside Bloemfontein for what has been dubbed as the biggest prayer meeting in the history of South Africa.

The multiracial crowd united to pray for justice, peace and hope in South Africa. Buchan began by teaching on prayer, citing the passage about Jesus praying at the Garden of Gethsemane before going to the cross. He also reminded the crowd of the words spoken by Moses before God parted the Red Sea to make way for the Israelites.

“Today, we are witnessing history.  History is in the making today. This gathering is a prayer meeting, it is not a gospel concert. It is not even an evangelistic outreach, it is a prayer meeting.  We are going to pray together and as individuals,” the evangelist added.

The Shalom Ministries Founder told the crowd his vision to host the event was born after he received a video from a Christian leader to get believers together in one place and pray to God to heal the land. However, it was only after God gave him confirmation that he heeded to the call. The words given to him by the Almighty, regarding the event, were simple: “It’s Time” and “One Million”.

“We say there is no other God save Jesus Christ and Him alone.  We will not serve any other God save the Lord Jesus Christ.  Please forgive us for compromising our nation, our family and our future.  From today onwards, we promise to stand up for truth and righteousness at all costs,” said Buchan, leading the crowd of a million in prayer.

Political leaders including Kenneth Meshoe, leader of the ACDP and Mmusi Maimane, leader of the DA, also attended in their personal capacity.

Before descending the stage, Buchan said that he was waiting for a day when Parliament will be opened with prayer every morning.

“Through prayer, this country will change in one day.  We want to see love and peace prevail in the new government,” he concluded.

www.thechristiannews.co.za

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