China: The registered Church and why it is a problem

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF MISSION NETWORK NEWS)

The registered Church and why it is a problem

China (MNN) – When 20 world leaders get together, there’s bound to be some tension.
Before the summit, the United States Commission of International Religions Freedom (USCIRF) urged President Obama to discuss religious freedom with President Xi Jinping. And while he seems to have taken this advice, according to several news stories, it doesn’t appear that the conversation was productive.

Status of religious freedom in China

Outside of China, it’s hard to get a feel for how things are in China. For many of us, it seems like China is doing a lot better when it comes to human rights than they have in the recent past.

vbb-china-2

Photo courtesy of Vision Beyond Borders.

Patrick Klein of Vision Beyond Borders says that’s not really true.

“The perception to the West is, China’s life is so much better, people are doing better economically. We sometimes have this perception that China’s free, it’s open. It’s not.”
He cites an event that took place a little over year ago. An explosion in the busy city of Tianjin killed over a hundred and left several hundred injured, says BBC News. According to the Washington Post, media coverage of the event was heavily covered, and independent blogs and video postings were taken down.
Klein says, “They don’t have freedom of speech, they don’t have freedom of religion, and I think we need to be very careful that we don’t think that China is free just because economically they have prospered. When we see what’s going on with the Church, they’re stepping up the persecution more and more.”
church-1589702_1280The USCIRF says discrimination from authorities and the government has targeted Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and Falun Gong practitioners alike. This includes torture, forced disappearances, imprisonment, etc.
Ministries like Vision Beyond Borders sees examples of this first-hand. Klein has been visiting China for 30 years. He says what’s happening there is a good reminder that ultimately, our hope is with Jesus Christ.
“We’ve heard 2,000 churches have had their crosses removed, we’ve heard stories of pastors being arrested, pastors even being put in mental institutions. We’ve seen crackdowns at the border more and more. I just came back from China just a week or two ago and I was surprised to see so many police.”
Earlier this year, a government-backed church demolition ended in the death of a pastor’s wife. China Aid says they both had been buried alive, but his wife wasn’t able to escape and suffocated under the rubble.
Klein says the government finally allowed Churches as long as they were registered. They thought that Christianity would die out with the older generation. But that’s not what happened. Instead, Christianity grew, and quickly.

The registered Church

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Photo courtesy of Vision Beyond Borders.

Some might think this looks like a move towards religious freedom for Christians. Why not just join a government Church? But the truth is, it enables the government to control the Church better, and therefore do its best to blot out the Gospel message.
“What the government is saying now is they want to bring all religions under the umbrella of the communist party. Which is to say that the first devotion is to the government, not to God.
“And then once you register with the government, then what will happen is there’ll be spies will be coming to the Church, they’ll be listening to the pastor’s sermons. If the pastor preaches on the second coming of Jesus, if he talks about healing or miracles, or if tells the people that their first devotion is to God, not to the government , that pastor will be arrested.”
This is why many Christians choose to meet secretly instead. BBC did an article earlier this year which goes into detail about why Christians make this decision even under the risk of punishment. When the Government church preaches that Jesus would be a communist if he walked the earth today, the political influence in these churches becomes obvious.
Vision Beyond Borders, who works to provide Scripture materials worldwide, disagrees with registering with the government to protect the Message from being muddled. He says even the Bibles used in these churches often have to remain in the churches. They bear the stamp of the government.
Even if Scripture hasn’t been tampered with in these government controlled copies, it limits the Christians ability to study it for themselves.
“We believe you should be able to have access to the Word of God anytime you want it, 24/7,” Klein says.

And that’s what they work to do, though he says you have to be careful. Christians can legally buy a few copies of the Bible, but once they purchase a few too many, they will be followed—their congregation found and shut down.
“We’re not trying to overthrow governments,” Klein says, “But we’re just trying to help people to know what the Word of God says and to follow Jesus and to put God first in their lives.”

How you can help the Chinese Church

BBC says there may now be more Christians in China than registered members of the Communist party. This is exciting news. But there are many, many Christians who are still without Bibles in China. It’s a reality many of us can’t even imagine, some of us having multiple copies ourselves.
If you would like to help, the first step is to pray.
“We need to be praying for the Church in China,” Klein says, “There’s a lot of persecution going on, a lot of the mainstream media’s not talking about it, but I think it’s important for Christians to be talking about it and be praying and to say, this is an illusion that China’s free, China’s open, people can do whatever they want, it’s not true.”
If you’d like to support the life-changing work Vision Beyond Borders is doing, click here.

China: Christianity Growing By 100,000 Members Yearly Despite Xi’s Crackdown On Christians

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

The growth of the Christian faith in China continues its remarkable rise, with one pastor reporting as many as 100,000 new followers of Christ per year, despite the worsening human rights abuses and crackdown by communist authorities.

image: http://d.christianpost.com/full/108743/590-443/china-raid-on-christian-gathering.jpgimage: http://d.christianpost.com/full/108743/590-443/china-raid-on-christian-gathering.jpg

(PHOTO: REUTERS) Chinese believers express their faith during a church service.

The Rev. Erik Burklin of China Partner, which trains Chinese Christian leaders, said that God is in the business of “changing lives” and “building His Church.”

“Like Jesus said to Peter, ‘On this rock I will build my church.’ When He said that, He said, ‘I will build my church.’ Not, ‘You Christians build my church,’ but, ‘I will,'” Burklin told Mission Network News.

He talked of surprising developments, such as a person with the central government donating close to $7.3 million for a new chapel at Union Theological Seminary in the city of Nanjing.

“I was just scratching my head, thinking to myself, ‘How in the world is it possible that in China, where Communism still runs the country, a person in the Central Government would donate so that a local school — in this case, the national seminary in China — can finish constructing their chapel?’ It’s unbelievable,” Burklin stated.

Moreover, the Chinese continue coming to Jesus on a growing basis.

“Then we met with leaders for dinner that night, and we asked the pastors there, ‘How many baptisms did you have last year? How many new converts did you have in your city?’ he then gave us an overview of what God is doing in their whole province. He was proceeding to explain to us that they have up to 100,000 new believers on the average every year. … That’s unheard of,” Burklin described.

The atheistic government of China has for the most part been carrying out a large-scale crackdown on religious belief, especially against underground Christians worshiping in nonsanctioned house churches.

It has been destroying church rooftop crosses, leading to clashes with hundreds of congregants, and arrests of Christian pastors and human rights activists. Leaders of the government-controlled Catholic churches that have spoken out against the cross demolitions have also faced arrest.

Groups such as Freedom House have said that 100 million people face persecution in China, including Christians of various denominations, with Protestants facing “high” levels of persecution.

Although Chinese President Xi Jinping has tried to establish cordial relationships with the West and major institutions, such as the Vatican, persecution watchdog groups, like China Aid, continue sharing the stories of people who have suffered atrocities under his regime.

Li Heping, a Christian lawyer, talked about the “sadistic torture” he suffered following his arrest on July 9, 2015, as part of a crackdown. “There were times that I wanted to commit suicide. I survived because of my Christian faith, the courageous advocacy of my wife and the attention of the international community.”

China Aid President Bob Fu argued in The Wall Street Journal last week that Xi has “sought to eviscerate China’s network of human rights lawyers and rights advocates, viewing their peaceful efforts at legal reform as a national-security threat.”

“Mr. Xi has re-instituted the Maoist practice of televised public confession and embraced a system of torture so horrific it demands an international response,” he added.

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/pastor-reports-100000-new-converts-to-christ-per-year-despite-ongoing-crackdown-in-china-186814/#AFMZa6U002Gl8cUQ.99

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/pastor-reports-100000-new-converts-to-christ-per-year-despite-ongoing-crackdown-in-china-186814/#EhZ11LeIVmbDPZES.99

Ivanka Trump makes ‘deeply meaningful’ visit to Western Wall

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Ivanka Trump makes ‘deeply meaningful’ visit to Western Wall

Ivanka Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visit the Western Wall.

Story highlights

  • Ivanka Trump visited the Western Wall on Monday
  • She is traveling with the President

(CNN) President Donald Trump made history on Monday when he became the first sitting president to visit Jerusalem’s Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Judaism. But the trip was also “deeply meaningful” for daughter Ivanka, who appeared to cry as she visited the wall.

The Western Wall sits in Jerusalem’s Old City, which was captured by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967. There are separate areas for men and women’s prayer.
Accompanied by first lady Melania Trump and the Rabbi of the Western Wall’s wife, Yael Rabinovich, Ivanka Trump solemnly placed her hand on the women’s area of the Western Wall for a full minute. She smiled as she walked back toward the women and appeared to wipe away a tear, looking visibly touched by the experience.
“I am grateful to have experienced a deeply meaningful visit to the holiest site of my faith and to leave a private note of prayer,” she posted on social media shortly after the visit.
The President’s eldest daughter converted to Judaism ahead of her 2009 wedding to Jared Kushner, and previously visited Jerusalem in 2010. She and her husband are practicing Modern Orthodox Jews.
She has spoken about her faith very rarely.
“We’re pretty observant, more than some, less than others. I just feel like it’s such an intimate thing for us,” she told Vogue in 2015. “It’s been such a great life decision for me. I am very modern, but I’m also a very traditional person, and I think that’s an interesting juxtaposition in how I was raised as well. I really find that with Judaism, it creates an amazing blueprint for family connectivity.”
She also wrote about observing Sabbath from sundown Friday to Saturday night in her book, “Women Who Work.”
“During this time, we disconnect completely — no emails, no TV, no phone calls, no Internet. We enjoy uninterrupted time together and it’s wonderful. In addition to being a sacred part of our religion, we live in such a fast-paced world that it’s enormously important to unplug and devote that time to each other,” she said.
Trump traveled to Saudi Arabia with her father, stepmother, and key advisers. She will also travel with the group to Rome, Italy, later this week.

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 Vatican’s Swiss Guard Just Added 40 New Members

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Pope Francis Delivers First 'Urbi Et Orbi' Blessing During Easter Mass In St. Peter's Square
Swiss guards perform ceremonial duties during Holy Easter Mass held by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s square on March 31, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Franco Origlia—Getty Images

The Vatican’s Swiss Guard Just Added 40 New Members

2:55 PM ET

(VATICAN CITY) — The world’s oldest standing army has 40 new members after a Vatican Swiss Guard swearing-in ceremony.

Each man took a loyalty oath Saturday evening in a ritual-rich ceremony in the St. Damaso courtyard of the Apostolic Palace. The May 6 date commemorates the day in 1527 when 147 guardsmen died while protecting Pope Clement VII during the Sack of Rome.

Earlier Saturday, Pope Francis told the Guards they’re called to “another sacrifice no less arduous” — serving the power of faith.

The recruits, who enroll for at least two years, must be single, upstanding Swiss Catholic males younger than 30.

Wearing blue-and-gold uniforms and holding halberds — spear-like weapons — they are a tourist delight while standing guard at Vatican ceremonies. Their main duty is to protect the pope.

Colorado State Congress Votes To Allow Marijuana Use To Help People With PTSD

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE DENVER GAZETTE)

As marijuana enthusiasts gathered in Denver’s Civic Center on Thursday, praying for rain to hold off during 420 festivities, lawmakers across the park rejected an effort to ban cannabis use in churches.

The Legislature on Thursday also approved adding post-traumatic stress disorder as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.

Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, pushed a last-minute amendment as a bill that addressed open and public consumption was being considered for a final time in the House. Some lawmakers suggested that Pabon had hijacked the broader bill for an unrelated issue.

“This bill is about open and public. I’m confused about what we’re doing here because we’re talking about a place of worship …” said Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton. “Allow people to do what they want in a church.”

Pabon pushed the amendment in response to the International Church of Cannabis, which opened in Denver as lawmakers were debating the legislation. Pabon was careful to offer an exemption for religious purposes, but it wasn’t enough to persuade colleagues.

“We have a particular group of individuals who are seeking to take advantage of our consumption laws because a church would be considered private … and using that as a shroud to essentially allow consumption in a place where it should not be allowed,” Pabon said “A place of religious worship should not be authorized as a place for marijuana consumption.”

The International Church of Cannabis made national headlines after it boasted “Elevationism,” what the church refers to as religion for marijuana consumers. Followers believe cannabis should be used as a sacrament.

The effort by Pabon saw criticism from both sides of the aisle. It failed on a procedural motion and never came up for a vote.

Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, said he “thoroughly and utterly” disagreed with the proposal.

“This is the archetypal nanny state right here,” Salazar said. “This amendment is saying to people we don’t like the way you worship.”

The attempt highlighted the continually evolving Senate Bill 184, which started as a measure that would have authorized local governments to allow private marijuana clubs. But that provision was stripped from the bill over health concerns and opposition expressed by Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat.

Instead, the measure only defines what open and public consumption of marijuana is, a thorny issue that has perplexed lawmakers since rules and regulations were first crafted in 2013.

Public places – where marijuana use is prohibited – would be defined as highways, transportation facilities, parks, playgrounds, and the common areas of public buildings, to name a few places.

The stripped-down bill was approved by the House on a vote of 35-30. It now heads back to the Senate for consideration of House amendments before it can go to the governor for his signature.

Also on Thursday, the House gave initial approval to a bill that would add post-traumatic stress disorder as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana. The Legislature has been debating the issue for years, but this is the first year that offers a glimmer of hope for pushing the legislation through.

“On this auspicious day, we have a serious bill,” said Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, a sponsor of the bill, who pointed to the 420 celebrations.

“We know that there is no medical cure for post-traumatic stress disorder. Therapy, medication, exercise, diet, there’s no silver bullet. … This bill opens that door, it opens that door for our veterans to ensure that they are not sacrificing their future the way they decided to sacrifice their own health, and in some cases their own mental health for our country.”

The legislation saw some controversy over whether children should be allowed to use medical marijuana for PTSD. A successful amendment was offered Thursday that adds strict guidelines for recommending marijuana for children, including requiring that a pediatrician, board-certified family physician or board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist, make the recommendation.

Senate Bill 17 must still receive a final vote by the House before heading back to the Senate to approve amendments.

Why do Christians keep inviting you to church?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Why do Christians keep inviting you to church?

As Easter approaches, many churches are stepping up their outreach.

Story highlights

  • Christians who share their faith aren’t intolerant, Ed Stetzer says
  • It shows they believe what Jesus said and care about those around them, he says

Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and is the executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. The views expressed in this column belong to him.

(CNN)“Hey, do you want to come to church with us on Easter?”

You may have heard this or something similar from a friend, co-worker or family member. Depending on where you live, perhaps you’ve already received a mailer or two about a local church service.
Maybe you’ve wondered why Christians like me won’t just leave you alone. I assure you, it’s not because we like imposing ourselves on others. In fact, for many of us, it’s just the opposite.
On a recent Sunday, I stood up at Moody Church, an evangelical church in Chicago where I am interim pastor, and encouraged people to invite their friends to our Easter services. I reminded the congregation that Christians should be committed to the task of evangelism, that Jesus commanded it.
But I also know that, to atheists or adherents of other faiths, it can be confusing to know how to respond to such outreach. Understanding our motivation may help.

The great commission

The fact is churches are gearing up for Easter like pizza places are for the Super Bowl. They know this will be the biggest Sunday attendance of the year, Christmas included. Many members will have brought guests, and pastors want to be sure to preach a compelling sermon.
For many churches, including mine, we actually prayed over cards with names on them — the names of people to whom our church members were reaching out — so they might have open hearts.
I imagine some react in horror to that statement thinking: How dare anyone try to convert someone to another religion?
That makes sense in a world where spirituality has been Oprah-fied, and in a culture that says it’s fine to believe what you want as long as you don’t try to convince anyone else to believe differently.
It works great, if not for one reality: the words of Jesus.
You see, Christianity is a missionary faith because of the life and teachings of Jesus. Sure, you probably know the teachings of Jesus that fit in our culture: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” for example. And the world would be a better place if we all did those things.
But Jesus had many other teachings as well — and they’re just as important. After his resurrection, but before his ascension to heaven Jesus said some things that explain why Christians are still evangelizing.
Christians call these commands commissions, and they include: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19); “You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8); and “As the father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21).
These are the last earthly words of Jesus before his ascension. That gives them an even greater weight to many who believe his last words should be our first priority.

The ‘P’ word

Some people may think “proselytize” is a dirty word, but that depends on how you define and practice it. Proselytize means to convert someone to another belief or opinion. And the truth is, we all do it — or at least try to. We try to convince our buddies that our sports team is better, our wives that this restaurant serves tastier food, our children that smartphones aren’t actually as interesting as adults make them seem.
We proselytize because we deeply believe what we are sharing is important enough to expend our energy and enthusiasm. For Christians, they share because they truly believe the founder of the faith told them to, and that his message changes people.
And some people — even atheists — appreciate our efforts.
Comedian Penn Jillette, a well-known nonbeliever, explained how he responded to someone sharing a Bible with him:
“I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell … and you think, ‘Well, it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward’… how much do you have to hate somebody not to proselytize?”
I get that Christians who are proselytizing seem out of step in modern, live-and-let-live America, but when you are a Christian, you don’t get to pick and choose which of his commandments to obey.
I understand that some non-Christians think Christians who share the good news are being intolerant.
Admittedly, some Christians have been intolerant at times throughout history, seeking conversions through unethical means. However, sharing our faith itself is not intolerant, but in fact is something that shows we really believe what Jesus said and we care about those around us.
Tolerance means more than acceptance of different people’s beliefs, sometimes it also means listening to them. And when a whole lot of people believe there was a guy who was dead on Friday, and alive on Sunday, that’s something worth explaining, particularly at Easter time.
So, please don’t be offended.
Your Christian friends, neighbors, family members or co-workers are mustering up some courage because they care enough to reach out to you. They believe they’ve seen lives changed and are following a person whom they believe guides them toward faith and good works.
Don’t be shocked that your friends think Jesus’ last words should be their first priority — particularly around Easter, the day when they believe he came back from the dead. Their sharing with you means they care enough to get uncomfortable.
Trust that it comes from a good place and take a moment to hear them out.

21 Year Old Female British Student Stabbed To Death In Jerusalem

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

A British exchange student was fatally stabbed Friday by a Palestinian attacker just steps from Jerusalem’s Old City, where thousands of Jews and Christians gathered for religious holidays at one of the busiest times of the year, officials said.

Thousands of people filled parts of the ancient city: Jews to celebrate Passover, which ends Monday in Israel; and Christian pilgrims for Good Friday. The attack took place inside a car of the city’s light-rail train near the entrance to the Old City’s Christian Quarter.

The woman identified as Hannah Bladon, 21, was treated for stab wounds in a hospital and later died, police said.

Bladon was an exchange student from the University of Birmingham in Britain, and she arrived in Israel in January to spend a semester at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the latter said in a statement.

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency named the suspected attacker as 57-year-old Jamal Tamimi from East Jerusalem, a mostly Arab area. They said he had mental health issues and had attempted suicide this year while hospitalized. Tamimi was arrested at the scene, the report said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared the attack to other violent acts around the world in recent weeks. “Radical Islam strikes at the capitals of the world and, unfortunately, terrorism has hit the capital of Israel — Jerusalem,” he wrote on Facebook.

Israel considers Jerusalem its united capital, and all of its official offices are based there. Palestinians want part of Jerusalem as the capital of any future state.

Friday’s killing is the latest in a spate of stabbing, shooting and vehicular attacks by Palestinians over the past 18 months.

Israel has been accused internationally of being too heavy-handed in response to the attacks, which have left nearly 50 Israelis and more than 200 Palestinians dead. Israel says most of the Palestinians killed were attempting to carry out attacks against Israeli civilians, soldiers or police officers.

The targeted stabbings and other attacks started in October 2015 with almost daily assaults. Incidents slowed in mid-2016 and, with Israeli forces stepping up their response, fatal attacks are now rare.

The violence contrasts with the first and second intifadas of the 1980s and 2000s, which were centrally organized and included mass unrest.

Egyptian President Sisi Declares 3 Month State Of Emergency Following Church Bombings

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency in Egypt following twin church bombings that killed dozens of people in two cities on Sunday.Sisi announced the “state of emergency for three months” in a defiant speech at the presidential palace after a meeting of the national defence council.

The Islamic State group had claimed responsibility for the church bombings in the Nile Delta cities of Alexandria and Tanta in which at least 44 people were killed.

The attacks followed a Cairo church bombing in December and came weeks ahead of a planned visit by Catholic Pope Francis intended to show support for the country’s Christian minority.

At least 78 people were wounded in Tanta and another 40 wounded in Alexandria, the health ministry said.

Egyptian officials denounced the violence as an attempt to sow divisions in the country, while Francis sent his “deep condolences” to Tawadros.

IS claimed that its “squads” carried out both attacks, in a statement by its self-styled Amaq news agency published on social media accounts.

Images broadcast by private television stations showed bloodstains smearing the whitewashed walls of the church in Tanta next to shredded wooden benches.

“The explosion took place in the front rows, near the altar, during the mass,” General Tarek Atiya, the deputy to Egypt’s interior minister in charge of relations with the media, told AFP.

“I heard the blast and came running. I found people torn up… some people, only half of their bodies remained,” said Nabil Nader, who lives in front of the Tanta church.

The worshippers had been celebrating Palm Sunday, one of the holiest days of the Christian calendar, marking the triumphant entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem.

– String of attacks –

Prime Minister Sherif Ismail also condemned the attack, stressing Egypt’s determination to “eliminate terrorism”.

The Cairo-based Al-Azhar, an influential Sunni Muslim authority, said it aimed to “destabilise security and… the unity of Egyptians”.

Egypt’s Copts have endured successive attacks since Morsi’s ouster in July 2013.

More than 40 churches were attacked nationwide in the two weeks after the deadly dispersal by security forces of two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo on August 14, 2013, Human Rights Watch said.

Amnesty International later said more than 200 Christian-owned properties were attacked and 43 churches seriously damaged, adding that at least four people were killed.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who as then army chief helped remove Morsi, has defended his security forces and accused jihadists of attacking Copts in order to divide the country.

In October 2011, almost 30 people — mostly Coptic Christians — were killed after the army charged at a protest outside the state television building in Cairo to denounce the torching of a church in southern Egypt.

In May that year, clashes between Muslims and Copts left 15 dead in the working-class Cairo neighbourhood of Imbaba where two churches were attacked.

A few months earlier, the unclaimed bombing of a Coptic church killed more than 20 people in Egypt’s second city of Alexandria on New Year’s Day.

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ISIS Video Threatens To Attack More Christians

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Video had threatened Christians with more attacks

THE Islamic State group claimed responsibility for bombing two Egyptian churches as worshippers gathered to mark Palm Sunday, killing at least 43 people and injuring more than 100 in the deadliest attacks on the Coptic Christian minority in recent memory.

The attacks followed a Cairo church bombing in December and came weeks ahead of a planned visit by Catholic Pope Francis intended to show support for the country’s Christian minority.

The first bombing struck the Mar Girgis church in the city of Tanta north of Cairo, killing 27 people, the health ministry said.

Emergency services had scrambled to the scene when another bombing rocked the Saint Mark’s church in Alexandria where Coptic Pope Tawadros II had been leading a Palm Sunday service.

Sixteen people were killed in that attack, which the interior ministry said was caused by a suicide bomber. A church official said that Tawadros had left before the bombing.

At least 78 people were wounded in Tanta and another 41 wounded in Alexandria, the health ministry said.

Egyptian officials denounced the violence as an attempt to sow divisions in the country, while Francis sent his “deep condolences” to Tawadros.

Islamic State claimed that its “squads” carried out both attacks, in a statement by its self-styled Amaq news agency.

Images broadcast by private television stations showed bloodstains smearing the whitewashed walls of the church in Tanta next to shredded wooden benches.

“The explosion took place in the front rows, near the altar, during the mass,” General Tarek Atiya, the deputy to Egypt’s interior minister in charge of relations with the media, told reporters.

“I heard the blast and came running. I found people torn up … some people, only half of their bodies remained,” said Nabil Nader, whose resident is in front of the Tanta church.

The worshippers had been celebrating Palm Sunday, one of the holiest days of the Christian calendar, marking the triumphant entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem.

Pope Francis, who is due to visit Cairo on April 28-29, offered prayers for the victims.

“Let us pray for the victims of the attack unfortunately carried out today,” he said in an Angelus prayer.

“May the Lord convert the heart of those who sow terror, violence and death and also the heart of those who make weapons and trade in them.”

Copts, who make up about a 10th of Egypt’s population of more than 92 million and who celebrate Easter next weekend, have been targeted by several attacks in recent months.

Jihadists and Islamists accuse Copts of supporting the military overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, which ushered in a deadly crackdown on his supporters.

In December, a suicide bombing claimed by Islamic State killed 29 worshippers during Sunday mass in Cairo.

The group later released a video threatening Egypt’s Christians with more attacks.

The bombing of the church within a compound that also holds the seat of the Coptic papacy was the deadliest attack against the minority in recent memory.

A spate of jihadist-linked attacks in Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula, including the murder of a Copt in the city of El Arish whose house was also burned, have led some Coptic families to flee their homes.

About 250 Christians took refuge in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya after Islamic State released a video in February calling for attacks on the religious minority.

Reacting before the second bombing in Alexandria, Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid called the attack in Tanta “a failed attempt against our unity.”

“Terrorism hits Egypt again, this time on Palm Sunday,” he tweeted. Prime Minister Sherif Ismail also condemned the attack, stressing Egypt’s determination to “eliminate terrorism.”

The Cairo-based Al-Azhar, an influential Sunni Muslim authority, said it aimed to “destabilize security and … the unity of Egyptians.”

Egypt’s Copts have endured successive attacks since Morsi was ousted in July 2013.

More than 40 churches were attacked nationwide in the two weeks after the deadly dispersal by security forces of two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo on August 14, 2013, Human Rights Watch said.

Amnesty International later said more than 200 Christian-owned properties were attacked and 43 churches seriously damaged, adding that at least four people were killed.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who as then army chief helped remove Morsi, has defended his security forces and accused jihadists of attacking Copts in order to divide the country.