The Wall Of Shame

The Wall Of Shame

Why do we build, to keep out

Was not Berlin’s built to keep in

The Great Wall of China can be seen from space

Decide what is real, do you live a sanctified life

Your reflection in the world’s looking glass

Does it show but one face or do you have many

Division from the south, but not from the north

Do you not see your two faces shining

 

What do you think your wall will facilitate

The poor of the south are humans just like you

Hungry, tired, and scared, they come to your gates

Looking for a safe place to build, and work and pray

We build a higher wall, we tell them they have to wait

From terrorist and drugs, you say your wall will defend

You wall out your brother, your neighbor, your friends

 

How is it you can be so cold yet say you’re a Christian

Do you not know, nor see, nor care, people are starving

By your actions you do offend the Lord Himself

Do you not think that a terrorist or a drug King Pin

Can enter your haven from the cold frozen north

Do not speak to me of family values ye hypocrite

As children and mothers die of hunger and guns

At the foot of this wall, this barrier you create

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of a Mississippi law that protects people who oppose gay marriage

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of a Mississippi law that protects people who oppose gay marriage on religious grounds from being sued.

(Photo: Reuters/Mike Blake)Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant arrives to attend B.B. King’s funeral in Indianola, Mississippi, May 30, 2015.

In a unanimous decision issued Thursday, the panel concluded that the plaintiffs lacked the standing to sue the state over House Bill 1523, also called the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, reversing a lower court’s decision.

“The governor of Mississippi and the executive director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services appeal a preliminary injunction. Because the plaintiffs do not have standing, we reverse the injunction and render a judgment of dismissal,” wrote Circuit Judge Jerry Smith on behalf of the panel.

In April 2016, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed HB 1523 into law, which prohibits the state from compelling businesses and individuals from supporting or servicing gay weddings.

(Photo: Reuters/David McNew)A same-sex wedding cake topper is seen outside the East Los Angeles County Recorder’s Office on Valentine’s Day during a news event for National Freedom to Marry Week in Los Angeles, Calif., Feb. 14, 2012.

“The sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions protected by this act are the belief or conviction that: (a) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; (b) Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and (c) Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth,” reads HB 1523 in part.

LGBT groups and their allies denounced the legislation and sued to have it struck down. For his part, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order last year banning non-essential state travel to Mississippi.

“[I]t is the policy of the state of New York to promote fairness, protect the welfare of the citizens of the state of New York, and combat discrimination,” read Cuomo’s 2016 order.

“All agencies, departments, boards, authorities and commissions [will] review all requests for state funded or state sponsored travel to the state of Mississippi so long as there is law in effect there that permits and enshrines discrimination against LGBT citizens and unmarried individuals …” Cuomo’s order added.

Last summer, Judge Carlton W. Reeves blocked Mississippi’s law from taking effect, concluding that it was “a vehicle for state-sanctioned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said in a statement Thursday that he commended the panel’s ruling on the “commonsense law.”

“No person should be punished by the government with crippling fines or face disqualification for simply believing what President Obama believed until five years ago, that marriage is the union of a man and a woman,” said Perkins.

“Today’s ruling leaves us more confident that the courts will uphold the ability of elected officials to protect the freedom of their citizens to believe and live according to those beliefs”

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/faith-based-business-owners-wont-be-forced-serve-gay-weddings-mississippi-appeals-court-rules-189278/#D4ljHrmCXmHwz8dC.99

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/faith-based-business-owners-wont-be-forced-serve-gay-weddings-mississippi-appeals-court-rules-189278/#0jjFfAGKXVH9qOiS.99

Is It Possible To Be A Devout Christian If You Are A Devout Republican Or Democrat?

 

I worded the title the way I did in an attempt to get your attention, now I would like for you to honestly think about the question please. I grew up in a home where my Mom and Dad were both Democrats, they never ever voted but they believed in Democratic ideals and thought that the Republican Party was only for rich people because of their theology. As a young boy I got most of my work ethics and my morals from my Mom and from the Church that I attended up until I was 17 (Church of Christ). The first Presidential election that I was old enough to vote in was in 1976. I am a registered Independent voter as I just can’t align myself with either of these two main political parties. This past election in November of 2016 was a very difficult one for me as in my heart I knew that the two main choices we had were both evil self centered asses, talk about voting for the least of the two evils! I just couldn’t get myself to vote for either one of them so I ended up voting for a third party candidate, Gary Johnson. I knew that he was not going to win, but at least I did vote. Just for the purpose of verification my past voting record for the Presidents have been as follows. 1976 Jimmy Carter, 1980 and 1984 Ronald Reagan, 1988 Michael Dakakis, 1992 and 1996 Bill Clinton, 2000 Al Gore, 2004 John Kerry, 2008 John McCain, 2012 Mitt Romney, 2016 Gary Johnson. As you see, not a Democrat nor a Republican. If you will notice, I have never ever voted for a ‘Bush’, I just could not allow myself to vote for one of them, their linage of evil is just to long and to strong. I have in most voting situations voted for what I thought would be the least of the two evils.

 

Now I am going to get into the reasoning why I used the title that I did about each of these two political parties. As most folks here in the States should be aware of each of these Parties are controlled by the fringes of their ideologies. The Republicans are controlled by the far to the right conservatives and the Democrats are controlled by the far to the left liberals. The reason we have all of this political gridlock is because of the Party leaders, they always refuse to meet in the middle to get Country moving forward. Just like the person I personally call a jerk “Senator Ted Cruz” who was trying to get the Republican nomination that Donald Trump won said during the debates and I quote “if I am elected President I will not negotiate with the Democrats.” The whole concept of the word politics is the word ‘compromise’, no compromise, no positive movement, just gridlock.

 

The Republicans with their hard right agenda is far from being a ‘Christian’ agenda. They like to say that they are and they do court the ‘born again Christian’ voting block yet their actions do not conform to their rhetoric. I my opinion the main reason that the Republican politicians tend to get the vast majority of the Christian vote is not because they love the Republican Party, it is because of the Democratic platform which insist on making abortion a ‘right’ of women. This is an issue that I personally as a Christian just cannot justify nor will it allow me to align with the Democrats because of it. The Republican Party and the Platform that they preach from is also very anti Christian in their ideals. The Republican Party Platform is very anti poor and very anti working class poor. The Republican Party has always (at least in my lifetime) aligned with the richest of the rich in America. Mr. Reagan called it “trickle down economics.”

 

I totally believe that one of the worse things that has ever happened to people who are not from wealthy families is the invention of the Stock Market. Think about it for a moment, when a company is able to break a Union, their stock value goes up. When a company moves to a country where they can get child labor and slaves to do the work, their stock value goes up. When two companies merge and they lay off hundreds or thousands of workers, their stock value goes up. One other little issue, think about this, when a company moves away from America to a far less developed country, thus cutting their expenses drastically, do you ever see the price of their products on the shelves go down to reflect their lower operating costs? The answer is no, these moves are only about one thing, more profits for the top end and for those who can afford to purchase large amounts of their stock. Republicans have proven themselves over and over again to be the “Business” Party while the Democrats portray themselves as the working class Party. Personally I do not believe that either Party Leadership cares at all about the lower and middle class except when they are trying to get their vote at election time. It is my belief that both Parties Leaderships only care about the richest of their donors, not the people who actually make these richest of the rich their lifestyles. Starvation is not a Christian virtue, people being homeless even though they are working because they can’t earn a ‘livable wage’, is not a Christian virtue, not being able to afford medical care is not a christian virtue. On the flip side is also the fact that murdering millions of defenseless babies is not a Christian virtue. So, now do you understand why I say that neither of these two Political Parties are worthy of having a Christian aligned with them?

‘Iraqi Christians Are Infidels Who Must Be Killed or Converted,’ Says Top Shia Cleric

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

‘Iraqi Christians Are Infidels Who Must Be Killed or Converted,’ Says Shia Cleric

 

May 21, 2017 | 10:17 AM

About 200 Christian families in Iraq have filed a lawsuit against the head of the country’s Shia Endowment for inciting sectarian violence against the Christian minority by saying in a video that Christians should be converted to Islam or killed.

(Photo: REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)Iraqis attend the first Palm Sunday procession in the burnt out main church of the Christian city of Qaraqosh since Iraqi forces retook it from Islamic States militants, Iraq April 9, 2017.

“Either they convert to Islam, or else they are killed or they pay the jizya [a tax on non-Muslims],” said Sheikh Alaa Al-Mousawi, who heads the government body which maintains all of Iraq’s Shia holy sites, in a sermon, according to a YouTube video uploaded by Middle East Monitor.

Declaring Christians to be “infidels and polytheists,” Al-Mousawi called for “jihad” against them. “Jews and Christians” must be fought and killed if they do not accept Islam, he went on to say.

The cleric is being compared to the Islamic State terror group, which is also known as IS, ISIS, ISIL or Daesh, which had asked Christians in Iraq’s northern provinces in 2014 to covert, flee or be killed. As a result of that warning, about 100,000 Christians had to flee at the time.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby recently met with Iraqi Christians during a visit to Jordan.

“People are divided from their children and families and have no idea what will happen. One woman has children in both Germany and the Netherlands, but has been refused entry to both so she doesn’t know when or if they will ever be reunited,” Welby said. “Young men are vulnerable to being recruited to extremist causes because their community and networks have been stripped away.”

Since 2003, as many as 1.5 million Christians, or close to 75 percent of all followers of Christ in Iraq, have fled the country, according to Josef Sleve, an Iraqi Christian lawmaker.

“The number of Christians living in the country now stands at between 500,000 and 850,000,” Sleve told Anadolu Agency earlier this month. “This means that over the past 14 years, some 1.5 million Christians have emigrated to other countries.”

IS has said it wants to wipe out Christians, and has beheaded, executed, tortured and enslaved thousands of people within its captured territory, which extends into Syria and other regions.

However, some Christians are now returning to their homes on the Plains of Nineveh in Iraq, and three major church groups have come together to rebuild more than 12,000 houses that were destroyed or damaged. The Syriac Catholic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Chaldean Catholic Church have formed the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee to plan and supervise the rebuilding of the houses.

Security forces backed by a U.S.-led international coalition last year took back several cities in Iraq from IS and liberated eastern Mosul in December. They are now trying to liberate the western parts of the city.

In an interview with Fox News earlier this year, Canon Andrew White, an Anglican priest known as the “vicar of Baghdad,” said the “time has come where it is over, no Christians will be left. Some say Christians should stay to maintain the historical presence, but it has become very difficult. The future for the community is very limited.”

He added, “If there is anything I can tell Americans it is that your fellow brothers and sisters are suffering, they are desperate for help. And it is not just a matter of praying for peace. They need a lot — food, resources, clothes, everything. They need everything.”

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/iraqi-christians-infidels-killed-converted-shia-cleric-mousawi

 

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%).

 

Support our work. Subscribe to CT and get one year free.

Coexistence In The Middle-East (And Every Where else On Earth): Or Self Inflected Armageddon?

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

Opinion

Coexistence Is the Last Chance to Avoid the Precipice

Last week, Egypt’s Coptic Christians cancelled Easter celebrations in mourning for those who were killed in two separate terrorist explosions targeting churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria.

In Iraq too, new maps are being drawn by sectarianism, while minorities shrink and ethno-religious fabric change under the violence perpetrated by Iran on one side and ISIS on another.

Likewise, we openly witness how shredded Syria has become, and under the eyes of the international community, it is well on the road of partition and population exchange– finally, the less said the better it is when the subject matter is ongoing events in occupied Palestinian territories.

Given this painful regional climate, the ongoing arguments about Lebanon’s future electoral system become a travesty, not much different from the ‘crowded’ field of Iran’s presidential elections where neither votes nor abundance of candidates mean a thing against what the Supreme Leader utters and the elitist Revolutionary Gaurd the (IRGC) dictates.

In Lebanon, the Middle East’s ‘democratic’ soft belly, the Lebanese’ daily bread and butter is endless and absurd arguments and counter-arguments about what the most appropriate electoral system should look like in upcoming parliamentary elections. This is not actually new. Moreover, true intentions behind what is going on have nothing to do with what is being said, whether the intention is escalation or hypocrisy.

The real problem is that the Lebanese are acutely divided on several basic issues regarding conditions of coexistence, political representation and even the meaning of democracy.

For a start, one must ask oneself whether the next elections – regardless of what system is adopted – are going to produce any change in the status quo? Is there any common Lebanese vision as to what the country’s identity is among the ostensible ‘allies’, let alone political adversaries and those dependent on foreign backing and sectarian hegemony?

Then, one may also ask – given defective mechanisms of governance – would ‘state institutions’ still be relevant and meaningful? Would any electoral law be effective in the light of accelerating disproportionate sectarian demographics, and the fact that one large religious sect enjoys a monopoly of military might outside the state’s umbrella, while still sharing what is underneath that umbrella?

The other day in his Easter sermon the Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Ra’i said “the (Lebanese) Christians are nobody’s bullied weaklings, but are rather indispensable (!)…”. This is tough talk indeed, but it too is not new.

From what is widely known about Cardinal Ra’i, even before assuming the Patriarchate, is that he is highly interested in politics, and that political views are as candid as they are decisive. On Syria, in particular, he has been among the first to warn the West against and dissuade its leaders from supporting the Syrian uprising; when he claimed during his visits – beginning with France – that any regime that may replace Bashar Al-Assad’s may be worse, and thus it would better to keep him in power.

The same path has been followed by current Lebanese president Michel Aoun, who was strongly backed by Hezbollah, to the extent that the latter forced a political vacuum on Lebanon lasting for over two years.

Of course, Hezbollah, in the meantime, had been imposing its hegemony over Lebanon, fighting for Al-Assad in Syria, and training the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen as part of Iran’s project of regional dominance. In promoting this ‘project’ globally, but particularly in the West, Iran has given it the themes of ‘fighting terrorism’ – meaning ‘Sunni Muslim terrorism’- and ‘protection of minorities’ within the framework of a tactical ‘coalition of the minorities’.

A few days ago Aoun said during an interview that “the aim behind what is taking place in the Orient is to empty it of Christians and partition the region into several states”. Again, this is not something new, as it used to be said on the murder and kidnapping road blocks during the dark days of the Lebanese War between 1975 and 1990. Those days the fears of uprooting were common and widespread; reaching the climax within the Christian community with rumors that the mission of American diplomat Dean Brown was to evacuate Lebanon’s Christians to Canada, and within the Druze community during ‘the Mountain War’ (1983-1984) that they would be expelled to southern Syria.

However, Aoun, as it seems, has not been quite aware of who was applying the final touches on population exchange, and drawing the map for the ‘future’ states he has been warning against. He has simply ignored the full picture, turning instead, to repeat old talk in order to justify temporary interests that are harmful if not fatal to minorities, rather than being beneficial and protective.

In this context, come the ‘try-to-be-smart’ attempts to impose a new electoral law in Lebanon as a means of blackmail, as if the country’s sectarian ‘tribal chieftains’ are naïve or debutants in the arena of sectarian politics. The latest has come from Gebran Bassil, the foreign minister and President Aoun’s son-in-law, when he expressed his “willingness to entertain the idea of a Senate, on the condition that it is headed by a Christian!”. This pre-condition was quickly rejected by the Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri on the basis that the presidency of a Senate, as approved in “Taif Agreement” – which is now part of Lebanon’s Constitution – was allocated to the Druze; and thus, what Bassil had suggested was unconstitutional.

It is worth mentioning here that all suggestions regarding the future electoral law have ignored the issue of a Senate. It was has also been obvious that another item in the “Taif Agreement” was being intentionally ignored too, which is adopting ‘Administrative De-Centralization’.

However, if some Lebanese parties feel uncomfortable with the idea of ‘De-Centralization’, more so as both Iraq and Syria seem to be on their way to actual partition, it is not possible anymore to separate Lebanon’s politics from its demographics.

The latter are now being affected by radical and everlasting demographic changes occurring across the country’s disintegrating eastern borders with Syria. These include what is being reported – without being refuted – about widespread settlement and naturalization activities in Damascus and its countryside. Furthermore, once the population exchange between Shi’ite ‘pockets’ of northern Syria and the Sunni majority population of the Barada River valley is completed, the new sectarian and demographic fabric of Damascus and its countryside would gain a strategic depth and merge with a similar fabric in eastern Lebanon.

This is a danger that Lebanese Christians, indeed, all Lebanese, Syrians, Iraqis and all Arabs, must be aware of and sincere about. The cost of ignoring facts on the ground is tragic, as blood begets blood, exclusion justifies exclusion, and marginalization undermines coexistence.

Nation-building is impossible in the absence of a free will to live together. It is impossible in a climate of lies, while those who think they are smart gamble on shifting regional and global balances of power.

Eyad Abu Shakra

Eyad Abu Shakra

Eyad Abu Shakra is the managing editor of Asharq Al-Awsat. He has been with the newspaper since 1978.

More Posts

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.

Iraqi Christians Return To Ransacked Town With Fear And Hope

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

Iraqi Christians return to ransacked town with fear and hope

A damaged statue of Jesus Christ is seen inside a church in the town of Qaraqosh, south of Mosul, Iraq, April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Marko Djurica SEARCH
By Ulf Laessing | QARAQOSH, IRAQ

With Islamic State expelled, Iraqi Christians are trickling back to the ransacked town of Qaraqosh, beset by anxiety for their security and yet hopeful they can live in friendship with Muslims of all persuasions.

The town, about 20 km (12 miles) from the battlefront with Islamic State in the northern city of Mosul, shows why Christians have mixed feelings about the future of their ancient community.

In the desecrated churches of Qaraqosh, Christians are busy removing graffiti daubed by the Sunni Muslim militants during two and a half years of control – only for new slogans to have appeared, scrawled by Shi’ite members of the Iraqi forces fighting street to street with the jihadists in Mosul.

But nearby a shopkeeper is doing a brisk trade selling Dutch beer, Greek ouzo and several whisky brands to Christians, Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds alike, with this kind of commerce perhaps offering a glimpse of how Iraq’s fractured communities could again live together peacefully.

Encouraged by security checkpoints and patrols by a volunteer force, up to 10 Christian families have returned to what used to be the minority’s biggest community in Iraq until Islamic State seized it in 2014.

Iraqi forces pushed the group out of Qaraqosh in October, part of a six-month offensive to retake Mosul. But residents are worried that the Shi’ite slogans signal a new kind of sectarian division.

“Oh Hussein” is daubed in red on the wall of a church torched earlier by Islamic State, praising the hero of Shi’ite Muslims who was martyred 1,300 years ago.

“We are afraid of this, of tensions,” said Girgis Youssif, a church worker. “We want to live in peace and demand security,” said Youssif, who returned after fleeing to Erbil, about 60 km away in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Shi’ites in the Iraqi government forces and paramilitary groups, mostly from further south in the country, have scribbled such slogans on buildings all over Mosul too.

Soldiers have also hoisted the flag of Ali in the city and on their on military vehicles. Shi’ites regard Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, and the prophet’s grandson Hussein as his true successors.

Two Shi’ite flags also fly over Qaraqosh.

Most Sunnis, who are the dominant community in Mosul, have shrugged off the Shi’ite slogans as the work of a handful of religious zealots but Christians take them as a signal that their future remains uncertain.

“Of course we are afraid of such signs,” said Matti Yashou Hatti, a photographer who still lives in Erbil with his family. “We need international protection.”

Those families who have returned to Qaraqosh – once home to 50,000 people – are trying to revive Christian life dating back two millennia. However, most stay only two or three days at a time to refurbish their looted and burnt homes.

“We want to come back but there is no water and power,” said Mazam Nesin, a Christian who works for a volunteer force based in Qaraqosh but has left his family behind in Erbil.

By contrast, displaced Muslims have been flocking back to markets in eastern Mosul since Islamic State’s ejection from that part of the city, despite the battle raging in the Old City across the Tigris river which is the militants’ last stronghold.

ALCOHOL SHOP

Numbers of Christians in Iraq have fallen from 1.5 million to a few hundred thousand since the violence which followed the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein. Many Baghdad residents who could not afford to go abroad went to Qaraqosh and other northern towns where security used to be better than in the capital, rocked by sectarian warfare after the U.S.-led invasion.

But with the arrival of Islamic State, residents abandoned their homes with some applying for asylum in Europe. Germany alone took in 130,000 Iraqis, among them many Christians, in 2015 and 2016. But most ended up in Erbil with relatives or in homes paid for by aid agencies.

Supermarkets and restaurants remain closed in Qaraqosh, with windows smashed and burnt furniture strewn across floors.

One of the few businesses to have reopened is Steve Ibrahim’s alcohol shop in the town center; in the absence of cafes it has become a meeting point for local people. “Business has been good so far. Everybody comes here to stock up,” said Ibrahim, who has just reopened the store with his father.

They lost everything when Islamic State, known by its enemies as Daesh, wrecked their business. Now they have invested about $400 to refurbish the shop – new tiles shine on the walls – and customers are coming from beyond the town and from across the communities.

“I sell drinks to Christians and Muslims alike,” he said. “Many people come from Mosul or other towns.”

Many of Ibrahim’s customers ignore Islam’s forbidding of alcohol consumption. While he was talking, a Sunni Muslim from eastern Mosul drove up to buy a bottle of whisky and four cans of beer, packed in a black plastic bag to hide his purchase from the eyes of more religiously observant Muslims.

“You couldn’t drink during Daesh. I am glad this shop is open again,” said the man who gave his name only as Mohammed, shaking hands with Christians enjoying an afternoon beer. “I still only drink at home.”

Later a Shi’ite from a village south of Mosul arrived to pick up drinks. “I come here twice a week. It’s the only shop in the area,” he said, asking not to be named, before driving off.

Even Ibrahim comes every day from Erbil, bringing by car supplies and fuel for the generator to power the fridges filled with cold beer. Then he drives back at night.

Whether more Christians can live permanently in Qaraqosh depends on whether the security forces win their trust.

Army and police have tried to ease fears by stationing soldiers in front of churches, and even helping Christian volunteers to set up a massive cross at the town’s entrance.

On Palm Sunday last weekend, soldiers escorted a procession in preparation for Easter, Christianity’s most important festival, and provided chairs for worshippers during Mass.

Some Christian policemen joined in, singing “Hallelujah” with civilians. But walking along rows of burnt out homes and supermarkets, others were still afraid.

“The security measures are not sufficient,” said Hatti, the photographer. “We want security to surround the town.”

(Click here, reut.rs/2ordbfj for a Photo essay on this story)

(Editing by David Stamp)

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.

The Islamic Ambush That is Awaiting The American People

via The Islamic ambush awaiting us

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BRITTUS BLOG SITE)

Almost 50 years ago, a young Marine lieutenant led a combat patrol through a village in Vietnam. Having witnessed numerous patrols of this sort before, villagers continued about their daily routine.

After hearing a village elder say something to a fellow villager, the lieutenant immediately stopped his men. With new orders issued and weapons at the ready, the patrol quietly advanced, ultimately surprising an enemy force just outside the village that had been waiting to spring an ambush on the Marines.

The lieutenant never knew if the elder had intentionally tipped him off or simply did not know he spoke Vietnamese, overhearing an ambush lay ahead. Being able to speak the local language fortuitously saved American lives.

This story holds a lesson we need heed in view of a meeting President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster, just held with his staff.

McMaster informed his people that linking terrorism to radical Islam – a message Trump conveyed during his presidential campaign, in his inaugural speech and ever since then – is not helpful, as such terrorists are “un-Islamic.”

An Iraq war veteran and student of history, McMaster is apparently taking a stand – similar to that espoused by former President Obama – not to suggest Islam itself is violent but that extremists have hijacked Islam, giving it a violent interpretation.

It will be interesting to see how this interpretation plays out with Trump and whether he decides to throttle back on his own assertion about Islam or has McMaster throttle back on his. In his Feb. 28 speech to Congress, Trump did not back off from linking terrorism to radical Islam. As to whom, between these two, has the better grasp on the religion, another story need be told.

To protect his identity, an Arabic translator working in a refugee center in Germany, dealing with hundreds of Muslim migrants daily, will be referred to as “X.” A secret X has kept from all who reside at the center is that he is a Christian. Revealing this at the center would be a death sentence for him.

Speaking the language, X understands exactly what refugees think about non-Muslims who have opened up their hearts to them: They seek to carve those hearts out!

X attests it is frightening to hear what is said within these centers. Having escaped death in their native lands, having been given food and shelter in a non-Muslim land, having been given access to welfare programs to help them get on their feet, these Muslim refugees are not appreciative. What Germans do for the refugees is expected of them in recognition of Islam’s religious superiority.

But, most frighteningly, while accepting Western generosity, these refugees conspire eventually to relieve their hosts of their lives and property. These refugee centers are transitioning into dens of iniquity.

A group known as “Open Doors Germany” is documenting how this mindset thrives among Muslim refugees. Refugees attend mosques where clerics deliver hate-filled sermons against all non-Muslims, including their German hosts.

This leads to the persecution of Christians at the refugee centers. Christian refugees in Rotenburg who dared attend a church service, returned to the center to find threatening graffiti on the walls of their room reading, “Cut the Christians’ heads off!”

Such threats have not lain idle. Christians find it difficult to sleep in the centers, knowing someone in the next room believes his faith mandates he kill them. Hundreds of attacks are recorded. Open Doors revealed how there have been “assaults, stabbings, life-threatening situations … (with) some refugees end(ing) up in the hospital.”

Muslims admonish Christian refugees as “unclean.” Males assert their right under Islam to rape Christian women. As Germany and many other European countries have borne witness, Muslim males believe this right extends to native Christian women as well. This is evidenced today by rape epidemics in many of these Western countries.

We are foolish not to accept the fact mosques, whether in Muslim-majority countries or not, feed Islam’s followers with hate messages for non-Muslims. So fed, some opt to radicalize and act on them; some do not. But we need understand terrorism emanates from such hate speech against non-Muslims. Because Islam’s foundation is built upon this hatred, it is not extremists who have hijacked Islam to give it a violent interpretation; it is moderates who have hijacked Islam to give it a non-violent one.

Interestingly, several Muslim countries recognize that a link does exist between Islam and terrorism and, therefore, refuse to accept Muslim refugees.

This brings us back to McMaster’s instruction to his staff not to couch terrorism in terms of radical Islam and the Marine lieutenant who led his patrol in Vietnam.

McMaster’s guidance to his staff seems to stem from concerns non-radical Muslims, offended by our linking terrorism to Islam, might become radicalized. What he dismisses by doing so, however, is that Muslims are already fully indoctrinated by their clerics and the Quran to hate non-Muslims. Such indoctrination leaves us not knowing whom among them might opt for radicalization. But the possibility Muslims so programmed with a hateful ideology might be motivated to act radically imposes a duty upon our leaders to forewarn us of the danger that an ambush may lay ahead.

If the lieutenant leading his patrol in Vietnam had not understood the language, he would have led his patrol into an ambush. Few Americans understand Arabic and, thus, what clerics teach in their mosques or Muslim refugees discuss in their centers. Efforts by Open Doors to reveal this is critical to avoid the ambush Islam plots for non-Muslims and which it hopes, through our continuing ignorance, we not know lies ahead.

We are way past the time our leaders need worry honestly about Islam’s hatred and intolerance for us might possibly radicalize Muslims to undertake acts of terrorism. That seed has already been implanted by Islam’s clerics into their followers’ collective psyche. It is time our leaders now be honest with us, educating the American people and acknowledging that Islam, indeed, promotes terrorism.

Copyright 2017 WND

Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2017/03/the-islamic-ambush-awaiting-us/#fWvu9iPoPH60audC.99