Pope Francis To Visit Burma In Late November

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY)

 

.- When Pope Francis visits Burma, also known as Myanmar, later this month, his visit will come at one of the most contentious periods of the country’s history.

In recent months, state-supported violence against Burma’s Rohingya Muslim community – an ethnic and religious minority– has reached staggering levels, causing the United Nations to declare the situation “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

“The scope of the humanitarian crisis is enormous and it’s ongoing,” said Daniel Mark, Chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, in an interview with CNA at the end of September. “Once again we unfortunately have another terrible crisis that’s focusing people’s attention on something that’s already a terrible situation.”

“This is a deep and longstanding problem that we’ve been trying to call attention to for a long time, but it’s going to need an extremely long and concerted effort to address,” Mark told CNA. “Even addressing the immediate humanitarian crisis is not going to solve this profound underlying issue of the Rohingya Muslims in Burma.”

For years, the Rohingya, an ethnic group whose main religion is Islam, have faced grave persecution in the Burmese state of Rakhine, where the majority of them live. An estimated 1.1 million Rohingya live within the majority-Buddhist country. Members of the group have been denied citizenship since the foundation of Burma in 1948, and have suffered violence, and lack the freedom to move or access clean water since a military coup d’etat in 1962.

After a different military regime took control in 1988, with even harsher military crackdowns throughout the country, the country has been referred to as Myanmar.

Pope Francis will visit the country at the end of November, following stories of horrifying human rights abuses and a mass exodus of Rohingya civilians from Burma.

The most recent wave of violence began on Aug. 25, 2017, after which the Burmese military and local Buddhist vigilantes enacted a campaign of burning Rohingya villages and massacring the civilians within them. It is still unclear exactly how many people have been killed in the violence, but aid agencies estimate that thousands are dead and more than 600,000 people have been displaced since late August. Neighboring Bangladesh has accepted the majority of those refugees, and more people have been internally displaced within the country.

The military claims the violence is a response to attacks by a small group of Rohingya against border agents in the Rakhine province, which left 12 officers dead. However, the violence – which includes arson, sexual violence, and internal displacement – long precedes those attacks, and other demonstrations within Rohingya communities, said Olivia Enos, a policy analyst in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation, who specializes in human rights.

“Maybe some individual Rohingya are acting out in self-defense, but to place blame on Rohingya is misleading,” Enos said.

“The military has a long, long history of burning homes and villages, raping women and children. The track record is so long that to place the blame on any kind of radical agents within the Rohingya would be really inaccurate.”

While violence and discrimination against the Rohingya people at the hands of Burmese authorities have been ongoing since the 1960s, with increases in persecution in 2012 and 2015, the current crisis is of particular concern, Enos said.  She explained that the high levels of displacement and increased incidents of violence and destruction set this conflict apart from the ones that have come before.

Also concerning, she said, is the fact this conflict is occurring after democratic reforms which took place between 2011-2015. While the nation is becoming more democratic, she said, the military still maintains significant control within Burma. Furthermore, the country’s leader – Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi– has remained silent when asked about the persecution of the group within her country.

To add to the worries, Enos fears that by focusing on the ethnic element of the conflict, Western leaders may overlook its religious aspect. “The vast majority of people in Burma are Buddhist and they view the Muslim minority group Rohingya as a threat to the native Burman society,” she said. “It’s a religious conflict.”

Mark stated that the religious element of the conflict has been a concern of the Commission since its founding in 1998.  “As a result of this, we’ve been following this very, very carefully and for a long time,” he said We’ve recommended Burma is designated as a Country of Particular Concern every year,” a recommendation the U.S. Department of State has followed each year it’s made such designations.

The long history of the conflict means that while there are immediate steps that need to be taken to address the humanitarian situation, work to end the conflict will need to look at the long-term solution.

“This is all a result of the systematic exclusion of these people from Burmese society,” Mark explained. “All the things we’re saying now about the treatment of Rohingya Muslims going forward are the thing that we have been saying all along,” he continued.

“It’s been a tinderbox and that needs to be addressed.”

In the short term, Mark advocated for immediate humanitarian aid and assurance that humanitarian goods will get to those in need of them. He also called for accountability for human rights violations and a cessation of violence.

He noted the need for the international community to help support Bangladesh as it takes in tens of thousands of people a day, so a secondary crisis is not created there.

“Attacks need to stop and aid needs to start.”

An earlier version of this article was published Sept. 28, 2017.

Tags: Pope FrancisBurmaRohingyaPope in Burma

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How the World Is Marking the 500th Birthday of Protestantism

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

How the World Is Marking the 500th Birthday of Protestantism

Oct 27, 2017

Five hundred years ago, an unknown monk named Martin Luther marched up to the church in Wittenberg, a small town in what is now Germany, and nailed a list of criticisms of the Catholic church to its door.

The date was Oct. 31, 1517, and Luther had just lit the fuse of what would become the Protestant Reformation. His list of criticisms, known as the 95 theses, would reverberate across world history. The Church would split, wars would be fought and people would be burned at the stake. It was the birth of Protestant Christianity.

Religiously speaking, the Reformation led to the translation of the Bible into languages other than Latin, allowing many people to engage with scripture for the first time. It also brought an end to the controversial sale of “indulgences” — payments the Church said reduced punishment for sins after death, which Luther regarded as corrupt.

More generally, the Reformation contributed to the expansion of literacy, with people no longer needing to rely on priests to read and interpret the Bible. Luther promoted universal education for girls and boys at a time when education was reserved for the wealthy, and believed in the connection between literacy and empowerment, both spiritually and socially.

Luther’s act is taught as one of the cornerstones of world history, even though most historians now agree that it was a relatively unremarkable event which was canonized at a later date for political ends. Nevertheless, it remains a lasting symbol of resistance 500 years later.

So how is an anniversary of that magnitude being celebrated?

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The hub of anniversary celebrations will be Luther’s homeland, Germany, where “Reformation Day” has long been celebrated as a holiday in certain states. This year, it’s set to be a full-blown national holiday. Chancellor Angela Merkel, the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, has encouraged German churches to promote a narrative of unity over division in their celebrations.

That’s a line that the Catholic Church and some of the biggest protestant denominations are also keen to stress. On last year’s 499th anniversary, Pope Francis joined leaders of the Lutheran World Federation in Sweden (where Lutheranism is the dominant religion) to hold a joint commemorative service. In his address, Francis said: “We have the opportunity to mend a critical moment of our history by moving beyond the controversies and disagreements that have often prevented us from understanding one another.”

Not long after Francis’ address, the Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury in England expressed remorse for the violence committed there in the name of the Reformation. Hundreds of churches and monasteries were demolished in the 1500s, and many people gruesomely killed, during England’s pained transition from Catholicism to Protestantism.

After 500 years of division, there seems to be a consensus from the top that this anniversary will be one of reconciliation.

But official church celebrations aren’t the only ways in which the milestone is being marked.

In popular celebrations Germany also leads the way, and for proof you need look only as far as its toy economy. In 2015, a commemorative Martin Luther figurine from Playmobil became the German company’s fastest-selling product ever. It took just 72 hours for the initial run of 34,000 to sell out, leading the company to rush another batch into production. A spokesperson labeled the demand a “big mystery.”

Martin Luther is now the best selling @playmobil of all time – with 750,000+ sold! 

RT for the chance to win your own! (GK)

Americans are also doing their bit. A musical entitled Luther: The Rock Operapremiered in Wittenberg earlier this year. The North Dakota pastor responsible for the two-and-a-half hour production describes it as “Hamilton meets Jesus Christ Superstar meets Monty Python.” Performances in Berlin and Wittenberg will mark the anniversary.

And, as the anniversary falls each year on the same day as Halloween, around the world people are taking inspiration from Luther for their costumes. On Reddit’s Christianity subreddit, a post asked whether it would be sinful to dress up as Martin Luther for Halloween. On Twitter, others had no qualms about their plans to do the same, whilst on Amazon, a search for “Martin Luther Costume” turns out enough results to dress a small congregation.

In honor of the 500th anniversary of the reformation, I say we all dress up as Martin Luther for Halloween and nail stuff to people’s doors.

Back in Germany, the broadcaster ZDF is airing a two-part serial entitled “Reformation” commissioned especially for the anniversary, starring Maximilian Brückner as Martin Luther. It is also airing in the U.K. on the BBC, and both channels have also commissioned special documentaries to mark the occasion.

The town of Wittenberg itself is understandably excited; in fact it’s already in the tenth year of a “Luther decade” it proclaimed in 2008. On the anniversary, a “Reformation festival” will see “jugglers, musicians, hosts, craftsmen and people from the Middle Ages” gather in the town center, before the church opens for a commemorative concert in the evening.

For some people, this anniversary may be the first they’ve heard of Luther and the Reformation. But the wide range of celebrations, exhibits, documentaries and even commemorative toys mean that it’ll be hard to escape its legacy, 500 years on.

Pope Francis And Donald Trump: One Man Of Faith And One Without Any?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Aboard the papal plane (CNN) If US President Donald Trump considers himself “pro-life,” he should reconsider his decision to end a program that allows the children of undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States, Pope Francis said.

“The President of the United States presents himself as pro-life and if he is a good pro-lifer, he understands that family is the cradle of life and its unity must be protected,” Francis said.
The Pope’s comments came during a news conference Sunday aboard the papal plane, as he returned to the Vatican after a five-day trip to Colombia. In the wide-ranging Q&A with reporters, the Pope also said history will harshly judge deniers of climate change.
The Pope acknowledged that he was not familiar with the specifics of DACA. “I think this law comes not from parliament but from the executive,” the Pope said. “If that is so, I am hopeful that it will be re-thought.”
Trump and the Pope have tussled over immigration before, with the Pope saying last year that anyone who thinks only of building walls instead of bridges is “not Christian.”
Trump fired back, saying that no religious leader should question another man’s faith.
The US Catholic bishops have also battled a former Trump administration official on DACA in recent days.
Steve Bannon, who until recently was Trump’s chief strategist, accused the bishops of having an ulterior motive in advocating for families affected by the decision to revoke DACA. They have called the decision “heartless” and “reprehensible.”
Bannon said the bishops “need illegal aliens to fill the churches,” a charge the bishops called “preposterous” and “insulting.”

History will judge climate change deniers

As the papal plane prepared to cross over Hurricane Irma’s path on its way back to Rome from Cartagena, Francis issued a stern warning to climate change deniers.
“If we don’t go back, we will go down,” the Pope said, referring to a study which suggested the world must reverse course within the next few years or suffer dire consequences.
Francis said he was particularly struck by news last week of a Russian boat that managed to go through the North Pole without an icebreaker.
“Whoever denies it has to go to the scientists and ask them,” he said. “They speak very clearly, scientists are precise.”
“Then they decide and history will judge those decisions.”
When asked why some governments refused to see the importance of the issue, Francis quoted the book of Psalms in the Old Testament.
“Man is a stupid and hard-headed being,” he said.

North Korea

Francis said he did not fully understand the crisis in North Korea. “I’ll tell you the truth, I don’t really understand the world of geopolitics,” he said. “I think what I see there is a fight for political interests.”
Francis’ message throughout his five-day visit to Colombia had been one of forgiveness and reconciliation. It is a hard message for many Colombians, who still have the trauma of kidnappings and killings fresh in their minds, but one which seems to have already had an important effect.
The leader of the guerrilla group FARC, Rodrigo Londono, asked forgiveness on Friday for the suffering his group caused to the Colombian people, in an open letter to Pope Francis.
“Your repeated expressions about God’s infinite mercy move me to plead your forgiveness for any tears and pain that we have caused the people of Colombia,” Londono wrote.

Colombian rebels ask Pope for forgiveness

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Colombian rebels ask Pope for forgiveness

Colombian President: Pope has ‘tremendous leadership’

Villavicencio, Colombia (CNN)Amid lush greenery and tropical humidity, Pope Francis touched down in Villavicencio on Friday, bringing his message of peace to one of the most notorious sites of guerrilla warfare in Colombia for the past 50 years.

Here, in one of the last major cities before the vast expanse of the Amazon, the Pope listened to powerful testimonies from ex-guerrilla fighters and from victims of their violence, such as Pastora Mira Garcia, who lost her father, husband and two children during the civil war.
“Do not be afraid of asking for forgiveness and offering it,” the Pope told them. “It is time to defuse hatred, to renounce vengeance.”
It is a message the Pope has echoed throughout this five-day visit in the country, aiming to help Colombians, many of whose memories are still fresh with crimes committed against them, embrace the historic peace agreement reached in December 2016.

Rebels ask for forgiveness

There are signs that Francis’ words may be having an effect.
In an open letter to the Pope published on Friday, Rodrigo Londono, former leader of the leftist guerrilla group FARC, asked for forgiveness from Francis for the actions of his group during five decades of war.
“Your repeated expressions about God’s infinite mercy move me to plead your forgiveness for any tears and pain that we have caused the people of Colombia, Londono wrote.
At a Mass on Friday, Pope Francis beatified two Catholic priests who were murdered during the years of the civil war, calling their martyrdom a sign “of a people who wish to rise up out of the swamp of violence and bitterness.”
Bishop Jesus Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve of Arauca was kidnapped and shot twice in the head by Colombian Marxist guerrillas in 1989.
The Rev. Pedro Maria Ramirez Ramos, known asNM! the “martyr of Armero,” was killed at the start of the Colombian civil war in 1948. The conflict claimed an estimated 220,000 lives.

Pope meets Venezuelan bishops

On Thursday, in an unscheduled private meeting, Pope Francis briefly spoke with bishops who had come from Venezuela.
Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, archbishop of Caracas, told reporters in Bogota that the bishops had come to ask the Pope for help for the “desperate situation,” in their country.
“There are people who eat garbage,” Urosa said, “yes, the garbage, and there are people who die because there is no medicine.”
“So we want to remind the Pope of this again and especially the serious political situation, because the government is doing everything possible to establish a state system, totalitarian and Marxist.”
Francis continues his visit in Medellin on Saturday and Cartagena on Sunday, before returning to the Vatican later that evening.

‘Our beautiful little boy has gone’: Parents of Charlie Gard say he has died

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

‘Our beautiful little boy has gone’: Parents of Charlie Gard say he has died

 July 28 at 6:20 PM
The lengthy legal battle over Charlie Gard
Charlie Gard’s parents ended their legal fight over the terminally ill infant’s treatment July 24. Here’s what you need to know about the legal battle over his life. (Monica Akhtar, Elyse Samuels/The Washington Post)

After months of fighting for Charlie Gard’s life — then pleading for time to bid him goodbye — the terminally ill British infant’s parents said Friday that he had died.

The 11-month-old boy’s case had elicited sympathy and support from Pope Francis and President Trump and inflamed an international debate over end-of-life rights.

His parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, announced his death a day after a British court ruled that the infant should be moved to hospice care and removed from a ventilator — as the pair pleaded for a few more days with their son, a spokesman for the family told BBC Newsthe Guardian and the Associated Press.

“Our beautiful little boy has gone,” Yates said Friday in a statement, according to British news reports. “We are so proud of you Charlie.”

The somber news of Charlie’s death reverberated across the world Friday evening.

Francis wrote in a message on social media, “I entrust little Charlie to the Father and pray for his parents and all those who loved him.”

Prime Minister Theresa May said she was “deeply saddened” and extended her “thoughts and prayers” to Charlie’s parents, according to BBC News. Vice President Pence‏ said on Twitter that he was “saddened to hear of the passing of Charlie Gard.”

I entrust little Charlie to the Father and pray for his parents and all those who loved him.

For several months, Charlie’s parents had been fighting in court to keep him alive. His case became the embodiment of a passionate debate over his right to live or die, his parents’ right to choose for their child and whether his doctors had an obligation to intervene in his care.

The bitter legal battle came to an exhausting and emotional end Thursday when High Court Judge Nicholas Francis made the decision to move Charlie to hospice care and let him die after Charlie’s parents and doctors could not agree on how much time the child should have to live. The judge said Charlie should be removed from the ventilator, which “will inevitably result in Charlie’s death within a short period of time thereafter.”

His parents had also lost a fight to let him die at home.

London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, which had been treating Charlie, said it had been “a uniquely painful and distressing process” for everyone.

Charlie, who was born with a rare genetic condition called mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, sustained brain damage that had taken away his ability to see, hear and breathe on his own.

His parents had raised money to take him to the United States for an experimental treatment they had not yet tried, but doctors at Great Ormond Street asserted that the child had no chance of survival. The case trickled through the British court system and ended up in the European Court of Human Rights, which declined to hear it, upholding previous court rulings that it was in Charlie’s best interest to let him die.

It was that decision that thrust Charlie’s case into the international spotlight.

In June, the Vatican’s children’s hospital said it would admit the boy, with the pope saying on social media that “to defend human life, above all when it is wounded by illness, is a duty of love that God entrusts to all.”

To defend human life, above all when it is wounded by illness, is a duty of love that God entrusts to us all.

Charlie’s parents said the support had given them renewed hope. Hospitals in Rome and New York opened their doors, and the High Court gave his parents the opportunity to present evidence in the case.

Michio Hirano, a neurology expert at Columbia Medical Center in New York, and the Vatican’s Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital initially said the experimental medical treatment might help Charlie, according to the Associated Press. But Great Ormond Street said that idea had done nothing more than give Charlie’s parents false hope that their son could recover.

Given the American invitations to assist Charlie, the court case also raised significant differences between British and American ethical approaches to experimental treatments.

In the United States, patients can be given certain drugs even if it is known that the drugs in question will not improve their condition, insofar as knowledge of their effects may improve the conditions of others in the future.

The same it is not the case in the United Kingdom, where, by contrast, doctors cannot administer treatments that know will not improve the patient’s condition in a specific case.

It was decided earlier this week that Charlie’s parents should let him go, when it became clear that the experimental treatment they wanted for their son was no longer possible.

After further medical tests, Chris Gard told reporters, “we’ve decided it is no longer in Charlie’s best interest to pursue treatment, and we will let our son go and be with the angels.”

“Had Charlie been given the treatment sooner, he would have had the potential to be a normal, healthy little boy,” Gard added. “We will have to live with the what-ifs that will haunt us for the rest of our lives.”

After Charlie’s death, Great Ormond Street said in a statement that it sent “heartfelt condolences to Charlie’s parents and loved-ones at this very sad time.”

This story has been updated. James McAuley contributed to this report from Paris.

Read more:

After losing battle to keep Charlie Gard alive, his parents are fighting to let him die at home

Charlie Gard not allowed to receive Vatican’s care, hospital spokesman says

Charlie Gard may have new hope: Hospital asks court to rehear case of terminally ill infant

Charlie Gard’s parents to present new evidence in case surrounding terminally ill son

Christians Must Think Differently About Israel, Jews in Light of Past Atrocities

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

Christians Must Think Differently About Israel, Jews in Light of Past Atrocities: Gerald McDermott

 

Jun 22, 2017 | 10:05 AM

 The majority of Christians have been wrong about Israel for most of their history, according to a leading Anglican theologian and Israel scholar.
(Photo: Reuters) An Israeli flag flies high in Tel Aviv, December 28, 2010.

For many reasons, Christians ought to think differently about the land of Israel and the Jews as God’s covenant people, Gerald R. McDermott, Anglican chair at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, explains in a new book.

In an interview with The Christian Post on Tuesday, McDermott explained that his latest work, Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently About the People and the Land, articulates why it’s important for believers in Jesus to engage Israel with the utmost humility. This is necessary not only because of the geopolitical complexities present there but especially because “the Jews have been horribly wronged by Christians over the millennia.”

(Photo: Courtesy of Gerald McDermott)Gerald McDermott, author of Israel Matter: Why Christians Must Think Differently About the People and the Land.

“Even before the Holocaust, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Jews were murdered over the last 1,800 years by Christians as “Christ-killers,” McDermott said, noting at the time of the Holocaust Germany was the most Christianized nation in the world.

“Jews know these things and are afraid of us,” he said.

The error in thinking that Jesus departed from Judaism and began a new religion furthers the distance between Christians and Jews and makes Jews into an “other,” he said.

Yet in the past several decades, especially in the United States, a resurgence of what is known as Christian Zionism, the view that the land of Israel and ethnic Jews remain central to God’s eternal purposes, has occurred.

McDermott did not personally subscribe to this perspective because he associated it with dispensationalism, theology that considers biblical history as divided intentionally by God into specific ages to each of which He has allotted distinctive administrative principles. This teaching was popularized in the 1800’s by Anglo-Irish preacher John Nelson Darby.

But all that began to change for him upon doing further study of the Bible and history and he found that throughout the ages a minority has believed that one day, in accordance with Scripture, a massive in gathering of Jewish people to their historic homeland would take place.

(Photo: Courtesy of Gerald McDermott)Cover of the book “Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently about the People and the Land,” by Gerald R. McDermott.

He realized he did not have to accept a dispensationalist approach to regard the land and people of Israel as an essential component of God’s ongoing work in the world. Nor did he have to subscribe to the often wild, apocalyptic end times scenarios some Christian Zionists have espoused in the past.

In Chapter 3 of Israel Matters the author showcases “Those Who Got It Right.”

From early Church fathers like Tertullian to more recent figures like American theologian Jonathan Edwards and Swiss theologian Karl Barth, each of these men believed that a day would come when the Jews would return to their ancient homeland.

During his ministry Edwards repeatedly warned against spiritualizing biblical promises to the Jews. When the modern state of Israel was established in 1948 Barth wrote that it was a “secular parable” and that the large numbers of Jews returning to the land was a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

As is expressed throughout The New Christian Zionism, a volume of Christian scholarship on Israel released last year for which McDermott was the editor, Israel Matters argues strongly against supercessionism. This is also known as “replacement theology” which holds that the Church replaced Israel as God’s chosen people.

Today, what is known as “fulfillment theology,” which some assert is merely an updated form of replacement theology, also holds that Jews do not have a God-given destiny in their ancient land. But instead of the Church replacing Israel, its proponents contend that Jesus fulfills in his life and redemptive work all the promises that God ever made to the Jews, including the promise that the land of Canaan would be their everlasting possession.

This theology considers the land insignificant and that the only Jews who are now significant to God are Messianic Jews, those who believe Jesus is the Messiah.

But several passages in the New Testament suggest both beliefs are wrong, McDermott explained.

“Paul says in Romans 11:28 that the Jews who did not accept Jesus as Messiah were ‘enemies of the Gospel’ but nevertheless ‘are beloved’ to God, and that their ‘gifts and calling of God’ to be His special people ‘are irrevocable,'” he said.

Moreover, the Apostle Paul was writing to the Romans 30 years after Jesus’ resurrection but even then was still saying that God’s covenant with ethnic Israel remains in place. This did not mean that all Jews were saved, but that they were still special to God in a particular way.

Likewise, in his Beatitude in Matthew 5:5, Jesus was quoting Psalm 37:11 word for word when he said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the [earth.]” The Hebrew word for “earth,” which is used five times in Psalm 37, in every one of these five instances in Psalm 37 refers to the land of Israel, McDermott continued. So the Beatitude is better translated, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Land.”

And in Acts 1:6, “when Jesus’ disciples asked him just before his ascension, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ Jesus did not tell them they were wrong to think there would be a future Israel that God would establish,” he said.

“Instead, He (Jesus) said that the timing of that future was not to be known then.”

(Photo: Reuters)People walk near Damascus Gate leading into Jerusalem’s Old City, 2017.

In addition to the theological objections McDermott unpacks in the book, he explores the modern political history of the region, which is often characterized by intense and bloody conflicts.

Yet unlike some Christian Zionists who appear to think that the nation of Israel can do no wrong, McDermott is not afraid to criticize the Israeli government when it’s warranted.

He acknowledges in the book where Palestinians have been mistreated at times, how the Israeli government has broken promises, and how certain policies have been unwise. He also writes that the state of Israel should do more to protect Messianic believers. Whether an unjust action is perpetrated by a Jew or an Arab, he says, Christians need to feel free to raise their voices to criticize whoever is responsible when it is clear such an injustice has occurred.

Although imperfect, the state of Israel, “an oasis of freedom and democracy in the Middle East,” is inextricably linked with the Jews, McDermott insists.

“Even if the covenanted people of Israel and the state of Israel are not one and the same, they are intertwined in a complex way,” he writes in the book.

“The state could not exist without its people, and the covenanted people could not survive or flourish without the state. The state shelters the people, and the people — though not all are religious Jews — support the state. One without the other is unthinkable and impossible.”

For Christians who care about the Palestinians and their rights, McDermott encourages them to visit Israel since tourism helps everyone there, and to support the largely-unreported incremental steps Israel is taking to improve the lot of Palestinians.

(PHOTO: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN/FILE PHOTO) The facade of the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel as seen on Jan. 20, 2017.

Written in a scholarly yet accessible tone, Israel Matters is likely to be a important resource for Christians looking to bring their faith to bear on current events unfolding in the United States and in the Middle East. Earlier this month President Donald Trump signed a waiver delaying the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, skirting a key campaign promise that he might or might not revisit.

CP asked McDermott if moving the embassy would constitute a blessing to Israel, as some scholars have argued.

Such a move would “help the cause for peace, not hurt it,” he replied.

“First of all, it would be the simple recognition of reality: Jerusalem and no other city is Israel’s capital,” McDermott said.

“Second, the Palestinian leaders are thugs who would realize by this move that they can no longer dictate as they did to Obama, whose policies hurt both Jews and Arabs.”

The only hope for improvement is for [Palestinian President] Abbas to understand that he has to talk to the Israelis and moving the U.S. diplomatic outpost to the capital would signal to him that he can no longer circumvent the Israelis and try to get what he wants from the United Nations, he added.

Aside from the fulfillment of prophetic scriptures and political considerations, Christians need to think differently about the people and land of Israel because Jesus was and is Jewish, McDermott stressed. And in order to relate to Jewish friends, getting in touch with His Jewishness is essential.

“The Jews were raised up by God as representatives of humanity,” McDermott said. “So that if the Bible shows their departures from God, it is really illustrating ours.”

“Jesus prized Jewish law, said that salvation is from the Jews, predicted that one day Jerusalem will welcome Him, and foresaw that His Apostles will one day rule over the tribes of Israel,” McDermott said.

If Christians begin to think they are somehow better because they believe in Jesus as Messiah and the Jews do not, they fail to understand God’s grace, he added.

“When we realize how profoundly Jewish Jesus was and is, we will feel greater kinship with those for whom Paul said he had ‘unceasing anguish in his heart.'”

Follow Brandon Showalter on Twitter: @BrandonMShow

Follow Brandon Showalter on Facebook: @BrandonMShow

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

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

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

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

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

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

Tackling roots of violent extremism

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

Eliminating poverty and exploitation

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

12-point declaration

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

Pope Francis: Read The Bible As Often As You Check Your Cellphone

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

Pope Francis: Read the Bible as Often as You Check Your Cellphone

12:51 PM Eastern

(VATICAN CITY) — Pope Francis has called on the faithful to consult the Bible with the same frequency as they might consult their cellphones for messages.

Francis urged a packed St. Peter’s Square following his weekly Angelus blessing Sunday to give the Bible the same place in daily life as cellphones, asking: “What would happen if we turned back when we forget it, if we opened it more times a day, if we read the message of God contained in the Bible the way we read messages on our cellphones.”

The message was a twist on Francis’ frequent use of social media to reach the faithful, including regular messages on Twitter.

Is The Pope Actually As Ignorant As His Words Are Saying He Is?

 

I am not a Catholic, but I am a Christian. I do not believe that the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church is stupid nor ignorant, at least I hope that he isn’t. I know that as a ‘religious leader’ of a ‘Christ based’ faith the Pope is suppose to be kind, good, and welcoming to all people of the Earth. Peace and love are the hallmarks of God’s teachings so the Pope is correct in his inviting of all persons out of war torn countries and into country’s that are not ‘war torn’. But, at the same time you show wisdom in the protection of your family, your country, and the Church. In pretty much any other circumstance Pope Francis would be correct in welcoming the Muslim and Persian people from North Africa and the Middle-East into Europe and the rest of the civilized world as to not do so would be cruel and racists. But if the Pope does not understand the difference of this situation compared to, for example, free travel between members of EU country’s then he is quite ignorant.

 

I have stated my opinions on racism several times in articles that I have written here on this site throughout the years. I believe that any form of racism is evil and that evil will get a person condemned at their judgement before the Throne of Christ. If I, you, the Pope, or anyone else are anti-Muslim or Persian people, then we are being racist and this is a sin that will be held against our charge. I do not believe for even one moment that Pope Francis is a racist person. As I said earlier that in any other circumstance Pope Francis would be correct in trying to get all country’s on Earth to open their doors to these war refugees, but not in this case. If the Pope really thinks that what he is saying to the public is correct, then he is an idiot. If he does’t believe what he is saying, then he is being a liar. For anyone, especially a ‘Religious Leader’ to be a liar or an idiot is not a good thing. I will not judge the Pope on which one he is being, that is God’s job, not mine.

 

In both of the previous paragraphs I have referred to this particular circumstance as being different than any other circumstance. The reason that Pope Francis is wrong in his trying to get Europe and the rest of the world to allow in these refugees is not because they are Muslim people, Persian people, or even African people. The color of their skin has nothing at all to do with anything. The issue is what has saturated these people between their ears, and that issue is Islam! This ‘religion’ has been around for almost 1,400 years and for it’s whole existence including right from it’s inception it is and has always been a religion of hate, murder and conquest. Ever since their ‘prophet’ Mohammad was still alive he participated in the extermination of all people and all other faiths in every country this disease has spread to. As most of you know the word Islam means ‘submission’ as in total submission to the will of Allah. Any who will not submit are to be killed. Believers are ordered to infiltrate a country, grow strong from within, then attack and destroy until that country has only one faith, Islam. Any country who lets believers of this ‘faith’ in among their people are inviting their own murderers within their own homes. Some people, those who haven’t read or studied their scriptures or paid any attention to world history over the past 1,400 years, will say that I am being Islamophobic. I am telling you, wake up, read, and learn because it is you who are being ignorant. Read the Quran which is ‘the words’ of the prophet Mohammad, read the real Islamic holy book, the Hadith, which is ‘the actions’ of the prophet Mohammad. The play book for your destruction is laid out in black and white, it is you who are being ignorant and it will cost you your country, your way of life, and your life. So, is the Pope being ignorant? Read, learn, then make an intelligent decision instead of an un-knowledgeable one.

From The BBC: Pope Francis Visits Lesbos Island To Visit Refugee Detention Center

 

Migrant crisis: Pope Francis arrives in Greece to visit Lesbos camp

  • 23 minutes ago
  • From the sectionEurope
Migrants protest in the Moria detention centre in Mytilene, on April 15, 2016, on the eve of Pope Francis" visit.Image copyrightAFP/Getty
Image captionMigrants have protested at overcrowding and a lack of food at the Lesbos camp

Pope Francis has arrived on the Greek island of Lesbos to show support for refugees trying to reach Europe.

The Pope is being met by Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew. They will visit a camp for more than 3,000 people who are awaiting either processing of asylum claims or deportation to Turkey.

Lesbos has been a key entry point into Europe for migrants in the past year.

Thousands are now stuck on the island after last month’s deal between Europe and Turkey to try to ease the flow.

Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople – the spiritual head of the world’s Orthodox Christians – will visit the Moria detention centre.

The Vatican insists that the Pope’s visit is purely humanitarian and religious in nature and should not be seen as a criticism of the deportations.

However, the Vatican official in charge of migrants, Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, has said the EU-Turkey plan treats migrants as merchandise and fails to recognise their dignity as human beings.

Pope Francis visited the Italian island of Lampedusa in 2013 to show similar support for migrants after dozens died trying to reach it.

‘Terrified’

The Pope was met at Lesbos Mytilene airport by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop of Athens Ieronimos II.

Pope Francis, Alexis Tsipras and Patriarch Bartholomew, Lesbos, 16 AprilImage copyrightReuters
Image captionPope Francis was met by PM Alexis Tsipras (C) and Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew

At the camp, the Pope will meet unaccompanied migrant children, and will later observe a minute’s silence for those who have died making dangerous sea crossings in search of a better life.

On the eve of the visit, one Syrian attempted to kill himself at the camp after being told he would be deported back to Turkey but was prevented by police.

Migrants later demonstrated, demanding better treatment and to stay in Europe.


Analysis – BBC diplomatic correspondent Caroline Hawley

Refugees and migrants line up inside Moria detention centre in Mytilene one day before the visit of Pope Francis on April 15, 2016Image copyrightAFP/Getty

This is a short, but highly symbolic visit designed to draw attention to what the Vatican has described as a difficult situation.

The Pope has repeatedly called for compassion to be shown to people fleeing terror, turmoil and hardship. He will be hoping his trip to Lesbos will stir Europe’s conscience.

It comes as the EU’s handling of the migrant crisis faces intense criticism from aid agencies and human rights groups. The Pope will meet refugees at a camp where more than 3,000 people are now effectively incarcerated in conditions aid workers say are deplorable.

He will then hold a ceremony to remember those who have died trying to reach Europe’s shores. The Pope is coming with a strong moral message – but no solutions.


The Greek authorities have not yet commented on the suicide attempt, which was confirmed by non-governmental organisations on the island.

The man was among four Syrians who have now appealed against their deportation orders.

However, some Syrians on Lesbos say they are terrified by the thought of returning to Turkey because of reports that hundreds of Syrians have been forcibly returned from Turkey to Syria.

Turkey has denied sending back any refugees against their will.

Refugees and migrants also complain of overcrowded conditions and a lack of food.

A man looks through a gate at the Moria refugee camp where asylum-seekers are held at the complex on April 15, 2016 in Mytilene on LesbosImage copyrightGetty Images
Image captionMigrants on Lesbos are incarcerated in conditions aid workers say are deplorable.

Key points from EU-Turkey agreement

  • Returns: All “irregular migrants” crossing from Turkey into Greece from 20 March will be sent back. Each arrival will be individually assessed by the Greek authorities
  • One-for-one: For each Syrian returned to Turkey, a Syrian migrant will be resettled in the EU. Priority will be given to those who have not tried to illegally enter the EU and the number is capped at 72,000
  • Visa restrictions: Turkish nationals should have access to the Schengen passport-free zone by June. This will not apply to non-Schengen countries like Britain
  • Financial aid: The EU is to speed up the allocation of €3bn ($3.3 bn; £2.3 bn) in aid to Turkey to help migrants
  • Turkey EU membership: Both sides agreed to “re-energise” Turkey’s bid to join the European bloc, with talks due by July

The Turkey-EU statement in full


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A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

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