Archaeologists have reportedly uncovered the ancient entrance gate to the biblical city of Zer in Israel, also known as Bethsaida, which is mentioned in the New Testament as the city where Jesus fed the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish in one His most well-known miracles.
“There are not many gates in this country from this period. Bethsaida was the name of the city during the Second Temple period, but during the First Temple period it was the city of Zer,” said Dr. Rami Arav, director of the Bethsaida Project, according to The Jerusalem Post.
The discovery of the gate was made during excavations carried out in the Golan Heights, with the size and wealth of the fortification suggesting that Zer was a big city.
In recent weeks, archaeologists have also found coins, beads, jugs, a house key, along with a shield that belonged to a Roman soldier. One of the coins was dated back to 35 BCE, or not long before the birth of Christ.
Arav has been carrying out excavations in the Bethsaida area for close to 30 years, which have increased the popularity of the region, and led to masses of Christian pilgrims visiting the site.
Avi Lieberman, director of the Jordan Park, where Bethsaida is located, said that the latest discovery can attract even more people.
“The staff at the Jordan Park and the Golan Tourism are happy for the tens of thousands of visitors who visit the park every day. The wonderful park is also an impressive archaeological site. I [am] amazed each time by the arrival of thousands of evangelical visitors to Bethsaida. I am confident that the latest discoveries will bring more visitors to the park from around the world and from Israel,” Lieberman said.
Relics of other faiths have also been discovered in and around Bethsaida. In January, an Israeli team identified a small, highly decorated pottery shard, which is about 2,300 years old, depicting the birth of the Greek goddess Athena.
Although the shard was originally found in 2016, researchers had been unable to determine until then that it depicts Athena springing to life fully formed from the head of her father Zeus.
Another notable discovery came in 2014, when archaeologists found a rare Roman coin issued in 85 CE by Agrippa II bearing the phrase “Judea Capta,” meant to mark the victory over the Jewish rebels and the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.
The residents of ancient Bethsaida are criticized by Jesus in Matthew 11, when He calls them out, among others, for refusing to believe the Gospel despite witnessing His miracles.
“Woe to you, Bethsaida!” He says. “For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.”
The Episcopal Church is one step closer to revising their official Book of Common Prayer to include more “inclusive and expansive language” for both God and humanity.
At the mainline denomination’s 79th General Convention in Austin, Texas, the House of Deputies voted to adopt a resolution that approved beginning a revision process to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer that will likely remove masculine language for God.
Known as Resolution A068, the measure passed on Saturday with clergy voting 63 yes, 30 no, and 17 divided while laity voted 69 yes, 26 no, 15 divided.
“Resolved, That such revision utilize inclusive and expansive language and imagery for humanity and divinity,” states the resolution in part.
“That such revision [will] utilize the riches of Holy Scripture and our Church’s liturgical, cultural, racial, generational, linguistic, gender, physical ability, and ethnic diversity in order to share common worship.”
If passed by the House of BIshops, which isthe other legislative house of the bicameral General Convention of the Episcopal Church, the denomination will appropriate approximately $1.9 million to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music for the 2019-2021 Triennium to work on the process, with some estimating that the final cost could be as high as $8 million.
Many expect the revision process of the prayer book to involve implementing more gender-neutral language for God than presently exists in the 1979 version.
Another goal is to broaden the marriage rite to allow for same-gender ceremonies. While same-sex weddings are allowed in the Episcopal Church, the Book of Common Prayer book has not yet been edited to include such rites.
House of Deputies member the Rev. Jane Johnson of Fond du Lac said during the debate last week in support of the resolution that “God’s pronouns are them and their, not he.”
Many have expressed opposition to the revision proposal, with some noting that adding more gender inclusive language for God runs contrary to Scripture and tradition.
“‘Our Father who art in Heaven’ has been passed down to us over the centuries and now we are special enough to change it? This doesn’t sit well with me.”
Last revised in 1979, the Book of Common Prayer is the source for the Episcopal Church’s liturgies and theological statements, and is used for many sacred ceremonies, including marriages and baptisms.
“The Book of Common Prayer is a treasure chest full of devotional and teaching resources for individuals and congregations, but it is also the primary symbol of our unity,” states the Church.
If the resolution is approved, the process will still take many years, with a three-year trial run for the revised book and a final vote of approval not expected until 2030, according to Episcopal News Service.
In the ongoing trial of American Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was arrested in December 2016 on false charges of espionage and terrorism in Turkey, a video of a Middle Eastern dish that Brunson’s daughter sent him from the United States is being viewed as evidence.
This “evidence” is mentioned in the 62-page indictment of Brunson, on which the trial is based, according to Citizen Times.
The video is about the Middle Eastern dish Maklube, but the indictment claims it’s “a dish cooked by members of the organization (Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen and his FETO network — a group the Turkish government blames for a 2016 coup attempt) at meetings and religious gatherings at the FETÖ/PDY armed terrorist organization’s cell houses.”
The indictment further claims that American churches are linked to the FBI and the CIA, that around 40 percent of members of the U.S.’ armed forces serving overseas are Mormons, and that someone gathered some information about gas stations in Turkey which shows that Brunson was trying to overthrow the Turkish government.
Brunson, a North Carolina native who has led a small congregation in Izmir for the past two decades, has denied all the charges.
The indictment demands up to 15 years in prison for crimes in the name of the Gulen movement and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, and up to 20 years for obtaining state secrets for political or military espionage, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency. The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan holds the banned group responsible for the failed coup.
Rights advocates believe that Brunson was arrested in an attempt to force the U.S. government to extradite Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who resides in Pennsylvania.
During his first hearing last month, Brunson declared his innocence and stated, “I haven’t done anything against Turkey. On the contrary, I love Turkey. I have been praying for Turkey for 25 years.”
The U.S. State Department has said it is convinced that the Turkish government does not have any “credible evidence” to convict Brunson of terrorism charges. Former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for Brunson’s release during a meeting in Ankara in February. And last May, President Donald Trump also pushed for Brunson’s release during a meeting with Erdogan.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Chairman Daniel Mark said last month that “Pastor Brunson is an innocent religious leader whose imprisonment for over 18 months on false allegations is an abomination. This latest development is yet another reason for the international community to condemn his imprisonment and for Congress and the administration to consider stronger steps against Turkey, including the imposition of targeted sanctions against those involved in this miscarriage of justice.”
Erdogan responded to the calls for Brunson’s release.
Referring to demands he has made in the past, Erdogan said that Brunson’s fate is directly tied with the extradition of Gulen, who is living in Pennsylvania and is accused by the Turkish government of staging a failed military coup in the country in 2016.
“The U.S. is behind [Gulen],” Erdogan told Turkish television news channel NTV, according to Sputnik News on Sunday.
He added that “if you want Brunson, look at the steps you have taken in the past. Why don’t you deport this man in accordance with the extradition treaty?”
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Christians in Nigeria suffered a second mass-scale slaughter in the space of a few days, according to reports, after Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked villages in Benue state this week, leading to the deaths of at least 39 people.
Morning Star News reported of several attacks throughout the state that targeted Christian communities, including one on Tuesday night on the predominantly Christian Tse-Umenge, Mbakpase and Tse-Ali villages, where 160 houses were burned down.
Mbakpase resident Alice Terwase explained that the attackers wore army camouflage and carried AK-47 weapons.
“The herdsmen destroyed more than 60 houses in our village, and three members of my community were also killed during the attack,” Terwase told the news service.
“At Tse-Ali village, more than 70 houses were set ablaze and 21 Christians killed. All affected victims are members of NKST [Universal Reformed Christian Church, or Nongu u Kristu u i Ser u sha Tar] church, and the Roman Catholic Church in the affected communities.”
John Umenge of Tse-Umenge village said that the radicals burned down 50 houses in his community.
“More than 15 Christians were killed and 50 houses destroyed by the herdsmen,” Umenge revealed. “The attacks began around 11 p.m. on Tuesday night and lasted to the early hours of today (Wednesday).”
Richard Nyajo, council chairman of Logo Local Government Area, told of another attack on Wednesday where seven displaced Christians were taking refuge at a church.
“The attack carried out by the herdsmen in the church premises of the African Church in Mbamondo took place at about 12:20 a.m.,” Nyajo said. “Seven Christian villagers who were displaced in previous attacks and were taking refuge in the church premises were killed.”
The radicals set houses on fire during that raid as well. Morning Star News pointed out that the total number of Christians killed in the assaults has not yet been confirmed.
The killings follow yet another shocking attack on Tuesday morning in Mbalom, when 19 Christians, including two Roman Catholic priests, were killed during morning mass when radicals with guns stormed in.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari called Tuesday’s church attack “particularly despicable.”
“Violating a place of worship, killing priests and worshipers is not only vile, evil and satanic, it is clearly calculated to stoke up religious conflict and plunge our communities into endless bloodletting,” he said.
Buhari faces growing unrest as Christians are outraged that the Fulani attacks are continuing in full-force, despite government pledges of action.
The Christian Association of Nigeria has called for the “National and International Sunday of Christian Protest” on April 29.
“Government should be called upon to perform its constitutional responsibility of protecting citizens now. No excuse should be given for this wicked act again and perpetrators must be brought to book now,” said the Rev. Dr. Samson Olasupo Ayokunle, president of CAN, in a statement.
“Similarly, the peaceful protest must demand for the release of Leah Sharibu, the captive of faith and the remaining Chibok girls. All people in captivity must be released without delay,” he added, speaking of a kidnapping by Boko Haram, another major terror group in Nigeria.
“We are already at a breaking point and a state of anomie is almost here.”
Billy Graham died Wednesday at the age of 99. The world renowned evangelist, who has been listed on Gallup’s most admired list 61 times since 1955 — more than any other person — passed away peacefully at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, after struggling with various health problems linked to his advanced age.
In a statement to The Christian Post, Will Graham, the grandson of Billy Graham (whose full name is William Franklin Graham Jr.) and the son of Franklin Graham, said:
“My grandfather once said, ‘One day you’ll hear that Billy Graham has died. Don’t you believe it. On that day I’ll be more alive than ever before! I’ve just changed addresses.’ My friends, today my grandfather moved from the land of the dead to the land of the living,” Will Graham declared.
“We mourn that he is no longer with us physically here on earth, but we don’t grieve as those who have no hope. My grandfather invested his entire life in sharing the promise of eternity through Jesus Christ, and today he had the opportunity to realize that hope himself, kneeling before his Savior and hearing the words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ My family appreciates your prayers now and in the days ahead.”
Last week, Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, gave an update on her father’s health during a conference at Moody Bible Institute.
“I’m not sure he knows that I’m here. He doesn’t track like he used to, but his mind is still clear,” she said.
“He can’t see; he has a hard time seeing because of macular degeneration,” she continued. “He’s fairly deaf, I have to use a microphone and he wears a headset for me to speak to him. He’s not mobile.”
Since Billy Graham preached his last sermon on Nov. 7, 2013, for “My Hope America With Billy Graham,” a nationwide movement to expose Americans to the message of salvation in Jesus Christ, he appeared to have let go of life and be more ready than ever to go to Heaven, his family observed.
“On November 7, he (Billy Graham) finished his race and up until that time, God had protected his health and gave him supernatural strength, and now, the only thing left is for him to come home,” said Will Graham to Assist News in December 2013. “God has removed his hand of protection and old age has set in.”
Despite his weakened state, Graham was working on a book up until the time of his death. Graham’s last book was published in October 2013 and titled, The Reason for My Hope: Salvation. In total, Graham had written 32 books, including his autobiography Just As I Am (1997), Nearing Home (2011), and Angels: God’s Secret Agents (1975), which sold 1 million copies within 90 days.
Billy Graham was born Nov. 7, 1918, in Charlotte, N.C., and raised on a dairy farm. He graduated from Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill. – home of the Billy Graham Center Museum and where he met his wife, Ruth McCue Bell, the daughter of a missionary surgeon to China. They were married for over 60 years until Ruth’s death in 2007.
Graham, a Southern Baptist, has preached the Gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association estimates that he has preached live to nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories, and hundreds of millions of more people through television, video, film and webcasts. He has led hundreds of thousands of individuals to make personal decisions to commit their lives to Jesus Christ, according to BGEA.
He is also known as the “pastor to presidents,” having met every U.S. president since World War II through Barack Obama. For his 95th birthday celebration, President Bill Clinton was among the 700 guests that included Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch and Rick Warren. And for the dedication of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C., in 2007, three former U.S. presidents came to share the momentous event with him: George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
“Every life Billy Graham ever touched – including people who never became president, never spoke at a crusade – is better because he was a good and faithful servant of the two most important commandments (to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself),” said Clinton in his speech during the dedication ceremony on May 31, 2007.
Clinton, who has shared that he attended Graham’s 1959 Little Rock, Ark., crusade, also had said during the 2007 dedication ceremony, “When he (Graham) prays with you in the Oval Office or the upstairs of the White House, you feel that he’s praying for you, not the president.”
For Graham’s 95th birthday in 2013, several megachurch pastors gave tributes to the evangelist during interviews with The Christian Post at the Resurgence conference.
Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Southern California and author of the bestseller The Purpose Driven Life, had told CP that Billy Graham was among his mentors.
“One of the things that a lot of people don’t know about Billy Graham is that he was also an encouragers to pastors,” Warren shared. “One time in Amsterdam he brought in 12,000 evangelists from all around the world. I had written a Bible study methods and Billy had brought a book for every one of those evangelists and had me come in and teach it.
“He was first and foremost an encourager,” Warren remembers fondly.
Billy Graham is survived by his five children – Virginia, Anne Morrow, Ruth Bell, William Franklin, III, and Nelson Edman – 19 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren.
Iraqi Christians are reaching out with forgiveness to the Islamic radicals who have murdered, tortured, and raped their communities, even as they face an existential struggle for survival.
Iraqi Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, who has been outspoken about the plight of Christians in his country, said believers “have endured persecution in patience and faith for 1,400 years,” but now face an “existential struggle” that could possibly be their last in Iraq.
Speaking at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. last week at an event hosted by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, the bishop noted that the Islamic State terror group displaced more than 125,000 Christians in the Nineveh region.
Warda said the attacks left Christians “without shelter, without refuge, without work, without properties, without monasteries, without the ability to participate in any of the things that give our lives dignity,” as reported by Catholic News Agency.
“So few of us are left, some estimate 200,000 Christians or less,” he said of the total number of Christians in the country, down from 1.5 million in 2003.
“While it is true that our numbers are small, the Apostles were much smaller.”
Still, the church leader said that Christians are open to forgiveness despite the horrors of the genocide they have suffered.
“We forgive those who murdered us, who tortured us, who raped us, who sought to destroy everything about us. We forgive them in the name of Christ,” Warda declared.
He added that Muslim leaders need to do more than simply clarify that IS does not represent their faith, but praised some nations, such as the United Arab Emirates, for offering genuine support to the victims of violence.
“Since the ISIS attack, they’ve been with us helping all — Catholics, Yazidis, Muslims,” the bishop explained.
“There is a fundamental crisis within Islam itself and if this crisis is not acknowledged, addressed and fixed then there can be no future for Christians in the Middle East,” he added.
“We’ve been hearing some courageous voices from Islamic leaders concerning the need of change and the need to address this issue openly. It should be encouraged.”
The decimated communities have seen hope in the opening of the new Catholic University of Erbil, which welcomes both Christian and Muslim students, offering degrees in economics, international law, English literature, and accounting, among others.
Nineveh Plains Christians were also able to celebrate the reconsecration of the first church since IS’ invasion in December, with the reopening of St. George’s Church in Telleskuf.
Others, such as Ashur Sargon Eskrya, president of the Assyrian Aid Society branch in Iraq, have said that despite the victories against IS and the liberation of Iraqi territories, Christians are facing their “biggest and greatest challenge” in returning to their homelands.
“Iraqi Christians (Assyrian,Chaldean) are indigenous peoples of the country, according to historical sources, and their future in Iraq depends of on international support and protection. Without protections, they will not be able to live in Iraq anymore,” Eskrya said in August 2017.
“It is critical time for the Christians of Iraq — ‘to be or not to be.’ The Christians of Iraq are facing their biggest and greatest challenge” in post-IS Iraq, he added.
As the pastors of marriage and parenting at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, Clayton and Ashlee Hurst know a thing or two about relationships. They’ve been married for more than 20 years, have two children together, and counsel countless couples on how to develop a Christ-centered, meaningful marriage.
Yet, there was a time when their relationship was anything but healthy.
“We both grew up in Christian homes and our parents had stable marriages,” Ashlee told CP in an exclusive interview. “So we went into marriage thinking it would be easy. We put a lot of effort into the wedding day, but none into the days that followed. Slowly, because of our lack of knowledge of what marriage was truly about, we descended into a valley of hopeless and miscommunication, and pride.”
It’s only by the grace of God, Clayton said, that their marriage was able to heal after five years of suffering. Now, they want to help others avoid the pitfalls and traps that so easily entangle people in this world of romantic comedies and unrealistic, Nicholas Sparks-esque relationship expectations.
“We want people to know, ‘Here’s what we did, don’t do this,'” Ashlee said. “Here’s the things we wish we would have known to help other people along the way. People who are in that hopeless place, we want to give them hope.”
It’s long been reported that half of America’s marriages end in divorce. While the number is significantly lower among Christian couples, that doesn’t mean they’re immune to marital difficulties.
“We were shocked at the number of people who would come up to us in the sanctuary after service and ask for prayer for their marriage,” Clayton shared. “Marriage turned out to be the number one thing people ask for prayer about. Across the board, people are looking for hope.”
While couples struggle with a number of issues, from lack of communication and unforgiveness to mishandled conflict and unrealistic expectations, it “always boils down to pride,” Ashlee said.
“There’s so much pride built up in marriage, and humility is the first step to healing in your relationship,” she explained. “We see pride promoted everywhere in culture, yet the Bible is very clear on humility and and the dangers of pride. The Bible says, ‘Pride goes before destruction,’ and that’s exactly what happens in far too many marriages.”
In every counseling session, Clayton said, he and his wife ask couples: “Are you willing to do whatever it takes to have the marriage you hoped and dreamed of having?”
“It comes down to willingness,” he said. “Am I willing to lay down my pride? Am I willing to put my husband or wife’s needs before my own?”
“In Ephesians 5, it says that we must submit one to another, and that’s not always easy. Men and women are different; for the most part, our brains are wired differently, and that’s where communication issues creep in. But ultimately, we are on each other’s team. When she wins, I win. If she loses, I lose. We are meant to work together. That’s God’s intention for marriage.”
One way the church can help prepare Christian singles and engaged couples for marriage is by talking about the hard —and awkward — issues like sex and intimacy.
“Growing up, you always heard, ‘No, no, no’ when it comes to sex but you never heard the ‘why’ behind it,” Ashlee said. “Sex was presented as dirty and bad, and if you did it, there was so much shame. That’s where I found myself once we got married, it was hard for me to be intimate because I had all these hurts from my past, and it took me years before I’d open up to Clayton about it.”
In their counseling sessions, the Hursts said, they work to create a safe place where people can open up about issues and ask vulnerable questions to get the help they need.
“Isn’t it just like Satan to keep us isolated and think we’re the only ones? We want people to know they’re not alone, to ask the sensitive questions,” Ashlee said.
The Hursts also encourage both singles and dating couples to prepare themselves for marriage by studying Scripture and declaring life over their current and future relationships (Ezekiel 37:1-14).
“Put the word of God away when you don’t need it, so when you do need it it’s here for you,” Clayton said. “To have a successful marriage, you must have the Word of God stored in your heart. It’s about taking steps of faith and trusting in God’s power. These things have a huge impact.”
Finally, it’s important for couples to refrain from falling into complacency when it comes to their marriage, the Hursts said.
“Never stop learning. Always be a student of each other, always be a student of marriage,” advised Clayton. “Whether you’re newlyweds or a seasoned married couple, find people farther along in their marriage, mentors who can challenge you and help you grow. Even if your marriage is great, there’s still another level you can reach.”
Added Ashlee, “God can work anything out. Once couple in our church had an affair; there was still hope. One couple literally tried to kill each other; there was hope. One faced the challenges of having a child with autism; there was still hope. There is always, always hope.”
Doug Pederson, the head coach of freshly crowned Super Bowl LII champions the Philadelphia Eagles, gave glory to God in his reaction to the historic victory.
“I can only give the praise to my Lord and savior Jesus Christ for giving me this opportunity. And I’m going to tell you something. I’ve got the best players in the world, and it’s a resilient group,” Pederson said in a post-game interview, according to Philly.com on Sunday.
“I love this coaching staff. Mr. [Jeffrey] Lurie, the owner. And not only do we have the best fans in the world, we now have the best team in the world. Thank you guys.”
The Eagles’ 41-33 victory over the New England Patriots marked their first-ever Super Bowl title at the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota, having previously lost title games in 1981 and 2005.
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, saw God’s hand in his path to the final, commentators who spoke with him said.
Tony Dungy, former head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and of the Indianapolis Colts, said in a post-game interview, according to NBC Sports:
“Nick Foles told me last week in Philadelphia he thought the Lord had him here for just this time. He knows this is Carson Wentz’s team, but he was ready to go tonight, and he played like a champion.”
Foles wept tears of joy when discussing the team’s victory, holding onto his daughter, Lily.
“All glory to God. Lily really likes this mic. She has no idea,” the MVP said.
Praising his Eagles teammates and coaching staff, he added: “To be here with my daughter, my wife, my teammates, this city … we’re very blessed.”
Foles has not kept his Christian faith a secret, describing himself on Twitter as a “believer in Jesus Christ, husband, father, son, brother.” The 29-year-old star athlete has said in the past that after his football career comes to an end, he is thinking of becoming a pastor.
“I want to be a pastor in a high school,” Foles said at a news conference ahead of the Super Bowl.
“It’s on my heart. I took a leap of faith last year and signed up to take classes at seminary. I wanted to continue to learn and challenge my faith. It’s a challenge because you are writing papers that are biblically correct. You want to impact people’s hearts,” he said.
Foles explained that high school is a very challenging time for young men and young women.
“So much temptation in this world, so much going on with social media and the internet that you want to talk to them and address it, and share all the weaknesses I have because I’ve fallen many times,” he stated.
“It’s something I want to do. I can’t play football forever. I’ve been blessed with an amazing platform and it’s just a door God has opened, but I still have a lot of school left and a long journey.”
Others, such as Eagles’ punter Donnie Jones, also placed their faith in God in the run-up to the major event.
“[I] always know that He’s going to be there, He’s going to take care of you,” Jones, who attended a Catholic High School in Baton Rouge, said of God.
“That’s kind of been the way of my career. I’ve moved around with five teams. When I didn’t know things were going to work out, He always put me in the right spot. You’ve got to have faith, believe,” he added, according to The Catholic Spirit.
Four U.N. human rights experts have issued a joint statement, urging Iran to ensure “a fair and transparent final hearing” at the country’s Revolutionary Court for three Iranian Christians who have been sentenced for “conducting evangelism” and “illegal house church activities,” among other charges.
The U.N. special rapporteurs on the human rights situation in Iran, freedom of religion, minority issues and the right to health have expressed their concerns over last year’s sentencing of Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz, former Assyrian Pentecostal Church leader in Iran, and house church Christians Amin Afshar Naderi and Hadi Asgari, to between 10 and 15 years in prison for various charges.
The Revolutionary Court was due to hold a hearing in the case Sunday but it is not still known if the court ended the case, confirmed the sentences or referred it to the Supreme Court, according to Radio Free Europe.
The U.N. experts said the charges and sentences were “completely contrary” to Iran’s obligations under international law. “We are additionally concerned about the lack of health care made available to them while in detention and, in particular, about the current health condition of Mr. Asgari, who remains in prison.”
They noted, “Members of the Christian minority in Iran, particularly those who have converted to the faith, are facing severe discrimination and religious persecution.”
The independent U.N. experts urged “the government to immediately and unconditionally release all those who have been arrested and detained for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief.”
Shamiram Isavi, the wife of Pastor Tamraz, was earlier this year sentenced to five years in prison, allegedly for endangering national security.
“As far as we know, and based on Mrs. Isavi’s own statements, no evidence has been presented in the case to show that she was engaged in spying or disturbing national security. She has denied all the charges,” Kiarash Alipour, a spokesman for Article 18, a U.K.-based organization focusing on Christians in Iran, told the Centre for Human Rights in Iran.
“Mrs. Isavi explained during the interrogation that when the Assyrian Pentecostal Church was shut down, she attended home churches and prayed with fellow Christians and discussed the Holy Book,” Alipour said. “It’s astonishing that a country’s national security could be threatened by a gathering of Christian believers.”
Officials claimed that Isavi was “acting against national security” through her efforts in organizing house churches, which is not allowed in Iran, as well as attending Christian seminars abroad.
Tamraz was arrested with Isavi and their son, Ramin, along with 12 other Christian converts, in December 2014 in Tehran.
In November, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams called on Christian leaders to intervene for the release of a British mother, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a 38-year-old project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, being held in an Iranian prison.
For the folks who have stumbled across this article today who haven’t read part one from last evening I am going to put in the comments that one of my readers made about an article that I reblogged from ‘The Christian Post’ a couple of days ago. The article’s headline was about how teenagers today are the ‘least Christian’ generation ever. The reader ‘Jim’ goes by the title ‘thecommonatheist.wordpress.com’. I asked Jim if he cared if I wrote an article based on our comments to each other in the comment section and he did give me his okay. The following is the main paragraph where Jim first gave me his opinion on the ‘Post’s’ article.
“Hoping this trend grows. Don’t forget the core! They are waiting and praying for God to come back and slaughter all the rest of us. That tidbit says a lot about how they really feel. It is a religion that is divisive and racist to its core and Piety sets dividing lines for them to fight every step of social equality of scientific advance.”
If you would, please go back and read part one from last night, it will help you with understanding better some of the issues I will be speaking about with you today.
1.) “Hoping the trend grows”: that more and more people ignore, stay away from Christianity.
2.) Because #1: “Don’t forget the core”. What/why? Because many of the base teachings of the churches and what ‘they say’ the Bible says is wrong. Last evenings part one explains some of the issues about the beginning of time and the beginning of human kind that no church that I know of teaches though the answers are right in front of all of us. I will get back to ‘science’ issues that Jim raised in just a moment.
3.) “They (Christians) are waiting and praying for God to come back and slaughter all the rest of us.—That tidbit says a lot about how they really feel”. —For those who call themselves Christians who do feel this way “that they want Christ to hurry up with His Second Advent”. And are wanting Christ to kill all their personal enemies and all the ‘unbelievers’ then quickly send them all to the fires of Hell, you ‘Christians’ have a serious issue with the ‘love of Christ’. If you are a person who says that they are a Christian and you do feel this way, think hard on what you are wishing for. First you must feel that you are ‘safe’, correct? But, are all of your family and loved ones ‘safe’? How about all of your friends, your neighbors? How about all of your work companions and the people you converse with at the grocery store and the convenient stores and gas stations you visit, are they all ‘saved’? If not, do you really want them all to ‘go to Hell’? If Christ comes back today and all of these people are crushed in the Wine Press of Christ then condemned to Hell’s fire, is that okay with you? If it is, then it is you who will be in serious trouble at your judgement before the Judgement Seat of Christ. All of those folks may well be condemned yet there is a very good chance you will be going to Hell with them. As a Christian we are supposed to be full of love for all people and we are supposed to be trying to help everyone around us to see the Love of Christ in us in the attempt to save them. If you are wanting other people, especially people we know and are supposed to love, to be condemned, Lord help you!
4.) “It (Christianity) is a religion that is divisive and racists to its core”.–I have been a History buff since about 4th grade and I was in 4th grade when I first started studying the Bible more seriously. One of the things I started noticing at an early age was the situation in the Middle-East back in the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th centuries A.D.. With the beginning of the Catholic Church in Rome Italy there seemed to be a lot of piety (Holiness, Saintliness, Devoutness) that you needed to be Roman or at least to be Italian to be able to fulfill. Even if their words chose not to speak it, their actions did. If a ‘Vatican’ were to be set up it should have been in Jerusalem, not in Rome or anywhere else as Scripture makes it very plain that Jerusalem is the ‘City of God’. Even the Hebrew people who converted to Christianity shunned their Arab neighbors as if they were ‘better than them’. In the 1440’s in what is now Germany the Priest Martin Luther started the Protestant movement and the break away from the Catholic Church. This Protestant movement swept through western Europe which was massively populated with white people. After King Henry the 8th of England broke with the Catholic Church and started the ‘Christian Church’ called the ‘Church of England’ the racism within Christianity kept getting worse. Colonialism, think about the arrogance of the western Europeans for a moment. Think about countries like India who for so long was under English rule. Indian people living in India were second class citizens at best even in their own country. Indians who converted to Christianity were treated like white Americans treated ‘people of color’ for so many years here in the States. Think of having to sit in the back of the Church or in the balcony because you couldn’t sit with the whites. When people think/believe that they are better than another person, you have nothing to do with Christ or He with you. A question for you to ponder. If the Christians and the Jewish people in the Middle-East had treated all of the Arab and Persian people as equal brothers and sisters would Mohammad have found a foot hold to start-up the religion of Islam?
5.) “Piety sets dividing lines for them (Christians) to fight every step of social equality or scientific advance”.–So, Christians/Christianity sets up dividing lines for them to fight against every step of equality, lets stop there for a moment. First, if you are a Christian, or even if you are not but you believe that there is truly ‘a God’ then there is only one totally true truth, and that is God’s version of what He says truth is, not yours or my version of it.
Now, social equality, here I am going to upset some people as most people do not want to hear that anything they are doing is wrong, especially being told that what they do or like is a sin. Most folks here in the States seem to have an ego problem when they are told no on personal issues. We have already discussed race issues within Christianity and I know that here in the States you often hear the term that ‘Christianity is a white mans religion’, this is nowhere near the truth as Christianity has nothing to do with the color of a person’s skin. If you call your self a Christian and you are in any way a racists, may God have mercy on your Soul at your Judgement, you’re going to need it.
Social equality, here I am sure that I am going to really upset a lot of readers but I refuse to lie to you and if I am not speaking ‘God’s truth’ to you, then I am not telling you ‘the truth’. Here in the States we talk about ‘equal rights’ for all. I agree that all people should be treated the same, like on a job, the most qualified person should always get the job opening no matter if they are male or female, straight, gay, white, brown, black, red or Asian. Now concerning being gay, I had a brother-in-law who was gay and died from Aids at the age of 29. He was my father-in-laws only son and my wife’s only brother, this is a tough issue in our family. ‘David’ did not want to be gay, he tried to like girls but chemically inside, he was gay. David knew that by the Scriptures acting out on his urges was wrong, and they simply are wrong. David gave into his urges and it cost him his life. Just like ‘money’ is not the ‘root of all evil’, the love of money is the ‘root of all evil’. Being gay because chemically that is what you are is not the evil part, it is the acting out on your urges that is the problem, simply acting out on these urges is the sin. Just like if you have urges to sexually be with young girls or boys the sin is when you decide to act them out, this is the sin. If you have urges to cheat on your spouse, the sin is if you do it. If you have urges to steal or to cheat on a test it is the following through that creates the sin. Concerning abortion, the sin, and yes it is a sin, a sin called murder, the sin is when you follow through with the abortion.
6.) “Scientific advancement” Just like the Catholic Church and the Popes of old would have you burnt at the stake for Heresy for things like saying that the Earth wasn’t flat or that the Earth wasn’t the center of the Universe or that the Sun didn’t rotate around the Earth. Folks, if ‘the Church’ and it’s Popes/Pontiffs really were ‘Christ’s High Priest’ per say here on Earth, they would have known these things and would have never ever had these people punished or put to death. Plus consider that the Prophet Isaiah, one of the main Prophets of the Old Testament, said in Isaiah 40: 42 “God sits above the sphere “circle” of the Earth”.
Just like people don’t understand the beginning of the Scriptures concerning time, or the two creations (Gentiles and then the Royal Blood Line) they don’t understand that there are trillions of other planets and millions of Universes and God created them just as He did the Earth and folks, He created them for a reason. Just as our Solar System was started with ‘the big bang’ comes the reality that it was God who created that big bang. If science and Christianity would both understand that they both have some things wrong and that all things are and were created by God, and get off of their personal ‘high horses’ they would find that they could work together on most issues and actually maybe obtain some true wisdom.
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