How Can Christians Guard Against Imbalance between Faith and Politics? – Dr. Kevin Smith

 

This last election cycle, and really every election cycle, kind of demonstrates that there are Christians who are probably not concerned enough about the political process. There are Christians that are kind of appropriately concerned and there are Christians that are overly invested, in the political process. I think one of the greatest guards is to remember that we are those who have a dual citizenship, and our citizenship is in heaven and Christ, and we are in the (Book of) Peter language “pilgrims, and sojourners, and travelers through this barren land, that is not our home. We are to render unto Caesar the things that belong to Caesar, and render to God the things that belong to God.” I think we want to avoid not taking these things seriously on the one hand, but not avoid being over-invested on the other hand.

Honestly, Christians in the United States, we don’t live in communism or socialism on the dictatorship, so we do have opportunity to vote. I believe there’s some stewardship with that voting. I do believe we’re voting and participating kind of in a broken system, so I encourage scripture Christians to realize they’re not going to open the scripture and see a candidate space. And they’re not going to open the scripture and see the platform of the Democratic, nor the Republican party.

You’re going to have to do some thinking and some engagement, and there’s some contextualization to how you engage in a broken, fallen political system. I don’t mean broken, just in a sense of the United States is categorized by congressional gridlock and all that. I mean broken as in a sense of, our politics is composed of broken people; because all of humanity is fallen. I mean it in that broad sense. There’s no perfect political system.

I would encourage Christians to approach it with the appropriate level of consideration. I’m not over-invested. I’m not under-invested. I realize that the mission of the church, and the mission of me as a Christ honoring husband and father, those kind of things don’t change every four years or two years, on election cycle. The great commission is the same. And so, in one sense, the congregation of followers of Christ, they’re doing the same things regardless of what’s going around us with Caesar and other governmental influences.

Finally, I would just say, I just don’t think there’s anything in the political process that is worth losing the fellowship of the Body of Christ. In this last election cycle, 2016, I think hurt the unity of the Body of Christ of many Bible believing Christians in the United States, and I think we’ll have consequences for our missiological effectiveness for a good while going forward. That has happened. We can’t undo that, and so let’s just press toward the mark of the high calling of God. We have to avoid being over-invested.

5 Things Christians Should Know about Hillary Clinton’s Faith

As she embarks, again, on a presidential campaign, one facet of Hillary Clinton, 67, is unchanged across her decades as a lawyer, first lady, senator and secretary of state: She was, is and likely always will be a social-justice-focused Methodist.
 
1) She was shaped by a saying popular among Methodists:  “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can,” says Paul Kengor in his book “God and Hillary Clinton.”
 
As a girl, she was part of the guild that cleaned the altar at First United Methodist Church in Park Ridge, Ill. As a teen, she visited inner-city Chicago churches with the youth pastor, Don Jones, her spiritual mentor until his death in 2009.  During her husband’s presidency, the first family worshipped at Washington’s Foundry United Methodist Church, and Time magazine described her membership in a bipartisan women’s prayer group organized by evangelicals.
 
2) Clinton’s been known to carry a Bible in her purse but, she told the 2007 CNN Faith Forum, “advertising” her faith “doesn’t come naturally to me.” Every vote Clinton made as a senator from New York, she said, was “a moral responsibility.” When asked at the forum why she thought God allows suffering, Clinton demurred on theology, then swiftly turned her answer to activism: “The existence of suffering calls us to action.”
 
In a 1993 speech at the University of Texas, Clinton declared: “We need a new politics of meaning. … We have to summon up what we believe is morally and ethically and spiritually correct and do the best we can with God’s guidance.”  A month later, she was pictured as a saint in a Sunday New York Times Magazine exploration of that “politics of meaning” phrase.
 
3) Prayer matters. Clinton joked at the Faith Forum that sometimes her plea is, “Oh, Lord, why can’t you help me lose weight?” But her daily habit, she said, is praying, “for discernment, for wisdom, for strength, for courage … ”
 
What she calls “grace notes” matter, too. She described them to adviser Burns Strider as “a gift that is undeserved but bestowed by the everyday joys, beauties, kindnesses, pleasures of life that can strike a deep chord of connection between us and the divine and between us and the mundane.”
 
4) God politics gets tough. In 2008, Clinton battered then-Sen. Barack Obama for saying economically hard-pressed Americans were bitter and “cling to guns or religion.” At the CNN Compassion Forum, Clinton said the Democratic Party “has been viewed as a party that didn’t understand the values and way of life of so many Americans. … It’s important that we make clear that we believe people are people of faith because it is part of their whole being. It is what gives them meaning in life.”
 
5) Last April, Clinton told the annual United Methodist Women Assembly that their shared faith has guided her to be “an advocate for children and families, for women and men around the world who are oppressed and persecuted, denied their human rights and human dignity.”

SOURCE

Tension simmers following attack on Christians in troubled Bastar

Man injured in the attack
Man injured in the attackWorld Watch Monitor

Scores of policemen are camping in a remote Indian village following an Oct. 25 attack on Christians by Hindu fundamentalists.

Government officials characterize the violence in Madhota village, in the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh state in central India, as a “clash between two communities.” Arun Pannalal, president of Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, calls it a “cleverly planned attack.”

That’s not the only point on which Pannalal and local officials disagree.

“Eleven of our people have been hospitalised. Eight of them have serious injuries,” Pannalal told World Watch Monitor on Oct. 29.

“Ten people were injured,” countered Ankit Anand, the district collector — the head of Bastar’s government administration. The 10 include five Christians and five of the attackers, he said.

In the wake of the violence, more than 100 police officers are camped in Madhota.

“Yes, policemen are there in the village,” Anand said. “We have to maintain law and order.”

The roots of the trouble go back a week, in the village of Bhanpuri. That’s where Dinesh Kashyap, a member of India’s Parliament from Bastar, washed the feet of some Christians and declared they had undergone “ghar wapsi,” or homecoming, to Hinduism.

Kashyap is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the political home of Hindu nationalism and which won a majority in the national Parliament in elections earlier this year.

The Bhanpuri event raised tension between Christians and fundamentalist Hindus in the region. In Madhota, traditional drumbeats summoned residents to assemble with government officials and police on the morning of Oct. 25 to discuss the resulting “simmering tension.” Christians gathered awaiting the officials, Pannalal said.

“But the officials never came,” he said. “Fundamentalists came in a truck and attacked the Christians.”

Anand said six people – four Hindus and two Christians — were arrested after the “clash.”

Several hundred Hindu fundamentalists had been camping around the police station, in

Man injured in the attack
Man injured in the attackWorld Watch Monitor

Bhanpuri, demanding that the case against them be withdrawn, said Rev. John Daniel, president of the Bastar chapter of Chhattisgarh Christian Forum and a Pentecostal minister.

“I have been here for 40 years. Whenever Christians are attacked, this is the pattern. Before the Christian victims would reach the police station, the attackers would have filed a case against them with the police. That’s why innocent Christians have been arrested,” Daniel told World Watch Monitor.

Anand, however, said the two Christians who were arrested had been released Oct. 29, while the four Hindus, charged with more serious offenses, are still in detention.

“We have been getting complaints these days that Christians are not even allowed to draw water from the (common) tube wells,” Daniel said after attending an Oct. 29 “peace meeting” convened by the district collector.

Elsewhere, police are preventing Christians from entering the hospital at Jagdalpur, 30 kilometres from Madhota, to which injured Christians had been rushed in a truck, Pannalal said.

Asked on Oct. 29 whether police have filed any case against Dinesh Kashyap, the Member of Parliament who conducted the “reconversion” ritual in Bhanpuri village, Anand said “I am not aware of such a report and no Christian has mentioned it in their meeting with me today or given in it in writing.”

A day earlier, on Oct. 28, the Indian Express, a national newspaper, reported that “the present controversy is rooted in an attempt by the right-wing groups to take these converted tribals to the Hindu fold.” It referenced the MP Dinesh Kashyap, saying he “had visited the [Bhanpuri] area and initiated” the reconversion of Christians in the village.

When World Watch Monitor directed Anand’s attention to the national headlines of a day earlier, he said: “We will look into it.”

He also said he will look into whether the present situation is linked to tension in other Bastar villages where village councils have passed resolutions that outlaw the open practice of Christianity.

“Christians had complained to us about these resolutions. I had told them that these have no legal validity,” Anand said.

Christian-rights advocates have sued the Bastar government over the restrictions. “The government has been asked by the (state) high court to respond to our petition about these resolutions,” Pannalal said. “But they have not responded to this yet.

He said the subsequent attacks on Christians are a “ploy to intimidate us.”

 

 

SOURCE

Secularism Grows as More U.S. Christians Turn ‘Churchless’

Secularism Grows as More U.S. Christians Turn ‘Churchless’

 

If you’re dismayed that one in five Americans (20 percent) are “nones” — people who claim no particular religious identity — brace yourself.
How does 38 percent sound?
That’s what religion researcher David Kinnaman calculates when he adds “the unchurched, the never-churched and the skeptics” to the nones.
He calls his new category “churchless,” the same title Kinnaman has given his new book. By his count, roughly four in 10 people living in the continental United States are actually “post-Christian” and “essentially secular in belief and practice.”
If asked, the “churchless” would likely check the “Christian” box on a survey, even though they may not have darkened the door of a church in years.
Kinnaman, president of the California-based Barna Group, slides them into this new category based on 15 measures of identity, belief and practice in more than 23,000 interviews in 20 surveys.
The research looked at church worship attendance and participation, views about the Bible, God and Jesus, and more to see whether folks were actually tied to Christian life in a meaningful way or tied more by habit or personal history.
Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, once called nominals — people attached by name only — “survey Christians.” They don’t want to cut ties with their parents or go all the way to atheism, Stetzer said, “so they just say ‘Christian’ since it is the default category from their heritage.”
Kinnaman now has the numbers to back that up.
“We are far from becoming an atheist nation,” he said. “There are tens of millions of active believers in America today. But the wall between the churched and the churchless is growing higher and more impenetrable as more people have no muscle memory of what it means to be a regular attender at a house of worship.”
How these people think, pray and use their time is shifting away from a faith-based perspective. As a result, a churchless or secular worldview “is becoming its own social force.”
When political scientists burrow into election results, they may find that church attendance is less and less useful for predicting or evaluating political social and cultural attitudes. If you are not around people of strong belief, there’s not a lot of spillover impact.
Stephen Mockabee, an associate professor of political science at University of Cincinnati, has compared church attendance to medication: “It’s not only the drug but also the dose that matters.”
The churchless come in several tribes, according to Kinnaman.
About a third (32 percent) still identify as Christian. They say they believe in God but they’re wobbly on connections. Kinnaman calls them “Christianized but not very active.”
That might include Katie West of Mount Sterling, Ky., or Mike Wilson of Webster City, Iowa.
West keeps the Christian label because, she said, “I follow or at least try to follow the teachings of Christ.” She avoids religious services “unless roped into a wedding or funeral,” but considers herself “a spiritual person without looking at a Bible.”
Wilson is the paid webmaster for a Lutheran church but he can’t recall the last time he attended a worship service or read the Bible. He checks the Christian box if asked in a survey, even though he resonates more with Buddhist and other Eastern philosophies.
“Religion is the starting point to enlightenment, but at some point you have to take that leap of faith and make your personal relationship with God exactly that — personal,” Wilson said. “So if you can find a religion that encompasses that better than Christianity, I will call myself that.”
Other “tribes” among the churchless include:
* 25 percent are self-identified atheist or agnostics. Kinnaman calls them “skeptics.” And their ranks have changed in the last two decades. The percentage of women is up to 43 percent from 16 percent since 1993. Highly educated and more mainstream than before, “this group is here to stay,” he said.
* 27 percent belong to other faith groups such as Jewish or Muslim or call themselves spiritual but not religious.
* 16 percent are Christians — people with a committed relationship with Christ, Kinnaman said — who don’t go to church anymore.
Kinnaman predicts no change in direction. He concluded: “The younger the generation, the more post-Christian it is”:
* Millennials (born between 1984 and 2002) — 48 percent
* Gen X-ers (born between 1965 and 1983) — 40 percent
* Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) — 35 percent
* Elders (born in 1945 or earlier) — 28 percent
Karen King, 52, a dispatch scheduler for a local transit agency in Mount Vernon, Wash., knows her state is among the least churched in the nation. Yet among the secular crowds, there are plenty of churchgoers.
“I know because I schedule people to get to churches through Dial-A-Ride. There must be 40 or 50 churches between Mount Vernon and nearby Burlington.”
And King goes to none of them.
The granddaughter of a Presbyterian pastor, King says she hasn’t been to church for a worship service in more than 30 years. Her daughter, a millennial and a pagan, doesn’t go either.
Although King still thinks of herself as a Christian, she has stepped back from denominational brands. Instead, she says, she just tries to show love.
“I do random acts of kindness. I talk to God when I think I need to. I think I have a good connection to Mother God and Father God.”

How Christians Treating Ebola Patients is History Repeating Itself – Eric Metaxas

 

Between 250 and 270 A.D. a terrible plague, believed to be measles or smallpox, devastated the Roman Empire. At the height of what came to be known as the Plague of Cyprian, after the bishop St. Cyprian who chronicled what was happening, 5,000 people died every day in Rome alone.
The plague coincided with the first empire-wide persecution of Christians under the emperor Decius. Not surprisingly, Decius and other enemies of the Church blamed Christians for the plague. That claim was, however, undermined by two inconvenient facts: Christians died from the plague like everybody else and, unlike everybody else, they cared for the victims of the plague, including their pagan neighbors.
This wasn’t new—Christians had done the same thing during the Antonine Plague a century earlier. As Rodney Stark wrote in “The Rise of Christianity,” Christians stayed in the afflicted cities when pagan leaders, including physicians, fled.
Candida Moss, a professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Notre Dame, notes that an “epidemic that seemed like the end of the world actually promoted the spread of Christianity.” By their actions in the face of possible death, Christians showed their neighbors that “Christianity is worth dying for.”
This witness came to mind after listening to a recent story on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” Host Robert Siegel interviewed Stephen Rowden, who volunteered for Doctors Without Borders in Monrovia, Liberia.
Rowden’s grim task was to manage the teams that collected the bodies of Ebola victims. Rowden and his team retrieved 10-to-25 bodies a day. Since close contact with the victims is the chief means by which the usually-deadly virus is spread, Rowden and his team members lived with the risk of becoming victims themselves.
What’s more, living in the midst of this death and suffering took its toll. Rowden recalled entering a house and finding the body of a four-year-old victim who had been abandoned by her family. With the typical English understatement, he told Siegal, “I found that a very sad case.”
Rowden’s experience prompted Siegel to ask him if he was a religious man, to which Rowden replied, “I am. Yes, I’m a practicing Christian.” When Siegel then asked whether what he saw tested his faith, Rowden said that “No, I got great strength from my faith and the support of my family.”
Nearly eighteen centuries after the Plague of Cyprian, Christianity still prompts people to run towards the plague when virtually everyone else is running away.
Now as then, this power confounds and confuses Christianity’s critics. A recent article in Slate acknowledged that many of the people fighting the Ebola epidemic in West Africa were missionaries. The writer, Brian Palmer, admitted that he “[didn’t] feel good about missionary medicine, even though [he couldn’t] fully articulate why.” He knew that he shouldn’t feel this way but he did.
Ross Douthat of the New York Times suspects that Palmer’s misgivings have something to do with the fact that the selflessness of the missionaries “unsettles” his “secular and scientistic worldview.” In that worldview, “helping people is what governments and secular groups are supposed to do.”
But that’s not how it works. Palmer, like the emperor Julian the Apostate in the late fourth century, is seeing that “the impious Galilaeans support not only their own poor but ours as well.”
It’s enough to unsettle anyone’s worldview.

Protestant union issues ‘urgent appeal’ to help Iraqi Christians

Refugees from Mosul or towns on the Nineveh plain seeking shelter under a highway near Dohuk in the Kurdish region.<br /> They fled the violence caused by IS.<br /> August 7, 2014<br />
Refugees from Mosul or towns on the Nineveh plain seeking shelter under a highway near Dohuk in the Kurdish region. They fled the violence caused by IS. August 7, 2014 Courtesy of Capni 

 

Declaring the plight of Christians in the Middle East a “state of emergency,” evangelical and Protestant churches in Syria and Lebanon have issued a plea for Western advocacy and aid.

The Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community in Syria and Lebanon, meeting in Beirut on Aug. 29, issued an “urgent appeal” for political action and humanitarian aid to avert what it calls an “existential threat” to Christianity in the region.

“The issue of Christian presence in the Middle East has gone beyond the stage of calling for equal rights and protection from persecution. It has become a cry of warning before further events cause the annihilation of Christian presence in the Middle East,” the three-page statement reads.

Signed by 29 people representing 26 denominational assemblies and seminaries, the joint statement requests:

Political pressure on worldwide governments to stop the violent campaign to rid the Middle East of Christians

“This is especially important with regard to halting the flow of finances and arms to the ‘takfiri’ and radical groups,” the statement read. “We urge you to influence these governments in order to put pressure on the international and regional powers that support these radicals.” Takfiri is a word used to describe Sunni Muslims who regard other Muslims as apostates, and non-Muslims as infidels who deserve death.

A strategy to “support Christian presence in the East.”

“This has been, and must continue to be, achieved through the strengthening of educational and social institutions that have, and continue to contribute vigorously to the rejection of radicalism and violence,” the statement said.

Food, water, medicine and other humanitarian aid to war victims and refugees forced to flee violence.

“Our hope is that you act swiftly before it is too late,” the statement concludes.

The council’s statement is directed to evangelical and Protestant Christians, urging them to “act as soon as possible.” Even before the Aug. 29 statement, some church leaders had already begun to agitate for action. Two weeks earlier, the Church of England pointedly pressed UK Prime Minister David Cameron on what the Rt. Rev. Nicholas Baines, the bishop of Leeds, said was an unclear strategy.

“[W]e do not seem to have a coherent or comprehensive approach to Islamist extremism as it is developing across the globe,” wrote Baines, who said his letter had the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

On Sept. 4, prior to a meeting with US President Barak Obama ahead of a NATO summit in Wales, Cameron said he is open to UK airstrikes against the militant jihadist force that calls itself the Islamic State, and that he wants to provide Kurds in the north of Iraq with arms to help defend themselves and the hundreds of thousands of ethnic and religious minorities, many of them Christian, who have flooded the Kurdish region to escape IS death threats.

“[W]e must work with partners to put a fatal squeeze on the organisation, but it must start with helping those on the ground that are fighting this organisation,” Cameron was quoted as saying by the Guardian.

Inside Iraq, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako has put his name behind a month-old campaign to stop guaranteeing each religion a federal ministry seat. The “Ministries Without Quotas” campaign has proposed that appointments to the ministries of education, higher education, culture and sports be made based on merit, not sectarian affiliation, which the campaign says has produced ineffective government. Though not part of Iraqi law, the quota system was created after the US-led invasion that drove out Saddam Hussein, in an attempt to ensure that Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims, and ethnic Kurds are represented at the government’s highest level.

Sako “has blessed the campaign,” according to a Ministries Without Quotas statement published by Ankawa, an independent Iraqi news website.

SOURCE

‘One week’ deadlines for Iraqi Christians to convert or ‘face the sword’

A Christian Iraqi refugee sweeping the concrete floor of the unfinished building where she now lives.
Ankawa; August 20 2014
A Christian Iraqi refugee sweeping the concrete floor of the unfinished building where she now lives. Ankawa; August 20 2014 

An Iraqi Christian Mikha Qasha, fleeing from Qaraqosh, has given a personal account of members of the Islamic State, IS, coming to his house and threatening him to leave, convert to Islam or face the sword.

Qasha told Mid-East Christian News, specializing in Christian minorities in the Middle East, that IS members gave him a week to think about it; the threat came with weapons pointed at his head.

Elderly and paralyzed, Qasha, was taken away from Qaraqosh by a friend -in his wheelchair. Eventually he found his grandson, who took him to the predominantly Christian suburb of Ankawa in the province of Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region.

According to MCN Direct, others who fled from a district in Nineveh, and from Qaraqosh and Bartella, said IS is now imposing a conversion deadline of one week for any non-Muslim. Qasha’s neighbour, a young man who fled the city this week, said he was hiding in his home with his father when IS members found them on August 17. They gave them a week, until August 24, to convert to Islam or be killed.

Tents of 
about 650
refugee 
families.
Ankawa
Iraq
August 19 2014
Tents of about 650 refugee families. Ankawa Iraq August 19 2014 

70,000 Christians have arrived in Ankawa, the Christian neighbourhood in Erbil and some 60,000 displaced people are in Dohuk, said Louis Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq.

Dohuk, mainly inhabited by Kurds and Assyrians, is in the north in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan while Qaraqosh, a town of about 50,000 people in Nineveh Province, sits between Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region, to the east.

The Islamic State took over Mosul in June. At the time there were 3,500 residing Christians who fled east to Qaraqosh, which is often referred to as the Christian capital of Iraq. Of the 3,500 about 25 people decided to stay home in Mosul. Since then nine have converted to Islam, while the others are paying jizya – the Islamic tax for non-Muslims.

The UN has launched a major aid operation: UNHCR said tents and other goods will be sent to Erbil via air, land and sea beginning Wednesday, August 20.

Christian persecution ‘off the scale’ in Iraq, says Archbishop of Canterbury

The slaughter of Christians and Yazidis in Iraq is “off the scale of human horror,” said the Archbishop of Canterbury on August 18.

Archbishop Justin Welby said that IS members are “particularly savage…In a globalised world where even distant nations are our ‘neighbour’, we cannot allow these atrocities to be unleashed with impunity…The international community must document the human rights abuses in northern Iraq so that the perpetrators can later be prosecuted”.

Christian
refugees
in  
Erbil, 
displaced 
from 
Mosul. 
August 2014
Christian refugees in Erbil, displaced from Mosul. August 2014 

Also on August 18, Pope Francis appeared to endorse military action to stop Islamist militants from attacking religious minorities in Iraq. This is an exceptional statement as it goes against the Vatican’s standard guidance which is against the use of force.

Pope Francis said that he is willing to visit Iraq himself but has been warned against it.

“I am willing (to go there),” he said. “I said if it were necessary when we return from Korea we can go there. It was one of the possibilities… At the moment it is not the best thing to do, but I am ready for this,” he told Zenit news, a Catholic news agency.

Iraqi safe zones are overflowing

Open Doors, an international ministry working with persecuted Christians, has been working through local Iraqi partners across Kurdish Iraq to distribute goods. Its partners have reported that the majority of the displaced people have fled from Mosul, Qaraqosh and other towns and villages on the Nineveh plain.

With such a large influx of internally displaced people, churches in Erbil are running out of space and houses have become full.

Boy 
lying 
in classroom,
pile of 
mattresses 
in the corner. 
Primary school 
in Erbil 
where 
refugees of 
Qaraqosh 
are housed.
Boy lying in classroom, pile of mattresses in the corner. Primary school in Erbil where refugees of Qaraqosh are housed. 

A local worker told World Watch Monitor, “When the church is full, the people go into other buildings or the halls of the church. If these are full too, then they flow out into the gardens or courtyard of the church. Also unfinished concrete constructions, which have only a few rough floors, are taken by refugees as a place to stay. They are everywhere!”

Open Doors says that it is actively helping local churches and partners to provide basic goods such as hygiene kits and food packages.

Another local worker said “Most had to sleep on the ground. So I decided to try to meet their needs, not only with food, but also trying to provide mattresses and pillows. I quickly started counting the number of people who were there, and it was not only 13 families – as I was told – but more than 50! In total I counted about two hundred people.”

During that same weekend, a church team had organised distributions in and around Dohuk, helping nearly 500 families with food and hygiene parcels.

Trauma of refugees

Those fleeing IS have lost their homes, witnessed killings and suffered sexual violence.

One worker spoke with several families who had fled within the past week.

“The families we met are related to each other and originally from Mosul. They had fled a little while ago to a village near Al Qosh. When the rumours came – about fighters of the Islamic State (IS) coming that way as well -they again had to flee. Now they are in Dohuk. It is terrible what they have gone through.

“Leaving Mosul they had to pass IS checkpoints. One of the women was humiliated at an IS women-only checkpoint when a female fighter pulled down her skirt because it was ‘too tight’. Until the day we visited her, four days later, she was still crying – terribly traumatised by that, on top of having to flee and all the other things she’s seen.”

Calm in the Storm

At a refugee camp on the grounds of a church in Erbil, some joy can be found among the masses of internally displaced people, despite the scorching hot sun where temperatures easily reach to 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).

Inflatible pools
for fun and 
cooling down.
Ankawa,
Iraq. 
August 17 2014
Inflatible pools for fun and cooling down. Ankawa, Iraq. August 17 2014  

A volunteer reported “To my surprise, I was welcomed into the great stir of things in a refugee camp. A leader of the Chaldean church arranged some games for the men and inflated some little swimming pools for the children. The pools are filled with water so they can cool down a little bit, have some fun and keep up their spirits. At the same time we use some of the pools to wash the hands and heads of the children, so they also get a bath with soap every once in a while.”

“At the same time a group of people stands in line to receive shoes handed out by church workers.”

This group of church workers helps more than 360 families who are staying in Erbil, of whom 216 families live in the church courtyard. Every day they give out breakfast, lunch and dinner to more than a thousand people.

“Help is coming from a lot of different sides. A telephone company is giving free SIM cards away. People send mini-buses to the church to pick up women and their little children so they can shower at their homes. Children get toys to play with. The list of help is endless.”

While such small gestures are welcome – such as a Dohuk barber and his team of five offering a free haircut and a shave for those who’ve lost everything. The question on everyone’s mind remains – how sustainable is life like this long-term?

SOURCE

 

Christians Praying For “Miracle” in Ukraine

The crisis in Ukraine continues to persist as diplomatic talks between nations have yet to make any impact. Following months of protests in Kiev, and the eventual ousting of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Russian forces seized the Crimean Peninsula. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has stated this action is “an act of war”, and troops have begun mobilizing on the country’s borders.

Amidst the Chaos, Ukrainian Christians are praying for a miracle to end the fighting. News site Christian Today writes,

“As the country’s future hangs in the balance, Ukrainian Christians are appealing to the worldwide Christian community to stand with them in prayer and fasting. ‘Ukraine has suffered enough.

People died and countless numbers were injured in the protests. And now there is the possibility of invasion, occupation, civil war and a divided country,’ said the European Evangelical Alliance in an update. ‘There is a tiny glimmer of hope. The vast majority of Ukrainians do not want war or a divided nation.

The Kiev protests were peaceful for months and only a minority turned to violence in the last days. Most knew that peace was the only answer, and many also knew that prayer was crucial.’”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has condemned Russia’s actions, and is currently working with European leaders to end the violence. Click here for more news on Ukraine.

SOURCE

3 Things Christians Should Stop Doing on Social Media – Ryan Duncan

A while back, I stumbled across a funny conversation someone had posted online. It all began with a serious question:   

   “If someone from the 1950’s suddenly appeared today, what would be the most difficult thing to explain to them about life today?”  

To which one person responded,“I possess a device, in my pocket, that is capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man. I use it to look at pictures of cats and get in arguments with strangers.”

Humans have not always been the most judicious in their use of social media, and Christians are certainly no exception. Just read the comments under any CNN article if you don’t believe me, it’s enough to make a person cringe. This is not the way things are supposed to be.

Christians should be known for their love and grace, not their twitter arguments. Behind the safety of a computer screen though, many of us lose our ability to show compassion.

Pastor and blogger Jarrid Wilson believes there are three things Christians should stop doing on social media, most notable among them: Trying To Explain Theological Doctrine in 140 Characters Or Less.“Theology is a subject that was never meant to be paraphrased, half-hearted, or partially explained. Take the time to write a blog post or even make a podcast.

Don’t try and manipulate Biblical doctrine to fit in the form of 140 characters or less. God’s word deserves to be drawn out, elaborated, and explained in a plethora of words. Nuggets of partial truth will never be more fulfilling than a plate filled with the whole meal.” Wilson is not alone in his views either.

Crosswalk contributor Ava Pennington also published an article citing the many mistakes Christians make while trying to minister online. Like Wilson, she believes the gospel must have a solid presence in any ministry, but that social media is not the place for public sparring.“Do you argue or debate with those who disagree with your social, political, or theological views? Social media is not the place to engage in verbal sparring.

You may win the battle but lose the person. Of course you want to stay true to your convictions, but this is not the place to be drawn into angry disputes.”

Psalm 34 tells Christians to keep their tongues from evil, a warning that applies to the words we say as well as those we post.     

What are your thoughts? Do you believe Christians require more discernment when using social media?

SOURCE

Twelve Christians Brutally Murdered by Boko Haram Militants in Northern Nigeria

International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that twelve Christians were brutally murdered by suspected Boko Haram militants in northern Nigeria over the weekend. According to reports, these Christians were killed in two attacks on separate Christian villages in Nigeria’s Muslim majority state of Borno.

The first attack took place on Saturday, December 28, in the Christian village of Tashan-Alede where eight people attending a wedding celebration were killed when militants connected with Boko Haram opened fire on the Christians gathered. According to the Christian Broadcasting Network“One attack took place at a pre-wedding bachelor party. Suspected fighters from Boko Haram opened fire on the group, killing eight people.”

On December 29, the day after the attack on Tashan-Alede, suspected militants killed four more Christians when they attacked the neighboring village of Kwajffa. Security officials have confirmed the attacks took place but have yet to confirm casualty figures.

In an interview with The Associated Press, schoolteacher Yohana Jafa noted that the attacks on minority Christian villages in the predominantly Muslim region came hours after the leader of the Boko Haram terrorist network, Abubakar Shekau, “clearly stated that his war is against Christians.”

Boko Haram is an Islamic terrorist network group currently fighting the Nigerian government for control of northern Nigeria. Boko Haram desires to establish a separate Islamic state in Nigeria’s northern states where it can enact an ultra conservative interpretation of Sharia law. Since beginning its armed insurgency in 2009, Boko Haram has killed over thousands of people in Nigeria often targeting Christians for some of the most brutal acts of violence. In early 2012, Boko Haram leaders demanded all Christians to leave northern Nigeria so that the group could begin establishing its purely Islamic society. Since then, Boko Haram has perpetrated church bombings, drive-by shootings and Christian pogroms across northern Nigeria.

ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, William Stark, said, “Christians living in Nigeria’s northern regions continue to be the target of some of Boko Haram’s most brutal attacks. These attacks are meant to terrorize the Christian community that continues to live in northern Nigeria. The United States has designated Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization, which allows the U.S. to seize Boko Haram’s assets under U.S. jurisdiction and to take more direct action against the terrorist network. Unfortunately, actions like this have yet to be taken. This would help stem the flow of arms and funds the group receives from sources outside Nigeria’s borders. The consistency of Boko Haram’s attacks on Christians and government institutions has shown that Nigeria’s government is struggling to deal with the violence that has dominated its northern states since 2009. The international community must take decisive action.” 

Courtesy International Christian Concern (www.persecution.org).