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Archive for the ‘Christian Persecution’ Category

As the U.S. is distracted with the protests and riots across the nation, and now across the world, and churches remain closed due to the COVID-19 Farce, If you are a Christian, a little reminder of where we are in God’s timeline. We are late in the Church age, and as this age progresses, God says the world will become more lawless! And persecution against Christians will only grow more intense. Until at the end of the Church age an “Anti-Christ” figure arises to lead a world government, what many skeptics laughed at is actually slowly transpiring before our eyes. How many of you hear the now constant refrain that we need to do away with national borders, and become global citizens as this will remove wars between nations, and discrimination against ethnic groups. Well the people calling for this are going to get a world government but it is not going to be what they want. They think “Peace & Safety” will have finally come, however:

1 Thessalonians 5:3

“For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”

from The Gatestone Institute:

Islamic terror attacks that target Christians in Turkey have been noticeably on the rise. During Christmas in 2011, for instance, a large-scale al-Qaeda plot to bomb “all the churches in Ankara” was exposed. Before Christmas 2015, ISIS issued death threats to at least 20 Protestant churches, and warned that “Koranic commandments… urge us to slay the apostate like you.”

In 2017, as widely reported, a gunman dressed as Santa Claus entered a nightclub in Istanbul during New Year celebrations, and murdered 39 people. A “heroic soldier of the caliphate,” the Islamic State (“ISIS”) later claimed, “attacked the most famous nightclub where Christians were celebrating their pagan feast.” The statement further characterized the government of Turkey as being the “servant of the cross.”

In once-secular Turkey, hate for Christians has, in fact, come to permeate every segment of society — from the average Muslim citizen to the highest levels of government. The examples are many; two of the most obvious — the slaughter of Christians and attacks on their churches — follow:

In 2009, a group of young Turks — including the son of a mayor — broke into a Bible publishing house in Malatya. They bound its three Christian employees, tortured them for hours, and murdered them. “We didn’t do this for ourselves, but for our religion,” one of the Turks accused said. “Let this be a lesson to enemies of our religion.” Later, they were all released from prison on a technicality.

In 2012, an 85-year-old Armenian woman was stabbed to death in her Istanbul apartment. Lest anyone mistake the motive, her murderer carved a crucifix on her naked corpse. According to the report, that “attack marks the fifth in the past two months against elderly Armenian women (one has lost an eye).”

In 2019, an “86-year-old Greek man was found murdered in his home with his hands and feet tied”; he too had reportedly been tortured.

In late 2019, a 16-year-old Muslim boy stabbed a Korean Christian evangelist in the heart several times; the 41-year-old husband and father died shortly thereafter.

More common than the targeted killing of Christians are attacks related to churches.

In 2014 in Istanbul, a random gang of Muslims disrupted a baptismal church service in Istanbul. They pushed their way into the church, yelling obscenities; one menacingly waved a knife at those in attendance. “It’s not the first, and it won’t be the last,” a local Christian said.

In 2015, a Muslim man, shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“Allah is greater”) and “Revenge will be taken for Al-Aqsa Mosque,” hurled a Molotov cocktail at Istanbul’s Aya Triada Orthodox Church, and set parts of it on fire. In a separate incident, four Turks shouting “Allahu Akbar” attacked and kicked at the door of Agape Church in the Black Sea region. According to the besieged pastor, they wanted “to go inside and hit someone or attack in some other way.”

In 2015, as many as 15 churches received death threats for “denying Allah.” “Perverted infidels,” one threat read, “the time that we will strike your necks is soon. May Allah receive the glory and the praise.” “Threats are not anything new for the Protestant community who live in this country and want to raise their children here,” church leaders commented.

When a man opened fire on the Saint Maria Catholic Church in Trabzon in 2018, it was just the latest in several attacks on that church. Weeks earlier, a makeshift bomb was thrown at its garden; in 2016 Muslims crying “Allahu Akbar” vandalized the church with sledgehammers; in 2011 the church was targeted and threatened for its visible cross; and in 2006 its priest, Andrea Santoro, was shot dead during service.

Threatening and defacing churches is especially common. In early 2019, hate-filled graffiti — including “You Are Finished!” — was found on the Armenian Church of the Holy Mother of God in Istanbul. Commenting on it, an Armenian activist tweeted, “Every year, scores of hate attacks are being carried out against churches and synagogues.”

In late 2019, while shouting abuses and physical threats against Christians gathered at the Church of St. Paul in Antalya, a man said he “would take great pleasure in destroying the Christians, as he viewed them as a type of parasitism on Turkey.”

Most recently, on May 8, 2020, in Istanbul, a man tried to torch a church that had been repeatedly attacked with hate-filled graffiti, among other desecrations.

Rather than threaten or attack churches, Turkish authorities have the power simply to confiscate or close them (herehere, and here, for examples). In one instance, police, similarly to the marauders mentioned above, interrupted a baptismal ceremony while raiding and subsequently shutting down an unauthorized church. “Turkey does not have a pathway for legalization of churches,” the report noted.

When pretexts cannot be found, assailants sometimes resort to other tactics. In an apparent attempt to conceal the online presence of at least one church, for instance, authorities labeled its website “pornographic,” and blocked it. The ban was “horrible,” a church representative responded. “It’s a shame. It really pains us at having this kind of accusation when we have a high moral standard.”

In addition, ancient churches that predate Islam by centuries — including Stoudios monastery, the oldest Christian place of worship in Asia Minor, and founded a millennium before the Islamic conquest in the fourteenth century — are being transformed into mosques. After explaining how the Turkish government built nearly 9,000 mosques in one decade, while banning liturgy in the Sumela Monastery — another historic site inaugurated in 386, about a 1,000 years before Asia Minor became “Turkey” — a report adds, “This arbitrary ban seems to be yet another demonstration of the ‘unofficial’ second-class status of Christians in Turkey.”

Hate for Christians in Turkey has reached the point where “infidels” are pursued even beyond the grave. Attacks on Christian cemeteries are on the rise, prompting one Christian to ask: “Is it now the turn of our deceased?”

According to a March 2020 report, 20 of 72 gravestones in just one Christian cemetery in Ankara were found destroyed. In another recent incident the desecraters broke a cross off a deceased women’s grave. A few days earlier, her church burial service had been interrupted by cries of “Allahu Akbar!

What is behind all these attacks on anything and everything Christian — people, buildings, even graves? The recent response of a journalist in Turkey was an “environment of hate”:

“But this hateful environment did not emerge out of nowhere. The seeds of this hatred are spread, beginning at primary schools, through books printed by the Ministry of National Education portraying Christians as enemies and traitors. The indoctrination continues through newspapers and television channels in line with state policies. And of course, the sermons at mosques and talk at coffee houses further stir up this hatred.”

In other words, Turks, once “secular,” are now educated to hate Christians.

Notably, even that is not enough to prevent ISIS from accusing Turkey of being a “servant of the cross”.

Just what, then, do so-called “radical” Muslims — between 63 and 287 million Muslims support ISIS in just eleven nations — regard as the “proper” treatment of Christians?

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from The Federalist:

There’s nothing like a crisis to bring clarity. The response of some mayors and governors to the coronavirus pandemic in recent days has made it clear they think they have unlimited and arbitrary power over their fellow citizens, that they can order them to do or not do just about anything under the guise of protecting public health.

We’ve now witnessed local and state governments issue decrees about what people can and cannot buy in stores, arrest parents playing with their children in public parks, yank people off public buses at random, remove basketball rims along with private property, ticket churchgoers, and in one case try—and fail—to chase down a lone runner on an empty beach. All of this, we’re told, is for our own good.

Some Authorities Are Targeting Christians

The most egregious example of this outpouring of authoritarianism was an attempt by Louisville, Kentucky, Mayor Greg Fischer to ban drive-in church services on Easter. On Holy Thursday, one day before Christians were to begin their most important religious celebrations of the year, Fischer declared that drive-in Easter services would be illegal.

To remove all doubt about his seriousness, he also threatened arrest and criminal penalties for anyone who dared violate his order, and in an Orwellian twist, invited people to snitch on their fellow citizens. Fischer justified this by saying it was “to save lives.”

Thankfully, a federal judge made short work of the mayor’s idiotic power-grab, issuing a temporary restraining order against the city of Louisville on Saturday, writing so as to remove all doubt, “The Mayor’s decision is stunning. And it is, ‘beyond all reason,’ unconstitutional.”

The mayor shouldn’t have needed a federal judge to tell him that. Anyone with a passing familiarity with the U.S. Constitution should know the government can’t single out religious worship for special regulations and prohibitions, which is precisely what the clueless Fischer did here. His order would have barred Christians from driving to their church parking lots and sitting in their vehicles for Easter services—all while maintaining proper social distancing—while imposing no such restrictions on drive-up and drive-through restaurants, liquor stores, grocery stores, or parking lots generally.

Mayors or governors—or even presidents—can no more single out Christians on Easter than they can single out Muslims during Ramadan or Jews on Yom Kippur. If you’re going to ban parking in parking lots, it has to apply to everyone everywhere.

But this didn’t just happen in Louisville. Two churches in Greenville, Mississippi, that were holding drive-in services for Holy Week said police showed up and ordered churchgoers to leave or face a $500 fine.

In a video posted on Twitter from Pastor Hamilton of King James Bible Baptist Church in Greenville, a police officer tells Hamilton that because of the governor’s order, “your rights are suspended.” To the good pastor’s credit, he correctly notes that the governor cannot suspend his rights because his rights come from God, not the government.

Pandemic or not, this stuff has no place in American society. Petty tyranny of the kind these mayors and local officials are scheming is wholly alien to our customs and way of life, and destructive to the social contract on which our nation is built.

Thankfully, the Department of Justice has taken notice of this fledgling authoritarian streak among the country’s mayors and governors. A DOJ spokesman said Saturday Attorney General William Barr is “monitoring” government regulation of religious services and may take action against local governments as early as this week.

Overreaching Orders Expose Arbitrary Rule

That’s a good start, but the targeting of churches, while undoubtedly the most offensive overreach by state and local governments, is hardly the only instance of government gone wild. In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has taken it upon herself to declare what items are and are not “essential,” dictating to grocery stores what they can and cannot sell as part of a sweeping order issued Friday.

Among the nonessential, and therefore banned, items are fruit and vegetable plants and seeds. Never mind that growing fruits and vegetables at home right now would help maintain social distancing during the pandemic, the governor has spoken and her word is law. (Lottery tickets, on the other hand, are still permitted.)

Beyond the fruit and vegetable ban, the governor’s order is an object lesson in the absurdity and inconsistency of arbitrary power and rule by fiat. Michiganders are banned from traveling “between residences” if they own a cottage or a summer home, but the ban only applies to Michigan residents, so an out-of-stater with a cottage in the Upper Peninsula could presumably still visit. The ban also still allows travel between states, so if a Michigander has a cottage in Wisconsin or Ohio, he can travel without fear of being arrested or fined by state police.

Why did Whitmer tailor her order this way? Probably because she knows she has no authority to ban travel between states, or issue orders to Americans generally—no more than a mayor has the authority to shut down drive-in Easter services in his city.

That these officials need to be reminded of that, and in some cases restrained by federal judges, bodes very ill for America. Now more than ever, we need leaders who don’t just care about protecting us from the pandemic, but also care about preserving liberty in a time of crisis.

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from End of The American Dream:

Be very thankful that you don’t live in China.  Approximately one out of every seven people on the entire planet lives in China, and it has become one of the most dystopian societies that the world has ever seen.  Surveillance cameras, government spies and facial recognition scanners are everywhere, and the totalitarian “social credit score” system that is currently being rolled out is an absolute nightmare.  And the Chinese government is not content to simply control how people behave.  They also want to literally control what people believe, and the ongoing crackdown on the Christian faith has been absolutely brutal.  Over the past several years, scores of pastors have been arrested, countless underground churches have been shut down, and thousands of Bibles have been burned.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough for Chinese officials, and so they have now taken things to an entirely new level.

When the communists first came to power in China, it was a very dark time for Christians.  But underground churches started blossoming even in the midst of the persecution, and eventually there were a few decades where the national government more or less tolerated unsanctioned gatherings.  Today, it has been estimated that there are more than 100 million Christians in China, and it is being projected that China may actually have more Christians that any other nation on the planet by the year 2030.

Needless to say, the communists don’t like any threats to their power, and they see this underground movement as a very serious threat.

Under the leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the persecution of unofficial churches has steadily escalated.  This year they actually tried to ban Christians from gathering on Christmas, and a series of new regulations has just been introduced that requires “total submission to the Chinese Communist Party at all times”

A new mandate entitled “Administrative Measures for Religious Groups” has been approved by the CPC and is comprised of six chapters and 41 articles dealing with the organization, functions, offices, supervision, projects and economic administration of religious communities.

The new rules also seek to ensure that religious leaders support, promote and implement total submission to the Chinese Communist Party at all times.

So what does that sort of “submission” look like?

Well, in some cases officials have required churches to take down pictures of Jesus and replace them with pictures of President Xi Jinping.

Yes, this is how twisted things have become in China.

The new regulations also require all churches to “spread the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party” in all of their activities…

According to International Christian Concern, Article 5 of the new ordinance reads that “religious organizations must adhere to the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, observe the constitution, laws, regulations, ordinances and policies, adhere to the principle of independence and self-government, adhere to the directives on religions in China, implementing the values ​​of socialism …”

In addition, Article 17 specifies that all religious organizations “must spread the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party” in everything they do.

Any church that does not go along is likely to be raided and shut down at any time.

For example, Pastor Wang Yi once led one of the most important underground churches in all of China, but his church was raided and he was arrested.

And now we have learned that he has just been sentenced to nine years in prison

Wang Yi, a leader in one of the most well-known Christian congregations in China, has been quietly sentenced to nine years in prison, according to a statement on the website of the Intermediate People’s Court of Chengdu Municipality.

The sentencing is the latest incident in an ongoing crackdown on organized religion in China. Early Rain Covenant Church, which Wang founded in 2008, attracted about 500 followers and was considered one of the most influential “underground churches” in China, operating independently of the state……..

Read the full article here.

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from The Gatestone Institute

Christian persecution ‘at near genocide levels,'” the title of a May 3 BBC report, cites a lengthy interim study ordered by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and led by Rev. Philip Mounstephen, the Bishop of Truro.

According to the BBC report, one in three people around the world suffer from religious persecution, with Christians being “the most persecuted religious group”. “Religion ‘is at risk of disappearing’ in some parts of the world,” it noted, and “In some regions, the level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the UN.”

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is also quoted on why Western governments have been “asleep” — his word — concerning this growing epidemic:

“I think there is a misplaced worry that it is somehow colonialist to talk about a religion [Christianity] that was associated with colonial powers rather than the countries that we marched into as colonisers. That has perhaps created an awkwardness in talking about this issue—the role of missionaries was always a controversial one and that has, I think, also led some people to shy away from this topic.”

Whatever the merits of such thinking, the fact is that many of the world’s most persecuted Christians have nothing whatsoever to do with colonialism or missionaries. Those most faced with the threat of genocide — including Syria’s and Iraq’s Assyrians or Egypt’s Copts — were Christian several centuries before the ancestors of Europe’s colonizers became Christian and went missionizing.

The BBC report highlights “political correctness” as being especially responsible for the West’s indifference, and quotes Hunt again in this regard: “What we have forgotten in that atmosphere of political correctness is actually the Christians that are being persecuted are some of the poorest people on the planet.”

Although the BBC report has an entire heading titled and devoted to the impact of “political correctness,” ironically, it too succumbs to this contemporary Western malady. For while it did a fair job in highlighting the problem, it said nothing about its causes — not one word about who is persecuting Christians, or why.

The overwhelming majority of Christian persecution, however, evidently occurs in Muslim majority nations. According to Open Doors’ World Watch List 2019[WWL], which surveys the 50 nations where Christians are most persecuted, “Islamic oppression continues to impact millions of Christians.” In seven of the absolute worst ten nations, “Islamic oppression” is the cause of persecution. “This means, for millions of Christians—particularly those who grew up Muslim or were born into Muslim families—openly following Jesus can have painful consequences,” including death.

Among the worst persecutors are those that rule according to Islamic law, or Sharia — which academics such as Georgetown University’s John Esposito insist is equitable and just. In Afghanistan (ranked #2) , “Christianity is not permitted to exist,” says the WWL 2019, because it “is an Islamic state by constitution, which means government officials, ethnic group leaders, religious officials and citizens are hostile toward” Christians. Similarly, in Somalia, (#3), “The Christian community is small and under constant threat of attack. Sharia law and Islam are enshrined in the country’s constitution, and the persecution of Christians almost always involves violence.” In Iran (#9), “society is governed by Islamic law, which means the rights and professional possibilities for Christians are heavily restricted.”

Equally telling is that 38 of the 50 nations making the WWL 2019 are Muslim majority.

Perhaps the BBC succumbed to silence concerning the sources of Christian persecution — that is, succumbed to “the atmosphere of political correctness” which it ironically highlighted — because in its own report, it did not rely on the WWL. The problem with this interpretation is that the study the BBC did rely on, the Bishop of Truro’s, is saturated with talk concerning the actual sources of Christian persecution. In this regard, the words “Islam” and “Islamist” appear 61 times; “Muslim” appears 56 times in this review on persecuted Christians.

Here are a few of the more significant quotes from the Bishop of Truro’s report:

  • “The persecution of Christians is perhaps at its most virulent in the region of the birthplace of Christianity—the Middle East & North Africa.”
  • “In countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia the situation of Christians and other minorities has reached an alarming stage.”
  • “The eradication of Christians and other minorities on pain of ‘the sword’ or other violent means was revealed to be the specific and stated objective of [Islamic] extremist groups in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, north-east Nigeria and the Philippines.”
  • “[T]here is mass violence which regularly expresses itself through the bombing of churches, as has been the case in countries such as Egypt, Pakistan, and Indonesia.”
  • “The single-greatest threat to Christians [in Nigeria] … came from Islamist militant group Boko Haram, with US intelligence reports in 2015 suggesting that 200,000 Christians were at risk of being killed… Those worst affected included Christian women and girls ‘abducted, and forced to convert, enter forced marriages, sexual abuse and torture.'”
  • “An intent to erase all evidence of the Christian presence [in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, north-east Nigeria and the Philippines] was made plain by the removal of crosses, the destruction of Church buildings and other Church symbols. The killing and abduction of clergy represented a direct attack on the Church’s structure and leadership.”
  • “Christianity now faces the possibility of being wiped-out in parts of the Middle East where its roots go back furthest. In Palestine, Christian numbers are below 1.5 percent; in Syria the Christian population has declined from 1.7 million in 2011 to below 450,000 and in Iraq, Christian numbers have slumped from 1.5 million before 2003 to below 120,000 today. Christianity is at risk of disappearing, representing a massive setback for plurality in the region.”

The BBC should be commended for (finally) reporting on this urgent issue — even if it is three years behind the times. As the Truro report correctly observes, “In 2016 various political bodies including the UK parliament, the European Parliament and the US House of Representatives, declared that ISIS atrocities against Christians and other religious minority groups such as Yazidis and Shi’a Muslims met the tests of genocide.”

At the very least, it appears that the BBC has stopped trying to minimize the specter of Christian persecution as it did in 2013, when this situation was just starting to reach the boiling point.

 

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from pjmedia:

Late last month, Ramin Parsa, a Christian pastor who fled Iran as a religious refugee, was arrested for privately sharing his faith testimony in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. He fled persecution in Iran and Turkey, only to find persecution in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

“I came to the U.S. as a political and religious — as a Christian — refugee. They oppressed me for my faith in Iran. I was stabbed in Iran,” Parsa told PJ Media in an interview on Tuesday. Then last week, he was arrested for a private conversation about his faith, handcuffed to a metal chair for four hours without water, and later charged with trespassing.

“These things might happen in other countries, oppressive dictatorships, but not in America,” the pastor said.

Parsa, a pastor at Redemptive Love Ministries International in Los Angeles, Calif., traveled to Minnesota for two days to visit two different churches. He went to the Mall of America (MOA) on Saturday, August 25, with an elder from one of the churches, and with the elder’s 14-year-old son. Shortly after entering the mall, he struck up a conversation with two Somali-American women.

“Our conversation was casual. At first, we were not talking about the gospel,” Parsa recalled. “They asked me, ‘Are you a Muslim?’ I said, ‘No, I used to be a Muslim and I’m a Christian now.’ I was telling them the story of how I converted.”

A passerby could not stand the discussion, however. “Another lady told the guard, ‘This guy is harassing us!'” MOA security came and told Parsa to stop soliciting. “I said, ‘We’re not soliciting.’ But we just left,” the pastor explained.

The pastor and his friends went into a coffee shop, bought a latte, and came out. Parsa told PJ Media he thought that would be the end of it. He was sorely mistaken.

“When we came out of the coffee shop, three guards were waiting for us, and they arrested me right there,” the pastor recalled. “They came after me and arrested me, and said, ‘You cannot talk religion here.'”

Parsa told security he was a pastor. “They told me, ‘We arrested pastors before,'” he recalled, still shocked by the answer. “It was something normal for them, they were used to it.”

Meanwhile, the two Somali-American women who wanted to hear the pastor’s story argued with the woman who reported him to security. They defended Parsa. Onlookers asked why the man was being arrested. “They said, ‘Because he’s a Christian,'” Parsa told PJ Media.

All this was bad enough, but the guards proceeded to abuse the pastor once he was in custody.

“They handcuffed both my hands to a metal chair that was bolted to the ground in a basement,” Parsa said. He said it reminded him of the KGB, the notorious secret police in the Soviet Union.

“They began to file a report and they wanted to take my picture. I said, ‘You cannot take my picture — you arrested me wrongfully,'” the pastor recalled. “They said, ‘Then you’re going to stay here longer.'”

Later, Parsa asked for a glass of water. They refused, unless he would allow them to take his picture. He asked to go to the bathroom. Again, they refused. Shortly before the police came, his captors relented.

“He gave me half of a really small cup of water,” the pastor said. “He was trying to buy me out with that water.”

After nearly four hours, the police arrived.

“The police came to open my handcuffs, and the handcuffs were very tight. It was hurting my hands,” Parsa recalled. “The guard said, ‘I don’t think it hurts that much.'”

He suggested that the security guards treated him with special malice because he is a pastor. “I believe they treated me worse,” he insisted.

The Mall of America did not respond to PJ Media’s request for comment.

After the police took the pastor’s mugshot and fingerprints, they charged him with criminal trespassing. He paid $78 to bail himself out, and his friends picked him up at 2 a.m. While that bail amount may seem low, the pastor insisted, “Every cent is too much for something I haven’t done.”

“I’ve gone through this before — in Muslim countries I was arrested for passing out bibles,” Parsa said. “I didn’t expect that would happen in America. As a citizen in America, I have rights. They denied my basic rights.”

The pastor compared the mistreatment he suffered in Minnesota to the persecution he faced in Iran and Turkey.

“When I became a Christian, I was stabbed, I ran away from Iran. I went to Turkey for two years as a refugee. We had a church and we were passing out Bibles. I was arrested,” Parsa recounted. He mentioned Pastor Andrew Brunson, an American pastor imprisoned in Turkey and charged with terrorism. “They thought the American government was paying us to pass out bibles. I said I wish they would,” he remarked, wryly.

When at last he came to America, he was relieved. “With tears in my eyes, I was so thankful to be in America, where I can express myself, nobody can stop me or oppress me for my faith… and then this happened to me,” Parsa said.

When his family heard the news, they thought it couldn’t possibly have happened in America. “When they realized it happened here, they were really shocked,” the pastor remarked.

Parsa posted about the ordeal on Facebook, and shortly thereafter, the government of Iran arrested his cousin for handing out bibles. “We are praying that my cousin will make it out. My nephew is in hiding,” he said.

read the full article here.

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“The apparent discrimination against Christians by the United Kingdom and the UNHCR is all the more disturbing in light of studies that find Christians to be the most persecuted faith in the world.”

from The Gatestone Institute:

The British government appears recently to have decided that it would like to give the impression that it cares about persecuted Christians. Prime Minister Theresa May said in Parliament on July 18:

“As a Government we stand with persecuted Christians all over the world and will continue to support them. It is hard to comprehend that today we still see people being attacked and murdered because of their Christianity, but we must reaffirm our determination to stand up for the freedom of people of all religions and beliefs and for them to be able to practise their beliefs in peace and security.”

The British Government even recently appointed its first Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief with Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, a former minister, filling the post. According to the government, the role “will promote the UK’s firm stance on religious tolerance abroad, helping to tackle religious discrimination in countries where minority faith groups face persecution”.

Prime Minister May said she looked “forward to supporting [Lord Ahmad] in this new role as he works with faith groups and governments across the world to raise understanding of religious persecution and what we can do to eliminate it.”

Perhaps the UK should not be so quick to preach to others, when it does not appear to be doing much at home to help Syrian Christians, who have been among the most persecuted for their faith since the civil war in Syria began seven years ago:

According to information obtained from the UK Home Office by the Barnabas Fund, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), during the first quarter of 2018, recommended 1,358 Syrian refugees for resettlement in the UK, of which only four refugees were Christians (no Yazidis were recommended). The Home Office agreed to resettle 1,112 of these refugees, all of whom were Muslims, and refused to accept the Christians.

This decision was made despite the fact that approximately 10% of the pre-2011 population of Syria was Christian – a number that has reportedly fallen to 5%. There were also an estimated 70,000 Yazidis in Syria. Yazidis, with Christians, were among the groups most viciously targeted by ISIS in Syria and Iraq. In 2017, moreover, according to the Barnabas Fund, the UNHCR recommended 7,060 Syrian refugees for resettlement in the UK, of whom only 25 were Christians and seven were Yazidis. The Home Office ended up accepting 4,850 Syrian refugees – of whom only 11 were Christians.

While the UK appears to favor Muslim refugees over Christian ones, the fault does not lie with the UK alone. Lord David Alton of Liverpool, a life peer in the House of Lords, wrote in a letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid:

“There is widespread belief, justified or not, among the religious minorities of Syria that the UNHCR is biased against them. The UK has a legal obligation to ensure it does not turn a blind eye to either direct or indirect perceived discrimination by the UN.

“It is widely accepted that Christians, who constituted around 10 per cent of Syria’s pre-war population, were specifically targeted by jihadi rebels and continue to be at risk.

“…As last year’s statistics more than amply demonstrate, this is not a statistical blip. It shows a pattern of discrimination that the Government has a legal duty to take concrete steps to address.”

There certainly does appear to be “a pattern of discrimination” that has been ongoing since at least 2015. According to the Barnabas Fund, the UNHCR, in 2016, recommended 7,499 refugees to the UK, of whom only 27 were Christians and five were Yazidis. In 2015, out of 2,637 recommended refugees, 43 were Christians and 13 were Yazidis.

In December 2016, Nina Shea, Director of the Center for Religious Freedom of the Hudson Institute, asked the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees at the time, António Guterres, to explain the disproportionately low number of Syrian Christians resettled abroad by the UN. “Mr. Guterres said that generally Syria’s Christians should not be resettled, because they are part of the ‘DNA of the Middle East,'” writes Shea.

Guterres’ statement was a blunt admission of the UN’s apparent disregard for Christian lives, not least because only 9 months earlier, in March 2016, US Secretary of State John Kerry had said, “(ISIS) is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control including Yazidis, Christians and Shiite Muslims”. The UN itself stated in September 2005:

“[A]t the United Nations World Summit, all Member States formally accepted the responsibility of each State to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. that all member states had accepted “the responsibility of each State to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity… world leaders also agreed that when any State fails to meet that responsibility, all States (the “international community”) are responsible for helping to protect people threatened with such crimes.”.

The apparent discrimination against Christians by the United Kingdom and the UNHCR is all the more disturbing in light of studies that find Christians to be the most persecuted faith in the world. Christians are “the most widely targeted religious community, suffering terrible persecution globally”, according to a 2017 study by the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture, the Religious Freedom Institute and Georgetown University’s Religious Freedom Research Project. In June, the ninth annual Pew Research Center report on global religious restrictions also found that Christianity was still the world’s most persecuted faith, with Christians being harassed in more countries (144) than any other group.

In light of these facts, it would certainly appear, as Lord Alton states in his letter, that the UK has indeed been “turning a blind eye” to the plight of Christian (and Yazidi) refugees for several years. Now that May has announced that her government stands with persecuted Christians all over the world, the question remains: What specific initiatives, other than empty words, does the UK government aim to take to rectify the damage that has already been done and to prevent further damage?

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from abcnews go:

A California family has been fined for holding weekly Bible studies in their home, meetings that are allegedly in violation of the city’s zoning regulations.

Stephanie and Chuck Fromm have been living in their San Juan Capistrano home for 18 years and were shocked when they received a notice of violation from the city. They have already been fined $300 and have been told they will be fined an additional $500 per meeting if they continue to meet without a Conditional Use Permit.

But they’re not backing down.

“Nobody should be able to tell us what we can do in our home,” Stephanie Fromm said. “Since when do we have to qualify who we have at our house and what we’re doing?”

The Fromms regularly host 40 to 50 friends and family members at their home from 10 a.m. to noon on Sundays for Bible studies. They don’t think noise or traffic issues are to blame for the citation. There is no music, and the meetings, they say, are largely “contemplative.”

Many who attend the Bible study drive to the house together, so there are many fewer cars than people, the Fromms say. They only have one next-door neighbor, and the space on the other side of their house is more than six acres of empty land.

They say one disgruntled neighbor has set off the entire situation, while the rest of the neighborhood has no problem with the meetings and are supportive of the family.

“We have a neighbor that’s cross at us and contacted the zoning department,” Chuck Fromm said. “It feels sort of like a snitch system. There’s no due process. It’s arbitrary. We’re reasonable, rational people but we don’t have a reasonable, rational system.”

An attorney from the Pacific Justice Institute, a national organization that provides volunteer attorneys in battles to defend religious freedom, is representing the Fromms.

“It’s a huge abridgement to personal freedom, to privacy and to religious liberty,” said Brad Dacus, the couple’s attorney. “An individual’s home is probably the most revered in terms of an individual’s right to gather, to pray and to exercise their religion, particularly with their friends and family.”

Millions of Americans regularly gather at Bible studies, a tradition dating far back into American history, Dacus pointed out.

“If this Bible study is not allowed—if they’re not allowed to exercise their rights under the First Amendment—then the floodgates will be open wide for every Bible study in the country to potentially be on the chopping block by their local government,” Dacus said.

The ordinance in question identified “religious, fraternal, or nonprofit organizations as uses which require approval of a conditional use permit,” said Dacus. This would include organizations like the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts, continued Dacus, adding that the vagueness of the word “fraternal” could even include groups who meet weekly to watch Sunday Night Football.

“It’s an overabuse of authority and discretion for any local government to say a family like the Fromms must pay money to the city and get their prior consent to engage in such a fundamentally traditional use of their own home,” Dacus said.

The San Juan Capistrano City Attorney’s Office did not respond to requests for comment.

But, for now, Chuck Fromm is clear about his plan: “We’ll meet and they can charge us.” Both he and Dacus say they are willing to do whatever it takes to fight this problem.

“The Pacific Justice Institute is committed to taking this all the way to the Supreme Court, if need be, not just for the Fromms, but for every other family in the United States looking to exercise the same freedom,” Dacus said.

And Stephanie Fromm, who her husband describes as “a real host with the most,” said she just wants to host her loved ones for Bible studies in her home without worrying about being fined or interrogated.

“We’re not pot-stirrers. We are surprised and sad,” she said. “It just doesn’t make our city look like the community that we came into to raise our children. We love our community. We will stand up for our faith and for the use of our home.”

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from The Washington Examiner:

The University of Iowa kicked a small Christian group of students, Business Leaders in Christ, off campus recently, because they regularly share their religious beliefs. In response, the group sued. The dean of students told BLinC that if it wants to be back on campus, it must “revise” its religious beliefs and submit an “acceptable plan” for selecting its leaders.

In BLinC v. University of Iowa, BLinC asks the court to stop this religious discrimination and allow it to choose leaders who embrace its mission, just like every other student group on campus. Becket, a legal organization that specializes in religious liberty, is representing the student group.

BLinC is a small student organization that gives Christian students a forum for discussing how to incorporate their beliefs in the competitive business world. Like many religious groups, its members also serve others because of their religious beliefs. On Sept. 1, the university told BLinC it could select leaders who affirm its beliefs, so long as those beliefs were clearly stated so students would be aware of them. But after BLinC added a statement of its religious beliefs to its campus webpage, the university responded by kicking it off campus shortly before Thanksgiving.

“This is 2017, not 1984,” Jacob Estell, the student president of BLinC, told Becket in a statement. “Our beliefs weren’t made by us, and they can’t be changed by us either — certainly not just to satisfy Orwellian government rules.”

What makes this discrimination so particularly obvious and egregious is that there are a plethora of other groups, of all different themes and sizes, on campus all functioning with their own particular focus and within their own guidelines. Just like most colleges and universities, there are more than 500 student groups at the university with distinct missions, creating an intellectually and culturally rich campus environment.

Fraternities and sororities can limit membership to men and women. Pro-choice groups can reject students who are pro-life and vice versa. Feminist groups may require members to support their cause. And environmental groups can choose leaders who support theirs. The Feminist Union requires its members to support birth control and abortion. Imam Madhi, a Sunni Muslim student group, requires its officers to accept Islam. Hawks for Choice is a pro-choice group. All of these groups are still active on campus. But even though BLinC allows anyone to join, the university is discriminating against it for requiring its leaders to share its mission and beliefs.

“This is premeditated religious discrimination, plain and simple,” said Eric Baxter, senior counsel at Becket.“A state school cannot demand a change to students’ faith any more than the U.S. President could demand a change to the Bible.”

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2 Thessalonians 2:7:

“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.”

from Pulpit & Pen:

What We Know

Today, a mad gunman burst into the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, and killed (at least) 26 people and shot approximately 20 more. Average attendance for the church is in the fifties, meaning that almost everyone was shot. The youngest victim was reportedly two and the oldest is in their 70s. The pastor’s 14-year-old daughter was murdered. The gunman was Devin Kelley, a 26 year-old with a dishonorable discharge from the military. Reportedly, he was a registered Democrat, former VBS instructor, and by some reporting, involved with Antifa (no one knows at this point how valid the reporting has been in its earliest of stages). Also, Kelley had posted a photograph of his AR-15 rifle on Facebook in late October. It is unknown what his connection is with the church, but it is not believed he had one. One Citizen grabbed his rifle when seeing the shooting, and took up pursuit with another Citizen who stopped and let him in his vehicle. They pursued Kelley until he ran off the road, and they kept point until police arrived. It is unclear if Kelley was shot by the Citizen or by his own hand.

What Else We Know, and What We Expect

We know that this little town near San Antonio is reeling in agony. For them, this tragedy is Apocalyptic in scale. An entire church was wiped off the face of the Earth, entire families were decimated, an entire community for the rest of time will be remembered as the place where it happened. No doubt, this little hamlet of civilization has been flooded with news agencies from around the world, agents with the FBI and ATF, ambulance-chasing opportunists of the worst varieties, and well-meaning helping hands (who often get in the way).

Whenever schools resume, they will need an army of people trained in crisis therapy. Life will not get back to “normal” in this town for a long, long time – if ever. Likewise, we can expect for liberals to call for gun control (in fact, they already have started) and conspiracy theorists will find reasons to explain that this is a “false flag” designed to confiscate firearms. If Kelley is indeed an activist with Antifa or a registered Democrat, conservatives will claim this is the fruit of an increasingly anti-Christian culture. If Kelley was on psychotropic prescription drugs, it will be used as further evidence that we are medicating people into sociopaths. Anti-military activists will claim that the army is creating killers. If Kelley was a conservative, liberals will seek to draw him to some kind of militia movement and perpetuate the stereotype of dangerous white men. All of those conversations will be had in coming days.

It will be easy to get sucked into the political volleying back and forth between conservatives and Marxist fascists who want to disarm America. It will be easy to make that the substance of our concern. We can expect political opportunists to take as much advantage of this situation as ambulance-chasing lawyers at a horrific crash scene.

What We Should Do

Clearly, the first thing we must do is pray for the survivors and loved ones of the deceased at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. Our petitions should be made to the God of mercy without ceasing in coming days (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We mustn’t just drop a short, drive-by prayer – a “God be with them” – a prayerette in passing, but repeatedly throughout the day drop our heads and pray for those who are left behind this tragedy, who must slowly but surely pick up the pieces to their shattered lives and figure out how to move forward with their loved ones buried in the ground.

We should pray that the Holy Spirit intercedes with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26), because in a time like this, words fail us. Certainly words are failing those in Sutherland Springs this evening. Sometimes there is little to say, and the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when our spiritual brokenness exceeds our mental ability to convey those thoughts into words. We should also give supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving to the city, county and state officials who have to clean up the mess (1 Timothy 2:1-4), distribute justice, dispense mercy, and provide law and order in the midst of tragedy. Likewise, we should force our flesh to cry out in prayer for the wicked, which would include the shooter (if he weren’t already gone to his own place) and those capitalizing on the tragedy for their own political agenda, being instructed in Scripture to even pray for our enemies (Luke 6:27-28). Finally, concerning prayer, we should mourn with those who mourn and enter ourselves into a time of grief and grieve with and alongside Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Secondly, we should preach the Gospel. We are told to preach the Gospel in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). This means that the Gospel had better be on our lips in the midst of turmoil, trouble, and suffering. If anyone thinks that it is not a proper time to preach Gospel and repentance, they should be reminded of Luke 13, when Jesus was interrupted by the news heralds proclaiming that there had been a massacre in the temple (sound familiar?) and Jesus responded in Luke 13:3, “I tell you, no! Unless you repent, ye likewise will perish.”

People are especially receptive to the Gospel in times of terrible travesty. We are not Gospel opportunists because this would imply we only share the Gospel when times are bad. In fact, we simply share Gospel in all seasons, which include seasons of suffering. This world is a broken mess and life is short and full of sorrow (Job 14:1). There is no better time to discuss these matters than when examples of their truthfulness are still fresh in our minds.

Third, we should take note. While tragedy creates emotionality, emotionality clouds wise judgment. While liberals cry out that it is now time to discuss gun control, we know that policy decisions are best made when people are thinking rationally, and not thinking emotionally. Without being rash, we should nonetheless take note of the lessons here, and make future use of them when we have fully thought out their implications. For example, we should take note that this was a small church, with probably few enemies in the world. This was not a megachurch that might attract throngs of people with perverse political agendas or mental disorders. And yet, a madman decided to approach this small church and wage war against it, ambushing it on a bright Sunday morning. What this means is that any church, at any time, can be attacked, for any reason.

Likewise, we should take note that a lot of people were murdered in a very short period of time. Reaction time, for those of us who steward churches, is very limited. We are simply not afforded time in such an active shooter scenario. Our churches must be prepared to protect the flock against imminent threats, guard and lock doors, and fire back at a moment’s notice (for a Biblical defense of self-defense, read this post, “Why Some People Need A Good Killing“). There are fewer ideas with less Biblical warrant and less historic support among orthodox churches than the absurd notion of pacificism, which has largely been relegated to sub-Christian cults. Christians have always been people who fired back in order to protect the innocent, and we must be prepared to do so.

What We Should Definitely Not Do

We should not be armchair quarterbacks when it comes to church security. We do not know if anyone in the congregation was armed (or if its armed members had a chance to return fire before being sucker-punched with semi-automatic gunfire through the wall). We do not know if that church had a security plan in place. And frankly, you and I (probably) do not know what it is like to use a firearm in a crisis situation, and we do not want to pretend that it is as easy as we’ve made it out to be in the movies. The fact is, a madman with a gun can kill a lot of people before he is stopped, even in a community with lots of Citizens carrying their own self-defense firearms – especially when he attacks without warning.

We should also not forget that at the very center of this mess are approximately 50 victims, some of whom are alive and some of whom are dead. People are important, and the people of this community are hurting. Remember that when you are tempted to use the facts surrounding this tragedy to bludgeon the political enemy. That club is covered with blood, so be conscientious about how (or if) you swing it.

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from theblaze:

Homosexuality is welcomed, if not pervasive, in women’s basketball culture.

So, when New Mexico State University’s head coach saw a video in which Camille LeNoir said she was no longer gay, he rescinded the offer for LeNoir to become an assistant coach at the school.

Now, she’s suing the school for discrimination.

LeNoir’s background

LeNoir was a former player at the University of Southern California and with the Washington Mystics in the WNBA. She had been working with young players since her playing career ended, and she finally got the breakthrough offer she wanted from New Mexico State.

Mark Trakh, NMSU’s coach at that time, offered LeNoir the job, and she booked travel to New Mexico. But two days before she left, Trakh called her and told her the offer was no longer on the table.

 ‘Not worth losing your soul’

Trakh rescinded LeNoir’s offer after seeing a video interview recorded in 2011 that’s still on YouTube.

In the video, LeNoir talks about how her Christian faith led her to renounce her lesbian lifestyle.

“I would say, it’s not worth it. If you are in a same-sex relationship, it is not worth losing your soul,” she said in the video. “Whoever you’re in that relationship with, like the Lord told me, it will be the death of you. I just believe that you can overcome it. You can overcome and defeat sin.”

“If you believe something that you were born gay or homosexual or whatever — if you feel you were born that way — I would say that you weren’t. God wouldn’t create you homosexual, then say in the Bible that it’s wrong, and then send you to hell. He doesn’t operate like that.”

‘Take down the video’

Trakh left LeNoir with a warning during the call when he rescinded his offer. (Trakh left NMSU in April to return to the University of Southern California.)

“Take down the video or you’ll never be able to work in this industry,” LeNoir said Trakh told her.

Trakh and the university said LeNoir’s public stance on homosexuality would make it difficult for her to recruit, and cited that as the reason for not hiring her.

From the Washington Post:

In court filings, New Mexico State says that LeNoir’s feelings about homosexuality shared in the video “would have had an adverse impact” on her “ability to effectively coach and recruit players who identify as LGBT.”

Legal battle

LeNoir is suing New Mexico State in U.S. District Court for discriminating against her sexuality and religious beliefs. NMSU has denied the charges, and a judge in California will preside over the case.

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