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Documentary ‘Under Caesar’s Sword:’ Christian Persecution is More Real than We Can Imagined

I’ve heard stories on the news of ISIS beheading Christians or forcing them to leave their homes. I’ve heard about underground churches in China. I even have missionary friends who must hide what they are really doing in their country for fear of being arrested. But, sitting here safely wrapped in my First Amendment right to religious freedom, I know I don’t completely grasp the pervasiveness of religious persecution around the world.

Under Caesar’s Sword is a short documentary about the work of 14 scholars who studied Christian communities in over 30 countries, including China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, and India. These experts all agree that Christian persecution is more real than we could ever have imagined. They all agreed that “we’re seeing religious cleansing, ethnic cleansing on a massive scale.” Though it’s not the most engaging documentary I’ve ever seen, it is well worth the 26 minutes to open our eyes to more true stories of the persecution of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world. 

Much like Martin Scorsese’s movie, Silence, the film almost felt unreal, even though I knew I was watching a documentary of real people who are actually being beaten, raped, tortured, and killed for their faith. For me, though I know it to be true, it is just so unimaginable. I can say it out loud and cognitively understand that it is happening, but still… it’s just a foreign news story that I can easily turn off. Which is exactly why I must keep watching, I must keep reading, I must keep educating myself. 

According to Under Caesar’s Sword, Christian persecution is much more wide-spread than I realized:   

“We’re seeing it at its most vicious right now… You can call it hell on the earth. Always they torture you, they beat you. Churches being broken, houses being burned, there was a huge amount of rapes.” – anonymous voices

“The whole Middle East is without exception engulfed by a nightmare that seems to have no end that undermines the very existence of Christians in many countries of the region.” – Ignatius Youssef III Younan

“What we see in Turkish-occupied Cyrpus is really the erasure of the Christian presence: churches demolished, all the iconography associated with the early church stripped out of these churches – really a perverse effort to erase the historical footprint of the Christians of Turkey.” – Elizabeth Prodromou

The film tells story after story. The pastor of a small church in Turkey who stands firm in his faith even though half his congregation has been arrested and he knows the police are plotting to assassinate him. A gospel singer from Eritrea who was arrested for recording Christian music and imprisoned in a shipping container for over two years, but never denied her faith. Christians in India being raped, beaten, tortured and killed in front of their families because they refused to convert to Hinduism. 

I honestly cannot imagine ever having to go through that. I cannot imagine what I would do in their situation. Would I fight back? Would I run, hide, deny my faith to save my life? Story after story, Under Ceasar’s Sword tells us these believers do not retaliate with violence. Though many flee, they do not hide their faith. Their only response has been prayer and working harder for justice for others. Their own persecution, instead of driving them to self-survival mode, has actually increased their concern and compassion for others. That too, is almost unimaginable. But it sounds a whole lot like Jesus. 

These incredible brothers and sisters of ours deserve more than our feeling bad for them and then turning off the news. They deserve more than 26 minutes of our time watching this documentary, saying a quick prayer for them, and then moving on to our own stable, safe little lives. It is a disgrace to their stories to not do more. 

Yes, we should pray. Absolutely. Not a quick passing word after watching the film before we move on with our lives, but a full-on plea to our Father on behalf of our precious brothers and sisters. 

And we should connect with refugees in our local community and find out how we can serve them. 

And we should support ministries that are on the ground, helping these precious souls. 

And we should contact our elected officials to find out how we can advocate for religious freedom in countries that don’t have it. Instead of just wrapping ourselves up in that safe blanket of religious freedom, we should find a way to share it. 

And we should keep watching, keep reading, keep educating ourselves. Don’t just turn off the news in sadness. Let that sadness grow into empathy and that empathy into action. Doesn’t that sound a whole lot like Jesus?

Visit the Under Caesar’s Sword web site for resources, including a discussion guide, tips for hosting a screening of the film and a full transcript of the film.

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Stories of Hope: Rebuilding Hope in South Sudan

Refugee Nyadoang proudly writes her ABCs in the dirt of the Gambella refugee camp

Last fall, we began sharing stories about the vulnerable church around the world and how God uses these brothers and sisters to do his kingdom work.  The vulnerable church has much to teach us here in the West.  These believers are living out stories that need to be told and retold, stories of hope in Jesus Christ.  In this article, we share about how God is using a dedicated servant from South Sudan to bring hope to those in refugee camps.  

Refugee and now teacher John Yien Pual shown with his children Nyaboth, Nyaduoth, and Nyabhan

War was not new to John Jock.  It had been somewhat continuous in Sudan/South Sudan since 1983.  But this time, as he watched the destruction of his town, Malakal, South Sudan, he knew it was too dangerous for him and his family to remain.  In February, 2014, they fled Malakal, leaving all their possessions in search of a safe place to live.  In fact, the entire town fled. 

Prior to fleeing, John was a teacher at Good Shepherd Primary School, the flagship school of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS).  When not teaching, John applied his theology training by working in the Department of Education of PCOSS.  John knew how important education was in the lives of people, especially those in South Sudan who had little else.  Reading and writing skills elevated people from poverty to independence.  John dedicated himself to making sure students had the opportunity to learn… until the war interrupted his dream.

Enthusiasm begets enthusiasm. Young refugees voluntarily building classrooms to protect students during the rainy season.

He found relatively safe haven for his family in an internally displaced persons camp inside South Sudan.  Deeply conflicted by the decision, John left the camp and his family to seek safer and more promising accommodations for them.  Eventually, he found a refugee camp operated by the church in Gambella, Ethiopia.  Months later, he was reunited with his family, and they made the journey to the Gambella refugee camp.

Not content at being a “waiting” refugee, John wanted to make a difference through his calling as a teacher.  He learned that the camps were providing elementary and middle school classes to the refugees.  But pre-school children were being educationally neglected.  They were left to the boredom and tedium of mundane refugee camp life.  Soon, John was making proposals to camp leadership to establish pre-schools.  He proposed using fellow camp volunteers as teachers, thus giving them purpose in their waiting.  The proposal was approved, but with no resources for school supplies or materials.  John’s dream was not to be thwarted.   Classes were held under trees.  ABCs were taught in the dirt with sticks.  Soon, 400 children were enrolled in schools in two different camps.  The Outreach Foundation supplied funds for paper, pencils, blackboards, chalk, and other supplies and equipment. 

Kuey Tot receives help with his school work from teacher John Yien Paul

Enthusiasm begets enthusiasm.  Church sponsors helped build stick and mud classrooms for protection during the rainy season.  More volunteer teachers stepped forward.  And John launched more schools.  In fact, he began offering adult literacy classes because he learned that many of the parents couldn’t read or write themselves.  Parents and their children were learning side by side.

The effects have been profound.  Children are learning their ABCs, which in turn is an encouragement to the parents.  One parent stated, “Even though the situation in refugee camps is not good, this children’s education program encourages us… There are many needs in the refugee camps, but children’s education is the most important one above all needs.”  The schools are changing lives, bringing hope to those in the refugee camps.  A mother of four children in the school commented, “We all pray that if God wills and support of the schools continues, we will have even more encouragement that there is a future for us.”

And it is not just the children that are benefitting.  Adults can now spell their names and read, thanks to the adult literacy program.  Others are feeling a sense of purpose instead of sitting idly in the camps.  “Now the school and my daughter have encouraged me to volunteer and devote my time to teaching the children,” said John Yien Paul, father of three children in the school program.  “I have decided to teach voluntarily without any thought of support or pay.” One small child, Kuey Tot, lost his leg in the war and is living in the camp.  Despite his extremely compromised mobility, he walks with crutches to meet with John Yien Paul for help with his school work.  “I felt so sorry when I looked at him, but the boy is very courageous to learn even though it is difficult for him to walk so far.”

God gives each person gifts and talents.  John Jock has used his gifts to bring hope to people who might otherwise be hopeless.  In three refugee camps in Ethiopia, a small group of volunteers are changing the world.  Thanks be to God.

For more information on how you can be involved in The Outreach Foundation’s work of rebuilding hope in South Sudan, please contact Outreach at info@theoutreachfoundation.org, call 615/778-8881, or go to the website at www.theoutreachfoundation.org.

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Documentary Review of ‘Is Genesis History?’

“Is Genesis History?” is a documentary that was shown in movie theaters as a one-time event, but will soon be available on DVD – https://isgenesishistory.com/deltackett.

I admit, I was skeptical going in to see the documentary “Is Genesis History?” I have actually consumed quite a bit of material from the Creation Science world in the past — books, videos, lectures, even a conference. A few of them I found well-made, well-researched, and compelling. Others seemed like they just wouldn’t hold up well in the academic world. And if you’re going to make a documentary touting Creation Science, it has to hold up well in the academic world. I am not a scientist, but “Is Genesis History” felt like it could hold up more than many of the others I’ve seen.

In this documentary, Dr. Del Tackett, creator of The Truth Project, interviews ten scientists from different various fields — geology, paleontology, microbiology, marine biology, taphonomy, astronomy — as well as an archaeologist, a Hebrew expert, and a pastor. Each expert gives a succinct, clear rationale, from their own discipline’s perspective, for why a young earth/worldwide flood paradigm is not only possible but plausible.

For example, paleontologist Marcus Ross argues that the way that fossils are deposited in various layers isn’t consistent with slow changes over long periods of time. He says the evidence shows no time between these layers, but instead that they were created at all once, by a fast catastrophic event. Geologist Arthur Chadwick agrees, that preservation of the fossils he has studied could only have been through a catastrophic event like a worldwide flood. Chadwick says, “My faith is substantiated by the evidence… [Believing in] Darwinian evolution would be blind faith.”

This is the basic concept purported by each different expert throughout the film — that though Darwinian evolution is generally accepted as the traditional paradigm in most scientific circles, the most recent data actually lines up better with an ancient biblical understanding of the origins of the universe and of mankind. This documentary presents only a young earth creationist point of view, not addressing the many other viewpoints that different believers hold which also highly value both Scripture and science — things like old earth creationism, theistic evolution, or the theological idea that the Genesis story was meant to be taken literally, not figuratively.

For those of us who grew up with the Darwinian Evolution paradigm taught as inarguable truth, it may be difficult to accept the evidence presented in this documentary. Depending on your background, it may actually sound pretty crazy. Many critics of the film argue that these scientists aren’t “real” scientists, or that they are biased because they start with Scripture and try to fit the evidence to it. Which, interestingly is what the scientists in this documentary say about evolutionists (and even old earth creationists) – that they start with Darwinian Evolution and try to fit the evidence with that.

But I really thought each person interviewed in the documentary presented a clear, logical analysis of real data. It sounded pretty credible to me. But remember, I am not a scientist. I’m honestly not sure how Old Earth Creationists or Theistic Evolutionists or Atheistic Evolutionists would have reacted to this film. But I imagine that after watching it, they would at least have some questions.

Which to me, is all we can really have about the origins of the universe. Questions. It can’t be proven by either side. It’s not something we can re-create in a laboratory. Until we create a time machine, it’s not something we can go back and observe objectively. Any explanation takes faith. Every explanation raises more questions than it gives answers.

Maybe that’s the whole point. Just maybe it is something we’re not supposed to understand completely. Maybe there is supposed to be a sense of awe and mystery surrounding the origins of the universe. Maybe it’s supposed to take faith.

For more resources click here

 

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Christians Fleeing Their Homes After ISIS Attacks in Egypt

(By Ian Lee and Sarah Sirgany, CNN, Ismailia, Egypt) “Are you a Christian?” These were the last words 45-year-old Medhat Saad Hakim heard before he was shot in the head on his doorstep last month.

The gunmen dragged Hakim’s screaming mother outside the house before going back inside and shooting his father dead. The attackers then looted the house before torching it. His mother, Nabila Halim, survived the attack.

Medhat Saad and Saad Hakim are the sixth and seventh Christians killed in the North Sinai town of Al-Arish in just over a month — all targeted by Al Wilayat Sinai, a local affiliate of ISIS waging a low-level insurgency on the peninsula.

The two killings, followed by another killing 48 hours later, prompted Christian residents to flee the coastal town.

Over 500 Christians from Al-Arish have arrived to the city of Ismailia, 200 km away, since the Hakims were attacked on February 21. The Coptic Orthodox Church said an unspecified number of families fled to other provinces across Egypt. It is unclear how many others are left behind.

Egypt’s Christians make up 10% of the population, according to researchers and rights groups; they are the largest minority in the Middle East. Official statistics from the government are not available as it tries to brush aside accusations of discrimination and rooted sectarianism.

In numerous villages across Egypt, deadly disputes between Muslim and Christian neighbors have routinely ended with the forced evacuation of the Christian community — crimes committed during the disputes largely go unpunished.

But the violence in Al-Arish is different.

“Cases of sectarian violence usually have a trigger, like building a church or (interfaith) affairs, but this is targeted violence solely because they are Christian,” explained Ishak Ibrabim, the freedom of faith officer at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

“The state should realize that this could escalate beyond geographical boundaries and become unpredictable in scope and timing.”

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Franklin Graham: ‘We Wanted to Produce This Film To Show People What God Can Do in the Middle of a Storm’

As the Ebola pandemic was sweeping across West Africa in the spring of 2014, one organization was willing to step up and fully commit its people and resources to provide comfort, compassion, and care to the hurting people of Africa … all in the Name of Jesus. But when the deadly virus infected its own medical personnel, including Dr. Kent Brantly, the epic crisis truly hit home for Samaritan’s Purse and its leader Franklin Graham. Facing Darkness tells the incredible true story of how—with only faith, determination, and prayer—the ministry moved mountains … and God performed a miracle!

Kathy Larson recently interviewed Franklin Graham, President and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse, about the organization’s new documentary – Facing Darkness. The movie will be in select theaters across America one night only – Thursday, March 30. To find a theater near you or to buy tickets visit http://facingdarknessmovie.com/

KL: Why did Samaritan’s Purse choose to make this documentary? 

Graham: At Samaritan’s Purse, we have always felt like it’s important to run toward problems, not away from them. That’s what we do. We work in 136 countries around the world. We were not in Liberia to fight Ebola. We had been there since 2003, right after the civil war came to an end, to help the churches and the Christians try to recover from this horrific 20-year war. In 2015, Ebola came into Liberia and there was no one else there to fight it. So, we were asked by the NGOs to set up an Ebola Treatment Unit. An ETU is basically a place where you make the patients as comfortable as possible, but really, you just hold their hands until they die.

It was very difficult work. The doctors are gowned in suits with duct tape, you can’t have any exposed skin, and the climate there is so hot, they couldn’t be in the ETUs for more than 10-15 minutes at a time. It was very difficult work, but somebody had to do it. Dr. Kent Brantley was there working with Samaritan’s Purse, so we asked him … but I had a knot in my stomach, because this was the world’s most dangerous virus and we had no business doing this. But there was no one else to do it. So, we responded, and within a few months, Dr. Brantley and Nancy Writebol both got Ebola. I was working on another project in Alaska when I got the call, and that was probably one of the worst days of my life. I thought how in the world will we help these people? We will never get them out of Africa. They will die there.

I came home and we began to work 24/7 and we saw God begin to work, and the walls that were in front of us that we thought we would never be able to climb… God got us over them. It was God who saved their lives. We wanted to produce this film to show people what God can do in the middle of a storm.

I hope this film will motivate an army of young men and women who will say, “Here I am, Send me.” Not only did God save Dr. Brantley’s life, He elevated him as the spokesman for Ebola survivors. He’s spoken before Congress, he’s met with the president, and with health organization leaders around the world. They learned so much from him. I so appreciate this man. He’s a hero of mine. He’s such a well-spoken, soft-spoken man who chooses his words so carefully. He was such a great help to give hope to these people. I want the world to know and another generation of young people to see what God can do with your life if you say, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”

KL: Would you say that film is the best medium to do that, more so than books or other avenues? 

Graham: There are other avenues, of course. But this is a real-life story. These are not actors in this film. You’re watching the real deal here. Sometimes that makes the difference. God uses books, no doubt about it, but sometimes He also uses films like this. I’m kind of a visual person. I respond to pictures. I respond to films. If I can see it, I can understand it. Sometimes when you read things in books, it’s hard to get your mind around it. But if you see it, you can understand it.

This film is about young people putting their lives on the line to make a difference in this world. There are a lot of young people today who want their lives to count for something. They want to go and they want their life to matter. I’m hoping this will encourage and motivate a whole army to say “Here I am. Send me.”

KL: Out of these other places where Samaritan’s Purse is working, where do you have the most need right now? Where do you hope people who are inspired by this film will volunteer to go?

Graham: We have the only hospital in northern Iraq. It’s a trauma hospital, 11 miles from the front lines. We have ambulances who come in all day and night, we have 80 doctors and nurses, two operating theaters, an ER.

A lot of our patients are women and children who are shot trying to get away from ISIS. They run away and ISIS shoots them in the back as they run. Also, a lot of damage from IEDs that have been put in people’s homes. They go into their homes and pick up a pot and it blows up in their face. So, a lot of women who have literally had their faces blown off.

Samaritan’s Purse has the only hospital in this area. We need doctors and nurses right now in northern Iraq. We are specifically looking for people who have trauma experience and surgeons — orthopedics and general surgeons.

KL: Promotional materials say that the film is called Facing Darkness because there was a moment during the Ebola crisis where you felt as if you were facing darkness in prayer. Can you tell us about that? 

Franklin Graham

Graham: I remember the moment. Dr. Brantley had now had Ebola for a little over a week and we had a plane on its way into Liberia to pick him up and I got word that he wouldn’t make it through the night; that he was dying. I remember praying and said, “God, we have Emory University ready to go, we have a plane… Father, why? Save his life Father. It is nothing for you to save it, Father.”

I looked up at the ceiling in my office and it just seemed dark to me. The lights were on, but it was like a big dark fog in my office. I got down on the floor and prayed for Dr. Brantley. People were praying all over the world for him.

We had an experimental serum that had never been used before on a human being, only on primates. It sounded like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. It was made of mice’s blood and cultivated on tobacco leaves. That night, Dr. Brantley was saying his goodbyes. He told us he didn’t have any fight left in him; he wouldn’t make it through the night.

The way the drug worked was it took four doses — four bags that would each take 9 hours to get into your system. You would put one bag of medicine in, then wait two days, then another bag and wait two days… We put that first bag of the medicine in him and he began to shake violently, to go into convulsions. We thought we were killing him, but the scientists who developed the drug said they had seen this in the primates as well. After only 30 minutes of that, the shaking subsided and Dr. Brantley got up and went to the bathroom. It had been the first time he had gotten out of bed in three days.

It was that quick, it was that dramatic. It was clear that in that moment, God showed up. This whole film is just a testimony to God’s faithfulness, His goodness. His being with us in the middle of those storms of life.

KL: One of the central themes of the movie is that “faith doesn’t make you safe.” Where did that theme come from?

Graham: Dr. Brantley said to me, “Faith doesn’t make you safe.” That kind of surprised me when he said that. He said, “It was my faith that put me on the front lines. It was faith that put me in the Ebola Treatment Unit.” I thought about that and I thought, he was absolutely right.

Our faith doesn’t make us safe. It’s our faith that takes us to the front lines, it takes us into the storms. It’s our faith that takes us where we get ourselves in trouble. Our faith doesn’t necessarily protect us and keep us from the storms. But if you’re in the will of God, there is no better place to be. If God has called you to Iraq or Liberia or wherever, He will be with you in those storms. Though you may not be “safe,” you will have refuge in Him.

KL: Is there anything else you would like to share about why you think people should come to see this movie? 

Graham: When I was growing up, the story of Nate Saint and how they were trying to reach the Auca Indians in Ecuador, and the book Through Gates of Splendor made a huge difference in my life. God used that story to motivate a whole new generation of missionaries to be inspired to God and serve God, even in dangerous places. I am hoping that this film will be used by God in the same way. I’m hoping Sunday School classes, church groups, whole families will come. It will inspire you. It will encourage you. You can’t help but watch this and have it speak to you.

The movie will be in select theaters across America one night only – Thursday, March 30. To find a theater near you or to buy tickets visit http://facingdarknessmovie.com/

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Czech Missionary Released But Others Remain in Prison in Sudan

(By Faith McDonnell, Juicy Ecumenism). January 2017 brought the shocking news that Christian missionary and humanitarian aid worker, Petr Jasek, 52,  had been sentenced to life in prison in Sudan. Now, after spending 446 days incarcerated, Jasek waspardonedand set free by the Sudanese government on February 26.

Jasek, from the Czech Republic, got in trouble for raising money for a young Darfuri that had been severely burned during a student protest. His crime was described as spying against Sudan. According to the Sudan Tribune: “On 29 January, a Sudanese court sentenced Jasek to life imprisonment for spying against the Sudan and disseminating reports – via an “American organisation hostile to Sudan” – including alleged persecution of Christians in the country, and the bombardment of civilian populated areas in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan State.”

The Sudan Tribune reported that Jasek was released into the care of Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek who came to Khartoum for talks on bilateral relations. Zaoralek and Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour held a joint press conference on Sunday, the 26th. Ghandour said President al-Bashir released Jasek “in appreciation for the historic relations between Sudan and the Czech republic,” according to the paper.

“Al-Bashir has taken into account the bilateral ties between the two nations, and the Czech Foreign Minister would receive the Czech citizen and he will leave for his country today,” said Ghandour.

Apparently the Sudanese regime did not have enough appreciation for historic relations between Sudan and Czech republic not to treat Jasek with shocking brutality. The World Watch Monitor reported Jasek’s account of enduring both psychological and physical torture during his 14 months in prison.

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Related articles:

Czech Shared Sudan Prison Cell with Islamic State Convicts Who Beat Him Up and Abused Him

Czech Aid Worker Freed to Fly to Prague After His Foreign Minister Visits Sudan

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Should Christians Watch ‘The Shack’?

(By Brandon Showalter, The Christian Post). Debate continues to swirl around the new film “The Shack,” based on the best-selling novel, as notable Christian leaders contend it contains theological inaccuracies and Christians must be watchful.

In a Thursday interview with The Christian Post, Carmen Fowler LaBerge, host of “The Reconnect” radio program, believes that the book and movie proves biblically problematic on some important fronts.

Carmen Fowler LaBerge

“[Media company] Lionsgate has sought to address some of concerns about the book by framing the movie in the context of the unconscious,” LaBerge said of the controversy surrounding the film. “And so, we don’t theologically have the same expectations of the way the mind works in its unconscious state. “

But those efforts to respond in this manner were due to some of the strongest criticisms of the film, namely, the representation of God not only as Trinity, but the Father and Spirit shown in human form, she noted. Such physical representation “is contrary to the way the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments represent Father and the Spirit,” she said.

Yet some protest that people are making too big of a deal about the movie, particularly because it is explicitly a work of fiction and never claims to be the Bible. CP asked LaBerge what makes William Paul Young’s The Shack different from other works of fictitious allegorical literature that draw upon biblical themes like The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

Aslan the lion is the Christ figure in Lewis’ book and is the only person of the Trinity that is physically represented but nowhere is he explicitly called “Christ” or “Jesus,” she said.

But “in The Shack, the characters identify themselves as the Trinity and they identify themselves specifically as individual members of the Trinity.”

The average American, she noted, probably would not even understand “how thin we’re trying to slice the theological pie here.”

“And so my concern really is that tens of millions of people are going to see this movie. And lots of people are going to identify with the depths and reality of pain and the infliction of evil in life” and the legitimate questions about God’s place in it all, LaBerge said.

The movie answers these things “in a way we should be in conversation with,” she continued. LaBerge herself has authored a backgrounder resource on how to do exactly that.

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A New Genocide for Egypt’s Christians?

The recent burning to death of a Copt in Sinai is only the tip of the iceberg.

(By Raymond Ibrahim, Frontpage Magazine). Yet another murderous wave is taking Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority by storm, leading to yet another exodus from their homes.  

Perhaps because of its sensationalist nature—burning a human alive—this story was reported by some Western media.  Yet the atrocities hardly begin or end there.  Below is a list of Christians murdered in al-Arish in recent days and weeks:

  • January 30:  A 35-year-old Christian was in his small shop working with his wife and young son when three masked men walked in, opened fire on him, instantly killing the Copt.  The murderers then sat around his table, eating chips and drinking soda, while the body lay in a pool of blood before the terrified wife and child. 
  • February 13: A 57-year-old Christian laborer was shot and killed as he tried to fight off masked men trying to kidnap his young son from off a crowded street in broad daylight.   After murdering the father, they seized his young son and took him to an unknown location (where, per precedent, he is likely being tortured, possibly already killed, if a hefty ransom was not already paid). 
  • February 16: A 45-year-old Christian schoolteacher was moonlighting at his shoe shop with his wife, when masked men walked in the crowded shop and shot him dead.
  • February 17:  A 40-year-old medical doctor was killed by masked men who, after forcing him to stop his car, opened fire on and killed him.  He too leaves a widow and two children.

It is likely that more Christians have been slain recently in Sinai; because they are being killed in quick succession, it is not clear if ongoing reports are documenting the same or new incidences.   For instance, a recent February 24 report says “On Thursday [February 23], a [Christian] plumber in the city was shot dead in front of his wife and children at their home….  A day earlier [February 22], gunmen killed another [Christian] man before his pregnant wife, then calmly drank a bottle of Pepsi before taking off, witnesses told aid workers in Ismailia.”  Is the February 22 Pepsi drinking incident the same as the one reported above as occurring on January 30, or a different one?

This recent uptick in Christian persecution is believed to be in response to a video earlier released by the Islamic State in Sinai.  In it, masked militants promise more attacks on the “worshipers of the cross,” a reference to the Copts of Egypt, whom they also referred to as their “favorite prey” and the “infidels who are empowering the West against Muslim nations.”

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Related article: Egyptian Christians Warned to ‘Leave or Die’ as 40 Copts Killed in Last 3 Months

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Does Being Conservative On Gay Sex Help Church Growth?

(By Harry Farley, Christian Today). Anglicans must listen more carefully to the rapidly growing conservative provinces like Nigeria and South America, according to the head of major project assessing the state of the Church around the world.

New research shows a rapid growth in the global Anglican Communion over the last 50 years despite dire decline in the Church of England and The Episcopal Church in the USA. The extensive data, laid out in Growth and Decline in the Anglican Communion, highlights the shift from a predominantly white Western denomination to now where Anglicans are now predominantly from the global south.

David Goodhew, editor of the research, said the shift must be reflected in the Church’s theology and practice.

‘One doesn’t just do theology by weight of numbers but it would be simply unjust to ignore the fact that the bulk of the Anglican Communion is now outside the Western world and also to ignore the gifts there,’ he said in an interview with Christian Today.

‘Those of us who are white Westerners who have historically had the power in the Communion should be very careful before we start ordering others around or indeed talking over others,’ he added.

‘We should be thinking very hard when we feel something strongly that there may be quite a bit of our culture in there. It isn’t just we’re right and they are wrong.’

Tensions across the worldwide Communion have ramped up over the issue of sexuality in particular with the deeply entrenched conservative provinces appalled the American’s endorsement of gay marriage. GAFCON, a conservative grouping of mainly African leaders, have called for alternative leadership other than the Archbishop of Canterbury – currently seen as the first among equals among all Anglican figures.

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Chaplain: They Jeered My Prayer in Jesus’ Name at GOP Town Hall. Here’s My Response.

“Jesus has been booed many times,” says chaplain jeered during town hall prayer

(By Ed Stetzer, The Exchange. Recently Ed Stetzer interviewed Dr. Michael Sprague, Louisiana State Chaplain with the Capitol Commission, who last week was jeered at a town hall meeting by protestors when he went to pray. These protests have been taking place across the nation, but this one took a rather agressive turn against the chaplain praying and the veteran leading the pledge. Stetzer invited all to read this article about it and be sure to watch the video. Michael’s words are a powerful reminder that our world is need of the Jesus who will wash us clean and give us new life).

Ed: What happened last week when many at the town hall meeting started to protest during your prayer?

Michael: I’m a chaplain of the state of Louisiana with a group called The Capitol Commission. I was asked a week earlier to come in, like I often do at events throughout the state. For decades, most of our events have opened up with an invocation of prayer followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and then whatever the event is.

I fully expected to ask the blessing upon the meeting, have a sense of dependence on God and in God we trust, together we would say the pledge, and then the meeting would proceed. However, there were about 800 people present, and only 200 seats available. It was a crowd that was amped up at the start, and when Senator Bill Cassidy arrived, I kicked things off with prayer. However, there was so much shouting and chaos that I paused for a moment to see whether I should start.

It was clear after a while that it wasn’t going to stop, so I proceeded with the prayer. As I prayed in Jesus’ name, there were shouts of “Lucifer” and “separation of church and state.” Some people referred to me as a Nazi. That was the atmosphere during the prayer time. During the pledge, there was also a little disrespect. Many people turned their backs or shouted during the pledge, dishonoring the time.

Ed: Were there other factors that came into this? Many people remember the Democrats supposedly booing during the DNC when in reality the booing was because of other issues. Did something similar happen here? Or were they actually booing you for praying?

Michael: Many who came seemed to have some honest concerns. Certainly, people had strong political opinions. I think it was an organized protest at least in large measure. Some people were coming I believe not to have a dialogue and a conversation with Senator Cassidy, but were there to be as outrageous as possible and make these town hall meetings look like chaos.

Definitely, however, the highest point of intensity in the entire program was the reaction when I prayed in Jesus’ name.

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