A father passing by his teenage daughter’s bedroom was astonished to see the bed was nicely made and everything was neat and tidy. Then he saw an envelope propped up prominently on the centre of the pillow. It was addressed “Dad”.
With the worst premonition, he opened the envelope and read the letter with trembling hands:-
It is with great regret and sorrow that I’m writing you, but I’m leaving home. I had to elope with my new boyfriend Saim because I wanted to avoid a scene with Mom and you.
I’ve been finding real passion with Saim and he is so nice to me. I know when you meet him you’ll like him too – even with all his piercing, tattoos, and motorcycle clothes.
But it’s not only the passion Dad, I’m pregnant and Saim said that he wants me to have the kid and that we can be very happy together. Even though Saim is much older than me (anyway, 42 isn’t so old these days is it?), and has no money, really these things shouldn’t stand in the way of our relationship, don’t you agree?
Saim has a great CD collection; he already owns a trailer in the woods and has a stack of firewood for the whole winter.
It’s true he has other girlfriends as well but I know he’ll be faithful to me in his own way. He wants to have many more children with me and that’s now one of my dreams too.
Saim taught me that marijuana doesn’t really hurt anyone and he’ll be growing it for us and we’ll trade it with our friends for all the cocaine and ecstasy we want. In the meantime, we’ll pray that science will find a cure for AIDS so Saim can get better; he sure deserves it!!
Don’t worry Dad, I’m 15 years old now and I know how to take care of myself. Someday I’m sure we’ll be back to visit so you can get to know your grandchildren.
Your loving daughter,
At the bottom of the page were the letters “PTO”.
Hands still trembling, her father turned the sheet, and read:
PS: Dad, none of the above is true. I’m over at the neighbour’s house. I just wanted to remind you that there are worse things in life than my report card that’s in my desk centre drawer.
Please sign it and call when it is safe for me to come home.
I love you!
-fwd: menino martis
Nigeria, July 26, 2012: Boko Haram, the militant Islamist group responsible for the violent deaths of hundreds of Christians in Nigeria, has launched another lethal attack in the country’s Middle Belt.
Last week Boko Haram fighters descended on twelve villages in Plateau state. Fleeing from the violence, local Christians took refuge in the house of Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor. The house was bombed and more than 50 people were burned alive, including the pastor’s wife and children.
Pastor Oritsejafor is president of the Christian Association of Nigeria and is seen by many of the country’s Christians as their symbolic leader. He had also denounced a previous bomb attack by Boko Haram on a church. He appears to have been targeted in this latest incident.
Boko Haram is committed to establishing an Islamic state in the mainly Muslim North of Nigeria and has made clear that Christians are not welcome there, issuing an ultimatum for them to leave and threatening to eradicate them from the region.
But it has also extended its campaign of terror into the Middle Belt, where the population is more evenly mixed between Muslims and Christians. On 10 June this year a bomber killed around 10 people in a church in Jos, capital of Plateau state.
- barnabas team
Gaza, July 25, 2012: A protest over fears that five Christians had been kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam has highlighted the plight of the Christian community under Islamist rule in the Gaza Strip.
Dozens of Christians staged a demonstration in Gaza on Monday 16 July over the conversion of Ramez al-Amash (24) and Heba Abu Dawud (32), along with her three daughters.
The local church said that a group of armed Islamists kidnapped the Christians and forced them to convert to Islam. In a statement, the church said:
The dangerous Islamist movement is trying to convince Christian men and women to convert to Islam, destroying Christian families and the Christian presence in the Gaza Strip.
The Islamist movement uses dark and dirty methods, sowing fear and using intense pressure, blackmail, and dishonest means including using chemical substances to control and terrify those who have been kidnapped.
The leader of the church said that Ramez was abducted on Saturday 14 July after being heavily pressured to convert to Islam and had been prevented from seeing his family. He said that Ramez’s parents had reported the matter to the police but they had done nothing after discovering that the orchestrator was a senior cleric linked with Hamas, the Islamic militant group that has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007. Heba and her three children were said to have been abducted the previous Wednesday.
Ramez’s mother, Huda al-Amash, said:
If things remain like this, there’ll be no Christians left in Gaza. Today it’s Ramez. Then who, and who will be next?
The church’s claims have been denied by Gaza police and the government. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said that Ramez, Heba and her three daughters had not been kidnapped and had willingly embraced Islam.
There has been no word from either of the two adults concerned.
The case has highlighted the plight of the Gaza Strip’s tiny Christian community, which has been increasingly marginalised and harassed since Hamas came to power. Their daily lives are extremely difficult, and several Christian stores and schools have been vandalised by Muslim extremists. While Hamas has said that it is committed to protecting the Christian minority, crimes against Christians go largely unpunished and are under-reported.
The Christian population has shrunk from an estimated 3,500 to 1,500 in recent years, and there are fears that it could disappear altogether.
- barnabas team
Andhra Pradesh, July 27, 2012: A 2007 ordinance bans propagating other religions in the area. Three Christians are arrested for possessing propaganda material after temple authority find Christian posters and material in their homes. For the Global Council of Indian Christians, the action is unconstitutional.
On the hill town of Tirumala (Andhra Pradesh), it is legal “to violate one of the fundamental rights of the Indian constitution, namely religious freedom,” said Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), after the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD),a trust that runs local Hindu temples, arrested three Christians on charges of religious propaganda. Under a ban issued in 2007, non-Hindus are not allowed to propagate their religion in Tirumala temple area.
The three men arrested are Eswaraiiah, Krishnamma and Yasodamma. They work for the TTD, but apparently no one knew that they were Christian. Last Monday, TTD agents searched their homes and found posters, religious literature and other Christian material.
The three were suspended from their job, arrested for involvement in missionary activities, and interrogated. Under the Worship or Prayer Prohibition Ordinance 2007, they could get up to three years in jail and a 5,000 rupee fine.
For Christians, the ordinance is unconstitutional. Not only does it prohibit disseminating non-Hindu religious beliefs, but it also violates freedom of movement. The local government has not however heeded such arguments and repealed the ordinance.
Built on seven hills, the city of Tirumala is a major pilgrimage site. It is home to the famous Hindu temple of Venkateswara, the most visited place of its kind in the world with 50,000 to 100,000 pilgrims a day.
The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams is an independent trust set up in 1932 to administer all (economic or not) activities associated with the temple area.
As the toll in the ethnic violence in Assam rose to 58, relief agencies are finding it difficult to reach out to those affected.
“The curfew in the affected areas is keeping us handicapped but still we are trying to assess the damage,” said Babita Alick, incharge of the disaster management team of Caritas India, the social service wing of the Catholic Church.
Indefinite curfew and shoot-at-sight orders have been imposed in the worst-hit Kokrajhar district of the northeastern Indian state.
Chirag and Dhubri districts have been placed under night curfew.
Nearly 200,000 people have been rendered homeless in the violence started on July 20 when tribal people accused Muslims of killing four indigenous Bodo youths.
This led to a series of clashes in which both groups have been torching houses in Kokrajhar and Chirang districts.
Missionaries of Charity Sisters could not extend their help to those hit by the clashes due to the curfew.
Sr. Jacoba, superior of the community in Bongaigaon, said they tried to go twice to the violence-affected areas with relief material but could not succeed.
She said that Bodo women were attending regular prayer service in their church.
Amrit Gilsmith, a Baptist Christian leader from Guwahati, said, “We cannot reach out to the affected because of the curfew. All we are doing now is praying in all our churches and planning our next course of action.”
Schools, institutions, health centers and church premises are serving as relief camps to those affected by the violence.
However, train services Thursday resumed after two days of complete disruption. Three special trains have been started to ferry stranded passengers.
Bishop Thomas Pulloppillil of Bongaigaon has appealed for peace in the violence-hit districts.
The prelate has constituted a relief team and peace mission committee and is continuously monitoring the situation.
Kokhrajhar is the headquarters of the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts, an autonomous region in the state that has witnessed ethnic violence for more than 20 years.
All the four districts that form the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts come under the diocesan jurisdiction. Out of that two of the districts- Kokrajhar and Chirang- are hit by the ethnic violence.
Alick said that there has been heavy displacement of people from both the communities and they are planning to provide food and medical assistance to the affected from Sunday.
Karnataka, July 27, 2012: The Bhartiya Janata Party government has sanctioned a total of 170 million rupees (Rs. 17 cores) for the prayers. The CSF asks why were churches, masjids, gurudwaras and other places of worship discriminated against? And the money given only to Hindu temples. The CSF asks could not this money be used for secular activities like – rain harvesting or water management schemes? Please find below a TV report….
Following government orders, all the 34,000 temples in Karnataka today started prayers seeking rain.
The Bhartiya Janata Party government has sanctioned a total of 170 million rupees for the prayers.
Each temple would get 5,000 rupees for holding “special prayers” for rain.
The circular in regard to the prayers was distributed to the temples by the department of revenue.
The opposition parties in the state criticized the government’s move and said that the money used for the rituals could have been utilized for relief work.
The state government, however, said that it was important to chant the prayers for the welfare of the drought-hit state where there is no water for people, cattle or crops.
Am a known warrior now, says Magsaysay award winner Kulandei Francis *Empower a woman and she will empower a society, says Magsaysay winner
Chennai, July 26 2012: Noting that the Magsaysay award has transformed him into a “known warrior” from an unknown one, Kulandei Francis today said he would like to be a role model for others to emulate his village development project.
The lone Indian among six award recipients, he described the honour as a “pleasant shock,” saying he wants more people to emulate his Integrated Village Development Project in Krishnagiri district in Tamil Nadu.
“I was pleasantly shocked. From an unknown warrior, I have today become a known warrior and am happy that this award comes in as recognition of 35 years of my work,” 65-year-old Francis said over phone.
Hailing from a modest background and equipped with a degree from Annamalai university, Francis said he would now like to be a role model and see more persons emulating him and his IVDP model.
“I should be a role model. I can stay here (Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri and Vellore),” he said.
Francis started IVDP in 1979 and has helped establish Self Help Groups that supported poverty-stricken women engage in group activities and start micro enterprises, create savings accounts and secure reliable loans.
At present there are over 8000 SHGs across three districts of Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri and Vellore, supported by IVDP. Both Francis’s wife and daughter play prominent roles in running his organisation.
The Magsaysay Foundation had said yesterday that Francis was being recognised for “his visionary zeal, his profound faith in community energies, and his sustained programmes in pursuing the holistic economic empowerment of thousands of women and their families in rural India.”
Empower a woman and she will empower a society, says Magsaysay winner
Chennai, July 26 2012: When 65 year-old Kulandei Francis, a priest-turned- social activist in Krishnapuri district in Tamil Nadu got a phone call from Ramon Magsaysay Centre in Manila late Wednesday evening informing him that he has been selected for the Ramon Magsaysay Awardfor 2012, he was flabbergasted. “I have never heard about Magsaysay Award. I also could not believe my ears since this is the first of its kind event in my life. I have never been given any honor either by the State or Central governments,” Francis told DNA.
Magsaysay Award is the Asian equivalent to the Nobel Prize. The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation selected Francis for the honor ‘for breaking the bonds of poverty and prejudice’. “The Foundation recognizes his visionary seal, his profound faith in community energy and his sustained programs in pursuing the holistic economic empowermentof thousands of women and their families in rural India,” the Foundation said in a release.
“You empower one woman and she will empower a society. This is what I learnt from my 35 years of social service,” said Francis whose Integrated Village Development Project revolutionized many villages in the backward districts of Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri.
There are 8,500 self help groups in these districts boasting of 1,53,000 women as its active members. “They do annual business worth Rs 2500 crore. Women run the families and their husbands stay away from vices like alcoholism or drug addiction. More than a million people spread across 200 villages are a happy and contended lot. I rate this award as a honor to the unknown warrior,” said Francis.
The major achievement of Francis, according to R Manikantan, manager, Pallavan Grameen Bank, was saving the villagers from greedy money lenders. “We do not have any problem in extending loans to the SHGs headed by Francis. Through perseverance and hard work, he has carved outa society where women and menwork together. While women earn Rs 300 per day by selling milk to cooperatives, men help them to supplement the family income by farming operations and poultry,” said Manikantan who has been associated with Francis and his NGO for the last 25 years.
Vasanthi, a homemaker from Devasamudram, a remote village in Krishnagiri, said Francis guided them to a world of hygiene and sanitation. “Today all women in these SHGs use sanitary napkins. We all use purified water for drinking and cooking. All our children , especially girls, go to schools and colleges. He has made arrangements with banks for their educational loans,” said Vasanthi.
Francis said more than 50 per cent of the families associated with IVDP has switched over to toilets from open defecation. “We are planning to eradicate open defecation on a war footing,” he said.
He said he does not want to expand his operations beyond Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts. “My hands are full here itself. But I want others to replicate the work I have done here all over the country. I can help them with free consultancy,” said a beaming Francis.
The former member of the Holy Cross Society is yet to find out who informed the Magsaysay Foundation about his work. But Carmencita T Abella, president, RMAF, told this writer that the selection process is a closely guarded secret. “We have our own sources all over Asia who pinpoint good and selfless workers who deserve this honor. That’s all I could tell you,” said Abella.
For the record, 49 Indians have won the Magsaysay Awards till now. And Tamil Nadu boasts of six awardees which include MS Swaminathan, late MS Subbulakshmi, Dr Santha, TN Seshan and P Sainath.
Karnataka, July 25, 2012: Pastor Pandu Naik, 39, is in charge of The Gypsy Church in Belthadi Thanda, about 12 kms away from Gadag, the district headquarters of Gadag district in Karnataka. He has a congregation of about 25 believers, and he lives in his House Church with his wife, Selvi, 35, and 3 children, 2 boys and 1 girl. He has been doing his ministry work during the last 10 years. They regularly conduct their worship service in their House Church every Sunday morning.
On Sunday, 22-7-12, evening, at about 7 pm, one of the believers, one Lokappa organized a prayer meeting at his residence which was attended by 10 other members of their congregation. Just as they began their prayer service, about 20 Sangh parivarists accompanied by some villagers, forcibly entered the house and attacked them. They beat them up and abused them using obscene language alleging that they were fraudulently converting Hindus to Christianity. Three among them, Lokappa Badagar, Sagarappa Badagar, and Kamalavva Badagar were wounded and were treated at the Gadag Government Hospital. In the meantime the radicals lodged a complaint against them at the Gadag Town Police Station alleging that they were involved in fraudulent conversion work of Hindus to Christianity.
On Monday, 23rd July, some pastors, accompanied by a few believers, went to the same police station and also lodged a complaint against the previous night attack. Though the police accepted the complaint, they did not initiate any action against the attackers. The tension continued between the two communities in the village. The GCIC got in touch with both the police as well as the believers and tried to resolve the issue.
Again on Tuesday, 24the July, the Bajrang Dal and VHP activists followed up with the case at the Gadag Town Police Station and pressurized the police to file charges against the Christians and debar and send away 6 Christian families permanently from the village because of their conversion work. The police yielding to the pressures by the radicals, arrested 14 members belonging to the following 6 families – 1) Lokappa Badagar family, 2) Laxman Badagar family, 3) Thakur Badagar family, 4) Vasu Naik family, 5) Sagarappa family and 6) Kamalavva Badagar family, charging them all under Sections – 506, 504, 324, 242,320 and 107 of IPC. They were arrested at about 1 pm and produced before the magistrate at 3.30 pm and were bailed out at 4.30 pm.
However, the police persisted on keeping them in the police station till 10 pm in the night before they were actually allowed to go home. The Police Sub Inspector, Prashanth Kaurave, it is learnt, has ordered them to come to the police station again today, 25-7-12, for further inquiry to find out as to when and where they had embraced Christianity. The GCIC continues to be in touch with them. Please pray for them.
RSS activists disturb Sunday worship and tear up Bibles
Karnataka, July 25, 2012: Pastor Manjappa Byadgi, 30, lives with his wife, Bhavya, 25, and a one year girl child, at his House Church, Salvation Evangelical Church, at Muddebehal about 80 kms away from Bijapur in Karnataka. He has been actively involved in doing the church ministry during the last 3 years. About a month ago there was some opposition to his ministry from the Sangh Parivar activists. The GCIC got in touch with the police and the worship services were allowed to continue.
On Sunday, 22-7-12, as usual, Pastor Manjappa Byadagi was conducting the Sunday worship service at about 10 am attended by about 25 believers, when about 20 RSS workers led by one Ashok, forced themselves inside the church and beat up the worshippers and tore up all the bibles and Christian tracts lying in the church.
Then they also set up one of those who had accompanied them, to bear a false witness as one whom the Christians had bribed and forced to become a Christian, allegedly paying him a huge amount of money. They tutored him what to say and also recorded his statement in a video, thereby creating a false witness against the Christians. Then they phoned up to the Muddebehal Police Station lodging a complaint against the Christians alleging that they were involved in fraudulent and forcible conversion of Hindus to Christianity.
Police Sub Inspector Basavaraj Lamani, accompanied by a few police constables, came to the church and arrested Pastor Byadgi along with his wife and the little child and a believer, and took them all to the police station for further inquiry. They were questioned till late into the afternoon, when the GCIC got in touch with the PSI and intervened on their behalf and got them released. Though they were released, they were warned not to conduct their worship services in that church henceforward. Please pray for them.
Christian attacked in Bellary District of Karnataka
Karnataka, July 26, 2012: Alleged Hindu extremists attack a Christian family, beat them up including two women, damaged their house and accused them of forceful conversion in Vyasmallapura Thanda, Bellary District, Karnataka.
According to our correspondent Rev Noel Kotian, the extremists shouting and beating a Tahndora (drum) on May 28 blocked the believers, stopped them from going to the church and threatened them that there will be a village panchayat on Monday to pass judgment on Devendra Naik and his family for their faith in Christ.
On the same day, Naik reported the matter to the area Sub Inspector, Girish Naik, but the Inspector ignored his call, reported our correspondent.
Subsequently on the next day, a mob of about 50 extremists led by Umesh Naik broke the house of Davendra Naik, beat him up and his mother, sister and father and forcefully brought them to Sevalal temple.
Area Christian leaders intervened and the police summoned the extremists to the station and questioned them. The entire conversation was documented.
The extremists accused Devendra Naik of forcible conversion and claimed that they are ready to go to jail as well stand before the court as witnesses that Naik is involved in forceful conversion.
Thereafter, the police threatened to arrest the Christian’s family on charges of forcible conversion. However, Naik told the police that he was not involved in any kind of forceful conversion, reported our correspondent.
Area Christians leaders submitted a letter to the police officials on behalf of Naik that he was not involved in forceful conversion.
The police thereafter arranged a peace talk between the two parties and reached a compromise. Protection was given to Naik and his family and a constable was posted in the area to see the development in this issue.
In Hadagali Taluk there are about 6 Churches with 450 believers.
I got there and sat………….. In a pew just in time.
Bowing my head in prayer……… As I closed my eyes..
I saw the shoe of the man next to me….. Touching my own. I sighed.
With plenty of room on either side…… I thought, ‘Why must our soles touch?’
It bothered me, his shoe touching mine… But it didn’t bother him much.
A prayer began : ‘Our Father’…………. I thought, ‘This man with the shoes, has no pride.
They’re dusty, worn, and scratched. Even worse, there are holes on the side!’
‘Thank You for blessings,’ the prayer went on.
The shoe man said…………… A quiet ‘Amen.’
I tried to focus on the prayer……. But my thoughts were on his shoes again.
Aren’t we supposed to look our best. When walking through that door?
‘Well, this certainly isn’t it,’ I thought, Glancing toward the floor..
Then the prayer was ended……….. And the songs of praise began.
The shoe man was certainly loud…… Sounding proud as he sang.
His voice lifted the rafters…….. His hands were raised high.
The Lord could surely hear. The shoe man’s voice from the sky.
It was time for the offering…… And what I threw in was steep.
I watched as the shoe man reached…. Into his pockets so deep.
I saw what was pulled out………… What the shoe man put in.
Then I heard a soft ‘clink’ . As when silver hits tin.
The sermon really bored me………… To tears, and that’s no lie..
It was the same for the shoe man…. For tears fell from his eyes.
At the end of the service…… As is the custom here.
We must greet new visitors, And show them all good cheer.
But I felt moved somehow………….. And wanted to meet the shoe man.
So after the closing prayer…….. I reached over and shook his hand.
He was old and his skin was dark….. And his hair was truly a mess.
But I thanked him for coming……… For being our guest.
He said, ‘My names’ Charlie………… I’m glad to meet you, my friend.’
There were tears in his eyes…….. But he had a large, wide grin.
‘Let me explain,’ he said……….. Wiping tears from his eyes.
‘I’ve been coming here for months…. And you’re the first to say ‘Hi.”
‘I know that my appearance…………’Is not like all the rest.
‘But I really do try……………..’To always look my best.’
‘I always clean and polish my shoes..’Before my very long walk.
‘But by the time I get here……….’They’re dirty and dusty, like chalk.’
My heart filled with pain………. And I swallowed to hide my tears.
As he continued to apologize………… For daring to sit so near
He said, ‘When I get here…………..’I know I must look a sight.
‘But I thought if I could touch you..’Then maybe our souls might unite.’
I was silent for a moment……….. Knowing whatever was said
Would pale in comparison… I spoke from my heart, not my head.
‘Oh, you’ve touched me,’ I said……’And taught me, in part;
‘That the best of any man……………’Is what is found in his heart.’
The rest, I thought,………………… This shoe man will never know.
Like just how thankful I really am… That his dirty old shoe touched my soul.
- fwd: vathan shettigar
Iran, July 24, 2012: Concerns are growing for an imprisoned Iranian pastor whose health is deteriorating as a result of the regular beatings he has endured in one of the country’s most notorious jails.
Benham Irani (41), who is serving a five year prison sentence, lost consciousness last week as a result of a bleeding ulcer. He has since regained consciousness, but his health is steadily declining. Benham has difficulty walking because of the injuries he has sustained in regular beatings by other prisoners and guards, and he is starting to lose his eyesight; it is feared that he could die within the next few months.
He began his sentence in Karaj’s Ghezel Hesar prison in May 2011, having been charged with “action against the state” and “action against the [Islamic] order”: pretexts for locking him up on account of his Christian faith and ministry; in the verdict issued against him, Benham is described as an apostate, which refers to his leaving Islam, and it states that apostates “can be killed”.
During his first few months in prison, he was subjected to psychological torture, being kept incommunicado in a small cell and repeatedly woken by guards. He was then moved to a room so cramped that the prisoners could not lie down, before being transferred to his current cell.
The father of two became a Christian in 1992 and a pastor ten years later. He has been arrested twice in connection with his house church activities.
House church leader freed
He was arrested on 24 December 2010 along with ten other converts from Islam who had gathered to celebrate Christmas Eve. Noorollah (now 48) was handcuffed and blindfolded before being interrogated by intelligence officers.
This raid was part of a major crackdown on the Iranian house church movement at Christmas 2010 in which dozens of Christians across the country were rounded up. They were charged with apostasy, promoting Christianity, being in touch with Christian organisations and forming house churches.
During his time in prison, Noorollah was subjected to severe psychological torture and periods of solitary confinement in a bid to get him to deny Christ. At his trial in September 2011, Noorollah was told that he was going to be sentenced to death.
But he resisted pressure to renounce his faith and even tried to share the Gospel with other prisoners.
- barnabas team