Istanbul, March 06, 2014: Speaking to a group of visiting scholars at the Phanar, Bartholomew I defends the building’s Christian roots, pledging opposition by all Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Churches.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I expressed a resounding no to the reopening of Constantinople’s Hagia Sophia as a mosque. In fact he said that if it “must be returned to religious worship, that can only be for Christian worship.”
Bartholomew’s statement came on the eve of Sinaxis, the meeting of all the heads of Orthodox Churches, gathered at the initiative of the Phanar, and can be considered as a response to persistent rumours circulating in sectors in Turkish society close to the ruling AKP party.
The remarks were made during the homily the ecumenical patriarch addressed to a large group of students and visiting scholars at the Phanar. Such visits are part of a series of educational trips frequently organised by foreign and Turkish groups.
“With these trips and visits, you are given the opportunity to come into contact with the entire Christian tradition that has developed in these lands,” Bartholomew said, which are “based on the Greek language and culture, and emphasise the importance of Christian ideas and life. This is why you should always enrich and deepen your research and knowledge. “
“Hagia Sophia, a place of reference for everyone, is evidence of the historic and lasting presence of Christian ideas in these lands,” he added.
“Certainly, you have not missed persistent rumours circulating lately within certain sectors of Turkish society to reopen Hagia Sophia as a mosque,” the ecumenical patriarch noted.
“We shall oppose it, and all Christians, be they Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant, shall be with us,” Bartholomew said.
“Hagia Sophia,” he concluded, “was built to bear witness to the Christian faith and if it must be returned to religious worship, that can only be for Christian worship.
Goa, March 06, 2014: Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has made budgetary provisions for saffronisation of Goa by allowing Yoga guru Ramdev and the RSS to set up bases in the state, the Congress said.
Addressing a press conference in Panaji, state Congress president John Fernandes said that the BJP government has laid the red carpet for Ramdev and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideologue Indresh Kumar, and questioned how announcements made in the budget have already been made in the public domain months earlier.
“NGOs owing affiliation to the Sangh Parivar are being indirectly promoted by the chief minister in Goa. He should not vitiate the communal harmony which Goa is famous for,” Fernandes said.
In his budget presented in the state legislative assembly Thursday, Parrikar announced that yoga would be introduced in schools and that his government intends to tie up with qualified yoga institutions to implement the scheme.
Two months before the budget announcement, Ramdev after a meeting with Parrikar in February had announced that teachers from the Haridwar-based Patanjali Yogpeeth would be teaching yoga in Goa’s schools soon.
Parrikar also told the house that Ramdev’s Bharat Swabhiman Kisan Sanstha among other organisations would be allowed to tackle the issue of stray cows loitering along Goa’s roads.
“It is highly objectionable that organisations linked to the RSS will be funded and budgeted by the Goa government to set up their questionable organisations,” Fernandes said, taking a dig at Parrikar’s announcement to fund the Indresh Kumar-run think tank Forum for Integrated National Security’s (FINS) academy in Goa.
“National security has become a matter of great concern. In order to keep Goa free from terrorism, we need to take immediate steps. The disciplined forces as well as policymakers need to be sensitized and trained,” Parrikar said.
“I, therefore, intend to set up an academy for study in national security and strategic planning, in collaboration with the Forum for Integrated National Security,” he said, adding that an initial budgetary provision of Rs.50 lakh has already been made for the purpose.
Bangalore, March 06, 2014: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will chalk out plans to expand its activities across India at its annual meeting beginning here Friday.
Clarifying that the three-day meeting had no political agenda and was not connected to the forthcoming general elections, the Sangh’s publicity head Manmohan Vaidya told reporters Thursday that the meeting would also evaluate its programmes and performance in social domains.
“No political decision will be taken at the meeting which is being held to discuss and evaluate our work. The top functionaries will review our various activities state-wise and discuss issues of national importance,” he said.
Asserting that the RSS was in favour of increasing participation by the electorate in the parliamentary elections, Vaidya said RSS cadres would work to generate awareness among the people to enroll as voters and exercise their franchise as a democratic right.
The meeting of the Sangh’s highest body for policy formulation and decision-making – the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS) – is being held in the city after 12 years.
Besides the Sangh’s Sarsanghchalak (chief) Mohan Rao Bhagwat and Sarkaryavah (general secretary) Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi and a dozen office-bearers, about 1,400 representatives from across the country will participate in the meet.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Rajnath Singh will also participate in the Sangh’s national and provincial meeting Saturday.
Leaders from the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, tribal welfare organisation Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram, student organisation Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, workers’ union Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and political party Bharatiya Janata Paksha will also attend the conference.
Srinagar, March 06, 2014: Kashmiri students expelled from a Uttar Pradesh university after they were accused of celebrating Pakistan cricket team’s victory over India Thursday alleged victimisation by administration officials and police.
Kashmiri students of Swami Vivekanand Subharti University (SVSU) in Meerut said 67 of them were forced to leave the college after the administration called police to ensure their eviction from the hostel.
The students were accused of celebrating the victory of Pakistan cricket team in a crucial match of Asia Cup championship in Dhaka.
“We were ordered to leave the hostel immediately and head back home. Police arrived at the college in full riot gear with tear smoke shells and lathis,” said Aijaz, a B.Tech student of SVSU Meerut.
“We had no option but to abandon the hostel. Some of us did not even have the money to pay for the train fare.”
“The locals at the hostel had been shouting and hooting during the match as India looked poised for the victory,” he said.
“When the match took a different turn after Shahid Afridi’s batting, some of our friends also started shouting as a reaction. That is all we did, for which we have been punished,” Aijaz said,
He was accompanied by some other fellow students who said the same thing.
Reports here said the Meerut police have registered a case of sedition against the Kashmiri students.
The expelled students said they recorded the conduct of Meerut police and college administration towards them in their cell phones, but those were seized by police.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said in Jammu Thursday that charging Kashmiri students with a serious crime like sedition would spoil their academic career.
He wrote on his twitter handle: “I believe the university did what it had to to control the situation but this action by the UP Govt (Uttar Pradesh government) is uncalled for and should be reversed.”
“…while what the boys may have done in Meerut is misguided it certainly isn’t illegal, regardless of whom they were cheering.”
“The sad fact is that some of these students are recipients of the PM scholarship for Kashmiris. Perhaps They need to introspect.”
Abdullah also wrote in his tweet that he “will talk to UP CM (Uttar Pradesh chief minister)… to intervene on behalf of these misguided students to have this charge of sedition removed”.
SRI LANKA: PASTOR AND WIFE DRAGGED FROM HOME, ASSAULTED BY BUDDHIST-LED MOB
The attack happened in Asgiriya, Kandy district, on 16 February. The 250-strong mob, led by eleven monks from the extreme nationalist organisation Bodu Bala Sena or Buddhist Strength Force (BBS), stormed the couple’s home.
A senior BBS leader warned villagers against such “traitors” and threatened the same treatment for others who supported Christian worship.
SUDAN: PASTOR ARRESTED WHILE PREACHING DURING CHURCH SERVICE
The Rev. Yahya Abdelrahim Nalu was detained on 23 February and held for two days. He was told that he would “face justice” in court if he did not relinquish his position at Omdurman Evangelical Church to a government-appointed committee.
The church leader’s arrest appears to be part of the Sudanese authorities’ plan to take over church properties.
It follows the flattening of a church building in Omdurman on 17 February.
-morning star news
INDONESIA: MUSLIM MOB OCCUPIES CHURCH LAND TO BLOCK ITS BUILDING PLANS
The raid in Talang Kelapa, South Sumatra, happened on 20 February, three days after a stone-laying ceremony to mark the start of church building work.
The Muslim leader who headed the mob said that the church did not have the permit required to build a place of worship.
INDIA: HINDU LEADER CALLS FOR END TO CONVERSIONS FROM HINDUISM
The leader of a fundamentalist Hindu group has called for an immediate end to conversions from Hinduism, or else, he claimed, Hindus, who comprise around 80% of the population, “will [soon] be a minority in India”.
The remarks by Ashok Singhal, leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), at a rally in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, on 22 February, have been criticised by government officials and Christian leaders.
The VHP, which has been behind attacks on Christians and other minorities, is one of a number of groups pushing Hindutva, a militant Hindu nationalist agenda that is striving to make India religiously “pure”.
Their political wing has succeeded in securing “anti-conversion” laws in a number of states; these are sometimes used to prohibit legitimate Christian evangelism.
- barnabas team
North Korea, March 04, 2014: Australian missionary John Short, who was detained in North Korea for distributing Christian leaflets, has been released and deported to China, where he lives.
The 75-year-old was freed on Monday (3 March), two weeks after his arrest in Pyongyang. Upon his arrival at the airport in Beijing, he broke down in tears as he told reporters, “I’m really, really tired,” adding that he now “intends only to rest”. John’s wife, Karen, said that she was “amazingly thankful”.
North Korea said that it had released John “in consideration of his age” and “in light of the fact that he confessed his crimes and apologised”, describing the decision as “generous”.
John, who is based in Hong Kong, was required to sign a statement; confessions scripted by the authorities are a standard prerequisite for detained foreigners seeking release in North Korea.
In the document, he admitted not just the crime for which he was arrested last month – spreading Bible tracts at a Buddhist temple – but also an earlier offence:
I entered the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in August 2012 and personally carried a few Bible tracts and my own personal Bible. I was interested to see if I could possibly carry more on another occasion.
I committed the criminal act against the law of the DPRK by spreading my Bible tracts in Pyongyang underground station on the train.
Requesting forgiveness, John’s statement said, “I realise that my actions are an indelible hostile act against the independent right and law of the DPRK.”
He was required to agree “that the mass media of the USA and the western countries who say that the DPRK is the closed country and has no religious freedom is inaccurate and wrong”.
Although North Korea’s constitution does grant religious freedom, this does not exist in practice. All North Koreans are expected to follow Juche (self-reliance), an extreme cult of personality that venerates the ruling Kim family. Other belief systems, especially Christianity, are viewed as a threat to the regime’s authority. Foreign missionaries are thus treated with extreme suspicion.
John could have shared the same fate as other Christian missionaries held by North Korea. American-Korean Kenneth Bae was sentenced to 15 years hard labour in April for carrying out similar activities. And North Korea has refused to release South Korean Kim Jeong-wook, who was arrested in October, despite his confession and appeal for forgiveness. At a press conference on 27 February, the missionary admitted to spying and attempting to “create a network of house churches in North Korea”; Jeong-wook was also said to be carrying Bibles and other Christian materials.
- barnabas team
It was a cold winter’s day that Sunday.
The parking lot to the church was filling up quickly. I noticed as I got out of my car that fellow church members were whispering among themselves as they walked to the church. As I got closer I saw a man leaned up against the wall outside the church. He was almost laying down as if he was asleep. He had on a long trench coat that was almost in shreds and a hat topped his head, pulled down so you could not see his face.
He wore shoes that looked 30 years old, too small for his feet with holes all over them, his toes stuck out. I assumed this man was homeless, and asleep, so I walked on by through the doors of the church. We all fellowshipped for a few minutes, and someone brought up the man laying outside. People snickered and gossiped but no one bothered to ask him to come in, including me.
A few moments later church began. We all waited for the Preacher to take his place and to give us the Word, when the doors to the church opened. In came the homeless man walking down the aisle with his head down. People gasped and whispered and made faces. He made his way down the aisle and up onto the pulpit he took off his hat and coat.
My heart sank.
There stood our preacher…he was the “homeless man.” No one said a word. The preacher took his Bible and laid it on the stand. “Folks, I don’t think I have to tell you what I am preaching about today.” Then he started singing the words to this song. “If I can help somebody as I pass along. If I can cheer somebody with a word or song. If I can show somebody that he’s traveling wrong. Then my living shall not be in vain.”
“IS YOUR LIVING IN VAIN?”
- fwd: robin veigas
Mr. Yates wasn’t able to make enough on his ranching operation to pay the principal and interest on the mortgage, so he was in danger of losing his ranch.
With little money for clothes or food, his family (like many others) had to live on government subsidy. Day after day, as he grazed his sheep over those rolling West Texas hills, he was no doubt greatly troubled about how he would pay his bills. Then a seismographic crew from an oil company came into the area and told him there might be oil on his land. They asked permission to drill a wildcat well, and he signed a lease contract.
In fact, 30 years after the discovery, a government test of one of the wells showed it still had the potential flow of 125,000 barrels of oil a day. And Mr. Yates owned it all. The day he purchased the land he had received the oil and mineral rights. Yet, he’d been living on relief.
A multimillionaire living in poverty. The problem?
He didn’t know the oil was there even though he owned it.
Many Christians live in spiritual poverty.
They are entitled to the gifts of the Holy Spirit and his energizing power, but they are not aware of their birthright.
- fwd: samuel machado
Qatar, March 06, 2014: The divide within ideological Islam is growing. This week saw Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates withdraw their ambassadors from Doha in protest at Qatar’s interference in their internal affairs.
Qatar is the epicentre of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in most other Gulf states as well as in Egypt. Saudi Arabia is the centre of Wahhabi-Salafist Islam. The Muslim Brotherhood wants to reconstruct society according to sharia, using Islam as a movement of political change. Wahhabi-Salafism wants Muslim societies to be fashioned according to the Islam of 1,400 years ago, under Muhammad and the “Rightly Guided Caliphs”, i.e. the first four leaders of the Islamic state after Muhammad. Qatar has described the other Gulf states, Egypt and others as dictatorships that must give way to a new political order. Saudi and Egypt believe that Qatar is destabilising Muslim societies in order to impose their own brand of ideological Islam.
This open confrontation has serious consequences for the House of Islam, for it will affect countries such as Turkey and those as far away as Malaysia and potentially countries in the West, where Muslim minorities are increasingly being radicalized. Which way will governments go such as those of the US and UK, which are allied with both Qatar and Saudi Arabia? Which side they will take? The US and UK governments are both assisting the Muslim Brotherhood in that they have allowed it to use their countries as bases of operation from which it is destabilising moderate Muslim countries.
This movement towards sharia embodied in political Islam is now reshaping countries such as Brunei, which is in the process of implementing in phases a new sharia penal code, many parts of which are applied to non-Muslims.
A Brunei government official has recently announced the following:
- Non-Muslims will be punished for committing zina (adultery) with a Muslim, for drinking alcohol in a public place, and for khalwat (close proximity) with a Muslim. The penalty is a fine of up to B$4,000 (£1,900) and/or one year in prison.
- For adultery between a married Muslim and a married non-Muslim, both parties can be punished by stoning to death if the offence is proven by confession or the testimony of four eye-witnesses.
- Any person who instigates any Muslim man or woman to divorce, or neglect duties towards a partner, can be fined up to B$4,000 (£1,900) and/or jailed for a year.
- Any Muslim parent who surrenders his child into the care of a non-Muslim can be fined up to B$20,000 (£9,400) and/or jailed for up to five years.
- Non-Muslims are banned from using 19 Islamic words, including “Allah”.
Other sources report further restrictions affecting non-Muslims, all punishable by a fine and/or prison sentence:
- Propagation of any religion other than Islam
- Persuading a Muslim or non-Muslim to change religion
- Teaching any non-Islamic religion to a child under the age of 18
- Printing, distributing, selling or having in one’s possession any Christian literature
It is also reported that criticising Islam or bringing it into contempt will be punished by a death sentence or 40 lashes and 30 years in prison.
It seems strange that a country the ruler of which has been awarded several prestigious honours at the hand of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom (including Honorary Knight Grand Cross of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath) and with which the UK has close ties, should make such a move. It is not so much a retrograde step as a huge leap backwards into the past, reviving attitudes and practices that should have been consigned to history. It puts paid to Muslim arguments of being a religion of tolerance and peace.
- dr. patrick sookhdeo
Pakistan, March 05, 2014: A Christian girl was shot dead by the Pakistani Taliban in the northern region of the country last week. She was hiding with a male cousin who had converted from Islam to Christianity a few years ago.
Since the conversion, he was declared ‘apostate’ and had been the target of the Taliban. Militants found their hiding place and shot the girl while the man managed to escape.The Christian community expressed outrage and asked for the intervention of civil institutions to defend the rights of minorities and all citizens against Taliban violence.
Pakistan Taliban has been trying to impose its extreme views and has been killing whoever has gone against its diktats. A dialogue between the government and Pakistani Taliban reached a deadlock after Islamic militants told the government that “there is no possibility of peace in the country unless Pakistan changes its political and legal system and officially adopts Islamic law”.
Islamabad had suspended air strikes against the Taliban recently but stated that it reserves the right to “respond to any violent action” carried out by the Pakistani Taliban. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’ government is looking for a “negotiated solution” after years of conflict with militants, but talks were interrupted in February after a series of terrorist attacks.
The Pakistan government has introduced a bill called ‘Policies on national security’ in Parliament that intends to put an end to violence and terrorism in the country. Prime Minister Sharif said that the government intends to “promote dialogue with the Taliban”, but if it does not demonstrate willingness to respect the cease-fire, “the army will respond in an appropriate manner”.