US, October 17, 2014: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., is featuring a display showing graphic photos of murder and torture that are said to have been committed under the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. A Syrian pastor has warned against using the images to justify expanding the war in the country, however.
The Associated Press reported that the photos are from an archive of 55,000 images smuggled out of Syria by a photographer, who has testified in Congress about witnessing the mass killing of prisoners. The journalist, who was only named by the codename “Caesar,” said that the massacre was committed under the Assad regime.
“They show a side of the Syrian regime that hasn’t really been really seen. You might have heard about it, read about it, but when you’re confronted with these images, they’re impossible to ignore,” said Cameron Hudson, director of the museum’s Center for the Prevention of Genocide.
He revealed that some of the images show deprivation and torture, including electrocution, gouged out eyes and removed genitals.
Assad, who has been in office since 2000, has been accused by western powers of human rights abuses, such as using chemical weapons on his own people in August 2013. Assad’s government has been locked in a three-year civil war with various Islamic rebel groups who want to remove him from power.
A Christian pastor from Syria, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Christian Post in an email on Friday that the photos should not be sensationalized and used as a means of inciting war against the Syrian state.
“Let’s be clear and direct. Most or maybe all western governments knew the entire time that torture is going on in third world prisons, so why are they talking about this now?” the pastor told CP.
He also questioned the legitimacy of the photos, revealing that such images and short films of torture are often used as a means of propaganda in the region, but are often discovered to be fake. At the same time, he clarified that he does not “support severe punishments and torture” for prisoners.
The pastor alluded to the American government and its allies launching airstrikes against terror group ISIS in Syria, and suggested that the release of these photos should not be used as a motive to attack Assad’s regime as well, and widen the war in the region.
The photos were shown to the U.N. Security Council in April, with American Ambassador Samantha Power stating that they “indicate that the Assad regime has carried out systematic, widespread and industrial killing.”
Syria has dismissed the images, with its Justice Ministry arguing that they are “lacking objectiveness and professionalism.”
The Holocaust Memorial Museum has said, however, that it used forensic examinations of the photographs to verify the authenticity of the images.
“The current Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad says the photos are fake, but forensic and international law experts have authenticated them and found the defector’s story credible. The FBI is currently examining the photos,” the museum has said.
“International law experts say the 55,000 photos could someday support prosecution of the current Syrian regime for crimes against humanity and war crimes.”
The museum added that it will be displaying the images for the foreseeable future. It compared the killings to the holocaust of Jewish people committed by Nazi Germany in World War II.
“We realized that this person, Caesar, the Syrian who escaped, he was a witness,” Hudson said. “We felt an obligation to tell his story as someone who showed real courage in coming forward and escaping and trying to tell the story of what he saw.”
- christian post
US, October 12, 2014: In order to last in ministry, church planters need to adhere by certain guidelines that change the mold of how they build their church structure, said Pastor Rick Warren during the Exponential West conference this past week.
Warren addressed conference goers to utilize his experience as a leader in ministry of over 40 years. He told church planters that about half of them were not going to make it, according to statistics, unless they started doing something radical.
“You must be very careful how you build. Some build with gold, silver, precious stones even wood, hay and straw but the day will come when fire will reveal the quality of your work and if what you build survives, you will receive a reward,” Warren said on Thursday of the three-day conference.
He added, “The success of your ministry isn’t about size or speed, regardless of those ‘large church lists.’ God isn’t going to judge you based on those things because those are human measurements.”
In speaking about his success and how his ministry has lasted four decades, Warren noted that many church planters are preoccupied with the latest church trends or with what is “currently in or hip.” He advised that instead of worrying about such things, planters need to focus on implementing strategies that will last, not just bring in large crowds.
“I could show you how to get a crowd but a crowd isn’t a church. Most church planters spend an entire year planning the first service and none planning the second,” Warren said.
While he acknowledges that much of his ministerial success is because of God’s help, Warren also said he has lasted in ministry because of the “work smarter not harder” concept.
“I know some pastors who pray more than I do and their churches aren’t growing,” Warren said. “I work hard but I know some churches that work much harder than I do. Dedication doesn’t grow a church, skill does.”
He added, “You can spend a lot of money to attend a top-notch bible school and seminary education but if you don’t continually sharpen your skills, you’re as dull as a guy that didn’t go to college.”
Furthermore, he said that he is not proud enough to say that he has never copied other church models regarding his ministry’s work, which he also credits for keeping him in ministry up until now.
“Humans grow by observation, imitation and repetition and yet none of us wants to be imitators, everyone wants to be an innovator and that’s why we all suck,” Warren said. “I’d rather be an effective imitator than a stupid innovator. I learned a long time ago that I don’t have to invent something for it to work … practically everything that we’re doing at Saddleback was copied from someone else. “
To conclude his message, Warren advised church planters that more than anything, they need to maintain a pure heart and a clear purpose and process.
“If you want a church that lasts, you have to build it on purpose, integrity, humility and generosity, not on people, personalities or style because the only things that will last forever are eternal purposes of God. This may be a shock coming from me but purpose is not enough.”
- christian post
US, October 12, 2014: A group of students at Indiana Wesleyan University gave a local pizza delivery driver a tip of $1,268 along with gift cards and thousands of inspirational notes as part of an illustration during the weekly prayer service after he delivered an order worth $12.50.
The generosity followed efforts by Keith Newman, the CEO of Residential Education, to illustrate a point to 3,000 students during a weekly prayer gathering at the college’s chapel: “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.”
The Marion-based Indiana Wesleyan University is a private, evangelical Christian, liberal arts university.
After driver James Gilpin came to deliver the order for two pizzas, he was escorted into the main hall, greet by thousands of students during their weekly chapel service on Wednesday morning and presented with the $1,268 tip, $70 in gift cards and thousands of inspirational notes that the students had written, according to ABC News.
Gilpin was thanked for doing what he does.
“They pulled me out on stage, and the gentleman started talking to me for a couple minutes and then he announced that he had $1,248.86 for me. Everybody was cheering,” Gilpin was quoted as saying. “At the time I didn’t know what to think; it didn’t sink in until about two hours afterwards.”
For Newman, this was a practical example of showing love.
“When I do any kind of teaching, I try to use stories because that’s the way I learn. I think stories are great, but if you can show somebody a story, it’s even more powerful,” Newman was quoted as saying. “And if you can involve them in the story, it’s even more powerful. So we had the chance to act out a story.”
The needs one sees around himself or herself are overwhelming, Newman acknowledged. “So his message was a simple one; that just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you can’t do something. So do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.”
Gilpin said he will use the money for Christmas presents for his children among other things.
“I thought it was very nice for an average Joe like me to get something like that. They didn’t know me from me Adam, and they just picked me out random and handed me the money. It was really nice,” he said. “It’s nice to know that there’s a lot of encouragement from Indiana Wesleyan and their students to do something like that. It couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m very grateful for what they’ve done for me.”
- christian post
Carolina, October 9, 2014: Robots, aliens and superheroes are among the many topics that will be tackled this weekend at the Southern Evangelical Seminary’s 21st Annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Somewhere between 1,700 and 2,000 are expected to attend. Speakers will focus on three main topic areas — God and science, Christianity and culture, and historical apologetics. The theme is, “defending a never changing faith in an ever changing world.”
The conference begins and ends with talks by Michael Behe on Darwinism. Behe, professor of biological sciences at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, is the author of Darwin’s Black Box (1996), which is about the challenges to evolutionary theory presented by “irreducible complexity” in nature. The book was named one of the 100 most important books of the 20th century by both National Review and World magazine.
Josh McDowell, a best-selling author and speaker on Christian apologetics, will share the stage for the first time in his career with his son, Sean McDowell, to talk about passing on the faith to the next generation.
A significant portion of the conference will be on the “Spanish track.” One of its speakers will be Antonio Cruz, who is both a scientist and a theologian in Spain, with Ph.D.’s in both biology and ministry. His two talks will cover the relationship between scripture and new discoveries in physics. Josh McDowell, who speaks Spanish as a second language, will deliver a talk for that part of the conference as well.
There will also be a women’s pre-conference Thursday night with talks on Internet pornography, feminism and Common Core. Donna Rice Hughes will speak at both the pre-conference and the main conference. She is CEO and president of Enough is Enough, a non-profit advocacy organization devoted to making the Internet safer for children.
Other speakers will talk about aliens and evolution, the biblical flood, robots and artificial intelligence, astronomy, sexuality, abortion, pop culture, the resurrection, archeology, Islam, Hinduism, the Shroud of Turin, the inerrancy of scripture, and C.S. Lewis.
One of the keynote speakers will be Richard Land, president of SES and executive editor of The Christian Post.
To accommodate its growing attendance, the conference has moved to Calvary Church, the largest church in Charlotte.
- christian post
Vatican City, 8 October, 2014: This morning, punctual as always, the Holy Father entered St. Peter’s Square in an open-top Jeep to greet the faithful in attendance at this Wednesday’s general audience. He dedicated his catechesis to the “many brothers who share with us our faith in Christ, but who belong to other confessions or to traditions different to our own”. He emphasised that even today the relations between Christians of different confessions are not always characterised by respect and cordiality, and asked, “What is our current attitude to this situation? Are we indifferent or do we firmly believe that we can and must walk towards reconciliation and full communion?”.
The Pope emphasised that the divisions between Christians wound the Church and Christ, and remarked that Jesus wanted his disciples to remain united in His love. This unity was already under threat in Jesus’ time, explained Pope Francis, and He urged his disciples to speak unanimously, so “by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose”.
The bishop of Rome also mentioned that throughout history the devil has tempted the Church with the intention of dividing her. Unfortunately, the Church has been marked by serious and painful divisions that have at times been long-lasting, continuing until the present day. For this reason, “it is very difficult to reconstruct the reasons and, above all, to find possible solutions. … What is certain is that, in one way or another, behind all these lacerations there is always arrogance and selfishness, which are the cause of every disagreement and which make us intolerant, incapable of listening and of accepting those who have a vision or a position different from our own”.
“Now, faced with this, is there anything that we as members of the Holy Mother Church, can and should do? Without doubt there must be no lack of prayer, in continuity and in communion with Jesus. And together with prayer, the Lord asks of us a renewed openness: He asks us not to close ourselves against dialogue and encounter, but rather to accept all that is valid and positive that is offered to us even from those who think differently to us or who adopt different positions.
Let us not focus on what divides us, but rather on that which unites us, seeking to know and love Christ better and to share the richness of His love. … We are divided against ourselves. However, we all have something in common: we believe in Jesus Christ, the Lord … in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We walk together, we are on the same path … let us help each other! Let us receive communion on the way. This is spiritual ecumenism: walking the path of life together in our faith in Jesus Christ the Lord”.
Continuing on the theme of communion, the Holy Father told the faithful present that today he is very thankful to the Lord, since it is seventy years since his first communion. “Receiving the First Communion means entering into communion with others, with our brothers in our Church, and also with all those who belong to different communities but who believe in Jesus”.
Francis concluded by encouraging all to walk together towards full unity. “History has separated us, but we are on the path to reconciliation and communion. And when it seems that our goal is too distant or we are discouraged, we may be comforted by the idea that God cannot cover His ears to the voice of His own Son, and cannot fail to respond to His prayer and ours, that all Christians are truly one”.
The media are focused on the possibility that changes may be made in such matters as birth control and reception of the Eucharist by Catholics who have divorced and remarried. The majority of Catholics who are aware of the synod are focused on those same concerns.
In the meantime, five cardinals are among those who have authored a book that is clearly meant to head off any relaxing of discipline inspired by Pope Francis’ pastoral approach. In fact, they go beyond trying to head off relaxation and actually attempt to refute the pope, though they use Cardinal Walter Kasper (whose views the pope has endorsed) as their ostensible target. Clearly, they are worried.
However, low expectations are in order. There may in fact be some pastorally oriented moves at the synod, but it is unlikely that there will be immediate change. A call for “more reflection, study and prayerful consideration” is the likely outcome.
As with just about everything in the Catholic Church, decisions about what is worth consideration and what should result from such reflection will be made by people representative of no one but themselves.
Though celibate males are a statistically insignificant portion of the human race and even of the Church, the synod for the family will consist of post-middle-age celibate males who, in the phrase jokingly used by clerics, “have no children to speak of”. Those men do not live in families, and probably have not done so since adolescence. They do not know of what they will speak nor the implications of what they will decide.
Even worse, the larger portion of the Church and the group most intimately involved in the life of families — women — will only be present as a few decorative elements.
Pope Francis has admitted that the Catholic Church has “not yet come up with a profound theology of womanhood”, and has named five women to the International Theological Commission, bringing women members to 16 percent. So what?
Until women are in a position to actually exercise authority, it is window-dressing. More significant is the fact that the commission the pope appointed to develop a more pastoral approach to annulments contains not one female member and only one male representative of the laity who will be affected by the work of the commission.
As is invariably the case when there are calls for a more just order, whether in society or the Church, the response is that changes must not be made precipitously. “Slowly, slowly” is the motto.
But hasn’t a wait of some 15-18 centuries been slow enough?
Those who actually read the New Testament and early Church history instead of reading into the New Testament and early Church history developments that came later know that Jesus was scandalously unconventional in his dealings with women and included them among his disciples.
The early Church had women in leadership roles (Junia, Prisca, Lydia, et al). So, female-free leadership in the Church is not an evolution, but a deviation. Making changes is a restoration and there is no excuse to further postpone a return to the ancient tradition.
This is not a call for the ordination of women. Ordination is not required for someone to exercise a role in leading the Church and setting directions. There have until fairly recently even been lay cardinals.
I have a suggestion for how Pope Francis might fast-track the restoration of women to leadership in the Church.
At present, cardinals retire at 75, but retain their voting rights in conclaves until age 80. As of today, 34 cardinals are in that category. How about lowering the age at which cardinals can be part of a conclave to what is already their retirement age and filling the immediate openings and the six current vacancies with women, thus making them one-third of the 120 electors?
This will bring women into the leadership, and will incidentally enable Pope Francis to better shape the College of Cardinals who will elect his successor. Then, he could bring married men into the college as other openings appeared. One third of electors women, one third lay men and one third clergy would be a good way to show the world that we truly believe that the Church is the whole people of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit and each and all responsible for the evangelization of the world.
That’s not going to happen. But, unless and until some equally radical changes are made to the way the Church is led, from the smallest parish to the whole world, the women and men who are the overwhelming majority of Catholics will continue to watch with bemused indifference or frustrated anger as celibates pontificate and legislate about love, sex, family, child rearing and all the other elements of non-clerical life.
Maryknoll Father William Grimm is the publisher of ucan
Iraq, September 25, 2014: A teenage girl at a refugee camp in Iraq who escaped from ISIS militants has described some of the atrocities being committed by the terror group, including forced conversion to Islam and the rape of young women by ISIS leaders.
“In Mosul they tried to make us change our faith and religion,” a 15-year old girl identified as “Aria” told CNN at the Khanke refugee camp in northwest Iraq. “They said to us, ‘Read our Quran.’ A couple of the girls said, ‘We never went to school — we can’t read.’ I couldn’t understand the Quran.”
Aria was kidnapped over six weeks ago while her family was trying to flee by car from their home in Sinjar, knowing that ISIS militants were coming. A convoy of vehicles carrying the terror group’s black flags surrounded them, and the young girl was taken.
“They forced us out of the car,” Aria said. “The girls and women were separated from the men, including my 19-year-old brother. But they only took the girls, forcing us into a minivan.”
The women were then driven to Mosul, where ISIS has created a stronghold, and taken to a house where they were locked with other teenage girls who had been captured.
Aria said that they were kept for over three weeks under horrific conditions, and that a sheik came to collect 20 girls, including her 14-year-old sister-in-law.
“He forced himself on her. I was so scared. A lot of my friends were raped. It’s hard to talk about it,” she said.
“I see their faces all the time,” Aria continued. “I have nightmares. I can’t stop thinking about how they forced themselves onto the girls. I have seen and been through too much.”
ISIS, which is active in Iraq and Syria, has been accused of beheading children and carrying out mass rapes in the region.
“They are systematically beheading children, and mothers and fathers. The world hasn’t seen an evil like this for a generation. There’s actually a park in Mosul that they’ve actually beheaded children and put their heads on a stick,” National spokesman for Iraqi Christians and Chaldean-American businessman Mark Arabo said in a previous interview.
“And they have them in the park. This is crimes against humanity. The whole world should come together. This is much broader than a community or faith. This is crimes against humanity and they are doing the most horrendous, the most heartbreaking things you can think of,” he explained.
Other victims who have managed to escape the terror group, including a 13-year-old boy identified as Mohammed, have also said that ISIS isindoctrinating boys into their ideology at children’s camp, where the militants carry out beheadings, stonings and crucifixions.
Aria and a friend managed to escape by calling her friend’s uncle who knew people that were prepared to help. The girls put on veils and broke through the door in the house where they were being kept, and later the uncle’s friends were able to take them to a safe house on Fallujah.
When she was reunited with her family, Aria learnt that her brother had been killed.
“That made me very sad. I only had one brother. He was only married for six months. I was sad to hear this. They killed him and other men when they took me. They shot him in the head. My mother slept next to my brother’s body all night.”
She said that she is also haunted by guilt that ISIS members raped the other girls at the house once they discovered Aria and her friend had left.
“They raped them because we escaped. That was the punishment. They tightened security so no girls can escape anymore,” the girl said. “I have to live with that.”
- christian post
US, September 29, 2014: It remains a mystery as to why, and how, thousands of Muslims––some of them women too––from the West, have covered such a long distance to join ISIS to fight war in Syria and Iraq, when we hardly find any example of community members from the US, UK, France etc. joining any war against Israel, or against NATO-led forces. For Muslims––cutting across sectarian lines––a war against the Jewish state should have been much more holier than taking up arms against Assad and al-Maliki, as it had occupied Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, the third holiest place after Mecca and Medina. This is so in spite of the fact that attacks by Israel on Arabs always evoke a lot of anger and street protests in Paris, London, New York etc.
Hardly any Muslim from the US and Europe, came to Iraq in 1991 and 2003 to fight against the American-led NATO attacks, even though there was a strong anti-American feeling in the entire Muslim world. Those who did show eagerness to fight for Iraq were from the Muslim countries and not the West.
Earlier in 1980s Muslim youths from around three dozen countries did converge to Afghanistan to fight against the Communist Soviet Union. Almost all of them who volunteered to fight the Communist regime in Kabul were from the Muslim world though the United States did provide material and moral support to these warriors. Many of the foreign fighters stayed there to later wage war against the West. Osama Bin Laden was one of them so was Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The big question is why is there so much enthusiasm among the fighters from the West, to go for what the international Press wrongly dub, ‘jihad’ in Syria and Iraq and not against Israel or its western allies?
When travelling, especially for the Muslims in the West, is so difficult how is it that such a large number of them from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia etc. landed up in the war-zone of Levant and Iraq. Several of them who went thousands of kilometres to be in the battlefield are White converts to Islam. Who encouraged, motivated, financed and facilitated these youths to go to the strange land?. Most of them are actually Facebook Revolutionaries with hardly any military training and any knowledge about the ground reality. Why the western intelligence and security agencies failed to make distinction between ‘tourists’ and ‘terrorists’ and, in a way, let these youths go there?
If India’s ex-President A P J Abdul Kalam, and the then defence minister George Fernandes had to undergo strict security check and the country’s ambassadors to the United States, Meera Shankar, and the United Nations, Hardeep Puri, had to undergo so much harassment, while travelling within the US, for wearing sari and turban respectively, why is it that nothing could be known about the movement of so many youths to the West Asia?
The phenomenon of volunteers from one, or more country going to other to join war is not new. One finds its example in Holy Crusades between 11th and 13th century. English poet Lord Byron went to fight Greek War of Independence against Ottoman rule in 1830-31. The Spanish Civil War of 1930s drew volunteers from several European and South American countries. Novelist George Orwell was one among them.
Young comrades in the heydays of Communism would cross oceans and seas to wage war in the far away land against the capitalists. Che Guevera, an Argentine-born doctor is still considered as a hero in many parts of Latin America as he fought in three different continents against imperialism. He took part in Guatemalan struggle against US-backed capitalist; with Fidel Castro helped bring about Cuban Revolution in 1960, fought in Congo in Africa and was caught and executed in Bolivia in South America by the US-backed regime.
At the height of Sikh militancy in Punjab a reputed Indian magazine carried a story as to how a few Hindu youths embraced Sikhism and became militants and earned, what they call martyrdom, at the hands of the security forces.
Thus, ISIS is not the first outfit which comprises international warriors who are fighting in distant battlegrounds. But it is different in other ways. Its volunteers have misunderstood ‘jihad’ as they have been brainwashed and indoctrinated by those very western powers, who want to get their countries rid of radical elements.
Take the example of Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto and General Musharraf have hardly anything to do with Islam in their own life. But in a bid to get their country rid of radical elements they encouraged them to fight war in Kashmir and Afghanistan and get killed. In the process these leaders also wanted to achieve what is called the strategic depth for Pakistan.
Similarly Saudi Arabia, at least in the initial years, tried to export the hot-heads from their own country to Syria as the ruling royal family was apprehensive of them. Checking the Iranian influence was also inherent in such move. So they wanted to hit two birds with one stone. However, it is other thing that ISIS started challenging the royal family of Riyadh too.
But apart from money the Saudis––or Qataris––alone do not have the wherewithal to organize and orchestrate such a prolong war. For that they had to rely on the same oncologists––Barack Obama, David Cameron and company––who are now calling ISIS a cancer. The truth is that these doctors instead of diagnosing and treating the disease on time help spread the virus.
While George Bush-II devastated Iraq and Afghanistan the Nobel Peace Prize winner of 2009 supervised the systematic destruction of Syria and Libya. No doubt both Syria and Libya have dictators ruling the country and a lot of people were against them, yet the opposition within were not as powerful as to overthrow Bashaar al-Assad or Maummar Gaddafi on their own.
The surprise aspect is that though there are so many oncologists around yet the cancer of ISIS spread within no time. Till the start of 2014 hardly anyone knew about it. The news of its split from al-Qaeda came in February. The West was excited as in the process al-Qaida got weakened. This was naturally their main objective.
But by June the Islamic States of Iraq and Syria(ISIS) managed to virtually overrun the entire central Iraq threatening the very existence of the country.
The another related question is: as to how is it that the ISIS, a splintered group led by a former Baathist soldier, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, succeed in such a short time when no other terrorist outfit, including the much powerful, organized and well spread al-Qaeda could achieve.
Barack Obama is the head of a non-cricket playing country. But he knows that cancer can now be detected at the early stage and cured. Yuvraj Singh got treated in the United States itself. He came back after a few months to play some good innings.
About a quarter century back Australian all-rounder Simon O’ Donnell too was diagonized cancer. He was cured and took to the field to hit the fastest One-Day 50––in just 18 balls. It took six long years for a Sri Lankan batsman, Sanath Jayasuria to break the record.
So now cancer is not the disease which can not be cured, Dr Obama. There is no need to lament. The problem is that it is difficult to treat when the virus has deliberately been injected into the body by the oncologists themselves.
The fact is that in the name of aerial bombardment the United States and its Arab and western allies are further aggravating the disease as they are not interested in treating the patient.
Over 500 prayer vigils held on 2nd anniversary of pastor Saeed’s imprisonment; Greg Laurie’s church joins riverside vigil
Iran, September 28, 2014: More than 500 prayer vigils were held around the world this week, including one in which pastor Greg Laurie’s Harvest church participated in California, to mark the two-year anniversary of when pastor Saeed Abedini was arrested by Iranian officials for his Christian faith.
The vigils, held in 33 countries and territories, called on people to pray for Abedini’s safe release and urge their governments to act on his behalf.
The Boise, Idaho-based minister is serving out a “virtual death sentence” of eight years in one of Iran’s most notorious prisons, read a statement by the Riverside Residents Rally held at Riverside City Hall on Saturday.
Abedini has faced repeated beatings, malnourishment, lack of proper medical treatment, and death threats from other prisoners and Iranian Revolutionary Guards, according to a statement released by the American Center for Law and Justice.
The imprisoned pastor was able to write a letter to his daughter, Rebekkah Grace, for her eighth birthday on Sept. 12.
“You are growing so fast and becoming more beautiful every day,” he wrote in the letter, released by the ACLJ. “I praise God for His faithfulness to me every day as I watch from a distance through the prison walls and see pictures and hear stories of how you are growing both spiritually and physically.”
He continued: “I know that you question why you have prayed so many times for my return and yet I am not home yet. Now there is a big why in your mind you are asking: why Jesus isn’t answering your prayers and the prayers of all of the people around the world praying for my release and for me to be home with you and our family? The answer to the why is who. Who is control? Lord Jesus Christ is in control.”
“God is in control of the whole world and everything that is happening in it is for His good purpose, for His glory, and will be worked out for our good,” Saeed added. “People die and suffer for their Christian faith all over the world and some may wonder why? But you should know the answer of why is who. It is for Jesus …”
“But if not, we will still sing together … ‘Hallelujah,’ either separated by prison walls or together at home.”
Abedini is serving an eight-year sentence despite international efforts and numerous petitions headed by the ACLJ seeking his release. Obama also raised the issue of the pastor’s detention during his first phone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last September.
He grew up in Iran before converting to Christianity at the age of 20. He later traveled with his family back and forth between Iran and the U.S. to meet other members of his family and for Christian work.
During one such trip in 2009, Abedini was detained by Iranian officials and interrogated for his conversion. While he was released with a warning against engaging in underground church activities, he was once again arrested in 2012 while working on a non-sectarian orphanage project.
Abedini was sentenced for allegedly endangering “national security,” but the ACLJ believes the punishment has more to do with his Christian faith.
- christian post
Washington, September 20, 2014 — Eric Metaxas compared the silence of Christians about persecution in the Middle East and religious freedom restrictions domestically to the silence of Christians in Nazi Germany.
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, Metaxas reminded the audience at the In Defense of Christians Inaugural Summit on Sept. 11.
Metaxas is the author of a biography of Bonhoeffer, a German theologian who spoke up about the persecution of the Jews and was put to death by the Third Reich.
The evil acts of Nazi Germany were partly enabled by the conflation of national identity with the Church, Metaxas said. He compared it to his own experience of growing up in a Greek family where he was led to believe that being Greek meant that you belong to the Greek Orthodox Church, which meant that you are a Christian. Similarly, Germans believed that being German meant being Lutheran, which meant that you are a Christian.
“Well this is nonsense,” he explained. “You can’t be born Christian. You can only be born-again as a Christian. We’re born in sin.”
National identity, he said, is not the same as being a follower of Jesus, and believing they are the same can lead to some serious consequences, such as what happened in Germany. The Church must always be “the conscience of the state,” but the Church cannot do this if its identity is aligned with the state.
“It’s not appropriate to conflate nationalism, our national identity, with our faith in Jesus Christ,” Metaxas said.
Since a Christian’s allegiance is first to the Church of Jesus Christ, he continued, rather than to a national or ethnic identity, this means Christians must speak out about the persecution of their fellow believers in Christ, regardless of any national, racial or ethnic differences they may have.
“If your allegiance is not first and foremost to Jesus, you are not a Christian,” he said. “If your allegiance is to a political entity or to a national entity or to a tribal entity before you have your allegiance to Jesus, you are not a Christian.”
Metaxas also compared the silence of Christians on the issue of persecution to the silence of Christians on the issues of the Obama administration’s birth control mandate and the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples in some states.
“If you do not speak out, when religious freedom is threatened,” he said, “when there is persecution of Christians, if you do not speak out, you are being silent, you are participating in evil. And when American Christians keep their mouths shut, as typically we have done, with terrible persecutions around the world, God will not hold us guiltless.”
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