Is the internet killing religion?

April 12, 2014 by admin  
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United States, April 11, 2014: Rise of internet and fall in faith affiliation may be linked.

InternetWe can blame the Internet for plenty: the proliferation of porn, our obsession with cat videos, the alleged rise of teen trends like – brace yourself – eyeball licking.

But is it also a culprit in helping us lose our religion? A new study suggests it might be.

Allen Downey, a computer scientist at Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, set out to understand the national uptick in those who claim no religious affiliation. These are the “nones,” which the Pew Research Center considers the fastest-growing “religious” group in America.

Since 1985, Downey says, the number of first-year college students who say they’re religiously unaffiliated has grown from 8% to 25%, according to the CIRP Freshman Survey.

And, he adds, stats from the General Social Survey, which has been tracking American opinions and social change since 1972, show unaffiliated Americans in the general population ballooned from 8% to 18% between 1990 and 2010.

These trends jibe with what the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project reported in 2012. It said one in five American adults, and a third of those under 30, are unaffiliated.

Downey says he stepped into the ongoing debate about the rise of the “nones” not because he has a vested interest one way or the other, but because the topic fascinates him. He says it’s good fodder for study and appeals to students who are learning to crunch real data.

In his paper “Religious affiliation, education and Internet use,” which published in March on arXiv – an electronic collection of scientific papers – Downey analyzed data from GSS and discovered a correlation between increased Internet use and religious disaffiliation.

Internet use among adults was essentially at zero in 1990; 20 years later, it jumped to 80%, he said. In that same two-decade period, we saw a 25 million-person spike in those who are religiously unaffiliated.

People who use the Internet a few hours a week, GSS numbers showed Downey, were less likely to have a religious affiliation by about 2%. Those online more than seven hours a week were even more likely – an additional 3% more likely – to disaffiliate, he said.

Now, Downey is the first to point out that correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation.

But he was able to control for other factors including education, religious upbringing, rural/urban environments and income, to find a link that allowed him to “conclude, tentatively, that Internet use causes disaffiliation,” he said.

“But a reasonable person could disagree.”

The Internet, he posited, opens up new ways of thinking to those living in homogeneous environments. It also allows those with doubts to find like-minded individuals around the world.

He believes decreases in religious upbringing have had the largest effect, accounting for 25% of reduced affiliation; college education covers about 5% and Internet use may account for another 20%.

That leaves 50% which he attributes to “generational replacement,” meaning those born more recently are less likely to be religiously affiliated – though he doesn’t attempt to explain why that is.

The Pew Research Center has offered its own theories.

One explanation Pew gives is that our nation is experiencing political backlash – “that young adults, in particular, have turned away from organized religion because they perceive it as deeply entangled with conservative politics and do not want to have any association with it.”

More specifically, Pew explains, this brand of religion and politics is out of step with young adult views on same-sex rights and abortion.

Postponement of marriage and parenthood, broader social disengagement and general secularization of society may also play a part, according to Pew.

- cnn belief blog

Egyptian Islamists murder young Christian, after dragging her from car

April 11, 2014 by admin  
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islamistEgypt, April 1, 2014: Eyewitnesses have given a harrowing account of the murder in Cairo of a young Coptic Christian woman, hauled out of her car and beaten and stabbed to death by a Muslim mob, apparently targeted because of a cross hanging from her rear-view mirror.

The incident occurred in the Cairo suburb of Ain Shams after mosque prayer services on Friday, when police clashed with Muslim Brotherhood supporters angered by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s decision to run for president.

An eyewitness appearing on “90 minutes,” a program on the al-Mehwar satellite network, said 25-year-old Mary Sameh George was attacked in her car near a church, where she planned to deliver medicine to an ill and elderly woman.

Protesters climbed onto her car, collapsing the roof, then hauled her from the vehicle, beating and mauling her – to the extent, he said, that portions of her scalp were torn off. She was stabbed multiple times, her throat was slit and when she was dead, the mob torched her car.

One Coptic outlet said that according to the health ministry, the young woman had been stabbed at least a dozen times.

The death of Mary Sameh George received little coverage in Egyptian newspapers.

- cnsnews

Uganda: Muslim Sheikh attacks daughter after she converted

April 3, 2014 by admin  
Filed under newsletter-lead, Persecution

Uganda, April 01, 2014: A young woman in Uganda had to flee from her Muslim family when her father, a sheikh, tried to kill her after finding out about her conversion to Christianity.

Wenene Nuru (23) has been taken in by a church elder

Wenene Nuru (23) has been taken in by a church elder

Wenene Nuru (23) of Iki-Iki township in Pallisa district gave her life to Christ following a series of events that started with her listening to a Christian-Muslim radio debate about the Sonship of Jesus.

She subsequently had a dream in which she was praying in a church. Wenene then visited a Christian girl, who on 2 March took her to a birthday party, where a pastor spoke about Jesus being born in a person’s heart. “There and then I gave my life to Christ,” Wenene told Morning Star News.

Knowing that her father was likely to react angrily, she kept her new faith a secret. But the following day, a neighbour who had attended the same party told Wenene’s father about her conversion.

On the evening of 4 March, he attacked her. She recounted the ordeal:

My father began beating me with clubs and blows, and I started screaming in great pain. While I was down on the floor bleeding, my father went looking for a knife to kill me. A neighbour … helped me escape.

After receiving treatment in hospital for a week, Wenene was taken in by a church elder in Pallisa.

It can be extremely costly, even dangerous, for a Muslim to leave Islam (apostasy), in some contexts more than others. Tensions have been rising in Uganda over religious conversions.

On Christmas Eve 2011, Pastor Umar Mulinde, a convert from Islam, had acid thrown in his face by Islamic extremists. Doctors have since been able to save his sight and hearing, and he has undergone multiple facial reconstruction operations. Barnabas Fund has assisted with his medical costs.

CHURCH ATTACKS

Uganda is around 75% Christian, but Muslims form a majority in some areas, and Christians there live in a hostile context. Two church buildings, one in Budaka, the other in Butaleja, both predominantly Muslim districts, were burnt down by Islamic extremists in February. They also torched the home of Bishop James Kinyewa on 2 March. He said:

They were shouting “Allahu Akhbar” (“Allah is great”). Now the same militant group is hunting for my life. My family and I are now hiding ourselves, homeless and waiting for God’s intervention.

- morning star news

UK: Aborted & miscarried baby remains used to power hospitals

April 2, 2014 by admin  
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Aborted & miscarried babyUK, March 24, 2014: A Channel 4 show airing on Monday night reveals that the bodies of thousands of preborn babies were included as clinical waste in 10 National Health Service (NHS) trusts and subsequently incinerated. Two others admitted to burning the human remains as part of their “waste-to-energy” plants.

Health Minister and Conservative Member of Parliament, Dr. Dan Poulter, decried the practice as “totally unacceptable.”

“While the vast majority of hospitals are acting in the appropriate way, that must be the case for all hospitals and the Human Tissue Authority has now been asked to ensure that it acts on this issue without delay,” Poulter said in The Telegraph.

In response to the Channel 4 report, the U.K. Department of Health banned the practice on Sunday.

Twenty-seven NHS trusts incinerated at least 15,500 fetal remains over the past two years and parents were often not consulted about the hospital’s intentions for the baby remains, the Channel 4 report also claims.

In at least one hospital, Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge, administrators informed nearly 800 mothers that the remains of their miscarried or aborted babies had been cremated.

While Ipswich Hospital cremates the remains of miscarried and aborted babies, it reportedly still incinerated 1,101 fetal remains over the past two years, because it burns the waste from other hospitals that had not maintained a similiar policy.

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust denied that it had done anything with fetal remains that had not been previously discussed with parents “both verbally and in writing.”

“The parents are given exactly the same choice on the disposal of fetal remains as for a stillborn child and their personal wishes are respected,” it said.

Drew Belsky, a spokesperson for the pro-life activist group Live Action, called the news “horrifying.”

“There’s really not that much more to say about this than ‘Soylent Green is people.’ We’re finding ourselves in a society, whether [people] are alive or dead are being used as resource for the benefit of others. This completely flies in the face of how we’re supposed to treat people,” Belsky told The Christian Post. “There is an inherent dignity to every human being that we are finding just completely trampled in many cases, but especially in the cases of our weakest brothers and sisters who are the pre-born children. Whether they are miscarried or aborted — they are people and we have to treat them that way.”

Belsky added that a recent conversation with a libertarian on Twitter underscored to him the need for society to take human life more seriously.

“He gave me the argument that ‘How can these embryos be people? It’s not like you’re giving them funerals or anything,’” Belsky relayed. “It occurs to me that it’s a truly warped sense of morality when you are determining who is and isn’t a human being based on who gets funerals. When stories like this come out, when aborted babies get incinerated to provide heat for other people, it starts to look like a really depraved sort of ideology on the meaning of human dignity is taking root and we really have to work hard, every single one of us, to make sure that stops happening.”

- christian post

Evangelical worship is too cheerful, neglects sin, theologian says

April 1, 2014 by admin  
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Phil Wickham Miami, March 28, 2014: Worship services in evangelical churches do not mention sin, a major part of the Gospel message, Dr. Cornelius Plantinga, senior research fellow at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, said Monday at the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s Faith Angle Forum.

“In very many evangelical and confessionally Reformed churches these days, sin is a rare topic,” he said.

He came to this conclusion from his experience of speaking in different churches most Sundays for the past 30 years, talking to evangelical friends, observing the content of worship music used by evangelical churches, and reading the books and articles of Dr. David Wells, distinguished senior research professor at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, Plantinga explained to the conference of journalists.

Anglicans, Catholics and Lutherans continue to include confession or a rite of penitence as a regular part of their worship services, he noted. But in evangelical and Reformed churches, he sees “less and less” sin-related material every year.

Over 158,000 churches in North America get the music for their worship services from Christian Copyright Licensing International, Plantinga explained. CCLI provides a valuable service to churches by streamlining the process of obtaining licenses for their worship music. Churches can pay a single fee and obtain all the licenses from CCLI’s library.

Looking at the content of CCLI songs, Plantinga observed that there are “very few penitential songs.” The “biblical tradition of lament, which is all through the prophets and the Psalms is gone, just not there,” he said.

One of the reasons Plantinga believes evangelical worship leaves out sin is a desire to be “seeker friendly” and avoid topics that may turn off non-Christians or new Christians.

“Mindful that seekers come to church in American no-fault culture in which tolerance is a big virtue and intolerance a big vice, worship finders in evangelical churches often want nothing in the service that sounds judgmental,” he said. And for that reason “lots of evangelical churches these days are unrelievedly cheerful.”

Quoting Wells, Plantinga argued that leaving sin out of worship is consistent with the theology of many evangelical churches in which “God is on easy terms with modernity” and mostly concerned with “church growth and psychological wholeness.”

The Apostle Paul would not feel welcome in many evangelical churches today, he added. “Where is [Paul's] easy smile? Why does he want to discipline people? Why is he so doggone dogmatic? Where are the stories in his sermons? And where does he get off implying that the woman singing special music in church should not do so while also lying on top of the church piano?”

During the panel’s question and answer period, Plantinga clarified that he is not only talking about non-denominational congregations but the “old confessional Protestant forms” as well, such as the Christian Reformed Church, Reformed Church in America, and United Presbyterian Church.

This was not always the case with evangelical churches, Plantinga explained. “They used to be champions of the holiness of God, of contrition for sins against God’s holiness, and therefore grace that justifies sinners,” but “a lot of that has dissipated.”

When churches leave the topic of sin out of worship, they are not relevant to the lives of their congregants, Plantinga believes, because people encounter sin and sin’s consequences daily.

“Ceasingly cheerful worship does not fit with the lives of people who come to worship,” he said. “… Churches that silence the biblical message of sin and grace simply aren’t anywhere near where people actually live their lives, including people in their own congregations.”

The theme of sin is more often found in movies and TV, Plantinga added, as Hollywood screenwriters display a consciousness of sin and evil through the stories they tell.

“Screenwriters are old fashioned people,” he said. “They don’t go to church so they have never learned that personal guilt for wrongdoing has become passé.”

Twice a year, a select group of about 20 journalists are invited to EPPC’s Faith Angle Forum for discussions with experts on topics related to the intersection of religion and public life. Other panels at this week’s Forum included discussions about Pope Francis and the culture wars. Transcripts and audio of the panels will be made available on EPPC’s website.

- christian post

Hillsong Church Pastor Brian Houston Denies ‘Chrislam’

March 29, 2014 by admin  
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Brian C. Houston and Bobbie HoustonAustralia, March 28, 2014: Brian C. Houston, leader of one of the world’s largest Christian churches, is denying allegations that he promotes “Chrislam,” a theological blend of Christianity and Islam, after stating in a December 2013 sermon, “Do you know – take it all the way back into the Old Testament and the Muslim and you, we actually serve the same God. Allah to a Muslim, to us Abba Father God.”

With a firestorm raging online among his critics for more than a week, the influential Sydney, Australian pastor of the 30,000-member Hillsong Church finally issued a statement Thursday night (or late Friday morning his time) regarding allegations that he was promoting “Chrislam.”

Hillsong Church tweeted a link to Pastor Brian Houston’s statement regarding allegations that he preached ‘Chrislam,’ a blending of Christianity and Islam.

“The spirit of the message was exactly the opposite of what some critics are claiming. If you listened to the message in its entirety, my point was that; who a Muslim extremist believes God is, determines what they believe God does, and what they believe God loves,” Pastor Houston insists in the statement, titled “Correction of Misinformation,” which can be read in full below.

Houston attributes his remarks about Muslims and Christians serving the same God made during the 2013 sermon, titled “Living for the Master’s Well Done, Part 1,” to a flubbed delivery. He also expressed doubt that critics would accept his clarification.

“Those propagating these false statements have taken one sentence from an entire message out of context. I realize that some critics WANT to believe their interpretation, but my prayer is that reasonable people will take my comment in context, accept my acknowledgment that I did not explain this sentence as I intended, and judge me on 40 years of pointing people to Jesus – not one sentence,” explains Houston, who recently joined U.S. megachurch pastor Bishop T.D. Jakes at his annual Pastors and Leadership Conference in Miami, Fla.

Original uploads of the Pentecostal pastor’s sermon appear to have been scrubbed from the Internet, although severalcopies were still easily found during a Web search. The troublesome part of Houston’s sermon has him stating:

“Do you know – take it all the way back into the Old Testament and the Muslim and you, we actually serve the same God. Allah to a Muslim, to us Abba Father God. And of course through history, those views have changed greatly. But let’s make sure that we view God through the eyes of Jesus, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the beauty of a Savior, the loving open inclusive arms of a loving God. And that way we’ll lead out of that and you’ll be purposeful about your leadership and you’ll draw people just like the Lord Jesus always does through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Hillsong Church Leader Brian Houston Teaches Chrislam from Now The End Begins on Vimeo.

Vimeo Hillsong Church founding pastor Brian C. Houston suggests Christians and Muslims worship the same God?

Critics have been questioning Houston since early last week when videos of his sermon started circulating. Houston’s accusers claim his remarks on Muslims and Christians indicates that the Assemblies of God leader preaches a Gospel other than the Christian one.

“If Brian Houston does indeed preach the Christian gospel as he claims, then he would know that the Muslim and Christian faiths are incompatible,” states the Hillsong Church Watch website in a viral post on Houston’s sermon. “But we know that he can’t preach the Christian gospel because he doesn’t know it. Brian Houston’s comment is just as offensive to Muslims as it is to Christians and is essentially doing more unjust damage to both faiths.”

The “watch” website, part of several self-declared discernment blogs targeting high-profile Christian leaders and their churches and ministries, states that it was started by “a group of concerned leaders, pastors and elders from various denominations around Australia on Facebook.”

While Islam acknowledges Jesus as a prophet, the Quran denies His deity as well as His crucifixion, an event essential to the Christian teaching on salvation. Despite other theological conflicts, such as the Christian confession of Jesus as the Son of God, advocates of “Chrislam” insist the two faiths are compatible.

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., also has been denying allegations for years that he practices or promotes the syncretistic teaching of “Chrislam,” a movement which reportedly started in the 1980s. Warren, calling the allegation “a lie that won’t die,” occasionally points concerned supporters to documents meant to clarify his fidelity to the Christian faith.

Rick Warren points a concerned supporter to documents challenging accusations that he practices in ‘Chrislam.’

Hillsong Church, founded in 1983 by Houston and his wife, Bobbie Houston, welcomes about 30,000 worshipers every weekend at 11 campuses scattered around the world, with a 12th in Los Angeles in development. In Australia, Hillsong has six campuses and twice as many extension services. The megachurch, also known for its mega-popular and award-winning worship band Hillsong United, states that its mission is “to reach and influence the world by building a large Christ-centered, Bible-based church, changing mindsets and empowering people to lead and impact in every sphere of life.” The Houstons, whose Hillsong Church is affiliated with the Australian Christian Churches (the Assemblies of God in Australia), have three adult children, also involved in ministry.

- christian post

Legal hurdles over Catholico’s trip to Damascus cleared

March 26, 2014 by admin  
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Patriarch Ignatius ZakkaKochi, March 25, 2014: Legal hurdles have been cleared for Catholicos Baselios Thomas I’s trip to Damascus to attend the funeral services of Ignatius Zakka- I, the supreme head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church, who passed away last week.

The trip had been put in trouble after the Judicial First Class Magistrate Court, Kolenchery, rejected the application to release the passport of the prelate, against whom there the court had earlier issued an arrest warrant. The passport of the Catholicos was surrendered following the arrest warrant issued against him by the court on petitions alleging fund misappropriation.

“The passport has been released on Monday following an application. The Catholicos will leave for Damascus as early as possible,” said Church authorities. Patriarch Zakka I died in Germany on Friday and the funeral is scheduled to be held in Damascus on Friday.

As per the protocol of the Syrian Orthodox Church, Catholicos Baselios Thomas I holds highest office after the patriarch. Therefore he is the prelate who is to preside over the funeral and the election of new patriarch thereafter. A 40-member delegation comprising priests, bishops and laymen will accompany the Catholicos.

- new indian express

 

Pope Francis expresses sorrow for the death of Patriarch Ignatius Zakka Iwas

Vatican, March 23, 2014: Pope Francis has sent a telegramme of condolences to the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antionch and all the East upon the death of Patriarch Ignatius Zakka Iwas who passed away in a German hospital on March 21, at the age of 80.
In his message, the Pope describes the Patriarch as “an outstanding spiritual leader who corageously led his people through very difficult times”.

Please find below the full text of the Pope’s message:
To the Locum Tenens Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East
With deep sorrow I have learned of the passing of His Holiness Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, father and chief pastor of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch and all the East, and I hasten to express to you, to the Bishops, clergy and lay faithful, my personal condolences and the prayerful closeness of all Catholics at this time of deeply-felt loss. The whole Christian world has lost one of its outstanding spiritual leaders, courageous and wise in leading people through very difficult times.

Following his election ad Patriarch in 1980 His Holiness was an engaged witness of the successive violent conflicts that have brought untold death and suffering to the Middle East, especially to Iraq and most recently Syria. His Holiness was a man of dialogue and peace with regard to the followers of all religious traditions. In particular I give heartfelt thanks to God for his constant work to improve relations among Christians and, from the time he attended the Second Vatican Council as an observer, for his extraordinary contribution to strengthening communion between Syrian Orthodox Christians and the Catholic faithful.

May the Almighty receive him into his kingdom and grant him eternal rest, and may the memory of his long and devoted service to the Church live on as a challenge and a stimulus to all.

-  news.va

Pope makes impassioned plea to Mafia members

March 25, 2014 by admin  
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pope francisRome, March 24, 2014: Surrounded by survivors of innocent people killed by the Mafia, Pope Francis made an emotional appeal to Italian gangsters to give up their lives of crime and avoid eternal damnation.

“Men and women of the Mafia, please change your lives, convert, stop doing evil,” the pope said at a prayer vigil March 21. “I ask on my knees and for your own good.

“This life you have now, it will not give you pleasure, it will not give you joy, it will not give you happiness,” the pope said. “The power, the money you have now from so many dirty deals, from so many Mafia crimes, blood-stained money, blood-stained power — you will not be able to take that with you to the other life.”

“There is still time not to end up in hell, which awaits you if you continue on this road,” Pope Francis said. “You had a papa and a mamma. Think of them, weep a little and convert.”

Every year since 1996, the Italian anti-Mafia group Libera has observed March 21, the first full day of spring, in memory of innocent victims of organized crime. According to the group, the approximately 700 people gathered with Pope Francis in a Rome church this year represented the families of an estimated 15,000 such victims across Italy.

In his greeting, Father Luigi Ciotti, founder of Libera, denounced the Mafia as the “assassin of hope” and recalled a range of its victims. The priest mentioned women caught up in human trafficking, people fallen ill owing to illegal disposal of toxic waste and even children, including Domenico Gabriele, an 11-year-old shot to death while playing soccer in 2009, and Nicola Campolongo, a 3-year old murdered in January, reportedly to avenge an unpaid drug debt.

Father Ciotti thanked the pope for coming, saying, “We thought we had found a father, we have also found a brother.”

The pope listened for about 45 minutes, head bowed and hands folded in prayer, as members of the congregation stepped up to the lectern and recited, in some cases with breaking voices, the names of people killed by the Mafia.

“Let us pray together to ask the strength to move ahead,” the pope said, “to be not discouraged but to continue to struggle against corruption.”

- catholic news service

A pontificate that is stirring the hearts of all Christians

March 21, 2014 by admin  
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Pope FrancisRome, March 19, 2014: ‘Among Christians, unity is always greater than conflict” was the title the Vatican News Service gave the conclusion of the 47th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I had the unforgettable privilege of attending the second vespers office for this week at St Paul’s Outside the Walls Basilica in Rome, with about 4,000 people. I accompanied Pope Francis and the Metropolitan Gennadios, the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and many other denominational representatives.

Pope Francis said that “perfect union among brothers and sisters can only come from looking to the mind and heart of Christ, who cannot be divided, who wants to draw us to himself, to the sentiments of his heart … to his radical self-emptying for love of humanity. Christ alone can be the principle, the cause and the driving force for our unity.”

Unexpectedly, and unforgettably, the Pope took the Metropolitan and myself, alone, down to the tomb of St Paul which is in the centre of the basilica. He held us by the elbows as he beckoned us to approach the grave, and then he indicated that we should bow, which we did for some minutes, the three of us, in that sacred space. Then we continued with Vespers.

At the end he took the two of us with him again and we greeted all the other Church representatives. After we had recessed together he embraced and kissed the two of us with a holy kiss. These actions of his were said to be unprecedented in recent memory in that liturgy and left a deep impression on the two of us. Surely these dramatic demonstrations of unexpected love are at the heart of the quest for unity.

Pope Francis was also being real when he said: “We have all been damaged by these divisions. None of us wishes to be the cause of scandal. And we are all journeying together, fraternally, on the road toward unity, bringing about unity even as we walk. That unity comes from the Holy Spirit and brings us something unique which only the Holy Spirit can do, that is, reconciling our differences. The Lord waits for us all, accompanies us all, and is with us all on this path to unity.”

What else do we need to say to each other? This is our text. This is our goal, and this is the spirituality for our ecumenism, from the lips of someone who walks his own talk all the time, and invites us to do the same. Let us walk together now, in every way we can. That is what the Anglican Centre in Rome is all about.
In the ecumenical encyclical Ut Unum Sint (“That they may be one”) John Paul II laid out a breathtaking vision of the way the world could be with a reunited Church. This letter appeals to all Christians of good conscience to consider what unity might look like in the light of our diversity, and ask for help in re-creating what was lost from Christ’s own undivided presence on earth.

Christ is not divided, so the closer we come to Him, and live and move and have our being in Him, the closer we come to each other. We are called to increase the degrees of communion we already share from our common baptism into the life of the triune God.

I also find in Pope Francis the witness I need to be an ecumenical and justice-seeking Christian in the world today. He has quickly become the most iconic moral authority in the world today, Why? Because he represents in himself the cumulative wisdom, experience and missiology of a Franciscan and Jesuit Christian. This is what we need as a guide to Christian living in a pluralistic, hedonist and information technology-driven world. The Pope challenges us to move out of our sanctuaries and our computer-bordered worlds into the streets with common compassion and solidarity with the poorest of the poor.

He wants us to rediscover there true humanity in Christ. So this is no popularity strategy, it is not a charm offensive by the Roman Catholic Church. This is deep witness from the heart of the Gospel. This witness connects with so many because we are all made in the image of God, however marred or soiled that image may be, and the image within us from our own creation, recognises the spirit of Christ in Pope Francis. This is not a human achievement, but a work of the Holy Spirit in the Church Catholic.

Joy, mission, conversion, diversity, poor, inclusive, decentralise: these are the main words on the cover illustration from a recent copy of the Tablet, derived from Pope Francis’s latest missive to the Church and the world. These are the words he uses to speak of his faith, his hope and his love. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, also uses this kind of language and this kind of approach to being Christian in the world at this time. This synergy of spirit is surely God-given and a means of much grace. This is what God’s Incarnation is like: the “Word” made flesh, Love incarnate, looks and feels and sounds like this.

Joy is the most obvious sounding here, because God’s reign of righteousness and justice is coming in, is coming among us, is born again in us, and is taking flesh among us, nearer than heartbeat, closer than breathing. And this Word comes to us as we are, where we are, gracing us with an unexpected gift to our souls and lives, even (and especially) if we don’t feel like or think we deserve it. This word is coming to us through the Bishop of Rome in these days.

It has been said that it was by a joyful generosity that the Church captured the imagination of Europe in the first place. This is what we are hearing and seeing again in these days of this remarkably transformative pontificate, building on the work and the hope of so many who came before.
The Most Rev David Moxon is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Holy See and director of the Anglican Centre in Rome

- archbishop david moxon

Vatican, Muslims & Anglicans sign anti-trafficking alliance

March 19, 2014 by admin  
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agreementVatican City, March 18, 2014: Agreement promises practical as well as spiritual initiatives.

Despite the best endeavors of so many in so many countries, modern slavery and human trafficking continue to expand. Victims are hidden away: in places of prostitution, in factories and farms, on fishing boats, and illegal establishments, in private homes behind locked doors and in myriad other places, in cities, villages and slums in the world’s richest nations and poorest nations.”

This was one of the opening reflections contained in an agreement to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking by 2020, presented at a press conference in the Holy See today. The agreement was signed by the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences on behalf of the Holy See and representatives of the Church of England and Sunni Islam. Significantly, a representative of Cairo’s Al-Azhar University was also present. The University had suspended dialogue with the Vatican in the past.

The Global Freedom Network’s signatories signed a joint declaration underlining that “the physical, economic and sexual exploitation of men, women and children condemns 30 million people to dehumanization and degradation. Every day we let this tragic situation continue is a grievous assault on our common humanity and a shameful affront to the consciences of all peoples.” Global Freedom Network is the name of the initiative launched in collaboration with the Walk Free Foundation.

“Any indifference to those suffering exploitation must cease. Only by activating, all over the world, the ideals of faith and of shared human values can we marshal the spiritual power, the joint effort and the liberating vision to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking from our world and for all time.”

… The agreement that was signed today promises initiatives of a spiritual nature – “prayer, fasting and alms giving”, a world day of prayer for the victims and for their freedom” and dedicated prayer networks [that] will be formed in all parts of the world” – as well as other more practical ones.

For example: “Action plans for the first year will be developed to engage: “All global faiths to modern slavery-proof their supply chains and investments and to take remedial action if necessary; All global faiths to mobilize their youth sections to support programmes to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking; Families, schools, universities, congregations and institutions to educate on the nature of modern slavery and human trafficking, how to report it and the destructiveness of harmful social attitudes and prejudices and social systems in relation to modern slavery and human trafficking; Government leaders to modern slavery-proof public sector supply chains; 50 major multi-national businesses whose CEOs are people of faith or of goodwill to commit to modern slavery-proof their supply chains; 162 governments to publicly endorse the establishment of the Global Fund to End Slavery, with 30 heads of state publicly endorsing it by the end of 2014; The G20 to condemn modern slavery and human trafficking and adopt an anti-slavery and human trafficking initiative and support the above mentioned Global Fund.”

- vatican insider

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