Did Jesus of Nazareth really rise from the dead? Lee Strobel, Apologists Plan to present latest historical evidence at Live Simulcast
North America, March 07, 2014: At an upcoming live simulcast event, three of the best teachers and speakers in apologetics and biblical hermeneutics, Lee Strobel, Mark Mittelberg, and Michael Licona, plan to give their answer to the question: Did Jesus of Nazareth really rise from the dead?
“The Case for Easter” event will be simulcast on the evening of Sunday, April 6, and hosted by churches all around North America, Strobel, who wrote the book by the same name, told The Christian Post via email recently.
“The resurrection, of course, is a linchpin of the Christian faith,” Strobel writes. “As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:17: ‘If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, you’re still in your sins.’
“This event will present the latest historical evidence for this pivotal event that happened 2,000 years ago. It will be based on my book The Case for Easter, but it will go far beyond that by addressing today’s most potent objections to the resurrection.”
Strobel said he will be presenting a fresh talk that will set forth the affirmative evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. Then, he and Mittelberg will be interacting with Licona, a historian, on the current objections that are being offered by skeptics. “Dr. Licona is one of the leading resurrection scholars in the world and has debated atheist scholars on the topic,” Strobel said. The three experts will also be taking questions from people watching at churches across the U.S.
Organizers point out that of the many world religions, only one claims that its founder returned from the grave. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the very cornerstone of Christianity.
“When you get down to the actual meaning of Easter,” Mittelberg told CP, “you realize it comes with some big claims – ones that many people have never thought much about. Like: Did Jesus really die and come back from the dead three days later? How can we know? Is there really enough evidence for me to have a confident belief in this extraordinary claim? How can we be sure these weren’t just fanciful stories from fanatical followers of Jesus?”
He adds, “What a lot of people don’t realize is that this Easter claim is not just a story, it’s an event of history that was seen and recorded by those who were there and who know what really happened – some of whom were skeptical themselves until confronted with the facts. And these eyewitnesses wrote down what they saw – as the apostle John puts it:
“‘That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life … We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.’ – 1 John 1:1,3.”
Strobel, who also wrote The Case for Christ and The Case for the Real Jesus, said that skeptics have heightened their objections to the resurrection in recent years, even making the claim that Christians stole the idea of the resurrection from earlier mythology.
“Muslims assert, based on the teachings of the Qur’an, that Jesus never died on the cross and therefore was never resurrected,” Strobel noted. “Skeptics charge that miracles are impossible and therefore Jesus could not have risen from the dead. Some claim that the post-resurrection sightings of Jesus were hallucinations or a form of wish fulfillment by the disciples. The current movie ‘Son of God’ is prompting a lot of questions on why Christians are convinced Jesus really is divine.”
When he was an atheist, Strobel said he began investigating Christianity, and recognized immediately that the key was whether Jesus really returned from the dead.
“Anyone can claim to be divine, as Jesus did in several direct and indirect ways, but Jesus has unique credibility if he backed that up by conquering the grave,” he said. “In the end, the persuasive historical evidence for the resurrection was a major factor in me coming to faith in Christ. After all, the resurrection clearly can be investigated historically: was Jesus alive at Point A? Was he executed at Point B? And was he alive again at Point C?
“These are issues that can be checked out – and that’s what we will be doing in this simulcast. This is essentially what I did when I was the legal editor of The Chicago Tribune. I checked out stories to see whether the evidence backed them up. The resurrection of Jesus, in a sense, was the biggest story I ever covered as a journalist!”
Strobel said that almost two million people have already read The Case for Easter. “This event offers a special opportunity for churches to present the historical evidence for the resurrection in a compelling and easy-to-understand format,” he explained.
This simulcast gives churches a turn-key outreach event, say Strobel and Mittelberg. “They can promote it in their community by inviting Christians and spiritual seekers,” Strobel said. “The question-and-answer feature will give the event an interactive feel.”
The event will be live from Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (www.chcc.org). Churches can sign up to participate at www.incastevents.com.
Strobel and Licona are both professors at Houston Baptist University. Strobel has a Master of Studies in Law degree from Yale Law School and is the New York Times best-selling author of more than 20 books. Licona is co-author (with Gary Habermas) of the award-winning The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. He earned his doctorate at the University of Pretoria in South Africa based on the historical evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. Mittelberg is the best-selling author of Confident Faith, which this week was named winner of Outreach magazine’s apologetics book of the year. He also wroteThe Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask and The Reason Why Faith Makes Sense. He has a master’s degree in philosophy of religion from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
A short video explaining the event, as well as more details and information on how churches can participate, can be found at www.incastevents.com.
Thie event is the latest in a series of live simulcasts hosted by The Institute at Cherry Hills, an evangelism and apologetics ministry at Cherry Hills Community Church in the Denver area. Hundreds of churches around the country have participated in such previous events as “Unpacking Islam,” “Unpacking Atheism” and “The Case for Christianity.” Strobel and Mittelberg are co-directors of the Institute, along with Garry Poole and Blake LaMunyon.
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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.
USA, March 06, 2014: What is it, who is it for, what is its history and how best to observe it. Lent is that time of year when Catholics smear ash on their foreheads and give up eating chocolate or checking Facebook or watching television, right? That may be the basic view from the outside, but for those who observe it, the season of Lent is a period of penitence that prepares the heart for the celebration of Easter — Christ’s resurrection.
And it’s not the exclusive domain of Catholics. This season of self-examination and self-denial has found favor with Mainline Protestant and evangelical churches, too.
What is Lent?
The word Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, meaning “spring.” It is a contemplative six-week period of fasting that begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes on Holy Thursday with the start of the Triduum (the three-day period including Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday), though the fast continues through Holy Saturday. The period covers 46 days, though in the Western tradition, the six Sundays of Lent are not included as fasting days. These days of Christian Sabbath are instead feast days, bringing the total days of observance to 40.
The regulations of the fast have changed with time. These days, Catholics are obligated to fast (eating only one meal per day) and abstain (meaning no meat) on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, as well as abstaining from meat each Friday of the season. Choosing to give up candy or Facebook is just that — a choice. The Catholic Church does not regulate these added penitential practices.
If you’re Catholic (or just Christian-curious) and need a guide, the United States Council of Catholic Bishops created a Lenten calendar, which highlights the essence of season: give up, take up, lift up. Give up material possessions, take up charitable habits, and lift up those in need.The origins of Lent
Lent traces its roots back to the ancient Christian church of the first century. Originally, it was a two-day fast beginning on Good Friday and intended for those preparing for baptism. The 40-day fast has its clearest roots in a discussion at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.
Initially, the observance of the fast was quite strict, with dairy products and eggs also being removed from the table. (Many Christians, especially those in Catholic and Orthodox traditions, continue to adhere to such stricter fasts.) But with the passing of centuries, more emphasis was placed on almsgiving and prayer, resulting in loosened definitions of fasting and abstinence.
Lent can also be thanked (or blamed, depending on one’s perspective) for that raucous celebration now characterized by colorful beads and drunkenness (especially in New Orleans) known as Mardi Gras (literally “Fat Tuesday” in French). It was originally the “last hurrah” during which all the fat in the house was eaten up before the beginning of the fast on Ash Wednesday.Why 40 days?
In the Bible, 40 is an important number for preparation and testing used to draw the believer closer to God. Some examples:
Exodus 34: Moses sat atop Mount Sinai with God for 40 days, without food or water, writing on tablets the covenant known as the Ten Commandments.
Exodus 16: The Israelites suffered 40 years, eating only manna, until they reached the Promised Land.
Mark 4: Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness, fasting and being tempted by the devil.
Who is Lent for?
Though people generally assume Lent is just observed by Roman Catholics, it is also a standard practice in many Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican, and even evangelical churches.
Still, many Protestants reject the observance of Lent in part because it is nowhere mentioned in the Bible. Many view it as a legalistic practice that emphasizes “salvation by works,” which is thought to be a Catholic doctrine.
When Protestants split from the Catholic Church after the Reformation, many left behind the practices of Lent. Ulrich Zwingli, a Swiss reformer, led one of the initial protests against Lenten traditions in 1522, arguing that its rules were centered on obeying Rome rather than the gospel.
Martin Luther, the influential Protestant reformer, helped rethink Lenten practices and spoke out against the theology that “good works” could cancel out sin. As per one of hisLenten sermons:
But the worst of all is that we have adopted and practiced fasting as a good work: not to bring our flesh into subjection; but, as a meritorious work before God, to atone for our sins and obtain grace. And it is this that has made our fasting a stench and so blasphemous and shameful, so that no drinking and eating, no gluttony and drunkenness, could have been as bad and foul. It would have been better had people been drunk day and night than to fast thus.
John Calvin, another influential reformer, also criticized Lent as a “superstitious observance” in his Institutes of the Christian Religion. He wrote that Christ’s 40-day fast wasn’t intended to be a model: “It was therefore merely false zeal, replete with superstition, which set up a fast under the title and pretext of imitating Christ.”
An evangelical case for Lent
Charles Colson, Watergate “hatchet man” turned evangelical leader, was one of many evangelical leaders to embrace Lent anew in the contemporary era. While many have practiced it, according to Colson, “as a season for giving up chocolate or other extras in order to show God how much we love him,” Colson stressed that Lent is a time of “gospel-centered piety.”
Lenten fasting isn’t about earning God’s favor, he said, “but rather emphasizes simplicity for the sake of others.”
Likewise, Protestant theologian Steven R. Harmon was raised Baptist and assumed that Catholics saw Lent as a requirement for salvation. But while attending seminary, he discovered the Christian calendar. He argues that since Baptists already observe a calendar that contains unbiblical observances, including the two feasts of Christmas and Easter that are of patristic origin, observing Lent should be no problem.
Indeed, Harmon believes that Baptists should observe Lent, as it can “help them take up the cross and follow Christ in the midst of a suffering world.”
Why Ash Wednesday?
“Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return.”
That phrase, derived from Genesis 3:19, is what priests often recite as they mark believers’ foreheads with the cross of ash. (Priests may also recite: “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.”) Traditionally, burned palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday service are used to make the ashes. (The New Testament records that a crowd waved palm branches, crying “Hosanna!” as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.)
In biblical times, ashes were used to express penitence for sins committed. Job repents“in dust and ashes,” Jeremiah tells the Israelites to “roll in ashes; mourn with bitter wailing,” and Daniel turns to God in prayer, fasting and “in sackcloth and ashes.”
The ashes are not intended to be a “holy mark,” but are instead a public acknowledgment of one’s sin and mortality. The shape of the cross reminds believers of their hope in Jesus, who conquered death.
How can you observe Lent?
Fasting, praying, almsgiving: those are the pillars of traditional Lenten observance. Here are a few ways you can observe Lent, whether you’ve been doing it for years now or this is your first attempt.
If you’re not into the idea of fasting for six weeks, you can consider adding a spiritual discipline to your life. The folks at Bible Gateway suggest the following: choose a theme to center daily prayers on for each day of Lent, donate time to a homeless shelter, or start a Bible reading plan — there’s even one to help you complete the Gospels in 40 days.
If you’re set on giving something up, make it something that you’ll notice — something you may be turning into an idol. Mark Roberts writes about his experience with fasting, and how it can raise awareness of how much we rely on things instead of relying on God.
For all Christians who observe it, Lent is intended to deepen one’s appreciation of Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice. It’s a period of penitence in preparation for the celebration of Easter. In the words of Pope Francis: “Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance.”
- on faith
USA, March 01, 2014: While “Noah” may or may not be having a hard time winning over Christian audiences, “Son of God,” in theaters this weekend, appears to be enjoying the favor of the faithful nationwide. But can the new PG-13 Jesus film unseat 2004′s “The Passion of the Christ” as the top-grossing Christian film of all time?
Christian producers Mark Burnett (“Survivor,” “The Voice”) and Roma Downey (“Touched by an Angel”) have rallied the same network of powerful and influential Christian leaders that in 2013 got behind their History Channel miniseries, “The Bible,” for a “Theater Take-Over” campaign in anticipation of the nationwide release of “Son of God,” a pared-down theatrical version of the series’ Jesus narrative.
A who’s-who of evangelical Christian leaders, like Joel Osteen, Craig Groeschel, Miles McPherson and T.D. Jakes to name a few, have signed on to support “Son of God,” buying out theater screens and distributing nearly half a million tickets. Archbishop Jose Gomez, whose Archdiocese of Los Angeles represents 4 million Roman Catholics, has also signed on to help promote the film, which stars Downey, also a Roman Catholic, as Jesus’ mother, Mary.
In addition to theater buyouts and mass ticket distributions, some supporters, such as Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren, are using “Son of God” in their churches as a teaching and preaching tool. Warren has developed his own related Bible study, titled “Son of God: The Life of Jesus in You Leader Kit.”
“The Bible” miniseries, using the same kind of grassroots effort, drew in more than 100 million viewers during its telecast on the History Channel. The five-part miniseries also became the top-selling TV series of all time across Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital HD formats, a boon for distributor 20th Century Fox, also distributing “Son of God.”
Boxoffice magazine, a film industry staple since 1920, predicts that “Son of God” will pull in $13 million during its opening weekend, and gross $42 million total from domestic audiences. In comparison, “The Passion of the Christ” grossed $83.8 million in its premiere weekend, the turnout “fueled by an unprecedented media frenzy and religious fervor,” according to Box Office Mojo. Private church group screenings accounted for about $3 million of its opening day figure.
“It feels like around $12 million, maybe $15 million,” Chris Aronson, head of distribution at Fox, told The Wrap of his estimates for opening weekend. “But honestly, because of the faith-based element, we just don’t know, so it wouldn’t shock me if it did $25 million.”
“If a movie is really to take off, the way for instance ‘The Passion of the Christ’ did, you need to kind of hit a lot more people than just church groups that are going to see the movie,” Boxoffice.com Vice President and Chief Analyst Phil Contrino told The Christian Post.
Even with 500,000 tickets sold ahead of its weekend premiere, Contrino said it was difficult to tell how that might transfer into a monetary figure, although The Hollywood Reporter suggests that it’s almost $4 million in box office revenue.
“Let me put it this way, it’s a great start. Anytime a movie can sell half-a-million tickets before it’s even open … every movie would love to be able to say they’ve done that. But in terms of the big picture and how much it’s going to gross, it’s really hard to tell because with that you’re dealing with the passionate Christian fanbase that really wants to come out to support a movie like this.”
To predict “Son of God’s” potential figures, Boxoffice.com considered historical data, comparing “The Bible” series’ theatrical spinoff to other films aimed at religious audiences, current competition, and other factors.
“There’s a lot of strong movies in the marketplace right now so that has an impact on everything new that opens,” explained Contrino.
Does he think “Son of God” has the potential to surpass in sales “The Passion of the Christ,” which grossed more than $611 million worldwide?
“I don’t think it’s going to get anywhere near where ‘The Passion of the Christ’ did. The fact that they took footage that was already from the TV miniseries ‘The Bible …’ and ‘The Passion of the Christ’ was such a unique event that tapped into the desire to see that kind of a movie, it’s hard to mimic that, especially when you’re telling essentially the same story. So no I don’t think it will get anywhere close.”
“The Passion of the Christ” marks 10 years this week since its Feb. 25 Ash Wednesday release. The film, which received the same kind of Christian grassroots support as “Son of God,” proved controversial among critics for its graphic depiction of Christ’s (Jim Caviezel) torture and crucifixion and perceived “anti-Semitic” portrayal of Jesus’ Jewish antagonists.
MovieGuide, dubbed the “Christian Oscars,” raved at the time that “The Passion of the Christ” was a “masterpiece” and “a must-see movie, beautifully directed, powerfully acted, and with terrific sound.” The film went on to receive MovieGuide awards for being the “Most Inspiring Movie” and for lead actor Jim Caviezel’s “Most Inspiring Movie Acting.” In February, at its annual awards gala, MovieGuide blessed Downey with a Grace Award for her portrayal of Mary in “The Bible” miniseries.
For his part, Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman thinks it’s a disservice to “Son of God” to even compare it to “The Passion of the Christ,” and said he personally hopes the former will be an “antidote” to the latter film. The ADL director, who is honoring Burnett and Downey with a special dinner on May 8 and provided them input after “The Bible” series aired, was among “The Passion of the Christ’s” most vocal critics.
“Gibson bloodied the Jews by portraying them as such villains,” Foxman told The Wrap this week.
As for “Son of God,” he finds that it is “the most sensitive, caring depiction of the story of Jesus that I have ever seen. The producers have done everything possible to put the events into historical, political and psychological context.”
Foxman, who said he hopes “Son of God” replaces “The Passion of the Christ” as the go-to Jesus film, added, “It’s not perfect, but it’s done with the proper sensitivity and perspective and I would hope that for future generations, ‘Son of God’ will be the vehicle used to teach that part of history.”
“The Passion of The Christ” is not only the world’s top-grossing Christian film, but the R-rated movie also is ranked as the most controversial, according to Box Office Mojo, and was considered the most violent by some film critics, titles the “Son of God” filmmakers perhaps wouldn’t want to own although controversy would certainly draw a bigger crowd this weekend.
But even if “Son of God” does manage to overtake “The Passion of the Christ” during opening weekend and onward, both could potentially be eclipsed by Darren Aronofsky’s upcoming ”Noah”epic, despite the film reportedly not being “biblical” enough for some Christian audiences.
“If anything, I think the one movie that you can compare to ‘The Passion of the Christ’ opening this year would be ‘Noah’ potentially,” said Contrino of Boxoffice.com. “That could be a big film, and would get a lot closer to what ‘The Passion of the Christ’ did than ‘Son of God’ will.”
“The Son of God” opens in theaters Friday, Feb. 28 on more than 3,000 screens nationwide. Diogo Morgado stars as Jesus. “Noah,” starring Russell Crowe as the Old Testament figure, premieres Friday, March 28.
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Bhubaneswar, Febraury 27, 2014: In a jolt to CBI, a trial court here on Wednesday acquitted Ghanashyam Mohanta and Ranjan Mohanta, whom the investigating agency had chargesheeted along with 16 others in the killing of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two minor sons in Keonjhar’s Manoharpur village in 1999.
Staines and his sons Timothy, 6, and Phillip, 10, were burnt alive on the night of January 22, while they were sleeping in a van at Manoharpur village. Though prime accused Dara Singh and his aide Mahendra Hembram are now serving life sentence after being convicted in 2003, Ghanashyam and Ranjan were arrested in May last year.
CBI’s senior public prosecutor Kali Charan Mishra was not available for comment. Defence lawyer Bana Mohanty said the accused were acquitted for lack of evidence. “The prosecution failed to establish the murder charge against them. The accused are innocent and were falsely implicated,” Mohanty told TOI.
On January 24 this year, Staines’ wife Gladys, who had in the past said she had forgiven the killers of her family members, could not identify Ghanashyam and Ranjan during the trial here.
Earlier, 13 people were arrested for allegedly killing Staines and his two sons. Gladys recently said she harboured no bitterness towards the killers. Staines family had opened a leprosy home at Baripada and was into missionary activities in Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar districts.
On September 22, 2003, a trial court here had awarded death sentence to Dara and life imprisonment to twelve other accused, including Hembram, in connection with the assassination.
However, the Orissa high court on May 19, 2005, commuted Dara’s capital punishment to lifer. Same day the HC upheld Hembram’s life imprisonment and acquitted 11. Challenging the HC order, the CBI had subsequently moved the Supreme Court, seeking death penalty for Dara, but the apex court, in its ruling on January 21, 2011 upheld the HC directive.
Dubai, February 27, 2014: Saint Mary’s is one of seven parishes in the UAE and its congregation is overwhelmingly made up of Indian and Filipino immigrants.
The church has space to seat at least 1,700 people – certainly more than most churches in the Western world. Yet despite this vast interior, the church is nevertheless sometimes too small for the assembled congregation, for there will often be as many as 2,000 people here – even on a weekday.
When there is no space left inside the church, Holy Mass is relayed via loudspeakers and projectors on giant screens in the open square in front of the church.
Incredibly, on major feast days, somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 Catholic faithful will throng this square, filling the parish grounds.
The land for the parish was granted to the parish in 1966 by the Emir, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum. In addition to the church, the grounds also contain the presbytery, the convent for a congregation of religious sisters, a school and a small sports ground.
The present Church building dates from the year 1989 however, although a church was built an year after the land was handed over.
The parish priest, Capuchin Father Tomasito Veneracion, estimates that there are somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000 Catholics living in the parish, much more than the Catholics in some of the northern Indian dioceses.
Father Tomasito, along with nine brother priests from various different countries, takes care of the parish.
Saint Mary’s is one of seven parishes in the UAE and its congregation is overwhelmingly made up of Indian and Filipino immigrants. In fact 85% of the population of the emirate of Dubai are foreigners.
These migrant workers most often leave behind their families back in their home and in most cases it is just one of the parents who has emigrated.
The men are frequently employed on building sites, the women in the hospitals or as housemaids. There are around 400,000 Filipinos living in the UAE amid a total population of around 9 million.
“In this state of temporary emigration, the Church becomes a sort of second home. As a result, in the handful of parishes that we have here, the parish grounds become a kind of meeting place, both in a spiritual and a human sense”, Bishop Paul Hinder, the apostolic vicar for southern Arabia, explained in an interview with a representative of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
Kazakhstan, February 19, 2014: Kazakh pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumayev has been convicted of harming the health of a church member, despite her insistence to the contrary.
On Monday (17 February), the pastor of Grace Church in the capital, Astana, was given a four-year prison term suspended for three years and ordered to pay his supposed victim, Lyazzat Almenova, “moral damages” of two million Tenge (£6,500; US$10,800).
The 67-year-old was freed after nine months’ imprisonment. He will appeal against the verdict.
His lawyer, Nurlan Beysekeyev, told Forum 18 News Service that it was one of the strangest cases he had seen in terms of legality, saying that “all types of violations occurred”.
Pastor Kashkumbayev was accused of causing psychiatric harm to Lyazzat by her sister; earlier reports said that the case against him had been brought by the woman’s mother. Lyazzat was forcibly held in a psychiatric hospital where she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. But she has repeatedly insisted that she is healthy and called for the case against the church leader to be dropped.
Further charges were brought against Pastor Kashkumbayev; he was accused of harming the health of another church member, leading a religious organisation that harms individuals’ health and two counts of “religious extremism”. All but the first additional charge were subsequently dropped. The pastor’s lawyer has warned that a new criminal case could be launched against him.
The legal status of Grace Church may also be under threat. It has long been subjected to state hostility.
- barnabas team
Vatican City, February 17, 2014: Couples are urged not to be afraid of difficulties ahead.
Signs of affection were as common as signs of the cross in St. Peter’s Square on Friday as couples from around the world attended a special Valentine’s Day gathering with Pope Francis.
Some 25,000 people engaged to be married were invited to the unprecedented event. But as news of the gathering spread, couples of all ages, including many elderly who have been married for decades, flocked to the square.
They kissed, hugged and held hands as they listened to the pope urge them to have the courage to make lasting choices and shun what he called a throw-away culture.
“Today, many people are afraid to make lasting choices. Making choices that last your whole life seems impossible but it can be done,” he said.
For Bruno and Rita De Petris, that was like preaching to the converted. They have been married for 45 years and said they came to the square because they still feel like young lovers. “We wanted to be here because we feel that marriage is a special part of life,” Rita said.
The pope delivered a mostly improvised speech to the couples and underscored his point that they should not be afraid of the difficulties that they might encounter. He even took a dig at mothers-in-law.
“We all know the perfect family does not exist. The perfect husband does not exist and the perfect wife does not exist,” he said. Then, after pausing as if for comic effect, he added: “Let’s not even talk about perfect mothers-in-law.” The crowd roared with laughter.
February 14, 2014: In the first meeting of its kind, members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom met with the European Parliament’s working group on freedom of religion or belief to explore opportunities for trans-Atlantic and international cooperation.
“One nation speaking alone may just be accused of name-calling, but many nations speaking together will certainly have an effect, and that’s what we hope to see,” said Commissioner Mary Ann Glendon of U.S. foreign policy positions toward religious freedom.
Heiner Bielefeldt, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on freedom of religion, delivered the keynote speech Wednesday (Feb. 12) at the European Parliament in Brussels. He noted increased interest in religious freedom in recent years but said that the topic is often viewed with unease or suspicion.
“Freedom of expression, being the epitome of liberal rights, is seen as a green light for provocation,” Bielefeldt said.
Freedom of religion, on the other hand, is often considered a stop sign. In Bielefeldt’s view, this “misguided” assumption stems from religious defamation, hate speech, blasphemy and apostasy being used to stifle expression.
Dennis de Jong and Peter van Dalen, co-presidents of the EU working group, discussed the group’s first annual report on freedom of religion in the world. They argued that religious freedom should be given more prominence in EU foreign policy and gave recommendations for 15 countries where the situation is particularly dire.
“In Egypt, Coptic Christians must be able to freely and safely practice their faith. In Pakistan, we demand that hate speech be scrapped from school books, in particular where they are subsidized by the EU. In India, we’d like to see states that have introduced anti-conversion legislation repeal those provisions,” van Dalen said.
In its 2013 report, the U.S. commission recommended that the State Department re-designate Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan as countries of particular concern for religious freedom. The body also recommended that Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam be added to this list.
Katrina Lantos Swett, vice chair at USCIRF, outlined specific restrictions and incidents of torture, detention and harassment against faith groups in these and other countries.
“In Russia, host of the grand spectacle of the Sochi Olympics, conditions continue to worsen as the government uses extremism laws against certain Muslim groups and so-called nontraditional religious communities, particularly Jehovah’s Witnesses, through raids, detentions and imprisonment,” she said.
Lantos Swett praised President Obama’s remarks on international religious freedom at last week’s National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.
“The United States cannot and should not do this work alone,” she said. “We are better and stronger when we work together.”
- religion news
Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Catholicos, head of the Syro-Malankara Church, has been elected president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) at its 31st plenary session being held at Pala, near here, a press note has said.
He is the sixth person to be elected from Kerala to the august office and succeeds Cardinal Oswald Gracias who has completed his term.
Born into a middleclass family at Mukkoor in Pathanamthitta district on June 15, 1959, the Catholicos is the youngest Cardinal.
His Episcopal life began as auxiliary bishop of Thiruvananthapuram in 2001 and was elevated as Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Church six years later.
Mar Cleemis was elevated as Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI on November 29, 2012. At present president of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC), the Cardinal had functioned as vice-president of the CBCI in 2006.
Archbishop Andrews Thazhath of Thrissur is the first vice-president and Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao of Goa the second vice-president of the CBCI. The secretary general of the CBCI Archbishop Albert D’Souza of Agra will continue in his present capacity.
The demand for a resident bishop for the CBCI will be realised soon, according the official spokesperson of the CBCI Joseph Chinnayyan. The meeting also elected chairmen to the various commissions under the CBCI.
Mar Joseph Kallarangattu, Bishop of Pala, has been re-elected as chairman of the Commission for Doctrine, while Bishop Joshua Mar Ignatius has been elected chairman of the Commission for Education and Culture.
Other commission chairmen are Bishop Salvatore Lobo (Commission for Social Communication), Archbishop Felix Anthony Machado (Commission for Dialogue and Ecumenism), Archbishop Prakash Mallavarappu (Commission on Health Care), Bishop Jerald Almeida (Commission for Justice, Peace and Development), Bishop Oswald Lewis (Commission on Labour), Bishop Anthonisamy Neethinathan (Commission on Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes), Bishop Vincent Barwa (Commission on Tribal Affairs), and Bishop Anil Joseph Thomas Couto (Commission on Clergy and Religious Vocations).
The Postal Department issued a commemorative stamp in memory of the 31 plenary session.
The stamp was released by Bishop Kallarangattu at a function at Bharananganam on Tuesday.
- the hindu