AUSTRALIAN  PRAYER  NETWORK  NEWSLETTER – INTERNATIONAL NEWS 10th FEBRUARY 2014

  • DON’T HAVE CHILDREN UNLESS YOU ARE READY TO MARRY, SAYS JUDGE
  • SRI LANKA: CHRISTIAN PROTESTS AFTER ATTACKS BY BUDDHIST EXTREMISTS
  • COURT RESTORES INDIA’S BAN ON HOMOSEXUAL SEX
  • FRANCE ON THE ROAD TO CRIMINALIZE PROSTITUTION
  • POPE SETS UP COMMITTEE TO FIGHT CHILD SEX ABUSE IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
  • VIETNAM: REVISED CONSTITUTION FAILS TO ANSWER CALLS FOR REFORM
  • FUNDING OF EMBRYONIC STEMCELL RESEARCH DOWN DRAMATICALLY / ADULT STEMCELL USE PREFERRED

DON’T HAVE CHILDREN UNLESS YOU ARE READY TO MARRY, SAYS JUDGE

Couples should not have children if their relationship is not stable enough to merit getting married, a senior High Court judge has said. Sir Paul Coleridge said those couples whose relationship was stable enough to cope with the rigours of child rearing should marry. But the judge, who is retiring from the bench this year after decades as a family lawyer and judge, said those who did not feel ready for children should not have them. He said couples had no right to have children, “you only have responsibilities if you have them”. Sir Paul criticised warring parents’ obsessions with their own “rights” instead of their responsibilities to do the best for their children. 

His comments came after his Marriage Foundation think-tank published research suggesting children whose parents were not married were twice as likely to suffer a family break-up as those whose parents were married. The Office for National Statistics reported last year that the proportion of children born to unmarried mothers in England and Wales reached a record 47.5%. This means that as many as 346,595 babies were born outside marriage or civil partnerships in England and Wales. It has risen from 25% in 1988. If the trend continues it is estimated that more than half of all children will be born out of wedlock by 2016. 

The 2011 Census found the number of married people in England and Wales had fallen from just over half the population a decade ago to 45%. This is the first time since 1801 that married couples have been in the minority. Sir Paul, who sits in the High Court, said there was a “high level of ignorance” in the political establishment about the benefits of marriage. He praised Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, who has pressed for tax breaks for married couples, as one of the few willing to advocate the virtues of marriage. Sir Paul said that his decision to step down this year was at least in part driven by the lack of support within the judiciary for his views. 

He said he did not think politicians were “afraid” to speak in favour of marriage but many of them believed marriage and cohabitation were equivalent. “There is this idea that it doesn’t make any difference whether you cohabit or marry, to which I say, — except that one tends to last and the other tends not to last,” he said. “When you are considering what is best for children, stability is the name of the game.” He said that he was not intending to “preach morality”. “But the reality of the family is very simple,” he said. “If your relationship is stable enough to cope with the rigours of child rearing then you should consider adding the protection of marriage to your relationship. 

“If your relationship is not stable enough to cope with children you should not have them. You have a responsibility – you have no right to have children, you only have responsibilities if you have them. “In the courts people talk about their rights – you have no right where children are concerned … what you have are responsibilities and duties to do the best you can for them.” He made clear he was not saying people should not have children unless they were prepared to marry. He said: “I don’t think they should have children until they are sure that their relationship is stable enough to cope with the stresses and strains.”

Source: UK Telegraph

 

SRI LANKA: CHRISTIAN PROTESTS AFTER ATTACKS BY BUDDHIST EXTREMISTS

More than 2,000 Christians have gathered in Colombo to protest against a perceived lack of religious freedom in Sri Lanka, following recent attacks on Christian places of worship by Buddhist extremists. Two churches and a Christian prayer centre were attacked on January 12 by Buddhist mobs claiming they were illegal and aiming to take Buddhists away from their religion. The prayer centre, belonging to the Church of the Foursquare Gospel in Pitipana, near Colombo, was set alight on the same day as attacks on the Assemblies of God Church and Calvary Free Church in the southern coastal town of Hikkaduwa. 

The fire was quelled in Pitipana before the centre was completely destroyed. A note was left outside the building, threatening further violence. Both churches in Hikkaduwa suffered extensive damage, with windows and furniture smashed and Bibles burned. The Assemblies of God Church had been one of three churches attacked on Christmas Eve and had been warned on January 11 of the threat of a new attack. Several policemen were stationed outside the church on January 12, but they failed to prevent a mob of around 250 people breaking through the gates of the church. A police spokesman said that 24 suspects were identified and would face trial.

Addressing the crowd of Christians at the Cathedral of Christ the Living Saviour in Colombo, Anglican bishop Dhiloraj Canagasabey asked for the country’s Christians to be allowed to enjoy the freedoms promised in the national constitution. “The freedom of thought, conscience, religion and association should be available to all religious communities,” said the bishop. “We expect the rule of law to be upheld and worry about hate speech and hate mongering against non-majority faith communities. Christian communities face hardships in educating children with many children compelled to study the majority [Buddhist] religion, a clear violation of our religious rights.” 

The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka has reported a spate of other incidents in January that have heaped pressure on Sri Lanka’s churches. The alliance said police questioned the pastors of several churches whether their churches were authorised, and in some cases were warned not to meet due to threats from Buddhist monks. The Pastors Fellowship in Vavuniya, northern Sri Lanka, and the Church of Grace in Warakapola, both faced questions by the police. Meanwhile, the house of the pastor of the Rathgama Christian Church, near Hikkaduwa, was vandalised and threats were made against the Suveya Doratuwa Church in Bibile, eastern Sri Lanka. 

In a country dominated by Buddhists, the Christian (7%) and Muslim (10%) minorities have long complained of discrimination and attacks. The government has announced plans to introduce regulations against publications that defame the major religions. The legislation has been likened to the controversial “anti-conversion laws” in neighbouring India. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom,  said that “while intended to reduce forced conversions and decrease communal violence, states with these laws have higher incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence against religious minorities, particularly Christians, than states that do not”.

Source: Anglican Communion News Service

 

COURT RESTORES INDIA’S BAN ON HOMOSEXUAL SEX

Same-sex activity has become illegal again in India after the Indian Supreme Court ruled that a colonial-era law banning homosexual sex should not have been struck down. The ruling reverses a landmark judgment by a lower court, which in 2009 decided that an 1861 law that forbids “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with man, woman or animal” was unconstitutional. The 19th century law, passed by the British, makes homosexual sex punishable by 10 years in prison. Only Parliament can change that law, the Supreme Court ruled. There is almost no chance that Parliament will act where the Supreme Court did not, advocates and opponents of the law agreed.

With the Bharatiya Janata Party, a conservative Hindu nationalist group, appearing in ascendancy before national elections, the prospects of any legislative change happening for years is highly unlikely, analysts said. Anjali Gopalan, founder of a charity that sued to overturn the 1861 law, said she was “shocked” by the ruling. “The Supreme Court has not just let down the LGBT community,” Ms. Gopalan said, referring to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders, “but the constitution of India.”  On the other hand S.Q.R. Ilyas, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, which had filed a petition in the case asking that the lower court ruling be reversed, praised the ruling.

“These relationships are unethical as well as unnatural,” Dr. Ilyas said. “They create problems in society and are a sin as far as Islam is concerned.” Indians are in the main deeply conservative about issues of sexuality and personal morality. Surveys show wide disapproval of homosexuality, and Indians on average still have few sexual partners throughout their lives. The pressure to marry, have children and conform to traditional notions of family and caste is overwhelming in many communities. Indian weddings are famously raucous and communal affairs. So homosexuals are often forced to live double lives. 

The law banning homosexual sex is rarely enforced in India, but the police sometimes use it to bully and intimidate homosexuals. In rare cases, charities that hand out condoms to homosexuals to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS have had their work interrupted because such efforts are technically illegal under the law. But inspired by gay rights efforts elsewhere, activists in India have sought to assert their rights, holding marches and pushing for greater legal rights. India’s judges have a long history of judicial activism but legalizing gay sex was one step too far for India’s top judges, and in a rare instance of judicial modesty they deferred the matter to India’s legislators.

Source: New York Times

 

FRANCE ON THE ROAD TO CRIMINALIZE PROSTITUTION

In a move towards curbing prostitution, France’s National Assembly has passed a bill that criminalizes the purchase of sexual services, along the lines of the Swedish law that has almost totally eliminated prostitution and sex-trade trafficking in the Scandinavian country. In the National Assembly, 268 voted for the bill, and 138 against it. If the Senate approves the bill, those convicted of buying sex services will be subject to a fine ranging up to about A$2000. Repeat offenders could face fines of up to about A$5,000). Men convicted would be required to attend workshops on the harmful effects of prostitution on the women whose services they were trying to buy. 

The bill also provides for social and professional support for those seeking to leave prostitution, including counselling and short-term residence permits for foreign prostitutes, and education programs to help former prostitutes obtain new jobs. While many countries have attempted to regulate prostitution by legalizing it, a study by the Scottish government in 2003 on the consequences of prostitution policies in several countries found that those that had legalized and/or regulated prostitution had a dramatic increase in all facets of the sex industry. 

There was an increase in the involvement of organized crime in the sex industry. There was also a dismaying increase in child prostitution, trafficking of women and girls, and violence against women. In Sweden prostitution is regarded as an aspect of male violence against women and children. “It is officially acknowledged as a form of exploitation of women and children and constitutes a significant social problem. Gender equality will remain unattainable so long as men buy, sell and exploit women and children by prostituting them,” the Swedish government’s literature on their legislation states.

Source: Intercessors Network

 

POPE SETS UP COMMITTEE TO FIGHT CHILD SEX ABUSE IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

The Pope has set up a committee to fight child sex abuse in the Catholic Church and give pastoral care to victims following a recommendation from a council of cardinals he has asked to advise him.  The announcement was made by US Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the Archbishop of Boston and one of the eight members of the council, who said the precise composition of the new committee would be announced “in the near future”. Archbishop O’Malley said the council suggested the new committee and Pope Francis approved it,  adding that the initiative was also in line with the zero tolerance approach of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. 

The committee could come up with codes of professional conduct for clergymen, guidelines for church officials in individual countries on how to deal with misconduct and checks for would-be priests, Archbishop O’Malley said. “The emphasis so far has been on legal procedures, but less on the pastoral response,” he said, but added that the committee would also look at ways of working together with civil authorities against abuse. “Training courses have helped a lot in prevention, in spotting the danger signs,” he said. The Vatican has said its Canon Law prosecutors are investigating thousands of alleged cases of abuse.

Source: Catholic World News

 

VIETNAM: REVISED CONSTITUTION FAILS TO ANSWER CALLS FOR REFORM

A revised constitution for Vietnam, passed by a vote of almost 98%, has disappointed religious leaders hoping for political reform.  The amended constitution which preserves the dominance of the Communist Party came into effect on 1 January. Both the original constitution and the revised version contain clauses protecting the right to follow or not follow a religion, but also include caveats prohibiting the misuse of religion to violate the law, which officials opposed to the growth of religion can use to repress religious leaders and groups. National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung has heralded the passing of the new constitution as a “historic moment.” 

In contrast, Catholic media have described the result as “frustrating”. Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights)  Mervyn Thomas said, “We share the frustration and disappointment expressed by religious leaders and others calling for greater freedoms in Vietnam. As Vietnam takes up a new position on the UN Human Rights Council, the government must ensure its laws and constitutional provisions are in line with international human rights standards, including standards on freedom of religion or belief.”

Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide

 

FUNDING OF EMBRYONIC STEMCELL RESEARCH DOWN DRAMATICALLY / ADULT STEMCELL USE PREFERRED

Stem cell funding data shows that two of America’s most liberal states prefer adult stem cells to embryonic stem cell research. A report on the funding in California and Maryland, has found that the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) and the state government of Maryland are funding far more adult stem cell research projects, while embryonic stem cell research has decreased nearly to nothing. In 2007, CIRM funded 100 embryonic stem cell research projects. In 2012, it was only six. Meanwhile, CIRM gave 15 grants to scientists conducting non-embryonic stem cell research. 

In Maryland, 11 embryonic projects and 4 adult stem cell projects were funded in 2007. Five years later, 28 non-embryonic grants were made, but only 1 embryonic stem cell grant. Because it destroys a human life, embryonic stem cell research has been opposed by many in the religious and ethics community. Adult stem cells have no such moral concerns. A decade ago researchers dismissed moral and ethical concerns to hail stem cell research as the ‘only hope’ for developing efficacious therapies.. Despite the millions spent on this research, cures by embryonic cells have proven elusive, while adult stem cell research applications have exploded.”

Source: Intercessors for America