Several villages in central India have outlawed the open practice ofChristianity which Church leaders say has already encouraged anti-Christianviolence. “The situation is becoming worse. The anti-Christian propaganda isbecoming stronger,” Arun Pannalal, president of Chhattisgarh Christian Forumsaid. Chhattisgarh is one of India’s 29 states. Pannalal said about a dozenvillages in Chhattisgarh’s southeast district of Bastar, convenedassemblies and passed a resolution banning all non-Hindu religiousactivities. The delegates passed a resolution banning religious activitiessuch as prayers, meetings and propaganda of all non-Hindu religions,” saidthe text of the resolution. It contains no provisions for penalties.”
These meetings are held under the Village Council System Act, Pannalal said. He said the councils erroneously believe the act provides a legitimate legal foundation upon which to ban minority religious practice. “Hindu fundamentalists are using this provision in an attempt to enforce their agenda,” he said. “Their strategy is to use the controversial resolutions to mislead the locals into believing that banning non-Hindus is well within the law.” The Times of India, a national English-language daily newspaper, claims that more than 50 villages have adopted similar resolutions in a ploy to harass Christians.
Rev. Aneesh Andrews, Methodist district superintendent for the region, said that after the resolutions are passed, poor Christian families in some villages have been denied government rations of staples such as wheat, rice and sugar, and access to village water sources for not giving donations tothe village’s Hindu temple. “In some places, the passing of the resolution has been followed by attacks on pastors and pulling down of village churches,” Andrews said. Following the adoption of the multi-village resolution, 10 Christians – including three pastors – were assaulted by Hindu fundamentalists. In two villages, Gadiya and Parapur, Christians have been ordered to leave town “or suffer the consequences.”
In a letter sent to the Chhattisgarh Chief Secretary, Rev. Vijayesh Lal, of the Religious Liberty Commission for the Evangelical Fellowship of India told of a Christian man who had been ordered to pay a fine. He did, and yet his house was burned down, Lal said. “Today he is living under a plastic sheet with his family that includes three children and his elderly parents.The resolutions in Chhattisgarh are the first of their kind, according to Rolf Zeegers, an analyst for Open Doors International. Christian leaders fear that the ban will increase suspicion and distrust in the community, generating disharmony and hate that could have disastrous consequences for non-Hindus,” Christians and Muslims alike.
Zeegers wrote in a recent Open Doors report. “Following the ban there has been a string of violent incidents, with Christian leaders affirming that Chhattisgarh is becoming a cauldron of hate mongering against non-Hindus.” Chhattisgarh law already requires residents to obtain government permission before they can change religions, placing the state among the handful in India with laws restricting conversion. The anti-conversion laws are regarded by religious-freedom advocates as a tool that instead is used to drive minorities into the corners of society. And Chhattisgarh, governed by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, is particularly fertile political ground for anti-minority abuse, church leaders fear.
The head of Bastar’s district administration dismissed the village resolutions as “legally null and void” and unenforceable. Legality aside, the chief concern among church leaders is the potential the resolutions have to encourage a climate of impunity toward religious minorities. Catholic Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi has urged authorities to intervene and stop the bans which he says “violate constitutional rights of freedom of faith, movement and expression” and will have “serious impact on India’s international reputation.” Allowing the bans to stand, he said, would encourage extremist religious organizations to wage hate campaigns against Christians, which in turn gives rise to organized violence.
CATHOLIC SYNOD GRAPPLING WITH HOT BUTTON ISSUES IN ROME
More than 200 Catholic bishops, priests and lay people from around the world are gathered in Rome to discuss Catholic teachings on a range of hot-button topics, from contraception and same-sex unions to polygamy and communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. The issues, which the Vatican places under the heading of “pastoral challenges of the family,” were chosen based on the results of a worldwide survey of Catholics in 2013. Pope Francis called the meeting, known as a synod, to address modern issues facing families today -a topic that he has made a priority since the beginning of his pontificate.
The Pope has said that the Catholic Church must make sure “it is in contact with the lives of its people and does not become a useless structure out of touch with people.” In his time as Pope, Francis has reached out to those who previously might have felt shunned by the church because of their family circumstances. He has married couples who were living together, baptized children of unmarried couples and called a woman in Argentina married to a divorced man and told her she could receive communion. Current teaching is that divorced Catholics may receive communion, while Catholics who are divorced and civilly remarried may not, because the church considers them to be committing adultery with their second partner.
According to Georgetown University’s Centre for Applied Research in the Apostolate, there are 30 million married Catholics in the United States, aswell as 4.5 million who are divorced and remarried without an annulment. In commenting about communion for the divorced and remarried Pope Francis said”I think this is the moment for mercy. The divorced may have access to thesacraments. The problem regards those who are in a second marriage. TheOrthodox Churches have a different practice. They follow the theology ofwhat they call oikonomia and they give a second chance, they allow it.” Yetin May, Pope Francis dimmed expectations that the synod would dealdecisively with the matter.
In commenting to journalists Francis said “The pastoral problem regarding the family is vast. Each case needs to be looked at separately.” On September 20, the Pope appointed a special commission to reform and streamline the “matrimonial process.” Some church watchers saw the move as an attempt to damp down expectations that the synod would deal decisively with the communion issue. “The procedures for the annulment of marriage must be looked into,” the Pope said in May. “The faith with which a person enters marriage must also be examined and we also need to make it clear that the divorced are not excommunicated. So often they are treated as though they have been excommunicated.”
During the first week, meetings will open with a talk by a married couple discussing their experience of family life followed by a general debate. In the second week, there will be small group sessions to discuss proposals in detail. The synod is not expected to make any final decisions, but produce a report of the discussions that will be taken up again at a second synod in October 2015. Pope Francis will be present and active in the discussions. Other voting participants include 114 representatives of national bishops’ conferences; 13 heads of Eastern Catholic Churches and 25 heads of VaticanCouncils. There are 38 nonvoting participants, including 12 married couples.
TWICE AS MANY BRITISH MUSLIMS FIGHTING FOR ISIS THAN IN U.K. ARMED FORCES
A British Member of Parliament has made a startling claim that twice as many British Muslims are fighting for ISIS than are serving in the British armed forces. Khalid Mahmood, an MP in Birmingham, estimated there are at least 1,500 young British Muslims who have found their way into the ranks of extremists fighting in Iraq and Syria during the last three years. There are only about 600 British Muslims currently serving in the Armed Forces, making up approximately 0.4% of total personnel, according to the Ministry of Defence. Slightly over 4% of the British population is Muslim. The UK Foreign Office said they believe approximately 400 individuals have travelled to Syria since the uprising began.
Mahmood dismissed the lower estimate from the Defence Ministry as “nonsense” and said the government was failing to deal with the problem of home-grown extremists. The role of British and American jihadists fighting in the Middle East has been brought into sharp focus after ISIS released a video showing the beheading of US journalist James Foley by a masked jihadist who spoke with a British accent. Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi reported a Kurdish leader told him that an ISIS fighter had been carrying a Liverpool Football Club season ticket and a gym card from Ealing in London.
Ghaffar Hussain, with the Quilliam Foundation, argued that the number of British Muslims being drawn to ISIS and other organizations proved the UK was losing its battle against radical extremism. “There are an unacceptable number of Britons fighting for jihadist forces over the world,” Hussain said. “There are things the government can do to prevent this of course,” Hussain said. “There needs to be a greater effort in the way of civil society initiatives that discredit jihadist organizations in the UK and promote liberal democratic values.” ISIS militants’ recruiting campaign has surpassed Al-Qaeda in its effectiveness online, targeting primarily young Muslims, the Quilliam Foundation said.
“Their use of the internet is unlike anything we have seen before,” Charlie Cooper of the Quilliam Foundation said. “Social media applications like Facebook and Twitter act as a facilitator to connect young radicalized Britons with jihadists in Syria and Iraq.” UK-based radical Islamic preacher Anjem Choudary who is a vocal supporter of establishing a Caliphate under Islamic Sharia Law said that “it’s not important if it’s a British person carrying out the execution because you’re Muslim first and British second.”A British government spokesperson said the British government is aware of the threat of ISIS recruitment and insisted “the police and security services are actively working to detect and disrupt terrorist threats.
ISIS advances are putting Syria back into the international spotlight. According to BBC News, ISIS advances have brought terrorists within six miles of Kobane, a Kurdish town in northern Syria. ISIS advances have resulted in another 60 Syrian villages falling to the renowned black flag. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Kurdish forces withdrew and 39 villages fell to ISIS in one day alone. Between 130,000 and 200,000 Syrian refugees have fled from Kobane into Turkey as ISIS militants approached their community. Most Syrian Kurds crossed the border when Turkey created an opening stretching 19 miles; however a few days later Turkey had closed all but two border posts.
Turkey already houses over 1.5 million Syrian refugees. This latest influx, the biggest since Syria’s conflict began 3 1/2 years ago, added thousands more. According to CNN, the recent release of 49 Turkish hostages-captured when ISIS took over Mosul this summer-has freed up Turkey to join an international coalition to combat ISIS. However, underlying tensions between Turkey and Kurdistan are being inflamed by the sudden addition of Syrian Kurdish refugees. Christian Aid Mission, which links to indigenous missions,has been partnering with indigenous ministries in the Middle East to providephysical and spiritual assistance to refugees since the start of Syria’s crisis.
With financial support from Christian Aid, local believers are providing food, blankets, clothing, milk for children, and shelter to needy refugee families. They are also praying with refugees and listening to their heartbreaking stories, as well as sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. The need is immense and Christian Aid’s network of indigenous ministries in adjoining countries, as well as within Syria itself, is poised to respond with more emergency relief. They are pleading for Christians around the world to pray for indigenous missionaries in Turkey as they care for even more Syrian refugees?
* for peace in Syria and in its neighbouring countries, and for comfort to those who have been traumatized by their experiences.
* that the love of Jesus as demonstrated by Christian workers will open doors to share the Gospel with refugee families.
* asking the Lord to encourage Syrian believers and provide reassurance that they have not been forgotten.
A LOSS ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE BUT A WIN ON ABORTION IN U.S.A.
The U.S. Supreme Court has denied appeals from five different states hoping to prohibit legalizing gay marriage. The appeals came from Wisconsin, Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma and Indiana, and, if upheld, would have likely led to more states also seeking to stop same-sex marriage from becoming legal. However with the ruling, attempts to stall same-sex marriage within those states, as well as six other states which were on hold pending the Court’s decision, effectively ended. According to the Fox News report, the Supreme Court ruling legalised same-sex marriage in 30 states as well as in DC.
Meanwhile a Texas Federal Court has upheld a Pro-Life Law requiring tighter health and safety regulations in abortion related facilities in Texas. Lauren Bean, spokesperson for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said that as a result of the ruling 13 abortion facilities in operation in Texas have been forced to close down. The three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned a lower court ruling and allowed the portion of the law requiring abortion offices to meet the same standards as other ambulatory surgical centres (ASCs) to take effect. Texas had over forty abortion clinics prior to the enactment of H.B. 2, but as a result of the Court decision, only seven or eight clinics will remain.”
That represents “more than an 80% reduction in clinics state-wide in nearly 14 months.” The Texas Policy Evaluation Project estimated that there were 9,200 fewer abortions this year due to the impact of the law. “The battle to protect the unborn is not over,” Texas Right to Life said, “but this is a decisive step in the right direction!” Gov. Rick Perry signed H.B. 2 into law last July. It banned abortions after 20 weeks on the grounds of fetal pain, required abortionists to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their office, and made all abortion facilities meet ASC standards.
According to web chatter in ISIS forums, the Salafist organization, known best for decapitating Christians and other “non-believers” in its lightning advance through roughly half of Iraq and large parts of Syria, has ties with militant groups operating in Gaza. The Islamic State (ISIS) may be gaining a foothold in the Gaza Strip, as reports continue to emerge of Gazans joining the terror regime to fight in Syria and Iraq. A number of Gaza residents are reported to have died in recent months while fighting for ISIS in Syria and Iraq including one announced as Wadih Wash a 21 year old man whose father confirmed that his son had been fighting during a battle between ISIS and Syrian regime forces.