IRISH VOTERS TAKE STRONG STAND AGAINST PRO-ABORTION GOVERNMENT
Irish voters made their pro-life views clear when they decimated the pro-abortion Irish Labour Party in the recent general election. Niamh Ui Bhriain of Ireland’s pro-life lobby group, The Life Institute said “The collapse of Labour — which fell from 33 to six seats — also means the collapse of their coalition with Fine Gael with whom they have governed Ireland for the last 5 years. Fine Gael also felt the pro-life backlash with the party falling from 73 to 49 seats. The party vowed in 2011 not to bring in abortion legislation, but passed a law in 2013 which permits abortion when the life of the mother is in danger, including when the mother threatens suicide. “Fine Gael broke their promise, so there was huge anger amongst the people,” Ui Bhriain said. “Their vote was badly hit in this election.”
As for Labour, it made a referendum to repeal the Irish constitution’s eighth amendment — which guarantees legal protection for the child in the womb — its major plank during the election campaign, she said. “They made a very specific and clear call to the electorate, backed by the media, that if you didn’t vote Labour you wouldn’t get a chance to repeal the eighth amendment,” explained Ui Bhriain. “The electorate has certainly given its answer to that call.” According to Ui Bhriain, a mother of four daughters, “we can certainly say that Labour lost votes because of their call for abortion to be legalised.” The party “wanted abortion on demand based on the British model of abortion.” “We can say with absolute certainty there is no public support for the repeal of the eighth amendment,” she said.
This was in-spite of “a sustained, relentless media push” for such a referendum. The result was “devastating to abortion campaigners who have been gnashing their teeth and pulling their hair on Twitter since it became clear that this was a wipe-out for Labour.” “A lot of abortion campaigners are so hand-in-glove with the media that they create this bubble for themselves,” observed Ui Bhriain. “They actually believe that most people support abortion, all the way to birth, and for any reason whatsoever, and that most people want all of the pro-life laws to be overturned.” What the election showed is that they are grossly out of step with what most Irish people believe, so that’s very significant.” But that appears to be the only definitive result of the Irish vote, which is based on a system of proportional representation.
With centrist parties Fine Gael winning 49 seats and Fianna Fįil 44 at last count, it remains unclear just which party will form government. In third place is Sinn Féin with 23 seats, with Labour trailing the field with six. A number of smaller parties and independent candidates captured the remaining 34 seats. Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny will remain prime minister, at least until the Parliament reconvenes. Fianna Fįil leader Micheįl Martin has called for reform of the Parliament to take precedence over any coalition building. None of the three major parties want to work with the others, according to reports. “I don’t know what is going to happen right now in relation to forming a government, nobody does,” Ui Bhriain said. “It’s going to be a very unstable government, so there might be another election.”
“There has been clear evidence that the pro-life vote was very strong” and that “the pro-abortion parties were resoundingly rejected by the electorate.” The tightly fought race in Dublin North Bay is an illustration of this. Under the system of proportional representation, votes for pro-life candidate Terence Flanagan went to another pro-life candidate Seįn Haughey, even though the two men “are from different sides of the political fence” Ui Bhriain said. “This pattern was seen in constituencies around the country as people voted pro-life.” Nevertheless, the fight is certainly not over, she contended. While second-place party Fianna Fail “is largely pro-life, there are some very radical pro-abortion politicians in its ranks,” Ui Bhriain pointed out.
There is also the matter of the Irish media, she added, which is “incredibly biased” in favour of abortion, indeed, probably “one of the worst in the world.” To counter that and bypass the media, The Life Institute is “currently rolling out a massive, nation-wide canvas of the entire country,” she said. Life Institute canvassers who are specially trained to answer questions and concerns on abortion are going door-to-door across Ireland. They began the project in October, but the nation-wide roll out is set for after Easter, Ui Bhriain said. “In Ireland most people are against abortion, but they have genuine questions around the hard cases” such as abortion in the case of rape, she noted. “I think it’s going to tell us a lot about what people think about abortion” and “give us deep insights,” she said.
THE LIGHT OF CHRIST’S CHURCH WILL NEVER BE PUT OUT BY ISLAMIC EXTREMISM
‘Islamic extremism’ was the main source of persecution in 70% of the countries on the World Watch List 2016 (WWL). How are Christians responding in the current situation? Islamic State (IS) now have control over an area almost eight times larger than Syria’s neighbour, Lebanon. In mid-2014, IS dominated the headlines with a virtually unopposed march into the Nineveh plain, displacing 100,000 Christians in a single month. 1,300 IS soldiers took the ancient city of Mosul, where 60,000 local troops and police fled. Islamic State are medieval in their barbarism, and sophisticated in their ability to appeal to disaffected teenagers worldwide. Christians are fleeing affected areas in their hundreds and thousands. The exodus of Christians from their ancient heartlands is accelerating.
Islamic extremists ruling territory with an intolerant fist is not new. Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam (Mecca), is high on the list, not because of the same violence we see in Iraq and Syria, but rather due to a heavily restrictive government. Persecution is not just violence, but also oppression. Islamic extremism has another hub – Sub-Saharan Africa. The headlines always get monopolised by the Middle East, but for the last two years more Christians were killed for their faith in Northern Nigeria than in any other country. In the WWL 2016, the conservative figure of Christian deaths in Nigeria is 4,028, out of a worldwide total of 7,100. This is partly due to an even more vicious Islamic extremist movement – Boko Haram.
In fact the top six countries where most Christians were killed for their faith in the WWL 2016 reporting period were all sub-Saharan African countries: Nigeria, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya and Cameroon. Christians are seeing an increase in pressure, even in Christian majority states such as Kenya. Extremism has a subtle form as well as a violent face. Will the rise in extremists destroy the church? Has God abandoned these countries? A Christian brother from Northern Iraq who was a very wealthy businessman, owning three booming businesses, a large amount of property and with a nice government salary, lost all his property in three hours. What does he say? “ISIS is a lesson from God to us as the church: not to put our fortune here on earth, but to put our fortune with God!”
A pastor from Baghdad voices this in another way, “The crisis around ISIS has taught us to discover our own identity as a church. It was a wake-up call. I hope that the influx of Muslims in Europe and across the world will wake up the people to also start searching again for their own identity.” At a point where Christians face the biggest amount of persecution in the modern age, could God be doing something even bigger? A displaced church leader in Iraq says, “The church will never disappear, though it looks like it. When Jesus died, everyone was thinking that it was over. But He rose from the dead and the church started to grow. The church in Iraq has been facing persecution for over 2000 years. It might look as if we will be gone, but we will rise from this crisis.”
In more and more places we discover that churches become true churches, places of hope and compassion. Priests have learnt to become true priests again. Pastors have learnt to bring Bible teaching in a fresh way as they show true care for their sheep. Churches have been pushed out of their comfort zone because of the influx of believers with a Muslim background. That brings horrible suffering, but it also brings growth. An Open Doors contact working in Syria shares, “Open Doors are one of the very few organisations still operating in Syria. That is not because of their impressive efforts, but only because, in a very special way, they were given access to an extensive network within the country long before the crisis manifested itself. We cannot walk away from the responsibility that we have received.
Providing aid to displaced Christians in Syria can only take place through local churches; there is no other way. The church in Syria is willing to take on this task. Extremism does not make the church disappear, it transforms the church. The persecution we’re seeing in these places is actually driving believers to depend on Christ in a deeper way. Believers are uniting together and reaching out to their neighbours, many Muslims are coming to Christ. Pray that God would grow his church, that believers would have stronger faith, more confidence in His promises and that He would heal the heartache of their suffering. No, the church will not be destroyed be extremists, because Jesus has overcome the world and stands victorious and strengthens the persecuted as they continue on by relying on the strength of Jesus.
Release International welcomes the victory by reformists in the Iranian elections. ‘Release hopes this will signal an end to the current crackdown on Christians in the Islamic Republic and pave the way for true religious freedom,’ says Release chief executive, Paul Robinson. ‘Ninety prisoners are in jail for their faith, including A Pastor named Behnam Irani. This pastor has been beaten, abused and threatened with death. As have others. With Iran now voting for reform, now is the time to end the crackdown on the church and set free prisoners who are behind bars for their religious beliefs.’ Release International supports persecuted Christians around the world, including in Iran, where the crackdown on Christians and activists was stepped up in 2015.
Pastor Behnam Irani was jailed in 2011 for leading a Church of Iran congregation in Karaj. Like others, he was accused of ‘offences against national security’. He was badly beaten in jail, both by his captors and other prisoners. He suffered a bleeding ulcer and herniated disc. He was warned he would not leave prison alive because of his faith. He was put in a cell with violent offenders in Ghezal Prison, where there was not even enough room to lie down. ‘We call on Iran to show it is serious about reform, and set free Pastor Irani, and other prisoners of faith.’ says Paul Robinson. The victory has given President Rouhani a fresh mandate and a secure platform for reform. ‘These reforms should include much-needed freedom of religion in a country where the church is under constant pressure,’ says Paul Robinson.
Iranian officials continue to make group arrests, often targeting evangelical house groups. Repression has increased since 2010 when Ayatollah Khamenei branded house churches a threat to national security. Christians are often accused of ‘undermining national security’. In Iran, freedom for all faiths other than Shia Islam is limited, despite constitutional guarantees of religious liberty. Evangelising Muslims is illegal and the official penalty for apostasy (conversion from Islam) is death, although the sentence is rarely carried out. Christians make up just half of one per cent of the population. Most are discriminated against in education, employment and property ownership.
Many of Iran’s Christians are ethnic Armenians or Assyrians. To limit the spread of the faith, many churches have been closed or restricted to conducting services in Armenian or Assyrian. This has driven churches underground. Most Christians in Iran now meet in private homes. Prominent figures such as pastors may come under the scrutiny of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Many are forced out of the country. Christians from a Muslim background pay a particularly high price. A number of Iranian Christians who were raised as Muslims remain in detention. Some suffer from severe ill-health due to lack of medical treatment and beatings from prison staff and other inmates. Yet despite everything, Iran’s church is growing.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY – WHY I AM GLAD WOMEN AND MEN ARE DIFFERENT
Editors Note: With so much gender confusion being spoken about in worldly circles we wanted to celebrate International Women’s Day by allowing a Christian point of view to be expressed by a women who is happy to be female.
The cry of gender-benders will ultimately only be satisfied by getting to know the One who “created them male and female.” In this age of gender-bending, and efforts to ensure equality among women and men, it may be very counter-culture to express gratitude for the distinct differences between male and female. But I, a woman, am very thankful for this creative expression from God’s heart and His hands. I would never want to lessen any hard-fought achievements made by suffragettes. I’m not calling into question any equality of rights, or of pay, or certainly of respect. Instead, I would just like to highlight the simple-yet-complex characteristics of contradistinction that make our two genders unique. And which can—with the heart God intended—become beautifully congruent and harmonious.
After 30 years of marriage (like most couples, not always easy), I feel I’ve gained a great deal of respect for the opposite gender, and have also grown in appreciation for that of my own. Any good psychologist will tell you that men and women think differently and process things in contrasting ways. This is certainly God’s design and intention. When respect is maintained, these polar perspectives can become complimentary. This is not to say that my husband and I don’t have difficulty relating to one another’s positions on occasion—we’re human and that’s a reality that is going to happen. But I’m not threatened by my husband’s “maleness,” I have come to appreciate it. And I have come to realize that my perspective alone would be a narrow one, and likely somewhat short-sighted without the addition of his input.
My “female-ness” is also not threatened by the Word of God and the Gospel, as some women seem to be. In fact, the respect that Jesus showed to women as described in the New Testament was revolutionary in a time when their gender received little recognition, if any. The vessels God spoke through and used for His glory and His plans, included women all throughout the Old Testament. And what a privilege God has given women to actually carry another life—another little person—inside their bodies and bring them into the world! Today we see the gender-bending trend being pushed and promoted all around the world, even among the very young. I personally find the whole concept very tragic, as it seems to me its root is a soul crying out for acceptance and love.
That cry will ultimately only be satisfied by getting to know the One who “created them male and female”; by having a relationship with God who knows each of our hearts better than we know ourselves. I’m forever grateful that the Lord, the One who created me, knows MY heart—even when I’d rather hide from Him out of shame. In the end, He created my heart. He knows me inside and out, and He loves me, and what’s more—because of what Jesus did—nothing will separate me from His love. This sets me free to be who I was created to be: a woman, a mother, a partner to my husband without fear. And for that I’m very grateful!
NORTH KOREA’S PROVOCATIVE WORDS AND ACTIONS THREATEN PEACE
The United Nations Security Council has imposed an array of sanctions against North Korea. Its recent nuclear test and missile launches defied international sanctions. The volatile and unpredictable leader, Kim Jung Un, immediately responded by threatening retaliation against the United States and South Korea for their joint military exercises: North Korea will make a “pre-emptive and offensive nuclear strike.” North Korea is the only country that has conducted nuclear tests in the 21st century. They have conducted four tests. The U N says that these bellicose reactions are common from North Korea this time of the year when the annual joint military exercises take place.
Kim Jung Un obviously feels threatened about any type of military actions conducted close to North Korea, but he also is paranoid of his own generals at home. In the last few years three of his top advisors have mysteriously disappeared. He has not ventured from his capital in some time. His closest associates have noted his unpredictable, volatile nature since he was a child. Idle threats or real concerns, Kim Jung Un’s personality and temperament could ignite a nuclear conflagration. The nation of North Korea is number 1 on the 2016 Open Doors World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians in the world.
Let’s Pray For:
• God to use Kim Jung Un and his radical, unpredictable behaviour, either because of or despite of it, to bring about a change in North Korea’s governance and free its people from oppression.
* God to come upon Kim Jung Un just as He did Nebuchadnezzar to bring rationality and restore his sanity.
* God to supernaturally strengthen the Christian Believers who live in constant fear. Pray too that God would heed the cry for justice from North Korea’s persecuted and starving population.
A Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado has reopened, months after a gunman killed 3 people and wounded 9 at the clinic, angry at the abortion services provided there. That the clinic reopened at all makes it something of an oddity. Abortion providers across the United States are closing at a record pace, according to data from Bloomberg Businessweek, and the closures are not limited to the conservative states that have been passing regulations. Twenty one abortion providers have opened since 2011, while at least 162 have closed down Bloomberg reported. Both supporters and critics of abortion attribute the decline to a range of factors, from high operating costs and reduced demand, to the rise of strict state regulations. And both sides say the abortion debate in America is reaching a seminal moment.