Leaders from the different faith communities in Indonesia have made a decision at a three-day Ambassadors for Peace gathering in Jakarta to work together for “religious peace”. During the unique gathering, they openly discussed how it might be possible that people like themselves could live in peace with others “with complete free and open dialogue” despite having different religious beliefs. They were assisted in their decision by a delegation from Ambassadors for Peace, a religious freedom organization led by co-founder, Dr. Garry Ansdell, senior pastor of Hosanna Christian Fellowship in Bellflower, California, who already has shared the AM4Peace message in many Middle Eastern Islamic dominated countries. 

Ansdell founded the group with the late Ameal Haddad, an Arab pastor originally from the Middle East, who passed away shortly before this gathering took place. “This is a once in a life opportunity for us to share with religious leaders who desire to see religious freedom spelt out for all,” Dr. Ansdell told the delegates. “We all have a divine right to believe in God and, acknowledging our differences, have an honest approach to dialogue instead of pretending we all believe the same way.” Ambassadors for Peace was created after the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York City on September 11, 2001. 

At that time Ansdell and Haddad, began responding to Muslim and other leaders who thought there was a need to codify and discuss in open dialogue, “the differences and similarities of their faith and give dignity and respect to each other.” Since that time, they have been seeking to bring key members of different religious beliefs into agreement for a Religious Rights Resolution. The document’s main theme is to “foster religious tolerance, the right to faith, freedom of speech, and freedom from reprisal or persecution, and open dialogue.” Ansdell went on to say, “Article 18 of the United Nations Declaration of Human rights has established freedom of religion in all countries. 

Ansdell, who was once an atheist, acknowledges that people also have the right “not to believe.” At the final session, where each delegate gave their thoughts on how they could proceed, Ansdell suggested that the attendees use social media to present the message of “religious freedom”. He added, “They should also judge people by their character, not their religion.  We can respect each other despite our differences. We need to be able to discuss our religious beliefs openly, but the overall message is love. You came here with open hearts. Don’t underestimate what you have discussed and let people know.  Set up times when you can get together with others so you can share with them what we have discussed here. 

Ansdell added “Write to your religious and political leaders and share with them what we have talked about and let them know what this is all about. We also want to meet with world leaders like Putin and the Pope, to share this concept with them. “We need to keep hope alive. There is so much destruction in our world today. The Middle East is in chaos, and I believe with all my heart, that this is the platform for respect to be shared and ministered to that part of the world.”  Ismail Alatas, who runs an Arabic newspaper in Indonesia, said he became involved because he had never heard before of anyone doing this kind of peace work.” He said “We are ready in Indonesia, to help progress religious freedom in our country.” 

Ambassadors for Peace has now provided what it calls its own “Bill of Rights.” Lives are lost each day to the fanaticism of religion, and every generation has seen it and no religion can look at its history and be without blame. It is time for the moorings of religion to be acknowledged globally. They should not be politicized nor ignored. Every mainline religious leader of all faiths speak of the peace that their people want. The “Religious Freedom Resolution” gives individuals and leaders the opportunity to come together, not as one religion, but for the freedom of all religions.

Source: Assist News Service

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New research shows that 90% of pastors believe the Bible has much to say about today’s pressing political and societal issues. Fewer than 10% however are talking about those issues from the pulpit. Researcher George Barna asked pastors across America about their beliefs regarding the relevancy of Scripture to societal, moral and political issues, and the content of their sermons in light of their beliefs. What he found was startling. “When we ask them about the key issues of the day, 90% of them tell us, ‘Yes, the Bible speaks to every one of these issues.” Barna went on, “Then we ask them: ‘Well, are you teaching your people what the Bible says about those issues?’ and the numbers drop to less than 10% who are.” 

Sam Rohrer, president of the American Pastors Network, says it is clear that there is a disconnect between knowing the truth and preaching it, but the real question is why. Avoiding the politically unpopular portions of Scripture is in some respects understandable from a human perspective. From God’s perspective, however, it is sin. “The reality is that most people, including pastors, wish to be comfortable and to avoid controversy,” Rohrer said. “If the primary goal is to see people leave on Sunday morning feeling good about themselves and feeling comfortable rather than seeing the holiness of God and the ugly reality of sin, then a pastor will answer to God for doing his own will rather than declaring God’s will. 

The issues of the day that confront our nation must be dealt with from the pulpit if God’s Word is to make a difference in people’s lives and if the culture is to be impacted. This includes the areas of marriage and divorce, life and family, but it also includes the areas of honesty, servant leadership, following the Rule of Law, etc.” Barna added that many pastors are afraid to get involved in political issues because of the controversy it might create. And, he added, “Controversy keeps people from being in the seats, controversy keeps people from giving money, from attending programs.” He also found that when asked how they measure the success of their churches, most pastors look to five factors.  

They are:  Attendance, giving, number of programs, number of staff and square footage. “The fact that so many pastors are more concerned with the size of their buildings and church bank accounts than with the condition of the souls they shepherd is without excuse,” Rohrer continued. “By abdicating their responsibility as ministers of God to ‘preach the Word’ in favour of square footage, many pastors are, in essence, saying God’s Word is not really authoritative. In reality, any person who feels they have the right to pick and choose what portions of Scripture they will believe or teach, rather than preach the ‘whole counsel of God’ have in effect made themselves god.”

Source: Barna Group

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Amendment One, an amendment to the state constitution that prohibits foreign law being used to decide cases in Alabama courts, has passed easily and will be added to the Alabama Constitution. Eric Johnston, the Birmingham attorney who drafted the amendment, felt vindicated after it was described as an attack on Muslims. “I put in about three years of work on it,” Johnston said, The amendment passed by a wide margin of about 72 percent to 28 percent with 96 percent of precincts counted. Johnston said it had a wider application than banning Sharia law, the Muslim code of law and morality. “We were just trying to do something legal, not political,” Johnston said. 

A legislative committee now will decide where the amendment fits in the Constitution and how it will be numbered, under which article, in the published code, Johnston said. Johnston said it does not undermine the religious rights of Muslims or anyone else, but does prevent lawyers from arguing from Sharia law in an Alabama custody case, for example. “Your constitutional rights are not affected by it,” Johnston said. “We’ve got a religious freedom amendment in Alabama. All it says is pay attention to the religious freedom amendment. Women’s rights are compromised by Sharia rights if a lawyer in a custody case says, ‘Islam requires you to do this.’ It’s a help to judges. It doesn’t create any new laws.” 

Some argued that the amendment could possibly interfere with foreign marriages and adoptions. “It does not affect those rights at all,” Johnston said. “If you get married or adopt a child outside the country those actions are going to be recognized. Johnston was not surprised it became a political controversy. “You put in a lot of hard work explaining it to everybody, then everybody takes shots at it,” Johnston said. “I’ve been working on religious freedom issues for 30 years,” Johnston said. “My approach is to protect people’s rights and liberties. That’s what this is. I did it because I thought it was the right thing. There’s no change in law, it’s a reminder to the judges that we need to stick to Alabama’s laws and public policy.”

Source: Intercessors for America

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Laws prohibiting incest between siblings in Germany should be removed, according to a top government committee, which says it is “not appropriate for a criminal law to preserve a social taboo.  The fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination is to be weighed more heavily than the abstract idea of protection of the family,” stated the German Ethics Council. The Council released a statement containing its recommendation after examining the high-profile case of a man jailed for incest in 2008. Patrick Stuebing, who was adopted as an infant, met his sister, Susan Karolewski, when he was in his 20s and she was 16. 

The couple have four children together, two of whom are disabled. Karolewski has retained custody of their youngest child, but the other three have been taken into care. Stuebing was sentenced to more than three years in prison and has since failed in appeals to the Federal Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights to have the guilty verdict overturned. Responding to the Ethics Council, a spokeswoman for Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, Elisabeth Winkelmeier-Becker, said that the abolition of the law against incest would send the wrong signal. 

“Abolishing criminal punishment against incestuous actions within a family would go completely against protecting the undisturbed development of children,” she added. Stephan Mayer, interior policy spokesman of the CDU parliamentary group in the Bundestag described the recommendation as “scandalous.” “The Ethics Council must wonder if it is still up to its name and order with this immoral advance. The decision of the committee is absolutely unacceptable.” In a statement, the German Ethics Council, maintained: “Neither the fear of negative consequences for the family, nor the possibility of the birth of children from such incestuous relationships can justify a criminal prohibition.”

Source: The Christian Institute

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In a newly published survey, Pew Research found that 49% of Americans “say churches and other houses of worship should express their views on social and political issues.” This is an increase from 43% in 2010. Nearly three-quarters of Americans (72%) think religion has less influence on society, an increase of five percent since 2010. Pew found that 54% of religiously affiliated Americans are supportive of churches expressing views on politics and public policy, an increase from 45% in 2010. Likewise, 48% of religiously affiliated Americans believe there is “too little” religious talk in the nation, compared with 41% four years ago. And 35% believe churches should endorse candidates – up by more than one-third since 2010.

The opinions of religiously unaffiliated were unchanged on the idea of churches expressing viewpoints and virtually the same when it comes to whether there is “too little” talk of religion in the nation. Surprisingly, 23% of unaffiliated Americans felt that churches should endorse candidates, a rise of eight% from 2010. While the opinions of Democrats and the “religiously unaffiliated” were consistent with its 2010 survey results related to the role of religion in public life, Americans with religious affiliations are far more likely to support active participation in public life by pastors and other religious leaders. 

Source: LifeSite News

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Three years after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down in the wake of nationwide protests, Christian workers in Egypt are finding an openness rarely experienced before. Forgiveness, and the non-retaliation of Christians, were both unexpected and unprecedented, but have had a huge impact on many non-Christians. President Mubarak stepped down after 18 days of nationwide demonstrations during what is now called the 2011 Revolution. Since then, Egypt has gone through various protests, elections and presidents. In August last year, more than 85 churches and Christian institutions were attacked and burned as a result of demonstrations across Egypt calling for an Islamic state. 

Egyptians are now openly questioning their faith, and expressing doubts aloud, said Patrick Stein, a Christian worker in Egypt and leader of a church-planting team there. To doubt isn’t rare, but to openly challenge beliefs is. “They are hungry for truth in a way that was not present before the revolution and the ensuing turmoil,” said Stein. “If I am talking to people at a tea shop, people around who are not a part of the conversation will often stop me afterwards and want to know more,” he said. “They will ask me their deep questions that have been troubling their hearts for years, but they never felt the ability to put those questions into actual words before.”

Source: International Baptist Mission Board

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Pro-life groups were cheered by the wave of allies swept into office during the recent mid-term elections in the USA. “The overwhelming victory for pro-life candidates signals the fact that the bottom has fallen out of the abortion-centred ‘war on women’ strategy,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, head of the Washington-based, pro-life group The Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List, said. The SBA List and its partner Women Speak Out spent $5 million on five key Senate races. They saw outright victory in four of them: Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas and North Carolina. And it’s predicted they’ll also see a victory in the other state they targeted, Louisiana, when Republican Bill Cassidy faces off against Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu in a run-off next month. 

Pro-life activists are particularly pleased with the ascendancy of Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell to the post of senate majority leader. Some conservatives have worried McConnell may act like a mushy moderate in the Senate. But others point out McConnell has a 100 percent pro-life voting record. And he’s promised to bring up the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act for Senate action soon. If it becomes law, it would basically ban most abortions after the fifth month of pregnancy. A number of House victories in the election will also add strength to the already large pro-life ranks in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Source: CBN News

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The U.S. government is suing a small Minneapolis suburb, accusing it of religious discrimination after local leaders denied a Muslim group the right to open a centre in the municipality. The Justice Department filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court against St. Anthony Village, where council members voted 4-1 in 2012 to deny a request by the Abu Huraira Islamic Centre to create a place of worship in the basement of the St. Anthony Business Centre. “Religious freedom is one of our most cherished rights, and there is nothing more central than the right of communities to establish places for collective worship,” Molly Moran, acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. 

The complaint argues the municipality treated the group’s application for a conditional use permit on less than equal terms than other, non-religious, conditional use permits for assembly. The denial of the permit unlawfully prohibited religious use because the zoning code for where the building is located allowed “assemblies, meeting lodges and convention halls,” the Justice Department said. St. Anthony Village, northeast of Minneapolis, said in a statement the decision to deny the permit was not based on religion, but rather on its limited supply of industrial space where jobs can be created.

Source: Reuters

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