On the last day of Malaysia’s latest session of Parliament, a member of the ruling coalition, UMNO (United Malays National Organisation), had a bill amendment approved which has provoked an outcry in the country. The amendment aims to tighten the implementation of Sharia, and critics claim it intends to bring in “hudud” punishments, such as lashes for adultery and hand amputation for theft. (The term hudud refers to punishments decreed by God.) Non-Muslim Malaysians reacted strongly, saying the Prime Minister is under pressure from the Islamist party, which first proposed the bill, due to up-coming by-elections, and that while Sharia should only apply to Muslims, they are afraid the measure was snuck in at the last minute, with intent for it to eventually apply country-wide.  


Now approved for debate in the Federal Parliament in October, the bill amendment caught many by surprise; it jumped the queue over other government bills. The sudden move was made possible because it was moved up the list by a Minister in the Prime Minister’s office, despite being proposed by an UMNO rival, the President of the Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party (PAS), Abdul Hadi Awang. Fears ‘hudud’ punishments will spread beyond Kelantan. PAS is a Malay-based political party that governs only the state of Kelantan, one of 14 states in Malaysia. Different from UMNO, PAS adheres to a more conservative streak of Islam. One of its main political agendas is for the implementation of Sharia, in which it looked to have succeeded when the Kelantan state legislative assembly unanimously approved it in 2015.


But PAS is unable to enforce it in the state until the Federal Parliament amends the Sharia Courts Act to allow them to mete out hudud punishments. While each state government has jurisdiction over its own laws and regulations, it is the Federal government that holds the key to the enforcement of hudud, thanks to its over-arching authority over the judiciary and court systems, including civil and Sharia courts. Therefore, should the bill be passed in Parliament in October, it would pave the way for hudud penalties to be implemented by Sharia courts in Kelantan. PAS leaders defended the bill, saying that hudud primarily governs Muslims in Kelantan, but the Democratic Action Party (DAP) opposition leader, Lim Guan Eng, warned in the Malay Mail that “hudud is no ordinary law.

The motion to empower the Sharia courts to mete out sentences short of the death penalty would not be limited to Kelantan, where PAS is hoping to introduce hudud, but would equip all Islamic courts [throughout the country] similarly”. UMNO, Malaysia’s main political party, leads a coalition (the National Front, or BN) with 12 other non-Malay-based parties, such as the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC). The BN coalition holds the majority of seats in the Federal Parliament to form the current central government. In multi-racial Malaysia, UMNO claims it exists to represent and defend the rights of the Malays, the predominant racial group, which makes up roughly half the country’s population.


PAS and DAP were part of the opposition group, Pakatan Rakyat (PR), but PAS’ uncompromising insistence on pushing its Sharia-led agenda has led to a clash with DAP, resulting in the PR falling apart. It also led to a split in PAS, with more moderate Islamists quitting the party to form another party. The disarray gave rise to a new political constellation. PAS and BN, which used to be on the opposite ends of politics, are now thought to be working together to unite the Malays against the Chinese and Indians. A majority of them support the PR. Because UMNO did not inform its other BN partners about this alliance with PAS on the hudud bill, it created a storm of opposition from within. These partners felt betrayed by UMNO, with some party leaders threatening to resign their Cabinet positions in the government.


One such leader is the President of MIC, S. Subramaniam, who said that the proposed bill is inconsistent with the Federal Constitution (Article 8), which protects the rights of all Malaysians for equal treatment before the law and against the duality of sentencing, referring to both Sharia and civil penal law. Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, President of the MCA, said: “This issue will cause a constitutional crisis and ruin the inter-ethnic relationship in the country.” Even moderate Muslims such as the G25 group of retired Malay senior civil servants, are against the bill. “Although Article 3 of the Constitution states that Islam is the State religion, constitutionally, Malaysia is a secular state, as the framers of the Federal Constitution had intended. Further, our nation is multi-religious, multi-racial and multi-cultural,” they said.


In The Star Online, lawyer and human-rights activist Siti Zabedah Kassim wrote: “I demand that Malays like me should not be governed under hudud law. To us, it is not Islamic at all.” In trying to calm the storm created by the bill, Prime Minister Najib Razak said that it was a misunderstanding, as the bill was not about hudud, but merely an attempt to amend the types of punishments that can be imposed by the Sharia Courts. In light of the political crossfire, a church leader warned: “The Islamist party, PAS, has been fighting to implement Sharia since its inception. Even if they may fail now, they may succeed in the future. The church must not be swayed in winning the battle, but losing the war.”


“Only in strengthening believers to face persecution can we ensure the survival of the Church in Malaysia,” the pastor added. If enacted, Sharia will primarily govern Malaysian Muslims. But looking at other Southeast Asian countries, like Brunei and Indonesia, which have preceded Malaysia in enforcing Sharia – either nationwide or only in certain places – non-Muslims, including Christians, have also been affected. For instance, an elderly Christian woman in Sharia-governed Aceh, Indonesia, was recently subjected to 30 lashes for selling alcohol. Of the country’s 30 million population, Christians comprise nearly 10%, with one-third of them living in West or Peninsular Malaysia where the state of Kelantan is located.


Source: World Watch Monitor

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As you read this article, an entire nation is collapsing in front of our eyes. There are severe shortages of just about anything you can imagine in Venezuela. That includes food, toilet paper, medicine, electricity and even Coca-Cola. All over the country, people are standing in extremely long lines for hours on end just hoping that they will be able to purchase some provisions for their hungry families. At times when there hasn’t been anything for the people that have waited in those long lines, riots have broken out. All of this is happening even though Venezuela has not been hit by a war, a major natural disaster, a terror attack, or any other type of significant event. When debt spirals out of control, currency manipulation goes too far and government interference reaches extremes, this is what can happen to an economy.


The following are eight lessons that we can learn from the epic economic meltdown in Venezuela.


1. During an economic collapse, severe shortages of basic supplies can happen very rapidly. “There’s a shortage of everything at some level,” says Ricardo Cusanno, vice president of Venezuela’s Chamber of Commerce. Cusanno says 85% of companies in Venezuela have halted production to some extent. At this point, even Coca-Cola has shut down production due to a severe shortage of sugar.


2. If you have not stored up food ahead of time, your diet could quickly become very simple during a major emergency. The Los Angeles Times recently covered the plight of a 42-year-old single mother in Venezuela named Maria Linares, and according to the story her family has not had any chicken to eat since last December. In December, she was spending about half her salary on groceries. It now takes almost everything she earns to feed her two children, who subsist on eggs and cornmeal patties served with butter. The best deals are generally at government-run stores where the prices are regulated. To shop there, however, Linares said, she has to line up overnight. Even then, she might come home empty-handed if everything sells out before she gets to the front of the line – or if she is robbed leaving the store.

3. When people get hungry, they become very desperate. And very desperate people will eat just about anything. Some people in Venezuela have already become so desperate that they are actually hunting dogs and cats for food.

Could you ever do that?

4. When an economy melts down, it isn’t just food that is in short supply. This week, there have been several mainstream news stories about the severe shortage of toiletries in Venezuela. Toiletries are running in short supply across the country. Many Venezuelans say that people wait in lines for several hours to buy basic toiletries, only to sell them at much higher prices on the black market. Bloomberg reported last year that Trinidad & Tobago had offered to exchange tissue paper for oil with Venezuela. It’s unclear if the deal ever came through. Condoms and birth control are hard to find, Venezuelans say. You won’t have any more luck with toothpaste, soap, toilet paper or shampoo. And women have been asked to stop using blow dryers. 

5 If you need medical care during a major economic meltdown, you might be out of luck. Just consider what sick Venezuelans are going through right at this moment. The Luis Razetti Hospital in the portal city of Barcelona looks like a war zone. Patients can be seen balancing themselves on half-broken beds with days-old blood on their bodies. They’re the lucky ones; most are curled up on the floor, blood streaming, limbs blackening. Children lie among dirty cardboard boxes in the hallways without food, water or medication. Without electricity or functioning machines, medics have had to create their own solutions. Two men who had surgery on their legs have their limbs elevated by makeshift slings made out of water bottles.


6. During a currency meltdown, owning precious metals such as gold and silver becomes much more important. This even applies to entire countries. So far during this crisis, Venezuela has had to ship 2.3 billion dollars’ worth of gold to Switzerland because the bankers won’t take their paper currency any longer. Venezuela’s government is fast running out of foreign reserves. It has only $12.1 billion in foreign reserves as of March, according to the most recent central bank figures. That’s down by half from a year ago. In order to get cash loans to pay for its debt, Venezuela has shipped $2.3 billion of gold to Switzerland so far this year as collateral, according to Swiss government import data. 

7. When an economy crashes, crime goes through the roof. There were 107 major episodes of looting or attempted looting in the first quarter of 2016 in Venezuela, and things have gotten even worse over the past couple of months. 

8. This may be the most controversial lesson in the list. Sometimes it takes a shaking to awaken a nation. Of course nobody really likes to go through a shaking, but in the end it can have some very positive results. Just look at what is happening in Caracas. Churches in the capital Caracas recently organized a prayer walk. Thousands came to the main streets of the city crying out to God to ease their misery. Under the slogan “I pray for my country,” dozens of Christians marched and prayed for unity of the church and for God to finally intervene to end their country’s plight. Will a similar shaking be necessary to bring western nations to their knees? What is it ultimately going to take to bring about a widespread awakening across the developed world?


Source: Charisma News

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Over the last few days, the city of Fallujah in Iraq has been fought for by Islamic State militants and Iraqi government forces. Trapped in the middle are around 50,000 civilians, being prevented from leaving by Islamic State. Fallujah is one of two major cities that were taken by Islamic State, the other being Mosul. Because of Islamic State, and other extremist groups in previous years, there has been a huge influx of internally displaced people (IDPs) fleeing to the North and Eastern parts of Iraq. There are 3.4 million displaced people in Iraq, including an estimated 120,000 – 150,000 Christians – that’s about half the Christian population.


Millions have experienced the kind of loss that many people would never have to go through. In the midst of that pain, is hope in Jesus. A 22-year-old displaced Christian man says, “In the end it is not the material things that are important for us, but our faith in God. I’ve learned through these difficult times that the most important thing is my faith in God.” A pastor in Baghdad says, “The recent crisis with the so-called Islamic State was a wake-up call. It urged our congregation to think about our identity as Christians.”


Please pray:

.   for Christians living in areas under constant threat from extremists and who suffer daily persecution, to know the peace of God.

.   for restoration for Christians who have been living as displaced people for several years.

.   praising God that though Christians in Iraq have lost much, many have had their faith strengthened.


Source: Open Doors

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Editors comment: Churches, Denominations and Christian Organisations all over the world have released messages of condolence over the Orlando nightclub shooting in which 50 people lost their lives. We selected this one which was representative of the sentiment expressed broadly by the Christian Church worldwide. 


Daniel R. Jackson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, issued the following statement in response to the mass shooting at the Pulse Club in Orlando, Florida:  “The Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America is heartbroken as we mourn the loss of innocent lives in the deadliest mass shooting in United States history. We extend our deepest condolences and prayers for the 50 people killed, the 53 wounded, their families, loved ones, and friends. We also pray for the community of Orlando and the heartache and sadness they are experiencing as a result of this tragedy. We strongly denounce the hate that led to this mass shooting. This type of senseless violence has no place in this country or in this world. It is appalling that these lives were tragically cut short because of hate.


We pray that God’s love will comfort and console the victims’ loved ones whose lives have become a nightmare overnight. “As Christians, we strongly believe that hate, for anyone, brother, sister, friend or enemy, comes not from God, but from the father of evil himself, the devil. We must condemn all expressions of hate, from speech to deadly violence. All of the women, children, and men in this world, regardless of whether they worship, live, or love like us, are children of God. “We are assured that, in the end, love will win. We know that one day hate and evil will be no more. Until that day, we will continue to pray that communities in this world can live their lives without fear.” “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13, NIV).


Source: Press Release: Seventh Day Adventist Church

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At least 700 migrants, mostly Eritrean women and children, drowned in their perilous attempt to reach Italy’s shores. Their journey ended in a shipwreck on the Mediterranean Sea in a span of three days. Survivors broke down in tears recounting the tragedy of how women and children cried and begged for help as their boat capsized. Within a few moments, many of them disappeared to the sea bottom. “When morning came, I saw how the women and children cried as everybody struggled to fetch the waters off the boat, but to no avail. We began to sink,” Habtom Tekle, a 27-year-old Eritrean said. A fishing boat with 500 Eritreans aboard was towing the smaller boat Tekle, which carried another 500.


As the smaller boat began to capsize the fishing boat’s skipper had the tow line cut, according to Save the Children. “I started to cry when I saw the situation. There were many women and children and for me it was very shocking,” said 21-year-old Filmon Selomon. He was in the fishing boat, and could not do anything for those in the smaller boat. Authorities said all the 300 people in the boat’s lower deck had died. The 200 others in the upper deck plunged into the sea and only 90 of them were rescued. About 100 people went missing in another shipwreck last week off the coast of Libya.


Source: Gospel Herald

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During an interview Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting Donald Trump was asked, “Who do you say Jesus is?”  He replied “Jesus to me is Somebody I can think about for security and confidence, Somebody I can revere in terms of bravery and in terms of courage and, because I consider the Christian religion so important, Somebody I can totally rely on in my own mind.” Pressed further during the interview about Trump’s now-infamous response to pollster Frank Luntz in which he said he had never asked for forgiveness. The GOP front-runner seemed to have had a change of heart on that issue. “I will be asking for forgiveness, but hopefully I won’t have to be asking for much forgiveness.” Trump also addressed the issue of his outreach to Christians: “As you know, I am Presbyterian and Protestant” he said.

Source: Charisma News

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