AUSTRALIAN  PRAYER  NETWORK  NEWSLETTER

CHRISTMAS GREETINGS AND LAST INTERNATIONAL NEWS FOR 2013

As this is the last International News for 2013 we want to take the opportunity to wish all our readers a wonderful Christmas as we celebrate the birth of Jesus and ponder afresh what His birth means to our everyday lives.

Our next edition of International News will not be published until Monday 13th January, so we would like to take the opportunity to wish everyone a happy and relaxed transition into 2014, which we trust will be filled with the fulfilment of many of His promises in the lives of all believers and in our nation as a whole.

May God bless you all and thank you for your support throughout the past year.

  • INTERNET PORN TO BE BLOCKED IN U.K. – PARENTS WILL NEED TO OPT IN TO ACCESS
  • U.K. MUSLIM POLITICIAN SAYS CHRISTIANS MUST BE DEFENDED
  • NORTHERN IRAQ NO LONGER SAFE FOR CHRISTIANS
  • CLERICS CALL ON U.N. MILITARY FORCE TO SECURE THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
  • CHRISTIANITY SPREADING AT REMARKABLE RATE IN EMERGING NEW INDIA
  • CHINA TO CHANGE IT’S DECADES OLD ONE-CHILD POLICY AND ABOLISH LABOR CAMPS
     

INTERNET PORN TO BE BLOCKED IN U.K. – PARENTS WILL NEED TO OPT IN TO ACCESS

All 20 million families with internet connections in the U.K. will soon have to say whether they want access to online pornography.

Hundreds of thousands are already signing up to have it blocked.  New customers who set up a broadband account or switch providers are to have the filters automatically selected unless they opt to disable them. Customers who do not click on either option – accepting or declining – will have filters activated by default. The filters will apply to all devices linked to a home wi-fi network and across any public network, and wherever children are likely to be present. 

Adult content filters are also expected to be fitted to all new mobile phones automatically. The U.K.’s biggest internet service providers, which are responsible for internet connections in about 95 per cent of homes, have agreed to sign up to the scheme after months of discussion with the Government. There has been growing alarm at evidence that a third of youngsters have accessed online pornography by the time they are ten years old. Six in ten parents say they are worried or very worried about their sons and daughters seeing violent and sexual material on the web. Prime Minister David Cameron said that web firms had not been ‘doing enough to take responsibility’.  

He said: ‘I made a promise in July that I would take action to help parents protect their children when online at home and we are now delivering on that promise. ‘In the weeks and months ahead, millions of hardworking families will only need one click to protect their whole home and to keep their children safe. When someone sets up a new broadband account, the settings to install family-friendly filters will be automatically selected and it will only be switched off if a parent chooses to do so.‘  Mr Cameron said he will install filters in his own home to protect his three children. 

BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media are funding a £25million campaign aimed at advising parents how to tackle issues including cyber-bullying and accessing adult content online. The six largest providers of public wi-fi have all confirmed they have switched on family friendly filters in all areas where children might access the internet.  TalkTalk is working with Girlguiding U.K. to teach girls how to stay safe online whilst still enjoying the internet. Campaigners will welcome the progress, but there is still deep concern about the phenomenon of ‘sexting’ – where children use mobile devices to exchange sexual pictures of each other – which will not be curbed by internet filters.

Critics say faults or loopholes in existing internet service provider filters have been reported and warn that they can unintentionally block important sites related to sexual health and sex education. A Government source said further work was necessary, but insisted: ‘We’ve acted quickly and decisively to help families with this problem. This is not about censorship or moralising but helping parents make an informed choice.’ Almost 20% of 11 and 12-year-olds had been distressed by an experience online in the past year such as trolling or being sent inappropriate sexual messages.

Source: Daily Mail

 

U.K. MUSLIM POLITICIAN SAYS CHRISTIANS MUST BE DEFENDED

The first Muslim to serve in Britain’s cabinet says that Western governments must protect Christians being forced out of the Middle East. “In some places, there is real danger that Christianity will become extinct”, said Baroness Warsi during a speech at Georgetown University, in the U.S.A. Warsi, the Minister for Faith and Communities in the U.K. Parliament said Christians in the Middle East are seen as “newcomers” in the region despite having lived there since the dawn of Christianity. They are seen as “outsiders” in societies they have helped shape for centuries, and are blamed for perceived Western offenses. “A mass exodus of Biblical proportions is taking place” Warsi said. 

Born in England to Pakistani immigrants, Warsi was elevated to the House of Lords in 2007 at age 36, making her the youngest peer in parliament at the time. In her Georgetown speech, Warsi said leaders of all faiths and governments in the West can fight the “new sectarianism that is breaking out across continents” in four ways: 

•          Emphasizing the moments in history when people of one faith came to the aid of the people of a different faith.

•          Insisting that “the presence of other faiths doesn’t come at the expense of your own”.

•          Promoting the link between religious freedom and economic health. “Persecution is bad for business”, she said.

•          Encouraging leaders of the major faiths to defend the others. 

“Our response to this crisis must not be a case of Christians defending Christians, Muslims defending Muslims, or indeed faith groups defending faith groups” Warsi said. She said the rise of sectarian violence has driven a wedge between the major religions, creating space for extremist elements. “The challenge is that in the West they want to talk about Islamophobia, where elsewhere they want to talk about freedom of expression and persecution of Christians, so it is very polarizing, and it’s about trying to find that middle way,” she said. Politicians have a responsibility to set the tone and mark out legal parameters as to what will and will not be tolerated. 

Warsi said, “the key is for politicians in Christian minority countries to speak out against discrimination. One of the things that we’ve been involved in in Pakistan is having very frank conversations with the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Minister responsible for religious affairs, saying that politicians have a duty to speak out when this kind of persecution happens and to set the standards by which they expect societies to follow. “Politicians need to set the standard.”  There was research done in the U.S., which said that how a minority community is treated after an extremist incident, is very much dependent upon the tone that politicians set. 

It’s a tragedy that 83% of countries have a constitution which protects freedom of religion but it is not followed.” Warsi urged politicians to keep their word by ensuring that their constitutions are met and that human rights laws are followed.  “There is an international consensus through a human rights council resolution on the treatment of minorities and tolerance towards other faiths, but we need to build political will behind that. “It’s not just about having laws, it’s about politicians having the political will to implement these laws.” Part of the response to sectarian violence requires religious authorities to refute extremists who point to their religion to justify persecution. 

Source: World Watch Monitor

 

NORTHERN IRAQ NO LONGER SAFE FOR CHRISTIANS

Once a relatively safe haven, the Kurdish north of Iraq is becoming increasingly dangerous.  The Kurdish capital of Erbil is one of a number of cities where bombings have left Christians feeling unsafe. The increased violence has increased the flow of Christians leaving the country. The north had become home for many Christians fleeing from the tumultuous central and southern regions of Iraq. However, several bombings in the north in recent months have caused panic among the Christian community. Recently a suicide bomb went off outside the home of a Christian politician in Kirkuk province, injuring 19 people, including three of his children. 

Several bomb attacks have taken place in Erbil, for which Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility. Christians in a nearby village have complained that they were facing harassment from local police. A group of Christian young people said that policemen told them that they “should not be in Iraq because it is Muslim territory”. Violence in the south of the country is also escalating. Church leaders in Baghdad say there are attacks on Christians every two or three days. Open Doors which supports persecuted Christians, said that although many Christians are still choosing to stay, the fear is that if the violence continues, they may decide they have little choice but to leave.

“It remains urgent to pray for the future of Christianity in this country,” said an Open Doors spokesman. “If the present trend continues, there might be no Christians left in the whole of Iraq by 2020.” Some commentators look back to December 2011 as a turning point for Christians in Iraq, following a number of attacks on Christian-owned shops. Since that time, the violence against Christians in the Kurdish north has increased, with Christians being kidnapped and killed in an area once considered relatively safe. In March 2012, an American teacher was killed in Sulaymaniyah, which provided another shock for the Christian community. 

The local Kurdish government has discussed ways to monitor Christian activities and has accused many English teachers from the West of being Christian missionaries. It is now much harder for Westerners to receive work permits in the country. Christians in Iraq are clearly identifiable. Many wear crosses or have Christian symbols on the gates of their homes. According to the Open Doors World Watch list “Christians in Iraq are on the verge of extinction. Large numbers of Christians have fled abroad or are facing unemployment, inadequate schooling, medical care and housing. Many Church members have been killed or abducted, and there is a  lack of capable leaders.”

Source: World Watch Monitor

 

CLERICS CALL ON U.N. MILITARY FORCE TO SECURE THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

The leaders of the Central African Republic’s 4 million Christians have issued a joint plea for military help to disarm a Muslim insurgency and prevent “genocidal interfaith civil war”. More than 100 church leaders issued a document accusing the Séléka rebel coalition of killing pastors, raping nuns, torturing civilians, burning villages, destroying churches and looting property. Seleka rebels tossed out President François Bozizé in March, forcing him to flee the country. Human-rights groups say that in the 7 months since, rebels have killed hundreds of people and driven tens of thousands from their homes, many of which have been looted and burned. 

The church leaders’ “Bangui Declaration” urges the international community to “fly rapidly to the rescue, to prevent the country from falling into the hands of extremists and religious fanatics”. They said security units provided by neighbouring countries are ineffective and urged the U.N. to send a more robust, multinational force. The 100 Church leaders contained representatives of all Catholic and Protestant denominations in the country. Representatives from all known denominations were present. After signing it, the document was handed  to the organiser of the conference, Open Doors International. 

About 85% of the Central African Republic’s five million people are Christian. “Christians are the most affected,” the joint statement said. The Muslim-dominated Séléka coalition seized several northern cities in December last year. In March it concluded that a power-sharing agreement with the government had collapsed, and it moved into Bangui, driving out President Bozizé. The clerics’ declaration said that in response to the Séléka advances, “vigilante groups in the north have been formed to defend themselves”. This has only accelerated the spiral of violence, they said. “These groups are subsequently attacked by the Muslim populations in that area,” the declaration states. 

Elements of the Séléka including Arabic-speaking mercenaries from Chad and Sudan are among the insurgency, and abuses have been reported in neighbouring countries, raising the prospect that Séléka could “set ablaze the whole sub-region”.  The clerics are demanding “immediate deployment” of a U.N.-directed international force “with the mission to disarm the armed forces and secure the civilian population”, as well as restore the national armed forces. They also asked for humanitarian aid to affected areas, and for the creation of a transitional government to craft a new constitution and prepare elections.

Source: World Watch Monitor

 

CHRISTIANITY SPREADING AT REMARKABLE RATE IN EMERGING NEW INDIA

Christianity in India is growing at a rapid rate among middle and high caste Indians and young people.  The current “remarkable receptivity to Christ” across the entire spectrum of Indian society, which had been traditionally among only lower castes and marginalized communities, is one of five dominant themes identified by Indian anthropologist Prabhu Singh that define today’s India and its missional challenges. In his article “Welcome to the New India” in the current issue of “Unfinished,” Singh also explores new eras of “glocal” complex connectivity, heightened cultural sensitivity, alarming religious animosity and widening economic disparity. 

“With more than 71 million claiming Christianity, India is now the eighth largest Christian nation in the world,” said Dick McClain, publisher of “Unfinished.” “Yet with 456 languages and more than 2,611 distinct people groups, India still has more people groups unreached with the gospel than any other nation—88% of its population.” Considered the most ethnically diverse country on the planet, the “new India” is experiencing rapid change, diversity and complexity. According to Singh’s identification of the five top trends, with great receptivity to Christianity also comes alarming religious animosity, resulting in persecution and violent resistance to Christianity. 

With greater “glocal” (both global and local) complex connectivity come both new economic opportunities and widening economic disparity between the newly wealthy and members of the lowest castes who cannot rise above their status.  “Glocal” complex connectivity has led to focus on urban missions, a shift from solely rural and tribal, the growing middle class and youth. India’s Christian history has come full circle from colonialism, in which the West jumped in to “help India’s poor,” to the “new India” that sends out thousands of its own missionaries and is home to hundreds of self-supporting ministries.

Source: The Mission Society

 

CHINA TO CHANGE IT’S DECADES OLD ONE-CHILD POLICY AND ABOLISH LABOR CAMPS

According to reports, China’s officials are planning to institute the first major changes to its harsh “one-child policy” in almost 30 years, following demographics statistics that show a very unbalanced population. The Communist country’s current policy, which was introduced in 1979, limits urban couples to one child, and two for rural families if their first-born is a girl. Under the new policy, couples in which one member is an only child will be allowed to have two children. Currently, couples can only have two children if both members are only children themselves. 

China’s strict rule has cost more preborn babies’ lives through abortion than any other nation. The effect after decades of this policy is that the elderly population—which relies upon their children for assistance—is quickly growing, outnumbering the younger generations who could help provide that care. In addition there is a “long-term gender imbalance,” due to the “abortions…and the infanticide of baby girls by parents who cling to a traditional preference for a son.” However, last year, a government think tank urged China’s leaders to start phasing out the policy and allow two children for every family by 2015, saying the country had paid a “huge political and social cost.”

China will also end its controversial re-education through labour programme, a system of administrative, extralegal detentions which can send people to prison for four years without conviction, in an apparent effort to improve human rights.  Activists and human rights groups have long criticised the system as giving authorities the power to detain critics and opponents without due process. Details of the two policy shifts and timelines for their implementation are still unclear. The decisions were made following a 4-day meeting of party leaders in Beijing.  

Source: USA Today