CALL TO STEP UP SECURITY FOR PAKISTAN’S CHRISTIANS NOW
In the wake of church bomb attacks in Lahore, Release International is calling on Pakistan to urgently address the culture of intolerance that leads to church attacks by stepping up security for its vulnerable Christian minority. Suicide bombers recently struck at two churches in Lahore, killing 15 and wounding 80. The death toll would have been far higher if security guards hadn’t prevented the bombers from entering the churches where hundreds were attending Sunday services. The security guards were among the dead. A splinter group of the Pakistan Taliban has claimed responsibility, warning they will attack again.
In the confusion following the attack, angry residents reportedly killed two Muslims they suspected of aiding the terrorists. Christian and Muslim leaders have been calling for calm, but there is concern that the situation could escalate, and there could be reprisals against the beleaguered Christian community. ‘We commend the Christian and Muslim leaders calling for peace,’ says Release International Chief Executive, Paul Robinson. ‘If mob violence breaks out, it will play directly into the hands of the extremists. Their aim is to create division and chaos in which they thrive. We have seen Islamist terrorists use the same tactic in Nigeria.’
Christians have been demonstrating in cities across Pakistan for greater security. ‘Their need cannot be overstated,’ says Robinson. ‘Where there is no rule of law and no protection against extremism, frightened people will do whatever they can to defend themselves and could take the law into their own hands. ‘The Pakistan authorities must act immediately to protect their country’s vulnerable Christian community. ‘There is a growing culture of intolerance in Pakistan which has led to these attacks. The authorities must redouble their efforts to change this hostile religious climate.’
Minority Christians make up less than 2% of the population. ‘Christian communities have been attacked and Christians accused of blasphemy burnt alive. There has been a marked increase in the gang-rape of Christian girls and of forced conversion and marriage,’ says Robinson. ‘It all adds up to a climate of intolerance in which violent persecution thrives and which gives ground to extremists,’ says Robinson. ‘Pakistan must wake up to the problem and defend the rule of law and see that justice is done. And it must abolish the notorious blasphemy laws that are used as weapons against minorities and bolster this culture of intolerance and division.’
What is life like for Christians in Pakistan? The local police tell you to leave immediately; a violent mob of 3,000 people is on its way and you need to flee before they attack. By the next morning your home and church have been burnt to the ground and what little you had is now gone. We wish this was just a story, but sadly it isn’t. It’s what happens regularly to Christian communities in Pakistan. The seeds of hate are sown throughout Pakistani society, through the media, in the education system, via social media or public discourse. Prejudice is tolerated and bred to such an extent that the environment is ripe for these sorts of attacks on Christians.
So what’s the answer? Observers believe that to stop the rising tide of attacks on minorities, there is a need to tackle hate speech. Only when the culture and mindsets that allow religious hatred and intolerance to breed are changed can we stop the violence. Christian organisations are working directly with religious leaders to help change society by encouraging them to speak tolerance in place of hatred. They are also calling on the government to action their promises to protect religious minorities, by implementing the recommendations made last year by the Supreme Court which set out clear steps for creating an environment of religious tolerance.
. against further violence and destruction and for Christians who may not live as Christians but bear Christ’s name, to witness a touch of his love and grace on their lives.
. for local trauma counselling teams who are working together with the authorities, as well as with the local churches, in ministering to hurting, injured and angry believers. Please pray for protection and wisdom in their work.
. for God to work in the hearts of members of the Taliban, that they will come to know God’s love and grace and be miraculously transformed.
WOMAN REFUSES TO PAY FINE FOR REFUSING TO PROVIDE FLOWERS FOR SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
A florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding has rejected an offer to settle a discrimination case by paying a $2000 fine and faces ruin. Barronelle Stutzman, the 70-year-old owner of Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts in Washington, is defiant in the face of lawsuits by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the same-sex couple concerned. “I never imagined that using my God-given talents and abilities, and doing what I love to do for over three decades, would become illegal,” she wrote to Mr Ferguson in rejecting his deal. Stutzman, a devout Southern Baptist refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding.
Ferguson’s offer would have forced her to betray her religious beliefs – akin to Judas betraying Jesus. “That is something I will not do.” Ferguson had offered to settle the case if she paid a $2,000 fine and agreed not to discriminate in the future. Stutzman continued “Your offer reveals that you don’t understand me or what this conflict is all about. It’s about freedom, not money. I certainly don’t relish the idea of losing my business, my home, and everything else that your lawsuit threatens to take from me, but my freedom to honour God in doing what I do best is more important to me.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the religious liberty law firm representing Stutzman, said legal bills could be as high as seven figures.”He’s using the full power of his office to destroy her,” ADF lawyer Kristen Waggoner told Fox News. Waggoner said the florist has now been inundated with requests to provide flowers for same-sex weddings. “Every time someone comes in you get tagged with a $2,000 fine,” she said. “They’re setting her up.” Stutzman’s lawyers state they will appeal the judge’s decision. In the meantime, she said she would continue to gladly serve the homosexual who filed the lawsuit. “I truly want the best for him” she wrote.
“I’ve also employed and served many members of the homosexual community and I will continue to do so regardless of what happens with this case. Our state would be a better place if we respected each other’s differences, and our leaders protected the freedom to have those differences. Since 2012, same-sex couples in our State have been free to act on their beliefs about marriage, but because I follow the Bible’s teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, I am no longer free to act on my beliefs.” The incident is one of several conflicts to draw national attention in the U.S. with 37 states having legalising same sex marriage.
A cake shop in Lakewood, Colorado, was found by a judge to have unlawfully discriminated against a gay couple by refusing to sell them a wedding cake. Owner Jack Phillips is fighting the ruling. Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Oregon, broke that state’s anti-discrimination laws when they refused, on religious grounds, to serve a lesbian couple who wanted a wedding cake. The Oregon Bureau of Labour and Industries ruled that the owners will have to pay the lesbian couple $150,000. The matter is due to go to court for arbitration next month.
Tropical Cyclone Pam, a massive storm with winds up to 297 kph and torrential rain, battered the nation, causing “complete devastation” to the island chain. Aid organisations and Governments, including Australia’s, have responded by sending disaster response teams to Vanuatu. Supplies and relief items have been provided, to meet emergency needs for thousands of storm victims. Doctors, nurses and medical supplies have also been provided. The hospital in Port Vila was overwhelmed with patients, and some beds were moved outside due to fears the building is no longer safe. Medical teams are providing mobile medical care.
Food crops have been destroyed, fruit trees have been stripped off, pigs and chickens were swept away. They’re saying people will be without food for months.” The category 5 storm thrashed the islands of Vanuatu for most of a 24-hour period. “There is devastation as far as the eye can see,” said one observer. In Port Vila, up to 90% of the houses have been destroyed, trees and power lines are down, and people are wandering the streets looking for help. There are reports of entire villages in remote areas being destroyed. The electricity is out, communications are down, buildings are flattened, and people are in dire need.
One of the biggest concerns is that Vanuatu is a chain of islands with airports only in Port Vila and another island to the south called Tanna. The other smaller islands are isolated and it may take days to discover all the needs they will have for shelter, clean water, medical treatment, and non-food items such as hygiene supplies and blankets. “This is a very devastating cyclone,” Vanuatu President Baldwin Lonsdale told news outlets. “I term it as a monster, a monster. It’s a setback for the government and for the people of Vanuatu. After all the development that has taken place, all this development has been wiped out.”
The YWAM property near Port Vila was totally decimated. The Scripture Union campsite near Pango, is seriously damaged. All Wycliffe workers are accounted for but there is a missionary couple in outer islands whose safety is unknown. One Australian living in Port Vila described the scene as the cyclone came through. “Inside our house it was like baling water out of a sinking ship. We were up all night doing this with our terrified children. The noise was indescribable as the water was moving horizontally through the eaves like fire hoses gushing water at over 300 kms an hour! I have cut feet from broken glass from the huge winds smashing windows.
Source: Compiled by APN from information from various sources
An ISIS jihadist has recently converted to Christianity after being left for dead in Syria before being rescued by Christians from the region. The man, who survived multiple gun-shot wounds in a fight between ISIS and Syrian Army forces, was rescued by members of a Catholic community in Ayyash hours after the conflict had erupted. The members of the community wanted to give the man a proper Christian burial, as he was believed to have died from his wounds, and carried him over 26kms before he miraculously came back to life. A priest Hermann Groschlin, discovered the body of the young man.
As the man came back to life, he told the priest of the visions he had whilst in the afterlife, an event that profoundly changed the 32-year old jihadist and eventually led to his conversion to Christianity. “He told me that he was always taught that to die as a martyr would open up to him the Gates of Heaven” recalled the priest. “Yet, as he had started to ascend towards the light of the Heavens, devilish entities appeared and led him to the fiery pits of Hell. There he had to relive all the pain he had inflicted upon others and every death he had caused throughout his entire life. He even had to relive the decapitations of his victims through their own eyes”.
The images the man claims, will haunt him for the rest of his life. “Then God told him that he had failed miserably as a human soul, and would be banned from the Gates of Heaven if he chose to die, but if he chose to live again, he would have another chance to repent of his sins and walk in God’s ways.” The young man claims he was brought back to life moments later. He believes he had been misled throughout his life as a Muslim. The young man has chosen to live amongst the members of the Catholic community who rescued him and hopes his story will help other ISIS fighters change their ways and convert to the one and only true God, the priest said.
From the Russian point of view, creating a sphere of influence that would return Russia to its relatively defensible imperial boundaries is imperative. Obviously, forces in the peripheral countries as well as great powers outside the region will resist. For them, a weak and vulnerable Russia is preferable, since a strong and secure one develops other appetites that could see Russia pushing along vectors such as through the Skagerrak toward the North Sea, through the Turkish Straits toward the Mediterranean and through La Perouse Strait toward Japan and beyond.
Russia’s essential strategic problem is this: It is geopolitically unstable. The Russian Empire and Soviet Union were never genuinely secure. One problem was the North European Plain. But another problem, very real and hard to solve, was access to the global trading system via oceans. And behind this was Russia’s essential economic weakness due to its size and lack of ability to transport agricultural produce throughout the country. No matter how much national will it has, Russia’s inherently insufficient infrastructure constantly weakens its internal cohesion.
Russia must dominate the Eurasian heartland. When it does, it must want more. The more it wants the more it must face its internal economic weakness and social instability, which cannot support its ambitions. Then the Russian Federation must contract. This cycle has nothing to do with Russian ideology or character. It has everything to do with geography, which in turn generates ideologies and shapes character. Russia must face its permanent struggle.” Pray that the sanctions being taken against Russia will hold President Putin and the Russian government back from further aggressive moves against Ukraine or other nations in their neighbourhood or globally.
INDIA: CONCERNS OVER RISING ATTACKS ON CHRISTIAN MINORITIES
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has expressed concern over the increasing number of attacks on Christian communities in India. There has been a spate of attacks on churches and clergy in recent months. On 16 March, a church under construction in Haryana was demolished. On 14 March, a 72 year-old nun in Ranaghat, West Bengal, was gang-raped by 8 men. On 27 February, a group of 20 Christian missionaries from Hyderabad were detained by police and beaten while in custody. On 25 February, a Catholic church in Mangalore, was vandalised, while at least 5 Catholic churches in the Delhi area have also been subject to vandalism and arson.
Speaking at a conference organised by Christian groups, Prime Minister Modistated: “My government will not allow any religious group to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly. My government will give equal respect to all religions. We cannot accept violence against any religion on any pretext and I strongly condemn such violence. My government will act strongly in this regard.” CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “CSW calls on Prime Minister Modi to fulfil his promise to combat religious hatred and violence, and to affirm his commitment to uphold the Indian constitution and guarantee freedom of religion or belief.