This article is written by Stefano Gennarini, Director of Legal Studies at the Centre for Family and Human Rights in New York.


Imagine a day in the not-too-distant future when we finally have the coveted fifth vote in the Supreme Court to strike down Roe v. Wade. Recall the many years of sweat and tears, ups and downs, wrangling about judicial nominations, and arguing about presidential elections. Then imagine that fifth vote no longer even matters because abortion has been declared a human right by international law. The issue is not just out of the hands of the Supreme Court, it is out of the hands of the American people. This nightmare is now unfolding before our very eyes as the UN Human Rights Committee wraps up a draft legal commentary on the right to life that excludes unborn children from membership in the human family and the protections of international treaties.

The Human Rights Committee is the oldest and most respected of 10 bodies that record the efforts of states to implement UN human rights treaties. It monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In July, it published a draft commentary on Article 6 of the treaty on the right to life and invited comments on the draft from civil society and UN member states. The committee said the right to life “inheres in every human being” and “should not be interpreted narrowly.” It called the right to life the “most precious” right, the “supreme right from which no derogation is permitted.” It even made a highly inclusive list of those protected under Article 6 “without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political, national or social origin, property, birth, caste, sexual orientation and gender identity, disability albinism and age.”

The committee then proceeded to exclude unborn children from the protection of Article 6. States must provide safe access to abortion to protect the life and health of pregnant women, and in situations when carrying a pregnancy to term would cause a woman substantial pain or suffering, most notably when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or when the foetus suffers from fatal impairment. States may allow and should not prevent medical professionals from providing medical treatment or the medical means in order to facilitate the termination of life of catastrophically afflicted adults, such as the mortally wounded or terminally ill, who experience severe physical or mental pain and suffering and wish to die with dignity. Leaving aside the laughable attempt to sanction euthanasia on the basis of international law, the mental gymnastics involved here are remarkable.

The committee had to ignore the text of Article 6 itself, which prohibits the application of the death penalty to pregnant women. The committee had to blindfold itself to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which expressly states that children are already protected by international law “before birth.” The committee applied a double standard in interpreting the history of the negotiations of the treaty, as Thomas Finegan demonstrates in an important article, in the Winter 2016 issue of the Tulane Journal of International & Comparative Law. A 1957 draft of the Covenant, the final version of which was ratified in 1966, removed a positive obligation to protect children in the womb from the moment of conception. But Finnegan found no indication in the negotiations that this language was omitted because the right to life was not understood to apply to children in the womb.

Rather, it should be viewed as a necessary compromise that allowed countries with permissive abortion regimes to ratify the treaty. Throughout the decades-long process of negotiations preceding the ratification of Article 6, several delegates argued that the right to life applied to children in the womb. Not a single delegate denied that the unborn child has a right to life. In 1947, during the early stages of drafting the Covenant, a positive obligation to permit abortion in cases of rape, foetal disability, or for therapeutic reasons was explicitly rejected. Even that rejected proposal did not exclude children in the womb from the protections of the Covenant. Finegan concludes that the omission of the proposal in 1957 should be interpreted not as excluding unborn children from the protections of international law, but as leaving a margin of appreciation to domestic legislation on abortion.

Unfortunately, the Human Rights Committee does not consider original intent in its interpretation of international treaties. Most committee members, and UN bureaucrats, are realists who believe human rights treaties are living instruments. No UN treaty mentions abortion, and no UN treaty can be fairly interpreted as recognizing a right to abortion. In fact, international law has a presumption in favour of protecting life in the womb, as the San Jose Articles explain. UN member states continue to say in UN resolutions that abortion is an issue to be dealt with exclusively in national legislation. Yet nearly all treaty bodies have fallen prey to an elaborate scheme to establish a de facto international right to abortion by reading abortion into every possible human rights treaty with the help of abortion groups and the UN bureaucracy.

To be clear, the interpretations of UN committees are neither binding nor authoritative. UN treaty bodies are not courts, and they cannot usurp the role of sovereign states in the interpretation of treaties. Luckily, the American people are unlikely to relinquish their legislative sovereignty. Even so, the effect of treaty bodies on the international legal environment is highly detrimental. Though it is highly debatable that they can legitimately change the legal obligations of member states under international law, their successes cannot be denied. Slowly but surely, commentaries from the UN human rights system about abortion are reshaping the legal landscape. In the past, only the most radical groups, most famously the Centre for Reproductive Rights, would claimed abortion is an international right, even as they acknowledged behind closed doors that the claim was baseless.

Today, you will be hard pressed to find a human rights group that openly affirms that unborn children have a right to life. Even religious groups like Catholic Relief Services, Caritas, and World Vision are timid and defensive when it comes to protecting children in the womb, as if they did not have legal ground to stand on. The damage is not confined to non-governmental organizations. Some national courts, such as the Constitutional Court of Colombia, have cited UN treaty bodies to strike down laws protecting children in the womb. Opportunistic politicians also routinely cite the treaty bodies as authorities on human rights. And there is hardly a corner of the United Nations system, with its dozens of agencies and programs, its bureaucracy composed of nearly 80,000 people, and its $50 billion budget, where abortion is not seen as a compassionate solution to a crisis pregnancy.

Sovereign states don’t react enough to the overreach of treaty bodies and other UN entities, especially when it comes to protecting children in the womb. When it comes to keeping up with complex UN processes, there is a significant amount of bureaucratic fatigue. It seems that unborn children are not a high priority of any country’s foreign policy. The Human Rights Committee is on the verge of publishing a legal commentary as indifferent to human life as the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, based upon legal reasoning that is just as tendentious. Governments should be urged to act by all means possible, whether it is through public statements from politicians, public petitions, or research and publications. No person, institution, or organization that cares about the pro-life cause should sit this one out. The committee must realize that there is real international outrage at what it is doing.

Source: LifeSiteNews

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As the world marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation there’s talk of another major movement, a “Latino Reformation.”  Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and Dr. Robert Crosby, professor of practical theology at Southeastern University, argue that we are currently experiencing the first generation of the Latino Protestant Reformation in their new book “When Faith Catches Fire.” They point to Latin America and the transformative shift in the past several decades towards evangelicalism and Pentecostalism. Research from the Centre for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary shows that Pentecostal and charismatic Believers have grown in Latin America from 12.8 million in 1970 to 181.3 million in 2010. They’re expected to jump to 203 million by 2020.

At the same time, a Latino population surge is shifting the religious landscape in the U.S. It’s grown by 43 percent in the last decade and analysts predict that one in three Americans will be Hispanic by 2050. Crosby and Rodriguez also maintain that Pope Francis, the first Latino Pope, has ushered in an era of growing Latino influence. These trends, they argue, have ushered in a new era. “We have yet to see the fullness of Latino Evangelical growth in America and abroad,” they write, “but it is happening right before our eyes.” Crosby and Rodriguez are not alone in recognizing the rise of Latino Christians. Scholars like Dr. Robert E. Cooley, President-Emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, says the Christian faith community is embracing it. Truly, God is at work today and the Hispanic and Latino Church has caught fire,” he said.

Time Magazine labelled the movement “The Latino Reformation” in a 2013 cover story that interviewed Rodriguez. Writer Elizabeth Dias wrote “the Latino boom is transforming American religious practices and politics.” It’s obvious in cities like Tampa, Florida where almost a quarter of the population is Hispanic. On any given Sunday at The Crossing Church in Tampa you’ll see a mix of ages, backgrounds and races. Lead Pastor Greg Dumas is Hispanic although he doesn’t speak Spanish. Still, he’s very aware of his diverse congregation. “The Latino population has exploded around here and we’re seeing it,” he told CBN News, “two of our main worship pastors are Latino and they’re amazing and they bring the salsa flair. Our student pastor and our campus pastor are both Latino.” Rodriguez says he’s mystified that many non-Hispanic evangelicals haven’t caught on to the rise in Latino Christians in the U.S.

“The white and African-American Churches see Latinos as simply this emerging immigrant group,” he said, “We are not emerging. We’re here and we’re in viable leadership roles.” Rodriguez oversees 40,000 churches affiliated with the National Hispanic Christian Conference and 3 years ago merged with Conela, a Latin-America-based organization that serves more than 485,000 Latin churches around the world. Rodriguez says the rise of Latino Christians in the U.S. is no coincidence. He believes they may not only bless the Church here but also help to redeem it in a culture that openly attacks Biblical views. “It’s easy when you target white evangelicals but it’s difficult when the proponents of Biblical truth are Latinos,” says Rodriguez. He sees Hispanic Christians as serving as a “firewall” against these assaults. “When you have a Latino advocating,” he says, “you’re coming against an ethnicity and a minority.”

Crosby says Latino growth in the U.S. is at a point where the Church cannot ignore it. “Churches that choose not to become multi-ethnic will lose,” he says. Denominations like the Southern Baptists, which has seen membership decline in recent years, are paying close attention. Its Hispanic churches have spiked, from 649 in 1990 to 3,429 in 2015. Hispanic evangelicals are especially active in charismatic denominations. The Pew Research Centre shows they make up 25% of those who identify with the Assemblies of God and Church of God. Barna Group research shows that 49% of Hispanics believe in charismatic gifts such as speaking in tongues and healing. Just down the road from The Crossing Church, River of Life Christian Centre is also attracting Latinos. Pastor Johnny Honaker told CBN News “the strongest presence and growth that we’ve had has come from the Latino community.”

Pastor Honaker says they not only welcome Latinos, they seek to reflect their congregation in their leadership. “We try to be intentional about representing our community in those on the platform and in those working with people,” he said. Crosby and Rodriguez say churches that welcome Latinos tend to become “salsafied.” They become passionate in their faith, and intentional in pursuing both salvation and social justice. “The vast majority of evangelical churches in the next 20 years will be both vertical and horizontal churches, will be both Billy Graham and Dr. Martin Luther King” says Rodriguez, “Latinos are doing that because we’re not either/or so we’ll be a very healthy Church committed to both righteousness and Biblical justice in the name of Jesus.” “Salsifying” the Church, says Rodriguez, is an opportunity for Kingdom collaboration what will not only enrich but could revitalize the Church.

Source: CBN News

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The country of Indonesia has been experiencing a rise in Islamic extremism. Bruce Allen from Frontier Missions International (FMI) recently visited the country and shares that while there, he did see more extreme and radical Islam on the rise.  “You’ll see Muslim clerics in the mosques, who are known for their radical ideology, inciting the people of those mosques or Muslims in the community to do violence,” Allen explains. “I’ve seen that happen on a number of occasions where the Muslim clerics are demanding that the Muslims of the community rise up against Christians and churches and attack them.” In 2016, more than 2,000 people took to the streets in Indonesia, demanding that the governor of Jakarta be removed for blasphemy. Yet, the situation in question didn’t include any blasphemy. It was simply that this particular governor was a Christian.

“Christians from Muslim backgrounds on the various islands that make up this nation, have come under pressure. But, more than just from terrorist groups. They’re coming under pressure from their own family and friends,” Allen shares. Why? Because the rise in Islamic extremism is being fuelled by another source. “Foreign states are actually funding radical seminaries and schools where people are being taught. In the past decade, Saudi Arabia has established more than a 150 mosques in Indonesia. Providing school books and bringing in their brand of preachers and teachers,” Allen explains. The foreign state has even been offering scholarships for graduate studies in Saudi Arabia where, Allen says, Wahhabi Islam, a very extreme form of Islam, is being taught to these students.

The schools in Indonesia funded by Saudi Arabia include hateful teachings towards non-Islamic religions, but also non-Sunni Islamic traditions and Muslims. There is little that Islamic extremism isn’t affecting in Indonesia. FMI supported pastors have also been feeling the impact of Islamic extremism with at least one already having been attacked. “He woke up one night to hear people throwing rocks and using hammers to try and break down the doors of the church,” Allen shares. “When he confronted them they attacked him. In another community, an Imam was so upset about the impact the local church was having on the community, he called hundreds of radical Muslims from other communities to help him in stopping the church’s programs. The plan backfired. Attending the program were many Muslims from the community who defended the church against the out-of-town radicals.

These are just a few incidents where Islamic extremism has threatened FMI partners and Indonesian Christians. “The work of the pastors continues to go on, but it’s not without opposition,” Allen explains. “Radical Islam is an evil darkness that is trying to take hold of the minds of many Indonesians. But, the Christians can’t fight that darkness by using the tactics of darkness. Only light can dispel darkness.” Please pray for the protection of Christians, for them to lead with courage and truth, and for them to communicate the truth with gentleness and respect. And ask God to provide, both physically and spiritually, for these church planters and evangelists and for more Christians to be raised up for evangelism. The Indonesian government is trying to disband radical militant groups in the country. However, containing radical individuals (those who are not a part of a group) is much harder.

Source: Mission Network News

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Pastor Marvin Suarez and his wife Cuchy saw the creature comforts of life as they knew it wiped away when Hurricane Maria ravaged their island home. “We are not the same people we were before the hurricane,” the couple said. “Everything is lower. There’s no contact with people, we go to their houses because sometimes phones don’t work. Everything is completely different.” The two pastor Iglesia La Vina de Mayaguez church along the western coast of Puerto Rico. They’re desperate to serve their community but have limited resources due to the storm. “This is an experience we’ve never had before because we are so used to plastic, debit cards, credit cards,” Cuchy says. “It’s been tough for a lot of people because they didn’t have enough cash. The banks were closed, and they just opened. This is a different environment. But some aspects are a blessing, too.

Cuchy continued “We are more aware of our fragility and our dependency on the internet and technology. We have been able to get to know our neighbours, work together at church. We spent a whole day at church just cleaning and fixing things. It has been not all bad.” As the island attempts to move back into routine, which is extremely limited, due to continued power outages and lack of basic resources, the Suarezes say their community members are tired and grumpy, stuck in lines for hours on end just to attend to basic needs. So today, the couple will hand out juice and cookies at banks, gas stations, basically wherever they see a line. “A bank manager was telling me that he goes to have some conversations with people in line just to be there for them, just the fact that they’re talking to you brings them comfort. That’s what we want to do, just be there, comfort them and give them sugar to keep going,” Marvin says.

The church which has a well on site, has scrambled to find a water pump so it can distribute water to those around them. They will also soon offer one hot meal a day to anyone who stops by. “We were not hurricane ready. We have work on that,” Marvin says. “For these tropical incidents, we need to have a good generator, install water pumps at the well and be a safe place for people to come after the hurricane blows over us. Even though I have been working with constructors to get the electrical poles put in place, it’s impossible, because they are subcontracted by the government to deal with bigger stuff.  Without internet and with only a spartan phone service, the church is dependent on signs to communicate to its neighbours. They may have next to nothing, but they know God is still good. “I have seen the Lord’s hand in every move,” Marvin says. “The Church is different, but the Church is alive.”

Source: Charisma News

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The streets of Kiev filled with songs of praise and thanks as 500,000 evangelical, Ukrainian Christians gathered to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. “Many travelled from all four provinces there just to be a part of that celebration, to thank God for the freedom to worship, to thank God for the freedom to preach the Gospel in their country, and to celebrate God’s faithfulness,” Sergey Rakhuba with Mission Eurasia said. The gathering came after Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko signed an order recognizing the anniversary of the reformation. “It was so exciting to see on the screen of my computer where I was watching young people with so much joy. They glorify God in the midst of their capital. This was the same place where they were protesting just a few years ago fighting for their freedom.

But this is also the place where many years ago, Communists would force people to demonstrate and propagate Atheism and other ‘isms’ in their country.” Rakhuba says young people are the key to spreading Christianity in Ukraine. That’s why we are working with the next generation, those who take the baton, those who get into the generational gap and take the Gospel to their communities,” he says. Young people aren’t just spreading the gospel in Ukraine, now they’re exporting missionaries to the world. “I just talked to a group of young people who came to this celebration from their mission trip to Mongolia in China, young Ukrainians who felt like the Holy Spirit was leading them to take the Gospel to Mongolia where they reached thousands of young people through summer camps!” Ukraine may still be in the middle of a war with Russia, but it is growing leaps and bounds spiritually Rakhuba says.

Source: CBN News

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