AUSTRALIAN  PRAYER  NETWORK  NEWSLETTER – INTERNATIONAL NEWS 25th NOVEMBER 2013

  • PRAYING IN RUINED CHURCHES AS FILIPINOS FACE UP TO MASSIVE REBUILDING
  • GOD ON THE MOVE IN ICELAND
  • U.K. PRIME MINISTER PLANS FOR ISLAMIC MARKET INDEX
  • SHOULD CHILDREN HAVE THE RIGHT TO ASK FOR THEIR OWN DEATHS?
  • AFTER YEARS OF DECLINE U.S.A. CATHOLICS SEE RISE IN NUMBER OF FUTURE PRIESTS
  • FIRST EVER SLOVAK MARCH FOR LIFE SHATTERS EXPECTATIONS WITH A CROWD OF 80,000
  • ALABAMA POLICE USING CHRISTIANITY TO FIGHT CRIME
  • CITY DESTROYED IN BIGGEST CHRISTIAN MASSACRE OF THE SYRIAN WAR
     

PRAYING IN RUINED CHURCHES AS FILIPINOS FACE UP TO MASSIVE REBUILDING

Survivors of Typhoon Haiyan flocked to ruined churches, kneeling in prayer under torn roofs as the Philippines faced an enormous rebuilding task from the storm that killed at least 3,681 people and displaced 4 million. At Santo Niño Church, near the waterfront in the flattened city of Tacloban, birds flitted between the rafters overhead as women moved through the pews with collection plates. At the end of mass, the Roman Catholic congregation broke into applause. Rosario Capidos, 55, sat crying in one row, hugging her nine-year-old grandson, Cyrich. 

Capidos had been sheltering at home with nine other members of her family when Haiyan struck on November 8. As the waters rose, she floated her three grandchildren on a slab of styrofoam through a road flooded with debris and shipping containers to a nearby Chinese temple. Her family survived. “That’s why I’m crying,” she said. “I thank God I was given a second chance to live.”  A massive relief effort is finally kicking into gear after one of the most powerful typhoons on record wreaked havoc across the impoverished area in the central Philippines with monster winds and a deadly storm surge of sea water. 

Philippine authorities and international aid agencies face a mounting humanitarian crisis, with the number of people displaced by the catastrophe estimated at 4 million, up from the original estimate of 900,000.  Nearly half a million houses were damaged by the storm, half of them destroyed, according to the United Nations. Many churches have provided emergency shelter to those left homeless. While aid packages have begun to reach more remote areas, much of it carried by helicopters brought by the USS George Washington aircraft carrier, the United Nations said people were still going hungry in some mountainous provinces. 

It said information about several provinces in the west of the Visayas region remained “limited”, with 60 percent of people in towns in the northeast part of Capiz province needing food support.  “I remain concerned about the health and well-being of the millions of men, women and children who are still in desperate need,” U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said in a statement.  President Benigno Aquino, caught off guard by the scale of the disaster, is scheduled to visit affected areas this week. He has been criticised for the slow pace of aid distribution and unclear estimates of casualties, especially in Tacloban, capital of hardest-hit Leyte province. 

There are 1,186 people missing, according to the national count although there is hope that initial local estimates of 10,000 dead were overstated. Estimated damage to infrastructure and agriculture is about 10 billion pesos ($230 million), the bulk of it in the farming sector. The United Nations warned that economic and human cost could rise if aid did not reach farmers in rice-growing regions in time for the next planting season in December and January.  It also said that fishing, another crucial food source, had been placed in jeopardy by the storm. “The destruction of boats, fishing gear and related equipment left many families with no means of livelihood and decreased protein intake.,”

Source: Reuters

 

GOD ON THE MOVE IN ICELAND

Icelanders came streaming down the aisle responding to a Gospel message from Franklin Graham.  An emotional night left tears of joy and real hope for a revival to sweep their nation. It normally takes a lot to move Skúli Barker to tears but what he witnessed that night in his country did it. He’ll be the first to tell you – that simply doesn’t happen in Iceland. “My wife was sobbing next to me,” Skúli said. “And I started to cry. It’s just amazing.” It started off as a few souls responding at the end of Franklin Graham’s Gospel message and before he knew it, throngs were flooding the stage, elbow-to-elbow, hundreds of people packed in, aisles backed up. 

People wanting to meet Jesus. And willing to say that out loud.  Skúli doesn’t want to be overdramatic but he’s a native Icelander in his 40s now, and he’s seen the state of Icelandic people when it comes to talking about God or anything spiritual. “There’s a joke here that we are the ‘Frozen Chosen,'” Skúli said. “But it’s really true. In Iceland, people don’t show their feelings. So for Icelanders to come forward to receive Jesus…” Skúli’s voice went silent. His eyes turned red. “It’s just been a real fight here for Christians,” he said. “And this gives us hope.” In one sentence, Skúli summed up five years’ worth of prayers from a core group of pastors and business leaders. 

He managed to put into words what this meant to the Iceland Festival of Hope executive committee members who put in nine months of hard work. “It was like a child has been born in many ways,” said Ragnar Gunnarsson, Festival of Hope director. “A tremendous experience. This is what we have been praying for.” And while nobody wanted to say it beforehand, Sigurros, an usher at the Festival of Hope, finally put into words what everyone had been thinking. “I’m hoping,” she said, “this will be the first step for revival.”  “I am so happy. I was praying when Franklin Graham was talking that God would open the hearts of the people to hear the truth.”   

After two powerful nights and an attendance of nearly 6000—one question lingered as Icelanders filed out.  Is this the start of revival? “While only God knows the answer, the signs are encouraging. Prayer for revival has multiplied in the Iceland evangelical churches. Many of the 41 churches involved at the Festival are now closely working together—with pastors praying together weekly.  Committee chairman Ómar Kristjánsson — a humble businessman who five years ago simply followed a call from God to gather pastors and leaders and start praying for Iceland—was able to sum up the weekend in one word. “Magnificent,” he said.

Source: Breaking Christian News

 

U.K. PRIME MINISTER PLANS FOR ISLAMIC MARKET INDEX

British Prime Minister David Cameron is taking strides to tap the burgeoning interest in Islamic finance, announcing the launch of a new Islamic Market Index in London and plans for Britain to be the first non-Muslim country to issue an Islamic bond. Describing London as “already the biggest centre for Islamic finance outside the Islamic world,” Cameron said that the U.K.’s ambition is to go further. “I don’t just want London to be a great capital of Islamic finance in the Western world,” he told an audience of international political and business leaders in London. “I want London to stand alongside Dubai as one of the great capitals of Islamic finance anywhere in the World.”

Islamic finance conforms to Islamic law, or Sharia, which forbids charging interest and requires deals to be based on tangible assets. Speculation is banned, as is dealing in futures. Although still small compared with the world of mainstream finance, Islamic finance is expected to hold growing appeal for Gulf investors seeking to invest oil revenue or pious Muslims who want retail Islamic banking services. The market in Islamic investments has grown quickly since 2006, and its value is expected to hit 1.3 trillion pounds ($2 trillion) next year. Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, is regarded as its hub, but London has been courting the industry aggressively. 

Cameron made a case for mutual benefits in his address at the recent World Islamic Economic Forum, which for the first time was held in a non-Muslim country.  Nearly 1,800 political and business leaders attending the meeting. King Abdullah II of Jordan told delegates that Muslims worldwide needed to join economic blocs, follow open market trends and engage their country’s youth. Frustrated unemployed youth were a major driver of the revolutions that rocked the Arab world in 2011 and beyond. “The business world must make it a priority to answer the needs of young people everywhere, for jobs, secure futures and the opportunity to excel,” he said. 

Cameron also said plans are underway to make Britain the first non-Muslim country to issue an Islamic bond. It is expected to be worth around 200 million pounds and issued next year. “For years people have been talking about creating an Islamic bond outside the Islamic world. But it’s never quite happened,” Cameron said. “Changing that is a question of pragmatism and political will. And here in Britain we’ve got both.” Alex Conroy, a trader at Spreadex, said the U.K.’s effort to diversify business could be seen as a way to stay competitive in the finance world. “By welcoming all foreign investment this should ensure London remains a leader in global finance,” he said.

Source: ABC News

 

SHOULD CHILDREN HAVE THE RIGHT TO ASK FOR THEIR OWN DEATHS?

In Belgium, where euthanasia is legal for people over 18, the government is considering extending it to children. The same bill would offer the right to die to adults with early dementia.  Advocates argue that euthanasia for children, with the consent of their parents, is necessary to give families an option in a desperately painful situation. But opponents have questioned whether children can reasonably decide to end their own lives. Belgium legalized euthanasia for adults in 2002. In the last decade, the number of reported cases per year has risen from 235 in 2003 to 1,432 in 2012. Doctors typically give patients a powerful sedative before injecting another drug to stop their heart. 

Only a few countries have legalized euthanasia or anything approaching it.  In the Netherlands, euthanasia is legal under specific circumstances and for children over the age of 12 with parental consent. There is an understanding that infants, too, can be euthanized, and that doctors will not be prosecuted if they act appropriately. Elsewhere in Europe, euthanasia is only legal in Luxembourg. Assisted suicide, where doctors help patients to die but do not actively kill them, is allowed in Switzerland. In the U.S., the state of Oregon grants assisted suicide requests for residents aged 18 or over with a terminal illness. Assisted suicide also is allowed in Washington, Vermont and Montana. 

In Belgium, the ruling Socialist party has proposed the bill expanding the right of euthanasia. The Christian Democratic Flemish party vowed to oppose the legislation and to challenge it in the European Court of Human Rights, if it passes. A final decision must be approved by Parliament and could take months.  In the meantime, the Senate has heard testimony on both sides of the issue. “It is strange that minors are considered legally incompetent in key areas, such as getting married, but might be able to decide to die,” Catholic Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard testified.

Source: Washington Post

 

AFTER YEARS OF DECLINE U.S.A. CATHOLICS SEE RISE IN NUMBER OF FUTURE PRIESTS

After decades of fewer priests and fewer parishes, the Catholic Church in the United States is now seeing more men enrolled in graduate-level seminaries than in nearly two decades. This year’s tally of 3,694 graduate theology students represents a 16% increase since 1995 and a 10% jump since 2005. Seminary directors cite more encouragement from bishops and parishes and a growing sense that the church is past the corrosive impact of the sexual abuse crisis that exploded in 2002. Monsignor Craig Cox, rector of St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo said “ultimately I believe the Spirit of God is at work.” 

Monsignor Cox said “Young men today want to give their life for something that counts. They are tired of living in a culture of relativism and  have discovered the truth and beauty of God. Cox says that whilst his students are younger than previously, ranging in age from 22 to 45,  they bring “a great level of maturity” to get through a rigorous admissions process.  Annual ordinations have risen back up to the 1995 level of 511 new priests, still far below the peak of 994 in 1965. Whilst new ordinations and priesthood candidates are rising, the total of priests continues to slide from 58,632 in 1965 to 39,600 in 2013 due to deaths and retirements of older priests outnumbering new candidates.

Meanwhile, the declining numbers of people who identify with Protestant denominations has led to falling numbers in their seminaries since 2006, said Eliza Brown, spokeswoman for Association of Theological Schools, which represents more than 270 seminaries. Between 2006 and 2012, the number of students enrolled in Master of Divinity programs at Protestant and non-denominational Christian seminaries fell from 31,532 to 29,249, Brown said. “Their congregations are less able to afford full-time, theologically educated clergy,” she said. “And students, who graduate with debts, can’t afford to take part-time or low-paying pulpit positions.”

Source: Charisma News

 

FIRST EVER SLOVAK MARCH FOR LIFE SHATTERS EXPECTATIONS WITH A CROWD OF 80,000

Over 80,000 people gathered in the Slovakian town of Košice recently for the country’s first ever March for Life, a number that has astonished even the event’s organisers. “Such a number of people no one expected,” one eyewitness told local news services.  So many came that the 2.5 kilometre route was too short to accommodate all the marchers, according to an on-the-spot account by Hlavné Správy, a local news service, and the crowd shut down most streets in the city’s core. Although the March was supposed to have started by 12:30 pm, by 3 pm most of the crowd “had not yet budged because of the huge mass of people who completely fill the street”. 

The March for Life was held on the same weekend as the Gay Pride demonstration in the capital, Bratislava, which reportedly attracted about 1000 participants. Organizers of the March for Life said their aim was to mobilize the public to advise legislators that the “protection of life, and family consisting of a married man and woman as indispensable basis for the stability and development of life in Slovakia has public support.”  While Slovakian pro-lifers have held pro-life demonstrations before, this event, organized by the Conference of Slovak Bishops (KBS) with the help of Forum for Life, was the first event organized on a national scale.

Source: LifeSiteNews

 

ALABAMA POLICE USING CHRISTIANITY TO FIGHT CRIME

Operation Good Shepherd is a “publicly funded Christian outreach ministry started by the Montgomery Police Department that puts Christian pastors on crime scenes to counsel and pray with victims and witnesses.” So far, 37 local pastors have graduated from a required program that will enable them to be called to crime scenes.  The Montgomery Police Department “believes a stronger sense of Christianity will reduce crime.”  Police Chief Kevin Murphy agrees. “What we’re seeing today—these seeds were sown a long time ago. I truly believe there has been a breakdown in the family.” 

Corp David Hicks adds, “What we want to do is combine the religious community and the Montgomery Police Department and we want to unite those as one.” The project is not without its detractors, who are, of course, crying “separation of church and state.” Yet, as one professor at Alabama State University, Dr. Earnest Blackshear, admitted, with government funding being a factor, faith volunteers may be the best recourse.  “I think government right now is trying to figure out how to do crime prevention for less,” he said, “and I think they’re finding that you can’t.  Operation Good Shepherd is an attempt at trying to get something that works run by volunteers.”

Source: The Alabama Atlantic

 

CITY DESTROYED IN BIGGEST CHRISTIAN MASSACRE OF THE SYRIAN WAR

The “Biggest Christian Massacre” in the Syrian Civil War occurred on October 21, when Islamic militants attacked the town of Sadad, a 2,000-year-old village, rich in historic landmarks and archaeological sites.  A total of 45 Christians in Sadad were killed and 30 bodies of Christian civilians were uncovered in mass graves there.  Archbishop Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh, the Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan of Homs and Hama said, “For one week, 1,500 families were held as hostages and human shields. Among them children, the elderly, men and women. Some 2500 families fled on foot seeking refuge elsewhere. Sadad, with a population of 15,000, had been entirely destroyed and looted.

Source: Christian Post