AUSTRALIAN PRAYER NETWORK NEWSLETTER – INTERNATIONAL NEWS 3rd FEBRUARY 2014
- POPE RAMPS UP CHARITY OFFICE TO BE NEAR THE POOR AND SICK
- U.K. PARLIAMENT TOLD CHRISTIANITY IS THE MOST PERSECUTED RELIGION
- UKRAINIAN CHRISTIAN LEADER CALLS FOR URGENT PRAYER AS ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTS SPREAD
- VIGILANTE GROUP FORMED TO STOP CHRISTIAN ACTIVITIES IN BANGLADESH
- U.K. COURT RECOGNISES SUNDAY AS A CHRISTIAN DAY OF REST
- 200,000 MARCH FOR TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE IN TAIWAN
POPE RAMPS UP CHARITY OFFICE TO BE NEAR THE POOR AND SICK
When he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis was known to sneak out at night and break bread with the homeless, sit with them on the street and eat with them, as part of his aim to share the plight of the poor and let them know someone cared. That’s not so easy to do now that he’s Pope. But Francis is still providing one-on-one doses of emergency assistance to the poor, sick and aged through a trusted archbishop. Konrad Krajewski is the Vatican Almoner, a centuries-old job of handing out alms—and Francis has ramped up the job to make it a hands-on extension of his own personal charity.
Krajewski described how Francis has redefined the little known office of papal almoner. “The Holy Father told me at the beginning: ‘You can sell your desk. You don’t need it. You need to get out of the Vatican. You need to go out and look for the poor,'” Krajewski said. Krajewski gets his marching orders each morning: A Vatican gendarme goes from the Vatican hotel where Francis lives to Krajewski’s office across the Vatican gardens, bringing a bundle of letters that the pope has received from the faithful asking for help. And so Don Corrado, as he likes to be called, hits the streets of Rome and beyond.
He visits homes for the elderly and writes cheques to the needy in the name of the Pope. “This is the concept: Be with people and share their lives, even for 15 or 30 minutes,” Krajewski said. In his former life as Cardinal Bergoglio, the now Pope “would go out at night in Buenos Aires. He would sit with people, and eat with them on the street. This is what he wants from me.” Until Krajewski came along, the almoner was typically an aging Vatican diplomat who was serving his final years before being allowed to retire. Francis changed all that, tapping the 50-year-old Pole on the shoulder and asking him to be a more vigorous, hands-on extension of himself.
Krajewski demurred when asked if Francis himself had slipped out of the Vatican on his own—”Next question!” he said. But there was a clear suggestion that the Pope may very well have snuck out before Vatican security got wind of it. The almoner’s duties are two-fold: carrying out acts of charity and raising the money to fund them. Krajewski’s office funds its work by producing papal parchments, hand-made certificates with a photo of the Pope that the faithful can buy for a particular occasion—say a wedding, baptism or priestly ordination—with the name of the recipient and an apostolic blessing written in calligraphy.
“Being an almoner, it has to cost me something so that it can change me,” Krajewski said. He contrasted such alms-giving with, say, the unnamed cardinal who once boasted about always giving two euros to a beggar on the street near the Vatican. “I told him, ‘Eminence, this isn’t being an almoner. You might be able to sleep at night, but being an almoner has to cost you. Two euros is nothing for you. Take this poor person, bring him to your big apartment that has three bathrooms, let him take a shower—and your bathroom will stink for three days—and while he’s showering make him a coffee and serve it to him, and maybe give him your sweater. This is being an almoner.”
Recently the parents of little Noemi Sciarretta, an 18-month old suffering from spinal muscular atrophy wrote to Francis in October. They were desperate because doctors could do nothing for their daughter. Later Francis called the father. Krajewski spent the day with the Sciarrettas at their home in Abruzzo. Five days later, with the child’s condition worsening, the family travelled to the Vatican and met with Francis in person, spending the night in the same Vatican hotel where he sleeps and eating with him in the hotel dining room. “It was a very emotional meeting because Pope Francis was close to Noemi,” her father, Andrea Sciarretta, said afterward.
Source: Intercessors Network
U.K. PARLIAMENT TOLD CHRISTIANITY IS THE MOST PERSECUTED RELIGION
The plight of Christians around the world was discussed in a three-hour debate at the Houses of Parliament in London recently. Members of the House of Commons were told that the persecution of Christians is increasing, that one Christian is killed around every 11 minutes around the world, and that Christianity is the “most persecuted religion globally”. A long list of countries in which life as a Christian is most difficult was discussed, including Syria, North Korea, Eritrea, Nigeria, Iraq and Egypt. MP Jim Shannon said the persecution of Christians is “the biggest story in the world that has never been told”.
He said although the right to freedom of conscience and religion is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, many countries do not give these rights. Shannon alleged that 200 million Christians will be persecuted for their faith this year, whilst 500 million live in “dangerous neighbourhoods”. He said in Syria Christians are “caught between opposing sides in the conflict”, and Christian -dominated locations are specifically targeted. MP Sammy Wilson said that in Syria, “50,000 Christians have been cleared from the city of Homs”, while in Sudan two million Christians were killed by the regime over a 30-year period.
Wilson added: “Within the last month, hundreds of people, from Nigeria to Eritrea to Kazakhstan to China, have been arrested and put in prison simply because of their faith, and when they go into prison they are denied due process. They are denied access to lawyers. They are sometimes even denied knowledge of the charges facing them. They can languish in prison for a long time and in horrible conditions… This is not only happening in Muslim countries. From Morocco to Pakistan, Christians in Muslim countries are under threat, but it happens elsewhere too.”
The recent comments of Baroness Warsi were echoed, including her assertion that “the parts of the world where Christianity first spread is now seeing large sections of the Christian community leaving, and those that are remaining feeling persecuted”. MP Nigel Dodds said that whilst not new, it is “staggering” how many Christians are killed today. In Iraq, he noted the words of Canon Andrew White, who had said that Christians are “frightened even to walk to church because they might come under attack. All the churches are targets. We used to have 1.5 million Christians, now we have probably only 200,000 left. There are more Iraqi Christians in Chicago than there are in Iraq”.
MP Rehman Chishti said: “I come from a Muslim background, and my father was an imam. He called the persecution “completely and utterly unacceptable” and “a very sad state of affairs”. The former Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali said the persecution of Christians was taking place in more than 130 of the 190 countries in the world at the moment”. MP David Rutley raised the issue of the sizeable Christian community in China, and asked about the potential establishment of a deeper dialogue to engage the Chinese authorities with Christian groups.
Source: World Watch Monitor
UKRAINIAN CHRISTIAN LEADER CALLS FOR URGENT PRAYER AS ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTS SPREAD
A Ukrainian Christian leader has called for urgent “prayer and fasting” as anti-government protests are spreading further outside Kiev, with reports of unrest in the east, north and south. The opposition has vowed to continue the protests until President Yanukovych agrees to early elections. According to the BBC, activists besieged government buildings and in some cities clashed with riot police. In the capital, protesters took over the justice ministry. The fresh unrest comes after opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk rejected President Viktor Yanukovych’s offer to appoint him prime minister. He said key demands must be met, including new elections.
As well as his offer to Mr.Yatsenyuk, he suggested another opposition figure, former boxer Vitali Klitschko, take the post of deputy prime minister. Now the Slavic Gospel Association has issued an urgent appeal by Pastor Vyacheslav Nesteruk, President of the Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Christians, in which he said, “Due to the recent tragic events in our country, we call on all churches and pastors to assume spiritual responsibility for the situation in Ukraine, and to join the Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Christians in urgent prayer and fasting. “As Christians and citizens, let’s unite in fervent and unceasing prayer for the end of hatred and violence.”
Pastor Nesteruk added, “We believe that Ukraine will come out of this conflict, and that God will send a new blessing for our country. We believe that freedom and justice will be affirmed in our society, and that faith in God and Christian values will be an integral part of the lives of our nation.” He concluded his appeal by quoting the following verse from 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
The BBC’s David Stern says the opposition – confident in its position – appears to have taken Mr Yanukovych’s offer of concessions as a sign of weakness, and is forging ahead with the campaign to unseat him. The demonstrations began in November after Ukraine decided not to sign an accord on more co-operation with the EU. Instead, the government opted to deepen ties with neighbouring Russia. The BBC reports that protesters have seized several government buildings in cities outside Kiev, particularly in the west, which has traditionally favoured closer ties with Europe. Last week the protests spread to cities further east, south-west of Kiev.
* for an end to this violent conflict.
* for the government and all political forces asking the Lord to give them wisdom and the fear of God, that they will make the right decisions to overcome the political crisis peacefully.
* For the Ukrainian people to repent and search for God, so that in these difficult times Ukrainians will turn to God and seek for His blessings.
Source: Assist Ministries
VIGILANTE GROUP FORMED TO STOP CHRISTIAN ACTIVITIES IN BANGLADESH
A vigilante committee has been formed in Bangladesh to stop Christian activities in a local community, 3 months after the construction of a local church was halted. The committee is made up of political leaders, Muslim elders and a local government official. Last September, the government official ordered an end to the construction of the Evangelical Holiness Church in Bilbathuagani village, about 100 kms north of Dhaka. The construction of the church had been started by 25 Christians, who had been meeting secretly for 3 years. Five days later the council chairman, Rafiqul Faruk, and some 200 Muslims, went to the site and ordered construction to cease immediately.
After an announcement in all local mosques, more than 1,000 Muslims, including 72 Imams, gathered outside the chairman’s office to protest. Faruk said that they have now formed a vigilante committee to stop Christians from “misguiding” Muslims. “A Christian preacher has been misguiding the naïve people in this area,” he alleged. “He is offering big bucks to the poor people to become Christians. “The local people are seething and waiting for the converted Christians to return to Islam. If they do not come back to Islam, people here will fly into a rage and its consequences will be very bad. Never will the local Muslims accept those people’s conversion to Christianity.
“Ten years ago some Christians tried similarly to convert some Muslims here, but we beat those Christians and they left this place forever. I was also the chairman at that time” Faruk said. After publishing the news of the construction of a church in local newspapers, members of Tabligh Jamaat, an organisation of Muslim missionaries, started visiting the site frequently in attempts to draw Christians back to Islam. Around eight of the 25 Christians have returned to Islam in the past few months. Of Bangladesh’s 154 million people, Sunni Muslims constitute 90% and Hindus 9%, according to the 2001 census. The remaining 1% is mainly Christian and Buddhist.
• for the Christians who remain in Bilbathuagani village, and who are being pressurised to recant their faith. Pray for strength and safety for them.
• that the godly lives led by Christians in the village will serve as an example to their neighbours, and in turn bring understanding and tolerance.
• that the heart of Chairman Rafiqul Faruk will be changed and that he will come to know Jesus.
Source: Open Doors
U.K. COURT RECOGNISES SUNDAY AS A CHRISTIAN DAY OF REST
The U.K Court of Appeal has issued a judgment in the case of children’s worker, Celestina Mba which gives legal recognition to the fact that Sunday is a day of worship and rest for many Christians and as such, worthy of protection. The Court dismissed earlier rulings by tribunals that claimed that Sunday ‘is not a core component of the Christian faith’. These tribunals had suggested that, since not all Christians observe Sunday as a day of rest, it was not a ‘core component’ of Christianity, and therefore did not warrant special protection. The Court of Appeal ruled that it was an ‘error of law’ to apply such a test and that beliefs about Sunday were in principle protected.
This is a significant step forward. It reduces an otherwise huge hurdle in cases such as Celestina’s. It means that there are greater protections, in principle, for those Christians who hold that Sunday is special. It should also help to secure greater protections for other Christian beliefs and behaviour. Sadly, however, even though the significance of Sunday has been recognised in this way, the Appeal Court didn’t order a new hearing to apply the correct test to the facts of the case. This means that Celestina’s dismissal was upheld. Lawyers are considering their next steps in the case but are encouraged by much in the judgment.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, Barrister and Director of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting Ms Mba, said: “We believe if the Court of Appeal had been prepared to consider the facts according to the correct test, Celestina would have won. The onus should be on the employer to reasonably accommodate their employee. “However, this judgment is a big step forward for proper treatment of Christians and is an important victory. At last the courts are beginning to demonstrate greater understanding of what it means to be a Christian. Christian identity extends beyond private belief into daily life. We pray that the tide is turning.”
Source: Intercessors Network
200,000 MARCH FOR TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE IN TAIWAN
About 200,000 people marched in front of Taiwan’s Presidential Office recently to protest a proposed law that would allow same-sex couples to ‘marry’ and adopt. The protesters, consisting mainly of families with their children, were opposing a proposed amendment to the current law which holds that marriage is between a man and woman. The event was organized by The Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation. “We worry that this alternative family formation idea will confuse children’s concepts on family and sexual identity,” said Yu Yen-hung, a founder of the organization. “We decided to stand up and fight against this bill that will affect the next generation.”
Source: Focus Taiwan