AUSTRALIAN  PRAYER  NETWORK  NEWSLETTER

WORLD VISION AMERICA FORCED TO BACKTRACK ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE DECISION

World Vision, a Christian relief organization, announced last week that it was now recognizing same-sex marriage as part of its new employee policies.The new policy was announced in a letter to employees which sought to reassure them that World Vision’s core values and ministry had not and would not change. They said that the Board had spent several years praying about the issue and would continue to expect abstinence before marriage and fidelity within marriage on the part of all staff. They said the Board would also continue to require that every employee agree to the doctrinal issues enshrined in the Apostles’ Creed and/or World Vision’s own Statement of Faith.

In seeking to justify their decision the Board said that since World Vision was a multi-denominational organization that welcomed employees from more than 50 denominations, and since a number of these denominations in recent years have sanctioned same-sex marriage for Christians, the board had chosen to modified the Employee Standards of Conduct to allow a Christian in a legal same-sex marriage to be employed at World Vision. In its letter to employees the Board sought to make clear that they were not endorsing same-sex marriage but had  chosen not to exclude someone from employment at World Vision U.S. on this issue alone.

The Board stated that it wanted to prevent this divisive issue from tearing World Vision apart and potentially crippling its ability to accomplish its vital kingdom mission of loving and serving the poorest of the poor in the name of Christ. They said that It was this mission that unites the World Vision Team which has more than 50 different expressions of the Christian faith represented within the organisation. The Board sought to explain that is was this unity which enabled them to acknowledge a range of views on issues among the Christian churches and denominations represented within World Vision.

Those issues include methods of baptism, divorce, remarriage, views onevolution, the role of women in church leadership, and whether birth controlis acceptable. The Board said it held a strong view of the authority ofScripture in the life of the church and in the lives of individualbelievers, but that they did not require specific beliefs or practice in anyof these debated issues as conditions of employment. The Board said thateveryone that World Vision hired must affirm that they are a sincerefollower of Christ and must affirm the organisations Statement of Faithand/or the Apostles’ Creed. The Board reassured the staff that they were notdiminishing the authority of Scripture by their decision.

The release of the letter however unleashed an immediate outcry from Churchleaders across America that World Vision had capitulated to the gay rightslobby in contravention of the clear teaching of Scripture on this issue.Such was the outcry that just days after making its original announcementWorld Vision reversed its policy on hiring applicants in same sex marriages.The World Vision Board said in a letter to supporters that they had made amistake by changing its policy. “We are broken-hearted over the pain andconfusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as areversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority,” the board said inthe letter.

Church leaders were quick to denounce the charity’s decision to hire applicants in same-sex marriages. World Vision’s president, Richard Stearns, had said the move was “symbolic not of compromise but of Christian unity.” But faith leaders like Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, dismissed World Vision’s reasoning.  “World Vision maintains their decision is based on unifying the church — which I find offensive — as if supporting sin and sinful behaviour can unite the Church,” Franklin wrote on his Facebook page. In addition, the Assemblies of God had called for its members to shift their support to other charities.

The original letter to employees said the Board of World Vision U.S. had been praying about the decision for years. But in the letter to supporters leaders admitted they had not sought enough counsel from their Christian partners. “As a result, we made a change to our conduct policy that was not consistent with our Statement of Faith and our commitment to the sanctity of marriage,” they said. “While World Vision U.S. stands firmly on the biblical view of marriage, we strongly affirm that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are created by God and are to be loved and treated with dignity and respect,” they said.

Source: Charisma News

[ Top ]

BISHOP DETAILS SECRECY OF CHRISTIAN CONVERSIONS IN LEBANON

Numerous conversions of Muslims to Christianity occur every year in Lebanon but the true number is unknown because of the risk of social stigma and persecution. “Most of them try to go outside of Lebanon, to Europe, America, Canada or Australia to live, because it’s not possible to stay here after conversion,” a Catholic bishop in Lebanon said. Given the delicacy of conversion in Lebanon, the bishop spoke on condition of anonymity.  While Muslims generally coexist well with the Christian population, some hostility can be shown toward those who convert from Islam. “I have heard many stories about the conversion of Muslims,” he said, in both the Maronite and Melkite Catholic communities.

The bishop cited one Melkite priest who baptized 75 Muslims last year. One young woman was converted and her family “accused the priest of having used sorcery to make her convert to Christianity. The priest was then abducted and kidnapped by the family. A deal was negotiated between the diocese and the family, that they would bring the daughter back home, without torturing her.” Her family has since converted as well, he explained, “but in a secret way.” If converts from Islam are not able to leave Lebanon, he said, they often move to areas of Lebanon with larger concentrations of Christians.”Those converting to Christianity in Lebanon are usually Lebanese themselves, the bishop explained.

“I know only one Syrian convert who is from Aleppo, and was in Beirut studying sharia to become a sheikh” the Bishop said. The man “was baptized in Lebanon and then married, but he cannot register his marriage in Syria. He cannot go to Syria, but he cannot register his marriage in Lebanon either. We are trying to see if he and his family can go to Europe to live.” Lebanon has no procedures for civil marriage; all marriages performed are performed by religious officials.  “Everything is a secret,” the bishop said. “It’s not easy to speak publicly about conversion to Christianity.  It is better than other Arabic countries, but we still have a problem,” he said.

The Lebanese constitution provides for freedom of religion, and both Muslims and Christians are members of parliament and cabinet. National identity cards generally include the bearer’s religion, though this is not required by law. “Unlike other countries it is easy for a convert to register with the state as a Christian,” the bishop said. “For example in Egypt there are many conversions, but they are still registered as a Muslim, not Christian.” Lebanon provides for religious freedom, but societal discrimination against converts is widespread. The bishop reported that families of converts often “never accept” their relative’s Christian faith, and “they are persecuted by their family, tribe, and village.”

Lebanon has an estimated population of 54% Muslim and 41% Christian however the large influx of Syrian refugees in the wake of that country’s civil war has strained the status quo. The Lebanese government estimates that more than 1 million Syrian refugees are living in the country which has a normal population of a little over 4 million people. Now that nearly 20% of Lebanese residents are Syrian refugees, inter-religious relations are stressed. The bishop said that his diocese is assisting both Christian and Muslim refugees. “When we receive Muslims, we help them without trying to convert them, because when we give material help, we don’t like to play this game.”

Source: Catholic News Agency

[ Top ]

CONTINUED ETHNIC CLEANSING OF CHRISTIAN KACHIN IN BURMA

The Burmese Army is continuing its campaign of ethnic cleansing in resource-rich Kachin State. The Christian Kachin have long resisted the Burman Buddhist regime’s brutal dictatorship. While the Kachin want autonomy so they can freely maintain their culture, the Burman Buddhist elite and military want complete control of Kachin land so they can exploit its resources. The situation in Burma is reminiscent of that in Sudan, where the Islamist-Arab regime in Khartoum is doing the same in the resource-rich, mostly Christian, African south. Similar situations exist in Papua, Indonesia and in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.

In each case, the resistance of the predominantly Christian ethnic peoples is met with extreme military violence and ethnic cleansing motivated bygreed and racial and religious hatred. Recently Burma Army troops attacked Nam Gau Village of Mansi township in south Kachin State taking 20 villagers captive and looting the village. More than 2000 people had already fled attacks in the area in November-December 2013 and now the remnant has also fled. The ethnic cleansing continues. Despite propaganda to the contrary, the situation of the Kachin is actually worse than ever.

When Burma was aligned with China, the West would attack the junta by exposing human rights abuses. However, when Burma re-aligned with the West, everything changed. All the West can see now is an opportunity to make great economic and geo-strategic gains in Burma. However  before the West could engage with Burma, Burma’s image problem had to be dealt with. In reality, Burma’s political ‘reforms’ are cosmetic and ‘peace talks’ are a stalling tactic. The government is essentially powerless, a mere front for the military which still calls the shots. The reforms really are all about image.

The ‘international community is allowing the regime to control all distribution of international aid. Like the regime in Sudan, the regime uses this tactic to infiltrate deep into hostile territory where it then sets up offices and distribution centres and consolidates its presence. Thus the war-ravaged Christian Kachin are forced to choose between holding their ground and starving, or opening the door to the regime. It seems the West is prepared to ignore gross human rights abuses and war crimes to get access to Burma’s vast and untapped resources, markets and cheap labour. Once their champion, now the West wants the ethnic nations to submit and co-operate.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL —

* preserve, sustain and raise up godly leaders amongst the severely persecuted Christian Kachin.

* bless these leaders great and effective power from the Holy Spirit to comfort and encourage their traumatised, war-ravaged peoples so that they do not fall into despair and lose hope in the LORD; may their faith shine brightly in Burma’s darkness.

* intervene in Burma to defend and sustain his people, shielding them from harm and providing their needs while exposing and fighting their enemies.

Source: Religious Liberty Monitoring

[ Top ]

FREEDOM OF RELIGION AN ISSUE WHOSE TIME HAS COME

Freedom of religion is an issue “whose time has come”, according to the Vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. During the presentation of two reports on religious freedom at the European Parliament in Brussels, commission Vice Chairwoman Katrina Swett said that the issue was highlighted by President Barack Obama’s focus on it in his speech at the recent annual Prayer Breakfast in Washington. The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, agreed that there is an “increasing interest” in the subject. Although often connected with a “certain degree of suspicion” it is “the only right to freedom which triggers mixed emotions”. Bielefeldt said that life for Christians has “particularly in the Middle East” has deteriorated in recent years, and highlighted some prominent examples including Egypt, Syria and Iraq.”

Bielefeldt said all minorities are at risk in the Syrian civil war. “The extremely volatile situation in Syria includes increased risks for minorities in general,” he said.” Everyone is affected by the instability, it’s not something that exclusively targets Christians.” In Egypt, Bielefeldt said that discrimination against Christians has worsened. “During the Arab Spring we saw promising signs of a new cooperation between various groups, but now authoritarian regimes have taken over and the situation has worsened there” he said.

However, Bielefeldt said it would be wrong to perceive that all Muslims and Christians within the country are opposed to each other. “It’s not that Muslims in general persecute Christians in general,” he said. “Muslims are also fighting with Muslims, fighting about the role of religion in public life and Sharia.” There has been “no meaningful change” to freedom of religion in Iran, despite the optimism surrounding last year’s regime change. “So far, nothing has changed” Bielefeldt said. “They still have laws discriminating against Christians.” Bielefeldt said that for Christians in Iran of Armenian heritage, it is usually possible to “live and breathe”, providing they don’t attempt to spread their message.

“Protestant and Evangelical groups are treated with great suspicion being associated with America and perceived as doing missionary work which is not welcome in the country” he said, The European Parliament Group on Freedom of Religion noted an increase in violations of religious freedom around the globe and named the 15 most serious violators as China, Egypt, Eritrea, India, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan. Peter van Dalen, a member of the European Parliament, said: “There are many millions of people being bullied, persecuted and killed for their faith. I hope that our work may contribute towards improving this situation.”

Source: World Watch Monitor

[ Top ]

POPE TELLS OBAMA HE IS CONCERNED ABOUT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN THE U.S.A.

Pope Francis and Vatican officials told U.S. President Barack Obama they were concerned about “religious freedom” in the United States, an apparent reference to the contraception mandate in Obama’s health care plan. Obama held nearly an hour of private talks with the Pope and then the president and Secretary of State John Kerry held separate talks with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and other diplomats on his recent visit to the Vatican. The talks included “discussion on questions of particular relevance for the Church” in the United States, including “the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection,” a Vatican statement said.

Obama’s 2010 health care law includes a provision that requires employers to cover the cost of contraception in their health insurance plans. Catholic and other religious groups say the mandate forces them to support contraception and sterilization in violation of their religious beliefs or face steep fines. The so-called contraception mandate has been the subject of more than 100 lawsuits across the United States. Just last week the U.S. Supreme Court signalled it may allow corporations to mount religious objections to government action, possibly paving the way for companies to avoid covering employees’ birth control as required under Obama care.

During a 90-minute oral argument, the nine Supreme Court justices appeared ready to rule that certain for-profit entities have the same religious rights to object as individuals do. There is an exception for religious institutions such as houses of worship that mainly serve and employ members of their own faith, but not schools, hospitals and charitable organizations employing people of all faiths. The reference to “life” was reference to the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion. Obama supports abortion rights. The subject was raised when Obama met then-Pope Benedict in 2009, when the President promised to do everything he could to reduce the number of abortions.

Source: Intercessors for America

[ Top ]