Daily Archives: January 12, 2015
[Christianity Today] Not Forgotten: The Top 50 Countries Where It's Most Difficult To Be A Christian
Open Doors released today its latest World Watch List (WWL). The annual list ranks the top 50 countries “where Christians face the most persecution”
Researchers calculate that 4,344 Christians were “killed for faith-related reasons” in 2014, which is “more than double the 2,123 killed in 2013, and more than triple the 1,201 killed the year before that,” reports World Watch Monitor (WWM). (Measuring martyrdoms has drawn debate in recent years, and Open Doors is usually on the conservative end of estimates.) By far the largest number of deaths occurred in Nigeria, where 2,484 Christians were killed; the next deadliest country for Christians was the Central African Republic (CAR), with 1,088 deaths. The remaining three deadliest countries were Syria (271 deaths), Kenya (119 deaths), and North Korea (100 deaths).
In addition, 1,062 churches were “attacked for faith-related reasons” in 2014. The majority of attacks took place in five countries: China (258 churches), Vietnam (116 churches), Nigeria (108 churches), Syria (107 churches), and the Central African Republic (100 churches). Last year’s highest-profile incident: a government campaign to “de-Christianize” the skyline of one of China’s most Christian cities. (The Pew Research Center also recently tallied the countries with the most government destruction of religious property.)
But it wasn’t increased violence that primarily drove persecution to record levels in 2014, but rather increased “cultural marginalization,” according to Open Doors. In other words, the “more subtle ‘squeeze’ dimensions of persecution” which make “daily life … harder and harder” for Christians. A substantial study by the Pew Research Center found that nearly 75 percent of the world’s population now lives in countries with high levels of social hostility involving religion. [CT compared how both groups rank the world’s worst persecutors.]
“Even Christian-majority states are experiencing unprecedented levels of exclusion, discrimination, and violence,” said David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA. “The 2015 World Watch List reveals that a staggering number of Christians are becoming victims of intolerance and violence because of their faith. They are being forced to be more secretive about their faith.”
The primary culprit in Africa and worldwide: “Islamic extremism,” which was the “main persecution engine” in 40 of the 50 countries on the 2015 watch list, including 18 of the top 20 countries (only 6 of which are in the Middle East).
The No. 2 driver of persecution was “dictatorial paranoia,” or “where leaders seek to control religious expression,” noted Open Doors. “It is the main persecution engine in 10 countries, including North Korea, and shows up as a secondary persecution engine in 16 more countries.”
And while “organized corruption”‘ is the main driver of persecution in only Colombia and Mexico, it is No. 3 (after “Islamic extremism” and “dictatorial paranoia”) “when its status as a secondary engine is taken into account,” noted Open Doors. “Christians increasingly have to pay a heavy economic price to remain faithful to Christ.”
1. In obedience to the commission that Jesus gave to his disciples the Church’s vocation is to proclaim the good news afresh in each generation. As disciples of our Risen Lord we are called to be loyal to the inheritance of faith which we have received and open to God’s Spirit so that we can be constantly renewed and reformed for the task entrusted to us.
2. The spiritual challenge of reform and renewal is both personal and institutional. A year ago we encouraged the creation of a number of task groups to discern what has been happening in parishes and dioceses, to ponder the implications of the From Anecdote to Evidence findings and to reflect on the experience dioceses have had in developing their mission and ministry. The groups were asked to explore specific aspects of the institutional life of the Church of England, where on the face of it, there appeared to be scope for significant change.
3. The work of these four groups – on the discernment and nurture of those called to posts of wide responsibility, on resourcing ministerial education, on the future deployment of our resources more generally and on simplification – is now being published. It will be the main focus for the February meeting of the General Synod.
As Andrew Lloyd Webber calls for Wi-Fi in Churches, the Bishop of Worcester, John Inge, explains how it may work.
Listen to it all but before you listen, guess the number of parishes there are in the Church of England which is mentioned during the interview [the segment starts 20 minutes 58 seconds in; it lasts about 4 minutes)].
How to share the gospel in a bazaar world? Lately I’m seeing the need to reverse what I learned as the linear process from inner conversation to service in the world. What if instead the Spirit is leading us to begin with acts of mercy and justice? How can we use our connective technology to host conversations about real-life experiences, to ask thoughtful questions and then see where our stories intersect the gospel? And then how can we take things deeper, challenging one another to live a life of integrity and purpose, using God’s gifts for the healing of the world?
I’ve also been intrigued by communication models such as the TED talks, the Episcopal Story Project and the Khan Academy. Where I’m serving, the question is this: how do we move the discussion from the (mostly empty) couches in the parish hall to the online world that people can access from where they are, when they have the time? It’s about going where people are, rather than continuing to try to make them come to us.
After finally letting go of some old wineskins, my church is finding creative energy to go after new ones. I don’t know what exactly this will look like, but it is a thrill and a privilege to be a gospel-bearer during this reformation. There is much for us to receive, but we won’t have the hands to do it unless we set down whatever things are no longer working.
Boko Haram is waging a ruthless war throughout northeast Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. On Wednesday, Boko Haram militants laid siege to Baga, a city that has resisted them, setting fire to buildings and killing residents indiscriminately. Hundreds of people fled into Lake Chad and attempted to swim to a nearby island. Many drowned along the way. Those who didn’t are now marooned without food and shelter and have no defense against the island’s swarm of malarial mosquitos. The death toll in Baga reportedly exceeds 2,000. Some 20,000 others are now displaced.
The New York Times story on this deadly siege appeared on page A6 of Saturday’s print edition, while the paper’s story of the suicide bombing landed on page A8.
How did the attacks in France so thoroughly bury the atrocities in Nigeria?
Emblematic of this, in the Gospel infancy narratives, is King Herod. Feeling his authority threatened by the Child Jesus, he orders all the children of Bethlehem to be killed. We think immediately of Pakistan, where a month ago, more than a hundred children were slaughtered with unspeakable brutality. To their families I wish to renew my personal condolences and the assurance of my continued prayers for the many innocents who lost their lives.
The personal dimension of rejection is inevitably accompanied by a social dimension, a culture of rejection which severs the deepest and most authentic human bonds, leading to the breakdown of society and spawning violence and death. We see painful evidence of this in the events reported daily in the news, not least the tragic slayings which took place in Paris a few days ago. Other people “are no longer regarded as beings of equal dignity, as brothers or sisters sharing a common humanity, but rather as objects” (Message for the 2015 World Day of Peace, 8 December 2014, 4). Losing their freedom, people become enslaved, whether to the latest fads, or to power, money, or even deviant forms of religion. These are dangers which I pointed out in my recent Message for the World Day of Peace, which dealt with the issue of today’s multiple forms of enslavement. All of them are born of a corrupt heart, a heart incapable of recognizing and doing good, of pursuing peace.
It saddens us to see the tragic consequences of this mentality of rejection and this “culture of enslavement” (ibid., 2) in the never-ending spread of conflicts. Like a true world war fought piecemeal, they affect, albeit in different forms and degrees of intensity, a number of areas in our world, beginning with nearby Ukraine, which has become a dramatic theatre of combat. It is my hope that through dialogue the efforts presently being made to end the hostilities will be consolidated, and that the parties involved will embark as quickly as possible, in a renewed spirit of respect for international law, upon the path of mutual trust and fraternal reconciliation, with the aim of bringing an end to the present crisis.
Read it all from Vatican Radio.
“We are in a situation that is a situation of war.” The words of Roger Cukierman, head of the main Jewish representative body in France, reverberated on Sunday at the end of a week that had seen a vulnerable community shattered by the deaths of several Jews in a series of terrorist incidents.
“Jews are very afraid,” says Emmanuelle, a young Jew, who like many did not want her last name used. “There is a real, justified paranoia.”
The really chilling part of…[Frank Bruni’s] statement is the restriction of religious liberty to “religious services or what happens in a church, temple, or mosque.” This is becoming more and more common, as major political and legal figures speak more and more of “freedom of worship” as a replacement for religious liberty. Religious liberty certainly includes freedom of worship, but it by no means stops there.
Furthermore, when the proponents of same-sex marriage and the new sexual revolution promise even to respect what goes on in a church, temple, or mosque, they evidently cannot keep their arguments straight. In the very same column, Bruni complains that religious congregations are given too much liberty to define their own ministry. He laments that “churches have been allowed to adopt broad, questionable interpretations of a ”˜ministerial exception’ to anti-discrimination laws that allow them to hire and fire clergy as they wish.”
The front lines of the battle for religious liberty will be at the door of your congregation very soon, if this column is any indication ”” and it is. While promising to respect “freedom of worship,” Bruni openly implies that congregations should not have the right to hire and fire ministers or clergy on the basis of their sexual orientation or beliefs. What kind of liberty is that?
Read it all and make sure to read all of the five references cited at the bottom of the article.
The pastor of the church where recently fired Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran is a member sent a pointed message Sunday to the man who ousted the chief, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.
“Just because you sign my paycheck,” said Dr. Craig L. Oliver Sr., senior pastor at Elizabeth Baptist Church, “doesn’t mean you can control what I think or say.”
The pastor’s comments underscored a controversy that has bedeviled Reed for weeks. Cochran, a deacon at the church, self-published “Who Told You You Are Naked?”, a 2013 book that some construe as critical of gays. The mayor suspended Cochran for a month while the city investigated those claims. Reed fired him last week.
Mayor Kasim Reed’s decision to dismiss his fire chief last week for giving co-workers copies of a Christian self-help book condemning homosexuality is fanning new kinds of legal and political flames in this city, where deeply held religious convictions exist in a kind of defining tension with a reputation for New South tolerance.
Mr. Reed fired Kelvin Cochran, the chief, on Tuesday over the distribution of his book, which condemns homosexual acts as “vile, vulgar and inappropriate.” Reached at home on Thursday, Mr. Cochran referred all questions to his lawyers, who issued a statement on his behalf.
“I am heartbroken that I will no longer be able to serve the city and the people I love as fire chief, for no reason other than my Christian faith,” Mr. Cochran said in the statement released by the Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based conservative legal organization that is representing him. “It’s ironic that the city points to tolerance and inclusion as part of its reasoning. What could be more intolerant and exclusionary than ending a public servant’s 30 years of distinguished service for his religious beliefs?”
Almighty God, who didst endow thy abbot Aelred with the gift of Christian friendship and the wisdom to lead others in the way of holiness: Grant to thy people that same spirit of mutual affection, that, in loving one another, we may know the love of Christ and rejoice in the gift of thy eternal goodness; through the same Jesus Christ our Savior, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
— Silverstream Priory (@cenacleosb) January 12, 2016
Almighty God, who to wise men who sought him didst manifest the Incarnation of thy Son by the bright shining of a star: Grant that, as they presented unto him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh, so we also out of our treasures may offer to him ourselves, a living sacrifice acceptable in thy sight; through him who for our sakes was born on earth as a little child, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.