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TELEVISED UK PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE ON CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION BRINGS HOPE FOR CHANGE
from: Pakistan Christian Post

UK parliamentary debate on Christian persecution (05 Jul.) A much-awaited debate on Christian Persecution was held at Westminster Hall - surprisingly it was held by a large number of MPs. The last time a debate like this was held was around five years ago and many believe it was long overdue.

The event was championed by MP Jim Shannon of the DUP who is of course Chairman of the All Parliamentary Party for International Religious Freedom and was presided over by MP Hanson Shadow Police and Justice Minister and also Shadow Treasury Minister.

Dame Caroline Spelman who is Second Church Estates Commissioner questioned the role of Foreign Office in particular Embassies in preserving religious freedom. She questioned the Foreign Minister:

"For the Foreign Office religious freedom is a priority but what does that mean in practice? There are guidelines for embassies around the world about what they should do to promote religious freedom. What percentage of embassy funds that can be spent on local projects are used for projects on freedom of religious belief? Christians are increasingly being persecuted around the world, often in countries were actually we are very significant donors of aid."

Dame Spelman also raised concerns about Taimoor Raza who recently was charged with blasphemy and sentenced to death, after engaging in a debate on facebook with a person named Muhammed Usman, who later turned out to be a Pakistani counter-terrorism agent. The problem arose over a sectarian argument based on Mr Raza's Shia sensitivities and the majority Sunni view. Mr Raza has now been sentenced to death, the harshest penalty thus far given out for a Blasphemy law victim in Pakistan. [read more...]

Also, I recently received the following email message from a contact in Nigeria:
Dear Robert,
Please, what is the body of whole Orthodox Church doing about Muslim islamization in Nigeria? For your notice NIGERIA IS NO MORE SAFE FOR THE CHRISTIANS.
They have removed Christian knowledge study from our curriculum and replaced it with Islamic and Arabic study in the schools that were established by the missionaries.
They have removed Christian top officers from our forces and replaced them with Muslims.
They have put it into law not to sell land for the church again in most parts of the country.
Christians are being killed in most places in Nigeria and government did not arrest anybody in regard to it.
Please help us, send this my letter to your newspaper for everyone to see and stand up to help us.
Nigeria is no more safe for Christians.
We are Christians, we are Nigerians.

Thanks,

(name kept confidential)
Nigerian Christian


RUSSIA: CHANGING ADMINISTRATIVE PUNISHMENTS FOR "PUBLIC EVENTS"
by Victoria Arnold: Forum 18 News Service

Forum18 News Service (05 Jul.) Individuals continue to be prosecuted for exercising their freedom of religion and belief in public, but the legal mechanism for doing so appears to be changing, Forum 18 has found. Officials are turning less to Article 20.2 of the Administrative Code and more to Article 5.26 (Parts 3, 4, and 5), which came into force in July 2016. These Parts of Article 5.26 offer far higher financial penalties.

Administrative Code Article 20.2 that punishes "violations of the established order of conducting public events" has frequently been used against individuals and communities whose beliefs require them to share the tenets of their faith in public. Under Part 1 and Part 5, individuals may be fined 10,000 to 20,000 Rubles or sentenced to compulsory labour of up to 40 hours; under Part 2, individuals may receive a fine of 20,000 to 30,000 Rubles, compulsory labour of up to 50 hours, or up to 10 days in jail. Fines for organisations under Part 1 are 50,000 to 100,000 Rubles; under Part 2, 70,000 to 200,000 Rubles.

The "anti-missionary" law and its associated punishments under Administrative Code Article 5.26 (Parts 3, 4, and 5) now appear to be becoming law enforcement's primary means of controlling and penalizing the expression of freedom of religion outside (and sometimes even within) the confines of places of worship. The maximum fines for both individuals and organizations under Article 5.26, Part 4 and for foreign individuals under Part 5 are much higher than under Article 20.2, Parts 1, 2 and 5. [read more...]


ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC PARISH IN AUSTRALIA CELEBRATED 65TH ANNIVERSARY
from: Religious Information Service of Ukraine

St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic parish (06 Jul.) Ukrainians in Australia are celebrating 70 years of Ukrainian immigration, while the Ukrainian Catholic Parish is celebrating 65 years of organized life. Actually a big number of Ukrainians who came to Australia came through Northam, Western Australia. This parish in Perth is made up of people who stayed in Western Australia and of those who arrived later.

The first Divine Liturgy in this church was celebrated in Perth on 16th March 1952. Fr. George Spolitakevich was the first parish priest. On 2nd July, 2017, the parishioners of the parish, along with Fr. Ihor Holovko and Fr. Richard Charlwood gathered to celebrate the anniversary.

A lot has changed in the last 50 years and more will change into the future. But there are certainly good signs in the life of the parish. There are two Divine Liturgies each weekend. Both have very good attendance. The Parish Council has over 15 members. The Parish Council is active. Pastoral concerns are openly discussed at the meetings. There is a very good choir in the parish. [read more...]


TAJIKISTAN: TRIAL IMMINENT FOR ARRESTED PASTOR
by Mushfig Bayram: Forum 18 News Service

Forum18 News Service (29 Jun.) The secret police's criminal case against Protestant Pastor Bakhrom Kholmatov reached court in Khujand on 22 June. Officials refuse to say what charges he faces. Officials threaten Baptists in Dushanbe with fines after raiding their worship.

Ten weeks after the National Security Committee (NSC) secret police arrested Protestant Pastor Bakhrom Kholmatov in the northern city of Khujand, his criminal case was handed to Khujand City Court on 22 June for trial. No date appears to have been set for the trial to begin. Officials refuse to reveal what charges the Pastor is facing.

Meanwhile, NSC secret police officers and others in the capital Dushanbe raided the Sunday worship meeting of the Council of Churches Baptists on 11 June. Officers seized religious literature and threatened to demolish the home where the Baptists were meeting. [read more...]


RUSSIAN CHURCH PROTESTS STRASBOURG COURT DECISION TO WITHDRAW LIFE SUPPORT FROM SERIOUSLY ILL BRITISH BOY
from: Interfax-Religion

Interfax Religion (03 Jul.) The Russian Orthodox Church protests against the decision taken by the European courts to withdraw the life support systems from a 10-months old British boy Charlie Guard, who suffer from a rare genetic disease. "Monstrous decision of the European Human Rights court demonstrates the deepest crisis of the notion of human rights protection. Today the right to life gives way to the right to death," Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, said in his statement.

According to the hierarch, the situation is especially dramatic as the parents cannot take a decision independently. The metropolitan wonders "why in the 21st century in a free democratic state a family is locked in one clinic because of the court decision and cannot turn to another clinic." The Russian church official calls this situation "a violation against parents' conscience, mockery at them, sadism painted in humanistic tones."

He stressed that in Charlie's case there were doctors in the USA who were ready to treat him and there are finances for it. Despite it, the court took the decision that "in the best interests" of the child to withdraw him from life support systems, provide palliative care to him and let him die with dignity. [read more...]


MISSION CHURCH TO RUSSIAN WW2 REFUGEES IN AUSTRALIA
from: mnnews.today

the Eastern Orthodox Church () The first Orthodox congregation in the Hunter Valley of Australia was formed in the Greta Migrant Camp in 1949 by Father John Lupish, a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church from Belarus who arrived in Australia as one of the multitude of displaced persons who came here after World War II. Father John served Orthodox Christians of various nationalities – Russians and Greeks, Belarusians and Ukrainians, Serbs and Macedonians – and in 1952 established a parish in Wallsend dedicated to Saint Nicholas that exists to this day. The services at Saint Nicholas' are in Church Slavonic and English

The Eastern Orthodox Church has its origins in the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Our Lord chose apostles who, having received the grace of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, spread the Christian faith throughout the ancient world. Through the preaching of the apostles great centres of Christianity arose in the East of the Roman Empire – Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria – and in the West, in Rome itself. In time Constantinople, the new capital of the Roman Empire constructed on the site of ancient Byzantium, became the pre-eminent centre of Christianity in the East.

The Christianity of the East has long been known as Orthodox Christianity. The word "orthodoxy" comes from two Greek words, orthos – meaning right or straight – and doxa – meaning both belief and glory. Orthodox Christianity understands itself in both these ways – as that form of Christianity in which faithful teaching – right belief – and fitting worship – right glory – have been preserved.

In the history of faithful teaching in the Eastern Orthodox Church the Seven Ecumenical (or "universal") Councils hold a place of particular importance. These gatherings were universal in the sense that they brought together bishops and other clergy from throughout the world. Convened between 325 AD and 787 AD, the Councils defended and articulated faithful teaching. The distinctive theological language and spiritual life of Eastern Orthodox Christianity developed in this period of history and the Holy Fathers of the Seven Ecumenical Councils are revered to this day. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

ANA BRNABIC DEFIES CRITICS TO BECOME FIRST LESBIAN TO LEAD SERBIA
from
The Irish Times

PEOPLE PERSECUTED BY COURT IN CRIMEA FOR THEIR RELIGIOUS CONVICTIONS
from
Religious Information Service of Ukraine

UKRAINE: CHRISTIANS HELP VICTIMS OF THE FORGOTTEN WAR
from
Mission Network News

ONE AND A HALF MILLION PEOPLE GO ON PILGRIMAGE TO NICHOLAS THE WONDERWORKER'S RELICS IN MOSCOW
from
Interfax-Religion

JUSTICE MINISTRY EQUATES GROUP READING OF BIBLE IN CAFЙ WITH RALLY
from
RBK

DELEGATION OF COPTIC CHURCH COMPLETES ITS VISIT TO RUSSIA
from
Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

2017 NEXT GENERATION CHRISTIAN LEADERS SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS
from
Mission Eurasia

UKRAINIAN COUNCIL OF CHURCHES REJECTS UNCHRISTIAN GENDER TERMINOLOGY
from
Pravoslavie.ru

'ISLAMIZATION OF RUSSIA WON’T HAPPEN IF' HARSH MEASURES TAKEN NOW – OPED
from
Eurasia Review

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH SEES SHARP RISE IN CLERGY RECRUITMENT
from
Thew Tablet

NEW BOOK: CHURCHES IN THE UKRAINIAN CRISIS
from
Church Times


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It's quite interesting, as our first news article TELEVISED UK PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE ON CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION BRINGS HOPE FOR CHANGE illustrates, that very similar techniques and rationales are being used to combat "religious extremism" in Pakistan as in Russia and other former-USSR countries. Undercover secret police agents posing as religious people engage religious believers in conversation in order to entrap them. It the above case, the result is the death sentence for the religious believer. In a growing number of countries, expressing one's beliefs publicly can result in being accused of "religious extremism" and can result in rather severe punishment.

In Russia, one can now be punished much more harshly for unauthorized "public events" under the new Administrative Code, as explained in our news article RUSSIA: CHANGING ADMINISTRATIVE PUNISHMENTS FOR 'PUBLIC EVENTS'. And just what might these events consist of? Simply reading the Bible in public, such as in a cafй: JUSTICE MINISTRY EQUATES GROUP READING OF BIBLE IN CAFЙ WITH RALLY. It seems that only adherents of the officially-approved religion in Russia can express their faith in public: all others must keep it to themselves unless they receive government permission, which is rarely forthcoming.


Faith, Family, and Freedom

Faith, Family, and Freedomin Rod Dreher's recent article "How To Get More People To Church," he deals with the complex issues of faith, family, and freedom: how can we best pass on our faith to our family - our children, while at the same time respecting their increasing freedom as they grow up?

Dreher list eleven points with a paragraph or two on each point, and at the end, he quotes Robert Louis Wilkins as follows:

"If Christian culture is to be renewed, habits are more vital than revivals, rituals more edifying than spiritual highs, the Creed more penetrating than theological insight, and the celebration of saints’ days more uplifting than the observance of Mother’s Day. There is great wisdom in the maligned phrase ex opere operato, the effect is in the doing. Intention is like a reed blowing in the wind. It is the doing that counts, and if we do something for God, in the doing God does something for us."

Below are the 11 points, and if you're interested enough, you can read the whole article!

  1. Accept that there’s no such thing as a foolproof program for this.
  2. Don’t outsource your kids' religious education.
  3. Practice your religion yourself.
  4. The life of faith is 80 percent formation, 20 percent information.
  5. Don’t shy away from the big questions.
  6. Encourage a sense of wonder.
  7. Help them to see the universality and the historic dimension of the Church.
  8. Beauty and Goodness are greatly undervalued as witnesses and teachers.
  9. Practice little rituals of forgiveness.
  10. It's not up to you, ultimately, but to God and to your child.
  11. Be the Church, not the World.

It's hard on parents (and grandparents) to watch their children (and grandchildren) grow up, because by nature we're protective of our offspring. We don't want to see any harm come to them. We pray and pray and pray for their safety and purity. And yet, we know that in order for them to grow up, we need to let them jump out of the nest and fly on their own. It's a dangerous world out there, outside the nest. Hawks and eagles snatch up little critters for a snack.

And back to the human analogy, when we're young we think that we're invincible, that nothing bad is going to happen to us because so far nothing bad has happened (because our parents have been looking out for us). So we tend to do "stupid stuff" thinking nothing bad will happen. I lifted big rocks - actually small boulders - while building a rock wall for our garden. I didn't see any sign saying -

"The Law of Gravity Is
  Strictly Enforced Here!"

After a week or so of lifting big rocks, CRACK! I ruptured two disks in my lower spine. What I thought was saving $100 or so by not hiring a guy with a garden tractor or small bulldozer, ended up costing over $55,000 for back surgery. Yes, when we're young, we do "stupid stuff"! Now I do job counseling with young people at an inner-city mission. Several of them have done "stupid stuff" - committed petty crimes - so they have a record that will likely stay with them all their lives, just like I have two steel rods in my back and pain that will hang around for the rest of my life.

The risk of doing "stupid stuff" is part of growing up. It's called freedom. We must allow our children, grandchildren, and dear friends (my "clients" often become dear friends after I spend several counseling sessions with them) to make their own decisions. If they've done "stupid stuff," their options may be somewhat limited, but that doesn't mean they have no future ahead of them.

I once attended a conference where the speaker was a man who was in a car accident on the way to his wedding rehearsal. It left him a quadriplegic: paralyzed from the waist down. As he was sitting in his wheelchair up on the stage, unable to move his arms or legs, he said - "Before my accident, the whole world lay before me. There were probably 15,000 different careers I could choose from. Now there are only 10,000 careers I can choose." The audience cheered and applauded!

So don't ever think that if you've done "stupid stuff" you're all washed up, you'll never amount to anything. Remember the story of Joseph in the Old Testament? His older brothers sold him into slavery. While he was a slave in Egypt, his master's wife falsely accused him of attempted rape because he refused her trying to seduce him, so his master had him thrown into prison. But from prison, he became the top minister of all Egypt!

After his brothers (those jerks who had sold him into slavery) came to Egypt begging for food because back home there was a famine, Joseph said - "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore don't be afraid. I will nourish you and your little ones." (Genesis 50:20-21)

So his father, his brothers, their families and servants all came down to Egypt where there was plenty of food. They were saved from starvation! But after 400 years in Egypt, a new dynasty of pharaohs arose who enslaved all the Hebrews. They had to break out of this situation. Often in our lives, whether we had a good upbringing or not, we get into harmful habit patterns - overeating, smoking, drinking, doing drugs, sexual addiction, etc. - things that can destroy us, our families, and society around us. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul was recalling the falling back into slavery when he wrote -


The latest snare that the enemy of our souls, Satan, is setting for young people is the LGBTQ form of sexual addiction. Satan's siren song goes something like this: "You were simply born this way!" NOT TRUE! In the vast majority of cases, it's social conditioning (indoctrination in the media, our schools and universities) that causes young people to choose the gay path: only a fraction of one percent of the population are born with indeterminate sex.

Or the Devil whispers: "Whatever goes on between two consenting adults is nobody else's business!" Or: "What matters most is social justice; personal morality is a matter of one's free choice!" But social justice requires a society, so if one chooses the LGBTQ path, there'll be no society left - sex is intended for producing the next generation of society, but same-sex acts simply don't reproduce.

Or Satan's stupidest snare is this: "Come on! Everybody's doing it!" As my father-in-law used to tell his children, "If all your friends were walking off a cliff, would you do it too?" Millions of people have already died of HIV-AIDS: don't be the next one! The Apostle Paul wrote -

"Don't you know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don't be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor extortioners, will inherit the Kingdom of God. Such were some of you, but you were washed. But you were sanctified. But you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and in the Spirit of our God. 'All things are lawful for me,' but not all things are helpful. 'All things are lawful for me,' but I will not be dominated by anything. 'Foods for the belly, and the belly for foods,' but God will destroy both it and them. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. Now God raised up the Lord, and will also raise us up by his power." (1 Corinthians 6:9-14)

As Christians, we are called to be citizens of the Kingdom of God, not deceived into following the crowd. Just because something is lawful doesn't mean it's helpful: Getting drunk and smoking are legal, but everyone should know by now that they're harmful to our bodies. Sexual promiscuity now is legal, but the consequences for our bodies, for our families, and for society can be disastrous: think "Ebola" and "AIDS." People say - "If it tastes or feels good, do it!" But your belly or your bottom isn't where your brain is located - use your brain! God's goal for us is to resurrect and restore us into the glorious likeness of Christ's risen and glorified body. St. Paul continues -

"Don't you know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Or don't you know that he who is joined to a prostitute is one body? For, as it is written, 'The two will become one flesh.' But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit. Flee sexual immorality! Every other sin that a person commits is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or don't you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Corinthians 6:15-20)

True freedom is only found in Christ: "Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

Also, St. Paul wrote - "What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace? May it never be! Don't you know that to whom you present yourselves as servants to obedience, his servants you are whom you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that, whereas you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were delivered. Being made free from sin, you became bondservants of righteousness." (Romans 6:15-18)

Choose Faith, Family, and Freedom!


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Prayer and Praise:   For a daily reminder to pray for the items below, go to My Daily Prayer Guide and click on the "H-N pr." link! For our Daily News & Views, click HERE!

Sun. - Pray for endurance and protection for Christians in Pakistan, Nigeria and elsewhere who are being persecuted.
Mon. - Ask God that Christians in Russia will find ways to live out their faith under the new administrative rules.
Tue. - Praise the Lord for the 65th anniversary of the church in Perth, Australia, founded for WW2 refugees from Ukraine.
Wed. - Pray for Protestant Pastor Bakhrom Kholmatov, arrested in Khujand, Tajikistan for his religious activities.
Thu. - Thank God the Russian Orthodox Church protested a decision by European courts to withdraw life support from little Charlie Gard.
Fri. - Praise God for the 64th anniversary of the church in Hunter Valley, Australia, founded for WW2 refugees from Russia.
Sat. - Pray that Christians will stand strong for Faith, Family, and Freedom in the face of anti-Christian society.

Who Are We?   Please remember to pray for Christians in Socialist countries, and for...

  Your fellow-servants,

  Bob & Cheryl

  p.s. Be fishers of men: you catch them - He'll clean them.

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