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News and Reporting

News and Reporting is a section of Christianity Today that compiles the most urgent and interesting news from around the world that you need to know.
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Pastors gear up to welcome evangelicals back to the “greater glory” of church life following 14 months of isolation. On Monday, Ireland emerged from one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns, allowing Christians to return to in-person church services for the first time since December. Members of Solid Rock Drogheda couldn’t wait until Sunday and met to worship together as soon as the restrictions lifted.The church, located in a town north of Dublin, started praying for Ireland and the end of the pandemic on St. Patrick’s Day 2020 when lockdown kept revelers at home. What started as a 24-hour prayer vigil has continued ever since, and the church has used an online booking system to schedule members to pray continuously, according to Nick Park, Solid Rock’s pastor and the executive director of Evangelical Alliance Ireland.While the church prayed, the Irish government instituted three separate lockdowns. In the 14 months since the pandemic began, the government has permitted worship on only 14 Sundays and only three times in the past six months. As of May 10, churches can hold services—along with weddings and funerals—with a maximum of 50 people in attendance.This is a long-awaited relief for churchgoers who have spent so much of the pandemic apart. Pastors could leave their homes to conduct an online service or to minister to the sick during the earlier lockdowns, but residents were not permitted to get together socially or for worship, indoors or out.While many businesses and restaurants are still under phased reopening, the Irish are also finally free to travel between counties and meet up with friends and family, per the latest directives from government officials.At times Ireland’s restrictions were considered among the toughest in the world. Authorities issued fines and threatened to arrest pastors ...Continue reading...
Latest IRF scorecard grades each member of US Congress, as State Department releases annual report on 200 countries and territories.Secretary of State Antony Blinken called out Saudi Arabia.The Gulf kingdom “remains the only country in the world without a Christian church, though there are more than a million Christians living [there],” he stated yesterday.Such high-level criticism of the key US ally is a departure from the foreign policy of the Trump administration, though the State Department has listed the oil-rich nation as a Country of Particular Concern on international religious freedom (IRF) since 2004.Blinken also highlighted recent violations in Iran, Burma, Russia, Nigeria, and China. Positive developments were noted in Sudan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.“Our promise to the world is that the Biden-Harris administration will protect and defend religious freedom around the world,” stated Blinken, releasing the 23rd annual International Religious Freedom Report, assessing the records of nearly 200 countries and territories.“We will maintain America’s longstanding leadership on this issue, [and] we’re grateful for our partners.”He named several entities, but one is glaring in its absence:The US Congress.Six years ago, 21Wilberforce, a Christian human rights organization, launched the International Religious Freedom Scorecard to hold America’s lawmakers to account.“There is much room for improvement,” Lou Ann Sabatier, director of communication, told CT. “It is a long and arduous process for an IRF bill to become a law, and many do not make it out of committee.”The latest scorecard, released this week and grading the two-year term of the 116th Congress, lists 91 legislative efforts in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.Only two became law.The daughter of ...Continue reading...
Evangelical association names itself as co-defendant to defend religious exemptions.The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) jumped into the legal fray over LGBT rights and religious liberties on Wednesday when it filed a motion to join a lawsuit against the US Department of Education (DOE) as a codefendant.Thirty-three current and former students from 20-plus religiously affiliated colleges filed the suit against the DOE in March to prevent the agency from granting religious exemptions from federal antidiscrimination laws. Eighteen of the schools are CCCU members, including Dordt Univeristy, Lipscomb Univeristy, Messiah Univeristy, Nyack College, and Toccoa Falls College. The schools all have policies prohibiting student sexual activity and statements about Christian sexual ethics.A newly founded LGBT advocacy group, the Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP), says these policies are discriminatory and create abusive and unsafe conditions for LGBT students. REAP is arguing that the religious exemptions to civil rights and federal education laws should be abolished.If the exemption to Title IX is eliminated, religious schools with policies deemed discriminatory would not be eligible for federal funds.CCCU president Shirley Hoogstra said the lawsuit is frivolous and the Christian colleges and universities are clearly eligible for religious exemptions.“CCCU institutions subscribe to sincerely held biblical beliefs,” she said in a statement, “which include specific religious convictions around human sexuality and gender, and are transparent about their policies and behavior guidelines, which students voluntarily agree to when they choose to attend the institution.”The CCCU has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The motion cites multiple US Supreme Court ...Continue reading...
Once considered a beacon of peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims, the West African nation has been embroiled in unprecedented extremist violence.In the more than 15 years Salomon Tibiri has been offering spiritual succor as a military pastor in Burkina Faso, he’s never fielded so many calls from anxious soldiers and their relatives as in recent years, when the army found itself under attack by Islamic extremist fighters.“Before the crisis there was more stability,” Tibiri said, seated in a military camp church in the city of Kaya, in the hard-hit Center-North region. “Now (the soldiers) are busier, and when you approach them you feel their stress—much more stress.”Once considered a beacon of peace and religious coexistence in the region, the West African nation has been embroiled in unprecedented violence linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State since 2016.[Editor’s note: A series of terrorist attacks on churches led Open Doors to add Burkina Faso to its persecution watch list in 2020 for the first time, and to rank it No. 32 out of the 50 countries where it’s hardest to be a Christian in 2021. Meanwhile, Burkinabe Christians have debated whether or not to join civilian militias in response.]The attacks have thrown an ill-equipped and undertrained army into disarray—and overwhelming the chaplains tasked with supporting them.In interviews in the Center-North and in Ouagadougou, the capital, military chaplains told The Associated Press that they are stretched thin by the unprecedented conflict and what assistance they are able to provide through phone calls and prayer services is insufficient.Just seven chaplains, hailing from Protestant, Catholic, and Muslim faiths, are charged with spiritually advising some 11,000 soldiers and helping maintain their morale. The army has not devoted what little resources it has ...Continue reading...
US ambassador meets with Abune Mathias in Addis Ababa after provocative video released.The head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in his first public comments on the war in the country’s Tigray region is sharply criticizing Ethiopia’s actions, saying he believes it’s genocide: “They want to destroy the people of Tigray.”The United States ambassador hosted him today to learn more.In a video shot last month on a mobile phone and carried out of Ethiopia, the elderly Patriarch Abune Mathias addresses the church’s scores of millions of followers and the international community, saying his previous attempts to speak out were blocked. He is ethnic Tigrayan.The video comes as the conflict in Tigray marks six months. Thousands of people have been killed in the fighting between Ethiopian and allied forces and Tigray ones, the result of a political struggle that turned deadly in November. Dozens of witnesses have told the AP that civilians are targeted.“I am not clear why they want to declare genocide on the people of Tigray,” Mathias says, speaking in Amharic and listing alleged atrocities including the destruction of churches, massacres, forced starvation, and looting.“It is not the fault of the Tigray people. The whole world should know it.”He calls for strength, adding that “this bad season might pass away.” And he urges the world to act.The comments are a striking denunciation from someone so senior inside Ethiopia, where state media reflect the government’s narrative and both independent journalists and Tigrayans have been intimidated and harassed. The video also comes as Ethiopia, facing multiple crises of sometimes deadly ethnic tensions, faces a national election on June 5.Dennis Wadley, who runs the US-based Bridges of Hope ministry ...Continue reading...
Inspired by Makoto Fujimura, an American evangelical partners with Lebanese art institute to equally dignify every death.Nine months later, Brady Black was fed up—and inspired.Last August, one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in human history leveled Lebanon’s main port and thousands of homes.Charities and churches scrambled to help, as 204 people were killed.The government has done next to nothing.But now, each victim has a portrait across from Beirut’s famed Martyrs Square.“Families were protesting, holding up pictures of their relatives as they demanded justice,” said Black.“They wanted them to be seen. So we made it loud.”An American street artist resident in Lebanon since 2015, Black teamed up with Art of Change to illegally create the capital city’s largest informal portrait gallery. Run by a secular British artist and a Lebanese Muslim from the heterodox Druze sect, the art institute co-founders sponsored Black’s evangelical idea for “good mischief.”Scouring the internet for every name and image that could be found, Black digitally drew each face with the utmost care—with one caveat. No matter the importance of the victim or the degree of fame achieved in their death, each was limited to one hour of his creativity.An hour he bathed in prayer for the surviving family.“People come up to me, frantically asking, ‘Where is my son?’” said Black of his installation.“‘Come with me,’ I tell them. ‘I know exactly where he is.’”Each victim’s portrait is about 10 square feet in size. Arranged side-by-side, the images span the equivalent of three football fields, covering three-quarters of a city block on one of Beirut’s busiest downtown intersections.Black was especially keen on the eyes.Mona Lisa-like, ...Continue reading...
Buffeted by Russia, corruption, and culture war pressures, believers surge in national elections.Like many in America, evangelicals in Ukraine feel under siege.It may be why people are starting to elect them—in record numbers.“Ukraine has become the epicenter of a global spiritual battle,” said Pavel Unguryan, coordinator of Ukraine’s National Prayer Breakfast.“Today, as never before, our nation needs unity, peace, and the authority of God’s Word.”Their perceived threats are coming from all directions.From the east, Russia recently amassed 100,000 soldiers on the border.From the west, the European Union pushes LGBT ideology.And from within, corruption is rampant.On each issue, evangelicals align well with Ukrainian voters.“The shortage of good leaders is so intense, parties are starting to recruit in the churches,” said Unguryan. “Honest and responsible politicians are easiest to find there.”Last October, more than 500 evangelicals were elected to all levels of government. One even heads a major city—Rivne, in western Ukraine—as mayor.With evangelicals comprising only 2 percent of Ukraine’s 40 million people, it is a significant achievement.Two-thirds (65%) of the population identify as Orthodox Christians (split across three groups), 10 percent as Greek Catholic, and a further 8 percent as “simply a Christian.”But the piety does not translate to politics. Ukraine ranks 117th out of 180 nations in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index—the second-lowest ranking in Europe.As a result, 78 percent of Ukrainians distrust state officials, and 71 percent distrust politicians, according to a 2020 poll by the Razumkov Center.But the church is trusted by 63 percent, second only to the army, trusted by ...Continue reading...
Advocates say more subtle approaches and one-on-one engagement may actually do more to inform the unvaccinated without further dividing the faithful.As COVID-19 vaccination rates slowed this spring, Americans’ attention turned toward the groups less likely to get the shot, including white evangelicals.Black Protestants were initially among the most skeptical toward the vaccine, but they grew significantly more open to it during the first few months of the year, while white evangelicals’ hesitancy held steady.With African Americans, many credit robust campaigns targeting Black neighborhoods, launching vaccination clinics in Black churches, and convening discussions featuring prominent Black Christian voices for reducing rates of hesitancy. So for those eager to see higher levels of vaccination, the question became: Are white evangelical leaders doing enough to engage their own?The latest poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit research organization focused on health issues, found that as of the end of April, white evangelicals (54%) were about as likely to have received the COVID-19 vaccine as the country overall (56%).The difference comes with the attitudes among the unvaccinated. White evangelicals are half as likely as Americans overall to say they plan to get the shot ASAP, and 20 percent say they definitely won’t be getting the shot, 7 percentage points lower than the rest of the country.Most evangelical churches in the country span a range of perspectives on vaccination, which makes it difficult for pastors to know when or how to address the topic.“I know pastors who won’t even mention masks because people would leave. I’d say vaccines are even more sensitive,” said Dan DeWitt, who directs the Center for Biblical Apologetics and Public Christianity at Cedarville University. “Pastors ...Continue reading...
Severe oxygen shortage one of many challenges as India suffers the world's worst surge of COVID-19 cases and deaths.With life-saving oxygen in short supply, families are left on their own to ferry people sick with COVID-19 from hospital to hospital in search of treatment as India is engulfed in a devastating surge of infections. Too often, their efforts end in mourning.On social media and in television footage, desperate relatives plead for oxygen outside hospitals or weep in the street for loved ones who died waiting for treatment.India has been setting global daily records of new coronavirus infections, spurred by an insidious new variant that emerged here.On Friday, the number of new confirmed cases breached 400,000 for the third time since the devastating surge began last month. The 414,188 new cases pushed India’s official tally to more than 21.4 million, behind only the United States.The Health Ministry also reported 3,915 new deaths on Friday, bringing the confirmed total over 234,000 (behind only the US and Brazil). Health experts believe both figures are an undercount.Leaders of Christian churches and ministries in India have been overwhelmed by cases and deaths among their staff and congregants amid the unavailability of treatment. In response, today was jointly declared a day of prayer and fasting by the leaders of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI).The current crisis is one of the darkest times in the history of the nation, according to Prabhu Singh, principal of the South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS), an evangelical research institution in Bengaluru.“One of the heartbreaking results of this intense second wave in the country is the tragic loss of senior leaders of Christian ...Continue reading...
Ministries offer tips for how to give heartbreaking headlines over to God.Over the past year, the news has been enough to drive us to despair. Or prayer. Or both.As people have been bombarded with headlines about the global pandemic, civil unrest, natural disasters, and religious persecution, Google searches for prayer rose to the highest levels on record, and Christian ministries have stepped up to offer resources to help believers pray through the news.Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the UK outlet Premier Christian News had redesigned its website to include prayer prompts at the end of every news story. The site saw more than 175,000 readers click to pray in 2020.“We wanted to inform Christians about the news going on around the world but also equip them,” said Marcus Jones, Premier’s director of news and digital.During some grim news cycles—Brexit, terrorist attacks, and then the pandemic—journalists and audiences alike can become desensitized to the headlines. “It is healthy to take a step back and say this is a real-life situation God can intervene in,” said Jones.The writers at Premier Christian News compose or compile relevant prayers, usually just a few lines long, to run at the end of their articles. A tracker tallies how many readers have clicked the praying hands icon to indicate they are praying.A majority of Premier readers come from the UK, where a third of people say the pandemic has affected their prayer life, according to a Savanta ComRes survey. They’re just as likely to say it’s made them pray less (15%) as to say it’s made them pray more (16%).Still, Jones said the team has been impressed with how much engagement they’ve gotten from the feature. The most-prayed-for stories are usually ...Continue reading...
Denomination survey finds 61 percent want to change titles, allow for ordination.Jennifer Ashby preaches and teaches regularly at Neighborhood Church in Rockville, Maryland. She baptizes people, disciples them, marries them, buries them, and counsels them in times of crisis.But one thing she won’t do, as executive director of ministries at the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) congregation, is call herself “pastor.”The CMA consecrates and licenses women for ministry but does not permit them to use the title “pastor.” The term is restricted to men who can be elders, even though not all pastors are elders in CMA churches and not all elders are ordained pastors.The title is just a title, admits Ashby, who is also one of three women on the CMA board of directors, but not having a title can complicate pastoral ministry.“Because certain words are off-limits, you end up doing verbal gymnastics,” she said. “Without the commonly understood language around what I do, people don’t understand how I can help them. That’s one of the big functional implications of this policy. People come to the church and say ‘I would like to speak to a pastor,’ and it’s not clear to them that an executive director of ministries can help them.”The CMA is considering changing the title restrictions at the denomination’s annual General Council meeting, scheduled for both Nashville and online at the end of May. Though no decision will be made this year, the Alliance will talk about allowing women to be called pastors in the future.“It’s become clear to me that some of our policies unnecessarily restrict otherwise called and qualified ministers,” CMA president John Stumbo said in an official announcement. “This grieves ...Continue reading...
COGIC bishop built a church while breaking ground in Pittsburgh TV and radio.As a TV news reporter and a Church of God in Christ (COGIC) pastor, Loran Mann tried to keep his two jobs separate. And that worked. Mostly.But once in the 1980s, he was first to the scene of a standoff where an armed fugitive on the run after murdering his wife was cornered by police. The man decided he would surrender—but only to the locally famous newsman and man of God.“I got an exclusive,” Mann said. “But the best part is he became a committed Christian.”Mann, a groundbreaking Black broadcast reporter and a COGIC bishop who rose to the top level of leadership in the nation’s fifth largest Christian denomination, died in Pittsburgh on Sunday at the age of 74.On Monday he was mourned throughout the city and celebrated by local religious leaders and broadcast professionals.“He was a lion of the Gospel—outspoken and loving in his proclamation of Jesus Christ,” Episcopal Bishop Dorsey McConnell, who worked with Mann on racial justice issues, told Trib Live. “He was a pastor’s pastor and his leadership was felt across all lines of race and denomination.”The Pittsburgh Black Media Federation said Mann was a trailblazer who inspired many people of color to go into media. He was first a disc jockey, then a TV news reporter, and then a radio station general manager, all while shepherding his growing Pentecostal congregation.“He was one of the first Black journalists in radio and television in Pittsburgh,” said Dee Thompson, one of the founders of the Black Media Federation. “Loran was a pioneer in journalism, not only in Pittsburgh’s Black community, but also the community at large. And not only in Pittsburgh, but nationally.” ...Continue reading...
Research in Virginia jail could help churches deal with emotional impact of the pandemic.One day soon the pandemic may be past, and COVID-19, a memory. But the trauma—from the isolation, seeing people die, facing financial stress, and living with loss and the anxiety of the unknown—will continue for a long time to come.According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of American adults with recent symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorders increased more than 5 points between the summer of 2020 and the spring of 2021. One out of every 10 people reports having an unmet mental health care need.“We’re going to see this level of trauma for many years," said Nicole Martin, executive director of trauma healing at the American Bible Society (ABS). “It’s not just going to go away when everyone is vaccinated and everyone is allowed inside.”Martin and the American Bible Society want to meet that need with trauma-informed Bible reading, teaching people about healing from trauma using Scripture.A recent ABS-commissioned study by Baylor University researchers found that combining education about mental health best practices with Bible reading can have a significant benefit. In their study, this reduced the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and increased forgiveness, compassion, and sense of purpose.“As America experiences a mental health crisis, this study shows the potential benefits of faith-sensitive care for traumatized people,” said Robert L. Briggs, ABS president and CEO. “The Bible has been shown to be a vital source for emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental healing.”The study looked at the effectiveness of the ABS curriculum Healing the Wounds of Trauma, taught inside Riverside ...Continue reading...
About a third experience racism and obstacles to leadership in congregations that value diversity.Most practicing Christians believe the church can enhance race relations in this country by welcoming people of all races and ethnicities, new research finds.But 29 percent of Black practicing Christians say they have experienced racial prejudice in multiracial congregations, compared to about a tenth who report such an experience in monoracial Black churches. And a third of Black Christians say it is hard to gain leadership positions in a multiracial congregation.The new report, released Wednesday, April 28, by Barna Group and the Racial Justice and Unity Center, examines the views of what researchers call “practicing Christians”—people who self-identify as Christians, say their faith is very important to them, and say they attended worship in the past month.The research included 2,889 US adults, with 1,364 of them meeting the definition of “practicing Christians.”Even as the percentage of multiracial churches has dramatically grown, particularly in Protestant churches, there remain divisions on how to address racial justice among Christians as well as a willingness to do so, says the report, titled “Beyond Diversity: What the Future of Racial Justice Will Require of US Churches.”“Racial injustice is like a disease,” writes Michael Emerson, co-principal investigator, in the report’s welcome. “Our research has found that the disease has not gone away even as the supposed antibodies of multiracial churches have multiplied. Racial injustice has mutated into new forms, and it has proven highly resistant to the antibodies of multiracial church.”Emerson, a sociologist and co-author of the 2000 book Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of ...Continue reading...
Gathering at full-capacity is now listed among safe activities for people who have gotten the COVID-19 shot. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention loosened the agency’s social distancing recommendations this week, announcing that fully vaccinated people who wear masks can safely attend many indoor events such as worship services.CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky made the announcement Tuesday during a White House press briefing, where she outlined a number of indoor activities people who wear masks and have received vaccines against COVID-19 can participate in safely—including worship.“As we gather more and more data on the real-world efficacy of vaccines, we know that masked, fully vaccinated people can safely attend worship services inside,” she said.Walensky also said that masked, fully vaccinated people can safely go to an indoor restaurant or bar, and “even participate in an indoor exercise class.”The CDC continues to recommend that fully vaccinated people use masks for indoor activities such as singing in an indoor chorus, going to a movie theater or eating indoors at a restaurant. As for outdoor activities, the CDC generally only recommends masks among fully vaccinated people if they plan on attending a crowded outdoor event such as a concert. According to the CDC, people are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after they receive the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines. They are also considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only requires one dose.“The examples shown today show that when you are vaccinated, you can return to many activities safely, and most of them outdoors and unmasked—and begin to get back to normal,” Walensky said.Officials were ...Continue reading...
He pushed evangelicals to see social action and evangelism as “two wings of a plane.”Editor’s note: CT also offers a collection of tributes by leaders and friends of Padilla.C. René Padilla, theologian, pastor, publisher, and longtime staff member with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, died Tuesday, April 27, at the age of 88.Padilla was best known as the father of integral mission, a theological framework that has been adopted by over 500 Christian missions and relief organizations, including Compassion International and World Vision. Integral mission pushed evangelicals around the world to widen their Christian mission, arguing that social action and evangelism were essential and indivisible components—in Padilla’s words, “two wings of a plane.”Padilla’s influence surfaced most prominently at the Lausanne Congress of 1974, where he gave a rousing plenary speech. Nearly 2,500 Protestant evangelical leaders from over 150 countries and 135 denominations gathered in Lausanne, Switzerland, at a meeting funded primarily by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). One influential magazine called Lausanne “a formidable forum, possibly the widest-ranging meeting of Christians ever held.” When Padilla ascended the stage, he carried the hopes and dreams of many evangelicals from the Global South who sought equal footing in the decision-making of worldwide churches and mission organizations.Padilla specifically called American evangelicals to repent for exporting the “American way of life” to mission fields around the world, devoid of social responsibility and care for the poor, making the case for misión integral.A term drawn from his homemade whole-wheat bread (pan integral), it referred to a synthesized spiritual ...Continue reading...
Sales of “The Total Money Makeover” suffer after reports of abusive workplace.Dave Ramsey’s perennial bestseller, The Total Money Makeover, has dropped off evangelical publishers’ top 10 list for the first time since the book’s fourth edition was published in 2013.Sales have fallen steadily since January, when Religion News Service (RNS) reported allegations of controlling leadership and a “cultlike” environment at Ramsey Solutions, which have resulted in a string of lawsuits against the company.The book dropped from third to fourth on the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) bestsellers list in February, then to seventh in March, and then out of the top 10 at the end of April. It is currently ranked No. 11.Ramsey Solutions, a for-profit company that offers financial advice through books, radio programs, and church workshops across the country, had been labeled one of the best places to work in America. But some of its roughly 1,000 employees didn’t want to return to the Nashville office during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a whistleblower told the federal government about health and safety violations at the Nashville-area workplace.“I will fire you instantaneously for your lack of loyalty, your lack of class, and the fact that you are a moron and you snuck through our hiring process,” Ramsey told his staff, according to a recording obtained by RNS. “I’m so tired of being falsely accused of being a jerk when all I’m doing is trying to help people stay in line.”Ramsey pushed back against the dissent, and his company contests the facts of the RNS reporting.The Total Money Makeover was the No. 3 book on the ECPA list in January. The book was the fourth highest bestseller in 2020, the fourth in 2019, and in the top 10 every ...Continue reading...
He is the first US president to use the word to describe the 1915 massacre of Armenian Christians by Ottoman Turks.The systematic killing and deportation of hundreds of thousands of Armenians by Ottoman Empire forces in the early 20th century was “genocide,” the United States formally declared on Saturday, as President Joe Biden used that precise word after the White House had avoided it for decades for fear of alienating ally Turkey.Turkey reacted with furor, with the foreign minister saying his country “will not be given lessons on our history from anyone.” A grateful Armenia said it appreciated Biden’s “principled position” as a step toward “the restoration of truth and historical justice.”Biden was following through on a campaign promise he made a year ago Saturday — the annual commemoration of Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day — to recognize that the events that began in 1915 were a deliberate effort to wipe out Armenians.While previous presidents have offered somber reflections of the dark moment in history, they have studiously avoided using the term genocide out of concern that it would complicate relations with Turkey, a NATO ally and important power in the Middle East.But Biden campaigned on a promise to make human rights a central guidepost of his foreign policy. He argued last year that failing to call the atrocities against the Armenian people a genocide would pave the way for future mass atrocities. An estimated 2 million Armenians were deported and 1.5 million were killed in the events known as Metz Yeghern.“The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today,” Biden said in a statement. “We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.” ...Continue reading...
The case of a vanishing church in Nagorno-Karabakh highlights the feared erasure of ancient Christian heritage, but also the Azeri countercharge of destructive occupation.Armenian fears of a new genocide were put on hold following the fall of Shusha, the crown jewel of Nagorno-Karabakh, high in the Caucasus Mountains. Last November, Azerbaijani forces captured the city—known to Armenians as Shushi—after which a ceasefire ended the military hostilities.But not the cultural.Last month, satellite imagery allegedly revealed the destruction of Shusha’s Armenian Genocide Memorial. Constructed in 2009, it leaves a bitter taste during this year’s April 24 remembrance of the 1.5 million lives lost when Turks expelled Armenians from their homes a century ago.President Joe Biden may recognize the atrocity by stating the word genocide in his commemorative speech.But the horrors witnessed in Turkey reached also to Shusha, where Azerbaijanis massacred the local Armenian population.“As in 1915, the Turco-Azeris are committing not only a human genocide against the Armenians, but also a cultural genocide,” said Rene Leonian, president of the Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches in Eurasia.“Unfortunately, nations and international organizations are too passive to firmly condemn these abuses.”They can now add the case of the disappearing church.Following the war, video footage emerged of an Azerbaijani soldier shouting “Allahu Akbar” from the rooftop of the Holy Mother of God church in the town of Jabrayil.In search of the simple stone-built chapel, the BBC discovered no trace whatsoever.The escorting policeman first said it was destroyed in the war. He then changed his story saying the Armenians dismantled it before they left.Presidential advisor Hikmat Hajiyev told the BBC the matter would be investigated, but then shifted the discussion to the ...Continue reading...
Advocates united to hold the president to his campaign promise, combat administration's misinformation.Evangelical advocates played a crucial role in holding President Joe Biden accountable to a promise to raise the limits for refugees coming to America. Publicly and privately, they pushed back on the administration’s explanation for continuing Trump-era limits for another six months, framed the change as a betrayal of a promise, and reiterated the moral argument for accepting refugees.Within a few hours of a presidential memo on April 16 telling the State Department to keep the number of refugee admissions at 15,000 instead of raising it to the promised 62,500, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki stated there had been “some confusion,” and the administration started to reverse course. That evening, a deputy national security advisor held an emergency conference call with advocacy groups, including World Relief, to offer assurances that the administration would welcome more refugees with haste.“It was one of the busiest workdays I’ve ever had,” Jenny Yang, senior vice president of advocacy and policy at World Relief, wrote on Facebook. “At the end of the day, the President heard the voice of the people and changed course, stating that he is planning to raise the #refugee ceiling next month. Thanks for raising your voice. Keep it up!”Evangelical groups helped set up the moral conflict just after noon on April 16, when the Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of nine prominent evangelical organizations, released a statement urging Biden to raise the ceiling on refugee resettlement immediately. Expressing “dismay and disappointment,” the letter pointed out the US was on track to accept the fewest refugees in the history of the resettlement program, which began in ...Continue reading...
In Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, another Andrew Brunson-style case is brewing.Will the Turks create another Andrew Brunson?On the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, they claim to have found his disciple.Three months ago, American pastor Ryan Keating was detained for 11 hours by the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a state unrecognized by every nation except Turkey. Its police raided the café and wine shop that housed his church, and then proceeded to his home.They confiscated dozens of Arabic and Farsi language Bibles.Keating, 44, was released on nearly $20,000 bail, after local friends bonded deeds to their property, vehicles, and even a tractor.Last month, Keating was charged with illegally importing Christian materials. His passport has been confiscated while he awaits trial. A fine has been assessed of at least $60,000—ten times the value of the Bibles, which he said is “wildly inflated” to begin with.The raid, however, was based on the accusation that he did not have a permit to make wine. Yet Keating showed CT his 2018 license to operate the café, his 2019 license for winemaking from the municipality, and the additional requested paperwork from 2020, when his permit renewal was delayed by the customs department.The interrogation focused only on his ministry.“This country, its government, and our neighbors have been friendly to us,” he said. “But there are not insignificant pockets of hostile nationalism.”Keating linked his arrest to the changing political environment. Last October, the pro-Turkey prime minister defeated the incumbent president to assume the territory’s top office.“My case is an example of localized opposition,” Keating said. “But now, Turkish-style politics is being enforced in Cyprus.” ...Continue reading...
Prison Fellowship's “Second Chance Month” corresponds with easing of pandemic restrictions at many facilities. In early April, Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae visited a South Carolina prison, performed six songs and testified about his faith.Fifteen months ago, the event would have been almost unremarkable, but since then, COVID-19 restrictions have prevented Lecrae from “hanging out” with prisoners, as he had previously done with less social distance after a performance hosted by Prison Fellowship.“We sometimes do it outside the security fence line and maintain that separation with the men or women on the inside,” said Prison Fellowship President James Ackerman, describing a “Hope Event” the ministry held at a correctional facility in Alabama in September.Lecrae’s visit this month was a sign that some prisons have begun permitting more in-person religious activities.“As conditions have improved state by state, some correctional facilities and prisons are opening back up for visitors and ministry purposes,” Jim Forbes, communications director of Prison Fellowship, said in a statement to Religion News Service.That comes as Prison Fellowship—the largest US nonprofit serving incarcerated people, formerly incarcerated people and their families—celebrates Second Chance Month, aimed at raising awareness of the difficulties faced by people with a criminal record.The virus has spread through correctional facilities, where social distancing is often not an option, infecting prisoners at a rate three times that of Americans outside prison walls, according to a recent report by The New York Times.Over the past year, nearly all state-run facilities temporarily have halted outside visitors to help slow that spread, according to Prison Fellowship’s website.Continue reading...
USCIRF chair Gayle Manchin explains why 22nd annual report by US watchdog agency reduces tally of offending nations, yet too many on black list still “don't seem to care.”As a new administration takes over leadership of America’s commitment to religious freedom worldwide, Gayle Manchin believes President Joe Biden is “very aware” of its importance.But given global developments, the watchdog work of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which she chairs, sometimes feels like “treading water.”Others agree. For example, an 800-page study released this week by Aid to the Church in Need concludes that 1 in 3 nations of the world do not respect religious freedom.And in 95 percent of these, the situation is growing worse.USCIRF, created to provide recommendations to the US government, released its 22nd annual report today. Its analysis identifies significant problems in 26 countries, down from 29 last year. It also marked a surge in worldwide antisemitism.Following the commission’s advice, last December then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the designation of Burma [Myanmar], China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC).USCIRF’s 2021 report recommends that new Secretary of State Anthony Blinken add India, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam.And where the US State Department under the Trump administration added Cuba and Nicaragua to a Special Watch List (SWL), this year USCIRF recommends also including Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.Meanwhile, the commission recommends that three nations finally come off the watch list: Bahrain, the Central African Republic, and Sudan.Shielded from US foreign policy concerns, USCIRF says its mandate allows it to “unflinchingly criticize ...Continue reading...
Christians joined disability advocates and UN experts to oppose amendment, but failed to stop it.Canadian evangelicals are decrying a new law that expands access to physician-assisted suicide to people who are sick or disabled but aren’t dying.“Many of us are quite heartbroken over this,” said Derek Ross, the executive director of Christian Legal Fellowship. “We’re now dealing with a legal system that is making more and more exceptions to the once exception-less principle that you cannot consent to the harm of having your life ended by another person and that all lives are inherently and equally full of worth and value of dignity.”Physician-assisted suicide—known popularly as “Medical Assistance in Dying” or MAID—has been legal in Canada since 2016. The law was limited to people who were experiencing what the Criminal Code called a “grievous and irremediable medical condition”: an illness, disease, or disability that causes enduring physical or psychological pain that cannot be relieved in any way the patient accepts. To be eligible, the patient also had to be dying.But in March, the government passed an amendment to the Criminal Code, Bill C-7, that removed the criteria that someone must be dying to receive MAID. Canada now allows people who have an illness or disability to have a physician-assisted suicide, even if their death is not imminent. People who are dying no longer have to wait 10 days. Canada also plans to allow MAID for people whose only medical condition is a mental illness.“The law is now presenting death as a medical response to suffering in a wide range of cases—not just when somebody is already dying, but at potentially any stage of their adult life,” Ross said. “Instead of prioritizing supports to help ...Continue reading...
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