Blue Flower

WEARY COPTS URGE POPE FRANCIS TO CHALLENGE EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT OVER ATTACKS

Egyptian Copts welcomed Pope Francis' "insistence" that his visit to Cairo went ahead despite the recent attacks on two churches that killed 45 worshippers. The head of the Catholic Church went to Cairo to visit President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayyib, and Coptic Pope Tawadros II, and celebrate Mass in a stadium with an estimated 25,000 Coptic Catholics. He gave a speech at a peace conference organised by Al-Azhar, the seat of Sunni learning. He also joined with Pope Tawadros and other Christian leaders in honouring the victims of the recent attacks, praying silently in front of a blood-stained wall of St Peter and St Paul's church in Cairo where 29 people were killed in a suicide attack in December.

Pope Francis began his video message with the Arabic greeting of peace used throughout the Muslim world. Francis travelled in a closed car during his visit but not an armoured one, the Vatican said. In a video message released in Italian and Arabic the Pope said: "I would like this visit to be a witness of my affection and encouragement for all the Christians of the Middle East, a message of friendship and respect for all the inhabitants of Egypt and the region, and a message of brotherhood and reconciliation with all the children of Abraham, particularly the Muslim world, in which Egypt holds so important a place." One aim of the visit was to improve relations with Al-Azhar, which in 2011 broke off ties with the Vatican after Francis' predecessor Benedict XVI called for better protection for Copts, following a bombing of an church in Alexandria in which 23 people were killed.

The two-day visit came at a time of high anxiety among Copts, who make up around 10% of the population, following the two suicide bomb attacks on PalmSunday, one of which apparently targeted the Coptic pope. In response, clergy in the southern Coptic heartland of Minya scaled back Easter celebrations in many churches. Meanwhile hundreds of Coptic families have fled northern Sinai after Islamic State threatened to expand its activities and claimed responsibility for a number of murders of Copts and attacks on churches there. Amir Fakhry, a Coptic activist in Minya Governorate, said he praised Pope Francis' "keenness not to change the timing of his visit". He named the Muslim Brotherhood as first among the "terrorist organisations and groups" that had tried but "failed to distort the image of Egypt externally".

Mr Fakhry said he hoped Pope Francis had raised with President Sisi the treatment of Copts in Minya, where he said they had been "continuously" attacked and had no rights. In many villages "Christians are without churches and have difficulties in finding a place to worship," he added. An American missionary priest who worked in Egypt for two decades, Fr Douglas May, told the US-based Catholic News Service that while Egyptian Christians' problems stem from "several sources," many Copts feel "the voice from al-Azhar is not strong enough against all this fanaticism and it may even be affirming it." Amid the country's economic difficulties and high unemployment, minorities are an easy target as "someone to blame," he added.

Fr Stephanos Samy, a priest at Mar Girgis (St. George) Cathedral in Tanta, one of the two attacked on Palm Sunday, said that in continuing with the visit, Francis had refused to "submit to terrorism". Fr. Antonios Mounir, of St Peter and St Paul's church in Cairo, said he believed Francis came "to support the Egyptian people in this crisis." The Egyptian government has however sought to depict the incidents as violence inflicted on moderates by foreign-influenced extremists rather than on Christians by some Muslims. This view was echoed by Fr. Mikhail Anton, a priest at Mar Girgis church in El-Arish, from where hundreds of Coptic families have recently fled following threats from IS.  Francis said he hoped the visit would be a message of reconciliation to "all the children of Abraham, particularly the Muslim world."

Fr. Anton told World Watch Monitor that the visit "was a slap in the face for terrorism. The visit was a proof of national unity among all the sons of the same homeland. No one, no matter how much, can defeat the Egyptian people, or at least export frustration to Egyptians." "The Pope himself insisted on coming, meaning that he was not intimidated by the explosions," said Fr Rafic Greiche, spokesman for Egypt's Catholic Coptic Church. He said the pope had shown himself to be "courageous" and in solidarity "with the Copts who were targeted, but also with all Egyptians," he told I.Media. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said security was "the main concern" regarding the Pope's visit.

Source: World Watch Monitor

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IS THE U.S. BIBLICALLY LITERATE OR NOT

Americans have a positive view of the Bible. And many say the Christian Scriptures are filled with moral lessons for today. However, more than half of Americans have read little or none of the Bible. Less than a quarter of those who have ever read a Bible have a systematic plan for reading the Christian Scriptures each day. And a third of Americans never pick it up on their own, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research. Small wonder many church leaders worry about Biblical illiteracy, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. "Most Americans don't know first-hand the overall story of the Bible, because they rarely pick it up," McConnell said. "Even among worship attendees, less than half read the Bible daily. The only time most Americans hear from the Bible is when someone else is reading it."

Almost nine out of 10 households (87%) own a Bible, according to the American Bible Society, and the average household has three. But Bible reading remains spotty. LifeWay Research surveyed 1,000 Americans about their views of the Bible and found significant splits in how familiar they are with the Christian Scripture. One in five Americans, LifeWay Research found, has read through the Bible at least once. That includes 11% who've read the entire Bible once, and 9% who've read it through multiple times. Another 12% say they have read almost all of the Bible, while 15% have read at least half. About half of Americans (53%) have read relatively little of the Bible. One in 10 has read none of it, while 13% have read a few sentences. Thirty percent say they have read several passages or stories.

Americans differ in how they approach reading the Bible. Twenty-two percent read a little each day, in a systematic approach. A third (35%) never pick it up at all, while 30% look up things in the Bible when they need to. Nineteen percent reread their favourite parts, while 17% flip open the Bible and read a passage at random. A quarter (27%) read sections suggested by others, while 16% say they look things up to help others. Those with evangelical beliefs are more likely (49%) to read a little bit each day than those without evangelical beliefs (16%). Protestants (36%) are more likely to read every day than Catholics (17%). The more often Americans attend church, the more likely they are to read the Bible daily. Thirty-nine percent of those who attend worship services at least once a month read a bit every day, while only 13% who attend services less than once month pick up a Bible daily.

Men are more likely to skip Bible reading than women. Thirty-nine percent of men say they do not read the Bible on their own, compared to 31% of women. Folks in the Northeast (48%) are more likely to never pick up a Bible than those from other regions. Overall, Americans have a positive view of the Bible. Thirty-seven percent say it is helpful today, while a similar number call it life-changing (35%) or true (36%). Half (52%) say the Bible is a good source for morals. Few say the Bible is outdated (14%), harmful (7%) or bigoted (8%). Americans are split over the nature of the Bible as a book. Four in 10 say it's a book worth reading over and over, while 13% say it's worth reading once. Twenty-two percent prefer referencing the Bible on an as-needed basis. Five percent say the Bible is a book not worth reading at all, while 19% are not sure.

A number of reasons keep Americans from reading the Bible, according to LifeWay Research. About a quarter (27%) say they don't prioritize it, while 15% don't have time. Thirteen percent say they've read it enough. Fewer say they don't read books (9%), don't see how the Bible relates to them (9%), or don't have a copy (6%). Ten percent disagree with what the Bible says. Overall, Americans seem to like the Bible but don't have much urgency about reading it, said McConnell. One place Americans are still likely to hear the Bible read is in church. And many Protestant pastors try to encourage their flocks to give the Bible a try. A LifeWay Research survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors found most give out free Bibles to those who need them (86%), include reminders about reading the Bible in their sermons (86%) and include Bible readings in worship services (76%).

Two-thirds (64%) give out printed Bible-reading plans while 40% provide digital-reading plans. Half (52%) send out social media reminders, while 46% send out reminders by email and newsletters. Still, it appears people may need more than a plan when it comes to reading the Bible, McConnell said. McConnell said Americans treat reading the Bible a little bit like exercise. They know it's important and helpful, but they don't do it. The key for churches, he said, is finding ways for people to experience how reading the Bible can change their lives. "Scripture describes itself as 'living and effective,' according to the book of Hebrews," McConnell said. "Those who have a habit of reading through the Bible a little each day say they have experienced this helpful, life-changing quality. Those who approach the book differently tend to say the Bible is positive but much less personal."

Source: Charisma News

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CHINA GRIPPED BY SPIRITUAL REVIVAL AS HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS TURN TO FAITH

Forty-one years after China's Cultural Revolution snuffed out all forms of religious expression, hundreds of millions of Chinese people are flocking to religions like Christianity. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ian Johnson believes what's transpiring in China is nothing short of "one of the world's great spiritual revivals" and says the world better take note because the impact of this "spiritual transformation" could have significant global implications. "People in China are looking for new moral guideposts, some sort of moral compass to organize society," said Johnson, author of The Souls of China: "So they are turning to religion as a source of values to help reorganize society." Johnson spent six years researching the "values and faiths of today's China." He says the fastest-growing drivers of this "religious revolution" are unregistered churches or so-called "house" or "underground" churches.

"These groups have become surprisingly well-organized, meeting very openly and often counting hundreds of congregants," Johnson wrote in an article. "They've helped the number of Protestants soar from about one million when the communists took power to at least 60 million today." Over the past 15 years, CBN News has also documented this unprecedented revival. From the countryside to the big cities, we've highlighted how a new generation of Believers is changing the face of Chinese Christianity. "Any casual visitor to the country can tell you that the number of churches, mosques, and temples has soared in recent years, and that many of them are full," Johnson wrote. "While problems abound, the space for religious expression has grown rapidly, and Chinese Believers eagerly grab it as they search for new ideas and values to underpin a society that long ago discarded traditional morality."

Church leaders that CBN News spoke with say prayer has played a key role in sparking the Christian revival. For example, in one corner of northeast China, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, thousands of Christians have been meeting for an unprecedented prayer movement. What started as a small gathering several years ago has turned into a nationwide prayer initiative uniting hundreds of Chinese churches. In some cases, this revival is even touching China's state-controlled churches known as Three-Self Church. "Now there's big revivals happening in the Three-Self Churches," Dr. Zhao Xiao told CBN News from his offices on the outskirts of China's capital city. Zhao is one of China's foremost experts on Christianity. A former Communist Party member and atheist, Zhao converted after reading the Bible.

"If you go to Haidian Church, you'll find yourself in a more than 100-metre line trying to get inside and worship. In Shenzhen, there are usually an average of 500 people being baptized each Sunday!" he shared. Decades ago, the Chinese government had a law that said that young men and women below the age of 18 could not attend Three-Self Churches. Zhao says those rules have been loosened in recent years. "There's an increasing proportion of them in churches now, more young male Believers, professionals, mainstream celebrities, especially in the big cities, that are attending the church unlike the past when it was mainly the elderly who attended." While the government remains deeply suspicious of China's religious revival, Johnson says it hasn't stopped people from exploring matters of faith.

Source: CBN News

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TRUMP'S CHRISTIAN CHOICE FOR ARMY SECRETARY BOWS OUT IN MIDST OF WITCH HUNT

Dr. Mark Green, President Trump's choice for Secretary of the Army, has withdrawn his nomination amid an escalating cascade of LGBT and leftist attacks portraying him as "hateful" based on distortions of his past statements. "It is with deep regret I am withdrawing my nomination to be the Secretary of the Army," Dr. Green said in a statement. He blamed "false and misleading attacks" against him and said he did not want to become a distraction. "I am honoured that President Trump nominated me for this position. I appreciate his support and confidence in me, as well as that of [Defence] Secretary James Mattis and many others, and their desire to Make America Great Again by preparing our military to face the many challenges in the world for the safety and security of our nation," said Dr. Green.

This is the second Trump nominee for Secretary of the Army to step aside. In February, his first choice, Vincent Viola, withdrew his name, citing potential conflicts of interest with his family businesses. Whomever is finally confirmed for the position will succeed former President Obama's Army Secretary, Eric Fanning, the first openly homosexual to lead the Army. Fanning helped to open up the military to "transgender" individuals, which was accomplished not by an act of Congress but by order of Obama's Defence Secretary, Ash Carter. LGBT activists were bitter and outraged that a conservative Christian with a public policy record of opposing the LGBTQ agenda was chosen to succeed a homosexual for the job. However, from a political perspective, the choice made sense for Trump: Homosexual activists were a key constituency of Obama, and evangelical Christians are the same for Trump.

Green's departure came after President Trump signed an executive order to defend religious freedom. "The bully left is now openly creating an unconstitutional religious litmus test for public office. If you believe the Bible, or quote the Bible in public, they claim you are unfit for office and apply their political labels until you quit," Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt said reacting to Green's withdrawal. "But we will not surrender to their bullying tactics. Christians have a Constitutional right to hold office, and a duty and mandate from God to redeem and sanctify the culture." "I call upon the Trump administration to double-down and appoint more Christians to higher office. Evangelicals helped win his election, and we can also petition Senators to help President Trump get them confirmed," said Klingenschmitt, leader of the Christian pro-family group Pray in Jesus Name.

Source: LifeSiteNews

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PRESIDENT TRUMP SIGNS EXECUTIVE ORDER PROTECTING RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

With leaders of faith behind him, President Trump recognized the National Day of Prayer while gathered in the White House Rose Garden, a first for the event. Calling America a "nation of Believers," Trump noted, "Faith is deeply embedded into the history of our country, the spirit of our founding, and the soul of our nation. We remember this eternal truth; freedom is not a gift from government, freedom is a gift from God." Prior to signing the executive order protecting religious liberty, the President said, "We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced again and we will never stand for religious discrimination." During his address, Trump invited some of the sisters from Little Sisters of the Poor, who recently won a lawsuit against the Obamacare birth control mandate. He congratulated them, along with their lawyer, on their victory.

After finishing his message, President Trump then moved to a desk set up in the Rose Garden, where he signed the two-fold executive order, handing the first pen to Dr. Alveda King, in honour of her uncle, Martin Luther King Jr., and giving the second pen to Pastor Paula White, because "she fought hard" for this. According to Fox News, the order directs the IRS to exercise maximum enforcement discretion to alleviate the burden of the so-called Johnson Amendment. In addition, it instructs the Treasury Department not to target the tax-exempt status of churches and other institutions if they express support for political candidates. The order also directs the Department of Justice to ensure religious protections are afforded to individuals and groups, such as Little Sisters of the Poor.

Source: CBNNews

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MACRON WINS FRENCH ELECTION IN LANDSLIDE

At just 39, Emmanuel Macron has become France's youngest leader since Napoleon, walloping the right-wing Marine Le Pen of the National Front with 66% of the vote. Macron is a globalist, a progressive, and pro-European Union. His opponents say he is too soft on terrorism and that he is the last person France needs to lead it during these dangerous times. In a bout of post-election euphoria, Macron actually promised to unite France, which, for a French president, is like trying to herd cats. Voters interviewed on the streets of Paris this morning seemed as divided as ever over the future direction of the country. But Le Pen was magnanimous in defeat, telling her supporters, "I called Mr. Macron to congratulate him on being elected and I believe in the main interest of the country and therefore I wish success to him."

Le Pen's National Front announced it would rebrand and change its name, in order to "be able to represent a wider scope of leaders and movements around patriotic ideas," said National Front Campaign Coordinator, Jean Messiha. The European establishment and media, who help prop up the European Union, breathed a collective sigh of relief that the nationalist Le Pen went down in flames. But this could still be a bad year for the EU: Italian elections could see an anti-Euro movement become the biggest party and Greek finances could damage the value of the Euro. Macron has promised to reform the sick French economy. But reform attempts in France are usually met with burning barricades. In the U.S. President Trump weighed in on the French vote. "Congratulations to Emmanuel Macron on his win as the next French President. I look forward to working with him!" Trump tweeted.

Source: CBNNews

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PRAYER AND BIBLE STUDY ARE PART OF THE PRESIDENT'S CABINET

Members of President Trump's cabinet are gathering for prayer weekly. Vice President Mike Pence and eight cabinet secretaries sponsor the sessions, which occur weekly in Washington. They are led by the founder of Capitol Ministries, Ralph Drollinger. "In terms of a country's health and direction, when its leaders are seeking God, the nation is in a position to be blessed by God in ways that are 'far beyond all that we ask or think,'" Drollinger said referring to Ephesians 3:20. "This has been a wonderful time of prayer and fellowship as I am presently teaching through the Sermon on the Mount, as well as handing out a weekly written Bible study as a homework assignment on a particular topic," Drollinger continued. Leaders of the Bible study say President Trump is always welcome to join them. Prayer has been an evident part of this administration throughout the campaign.

Source: CBNNews

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