Blue Flower

CAN EUROPE SURVIVE REFUGEE CRISIS

It is the largest refugee crisis since World War II: millions of men, women, and children running from civil war, from ISIS, from religious persecution, and from hostile governments in Africa and the Middle East. The remote Italian island of Lampedusa, 60 miles from the North African country of Tunisia, is where some of these migrants arrive -- dead or alive. Italian authorities have built camps there and across Italy to try to contain the refugee influx, but they know more are coming. Lampedusa's tourist economy has been heavily damaged by the migrant crisis, but most islanders know they must help the refugees. "One group is accepting; another group doesn't want migration," Lampedusa resident Paola Pizzicori said. "Some others just accept it because it's impossible to stop and impossible to stop helping people."

Pizzicori said she welcomes the migrants. Roberto Recupero is a born again Christian and a Carabinieri, or military policeman, on Lampedusa. He said his view of the refugees changed when he saw their bravery and determination. "I've seen mothers with little babies, pregnant women, children, making this perilous journey, risking their lives on dangerous seas. And it changed my mind," he said. But other Italians have not been so welcoming. Watching police chasing migrants and carrying them onto a police bus in Ventimiglia, Italy, Saddam, a migrant from Sudan, said, "Look how they are acting with the people. It is like animals, like terrorists, like we come from another planet." "We are human beings; we are not animals," he insisted. "I know, I know we are black and we come from Africa, but we are still humans."

But this is more than a humanitarian crisis. For Italy, and the entire European Union, it is also a security nightmare because, reportedly, among the refugees are soldiers of the Islamic State. Claudia Bellochi, president of the Rome chapter of Italy's right-wing party, the Northern League, is concerned. "There are people who are coming because they are fleeing war, and we agree that we have to help them," she told CBN News. "But criminals are coming, too. They form terror cells here in Rome. Some are ISIS." And once inside the European Union, there are little to no border controls between nations. The refugee surge has now reached northern France, where migrants are trying to use the tunnel under the English Channel to reach Britain.

Hungary, an EU member and a major destination for migrants, has had enough and has dispatched the army to build a fence along its border with Serbia. Yazidi refugees hide in the forests nearby. Ahmed Saad said they walked all the way from Iraq. "We've walked on foot -- in Turkey, in Bulgaria, all on foot," he recalled. They came from Sinjar, where thousands were slaughtered by ISIS. In a notorious refugee camp in northern France called "The Jungle," Christians from Africa and the Middle East recently held a Thanksgiving service. They were thankful for safe passage from the danger in their homelands. At least 27,000 migrants have died trying to come to Europe in the past 15 years. But many more will still try because many parts of Africa and Asia are dangerous places to live. 

Seventeen-year-old Lamin Conta from Gambia said, "Libya is not safe. There is nothing like human rights. Even if you have documents, you don't have rights there. They can kill you anytime."  Italian resident Concetto Campisi tutors migrants, and says they have been subjected to "unspeakable suffering, and deserve our care."  But can European nations with struggling economies afford this? "We cannot host everyone," Bellochi said. "It's not a question of the Northern League being racist, not at all. We just ask ourselves -- why have the other nations stopped refugees and why is Italy still hosting them? The problem is there is no willpower to stop it." What is certain is that this refugee crisis is changing the political landscape in Europe. Public anger is building against the refugees and against the European Union over uncontrolled migration. Right wing parties are growing. And a backlash looks to be coming.  

Source: CBN News

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WOMAN REJOICES HER HUSBAND DIDN'T DENY CHRIST WHEN BEHEADED BY ISIS

Imagine ISIS kidnapped a relative of yours and then you see their brutal beheading on television. Many different emotions can take over, including anger, grief, and depression. CBN News found a group of Egyptian Christians, however, who responded much differently. They are happy their family members stood firm in their faith. Widow Mariam Farhat told us she "was very proud" that her husband "stood firm in his faith and that he didn't deny Jesus." That surprising reaction is happening 150 miles south of Cairo, in the village of Al Aour. Residents there honour the sacrifice of 21 Egyptians brutally murdered last February by ISIS. Their pictures are prominently displayed in the sanctuary of Virgin Mary Church. Thirteen attended the church. The martyrs left behind family members like 23-year-old Farhat. She became a widow when the militants beheaded her husband Malak Ibrahim in Libya.

She first learned of his murder when she saw the now infamous video on local television. "We were very sad for the first two days, but we hadn't seen the video," she recalled. "When we saw them in the video calling to Jesus we were very comforted." And that's why Mariam and other families say they are now joyful, not sad. Bebawy Al Ham's brother Samuel was among those killed. "We were always praying that God would make them steadfast in their faith," Bebawy told CBN News. "We were very happy with what they said on the video: 'Jesus Christ have mercy on us.' When we found out they had been killed for being Christian, we were very comforted, because these were God's children and He took them." Although Samuel's wife and children now live without a husband and father, his family told CBN News their faith is stronger; they forgive the jihadists, and even pray for ISIS.

"I pray for them that God may open their hearts, and they may know the truth and know that what they do is wrong and then do the right thing," Bebawy said. "Jesus told us to forgive every sin and we forgive them and we hope that they can come to know Jesus," he said. Egyptian Christians are encouraged to know they are not alone. In the United States there's a growing movement among Christians to demonstrate unity and solidarity with those who are suffering for Christ in the Middle East. Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, explained. "What we thought was how could we identify and stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are being brutalized around the world for their Christian faith?" he said. "What tangible thing could we do, what practical thing could we do?"

Immediately, orange jumpsuits came to mind. Mahoney and others launched the #orangejumpsuitcampaign. The movement has expanded to orange scarves, sweaters, and ribbons. "It's to remind our brothers and sisters that we love them, and we're standing with them and to remind decision makers here in America and across the globe—the free nations of the world—we cannot be silent on this issue," Mahoney said. He said the response has been amazing. Non-Christians have joined in as well. "A Jewish rabbi, to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians is dying his beard orange, which I think is incredible and I can't wait to see that," Mahoney said. Mariam was encouraged after she viewed cell phone photos of Americans wearing orange. "May the Lord make their love grow and grow. We are very happy with their love and we don't deserve their love," she told CBN News.

Mahoney said every five minutes around the world a Christian is killed for his faith. "People don't understand the kind of barbarism and brutality they are going through," he said. "And you know when I visit persecuted Christians in the Middle East there is one thing that they always ask—it doesn't matter wherever it might be—it's this: 'Please remember us!'" "I think people need to understand that if we do not act quickly, the public expression of Christianity may be extinguished in the Middle East. As Elie Weisel, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner, says, 'we must always take sides. Silence only helps the oppressor, never the oppressed,'" Mahoney said. Mariam also has a message for others who have suffered or still face danger from ISIS. "Don't be sad or cry. God will support us all," he said. "And He will fulfil His promise that He is the Father of the orphans and the widows."

Source: CBN News

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RELIGIOUS RIOT IN PAPUA PROMPTS CHURCH ATTACKS ELSEWHERE

Tensions have flared between Muslims and Christians in Indonesia after a riot broke out last month on the predominantly Christian island of Papua. National newspapers reported that as Muslims in the area gathered to mark the end of Ramadan, a group of Christian youths threw stones at them and set fire to nearby kiosks. The Evangelical Church of Indonesia (GIDI), to which the youths belong, paints a different picture of how events unfolded. In an open letter Dorman Wandikmo president of GIDI’s Working Committee wrote “We sent a notification to the local police office about a special church event two weeks beforehand as it coincided with the Eid al-Fitr festival, recommending that both the church and mosque not use loud speakers to avoid disturbing each other.” According to Wandikmo, the police and army failed to circulate the notification.

When a group of Christian youths approached the Muslims to ask them to turn down their loud speakers, he says the police took it as a sign of confrontation and opened fire on the Christians, killing a 15-year-old boy and wounding 12 other youths. Tensions soon escalated, prompting the angry Christians to set fire to a kiosk. Flames spread quickly and burned a nearby Muslim prayer room. In their statement, the police claimed that they only opened fire after firing warning shots at the youths, who, they said, refused to leave and even started throwing stones at the prayer room. A representative for the Christian charity Open Doors International, which supports Christians under pressure for their faith, called into question the legitimacy of the police statement. “The armed forces in Papua have long been known for atrocities and human rights violations against indigenous people,” said the representative.

News of the incident spread quickly across Indonesia, leading to retaliatory attacks on Christians and churches. “The shooting and burning created the impression that the Church was hostile to Muslims,” Natalius Pigai, the Commissioner for Human Rights, explained. In Solo, Central Java, the Muslim Fighters of Surakarta confronted a GIDI church to demand its closure. Two days later, two prayer houses in Yogyakarta and Purworejo were set on fire. The minister in charge of Political, Legal, and Security Affairs, Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno, demanded that security be tightened across the country to protect churches. However, the message seemed to have little effect. First, two churches were forced to close in Central Java. Then the members of another church in the capital, Jakarta, demolished their own church, after the local government told the church it had not been properly registered and was therefore illegal.

That same day, two members of the GIDI congregation were named as suspects in the Papua case. Both were accused of instigating a riot and engaging in vandalism. The government is also investigating over 30 police officers involved in the incident, as well as GIDI’s Dorman Wandikmo. “Any religious institutions that forbid others from praying and worshipping are guilty of committing violence under the constitution,” said Lukman Saifuddin, the Minister of Religious Affairs, in a media statement, referring to GIDI. However, Jayadi Damanik, from the  National Commission on Human Rights, claims that law enforcement in Indonesia is often abused to target minority groups. Muslims in Indonesia account for 88 per cent of the population, Christians around 10 per cent. Indonesia in the early 2000s witnessed a bloody religious conflict that claimed the lives of 7,000 and displaced over 30,000.

Source: World Watch Monitor

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FAITH LEADERS WRITE OPEN LETTER IN FAVOUR OF ASSISTED DYING

Editor’s note:  Our publication of this article is to inform our readers of issues within the Christian world that need prayer and is not an indication of support of the Australian Prayer Network for the views expressed.  

A number of high-profile Christian faith leaders have signed an open letter calling for assisted dying to be legalised in the U.K. The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, The Bishop of Buckingham, the Rt Rev Alan Wilson and Baroness Richardson, a former President of the Methodist Conference have all put their names to the piece in Britain’s Daily Telegraph. MPs are due to debate an Assisted Dying Bill tabled by the Labour backbencher Rob Marris next month. It would allow people thought to have no more than six months to live and a "settled intention" to end their life to be allowed be given a lethal dose of drugs on the authority of two doctors. The faith leaders argue, that by helping terminally ill people to commit suicide should be viewed simply as enabling them to "gracefully hand back" their lives to God, and not as a sin.

"We value life as a precious gift of God, but also uphold the right of individuals who are approaching their last few months to gracefully hand back that gift if they feel the quality of their life is about to deteriorate beyond the point at which they want to continue," they say. "Those who intend carrying on until their very last breath should receive full support, but so too should those who are dying and want to let go of a life that they no longer wish to live. There is nothing sacred about suffering, nothing holy about agony, and individuals should not be obliged to endure it."  Asked about Church of England's 'concerns' about any proposal to change the law, Bishop Alan said: "Support for legislation is there among members of the Church of England in a fairly overwhelming way.”

A recent statement on the issue by the Church of England said: "Our position on the current Bill before Parliament is also consistent with the approach taken by the Archbishops' Council, House of Bishops and with successive resolutions of the General Synod." The open letter comes only a day after the last wish of a terminally-ill British man, who travelled to Switzerland to die, was for the law on assisted dying in the U.K. to be changed. Bob Cole, 68, journeyed from his Chester home to the controversial Dignitas euthanasia unit, 18 months after his wife Ann made the same journey to die. Mr Cole, who was suffering from an aggressive form of lung cancer, said he was left with little choice but to travel abroad to end his life as the law in the U.K. bans assisted suicides.

According to the Sun newspaper, Mr Cole wore his best suit and listened to Beethoven's Ode to Joy as he sipped the lethal cocktail that ended his life. In a final message to friends, Mr Cole said: "There comes a time to give up the struggle, and that time has arrived for me. "Of course I would have liked another few years, fishing, walking, being with my old and new friends. "Don't cry for me - remember the good times and get on and have more." He was pronounced dead at 2.20pm, the newspaper said. Speaking about his wife's decision to die at the clinic, Mr Cole said: "It was one great relief. There was music playing, people talking, we were saying goodbye to her, holding her hand, wishing her well that was what she wanted. It was a lovely, warm, dignified atmosphere." His wife, Ann, 67, who suffered from progressive supranuclear palsy, chose to die in February last year.

Source: Premier News Service

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BELGIAN PENSIONERS KILLED UNDER EUTHANASIA LAW

Thousands of elderly people in Belgium have been killed by their doctors under the country's euthanasia law, despite them not giving permission, a new report claims. The study published by the Journal of Medical Ethics said many pensioners are being euthanized by their GPs even though they had never given that permission. It claimed that around one in 60 deaths that happened under GP care involved someone who had never requested euthanasia. More than half the patients killed without giving their consent were over 80, while two thirds of them were not suffering from terminal illness. "Belgians should be aware of the present situation and know that if their lives come to the point where physicians think they are not worth living, in the absence of specific living wills advising physicians what to do, they might be put to death," said report author Raphael Cohen-Almagor of Hull University.

Christian charity CARE said the report was an example of why assisted dying was a dangerous precedent. The findings were a "serious warning of the consequences of following the same path as countries like Belgium". CEO Nola Leach said: "I hope MPs pay close attention to this stark and very serious report. "It is clear a real culture of euthanasia has developed in Belgium in the 13 years since it was legalised. "I think this report shows clearly that no matter how many safeguards you put in the legislation, it will never be enough to protect vulnerable people in our society. "The slippery slope argument is not merely scaremongering, but a very real warning that if you open the door to assisted suicide, it will get pushed until more people are included in its remit. "As a society we should be helping people to live, not to die and we must think long and hard before so radically changing our whole approach to end of life care."

Source: Premier News Service

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NO RELIGION WITHOUT PERMISSION IN UZBEKISTAN

Uzbekistan has enacted a Prevention Law aimed at preventing all practice of religion without state permission. The law empowers state bodies, committees and district councils to enforce religion laws and requires them to report those they suspect might be guilty of religious crimes, such as 'teaching' religion or storing religious materials without permission. Persecution against Protestants has escalated as police raids, administrative detentions and massive fines are issued to believers for simply sharing their faith or possessing Christian materials. Police brutality and torture are endemic. Recently Murot Turdiyev (a Protestant) was beaten and then strangled by police until he lost consciousness. Another Protestant, Guljahon Kuzebayeva, is so afraid that she has been in hiding since police raided her home 12 months ago. Please pray for Uzbekistan and its Christians.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* give Uzbekistan's Christians, especially pastors and evangelists, great wisdom as they seek to navigate the increasingly hostile and difficult environment; may the Holy Spirit guide them as they strive to grow and witness whilst being 'wise as serpents and innocent as doves'.

* forge solidarity between Orthodox and Protestant denominations, both locally and internationally, that believers will be a blessing to each other through testing times. Pray too that God would raise up workers with the necessary language and technical skills for Gospel radio, satellite and internet ministries for ministry in increasingly repressive Central Asia; may Jehovah-jireh, the Lord our provider, provide all their needs.


* work in mysterious ways to restore openness and bring relief to Uzbekistan's persecuted Protestants, praying for Uzbek President Islam Karimov, his regional ally Vladimir Putin and Uzbekistan's reform-minded Muslims. Pray too for improvements in human rights and international relations. May the Lord enable a breakthrough in Uzbekistan.

Source: Religious Liberty Monitoring

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EUROPEAN UNION MUST DO MORE TO STOP RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ABUSES

The European Union Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, said in 2014 that upholding the right to freedom of religion or belief was one of her top three human rights priorities. However, according to a new report by the European Parliament Group on Freedom of Religion and Religious Tolerance, still not enough is being done by European institutions around Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “Unfortunately, we can only conclude that violations of freedom of religion or belief have become more frequent,” said Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Dennis de Jong, co-author of the report speaking at the launch in Brussels. “We hope to shed more light on the violation of this fundamental right and stand up for the many millions of people who are bullied, persecuted and even killed because of their religion or belief,” added co-author Peter van Dalen, also an MEP.

Source: World Watch Monitor

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ABORTIONS DECLINING IN ALMOST ALL STATES OF AMERICA WITH TEEN PREGNANCIES ALSO DOWN

Fewer people are getting abortions in almost every state in America, according to a new Associated Press survey. Researchers found that abortions have declined in states where new laws make it harder to have them, as well as in states with few restrictions. Abortions have been down since 2010 with an overall drop of about 12 percent. Pro-life advocates say the drop is due to a shift in attitudes, with more women choosing to carry their pregnancies to term. "There's an entire generation of women who saw a sonogram as their first baby picture," Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, said. "There's an increased awareness of the humanity of the baby before it is born." Pro-choice advocates attribute the drop to expanded access to effective contraceptives.

Source: CBN News

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