All Christians Are One in Christ

Pope Francis’ speech during his meeting with other world religious leaders yesterday lead me to contemplation. I was especially moved with these words from him, “We feel close to all who, despite being from other traditions and religions, feel the desire to look for truth, beauty and goodness.” It somehow made me realize that despite all the differences we have –Christians of varying denominations–we all are rooted and united in Jesus Christ.

We may differ in some of our practices and beliefs, but we have one model for our faith. We all share one source of salvation, and we are all Christians. Although I do find it necessary to share my views according to my own Catholic faith, I believe that Jesus would not want me to do so in a way that would make others feel insulted or belittled.

As the Apostle Paul counseled, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Col. 4:5-6

Christians Killed in North Korea

It seems that hatred for Christianity is much more widespread then I believe it to be. In this posting from Asia News, I found out about raids on Christians in North Korea. While this wasn’t so surprising because of my knowledge of North Korea and their misguided ways, I was still upset to read about this. Religious tolerance is something that many people should really consider more often. Even Catholics need to tolerate other religious views because the bottom line is that acts of hatred like this are entirely wrong. Please pray for the three Koreans killed for their faith and also keep the other twenty in your prayers. Hopefully they will not be put to death as well.

“North Korea’s Stalinist regime has discovered some underground Christians in a house church in Pyongan Province. All 23 who met to celebrate a religious function were arrested. Three were tried and given the death penalty, which was swiftly executed, sources told AsiaNews. Confirmation about the incident also came from the North Korea Intellectual Solidarity, a group of North Korean exiles.

According to the sources, the arrests and executions were carried out in mid-May. “At that time, right after the disastrous currency reform, police discovered 23 Christians in Kuwal-dong, Pyungsung County, in Pyongan Province, who met at an underground church. After their arrest, they were interrogated at length. Eventually, the group’s “ringleaders” were sentenced to death and executed. The others were sent to Kwan-li-so (Penal labour colony) No 15 in Yodŏk.”

These North Koreans discovered underground Christianity when some of them travelled to mainland China for work.

“As the authorities fear the spread of religion, many area residents are rounded up and interrogated for days,” the sources said. However, “they cannot help it because the situation is so desperate that people are going back to religion. Such sentences are meant to scare people.”

North Korea denies freedom of religion absolutely. Officially, the country has three Christian places of worship (one Catholic and two Protestant churches) and four Buddhist temples, but only in the capital Pyongyang. No one has been able to confirm how many exist in the rest of the country. Accounts about their number by foreigners who have travelled around the country vary.” – “About 23 Christians Arrested, 3 Killed”, Asia News IT

Christians Attacked in China

“Old Wang was fast asleep in his bed when the mob arrived.

It was 3 a.m. one Sunday last September.

“People shook me and told me. ‘Get up. Get outside. Hurry up!’ ”

What he witnessed on the grounds of the Gospel Shoes Factory – a rural Christian community where he lived and worked with 60 others near here – was complete chaos: a raging mob of more than 200 men were pushing their way through the darkness with flashlights, wooden clubs, bricks, hoes and pieces of metal, smashing everything and anyone in their path.

A perimeter wall had been toppled. The main gate was smashed. Men were pouring through it.

Behind them came a roaring bulldozer, then an excavator.

As Wang stared in disbelief, he was clubbed over the head and trampled to the ground, his face streaming with blood.

Then someone hurled a brick at him, fracturing his leg.

As he lay there he could hear a man yelling, “Beat them. Beat them as hard as you like. I’ll take responsibility for everything.”

To his amazement, and the amazement of other eyewitnesses, the mob was led by a local Communist Party official backed up by uniformed police.” – “Christians Come Under Attack in China”, The Star

This news posting from The Star deeply saddened me. It seems like the Chinese government either backs or is indifferent to hatred against Christians. They see Christianity as a cop out to their authoritative ways. I am appalled at the manner in which these Christians were treated though, it is completely inhumane. Please keep the victims of these hate crimes in your prayers, and hopefully some sort of resolve will be found sooner rather than later.

Christians Shot in Pakistan

I found this post on Christian Today this morning. It was deeply saddening to see this news story, and I encourage you all to pray for the families of these two men who lost their lives.

“Two Christians accused of blasphemy in Pakistan were killed as they left a courthouse Monday afternoon, reports a Christian persecution watchdog group shortly after the incident.

Police were transporting Pastor Rashid Emmanuel and his brother, Sajid Emmanuel, from the court in Faisalabad to jail when masked gunmen opened fire, killing the two Christians and seriously wounding a policeman accompanying them before getting away, reported Washington-based International Christian Concern.

The brothers had been arrested on July 2 after being accused of writing a pamphlet with blasphemous remarks about the Muslim Prophet Muhammad – a crime punishable by death in Pakistan.” – “Masked Gunmen Shoots Down Two Pastors in Pakistan”, Christian Today

This was some extremely sad news indeed. Apparently it is uncertain whether the men accused of these blasphemous statements about Muhammed actually made the statements at all. The are rumors circulating that the men were falsely accused of these crimes so they could be taken to court. It does make sense, after all if these two men distributed a pamphlet that ridiculed Muhammed, which is a known crime in Pakistan, I’m pretty sure they would not have let any information get into it that could trace the pamphlets back to them. Either way these men’s families deserve our prayers in this time of devastating sadness they must be enduring.

World Cup Champs to Make Religious Journey

“Spanish soccer player Andres Iniesta, who scored the winning goal during the World Cup final in South Africa, has promised to walk the Way of St. James, which leads to Santiago de Compostela.The Way of St. James is a pilgrimage route that for centuries brought the faithful from across Europe to the city of Santiago de Compostela, where the remains of the saint are venerated.

According to the Spanish newspaper, Marca, months before the 2010 World Cup, the members of the Spanish team sent the newspaper sealed envelopes with the promises they would keep if they won the title.

Marca opened the envelopes after Spain’s historic victory on Sunday and found that Iniesta, along with Fernando Torres and Carlos Marchena said they would walk the Way of St. James.

Iniesta also revealed his promise in an interview prior to the World Cup.  Speaking on Spanish television he said he would make the pilgrimage “somehow…I’ll do it however I have to!” His teammate Sergio Busquets, who was with him, made the same promise.” – “Soccer Player Who Scored Winning World Cup Goal Promises to Make Pilgrimage”, Catholic News Agency

This was a really cool story to read up on. It makes me happy to see these players keeping their word on the promises they made before the World Cup started, and it is also great to see that they made such religiously influenced promises as well. It really shows that a lot of athletes today still look to God and Christ for strength on the field and in whatever they do. It has been said that many fans will make the pilgrimage with their beloved, World Cup winning players. Saint James’ feast falls on the 25th of this month, and Pope Benedict XVI will be in Santiago de Compostela too.

Keep Christians in Egpyt in Your Prayers

Christians in Egypt could really use a prayer right now so please take a minute to read why, and remember to pray for them sometime today.

“Constitutional guarantees of religious liberty and equality before the law are illusory under Sharia. It forbids apostasy (leaving Islam) and eliminates fitna (anything that could even tempt a Muslim to leave Islam). Sharia also establishes dhimmitude: the subjugation of Jews and Christians as second class citizens; systematic discrimination; religious apartheid.

In Egypt, as in virtually every Muslim state, a person’s official religion is displayed on their identity (ID) card. According to Sharia, every child born to a Muslim man is automatically Muslim from birth.

If a Christian man converts to Islam, his Christian children are automatically deemed Muslim. If a Muslim parent converts to Christianity they lose custody of their children. Sharia mandates that a Muslim girl may marry only a Muslim man, thereby ensuring that her children will be born Muslim. (This is the main reason why some female converts to Christianity dare to adopt falsified ID cards.)

In 2007 a Muslim-born convert to Christianity, Mohammed Hegazi (24), applied to have his ID card changed. Not only did he want to have his ID card reflect reality, he did not want his unborn child to be officially deemed Muslim from birth. When his application was rejected, Hegazi sued the Interior Ministry for his constitutional right to religious freedom (Article 46).

The court ruled against Hegazi on the grounds that Sharia prohib its apostasy. Death threats resulting from the publicity drove Hegazi, his wife and new-born daughter into hiding. In August 2008 Maher el-Gowhary took up the same fight for the sake of his daughter, Dina (14). El-Gowhary (55), who had quietly converted to Christianity 35 years earlier, wanted his true religious identity acknowledged and his ID card corrected before his daughter turned 16, when she would be issued her own ID card.

Islamic religious leaders issued fatwas calling for Hegazi’s and el-Gowhary’s blood to be shed and in September 2008 the men narrowly escaped an assassination attempt. In June 2009 the court ruled against el-Gowhary because Sharia prohibits apostasy and conversions would pose a threat to the ‘public order’.

When el-Gowhary and his daughter subsequently tried to leave Egypt their passports were confiscated. In April 2010 Dina el-Gowhary was attacked with acid, causing her jacket to ignite. Fortunately she survived unharmed.

On 5 July 2010 Maher el-Gowhary was ambushed by two men on a motorbike who abused him as an apostate, shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ and stabbed him in the neck. The seriously wounded el-Gowhary is too afraid of the authorities to go to hospital as Egyptian police are infamous for their corruption and brutality.” – “A Call to Prayer for the Church in Egypt”, Christian Today

I was surprised to read this article and find out how harsh the rules are becoming in Egypt and many other countries. Freedom of religion is allowed, but if one converts to anything other than Islam they suffer greatly for it. Loss of children is not something that anybody should have to go through to be a part of any kind of religion. The laws and rulings of the leaders over there are putting most Christians in a very delicate situation that I would not wish upon anybody. Please head over to Christian Today and read this full article, click here, and keep these people in your prayers.