Malankara World Journal Theme: Christian Persecution Around The World
Volume 3 No. 144 May 23, 2013
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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THIS WEEK IN CHURCH
ARTICLES OF GENERAL INTEREST
The Annual Youth & Family Conference of the Malankara Archdiocese will be held from July 18 - 21, 2013 in Dallas, Texas. A weekend packed with programs for all ages are planned. All our faithful are encouraged to attend. ...About Malankara World
This weekend is the "official" beginning of summer season in the United States. From now till the first week of September is the time for vacations, trips, family conferences, weddings, etc. etc. In the Northern United States, this weekend is the first week when we can plant the garden. (Hopefully, there won't be any frost to kill the sensitive plants.) I had been busy expanding on my present garden (much to the dismay of my wife as she is still weeping for the loss of all the prized grass on the lawn). I planted the seedlings yesterday. Today morning, I discovered that half of them were all eaten by my friendly rabbits (who believe, I planted them for their benefit. One of them nearly approached me and gestured to me that my plants made good salad - better than the grass they replaced!) Back to the drawing board. Today I went and purchased chicken wires to reinforce the fence I put up. I should have listened to Kadavil achen before planting the seed. Achen assured me that rabbits and chipmunks will find a way to get in the garden unless I put up a fine-mesh fence. Well, well. There is nothing like experience. Talking about the garden and food, this week's bible reading John 6:26-35 (Bread of Life) reminded me of a reflection posted by Fr. Rick, an Episcopal Priest, in his blog. I always wondered about Adam eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. God punished him with death. Now what would have happened if he had, instead, eaten from Tree of Life? Fr. Rick answers that question in his blog:
Eat and Live Forever – A Reflection on John 6:35, 41-51
There was one brief, shining moment in the Hebrew Bible where things were pretty good. We had safety, and security, we had the Presence of God walking among us.
We had a nice garden.
And then we blew it. We had only been given one "thou shalt not," and we couldn't manage the "not" part. So we ate of the tree.
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And, what happened when you ate of this tree? Your eyes were opened, and you became "like God," knowing good and evil.
But, you know, there was another tree in the Garden…The Tree of Life. And what happened when you ate of this tree? Well, we get the scoop on that when God talks of the consequences of eating from the Tree of Knowledge:
So…obviously…we ate from the wrong tree. We were never told that we couldn't eat from the Tree of Life…but we ate from the tree that we were told not to.
We could have lived forever. In that garden. With God.
We were so close. It could have been great.
In John chapter 6, Jesus isn't talking about trees and fruit, but rather bread. But, he talks about this bread in a familiar way:
This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever.
Jesus is speaking of himself. He's speaking of the benefits of believing and abiding in him. Of consuming him, and making him a part of us, and us a part of him.
And…he's so very clearly identifying himself as the new creation. The new garden. The new tree. The new fruit.
God's dream in Genesis was that we would live forever with Him, and in Jesus that dream gets a fresh start.
In Eden it could have been great, but we messed it up. But, now, in Jesus it can be great again.
And, great forever.Yes, we blew it big time on our choices!! But then, Jesus Christ gave us a means to attain eternal life. It is available to us every time we attend the qurbana and partake on the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ, the blood that was shed in Calvary for the remission of our sins. It is more than a month since 2 orthodox bishops were abducted in Syria including one of our own. So, the theme of this issue of MWJ is "Christian Persecution." We hope that you will get a better perspective of what is going on in middle east and other parts of the world. Please pray for the release of the bishops and for the peace in Syria so that our Holy Father can go back to his HQ in Syria. Enjoy the summer and please pray for us. Dr. Jacob Mathew
This Sunday in Church
First Sunday after Pentecost
Before Holy Qurbana
This Week's Features
1) Opening prayer
Lord our God, generous Father,
Through Jesus, give us the courage
to place ourselves into your hands
in the trials of life and in death,
that one day we may see your glory
and at your right hand your Son Jesus Christ,
who lives with you for ever.
2) Gospel Reading - John 6:30-35
So they said, 'What sign will you yourself do, the sight of which will make us believe in you? What work will you do? Our fathers ate manna in the desert; as scripture says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'
Jesus answered them: In all truth I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread; for the bread of God is the bread which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.
'Sir,' they said, 'give us that bread always.' Jesus answered them: I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever hunger; no one who believes in me will ever thirst.
• The Discourse of the Bread of Life is not a text to be discussed and dissected, but rather it should be meditated and pondered. This is why, even if it is not fully understood, we should not be concerned. This text of the Bread of Life demands a whole life to meditate on it and deepen it. Such a text, people have to read it, meditate it, pray it, think about it, read it again, repeat it and ponder it, as one does with a good sweet in the mouth. We turn it and turn it in the mouth until it is finished. The one, who reads the Fourth Gospel superficially, may have the impression that John always repeats the same thing. Reading it more attentively, one becomes aware that it is not a question of repetition. The author of the fourth Gospel has his own way of repeating the same theme, but always at a higher and more profound level. It seems to be like a winding staircase. By turning one reaches the same place, but always at a higher level or a more profound one.
• John 6, 30-33: What sign will you yourself do, the sign which will make us believe in you? People had asked: What should we do to carry out the work of God? Jesus responds: "The work of God is to believe in the one who has sent", that is to believe in Jesus. This is why people formulate the new question: "Which sign do you do so that we can see and can believe? Which work do you do?" This means that they did not understand the multiplication of the loaves as a sign from God to legitimize Jesus before the people, as the one sent by God! They continue to argue: In the past our fathers ate the manna which Moses gave them! They called it "bread from Heaven" (Ws 16, 20), that is, "bread of God". Moses continues to be the great leader in whom to believe. If Jesus wants the people to believe in him, he should work a greater sign than Moses. "What work do you do?"
• Jesus responds that the bread given by Moses was not the true bread from heaven. Coming from on high, yes, but it was not the bread of God, because it did not guarantee life to any one. All of them died in the desert (Jn 6, 49). The true bread of heaven, the bread of God, is the one which conquers death and gives life! It is the one which descends from Heaven and gives life to the world. It is Jesus himself! Jesus tries to help the people to liberate themselves from the way of thinking of the past. For him, fidelity to the past does not mean to close up oneself in the ancient things and not accept renewal. Fidelity to the past means to accept the novelty which comes as the fruit of the seed which was planted in the past.
• John 6, 34-35: Lord, gives us always of that bread! Jesus answers clearly: "I am the bread of life!" To eat the bread of heaven is the same as to believe in Jesus and accept to follow the road that he teaches us, that is: "My food is to do the will of the one who has sent me and to complete his work!" (Jn 4, 34). This is the true food which nourishes the person, which transforms life and gives new life. This last verse of today's Gospel (Jn 6, 35) will be taken back as the first verse of tomorrow's Gospel (Jn 6, 35-40)
4) Personal questions
• Hungry for bread, hungry for God. Which of these two predominates in me?
• Jesus says: "I am the bread of life". He takes away hunger and thirst. Which of these experiences do I have in my life?
5) Concluding Prayer
Lord turn your ear to me, make haste.
By Abdulmesih BarAbraham
Munich (AINA) -- On Saturday, May 18, Eustatius Matta Roham, the Archbishop of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch for Northern Syria, met activists of the newly formed European Christian Relief Organization (ECRO) in Munich, where he came to visit the White Fathers and other Catholic organizations asking for support for the Syriac (also known as Assyrian and Chaldean) Christian people. This was the second meeting with the Archbishop in Germany and the situation in Syria was the main topic of discussion. His last trip to Germany took place in May 2012, when he visited the city of Augsburg for a meeting with the local Head of the Catholic Diocese Bishop, Dr. Konrad Zdarsa, and the local Caritas chapter. The Archbishop was accompanied by the Syrian Orthodox Bishop Selwanos of Homs, who reported on the tragic situation of the displaced Christians in his city.
During the recent meeting Archbishop Roham gave an authentic assessment of the recent situation of the Christians in Syria in general and in the Province of Al-Hassake in particular, where he resides. In addition, the talk evolved around the security and humanitarian crisis in the country and options for supporting the suffering Christians in Northern Syria and the refugees in the neighboring countries of Syria.
After the civil war began in Syria, Archbishop Roham took responsibility for the poor parishioner of his Archdiocese and traveled to many places where the flock of the Syrian Orthodox Church was in despair.
Recently, His Holiness Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, sent the Archbishop to Europe in order to assess and manage the problems of the refugees in Greece and in neighboring countries to Syria. He carried a special letter from the Patriarch to Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna to help in bringing the mission to success.
On Friday, April 19, 2013, Cardinal Schönborn received Archbishop Roham, who delivered the letter of the Patriarch. After the meeting Archbishop Roham conveyed the following message to Cardinal Schönborn, saying:
With regards to the current situation of the Assyrians and other Christians in Hassake province, the Archbishop reported the countryside of Northern Syria, which has borders with Iraq and Tur-Abdin in Turkey, "is now mostly controlled by different rebel groups."
The government seems to have abandoned the rural areas with little towns while concentrating its focus in the two large towns, namely Hassake and Qamishle. People in these two towns have a great fear that fighting might start at any time in their streets. Hassake is about 80 km from Qamishle, which is located on the Turkish border. "In case fighting will start, a very large number of children, girls, women and elderly people will cross the border to Turkey," said the Archbishop.
According to the Archbishop Hassake and Qamishle have already welcomed many displaced families from other destroyed areas in Al-Hasske Province, like Dair Al-Zor, Ras Al-Ayn, Thawra, Tabqa, Raqqa, and Shadadi. The Church and a School in Dair Al-Zor were already destroyed in early summer 2012. The faithful left the area and became displaced in many other towns, but most of them have settled in Hassake. In Ras Al-Ayn churches and Christian symbols were destroyed.
In early 2013, some new displaced families arrived from Thawra, Raqqa and Shadadi. Archbishop Roham accepted immediately all their children in Amal Private Schools. "The displaced people of Dair Al-Zor, Ras Al-Ayn, Thawra, Raqqa and Shadadi cannot go back to their home towns, because many of them lost their houses and property," the Archbishop added.
Archbishop Roham spoke also about earlier activities in his diocese. In January 2013, the three bishops in Hassake -- Yacoub Behnan Hendo of the Syrian Catholic Church, Afrem Nathanael of the Assyrian Church of the East and Eustathius Matta Roham -- met to discuss many issues of concern, including kidnappings. A protest march was organized with other notables of the region that criticized the government's stand of inactivity against kidnappings, with most of the victims being Christians.
With regards of the economic situation in Al-Hassake Province, the Archbishop said "the situation is not better than other areas in Syria. For example, the cooking gas costs 5,000 Syrian Pounds. It used to cost less than 400 Syrian Pounds before the uprising. All kinds of food are expensive. People in Al-Hassake Province suffer long hours of electricity cuts. The region has been cut from international communications for more than two months. The private banks are paralyzed, because the internet is not functioning. The systematic kidnapping is still going on, and there is a daily escape of people across the border to Turkey."
Inflation in Syria has affected all aspects of life. The economy is going down day after day and the prices of food, fuel and all materials are going up. Unemployment has plunged families into poverty. The middle class became poor, and the poor became more poor. The extremely cold winter of 2013 added more suffering to all.
Archbishop Roham has made many contacts with Church and State leaders in Europe in order to help Assyrians at home and abroad.
On May 7, 2013, Archbishop Roham met Monsignor Huber, Father Josef Moser and Mr. Sebastian Bugl in Munich. He thanked them for their great work with his Archdiocese in the past few years. Also, he asked them and all Catholic organizations in Munich, such as Missio, Misereor and Church in Need, to help the poor suffering Christian families in Syria and abroad.
© 2013, Assyrian International News Agency. All Rights Reserved.
by Jay Ghazal, Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church in N America
As we approach the fifth week of captivity of Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim and Metropolitan Boulos Yaziji, we wanted to apprise you of several activities undertaken this week to help secure their release. Much more can and needs to be done and your prayers are most important to secure their release, but below is a quick update.
At the urging of the Orthodox community in the United States including our own Syriac Orthodox Church, six Members of the United States House of Representatives on Tuesday circulated a petition seeking their colleagues' signature to a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking him to prioritize the release of the two kidnapped bishops in their discussions and international deliberations about Syria. The text of the letter was initiated by Congressman Brad Sherman, Democrat of California, and Congressman Gus Bilirakis, Republican of Florida. We are happy to advise you that, in only four days and thanks to your phone calls to your congressional representatives, we secured 72 signatures. Numerous Congressman from Maryland and northern Virginia including Representatives Jim Moran, Frank Wolf, Gerry Connolly, Dutch Ruppersberger and Chris Van Hollen signed the letter. Seventy-two Members is quite a fantastic accomplishment, especially in only 4 days and with Congress exceptionally busy with many legislative activities during this time of year.
The letter was delivered Monday morning to the State Department in advance of Secretary Kerry and Ambassador Robert Ford's meeting with the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the main opposition umbrella group, this week in Amman, Jordan. We expect that they will likely raise the issue again with, and request the assistance of, both the SNC and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) with whom the U.S. government has periodic contacts. This intercession with the State Department was preceded by several meetings and phone calls His Eminence Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim had with the Department as well as a joint conference call with Metropolitan Philip Saliba and Ambassador Ford during which both prelates urged Ambassador Ford to work feverishly to secure the release of the two archbishops.
His Eminence traveled to Washington twice this week to seek support for the release of the archbishops. On Tuesday he met with Turkish Ambassador to the U.S. Namik Tan where His Eminence briefed Ambassador Tan about the bishops and urged the Turkish government's assistance in securing their release. He also urged Ambassador Tan to ensure that the issue of the kidnapped bishops is raised during the week's bilateral meetings between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan and President Barack Obama. Ambassador Tan assured His Eminence that the issue will be raised, and then invited His Eminence to a private reception on Friday at the conclusion of Prime Minister Erdogan's official visit to Washington. His Eminence drove to Washington again on Friday to attend the reception in honor of Prime Minister Erdogan. At the reception at the ambassador's official residence, His Eminence had a brief meeting with PM Erdogan to urge him to use his good offices to determine the status of the archbishops, the identity of their kidnappers, and to seek the Turkish government's efforts to ensure their safe and prompt release. His Eminence also delivered a private letter to the Prime Minister about what we believe to be relevant facts surrounding the kidnapping and potential whereabouts of the archbishops. The Prime Minister, through a translator, said that only criminals and terrorists would even think to kidnap holy men and agreed to work toward their release. He then clasped the hand of His Eminence for a few minutes and added, "Inshallah" they will be released soon.
Please be sure to keep Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim and Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi in your thoughts and prayers.
Source: SOCM Forum
by Eric Metaxas
In the last week of April, two Orthodox bishops in Syria were kidnapped by rebels near Aleppo. Ironically, these same bishops "had warned of the threat to religious tolerance and diversity from the two-year conflict in their country."
It's a potent reminder that while we may not be certain who the winners in the upheavals rocking Syria and the rest of the Middle East might be, we already know who the losers will be: Christians.
That's the sobering conclusion of a recent piece in the American Conservative written by Andrew Doran, a former official at UNESCO and the State Department. While the article is ostensibly about how the war in Iraq became a war on Iraqi Christians, the lessons we failed to learn in Iraq are every bit as applicable, if not more so, in Syria.
Much of the story Doran tells will be familiar to long-time BreakPoint listeners. The United States gave virtually no thought to the impact that invading and destabilizing Iraq would have on the country's Christians. Concern for their fate is why the Vatican urged the Bush administration not to proceed.
But the U.S. invaded, and the completely foreseeable happened: a Christian community whose roots can be traced to the Apostles themselves got caught in the middle. Virtually the only thing Sunni and Shia Muslims agreed on was targeting Iraqi Christians.
Ominously for Syrian Christians, the first targets in Iraq were the clergy. As Nina Shea and others, including Chuck Colson, pointed out at the time, the United States made no provision for protecting Iraqi Christians.
As a result, Iraqi Christians were forced to flee what one Assyrian Christian called an "incipient genocide." In the ten years since the invasion of Iraq, half of the country's Christians have left the country. Those remaining are still subject to attacks.
For those who left, the U.S. added insult to the injury of exile. Iraqi Christians seeking asylum in the USA were detained in what one activist calls "prisons;" and the vast majority were denied asylum even though if any group has a "well-founded fear of persecution" it's Iraqi Christians.
Ironically, the one place they have been able to find refuge is in the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq. In other words, Kurdish Muslims have been more solicitous of our Christian brethren's well-being than American Christians and their government.
Given this recent history, it would be willful folly, bordering on malice, to deny that the same thing can happen next door in Syria. As Doran wrote, "democracy in the Middle East is proving less tolerant than the regimes it has succeeded. Ask Egyptian Christians."
Then there's the increasing influence of Islamists, including Al Qaeda affiliates, in the Syrian opposition. Doran is right when he writes that "the Islamist-Wahabbist commitment to eradicating Christian minorities today will result in the extinction of diverse modes of Islam tomorrow." While this fact is "not lost on moderate Muslims," it does seem to be lost on those urging the U.S. to intervene on the side of the rebels.
President Obama, concerned about what might come after the Syrian dictator Assad is ousted, is rightly hesitant about aiding the rebels. He doesn't want to create "another Iraq."
For that we should be grateful. The last thing we should want is yet another war on Christians in the land where believers were first called by that name.
But the pressure on the administration to intervene is growing. For the sake of our Christian brothers and sisters, let's pray that God will grant our leaders much wisdom before they act.
Source: Breakpoint Commentary
Letter From His Eminence Archbishop Eustathius Matta Roham
Communication From Fr. Zakka Jalma and Fr. Joseph Bali in Greece
Greetings in the name of our resurrected Lord Jesus Christ,
We hope that this email finds you well, and write to you about two unfortunate accidents which occurred recently:
1- A few days ago, all means of communication were lost with 33 Christian (Syrian Orthodox from the diocese of Jazeerah) when sailing from Turkey to Greece. Their smuggler had left them in a deserted and unoccupied island without food or potable water for a couple of days.
A relative of some of these immigrants had called Fr. Zakka and we made the necessary arrangements with the Ministry of Naval and Marine Affairs who called numerous islands. The relevant Greek authorities arrived and were able to save them; they are now in a safe place in Ikania. Of these immigrants, we spoke to and identified: Johnny Hanna, Romeo Boutros, Reem Boutros and Sana’ George.
2- With great grief, we report the painful and outrageous incident which occurred with another group of immigrants.
A group of 21 people sailed from Izmir, Turkey heading for Greece; among them was one Christian family. They had dealt with an Algerian Muslim smuggler, best described as a blood thirsty monster. Due to quick decisions coupled with the lack of anticipation and not verifying the means of security (floating vest, etc…), they were nearly drowned in the sea. This happened after one Algerian criminal purposefully made a hole in the rubber boat (which normally hosts 9 people at most, but had this group in it irrespective of the safety measures) when he learned that they were discovered by the radar of the Greek marine. This incidence led to the loss of the life of a very young girl (5 and a half years). She was lost in the sea and found dead after intensive research of the Greek relevant authorities.
Mr. George Mansourati (Belgium) contacted Fr. Zakka; in turn, we made the necessary calls. After thorough research and quests, we were able to locate them. They are: Noubar Mansourati (44 years), his wife Bouthayna Kan’o (32 years), his brother Elias Mansourati (Pharmacist, 40 years) and her brother Imad Kan’o , and two female children Sinella and Fimella Mansourati (one of them is the drowned girl). They are currently in the island of Lairos. Unfortunately, this family refuses to reveal the name of the smuggler fearing for their lives.
It is worth mentioning that, despite their plead for safety (floating) vests while drowning, the monster of a smuggler did not answer their request. We would like to thank the Archbishop of Kalymnou who offered his help and assistance presenting them with food, shelter and care. He also took care of the funeral on May 16, 2013 when the body was found after thorough research.
We are grateful to the high level of cooperation of the Greek authorities and their effective responses to this humanistic crisis.
This is what we wanted to share with you, in the hope to increase the awareness of the faithful of our church on such accidents and incite them to check for security measures before any endeavor with merciless monsters who have no respect for human lives and seek to exploit even the misery of others.
Fr. Zakka Jalma
by Michael Finch
Christians are being persecuted all over the world. Churches are being burned and destroyed, girls are being raped and ancient Christian communities reaching back 2,000 years are being obliterated. And the world yawns. Most shockingly, many Christians in the West, worse than yawning, look away and in some cases embrace the perpetrators and blame our allies.
This begs the obvious question: Why do so many Christians in America and Europe seem to not care about what is happening around the world to their fellow disciples of Jesus? Why are we looking the other way while the brutal murder, persecution, rape and ethnic and religious cleansing is happening right before our eyes?
The answers are complicated and unfortunately, don't offer much hope for the future. First some history:
The fact is, Christians have never been united. Even before 1054 and the Great Schism between Rome and Constantinople, Christians were at odds with each other. The Schism just made it official. The Protestant Reformation of the early 16th century further divided "Christendom" into a multitude of fractures, ending any hope of a united Christian Church.
While the Eastern Roman Empire was, for centuries, holding off the oncoming Turkish Muslim hordes, the Western Church did worse than yawn; in 1204 they irrevocably weakened the Byzantine Empire when they sacked Constantinople on their way to the Holy Land. Much of the beauty of Venice was the booty stolen from their fellow Christians of the East. When Constantinople finally fell in 1453, aid did not come from Christian Europe in spite of frantic pleas for assistance.
There have been great moments in the history of the West, when Christians fought together against a common foe. Most notably when the Pole Jan Sobieski lead a heroic charge of Catholics and Protestants at Vienna in 1683 and likely saved Europe from being overrun by the Turks and becoming Muslim. But most of the history of the West has seen Christians at each other's throats, one long trail of bloody wars after another with World War I being perhaps the last light in the Christian West going out. Perhaps Sobieski only bought us a few hundred years before the Muslim onslaught.
But if history is against us, so are those divisions within Christianity. Unfortunately, for most Christians, a Christian is not a Christian. To get an American Roman Catholic to worry about an Assyrian Iraqi Christian or to get a Presbyterian to concern themselves with a Melkite Catholic in Syria is a near impossible task. You will have better luck raising their awareness of Buddhist monks in Tibet. When you walk in a Baptist Church and find tracts that call Rome and the Catholic Church the "whore of Babylon" and the Pope the "anti-Christ" is it really surprising that they have such little concern for the raping of Coptic Christians in Egypt? There is a now infamous photo of an Egyptian Copt with his hand on a blood-stained painting of Jesus on the walls of a destroyed church in Alexandria. A comment made to me about the image from a fundamentalist Protestant was "Images of Jesus are a false idol and therefore heresy." And we wonder why no one cares?
And finally, the scourge of political correctness and the influence the Left has had on our culture is perhaps the greatest reason why we lack the will to fight. Or even to care. We see it in Hollywood, the media, in our politics and, of course, in our churches.
Even I, as a non-Catholic, yearn for some kind of leadership from the Vatican. Pope John Paul will live forever in the hearts of those who love freedom for his courageous stance against Communism. There was hope for Pope Benedict early on, but those hopes were quickly squashed. When the Pope would make a statement about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, he would invariably mention, the "occupation," "two state solution" or some other canard to blame Israel for what the Muslims are doing to Christians. To do so is disgusting and shameful and a further blight on the Church. May this new Pope find the courage that so many others have lacked.
When we look to other Christian churches, the news only gets worse. American and European main-stream protestant churches are pathetic examples of a post-Christian world. We see a full embracing of the Palestinian cause and an apology to their terror. They have so fallen into the leftist mantra that they can't see the evil before their eyes. I liken it to western feminists saying nothing about the plight of women under Islam; the genital mutilations, beatings, rapes and honor killings. They don't care about women; their cause has nothing to do with "women's rights." They are pushing a political agenda. It goes the same with much of the Western Christian churches. We can raise all the awareness that we want, but they just don't care.
There is some hope, though it is fleeting. Among the evangelicals, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and scattered other remnants, there are those that still do care. And they must be awakened to move against this great evil and injustice to their fellow followers of Christ. In addition, we must reach out to our allies outside of Christianity. Jews, Hindus, Buddhist and so many others are very much victims today of Islamic terror and persecution. An alliance must be formed.
For Christians, any human suffering is a cry for help, whether they be Christians or otherwise. But it is especially critical that we heed those who are being martyred for their belief in Christ. Differences of history, doctrine, ethnicity and nation must be set aside. We, in the West, are in the greatest position to help, in whatever ways that may be determined. And before we look the other way, we need to think about when the persecution comes home, and that time will arrive if we are to do nothing now. Who will be left to save us?
Now consider this story that occurred centuries later: A judge summoned Perpetua, age 26, and commanded her to deny God or face certain death. Perpetua, with a newborn infant, faced a dilemma. North African Christians under Roman rule in A.D. 200 ran the risk of being put to death for openly acknowledging their faith. As her father looked on, urging her to save herself for her child cradled in his arms, still she would not do as she was commanded and sacrifice to idols.
Perpetua held fast in her conviction and faith in the living God. When the wild bull that was released to attack her and another believer failed to kill them, the Romans sent in the gladiators. A terrified young man approached her and made several ineffectual stabs. In a final act of mercy, she steered his sword into the lethal blow and died.
Many Christians face persecution today. At some point many more may have to make the choice to denounce God or risk everything they hold dear, including their lives. And many face such choices now, though with less threatening consequences: We may be ostracized from our families or passed over for promotions. We may be treated unjustly or misunderstood.
Have you ever thought about what you would do if you were faced with dire persecution? Are you willing to risk everything because you are convinced that loving God is worth whatever sacrifices you face? When faced with the choice to remain faithful or cave in to fear, think of the three young men in Babylon and Perpetua in North Africa who counted their own lives as nothing compared to the grace they had been given.
Psalm 124:1–8; Isaiah 43:1–13; Matthew 5:11, 44; Luke 21:12–19
Source: NIV Devotions for Women
by Asia News Staff
For Bartholomew, the "persecution of the Christians" has not ceased
Milan (AsiaNews) - Some 1,700 years have passed since Emperor Constantine granted Christians the right to believe in God, yet "the persecution of Christians has not ceased;" thus, "the Church of Christ will never cease to generate martyrs" until God "enlightens everyone, so that they understand that peace, reconciliation, tolerance, meekness, and mercy can only have a positive effect on human society in general, especially in terms of deeds and words."
Religious freedom and the journey of a divided Church " towards unity according to the Lord's command" are central to the thoughts Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I expressed this morning at the ecumenical prayer that saw him in Milan's Basilica of Sant' Ambrogio in Milan, together with Cardinal Angelo Scola.
The celebration of Edict of Constantine is behind the ecumenical patriarch's visit to the Archdiocese of Milan. For the Orthodox Church, the emperor is a saint, and the event provided the two 'sister Churches' an important opportunity to reaffirm their ecumenical will. Indeed, the patriarch's words and attitudes are evidence of this, as are the "fraternal greetings", Pope Francis sent him yesterday.
The spirit of the Constantinian document issued in the year 313 naturally centres on religious freedom.
If in his message Pope Francis expressed hope that "today as then, the common witness of Christians of East and West, sustained by the Spirit of the Risen One, can contribute to spreading the message of salvation in Europe and throughout the world and that, thanks to the far-sightedness of civil authorities, the right to public expression of one's faith is respected everywhere and the contribution Christianity continues to offer to culture and society of our time is welcomed without bias," Bartholomew noted instead that, "with great sorrow today we see Christians, of all denominations, persecuted in many places, deemed enemies of society and the state; [we see that] the Christian faith is not tolerated in many countries and under many laws. Despite the progress apparently noted in the world with regard to respect of human rights, the persecution of the Christians has not ceased."
Similarly, Card Scola noted that "such freedom is trampled upon in many different ways, from martyrdom in the lands of the Middle East to legal obstacles that prevent its full implementation as sometimes happens in Europe."
The patriarch's visit begun yesterday with a celebration in the church of Santa Maria Podone-which the diocese gave to the Orthodox community-and continued in the afternoon in the Hall of the Caryatid in Milan's Royal Palace, Bartholomew and Card Scola gave keynote addresses on the topic of religious freedom as a fundamental right from which stem all other human rights.
Today, the Patriarch stressed the "great benefit" the Edict of Milan offered humanity. "For the first time, religious freedom was enshrined into the law of an Empire, the Roman Empire, which then influenced 'the fate' of the world. Because of this freedom that had been given, and thanks to the reforms of Constantine the Great at all levels of legislation and life of his empire, under the strong influence of Christian teachings, the bases and foundations of basic human rights were laid."
"However," he added, "the laws are unfortunately changed on the whim of those in power. Sometimes for the better, but most of the times for the worse, under various pretexts, when it comes to human rights. We have all experienced, even today, the will of those in power and those who have rejected and denied from the start the Christian message of love and sacrifice."
Another aspect of Constantine's work that Bartholomew highlighted is the fact that "the Emperor was very interested, and rightly so, in the unity of the Church, which presupposes unity in faith, without which it is essentially impossible. Constantine the Great understood the need for spiritual unity among his subjects, as a commitment to the prosperity of the state, and as his ardent desire to see the people of his empire united under one and only guide of life and love, our Lord Jesus Christ."
"The organisation of a united Christian empire was part of Constantine the Great's broad vision, in which peace, fraternity, solidarity, harmony and love would have reigned. Certainly, without such a vision, today's Europe, speaking by analogy, would not have this spiritual heritage. The world too would not have caught with the same depth the spread of the Christian message on God, man and the world, a message that has and should have the single purpose of man's deification man. With faith, man conquers selfishness, leaves the bounds of the "self", and enters a new transcendent reality, in which new laws are in place: "the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come'(2 Cor., 5:17-18).
Bartholomew concluded by saying, "By living according to the commandments of the Holy Gospel and acting with wisdom and continued sanctification, we are trying not to let fear stop us from resisting the destructive power of globalisation and material life in today's world-with, as our role models, Constantine the Great and of Saint Ambrose, whose relics are preserved in this temple 'to cheer and delight' all our hearts, collected in order to announce 'what is to happen to you in days to come' (Genesis, 49:1)."
By Oliver Holmes
BEIRUT (Reuters) - A boy of 12 sees his best friend shot through the heart. Another of 15 is held in a cell with 150 other people, and taken out every day to be put in a giant wheel and burnt with cigarettes.
Syria's children are perhaps the greatest victims of their country's conflict, suffering "layers and layers of emotional trauma", Save the Children's chief executive told Reuters.
Syrian children have been shot at, tortured and raped during two years of unrest and civil war, the London-based international charity said in a report.
Two million children, it said, face malnutrition, disease, early marriage and severe trauma, becoming innocent victims of a bloody conflict that has already claimed 70,000 lives.
"This is a war where women and children are the biggest casualty," chief executive Justin Forsyth told Reuters during a visit to Lebanon, where 340,000 Syrians have fled.
Forsyth said he met a Syrian refugee boy, 12, who saw his best friend killed outside a bakery. "His friend was shot through the heart. But initially, he thought he was joking because there was no blood. They didn't realize he had been killed until they took his shirt off," he said.
The Save the Children report cited new research carried out among refugee children by Bahcesehir University in Turkey which found that one in three reported having been punched, kicked or shot at.
It said two thirds of children surveyed said that they had been separated from members of their families due to the conflict and a third said they had experienced the death of a close friend or family member.
"All these children tell you these stories in a matter of fact way and then you realize that there are layers and layers of emotional trauma there," said Forsyth.
Syria's civil war started with peaceful protests against the dynastic rule of President Bashar al-Assad. His forces shot at protesters and arrested thousands and soon the revolt turned into a civil war. Rebels now control large swathes of Syria.
Millions have fled their homes for safer ground or neighboring countries. Save the Children says 80,000 people are living in barns, parks and caves and children struggle to find enough to eat.
Both government forces and rebels have been accused of targeting civilians and committing war crimes. Refugees say that Assad's soldiers are directly targeting children.
Forsyth said he met one child who said he was in a prison cell with 150 people, including 50 children.
"He was taken out every day and put in a giant wheel and burnt with cigarettes. He was 15. The trauma that gives a child is devastating."
Save the Children says that some young boys are also being used by armed groups as porters, runners and human shields, bringing them close to the front line.
RAPE AND EARLY MARRIAGE
Rape is being used to deliberately punish people, said Forsyth, adding that it is underreported due to the sensitivity of the issue, especially among conservative communities.
"In most conflicts, over 50 percent of rapes are against children. And I am sure that is the case in this conflict too."
Fear of sexual violence is repeatedly cited to Save the Children as one of the main reasons for families fleeing their homes, according to the report.
It said that there are also reports of early marriage of young girls by families trying to reduce the numbers of mouths they have to feed, or hoping that a husband will be able to provide greater security from the threat of sexual violence.
Forsyth said that he met a Syrian family in Lebanon who told their 16-year-old daughter to marry an older man. "Her mother said she is beautiful and every time the (Syrian) soldiers came to the house she thought: 'They are going to rape her.'"
"Rape is being used deliberately to punish people," he said, adding that girls as young as 14 are being married off.
Save the Children works in neighboring countries and within Syria but Damascus has restricted access to aid organizations, especially in opposition-held territory.
The charity called for unfettered and safe access to humanitarian agencies, including "access across the lines of the conflict", and for Damascus to ease bureaucratic restraints.
Despite pledges of $1.5 billion by international donors for a response plan to help Syria's displaced, only 25 per cent has been funded, the United Nations says.
(Editing by Kevin Liffey/Mark Heinrich)
by John Stonestreet
Back in February, I told BreakPoint listeners about Saeed Abedini, an Iranian pastor and American citizen sentenced to eight years in prison for supposedly threatening Iran's national security.
He did no such thing. His actual "crime" was converting to Christianity, which in Iran is regarded as a crime against Islam and the Islamist regime, that is, treason.
His conversion, along with his ties to Iranian house churches, caused Iran's rulers to make an example of him.
Since that first broadcast, there have been two developments in his case, one good and one bad.
The good news is that, in late March, Secretary of State John Kerry called on the Iranian government to release Abedini. He said that he was "deeply concerned" and "troubled" about Abedini's treatment by Iranian authorities and the "lack of due process" in his case.
The bad news is that Iran has demonstrated no inclination to relent in either its detention or mistreatment of Abedini. On the contrary, the American Center for Law and Justice is reporting that the Iranian pastor "has been severely beaten in Evin Prison in Tehran, denied proper medical care, and experiencing fainting spells."
In a letter Abedini wrote in March, he said that "My hair was shaven, under my eyes were swollen three times what they should have been, my face was swollen, and my beard had grown. The nurse would also come to take care of us and provide us with treatment, but she said in front of others ‘in our religion we are not supposed to touch you, you are unclean. Baha'i ... and Christians are unclean!' She did not treat me and that night I could not sleep from the intense pain I had."
Abedini's torment isn't limited to physical torture. The pastor reports that "cellmates have been threatening to suffocate him in his sleep and try and make it look like an accident."
If you haven't done so already, please join the ACLJ's letter writing campaign at SaveSaeed.org. The goal of the campaign is to let Saeed Abedini know that his Christian brothers and sisters have not forgotten him.
Abedini's suffering is a sad reminder of the conditions under which many of the world's Christians live. In their book, Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians, Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea document a fact that many westerners would find almost impossible to believe: the most persecuted religious group in the world are Christians.
For Christians living in approximately 130 countries around the world, harassment, discrimination, intimidation, imprisonment, and even death are the price of Christian faithfulness. In some countries, the persecutors are government officials. In others, as we recently saw in Egypt, they are mobs and militants who act with legal impunity.
Either way, Nina Shea is correct when she writes that "religious persecution is the gravest human rights abuse of our day."
Yet, it's a human rights abuse that receives relatively little attention in the mainstream media. I won't speculate why this is the case. Instead, I urge you to get informed and spread the word.
Those of us who aren't persecuted should thank God by using our freedom on behalf of Saeed Abedini and the rest of our suffering brothers and sisters. As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "If one member [of Christ's Body] suffers, all suffer together." Let's make their suffering our own and let's use our freedom to set all God's people free.
About The Author:
John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.
Source: Breakpoint Commentary
ARTICLES OF GENERAL INTEREST
Natural Juice Remedies are Just the Right Prescription for Some Ailments
Drinking to good health via juicing is seeing a resurgence in popularity as a new generation discovers the benefits of juiced vegetables, says nutritionist and juicing icon Cherie Calbom, MS. ("The Juice Lady").
"For decades, people with acute medical conditions and those striving for optimum health have turned to juicing nutrient-dense ingredients," says Calbom, author of a new book full of juicing tips, tricks and recipes, "The Juice Lady's Big Book of Juices and Green Smoothies," (www.juiceladycherie.com).
"You can supplement your diet with a glass of fresh juice, or go on a days-long cleansing 'juice feast.' And you can use different combinations of ingredients to improve your mood or boost your energy or even help alleviate physical ailments."
Calbom says she witnessed the transformation of a woman who had back and arthritis pain, which caused her many nights of interrupted sleep due to pain in her hands. After six weeks of juicing in the morning and before dinner, she lost 12 pounds and felt more energetic in the mornings. More importantly, her arthritic and back pain has completely ceased.
Calbom suggests these cocktails for people burdened with specific ailments:
• Arthritis helper: One handful of flat leaf parsley; One dark green lettuce leaf; three to four carrots, scrubbed well, tops removed, ends trimmed; two stalks of celery with leaves; a two-inch-chunk of ginger root; and one lemon, peeled if not organic. This makes 1 serving. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce arthritic joint pain and help combat oxidative damage to joints.
• The asthma helper: Five carrots, scrubbed well, tops removed, ends trimmed; five to six radishes with leaves; one green apple; half a lemon, peeled if not organic. This makes one serving and can be served chilled or at room temperature. Radish is a traditional asthma remedy.
• The headache mender: Half a ripe cantaloupe with seeds and rind removed; half of a cucumber, peeled if not organic; a 1- to 2-inch chunk of ginger root, peeled. Cantaloupe and ginger root have been shown to reduce platelet stickiness, which is related to migraine headaches.
• Cholesterol buster cocktail: Four medium-sized carrots, scrubbed well, tops removed, ends trimmed; two ribs of celery, with leaves; two kale leaves; one green apple, such as a Granny Smith, or pippin apple; a 1-inch chunk of ginger root, scrubbed or peeled if old. Ginger root has been shown in numerous scientific studies to reduce inflammation. It's inflammation that is implicated in heart disease. But if you are looking to lower your LDL, juice an apple with your ginger root. Apples contain antioxidants that help to halt oxidation of LDL. It is oxidized LDL that is most harmful.
• The adrenal booster: One handful of parsley; one dark green lettuce leaf; four carrots, scrubbed well, tops removed and ends trimmed; two tomatoes; two ribs of celery with leaves; a dash of hot sauce; a dash of Celtic sea salt. Serves two. The adrenal glands respond to stress; when they're overworked and fatigued, you can experience mood swings and weight gain. Hot peppers and parsley are rich in vitamin C and celery is a great source of natural sodium, both of which are very beneficial for the adrenal glands.
"As with any juice cocktail, these drinks are best imbibed as soon as possible after being processed," Calbom says. "This is 'live food,' which has a full complement of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, biophotons and enzymes. You can make it the night before, however, and drink in the morning or take it with you if you keep it chilled in a covered container."
About Cherie Calbom
Cherie Calbom, MS is the author of 21 books, including the best-seller "Juicing for Life," with 2 million copies sold in the United States and published in 23 countries. Known as "The Juice Lady" for her work with juicing and health, her juice therapy and cleansing programs have been popular for more than a decade. She holds a Master of Science degree in nutrition from Bastyr University. She has practiced as a clinical nutritionist at St. Luke Medical Center, Bellevue, Wash., and as a celebrity nutritionist for George Foreman and Richard Simmons.
by Dr. Shila Mathew, MD., Food and Living Editor, Malankara World
Filled with antioxidants, B Vitamins, Vitamin K, Vitamin E and natural
Prep time: 10 minutes
1/2 cup Skim Milk
1. Blend the milk, broccoli (if adding) and coconut flakes together into a fine
2. Add the rest of the ingredients in the order listed and blend. Garnish with
additional blueberries if desired.
Recipe courtesy of Chef Michelle, Aldi Test Kitchen
Prep time: 10 minutes
1/2 cup Skim Milk
1. Blend the milk, broccoli (if adding) and coconut flakes together into a fine mixture.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients in the order listed and blend. Garnish with additional blueberries if desired.
Recipe courtesy of Chef Michelle, Aldi Test Kitchen
by Wes Hopper
Have you ever noticed that there are some people that really attract people?
They seem to have something that makes people want to be around them. They're not the richest or the most powerful, perhaps, but people are drawn to them anyway.
What is that magic attracting power? I think that they're interesting because they're interested!
"Interested in what?" you might say. It doesn't matter. Finding someone who's joyfully interested in anything is a real find.
But the best find of all is a person who is interested in other people. I have a friend who can go to a party and in a half hour he will be in the corner with some one who is telling him their life story.
He's not faking it - he really is interested! And it shows. As a result he has a network of connections that spans the length of the USA.
That's what Peale is telling us in our quote today. Don't be a dull, uninteresting person because who wants a dull and uninteresting life?
Spread the joy of interest around. It'll make your journey through life an adventure instead of a burden.
I've been interested in airplanes, river rafting, quantum physics and consciousness studies. I've built my business around my interest in the power of the mind.
As my wife will agree, I will talk for hours on any of that with anyone who is interested!
Join the fun! Get interested, and become interesting.
Source: Daily Gratitude
The Annual Youth & Family Conference of the Malankara Archdiocese will be held from July 18 - 21, 2013 in Dallas, Texas.
A weekend packed with programs for all ages are planned. All our faithful are encouraged to attend.
Theme of 2013 Conference:
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