Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Myth of the Gaza Ceasefire


# Hunger Striker Intifada


Last night I attended a meeting at the Friends Meeting House organised by Middle East Monitor, Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Jews for Justice for Palestinians during Israeli Apartheid week on 'The lessons of apartheid and the Palestinian popular struggle'.

The meeting was very well attended. Chaired by Victoria Brittain, the two main speakers were:

Sami Abu Shehadeh
Sami is a long term Palestinian activist and is currently a PhD student at Tel Aviv university focussing on Jaffa as an Arab Cultural centre during Mandate Palestine 1920-1948. Sami is a leading activist in the Balad Party and a member of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality council representing Jaffa.

Mahmoud Zwahre

Member of the Al Ma'sara Popular Resistance Committee in the West Bank.

Read more about the evening here.


Sunday, 24 February 2013

Five Broken Cameras

"How often do you go into a theatre to watch a movie - and then emerge 2 hours later with your life and your view of the world forever changed? That's what happened when I saw 5 Broken Cameras. This film is not only one of the best documentaries of the year, it is one of the best movies of the year... one of the most astonishing and amazing things I've seen in the cinema in a long time."  Michael Moore
This is one amazing film. I watched it last week with a mounting sense of both admiration and anger: Admiration for the courage of Emad Burnat and resilience of the Palestinian villagers of Bil'in; Anger at the brutality of the Israeli army and Jewish settlers who have stolen their land and destroyed their future.

The first-ever Palestinian film to be nominated for an Oscar, Five Broken Cameras is a deeply personal, first-hand account of life and non-violent resistance in Bil’in.

Emad bought his first camera in 2005 to record the birth of his youngest son, Gibreel. Structured in chapters around the destruction of each one of Burnat’s five cameras, the filmmakers’ collaboration follows one family’s evolution over five years of village upheaval. As the years pass in front of the camera, we witness Gibreel grow from a newborn baby into a young boy who observes the world unfolding around him with the astute powers of perception that only children possess.



Through Emad's camera lens you watch as olive trees are bulldozed, protests intensify and lives are lost in this cinematic diary and unparalleled record of life in the West Bank.

On his Facebook page, after being alerted as to how the Israeli press is describing it as an Israeli film, Burnat insisted it was actually a “Palestinian film … My story, my village story, my people’s story, seven years I was working on the film.”

Reviews

"How often do you go into a theatre to watch a movie - and then emerge 2 hours later with your life and your view of the world forever changed? That's what happened when I saw 5 Broken Cameras. This film is not only one of the best documentaries of the year, it is one of the best movies of the year... one of the most astonishing and amazing things I've seen in the cinema in a long time."  Michael Moore

"An Uncommonly powerful story of defiance against all the odds." Philip Kemp, Total Film

"the picture as a whole could scarcely be more real, or more wrenching, and the viewer, when not choking at the outrage of this land-theft, is mostly stunned with admiration for a film-maker and his people's courageous perseverance." Anthony Quinn, The Independent

"5 Broken Cameras, one of the best, most involving documentaries of the past couple of years, shot entirely in and around a Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank." Philip French, The Observer

"Critics' Pick! A visual essay in autobiography and, as such, a modest, rigorous and moving work of art. Deserves to be appreciated for the lyrical delicacy of [Burnat's] voice and the precision of his eye." – A.O. Scott, The New York Times

"Gripping from the get go...a powerful act of witnessing. To see it is to wonder what it would have been like to have a black Alabaman's 8mm documentation of the civil rights struggle." – J. Hoberman, Artinfo

"Four stars! Eye-opening...a proudly defiant work." – Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York

"An essential work both on filmmaking and political activism, 5 Broken Cameras provides a birdsong of perseverance in the face of irrational violence, immense historical anger, and grim, seemingly insurmountable realities." – Chris Cabin, Slant Magazine

"Displays both distinction and the emergence of a significant talent. Presents vivid witness to the power of the image to help with...healing." – George Robinson, The Jewish Week


http://www.kinolorber.com/5brokencameras/img/home-bg.pngAwards

5 Broken Cameras won the World Cinema Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012.

The film also received the Special Broadcaster IDFA Audience Award and the Special Jury Award at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam in 2011.

Nominated for best Documentary Feature in the 2013 Academy Awards

Guardian Review
Independent Review
Time Review

Welcome Home: Revd Nabil Shehadi


Revd Nabil Shehadi is the vicar of All Saints in Beirut, Lebanon. He preached this sermon at Christ Church, Virginia Water.

Open Doors: The Right to Believe

 View the Open Doors World Watch List here

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Canon John Salter Challenges Allegations of anti-Semitism


21st February, 2013

Dear Bishop Christopher,

Until recently I had thought (quite wrongly it seems) that the unjust accusations of anti-Semitism made against Stephen Sizer had run their course, that the saga had come to an end with the judgement by Surrey Police that there is no case to answer and that Stephen himself had been exonerated.

I discover, however, that the matter is still being pursued by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and that a formal complaint has been made under the Clergy Discipline Measure. I fully accept (as Stephen himself does) that it was an error of judgement on his part to quote from a website which, unbeknown to him, also contained anti-semitic material. This is something which he himself corrected and for which he apologised, but to accuse him of “spending time trawling dark and extreme corners of the internet in order to re-publish items to support the target of his polemical writing” is nothing other than a defamation of his character.

As you know, I have a long-standing connection with Israel myself, going back some 50 years, and am still Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees who own and manage one of the main pilgrimage sites in Jerusalem.

Stephen is someone whom I have known for more than 25 years and I have heard him speak on issues relating to Israel and am well-acquainted with his writings.

He is an extremely able scholar who undoubtedly has strong views and argues passionately for what he believes, but I have never heard or read anything from him which could possibly be construed as anti-semitic. He is certainly critical of Christian Zionism and of some of the policies of the Israeli government but I know that he is deeply committed to the cause of peace and has a genuine love for Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians What he argues for is a solution in the Middle East which provides equally for both sides

I sincerely hope that this whole issue can be dealt with speedily and that the Board of Deputies can also accept that their charges are unjustified.

With warm Christian greetings,

Canon John F. Salter


Other letters from:

Tanas Alqassis, Church Mission Society
Right Revd Riah Abo El Assal, 13th Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem
Dr Bishara Awad, Founder and President Emeritus, Bethlehem Bible College
Dr Mark Braverman,
 Author of the Fatal Embrace
Canon Dr Mike Butterworth, former Academic Registrar, Oak Hill College
David Carter
, Director, Middle East Evangelical Concern
Anne Clayton, Coordinator, Friends of Sabeel UK
Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Professor Emeritus of Judaism, University of Wales
Michael Connarty MP, Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Islington North
Katherine Cunningham, Moderator, IPMN, Presbyterian Church USA
Dr Martin Davie, Theological Advisor to the House of Bishops
Professor Philip Davies, Department of Biblical Studies, University of Sheffield
Professor Scott Elias, Royal Holloway, University of London
Adam Estle, Executive Director of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding
Tony Greenstein, Founding Member, Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Professor Mary Grey, Emeritus Professor of Theology, University of Wales
Dr Jeff Halper, Co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
Hank Hanegraaff, President, Christian Research Institute
Revd Phil Hill, Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary
Canon Garth Hewitt, Founder, Amos Trust
Dr Ghada Karmi, Fellow of the Institute of Arab & Islamic Studies, Exeter University
Manfred W. Kohl, Ambassador, Overseas Council
Dr Attorney Jonathan Kuttab, Chairman of the Board, Bethlehem Bible College
Venerable Michael Lawson, Chairman, Church of England Evangelical Council
Jeremy Moodey, Chief Executive, Embrace the Middle East
Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan
Diana Neslen, Ex-officio, Jews for Justice for Palestinians
Professor Ilan Pappe, Director, European Centre for Palestine Studies, Exeter University
Canon John Salter, Vice Chair, Garden Tomb Association
Revd Jack Sara, President, Bethlehem Bible College
Rabbi Dr Stanley Howard Schwartz, Hospice Chaplain and retired Army Chaplain
David Toorawa, Chair, Friends of Sabeel UK
Revd Dr Donald Wagner, National Director, Friends of Sabeel North America
Revd John Woodger, Retired vicar, St Mary's Watford

Anthony Julius is chairman of the London Consortium and a Visiting Professor at Birbeck College, University of London. His book Trials of the Diaspora, is a magisterial 800 page examination of the history of Anti-Semitism in England. In the final chapter which deals with the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, Julius writes,
"He has recently explained, however, that he 'categorically reject[s] any position that threatens the territorial integrity of Israel as a sovereign nation.... Stephen Sizer's work has the merit of clearly setting out the issues that divide the two sides, and furthermore doing so without the rancour or sheer nastiness of tone typical of the polemics in the conflict." (p.571)
And see also these articles from other news sources:

Jews for Justice for Palestinians Digging for dirt: the campaign against Stephen Sizer
Phil Groom (member of CCJ): Jeremiah's Underpants
Phil Groom (member of CCJ): Dr Sizer is cleared
Church of England Newspaper: Sizer complaint
Church Times:  Vicar is not Anti-Semitic
Church Times:  Rabbi Clears Vicar of Anti-Semitism
Jewish Chronicle: Bishop: anti-Zionist vicar ‘no antisemite
Jewish Chronicle: Sizer: I am ready to meet the Board of Deputies any time





A Palestinian Pastor’s Advice for President Obama


President Obama will be visiting Israel and Palestine in March 2013.

I call on you to write to Obama and tell him that if he is coming to engage Israelis and Palestinians in talks that will lead to a just peace, he is then welcome. Otherwise tell Obama to stay home.

Tell Obama that the world will be watching his upcoming visit and people all over our planet will look to his visit with hope and expectation. Tell him not to disappoint humanity by carrying on U.S. politics in the Middle East as usual.

Tell Obama when he visits us here to stand by the values that he reiterates in almost every speech: freedom, independence, equality, and justice for all.

Tell Obama that if his coming to Israel and Palestine is going to be another American political circus to keep the media busy, or please a certain interest group in the U.S., that he need not come this way. No one here is dying to see him, but many have died and will continue to die if the U.S. continues with its failed policies in the Middle East.

Tell Obama to have his eyes open to see what is happening on the ground rather than offer his ears to  politicians that have perfected the art of deception. Tell him to see the expanding illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Tell him to take a look at the separation wall that is not only dividing Israelis from Palestinians but also dividing Palestinians from Palestinians and their land. Tell him to visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank and a Palestinian refugee camp. Tell him to walk through one of the Israeli checkpoints.

Tell Obama that he will be coming to visit the Holy Land at a time when Christians are celebrating the passion of Christ and his resurrection. Tell him to let Christ be his example in being courageous and not yielding to political pressures. Have him remember that Jesus bravely gave his life to make peace rather than succumb to political expediency.

Tell Obama to have courage, because most Israelis and Palestinians desire peace and that only the radicals, the racists, the greedy individuals, and those who promote apartheid and segregation will be disappointed if he commits to the cause of peace.

Tell Obama that repeated visits have taken place by American Presidents that did nothing to ease the pain of the Palestinian people. The Palestinians today hope that this upcoming visit will be different than all other visits; it can be the one that will change the course of history in the Middle East. 

Reverend Alex Awad
Pastor East Jerusalem Baptist Church
Dean of Students at Bethlehem Bible College


See also Alex Awad on the Bethlehem Spring


South China Sea

More photographs of Hong Kong and the South China Sea can be viewed here

Sleepless in Hong Kong

 

See more photos of Hong Kong here

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Christianity Explored in Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Russian and Ten Other Languages

The Christianity Explored DVD has already won awards for its superb production values and warm, engaging presentation of the gospel based on Mark.

It now features 14 subtitled languages on the same disc making it more accessible than ever and superb value. Ideal for using with an English-speaking group where one member would benefit from viewing subtitles in their mother tongue.

Languages include:

Chinese, Spanish, French, Korean, Russian, Japanese, Portuguese, Arabic, Farsi, German, Polish, Dutch, Italian, Romanian and English for hard of hearing.

See also Christianity Explored

To buy the new CE DVD with subtitles, visit the Good Book Company

Monday, 18 February 2013

Christ at the Checkpoint 2014

Christ at the Checkpoint 2014: "Your Kingdom Come"

The third Christ at the Checkpoint conference will take place in Bethlehem in March 10-14, 2014. The conference will be organized by Bethlehem Bible College, and will follow the success of the first conference in 2010, and the second one in 2012. The theme of the conference will be "Christ at the Checkpoint III - Your Kingdom Come", which is based on the Lord's prayer.

So why are we doing a third conference? This is a question we asked ourselves as we were assessing the last conference and considering and planning the one in 2014. To begin with, the occupation, the wall, the checkpoint, and the conflict with its many aspects are still there! We cannot ignore our reality. Our call as Christians is to be peacemakers and to lovingly challenge all forms of injustice. Today it seems that the conflict is still far from being solved. In fact, over the last few years the situation has deteriorated. In the last year we have witnessed the Gaza war, severe economical struggles of the Palestinian National Authority, expansion of settlements, the Palestinian UN bid, and the continual deadlock of the peace process.

The situation in the wider Middle East is no different. The bloodshed continues in Syria, with no light in the horizon. Iraq and Egypt are in turmoil, and it is evident that the new "democratic" reality did not produce the hoped-for stability and freedom Arabs longed for, and in many cases Arab Christians are suffering as a result.

The level of hatred and animosity is also on the rise, and this, probably more than anything, is one of the biggest hinderances for peace and stability in Palestine/Israel and the Middle East. Radical and racist voices are becoming louder and louder, and we are in a desperate need of a new paradigm of hope, acceptance, and love. Sami Awad says it best:

For anything to move forward in the Holy Land, a relationship of trust and respect must be established between the peoples. Peace is not just negotiated agreements between politicians. Peace is the process of building trust and respect between the peoples of the land. To be able to see each other with new eyes. To be able to really understand who the “other” is. To appreciate them—their culture, their heritage, the narrative that they bring to the table. Trust and respect are the foundations.

It is with all of this in mind that we will meet at the checkpoint again in 2014. Christ at the Checkpoint is our attempt as Palestinian Christians to bring Jesus into our context, which we defined using the symbol of the checkpoint. We want to ask:
  • What would Christ say and do if he were to stand in front of a checkpoint today?
  • What would his message be to the Palestinian crossing the checkpoint? And to the Israeli solder who is stopping him?
  • What is the Christian calling in the midst of this reality?
We have chosen the phrase from the Lord's Prayer "Your Kingdom Come" as the theme of the coming conference. The Christ at the Checkpoint manifesto begins with: "The Kingdom of God has come. Evangelicals must reclaim the prophetic role in bringing peace, justice and reconciliation in Palestine and Israel."

Therefore, we also want to ask:
  • How would the kingdom of God look like, today and now, in Palestine/Israel?
  • How should the teachings of Jesus shape our thinking, attitude and action regarding the conference?
  • What would 'kingdom acts' look like today?
The mission of Christ at the Checkpoint is, therefore, to Challenge Evangelicals To Take Responsibility To Help Resolve the Conflicts in Israel-Palestine By Engaging With the Teaching of Jesus on the Kingdom of God.


We invite you to join us in March 10-14, 2014 in Bethlehem as we pray, worship, study scripture and seek together to bring the reality of the kingdom of God on earth.

For more information see Christ at the Checkpoint

Photos of Christ at the Checkpoint 2012

Photos of Christ at the Checkpoint 2010

Friday, 15 February 2013

Taiwan Charity Bike-a-thon 2013



People from around the world come together to form Hong Kong’s eclectic community. It’s encouraging to be a part of a harmony of such diverse backgrounds. But of these groups, our attention has recently been led to the Refugee community, some of whom have withstood great difficulties in finding a new purpose in foreign lands after being uprooted from their homes by persecution and political unrest. Many of them in need of someone who will listen, so that they know they and their loved ones are recognized in Hong Kong’s society. With this thought of "togetherness" we are working towards restoring their dreams and possibilities.

Taiwan Charity Bike-a-thon (29 March – 1 April)
With 22 friends I plan to cycle 300km in 4 days over the coastal and mountainous roads of Hualian, Taiwan. Our goal is to raise HK$1M from this event to support work carried out among refugees by The Vine Community Services Ltd. Please support me as we cycle as a team for charity and share love with the refugee community in Hong Kong. Your contribution will be a great encouragement for me. Your love offering of any amount would be truly appreciated.



The Vine Community Services Limited
The Vine Community Services Limited (VCSL) is a non-profit organization here in Hong Kong that works as a beacon of hope to the most overlooked, ignored and vulnerable in our society. Refugees and asylum seekers (RAS) are not allowed to work in Hong Kong; they have to rely on handouts. VCSL supports 250+ RAS, mainly from Africa and Southeast Asia, and works to equip, educate and empower individuals and families to become positive and contributing members of the community. Through tailor-made relief and advocacy work, VCSL restores physical and psychological brokenness for RAS with the goal to see them successfully integrated back into society.

To find out more about VCSL’s work, please watch the following videos…

Teach a Man to fish 

Help! Get me off the Streets

And find out more on Facebook here

Thank you,

Hillman and Louise Lam

Please click the Donate Button below - to go straight to our donation page.
 
(Louise is my daughter) 

DONATE

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Adam Estle Refutes Allegations of anti-Semitism

February 13, 2013

Attention: The Right Reverend Bishop Christopher Hill

From: Mr. Adam Estle

Dear Bishop Christopher,

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I write this letter on behalf of my colleague and friend, the Reverend Doctor Stephen Sizer. While I have only known Dr. Sizer personally for a short while, I have followed his work closely over the past 5 years. I know Stephen through our mutual passion for justice and peace between all the people of the Middle East, whether they be Jews, Muslims or Christians; Israelis, Palestinians or people of any other nationality. Dr. Sizer has heroically used his prophetic voice to call the Church in the West to engage the Middle East from a balanced perspective. He speaks out against the extremism that exists within our own faith tradition, commonly referred to as Christian Zionism.

Christian Zionism is pervasive in Churches in the West, and sees the current State of Israel as a sign of the second coming of Jesus Christ. This belief system, while on the surface supportive of Israel, is actually anti-Semitic in its long-term view of Jews as simple pawns in the end-time drama. Christian Zionists believe that any Jew who does not accept Jesus as Savior will perish in a horrific manner in the eschaton. This viewpoint, in my estimation, does not represent the Christian faith or the teachings of Jesus which revolve around radical love of both neighbor and enemy.

I find the allegations leveled against Dr. Sizer to be both unfair and ungrounded. It seems to me that the Board of Deputies of British Jews is on a witch hunt, from which Dr. Sizer is suffering. I simply cannot comprehend how these allegations are logical or founded on any sliver of anti-Semitism. The difference between speaking out against the actions of the modern Israeli government and racism against the Jewish people must be clearly delineated. Dr. Sizer has continually affirmed his love for the Jewish people, while maintaining an appropriately critical approach to the occupation of the Palestinian people by the Israeli government.

For Dr. Sizer and other regional experts who share similar understanding, criticism of the State of Israel’s self-destructive policies is one way to show love and support for the Israeli people. The lack of peace, justice, and security in Israel and the Palestinian Territories is causing untold suffering of both Jews and Palestinians. Both the occupier and the occupied suffer from the status quo, which is destroying both societies. If prophetic voices like Dr. Sizer’s are silenced, the status quo will continue to the great detriment of all involved.

Thank you for your consideration of this letter. I pray that Dr. Sizer’s name will be cleared but also that the just resolution of this situation can lead to greater reconciliation between Christians, Muslims, and Jews not only in Britain but around the world.

Respectfully submitted,

Adam Estle

Executive Director
Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding

Other letters from:

Right Revd Riah Abo El Assal, 13th Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem
Dr Bishara Awad, Founder and President Emeritus, Bethlehem Bible College
Dr Mark Braverman,
 Author of the Fatal Embrace
Canon Dr Mike Butterworth, former Academic Registrar, Oak Hill College
David Carter
, Director, Middle East Evangelical Concern
Anne Clayton, Coordinator, Friends of Sabeel UK
Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Professor Emeritus of Judaism, University of Wales
Michael Connarty MP, Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Islington North
Katherine Cunningham, Moderator, IPMN, Presbyterian Church USA
Dr Martin Davie, Theological Advisor to the House of Bishops
Professor Philip Davies, Department of Biblical Studies, University of Sheffield
Professor Scott Elias, Royal Holloway, University of London
Adam Estle, Executive Director of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding
Tony Greenstein, Founding Member, Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Professor Mary Grey, Emeritus Professor of Theology, University of Wales
Dr Jeff Halper, Co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
Hank Hanegraaff, President, Christian Research Institute
Revd Phil Hill, Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary
Canon Garth Hewitt, Founder, Amos Trust
Dr Ghada Karmi, Fellow of the Institute of Arab & Islamic Studies, Exeter University
Manfred W. Kohl, Ambassador, Overseas Council
Dr Attorney Jonathan Kuttab, Chairman of the Board, Bethlehem Bible College
Venerable Michael Lawson, Chairman, Church of England Evangelical Council
Jeremy Moodey, Chief Executive, Embrace the Middle East
Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan
Diana Neslen, Ex-officio, Jews for Justice for Palestinians
Professor Ilan Pappe, Director, European Centre for Palestine Studies, Exeter University
Revd Jack Sara, President, Bethlehem Bible College
Rabbi Dr Stanley Howard Schwartz, Hospice Chaplain and retired Army Chaplain
David Toorawa, Chair, Friends of Sabeel UK
Revd Dr Donald Wagner, National Director, Friends of Sabeel North America
Revd John Woodger, Retired vicar, St Mary's Watford

Anthony Julius is chairman of the London Consortium and a Visiting Professor at Birbeck College, University of London. His book Trials of the Diaspora, is a magisterial 800 page examination of the history of Anti-Semitism in England. In the final chapter which deals with the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, Julius writes,
"He has recently explained, however, that he 'categorically reject[s] any position that threatens the territorial integrity of Israel as a sovereign nation.... Stephen Sizer's work has the merit of clearly setting out the issues that divide the two sides, and furthermore doing so without the rancour or sheer nastiness of tone typical of the polemics in the conflict." (p.571)
And see also these articles from other news sources:

Jews for Justice for Palestinians One link does not equal antisemitism
Phil Groom (member of CCJ): Jeremiah's Underpants
Phil Groom (member of CCJ): Dr Sizer is cleared
Church of England Newspaper: Sizer complaint
Church Times:  Vicar is not Anti-Semitic
Church Times:  Rabbi Clears Vicar of Anti-Semitism
Jewish Chronicle: Bishop: anti-Zionist vicar ‘no antisemite
Jewish Chronicle: Sizer: I am ready to meet the Board of Deputies any time


Sunday, 10 February 2013

The Silent Exodus of Syria’s Christians

Nina Shea, reports for the National Review Online,
In Syria’s rebellion, no religious or ethnic group has been spared horrific levels of loss and suffering, but its 2,000-year-old Christian minority is now facing a distinct persecution.

Under the cover of war and chaos, this group, which alone lacks militias of its own, is easy prey for Islamists and criminals, alike. These assaults are driving out the Christians en masse. This 2,000-year-old community, numbering around 2 million is the largest church in the Middle East after Egypt’s Copts, and it now faces extinction.

Archdeacon Emanuel Youkhana of the Assyrian Church of the East, despite recent heart surgery, is now constantly on the road in Lebanon and Iraq trying to cope with the refugee crisis. He wrote to me today:

“We are witnessing another Arab country losing its Christian Assyrian minority. When it happened in Iraq nobody believed Syria’s turn would come. Christian Assyrians are fleeing massively from threats, kidnappings, rapes and murders. Behind the daily reporting about bombs there is an ethno-religious cleansing taking place, and soon Syria can be emptied of its Christians.”
She concludes,
 The refugees all fear the Islamists. When the jihadi rebel units show up and take over a town, like Rasel-Eyn, it loses its Christian population over night. One man from there tells Kino: “The so-called Free Syrian Army, or rebels, or whatever you choose to call them in the West, emptied the city of its Christians, and soon there won’t be a single Christian in the whole country.”
There is no complete data on the number of refugees. How many Christians have fled is not known and escapees continue to come across the border each day. We are only beginning to understand the peril they face.

Archdeacon Youkhana pleads: “The world must open their eyes to the plight.”
Tearfund are raising funds to help with the Syrian refugees. Syria Crisis Appeal

— Nina Shea is director of Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom and co-author of Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians (Thomas Nelson Publishers, March 2013).
 

Friday, 8 February 2013

Christian Marriage



"The Bible teaches us that marriage is a gift of God in creation and a means of his grace, a holy mystery in which man and woman become one flesh. It is God's purpose that, as husband and wife give themselves to each other in love throughout their lives, they shall be united in that love as Christ is united with his Church.

Marriage is given, that husband and wife may comfort and help each other, living faithfully together in need and in plenty, in sorrow and in joy. It is given, that with delight and tenderness they may know each other in love, and, through the joy of their bodily union, may strengthen the union of their hearts and lives. It is given as the foundation of family life in which children may be born and nurtured in accordance with God's will, to his praise and glory.

In marriage husband and wife belong to one another, and they begin a new life together in the community. It is a way of life that all should honour; and it must not be undertaken carelessly, lightly, or selfishly, but reverently, responsibly, and after serious thought."

This is taken from the introduction to the Anglican Marriage Service which remains my position, irrespective of what the British Parliament may decide.

It is naive and foolish to think politicians can suddenly overturn thousands of years of tradition and the plain teaching of Jesus and the prophets on marriage, as revered in both the Jewish and Christian scriptures.

"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." (Genesis 2:24)

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female' and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

Throughout history and in virtually all human societies marriage has always been the union of a man and a woman. Marriage reflects the complementary natures of men and women created in the image of God.

Download 10 reasons why the government is wrong to redefine marriage here. A printer-friendly version is also available here.



 

Bahrain Pro-Democracy Movement


bahrain revolution from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Thomas Jefferson once asked:

"Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?"

In the 18th Century, on both sides of the Atlantic, there would likely have been a consensus that the answer was self-evident - civic responsibility was but the outworking of a higher responsibility to God.

Not so today. In a largely secularized West, while we value our democratic heritage which balances the role and responsibilities of politicians and citizens, many fail to appreciate these values are rooted in eternal truths and immutable laws.

Unless there are moral absolutes by which we judge society, society becomes absolute.

Every person is created equal in the image of God and therefore worthy or dignity and respect. The Christian scriptures insist we have clear responsibilities to both God and the state.

This was taught by Jesus: ‘Give … to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.’ (Matthew 22:21). The religious leaders of his day had tried to expose Jesus as either a collaborator with, or rebel against, the hated Roman Empire. Jesus insisted he was neither.

Our responsibility is to obey God for those who rule do so only under His authority.

We must first, obey our political leaders as God’s servants. Second pray for our leaders that God will give them wisdom and selfless impartiality in their role. Third, hold them accountable when they depart from their divinely appointed role.

The Christian scriptures teach: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1a). The state’s authority is derived from God. So whether we enjoy good or bad government, the state is a divine institution with God’s authority.

But this also means we can say to rulers what Jesus said to Pilate at his trial, ‘You would have no power [authority] over me if it were not given to you from above.’ (John 19:11).

This is because the role of government is to commend those who do right and punish those who do wrong. (Romans 13:3). This means we should submit up to the point where obedience to the state would result in participation in evil, or disobedience to God. If the State ever commands what God forbids, or forbids what God commands, then our moral duty is to resist the government.

We must disobey the State in order to obey God. In this way we can contribute, with our lives if necessary, to the return of good government and secure a better future for our children than the one we inherited.

In the early Church, the Apostles were forbidden by the Jewish authorities to speak in the name of Jesus. They replied, “We must obey God rather than human beings.” (Acts 5:29).

This is the Christian justification for civil disobedience. Whenever human laws contradict God’s law, civil disobedience becomes a sacred, religious duty.

There are notable examples in British history of those who opposed slavery, who campaigned for trade union rights, who lobbied for an end to the use of child labour, and called for the emancipation of women. But this civil disobedience must be peaceful and non-violent.

Martin Luther King once said, “Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. It is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding. It is a sword that heals.”

So, while we are to submit to the state’s God-given authority, we must remain opposed to both tyranny and anarchy. Our responsibility as citizens, whether here or in Bahrain, is to cooperate with, but hold governments accountable to fulfill their God-appointed role. That will lead not only to better government but also a more peaceful and stable society.

That is why I support the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain. The arc of history bends toward justice. May God give the people of Bahrain, justice, liberty and security before we meet to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of Bahrain’s Pearl Revolution.

Presentation delivered at the conference organized by the Bahrain Pro-Democracy Group ‘Understanding the Roots and Prospects of Bahrain’s Revolution’ held at King’s College, London, 6th February 2013.

A few photos of the early part of the event can be seen here

See also:

Press TV Activists in London slam West’s double standard policies on Bahrain
Press TV UK seminar sheds light on Bahrain’s revolution
Bahrain Freedom Movement
Frontline Club Bahrain Revolution 2nd Anniversary