Michael's Word BLOG

A Blogsite for Christian News, Features,Interview and Review articles on The Church Around the World. I seek to be MIKE: Meaningful, Informative, Kind, Entertaining.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Religious Liberty Experts say Evangelism Ban Would Undermine Nepal's Fledgling Democracy

Proposed code seeks to ban conversion; a need to raise awareness among Christian community

Silver Spring, Maryland, by Elizabeth Lechleitner/ANN (Adventist News Network)

A proposed civil code forbidding religious conversion in Nepal belies the country's attempts to build a society based on respect for human rights, religious liberty advocates say.

Proposed legislation in Nepal's national parliament seeks to prohibit religious conversion. Above, Adventist youth in Banepa, Nepal, hand out Adventist literature to passers-by during a youth rally last month. [ANN file photo]

The code would prohibit efforts to "convert a person or abet him to change his religion" in the southern Asian nation. Specifically, it seeks to forbid conversion with or without "inducements" and bans preaching "a different religion or faith." If passed, the code promises steep fines and imprisonment for offenders.

Following ten years of civil war, Nepal in 2006 abolished its longstanding monarchy -- with Hinduism as the state religion -- in favor of establishing a federal democratic republic.
Currently, the Nepalese government is embroiled in a protracted process of drafting a new constitution expected to guarantee religious freedom, reports indicate. The country's interim constitution prohibits proselytizing, according to the U.S. State Department's 2010 International Religious Freedom Report.

The wording and intent of the newly proposed code, however, echo Nepal's constitution during its Hindu monarchy. Then, the country protected citizens' right to practice religion handed down "from ancient times," but banned not only proselytism, but also religious conversion, the Religious Freedom World Report said. The report is a publication of the Seventh-day Adventist Church's department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty.

Having failed to meet their initial May 28 deadline, Nepal's government is now expected to submit a draft of its new constitution in three months, news reports indicate.

"Nepal has a responsibility to protect the freedom of its citizens, including the freedom to have a religion, to have no religion, to change religions and to share and teach religion. This is a basic human right and Nepal cannot build a democratic society while ignoring human rights," said John Graz, secretary-general of the International Religious Liberty Association.

Religious freedom proponents should express their opposition to the code while it's still a proposal, Graz added.

Nepal's small Christian community, which is not represented in the Hindu majority country's parliament, was unaware of the proposed code until questioned about it, the Christian Post reported.

ANN World News Bulletin is a review of news issued by the Communication department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church World Headquarters and released as part of the service of Adventist News Network. For reproduction requirements, click here.

The opinions expressed by Commentary authors and sources in ANN news stories do not necessarily reflect those of Adventist News Network© and/or the Seventh-day Adventist© Church.

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Algerian Christians Gather for Worship Despite Government Order

In late May, the president of the Protestant Church Association in Algeria (EPA) received the following notice: “I, Mr. Ben Amar Salma, the High Commissioner of the police in Béjaia, have informed Mr. Mustapha Krim, the President of the EPA… to close down all worship places; the places which are used now and the places which are under constructionThe authorities will make sure that the order will be obeyed, otherwise severe consequences and punishments will be applied.”

(Pictured: The inside of an Algerian church. Photo courtesy of www.persecution.org).

This notification demanded the permanent closure of the seven Protestant churches in the Béjaia province, located 200 kilometers east of the capital Algiers. The threat came as no surprise to the EPA. Since 2006, Protestants have lived at the mercy of a strict law known as Ordinance 06-03, which has prevented them from worshipping freely or legally. The ordinance regulates the worship of non-Muslims by requiring churches to obtain government permission to hold services. Despite repeated efforts by the EPA to obtain this permission, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Religious Affairs have failed to create a clear procedure to register churches and it often takes years before approving registrations.

We were told we are not in compliance with the 2006 decree, but we have tried to comply,” EPA President Mustapha Krim told the Algerian daily La Dépêche de Kabylie. “We have spoken with the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Interior Ministry. We have gone round-and-round with them for years, but nothing gets done.”

Similar notifications, like the one received in Béjaia, have been issued to EPA churches before. “The same thing occurred in Tizi Ouzou when several churches were ordered to close under threats that legal action would be taken against the leaders,” a church leader in Tizi Ouzou told ICC. “Our church also received this order in 2008, but because we resisted, the church continues to this day.”

In a more recent incident, a church in the village of Makouda, near Tizi Ouzou, was given 48 hours to shut its doors on April 23. The pastor presented documents to the local police department that proved his affiliation with the EPA, but the police commissioner said the documents were not sufficient proof to operate the church. Still, the church continues to meet each week.

While EPA churches continue to hold services despite being warned otherwise, they do not take the threat on the Béjaia churches lightly. “According to this decree, if one does not obey the instructions, the authorities are threatening to do the enforcement,” said Krim. “Apparently they want us to disappear from the map.”

Nonetheless, when Sunday morning services rolled around on May 29, the notification was not enough to persuade churches in Béjaia to shut their doors. “Here we are Lord to praise Thy name!” sang a hundred worshippers before Pastor Nordin stepped to the pulpit to read Psalm 23, reminding the congregation of God’s faithfulness even in hardship. “We did not understand the decision of the [governor],” a church member told La Dépêche de Kabylie. “We worship out of conviction. We are not afraid, because we did nothing wrong. We were never forced to choose Jesus, but we did so voluntarily. Whatever the circumstances, we will continue to say: we are here to praise your name Lord.”

At the end of the day, authorities had not interfered and services proceeded as normal. Further indication that the situation was improving soon followed when Minister of Interior Dahou Ould Kablia stated at a June 2 press conference in Algiers that the Protestant Church of Béjaia will be “allowed to continue their activities until they receive the necessary authorization,” Algerian news agency Tout sur l’Algérie reported.

While Christians in Béjaia remain unsure about whether they will be allowed to freely worship in the future, one thing is certain – they will not close quietly. “Pastors and church officials… opted for resistance by continuing to worship instead of obeying the order to close their doors,” said a representative of the EPA. “They continued to meet and celebrate their religion despite the threats. If the authorities decide to close places of worship, Christians will gather in homes or cell group meeting in the open air, which is already being done in some communities. But, we believe the situation will improve.”

The inability to register church buildings has caused many Algerian Christian communities to worship underground, either in the homes of congregants or in the secluded countryside. One community living in a remote village nestled in the beautiful Kabylie mountainside gathered in a shabby garage, their third location that year, when ICC visited them in 2010. They were preparing to move again because the landlord received complaints from neighbors who insisted that Christian worship should not be overheard in a Muslim community. Before designating the garage as a house of worship, the congregants held gatherings near a river on the outskirts of town each week when the weather permitted. Please keep this congregation, the churches in Béjaia, and the EPA in your prayers.

(Source: http://www.persecution.org/crossingthebridge/2011/06/09/algerian-christians-gather-for-worship-despite-government-order-to-close-church-doors/)

Editorial note:

The president of the Evangelical Church of Algeria (EPA) along with other representatives of the EPA, the officially recognized churches, requested an audience to speak with this man about his order to close the churches. This meeting took place June 7th.

The governor of the region of Bejaia in Algeria received the council of the EPA as planned and the meeting went well. They are going to “ease up on the pressure” somewhat so that the Christians of the region who are meeting legally are not disturbed. The discussion took place calmly and the governor was receptive.

Another step is now in view and the governor is going to help the council to try and get a meeting with Interior Minister of the Algerian Government, who has refused to talk since the famous Law of 2006.

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

God Feet Team Brings Hope to Haiti, with a Message of Love -- and Flip Flops

QUEEN CREEK, AZ, June 9, 2011 (via Christian Newswire) -- More than 550 men, women and children in the Western Hemisphere's most impoverished country received a new pair of flip flops this week, as a team of God Feet representatives traveled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

God Feet, a Faith inspired footwear Company gives a pair of new shoes to someone in need for each pair purchased. The team visited 7 orphanages and talked with countless Port-au-Prince locals, bringing a message of hope through Faith Inspired flip flops. There are over 1.5 million orphans in Haiti. Most orphanages are underfunded, under staffed and the children have nothing to call their own.

"To a child who has nothing, a new pair of shoes means the world" Says Co-Founder Shannon Gillette, who was along for the trip. "We were able to spread the gospel through sandals, and help each child truly believe that they are special and not forgotten," Shannon added.

Many people in Haiti suffer from infection, parasites and disease caused from walking without shoes. "Given the conditions and warm climate in Haiti, flip flops are a great way to protect them from open sores and soil transmitted parasites caused from walking barefoot," David Gillette, Founder of God Feet mentioned when talking about his recent trip to Haiti.

God Feet sandals were specially designed for rough terrain, while featuring inspirational scripture and design. In addition to visiting Haiti this week, God Feet has also launched a program called "Back 2 Church." Churches all around the world can raise money and free God Feet for their mission teams by simply requesting their own unique promo code.

Church members, friends and family can go to www.Godfeet.com and enter their special promo code at checkout. God Feet will then track every purchase made and match every pair back to that organization, in addition to a $2 donation for every matched pair.

Mission teams all over the world will be able to provide a new and innovative dimension to God's work, and perform their very own Flip Flop Drops.

For more information contact:
Shannon GilletteVice President, God Feet

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Sudan on the Brink

The Northern Sudanese attack and occupation of the fertile, oil-producing border region, has caused a refugee crisis as the population of Abyei has fled into nearby Twic County in South Sudan. An estimated 15,000 Abyei refugees have flooded into Turalei, more than doubling the size of NBA legend Manute Bol's hometown, 70 miles from Abyei. As a result, Abyei refugees and Twic County residents are facing a severe food shortage.

"We cannot stand by while our brothers and sisters in South Sudan are driven from their land, and left with nothing to eat," says Rudwan Dawod, a senior member of Girifna who will accompany the "Reconciliation Convoy." Girifna, a non-violent, pro-democracy youth organization founded in Khartoum last year has been an outspoken critic of President Omar Al Bashir, currently under indictment by the International Criminal Court.

At a press conference in Khartoum on May 30, the "Youth Forum for Social Peace" apologized to Southern Sudanese for the current suffering caused by the Bashir government, and for the long history of Northerners being used against Southerners.

"We are determined to build a better future," says Dawod. "That is why we are not only taking relief, but also 15 volunteers will remain in Turalei to help complete and teach at the Manute Bol School. We want this to be just the beginning, and we pledge to help build all 41 schools of Manute's dream."

These young Sudanese Muslims, look to the late Manute Bol, a Southern Sudanese Christian, for inspiration. Manute, at 7'7" the tallest player in NBA history, worked tirelessly for free elections in the South and at the time of his death was beginning his initiative to build 41 schools that would welcome children regardless of tribe, whether Christian, Muslim or animist.

"Muslims are not my enemies, they are my brothers," Manute would say, despite having lost an estimated 250 family members in the war with the North. Manute would add, "the problem is the government in Khartoum."

Though the UN relief efforts have begun to provide food and other necessities to the affected areas, Twic County Commissioner Dominic Deng welcomes the additional aid to be brought by the Khartoum youth.

Sudan Sunrise (www.sudansunrise.org), the non-profit working to fulfill Manute's dream of schools, is actively seeking funding for the "Reconciliation Convoy" and Manute's school initiative.

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Nation's Largest prison Ministry Appoints New CEO

LANSDOWNE, VA ( June 6, 2011) -- Prison Fellowship® today announced the appointment of James Liske as the ministry's CEO. Liske, who currently serves as senior pastor at Ridge Point Community Church in Holland, Mich., will begin his term with Prison Fellowship in late July. He succeeds Tom Pratt, who has served as interim president since October 2010.

During his nine-year tenure at Ridge Point Community Church, Liske has been committed to prison ministry. Under his leadership, the church began a para-church organization that helps newly released prisoners deal with addiction recovery challenges, find employment and transition back into the community. The organization has a valuable partnership with the Department of Corrections in Michigan - directly engaged with the Michigan Prison Re-entry Initiative - and has helped numerous former inmates with life after prison.

Liske gained a strong work ethic and firm foundation in the Christian faith as he grew up the youngest of three siblings helping with the family farm. He sensed a call to ministry at an early age and earned a master's of divinity from North American Baptist Seminary in 1986. Since then, he has led churches and organizations in the United States and Canada. Liske has also led ministry efforts to assist the poor in sub-Saharan Africa, Belize, Romania, the Dominican Republic and Honduras. His experience in the local Church, with community organizations and in the arena of commerce will assist him in directing the nation’s largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families.

Liske has a demonstrated commitment to those with broken lives and has employed strong entrepreneurial skills to bring together the Church, businesses, local law enforcement agencies, corrections and parole officers, and other stakeholders in order to get people working together for a common good.

"I'm honored and blessed to be given this amazing opportunity to serve God," he said. "I'm energized by the rich history of Prison Fellowship and the organization's role to reach 'the least of these'; I pray that the Lord will use us as a powerful testimony of His greatness and to fix what is broken in the hearts and lives of inmates, their families and the communities in which they live and work."

Liske will lead all aspects of Prison Fellowship's now 35-year-old ministry, including evangelism outreach in prisons across the nation, the Angel Tree® program that serves children of prisoners, and a variety of programs that equip prisoners and former prisoners throughout the United States with a Christian foundation and vital life skills.

Since its inception, Prison Fellowship has served more than one million prisoners and nearly nine million children. The organization currently partners with some 8,500 churches and 14,000 volunteers.

Chuck Colson, Prison Fellowship's founder and former aide to President Nixon, expressed great enthusiasm about Liske's appointment.

"We clearly see God's sovereign hand in bringing Jim to Prison Fellowship. He has a pastor's heart, an entrepreneur's mind and a genuine passion for this work, which makes him extraordinarily well-equipped to lead this ministry into the future," said Colson. "The need for the redeeming message of Jesus Christ to be shared behind prison walls is needed now as much as ever, and Jim is the right guy to lead that charge."

Liske has been married to his high school sweetheart Cathy for 28 years, and the couple has two children, Allison (21) and Joshua (19).

Citizens to Pray for Political Leaders on Capitol Hill June 13

ENUMCLAW, WA (June 6, 2011) via Standard Newswire -- "Our political leaders cannot do their best for us until people of faith earnestly pray for them," says Dr. Cureton L. Johnson, senior minister of the First Missionary Baptist Church of Fayetteville, NC.

On Monday, June 13, 2011 at noon, Johnson and several other clergy and lay people will gather on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, for an event called "Prayers for Congress & the President." The gathering is intended to provide spiritual support and encouragement for U.S. political leaders.

"Prayers offered that day will call upon God to bless our political leaders with wisdom and to instill in them a spirit of cooperation that is so urgently needed to solve the tough problems facing our nation," said Johnson.

In addition to praying for our country's leaders, Johnson will deliver 500 copies of his book, "Bible-Based Spiritual Stimulus Plan," to congressional offices and to the White House. Johnson says his book provides special spiritual guidance for our leaders. "It focuses on twelve life-giving biblical principles to offset America's massive moral and spiritual power failure and to revive Christians and churches."

During his 20-year tenure as pastor of the First Missionary Baptist Church of Fayetteville, Johnson has transformed the church into a mission outpost. His church pioneered religious education services on HIV/AIDS in North Carolina in 1992, and in 2007 he was cited by the NC General Assembly for "courage, vision and understanding... of the less fortunate" by opening his church doors to people with AIDS.

Johnson asks people of faith to pray for U.S. political leaders during worship services on the weekend of June 10-12, and on Monday, June 13 at noon.

The building and room location for "Prayers for Congress & the President" is Room #1629 at the Longworth House Office Building Capitol Hill. Visit www.biblestimulus.com or call 910.494.6279 for more information.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Do you suffer from The Disease to Please?

Author Harriet Braiker, in her book The Disease to Please, [shares my] conclusion that people pleasing is actually a form of addiction... She identifies four characteristic symptoms of Pleasers, and I identified with all of them: (1) a tendency to take criticism personally, (2) a constant fear of rejection from those around them, (3) difficulty in expressing their true feelings, and (4) reluctance to say no even when it's clear they should. Any of these sound familiar to you? ...
To grow out of this dangerous disease, we've got to understand that people pleasing is more of a spiritual problem than a relational problem. Though most people would try to accept the need to please others as a normal part of life, we have to embrace that people pleasing is a form of idolatry. We have to be weird enough not to care what people think of who we are and how we live. Living for others' opinions is putting people ahead of God...
Are you afraid of what people will think if you don't go with the flow? Do you find yourself doing things you know you shouldn't because you want to be popular, liked, or approved? Do you feel the pressure to conform to a certain lifestyle, image, or role when you're around certain people you admire? There's only one solution to this problem, one antidote to the poison of pleasing. The fear of God is the only cure for the fear of people...
Think of it this way. If you ride the biggest roller coaster in the world, the kids’ ride at the county fair won't scare you. If you live through a hurricane and a tornado, a spring rain won't intimidate you. And when you truly know the God of the universe, people's opinions will no longer hold you hostage.
-Weird: Because Normal Isn't Working, by Craig Groeschel
Q: How can we know the difference between the desire to serve and the need for approval? Join the discussion on Facebook
Learn more about Weird

(Source: Zondervan Daily Inspiration, citing Craig Groeschel's Weired).

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