Category Archives: Jesus

Christian Persecution Updates: July 24, 2012

July 23; reported July 24, 2012  Syria

New addition to this day’s updates, quoted from article:  “The persecution of Christians is quickly escalating in war-torn Syria. On July 23, an entire Christian family was brutally murdered by Islamists in the Damascus neighborhood of Bab Tuma. According to the Catholic News Agency, Islamists from the rebel group Liwa al-Islam, meaning “The Brigade of Islam”, ordered Nabil Zoreb, a Christian civil officer, his wife Violet, and his two sons George and Jimmy to get out of the car. The militants opened fire, killing them all.”  Continue with the article here (Persecution.org blog); important information about Syria, a country reeling out of control.

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July 13; reported July 15, 2012  Mexico

About 90 minors were attacked by a violent group of 12 men at a Christian youth camp outside of Mexico City, and seven females were raped.  The area was supposed to be patrolled by police but no police intervened.  No arrests were made at the time of the report, and corruption is feared.  “In a report published this week, Amnesty International mentioned the state’s abuses against women, and said Mexican police solve only one in every 21 rapes.”  “Devoted Christians have often been singled out for attacks by violent groups in the country for a variety of reasons, according to church groups and Christian rights investigators.”

Source:  BosNewsLife.com

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April – present, reported July 9 & 18, 2012  Kyrgyztan

Although Kyrgyzstan has religious freedom laws, those laws are often disobeyed.  Following a 2009 “religion law,” churches are required to register before starting, but most are not approved; a pending law will make it even more difficult to practice Christianity since it will censor materials allowed in the country.  A Christian worker, Narsbek, who was severely attacked in the village of Ak-kyia in April, has filed suit in Kyrgystan in order to bring the religious laws out into the open and to hopefully provide peace to Christians in that country.  Narsbek and his brother-in-law Marazat were in Ak-kyia by invitation of the school master, who wanted them to distribute humanitarian items.  After they had arrived at the school, the village mullah visited them, and then 20 young men with him through stones at the men, and beat and strangled them.  They were able to escape, though the men chased them and ruined their vehicles.  The humanitarian items were burned by the Muslims; the police did nothing.   Narsbek spent a year in prison 14 years earlier because of his faith – and due to the same village mullah.  The lawsuit filed by Narsbek seems to be headed to the country’s Supreme Court.

Source:  Persecution.com

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July 2012  Iran

Updating news on the persecution of Christians in Iran is not an easy task since there is so much of it going on there.  If the reader is interested in learning more, any sources provided in these updates will have news about Iranian Christians and persecutions.

  • Currently, there is much concern over the health of Benham Irani, a pastor who has been in prison since May 2011 for his faith.  He has received many beatings while in prison, resulting in leg and eye injuries; he lost consciousness due to a bleeding ulcer and many fear he will die within the next few months.  He had also been subjected to psychological torture.  Since Irani is considered an apostate, that means he “can be killed.”  He is now in the prison hospital.
  • There is some good news.  Noorollah Qabitizade, a house church leader who had been arrested in December 2010 for apostasy, has been released.  He did not deny his faith in prison, and even shared his faith.
  • As can be seen by the experience of the two men mentioned above, there seems no rhyme or reason as to who is kept in prison and who is not.  The most widely known case right now is that of Youcef Nadarkhani, a pastor who has been in prison in Iran for his faith since September 2010.  He had been sentenced to death for this faith but has a new trial set for September 2012 (the charges have not been announced!).  A great deal of international pressure has been in place, and continues, on the government of Iran.  Nadarkhani was arrested after complaining that his children were not required to be taught Islam in their school (Iran’s constitution has provisions for religious freedom of minority religions).  Believers in Brazil have been instrumental in gaining international attention to this case.

Sources:  Barnabasaid.org; BosNewsLife.com; PresentTruthMn.com; aclj.org

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Christian Poems I: Henderson, MacNeice, Greenwell

There Was No

by Stewart Henderson

There was no grave grave enough
to ground me
to mound me
I broke the balm then slit the shroud
wound round me
that bound me
There was no death dead enough
to dull me
to cull me
I snapped the snake and waned his war
to lull me
to null me
There as no cross cross enough
to nil me
to still me
I hung as gold that bled, and bloomed
A rose that rose and prised the tomb
away from Satan’s willful doom
There was no cross, death, grave
or room
to hold me.

In The Poetic Bible, collected by Colin Duriez (Hendrickson Pub.s 2001), 159.

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And the Lord was not in the Whirlwind

by Louis MacNeice

And the Lord was not n the whirlwind.
He sat in the cave looking out and the cave was the world;
Or he sat in his office with in-tray and out-tray
While nobody, nothing, came in but typed memoranda
Although through the curtainless window the wind
was twirling the gas-drums
And whipping all London away into interstellar negation—
But the Lord was not in the whirlwind.
And the Lord was not in the atom.
He sat in a bar looking in (and the bar was the world)
On a high metal stool between intake and outlet
Still breathing in, breathing out, but nothing and no one
Passed the swing-doors while he waited and watched
his tumbler erupting
A genie that grew like a mushroom, deleting the
Words of Creation—
But the Lord was not in the atom.
Yet after all that or before it
As he sat in the cave of his mind (and the cave was the world)
Among old worked flints between insight and hindsight,
Suddenly Something, or Someone, darkened the entrance
But shed a new light on the cave and a still small
voice on the silence
In spite of ill winds and ill atoms blossomed in pure
affirmation
Of what lay behind and before it.

In The Earth is the Lord’s: Poems of the Spirit, H Plotz, compiler (Thomas Y Crowell Co 1965), 154.

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I am not Skilled to Understand

By Dora Greenwell (1800s)

I am not skilled to understand
What God hath willed, what God hath planned;
I only know at His right hand
Stands One who is my Savior.
I take Him at His word and deed:
“Christ died to save me,” this I read;
And in my heart I find a need
Of Him to be my Savior.
That He should leave His place on high
And come for sinful man to die,
You count it strange? so once did I
Before I knew my Savior.
And O that He fulfilled may see
The travail of His soul in me,
And with His work contented be,
As I with my dear Savior!
Yes, living, dying, let me bring
My strength, my solace, from this spring,
That He who lives to be my King
Once died to be my Savior!

In The One Year Book of Poetry, P Comfort and D Partner, compilers (Tyndale House Pub.s 1999).

Christian Persecution Updates: July 17, 2012

July 16 2012; reported July 17  India

Students and teachers were terrified and beaten by 20 in Maharashtra, India, but police do nothing.  Ankur English Middle School is run by a Christian trust.  It has about 250 students, most of which come from the disenfranchised Pardhi tribe.  “‘The goons did not spare even our women, who were also beaten up,’ he said.  The incident shows the attackers wanted the Pardhi people to remain illiterate so that they can continue to exploit them, the attack was carried under the pretext of checking religious conversion.”  The chairperson of the school’s trust claimed a former member of parliament, Jambuwantrao Dhote, is behind the attacks.

Source:  Christian Persecution Update

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Vung Tau, Vietnam (Brimspark at Stock.Exchng).

 

July 15, 2012; reported July 17  Vietnam

In response to continued violent attacks on Christians, more than 10,000 Christians in Nghe An province led a peaceful demonstration, calling for religious freedom and the end of state-run propaganda against them.  Knowing the demonstration was planned, the government (and perhaps others) attacked individual Christians (one journalist was stabbed in his home) and made major efforts at intimidating marchers the night before, deploying tanks, using hired thugs to roam and threaten, and blocking ferries.  They even threatened and tried to detain a prominent Christian lawyer.   Christians from other areas in Vietnam held smaller demonstrations in support of the Nghe An Christians.

Source:  Barnabasaid.org

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July 15, 2012; reported July 17  India

House church pastor Nathaniel Shubas (26) was beaten by Hindu radicals and jailed.    Shubas has been a pastor in Kanartaka, India, for about three years, and he had been spreading the gospel to surrounding villages.  On the 15th of July, he had been preaching at a friend’s house when someone joined them, recorded part of his message, left, and then returned with about 20 Hindu activists.  They abused and beat him and dragged him to the police station, where they falsely accused Shabu of forcefully making converts.   Shabu was then jailed, yet those who beat him were not jailed or fined.

Source:  Persecution.org

The Samaritan Woman

The Water of Life Discourse between Jesus and ...
The Water of Life Discourse between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, by Giacomo Franceschini, 17-18th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The story of the Samaritan woman, or the woman at the well in the gospel of John, chapter 4, is a good example of two items related to our topic:  what Jesus thought of women and what later interpreters have done with this (you will need to know the story to understand this article, and it can be read here).  Many commentaries you can read today, or pastors whom you can hear, unfoundedly portray the woman at the well in a very negative and biased light, which both degrades and takes away from the full meaning of the event.

For people who focus on belittling others and judging, the woman is seen as a (very big) sinner – apparently one that is worse than they are.  They claim that Jesus was making the woman realize her sin to feel guilty about it, in order to come to salvation – but this goes against at least some theological views about repentance and salvation.  “If repentance is cited as a condition of salvation in terms of feeling sorry for one’s sins, then it is wrong usage of the term” (Enns 342).

There is nothing in the story to actually confirm the view that the woman was “loose,” which could be an explanation for her having had many (five) husbands and current “common law” spouse.  It would seem easier to think this of a woman with such a background today, but how in biblical times?  Women could not divorce.  A man could divorce his wife easily, however.  This woman could have been married to some that died, and some that divorced her.  She could have been divorced for fairly simple things, or for not producing children.

Did this woman come to the well with any of her children?  No.  If she had older children, it would seem that at least one would help her.  If she had no children, she would feel shame for this (one could only imagine how she’d feel if they were taken from her, which was common in divorce, or had died in some way).  Being barren would be shameful for a woman at this time, as much of a woman’s worth was based on her producing children.  If she were barren and divorced, then she would have a very hard time of it in life.  It seems possible that she lived with a man because she simply needed to survive, and for whatever reason (legal or social), the man did not marry her.  All of this could be shameful to the woman, and it could simply be her “lot in life” without her being intentionally immoral.  We don’t know, but all these things are possibilities, and maybe more probable than the hussy theory.

And, it is biased for commentators or pastors not to mention that it would not exactly be righteous for a man to divorce a woman for being barren.  Men could have caused her, through no fault of her own, to be in the predicament she was in.  Remember Abraham and Sarah?  Abraham did not divorce her for not producing a child (Sarah was quite old when she gave her handmaid to Abraham so that “she” might have a child); is was not until she was considered beyond the age of conceiving that Sarah became pregnant as God said she would, with Isaac.  Remember John the Baptist’s parents?  Zechariah was a priest, and his wife Elizabeth had been barren.  Zechariah did not divorce Elizabeth because she was barren; she was quite old when she gave birth to John.  Abraham and Zechariah (and Elizabeth, too!) are called “righteous” in the bible (Genesis 15:6; Luke 1:6).

So this woman, who came to the well outside of town, alone, is feeling what?  We can’t know for sure.  The fact that she came to this more distant water source (Bruce 106), in the middle of a hot day, seems to indicate that she was in shame and perhaps something of an outcast.  She must not have had a great outlook on life.   Probably childless, older now, living in shame . . .  And what happens?  The creator of the universe meets her there.  Did he need to do that to make her feel guilty?  No.  He came for something much better.  He came to lift her up.  If indeed her husbands had died and/or divorced her, Jesus came to bring her new life, removing the sadness and disgrace.  Did she repent of her sins there?  No (not outwardly, anyway) — she got happy.

If you read the story, you will see that Jesus said some things that could have made any Samaritan quite angry.  But she was starting to guess that he was the Messiah, not just a prophet, since Samaritans did not believe in any prophets accept the One to come after Moses.   She called him a prophet, but the only prophet possible was the Messiah.  So then, what truly remarkable thing did Jesus do?  He told HER that he indeed was the Messiah!  An “unclean” Samaritan woman; at this time, many Jewish men held both women and Samaritans in contempt.  Search the New Testament and you will find that Jesus told very few people who He really was.  What happens next?  She believes him, loses all her shame and goes and tells the whole town about Jesus!  No doubt it was her transformation, and her seeming sheer nerve, that so impressed the townspeople who they believed her.

Jesus is delightful.  He did not trudge all the way to Jacob’s well in order to condemn the woman for her sins, whatever they might have been, but to transform her.  Transformed she was, running to town and preaching to and teaching men.  Both Origen (died 254) and Theophylactus (died after 1071) considered her an apostle.  That other church leaders have not thought this, or acted upon their knowledge, has nothing to do with God’s view of women, but everything to do with men’s view of women.

Sources:  The Gospel & Epistles of John (FF Bruce); The Moody Handbook of Theology (Paul Enns); Believer’s Bible Commentary (W MacDonald); How Christianity Changed the World and Veiled and Silenced: How Culture Shaped Sexist Theology (Alvin J Schmidt).

Vicki Priest (c) 2012.