Tag Archives: Christian

Christian Persecution Updates: August 8, 2012

July 31; reported August 6, 2012  Bhutan

Location of Bhutan.

If you’re like me, you tend to think of Buddhists as peaceful, nonviolent people, but as you will see from this report, they are not necessarily so.  Reports from various areas tend to tell of the violence of  “radical Buddhists” against Christians, but Bhutan is officially against Christianity.  On July 31, Pema Sherpa, a house church leader from the town of Gelephu, was beaten and threatened with death by a government official.  The reality of life for the Christian in Bhutan is distressingly the same as in many other anti-Christian countries:  “The practice of Christianity is technically illegal, and Bhutanese who become Christians can pay a high price. They may lose their citizenship and associated benefits such as free education and healthcare, their job, and even access to water and electricity. Some face harassment and beatings.”  About 2% of the population in Bhutan is Christian.

Source:  Barnabas Aid

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August 6 & 7; reported August 7, 2012  Laos

In an action that is against the constitution of Laos, the village leaders of Nahoukou village ordered five families to stop practicing their Christian faith – to stop meeting together and to recant their faith (which is considered a “foreign religion.”).  They were threatened with harm if they do not comply with the village leaders and fellow non-Christian villagers.  When the church leader there, Tongkoun Keohavong, was questioned in the village, he said:  “God is real. When we believe, we are healed from sickness and immediately delivered from the possession of evil spirits.” He further stated: “We cannot deny the reality of God’s power.”

Source:  Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom

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April – present, reported July 23, 2012 Uzbekistan

Baptist house church leader Yelena Kim has been charged with illegally teaching religion in the country of Uzbekistan; the sentence for this is 3 years or less.  Her house church was raided during a Sunday service in April, but police returned in June with a warrant and confiscated bibles, computer discs, a copier, and more.  Yelena’s husband is being charged too, apparently, but the source was unclear.  Another church member, Losif Skaev, also had his house raided and Christian items were removed.  This “comes amid international concerns about President Islam Karimov’s perceived autocratic style towards groups and individuals deemed dangerous [to] the former Soviet state.  Critics say Karimov takes a ruthlessly harsh approach to all forms of opposition” (BNL).  The Kims had been fined a number of times prior to the raids and sentencing.

Source: VOM CanadaBosNewsLife

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Please pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.

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Christian Poems III: Dillard/Prishvin, Paterson, Dickinson

Water and ripples (from ethanw @ stck.xchng).

DASH IT

Arranged by Annie Dillard from Mikhail Prishvin, Nature’s Diary, 1925

How wonderfully it was all arranged that each
Of us had not too long to live.  This is one
Of the main snags—the shortness of the day.
The whole wood was whispering, “Dash it, dash it . . .”

What joy—to walk along that path!  The snow
Was so fragrant in the sun!  What a fish!
Whenever I think of death, the same stupid
Question arises:  “What’s to be done?”

As for myself, I can only speak of what
Made me marvel when I saw it for the first time.
I remember my own youth when I was in love.
I remember a puddle rippling, the insects aroused.

I remember our own springtime when my lady told me:
You have taken my best.  And then I remember
How many evenings I have waited, how much
I have been through for this one evening on earth.

In Mornings Like This: Found Poems.  Annie Dillard (Harper Perennial, 1996), 1.

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EXILE

Evangeline Paterson

Yes, it is a beautiful country,
the streams in the winding valley,
the knows and the birches,
and beautiful the mountain’s bare shoulder
and the calm brows of the hills,
but it is not my country,
and in my heart there is a hollow place always.

And there is no way to go back—
maybe the miles indeed, but the years never.

Winding are the roads that we choose,
and inexorable is life,
driving us, it seems, like cattle
farther and farther away from what we remember.

But when we shall come at last
to God, who is our Home and Country,
there will be no more road stretching before us
and no more need to go back.

In The Poetic Bible, collected by C Duriez (Hendrickson Pub.s 2001), 184).

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MY COCOON TIGHTENS, COLORS TEASE

by Emily Dickinson

My cocoon tightens, colors tease,
I’m feeling for the air;
A dim capacity for wings
Demeans the dress I wear.

A power of butterfly must be
The aptitude to fly,
Meadows of majesty concedes
And easy sweeps the sky.

So I must baffle at the hint
And cipher at the sign,
And make much blunder, if at last
I take the clue divine.

In Selected Poems & Letters of Emily Dickinson.  RN Linscott, ed (Doubleday 1959), 175.

Secular girl activist meets Christian girl activist: love and necromancy, OR, An Encounter with Simone Weil: A film review

This film is not yet out for general release.  See this FB page  or the website for more info.

Normally a review would recommend an audience for the book or movie or whatever it is that is being reviewed, but this film makes it difficult to say who exactly would prefer it or get the most out of it.  I love the late Simone and seriously looked forward to “An Encounter with Simone Weil,” but I was in for a surprise with this pseudo-documentary.  This film (the Director’s Cut), by Julia Haslett, is like a personal travel diary only instead of the destination being a place, it’s a person.  And the road there is strewn with corpses.

Ok, so let’s make a stab at the audience, or in this offering, audiences.  The filmmaker comes from the liberal anti-American, anti-Christian segment of America, as is made apparent in the film, so that same audience is probably the intended one (since a quote from Michael Moore is on the front dvd cover, this is not a risky guess); the secondary audience would be those who otherwise like Weil or want to know more about her, most likely having heard of her in Christian or philosophy circles.

Simone Weil (1909-1943) was one of those rare of the rarest of human beings, a person with extreme intellectual prowess fused with extreme empathy and charity.  She was an intellectual who taught philosophy (and taught it all in the original languages), gave up her teaching job to labor with factory workers, had conversations with the likes of Trotsky . . . but scratch the record . . . she was also a Christian mystic.  This film touches on her academic career, but focuses on Simone’s social activism (“political” activism in the film) and her unfortunate and apparently irrational taking up with God (film’s view, not the reviewer’s).   It also has much interesting archival footage.

Haslett makes this film, does this research, due to her sadness and feeling of regret after her father’s suicide.  Could I have done something to stop it?, she asks, and Can I do more to help others who suffer?  She is inspired by something Weil wrote, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”  Indeed, surprisingly true and knowledge worth acting upon.  How did Simone give attention, how did she alleviate suffering (or at least how did she try), and how does Haslett emulate Simone in this regard?

Without going into too much detail (a short bio of Simone can be found here, there is an excellent biography at the beginning of the book, Waiting for God, and there are numerous other sources about Simone as well), Simone didn’t just research social problems and make suggestions to the government.  She knew that the only way to understand someone’s suffering, at least to some degree, was to become them.  Thus the factory work episode mentioned earlier.   She also, from a very early age, paid attention to the sufferings of soldiers and workers and ate the small amounts they ate, or didn’t pay for heat if her fellow workers could not afford it.  She gave up on pacifism when she saw that war was inevitable and that providing help to the better side was a good; she fought in Spain for a short time (in 1936) with those against the fascists, and she volunteered to be a front-line nurse early in the Second World War.  She didn’t just talk, she walked the walk.

This is all well-known material regarding Simone Weil.  So what did Haslett do?  She does what she can to suffer alongside her brother who is in and out of depression, and she is involved with causes that are meant to alleviate suffering and bring about justice.  The problem with these causes is that they are very political and Haslett can’t seem to get herself to look at all the sides of the issues (she shows that there is voter fraud in Florida, on the side of the Republicans, but she ignores the voter fraud perpetuated by the Democrats).   Simone was very good at (and purposefully so) looking at opposing information.  Haslett’s inability to look at the other side, of humbling herself for that (or simply not villainizing the “other side”), shows up in another important way in this film.

Haslett is so enamored with Weil, and so mystified by some things about her, that she wants to meet her.  Since she can’t actually bring her back from the dead, she hires an actress (obviously a sharp one) to read and absorb Simone’s writings, and work in a factory like Simone did (sort-of), in order to “become Simone” so that Haslett can ask her questions.   [I’ll pause while you take that in.]   My first thought was, Why doesn’t she just try and understand Simone herself?   Haslett perhaps realized that she was incapable of doing so, but then, what use would there be in talking to and getting annoyed with an actress when you can basically do the same thing with a book?  It does indeed come to the inevitable head when the actress (bless her) says that “I” -meaning Simone – did not kill myself and by being  a slave of God’s I could get beyond my pain (Simone had very bad and long-lasting migraines) and try and do what I was called to do.

“Simone” insisted that she did not kill herself.  This is in reaction to many people’s claim that she passively ended her own life by not eating enough (while trying to get over tuberculosis); something the doctor who filled out her death certificate claimed.  Knowing Simone’s lifelong habit of only eating so much based on someone’s suffering–in this case, it was the amount allotted to her occupied countrymen in France–many question the doctor’s judgment.   But Haslett seemed to be trying to make the case that Simone killed herself, and had earlier submitted to Christ, out of desperation–desperation over not being able to stop the suffering of so many, and knowing that suffering would never come to an end.  It is presented that Simone had to have turned to religion only as a last resort – after all reason and rational thought were used up.  Reading Simone’s writings, one would be very hard pressed to come up with a justification of this opinion of Haslett and others.

For one thing, Simone insisted that “she had not needed to be converted; she had always been implicitly, in ‘secret’ even from her lower self, a Christian” (Fiedler 1951, 23).  Regarding suffering, she came to view her own, from the migraines, as a gift.  Of course, suffering caused by man should be worked against.  Regarding reason and rational thought, consider her claim:  “Christ likes us to prefer truth to him because, before being Christ, he is truth.  If one turns aside from him to go toward the truth, one will not go far before falling into his arms” (Weil 1951, 69).  Very unlike Haslett, Simone knew that humans needed salvation.  In all the history now known there has never been a period in which souls have been in such peril as they are today in every part of the globe.  The bronze serpent must be lifted up again so that whoever raises his eyes to it may be saved” (Weil 1951, 76; see Numbers 21:5-8 and John 3:13-15 for biblical references).

All this is significant since Haslett is against it . . . yet she can’t seem to dismiss it.  At the end of the film we find that the brother she includes in the film, who suffered depression after his father’s suicide, committed suicide himself.  Haslett equates his suicide with Weil’s, though this seems very far from the mark (especially if you are of the opinion that Weil did not commit suicide).  She says that, since the world is doomed, the only choice is whether to commit suicide or not.  Wow.  I do hope that if any suicidal persons see this film that they aren’t encouraged negatively by it.  In any case, there actually seems to be hope in the end.

Amazingly, Haslett, for the first time, gives a nod to the supernatural; she says that to give attention is a “miracle.”  As she kisses a wall, she ends the film with this Weil quote:  “Two prisoners whose cells adjoin communicate with each other by knocking on the wall.  The wall is what separates them but it is also their means of communication.  It is the same with us and God, every separation is a link.”  Perhaps the best audience for this film are all those who desire Haslett (and others like her) to look toward God longer, until she desires Him instead of the vessel in which He worked so brightly (Simone).
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Fiedler, Leslie A.  “Introduction,” in Waiting for God.  Simone Weil (New York: Harper Colophon 1973)

Weil, Simone.  Waiting for God (New York: Harper Colophon 1973; reprint of G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1951)

Christian Poems II: Villa, Wilbur, Priest

The Way My Ideas Think Me

Jose Garcia Villa (1965 or earlier)

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The way my ideas think me
Is the way I unthink God.
As in the name of heaven I make hell
That is the way the Lord says me.

And all is adventure and danger
And I roll Him off cliffs and mountains
But fast as I am to push Him off
Fast am I to reach Him below.

And it may be then His turn to push me off,
I wait breathless for that terrible second:
And if He push me not, I turn around in anger:
“O art thou the God I would have!”

Then he pushes me and I plunge down, down!
And when He comes to help me up
I put my arms around Him, saying, “Brother,
Brother.” . . . This is the way we are.

Source:  The Earth is the Lord’s: Poems of the Spirit, H Plotz, compiler (Oxford Univ Press 1971), 124-125.

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Hamlen Brook

Richard Wilbur

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At the alder-darkened brink
Where the stream slows to a lucid jet
I lean to the water, dinting its top with sweat,
And see, before I can drink,

A startled inchling trout
Of spotted near-transparency,
Trawling a shadow solider than he.
He swerves now, darting out

To where, in a flicked slew
Of sparks and glittering silt, he weaves
Through stream-bed rocks, disturbing foundered leaves,
And butts then out of view

Beneath a sliding glass
Crazed by the skimming of a brace
Of burnished dragon-flies across its face,
In which deep cloudlets pass

And a white precipice
Of mirrored birch-trees plunges down
Toward where the azures of the zenith drown.
How shall I drink in this?

Joy’s trick is to supply
Dry lips with what can cool and slake,
Leaving them dumbstruck also with an ache
Nothing can satisfy.

Source: The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry, JD McClatchy, ed (Vintage Books 1990), 142.

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You Beckoned

Vicki Priest (Note:  imagine every other line indented; I couldn’t get it to format that way here.)

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You beckoned, even teased
with that roar and
Crash of booming surf,
untamed power—
To my heart all
mystery and fear.

All from You swirling, pushing
the tiniest of particles,
Even uncountable molecules
in one roiling mass
Toward the shore, and there
spray and mist

Found my cheek, as if to
commune.  Such a light, longing
Touch cannot be put away.
Neither could my ears muffle
What seemed torrential tears.
I could not yet understand.

But through universe observing
that made me feel like death,
It came upon me to listen
to You through a singing voice;
You spoke love—like no other.
So I came to understand,

That that ominous, constant roar
is like my longing (and that of all
Creation) for fruition, full; and
It is Your affirming shout:
“It is done, you shall see,
come and dance with Me!”

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

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 18, 2012

July 2012; reported July 18  Nigeria

Boko Haram had declared war on the Christians in Nigeria and it seems that every weekend a church is bombed.  Officials are being assassinated.  The Red Cross reported yesterday that 5,500 people have fled their homes because of attacks on villages – most of them Christian – during July so far.  Over 100 people were killed in these attacks on villages.  Over 80 people were killed on July 7th alone.  “The humanitarian organisation said it was now providing food, blankets, soap and other essential items to more than 2,800 displaced people.”

Source:  ANGOP; ICC

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June 16, 2012; reported July 17  Iran

Eshan Behrooz had been imprisoned for his Christian faith, enduring 105 days of solitary confinement during his eight months in prison.  In July 2010 he had been arrested along with other Christians; he was not released because he refused to sign a document renouncing his faith.  He had been released on a very high bail at one point, but then re-imprisoned.  He has suffered mental and health problems because of his treatment in prison, and was not allowed basic rights like seeing his family or a lawyer.  He was a student at University of Mashhad, but now may not be allowed to return.

Source:  BarnabasAid.org

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July 16, 2012; reported July 17  Gaza (Palestine)

A small group of Christians held a brave and rare protest in Gaza, after becoming too frustrated over the forced conversions of Christians and the systematic persecution there that is driving so many Christians out of Gaza.  While Christians claim the conversion of a family (Al-Amash, his wife, and daughters) was forced, mediators claim it seems legitimate [there are actual forced conversions in many parts of the Muslim world, so the Christian claim is not unreasonable].  Since Hamas took over Gaza, life for the small minority of Christians has become so bad that many have left.  There are only about 1,500 Christians left, when a few years ago there were 3,500.  “The two converts, Al-Amash, and Hiba Abu Dawoud, 31, could not be reached for comment. . . .  ‘People are locking up their sons and daughters, worried about the ideas people put in their head,’ said Al-Amash’s mother, Huda.”

Source: Haaretz

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June 19, 2012; reported July 18  India

In eastern India, in Chhattisgarh state, 150 Hindus forced 12 Christians in Jawanga village to a Hindu temple.  The Christians were made to participate in Hindu rituals, worshiping tribal deities.  They were reportedly assaulted as well, but details are not available.  After this, the assaulting Hindus would not let the Christians return to their homes, but chased them out of the village.  The Christians later requested from the village head that they be allowed to return, but they were not given permission.  They are all staying in Geelam.  Chhattisgarh state had adopted the “Freedom of Relgion Act,” which has actually harmed religious freedom [as many in the West said it would]; about 1 in 50 Indians are Christian.  “The June 19 episode is only the most recent example of harassment of Christians in Chhattisgarh. The Evangelical Fellowship of India reported in April that 300 residents of Belgal village disrupted the attempted burial of a man who had converted to Christianity. Ten people were injured, and the burial was completed after district authorities intervened.”

Source:  Compass Direct News (primary source, Open Doors News)