Prayer News | Where Christians Pray Through the News

Prayer List: Mass Starvation Killing Hundreds of Venezuelan Children

Venezuelan selling food in 2012, before the oil prices dropped and the economy failed.

In a heartbreaking news article, The New York Times reports that in 2018 almost 400 Venezuelan children died from starvation at nine public hospitals following emergency room visits.

Dr. Livia Machado told The Times, “Never in my life had I seen so many hungry children.” Dr. Milagros Hernández describes the tragic conditions of her patients, “Children arrive with the same weight and height of a newborn.

Prayer List

* Pray for Venezuela’s starving citizens to receive the food and nutrients they need for physical health.
* Pray for the Holy Spirit to comfort the parents and siblings of children grieving the loss of family members.
* Pray for the physical, emotional and spiritual health of parents, doctors, nurses and other care givers struggling at this time.
* Pray for Venezuela’s political leaders to change their destructive economic policies or be replaced by politicians that will pursue policies that would rebuild the economy.

Unreached People of the Day

Thursday: Magh in Myanmar
Friday: Arab, Jordanian in Canada

Operation World Prayer Focus

Thursday: Global Hot Spots
Friday: The Church Worldwide

Birthday Prayer Lists

Have you prayed for the salvation of all your friends? Why not turn your Facebook friend list into a prayer list? It shouldn't take long to pray for each friend on their birthday.

Some Christians also pray for entertainers, politicians and media personalities on their birthday.

Religious News Websites

Baptist Press

  • newSWBTS to vote on presidential nominee Feb. 26-27
    Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will hold a special called trustee meeting Feb. 26-27 to vote on a presidential nominee, according to an email sent Feb. 14 to students, faculty and staff.
    - 20 hours ago 15 Feb 19, 8:13pm -
  • newMohler, Akin apologize for backing accused leader
    Southern Baptist Convention seminary presidents R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Danny Akin have apologized for their former support of C.J. Mahaney, a pastor accused of concealing sexual abuse at the ministry he used to lead.
    - 20 hours ago 15 Feb 19, 8:10pm -
  • newLGBT group criticizes Chick-fil-A exec's invitation
    An LGBT advocacy group cites Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy's support of Christianity in opposing a Chick-fil-A vice president as a military academy symposium speaker.
    - 20 hours ago 15 Feb 19, 8:08pm -
  • newGray Allison, theology leader in SBC resurgence, dies
    Gray Allison, 94, who gave theological strength to the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention as the founder of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, died Feb. 12 in Memphis, Tenn.
    - 21 hours ago 15 Feb 19, 6:59pm -
  • Educate, be proactive to deter sex abuse, pastors say
    Educating congregations, staff and volunteers about sexual abuse, prohibiting one-on-one interactions and employing security are crucial steps in preventing sex abuse in churches, pastors of churches where predators have been arrested told Baptist Press.
    - 1 day ago 15 Feb 19, 3:45pm -

Berean Research

  • Lou Engel ends “The Call” to usher in Billy Graham’s “mantle”
    Millions of young people around the world are being told that they can soon supernaturally receive the hovering mantle of evangelism from the late Billy Graham, and that this opportunity will be theirs on February 23. Please hear me, Christian, there is no “mantle” from any person dead or alive that we are to activate […]The post Lou Engel ends “The Call” to usher in Billy Graham’s “mantle” appeared first on Berean Research.
    - 19 days ago 28 Jan 19, 9:28pm -
  • Holding on.
    Discernment Ministry. What do you think of when you hear or read that term? Does your nose wrinkle a little? Does your upper lip curl in disgust? A lot of good, solid, caring, sheep-loving discerning writers are being told not to quit their day jobs due to the actions of a few. Whether those actions […]The post Holding on. appeared first on Berean Research.
    - 9 Oct 18, 2:21am -
  • Why we “Mark and Avoid”
    There is a growing trend to dismiss the Bible in a world that says, “you can’t believe a book that’s a couple thousand years old,” as Rob Bell has done. Bell recently made these statements and said that the Church is very close to embracing gay marriage. If you haven’t boldly marked false teachers, people […]The post Why we “Mark and Avoid” appeared first on Berean Research.
    - 5 Oct 18, 7:37pm -
  • Liberation-Not For Everybody
    Youth Testify, a new program launched by Advocates for Youth and the National Network of Abortion Funds is “helping young people advocate for their reproductive rights and reframe the narrative around abortion.” Reframe the narrative? According to Peter Jones, re-framing means that “not a word of warning will be given to young women about the death knell that will forever […]The post Liberation-Not For Everybody appeared first on Berean Research.
    - 2 Oct 18, 4:11pm -
  • Andy Stanley: “Most Former Christians Still Have a Crush on Jesus”
    Megachurch leader Andy Stanley has made some interesting statements over the past few years. Most notably are his statements distancing himself from the authority of Scripture. Easy to mark and avoid a teacher like this, right? Actually, not so easy. Stanley’s many marketable brands include curricula for children, teens, adults, couples…and many well-meaning church staff […]The post Andy Stanley: “Most Former Christians Still Have a Crush on Jesus” appeared first on Berean Research.
    - 26 Sep 18, 10:36am -

Christian Headlines

Christian Post

Christianity Today

  • How Cracking Wheat’s Genetic Code Reminds Us Who We Are
    This grain’s genome echoes of the strength found in the diversity of God’s people.Like many kids, I grew up picking wild grasses believing that they were wheat. I would pick one from the yard of my childhood home, believing the harvest I held in my hands could be transformed into food. As I grew up, I quickly learned that the “wheat” in my yard was far from a bountiful harvest and instead was actually weeds and wild grasses.Yet, my childhood confusion about wheat is, in one sense, understandable. Wheat is a part of the grass family. In Matthew’s telling of the Parable of the Weeds, the “weeds” represent darnel, “a poisonous weed organically related to wheat, and difficulty to distinguish from wheat in the early stages of the growth,” writes New Testament scholar Craig Keener.In the Bible, wheat is used as a metaphor for the people of God. The scientific study of wheat prompts reflection on how what distinguishes God’s people and how our vast diversity can strengthen us all.Wheat’s genetic makeup has baffled scientists. But last summer, after 13 years of research, a team of international scientists cracked the wheat’s genome to reveal the baffling, beautiful genetic material that makes wheat, well, wheat.Essentially, a genome contains all of the genetic knowledge needed to create and sustain an organism.It would be easy to assume that the wheat genome would be more straightforward to sequence than the human genome. After all, human beings are the crowning achievement of God’s creative work while wheat is a mere plant. However, the wheat genome holds mysteries that offered significant challenges to research scientists who wanted to understand this plant at the most minute level.The full sequence of the human genome was published in 2003, ...Continue reading...
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  • Emerging Adults and the Church: Is There Really an Exodus?
    Are emerging adults are leaving their faith behind? We are hosting a conference to explore this question.It seems every few weeks a new article makes the rounds on social media heralding the collapse of religion in America. Often central to these pieces is an emphasis on the role of emerging adults, focusing either on their declining church attendance or their rejection of traditional beliefs or practices.Emerging adulthood describes that phase of life between adolescence and full adulthood as marked by transitions like marriage and kids, settled careers, and owning a home. This life stage covers people ages 18-29 or so.So what are we to make of the claim? Are emerging adults are leaving their faith behind?Yes.And no.And maybe.Let me explain…Let’s start with yes. There is ample evidence to suggest that many emerging adults are questioning the religious beliefs and practices of their Christian upbringing while still others are leaving church altogether.According to the Pew Religious Landscape study published in 2015, younger emerging adults (18-24), identify as nones at a 36 percent rate compared to only 25 percent in 2007. Just last month, LifeWay Research reported that “two-thirds (66 percent) of American young adults who attended a Protestant church regularly for at least a year as a teenager say they also dropped out for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22.”While many return, Kara Powell in Growing Young estimated the long-term loss at around 50 percent of those who initially left. Attempts to explain this exodus vary and often include descriptors of emerging adult spirituality like “Spiritual by not Religious” to characterize those who still value spirituality but have rejected religious organizations or doctrines as ways of pursuing their spiritual interests.Turning to the ...Continue reading...
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  • How to Jump Back In to Bible Reading
    Christian leaders have their own reasons for not reading Scripture.It’s worth remembering that Augustine was “weeping, with agonizing anguish in [his] heart” over his inability to control himself before he read Romans 13:13–14.We tend to think that Scripture usually works the other direction. We read seeking instruction, wisdom, or intimacy and then read a challenging word like Paul’s that prompts contrition: “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” We’re convicted by Scripture, then we repent.But in Augustine’s archetypal testimony, Confessions, that’s not what happened. First he was in anguish, then he heard a child chanting, “Pick it up! Read it! Pick it up! Read it!” He wrote (in Sarah Ruden’s 2017 translation) that when he obeyed the voice and read Paul’s words, “I didn’t want to read further, and there was no need. The instant I finished this sentence, my heart was virtually flooded with a light of relief and certitude, and all the darkness of my hesitation scattered away.” His response was not to wallow or to regret how long it took him to repent. Instead, he immediately and joyfully told his friend Alypius and his mother what had happened.Many times the Holy Spirit really does use Scripture to illuminate our sin and to make us deeply uncomfortable. It is, after all, “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). And “no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful” (Heb. 12:11). Nevertheless, ...Continue reading...
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  • Preoccupied with Love: One-on-One with Colin Smith on Nominal Christianity
    “I have found the story of the thief on the cross profoundly helpful in challenging this assumption...that entrance into everlasting joy depends on living a good enough life.”Ed: It’s hard to deny that we are living in challenging times culturally. The church’s influence is fading, and we are struggling to find answers to some hard questions. What’s your take on the health of the church today, especially as it relates to our witness?”Colin: Church health is not the same as church size. I come from the U.K., where secularism has made deeper inroads into the culture than here in the U.S. Church attendance has dropped dramatically but, in my opinion, church health in the U.K. is better than it was 20 years ago.One reason for this is that as nominal Christians abandon the faith and leave the church, those who remain realize their dependence on God in new ways. When numbers go down, spiritual temperature can go up, and I have seen new resilience, new cooperation, new faith and new venture in many U.K. churches.If that happens here in the U.S., we may be in a better position than before and, like Gideon’s army, more useful to the Lord than when our numbers were larger.Ed: Evangelism has especially fallen on hard times. It seems that everything else—even good things like discipleship—has overwhelmed our passion for sharing the love of Jesus with others. What does evangelism look like today, and how can we begin to develop a passion for showing and sharing the love of Jesus on a daily basis?Colin: I really appreciate the focus of Amplify on evangelism. Discipling goats is an impossible task. The first priority is always that a person becomes one of Christ’s sheep.Evangelism today needs to begin further back. For much of the 20thcentury, Christians were able to assume a basic understanding of who God is, what sin is, and why we need a Savior.When people ...Continue reading...
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  • Can Anti-Aging Treatments Offer Abundant Life?
    Science seeks to fix aging and death. But a Christian vision of the good life might actually embrace them. A preacher’s kid growing up in the Bible Belt, Micah Redding had a particular view of the physical world and God’s work in it. Singing popular hymns like “This World is Not My Home” and “I’ll Fly Away,” he took away this message: It’s all going to burn anyway, so why bother with the environment or curing diseases? That’s a distraction from the gospel. Our bodies don’t go to heaven, just our souls.When he started studying the Bible for himself and reading authors like N. T. Wright and C. S. Lewis, Redding formed a theology that more closely embraces the material world. “If we believe the material world is good, we have to engage in the transformation of it,” he said. He sees science and technology as part of God’s vision for the world, which, for him, includes radical life extension.Redding points to Isaiah 65, where “one who dies at a hundred years will be thought a mere child,” as well as the extremely long-lived Genesis patriarchs. “Scripture really places this value on human life, relationality, and productivity,” he said. “We have to appreciate that idea as part of our embrace of the material life.”In 2013, Redding founded the Christian Transhumanist Association (CTA), a group bringing faith and ethics into transhumanist conversations. Transhumanists, who believe that human capacities can be enhanced by science and technology, hold a gamut of views. Some are anti-aging researchers applying biomedicine to improve humanity. Aubrey de Grey, for instance, who headlined a recent CTA conference, studies preventative maintenance for the human body and believes the first human to live to 1,000 has already been born. ...Continue reading...
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Forum 18 News Service

  • KAZAKHSTAN: Three years' jail, five years' religion ban
    A Balkhash court jailed Abilai Bokbasarov for three years to punish him for meetings about Islam. It also banned him from exercising freedom of religion for five years after his term, the equal longest such ban. A judge refused to explain what he will be banned from doing.
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  • UZBEKISTAN: Imam forced to flee after freedom appeal
    Imam Fazliddin Parpiyev fled Uzbekistan "for my safety" after appealing to President Mirziyoyev "as Muslims .. cannot have full freedom of religion and belief". Muslims are blacklisted for memorising the Koran for a state-run competition, and imams are rotated to stop them influencing congregations.
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  • RUSSIA: "6-year jail sentence for believing in God"
    After 74 hearings over one year, an Oryol court jailed Jehovah's Witness Dennis Christensen for six years for organising a "banned extremist organisation", the first Jehovah's Witness in post-Soviet Russia sentenced to imprisonment. "We will continue to fight for justice through the courts," his wife Irina told Forum 18.
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  • TURKMENISTAN: 24 hours in airport, travel ban for Korans
    Security personnel at Ashgabad Airport detained a woman working in Turkey bringing in Arabic Korans as gifts for relatives, questioning her for 24 hours. She was later banned from leaving Turkmenistan. Police are again forcibly shaving men under 40 with beards. Officers forced one victim to drink alcohol.
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  • KAZAKHSTAN: 165 administrative prosecutions in 2018 - list
    Full list of 165 known administrative prosecutions in 2018 to punish exercising freedom of religion or belief. Of these, 139 ended up with punishments, including fines, worship bans, seizures and destruction of religious literature, short-term jail terms and one deportation.
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Get Religion

  • newFriday Five: SBC abuse, Mabel Grammer's faith, power of nuance, 'fourth-trimester' abortions
    You know your big investigative project has made a major splash when other news organizations immediately follow up on your original reporting.Such is the case with the Houston Chronicle’s bombshell series on sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3).The Washington Post and Memphis’ Commercial Appeal were among many newspapers that responded to the Houston coverage. I mention those two newspapers because I felt like their stories offered some additional insight into the independent congregational structure of the Southern Baptist Convention that perhaps even the Chronicle didn’t fully grasp.In any case, let’s dive into the Friday Five (where we’ll see a few more links tied to the SBC):1. Religion story of the week: Is there any doubt which story will occupy this space?I wrote GetReligion’s initial post on the Chronicle’s big series on Southern Baptist abuse (“'Guys, you are not my opponent,' Southern Baptist official tells reporters investigating sexual abuse”).Editor Terry Mattingly delved deeper into the autonomous nature of congregations in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination (“Bottom line: Southern Baptist Convention's legal structure will affect fight against sexual abuse”).
    - 22 hours ago 15 Feb 19, 6:00pm -
  • Ex-Mormons and Facebook: How the Daily Beast spun a good yarn about digital debates
    The Daily Beast isn’t exactly noted for good religion coverage but they sure scored a good one in this piece about ex-Mormons targeting their devout friends with Facebook bombs.This piece, “Inside the Secret Facebook War for Mormon Hearts and Minds” (with a really cool photo illustration combining a Facebook logo with a flood-lit Mormon temple), did what religion reporting is supposed to do well: Take a religious group you may not know much about or talk about a debate among its members and twin it with a popular trend.Which is what happened here: In November 2017, a provocation appeared in the Facebook feeds of 3,000 Mormon parishioners. It was a sponsored post crafted in the gauzy style of one of the Mormon church’s own Facebook ads, but addressing a seldom-discussed truth about the early history of the church and its founding patriarch, Joseph Smith. “Why did Joseph marry a 14 year old girl?” the post asked. “The church has answers. Read them here.” Below the text was a photo of a gold wedding band balanced across the inside spine of an open Book of Mormon. About 1,000 people who saw the Facebook ad clicked on it and were taken to a page deep within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ website that expounded on the “revelation on plural marriage,” the order from God that was used to sanction polygamy for decades. During that time some male followers of the Latter Day Saint movement took dozens of wives each, disproportionately favoring girls between 14 and 16 years old. Church leaders finally banned polygamy in 1904. If anyone reading the text thought to wonder why Facebook served them a slice of the most controversial chapter in their religion’s history, they likely chalked it up to the impersonal vagaries of the platform’s profiling algorithms. But they’d be wrong. The ad was very personal. Everyone who saw it was secretly hand-picked by a friend or loved one who had walked away from the LDS church, and now turned to Facebook’s precision ad system in a desperate attempt to explain their spiritual crisis to those they’d left behind.This isn’t exactly new.Jews for Jesus used to tell folks — who were scared to approach their Jewish friends or family as to why they’d converted to Christianity — to supply them with their contacts’ snail mail addresses (this was back in the pre-Internet ‘70s) so they could drop them an evangelistic packet that didn’t divulge the source. The project was called MormonAds, and it was a brief but perhaps unprecedented experiment in targeted religious dissuasion. In four months at the end of 2017, the project targeted more than 5,000 practicing Mormons with messages painstakingly crafted to serve as gentle introductions to the messier elements of LDS history that were glossed over within the church. All the names and email addresses for the campaign came from disillusioned ex-Mormons.
    - 1 day ago 15 Feb 19, 2:00pm -
  • Was the New Testament's Simon Magus a true believer or a fraud?
    NICHOLAS ASKS:In the New Testament, Acts chapter 8 says that Simon Magus “believed” and then was baptized. But he was not saved. Does this teach us there’s a gap between mental assent and change of heart? Or what?THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:The intriguing figure known in Acts 8 as just Simon was later designated “Simon Magus,” which helped distinguish him from the Bible’s other Simons. His name led to the sin called “simony,” the corrupt buying or selling of spiritual powers, benefits, or services.In its earliest phase, the Christian movement was centered in Jerusalem and entirely Jewish in membership. Acts 8 depicts the new faith’s very first missionary venture, Philip’s visit to neighboring Samaria. The Samaritans were despised by Jews due to historical enmity and their quasi-Jewish religion. For instance, the Samaritans regarded only the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch or Torah) as divine Scripture, and did not believe in the future coming of the Messiah.Philip’s preaching was accompanied by miraculous healings, which won the attention of Simon, who had “amazed the nation” with his magic performances. We’re told that Simon described himself as “somebody great” (thus that “Magus” moniker) and that people thought “the power of God” was at work through his magic.As Samaritans began accepting Philip’s message to follow Jesus Christ, “Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip.” That must have caused quite a stir. But – believed what, exactly?The apostles in Jerusalem then dispatched Peter and John to Samaria, where they laid hands on the new converts who “received the Holy Spirit.” This passage underlies the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Anglican belief that ministers must be formally set apart by the laying on of hands, in a line of “apostolic succession” that traces back to Jesus’ original founding apostles.
    - 2 days ago 14 Feb 19, 11:00pm -
  • Massive New York Times story on Trinity Church raises good questions, but contains a big ghost
    Every working day when I am teaching in New York, I walk past the historic Trinity Episcopal Church. I don’t go in that direction on Sundays, because I head over to Brooklyn for a rather different, clearly Orthodox liturgical experience.But back to the dramatic sanctuary at Broadway and Wall Street. We are talking about some prime real estate. And if you are interested in the dollars and cents of all that, then The New York Times recently ran a long, long story that you will need to read.Actually, this sprawling epic is three or four stories in one. You can kind of see that in the massive second line of this double-decker headline. So sit down and dig in. The Church With the $6 Billion Portfolio While many houses of worship are warding off developers as they struggle to hold on to their buildings, Trinity Church has become a big-time developer itself.Frankly, I think this story should have been a series of some kind — to allow several of the valid religion-news angles to receive the news hole that they deserve. In a way, saying that is a compliment. Maybe.For starters, you have that whole “$6 Billion Portfolio” thing, which deserves (and gets) a rather business-page approach. Then you have a perfectly valid church-state story about the tax questions circling around that vast bundle of secular and sacred real estate and development. Then you have a separate, but related, issue — New York City’s many other historic churches in which people are, often literally, struggling to keep a roof over their heads.Oh, and Trinity Wall Street is still an actual congregation that is linked to a historic, but now rapidly declining, old-line denomination.Want to guess which of these stories received the least among of ink in this epic? #DUHIf you guessed the “church” story, you guessed right. Yes, there is an important religion “ghost” in this big religion story.Let’s start with the overture, then I will note one or two passages that point to what could have been. To no one’s surprise, a certain Broadway musical made it into the lede: Since the blockbuster musical “Hamilton,” tourists have been swarming Trinity Church, part of an Episcopal parish in Lower Manhattan that dates to the 17th century. Alexander Hamilton and his wife, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, are buried in the cemetery there. Recent years have been good to the church and the rest of its campus.
    - 2 days ago 14 Feb 19, 5:12pm -
  • Will the Pope’s Arabian adventure affect the turbulence within global Islam?
    Despite the non-stop hubbub in U.S. politics that dominates the news, and the sexual molesting crisis that consumes Catholic media outlets, history’s first papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula achieved some spot coverage. But journalists now need to offer richer analysis of the longer-term significance of the February events in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).You want pertinent news angles? You want some valid follow-up stories?Islam and Catholicism each claim the allegiance of more than one billion souls. Terrorists claiming inspiration from Islam vex the entire region, with fellow Muslims frequently among the victims of carnage, while targeted Christians have been pushed out of their faith’s ancestral heartland. In the U.S. State Department’s latest religious freedom report, six of the 10 worst nations “of particular concern” are majority Muslim (Iran, Pakistan, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan), with others on State’s “special watch” listing.There was substance alongside the pageantry and photo ops in the UAE, a joint declaration issued by Pope Francis and Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, who leads venerable Al-Azhar University in Cairo. This is generally considered the chief intellectual center in Islam’s dominant Sunni branch (though long tainted by links with Egypt’s authoritarian regimes). Tayyeb is no pope but as authoritative as any figure in Sunnism. The joint statement results from years of intricate diplomacy between the Vatican and Al-Azhar.Among the many moral evils addressed, the pope and imam called upon the world’s leaders “to stop using religions to incite hatred, violence, extremism and blind fanaticism, and to refrain from using the name of God to justify acts of murder, exile, terrorism and oppression,” adding that “God, the Almighty, has no need to be defended by anyone and does not want His name to be used to terrorize people. … Terrorism must be condemned in all its forms and expressions”The declaration also proclaimed that “each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action” and opposed forcing people “to adhere to a certain religion.” It stated that “protection of places of worship — synagogues, churches and mosques — is a duty” under both religious teachings and international law. It upheld women’s rights to education, employment and political action. And so forth, including some interesting theological commentary on God creating the various world religions.
    - 2 days ago 14 Feb 19, 2:00pm -

Mission Network News

  • Somalia sees bloodiest terror attack in country’s history (MNN) -- Over 300 people were killed in Somalia's bloodiest attackThe post Somalia sees bloodiest terror attack in country’s history appeared first on Mission Network News.
    - 17 Oct 17, 4:00am -
  • Emergency medical flight gets conjoined twin infants to life-saving surgery (MNN/MAF) -- Conjoined twins saved through ministry’s medical flightThe post Emergency medical flight gets conjoined twin infants to life-saving surgery appeared first on Mission Network News.
    - 17 Oct 17, 4:00am -
  • Christmas short-term mission opportunities!'l (MNN) -- Short-term mission trip opportunities this ChristmasThe post Christmas short-term mission opportunities! appeared first on Mission Network News.
    - 17 Oct 17, 4:00am -
  • The faces and stories behind World Food Day (MNN) -- On World Food Day, ministry spotlighting long-term solutionsThe post The faces and stories behind World Food Day appeared first on Mission Network News.
    - 16 Oct 17, 4:00am -
  • State elections draw near in India, spark anti-Christian sentiment (MNN) -- Christians are being watched closely The post State elections draw near in India, spark anti-Christian sentiment appeared first on Mission Network News.
    - 16 Oct 17, 4:00am -

PE News

  • AG Minister Loses Everything Except Joy of the Lord
    Allen Wine, 97, escaped the Camp Fire that destroyed Paradise, California, with just the clothes on his back and his Bible, but even though he lost everything, the joy of — and love for — the Lord continues to bubble out of him.
    - 1 day ago 15 Feb 19, 2:30pm -
  • Loving the Broken
    Lay minister couple run rescue station in impoverished Orlando community.
    - 1 day ago 15 Feb 19, 2:00pm -
  • Keeping Faith After Amputations
    Kaylene Murphy stays focused on God, despite suffering massive injuries while rock climbing.
    - 2 days ago 14 Feb 19, 1:30pm -
  • This Week in AG History -- Feb. 17, 1963
    A freak accident took the life of newly appointed missionary Sidney Goodwin at the age of 27, but his sacrifice led to many others dedicating their lives to reach Ghana for Christ.
    - 2 days ago 14 Feb 19, 12:30pm -
  • Inheriting a Passion for Reaching Kids
    Bill and Becky Harness pass along a love for children’s ministry to their daughter, Heather.
    - 3 days ago 13 Feb 19, 7:00am -

Persecution Blog

  • Missionary Pilot Shares The Rest of the Auca Martyrs' Story
    Growing up the home of missionary parents in Ecuador, Gene Jordan has always known the story of five men—Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming, and Roger Youderian—who gave their lives in the jungle to reach an isolated Indian...      Related StoriesVOM Radio: "When We Say Yes to God"Nate Saint Memorial School: End of an Era"Holy, Holy, Holy" in a Sudanese Prison 
    - 24 Jul 17, 4:06pm -
  • After Arrest, "I Was Terrified"
    “Dr. Andrew” is working to share the gospel in the Middle East, but he hasn’t always had a heart to share Christ’s love with Muslims. Growing up in a nominal Christian family, Andrew was harassed by Muslims his whole life....      Related Stories"Holy, Holy, Holy" in a Sudanese PrisonPetr Jasek: God Opened the Prison DoorMiddle East Christians "Standing in the Fire" 
    - 27 Jun 17, 10:07pm -
  • Being a True Vessel for God's Use
    “Brother Matthew” is a pastor and church planter in South Asia, working among Muslims to share the gospel. After threats against his life and an attack on his brother, he was encouraged by family members to leave his country. He...      Related StoriesVOM Radio in Central Asia"Holy, Holy, Holy" in a Sudanese PrisonAfter Arrest, "I Was Terrified" 
    - 7 Jun 17, 4:56pm -
  • VOM Radio in Central Asia
    "Tanya" is a Christian worker in Central Asia, living and ministering in a country where she must always be cautious about what she says openly and who she says it around. Listen to hear how Christians in the former Soviet...      Related StoriesBeing a True Vessel for God's Use"Holy, Holy, Holy" in a Sudanese PrisonPetr Jasek: God Opened the Prison Door 
    - 9 May 17, 7:17pm -
  • Nate Saint Memorial School: End of an Era
    The end of an era comes next month. In August 1985, I clutched my mom’s hand and squeaked my rubber flip-flopped way down the gravel path from the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) “base” to the cinderblock Nate Saint Memorial school....      Related StoriesMissionary Pilot Shares The Rest of the Auca Martyrs' StoryVOM Radio: "When We Say Yes to God" 
    - 27 Apr 17, 8:14pm -

Religion News Service

  • newLDS missionaries can now call home weekly. Some parents worry new policy is too lax.
    In the past, LDS missionaries were only allowed to call home twice a year, a policy designed to let them focus on their mission, free from distractions. But a new policy will allow them to call or video chat with family once a week. The post LDS missionaries can now call home weekly. Some parents worry new policy is too lax. appeared first on Religion News Service.
    - 1 hour ago 16 Feb 19, 2:45pm -
  • newVatican defrocks former US cardinal McCarrick over sex abuse
    VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has defrocked former U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick after Vatican officials found him guilty of soliciting for sex while hearing confession and sexual crimes against minors and adults, the Holy See said Saturday. McCarrick, 88, is the highest-ranking churchman to be laicized, as the process is called. It means he […]The post Vatican defrocks former US cardinal McCarrick over sex abuse appeared first on Religion News Service.
    - 2 hours ago 16 Feb 19, 2:14pm -
  • newPhotos of the Week
    (RNS) — This week’s gallery includes Valentine's Day festivities, the first anniversary of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and more.The post Photos of the Week appeared first on Religion News Service.
    - 16 hours ago 16 Feb 19, 12:02am -
  • newMormon temple changes are a step forward for women
    "I honestly never thought change would come in my lifetime," says guest blogger Kristin Lowe. But the Mormon temple ceremony did indeed change to be more inclusive of women, which filled her with hope.The post Mormon temple changes are a step forward for women appeared first on Religion News Service.
    - 18 hours ago 15 Feb 19, 9:47pm -
  • newMormon missionaries can now phone home once a week
    New rules allow missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to call weekly. Missionaries are also allowed to text and video chat once a week. Previous rules limited calls between missionaries and their families to a few occasions a year. The post Mormon missionaries can now phone home once a week appeared first on Religion News Service.
    - 19 hours ago 15 Feb 19, 8:46pm -

Today's Creation Moment

    United Methodist News Service

    • newCommentary: Grateful for gifts of LGBTQ in church
      The Rev. Molly Vetter says that throughout her life, she has been blessed by the gifts of mentors and colleagues in ministry who are LGBTQ.
      - 23 hours ago 15 Feb 19, 4:52pm -
    • Using musical instruments for evangelism
      Zimbabwe Episcopal Area teaches church members to play new instruments to hone their talents and attract young people to worship.
      - 1 day ago 15 Feb 19, 3:41pm -
    • Communication at forefront of GC2019
      Story of 'critical moment' for The United Methodist Church will be shared by a range of communicators, using everything from print to podcasts.
      - 2 days ago 14 Feb 19, 9:16pm -
    • Small churches play big role for refugees in Italy
      Italian religious groups, including Methodists, have created a legal, safe pathway for Syrians and other vulnerable asylum seekers to resettle in Italy and the work is expanding.
      - 2 days ago 14 Feb 19, 4:44pm -
    • Commentary: Pacification or passion and prejudice
      A retired clergyman reflects on what lessons the slavery debate at the 1840 and 1844 General Conferences might offer for the legislative assembly in St. Louis.
      - 2 days ago 14 Feb 19, 3:45pm -

    World Magazine

    • newIllinois gunman kills five, wounds five police officers
      A gunman opened fire Friday afternoon at a manufacturing plant in Aurora, Ill., killing five people and wounding five police officers before police fatally shot him. Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman identified the shooter as Gary Martin, 45, who was believed to be an employee at the Henry Pratt Co. Ziman told reporters at a news conference Friday evening that officers arrived within four minutes after receiving reports of a shooting at the suburban Chicago manufacturing warehouse and were met with gunfire. Two of the officers were airlifted to trauma centers in Chicago. Hospitals in the area report treating at least seven people from the shooting but did not release their conditions. Police so far do not know the motive for the shooting.President Donald Trump was briefed on the incident as he prepared to leave for a weekend trip to his home in Palm Beach, Fla. The president praised law enforcement and offered condolences to the victims and their families in a tweet, saying, “America is with you!”Image: Category: CrimeArticle Title: Illinois gunman kills five, wounds five police officersKeywords: CrimePoliceAuthor: Mickey McLean
      - 15 hours ago 16 Feb 19, 12:42am -
    • newAutonomy and accountability
      A report about sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches this week sparked demands for criminal investigations and more accountability—calls that echo requests that abuse victims made to denominational leaders more than 10 years ago.The three-part investigation, published Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News, detailed accusations against 380 Southern Baptist leaders from more than 700 victims, nearly all of them children, in the past 20 years. Multiple churches intentionally failed to report sexual abuse to authorities—quietly firing abusers to save face or avoid a public relations problem—and knowingly hired pastors and staff with a history of sexual violence, according to the report.In one instance, a church in Bedford, Texas, allowed a man charged with 29 counts of rape and sodomy involving a 14-year-old girl at another Southern Baptist church to volunteer as a music minister during worship services. That was in 2015, seven years after a group of abuse victims approached the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee to ask it to adopt a plan to identify sexual predators and prevent abuse in its churches.At the time, church leaders argued the proposals were in conflict with a core tenet of Southern Baptist doctrine: local church autonomy. The SBC constitution states that the convention “does not claim and will never attempt to exercise any authority over any other Baptist body, whether church, auxiliary organizations, associations, or convention.” The only action the SBC can take against a church it finds in error, either in doctrine or action, is to bar it from being a cooperating church.In a report issued after the SBC’s annual meeting in 2008, the Executive Committee outlined steps it could take, including creating a page on the SBC website about sex abuse prevention, producing a special edition printed publication on the problem of sexual abuse in churches, and negotiating a group discount with a background check service provider. But the committee declined to create a database of Southern Baptist sex offenders or establish an office to receive reports of abuse. The group also said that although it believed no church or Baptist entity should employ a known sex offender, the convention had no authority to bar individuals from ministry since local autonomous churches determine whom they would and would not employ.“The workgroup believes Southern Baptists uniformly find the idea of a central authority attempting to exercise jurisdiction over their local church an unacceptable concept,” the report stated. “Each local church is not only capable of protecting its members, it is better motivated to do so than some far-distant, quasi-judicial ecclesiastical body.”But victims and advocates who spoke out in the newspapers’ reports argued the SBC model of autonomous churches makes it easy for predators to hide, enabling them to move to other churches undetected, especially when churches and ministries don’t report accusations of abuse to authorities.The criticism is in many ways the exact opposite of that directed at the Roman Catholic Church amid its own sex abuse scandal. A Pennsylvania grand jury report released in August 2018, which named 300 abusive Catholic clergy and more than 1,000 victims in a just a handful of dioceses, detailed how the church’s hierarchical model protected predator priests and allowed church leaders to cover up allegations and move abusers to unsuspecting parishes.Baptist leaders say they are trying to find a third path.“The Baptist doctrine of church autonomy should never be a religious cover for passivity towards abuse,” SBC President J.D. Greear tweeted on Monday. “I will pursue every possible avenue to bring the vast spiritual, financial, and organizational resources of the Southern Baptist Convention to bear on stopping predators in our midst.”Last July, Greear created a sexual abuse study group in partnership with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the SBC to consider how churches can respond swiftly and compassionately to incidents of abuse and foster safe environments in churches.Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, told WORLD Radio’s Nick Eicher on Friday’s edition of The World and Everything in It that the study group is “seeking to equip churches better to say, ‘Here’s how you investigate, here’s how you train, here’s how you equip, and here’s how you make sure in every case there is mandatory reporting of any incident that takes place, no matter the scale of it.’”Moore also said the SBC should use the authority it does have to hold churches accountable: “If a church is teaching something that is outside the confession of faith, the denomination has no ability to correct that church’s teaching. But the denomination can withdraw fellowship from that church. The same should happen here. If there are churches that refuse to do their due diligence in protecting vulnerable people, they should not be part of the cooperating structure of the Southern Baptist Convention.” Associated Press/Photo by Julie Jacobson (file) U.S. Military Academy cadets march into Michie Stadium for graduation in West Point, N.Y. Military academies in crisisA recent Pentagon survey found a nearly 50 percent spike in the prevalence of unwanted sexual contact at the Army, Navy, and Air Force service academies last year. The anonymous biennial survey counted 747 reports of unwanted sexual contact, up from 507 in 2017. The majority of the incidents were not reported to school officials—just 117 sexual assault reports were filed with school authorities at the three academies last year.The report is “frustrating, disheartening, and unacceptable,” Elizabeth Van Winkle, executive director of the Defense Department’s Office of Force Resiliency, told ABC News. “This is a struggle. Is this a societal struggle? Is this a military struggle? It doesn’t matter to us, we pull from society and we are responsible for changing [military academy students] to align with our core values.” —K.C. Associated Press/Photo by Toru Takahashi Kenji Aiba (left) and Ken Kozumi are plaintiffs in a suit over the Japanese marriage law. Legal challenges to marriage in JapanThirteen same-sex couples in Japan filed a lawsuit on Thursday challenging the country’s law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The plaintiffs’ lawyers said they think the cases could take as long as five years to reach a conclusion.In an unrelated case, the Japanese Supreme Court in late January unanimously upheld a law that requires transgender individuals who wish to change their legal gender to have their reproductive organs removed, effectively sterilizing them. The court said the law was constitutional because it reduces confusion in families and society. —K.C.All the single ChristiansSingles looking for a Christian spouse might want to consider a move to a big city, according to a recent study by the Barna Group. The report found single practicing Christians (defined as those who attend church at least once a month and say their faith is very important to their lives) are more likely to live in large urban centers. At least 30 percent of practicing Christians living in Boston, Miami, and New York are “never married.” —K.C. Image: Deck: A bombshell report on abuse by Southern Baptist leaders spurs reflection on church structureCategory: Family & SocietyKeywords: FamilyReligionSexual AbuseChild Sexual AbuseHomosexualitySexualityMarriageGay MarriageInternationalJapanMilitaryCrimeChurchesChristianitySlug: ChurchesArticle Title: Autonomy and accountabilityAuthor: Kiley CrosslandDigital Branding: RelationsHide from Archive?: 0
      - 18 hours ago 15 Feb 19, 9:32pm -
    • newDangerous games
      A year after the deadly high school shooting in Parkland, Fla., the Parents Television Council (PTC) is calling out the entertainment industry for ignoring pleas from parents and regulators to curb gun violence in media marketed to children.“What the entertainment industry does is offer dress rehearsals for gun violence on TV, in the movies, in violent video games, and then proceeds to rate … graphic violence and gun violence as appropriate for children,” PTC President Tim Winter said in a letter to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday, the one-year anniversary of Nikolas Cruz’s rampage that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Cruz, now under arrest and awaiting trial, reportedly played video games for up to 15 hours a day.“It was kill, kill, kill, blow up something, and kill some more, all day,” neighbor Paul Gold told the Miami Herald. Gold lived next door to Cruz and his family for several years and sometimes played video games with him.Psychologists who have studied the effects of violent video games agree that the games themselves don’t cause people to commit mass shootings. But when played by someone with mental illness and other risk factors, the games can contribute to that individual’s willingness to commit violence.“In almost every instance where there’s been a major school shooting, there has been some interest on the part of the shooter in violent media or, in particular, violent video games,” Melissa Henson, the program director for PTC, told me.The modern era of school shootings, ushered in by the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., closely followed the advent of so-called first-person shooter video games in which the user plays from the point of view of someone holding a gun and seeking out human targets. The game Wolfenstein 3D set the standard for the genre in 1992, and the success of 1993’s Doom confirmed the games’ mainstream acceptance. Since then, key changes to how shooting games are marketed and played have transformed them from popular to almost predatory.“The people that develop these games know which particular psychological triggers to pull,” Henson said. Today’s shooting games, whether first-person or third-person (players can see the character they are controlling), include short cycles of play and in-game rewards and incentives to keep players engaged “for hours on end,” Henson said. And the barrier to access the games has come way down.When first-person shooter games were first developed, players had to purchase a disc or cartridge either by mail or in a store for a price of $30 to $60. Now, users can download shooting games for a few dollars and play on mobile devices that almost everyone has. Fortnite, arguably the most popular shooting game on today’s market, has a free mobile version.Another significant step in the evolution of shooting games is the gradual elimination of villains. Players killed World War II Nazis in Wolfenstein 3D and demonic aliens in Doom. But in some modes of Fortnite, including the popular mobile version called Battle Royale, players log in to a multiplayer virtual universe and kill each other.To be clear, there is no evidence that playing Fortnite or any other shooting game can transform an average adolescent into a mass shooter. Studies have shown, however, that playing violent video games, especially as first-person shooters, can increase aggressive behavior in kids.“People are more likely to behave aggressively themselves when they identify with a violent character,” psychologist Brad J. Bushman wrote in 2013 for Psychology Today.Parents should also know that, because it does not include a lot of blood and guts, Fortnite earned a T rating for teens and up instead of the M rating for players 17 and older. And it is unquestionably marketed toward children with its use of cartoon-esque characters and trademark victory dances.A Supreme Court ruling in 2011 declared video games are free speech protected by the First Amendment, largely tying the government’s hands in regulating their content, ratings, and marketing. That leaves it up to parents to try to control what their children play and for how long.In its final report in December 2018, the Federal Commission on School Safety, formed in response to the Parkland shooting, admonished families that “Parents are best positioned to determine which forms of entertainment are appropriate for their children. While rating systems can be helpful tools, they are not a substitute for conversations with children about the content children consume.” Associated Press/Photo by Cliff Owen Jeff Bezos Trump denies involvement in Bezos storyPresident Donald Trump this week denied any foreknowledge of a National Enquirer investigative report about Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ extramarital affair. Last month, hours after Bezos and his wife of 25 years announced their divorce on Twitter, the National Enquirer ran an exposé that revealed the billionaire and father of four was having an affair with former television news host Lauren Sanchez.In a highly publicized blog post last week, Bezos claimed that the Enquirer threatened to publish graphic photos of him. He accused the company that owns the tabloid, American Media Inc., of “extortion and blackmail” and suggested its coverage was politically motivated and had ties to Trump. The president has blasted Bezos and The Washington Post, which Bezos owns, for criticizing him. The Enquirer, meanwhile, and its owner, David Pecker, are seen as Trump-friendly and the media company admitted it worked with Trump attorneys before the 2016 election to quash stories about an affair he allegedly had with Playboy model Karen McDougal.The scandal shines light on major media outlets can become weapons used by their owners in personal and political battles. —Mary Jackson Associated Press/Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision Chris Pratt at the world premiere of The Lego Movie 2 on Feb. 2 in Los Angeles Mixed signalsActor Chris Pratt defended his church and his personal convictions this week after lesbian actress Ellen Page tweeted that the church he attends is “infamously anti-LGBTQ.”Pratt posted on his Instagram story that his congregation, Zoe Church in Los Angeles, “opens their doors to absolutely everyone” and helped him through his 2017 divorce to actress Anna Faris.Zoe Church’s stance on Biblical sexuality isn’t clear. The church is modeled after Hillsong, an evangelical megachurch known for its modern worship style and celebrity following. Zoe Pastor Chad Veach told The New York Times last year that he doesn’t discuss politics publicly but, “at the end of the day, I’m a Bible guy.”Page criticized Pratt last week after he told The Late Show host Stephen Colbert he had completed a 21-day fast encouraged by his pastor. Pratt wrote in response that his values, not a particular church, define him, and he believes: “Everyone is entitled to love who they want free from the judgement of their fellow man.” He said he is guided by a “God of Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness.” —M.J. Image: Deck: On the Parkland shooting anniversary, parents criticize producers of violent video gamesCategory: Culture & ArtsKeywords: MediaVideo GamesParkland ShootingCultureSlug: MediaArticle Title: Dangerous gamesAuthor: Lynde LangdonDigital Branding: MuseHide from Archive?: 0
      - 20 hours ago 15 Feb 19, 7:41pm -
    • newISIS brides who are truly trapped
      SYRIA: U.K. and U.S. media are obsessing over ISIS brides who voluntarily joined the jihadists and now say they want to come home. Yet 1,400 Yazidi women—women enslaved and trafficked by fighters over the last three years—remain involuntarily in ISIS captivity, Kurdistan’s minister of health told me earlier this month. Most are believed to be in Syria, likely in these same hideouts. Early Thursday morning, David Eubank of Free Burma Rangers, an aid group working on the front line, sent me photos of one such Yazidi mother and her children rescued from the fighting.PAKISTAN: Asia Bibi is not in solitary confinement or trapped, “She is in a comfortable and spacious location and is being well looked after,” said Shaan Taseer. Taseer’s father, Salmaan Taseer, was governor of Punjab and assassinated in 2011 for coming to Bibi’s defense. Authorities are waiting for an opportune time to escort her to safety, Taseer said, following her acquittal on charges of blasphemy against Islam, an acquittal the court reaffirmed Jan. 29 under orders to review the case. Taseer told WORLD an account by friend Aman Ullah given to the Associated Press—that officials had moved her to Karachi and barred her from leaving the country—is “false news.” WORLD Radio’s Jill Nelson has the latest on the case.HAITI: A week of unrest nationwide is giving humanitarian aid groups pause on whether to remain in the country. At the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince, water is running low and workers had to close the emergency room.VENEZUELA: Establishment media are piling on the “tense” exchange between U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and newly tapped envoy to Venezuela Elliott Abrams, despite avid defenses of Abrams by those often critical of the Trump administration and Omar being wholly unprepared for the discussion. Watch the entire thing. The rest of the hearing (if you care to watch that) was an informative jolt of bipartisanship on U.S. policy toward Venezuela.CHINA: Internationally known Uighur comedian Adil Mijit has been missing since returning to China three months ago from Turkey. His case is one of untold thousands posted using the Twitter hashtag campaign #MeTooUyghur—the latest effort to draw attention to the 1 million Chinese Uighurs, mostly Muslims, believed incarcerated in government reeducation camps.NIGERIA: Saturday’s presidential election has young voters clamoring for change, despite two leading candidates in their 70s. WORLD’s Nigeria reporter Onize Ohikere previews.INDIA warned Pakistan of a “strong response” after a Pakistan-based Islamist group bombed an Indian paramilitary convoy in Kashmir, killing at least 40 people.JAPAN: On Valentine’s Day, 13 same-sex couples filed the country’s first lawsuit to compel the government to recognize gay marriage.MALAYSIA: Two years after Pastor Raymond Koh was kidnapped, his family asked the new prime minister to open a new investigation into his disappearance. Two other Christians and a Shiite Muslim were abducted in 2016, and an investigation into all four cases concluded unsuccessfully last year. CCTV captured Koh’s abduction on video, sparking outrage across the country.COSTA RICA: Using deep-sea seamounts, a team of scientists discovered at least four new species of deep-sea coral and six other animals new to science.NOTE: No Globe Trot on Monday.To have Globe Trot delivered to your email inbox, email Mindy at Deck: Plus, an update on Asia Bibi, a deep-sea dive, and moreCategory: InternationalKeywords: InternationalGlobe TrotSyriaISISPakistanHaitiVenezuelaChinaNigeriaIndiaJapanMalaysiaCosta RicaSlug: InternationalArticle Title: ISIS brides who are truly trappedAuthor: Mindy BelzDigital Branding: Globe TrotHide from Archive?: 0
      - 21 hours ago 15 Feb 19, 7:00pm -
    • newMaduro says U.S. envoy met with Venezuelan official
      Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said on Friday that his foreign minister held secret meetings with a U.S. official on Jan. 26 and Feb. 11 in New York. In an interview, Maduro said his administration could succeed if U.S. President Donald Trump would remove his “infected hand” from the country. The United States has not denied the talks—allegedly between Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza and U.S. special envoy Elliot Abrams—but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed back Friday on Maduro’s insinuation that he could remain in power. Speaking with reporters in Reykjavik, Iceland, Pompeo said he sees obvious signs that Maduro is starting to understand Venezuelans reject him as their leader.The United States, which has recognized National Assembly Leader Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela, on Friday sanctioned Venezuelan oil chief Maj. Gen. Manuel Quevedo for playing a prominent role in propping up Maduro’s regime. Other sanctions targeted three officials from the country’s national intelligence service and Rafael Bastardo, who heads the national police unit.Image: Category: InternationalArticle Title: Maduro says U.S. envoy met with Venezuelan officialKeywords: InternationalVenezuelaPoliticsGovernmentForeign PolicyAuthor: Onize Ohikere
      - 22 hours ago 15 Feb 19, 6:04pm -

    World Watch Monitor

    • Sunni Arabs ‘helped drive out’ Mid-East Christians
      Amid the push by Iraqi government forces to retake Mosul from Islamic State (IS), some former inhabitants of Christian villages in the Nineveh Plains and northern Syria are refusing to go back because they believe their former Sunni Muslim neighbours were complicit in driving them out, says Middle East analyst and former journalist, Patrick Cockburn, in News Deeply. Christians returning to Nineveh believe Sunni Arab villagers were complicit in “taking their houses, killing and raping people,” he says.Cockburn adds that, in Syrian towns occupied by IS, Christians believe their Sunni Arab neighbours were similarly cooperating with IS and that returning Christians might drive Sunnis out in turn. There’s a “real, very high level of friction and hostility on the ground, which I think is going to be extraordinarily difficult to reverse”, he says.“A longer-term and very dangerous shift in both Iraq and Syria is that communities in general can’t live together any longer.”In November Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana, a priest in the Assyrian Church of the East and head of CAPNI (Christian Aid Program Northern Iraq), said that defeating IS won’t guarantee Christians’ return. “What are the guarantees that it will not happen again?” he asked, noting that Iraqi Christians had been targeted not only since IS’s sudden appearance in 2014 but since the US-led invasion in 2003, after which he said the fabric of Iraq “was broken”.In the decades before IS, more than a million Christians left Iraq, which had turned increasingly hostile towards them, the minority population felt.
      - 13 Mar 17, 1:01pm -
    • ‘Freedom of religion or belief must be protected’
      Countries around the world are urged to act now to promote and protect the right to freedom of religion or belief by a UN expert.The Special Rapporteur, Ahmed Shaheed, made his appeal at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, as he set out his priorities for the mandate of freedom of religion or belief, which he took up last November.Mr. Shaheed expressed concern about a rise in the number of incidents of violence - for religiousreasons - by extremist groups, vigilante mobs and others.“State and non-State actors, alike, continue to impose restrictions, or limitations, and engage in targeted harassment, intimidation of, or discrimination against religious minorities, unrecognised religious communities and dissidents, who are often confronted with threats to their freedom, safety and security,” he said.“I am particularly alarmed by continuing reports of mass atrocities and violence that threaten the very existence of religious minority communities, including some groups that have existed for over two millennia.”Mr. Shaheed pointed to a number of mechanisms for the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of religion or belief that have already been developed, and for which consensus among states already exists. He said his agenda for the next three years would be focused on the implementation of these state obligations.The Special Rapporteur stressed that policies adopted to enhance the capacity of security forces to combat terrorism by limiting fundamental rights (such as freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly) often have dire consequences for the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief.He welcomed efforts to promote that right at national and international levels by governments, parliamentarians, national human rights institutions, human rights and faith-based organisations, and educational institutions.
      - 10 Mar 17, 6:39pm -
    • Iraq urged to allow UN investigation into genocide
      International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney has called upon the Iraqi government to allow a UN investigation into the treatment of Yazidis by the so-called Islamic State (IS), reports Reuters.A year ago, the UK Parliament joined US Secretary of State John Kerry, the US House of Representatives, the EU Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in describing the actions of IS (or Da’esh) as genocide. In June last year, UN experts reported that IS militants seek to destroy the Yazidi group, whose beliefs combine elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions, through murder, sexual slavery, gang rape, torture and humiliation that amounts to genocide.Some religious leaders and other sources, including Vienna-based legal counsel Ewelina Ochab, believe that the campaign of genocide also extends to Christians. Prior to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, there were 1.4 million Christians in the country. Today there are thought to be fewer than 200,000. World Watch Monitor reported in May last year that Christianity “could disappear” from Iraq and Syria withinfive years, according to Catholic sources. Britain is drafting a UN Security Council resolution to establish an investigation, but Clooney said the Iraqi government needs to send a letter formally requesting the inquiry before the council can vote.Clooney, who represents Yazidi victims of IS, told reporters, “We do want to see an investigation take place with the cooperation of the Iraqi authorities, but ultimately if that support is not forthcoming in terms of real action, then the UN has to think of other ways in which to achieve accountability.”Since 2014, when IS took control of parts of Iraq, Yazidis and Christians have been under severe, and often violent, pressure with many Christians being given four options: to leave, convert to Islam, pay the jiyza (tax), or be killed. A report last October highlighted this accelerated targeting of “disproportionately suffering” Middle East Christians.
      - 10 Mar 17, 1:08pm -
    • Iranian mother and son Christian converts arrested
      An Iranian mother and son who converted to Christianity have been arrested in the north-western province of West Azerbaijan. Anousheh Reza-Bakhsh (known as Veronika) and her son Soheil (known as Augustine) were arrested on 20 February at their home in Urmia, the provincial capital. Mohabat News reports that it is the first known arrest of Christians in the city since 2008. Urmia, with nearly 700,000 inhabitants, is famous for housing the Cathedral of St. Mary the Mother of God, whose origin dates back to the 16th Century. Middle East Concern (MEC) reports that the mother and son, who had become Catholics, were baptised in Istanbul in August last year, after which they returned home and “continued to read and learn about the Christian faith”. Christian material was reportedly found at their home, as Augustine, reported to be a psychology student, had been “a keen follower of online Christian theological training programmes and Christian satellite TV channels”, according to MEC. There has been no further update on their whereabouts or safety, though they are believed to have been taken to an intelligence office of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. They are both reported to have health issues. Iran, which is no. 8 on the 2017 Open Doors World Watch List of countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian, continues to monitor and persecute Christians across the country. Often, detainees are subject to psychological and physical harm by the authorities. Iranian and European human rights and religious rights organisations have urged the international community to use new opportunities for trade with Iran since the nuclear agreement to hold the government there to account over its treatment of Christian converts.
      - 9 Mar 17, 3:23pm -
    • Pope: ‘Persecutors don’t care about denominations’
      Pope Francis has urged all Christians to pray for fellow believers who are persecuted for their faith, saying that “those who persecute them make no distinction between the religious communities to which they belong”.“How many people are being persecuted because of their faith, forced to abandon their homes, their places of worship, their lands, their loved ones!” Francis says in the video that shows three representatives of different denominations: Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox – standing as if in a police line-up accused of a crime. “They are persecuted and killed because they are Christians,” the Pope continues, adding, “I ask you, how many of you pray for persecuted Christians?”The one-minute video, which also includes images of broken religious statues and a burnt-out church, is the latest to be produced by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network and contains his prayer intention for March: the support of persecuted Christians through prayers and material aid from all the Churches.Francis has spoken frequently about an “ecumenism of the blood” to emphasise that persecution is affecting many parts of the Church and should be met with ecumenical solidarity.
      - 8 Mar 17, 2:31pm -