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Friday, September 22, 2017

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"The martyrs give their souls"

"The martyrs give their souls as a present to Jesus for his birthday. Please pray for their families and for us to be strong in faith until the last breath.”

That was the reply I received when I wrote to our devout Coptic friends sending our sympathy and prayers for the Christian community in Egypt shortly after the bomb blast at St Mark’s Cathedral complex in Cairo on 11 December 2016.

At Coptic services women sit on the right and men on the left side of the church. Because of renovations to the Cathedral, the Sunday Mass was being held at St Peter’s and St Paul’s Chapel next door. As the Mass was ending a 12kg bomb exploded killing at least 25 and seriously injuring 49. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has declared 3 days of mourning.

Muslims are celebrating Mawlid, the birth of the Prophet Mohammed, and even though members of Isis and the Egyptian Brotherhood have rejoiced on social media at the bombing and used Syrian casulaity images to inflate the St Mark's casulties to anger Christians, a spokesperson for the Hasam Movement responsible for attacks on Egyptian security forces denounced the bombing of women and children in a place of worship as contrary to the Prophet’s teachings. Egypt’s Muslim Grand Mufti also reminded Muslims that this form of ‘black terrorism’, which is designed to create sectarian confrontation, is contrary to Islamic Sharia. He has extended his condolences to Coptic Pope Tawadros ll.

The word ‘Coptic’ means Egyptian and the Coptic Church celebrates the Holy family escaping Herod to take refuge in Egypt. The Egyptian Church was later founded by one of Jesus’ inner disciples, the Apostle St Mark. About 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 90 million are Coptic.

Christians in Egypt have long complained of persecution and discrimination over employment, education, health opportunities, church building permits, the inability to proselytize and the government’s refusal to recognize Muslim converts to Christianity. Christians can also suffer abuse, assaults, kidnappings for ransom and young Coptic women being abducted and forced to marry and convert to Islam. There are also complaints that Christians are sometimes wrongly vilified in the news media.

Since the Spring Uprising of 2011, over 30 churches have been attacked or set on fire. Despite Christian support for Egypt’s President el-Sisi and his promise to reduce sectarian tensions, Amnesty International has pointed to insufficient police efforts to protect Christians or find perpetrators of crimes against them. Demonstrators who gathered outside St Mark’s Cathedral before they were moved on by security forces chanted prayers and condemned the Interior Minister and the Police for providing inadequate protection.

Earlier this year my wife and I joined Coptic Christians celebrating Sunday Mass at St Michael’s Cathedral in Aswan in Upper Egypt. There were over a dozen police in body armour guarding the Cathedral with automatic weapons and grenade launchers from behind steel pill boxes and guard shields. Vehicle access was restricted to limit the chances of a vehicle packed with explosives approaching. Yet despite the real possibility of an attack, the Cathedral was packed with devout Christians.

It makes you wonder how many Christians in the West would be as steadfast in their faith under similar threats.
Graeme J Davidson More comments

 

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Lady Gaga explains tour cancellation by posting a photo of herself praying rosary more World Relgion News

Americans soften on immigration in 2017 more Barna

Nearly a quarter of Americans do not believe or do not know if Muslims and atheists are granted the same constitutional rights as other citizens, according to a new poll more Independent

The vast majority of U.S. Protestant pastors’ spouses say ministry has had a positive effect on their families but many report being isolated and under financial stress more Christian Headlines

Here’s the Bible passage which ‘proves’ the world will end on Saturday, Christians claim more Metro

Israeli proposal to make legal judgements from the Hebrew Bible stirs controversy more The Jerusalem Post

A Church of England poll shows that 60 per cent of self-declared followers of the Church admit they never read the Bible, and 36 per cent say they never attend church. One in three said they never pray more The Telegraph

Saudi Arabia’s school religious studies curriculum contains hateful and incendiary language toward religions and Islamic traditions that do not adhere to its interpretation of Sunni Islam according to Human Rights Watch more Human Rights Watch

Pope hopes Trump will rethink DACA decision on pro-life grounds more National Catholic Register

From the Vatican, a cold shower on negotiations with Beijing more L'Espresso

Pope Francis: Three attitudes are fundamental to Christian discipleship more National Catholic Register

China tightens regulation of religion to 'block extremism' more Reuters

Francis pleads with Colombians to keep unpopular peace deal more National Catholic Reporter

More than half of Canadians believe religion causes more harm than good, a new poll has found more Independent

Ministers in Sweden’s state church cannot “refuse to marry same-sex couples”, the country’s Prime Minister has said more The Christian Institute

 

 

 

 

Religion is increasingly less of a focus for America’s Jewish community. What does that mean for its political influence? more The Washington Post

Inside Hollywood's search for spirituality more E News

Bad Faith? The Confused Debates Over Religion’s Role in Politics more Commonweal

What is striking, though perhaps not surprising, is that the churches have continued to ride the therapeutic bandwagon, even as that bandwagon has gone political more First Things

Learning about religion is crucial to a balanced education more The Telegraph

Christians are the world's most-persecuted religion -- here's how they react under fire more Washington Examiner

Taking the Bible seriously, not literally more Current-Argus

Almost no one in the US believes in a 'consistent ethic of life'. Pope Francis’ critique of President Trump would apply to 96 percent of Americans, surveys suggest more Christianity Today

Is Cardinal Tagle keeping mum about Duterte’s killing spree? more Aleteia

Seven trends that offer a snapshot of American religion today more Huffington Post

End of the World: THESE Bible texts ‘prove’ the APOCALYPSE is coming on September 23 more Express

The US Senate must act now to save Christianity in Iraq more The Hill

"Christianity is for cucks" more First Things

How did prayer affect the impact of Hurricane Irma? more CBN

Redirecting Myanmar’s dominant faith to peace more CSM

Godless and free: Making a case for atheism more Collegiate Times

10 things you should know about DACA and Dreamers more Christian Headlines Daily

 

Blood and Faith book links white nationalists to Christianity more Oakland Press

Stephen Greenblatt gives Adam and Eve the benefit of the doubt in this enthralling study: The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve more The Guardian

An enlightening examination of meditation and evolution in Why Buddhism Is True more The Denver Post

No right way to keep the faith in The Good Catholic more The New York Times

Geneive Abdo argues that growing tensions between Sunni and Shi’a Islam have become the primary conflict and challenge within the Middle East more London School of Economics & Political Science

Emmanuel Carrère’s Kingdom explores how a tiny sect became a global religion more The New Yorker

In recent decades, child sex abuse cases have notably arisen from, and elicited, public hysteria. They have created poor conditions for the operation of the justice systemIn recent decades, child sex abuse cases have notably arisen from, and elicited, public hysteria. They have created poor conditions for the operation of the justice system more First Things

In Faith Under Fire: Dramatic Stories of Christian Courage, Register writer Matthew Archbold knits together nearly 20 contemporary accounts of ordinary Catholics or Christians more broadly who, as a result of their faith, confronted significant and, in some cases, life-threatening challenges more National Catholic Register

With her book, she offers an insightful and clear-eyed probe into the disparate values of a capricious commercialist and a conscience-driven philanthropist more National Catholic Reporter

Turning the world upside down down under more Christianity
Today

Those who, coming from a religious perspective, assume that secularists have no misgivings about pornography may be surprised to hear that, as Fradd writes, “… all over the globe, people are reporting the ill effects of pornography — even those who have no moral qualms with it more National Catholic Register

Despite its issues, Wonder Woman, unlike Man of Steel and The Lone Ranger, understands and reveres its protagonist more National Catholic Register

 

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