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Thursday, November 16, 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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Church sees significant decline in membership following same sex marriage decision more Christian Headlines

High school classmates say Texas church shooter preached atheism online more Washington Examiner

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Rohingya crisis: Inter-faith events push for peace more Aljezeera

Bible may record oldest known solar eclipse more Live Science

Report: 10 worst countries for religious freedom more The Stream

Majority believes Reformation was justified, but divisive more Barna

The Reformation’s 500th anniversary has Germans arguing over holiday time more The Economist

Museum of the Bible's artifacts bring questions, concerns from scholars more Curbed

America's views on boze more Barna

“The most faith-centric, pro-life president” made these offensive jokes about prayer, religion more Salon

After ISIS: A French priest is helping formerly enslaved and traumatized Yazidis more Aleteia

Hungary hosts first ever conference for persecuted Christians more National Catholic Register

Religion doing more harm that good: poll more SkyNews Australia

 

 

 

 

Advice to US pastors: Protect your congregation from a gunman more Chritianity Today

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Religious leaders need to tell congregations that global warming can affect not just the environment, but also the spread of diseases and other threats to human health more The New York Times

Buddhism is more western than you think more The New York Times

Ten badass women of the Bible more Fox News

‘Good religion’ has done more to build than ‘bad religion’ to destroy more Crux

Here’s my Thought for the Day: stop sneering and keep the faith, BBC more The Guardian

American Muslims must confront Islam's role in terror attacks and reclaim faith more New York Daily News

A theologian writes to the Pope: "There is chaos in the Church, and you are a cause more l'Espresso

Luther’s defiance of papal authority shaped Europe and the world in ways he could never have foreseen more The Guardian

500 years after the 95 Theses, Martin Luther’s influence remains more The News & Observer

 

 

Dickens, Scrooge, and the road to redemption: A review of The Man Who Invented Christmas more Aleteia

Is the Bible dangerous? more Forbes

1517: Martin Luther and the Invention of the Reformation more Kirkus

Thomas Cranmer’s book of vernacular English prayer is possibly the most widely read book in the English literary tradition more The Guardian

Why Christians should avoid watching rape scenes more Christianity Today

Unknown unknowns: Three inquiries into religion more The New York Times

A bestselling book on the inevitability of human deification rests on a misunderstanding more Aleteia

‘Hard faith’ film hits home with Christians swearing more New York Post

Septempber religion best sellers more Publishers Weekly

Despite a glut of Luther biographies surrounding the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Eric Metaxas offers something different and special more Kirkus

Dan Brown talks religion, science and new novel more The Register-Guard

Cardinal Newman's witness: holiness admit secularism more National Catholic Register

Faith-based films are filling theaters for those in search of inspiration more The News Observer

 

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