In his Angelus address on the Feast of St. Stephen, Pope Francis on Thursday focused on persecuted Christians around the world.
"We are close to those brothers and sisters who, like St. Stephen, are unjustly accused and subjected to violence of various kinds," Francis said on Thursday. "This happens especially where religious freedom is still not guaranteed or not fully realized."
The remarks came just a day after a Christian neighborhood market and Catholic church were bombed in Baghdad, Iraq, leaving 38 people dead. There have been growing concerns for the safety of Christians especially in the Middle East region. Notable world figures, including Britain's Prince Charles, have recently said that followers of Christ in the region are in danger of disappearing from Christianity's birth place. more >>
A video posted by a Planned Parenthood affiliate on YouTube celebrating the "12 Days of Contraceptives" is no longer available for viewing online.
The controversial 5-minute advertisement video, posted Monday by Planned Parenthood Arizona, was recently made into a private video, so it cannot be viewed by the general public.
The video is not listed on the YouTube Account for Planned Parenthood Arizona, with the most recent upload as of Thursday evening being a video from October titled "Simple Facts about Health Insurance and Obamacare." more >>
Imagine two men engaged in a conversation on an international flight. These two men, presumably businessmen, are strangers to each other. As they talked with each other, it was revealed that one was a businessman. The second man was a representative of a worldwide organization with franchises in every country.
"Really?" asked the first. "You must work for Coca Cola."
"No," replied the second, "We have far more field representatives than they'll ever have! We have more employees and more customers, if you can call them that." more >>
As Christians in the West go to church and worship during this Christmas season, it is well to reflect on how these two simple acts-going to church to worship-can be life-threatening for Christians in the Islamic world, especially on Christmas. The following excerpt from my book, Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (pgs. 42-45), provides a glimpse at the horrors and humiliations Christians throughout the Muslim world are exposed to whenever they try to meet and worship in church on Christmas and other Christian holidays. One can only hope-perhaps in vain-that this coming Christmas does not add new victims to the list. ---- Christians in the Islamic world today are suffering attacks motivated by the very same diabolical animus as a thousand years ago under Hakim [Egyptian caliph who ordered the destruction of reportedly 30,000 churches in the 10th –11th century]. Proof of this is that some of the most terrible assaults occur precisely on Christian holidays-Christmas, Easter, and New Year's Eve (which is a major church day in the Middle East). And no wonder, considering that some Muslim clerics insist that "saying Merry Christmas is worse than fornication . . . or killing someone."
After some fourteen centuries of church attacks and other persecution-punctuated by a brief Christian Golden Age-Egypt's Copts began the new year in 2011 once again under assault, at one of their largest churches: during midnight Mass in the early hours of January 1, 2011, the Two Saints Coptic Church in Alexandria, crowded with hundreds of Christian worshippers, was bombed, leaving at least twenty-three dead and approximately a hundred injured. According to eyewitnesses, "body parts were strewn all over the street outside the church. The body parts were covered with newspapers until they were brought inside the church after some Muslims started stepping on them and chanting Jihadi chants," including "Allahu Akbar!" Witnesses further attest that "security forces withdrew one hour before the church blast." And a year earlier, Muslims shot and killed six Christians as they were leaving church after celebrating the Coptic Christmas Eve midnight Mass in Nag Hammadi.
December 25, 2011, was called Nigeria's "blackest Christmas ever." In a number of coordinated jihadi operations, Reuters reported, Islamic terrorists bombed several churches during Christmas liturgies, killing at least thirty-eight people, "the majority dying on the steps of a Catholic church after celebrating Christmas Mass as blood pooled in dust from a massive explosion." Charred bodies and dismembered limbs lay scattered around the destroyed church. This attack was simply a reenactment of Christmas Eve one year earlier, in 2010, when several other churches were set ablaze and Christians were attacked, also leaving nearly thirty-eight dead. There was no reprieve for Nigeria's Christians when the next religious holiday came; some fifty Christians were killed "when explosives concealed in two cars went off near the Assemblies of God's Church during Easter Sunday services" in April 2012 in a predominantly Muslim region. According to the pastor, "We were in the Holy Communion service and I was exhorting my people and all of a sudden, we heard a loud noise that shattered all our windows and doors." December 25, 2012, saw a repeat of the last few Christmases: in two separate attacks, Islamic gunmen shot and killed twelve Christian worshippers who had gathered for Christmas Eve church services, including one church's pastor. more >>
In exhorting Christians as to how they should behave toward one another, the Apostle Paul pointed to the example of Christ himself:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).
In these few short verses, the Apostle sums up the "good news of great joy" that the angel brought the shepherds when heralding the birth of the savior of the world. God had become man. Christ stepped down from his throne, condescended to become a man, and willingly suffered death on a cross that the world through him might be saved. In this way, God's love was made manifest to mankind (John 3:16). more >>
As the father of two boys with another little one on the way, the holidays seem like more of a blur than usual. Gifts, decorating, traditions, family and friends are remarkably enjoyable but hardly helpful for organizing thoughts. Yet, the smallest things are sometimes just what we need to remind us of the redemptive message of Christmas.
While I was roasting pecans for holiday gifts and wrangling the boys one evening, I had music playing in the background. I paused for a minute when I heard Johnny Cash's hauntingly introspective voice carry the lyrics of Trent Reznor's "Hurt."
I could hear the Man in Black asking himself the question, "What have I become?" The song reminded me of the importance of taking account of who we are, where we have been and where we are going. For so many of us, the challenge is not simply the mad dash through the holidays; it is finding perspective in the fast pace of our entire lives. more >>