Coptic Christians in Egypt observed a somber Christmas Eve Thursday as the memory of the grisly New Year’s Eve church bombing that killed 21 people was still fresh on everyone’s mind.
Security was high at churches across Egypt, where police checked ID cards, which identified citizens’ religion, and made sure mass attendees did not carry weapons into services. Instead of brightly colored clothes to mark the holiday, Copts wore black and were seen crying during masses, according to media reports.
“Before I congratulate you for Christmas,” said Pope Shenouda III, head of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox church, at the Coptic Cathedral on Christmas Eve Thursday, “I want to mourn our children in Alexandria and in many countries where they have been martyred; innocents who haven’t done anything. I also send my condolences to our children in Nag Hammadi, since one year has passed since their death.” more >>
The new year has just begun but Pastor John Hagee, arguably the most vocal and controversial Christian Zionist in the nation, has already proclaimed that it is not God’s plan to divide Israel, implicitly calling into question the two-state solution that would create a Palestinian state.
In a Christians United for Israel webcast Thursday, Hagee cited several Old Testament verses to support his claim that God made an everlasting covenant with the Jewish people regarding their promised land. He pointed to Genesis 13:14-17, which says in part, “The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, ‘Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.” more >>
Christians around the world are being urged to join in prayer ahead of the referendum in Southern Sudan on Sunday.
Baptist World Alliance issued a call on Wednesday to its 37 million members, asking them to pray for "a safe and transparent election process with results that are respected by all parties, especially with the possibility of southern secession."
The weeklong referendum marks the culmination of a six-year process that began with the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which was signed to end more than two decades of civil war. The war left some 2 million people dead. more >>
A ministry assisting Bible translators is pushing its efforts in Southern Sudan, explaining that it is uncertain how the Jan. 9 referendum will affect its work in the area.
“We don’t know how much longer the door to Southern Sudan will be open to us,” said Bruce Smith, president and CEO of Wycliffe Associates, an organization that mobilizes volunteers to assist Bible translation, in a statement. “Nobody knows what will happen after the referendum – whether there will be lasting peace or a new outbreak of civil war.”
Sudan will hold a referendum Jan. 9, during which the South will vote whether it wants to secede from the North. The vote is a key provision of the 2005 Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended more than 20 years of civil war. The South is overwhelmingly expected to vote for independence, causing concern it will lead to another conflict between the predominantly Arab and Muslim North and the animist and Christian South. more >>
President Obama can expect to receive numerous Christmas cards this year pressing him to end the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
Churches for Middle East Peace, a coalition of mainline and progressive denominations and church organizations, launched a new advocacy effort Wednesday to get American Christians more involved in the Middle East peace process.
The year-long campaign began with a call to thousands of Christians across the country to send Christmas cards to the president. The card is designed by a Palestinian Christian in Bethlehem and includes the verse: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). A one sentence message tells Obama that the sender is praying for his work in securing peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians. more >>
The United States and South Korea began naval exercises off the west coast of the peninsula Sunday to send a clear message to North Korea that its aggressive actions must stop.
The drills in the Yellow Sea have infuriated the communist country which warned of unpredictable consequences if the United States sends an aircraft carrier to its waters.
On Sunday, North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency warned, "The DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) will deal a merciless military counter-attack at any provocative act of intruding into its territorial waters in the future." more >>