Pope Francis celebrated his first canonizations in the course of his Mass in St. Peter's Square last Sunday, giving the Catholic Church over 800 new saints. All but two (a Colombian nun and a Mexican nun) were the "martyrs of Otranto," who were beheaded for their faith after Turkish Muslims invaded their southern-Italian port city in 1480. In the pope's words, "They had refused to renounce their faith and died confessing the risen Christ." According to some historical records, while the 800 were being executed, a Turk by the name of Bersabei was inspired to convert. He too suffered martyrdom, impaled by his own comrades-in-arms.
Christians of all faith traditions have long been persecuted in many countries, but today in the Muslim world, where Christians are often the largest non-Muslim minority, the persecution is accelerating and spreading.
Pope Francis had met with the Coptic pope, Tawadros II of Alexandria, just two days before, and no doubt he was praying for the mounting number of Coptic martyrs in Egypt, with whom, he had said, Catholics are united in the "ecumenism of suffering." This would include the two killed and seven dozen wounded as they were leaving St. Mark's Cathedral in Alexandria on April 7 and also the four whose funeral had just taken place inside the cathedral, who had been murdered in a Muslim pogrom the previous day. It would also include those languishing in prison for their faith, such as Nadia Mohamed Ali and her seven children, all of whom were sentenced by an Egyptian court to 15 years' imprisonment earlier this year for converting to Christianity. Another Christian woman, Demyana Emad, a 23-year-old primary-school teacher, was jailed last week for "insulting Islam" in her classroom -- only the latest example of the Islamist government's blasphemy prosecutions, typically of Christians. more >>
In order to avoid a lawsuit from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the school district in Muldrow, Okla., will be removing its Ten Commandment displays from all schools after an atheist teen student addressed legal concerns.
In spite of this decision on behalf of the school board, the small community of Muldrow has rallied around its Christian beliefs, urging the district to hold strong to its religious freedom and keep the Ten Commandments in place.
After a meeting held Monday night, the Muldrow School District board members opted to have the Ten Commandments plaques, which sit in each classroom in the school district, removed in order to avoid the threatened lawsuit from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the separation of church and state. more >>
An Egyptian Christian teacher who claims to have been falsely accused of denouncing Islam has been released on bail after being imprisoned in the southern city of Luxor.
Dimiana Abdel-Nour, a 24-year-old history and geography teacher, was originally ordered by a judge to remain in jail for 14 days pending an investigation, but the young teacher reportedly paid a fee of LE 20,000 ($2,870) to be freed while the investigation takes place.
Abdel-Nour was arrested last week after parents of three children attending her class at the Sheikh Sultan Primary School in Luxor complained that she had insulted Islam by saying the recently deceased Coptic Pope Shenouda was better than the Prophet Muhammad. more >>
More good news concerning U.S. Pastor Saeed Abedini has followed his release from solitary confinement last week, as reports have suggested the global support he has been receiving while in prison in Tehran, Iran, are helping him find joy and peace.
"Despite his suffering, Pastor Saeed's faith continues to keep him alive. Other prisoners reportedly told Saeed's family that when Pastor Saeed was released from solitary confinement, 'he was glowing,' and that miraculously he 'was filled with more joy and peace after solitary' than he was before solitary," the American Center for Law and Justice said in a statement on Tuesday.
The American pastor is said to be suffering from medical problems, including kidney issues, as he serves the eight-year sentence handed to him in January by the Iranian court for "endangering national security." The ACLJ, which represents his wife and two children back in the U.S., has said that Abedini is being unfairly targeted for his Christian faith in the largely Muslim-dominated country, and that he is being denied the medical care he needs. more >>
As delegates of Boy Scouts of America prepare to cast their votes on a controversial amendment to their membership standards on homosexuality, legal experts warned them on Tuesday against being "snookered and bamboozled" into accepting it.
Next Thursday, some 1,400 members of Boy Scouts of America's national council are expected to vote on the resolution seeking to revise the organization's membership policy on homosexuality at their annual meeting in Grapevine, Texas. If accepted, the resolution would lift an existing ban on youth who are "open or avowed" homosexuals. A ban on adult leaders, however, would remain in place.
"There is going to be a showdown in Grapevine Texas," said Cathy Ruse, senior legal fellow at Family Research Council, on Tuesday. more >>
Military officials appear to be in sandbag mode telling the media that the recent revelations about policies that would lead to the prosecution of military members for sharing their faith was all taken out of context. But the evidence would suggest otherwise, which is why more than 165,000 people have signed the Family Research Council (FRC) petition to Secretary Hagel asking him to protect the religious freedom of our troops, and why over 50 Members of Congress have written letters to Hagel prompted by recent events.
Here is a summary of events thus far: On April 26, news broke that anti-Christian activist Mikey Weinstein met with senior Air Force officials to discuss "religious issues" in the military. The Washington Post article led others in the media to ask for an explanation of what assurances, if any, were offered in the meeting. The Pentagon responded with several confusing statements over the course of a week. The first statement said, "Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense." The Air Force issued a statement saying, "Air Force members are free to express their personal religious beliefs as long as it does not make others uncomfortable." The Pentagon then issued another statement saying that Mr. Weinstein was "granted" a meeting to "express his concerns of religious issues in the military." The next day, the Pentagon released a third statement, saying, "Service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one's beliefs (proselytization)." On May 8, another Pentagon statement said "there is no effort within the department to make religious proselytizing a specific offense within the (Uniform Code of Military Justice).
The Pentagon meeting and the series of confusing statements has widened the ongoing conversation among service members, the media and Christians across the country about the extent and source of religious hostility in the military. more >>