Blessings of Persecution
Ati News, a site belonging to Morteza Talaee who is the previous head of the security forces and the current member of the Tehran’s city council, in its usual anti-Christian propaganda reported that their social-life reporter had disclosed that shipments of so called, "Perverted Torah and Gospels" had entered Iran through its Western borders, reports FCNN.
Two days later, on May 31st, the same report was reiterated by the official anti-crime website of the Pasdaran Army called "Gerdaub" that a large shipment of Jewish and Christian Scriptures has entered Iran through the Western Azerbaijan province and according to security officials of that province the "occupier forces" that operate in the Western regions of Iraq were responsible for such activities.
Gerdaub, the official website of the Pasdaran Army continued its report by quoting the security official who had stated that:
Some of these books are distributed locally, but most of the books are smuggled and distributed all over the country. In just the last few months, hundreds of such "perverted Bibles" have been seized and burned in the border town of Sardasht.
The same unidentified security source adds that his intention has been to inform and enlighten people.
While the depiction of the Prophet of Islam and other historical religious leaders, whether in good or bad taste, has caused uproar and violent protests, threats of retaliation and assassinations, closure of embassies, long and mournful marches in various parts of countries of the world such as Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, its quite interesting that the official website of the most powerful military wing of the Islamic Republic of Iran engages in the shameful act of reporting the burning
Of course, the security officials have not clarified the difference between these so called "perverted Bibles" and those that are commonly used by people around the world – including Iran.
These officials shamefully label the Holy Scriptures of the Christians contraband without realizing the over two billion people around the world and at least five hundred thousand people in Iran revere and consider holy. This action is no different than what the government has wrongfully accused many Christians of insulting the sacred beliefs of Islam.
On the hand the defenders of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the international organizations and human rights forums claim that religious minorities such as Jews and Christians enjoy constitutional protection and the adherents of these religions not only can elect their own representatives to the parliament, but exercise their religious rights freely and openly. But, as with many other rights and freedoms granted to the people in the constitution, this fundamental right has also been violated
and repressed by the Islamic government.
The leaders of the Islamic Republic not only use the weapon of their pre-selected parliamentary candidates to control who gets into the legislature, but severely suppresses the religious minorities by demanding the names of those attending church services, banning the entry of Farsi-speaking members into church building and any preaching in the Farsi language, rejecting any building permits for church buildings, and the publishing of Bibles and other Christian literature which amounts to nothing
but direct interference in the religious affairs of the very people it claims to be protecting.
For these reasons Christians have taken refuge at homes and congregate in home-style churches form small home-based churches. Even then, many of these Christians are harassed and often pursued by security agents and are arrested and detained. Many Christian leaders have been detained for long periods of time in undisclosed locations and often very expensive bails have to be posted to secure their freedom.
The question remains as to how long the Christian community outside of Iran can tolerate such persecutions and atrocities? Moreover, and not withstanding the fact that Iranian Christians do not have the right to publish their holy scriptures, those Christians from around the world who donate Bibles to their brothers and sisters inside Iran are insulted by labeling their donated Bibles as contraband and burned by the security agents.
It is only appropriate that the official website of the Pasdaran army that has published this report and has confirmed the validity of this news through one of its security agents be condemned by the international Christian community and the world to demand the identification of those perpetrated this shameful act.
Such insults and offensive actions in burning the Christian Bible coincides with the Islamic community’s full enjoyment, freedom, and the blessings of the Western nations that allow them to publish the Islamic Holy Book, the Quran, and to build as many mosques as its needed in various European and North America cities.
The Quran states that the Torah and the Gospels are Holy Scriptures as well. Nevertheless, the Islamic leaders claim that the Bibles used by Christians and Jews are not the authentic scriptures but have been changed by the church. Considering the fact that the Quran also states that no man can destroy the word of God, the question remains that if the currently used Bible is, as the Islamic leaders so claim, a changed and untrustworthy document where is the real Torah and the Gospels?
If the Quranic claim that the word of God can never be perverted and changed, then there must be a copy of the real Torah and the Gospels somewhere. To this question Muslims have not credible answers. There is no such difference or variance between today’s Scriptures and the original writings. Our modern Bibles go back to the very ancient copies of the scriptures that in some cases date back to only 50 years from Christ Himself. There are even copies of the Old Testament that date several hundred
years before Christ.
Definitely and for sure, one can not find any ancient writings that have been as carefully and precisely copied and preserved as the Bible has been. There are thousands of ancient manuscripts in world museums that testify to this fact. Therefore the claim that the Bible is a changed and false scripture is totally baseless and is nothing but a ploy to confuse and mislead people by the Islamic leaders.
In any event, the burning of any book, especially one that is honored and revered by a great majority of people around the world, is an unacceptable and immoral act and must be condemned by the world community.
Report from the Christian Telegraph
Over the weekend, the Church of England introduced draft legislation putting the country’s Anglican communion on the fast track to allowing women’s ordination, reports Catholic News Agency.
On Saturday, May 8, the Church of England’s revision committee published a 142-page review in favor of draft proposals that support women being consecrated as bishops and priests.
According to Reuters, the church’s revision committee also proposed safeguards for more traditional parishes who have expressed opposition to ordaining women, including the right to request that a male bishop perform blessings and ordinations. However, the committee proposals did not meet the requests by these parishes for new dioceses or a special class of bishops.
“After much discussion the Committee rejected proposals aimed at fundamentally changing the approach of the legislation for those unable to receive the ministry of female bishops,” wrote Church of England officials in a statement Monday.
The draft proposals will now go forward for debate at the Church’s General Synod, in July in York, Northern England. If passed, the Church of England will hold the same position on female ordination as the Anglican Communion in the United States and New Zealand.
Monday’s statement also clarified that the “earliest that the legislation could achieve final approval in Synod (when two-thirds majorities in each of the Houses of Bishops, Clergy and Laity will be required) is 2012, following which parliamentary approval and the Royal Assent would be needed.”
The statement added that “2014 remains the earliest realistic date when the first women might be consecrated as bishops.”
This move is likely to increase interest among traditionalist Anglicans in the Pope’s recent invitation for Church of England members to become Catholic. Last November, the Holy Father released “Anglicanorum coetibus,” a motu propio which offered Vatican guidelines for Anglican groups to enter into communion with the Catholic Church.
The Sunday Telegraph in Britain reported on May 2 that several Anglican bishops recently met with Vatican officials to discuss the process of converting to Catholicism.
Despite the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams reportedly urging them not to leave the Church of England, several bishops are looking to break from the Anglican Communion over their opposition to the introduction of women bishops and priests.
According to the British paper, Bishops John Broadhurst, Keith Newton and Andrew Burnham, from the Dioceses of Fulham, Richborough and Ebbsfleet respectively, all met with senior Vatican officials last week.
Report from the Christian Telegraph
In a brochure on ‘2009 Lenten Meditations’ put out by the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC), Jesus is portrayed as a recovering racist, reports John-Henry Westen, LifeSiteNews.com.
The brochure’s reading for March 27 is taken from Matthew 15, which relates the familiar story in which Jesus has a discussion with a Canaanite woman. According to the ACoC, “This is not a story for people who need to think that Jesus always had it together, because it looks like we’ve caught him being mean to a lady because of her ethnicity.”
The brochure quotes the Bible passage Matthew 15 22-27 (citing it incorrectly as Matthew 14), which reads: “a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’ “
The brochure meditation on the passage says of Christ: “At first, he ignores her cries. Then he refuses to help her and compares her people to dogs.”
The meditation continues: “But she challenges his prejudice. And he listens to her challenge and grows in response to it. He ends up healing her daughter. What we may have here is an important moment of self discovery in Jesus’ life, an enlargement of what it will mean to be who he was. Maybe we are seeing Jesus understand his universality for the first time.”
More traditional Anglicans, however, did not take kindly to the suggestion that Christ was a cruel racist whose “prejudices” were “challenged” by the Canaanite woman.
Bishop Carl Reid of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada, a traditional Anglican group which separated over 30 years ago from the ACoC, explained to LifeSiteNews.com that the translation of words and the context must be taken into account for a proper understanding of the passage.
“The Greek word that is used for ‘dog’ in the passage, is actually a different from that of another word used as an insult for non-Jews in those times,” he said. The word used in Matthew 15 refers to a “puppy or family pet” rather than the insulting term said Bishop Reid. “The significance (of Christ’s selection of words) would not have been lost on the woman because it would not have been caught as a rebuff.”
Rather than an indication of Christ’s racism, the passage has always been interpreted by Christians as a test of the Canannite woman’s faith and an example to the Pharisees who were present and unbelieving. The text is often cited as an encouragement to perseverance in prayers of petition.
Notably, the ACoC brochure leaves out the most important line of the passage: “Then Jesus answering, said to her: O woman, great is thy faith: be it done to thee as thou wilt: and her daughter was cured from that hour.”
In recent years the ACoC has been rocked with splits, in large part due to the fact that the hierarchy has attempted to force priests to engage in official blessings of homosexual partnerships. As a consequence, some Anglican churches in the country have sought Episcopal oversight from more traditional wings of the Anglican Church.
Report from the Christian Telegraph
Reclassifying buildings as places of worship nearly impossible.
ISTANBUL, December 15 (Compass Direct News) – In the city of Samsun on the north coast of Turkey, the beleaguered congregation of the Agape Church Association struggles against local Islamic hostility toward its presence.
In the last three years Agape church members have endured false allegations and verbal abuse from Muslim and nationalist locals. Their pastor has received death threats, and their building has been vandalized, all in an attempt to stop the 30 or so Christians from meeting.
Local authorities have also had their part in opposition to the church, threatening it with legal action based on spurious charges. Despite being an “association,” an official status that provides some legal protections and that the government encourages Christian congregations to obtain, the church was threatened with a lawsuit because members had hung verses of Scripture and a cross on the walls. The Provincial Directorate of Associations inspected the building and told them to remove the offending articles because their rented rooms looked too much like a church.
“We didn’t change the decorations, because having a cross or verses in a building is not a crime,” said Orhan Picaklar, pastor of the church. “If it were, then Muslim associations would have to take down their decorations: verses from the Quran, prayers of blessings and images of the Kaaba in Mecca. We didn’t change a thing.”
It was this sort of harassment that led the Alliance of Protestant Churches of Turkey (TEK) to write its latest report, published last month. TEK, established in 1989, represents 34 churches throughout Turkey and acts as a support and advocacy group.
The report focuses on the unfounded obstacles and challenges facing Christian congregations wishing to construct or reclassify church buildings. Authors of the report told Compass that congregations in principle should not have to meet under the pretext of an association, since the law in theory provides for the establishment of “places of worship.” They said the push on the side of authorities to form associations is in essence discriminatory.
“A place of worship for religious groups is crucially important; they need places of worship in order to survive and develop,” said a member of the TEK’s legal committee. “The process of becoming a place of worship, although legally possible, is in practice almost impossible. Because of that, we feel the need to put this issue on the agenda. We wanted to bring this issue to the attention of local and international bodies.”
In 2003 Public Works Statute 3194, which regulates the construction of religious buildings, was amended in response to pressure from the European Union. The revised regulation now uses the phrase “places of worship” rather than “mosques.” This has prompted Christians to apply for legal status changes for the “offices,” “residences” and “warehouses” in which they had been meeting.
This change in the law paved the way for Christian meeting places to be “rezoned” and legally registered as churches; applications for status change thus far, however, have been rejected by local municipalities on various grounds.
The Besiktas Protestant Church is awaiting a decision on its application to have its premises rezoned. No church has ever succeeded in such a quest.
“All the documents have been there for the last two years; it’s just been kept from coming,” said a member of the Besiktas church. “They don’t want to make a decision. That a group can take a non-church building and get it rezoned is not a precedent that they really want to see.”
Another step towards obtaining credence came from a change of law in 2005 that removed previous restrictions on forming associations. At least nine churches have submitted applications to their local authorities to register as such.
“The government is recommending that – they want churches to become associations,” said the Besiktas church member. “We may well do that.”
Although this is a major step forward in Turkish churches’ struggle to gain legitimacy, registering as associations has not always kept them from harassment and maltreatment.
“Being organized as an association does not rezone your building,” said the Besiktas church member. Only gaining legal status as a “place of worship” would make holding church services legal. “You’re holding church services in a place that’s set aside for that.”
Along with the Besiktas church, the TEK report cites the cases of four other congregations that are facing closure based on charges of violating zoning laws. It is this sort of harassment that congregations hope to prevent by changing the classification of their buildings.
Four further congregations have had requests to build “places of worship” rejected; in each case, authorities told them that no suitable location was available.
The report outlines three main problems facing congregations wishing to build their own premises.
The first is the size requirement for any new building site. The allocation criteria stipulate that a plot cannot be fewer than 2,500 square meters, an excessive and overly expensive amount of land for a congregation of 30-40, the average Turkish Protestant congregation.
The Samsun church is a case in point. It has met in rented apartments since its inception and been forced to move on numerous occasions.
“The place we use now is a rental, and if the owner wants to kick us out, we’ll be forced to change our church’s location,” said Picaklar. “They [authorities] stipulate that the land be 2,500 square meters. This is impossible for us, because to buy that big of a plot we would need 700,000 to 800,000 U.S. dollars.”
The second issue the report cites is the vagueness of the permission criteria by which civil administration is to award or reject applications. The report suggests that “there is much room for arbitrary discretionary decisions.”
Thirdly, the report berates the unfairness of application denials based on lack of resident Christian population in areas for proposed worship buildings.
The report points out that it is unlikely that the Turkish Protestant community, with a ratio of one member per 20,000 people, would ever have the requisite presence in a single locale to justify the construction of a church building.
The TEK report concludes with suggested solutions to the challenges that have dogged its member congregations. It first urges that the national government do a better job of educating and overseeing local authorities.
“The ministries of the Interior and of Justice should not only inform their local offices of the rights of non-Muslim groups but should also adequately train their civil servants and make every effort to prevent rights violations,” the report states.
The report also urges that regulations governing plot and building size be relaxed.
“Communities should be given the chance to buy and build places of worship according to their own needs and resources,” it states. “Christians should be allowed to have small places of worship just like the Muslim masjid [privately owned mosque].”
Report from Compass Direct News
The assembly of the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior (APCI) has requested its bishop, Gordon Light, to allow clergy whose conscience permits to bless civilly-married gay couples where at least one party is baptized. The assembly passed the motion when it met Oct. 17 to 19, reports Anglican Journal.
A notice of a similar motion was filed at the synod of the diocese of Ontario but was declared out of order by the diocesan bishop, George Bruce, who acted on the advice of the diocesan chancellor (legal advisor). The ruling was appealed at the synod held Oct. 16 to 18 but was upheld by a majority vote of delegates.
At the APCI assembly, Bishop Light gave concurrence to the motion but suspended any action pending consultations with the Canadian house of bishops, which meets Oct. 27 to 31 to discuss, among others, how best to respond to renewed proposals for moratoria on the blessing of same-sex unions, the ordination of persons living in same-sex unions to the episcopate, and cross-border interventions.
Since the 2007 General Synod four dioceses have already passed similar motions – Ottawa, Montreal, Niagara, and Huron. The diocesan synod of New Westminster approved same-sex blessings in 2002.
Of the 50 clergy and lay delegates at the APCI assembly, 36 voted yes (72 per cent), 10 voted no (20 per cent), and four (8 per cent) abstained. APCI is composed of 18 parishes (including 35 congregations) which was constituted after the former diocese of Cariboo closed its diocesan office in 2001 because of financial pressures surrounding lawsuits about abuse at the St. George’s Indian Residential School in Lytton, B.C.
“We had a very respectful discussion. All voices were heard,” said Rev. Susan Hermanson, rector of St. Peter’s Anglican church in Williams Lake, who moved the motion. She said that approval of the motion “allows us to accept gays and lesbians fully as part of our family and, as in all families, we can disagree with one another and still be part of the family.”
In a telephone interview, she added that the motion was also meant to “take a reading” of where APCI was on the issue. She noted that in 2000, the diocesan synod of Cariboo had approved a motion affirming the full inclusion of gay and lesbian couples in the life of the church. Since then, parishes have been discussing and studying the issue further, she said. “We have, in fact, been discussing this issue for the last 30 years now,” she said.
In her written background and explanation, Ms. Hermanson noted that APCI “is a diverse community and therefore respects and honours those who, because of their theological position or as a matter of conscience, cannot agree with the blessing of same-sex unions.”
Anglicans opposed to same-sex blessings believe that homosexuality is contrary to scripture and to Anglican teaching. To date, 14 of about 2,800 congregations have left the Canadian Anglican church over theological disagreements over homosexuality. These churches have joined a group called the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) and placed themselves under the episcopal oversight of the primate of the Southern Cone, Archbishop Gregory Venables.
Report from the Christian Telegraph