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Michael Ireland is an international British freelance journalist. A former reporter with a London newspaper, Michael is Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service of Lake Forest, California. Michael immigrated to the United States in 1982 and became a US citizen in September, 1995. He is married with two adult children. Michael has also been a frequent contributor to United Christian Broadcasters , a British Christian radio station. His stories for ASSIST News may be viewed at ASSIST News Service Michael's writing activities are a sponsored ministry department -- Michael Ireland Media Missionary (MIMM) -- of Artists in Christian Testimony (ACT) International where you can donate online to his stated mission of 'Truth Through Christian Journalism.'

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

'Christ at the Checkpoint' to Build on First Global Evangelical Conference in Palestine

By Michael Ireland
Senior International Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

BETHLEHEM (ANS) -- Bethlehem Bible College will host the upcoming international Christ at the Checkpoint conference, "Hope in the Midst of Conflict," to be held from March 5-9, 2012 in Bethlehem.

This conference will build on the success of the first Christ at the Checkpoint conference which was held in March 2010.

Attendees at the first Christ at the Checkpoint Conference in Bethlehem in March, 2010
(Photo courtesy Bethlehem Bible College).

Last year, the first global evangelical conference to take place in Palestine, "Christ at the Checkpoint: Theology in the Service of Peace and Justice," completed its work in Bethlehem, organized by the Bethlehem Bible College in partnership with the Holy Land Trust.

More than 250 participants representing twenty nations came together between March 12 - 17, 2010 and listened to challenging and powerful presentations spoken by some of the leading voices of the evangelical movement (Palestinian, Messianic and international), and were a direct witness to the current realities on the ground.

The conference addressed different understandings of how the Evangelical Church, both in the past and currently, deals with scriptural understandings of theology regarding those who live in the Holy Land and how that either promotes war and violence, or promotes peace and justice.

Some of the themes of the conference included a biblical critique of dispensational theology and repudiation of an exclusive theology of the land that marginalizes and disenfranchises the indigenous people. The conference affirmed the strategic role of the Palestinian Evangelical Church in justice, peacemaking and reconciliation. The conference speakers repudiated both Christian Zionism and Anti-Semitism.

So far, more than 120 attendees have registered for the 2012 Conference.

Organizers say there is still time to register and, as an incentive, they are offering a registration reduction: if you register before January 10, 2012, the fee will be $400; after that date, it will increase to $450.

An exciting new component of next year's Conference is the addition of a young adult/student experience which will take place March 2-12. Student delegation members will have a chance to experience the Holy Land and develop relationships with their peers who understand the unique challenges of being a voice for their faith in their own community.

Organizers say they are especially excited to announce that Shane Claiborne, who will be giving a keynote address at the conference, will also join the student delegation on a day-trip to the troubled city of Hebron in the West Bank. Check the "Student" tab under "Register" on the Conference website for more information.

Shane graduated from Eastern University, and did graduate work at Princeton Seminary. His ministry experience is varied, from a 10-week stint working alongside Mother Teresa in Calcutta, to a year spent serving a wealthy mega-congregation at Willow Creek Community Church outside Chicago. During the recent war in Iraq, Shane spent three weeks in Baghdad with the Iraq Peace Team.

'Hope in the Midst of Conflict' will be the theme for the 2012 Conference.

According to the Conference website, the aim of 'Christ at the Checkpoint' is to provide an opportunity for evangelical Christians who take the Bible seriously to prayerfully seek a proper awareness of issues of peace, justice, and reconciliation.

The conference will also empower and encourage the Palestinian church; expose the realities of the injustices in the Palestinian Territories and create awareness of the obstacles to reconciliation and peace; create a platform for serious engagement with Christian Zionism and an open forum for ongoing dialogue between all positions within the Evangelical theological spectrum; and motivate participants to become advocates for the reconciliation work of the church in Palestine/Israel and its ramifications for the Middle East and the world.

The website also says the Conference sessions and activities will have varied formats. They will include lectures, interviews, open discussions, field visits, workshops and small group discussions. There will be also praise and worship, gospel choirs, and a series of short videos created specifically for the conference.

The conference will cover the following themes and topics, plus many more:

.Bible Study -- Each day will start with a Bible study from John Ortberg on the theme of Hope in the Bible.

.Palestinian Christian Perspectives -- Palestinian Evangelical leaders will speak about the history and contemporary situation of the Palestinian Church. International leaders will reflect on this situation in keeping with the theme of Hope in the Midst of Conflict.

.Engagement with Biblical Zionism -- Palestinian Christians, Christian Zionists, Messianic Christians, and international leaders will engage each other on the topic of Christian Zionism bringing different perspectives into conversation.

.Biblical Justice -- The conference will explore the notion of Biblical justice in the context of the Middle East and its recent revolutions.

.Nonviolence and Peacemaking -- Organizers will focus on Christian perspectives on nonviolence and peacemaking in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a particular view towards the contributions of Palestinian Christians.

.Reconciliation -- A focus on reconciliation and how is it manifest among Christians in the Palestinian-Israeli context.

.Action -- Learn and explore how to become agents of change towards peace and reconciliation.

Among the speakers will be Alex Awad, pastor of East Jerusalem Baptist Church. He and his wife, Brenda, have been missionaries with the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church since 1989. He is Dean of Students at Bethlehem Bible College, Director of the Shepherd Society, and a board member of the Council of Local Evangelical Churches in the Holy Land. His second book, "Palestinian Memories: the Story of a Palestinian Mother and her People," was published in 2008.

Also speaking will be Bishara Awad. In 1948, during the height of the Arab/Israeli conflict, Bishara's father fell victim to a stray bullet, and Bishara became a refugee along with his mother, three brothers and three sisters. His mother managed to practice nursing and keep a family home by placing her children in boarding schools on an interim basis throughout their elementary and secondary school years.

Following his high school education, Bishara attended Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, SD, USA from 1960-1964 and earned a BA in mathematics and a minor in chemistry. He then taught high school for several years from 1964-1970. From 1968-1970 he attended evening courses at Missouri State College and received his MA in education in 1970. From 1981-1982, he attended Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary in Fresno, CA for a one year, special program.

After the birth of his first son, Sami, in 1972, Bishara joined the Mennonite Central Committee as a volunteer at Hope School in Beit Jala, Palestine. He served as principal for ten years. He and Salwa had two more children, Samir, born in 1973, and Dina, born in 1977. (All of their children are married; Bishara and Salwa are grandparents to 3 boys and 5 girls.)

In 1979, Bishara felt led to start Bethlehem Bible College and, with the support of other Christian leaders, began this ministry during evening hours at Hope School in Beit Jala. From 1979 until the present, Bishara has served as president of Bethlehem Bible College. Today, Bethlehem Bible College is a fully accredited institution that enjoys its own campus and serves over 100 young men and women each year. Extension satellites operate in Nazareth, Ramle, and Gaza. Graduates of Bethlehem Bible College are serving their communities as pastors, Christian educators, counselors and tour guides.

Bishara has been very active in his career, in particular in the development and expansion of Bethlehem Bible College. He has traveled widely in the Middle East, Asia, Europe and the United States. In 1999, he was the recipient of the Bob Pierce Award for Christian Service, bestowed by World Vision, International. Bishara desires for Palestinians to find hope and peace in their lives through reconciliation to God and to their fellow man.

Gary M. Burge (PhD, King's College, Aberdeen University) is a professor of New Testament in the Department of Biblical & Theological Studies at Wheaton College and Graduate School. He has authored a number of books, including 'Who Are God's People in the Middle East?'; 'What Christians Are Not Being Told About Israel and the Palestinians'; and the first two volumes in the 'Ancient Context, Ancient Faith' series: 'The Bible and the Land' and 'Jesus, the Middle Eastern Storyteller'. Gary specializes in the Middle East, its churches, and its history in the Hellenistic period.

John Ortberg is an evangelical Christian author, speaker, and senior pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California, an evangelical church with more than 4,000 members. Ortberg has published many books including the 2008 ECPA Christian Book Award winner When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box, and the 2002 Christianity Today Book Award winner If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat. Another of his publications, The Life You've Always Wanted, has sold more than 500,000 copies as of 2008.

Lynne Hybels and her husband, Bill, started Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois in 1975, with an interest in addressing the needs of "the whole person in the whole world". For years, she has been involved with Willow's ministry partnerships in under-resourced communities in Latin America and Africa. She is the author of 'Nice Girls Don't Change the World', and co-author of 'Rediscovering Church' and 'Fit to be Tied'. She has recently collaborated with the Willow Creek Association to produce 'Hope and Action', a DVD and participant guide that helps churches and small groups address the AIDS pandemic.

Ronald J. Sider (Ph.D., Yale) is Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry and Public Policy and Director of the Sider Center on Ministry and Public Policy at Palmer Theological Seminary and President of Evangelicals for Social Action. A widely known evangelical speaker and writer, Sider has spoken on six continents, published thirty-one books and scores of articles. In 1982, The Christian Century named him one of the twelve "most influential persons in the field of religion in the U.S." Sider is the publisher of PRISM magazine and a contributing editor of Christianity Today and Sojourners. He has lectured at scores of colleges and universities around the world, including Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and Oxford.

Dr. Salim Munayer is a member of faculty at Bethlehem Bible College. He is also the founder (1990) and director of Musalaha Reconciliation Ministries for Israel and Palestine. He is involved in leadership training for pastors in the Galilee and Jerusalem areas. He has edited several books, and written articles on the subjects of reconciliation, the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and Christian Palestinian identity.

Tony Campolo, professor emeritus at Eastern University, is the founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, an organization that develops schools and social programs in various Third World countries and in cities across North America. He is the author of 35 books, his latest three being, "Letters to a Young Evangelical," "The God of Intimacy and Action" and, most recently, "Red Letter Christians: A Citizen's Guide to Faith and Politics."

All registration is being done through the Conference website, www.christatthecheckpoint.com. Note that this site also has information about post-conference options. While visiting the website, also check out the video testimonies from Lynne Hybels of Willow Creek Church, and Shane Claiborne, which promote the conference.

If you have additional questions or would like more information, please do not hesitate to email conference@bethbc.org

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Report: Scottish boycott leader defends Fogel killers

A Scottish councilor who has lead an anti-Israel boycott at the district of West Dunbartonshire defended the perpetrators of the Itamar massacre, saying the murderers were seeking to avenge the killing of Palestinian children, the Jewish Chronicle reported Friday.

Responding to an email for a Pro-Israel activist, Jim Bollan of the Scottish Socialist Party wrote that the killers aimed to avenge the death of “Palestinian children slaughtered by the IDF.”

The two Palestinian killers entered the Fogel family home in the West Bank settlement of Itamar and murdered Uri and Ruth Fogel and three of their children, including an infant. Read more.

(Source: Christians United For Israel)

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Nepal Plans New Criminal Code Forbidding Evangelism

Deadline Again Passes for Completing New Constitution

KATHMANDU, Nepal, June 2 (Compass Direct News) — Five years after it abolished Hinduism as the state religion, Nepal is working on a new criminal code forbidding a person from one faith to “convert a person or abet him to change his religion.”

Article 160 of the proposed code also says no one will be allowed to do anything or behave in any way that could cause a person from a caste, community or creed to lose faith in his/her traditional religion or convert to a different religion. The proposal would also prohibit conversion “by offering inducements or without inducement,” and preaching “a different religion or faith with any other intent.”

If found guilty, offenders could be imprisoned for a maximum of five years and fined up to 50,000 Nepalese rupees (US$685). If the offender is a foreigner, he or she would be deported within seven days of completing the sentence.Nepal’s Christian community, which has no representation in the Council of Ministers or in parliament, was caught unaware of the new criminal law in the offing.

“We have not heard of this,” said Lokmani Dhakal, general secretary of Nepal Christian Society. “We need to look into this.”

Nepal’s law and justice ministry, in consultation with judges and legal officers, drafted the new Criminal Code that, once approved by parliament, would make proclaiming Christ a punishable offense. The bill was approved by the Council of Ministers and then introduced in parliament on May 15 by Law and Justice Minister Prabhu Shah.

According to the parliament secretariat, it will be discussed by the house and then sent to the body’s Legislative Committee. If the committee approves the bill, it would return to parliament and, following further discussion, would go to the president, Dr. Ram Baran Yadav, for final approval.

Nepal’s Interim Constitution of 2007 prohibits proselytizing, according to the 2010 International Religious Freedom Report of the U.S. Department of State, even though Nepal signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1991. Article 18 of the ICCPR includes the right to manifest one’s religion, which U.N. officials have interpreted as the right to evangelistic and missionary activities.

No New Constitution Nepal last weekend failed to complete a new constitution providing for religious freedom, thanks to a protracted battle for political power.Once the only Hindu monarchy in the world and now the youngest federal republic, Nepal was to have unveiled the document by midnight on Saturday (May 28).

But Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal admitted his three-month-old government had failed to fulfill its mandate and instead sought another year to write the constitution.After marathon negotiations, opposition parties finally agreed to sign an agreement that allowed the prime minister to extend the time for completing the first draft of the new constitution by three months.

The opposition, however, extracted its pound of flesh, forcing Khanal to agree to resign and pave the way for an all-party government.

As Nepal commemorated its Fourth Republic Day on Sunday (May 29), celebrations were muted in the tiny South Asian state, with public anger growing against politicians regarded as corrupt and power-hungry. Sunday marked the second time Nepal’s mammoth 601-seat parliament, which also serves as the constituent assembly elected to draft the new constitution, was unable to ready a new constitution after missing the first deadline on May 28, 2010.

“It’s useless to go on extending the time allotted for the new constitution,” said Chari Bahadur Gahatraj, a Protestant pastor who was also a member of the Committee for Christian Recommendations for the New Constitution.

“The new constitution will never be written unless the politicians show some ethics. Otherwise, the extensions become a mere ploy for the big parties to rule the country by turns.”

Amid the delays, Hindu militancy is on the upswing. The only royalist party in parliament, the Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal, proposed Sunday that parliament be dissolved since it failed to draft the new constitution in time. It called for fresh elections to constitute a new parliament, a step that the party thinks will lead to the restoration of a Hindu kingdom in Nepal as people become increasingly disenchanted with squabbling politicians.

Though legislators voted overwhelmingly against the proposal, the royalists, led by deposed King Gyanendra’s former home minister Kamal Thapa, have sworn to start a new and stronger campaign in the days to come.

This week also saw eight Hindu organizations, led by the World Hindu Federation, flex their muscles and enforce regional general strikes for three days, paralyzing parts of the country.The apparent reason for the strikes was the arrest of two men this month for slaughtering cows and selling the meat in a town in southern Nepal.

Besides being considered sacred by Hindus, the cow is also the national animal of Nepal, and a ban on cow slaughter is still in force. Though Nepal’s non-Hindu indigenous communities have been demanding that the cow, with its religious overtone, be replaced as the national animal now that Nepal is secular, a succession of Nepal governments has turned a deaf ear to the pleading.

During the general strikes, police raided two places in the capital city of Kathmandu and seized over 1,000 iron tridents that were to have been used during public demonstrations by one of the protesting Hindu groups, the Shiva Sena Nepal.

Also on the warpath are two of Nepal’s largest and most privileged communities – the Chheris or warrior classes who accounted for nearly 16 percent of the population during the last census in 2001, and the Brahmins, the community of priests who accounted for over 12 percent. The two Hindu groups, who together ruled Nepal for centuries, are now seeking proportional representation in all areas of government, saying their rights are threatened by the new constitution.Nepal’s Christian minority is closely watching the upsurge in Hindu protests.

“From the very beginning, certain groups have been trying to foment instability and lawlessness, so that religious tolerance develops cracks in Nepal,” said Dhakal of the Nepal Christian Society.

“It is because our politicians don’t have vision and have been propagating religion and community-based politics. Many of them are not happy that the number of Christians is growing in Nepal.”

At the same time, in a democracy everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including Hindu extremists, Dhakal added.

“We will remain cautious about the militant Hindu campaigners, but we are not going to panic, as it will give them the importance they are seeking,” he said. “Besides, not all Hindus are militant, only some.”Nepal’s first Catholic bishop, Anthony Sharma, said many Christians feel betrayed.

“Not everyone is happy about the extension,” he said. “We hope the legislators will not betray the people this time. However, there is a small sense of relief as well. The country was moving towards zero state [as the interim constitution, parliament and government would have been dissolved if the three-month extension had not been granted]. So there’s relief at having averted that peril.”

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Thursday, June 09, 2011

New Life Ministries Hosts Tour of the Holy Land

Tour Features Private Concert from Christian Artist Steven Curtis Chapman

New York, NY – June 9, 2011-- Steve Arterburn, Founder and Chairman of New Life Ministries is currently hosting the organization’s first New Life Ministries tour to Israel. The tour began on Monday, June 6 and will conclude on Thursday, June 16. Participants on the tour will enjoy a private concert by Christian recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman on June 12 on the Temple steps at the Davidson Center.

“We are excited to welcome Steve Arterburn and New Life Ministries to Israel,” said Haim Gutin, Israel Tourism Commissioner, North and South America. “We know that once they visit Israel – they will never be the same.”

New Life Ministries will tour the land and visit holy sites, including: • Mount of Beatitudes• Sea of Galilee• Capernaum• Cana• Nazareth• Caesarea• Mount of Olives• Garden of Gethsemane• Caiaphas’ House• City of David• Via Dolorosa• Garden Tomb

Steve Arterburn is the host of the number-one ranked nationally syndicated Christian counseling talk show New Life Live, which is heard by millions on over 180 radio stations, as well as on XM – Sirius Satellite Radio Network. The show can be seen on television on FamilyNet. Steve is also a best-selling author with over seven million books in print.

For more information about travel to Israel, please visit www.EvangelicalIsraelExperience.com.
(Photo: Synagogue in Capernaum. Courtesy: Israel Ministry of Tourism)

About the Israel Ministry of Tourism: With its main headquarters for North America in New York, the Israel Ministry of Tourism leads the State of Israel’s efforts at maintaining a strong tourism industry. The Ministry of Tourism promotes tourism to Israel via its Israel Government Tourist Offices in Europe, Asia, and the Americas.

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Lutheran Leader to Visit Japan in Wake of Earthquake and Tsunami

LCMS President will show support for partner church, continuing disaster relief

Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), and other LCMS leaders will be traveling to Japan, June 10-19 to visit officials with the Japan Lutheran Church, one of the Synod’s partner churches, to demonstrate the Synod’s continuing support for its members and efforts to help those affected by the devastating March 11 earthquake/tsunami.
They will travel to Tokyo, Japan, and surrounding towns and villages, as well as Seoul, Korea.
The LCMS group will include President Harrison; Dr. Albert B. Collver III of St. Louis, LCMS director of church relations; Rev. Glenn F. Merritt of Arlington, Texas, director of disaster response for LCMS World Relief and Human Care; Darin Storkson of Jakarta, Indonesia, Asia director for LCMS World Relief and Human Care; Dr. David C. Birner of St. Louis, associate executive director, international, for LCMS World Mission; Rev. John Mehl of Hong Kong, regional director for Asia for LCMS World Mission; Dr. Naomichi Masaki of Fort Wayne, Ind., associate professor of systematic theology at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.; and Al Dowbnia of Indianapolis, Ind., communications director, LCMS World Relief and Human Care.
Background: Individuals and congregations of the LCMS have given more than $2 million to help the people of Japan since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Soon after the disaster, the LCMS released $200,000 in emergency funds for two Japanese Lutheran church bodies: the Japan Lutheran Church (an LCMS partner church) and the West Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church, which operates Kobe Lutheran Theological Seminary in Kobe along with other church organizations. The funds have been made available for the two church bodies to use however they decide for response to the earthquake and tsunami.
About The Lutheran Church—Missouri SynodThe Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), is a mission-oriented, Bible-based, confessional Christian denomination headquartered in St. Louis, Mo. Founded in 1847, the LCMS has more than 2.3 million baptized members in some 6,200 congregations and more than 9,000 pastors. Two seminaries and 10 colleges and universities operate under the auspices of the LCMS, and its congregations operate the largest Protestant parochial school system in America.
The church broadcasts the saving message of Jesus Christ over KFUO Radio, and it has relationships and active mission work in 88 countries around the world. In the last five years, the LCMS has awarded more than $35 million through more than 900 domestic and international grants for emergency response and disaster relief.
Today, the LCMS is in full doctrinal fellowship with 33 other confessional Lutheran church bodies worldwide and is a founding partner of Lutheran Services in America, a social ministry organization serving one in every 50 Americans. For more information, visit www.lcms.org.

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Monday, June 06, 2011

Noah's Ark in London for 2012 Olympics?

London, England -- In response to a dream he says he had, in which a great flood swept through Holland, Dutch Christian, Johan Huibers, has been building a 450-ft. long replica of Noah's Ark. The 450-foot replica was built because of a Dutchman's dream.(Photo: Ceinturion/Wikipedia)

As reported in The Telegraph U.K., the vessel "will be stuffed with pairs of model animals, while an aviary with free-flying live birds will take up most of the enormous deck house."According to the report, Mr. Huibers has written to the Mayor of London asking permission to bring his Ark from Holland to London for the Olympic Games and moor it on the River Thames.

Source: Andy Bloxham - The Telegraph U.K. via Teresa Neumann, Breaking Christian News

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New Book Challenges Western Church to Learn from Suffering Believers

Authors Seek to Shake Up ‘Comfortable Christians’ With ‘The Privilege of Persecution’ Message

SANTA ANA, CA (June 6, 2011) -- Islamic militants stormed a Baghdad Catholic cathedral, taking 100 hostages in a raid that killed 58 Christians.

Violence against Egypt's Christians this year alone includes the bombing of a Coptic Orthodox church, a policeman who opened fire on Christian train passengers, attacks on churches and Christian gatherings and a military assault on monasteries.

Pakistan’s first-ever Christian cabinet member, who opposed blasphemy laws used against innocent Christians, was assassinated in a hail of bullets by Muslim terrorists.

These believers often count it a privilege to suffer for their faith. Their courage teaches Christians in the West much about following Jesus.In a challenging new book, “The Privilege of Persecution: And Other Things the Global Church Knows that We Don’t” (Moody Publishers), Dr. Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA, and David Hegg, senior pastor at Grace Baptist Church (Santa Clarita, California), introduce Western Christians to persecuted Christians who are truly role models for worshippers in the West.

Through a combination of inspiring real-life stories, first-hand experiences on the field and exposition of key Bible passages, Moeller and Hegg examine the "normal Christian life" of Christ-followers. The authors conclude that the suffering church's fruit of vibrant, sacrificial and communal faith is God's intent for the church. The authors explore the areas of community, leadership, worship, prayer and generosity, revealing specific attitudes and actions of suffering Christians that can renew the spiritual lives of Christians in the West.

Moeller says he hopes the book will help Christians in the West “receive a fresh vision and love for the Lord as they read about God’s power at work in the hearts of the persecuted.” Moeller adds that some practical applications for readers of the book include giving of money more sacrificially, praying more globally than inwardly and making worship more authentic.Hegg says that when Christians read the book, his prayer is “they will use their freedom to extend the kingdom of God, rather than residing comfortably in their convenient Christianity.”

“It has been a great concern of mine that America is much too soft and comfortable in their Christian living,” says Dr. Thomas Halstead, chair of the Department of Biblical Studies at The Master’s College (Santa Clarita).

“David and Carl have clearly and articulately contrasted the soft side of American Christianity with that of the persecuted church. After reading this book I hope you too will be more excited and passionate with your walk with Christ. I encourage you to read and learn from this book.”

T.J. Addington, senior vice president for the Evangelical Free Church of America and ReachGlobal, adds: “The book should be required reading for all believers in the West.”“The Privilege of Persecution” is available in Christian bookstores, at www.amazon.com and other websites. For more information, visit http://www.theprivilegeofpersecution.org/.

An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world's most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers.

To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to our website at www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Christian Music Radio Legend Signs Off

After 31 years, The Brian Mason Show, a popular Sunday morning show on Mix 92.9 (WJXA), will air its final show on Sunday, June 26, 2011.

"Over the years, the show has enjoyed a great deal of success," says Brian Mason, program host.

(Pictured: Brian Mason).

"When the show began, Contemporary Christian Music was still in its infancy. We've had the privilege of premiering many record projects and introducing hundreds of new artists and groups to our middle Tennessee audience. This show has given me terrific memories that I will cherish the rest of my life.”

The Brian Mason Show has aired on general market stations in Nashville since 1980. The four-hour weekly airing featured long-form in-studio interviews and a programming mix blending songs of faith from the 1970's through today.

The show's in-studio guests have included an eclectic mix of musical notables including Pat Boone, Charlie Daniels, Michael W. Smith and Noel Paul Stookey, as well as visits from Christian music veterans like Rich Mullins, Phil Keaggy, Bob Bennett and Bonnie Keen. Gospel music luminary, Amy Grant, was one of the show's first guests when she was just 21 years old. The show is likely best known for its ability to embrace the roots of Christian music while introducing young artists to listeners.

Originally from Miami, Florida, Mason’s first radio job in Nashville was working at WLAC. He then joined weekend shifts at WSM-AM and FM and served as booth announcer for WSM-TV. He became general manager for Trevecca University’s WNAZ-FM in the late 70’s. The Brian Mason Show first aired on WSM-FM (SM-95) on May 4, 1980. The station's format change in February 1983 moved the show to WLAC-FM (105.9) where it spent the next 15 years. With yet another station format change in February 1998, Mix 92.9 became the program's new home.

Mason has also hosted multiple televised Christian music video programs, participated in many Dove Awards programs, emceed a myriad of live concert performances and charity benefits, and has served on various committees for the Gospel Music Association. Mason has used his influence in charitable ways, coordinating monthly programs at the Tennessee Prison for Women for several years.

Additional show history, archived audio, and guest photos are available at www.brianmason.com. Leading up to the June 26 finale, Mason will welcome several major guests including Michael W. Smith, Gary Chapman, Phil Keaggy and Point of Grace.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Program that Provides Refugee Status for Persecuted Christians to be cut

Congress Prepares to End Program that Assists Persecuted Iranian Christians

Washington, D.C. (June 1, 2011) – An expense-free humanitarian program called the Lautenberg Amendment, which provides refugee status to persecuted Christians and that has received bipartisan support for over 20 years, is due to be axed by Congress.

The Washington, D.C.-based International Christian Concern - ICC (http://www.persecution.org/ / Email: icc@persecution.org), says the amendment grants heavily persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in Iran a safe avenue to apply for refugee status.

In a media release, ICC says: "Without the program, persecuted Iranian Christians who are unable to flee the country will likely face imprisonment or execution. The Lautenberg Amendment has rescued persecuted Christians, Baha’is and Jews from Iran since 2003 by establishing a clear standard for processing refugee applications submitted by religious minorities.

"Because the U.S. does not have an embassy in Tehran, the program allows the Austrian Embassy to issue special visas that allow persecuted minorities into Austria in order to be interviewed at the U.S. Embassy in Vienna. The program does not require the expenditure of funds, nor does it increase the number of refugees admitted into the U.S. The program simply offers Iranian applicants who are members of a persecuted religious group the same opportunity to be granted refugee status in the U.S. that is given to applicants in other countries throughout the world."

ICC says Rep. Lamar Smith, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, is calling for oversight of this amendment and all immigration policies, which could lead to the end of the program in Iran.

ICC stated: "If the program is not renewed, 688 persecuted Iranian minorities who have already begun the refugee application process will be trapped in Iran and may be arrested along with the 254 Christians who have been arrested since June 2010.

"One of the imprisoned, Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, was issued the death sentence for apostasy in September."

Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “In early April, ICC requested that Christians call Rep. Lamar Smith’s office to express their concerns. While the program was successfully extended until June, it is once again under review.

"Without the program’s quick renewal, Austria may stop issuing visas and force Iranian Christians to pursue more dangerous options to avoid imprisonment and possible execution. We urge the U.S. Congress to save countless lives by permanently renewing the Lautenberg Amendment to assure religious minorities in Iran that their applications will be reviewed and processed.”

Please call Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, to express your concern for the immediate safety of Iranian persecuted minorities and for immigration policy that guarantees their access to the U.S. Embassy in Vienna: (202) 225-4236.

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You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference ICC (International Christian Concern) and include our web address, http://www.persecution.org/.

ICC is a Washington-DC based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Fears for Christians in North Sudan ahead of South Sudan's Independence


The kidnap and detention of a Darfuri woman accused of "Christianizing" children in displaced persons' camps has raised concerns about the threat to Christians in North Sudan as the South looks forward to independence.

Pictured: President of Sudan, Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir

Hawa Abdalla, a staff member of the United Nations/African Nations peacekeeping mission, was arrested on May 6 and faces further accusations of apostasy -- a crime punishable by death under Sudanese law -- proselytizing, and other crimes. She was kidnapped by security agents and later taken to Khartoum, where her place of detention remains unknown, even to her lawyers.

On May 8, Sudan's state news service published a photograph of Ms Abdalla holding a Bible. Human Rights Watch said there appeared to be bruises on her face and she was displaying visible signs of fatigue, suggesting the photo was taken after her arrest. It may be intended to frame her for the alleged offences. Concerns have been raised that she will be subjected to ill-treatment and torture.

“Sudan has been turned into an incubator for Muslim fanatics,” the Sudan Tribune newspaper reported.

The activist was previously arrested, in 2009, following the International Criminal Court's (ICC) announcement of charges against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur; she was accused of disseminating information that led to the ICC ruling. Ms Abdalla was held for six days and was seriously injured during interrogations.

"Wave of Hatred" Against Christians

Ms Abdalla's latest arrest comes amid growing concern about the strengthening of Islamic extremism in North Sudan and "the current wave of hatred against what Sudanese fundamentalists call ‘Christians, Jews and Crusaders,'" the Sudan Tribune said.

The newspaper pointed to the country's official mourning of Osama bin Laden, which it says "came pretty close to shutting down Sudan", as evidence of this. As the speaker of Khartoum's National Assembly, Ahmed Ibrahim Tahir, addressed a parliamentary session praising bin Laden as a Mujahid (fighter engaged in jihad), he was interrupted by MPs chanting, "Martyr, Martyr."

The Tribune newspaper said, "Sudan has been turned into an incubator for Muslim fanatics," blaming the President and his government for breeding and nursing this worrying development.

All this raises concerns for North Sudan's's sizable minority of Christians ahead of official independence for the predominantly-Christian SouthSudan, scheduled for July 9.

Al-Bashir has declared that the North will be 100 per cent Arab and Muslim, and has made clear his intention to reinforce its Islamic character following the split. He previously said that the constitution would be changed to make Islam the country's only religion, sharia its only law and Arabic the only official language. Sharia is already in place in the North, making conditions extremely difficult for the Christians -- especially converts from Islam -- living there. Christians face discrimination in education and employment as well as restrictions on their activities; it seems likely that these will only worsen following Southern independence.

So while Christians in South Sudan, who endured two decades of brutal civil war in which the North fought to impose sharia on them, are looking forward to a new dawn of freedom and peace, the future for Christians in the North looks much more threatening.

(Source: Barnabas Aid -- http://www.barnabasaid.org/)

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