Light for the Last Days

Christian issues – Signs of the Times 2016

Articles taken from Prophetic Witness Magazine Signs of the Times column in 2016

January 2016

Pope Francis says all major religions are paths to the same God.

A new video has been released in which Pope Francis very clearly expresses his belief that all of the major religions are different paths to the same God.   He says that while people from various global faiths may be ‘seeking God or meeting God in different ways’ that it is important to keep in mind that ‘we are all children of God’.  This is the most recent example that shows that the Pope has completely abandoned any notion that a relationship with God is available only through Jesus Christ.   As he has done throughout his papacy, he continues to lay the groundwork for a one world religion, and yet hardly anyone seems upset by this.

‘Many think differently, feel differently, seeking God or meeting God in different ways. In this crowd, in this range of religions, there is only one certainty that we have for all: we are all children of God,’ Pope Francis said in his message, released January 6, the feast of the Epiphany.’  It isn’t just Pope Francis speaking in this video. In fact, one section of the video features leaders from various global religions expressing faith in their respective deities.  The video features clips of those from different world religions declaring belief in their various deities.

‘I have confidence in Buddha,’ a female Buddhist lama announces.

‘I believe in God,’ a rabbi affirms.

‘I believe in Jesus Christ,’ a priest states.

‘I believe in Allah,’ an Islamic leader declares.

The Pope closes the video with an appeal for people from every religion to talk with one another and to work with one another.  Later on, after the Pope affirms that all, regardless of their religious profession, are children of God, the faith leaders state their common belief in love.

Pope Francis closes the video by expressing his hope that viewers ‘will spread my prayer request this month: that sincere dialogue among men and women of different faiths may produce fruits of peace and justice. I have confidence in your prayers.’

Pope Francis believes that all religions are different paths to the same God, and he is working hard to lay a foundation for the coming one world religion.  However, there are some religious people that Pope Francis does not like. Just recently, he referred to Christian fundamentalism as ‘a sickness’, and he made it clear that there was no room for it in Catholicism.

So precisely what is ‘fundamentalism’?  Google defines it as ‘a form of a religion, that upholds belief in the strict, literal interpretation of scripture.’  Does this mean that Pope Francis is against any Christian that believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible?

That does appear to be what he is saying, and without a doubt those would be the Christians that would be against the kind of one world religion that he appears to be promoting.  Nearly 2000 years ago, the Apostle John warned us that a one world religion was coming, and now we can see that it is coming to fruition.
Brainwashing our children.

An article in the Daily Mail, ‘Brainwashing of our children’ claims that Britain’s schools are force-feeding pupils politically correct dogma about sexuality, climate change and British history.  It gives examples such as the 11 year old girl who spoke to her grandfather about her future marriage plans ‘whether it is to a man or a woman.’  She has obviously been well indoctrinated at school that homosexual marriage is an equally valid option to marriage between a man and a woman.  Not to believe this would cause great offence to homosexuals.  Another example is the child from a Church of England school who kept saying ‘Peace be upon him’ every time she mentioned Mohammed.  When asked why, she said ‘That is what we were taught to say in RE.’  Not to say this would cause offence to Muslims.

The article goes on to focus on the ‘Gendered Intelligence programme’ (promoting transexuality) in which a speaker called Jay invites children to question their sexual identity by asking them what it means to be ‘girlish’ and ‘boyish’. ‘Some of them are as young as four: can you imagine what a shock it is for them when he reveals that he is a ‘transgender man’ who happened to have been ‘assigned female at birth’?  Increasingly children are expressing confusion about their sexual identity as the latest phase of indoctrination focuses on transgenderism and the rights of those who choose to change from being men to women and women to men.  

At a nursery school in Turnham Green, West London, three-year-olds too young to read or write are required to sign an agreement in which they promise to ‘be tolerant of others whatever their race, colour, gender, class, ability, physical challenge, faith, sexual orientation or lifestyle and refrain from using racist or homophobic or transphobic language’.

The article describes how a uniformly left wing world view is being promoted.  Just before the election one school was accused of having told its children that Labour ‘is the only party that wants us to live’, and of having asked its ten-year-old pupils to write essays on why people should vote for Ed Miliband.  ‘Global warming and environmental issues at the top of the agenda for opinion making.   Nowhere, perhaps, is the march of the Mind Police more evident than in the way virtually the whole curriculum has been hijacked by environmental issues.  A popular revision guide for GCSE English gives this example of a ‘boring’ sentence that may receive ‘zero marks’: ‘Global warming is a bad thing.’ And this as a ‘much better sentence’: ‘Global warming is a very serious and worrying issue.’ Then there’s the Climate Cops initiative in schools in which children were given police officer-style notebooks so that they could ‘book’ themselves, their friends or family members if they saw them wasting energy or performing ‘climate unfriendly’ acts.

One teacher writes ‘Geography was about saving rainforests, recycling and instilling guilt about how humans are ruining the Earth. In literacy, there was very little focus on grammar or spelling. For history, we’d use a textbook with made-up quotes from historical figures, telling us how bad the British Empire was.  Tradition is seen as the enemy of a future where everyone is equal, all shall have prizes and everyone should embrace the glorious new order of the enlightened, progressive Left. If the latter sounds like a form of cultural Marxism, that’s effectively what it is.  Anyone who dares to challenge these views will be a social outcast.’

The results of this are being seen in what is happening in our universities.  According to another article in the Daily Mail, ‘Britain’s students: the new fascists?’, ‘Britain’s universities have changed. They’ve turned from citadels of intellectual inquiry into sprawling camps of conformism, where anyone who dissents from what is decreed to be the correct thought processes will be cast out into the academic darkness.  Our colleges are now stuffed not with bright-eyed students keen to discuss any ideas, however radical, but proselytising zealots who will hound off campus anyone that offends their politically correct sensibilities. They spend their time constantly on the lookout for thinkers or books or even pop songs that blaspheme against their right-on ideology.’  Even radical feminist speakers who question transgender rights are being banned from speaking lest they cause offence.  

Causing offence is the ultimate sin in this new ‘group think’.  Here are some views which it considers deeply offensive.  

  1. Jesus meant it when He said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except by Me.’  Therefore there is the one way to God and people of all faiths and none should repent and believe the Gospel, that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again from the dead.  Very offensive to atheists, Muslims, Hindus and nominal Christians.
  2. Israel has a right to exist and to defend itself against those who attack it and wish to wipe it out.  Very offensive to Muslims and pro Palestinian groups (who are all very active and vocal in universities).  
  3. Marriage is between a man and a woman.  Homosexual acts are sinful in the eyes of God.  If you are born male, be a man and if you are born female be a woman.  Very offensive to homosexuals, transgenders and their supporters.  

Strangely it does not matter how offensive you are to Bible believing Christians.  They should put up with being vilified and ridiculed, because their views are offensive and should be banned altogether (and probably will be before too long).  

February 2016

Registering Sunday Schools.

The following four items are taken from Christian Concern website and show the growing moral and spiritual confusion which is coming upon our society as Britain turns away from the truth of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunday schools will be made subject to registration and inspection, under government plans to regulate ‘out-of-school’ settings, Ofsted’s chief inspector has confirmed.  The government proposes that ‘Out-of-school education settings’ that provide ‘intensive education’ for over six to eight hours in a week will be required to register and undergo regular inspection.  Ofsted’s chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said ‘The great majority of Sunday schools and church won’t be affected by this. But we need to know if a Sunday school is being run, is it registered? Is it being run properly by people that have been through proper safeguarding checks?…  ‘We will only go in when we feel there is a need to do so.’

The consultation states that ‘undesirable teaching’ is a ‘prohibited’ activity.  Such a vague definition puts Christian teaching at risk. Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, said:  ‘What Sir Wilshaw is suggesting has serious implications on the freedom of our Christian groups to teach core gospel truths. We have already seen that the biblical view of marriage and sexuality could be classed as ‘homophobic teaching’. A host of other Christian values taught to our children could be considered ‘undesirable’ under the loose definitions proposed by the government.’

Nicky Morgan, secretary of state for education, told the Today Programme that a child saying homosexuality is wrong could be a sign of ‘extremism’. This comment, together with the sweeping nature of the government’s ‘Counter-Extremism Strategy’, suggests that Christian schools or Sunday Schools could be deemed ‘extremist’ for teaching that sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman is sinful.

Anglican divisions over homosexual marriage.

A permanent split between liberals and conservatives in the global Anglican communion over homosexual rights has been averted after archbishops overwhelmingly agreed to impose sanctions against the liberal US church and issue a statement in support of the “traditional doctrine” that marriage should be between a man and a woman.  

An agreement, published on January 14th said the US Episcopal church’s acceptance of same-sex marriage represented “a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our provinces on the doctrine of marriage”.  In a passage that dismayed liberal Anglicans, the agreement explicitly added: “The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching.”  Under the agreement, the US Episcopal church has been banned from representation on key bodies and barred from voting on issues relating to doctrine or strategy for three years. However, it will remain a member of the Anglican communion.

At the heart of the split is the difference in view between liberal churches of north America, which recognise gay marriage, and African churches, led by Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria, which oppose it and even support the recriminalisation of homosexual activity.

The archbishop of Canterbury, Jusitn Welby, has apologised for the “hurt and pain” the Anglican Church has inflicted on lesbian, gay and transgender people as he attempted to defend the decision.  He said: “It’s a constant source of deep sadness that people are persecuted for their sexuality. I want to take this opportunity personally to say how sorry I am for the hurt and pain, in the past and present, that the church has caused and the love that we at times completely failed to show, and still do, in many parts of the world including in this country.”

Opposing the agreement, Jayne Ozanne, a leading figure in the group Accepting Evangelicals, said she was “deeply shocked” by the statement. There was no acknowledgement in the agreement of the “deep pain these decisions will cause, nor any concern for the pastoral care of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual and intersex Christians,” she said.  She added, ‘The campaign for gay rights within the church was strengthening. We’re not going away. We are here; baptised members of the faith, gathering our straight friends who are choosing to stand tall with us. Momentum is building, and I believe that is Holy Spirit-inspired.”  Brian Baker, a member of the US Episcopal church and dean of Trinity Cathedral in Sacramento, said: “It is my belief that the full inclusion of LGBT people in the church is God’s will. If there is a price to pay for this, then we have to pay it.”

The church does appear to be moving in this direction as a poll revealed that more Anglicans in England support gay and lesbian couples marrying than oppose it.  Of more than 1,500 Anglicans polled, 45% said same-sex marriage was right while 37% thought it was wrong.  The Yougov poll also indicates a large increase in support of same-sex marriage over the past three years.  Support for same-sex marriage was higher among the general population, with 56% of the more than 6,000 British people surveyed backing it, compared with 27% of people who opposed it.

The heart of the problem is the liberal theology which has led the Anglican church down the road to apostasy and division.  Homosexual practice is sinful and can never be accepted as a marriage relationship in the eyes of God. So rather than apologising for not accepting ‘gay marriage’ church leaders should be calling for repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.

March 2016

Open Doors Watch List of Christian Persecution.

The Open Doors World Watch List highlights the 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian.  The top ten countries for 2015 are 1. North Korea, 2. Iraq, 3. Eritrea, 4. Afghanistan, 5. Syria, 6, Pakistan, 7. Somalia, 8. Sudan, 9. Iran, 10. Libya.  

These are the places where followers of Christ must keep their beliefs hidden and where living the gospel means facing beatings, imprisonment, discrimination and abuse. The list reports that persecution became more intense in more parts of the world in 2015. While North Korea remains the most difficult place in the world to be a Christian, persecution is growing most rapidly in Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa. In the Middle East, Islamic State violence in Iraq and Syria has increased the pace of the exodus of the Christian population from the region and is also having a global impact.’

North Korea is number 1 again, as it has been for the past 14 years. Eritrea – the ‘North Korea of Africa’ – has entered the top five for the first time. In these ‘pariah states’ life as a Christian is frightening and dangerous.  Islamic extremism remains by far the most common driver of persecution: in eight out of the top 10, and 35 out of the top 50 countries, it is the primary cause. A rise in Islamic extremism sees Pakistan at its highest position ever, and Libya entering the top ten for the first time.

But it’s not just about Islam. A rise in hard-line Hindu nationalism in India has seen churches and pastors attacked with impunity. It enters the top 20 for the first time.  Open Doors records show that worldwide there were over 7,000 Christians killed for faith-related reasons in the year – almost 3,000 more than the previous year. (These are conservative estimates and exclude North Korea, Syria and Iraq, where accurate records do not exist.) Around 2,400 churches were attacked or damaged – over double the number for last year. In terms of violence against Christians and Christian property, Nigeria and Central African Republic top the list.  And the world has watched aghast as millions of refugees risk the hazardous route to Europe from the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. Their number includes thousands of Christians fleeing war and persecution.

And all the time, beneath these ‘headline’ events, there is constant, low-level, localised persecution. Christians are driven out of their communities, refused burial, denied jobs or education. Churches are torn down because of local opposition or mob rule. For millions of Christians, the everyday persecution happens in their village, or even among their family.

All of which is to say that around the world, persecution of Christians is increasing.  But on the frontline of suffering there is also great faith. Christianity is about victory, more than victimhood. So, a year of fear, but also courage and hope as Christians around the world stand beside their persecuted brothers and sisters, providing practical aid, speaking up on their behalf, and demonstrating mercy, compassion and forgiveness, rather than hatred, exclusion and revenge.

http://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/country_profiles.php

Christian student expelled for Facebook remarks on homosexuality.

A Christian student has been removed from a university social work course after he made comments on his personal Facebook page in support of biblical teaching on marriage and sexual ethics.  Following a ‘Fitness to Practise Committee’ hearing at Sheffield University, second year Masters student Felix Ngole, 38, has been told that he has been ‘excluded from further study on a programme leading to a professional qualification’ and is ‘no longer recognised as a University student.’

Mr Ngole was told that, by posting his comments on Facebook, the Committee believed that he ‘may have caused offence to some individuals’ and had ‘transgressed boundaries which are not deemed appropriate for someone entering the Social Work profession.’ His action would have an effect on his ‘ability to carry out a role as a Social Worker,’ the Committee said.

Mr Ngole made the comments in question last September on his personal Facebook page, in connection with the case of Kim Davis, the marriage county clerk from the US state of Kentucky, who expressed a conscientious objection to issuing marriage certificates to same-sex couples.  Mr Ngole expressed support for Kim Davis’s freedom and in the course of the discussion explained biblical teaching on sexual ethics.

Mr Ngole is appealing the decision and is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre.  If the decision is not overturned, it could prevent Mr Ngole from pursuing his vocation in social work.  The university’s decision to exclude him effectively creates a ‘bar to office for Christians’, Mr Ngole says, and amounts to ‘secret policing of Christian belief.’  He says that he is ‘determined to challenge the decision because of its wider consequences and the huge issues of freedom of religion and freedom of expression that it raises.’  ‘My beliefs about marriage and sexual ethics reflect mainstream, biblical understanding, shared by millions around the world. Simply expressing that understanding, in a personal capacity, on my Facebook page, cannot be allowed to become a bar to serving and helping others in a professional capacity as a social worker,’ he adds.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting Mr Ngole, said:  ‘Sadly, this is yet another case of Christians being punished in the public arena, and of censorship of views. We will help Felix fight this through the university’s appeals process, and to Judicial Review if necessary.’ 

Similar examples of discrimination against Christians who express their beliefs at work have occurred in America.   Urologist Dr. Paul Church was sacked from his post at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston.   His offence was warning of the health risks of homosexual behaviour and questioning the judgment of a hospital promoting such unhealthy behaviour.   Church was told by hospital superiors that his views about homosexuality were ‘discrimination’ and ‘harassment’ and that the Bible verses he used to define homosexuality were equally ‘offensive’.  Chris Routson, who spent the last 13 years with Precision Strip metal processing in Middletown, Ohio was terminated without severance due to his lesbian co-workers complaining they were uncomfortable with how he indiscriminately shared his faith – both at work and at home via Facebook.

April 2016

Pope calls for change in attitudes towards homosexuality.

Pope Francis, who has long revealed his liberal positions through interviews, called on Catholics to be more accepting of homosexuals as well as divorced Catholics.  While he didn’t change official church doctrines in his paper, which is an ‘apostolic exhortation’ instructing Catholics on how to live, the pope paved the way for a serious shift in the Catholic church away from central tenets of the faith.

‘A pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws…as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives,’ he wrote in the paper.  ’By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and growth.  I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion. But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness.  Every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration.’

Persecution and growth of Christians in Iran.

Christians are still being driven to worship in secret house churches, despite risking arrest. This is well exemplified in Iran, where Iran’s secret Christian movement is said to be growing rapidly with help from abroad.  A recent account by Fox News and other news outlets confirmed these developments. The number of Muslim converts who are risking prison or death by secretly worshiping as Christians in Iran’s house church movement has grown to as many as 1 million people, according to watchdog groups.

The persecution of Christians has persisted in Iran since the 1979 rise of the country’s theocratic Shiite Muslim government – with Christians facing the threat of lashing, torture and death. About 100 Christians currently remain imprisoned under Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s rule. In 2010, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the country’s underground house churches ‘threaten the Islamic faith and deceive young Muslims.’

While Iran has released high-profile Christian pastors from captivity – most notably Iranian-American Saeed Abedini – other Christian ministers still languish in the country’s prisons. One example is Pastor Farshid Fathi who has been locked up in Iran’s notorious Evin prison since December 2010 for what the American Centre for Law and Justice describes as practising his Christian faith.

After bowing to international pressure, Iranian authorities are starting to avoid charges that appear to be based on a person’s faith, according to the ACLJ. In Fathi’s case, his Christian activity was framed as being ‘criminal political offenses’ by the court.  In other cases, Christian practices such as the distribution of Bibles and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ have been re-framed with wordings such as ‘actions against national security,’ and ‘actions against the state’ in order to facilitate prosecution.

According to Samuel Smith, a Christian Post (CP) reporter, such crackdowns on faith, however, have not prevented Iranian house churches from blossoming into a movement too big for the Iranian religious police to contain. In addition, groups like the London-based Pars Theological Centre are stepping in to help expand the Christian movement from within the Islamic Republic.  A spokesman for the centre stated there is a strong need for leaders-in-Christ who can lead individual house churches and help the movement grow to become not just a Christian movement, but also an inherently ‘Iranian’ one.  He said, ‘While Iran’s fast church growth is a cause for celebration, there is serious concern for the lack of depth in the movement and the severe shortage of well-equipped leaders to address this need. The church is facing a leadership crisis that, if not addressed, will damage its health and mission. So there is a great and urgent need for training quality leaders, and to do that there needs to be quality theological and leadership training that is accessible to those who are serving inside the country.’

The centre is fostering about 200 leaders to spread the gospel in Iran. The centre was founded by Rev. Mehrdad Fatehi, and the courses taught in there include Hermeneutics, Ministry and Teaching of Jesus, Apologetics, Christian Counselling, The Triune God, and The Suffering Church.  The entire course should take up to three years to complete, subject to the study time available to each student.

May 2016

Glory to Allah on the buses.

Britain’s largest Islamic charity says it wants to ‘break down barriers’ and portray Islam positively by launching a new advertising campaign, which will put the phrase ‘glory to Allah’ on the side of London buses.  The new campaign by Islamic Relief is, ostensibly, targeted at raising donations for their Ramadan aid to Syria, but is attracting attention for the ‘hundreds’ of buses, which will be decorated with the phrase ‘Subhan’Allah’, or ‘Glory to Allah’.  Similar campaigns are to take place in Manchester, Leicester, Birmingham, and Bradford – all UK locations with high and growing Muslim populations.

The announcement of the new campaign came the day after London crowned its first Muslim leader, Mayor Sadiq Khan.  Islamic Relief called it a ‘nice irony’ that the two events coincided.  Imran Madden, a British convert to Islam and director of Islamic Relief’s United Kingdom Branch said: ‘The bus campaign is about breaking down barriers and challenging misconceptions’.  He hoped the posters would help start a ‘conversation’ in Britain.  However the phrase ‘Subhan’Allah’ / ‘Glory to Allah’ really proclaims Muslim supremacy over Christianity and other religions in the same way that ‘Allah hu Akbar’ really means ‘[Our] God (Allah) is greater [than yours]’, rather than ‘God is great’.  

Persecution around the world.

China.  A Christian house church leader and his wife were buried alive in China’s central Henan province for protesting against the government-ordered demolition of their church, and while the man managed to escape, his wife suffocated to death.  Communist government authorities reportedly ordered the demolition of the church after Li Jiangong, the person in charge of the church, and his wife, Ding Cuimei, refused to hand over the church grounds to a local developer.

China Aid President Bob Fu said Christians in China have been heavily targeted throughout the past couple of years by the ruling Communist Party due to their rapidly increasing numbers. Although Chinese officials claims that church demolitions and the forced removal of church rooftop crosses are connected with building code violations, human rights activists and other Christian leaders have said it is clear persecution against a religious group.  ‘The top leadership is increasingly worried about the rapid growth of Christian faith and their public presence, and their social influence,’ Fu told The Christian Post back in February.  ‘It is a political fear for the Communist Party, as the number of Christians in the country far outnumber the members of the party,’ he added.

Syria.  Around 200 people were killed, mostly Christian, following sustained bombardment of Aleppo.  Between 22 April and 30 April, 1,350 rockets hit the Christian area, killing 132 people, half of them women and children. A further 65 were killed on 3 May, with hundreds more injured.  The rebel forces carrying out the attack had issued a direct threat against Aleppo’s large community of Armenian Christians on 22 April, warning, ‘We will show the Armenians and the Christians who we are.  We have been ordered not to leave any Armenians in the area.’ During the attacks, one Christian eyewitness said to Barnabas Fund, ‘Mortars and rockets are like rain.’  At 7pm Syrian time on Thursday 5 May, a major prayer gathering took place which was attended by all denominations, as well as government representatives and Middle East Christian media outlets.

Nigeria.  Of the 276 mainly Christian girls kidnapped from their school in Chibok, northern Nigeria by Boko Haram on 14 April 2014, 219 remain under control of the militant group. It has been reported that some of the girls have been forced to fight with Boko Haram and trained to carry out suicide attacks.  Following the abduction, 17 parents have died, whilst other parents have developed heart-related diseases from stress and grief. Many parents who work as smallholder farmers have not been able to carry out their farming activities during the last two harvests due to trauma and fear of attack. Some have also received threats from local militia to cease their campaigning for the release of the girls.  Overall at least 2,000 women and girls have been abducted by Boko Haram since the beginning of 2014. Though some of have been released, many more still remain held.

Pakistan. Christians gathered in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore to celebrate Easter when, at around 6.40pm, explosives packed with ball bearings (to maximise casualties) ripped through the crowds near a children’s play area.  74 were killed and 370 injured.  Women and children were high in number among those affected. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a Pakistani Taliban splinter group, have claimed responsibility for the deadly suicide attack, saying Christians were their target and that they will continue to attack Christians, amongst other groups.

There is a continuing problem in Pakistan of non-Muslim women being kidnapped, forcibly married to Muslim men and converted to Islam.  According to a report by the Asian Human Rights Commission, an estimated 1,000 non-Muslim girls (700 Christian and 300 Hindu) are abducted by Muslims and then raped or forcibly converted to Islam and forcibly married to a Muslim each year.  A major report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom has concluded that the textbooks, which all government schools in Pakistan are required to use, portray non-Muslims as inferior, untrustworthy and sympathetic towards the country’s enemies. Christians are depicted as being equivalent to colonial oppressors.  The report reflects a growing concern in Pakistan regarding the bias shown against the country’s non-Muslim minorities within its education system.

Bangladesh.  Hossain Ali, a 68-year-old Christian convert from Islam was killed on Tuesday 22 March when three men riding motorcycles attacked him with a knife whilst walking in Valacopa, in the Kurrigram District of northern Bangladesh.  Hossain Ali left Islam in 1999 to follow Christ. Two other Muslim families from his neighbourhood came to know the Lord through his witness, and two years ago he set up a house church in his own home.  Local Islamists were angered by this and several times they had threatened him and pressurised him to return to Islam.   Hossain Ali is survived by his wife, son and three daughters.  

Sri Lanka.  A pastor in Dummalasuriya, in the Kurunegala District of Sri Lanka, after he was told that his church could not be registered and that he must cease all worship activities.  According to a report by the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), four police officers visited the pastor on 8 January and asked him about the church activities that he conducted.  He was told to attend an enquiry the following day in front of the police Officer in Charge, two Buddhist monks and five villagers.  At the enquiry, a police officer informed the pastor that the church was unauthorised and the two Buddhist monks from the village temple said that they would not allow the pastor to register the church, ordering him to discontinue church activities with immediate effect.  The pastor refused to sign any of the documentation that would have compelled him to stop church activities, and told the Officer in Charge that he would continue as normal. In response, the Officer in Charge said that he would bring a court order against the church if its activities led to a breach of the peace in the village.

Pray for those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.

Information from Barnabas Fund.

June 2016

Christian leaders today say some very strange things.

Firstly one of America’s most well-known evangelical pastors, Joel Osteen, recently declared that God ‘absolutely’ approves of everyone, including homosexuals.  The Houston megapastor and best-selling author has been touring to all the talk shows lately to promote his new book ‘Break Out! 5 Keys to Go Beyond Your Barriers and Live an Extraordinary Life.’

Osteen, who has been the pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston since 1999, recently talked to the Huffington Post about several subjects, including his thoughts on homosexuality.  The Post’s live host Josh Zepps quoted from Osteen’s new book: ‘It doesn’t matter who likes you or who doesn’t like you, all that matters is God likes you. He accepts you, he approves of you.’  Zepps went on to ask Osteen if that included homosexuals.

‘Absolutely,’ Osteen insisted.  ‘I believe that God has breathed his life into every single person. We’re all on a journey. Nobody’s perfect,’ stated the pastor who oversees a congregation of 45,000 followers, including the likes of Cher and Oprah Winfrey. ‘The Bible said a sin is pride, a sin is selfish ambition. We tend to pick out these certain things,’ he added.

Osteen is wrong in his basic premise.  God does not accept or approve of us in our natural condition.  He sees us as ‘children of wrath’, conducting ourselves ‘in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind’ (Ephesians 2.3).  Concerning homosexuality we read, ‘God gave them up to vile passions.  For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature, likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.’  Romans 1.26-7.  That doesn’t sound very approving to me.  

Of course the passage from Ephesians quoted above does go on to speak of God’s ‘great love with which He loved us’ revealed ‘in His grace in His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.’  As a result of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ we are accepted and approved in the family of God, whatever sins we may have committed prior to conversion.  But while we are still in our sins (and the Bible makes it clear that homosexual practice is sinful) we are neither accepted nor approved by God, nor is it acceptable to God to continue in those sins after conversion.

Secondly we have the Pope who invited Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb to the Vatican.  This man is the grand rector of the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the world centre of Sunni Islamic teaching.  He is the highest figure in Sunni Islam and the closest Islam has to a pope. As the pope put it, ‘The meeting was the message.’  In other words this is a coming together of Roman Catholic Christianity and Islam.  In the process of bringing these two faiths together the pope made this extraordinary statement:  ‘It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam, however, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus sends His disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest.’  

So the Muslim idea of jihad to spread Islam is the same as the great commission to preach the Gospel to all nations?  This is an absolutely absurd statement.  Mohammed sent out his followers on a programme of political conquest enforcing its religion on those it subjugates by force and then imposing its Sharia law on them.  There are many verses in the Koran and the Hadith encouraging the use of violence and killing to spread Islam.  Once it is in control Islam takes away freedom of choice, especially in the area of freedom to choose any other faith than Islam.  As a result the Islamic world has been the hardest area in the world to reach with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.   

The Gospel message on the other hand is a spiritual conversion of the soul as people turn in faith to Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord of their own free will.  It proclaims the good news, that all people can be forgiven of their sins and set free by faith in Him. Unlike Mohammed, Jesus disarmed his followers, saying ‘He who conquers by the sword shall perish by the sword.’  The Pope should have proclaimed the huge difference between the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and Mohammed’s programme of jihad and submission to Islam.  

Thirdly what about Archbishop Justin Welby who has told Christians that we should not ‘proselytise’ or talk about our faith to non-Christians until they invite us to do so? In his Pentecost speech, he said:  ‘I draw the line in terms of respect for the other; in starting by listening before you speak; in terms of love that is unconditional and not conditional to one iota, to one single element, on how the person responds to your own declaration of faith; and of not speaking about faith unless you are asked about faith.’  

A bit hard to follow what the Archbishop means here but it does not sound much like Peter’s Pentecost speech when he proclaimed the meaning of the death and resurrection of Jesus to all who could hear him and told them they should: ‘Repent and let everyone of you be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’  Acts 2.38.  Paul could have saved himself a lot of trouble (39 lashes, being stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked etc) if he had heeded the Archbishop’s guidance not to speak about his faith in Jesus until he was asked to by the Jews, Greeks and pagans.

So why do Christian leaders say these things?

  • There is a consistent attempt to be inclusive and so to be accepted by the world. The media and education system are constantly pushing politically correct dogma, which see denunciation of sin as divisive and offensive.  So you must remove anything, which may be offensive to non Christians from the Christian message (in particular telling them they are sinners and need to repent and be saved from the judgement of God).  Above all you must not say anything that might offend homosexuals or you will be accused of homophobia, a mortal sin in today’s world.
  • There is a desire to include all religions in a world religious system.  This will exclude the true message of the Gospel which points to the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the only one who can give us salvation and eternal life with God.  You must not say anything that might offend Muslims or you will be accused of Islamophobia, another mortal sin in today’s the world.  Rather you should promote the idea that Islam and Christianity are worshipping the same God, with some variations in belief, but basically coming to the same conclusion.
  • The bottom line is that most of the church has lost the plot and is going down the road to apostasy and the Revelation 17 church of mystery Babylon prophesied in the Bible for the last days.

July 2016

Russia banning evangelism.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law in July a measure punishing any kind of religious evangelization outside of churches, which some observers have called one of the most restrictive moves in ‘post-Soviet history.’

‘This new situation resembles the Soviet Union in 1929. At that time confession of faith was permitted only in church,’ Hannu Haukka, president of Great Commission Media Ministries, told National Religious Broadcasters, according to Breitbart News. ‘Practically speaking, we are back in the same situation. These anti-terrorist laws are some of the most restrictive laws in post-Soviet history.’

The law, which is supposed to be aimed against the spread of terrorism and extremism, has also been approved by the Russian Parliament’s upper chamber. The move blocks the sharing of faith in any place that is not a government-sanctioned house of worship.  Thousands of churches in Russia are coming together in prayer and fasting against the move, based on information shared by Haukka.  ‘The church is appalled at the news of the new law. About 7,000 evangelical/protestant churches are in fasting and prayer at the moment over the news,’ Haukka said.

The Christian Post reported earlier this month that several Christian groups in Russia have already spoken out against the draconian measures, stating that it is nearly ‘impossible’ for religious believers to comply with the requirements.  ‘If this legislation is approved, the religious situation in the country will grow considerably more complicated and many believers will find themselves in exile and subjected to reprisals because of our faith,’ the group said before Putin’s signature.

Under the new law, foreign missionaries will not be allowed to speak at churches unless that have a work permit from Russian authorities; any kind of discussion about God with non-believers would be considered missionary activity and punishable by law; and religious activities even in private homes will not be allowed.  What is more, anyone from the age of 14 found to be preaching will be subject to prosecution, and every citizen is required to report religious activity to the authorities, or face punishment him or herself.  Haukka asked Christians around the world to join in prayer with the Russian churches as they face uncertain times.  ‘Russia is closing down in an awful way. The new law is in total conflict with the purpose and the task given to the church by the Lord. The law will send the church back into Soviet era Communist persecution,’ he asked.  NRB President Jerry A. Johnson further called on the United States government to pressure Russia to repeal what he described as an ‘unjust law.’  ‘Let’s pray this new iron curtain of Christian persecution in Russia will be lifted quickly and without harm to our brothers and sisters in Christ,’ Johnson said.

August 2016

Church of England’s ‘shared conversations.’

The Church of England spent a whole week of its General Synod meeting at York University holding ‘shared conversations’ on the future of LGBT (homosexual) rights within the church, aiming to tackle a rift on teachings on homosexuality.  Andrea Williams of Christian Concern attended and reported on it.  She wrote about the ‘shared conversations as an example of the way in which the church has ‘unashamedly drunk deeply from the cultural wells of moral relativity and undermining the Word of God. Its moral principles are shifting like sand and its contract with the culture is changing as social interests change. But the church is not a democracy, a social club, nor a political party that is called to be taking the temperature of culture to determine its course. It has one manifesto – Scripture – and one platform – the Lordship of Jesus Christ. St. Paul does not convene a Synod to discuss the merits of sexual immorality, greed, idolatry, slander, drunkenness in the church, he called people to repent and put out the unrepentant and offending parties (1 Cor. 5). … The ‘shared conversation’ process itself was an ill-conceived, pluralistic exercise that falsely placed LGBTI activism and the homosexual agenda on a level playing field with the plain teaching of Scripture and the historic teaching of the church which the bishops swore to uphold.’  

When she sought to raise issues like, ‘How do we view the authority of Scripture? What is the gospel? What is truth?’ she was told she needed to express herself in terms such as ‘The way I see the truth is…’.    In practice this meant accepting the relativistic view that ‘all truth is God’s truth’ and that morality is subject to the shared views of everyone present.  In this case the view that homosexual activity is compatible with Christian practice is as valid as the view that scripture forbids it.

She goes on to write:  ‘The scriptural perspective was powerfully set forth by a small minority on the platforms in plenary; but was always outnumbered by the revisionists, as is all too common. There was ‘passive aggressive’ hostility toward those trying to stand clearly for biblical teaching of the church. Terms such as homophobia and the acceptance of a ‘gay identity’ were givens; if you sought to challenge this you risked being branded a ‘bigot,’ ‘phobic,’ ‘unloving’.  The outcome of the shared conversations was as many predicted; confusion, frustration, disappointment and division. The paucity of the biblical argument to support anything other than that of the Orthodox position was ignored. It was replaced by a simple appeal to secular norms. . At a time when what the church needs is clear leadership and biblical clarity we are confronted with the hand-wringing of leading bishops, with head shakes and hand-waving at the Christian Concern booth as though Jesus’ own words from the New Testament on Christian Concern banners in the lobby were offensive. Traditionally orthodox bishops are now refusing to ‘state their position’ and the rudder of the ship is being steered in the wrong direction.  

Predictably, and as indirect proof of the tone of proceedings, as soon as the talks finished, a statement was issued by the LGBTI Mission coalition celebrating the ‘conversations’ and calling on the House of Bishops to ‘bring forward bold proposals to move towards LGBTI equality,’ which is a clear effort to bypass the Synodical process that would involve robust and potentially embarrassing debate and ‘disunity.’ 

I have participated in the shared conversations, but sadly I am left with little confidence that this process can prevent a sharp division. One vocal group in synod calls what is sin, holiness. Of course, we can and we must relate to one another in our shared humanity, but we can’t stay together if the church wants to bless what is not holy. The fundamental question at stake is whether the church belongs to Jesus Christ or whether it belongs to the revisionists who would reshape it in the image of today’s cultural moods. If the church is to flourish and be a true blessing to society, she must repent and rededicate herself to Jesus Christ, trusting his teaching, example and the rescue from sin that he freely offers. It is essential that the bishops, having heard all that has been said, provide true leadership and direct resolutely in the path of Jesus’ own teaching on marriage and sexuality. If not, then decline and irrelevance will be the hallmarks of the rebellious church. The church must call people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and, that needs to begin with the Church of England herself, for ‘it is time for judgment to begin at the  household of God’ (1 Peter 4:17).’

China’s Christians.

The Chinese government is increasingly working towards suppressing Christianity as far as possible: tearing down church crosses, destroying buildings and arresting politically-incorrect Christians. Despite all of that, there are indications that China is on track to have the world’s largest Christian population by 2030 – approximately 250 million.

Little wonder then that China has decided to take the path of subtlety: convert the Christian church into a subservient ‘tool’ of the State.   As John Sudworth for the BBC News reported late March, Chairman Mao and the Chinese Communist Party may have failed to destroy the church, but the modern Communist Party has gone one better: it has succeeded in co-opting it.  So, an officially atheist government effectively runs its own churches and controls the appointment of its own priests. Like Pastor Wu Weiqing from Beijing’s Haidian Church, who said, ‘We have to remember first of all we are a citizen of this country.  And we are a citizen of the Kingdom of God. That comes second.’  When asked if Jesus would be comfortable with the Communist Party government in China, Weiqing replied: ‘Absolutely. I think so.’

Sudworth notes that the comment is a perfect illustration of the Communist Party’s latest grand plan for religious belief. Over the past two years, the authorities say they have been trying to develop their own unique version of Christianity, ‘a Chinese Christian theology’ according to one top official.  Such a theology needs to be compatible with China’s political development which, it seems clear, really means subservient to it. In this view of faith, then, it is easy to see why even Jesus should find Himself being welcomed into the Communist fold.

This approach from the government leaves Christians with only two options: comply and compromise your faith to please the powers that be, or go underground – risking arrest and detention – in order to seek first the Kingdom of God.  The typical underground church is held in a private home cell group and with as much secrecy as possible. In one such cell, a member named Xu Yonghai bluntly stated: ‘Official churches are in fact just political institutes,’ he says. ‘It is impossible for us to leave Jesus and follow the Party.’

Nevertheless the truth of Jesus Christ still marches on. According to Rodney Pennington of OMF International, ‘By 2030 China will almost certainly be the country with the most evangelical Christians in the world and that will greatly shape the global evangelical Church in the coming years’.  Certainly not music to the ears of the authoritarian Chinese government.   China is still officially an atheist country.  In April Chinese President Xi Jinping told his Communist Party members that they must be ‘unyielding Marxist atheists’ who will command Christians and other religious groups in the country.

In China the church is divided into the officially sanctioned churches (the Three Self Churches) and the so called ‘house churches’ (some of which are in fact large congregations).  Many of the official churches have CCTV cameras facing the pulpits, to check the sermons for political unorthodoxy. The Three-Self Church, does not permit the ‘brainwashing’ of teenagers or children by bringing them to religious services. Children younger than 18 are not allowed to receive any religious education.

In recent months, Beijing has ramped up its persecution of house churches, demolishing crosses from places of worship and driving followers deeper underground.  The persecutions don’t stop at church levels – they cut across wider aspects of life, targeting Christians for discrimination and penalties in various ways.   Chinese students attending a Christian house church in the central Guizhou province are being threatened by government authorities who are warning them that if they don’t stop going to the church, they will be barred from going to college.  

‘This notice was sent to all of the schools in Huaqiu,’ explained Mou, the person that human-rights advocacy group China Aid said was in charge of Huaqiu Church. ‘They (public security) intend to cleanse us and ask us to join the Three-Self Church.’ The house church members have also reportedly been pressured into signing a document vowing that they will not take minors into the church.   Additionally, parents have been told that they will be sued if they bring their children to church, while the children themselves will not be allowed to take the college entrance exam or be admitted into the army.

In a separate report, Zaimov observed that seminary students for official churches in China are being forced to live under ‘absolute obedience’ to the Communist Party and put the State ahead of God.  Persecution watchdog group China Aid correspondent Guo Baosheng stated: ‘It is obvious the seminary has degenerated into absolute obedience to the Communist Party’s so-called Christian pastors’ education base, becoming a Communist Party school dressed in the cloak of Christianity,’ Guo wrote.

‘In this way, they submit to Caesar and [operate] contrary to God. They distort the true way [to God], and [these actions] will certainly accelerate the demise of the Three-Self Church and its seminary.’  The seminary’s president, Pastor Pan Xingwang, reportedly supports the ongoing cross demolition campaign, which has also led to hundreds of Christians arrested and sent to prison for speaking out and protesting against the government’s actions.

A pastor from Zhejiang province in eastern China said the intent is ‘to reform and remold Christianity into a (Communist) Party-dominated tool that can be used in its service.’  Xi Lian, professor of World Christianity at Duke University, warns that if Chinese authorities do, indeed, fear the rise of a robust, defiant Christianity in China, they should think carefully about the strategy they use to address it. He thinks Christianity is ‘here to stay,’ and that its membership and influence will only expand.  ‘The harsher the state’s treatment of Christianity, the more vigorously and unpredictably it will grow,’ he said.

The Chinese government, like all pagan governments throughout history, assumes that it is dealing merely with the ideology of men like themselves; that it is merely a contest of opinion and will.   In so doing, they reckon without God and fail to factor into their equation the reality of Divine intervention. The Church of Jesus Christ, however, is not a man-made institution. As Jesus Himself clearly states, ‘I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.’ (Matthew 16.18)

Prophecy News Watch.

September 2016

UK preaching tour by Muslim clerics who glorify murder of politicians supporting Christians

Over many years Barnabas Fund has repeatedly raised concerns about the blasphemy laws in Pakistan, a part of shari’a that prescribes the death penalty for anyone deemed to have insulted Muhammad and is incorporated in Pakistan’s law as section 295c of the Penal Code. Although both Muslims and Christians have suffered under this law – as claims of ‘insulting the prophet’ are made to settle scores – Christians suffer particularly as shari’a only gives half the weight to a non-Muslim’s testimony as a Muslim’s. This makes it almost impossible for Christians to prove their innocence if a Muslim accuses them of blasphemy, which carries an automatic death penalty in Pakistan. Even if they are acquitted they will have to go into permanent hiding as Islamic vigilantes, incited by conservative clerics, seek to take the law into their own hands and carry out the penalty prescribed by shari’a, killing the person accused of blasphemy.

It is therefore deeply disturbing that some of these conservative Islamic clerics who incite this vigilante violence against Pakistani Christians and any politicians who stand up for them, have not only been granted visas for a preaching tour of UK mosques, but even been formally welcomed at Lambeth Palace by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Two prominent Muslim clerics from Pakistan, Muhammad Naqib ur Rehman and his son Haseeb Ur Rehman, have undertaken a tour of UK mosques in September, called ‘sacred journey.’ These are not ordinary clerics. They have a vast following in Pakistan where Muhammad Naqib is a leading supporter of Mumtaz Qadri, who was executed for assassinating Punjab governor Salman Taseer because he had stood up for Pakistan Christians in opposing the Islamic blasphemy law. Following Qadri’s execution these clerics whipped up vast crowds, even describing Qadri as an ‘Islamic martyr’.  The clerics’ influence has spread to the UK. As we reported in March, several prominent imams praised Qadri, with one Bradford imam flying to Pakistan to attend his funeral and one of the largest mosques in Birmingham, which holds 5,000 worshipers, conducting a wake in honour of Qadri.

The seriousness of the radicals’ reaction to Qadri’s execution was illustrated only too tragically when a Bradford taxi driver, inspired by the assassin’s actions, drove up to Glasgow to murder a moderate Muslim, Ahmadiyya shopkeeper Asad Shah on 24th March the day on which Mr Shah posted a Facebook message saying ‘Good Friday and a very happy Easter to my beloved Christian country’.

Muhammad Naqib ur Rehman and Haseeb Ur Rehman arrived for their preaching tour only a week after the court case of Mr Shah’s killer had made national headlines. They appeared at a mosque in Glasgow on the very day that he was jailed. Very serious questions must therefore be asked why, in spite of this and their well-known history of stirring up violence against Christians and anyone else who opposed the blasphemy laws, they were nonetheless granted visas by the UK government and Muhammad Naqib was formally received at Lambeth Palace by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The role of Lambeth Palace and the archbishop raises particular questions, as the first duty of a bishop is to safeguard their flock.  Lambeth Palace said that the archbishop discussed with them ‘the narrative of extremism and terrorism’ and interfaith relations. The Palace later put out a statement saying:  ‘The Archbishop of Canterbury was pleased to meet Shaykh Naqib ur Rehman, a leading Sufi Muslim leader from Pakistan, at Lambeth Palace yesterday. The Archbishop received a first-hand account of the situation in Pakistan, which is a highly significant country for faith relationships in the UK.’ 

Senior Christian leaders in Pakistan feel dismayed and betrayed. Instead of caring for his sheep, the Archbishop has instead chosen to sit down with the wolves.  How could he not have been aware of the effect that his actions would have on Christians in Pakistan who have cruelly suffered under the blasphemy laws for thirty years? Why did the archbishop meet to discuss ‘interfaith relations’ with men who are leading a crusade that is tantamount to inciting the murder of anyone who opposes the blasphemy laws? 

They also ask if he raised the case of the Christian woman Aasia Bibi, falsely accused of ‘blasphemy’ and sentenced to death, whose appeal before Pakistan’s Supreme Court is due in October. Did he seek any assurance from Shaykh Rehman that he will not call for her death? Or did he merely seek ‘good relations’ with him? More specifically, why did the archbishop ask a prominent advocate of Christian persecution in Pakistan for ‘a first-hand account of the situation in Pakistan’, rather than seeking it from Pakistani Christian leaders? And did Lambeth Palace understand beforehand the prominent role these men had played in the campaign to honour as an Islamic ‘martyr’ the murderer of Salman Taseer, one of few Muslim Pakistani politicians prepared to speak up for Christians against the blasphemy law? Such actions are a serious betrayal of Pakistani Christians who live in daily fear of their lives because of these laws.

Barnabas Fund.

October 2016

‘European Commission on Intolerance’ tells UK media not to name cause of Islamist violence.

A European Human rights body has issued a report condemning both the media and UK MPs for portraying Muslims in a negative light. The report by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance also urges the UK government to take strong measures to protect Muslims from criticism in the press, create a new criminal offence of insulting religion, and combat ‘Islamophobia’. It also says that any media reporting of Islamist violence should be self-censored, recommending ‘the perpetrators’ motivation is downplayed or rejected in favour of alternative explanations.’

What is striking about the report is that it focuses on certain groups that are given a special status by political correctness, such as Muslims and the LGBT community. There is not a single reference to anti-Christian hate crime, let alone anti-Christian intolerance, while anti-Semitism gets only a passing mention. Not only that, the report conflates disagreeing with the views of certain groups with prejudice against the members of that group. For example, Northern Ireland is condemned for not having same-sex marriage.

Tolerance actually means tolerating views one disagrees with. However, in common with a number of other liberal humanist organisations, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance has redefined it to mean forcing both elected governments and people to agree with their own liberal humanist views. This report is therefore itself an example of gross intolerance. Not only that, its call for more severe restrictions on freedom of speech to criminalise those who express views different from their own represents a major attack on freedom of religion.

We are particularly concerned at the suggestion that media should not report the motivation of perpetrators of violence if it is Islamist or should even come up with an alternative explanation. Barnabas Fund was set up to help Christian victims of persecution in Muslim majority contexts and to speak about the causes of their persecution. That is central to freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  The sort of measures this report advocates — some of which the EU are already seeking to implement – would actually make the plight of Christian victims of Islamist violence far worse. Indeed it would actually allow those already violently abusing Christian converts from a Muslim background to go further and target both them and those of us who speak up for them with malicious accusations of ‘Islamophobia’.

Barnabas Fund.

December 2016

Freedom of religion and freedom of speech in the UK workplace

The UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, has said Christians should not be afraid of speaking ‘freely’ about their faith at work and in public places.  Mrs May’s comments were made as she endorsed a report on freedom of religion and freedom of speech by the Lawyers Christian Fellowship in response to a question from Fiona Bruce MP:  ‘You raise an important issue that matters to both you and me, and I think that the phrase that was used by the Lawyers Christian Fellowship was ‘the jealously guarded principle’ of that ability to speak freely, as you say respectfully and responsibly, about one’s religion. I’m happy to welcome the publication of this report and its finding. Of course we are now into the season of Advent, and we have a very strong tradition in this country of religious tolerance and freedom of speech and our Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of.’

However, only days later the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) produced new guidance on the subject which, although calling for what it termed ‘a common sense approach‘, stated that employers can impose restrictions on discussion of religion or belief in the workplace. They said it would be acceptable to discuss ‘what is involved in particular festivals’ but ‘when discussion becomes proselytising –  that is seeking to persuade someone to join a religion, cause or group – it may well be proportionate to restrict this in the workplace’.

In other words you can talk generally about religion or belief, but not evangelise with the aim of trying to win someone for Christ.  Commenting on this the Barnabas Fund wrote: ‘Do the EHRC really mean that while chatting with colleagues during lunchbreak “you can speak about Christmas, but not about Christ”? There is a serious risk of such sweeping statements creating a “one size fits all approach” to the “regulation” of talking about faith in the workplace.’

This article also pointed out: ‘The EHRC is a QANGO (Quasi Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisation) – i.e. although it is funded by government, it is not controlled by ministers. As such, they are supposed merely to put government policy into practice. However, in cases like the recent guidance issued by the EHRC they sometimes end up making something similar to law without having any direct democratic accountability for their actions. We saw this in the recent court case against a Christian bakery in Northern Ireland, where the judge criticised the Northern Ireland Equality Commission for pursuing their own agenda rather than treating the Christians equally and fairly.’

A number of recent cases show how the EHRC policy has been used against Christians who stand up for their faith in the workplace and who share their faith with non Christians.

Ivory Coast on the brink as Islamisation looms.

One hundred years ago, the Ivory Coast was in the midst of a Christian revival. Today, Christians face the prospect of a Muslim takeover, aided and abetted by the government. At a recent conference organised by Barnabas Fund to address persecution, Christian leaders from French-speaking West Africa shared their concerns about the future of the Ivory Coast.

Mass Muslim migration from nearby countries over several decades has brought the country to a tipping point. It is now estimated that only around one-third of the total population of the Ivory Coast are of Ivorian origin. Our partner writes: “This Muslim population has been given access to Ivorian citizenship and are able to interfere in the country policy making through their vote.”

Following a controversial and violent election in 2011, the Ivory Coast is now headed by President Alassane Ouattara, a Muslim who has campaigned for the naturalisation of all immigrants, a move which would give the Ivory Coast an instant Muslim majority, as at least 70% of the more than 2 million foreign migrant workers in the country are Muslims. There appears to have been a concerted effort to systematically destroy the historical records of the non-Muslim population; record offices have been deliberately torched across the country and, in 2013, the government passed legislation making it easier for foreign nationals to claim citizenship, giving them the right to vote in elections. In 2015, Ouattara secured a second presidential term with an apparent 84% of the vote.

The swift expansion of the Muslim population in the Ivory Coast is a clear example of Islamisation “from below”, encouraged and facilitated by government, in line with dawa (Islamic mission), which aims to convert entire societies. The rapid assault of Islam on Ivorian identity has wider implications in the region; Islam is now the fastest growing religion on the planet and by 2050 there are expected to be 670 million Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa, up from around 250 million in 2011. The Ivory Coast is now at a turning point, as Christians face the prospect of becoming a minority in a country where Christianity flourished less than a century ago; a stark warning to the region.

Barnabas Fund.

Tony Pearce

Tony Pearce

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