American ‘Soldier of Christ’ says he is fighting ISIS in Iraq to answer Jesus’ call to protect the defenseless
Egypt, February 25, 2015: A 28-year-old U.S. Army veteran from Detroit, describing himself as a “Soldier of Christ,” said that he is fighting ISIS militants on the front lines in Iraq to answer Jesus’ call to protect defenseless people.
“People ask me, ‘Why you?’ I come back and I say, ‘Why not? Why just me? Where’s everyone else at?’” the Army veteran, who requested to be identified only by his first name, Brett, told ABC News in an interview.
“Jesus says, you know, ‘What you do unto the least of them, you do unto me,’” he added. “I take that very seriously.”
ISIS has specifically targeted Christians on a number of occasions in its war in Iraq and Syria. Last week, the jihadists posted a video titled “A Message Signed With Blood to the Nation of the Cross,” which depicts the beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians.
Christian leaders, such as the Vatican’s Pope Francis, said that such crimes should unite all Christians everywhere across denominational lines.
“The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard. It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ,” the pontiff said.
“As we recall these brothers and sisters who died only because they confessed Christ, I ask that we encourage each another to go forward with this ecumenism which is giving us strength, the ecumenism of blood. The martyrs belong to all Christians.”
Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, the Coptic patriarch of Alexandria, also called the 21 murdered Egyptian Christians “martyrs for the faith.”
The U.S. and its allies have hit back against ISIS terror targets using air strikes, but have not sent ground troops in the region. Brett revealed that he is fighting alongside the Dweikh Nawsha, a local Christian militia under the command of the Kurdish peshmerga forces in Iraq.
Brett, who was raised a Roman Catholic but identifies simply as Christian, explained in his interview that he came to Iraq to fight for the defenseless, both for Christians and the many others who have been attacked by ISIS and the terror group’s mission to establish an Islamic caliphate.
Local forces and militias have protected some key cities in the region, such as the Syrian border town of Kobane, from falling under ISIS’ control. The terror group has continued expanding its territory and its army, however, with U.S. intelligence officials pointing out recently that at least 20,000 foreign fighters, including 150 American citizens, have attempted to join and fight for ISIS.
Nick Rasmussen, chief of the National Counterterrorism Center, said that the rate ISIS is recruiting foreign fighters is “without precedent,” while Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said that Syria in particular is seeing “the largest convergence of Islamist terrorists in world history.”
- christian post
Panaji, March 1, 2015: The VHP’s decision to start a re-conversion drive for Christians in Goa has attracted widespread criticism, with Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar warning people not to make provocative remarks.
The opposition Saturday criticized Daba Vedak, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad secretary in-charge of Satsang division, for trying to foment communal trouble in the state with his remarks made Friday.
“I feel as the chief minister that nobody should make any statement that would disturb or affect communal harmony,” Parsekar said.
Earlier, ahead of VHP’s golden jubilee function in Goa, Dada Vedak told IANS that its senior leaders would discuss issues like re-conversion and how to approach them in next 50 years.
“Thousands of our brothers were converted to Christianity due to Portuguese oppression. We will, of course, make efforts to bring them back to the Hindu fold once we strengthen our organisation here,” Vedak said.
He added that the VHP would reach out to Christians converted during the Portuguese regime with “love and affection”.
Goa, a former Portuguese colony, has a population of 1.5 million of which 26 percent are Christians.
The opposition Saturday joined the protest against the remark.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said that attempts were being made to “vitiate the peaceful atmosphere of Goa” and said that “radical elements” in the state should be put under close watch.
AAP also said that it was ironic for the VHP leader to make a communally insensitive statement on the same day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi told parliament that his government believed in only one religion – “India First”.
“This can mean only two things… that either Modi and the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) have lost all influence and control over the Sangh Parivar organisations or we are being fed the classic good-cop-bad-cop routine to allow Modi to establish an image of secular statesman while the so-called ‘fringe elements’ slowly but steadily going mainstream,” AAP’s Valmiki Naik said.
The Congress too condemned the VHP statement.
“Goa is becoming a testing laboratory for Modi and his government,” said Congress spokesperson Durgadas Kamat.
Kolkata, March 1, 2015: Condemning RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s comment on Mother Teresa, a forum of minorities organisations in West Bengal Saturday said the leader’s “malicious” allegations against the Noble laureate were either the result of his gross ignorance or a “well-calculated sinister agenda” to justify forced reconversions.
Bhagwat, while addressing a function of an NGO near Bharatpur in Rajasthan, had said the Nobel laureate’s service to the poor was aimed at converting them to Christianity.
The State Forum Of Minorities Organisations “strongly condemned the very mischievous intention and aims of Bhagwat behind his malicious allegation against her (Mother Teresa)”.
“It is either the result of his gross ignorance or a well-calculated sinister agenda to come under international limelight with no efforts, to justify or to help his fellow workers to justify their universally condemned programmes of reconversion by allure or force, to make false propaganda and create confusion at the cost of communal harmony and human relations,” a forum statement said.
In the light of his conversion remarks, the Missionaries of Charity had described Bhagwat as “uninformed”. The Diocese of Calcutta too termed the comments “unfortunate”.
The statement said that after Bhagwat’s comments, at least two incidents of Christian bashing have been reported in Bengal.
“Our honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rebuke to Sangh Parivar and assurance to the minorities in the assembly a few days back proved to be toothless.
“At least two incidents of Christian bashing in West Bengal have been reported to us since that occasion,” the statement said.
In the wake of these incidents, the forum is organising a public meeting March 3 in Kolkata.
It has also given a “clarion call to people of all walks of life irrespective of political affinity to get united against the intention and agenda of the evil force under the garb of patriotism”.
Mumbai, February 25, 2015: ‘Assisting the Elderly and Palliative Care’ is the theme of the 21st General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life, scheduled to take place from 5 to 7 March 2015. For India, a country with an aging population but without proper health facilities, it is a “timely and challenging’ issue, Catholic doctor Pascoal Carvalho told AsiaNews.
On 6 March, the assembly will be open to the public, with the participation of academics, health professionals and students.
The workshop will be divided into three sessions. The first one will analyse the clinical care of the elderly at the end of life, taking into account a number of aspects: assistance in case of degenerative diseases and terminal patients, the use and abuse of analgesics in palliative care, and building a clinical therapy. The second will be devoted to anthropological and ethical perspectives, focusing on the central role of the elderly person’s relationships in the family, society and hospital. The third and final session will focus on spirituality and the legal aspects of the end of life.
Below, we publish Dr Carvalho’s reflection on the matter. He is a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
This General Assembly’s theme, ‘Assisting the Elderly and Palliative Care,’ is especially timely and challenging for our country India.
Despite rapid and consistent economic growth, India will have a huge ageing population who may be far poorer than their counterpart in the West.
The size of the elderly population has risen from 12.1 million in 1901 to approximately 77 million in the 2001 census. According to official population projections, the number of elderly persons will rise to approximately 140 million by 2021.
With the rapid changes in the social scenario and the emerging prevalence of nuclear family set-ups in India in recent years, elderly people are likely to be exposed to emotional, physical and financial insecurity in the years to come.
According to the 2011 Census of India, nearly 70 per cent of the country’s population lives in rural areas; hence, elderly and palliative care becomes all the more challenging and imperative, as nearly 30 per cent of the elderly are disadvantaged and live below poverty line.
The Indian Constitution (Article 41) provides for public assistance in old age. The enactment of the ‘Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007′ is designed to ensure the welfare and need-based maintenance for parents and senior citizens.
Other measures include old age pensions, income tax exemption/deduction, and travel concessions.
However, implementation is often an issue and with the growing commercialisation of health care and the deficiencies in the public health care system, the care of the elderly is inadequate.
India is home to millions of patients suffering from chronic and life limiting illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, dementia, as well as heart, liver and renal diseases and other debilitating conditions or incapacitating injuries.
In 2011, the National Policy on Senior Citizens 2011 placed special emphasis on senior citizens suffering from severely disabling diseases. However, concrete measure are yet to be put in place to deal effectively with the impending scenario of the growing elderly population.
Palliative care is a part of continuum of care services. Terminally ill patients have many medical, nursing, mental, social, spiritual and financial needs.
The health policy of the Catholic Church in India recognises that the elderly have special needs.
The Church runs 615 senior citizens homes across the country, providing free care to nearly 18,500, mostly ill elderly residents who have been abandoned by their families.
Without discrimination on the basis of caste or creed, the Catholic Church tirelessly serves more than 60,000 elderly on a daily basis, including 18,500 in its homes for the aged and 1,700 in its palliative care units.
Dhaka, March 1, 2015: A prominent American blogger of Bangladeshi origin was hacked to death with machetes by unidentified assailants in Dhaka on Thursday, police said, with the atheist writer’s family claiming he had received numerous threats from Islamists.
The body of Avijit Roy, founder of the Mukto-Mona (Free-mind) blog site which champions liberal secular writing in the Muslim-majority nation, was found covered in blood after the attack which also left his wife critically wounded.
“He died as he was brought to the hospital. His wife was also seriously wounded. She has lost a finger,” local police chief Sirajul Islam said.
The couple were on a bicycle rickshaw, returning from a book fair, when two assailants stopped and dragged them onto a sidewalk before striking them with machetes, local media reported citing witnesses.
Roy, said to be around 40, is the second Bangladeshi blogger to have been murdered in two years and the fourth writer attacked since 2004.
Hardline Islamist groups have long demanded the public execution of atheist bloggers and sought new laws to combat writing that is critical of Islam.
“Roy suffered fatal wounds in the head and died from bleeding… after being brought to the hospital,” doctor Sohel Ahmed told reporters.
Police have launched a probe and recovered the machetes used in the attack but could not confirm whether Islamists were behind the incident.
But Roy’s father said the writer, a US citizen, had received a number of “threatening” emails and messages on social media from hardliners unhappy with his writing.
“He was a secular humanist and has written about ten books” including his most famous “Biswasher Virus” (Virus of Faith), said his father Ajoy Roy.
The Center for Inquiry, a US-based charity promoting free thought, said it was “shocked and heartbroken” by the brutal murder of Roy.
“Dr. Roy was a true ally, a courageous and eloquent defender of reason, science, and free expression, in a country where those values have been under heavy attack,” it said in a statement.
Roy’s killing also triggered strong condemnation from his fellow writers and publishers, who lamented the growing religious conservatism and intolerance in Bangladesh.
“The attack on Roy and his wife Rafida Ahmed is outrageous. We strongly protest this attack and are deeply concerned about the safety of writers,” said Imran H Sarker, head of an association for bloggers in Bangladesh.
Pinaki Bhattacharya, a fellow blogger and friend of Roy, claimed one of the country’s largest online book retailers was being openly threatened for selling Roy’s books.
“In Bangladesh the easiest target is an atheist. An atheist can be attacked and murdered,” he wrote on Facebook.
Atheist blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was hacked to death in 2013 by members of a little known Islamist militant group, triggering nationwide protests by tens of thousands of secular activists.
After Haider’s death, Bangladesh’s hardline Islamist groups started to protest against other campaigning bloggers, calling a series of nationwide strikes to demand their execution, accusing them of blasphemy.
The secular government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reacted by arresting some atheist bloggers.
The government also blocked about a dozen websites and blogs to stem the furor over blasphemy, as well as stepping up security for the bloggers.
Bangladesh is the world’s fourth-largest Muslim majority nation with Muslims making up some 90 percent of the country’s 160 million people.
A tribunal has recently handed down a series of verdicts against leading Islamists and others for crimes committed during the war of independence from Pakistan in 1971.
Jerusalem, February 26, 2015: Suspected Jewish extremists set fire to a church-owned building in Jerusalem overnight, police said Thursday, in the second nationalistic attack in the Holy Land in recent days.
The vandals torched an annex of a Greek Orthodox seminary just outside the walls of the Old City and scrawled “graffiti insulting Jesus”, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said, describing it as a “nationalist” attack.
There were no casualties and the fire was put out before causing significant damage, she added.
Jerusalem’s mayor Nir Barkat condemned the attack.
“There is no room for such deplorable activity in Jerusalem. We must eradicate this behaviour and bring those responsible to justice,” he said in a statement.
On Wednesday, a mosque near Bethlehem in the southern West Bank was set alight and anti-Arab slogans in Hebrew sprayed on a nearby wall.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat described the perpetrators of both incidents as “terrorists”, blaming Israel’s government for inciting the attacks by continuing its “illegal occupation and colonization (of the Palestinian territories) based on distorted religious claims”.
The United Nations has warned such incidents could “inflame an already volatile environment.”
Both incidents bore the hallmarks of so-called “price tag” attacks — a euphemism for nationalist-motivated hate crimes by Jewish extremists, which generally target Palestinians or Arab Israelis but have increasingly also hit Christian and Muslim places of worship.
The perpetrators of such attacks are rarely found or convicted.
Every Sunday afternoon, after the morning service at the church, the Pastor and his eleven year old son would go out into their town and hand out Gospel Tracts
This particular Sunday afternoon, as it came time for the Pastor and his son to go to the streets with their tracts, it was very cold outside, as well as pouring rain. The boy bundled up in his warmest and driest clothes and said, ‘OK, dad, I’m ready.’
‘Dad, it’s time we gather our tracts together and go out.’
Dad responds, ‘Son, it’s very cold outside and it’s pouring rain.’
The boy gives his dad a surprised look, asking, ‘But Dad, aren’t people still going to Hell, even though it’s raining?’
Dad answers, ‘Son, I am not going out in this weather.’
Despondently, the boy asks, ‘Dad, can I go? Please?’
His father hesitated for a moment then said,
‘Son, you can go. Here are the tracts, be careful son.’
And with that, he was off and out into the rain.
This eleven year old boy walked the streets of the town going door to door and handing everybody he met in the street a Gospel Tract .
After two hours of walking in the rain, he was soaking, bone-chilled wet and down to his VERY LAST TRACT. He stopped on a corner and looked for someone to hand a tract to, but the streets were totally deserted.
Then he turned toward the first home he saw and started up the sidewalk to the front door and rang the door bell. He rang the bell, but nobody answered.
He rang it again and again, but still no one answered. He waited but still no answer.
Finally, this eleven year old trooper turned to leave, but something stopped him.
Again, he turned to the door and rang the bell and knocked loudly on the door with his fist. He waited, something holding him there on the front porch! He rang again and this time the door slowly opened.
Standing in the doorway was a very sad-looking elderly lady. She softly asked, ‘What can I do for you, son?’ With radiant eyes and a smile that lit up her world, this little boy said, ‘Ma’am, I’m sorry if I disturbed you, but I just want to tell you that * JESUS REALLY DOES LOVE YOU * and I came to give you my very last Gospel Tract which will tell you all about JESUS and His great LOVE..’
With that, he handed her his last tract and turned to leave.
She called to him as he departed. ‘Thank you, son! And God Bless You!’
Well, the following Sunday morning in church Pastor Dad was in the pulpit. As the service began, he asked, ‘Does anybody have testimony or want to say anything?’
Slowly, in the back row of the church, an elderly lady stood to her feet.
As she began to speak, a look of glorious radiance came from her face, ‘No one in this church knows me. I’ve never been here before.
You see, before last Sunday I was not a Christian. My husband passed on some time ago, leaving me totally alone in this world. Last Sunday, being a particularly cold and rainy day, it was even more so in my heart that I came to the end of the line where I no longer had any hope or will to live.
So I took a rope and a chair and ascended the stairway into the attic of my home. I fastened the rope securely to a rafter in the roof, then stood on the chair and fastened the other end of the rope around my neck. Standing on that chair, so lonely and broken-hearted I was about to leap off, when suddenly the loud ringing of my doorbell downstairs startled me. I thought, ‘I’ll wait a minute, and whoever it is will go away.’ I waited and waited, but the ringing doorbell seemed to get louder and more insistent, and then the person ringing also started knocking loudly… I thought to myself again, ‘Who on earth could this be? Nobody ever rings my bell or comes to see me.’ I loosened the rope from my neck and started for the front door, all the while the bell rang louder and louder.
When I opened the door and looked I could hardly believe my eyes, for there on my front porch was the most radiant and angelic little boy I had ever seen in my life. His SMILE, oh, I could never describe it to you!
The words that came from his mouth caused my heart that had long been dead, TO LEAP TO LIFE as he exclaimed with a cherub-like voice, ‘Ma’am, I just came to tell you that JESUS REALLY DOES LOVE YOU .’ Then he gave me this Gospel Tract that I now hold in my hand. As the little angel disappeared back out into the cold and rain, I closed my door and read slowly every word of this Gospel Tract. Then I went up to my attic to get my rope and chair. I wouldn’t be needing them any more.
You see– -I am now a Happy Child of the KING.
Since the address of your church was on the back of this Gospel Tract, I have come here to personally say THANK YOU to God’s little angel who came just in the nick of time and by so doing, spared my soul from an eternity in hell.’ There was not a dry eye in the church. And as shouts of praise and honour to THE KING resounded off the very rafters of the building.
Pastor Dad descended from the pulpit to the front pew where the little angel was seated.. He took his son in his arms and sobbed uncontrollably. Probably no church has had a more glorious moment, and probably this universe has never seen a Papa that was more filled with love & honour for his son… Except for One. It doesn’t matter what you may be going through JESUS REALLY DOES LOVE YOU. Surrender to his lordship over your life and it will be well with YOU!
- fwd: lalita joshua
Washington, February 23, 2015: After a judge ruled last week that Washington florist and Christian grandmother Barronelle Stutzman violated the law when she refused to provide arrangements for a same-sex wedding, Stutzman rejected a tempting settlement offer that would have spared her from losing her home and business, because it would have forced her to turn her back on God.
As Stutzman was found guilty of violating Washington’s non-discrimination law last Wednesday for declining to service the wedding of Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed in 2013 due to her Christian belief of marriage, Stutzman runs the risk of losing not only her business but her house and life savings once a summary judgement is reached.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson offered the 70-year-old Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s flowers, a settlement on Thursday that would have spared Stutzman the high, bankrupting legal costs that she could incur as a result of the summary judgement.
The settlement offer would have required Stutzman to pay just $2,001 in fines and legal costs. However, the settlement also would have required Stutzman go against her religious beliefs and agree service gay wedding requests.
“I am prepared to settle this matter for a penalty of $2,000 under the Consumer Protection Act, a $1 payment for costs and fees, an agreement not to discriminate in the future, and an end to further litigation,” Ferguson said in a statement.
The next day, Stutzman sent a letter to Ferguson rejecting his settlement and stating that the settlement would have required her to betray Jesus Christ, much like Judas did.
“Washington’s constitution guarantees us ‘freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment.’ I cannot sell that precious freedom,” Stutzman’s letter asserts. “You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver. That is something I will not do.”
Stutzman’s letter added that Ferguson continues to prove that he does not understand the true meaning of “freedom.”
“Your offer reveals that you don’t really understand me or what this conflict is all about. It’s about freedom, not money,” Stutzman wrote. “I certainly don’t relish the idea of losing my business, my home, and everything else that your lawsuit threatens to take from my family, but my freedom to honor God in doing what I do best is more important.”
Although Stutzman has been portrayed by some media outlets as being an intolerable bigot for refusing to serve a gay wedding, Stutzman served Robert Ingersoll for over 9 years before he asked her to provide floral arrangements for his gay wedding. Even though Stutzman had built a great relationship with Ingersoll, she could not in good faith put her full heart into making floral arrangements for Ingersoll’s wedding and thought it would be best to decline to Ingersoll’s request.
After much social media uproar, Ferguson’s office filed a lawsuit against Stutzman, although no official complaint was filed against her. After the state filed a lawsuit, the couple filed a lawsuit with backing from the American Civil Liberties Union.
“I pray that you reconsider your position. I kindly served Rob for nearly a decade and would gladly continue to do so. I truly want the best for my friend,” Stutzman’s letter stated. “I’ve also employed and served many members of the LGBT community, and will continue to do so regardless of what happens with this case. You chose to attack my faith and pursue this not simply as a matter of law, but to threaten my very means of working, eating and having a home.
“If you are serious about clarifying the law, then I urge you to drop your claims against my home, business, and other assets and pursue the legal claims through the appeal process,” Stutzman added.
Stutzman further added that the state’s laws present a double standard when it comes to protecting citizens’ differing beliefs on marriage.
“Our state would be a better place if we respected each other’s differences, and our leaders protected the freedom to have those differences,” Stutzman wrote. “Since 2012, same-sex couples all over the state have been free to act on their beliefs about marriage, but because I follow the Bible’s teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, I am no longer free to act on my beliefs.”
- christian post
Bhubaneswar, February 23, 2015: Christians in Kandhamal live fearing further violence in the district as Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has chosen to celebrate the golden jubilee of its foundation in the tribal dominated region, the center of the 2008 anti-Christian violence.
“There is fear and insecurity not just in Kandhamal, but around the districts too as VHP posters call for Hindu unity,” said Father Ajay Singh, a human rights activist in Orissa.
The priest, who won the Minority Rights Day Award of National Minorities Commission in 2003, said firebrand VHP leader Praveen Tagodia is scheduled to visit Kandhamal on Feb. 28 for the jubilee.
History shows that violence followed such events. Two years prior to 2008 attacks on Christians, Hindu hardliners chose Kandhamal as the place to celebrate centenary birthday of M.S Golwalker in April 2006. RSS leaders like K. S Sudershan, Ashok Singhal and others presided over it.
In December 2007, a major violence against Christians took place in which 5 people killed, 40 churches, several institution and nearly 900 houses destroyed, Father Singh said.
The following year Tagodia and Indresh Kumar went to attend the funeral Swami Laxmanand and instigated people. The violence that followed mobs of radical Hindus murdered nearly 100 people, torched more 5,500 houses and raped several women besides destroying 395 churches spreading in 14 districts of Odisha.
“Once Supreme Court had barred” Togadia from entering the state. But this time, he is leading the celebrations of VHP and they have again chosen to Kandhamal,” the priest said adding that Christians are living in fear of violence.
He said Christian leaders are looking forward to the government as well as civil society to address their concerns and protect Christians.
The miscreants vandalised the statue by breaking the glass casket which was installed on a pedestal near the Holy Cross. The incident had come to light on Sunday after a local resident saw the statue damaged with glass pieces strewn all round the cross. It is believed that the miscreants desecrated the statue on Saturday night.
Glorio Fernandes, who had installed the statue around a year and half ago, took the pieces of the statue home yesterday evening and later informed the local residents about the incident.
Our Lady of Rosary Parish Priest Fr Jose Roque Gonsalves and his two Priests, Fr Camilo and Fr Jovito, visited the spot around noon and expressed shock over the desecration.
“ What has happened is sad.
This is certainly not done by a drunkard or a lunatic, who too has respect for places of worship.
We do not want to point any accusing fingers, but at the same time, the police should try to bring the culprits to book”, Fr Gonsalves said.
He said that Navelim has not witnessed any such incident in the past as people from all communities live in perfect harmony. “ We can see that people used to lit candidates at the cross”, he added.
Margao PI Sudesh Naik and his team descended on the spot to conduct a probe.