News Update - April 2014

David Cameron Urged to Raise Blasphemy Law Concerns with Pakistan
Pakistani Christians in Britain have pleaded with Prime Minister David Cameron to do more for victims of Pakistan's stringent blasphemy laws.

Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, raised his concerns during a meeting with the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street. The call is timely as this week an appeal hearing against the death sentence of Christian mother Asia Bibi for blasphemy was delayed by the Pakistani courts for the third time. Mr Chowdhry said the Prime Minister had indicated he would raise the issue of the blasphemy laws with Pakistan's President Mamnoon Hussein during a forthcoming visit.

"Mr Cameron's promised efforts on behalf of the victims of Pakistan's blasphemy laws is welcome news," said Mr Chowdhry. "However, against this we must not underestimate the deeply entrenched support for the blasphemy laws.... We look forward to hearing what response Mr Cameron receives."

Pakistan is one of the harshest places on earth for Christians, with churches and Christian neighborhoods the victim of bombings and mob attacks. Christian girls are often abducted and forced to convert to Islam and marry their abductors. Many Pakistani Christians work in the lowest paid jobs because of their faith.

Christian Today

Baptist Church Leaders Spark Revitalization Movement in Response to Decline
Southern Baptist church leaders are coming together to organize a revitalization movement in response to the large numbers of Baptist congregations that are closing their doors. Joshua Hedger, director of the Center for Church Planting at Midwestern Seminary told the Christian Post, "Churches are closing in large part because they have either become disconnected from culture and/or disconnected from scripture. When this happens, life leaves the church."

In recent years, 800 to 1,000 Baptist churches close on an annual basis, and the revitalization campaign will move to stop the crisis. The movement not only opens new churches, but also breathes new life into older congregations by changing the leadership.

The revitalization process can come in many forms. "In some cases, a simple change in leadership and culture takes place. Some fully shut down and allow a new church to take over their facilities, assets, and people. Others find themselves anywhere between those two extremes," Hedger said.

Some churches also must deal with past issues including "problems caused by members who embodied the works of the flesh" said Dr. Rodney Harrison, a former revitalization pastor. Harrison explained that this part of the procedure can be more painful due to churches not addressing these issues previously.

Christian Headlines

Judge Orders Ohio to Recognize Out-of-State Homosexual "Marriages"
U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black ruled that Ohio must recognize same-sex marriages performed outside of state limits, despite a 2004 citizen vote defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The judge was appointed to make the decision by President Barack Obama.

The ruling, which was decided Monday, means that homosexual couples married outside Ohio will be considered legally married, though the state has not legalized such "marriages", reports Christian News. The ruling does not require the state of Ohio to permit homosexual "marriages".

Black's ruling said, "Ohio's marriage recognition bans are facially unconstitutional and unenforceable under any circumstances. The record before this staggeringly devoid of any legitimate justification for the state's ongoing arbitrary discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."

"When a state effectively terminates the marriage of a same-sex couple married in another jurisdiction by refusing to recognize the marriage, that state unlawfully intrudes into the realm of private marital, family, and intimate relations specifically protected by the Supreme Court."

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is planning an appeal to the ruling on account of the public's 2004 vote against expanding the definition of marriage in the state. Governor John Kasich is in support of the appeal according to spokesman Rob Nichols.

Christian Headlines

Pastor Banned from Feeding Homeless because He Lacks Permit
Every other Saturday Rick Wood delivers hundreds of hot dogs and bottles of water to homeless people in need. But the people who rely on Wood's generosity may soon be left empty-handed.

Wood, who is a pastor at the Lord's House of Prayer in Oneonta, Ala., has been feeding the homeless for the past six years without a glitch. But, last month, the city told Wood that he had to halt his mission because it had passed an ordinance that regulates food trucks, Think Progress reported. Though the ordinance pertains specifically to retailers, the city said that it still applies to Wood and that he has to obtain a $500 permit in order to continue helping the homeless.

But Wood has vowed to continue his service, like many other advocates who have faced similar bureaucratic measures. Last December, Churches on the Street-a mobile ministry in St. Louis-was ordered to stop serving hot food to the homeless until it secured a permit, an expense that would cost the small-scale operation $150 to $300 annually, the Riverfront Times reported. And last summer, members of Love Wins Ministries, an organization that feeds breakfast to anyone in need on weekends in Raleigh, N.C., when no soup kitchens are open, were threatened with arrests if they didn't cease their service.

Huffington Post

Rwandan Genocide Remembered after 20 Years
April marks the 20th anniversary of the horrifying Rwandan genocide. Over 800,000 Rwandan civilians were killed, and the country still feels the effects of the terror today.

Civil war between the Hutu-led government and the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front, the majority of the country's population. After the death of President Juvénal Habyarimana on April 6 1994, Hutus broke out in riots, the beginning of 100 days of genocide reports Christian Today.

Samaritan's Purse Vice President of programs and government relations Ken Isaacs travelled to Rwanda during the genocide to give aid to survivors and spoke of his experience. "Death is always a horrible thing, but death perpetuated by the unbridled darkness in the heart of man is something beyond horrible; it's dark and evil. I've never seen anything compared to that kind of atrocity, and I hope to never again."

Samaritan's Purse ran the refugee camps in Tanzania and Rutare during the genocide, giving survivors medical attention, food and water. The organization also reopened the Kigali hospital after its medical personnel were either killed or evacuated.

Louis Muvunyi, Bishop of Kigali said that the nation is still struggling to improve its education, healthcare and poverty level with the assistance of Samaritan's Purse. "There is hope: for the future, for survivors, for victims and for the perpetrators," Muvunyi said.

Christian Headlines

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