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Religion Today Blog Christian Blog and Commentary

Adelle M. Banks

Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world
In his last National Prayer Breakfast speech while in office, President Obama gave an introspective talk about how his faith overcomes his fears.
“For me, and I know for so many of you, faith is the great cure for fear,” Obama said at the Washington Hilton event Thursday (Feb. 4). “Jesus is a good cure for fear.”
Obama’s speech to several thousand mostly evangelical listeners came a day after he spoke at a Baltimore mosque and gave a history lesson on Muslim Americans’ contributions to the country.
The National Prayer Breakfast, held for the 64th time, is chaired each year by members of Congress who meet weekly for prayer when Congress is in session. It draws politicians, diplomats and prominent evangelical Christian leaders.
Speaking slowly at times as he talked about how he is comforted by Scripture and the faith of others, Obama said he has lately focused on a Bible verse from 2 Timothy: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
He said now is the best period to have that scriptural assurance.
“What better time in these changing and tumultuous times to have Jesus standing beside us, steadying our minds, cleansing our hearts, pointing us towards what matters,” he said.
Hollywood power couple Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, the other keynote speakers at the breakfast, joined the president in urging that Americans bridge the divides that separate them.
“We pray that with God’s help our world can heal some of the hurts that wound us and the confusion that divides us, but it begins with us,” said Downey, whose husband kept his hand on her shoulder as they spoke as the first husband-and-wife team to ever address the breakfast.
“Perhaps a good place to start is to simply see the image of God in the eyes of everyone you meet.”
Obama gave credit to congregations of a variety of faiths for coming to the aid of others across the country and the globe.
Christians, Sikhs and others helped after an earthquake rocked Haiti, he said, and Jews, Christians and Muslims strove to save West Africans from Ebola. He credited people of faith for how they welcomed Syrian refugees to the U.S. with food and blankets and worked to “wrap a shattered community in love” after nine worshippers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., were killed.
Obama said he joins the continuing prayers for Christians and other people of faith around the world who are persecuted for their beliefs, and he expressed gratitude for the safe return of Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini, who was released in January from Iran after being imprisoned since 2012.
After acknowledging his prayers to be forgiven for his own failings, Obama closed his remarks with his prayers for the country and the future.
“I pray that we will see every single child as our own, each worthy of our love and of our compassion,” he said. “And I pray we answer Scripture’s call to lift up the vulnerable, and to stand up for justice, and ensure that every human being lives in dignity.”
Adelle M. Banks is production editor and a national reporter for RNS
Courtesy: Religion News Service
Photo courtesy: Wikipedia
Publication date: February 5, 2016
Two pro-life bills were voted down this week in New Hampshire. 
Life News reports a bill that would require doctors to care for babies born alive after botched abortions was defeated in a vote 9-7. According to the House Judiciary Committee, the motion was denied because the state could not legislate medical procedures. 
Republican Representative Kurt Wuelper argued, “There should be a reasonable way to have some amount of protection for those who survive the sentence of abortion.” 
The second bill to be voted down would have banned dismemberment abortions in the state. The procedure involves doctors using tools to removing limbs from babies to remove them from the womb. 
Pro-life legislators argued that the abortion procedure was violent and should be illegal. The bill lost in a narrow 9-8 vote. 
Wuelper grieved the decision, “We have the technology well within our means to do these executions in a humane way.” 
Publication date: February 5, 2016
The spread of the Zika virus is putting pressure on the Catholic Church in Latin America to relax its strict policies toward artificial contraception.
Christian Today reports that, although the virus threatens many people in Latin America where Catholicism has a huge influence and where the Pope himself is from, the Vatican has thus far remained silent on the issue of contraception and the Zika virus.
The Church’s official policy is that artificial birth control should not be used, even to prevent HIV infection.
However, the growing threat of the Zika virus provides a new threat. The growing number of babies being born with microcephaly, a condition in which the child’s head and brain are proportionately small, is thought to be linked to the spread of the virus.
Tewedros Melesse, director general of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, stated: "Despite opposition, in recent decades Latin America has made great strides in amplifying access to contraception. However much more needs to be done. In the face of the Zika virus, these gains need to be echoed throughout the region – especially for adolescents, poor women and those living in rural areas who are most likely to be exposed to the virus and least likely to have access to reproductive health services.
"Access to contraception should be available to all. Governments must ensure their medical services have the supplies for those who want it. We recommend strengthening family planning programmes and access to safe abortion services for those women who need it and where it is permitted by law."
The Catholic Church is faced with a huge issue with the spread of the Zika virus, especially since women in some Latin American countries have been told not to get pregnant for two years in order to halt the spread of the virus.
Nearly four in 10 of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics live in Latin America.
Publication date: February 5, 2016