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Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world

A 75-year-old priest was murdered in Syria Monday. According to World Magazine masked assassins shot Dutch Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt in the head as he entered his garden in Homs.

Known as Father Frans, despite the dangers, he preferred to remain in the city of Homs in solidarity with the people who could not leave the city, serving the poor and homeless.

World Watch Monitor reports that an estimated 60,000 Christians used to live in the region, but now fewer than 30 remain in the Old City sector of Homs, an ancient town that was a rebel stronghold in the early days of the three-year-old Syrian uprising.

Van der Lugt explained during an interview on Dutch radio in February his reasons for staying in the beleaguered Old City sector.

“When I leave, nothing will be left of this building,” he said. “And I don’t want to leave alone the 28 Christians that have remained.”

In a video posted on YouTube in early 2014, van der Lugt described the despairing conditions for those living in Homs. “One of our biggest problems is hunger,” he said. “There is nothing to eat.”

Fr. Frans was born in the Netherlands in 1938, entered the Society of Jesus in 1958 and was ordained a priest in 1971. He worked in Syria since 1960.


Publication date: April 15, 2014

South 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 takes 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.

John Mark Clifton, pastor of a revitalized Baptist church in Missouri said that the process hopes to spark “a real change in the trend of dying and declining churches in North America.”


Publication date: April 15, 2014

A Russian jet repeatedly flew over a United States Navy warship at extremely low altitudes on Monday, in a seemingly provoking gesture.

The plane flew above the Black Sea, passing over the USS Donald Cook at about 500 feet above sea level 12 twelve times in about 90 minutes CBN News reports.

Russia’s instigating move is leading Americans to question if the U.S. will get involved with the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Steve Ganyard, a security consultant for ABC News said, “The message is we see you, we don’t like you in our backyard, and we prefer that you would leave.”

President Barack Obama held a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday; the leaders discussed the Ukraine conflict and Obama reportedly made known his “grave concern” for the destabilization of eastern Ukraine.

Senator John McCain supports aiding Ukraine with military and weapons but the President does not yet have any plans of doing so.

McCain fears that Putin will feel powerful and move forward if the U.S. remains motionless.

“Right now he’s going full speed ahead down the freeway. And there’s no tangible evidence of him having to pay a significant penalty,” McCain said in regard to Putin.


Publication date: April 15, 2014

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 gay couples married outside Ohio will be considered legally married, though the state has not legalized gay marriage reports Christian News.

The ruling does not require the state of Ohio to permit gay 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.

Publication date: April 15, 2014
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