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Religion Today Blog Christian Blog and Commentary

Sarah Curlee

Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world

First lady Melania Trump attended a Marine Toys for Tots event held at the Joint Anacostia-Boiling Military Base in southwestern Washington, D.C on Tuesday. 

The first lady shared a few words of insight before she assisted the kids in filling boxes with toys, stating that "As a mother, I feel children are the most precious gift of all. As First Lady, I have made it my mission to shine a light on programs that provide more opportunities for children to succeed."

After the boxes were filled with toys, the children took time to write Christmas cards that would be added to each box. The first lady and several US Marines got involved with the activities, helping the children write their letters. 

The event wasn’t complete without a visit from Santa Claus, who arrived with bags that read “Be Best” on the front. The first last helped give out the bags before she visited with the parents of the many children at the event. 

The first lady spoke highly of the organization, telling AOL: "Their mission to send messages of hope to children and motivate them to grow into responsible and patriotic citizens and community leaders is so important to our society. 

“I had been looking forward to this event ever since last year's ended," she recalled. 

The Marine Toys for Tots program has been sharing a message of hope with less fortunate children since 1947, according to the foundation's website.  

Local Toys for Tots Campaigns are the heart and soul of the Marine Toys for Tots Program managed by dedicated United States Marines and local volunteers. Your Local Campaign is the best source of Toys for Tots information on how to give and receive support in your community.

If you would like to get involved, connect with the local Toys for Tots program in your state here.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Pool

New advice regarding how to help transgender people mark their transition has been delivered by the Church of England. 

One piece of advice suggests modifying the Affirmation of Baptism service in a way that permits transgender Christians to celebrate their new sexual identity.  

During the service, they would be addressed by the name they have chosen instead of their birth name. 

According to BBC, “it follows pressure at the general synod last year to go further in welcoming the transgender community.”

The Church has faced past criticism for not taking sufficient action to guard against transphobia, and for failing to prevent transgender students in faith schools from being bullied.

Various conservative theologians, however, insist that God is the one who assigns gender and that humans should refrain from attempting to change the gender they were born. 

The guidance encourages that the Church "welcomes and encourages the unconditional affirmation of trans people, equally with all people, within the body of Christ, and rejoices in the diversity of that body into which all Christians have been baptized by one Spirit".

The Reverend Dr. Tina Beardsley, a former healthcare chaplain, is one of the three transgender clergy who reviewed the guidelines. 

She mentions that although several trans Christians had previously taken part in similar services informally, herself included, receiving official endorsement by the Church was particularly momentous. 

She stated to BBC News: "For me the most important thing was actually having this certificate to say that I had renewed my baptism vows and it had my chosen name on it."

She went on to say that the new guidance would take away whatever doubt remained for clergy leading services. 

On the other hand, she revealed disappointment the new guidance did not introduce a certain liturgical form of words to signify transition. 

The House of Bishops gave the guidance the seal of approval to be added into Common Worship. 

Julian Henderson, the Bishop of Blackburn who chairs the House of Bishops delegation committee, stated: "We are absolutely clear that everyone is made in the image of God and that all should find a welcome in their parish church.

"This new guidance provides an opportunity, rooted in scripture, to enable trans people who have come to Christ as the way, the truth and the life, to mark their transition in the presence of their Church family which is the body of Christ."

Photo courtesy: Katlove/Pixabay

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hezbollah that the terrorist group “will be hit” if the group’s actions continue.

“Our deployment is ready for a strong response if Hezbollah make a big mistake and decide to harm us or to resist to the operation we are conducting. They [Hezbollah] will be hit in such a way that they cannot even imagine," he said.

Netanyahu’s comments came after Israel Defense Forces found a third cross-tunnel from Lebanon into Israel. The IDF had been destroying the terrorist-dug tunnels.

“The route, like the rest of the tunnels, is under IDF control and anyone who enters it on the Lebanese side endangers their life,” read a statement released by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

Israel says the tunnels violate a U.N. resolution. As part of Operation Northern Shield, IDF is currently searching for and then destroying the tunnels. IDF says there is other tunnels, but because of military concerns, cannot release the number, according to The Times of Israel.

A Hezbollah leader also said this week “there is not a single point in the occupied territories (Israel) out of reach of Hezbollah’s missiles.”

“The Zionists cannot tolerate such a high level of threats in confrontation with Hezbollah, which is why they have no motive for entering another war with Lebanon,” said Sheikh Naim Qassem.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Amir Levy/Stringer