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Religion Today Blog Christian Blog and Commentary

Emily McFarlan Miller

Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world

(RNS) — A popular Christian bookseller is changing its name after a deluge of requests for cannabis-related products.

For years, Peabody, Massachusetts-based Christian Book Distributors has been known by the initials CBD.

The bookseller announced last month it will now go by “Christianbook” to avoid confusion with cannabidiol, an increasingly popular cannabis-derived product that shares its initials.

“The problem is the other CBD is just so popular at this point in time that it just kind of overwhelms our brand,” Christianbook President and CEO Ray Hendrickson told The New York Times.

The “other CBD” does not get users high. But it has exploded in popularity over the past year, appearing in everything from oils and lotions to beers and lollipops and claiming to relieve anxiety and pain, among other things.

Drugstores Walgreens and CVS have said they will carry CBD products in some states. Even some Christians are exploring its use: A website called God’s Greenery publishes posts about CBD, how Christians can view it morally and what Scripture might have to say about it.

Meantime, Christianbook has sold books and other Christian resources for four decades.

What started as two teenage brothers selling Christian books from a catalog out of their parents’ house eventually grew to the world’s largest seller of Christian products, according to a statement from the bookseller.

The company also sells books on its website,

“In the past, a Google search for ‘CBD’ would place our company at the top of the results page,” the company said in a statement.

“Now ‘our CBD’ is nowhere to be found in the search results, only sites for the cannabis product are listed, and paid ads are no longer allowed. As this wave of popularity over the ‘other CBD’ is not likely to subside, we will stop referring to ourselves as ‘CBD’ and will also drop the word ‘Distributors’ from our company name. Going forward, we will operate under the name of ‘Christianbook.’”

Though the name has changed, Hendrickson said in the statement that nothing else about Christianbook’s business has.

Customers still can buy the same Christian products they always have from its catalogs and website. And they still can use the domain name

“It’s not for sale,” Hendrickson told The Boston Globe. 


Photo courtesy: RNS/Christianbook

WASHINGTON (RNS) — Trump administration officials announced a new alliance with U.S. partners focused on religious freedom and new sanctions against foreign military officials supporting countries the U.S. considers to be instigators of religious persecution.

The developments Thursday (July 18) were among the highlights of the last day of the State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. Foreign ministers also took turns stating ways their nations are working to affirm religious liberty. That followed two days of meetings where survivors shared their stories of persecution and some of the almost 900 religious leaders and activists in attendance made plans to foster interfaith understanding.

Before a gathering of representatives of 106 countries, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced plans to create the International Religious Freedom Alliance.

“We hope that this new vehicle — the first-ever international body devoted to this specific topic – will build on efforts to date and bring like-minded countries together to confront challenges of international religious freedom,” he said. “It will provide a space for the work that we do here to flourish throughout the year.”

Vice President Mike Pence, speaking later in the day, announced that the U.S. had placed sanctions on two leaders of Iranian-backed militias, groups he said have “terrorized the people of the Nineveh Plain,” a region of northern Iraq where religious minorities, including Christians and Yazidis, are persecuted.

“The United States stands with all victims of religious persecution and the American people have them in our hearts — and in our prayers,” said Pence.

Earlier in the week, the administration placed designations on several military officials in Myanmar, preventing them from entering the United States due to what the State Department said was their involvement in the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority with some 700,000 members who have been forced into refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh.

President Trump also met with a couple dozen survivors of religious violence in the Oval Office on Wednesday.

Over the course of the three days, speakers hailed religious freedom victories that had occurred since the first ministerial a year ago. That included the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson, an American evangelical detained in Turkey for two years.

During a Thursday luncheon for heads of delegations, he prayed for those gathered, saying, “I bless you in the name of my king, Jesus Christ.”

Earlier in the week, summit attendees heard the story of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who was acquitted of blasphemy.

Many of the survivors of religious violence who spoke at the summit reminded attendees of those who remain persecuted for their faith across the world.

“I want you all to know that there are 200 more Asia Bibis in jail accused of the blasphemy law in Pakistan today,” said Shaan Taseer, the son of a Pakistani governor who was killed for supporting Bibi and for urging eradication of  Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. “And these are only the reported cases.”

Taseer, who lives in Canada, asked Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, sitting in the front row during Taseer’s remarks, to bring up the plight of those jailed for blasphemy during the upcoming White House visit of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“We’ll take your message on up for the meeting with the president and prime minister this weekend,” Brownback assured Taseer.

Critics have questioned whether the first ministerial, which issued a declaration and a plan of action addressing religious freedom, had accomplished much.

Mark Weitzman, director of government affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said the second ministerial “was very substantive.”

He pointed particularly to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joining with former U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, the architect of the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, in condemning China’s actions against numerous religious groups, including Catholics, Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims.

“Unless we are willing to speak out against human rights and violations of religious freedom in China, we lose all moral authority to talk about it any other place in the world,” Pelosi said as she sat onstage with Wolf at a summit session.

Numerous speakers, from scholars to envoys of religious freedom to clergy, called for making legislative changes toward greater religious liberty. They also called for increased interfaith education and personal relationships across divides of faith.

“What purpose is served by human forays into outer space if we’re still incapable of understanding our fellow global citizens, our neighbors and even ourselves here on earth?” asked Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, president of the Abu Dhabi-based Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies. His remarks, spoken in Arabic, were translated by Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, co-founder of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, Calif.

Texas evangelical minister Bob Roberts, who took part in a Wednesday panel discussion with Rabbi David Saperstein, former U.S. international religious freedom ambassador, and Imam Mohamed Magid, a former president of the Islamic Society of North America, suggested ways Christians, Jews and Muslims could get to know each other in their local communities. He advocated for visiting each other’s houses of worship and dining in each other’s homes and later said summit participants seemed to be interested in replicating the ideas.

“I’ve got a pocket full of cards,” he said in an interview, later that day, of the business cards he received just after he spoke from people from countries like India, Malaysia and Indonesia. “Declarations are nice. Laws are necessary. But without grassroots, it means nothing at all.”

Several follow-up events focused on religious freedom were announced during the ministerial.

Callista Gingrich, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, announced at a Wednesday reception that, as a result of the ministerial, there would be a joint symposium in Rome on Oct. 2 on the role of faith-based groups in protecting religious freedom, providing humanitarian aid and combating human trafficking.

Pompeo said Albania, Colombia and Morocco are also planning to host regional conferences soon.


Article originally published by Religion News Service. Used with permission.

Photo courtesy: RNS/Ralph Alswang/Public Domain/U.S. State Department

NAIROBIKenya, July 18, 2019 (Morning Star News) – A widow in central Uganda has fled her homestead after receiving Islamist threats when she arranged for a pastor to bury the body of her husband, sources said.

Local leaders on July 11 gave Sharifa Kasozi Nakamate, of Kirinda in Wakiso District, one day to recant her Christian faith or leave her homestead, she said.

After the burial of her husband, Hajji Salimu Kasozi, who died on June 15 at age 65, she began receiving threatening text messages from the clan leader, she said.

“It is now clear to the clan that you and your deceased husband abandoned Islam, since Hajji was buried by Christians,” clan leader Musa Hamisi told her in one text message, according to Nakamate. “We are giving you a few days to recant the Christian faith or face the wrath of being an apostate.”

Among the hard-line Muslims who gave the 49-year-old Nakamate the ultimatum was her son, 29-year-old Alamanzan Basudde, she said.

“I realized my life was now in danger, so I sought refuge at the church,” she told Morning Star News.

She has since relocated to another area, where the church rented a place for her to live and conduct a small business. The church, unidentified for security reasons, has reported the threat to the local council of Kirinda.

“We know it will be very difficult for Nakamate to return to her house,” the church pastor told Morning Star News. “She is so much distressed at the moment.”

Nakamate secretly put her faith in Christ in October 2018. Her husband was Christian in name only, neither worshipping with other secret Christians nor attending mosque prayers, sources said.

When he died, area Muslims refused to bury him on grounds that he habitually ate pork and drank alcohol in public, she said.

“I decided to run to the church, and the pastor came and buried my husband,” said Nakamate, who also has two adult daughters.

The Muslim community’s response to the burial came as a surprise, she said.

“I never expected such thing to happen to me,” she said in anger and disbelief. “I have lost everything that I did in developing the homestead for more than 30 years of our married life, only to lose everything just like that because of following Jesus.”

The church is also concerned for the fellowship’s security. A member received an anonymous text message that read, “Please let Nakamate return to her religion to avoid any negative repercussion of your church.”

Kirinda is located in the Masajja Division of Wakiso district.

The pastor said the church is uncertain what to do next.

“We need prayers as we continue discipling Nakamate to be rooted in the Christian faith,” he told Morning Star News by telephone. 

Nakamate said she fears Muslims will discover her new living quarters.

“Two days ago a Muslim from my home village came and bought items from me,” she said. “I am afraid that she will go back and spread news of my new place of residence. This new place is not safe for me.”

The threats to her safety constitute the latest of many cases of persecution of Christians in Uganda that Morning Star News has documented.

Uganda’s constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another.

Muslims make up no more than 12 percent of Uganda’s population, but with high concentrations in eastern areas of the country. 

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit for a list of organizations that can orient you on how to get involved.   

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Photo courtesy: Pixabay