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Religion Today Blog Christian Blog and Commentary

Sarah Quezada

Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world

We all know faith is good for your soul. But now, there’s proof it’s good for your health, too, after studies show that religious people live longer!

In a study conducted by the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science (SPPS), researchers reviewed obituaries from 43 U.S. cities. They were looking to see if people living the longest shared anything in common. And what the scientists wound up discovering may come as a shock to some. But it’s probably not all that surprising to believers.

According to the study, "self-reported religious service attendance has been linked with longevity." Results showed that religiously affiliated people lived between 5.64 and 9.45 years longer than those with no religious affiliation. In other words, religious people live longer!

The findings from SPPS are nothing new. A study conducted by JAMA Internal Medicine over a 16-year period monitored women. And results showed women who attended any kind of religious service more than once a week had a 33 percent lower chance of dying "than their secular peers.” Another PLOS One study reported those who attend religious services regularly are less stressed and 55% less likely to die than people who do not attend services.

But why?

Of course, scientists often want to find logical, fact-based reasons for why religious folks appear to be, on average, outliving non-believers. So, The American Council on Science and Health offered up their explanation for the SPPS study results. In an article, they suggest the volunteer and social opportunities provided by religious communities were “in part responsible for the lengthening life-span.”

In other words, spending time with a like-minded community increases social interaction and friendships, which scientists believe to be the true root of the health benefit.

Certainly, the Bible suggests God created us for community. But as Christians, we know church isn’t just a social club. And there’s definitely something greater driving the study results!

A journalist and Christian writing for Fox News argued against The American Council on Science and Health by pointing out an important difference between religious communities versus “like-minded” communities.

“A common interest can bind us as friends, but a common Father binds us as family,” J. Warner Wallace writes.

The meaningful connections made there as a community stem from a greater connection to our Lord and Savior.

And whether science wants to acknowledge it or not, Jesus, the Living Water, is the reason believers are living longer!

“Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14)

Life here on earth, though temporary, is unpredictable. It’s messy. And when the ride gets bumpy, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by stress and anxiety.

But faith allows believers to endure life’s trials differently. Even in the worst situations, we can trust in God’s promises. And once our foundation is rooted in our ever-present, never-changing God, believers are no “tossed about” by circumstances (James 1:6).

Instead, we get to experience God’s peace. And that is certainly one of the greatest health benefits out there!

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TIZI-OUZOUAlgeria (Morning Star News) – Church leaders didn’t get an explanation for why the seventh worship building to be closed in Algeria since November was sealed last week, but they suspect lack of registration was the pretext.

It is virtually impossible to register a church in Algeria under current restrictions. Although three of the six churches previously closed were allowed to reopen last month, the shuttering on Wednesday (July 11) of the church building in the northeastern town of Riki was taken as a sign that harassment of Christian institutions that began in November is not over.

The church of about 60 people, which began meeting at its building in Riki, near Akbou in Bejaia Province, on Aug. 11, 2017, had not been able to affiliate with the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA) because the Ministry of Interior recently ordered the once-legally recognized association to freeze all new applications for membership, said Esaid Benamara, pastor of the Riki church.

After the church finished worship on July 7, a Saturday, the congregation was surprised when policemen in two vehicles arrived and asked Pastor Benamara to come to their office. They agreed to his offer to come the next day, and the pastor and his brother went to the office.

“Once there, they let us know that they had been ordered to close the premises of our church and the sealing of the entrance doors,” Pastor Benamara told Morning Star News. “We then asked that they give us the order in question, or at least a copy. ‘We’ll give it to you later,’ one of them told us.”

On July 10, the pastor received a phone call from the police (gendarmerie) asking him to go to their brigade post as soon as possible, and again he went with his brother. They waited there until 7 p.m., when the brigade chief showed up and asked them to leave and return with the building owner because the closure notification was sent to him, the pastor said.

They returned with the building owner the next day.

“They presented a statement to Mahdi Amara [the building owner], asking him to sign it, because the closing order was addressed to him in person,”Pastor Benamara said. “Then they told us that they would go later in the day to execute the order received from the wali [Bejaia provincial chief].”

Near noon on July 11, two vans from the gendarmerie brigade parked at the door of the church, he said.

“Three of the gendarmes entered the church and executed their order. They put the curtain and the front door under seal, which strictly forbids us to open the doors of the church once closed,” Pastor Benamara told Morning Star News. “After execution of the order of the wali of Bejaia to close the premises, the gendarmes left.”

The policemen told them they had sent a notification of closure to the building owner dated Feb. 24, “something we have never received,” the pastor said.

“That’s where we are,” he said. “Thus our church is closed, and our faithful can no longer meet.”

A 2007 executive decree requires all non-Muslim places of worship in Algeria to register with the state, according to the U.S. State Department. Pastor Benamara said the government freeze on new EPA members has kept it from registering.

Laws passed in 2012 required the EPA, which the government had given legal recognition to in 1974, to re-register, but officials have yet to give a response since the EPA applied for re-registration in 2013, leaving the umbrella association itself in legal limbo.

Christian leaders note that the Algerian constitution’s Article 42 guarantees freedom of belief, opinion and worship.

“This is injustice,” Pastor Benamara said. “The authorities who are supposed to respect and enforce the laws of the republic themselves do not respect them. Is it not true that Algerian law and international laws respect and demand respect for all religions as much as Islam? And also their practice? Why are they flouting these laws of the republic?”

On May 26 authorities ordered the closure of a church building in Ait-Mellikeche, also in Bejaia Province, and another church building in Maatkas, in Tizi-Ouzou Province. A church in a village in Azagher, like Riki near Akbou, was closed in March.

At the same time, all churches affiliated with the EPA have been visited by investigators and ordered to comply with requirements for non-Muslim places of worship or face closure.

Church buildings previously closed in Oran city, Ain Turk and El Ayaida, all in Oran Province about 250 miles west of Algiers, were allowed to reopen last month.

Christian Acquitted

Also last week, a court on July 8 dropped charges against a Christian fined 20,000 Algerian dinars (US$172) plus customs expenses for carrying Christian literature and some crucifix-shaped keychains into the country.

Idir Hamdad, a 29-year-old convert from Islam, had been sentenced by a judge at a court in Dar el Beida, on the outskirts of Algiers, who ruled he was guilty of importing unauthorized items without a license.

Notice of a six-month prison sentence and fine had been delivered to his home on March 4 stating that he had been convicted and sentenced en absentia on Sept. 28, 2017, but the prison sentence was withdrawn on May 3.

Algeria ranked 42nd on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

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