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Religion Today Blog Christian Blog and Commentary

Amanda Casanova

Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world

A secular group is asking the U.S. Inspector General to investigate Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State – a separation of church and state watchdog – is asking the inspector general to look into Pompeo’s speech he gave at a Christian conference. The group says the speech was an “unconstitutional endorsement of religion,” the Christian Post reports.

Pompeo spoke earlier this month at an American Association of Christian Counselors’ World Conference in Tennessee. During his speech, called “Being a Christian Leader,” Pompeo told attendees that he uses the “wisdom of God” in his work to “be a force for good in the life of human beings.”

“Now, I know that even having just said that, I know some people in the media will break out the pitchforks when they hear that I ask God for direction in my work,” he said. “But you should know, as much as I’d like to claim originality, it is not a new idea. I love this quote from President Lincoln. He said, quote: ‘I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.’”

In a letter to the inspector general, Americans United said Pompeo’s speech was “proselytizing” that “endorsed Christianity in his official government capacity, as well as the department’s use of its resources to promote the speech.”

“While Mr. Pompeo is entirely free to engage in religious activities in his personal capacity, he must not use his official role as Secretary of State to promote his religion,” the letter argues. “In his role as secretary, delivering a speech that enthusiastically endorses Christianity is a violation of the Establishment Clause.”

The American Humanist Association, the National Jewish Democratic Council and the Council on American-Islamic Relations also released statements criticizing Pompeo’s speech.

“This religious favoritism is the kind of abuse of their duty to represent all Americans equally that demonstrates how fundamentalism is the driving force of this administration’s agenda,” said AHA President Roy Speckhardt.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Mark Wilson/Staff

NAIROBIKenya, October 22, 2019 (Morning Star News) – Having moved three times since suspected Muslim extremists burned down their house in northeastern Kenya in March, a Christian mother of eight has a hard time explaining the loss of normal life to her children.

More than three years after leaving Islam, Zinabu Mohammad and her family still fear for their lives after fleeing predominantly Muslim Madogo village, in Garissa County, the morning after their house was burned down at midnight on March 15.

“My two primary-school children are always asking what was the wrongdoing committed by the family that caused the burning of the house, as well as about moving from one place to another,” Mohammad said. “I always keep quiet or only tell them that soon things will get better, and that God is the provider. Sometimes I weep the whole night when I think back upon the trail of destruction left behind.”

Mohammad was attending a Christian conference in Nairobi the night of the attack. Her husband, Ibrahim Juma, told Morning Star News that at least six masked persons set fire to their house after he and his children escaped out the back door.

“It has been very difficult for my children’s schooling – we are constantly on the move, which has adversely affected the education of my five children in school,” Juma told Morning Star News by phone.

He and his two primary school-aged children were in the house the night of the attack, he said.

“At around midnight I heard noise close to the homestead,” Juma said. “Peeping through the window, I saw more than six people wearing masks approaching my house, and I knew that we were not safe at all. I quickly woke up my children, and we fled out the rear door.”

A neighbor told Morning Star News that area residents suspect the house was doused with gas before being set ablaze.

“After a short while, the whole house was on fire,” Juma said. “Neighbors rushed to the scene of the incident but could not save anything due to the great explosion when the house got fire.”

They made their way by moonlight to the home of a Christian missionary family from another part of Kenya working in the area, he said.

“They received us with my two children with no extra clothes except the clothes on our bodies,” Juma said. “The children’s schoolbooks and their uniforms were all destroyed. Our four-bedroom house was completed destroyed; beddings and other valuables worth a huge amount of money were all destroyed by the fire.”

The rainy season is underway, and the tent roof is leaking, he said. 

Urgently Seeking Prayer 

Moving first 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the village and later 40 kilometers (24 miles), they are still unable to move about the area without covering their faces, he said. They hope to be able to sell their farm in Madogo and relocate farther away.

“We are very fearful for our lives,” Juma said. “We have started receiving short phone messages from our Muslim relatives demanding that we return to Islam if life is to go on well with us.”

Mohammad said that Muslims from their home village have been monitoring their movements. The family became Christian in June 2016, when they began holding secret evening worship in their home in the predominantly Muslim area, she said. Juma stopped attending Friday prayers at the mosque, and area Muslims became increasingly suspicious that they had left Islam, she said.

The family urgently seeks prayer to be able to relocate farther away and find a buyer for their farm in Madogo, Juma said.

“We earnestly need prayers for the peace of the family and to grow in the Christian faith,” he said.

The population of Garissa town, about 100 miles from the Somali border, is predominantly ethnic Somali.  On April 2, 2015, 148 people at Garissa University College lost their lives in an attack by Muslim extremist Al Shabaab, a rebel group in Somalia affiliated with Al Qaeda, and several attacks on churches and Christians have taken place in Garissa.

Somalis generally believe that all Somalis must be Muslim. Somalia’s constitution establishes Islam as the state religion and prohibits the propagation of any other religion, according to the U.S. State Department. It also requires that laws comply with sharia (Islamic law) principles, with no exceptions in application for non-Muslims.

Kenya is ranked 40th on Christian support group Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian; Somalia is ranked 3rd

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that can orient you on how to get involved. 

If you or your organization would like to help enable Morning Star News to continue raising awareness of persecuted Christians worldwide with original-content reporting, please consider collaborating at https://morningstarnews.org/donate/

Article originally published by Morning Star News. Used with permission.

Photo courtesy: Belle Maluf/Unsplash

 

A federal appeals court panel has upheld a Pittsburgh ordinance that restricts demonstrations outside of abortion clinics.

According to The Christian Post, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit panel decided to uphold the city’s law, which bans demonstrations within 15 feet of entrances to healthcare facilities, including abortion clinics.

Judge Cheryl Ann Krause said in the opinion that the ordinance did not “prohibit the sidewalk counseling in which the laintiffs seek to engage within the zone.

“No doubt, if the Ordinance by its terms did prohibit one-on-one conversations about abortion but not about other subjects within the zone, it would be highly problematic,” wrote Judge Krause.

“The text of the Ordinance says nothing about leafletting or peaceful one-on-one conversations, let alone on a particular topic or for a particular purpose.”

Judge Thomas Hardiman said in his opinion that the city “cannot target quiet conversations even if they are not in a tone of ‘kindness, love, hope, gentleness, and help.’”

And the City’s enforcement of the Ordinance must be evenhanded,” Hardiman said, referring to abortion clinic employees who could not be punished for counseling people entering or exiting the facility.

In a statement, the Alliance Defending Freedom said the ruling means that “the government can’t censor peaceful, pro-life conversation on public sidewalks.

“Citizens have the freedom to share a message of hope and compassion with any mother seeking to make an informed choice about her pregnancy,” Graves said.

“Pittsburgh politicians aren’t at liberty to silence speech they dislike. As the U.S. Supreme Court recognized in last year’s NIFLA v. Becerra decision, ‘the people lose when the government is the one deciding which ideas should prevail.’”

The CEO of Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania said she was also pleased with the decision.

“So as long as the protesters comply with this, we don’t anticipate it having any impact on our patients. They could just say, ‘No, thank you.’ As long as they follow what the law is, they will be fine, and if they don’t, then we will involve the authorities.”

Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Drew Angerer/Staff

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