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Religion Today Blog Christian Blog and Commentary

Kayla Koslosky

Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has welcomed the idea of moving the Australian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, sparking widespread debate over the issue. 

In May, the United States moved its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem signaling the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s true capital. 

On Tuesday, Australia’s Prime Minister suggested that the land down under might be following suit. 

During a press conference on Monday, Morrison said, “We are committed to a two-state solution. Australia’s position on this issue has, to date, assumed that it is not possible to consider the question of the recognition of Israel’s capital in Jerusalem, and that be consistent with pursuing a two-state solution.”  

The Prime Minister goes on to say that the former Ambassador of Australia to Israel, Dave Sharma, suggested several months ago that moving the Australian embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv could allow for Australia to both, recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move toward a two-state solution. 

The two-state solution refers to a resolution between the warring nations of Israel and Palestine that would create "an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel — two states for two peoples," as the New York Times put it.

Many on the world stage have been working for decades to achieve this goal, but as Prime Minister Morrison stated in the press conference, “it hasn’t been going that well.” 

Morrison said, “We are committed to a two-state solution, but frankly, it hasn’t been going that well, and you don’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results.”

He continued, “And so when sensible suggestions are put forward that are consistent with your policy positioning, and in this case pursuing a two-state solution, Australia should be open-minded to this.” 

Morrison goes on to say that he and the government are open to the move and as such, Australia is open to the move.

This announcement sparked controversy on the world stage, and Palestinian leaders are voicing their disappointment, while Israeli leaders are voicing their content. 

The move is not definitively happening, and Morrison stated that he would like to take the coming months to confer with his colleagues and other world leaders before a decision is reached. 

Photo courtesy: Keith Zhu/Unsplash

Video courtesy: Straya News

Illinois megachurch Pastor James MacDonald recently performed a social experiment with his church and the results blew him away.

The founder of the seven-campus Harvest Bible Chapel posted a video of an experiment where he dressed as a bearded homeless man and sat outside of two Harvest Bible Chapel campuses before Sunday services, observing the churchgoers reactions to him. 

The Christian Post reports that MacDonald did the experiment to test his congregations’ willingness to love their neighbor as themselves like the bible commands.

The video that MacDonald posted to his Facebook page on Monday, first shows MacDonald sitting in front of the church buildings with a cup for change, a sign and a shopping cart. 

Then slowly, congregants begin to show up, and one by one they all walk by the disguised pastor, without a single person offering help.  

At one point, the video shows one man contemplating what he should do. The man walks toward and then away from MacDonald several times before finally deciding to just go inside the church.

"The closer a person is to us and the less common the struggle, the easier it is to love," MacDonald says in the video. "God forbid I find out my wife has three months to live. I would quit my job and quit everything, right? What if it's just an acquaintance of yours and what if the problem is recurring… How common is homelessness? How frequently is the homeless person someone dear to us personally? Never," MacDonald proclaims.

The video then shows MacDonald, still in his disguise, walk through the middle of the church sanctuary with his shopping cart and walk up on stage. MacDonald then takes off his disguise layer by layer revealing who was underneath the beard and ripped clothes.

He said to the congregation, "So I took a few moments a couple of weeks ago and camped outside of a couple of our campuses and I wanted to see how we were doing when it is hardest to love." 

“Do you know that your father in Heaven is giving the same graces to the person that is hardest for you to love? He is giving it. He doesn't play favorites. He is giving the grace to everyone. If we are going to love like our father in Heaven loves, we don't get to play favorites. By favorites I mean, so often we love the people when there is some benefit in it for us," he added.

MacDonald used the experiment in his sermon to illustrate that "it's hardest to love when the problem is most common and the people are least known."

"So how did our church do in the video?" he asked. "I am going to tell you now — awesome."

MacDonald said, “I was crying inside that beard. I cannot believe the people at this church.”

Despite what the first few seconds of the video showed, that was only a small number of people compared to the numerous church members who approached MacDonald. 

“The number of people that prayed with me and brought me food,” MacDonald said while getting emotional. 

The next clips in the video show dozens of people offering MacDonald coffee, water, food, money, prayer, and even the Word of God. Several people also invited the seemingly homeless man into the church to join the service and to see the love of God.

"I dressed up as a homeless man and sat outside our church. What I witnessed blew me away," MacDonald wrote on Facebook.

Photo courtesy: Matt Collamer/Unsplash

Video courtesy: James MacDonald

JUBASouth Sudan, October 17, 2018 (Morning Star News)– Security officials in Sudan last week arrested 13 Christians during a worship service in the Darfur Region, sources said.

Personnel from Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) interrupted the worship service the afternoon of Oct. 10 in Nyala, capital of South Darfur state in western Sudan’s Darfur Region and arrested all 13 Christians present (not Oct. 13 while evangelizing Muslims, as reported elsewhere), the sources said.

NISS personnel gave no reason for arresting the Christians, members of four different house churches who had come together for the service, except to say that they were all converts from Islam, the sources said. Authorities are targeting Christian converts from Islam in Darfur, they said.

“We are worried because their whereabouts are still unknown,” said one source, adding that he feared they might be tortured. “The Christians gathered as one body of Christ from different denominations.”

The arrested Christians include 10 from Darfur and three from the Nuba Mountains in southeastern Sudan. Church leader Tajaldin Idriss Yousif was arrested along with his church members: Alfadil Ismail Alnil, Ahmed Mohammed Hassan, Neseraldin Osman, Shemen Ahmed Shemen and Abubaker Biri.

Other Christians arrested were identified only as Kamal, Abdullah, Mutasim, Mujahid, El Sadik Afendi, Bolis Suliman and Abdel Maseh. NISS, widely regarded as a notorious agency staffed by hard-line Islamists, may hold people in detention for up to four and a half months without charges.

Following the secession of South Sudan in 2011, Sudan President Omar al-Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. Church leaders said Sudanese authorities have demolished or confiscated churches and limited Christian literature on the pretext that most Christians have left the country following South Sudan’s secession.

The Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced in April 2013 that no new licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population.

Sudan since 2012 has expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings on the pretext that they belonged to South Sudanese. Besides raiding Christian bookstores and arresting Christians, authorities threatened to kill South Sudanese Christians who do not leave or cooperate with them in their effort to find other Christians.

Sudan fought a civil war with the South Sudanese from 1983 to 2005, and in June 2011, shortly before the secession of South Sudan the following month, the government began fighting a rebel group in the Nuba Mountains that has its roots in South Sudan.

Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999.

Sudan ranked fourth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians face most persecution. 


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: Edwin Andrade/Unsplash

 

 

 

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