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Religion Today Blog Christian Blog and Commentary

Kayla Koslosky

Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world

NBA superstar Stephen Curry has signed on as an executive producer for a new faith-based film called Breakthrough.

The film is based on a book called The Impossible by Joyce Smith which tells the inspiringly true story of how Smith’s son, John, fell through the ice, drowned, and was declared legally dead, only to be revived an hour later through the power of prayer.

According to CBS SportsBreakthrough will be Curry's first project since he launched Unanimous Media, his film and TV company under Sony Pictures Entertainment, earlier this year.

Curry co-founded Unanimous Media with Jeron Smith and Erick Peyton.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Curry jumped at the chance to work on Breakthrough because of its strong messages of faith and family.

"John's story is nothing short of incredible," Curry told THR. "It's a story about the power of prayer and perseverance and one I immediately connected to. After reading the script, I knew I wanted to be a part of bringing it to life onscreen."

According to THR, executive producer DeVon Franklin pitched the movie to the Golden State Warrior during a general movie meeting and 24 hours later Curry was sold. 

"When we first set out in the entertainment business, we had a simple objective: we wanted to tell stories that would move people," Peyton told THR in a statement. "It's been paramount that we work on projects that are meaningful and resonant, and Breakthroughperfectly embodies what Unanimous and Stephen stand for."

Breakthrough is set for release on April 12, 2019.

Photo courtesy: Edgar Chaparro/Unsplash

After a video of a pastor praying with a high school football team went viral in September, the pastor was told he could no longer pray with the team. 

Georgia pastor Russel Davis was asked to stop praying with the Dawson County public school’s football team after a viral video garnered a complaint from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation. 

In the video, Davis prayed for the players to "unite people together" and to recognize God’s purpose for their lives.

"The Word says when they came out they compelled Him to carry the cross, and then Jesus went to the hill and He won victory on the cross," Davis says in the video. "Your goal tonight is not to die on the cross. It is not to die on the field of battle. We're calling you out tonight to carry their cross," he said pointing at a group of child football players who joined the high schoolers in the locker room. 

The Christian Post reports that after the video surfaced, the FFRF issued a letter to the school district demanding that they terminate Pastor Russell from his position of character coach and end the allowance of prayer led by him or any other volunteer or employee. FFRF called this schools allowance of prayer a “serious and flagrant violation of the Frist Amendment.” 

Christopher Line the FFRF legal fellow who penned the letter to the district’s attorney argued that Davis' prayer was unconstitutional and violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. 

The school district’s attorney Philip Hartley responded to the FFRF on Monday saying, "The district is committed to complying with the principles set forth in the First Amendment including the Establishment Clause while protecting the rights of students to exercise their freedom of religion rights under the Constitution."

Hartley continued, "The Superintendent has spoken with appropriate individuals and employees and is confident that any prayer in a school setting that involves students will be voluntary, student initiated and student led so as to protect the rights of all students in the district. This appl[ies] to staff as well as volunteers."

According to Dawson County News, the students did not let this decision stop them from praying. The local news outlet reported that after Davis was barred from praying with the players, the high schoolers decided to pray anyways, only this time without coaches. 

The Tiger’s played their rivals Lumpkin County High on Sept. 21 and won 36-3.

Photo courtesy: Riley McCullough/Unsplash

Video courtesy: Thomas Stearnes

NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – Attacks and other actions against Christians in Sri Lanka have escalated this year, with Hindu extremism beginning to take root along with long-time Buddhist aggression, according to rights advocates.

“Last month there have been more incidents that have been documented than previous months,” an attorney with the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) who requested anonymity told Morning Star News.

NCEASL reported 67 incidents against Christians in Sri Lanka from January through September. Last month saw the highest number of cases reported this year, 12, while 10 incidents were recorded in each of two months, July and March, followed by April and January with eight incidents each.

June and July saw seven incidents each, followed by May with four and February with two.

The highest number of incidents fell under the category of “violence” and “threats” against Christians, with 16 cases each, according to NCEASL figures. This was followed by nine incidents in each of the categories of “discrimination,” “demands for closure” (of worship places) and “intimidation,” while “police inaction,” “false allegations” and “registration” (of cases against Christians) registered two incidents each. One case each of “legal challenge” and “demonstration” were recorded.

Sri Lanka’s population is about 70 percent Buddhist and 13 percent Hindu. 

Entire Communities Instigated
There is a trend from group attacks to groups instigating entire communities, the rights advocate said.

“We are witnessing that communities are being mobilized in an increasing manner against Christians,” the attorney said. “The incidents are not anymore only led by extremist groups, but we are seeing that the extremist elements are able to influence communities as a whole and lead violent mob attacks against places of worship and people.”

Among recent cases, a large mob in Southern Province gathered to protest against a church in their community, which was followed by a violent attack, and then discrimination. In Beliatta in Hambantota district, a mob of about 100 people from nearby villages on Sept. 12 vandalized the Assemblies of God Church building.

NCEASL reported that the assailants damaged the church building structure, two motorcycles parked outside and desecrated and removed religious symbols hanging on the front door. A few of them entered the premises, threatened the pastor and his family with death, demanded that worship services stop and told the pastor to leave the village.

They harassed women in the congregation and spewed obscenities, and a Buddhist monk later joined them and further aggravated matters. When three police officers arrived at 12 p.m., they had to call for back-up because the crowd had grown out of control and was not allowing the pastor or anyone else to leave – the mob assaulted a member of the congregation who tried to leave.

After 10 more officers arrived, only then were police able to carry the pastor safely to the Beliatta Police Station. He filed a complaint.

Later that night at about 11:45 p.m., according to NCEASL, unidentified people pelted the pastor’s home with stones for about 20 minutes. The stones injured the pastor’s uncle, endangered his child and damaged roof tiles. Police secured the area after the pastor called an emergency hotline.

Police arrived at about 1 a.m., arrested one person and continued to provide security to the pastor’s family with seven officers at his place. The following day, the pastor filed another complaint.

On Sept. 12 in the same town, around 500 people, including Buddhist monks, staged a protest against the pastor and church worship.

“Both these protests were in the Southern Province, and the people who were protesting were Buddhists since the province is largely a Buddhist area,” the attorney told Morning Star News. “But what is concerning is that since the end of the [1983-2009 civil] war, we now also see such attacks taking place also in the Hindu Tamil areas, in the east particularly.” 

Rise of Hindu Extremism 

Some attacks by Hindus have been reported in the north as well, where there are sizeable Hindu populations, but not as many as in the eastern Hindu areas, the attorney said.

“In the Eastern Province, we see a lot of influence from the India’s Hindu right-wing groups such as the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] seeping into Sri Lanka,” the attorney said. “Hindu extremist groups have had meetings with Hindu villagers promoting hatred and division and inciting them towards violence.”

The instigation has led to violence, denial of burial in public cemeteries and other rights violations.

“In this way, we see not only Buddhist extremism, which is something that has always been in the country, but also a rise in Hindu extremism, particularly in the Eastern Province,” the attorney told Morning Star News.

With NCEASL help, victims have been able to file police complaints, leading courts to take up their cases, the attorney said.

“There have been instances when cases have been filed against Christians, and the bias is very visible,” the attorney said. “In these cases, the Christians have had no choice but to approach the courts. Some judges who may also be biased never give an order in a matter of religious freedom because they do not want to set a precedent and very often force the Christians to settle the matter rather than giving justice. So, in many incidents no one gets punished by law.”

The attorney has seen many cases where Christians have responded in forgiveness and have moved on, but also many instances where Christians get very discouraged.

“I have come across a few pastors who has been so discouraged that their congregations have left them, and at least two pastors have actually left the country in the past year,” the attorney said. “It has been a sad situation. On one hand there has been growth in the church because of persecution, but there have also been instances where it has completely broken the church.”

Sri Lanka is ranked 44th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.


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.  

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Photo courtesy: Daniel Klein/Unsplash

 

 

 

 

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