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Religion Today Blog Christian Blog and Commentary

Amanda Casanova

Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world

Author and preacher Beth Moore says a new immigration policy that separates children from their parents if they are caught illegally crossing the border is “wrong.”

“Jesus loves the little children. Every wrong performed against them He takes personally,” adding Matthew 18:10, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven,” Moore wrote on her Twitter page.

“It’s the responsibility of the people of Jesus to take the stand of Jesus. Always. Despite the cost. We plant our feet where He’d plant His. The Gospels reveal what He was like. Our job in this world is to be like Him in this world. Social Justice Warriors? No. Actual CHRISTIANS.”

Moore’s comments come after Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a directive to separate the children from their parents if they are caught. Reports have said thousands of children have been taken from their parents because of the directive.

According to a report released by the government, some 1,995 children have been separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border between April 19 and May 31. The “zero tolerance” policy was announced in May by Sessions.

Former first lady Laura Bush also released a statementabout the policy, saying it was “cruel” and “immoral.”

"I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart," she wrote in a column for The Washington Post.

"Americans pride ourselves on being a moral nation, on being the nation that sends humanitarian relief to places devastated by natural disasters or famine or war," she writes. "We pride ourselves on believing that people should be seen for the content of their character, not the color of their skin. We pride ourselves on acceptance. If we are truly that country, then it is our obligation to reunite these detained children with their parents — and to stop separating parents and children in the first place."

Franklin Graham, who has been an outspoken supporter of Trump’s administration, called the policy “disgraceful.”

“It’s terrible to see families ripped apart and I don’t support that one bit,” he said, adding that “for the last 20, 30 years” immigration has “escalated” to this point.

 

Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/tcareob72

Publication date: June 18, 2018

The Supreme Court may take on a case this week about whether artists can be forced to provide services for same-sex weddings.

Earlier this month, the court ruled on the case involving a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex marriage. The court ruled in favor of the baker.

Last week, justices meet for a private case to discuss another case involving the rights of artists to provide services based on their religious beliefs.

This case involves a dispute between Arlene’s Flowers, its owner Barronelle Stutzman, and a gay couple, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed.

The Washington Supreme Court ruled that Stutzman violated the state civil rights law when she refused to make floral arrangements for Ingersoll and Freed’s wedding in 2013.

Stutzman appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court and in July 2017, the justices discussed the case in a private conference, but priority went to the case with the Colorado baker.

In that ruling, the Supreme Court said the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated baker Jack Phillips’ rights because the commission acted with “hostility.” The court, however, did not answer the question whether religious beliefs are a valid reason for rejecting products or services.

The Supreme Court could decide to hear the new case between Arlene’s Flowers and Ingersoll and Freed. The court also could decline the case or send it back to the state courts for a rehearing.

Stutzman’s lawyers are asking that the Washington Supreme Court decision be thrown out and the case be sent back for a rehearing in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Colorado baker case.

“That would allow the state courts to consider the evidence of government hostility toward the faith of Barronelle Stutzman,” lawyers for Stutzman wrote in court filings.

Lawyers for Ingersoll and Freed, however say they want the Supreme Court to decline the case.

“We strongly disagree there’s evidence of religious bias,” Elizabeth Gill, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU, said.

 

Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstockphotos.

Publication date: June 18, 2018

International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Pastor Oqbamichel Haiminot has been released after more than a decade of imprisonment. According to VOM Australia, Pastor Oqbamichel was the first senior pastor in Eritrea to be arrested and held after the controversial and wrongful crackdown on religion in 2002. Though he was only in jail for a short period after his initial arrest in 2003, he was constantly harassed and rearrested over the next four years. In 2007, he was finally arrested and jailed for more than 10 years even though no charges were ever filed against him.  

Pastor Oqbamichel is one of hundreds of Christians in Eritrea who have been arrested and held for years due to their faith. In 2017, more than 200 Christians were arrested, yet never charged with any criminal activity. One of ICC’s sources shared, “There are only four legalized religions allowed in the country, which include Eritrean Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, and Sunni Islam. The regime touts this as religious freedom, however, to join any of these religions, people must first make four pledges.” One must pledge to never be “born again,” that his or her loyalty is to the government, not God or the Church, to never carry a Bible outside of church or the home, and to turn in any missionaries or evangelists to the government. When you turn in a missionary or evangelist, you get paid three months’ wages.
 
The Eritrean government is willing to go to great lengths to arrest and eradicate Christians. According to another underground pastor in Eritrea, Abraham*, “There are false brothers among us, who gather information. [He comes] to you, believing in the name of Jesus, you baptize him, but he is a spy.” These spies are sent by the government to find those who are not part of the four legal religions, and arrest them. 

Abraham experienced this government-led persecution firsthand in 2010. He shared,“In 2010, we were gathered for a meeting in Asmara, 34 or 35 together, and we were arrested and taken to the police station.” He was then moved to an underground prison where “there was no sun or light or [fresh air]. It was underground and we could only see each other when we went to the bathroom.” These jail cells keep those imprisoned in the worst conditions, with extreme temperature changes, a lack of light, no space, and often isolation. The only time they experience any freedom from their cells is once or twice a day when they are allowed to use the restroom. Abraham was held in this prison for one year.

This is the type of treatment that Pastor Oqbamichel suffered for the past decade. According to VOM, he is in need of medical assistance as his heath has deteriorated due to his treatment in prison. 

Nathan Johnson, ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, stated, “We are rejoicing for the release of a faithful man and are praying for his health and safety as he returns to a somewhat free life. We also remember the hundreds of others who are still suffering under this cruel and inhumane regime. The world must come together to end the abuse of human rights in Eritrea.”

*Name changed for security

 

To read more stories about Christian persecution, visit www.persecution.org.

Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstockphotos.com

Publication date: June 18, 2018

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