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Benjamin Watson, New Orleans Saint, writes viral post for persecuted Christians

Christians United for Israel calls Netanyahu’s speech a ‘Churchill moment’

Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the largest Christian pro-Israel group in the United States, backed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks to Congress about the Iranian nuclear threat on Tuesday, also calling for a united religious front against extremism.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu is confirming something that we in CUFI have long believed. The fact is that we are all in this together.  Radical Islam — both in its Shiite and Sunni forms — targets America and Israel, Christians and Jews,” Christians United for Israel Executive Director David Brog told The Jerusalem Post. “This is not a Jewish problem that the rest of the world can afford to ignore. Israel is not the cause of this evil. Quite to the contrary, Israel is our first line of defense against this evil.”

In his speech on Tuesday, Netanyahu brought up the threat to Christians in the Middle East twice, specifically calling out persecution at the hands of the Iranian government and the threat global terrorism poses to Christians, Jews and Muslims alike.

“In this deadly game of thrones, there’s no place for America or for Israel, no peace for Christians, Jews or Muslims who don’t share the Islamist medieval creed, no rights for women, no freedom for anyone,” Netanyahu said.

Christians United for Israel’s Executive Director David Brog told the Post that CUFI believes the best option moving forward would be for “radical Islam controls as little territory and as few weapons as possible.” He went on to explain  this means the United States the United States needs to help to defeat ISIS on the battlefield and ensure that Iran is not further enabled by the premature easing of sanctions.

“An emboldened Iran safe under its own nuclear umbrella would be a disaster for America, Israel and our Arab allies, as well as for the region’s Jews, Christians and other religious minorities,” Brog said. “ No one would be safe.  No one should operate under the naive illusion that Iran is someone else’s problem.”

Founder of Christians United for Israel, Pastor John Hagee, echoed Netanyahu’s sentiments regarding the Iranian deal after the conclusion of the speech, stating that “This is the hour that America has heard the truth, and now we must respond with meaningful legislation to guarantee liberty for both Israel and America.”

“Today America and the world had the opportunity to experience a Churchill moment with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel,” Hagee said.  “In the dark days of World War II, when Hitler and the Nazis were destroying Europe, Winston Churchill addressed the British making this statement ‘You ask what is our aim. I can answer in one word: It is victory… for without victory, there is no survival.'”

A month prior to Netanyahu’s speech CUFI sent an action alert to it’s over 2 million members asking them to email their elected representatives about attending Netanyahu’s speech to Congress. Thousands responded to the call to action.

“I never make up my mind on an important issue without first listening to a variety of views,” said Pastor John Hagee said at the time. “I expect the same from my elected officials. Prime Minister Netanyahu is a very important voice on the issue of Iran.  Attending his speech is not a partisan statement. It’s a basic requirement of their job.”

Islamic State Releases More Assyrian Christians

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Christian group wants to show 'Jesus Tattoo' ads in Texas high school stadium

A Christian group is suing Lubbock Independent School District in federal court for the right to show an ad depicting Jesus Christ as a tattoo artist on the jumbotron at the district’s football stadium.

Little Pencil, founded by former Texas Tech system administrator David Miller, is appealing a federal ruling in May siding with the district, which rejected the ad because they deemed it proselytization, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

Oral arguments began in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans Tuesday, Fox 34 News reported.

In the nearly six-minute video, individuals with tattoos of words such as “depression” and “fear” visit the Christian prophet in a dimly-lit basement with a lot of electrical panels. He then replaces the tattoos with more positive words such as “confident” and “brave.”

Christ, after healing with customers with new ink, pulls off his grey shirt to reveal several “Memento”-style tattoos of all of the words he’s removed from his visitors.

“Public schools should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas,” Jeremy Tedesco, a lawyer representing Little Pencil, told The Daily Caller. “School officials cannot legally allow some groups to advertise while prohibiting others simply because their message is religious — especially when the district has already allowed the religious messages of other groups. The First Amendment forbids this kind of censorship.”

The district told the Avalanche-Journal in May, “Throughout this process, we have asserted that our actions were in keeping with district policies, state and federal law, and we are pleased that the court ruled in favor of Lubbock ISD. We will continue to focus on our mission of educating students and hope we can put this behind us and give our complete attention to that important work.”

The outreach group, which runs the website JesusTattoo.org, drew controversy in 2013 after it plastered about 50 billboards with the same depiction of Jesus all over Lubbock, according to the Huffington Post.

jfechter@mySA.com

Twitter: @JFreports

5 Practical Ways to Help Persecuted Christians

We can’t ignore it: Christians are being persecuted all around the world.

Just the other week, ISIS released a video depicting masked men beheading 21 Egyptian Christians. American citizen, Kayla Mueller, was also killed at the hands of ISIS.

And here’s the thing: the persecution doesn’t begin and end with ISIS. It’s occurring in other regions around the world as well. Take North Korea for example, which has been ranked as the number one country where Christians face the most persecution. In North Korea, there are between 50,000-70,000 Christians imprisoned in labor camps.

Persecution is everywhere. And we shouldn’t just care because these are fellow Christians being killed and imprisoned; we should care because these are humans facing undeserved cruelty at the hands of other humans.

If you’re like me, you know persecution is bad, but much of your inaction about the problem stems from not knowing practical ways to help. Because you don’t know how to make a difference, you don’t.

Persecution is a large problem, but it’s not an unsolvable problem. It’s not too big of a problem that we can’t help. Fortunately, there are many ways for us to be actively involved in the healing of these wrongs. Here are just a few of them:

1. Educate yourself
You can’t actively contribute to a solution if you don’t know what problem it is you’re trying to solve.

You see, many people attempt to stop persecution because it’s the right thing to do, but not many people understand the struggles persecuted Christians are facing. There is a large divide between the American church and the persecuted church. Because of this, we might fall into the tendency of giving without caring or praying without caring — simply because we can’t sympathize with them from our current vantage point. In other words, our heart will not be in the problem; and when our heart is absent, we tend to stop caring once we don’t see immediate results. You can’t make a change when people give up for not seeing immediate results.

Making a difference is a slow process, which means you need to be committed to the solution if you’re going to follow along with the cause. You need to put your heart into it.

If you’re going to cultivate a heart of passion and concern for persecuted Christians, you must educate yourself on what’s going on. Subscribe to news channels and get the update on what persecuted Christians are facing. The best resource I use for educating myself is www.opendoorsusa.com.

2. Pray
When I was in college, I didn’t like praying for issues because it felt like I was doing nothing. I would rather go out on the streets and scream something to make people listen, rather than praying for people to listen. But during this time, I found that outside of prayer, I was doing nothing for the problems.

Truth is, praying is always the solution, because without it, you would be doing nothing but sitting on your butt about problems you’re removed from. Prayers are able to go where you aren’t. Prayers are able to help in ways you can’t. Prayers are how you actively make a difference across the world.

3. Write letters
I don’t think we need to write letters purely to be read. What I mean is, we can write letters to mourn, sympathize, and voice emotions we don’t have the words for. Writing letters can help put you in the place of the Christians you’re writing to. It helps you feel the problem in ways you can’t where you are. You can deliver them to persecuted Christians, or you can write them for your own sake — to better place your heart with the persecuted Christians. Try this as a small group activity, with friends, or by yourself, and you can decide whether to send your letter in or not.

4. Don’t feel guilty you aren’t being persecuted
When many people talk about persecution, a weird thing happens in their speech. They take on a tone that conveys their personal guilt for not being in that certain situation, or for not understanding or doing anything.

But here’s the thing: the moment you feel guilt for persecuted Christians is the moment you make the issue about you and not them. That’s a paralysis. It can keep you still and inactive about what’s really the problem. And worst of all, it can distract others around you instead of motivating them to action.

Understand that you are where you are for a reason, and that reason is a blessing. And you know what you do with blessings? You use them to bless others. Use the fact that you’re not being persecuted as a reason to help those who are being persecuted.

5. Volunteer your skills
A wonderful thing happens once Christians use their giftings to help save the world: they collaborate with each other and create a cohesive force for good. In other words, they volunteer their specialty to aid the effort.

What does this mean? Well if you’re a videographer, you might use your skills to create an informative movie about the issue. If you’re a great connector, you might connect people to resources that help persecuted Christians. If you have a presence on Capitol Hill, you might influence leaders to take action. Whatever you do, you might make the most impact by looking to what your skills might offer first.

Persecution is an immense problem, but the more people we have taking small, practical steps toward change, the greater our impact is. Decide how you want to help persecuted Christians and help save the world.

This article originally appeared on JesusHacks, a website providing practical solutions for living like Jesus today.

Christians by number: What projections are saying about the future of religion

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Can numbers say something about the future of Christianity? George Weigel thinks so.

Weigel claims the past and present – together with a numeric projection about the future – can reveal something about what might happen to Christianity globally over the next 35 years.

The Status of Global Christianity is a study recently published by the International Bulletin of Missionary Research which illustrates a timeline between 1900-2050, and makes projections about Christians through the next generation. The study highlighted some high and low numbers across the globe.

George Weigel, a distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., found that three groups in particular were creating a unique phenomenon: Christians in Africa, urban Christians, and charismatic Christians.

Weigel, in a Feb. 25 column at First Things, pointed out that by 2050 there will be as many Christians in Africa as there are in Latin America and Europe combined – totaling to a projection of 1.2 billion. Africa has shown exponential Christian growth over the past century, revealing a promising future for Christianity on the continent.

Christians living in urban areas are projected to decline by six percent by 2050, making their total number 59 percent. However, Christianity made an urban comeback this century at 65 percent today, compared to only 29 percent in 1900.

Although there are approximately 644 million pentecostal and charismatic Christians today, that number is expected to reach well over 1 billion over the next 35 years, making it one of the fastest growing groups in the religious world today.

“These three phenomena – African growth, urbanization and the rise of Pentecostalism – also help account, I suspect, for the greater fragmentation of the Christian world,” stated Weigel, adding that the rise of “entrepreneurial Christianity” – that is, founding one’s own church – is contributing to these three staggering numbers.

“That helps explain why the number of Christian denominations grew from 1,600 in 1900 to 45,000 today, with projections of 70,000 in 2050,” he continued, saying that this entrepreneurial Christian attitude will also be partially responsible for what Christianity will look like in 2050.

Although some commendable Christian growth is anticipated globally, there is also an equally declining number that has been exposed within European countries.

For example, in Europe Christianity has dropped by 43 percent since 1900, making its current Christian population only 23 percent; Christianity within Europe is expected to drop even more by 2050.

“It’s worth noting that, in a century of dramatic, aggregate Christian growth, European Christianity had the lowest annualized growth rate (0.16 percent),” Weigel pointed out.

He added that in 1900 “there were some 267 million Catholics in the world … today, the world Church counts 1.2 billion members, with a projected growth to 1.6 billion by the middle of the century. Yet in the last quarter of the twentieth century Catholicism was displaced by Islam as the world’s largest religious community, as the global Muslim population grew from 571 million in 1970 to today’s 1.7 billion.”

There is some good news about the global human condition that ought to be kept in mind when remembering the bad news of the past and current century, Weigel stated, pointing to the projection that 88 percent of adults will be literate in a world of 9.5 billion in 2050, compared to only 27 percent in 1900.

In addition to this accomplishment, 89 percent of the 7.3 billion human beings today profess religious beliefs, while only two percent are atheists and nine percent are agnostics.

“Chief Poobah of the New Atheists Richard Dawkins and his friends are not exactly winning the day,” he continued.

However, even if the majority of humans around the world profess religion, only 14 percent of non-Christians know a Christian: this means that 86 percent of non-Christians do not even have a Christian acquaintance, shedding light on the current problem of Christian isolation.

This failure of Christian evangelization could prove to be an interesting development for Christianity over the next 35 years, Weigel indicated.

“Christianity seems stuck in something of a rut,” Weigel said, pointing to the fact that Christians make up 33 percent of the global population today, and will probably only see a three percent increase by 2050.

“There’s a lot of work to do in fulfilling the Great Commission,” Weigel concluded, “especially with those who have no contact with the faith.”

Who Are Assyrian Christians? Islamic State’s Latest Captives Are Part Of A …

Islamic State militants have reportedly released 19 Assyrian Christians who were abducted from a village in northeastern Syria last week.

News of the Sunday release offered some hope to the Assyrian Christian community worldwide — but the fate of more than 200 believers left behind remains unclear.

Assyrian Christians are among the numerous religious minorities in Syria and Iraq to become targets for ISIS. The militant group launched an aggressive attack on villages along the Khabur River last week, the Associated Press reported, taking away entire families.

This Christian population has been victim to large-scale persecutions in the past.

Assyrian Christians trace their history back to the early days of Christianity in modern-day Iraq, Syria and Turkey. In fact, the language spoken by some Assyrians today is derived from Aramaic, the language some scholars believe Jesus spoke.

According to tradition, the church was founded by three apostles of Christ — St. Thomas, St. Thaddeus and St. Bartholomew — in Mesopotamia. The faith then spread along the trade routes of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, reportedly reaching as far as India.

Over the years, Assyrian Christians split into three branches — some identifying with the Eastern Orthodox Church, others with the Chaldean Catholic Church, and the last group following an East Syrian Rite liturgy, Christian Today reports.

assyrian christian

Assyrians eventually became minorities in Mesopotamia, as Arab, Mongolian and Ottoman armies took control of the region.

During the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Assyrian Christians faced persecution in the form of massacres, rapes and cultural desecrations. Around 750,000 Assyrians became victims of genocide in that period, which meant that a significant portion of the pre-World War I population was effectively wiped out, according to Rutgers University’s Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights.

The center asserts that the Iraq War was “devastating” for Assyrians, as the population has been caught in the middle of sectarian violence. Christian Today reports that at least 400,000 Assyrian Christians fled Iraq between 2003 and 2009, with many more leaving after the Islamic State group began to gain a foothold in the region.

Assyrians Christians in the diaspora are now worried for their fellow believers back in the homeland.

In Arizona, hundreds gathered for a vigil in solidarity with the Christians who are still being held captive by ISIS.

Bishop Mar Aprim Khamis of Assyrian Church of the East in Glendale is asking for urgent prayers of support.

“We are the people who have faith in Christ,” the bishop told AZ Central. “We have been persecuted. We have been massacred. Today it’s not only tragic, it’s genocide.”

Taylor Murray caps Annapolis Area Christian career with MCST title

During her four years at Annapolis Area Christian, guard Taylor Murray developed a reputation as a flashy scorer capable of draining three-pointers from the outside or slashing through the lane to the basket.

And in her final games with the Eagles, Murray put on the type of performance that embodied her career. The McDonald’s all-American and Kentucky recruit averaged 32 points per game in three games to help deliver Annapolis Area Christian the Maryland Christian Schools Tournament Division I title.

In Saturday’s 49-30 title game win over Covenant Life , Murray scored 29 points, grabbed nine rebounds and notched eight steals to lead the Eagles.

“My approach was just to go out and have fun,” said Murray, who averaged and area-best 29.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 7.0 steals and 4.1 assists per game this season. “I wasn’t really expecting much. It was a different tournament with different girls and stuff, but to play against other Christian schools was fun. Some of the schools that we played, I’d never heard of before, so it was fun to get to play against them.”

Annapolis Area Christian’s MCST championship came two weeks after the Eagles (27-3) won the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference title .

Coach Victor Watson became Annapolis Area Christian’s third coach in three years shortly before the season started, and he and Murray both said they were nervous about the late change. But the Eagles won their first six games, and both sides got comfortable with each other, as guard Jordyn Hursh (7.2 points per game) and forwards Victoria Dix and Whitney Vandenheuvel helped provide complementary pieces.

“I think one of the things that helped was that we got off to a good start and that helped the girls to believe in me and they gained confidence in themselves, too,” Watson said.

For Murray, the MCST title capped an illustrious run at Annapolis Area Christian. But the standout knows the next chapter of her career is just beginning.

“Yesterday when I was getting dressed, I went to my mom and said, ‘This is my last time putting on my uniform.’ She said, ‘Yeah you’re right.’ It’s a good feeling,” Murray said. “And I’m blessed to be going to University of Kentucky and start my new beginning.”

Heritage Christian Academy captured the Maryland Christian School Division I boys’ title with a 65-46 victory. The Mighty Eagles defeated Grace Brethren and Harford Christian in the tournament’s earlier rounds to reach the final.

Later this week, Heritage Christian (16-11) will compete at the National Christian School Athletic Association national championships in Erie, Pa. The Mighty Eagles’ opening game is Thursday against Unity Christian from Fulton, Ill.

Is Christian Persecution Reaching Biblical Proportions?

Evangelist Franklin Graham says President Obama is sympathetic to Islam and is giving Muslim groups access to influence U.S. foreign policy, which eventually will lead to persecution of Christians and Jews in America. In an exclusive interview on CBN’s 700 Club Interactive program, Graham told host Gordon Robertson that the president’s upbringing is the reason he favors Islam.
 
“We’re going to see persecution in this country because our president is very sympathetic to Islam and the reason I say that, Gordon, is because his father was a Muslim, gave him a Muslim name, Barack Hussein Obama. His mother married another Muslim man, they moved to Indonesia, he went to Indonesian schools. So, growing up his frame of reference and his influence as a young man was Islam. It wasn’t Christianity, it was Islam,” he said.
 
Graham, who heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the Christian relief agency Samaritan’s Purse, has been outspoken in his criticism of President Obama. He said the president has opened the doors of the White House to Muslim groups who are shaping foreign policy, including how the administration views the war on terror and especially U.S. relations with Israel.
 
“There are Muslims that have access to him in the White House. Our foreign policy has a lot of influence now, from Muslims. We see the Prime Minister of Israel being snubbed by the President and by the White House and by the Democrats and it’s because of the influence of Islam. They hate Israel and they hate Christians, and so the storm is coming I believe Gordon,” the evangelist said.
 
Graham agreed it was President Bush who first sought out Muslim groups for advice after the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001.
 
“After 9-11 the Bush Administration began to allow Muslims to come into various governmental agencies to advise us how to respond to Muslims and how to respond to Islam. …What’s happened is you now have radical Islamists who are advising various levels of government and it’s going to get worse and nobody seems to be alarmed about it. Nobody is saying anything about this and we as Christians are going to lose.”
 
Click here to see watch the entire interview.

Assyrian Christians Fight Back, Forming Militia to Hold Off ISIS

Middle Eastern Christians who have suffered persecution at the hands of ISIS in recent months have decided not to turn the other cheek. Instead, they have formed a militia regiment and are currently engaged in fighting the Islamists across a major front in North West Syria, in alliance with Kurdish forces.

Over the last decade the Christian population in Iraq has been decimated, dropping from over 1 million in 2003 to less than half of that at the present day. Last June alone, 600,000 Christians were displaced from their traditional homes on the Nineveh plain when ISIS swept through.

A centuries old Christian community in Mosul, Iraq, disappeared that month when ISIS troops ordered Christians in the city to convert to Islam or face death. ISIS fighters painted the Arabic letter N for Nasrani (Arabic for Christian) on property owned by Christians and declared it the property of the Islamic State.

And numerous reports of Christians, including children, being crucified and beheaded for refusing to convert have emerged from the region.

Small Christian militias have existed in the region for some time. But they have now engaged in their first major battle, joining with the YPG, the Kurdish defence forces. Kino Gabriel, a former dental student turned soldier with the militia told the Telegraph “We saw what happened in Iraq in 2003. Our people were left alone, with no autonomy, no army that could defend them.”

Speaking by Skype from Qamishli, near the front line, he added “Most of our people have emigrated, thanks to attacks from al-Qaeda and other groups. They couldn’t defend themselves. We learned that lesson and have prepared ourselves.”

In 2011 when the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began, the church was split. Many bishops supported Assad’s regime, but others joined forces with liberal activists in opposing him. Few, however, joined in fighting until persecution of Christians began.

First by Jabhat alNuzra, and then at the hands of ISIS, churches were blown up, crucifixes torn down, and Christians living under jihadist rule have been forced to pay the “jizya”, a tax for non-Muslims.

Mr Gabriel had his first taste of battle during an offensive for the town of Tel Hamis, a town south of Qamishli, which was in the hands of al-Nusra. The area is still under dispute, with ISIS, al-Nusra and the Kurds all battling for supremacy in the area. The local Arab population is split in its affiliations, with some backing the Islamists and others supporting the Kurds.

However, the effect on the local population has been catastrophic. More than 1,000 Christian families have fled in the last week alone, according to George Merza, head of the local Assyrian council.

“They are innocent people, children, women and elders,” he said. “We demand an immediate intervention to save our people, who have lived on this land for thousands of years in peace. Today they are driven to death and destruction. This is inhuman.”

The actions of the Christian militia-men have heartened members of their diaspora, living as far away as America, Australia and Sweden. Some have even travelled back to their historical homelands to join in the fighting: Ashley Johnston, a former Australian soldier became the first Westerner to die alongside Kurds and Christians during the battle for Tel Hamis on Monday.

However, other Assyrian Christian have questioned whether it is right to fight and die for a homeland where they have so long suffered violence and persecution. “On the one hand, this is our homeland; on the other, it’s not true to say it’s our homeland any more,” said Father Tony Malham, an Iraqi Assyrian priest who now lives in London.

“If we want to have a home for ourselves we have to fight for it, but as Christians we can’t fight, we can’t kill. We have to talk, we have to talk in a civilised way. But these people who are against us can’t talk, they can only fight and kill.

Mr Gabriel recognised that, with just 1,000 members, his militia was just a drop in the ocean of what was needed to overcome the Islamic forces. But he said that it was his duty to fight. “Over the past century, our people six times have suffered displacement, massacres, other forms of aggression,” he said.

“This has targeted the Syriacs and the Christian presence in the Middle East. We are acting based on the facts before us – to protect ourselves on our historical land. This is our right and duty.”