Sight's annual 'Year in Review' is back. See some of the stories which helped define our 2012. Of course, this is a selection of just some of our feature articles - chosen to reflect the range of issues we've covered. For complete coverage explore the index pages (located to the left)...
NIGERIA: WARNINGS OF CIVIL WAR AFTER DOZENS OF CHRISTIANS KILLED IN VIOLENCE
Christians in Nigeria are mourning dozens of believers killed since last Thursday amid warnings from the head of Nigerian Christians that the violence is reminiscent of the outbreak of the 1960s civil war.
"We are reminded by the occurrences of these killings of the genesis of the civil war that took place here in Nigeria," said Ayo Oritsejafor, head of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), in comments monitored by BosNewsLife Sunday, January 8. That conflict claimed more than a million lives in the late 1960s.
At least 30 Christians have been shot dead in northeast Nigeria in recent days, many of them while praying in churches, after the expiration of an ultimatum from Islamic group Boko Haram for Christians to leave mainly Muslim northern Nigeria.
SOUTH AFRICA: CHRISTIAN ROOTS OF ANC RECALLED DURING ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS
The Christian roots of the African National Congress (ANC) were cited during weekend celebrations in South Africa marking the centennial of Africa's best known liberation and political movement. More than a dozen African heads of state and representatives from around the world attended to honor the movement that eventually overcame the apartheid system of racial segregation.
On 8th January, hundreds packed into the recently-renovated Waaihoek Wesleyan Church in Bloemfontein, where the ANC began. The church echoed with the haunting sounds of the anthem "God Bless Africa" and stomping feet before ANC Chaplain General Vukile Mehana began an hour-long service.
The movement was founded by Christian pastors, mission-educated journalists, lawyers and social workers on 8th January, 1912. Bloemfontein, about 200 miles southwest of Johannesburg, was the centre of white Afrikaner power in a country ruled exclusively by Europeans until ANC leader Nelson Mandela became president in 1994.
Rev Dr Nyambura Njoroge is always reminding herself of the daily lives of people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. Their battle for dignity and enormous resilience keeps inspiring her while she coordinates World Council of Churches Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiative for Africa (EHAIA).
Rev Dr Njoroge is a Presbyterian minister, a leading theologian and ecumenist from Kenya. She has been associated with EHAIA since 2002. This is a project which has accompanied churches in Africa in dealing with HIV through information, training, sharing of resources and networking.
Amidst the looming challenges of reduced income for HIV work, Rev Dr Njoroge finds her strength from faith, saying that “God is faithful and God’s granary never depleted”. Yet she admits the significance of the challenge, which requires profound reflections.
For her, the inspiration comes through the “life giving stories” of the people living with HIV, who she says, “manifest courage in the face of enormous challenges, difficulties, stubborn stigma and judgemental attitudes.”
A report from the World Council of Churches... |
THE INTERVIEW: JASON BOYETT, AUTHOR
Most people’s reaction would be to just dismiss these end of the world shenanigans as preposterous but as you did your research, did you find yourself gaining greater understanding and empathy for some of these desperate Armageddon believers?
“Oh, maybe a little. At least, for the religious ones. I don't have much patience for the secular conspiracy theorists, who rank right up there with Obama Birthers and 9/11 Truthers in terms of hateful lunacy. But I do have some empathy for religious Armageddon enthusiasts, because behind their beliefs is hope - hope for a world better than this one. I think most of these believers are dealing with a lot of fear. The world is changing dramatically and there's a lot of uncertainty that comes with those changes. Hopeful escapism (even if attached to a doomsday scenario) is a coping mechanism for that kind of uncertainty.”
Texan writer Jason Boyett talks with KRIS BATHER about his latest book is Pocket Guide to 2012, in which he examines all the wild end of the world scenarios and doomsday prophets over the last few centuries...|
ADVENTURE FUNDRAISING: HOW A BALLARAT GP WILL HELP SOME OF THE WORLD'S POOREST KIDS AS HE PADDLES ACROSS BASS STRAIT
Padding 330 kilometres in an island hopping journey across Bass Strait on an ocean racing ski sounds an almost impossibly daunting task. But Ballarat GP Mike Pickavance says he’s looking forward to the spectacular scenery and wildlife he’ll be seeing. Not to mention the challenge itself.
“There’s also something good about pushing yourself beyond what you think you’d normally be able to do, says the 50-year-old father of three. “I find that my character changes every time you push through something difficult. It develops something in you. And it helps just with daily living having done things like this…It helps you put things in perspective a little.”
The group of five – which includes Dr Pickavance, the expedition’s leader Jarad Kohlar, and three others – intend setting out from Port Welshpool in Victoria on 28th February. Their route will take them via Wilson’s Promontory, Deal Island and Flinders Island (they will spend two days going around this) before heading across Bass Strait to Little Musselroe Bay in north-east Tasmania.
BOOKS: THE VOW BOOK GIVES THE TRUE STORY BEHIND THE FILM
B&H Publishing Group has released an updated version of The Vow book, the amazing true story of commitment and faith that inspired a major motion picture by the same name.
Krickitt and Kim Carpenter live in Farmington, New Mexico, in the United States with their two children, Danny and LeeAnn. An updated book about their life - The Vow - has been re-released, telling the story how an auto accident left Krickitt with no memory of her husband or their marriage. The Vow movie premiered recently and tells the fictionalised story of Kim and Krickitt Carpenter who made national news in the 1990s when an auto accident left Krickitt with no memory of her husband or their marriage. The book, initially released in 2000, tells the true story of the couple's commitment to their wedding vows, the rekindling of their romance, and their strong faith in God.
"This story is not about me, and it's not about Krickitt," husband Kim writes in the book. "It's about the Lord and how He brought my wife and me through a terrible time to a life that is greater than we could have ever imagined. It's about a commitment to the Lord and to each other."
MARTY KING reports in an article first published by the Baptist Press... |
ESSAY: WHY I STILL HAVE HOPE FOR LIBYA EVEN AMID "VENGEFUL ACTS OF DESTRUCTION"
I was saddened when I heard the news about the Islamists in Libya who destroyed the graves of British soldiers (as well as those of other Commonwealth nations - including the graves of 50 Australians) at a World War II cemetery in Libya. In my culture it is wrong to desecrate a grave. I would imagine it is wrong in Islam as well, which is why they did it. But even more scandalous was the desecration of the cross that hung above the graves of the soldiers who died there. As Christians, that speaks a very clear and hate-filled message.
When I saw the copy of the self- promotional video created by the vandals that was so brazenly aired on YouTube, I was caught off guard. The vandals wore no masks to cover their faces while committing the crime. Instead, they openly and unabashedly engaged in the crime and destruction while all along chanting “Allahu Akbar”, God is great.
In an article first published by Assist News Service, American LISA GIBSON, founder of the Peace and Prosperity Alliance - which is working to help Libyans, writes about her hopes for the country's future... |
EASTERFEST: CELEBRATING CHRIST AND INSPIRING CHRISTIANS TO GOSPEL-FUELLED ACTION
As Australians celebrate Easter next month, thousands of people from across Australia and the globe will have made their way to Toowoomba in Queensland for Easterfest, billed as “Australia’s largest event about Easter”.
The three day event – now in its 14th year in Toowoomba - is headlining with triple Grammy award-winner Michael W Smith and will also feature artists including P.O.D., MercyMe, Darlene Zschech and New Empire. In all, there will be up to 200 acts spanning an eclectic range of musical styles – from jazz and blues through to rock, pop and metal – as well as illusionists, mimes and other performers performing in both Queen's Park and locations throughout the city.
“It is incredibly challenging to try and program a festival that kind of works for everyone all the time but that is exactly who we feel we’re meant to be,” says director Dave Schenk. “So we’ve got everything from jazz to blues to pop-rock to hardcore stuff as well. We’ve got mime this year and illusion and extreme sports. Obviously we have rides and... a brilliant kids’ world area that we’ve got The Lads amongst others, performing in this year. So it is pretty diverse. And we do like to think that we’ve got something for everyone.”
DAVID ADAMS speaks with Easterfest director Dave Schenk... |
IMMIGRATION: GLOBAL CALL FOR AN END TO CHILD DETENTION
An international coalition has called for an end to the practice of holding children in immigration detention which they claim has “a devastating effect on their physical, emotional and psychological development”.
In a report released this week, the International Detention Coalition – which represents more than 250 non-government organisations and individuals in 50 countries - says tens of thousands of children are currently believed to be held in immigration detention around the world, including in Australia.
James Thomson, policy director of Act for Peace – the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia and a founding member of the coalition, says there are 528 children in Australian detention centres, some as young as six years-of-age and without parents or carers.
“It is appalling. What’s more, we have been doing it for 20 years,” says Mr Thomson, who is a member of the coalition’s governing board.
Last Friday I wrote that I was disappearing Daniel like into the cavernous space of the lions’ den also known as the Melbourne’s Convention Centre. Well, I survived, I kept my anonymity, but truth to tell it was a close run thing when PZ Myers likened Christians to sheep and atheists to wolves and then to thunderous applause from the 4,000 wolves present, warned that the eyes and claws of all those wolves were upon the sheep present.
The organisers are to be congratulated for a very well run programme with a number of outstanding speakers, both Australians and the big names from overseas.
I mentioned in my earlier article that I would “certainly be interested in seeing who attends the convention, their demeanour, what excites them, do they find joy in their atheism?” What struck me about observing these atheists was how much they resembled in appearance the Christians I meet at church in all respects bar two.
In an opinion piece first published at Online Opinion, Presbyterian minister DAVID PALMER, reflects on what he experienced when he visited the Global Atheist Convention held in Melbourne last weekend... |
The Reason for Faith Festival is running in Melbourne this week to coincide with the Global Atheist Convention. To find out more, head to reasonforfaith.org.au.
CHUCK COLSON: PRISON FELLOWSHIP FOUNDER AND WATERGATE FIGURE DIES AT AGE 80
Prison Fellowship founder and influential evangelical Christian voice in the US, Charles W. "Chuck" Colson, died on Saturday afternoon from complications resulting from a brain hemorrhage.
According to a statement on the Prison Fellowship website, Mr Colson was a "Watergate figure who emerged from the country's worst political scandal, a vocal Christian leader and a champion for prison ministry."
Aged 80 at the time of his death, he spent the last years of life leading Prison Fellowship, the world's largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families, and the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, a Christian teaching and training centre.
In late March, Mr Colson was speaking at a Colson Center conference when he was overcome by dizziness. Quickly surrounded by friends and staff, Mr Colson was sent to the Fairfax Inova Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia. The following day, on 31st March, he underwent two hours of surgery to remove a pool of clotted blood on the surface of his brain.
When I was younger I detested thinking about war. I didn’t like watching war movies. I didn’t give much thought to the people who went to war. That changed when I was asked to write a story on the RSL and how it came to be. As I researched for that story, my eyes were opened to why it is so important to observe Anzac Day.
So as Anzac day approaches, my thoughts turn to the many men and women who have given their lives in service to this country. They weren’t forced. They voluntarily went so that their families could continue to live freely. They didn’t go with the fear they would die; they went for the purpose of seeing their country live.
Many people see war as unnecessary. Many see it as a waste. And I suppose a waste is true in a sense. Young lives are lost, lives that could have gone on to be so much more. However, is it a waste of a life when that life has been given for the freedom of others? I don’t think that the giver of that life would see it as a waste.
ALAN TAYLOR reflects on what Anzac Day means to him... |
SIGHT-SEEING: OF DESENSITISATION, ANZAC DAY AND A CALL TO PRAYER
Against the backdrop of Anzac Day, BRUCE C. WEARNE looks at how the desensitising of soldiers should help shape our response as Christians...|
FOREIGN AID: CHRISTIAN AND HUMANITARIAN ORGANISATIONS "DEEPLY DISAPPOINTED" AT GOVERNMENT'S FAILURE TO HONOR PROMISE
Christian and humanitarian organisations have expressed disappointment at the Federal Government's decision not to increase foreign aid in line with promises made at the last election.
In a decision announced as part of the Federal Budget on Tuesday night, the Federal Government made clear it will not be lifting its foreign aid commitment to 0.5 per cent of gross national income (GNI) - which equates to 50 cents in every $100 - by 2015 but would do so in 2016-17, a year later than promised. Australia currently gives 0.35 per cent of its gross national income towards foreign aid.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr said that while funding for overseas aid would continue to grow each year, "(i)t will, however, grow at a slightly slower rate so that 0.5 per cent of GNI is reached in 2016-17."
The move will save the government $2.9 billion over the next four years.
Rev Paul Perini, chairperson for the Australian arm of Micah Challenge - a global movement of Christians formed to lobby against poverty and injustice in support of the Millennium Development Goals, said the group was "deeply disappointed" at the decision.
UPDATE: The Coalition has said Labor's decision to defer increasing foreign aid meant it would be impossible for a future Coalition government to raise aid to 0.5 per cent of GNI by 2015... |
THE INTERVIEW: MARTIN THOMAS, WORLD VISION
What’s all the fuss – after all, hasn’t the aid just been delayed a year?
“It has been delayed by a year and I think we’re trying to acknowledge that there has been an increase – and that’s important – but when you look at the actual difference, over four years there’ll be $2.9 billion that essentially won’t be available for the aid budget. And that means…programs that in some cases save lives, in other cases put kids in schools, vaccinations, food, agriculture – all these programs that really make a massive difference in people’s lives and what we’re so proud of in the aid budget - just won’t be able to happen because that money won’t be there in the next four years.”
How do you calculate the impact the delay of foreign aid will have on the world’s poor?
“There is one calculation which we have been using, which is to say: if you look at this $2.9 billion…(and) if we say that on average 20 per cent of that money would go towards just health outcomes – and that seems a reasonable kind of rule of thumb – we’re saying that it basically could have saved about 290,000 lives through health programs.”
DAVID ADAMS asks Martin Thomas, head of public affairs at World Vision Australia, some of the questions you want answered about Tuesday's budget and foreign aid...|
ESSAY: AID PROMISE SACRIFICED TO BUDGET SURPLUS
So, let's get the headline out of the way. The Government broke its promise. It will not increase aid to 0.5 per cent of gross national income by 2015. Instead, it has decided to defer that commitment by one year.
The Government will not increase aid to 0.38 per cent of gross national income (GNI) in the coming year as previously indicated. Instead, a much smaller increase of around $300 million will see aid remain static at 0.35 per cent of GNI.
In order to save $2.9 billion over four years, the Government has chosen to break a promise it made to the Australian public and to the world's poor. Our aid will continue to do good (and more on this below), but we will be saving fewer lives, helping fewer children receive basic education, helping fewer communities recover from disaster, than we had committed to.
The child who can't attend school today will just have to wait another year. The community that is afflicted by hunger today will just have to wait. The woman who goes through the trials of pregnancy and childbirth without skilled assistance today, well – you know – she can wait because Australia needs a surplus.
BEN THURLEY, political engagement co-ordinator at Micah Challenge Australia, gives his take on Tuesday night's Federal Budget... |
YOUR SAY: What do you think of the Federal Government's decision to delay lifting Australia's foreign aid? Have your say here... |
ESSAY: MAKING 'REAL' PREGNANCY CHOICES
This weekend Real Choices Australia is holding its second annual conference in Melbourne. This year’s theme of ‘Setting the Standard’ is fulfilled by the calibre of national and international speakers, addressing vital topics. Dr Priscilla Coleman, is the world’s most published researcher on the impact of abortion on women, particularly the negative impact on mental health.
According to a study by Dr Coleman published in the highly regarded British Journal of Psychiatry, women who had undergone an abortion experienced an 81 per cent increased risk of mental health problems. This study was a meta-analysis of 22 studies published between 1995 and 2009 involving almost 900,000 women across six countries.
The results of these combined studies reveal higher rates of anxiety related disorders (34 per cent), depression (37 per cent), alcohol use/abuse (110 per cent), marijuana use (230 per cent), and higher rates of suicidal behaviour (155 per cent).
DEBBIE GARRATT, executive director of Real Choices Australia, writes about the need for more information over the effects of abortion... |
SCRIPTURE: SCHOLARS JOIN WITH WRITERS, POETS AND MUSICIANS TO CREATE NEW BIBLE TRANSLATION - THE VOICE
“For God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction but will have everlasting life.” - John 3: 16
Sound familiar and yet…not? The verses come from a new translation of the Bible. Called The Voice, it has been written with the idea of creating a version that reads more like a story while still remaining true to the original text in a bid to engage more people in reading Scripture.
The translation project, which involved about 120 people based in the US and Europe and was a joint project between Houston-based Ecclesia Bible Society and publishers Thomas Nelson, kicked off in 2004 and was only completed in the second half of last year.
David B. Capes, Thomas Nelson Research Professor in the School of Theology at Houston Baptist University and author of several books, was the lead scholar on the project. He says the idea for the new translation stemmed from a meeting he had with Chris Seay, pastor of Ecclesia Church in Houston, at which the pastor expressed concerns that some of the translations they were using in church didn’t seem to communicate very well to people in a public forum.
DAVID ADAMS speaks with Professor David B. Capes, lead scholar for a new Bible translation called The Voice... |
YOUR SAY : WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE VOICE? WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE BIBLE TRANSLATION AND WHY? HAVE YOUR SAY.. |
ESSAY: CONFRONTING ABORTION
My friend went to jail last month. He is not someone we would usually consider a common criminal. My friend is Graham Preston, the father of seven, whose arrest for non-payment of fines relating to his non-violent protests at abortion clinics has seen him sentenced to the longest jail term of any anti-abortion campaigner in Australia.
I first met Graham when he became the illustrator of the children's book I write (www.carparkparables.com). We slowly got to know each other and I became aware of his activism for protect-life.info. We talked and corresponded on the issue, including when he went to jail previously. I don't agree with everything Graham believes or does, but I respect his integrity and conviction, and I am challenged by them.
There is a huge irony between Graham and myself. Essentially we share pretty much the same ideals and beliefs. Yet while I was winning community service awards for the application of my faith, Graham was going to jail for acting on the same faith. How can Christianity out-lived, lead to such different outcomes? Am I just playing safe with my faith; purposefully ignoring the unpalatable bits and highlighting the nice bits? Is my faith an anaemic version of the real thing? Or is Graham misguided and misdirected; another one of those fanatics we can dismiss?
PAUL CLARK wrestles with a Christian response to the fraught issue of abortion...|
ESSAY: CALLING FOR A "BULLETPROOF" ARMS TREATY
In South Sudan earlier this year, 6,000 young fighters from one ethnic group attacked another ethnic group in a dispute over cattle stealing. They killed about 600 people. The attackers were from an ethnic group that had been through a disarmament process just two years ago. Now they have brand new guns. “Where does one get new guns for 6,000 young men?” asked South Sudanese MP and faith leader Joy Kwaje.
There are currently more global trade regulations for bananas than there are for weapons. But things are due for a change. In July, the member states of the United Nations - including Australia - are meeting in New York to negotiate a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).
To ensure world leaders don’t walk away from such a vital and potentially lifesaving agreement, an ecumenical campaign is under way to lobby for a strong and effective treaty.
Convened by the World Council of Churches, the campaign brings together some 60 churches and organisations in 31 countries, including Act for Peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia.
SARAH GREGORY and CORINNE ROBERTS, of Act for Peace, talk about why a global Arms Trade Treaty is so important... |
ESSAY: DO THE MODERN OLYMPICS DEVALUE SPORT?
Walt Disney, world-class dreamer and founder of the fantasy empire that bears his name, once said: "I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn't know how to get along without it."
In the age of so-called mass collaboration, international sporting endeavour has the potential to remind us that not all competition is unhealthy; that testing one’s mettle against one’s peers can bring out the best in all concerned.
Nothing has the potential to celebrate the virtues and values of sporting endeavour like the Olympic Games. Yet the modern Olympiad and the organisation that supports it have arguably become little more than a celebration of jingoism and a promoter of market values.
The virtues that once defined sporting competition at the elite level now seem but a secondary consideration. The success of any modern Olympiad is, at the end of the day, measured in terms of the potential monetary gain for the host nation and for those nations which produce winning competitors - especially in the big sports.
Writing from London - host of this year's Olympic Games, MAL FLETCHER reflects on the relationship between sport and money... |
ESSAY: EGYPT'S POWER STRUGGLE AND THE FATE OF CHRISTIANS
In defiance of Egypt’s top generals and highest court, Muslim Brotherhood presidential-elect Mohammed Morsi reopened parliament on Tuesday. In only his third week in office, Morsi’s rapid-fire pursuit to broaden the Brotherhood’s power openly challenges the country’s ruling military council. Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority fears that the restoration of parliament, which will grant greater powers to Islamists, will be used to institute Sharia law and stifle religious freedoms.
On 10th July, Egypt’s lower chamber, the People’s Assembly, convened despite a ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court on 14th June ordering the parliament’s dissolution. Saad el-Katatni, the assembly’s speaker, told lawmakers the session was being held to seek a “second opinion” by an appellate court in an effort to reinstate the Islamist-dominated legislature. The court, however, did not concede to the chamber’s request, upholding its earlier ruling that the parliament had been elected unconstitutionally and that its dissolution was “final and binding.”
If the parliament were to be reinstated, the Muslim Brotherhood - which holds nearly half the seats in the Islamist-dominated assembly - would head both the legislature and the presidency. Yet, a Brotherhood-controlled civilian government appears to be what Egypt’s ruling generals fear most.
In a report first published on Assist News Service, AIDAN CLAY of International Christian Concern looks at events in Egypt and how they may affect the Coptic Christian population... |
OLYMPICS 2012: AUSTRALIANS ON A MISSION IN LONDON TO SHARE THE LOVE OF CHRIST
Along with the host of athletes, coaching staff and officials arriving in London this week for the Olympic Games is another group of people charged with the task of sharing their faith in Jesus Christ with those they encounter there.
Among them is Nett Knox, a veteran of several Olympic, Paralympics and Commonwealth Games, having attended her first – the Sydney Olympics – in 2000.
She will be working as one of the official Christian chaplains based at the Olympic Village’s Religious Services Centre along with representatives of other faiths.
As well as holding Bible studies and church services, Ms Knox - who can more usually be found teaching Religious Education at Knox Grammar School in Sydney - says the chaplains are “available to anybody who wants to come in and have a chat”.
“Really it’s kind of a ministry of presence to support people in any way we can,” she says.
With the Opening Ceremony now just around the corner, DAVID ADAMS speaks with some of the Australians who will be sharing their faith at the London Olympics... |
FOR ALL OF OUR OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC COVERAGE, HEAD TO OUR SPECIAL OLYMPICS 2012 PAGE HERE... |
LOANS SCHEME: WHEN FINANCIAL DOWNTURNS BITE, DUBBO'S RIVERSIDE CHURCH ARE THERE TO LEND A HELPING HAND
Tough economic times can play havoc for families no matter how well-off they are. It’s normally at these times that people lose their jobs and need to rely on public welfare to see them through. Rent and bills need to be paid and sending children to school means that parents constantly have their hand in their pocket.
So what happens when a major appliance like a fridge or a washing machine needs to be replaced? Those on welfare don’t have the money to replace such appliances outright and the only other options are loans or credit. However, the interest on these solutions can stretch an already tight budget to breaking point.
These types of financial pressures saw Riverside Church in Dubbo launch their no fee, no interest loan program. Officially called the No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS), the program is offered under the Riverside Lifehouse Global Care ministry.
ALAN TAYLOR reports on a scheme to help people in tough times... |
CHURCHES LOOK TO CONTINUE BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS WITH COMMUNITIES FOLLOWING GAMES SUCCESSES
As London celebrated the end of the Olympic Games, Australian Marty Woods was already thinking about its legacy.
Mr Woods, the European coordinator of Fusion – an Australian-founded youth and community organisation - for the past nine-and-a-half years, has been leading the festivals team of More than Gold, the umbrella organisation resourcing churches for outreach during the Games.
While the rest of his team was out watching the marathon last Sunday – the last day of Games – the 56-year-old was planning a ‘legacy tour’ which involved reconnecting with people in nine regional areas of the UK who’d been involved in running festivals during the Games but were now looking at the next steps of connecting with their communities.
“We’ve never seen such a strong response from the churches,” says Mr Woods of the response from Christians before and during the Olympic Games. “(T)he level of churches wanting to use the Games for outreach has far exceeded everyone’s expectations… I just want to celebrate the way the church has taken hold of the moment - they’ve really embraced it.”
REFUGEES: NEW NETWORK OF CHURCH ORGANISATIONS AIMS TO GIVE REFUGEES A GREATER VOICE IN PUBLIC POLICY DEBATES
Looking to increasingly engage in the debate on refugees and asylum-seekers, the National Council of Churches in Australia has established a new network of church organisations working with refugees.
About 15 organisations including the Brotherhood of St Lawrence, Anglicare, Jesuit Refugee Services and UnitingJustice Australia have so far joined the Australian Church Refugee Network (ACRN) and the position of national coordinator has recently been advertised.
Alistair Gee, executive director of Act for Peace – the international aid agency of the NCCA which, as well as being a member of the network, is providing secretariat support, says the network has been established to help better co-ordinate the service churches provide to refugees in Australia and overseas.
“There is a lot that the churches are doing both down at a parish level of helping out refugees in the local community up to engaging on national policy and assisting in refugee camps in other countries in the region…” he says.
DAVID ADAMS reports... |
ESSAY: WHAT CHRIST'S ENCOUNTER WITH A FATHER AND HIS SON CAN SHOW US
Let’s face the celebration of Father's Day with the account from Mark’s Gospel where Jesus showed His care and respect for a father and his son. I have in mind Mark 9:14-29.
If you have ever witnessed someone in an epileptic fit, you'll know it's not pretty. And the crowd that had come out to catch up with Jesus were not just ignorant, uneducated people. They had the benefit of a system of public health and lived with the conviction that they could interpret God's law for every situation. Here they were busily arguing about the fit and how to get the boy well!
Jesus, however, proclaimed a plain message; epileptics and sick people are not here so professional faith healers can show how powerful they are. Jesus' healing of the boy also involved making sure he and his dad could be together quietly so they could find their way in the next few minutes, let alone in the future.
And only when the boy and his dad had gone was Jesus ready to answer any questions. When they asked, "Why couldn't we cast this evil spirit out?", His reply was straight. This can only happen after much prayer...
As Australia prepares to celebrate Father's Day this weekend, BRUCE C WEARNE reflects on an encounter between Jesus and a father and a son... |
IRAN: PASTOR SENTENCED TO DEATH RELEASED AND REUNITED WITH HIS FAMILY
Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who was sentenced to death and became a symbol of what his church called "suffering Christians" in this heavily Islamic nation was unexpectedly released from prison on Saturday.
"Thanks to all who have supported me with prayers", he told BosNewsLife in a statement through an interpreter.
The 35-year-old pastor appeared tired, but said he always kept his faith, even behind bars. "I experienced especially the presence of the Lord on my side every time," Pastor Nadarkhani said in brief remarks.
Pastor Nadarkhani had urged Christians not to give up hope that he he would be released one day.
In a major turnaround the court in his home city of Rasht acquitted him of "apostasy" or abandoning Islam. He was found guilty of evangelising among Muslims and sentenced to three years in prison, time he already served.
STEFAN J BOS, of Bosnewslife, reports... |
THE 'JESUS WIFE' DISCOVERY: FIVE BIG QUESTIONS
In a surprise announcement that seemed scripted by the novelist Dan Brown, a Harvard professor revealed an ancient scrap of papyrus on 18th September that purports to refer to Jesus' wife.
The so-called "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" presents a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples, said Karen King, a well-respected historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School, Religion News Service reports.
The fourth-century fragment says, "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...,'" according to King. The rest of the sentence is cut off. The fragment also says "she will be able to be my disciple," according to King. The discovery that some ancient Christians thought Jesus had a wife could shake up centuries-old Christian traditions, King suggested.
But even King acknowledged that questions remain about the receipt-sized scrap, which contains just 33 words and incomplete sentences. Here are five of the biggest questions.
DANIEL BURKE and DAVID GIBSON, of ENInews/RNS, report... |
THE BIBLE: NEW AUSTRALIAN CAMPAIGN ENCOURAGES DAILY BIBLE READING
A national campaign to encourage Australian Christians to make reading their Bible a daily habit is being run by the Bible Society Australia over the month of October.
The ‘Live Light in 25 words’ campaign, which kicks off on Monday, was created to address the poor Bible reading habits of Australian churchgoers and involves reading just 25 words of the Bible a day for the month.
More than 5,000 individuals and almost 2,500 churches and schools have committed to joining the initiative.
The Bible Society’s Chris Melville, says that with National Church Life Survey research showing 80 per cent of Christians are not reading their Bible on a daily basis often because of a lack of time, there was a need to develop a Bible study which would help to address that.
“(T)hat’s the whole basis of it – let’s try to get Christians back to have a daily reading habit,” he says. “They say that it takes about 30 days to form a habit, so we said ‘Lets do it over a month’ and we chose October. And so we are trying to engage people with the Bible for 31 days to try to form a habit.”
PAKISTAN: CHRISTIANS PRAY FOR TEENAGE ACTIVIST SHOT BY MILITANTS
Christians across Pakistan are praying for a 14-year girl, who was shot by Taliban militants for advocating education for girls, amid hopeful signs she is recovering in a British hospital.
Malala Yousafzai, viewed as a symbol of peace, gained the world`s attention at the age of 11 when the Taliban group banned girls from going to schools in the Pakistan's turbulent Swat valley.
The militants also destroyed over 400 schools for girls, including Christian institutions.
She wrote about the attacks of the Taliban regime and the military operation and her passion for education. People who knew her say she was not afraid to take "an initiative for peace and education for women."
Despite the militancy, she went to school anyway, encouraging others to go with her, and was awarded the National Youth Peace prize.
XAVIER P WILLIAM, of BosNewsLife, reports... |
CORRUPTION: NEW GLOBAL CAMPAIGN AIMS TO PUT SPOTLIGHT ON ILL-GOTTEN GAINS
A new global anti-corruption campaign has been launched in a bid to raise awareness of the issue, identified as a major factor in keeping millions of people trapped in poverty.
Launched in London last week, the 'Exposed' campaign is being supported by a coalition of Christian organisations from around the world including Micah Challenge – a global network of Christian organisations and individuals concerned with lobbying world leaders to meet the Millennium Development Goals, the US and UK Bible Societies, the Salvation Army and African-based group Unashamedly Ethical.
They are looking to challenge churches, businesses and governments over the more than $US1 trillion which goes missing annually through mismanagement, illicit business practices and poor governance and aim to mobilise 100 million Christians to “practise and promote ethical and just behaviour in all spheres of life” in the lead-up to a week of prayer and action to be held in October next year.
ESSAY: WILL THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT CHANGE THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT NEXT WEEK?
On our Melbourne Cup Day (the first Tuesday in November) citizens of the US will vote on who will be the 45th President. The Republican candidate and the incumbent President are drawing closer in the polls.
In the past Jimmy Carter (Democrat) Ronald Reagan (Republican) George H. W. Bush, (Republican) Bill Clinton, (Democrat), George W. Bush (Republican); Barack Obama (Democrat) has each courted the American Religious right, especially the evangelical/Pentecostal and Fundamentalist denominations, their mega churches and powerful television pastors. They came into the White House mainly because of the support of this noisy Religious Right. In terms of real policy they added little.
That will not happen this time. The Religious Right is losing its clout. They hate Obama but are suspicious of Mormon Romney. Not only that, the two most significant groups in numbers are no longer unionists and the religious right, but Hispanic and Afro Americans. They will both support Obama.
Rev Dr GORDON MOYES shares his views on the role the Religious Right will play in the upcoming US election... |
CHURCH LIFE: CHURCHES ARE IN GOOD HEALTH AND PUTTING MORE EMPHASIS ON SPIRITUAL GROWTH
Australian churches are in good health and vitality and are putting an increasing emphasis on activities aimed at spiritual growth, according to preliminary findings from the latest snapshot of church life in Australia.
The findings come from the 2011 National Church Life Survey, a five yearly census of the church, also show that while the decline in church numbers appears to have flattened out but that the average age of church members - at 55-years-old - remains above that of the average age of Australians - 52-years-old.
The survey involved more than 3000 churches from 23 denominations and independent churches and involved some 260,000 adult church-goers, 6,000 church leaders and 10,000 children aged between 10 and 14 years.
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at the first impressions of last year's National Church Life Survey... |
ART: VINCENT VAN GOGH'S UNAPPRECIATED JOURNEY WITH CHRIST
A record 1.2 million visitors came to the giant retrospective of Van Gogh’s work in Amsterdam in 1990, which coincided with the 100th anniversary of the Dutch post-Impressionist’s death. What visitors did not see at that major exhibition were van Gogh’s Christian-themed paintings, which were left in the basement of the museum.
“None of the religious imagery was in the show. It was deliberately kept in the basement,” says William Havlicek, PhD , author of Van Gogh’s Untold Journey (Creative Storytellers). “In Western art there has been a move toward secularisation through existential thinking,” he notes, which followed the disillusionment of many artists after two world wars.
Dr Havlicek spent 15 years researching and studying more than 900 of van Gogh’s letters. His revealing book dispels many of the myths that surround the painter’s tumultuous life.
“Vincent’s letters portray a very different story than the popular tale of the mad artist who cuts off his ear,” Dr Havlicek notes. “What emerges instead is a story of selfless loyalty, the epitome of the Gospel’s sacred counsel - ‘love one another.’”
MARK ELLIS, in an article first published on Godreports.com, talks to Dr William Havlicek about what his research has uncovered about the life of world renowned artist Vincent van Gogh... |
ESSAY: CHRISTIANS UNITING TO END MODERN-DAY SLAVERY
Human trafficking is an abuse of rights and human dignity. Despite state-sanctioned slavery being outlawed over 200 years ago, up to 27 million people around the world are still trapped in slave-like conditions. On Sunday 25th November churches around the country will come together to call for the end of modern-day slavery.
When looking at the history of successful social movements, you can quickly see that they were not just about protest; they also had a positive message of hope that was a distinct and better alternative to remaining with the status quo. They challenged the status quo, but they also put forward a vision of a better future and appealed to humanity’s better nature.
Abolitionist Sunday, a campaign organised by World Vision Australia, is focused on the abolition of human trafficking and exploitation. This goes right to the heart of what we decide to purchase our loved ones at Christmas. Much of our clothing for example is made through child labour, and it is incumbent on us, now that we are more aware of this reality, to make purchasing decisions that are ethical and that do not exploit the innocent and vulnerable of this world.
NILS VON KALM, of World Vision Australia, talks about why Christians - and churches - should be involved in this weekend's Abolitionist Sunday... |
THE INTERVIEW: STEPHEN HEFFERNAN, REDRUTH
"Keith and I have...played music together basically our whole lives. We started as kids in church, then played in different bands right through high school. After we both finished school, we did some study and worked some different jobs, but for the both of us it was a real time of soul-searching, and looking for God's purpose for our lives. I was asking all the questions: 'Why am I here?', 'Does God want me to pursue music, or am I wasting my time?'. I know many people go through the same experience. I was in a mess, really, so confused about everything I was doing. But eventually I became that desperate to find God's will for me - I laid everything down, all my desires, ideas, dreams, I just gave them to Him and surrounded my life totally, including music. I hadn't really done that before, but I was willing to give up what was most important to me to find His will, because I believed He had a good plan for my life - that's what the Word says. So I went for it."
Sydney-based Christian rockband Redruth are about to start a tour of venues in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory in the lead-up to Christmas. DAVID ADAMS catches up with Stephen Heffernan, one of the brothers who founded the band... |
SYRIA: CHRISTIANS FACING A BLEAK WINTER AMID ONGOING CONFLICT
Minority Christians in Syria's largest city Aleppo said on Friday that they face starvation this winter with dozens of believers already having been killed in targeted attacks rocking Christian areas of the war-torn country.
"Bread isn't found since last week, there is no wheat in the city and of course fuel is not available so...bakeries are not working," said Majd Ajji, whose father runs a Baptist church in Aleppo, where airstrikes and gun battles transformed buildings into heaps of rubble.
Witnesses saw children fighting for food.
Most of the city, 310 kilometres northwest from capital Damascus, is now reportedly under rebel control but the situation remains tense, Ajji said in an email obtained by BosNewsLife.
"Fighting didn’t stop in the city," Lebanon-based Ajji wrote on behalf of his father, Rev Mouner Ajji, who remained in the besieged Aleppo.
A report from BosNewsLife (with Dr JOHN M LINDNER and STEFAN J BOS)... |
US: CHURCH LEADERS EXPRESS SORROW OVER NEWTOWN KILLINGS AMID RENEWED CALLS FOR GREATER GUN CONTROL
Church leaders have expressed their shock and grief over the latest gun massacre in the US amid renewed calls for greater gun control.
Twenty children and six adults died at the hands of a gunman who opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut (about 95 kilometres north-west of New York City) on Friday. The suspected gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, is also believed to have killed his mother prior to the school attack, and, later killed himself.
Kathryn Lohre, president of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA - which represents some 40 million Christians, expressed her "shock and profoundest grief" over the killings.
"As a parent, I cannot comprehend the grief other mothers and fathers are feeling tonight," said Ms Lohre. "I share President Obama's instincts to hug my own child especially close tonight. And my heart breaks to know so many parents in Connecticut are no longer able to do that."
ESSAY: TAKING ANOTHER LOOK AT THE CHRISTMAS STORY IN THE WAKE OF NEWTOWN, CONNECTICUT
A great crowd no-one can number
- from Revelation 7:1-17
Nowadays, news of shootings, like the recent massacre of 20 school kids in Newtown, Connecticut, meet our ears as we drive into the shopping mall's car-park, ready to do our Christmas shopping.
We hear it as we live right there in that small town, and we cringe when we hear of these shots "heard round the world". This news reminds us how Americans celebrate the beginning of their war of independence in April, 1775, at Lexington but there is no glory here. Father Christmas himself turns pale in shock and the jingle bells have lost whatever tingling, jingling joy they had.
And then the question....what's the point of all this? A massive execution of innocent children by a deranged gun-man. Is this a dream or what?
BRUCE C WEARNE looks again at the Christmas story in the light of last Friday's killings in the US... |
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THEY SAID IT
"The President has been clear that the use of chemical weapons - or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups - is a red line for the United States...Our intelligence community now has a high confidence assessment that chemical weapons have been used on a small scale by the Assad regime in Syria."
- Ben Rhodes, US deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, in a statement made on 13th June, 2013, concerning the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Mr Rhodes went on to say as a result, the President had "augmented the provision of non-lethal assistance to the civilian opposition, and also authorized the expansion of our assistance to the Supreme Military Council (SMC)" (as quoted in astatement on www.whitehouse.gov on 13th June, 2013). For more of They Said It, follow the link... | more... |
THIS WEEK ON THE WEB
12th June, 2013
In a new video posted on his website, Martin Johnson talks to director Rob Draper - currently working at Cinecitta Studios in Rome - about his upcoming film Nicaea. You can see the film here...
Sight now has a Pinterest page where you can see some of our images. To see it, head here...
18th June, 2013
There is a word that is incredibly powerful. A word that is essential for peace between nations, and harmonious marriages. But it’s a word we are reluctant to use. Why are we scared of sorry?
Sorry is risky. It makes one vulnerable. It involves swallowing pride and humbling oneself for the sake of another. But that is precisely why saying sorry is so powerful.
Sorry opens the door to reconciliation.
If sorry is met with calls for retribution, then there’s still more to be done before healing can begin.
Musings is a regularly updated, column featuring short snippets reflecting on daily life from a Christian perspective...|
"WORLD'S OLDEST COMPLETE TORAH" FOUND IN ITALY...
The world's oldest complete Torah has been found in an Italian university with experts reporting it could be as old as 12th century.
The soft sheepskin scroll, which has found in the archives at the University of Bologna - said to be the world's oldest university, was originally believed to have dated from the 17th century.
But when examining the scroll earlier this year, Mauro Perani, professor of Hebrew in the university's Department of Cultural Heritage, found that the text did not contain changes that were introduced in the 12th century.
Well, it's WAY past Easter...and way past time for me to write again.
We have managed a lovely gradual fall into cooler weather, with the days holding their warm centre a lot later into the year than normal, but the cool, dark-edged grey palette is here now and the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness has massaged us officially into winter.
I'm having an unusual year thus far. It's so far outside what I anticipated that I fairly regularly have to stop and recalibrate. It almost feels like I'm sailing in waters I haven't any experience of and I have to take a new sounding every few days to keep track of things.
WOJCZUK's blog about life, the universe and possibly everything...|
INSECTS ON THE MENU?; A 'SPACE ODDITY'; BACK FROM THE DEAD; AND, A FOUR-YEAR-OLD MAYOR...
Insects already form part of the diet of an estimated two billion people but they may well be on even more menus in the future as experts look to alternative means of feeding people. The Food and Agriculture Organisation says that insects (and there are about a million known species) could provide a "readily available source of nutritious and protein-rich food".
ADAMS writes about the odder side of life...|
THOUSANDS OF EASTERN ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS JAM STREETS FOR 'HOLY FIRE' CEREMONY... While Roman Catholics and Protestants in Israel and across the world celebrated Easter Sunday on 31st March this year, for hundreds of millions of Eastern Orthodox in Russia, Ukraine, Greece, the Holy Land and elsewhere the highlight of Easter 2013 came on Saturday, 4th May, when tens of thousands of the faithful packed Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher to witness the Holy Fire ceremony marking the resurrection of the Christian messiah.
Over the last year or so I've been realising how everything in life is related to our relationships, whether we realise it or not. All of our interactions are either constructive or destructive for our relating. That's why life is so difficult. I thought of saying during a sermon once that life is easy until you have to relate to someone! It is for this reason that doing our best to get our relationships to work is the most important thing we can do with our lives.
NILS VON KALM'S blog on faith, life and how it all might fit together...|
OUT OF AFRICA: TAKING YOUR BLESSINGS FOR GRANTED...
I have been thinking a lot lately about how blessed I was living in Australia. Sadly much of that blessing was in a sense ‘lost on me’ because I didn’t see it for what it was. The longer I live here the more I realise the day-to-day difficulties people face in the majority of the world. I am amazed that people are able to keep their hope when so many things seem so difficult.
Things I have always taken for granted - access to water, nutritious food and good medical assistance - are, at times, just not available here. I am horrified at the number of times people come back from our local medical clinic saying that there is no medicine or even occasionally no doctor.
LENA JOHNSTONE's blog about life in Malawi, Africa, where she works with the Mphatso Children's Foundation...|
THE STOREROOM: HOW TO ABOLISH SLAVERY? GUEST POST BY THE APOSTLE PAUL... From Paul a servant of Christ Jesus, and Richard his brother.
So, as I wrote, my hope was that in the homes of the Church in Ephesus the relationships between slaves and masters would be transformed.
Also, I left Timothy in Ephesus and wrote this to him: “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers – and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, which He entrusted to me.”
Emphasis is mine. Well, actually, the whole thing is mine.
RICHARD THOMAS' sometimes weird and sometimes wonderful 'storeroom' of ideas...|
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