‘Sudan: Meriam Ibrahim arrives in Italy’ – Statement from Christian Solidarity Worldwide

meriamMeriam Ibrahim and her family have arrived safely in Italy after criminal charges against her and her husband were dismissed and they were permitted to leave the Sudan.

On 24 June, Mrs Ibrahim and her husband Daniel Wani were detained as they attempted to leave Sudan, and were later charged with forgery and provision of false information under article 123 and 97 of the 1991 Criminal Code, due to alleged irregularities with her travel documents. Sources have informed Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) that these charges have now been dismissed, clearing the way for the family to leave the country. They left at approximately 4am Sudanese time on an Italian government plane, accompanied by the Italian Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs. Meriam and her children travelled on passports issued by Sudanese authorities and CSW was informed the family will eventually travel to the US.

On 23 June, the Appeal Court overturned the decision of the Public Order Court in El Haj Yousif, Khartoum to sentence Mrs Ibrahim to death for apostasy and 100 lashes for adultery. The Appeal Court also recognised Mrs Ibrahim’s marriage to Daniel Wani and ordered her immediate release. However, the following day Mrs Ibrahim and her husband were detained at Khartoum Airport by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).

Mrs Ibrahim was born in western Sudan to a Sudanese Muslim father and an Ethiopian Orthodox mother. Her father left the family when she was six years old and she was subsequently brought up as a Christian by her mother. The case against Mrs Ibrahim began after her alleged family members made Sudanese authorities aware of her marriage to Daniel Wani, a Christian with joint Sudanese and American citizenship. Morning Star news reported that Mrs Ibrahim testified before the court on 4 March that she is a life-long Christian, producing her marriage certificate, where she is classified as Christian, as evidence. Three potential witnesses from western Sudan who went to court to testify of Mrs Ibrahim’s lifelong adherence to Christianity were prevented from giving evidence.

Mrs Ibrahim’s alleged family attempted to challenge the Appeal Court’s decision to release her; however, CSW was informed this too has been dismissed. Her lawyers continue to face threats from extremists for working on her case. In a comment to CSW one lawyer said “Now we are a target”, adding that days earlier extremists had protested and reiterated they would kill Mrs Ibrahim and anyone who helped her.  According to the lawyer, one of the people involved in this protest has been arrested.

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‘4 Reasons Why Some Preachers Get Better and Others Don’t’ – Hershael York, Sermon Central

 

preacher 2I often have to answer the strangest question anyone could ask a preaching professor: “Do you think preaching can be taught?” I always want to respond, “No, I’m just going through the motions for the money.” Of course I never do, not only because it’s best not to say the smart aleck things I sometimes think, but because I know what they mean when they ask. It’s not really an unfair question.

No one denies that a preaching class and some coaching can help anyone become better. What we question is the possibility that someone with no natural giftedness and ability can be taught well enough that he can become really good.

For the last 16 years I’ve sat in a seminary classroom, listening to student sermons on an almost daily basis, and I’ve heard every kind of sermon and every level of preacher.

I’ve seen guys so nervous that they had to stop and vomit during the sermon, and I’ve been so moved by a student’s sermon that I felt I had been ushered into the presence of the risen Christ. I’ve seen guys who were no better the fifth time they preached for me than they were the first time, but I’ve seen guys whose initial sermon was depressingly awful turn it around so radically by the end of the semester that I almost couldn’t recognize them as the same preacher.

On the first day of the semester, or the first time I hear a student preach, I have no way of knowing if he has what it takes or is willing to do what he must to be the preacher he needs to be, but I can usually tell by the second sermon if he does, because that is when he has to act on what I told him after his first sermon.

What makes the difference?

1. Calling

The most frustrated preacher is the one who has a sense of duty, but not a burning calling.

Preaching is not just another helping profession, a Christian version of politics or the Peace Corps. The call to preach is a definite demand issued by the Holy Spirit that ignites a fire in one’s bones that cannot be extinguished by the hard-hearted, stiff-necked or dull of hearing.

A preacher who has been called must preach what God has spoken simply because God has spoken it. The success of one’s ministry will depend on the strength of his calling. His willingness to work at his preaching will be proportional to his conviction that God has called him to preach and to be as fit a vessel for God’s use as he can be.

The Holy Spirit must undergird everything else from preparation to delivery, and that will not happen apart from that calling.

2. Teachability

Being a preaching professor is like getting paid to tell a mother that her baby is ugly. It might be the truth, but it’s not a truth anyone wants to hear.

Most guys I have taught dread my comments and cringe when I tell them they missed the point of the text or seemed unprepared. They tire of hearing me tell them they lacked energy or failed to establish a connection with the audience.

Every now and then, however, someone smiles gratefully as I offer corrections and suggestions.

Someone may even say, “I want you to be really tough on me. Tell me everything I’m doing wrong, because I really want to do this well.” That guy is going to be fine, because his spirit is teachable and he’s willing to pay the cost of personal discomfort in order to be effective. He understands that he is a vessel in service of the text, and his feelings are not the point.

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‘Mosul’s Last Christians Flee Iraq’s Hoped-For Christian Stronghold’ – Christianity Today

ISISThere are no Christians left in Iraq’s second-largest city Mosul, across the river from the ruins of Jonah’s Nineveh, after an ultimatum over the weekend left them with three choices: convert to Islam, pay jizya (a poll tax levied on non-Muslims), or die at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).

Mosul was intended by Iraq’s government to anchor a future province in the Nineveh plains where Christians could govern themselves. This past weekend, ISIS gave Christians until noon Saturday to choose between the three options. “After this date,” read the ISIS declaration, “the only thing between us and them is the sword.”The New York Times reports that, while a few Christians may remain in hiding after this weekend, Mosul’s once diverse Christian community has likely come to a “real end.”

The $250 poll tax ISIS imposed, prohibitively expensive for many Christians, sent more than 200 families fleeing Mosul even as ISIS militants confiscated their belongings, including cars, money, medicine, and food. Some journeyed 42 miles to Kurdish Tel Afar on foot, reports the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), while some of the families went to Kurdish-held Irbil, or Dohuk, which is 87 north of Mosul, reports CNN.

After Mosul’s Christian leaders did not attend a Thursday meeting ISIS called to notify them of Islamic rules to follow, ISIS leaders used vehicle loudspeakers to announce their ultimatum throughout the town, according to World Watch Monitor. Middle East Concern reports that ISIS earlier last week marked Christian houses in Mosul with the letter the phrase “property of the Islamic State” and an Arabic mark for “Nazirite.”

Louis Raphael Sako, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Baghdad, said in a statementthat the labels disrupted centuries of religious coexistence.

“This categorization based upon religion or sect afflicts the Muslims as well and contravenes the regulation of Islamic thought,” he said. “With all due respect to belief and dogmas, there has been a fraternal life between Christians and Muslims. … Together they built a civilization, cities, and a heritage. It is truly unjust now to treat Christians by rejecting them and throwing them away, considering them as nothing.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Christian refugees have resettled in tent camps in Kurdistan, but the situation is less than comfortable. As temperatures reach 115 degrees, refugees have nowhere else to go and very few possessions,reports Al Jazeera. World Compassion, one organization offering aid to the refugees, is working alongside the U.N. to provide the Mosul refugees—and others—with food and other necessities.

AINA reports that 15 Assyrian families, some not healthy enough to flee the city, converted to Islam.

Mosul has grown increasingly dangerous situation for Christians since the ISIS takeover in mid-June, with militants destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary, and removing the cross from St. Ephrem’s Cathedral, where the Syriac Orthodox archdiocese has its seat in Mosul. Militants even took sledgehammers to the traditional site of the prophet Jonah’s grave, The New York Times reports.

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‘Christian bakery: We are staying true to our beliefs’ – The Christian Institute

the-christian-instituteThe Christian bakery facing court because of their traditional marriage stance have spoken out in the national media, saying, “we are staying true to our beliefs”.

Daniel McArthur has been at the centre of a religious liberty debate after the bakery he manages – Ashers Baking Company – declined to decorate a cake with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage”.

Now he has explained how the company came to its decision, and commented: “I am sorry for any distress we have caused but we are staying true to our beliefs.”

Reasonable

Daniel and Amy McArthur, who have a one-year-old daughter and are expecting another child, spoke out after the bakery’s decision made the news worldwide.

The Northern Irish bakery – which is owned by Daniel’s parents – is facing court action after the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland claimed it breached equality laws.

However, The Christian Institute is supporting the McArthurs, and says the case proves the need for the law to reasonably accommodate family-run businesses with firmly held beliefs.

Conscience

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Daniel said the family discussed the cake order – “weighing up what our conscience told us against the risk our response might get some public attention”.

He added: “As we don’t believe in gay marriage, and did not want to be associated with a politicised campaign, mum phoned the customer to explain politely that we could not accept the order, and would be returning his deposit.”

“We never thought we could be prosecuted for our beliefs”, he added.

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‘The secret to being content’ – Evangelical Alliance

evangelical allianceCameron’s Cabinet reshuffle has been all over the news this week. This one has been dominated by the exchange of the ‘white middle-aged men’ in favour of a new generation of female Tory MPs. And, of course, the removal of education secretary Michael Gove from his post, which has propelled many teachers into celebration.

Behind the headlines I can imagine that some of the former Cabinet ministers are devastated at having lost their jobs. Being in Cabinet would have been their life’s work. How easy it would have been for them to have placed their value in their role.

There is also enormous pressure on the new government ministers to perform, with our 24-hour news channels eagle-eyed for any early slip-up or past controversy. They must be under huge stress to not only master their new briefs quickly but also be seen to be doing so. It sounds exhausting.

A performance-driven culture is an exhausting one. Either because we link our identity with a role or we think we’ll only be happy once we’ve achieved a particular milestone. This culture is frantic and never satisfied. Never content.

I was recently treated out to some drinks in a bar in the City of London. It was one of those fancy ones, far above my pay grade. I got chatting to a successful banker there and we were discussing this very topic when he asked: “But why would I want to be content? Surely I should always be trying to get better results from my work? Then I’ll be satisfied.”

The idea of striving for rest is a powerful one in our culture.

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