Monthly Archives: June 2009

Israel orders demolition of Christian homes in Old Jerusalem

I’ve been saying for the past three years that Israeli settlement expansions kick Christians out of their homes, so why don’t more Christians in America speak out against it? Here is an article I found on my friend Stephen Sizer’s blog:

Today the Jerusalem Inter-Church Centre has learned of new house demolition orders against at least four Christian families living inside the old city of Jerusalem where local Churches accommodate more than 500 homes for Palestinian families.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and the Catholic Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land own most of these homes. Churches are already facing difficulty in attaining renovation permits and expansion is almost impossible. One of the Church lawyers confirms that even the Churches already have court cases with the municipality of Jerusalem on similar issues.

One of the Church leaders bitterly criticize the different treatment given to Jewish settlers inside the city wall where they are granted permits for expanding and renovating the properties under their control. In these four cases in particular, the families were addressed individually by the Israeli municipal authorities and court cases are underway. One of the defendants, Sami Wakileh, recalls the Judge telling him, “It is a waste of your precious time. Do not dream of receiving any permit…”

This means that the existing home will be demolished sooner or later. Sami’s house is actually an old building that he leased from the Church and spent over a hundred thousand dollars to fix and renovate. In another case, Bassam Ayyash, who rents a 50 square meter apartment from the Greek Orthodox Church inside the Patriarchate’s convent has also received a demolition order claiming that this 50 square meter apartment is an expansion to his home! Bassam is puzzled with the persistence of the authorities in not agreeing to come and investigate the matter when he confirms, “My only home is the 50 square meter apartment.”

Last month, ten Christian families in Beit Hanina, a suburb area of North East Jerusalem, received demolition orders for their six year old apartments in the Al-Sunbula building. Half of the building was licensed originally while permits to formulate the rest were not given. Now all the inhabitants face the same fate if the municipality carries out its threats. Housing inside Jerusalem has been a burden for all Palestinian families. With an extremely difficult process and impossible permit system coupled with the high cost of living in Jerusalem, building or having one’s own apartment is becoming a dream.

The Christian community struggles with the family re-unification system and residency rights restrictions imposed by the Israeli Authorities. When one Jerusalemite cannot live together with his or her spouse who is a West Banker under one roof inside Jerusalem, the ultimate effect is that less and less couples decide to get married. Father Ibrahim Faltas, the Roman Catholic Parish priest of Jerusalem, declared last week that the number of Catholic marriages this year is almost half of what they experienced during the previous years. New Jerusalem Christian families are more and more forced to leave their home city either to the neighboring West Bank or emigrate if they have the chance.

Source: Yusef Daher, Executive Secretary
Jerusalem Inter-Church Centre – JIC P.O.Box 741, Jerusalem 91000
Tel :+972 (0)2 627 4534, 628 9858 (Ext. 105) Mobile 050 5545 179

Posted orginally at http://www.stephensizer.blogspot.com,

This should break down stereotypes

I found this video on Juan Cole’s blog. It’s a tribute to Michael Jackson from a group of Arab men in the Persian Gulf. Hopefully watching this will break a few stereotypes.

Testimonial for Alone with a Jihadist

Greeting Mr. Taylor, Recently I have attended the Book Expo America at the Javits Center in New York City. I enjoyed finding out more about the publishing world and speaking to authors. I took home a few books including yours “Alone with a Jihadist.” At first I did not think I would like to read your book. But after reading a few lines, I have decided to take it home with me. Yesterday I read most of your book, and this morning I finsihed reading it. I must say Sir, you have helped me to understand better about what being Christian is all about. I’m aware about most of the things that you have writtenin your book. But know I have better understanding about how I feel withmy relationship to God, my adopted nation (USA) and my relationship with people in general. I was born in Haifa, Israel in 1950. I have traveled to many nations, which have helped me to understand and love other people who don’t look like, speak my tunge and are not Christians. Sir, Please send this book ASP to President Obama. He need to read it in order to help him to make better decioins in how to respond to global issues and conflicts that may concerned his administration and, the USA. Best wishes to you, your wife and love ones. I do remain In the Faith, Michael Matthews Thank you for the book!!!

Should Christians back away from politics?


I just found this poll on Cal Thomas’s website.

Is it time for Christians to redirect their efforts from politics mainly to the greater power inherent in the Kingdom of God?

To my shock and awe, 83% of the respondents said yes. Cal Thomas is a bit of an anomaly in the conservative Christian world. On the one hand, Thomas espouses political conservativism in his widely syndicated column, on the other hand he’s been one of the leading voices decrying the political tactics of the religious right. Formerly a spokesman for Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, Cal Thomas wrote a book a while back called Blinded By Might: Why the Religious Right Can’t Save America.

In the book Thomas tackles the most prominent issues on the Religious Right’s agenda and shows how they can not be won through political action. Here’s what the official Amazon review says:

For example, by making the Pro-Life movement a political issue, he claims the Christian right has lost sight of more supportive antiabortion tactics, such as focusing on offering homes and finding jobs for destitute single mothers. Ultimately, the duo calls for a change in strategy–hoping to create followers of the Christian agenda through positive example, consistent living, and devout faith rather than brute political force.

That a conservative Christian columnist would take this position, and that such a high percentage of his readers would agree, is truly extraordinary. Another thing I appreciate about Thomas is that he hasn’t succumbed to the mindless take-the-opposite-position-of-Obama-no-matter-what-the-position-is approach of men like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck. In Thomas’s latest column, he even had the gumption to say that President Obama has been right in his careful-not-to-appear-to-be-meddling- approach to the post-election situation in Iran. Rare indeed.

Although I have some substantial differences with Thomas–like for example his idea of transferring the Palestinian population to the surrounding Arab nations (tell me again Mr. Thomas why that isn’t ethnic cleansing?)– it’s good to know that Thomas is at least willing to dialogue about some of his extreme views, as his ongoing dialogue with liberal Bob Beckel shows and the book Common Ground that they wrote together.

Which brings me to the point I’m fumbling around trying to make. Perhaps the question isn’t should Christians be involved in politics, but how should Christians be involved in politics? However we as Christians decide to engage the political sphere, we should always be keenly aware of the corrupting influence of political power. No matter what side of the political aisle we find ourselves on, we should approach the issues with an attitude of humility and willingness to learn from others. Most importantly, our trust should be in the power of the gospel, not the power of Caesar. Cal Thomas seems to understand this. Let’s hope that the rest of the Body of Christ in America catches on soon.

The worsening situation for Burma’s Karen refugees


On May 24th 2009, Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), Junta backed troops attacked numerous villages in Paan District, Burma, causing the flight of at least 3,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s). Many of the villagers fled, making their way to the Thailand Burma border where they are scattered in several locations within Thailand.

According to an inside source, whose name I’ve withheld for security reasons, yesterday’s delivery of relief supplies, consisting of rice and soybeans, was woefully inadequate. Many of the families are now living under plastic tarps donated by the United Nations Higher Council for Refugees. The people, cold and wet from the heavy rains, live in daily terror as they carefully scan the riverbeds, dreading the advancement of Junta soldiers who are positioned directly across the river from them.

With the eyes of the world on Iran lately, the term “human rights” has made it’s way into the living rooms of millions of Americans through newspapers, talk radio, cable news, and the blogosphere. Typically the term is used to describe things like jailing political dissidents, shutting down the free press, or heavy handed tactics by riot police. All of these things are terrible, and in no way do I want to make light of the situation the Iranian people are facing today. But when it comes to the plight of the Karen People in Burma, it seems that the term “human rights abuse” falls woefully inadequate. What’s happening to the Karen people is mass murder.

When the Karen villages are “ethnically cleansed”, the Junta (or the DKBA) then place land-mines in the villages. Those that are left behind are usually forced into slave labor, sometimes having to perform the task of a “mine-sweeper” (use your imagination). Like the situation in Eastern Congo, rape is often used as a weapon of war, along with torture and a host of other crimes. To top it off, the Burmese regime also repeatedly uses “child soldiers” to carry out their most horrific crimes.

As I write this today, nobel-laureate Aung San Suu Kyi remains locked in Burma’s most notorious prison for the crime of winning a democratic election nearly 20 years ago–and for helping a clueless man from Missouri who begged her to stay the night in her home after swimming across a river to see her. I’m glad the media gave this situation it’s due attention. The problem is that without giving the broader context of the ethnic cleansing of the Karen people, it’s very easy to relegate Aung San Suu Kyi’s false imprisonment and phony trial to the category of just another “human rights abuse” when in fact there are things far worse going on in the country. The larger story unfortunately gets lost.

With everything that’s happening in the world today, please let us not forget the plight of the Karen people in Burma. They need our financial support, our advocacy, and most importantly, our prayers.

If you’d like to lend your voice to the cause of democracy in Burma, check out the U.S. Campaign for Burma’s website and sign their petition calling for an official U.N. investigation into the regime’s crimes against humanity.

Aaron D. Taylor is the author of “Alone with a Jihadist: A Biblical Response to Holy War” To contact Aaron, you can e-mail him at fromdeathtolife@gmail.com or visit his website at www.aarondtaylor.com

Verse of the day. Psalm 68:5

A Father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation.

Spouse or children?


First, a confession. I watched Jon and Kate Gosselin’s break-up on Monday night’s episode of Jon and Kate Plus 8. It may have cost me my man card, but I couldn’t help it. I was glued. Having seen Jon and Kate on the cover of Charisma magazine and their book at my local Christian bookstore, I was grieved to watch another Christian marriage go down the tubes–in front of millions of people. What happened?

Many, of course, will point to the show itself as the downfall of their marriage, and that could very well be true; but as I watched the separate interviews last night (in my defense, last night was the only full episode I’ve ever watched) I couldn’t help but notice the overwhelming emphasis on both of their parts that the ensuing divorce was “for the sake of the children.”

In interview after interview, both Jon and Kate emphasized repeatedly that their first priority was their children. What was absent from the discussion was the priority of their marriage. It seems that their underlying assumption was that the health of their marriage had little to do with the physical and emotional well-being of their children.

Understand that I am not writing this in any way to pass judgment on Jon and Kate. Divorce is always a difficult thing to go through and there could very well be extenuating circumstances that the public doesn’t know. The reason for me writing this is to pose a question to my readers.

I’ve always understood that the priorities of married people with children should be:

1. God
2. Spouse
3. Children

The reason for this, at least as it was always explained to me, is that when husbands and wives give priority to their relationship with each other, it provides a stable environment for the emotional health of children. Another way of putting it is to say that healthy children flow naturally from healthy marriages. Therefore, the marriage should come first.

Jon and Kate’s assumption on the other hand, and many, perhaps the majority in my generation, seems to be that the priority flow chart looks like this:

1. God
2. Children
3. Spouse

I’m making an assumption of course about the God part. Since I don’t know Jon and Kate personally, call that a benefit of a doubt. Here’s the question I’d like to pose to my readers. Which of these flow charts do you think is the most accurate? Of course, I realize that if a spouse is a potential danger to children, then the other spouse should do whatever they need to do to protect their children. I’m talking about the marital priorities when normal problems arise. Is the flow chart that I’ve always understood accurate? Why or why not?

Discuss!

Lee Strobel validates the story approach to sharing faith

I read the article “Changing the Face of Apologetics” in Christianity Today’s latest issue with great interest. As many of you know, Lee Strobel is best known for his books The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, and The Case for a Creator. Strobel is a former atheist that came to faith in Christ when he decided to put his investigative journalism skills to use by subjecting the New Testament to the same rigorous standards he had applied to his profession as a journalist. His book The Case for Christ tells the story of his conversion to Christianity after he investigated the New Testament claims of Christ’s resurrection. Countless people have come to faith because of this groundbreaking book.

Here’s the part of the article that interested me. In his interview with Christianity Today, Strobel talks about how apologetics (which is the art of defending the Christian faith intellectually)has changed over time and now apologists (defenders of the faith) are much more likely to take a story approach in discussing the faith with seekers. In Strobel’s own words:

They have become more relational, more story-driven. Josh McDowell would go on college campuses and describe why to trust the Bible. And people would come to faith in droves. Then they stopped coming to faith in so many numbers, and he didn’t know why. And now he takes a story approach. ‘You know,’ he says, ‘I was the son of the town drunk. This is how it affected my life and my relationship with (my dad). This is what prompted me to seek spiritually. This is the evidence I found. This is how my life was changed. This is how I reconciled with my father.’ So it becomes a story.

That’s what my ministry is about. I tell my story. I was an atheist. I scoffed. My wife became a Christian. It prompted me to investigate. Here’s the evidence I found, how I received Christ, the difference it’s made. It’s a story. And I found that in postmodern America, people often are wiling to engage on the level of story.

Why does this interest me so much? Because here is one of the top defenders of the Christian faith telling his fellow believers that stories are the key to sharing the Christian faith. Since September of last year, my wife and I’s ministry took a very decisive direction in making story telling the key to what we do in other nations. Since September of last year, we have aligned ourselves with a movement that emphasizes telling the simple stories of the Bible as the greatest need on the mission field today.

Rather than going into countries and preaching topical sermons, with three point outlines that all begin with the letter “C”, we go in and teach pastors, laypeople, and missionaries how to take a simple story in the Bible, tell the story the way it’s written in the Bible, and facilitate discussion around the story. We believe that telling Bible stories and facilitating discussion around the stories is the best method we have ever seen for evangelizing and making disciples. This touches on both the story approach and the relational approach that Strobel is publicly endorsing in America’s premier evangelical publication. This is big.

Lee Strobel didn’t exactly come out and endorse telling Bible stories as the next great movement in evangelism, but he didn’t have to. Because if telling personal stories has worked so well in the ministries of some of America’s top evangelists, how much more effective do you think that it will be telling God’s stories that He put in His Word?

Think about it.

For more information on this radical new approach to missions, check out this website.

The DKBA in Burma is preparing for a slaughter-act now!

Let me get straight to the point. The Burmese army is slaughtering the Karen people as I write this. Over the past couple of weeks, the DKPA has forced thousands of Karen people living in IDP camps (camps for internally displaced people) to flee their homes and swim across the river to Thailand. Since then, they’ve placed land mines in the camps and are basically waiting for people to return so they can kill them. It’s important to note that these internally displaced people have already been forced out of their homes once, which is why they were in IDP camps in the first place.

Here is the part where you come in. The Thai military is considering forcing these people to swim back across the river–to certain death. Last night I received an urgent e-mail informing me of the situation. I called Amnesty International and left a message. Apparently, their office is closed on the weekend. I know that they will know what to do, so I’d like for as many people as possible to call Amnesty International’s office and tell them just what I told you. Perhaps they can organize a mass e-mail campaign to pressure the Thai military to do what is right for the new refugees. The number is 212-807-8400.

I urge everyone reading this to pick up the telephone, and then pray!

Evangelical Christians speak out for Afghan Civilians

I think every Christian needs to watch this video:

I found this video on Jim Wallis’s God’s Politics blog. How refreshing it is that Christians are speaking out for the victims of war!

For more information, go to Rethink Afghanistan’s website.

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