Faith leaders across America encourage their congregants to make their voices heard this election

Important Takeaways:

  • Faith leaders across America preach politics, moral values ahead of midterms
  • Calvary Chapel Chino Hills Pastor Jack Hibbs urged his evangelical congregation to oppose a ballot measure that would enshrine abortion rights in California’s Constitution, calling it “the death cult proposition.” He told them to be wary of local candidates who back it or receive support from groups like Planned Parenthood
  • In addition he collected ballots during Sunday worship
  • Hibbs said that whether or not California continues to receive God’s grace hangs on the fate of this measure: “We must open our mouth to defend the defenseless.”

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Watch Turkey. Seems as long as the U.S. remains weak anything can happen

Revelations 6:3-4 “when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Important Takeaways:

  • Erdogan Threatens Greece
  • “We have only one sentence for Greece: Do not forget Izmir [the city of Smyrna]. Your occupying the [Aegean] islands will not stop us; we will do what is necessary when the time comes. You know what we say: ‘Unexpectedly one night we shall come to [conquer] you.” — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, sondakika.com, September 4, 2022.
  • The Turkish attacks against the Greeks and Armenians of Smyrna began [in 1922] with looting, rapes and massacres, and ended with a fire that destroyed the Christian districts of the city.
  • The Republic of Turkey actually boasts of its genocide.

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In Pakistan lynching has become the norm as Court upholds Death Sentence for brothers charged with Blasphemy

Matthew 10:28 “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Pakistani High Court Upholds Death Sentence of Christian Brothers Charged with Blasphemy
  • They were accused of posting blasphemous contents on the internet… Judge Javed Iqbal Bosal sentenced them to death, with a 100,000 rupee (USD $719) fine.
  • “This will be the 3rd case of blasphemy which will be heard by the Supreme Court. We still believe that the brothers are innocent and it has not been proved that they had published any blasphemous contents.”
  • Lynching and vigilante justice have become everyday phenomena in Pakistan. Because of the government’s inaction and support from hardline religious groups, criminals are encouraged and continue killing innocent people with impunity.

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Iranian Judge sentences Christian man to 10yrs in prison for church gathering in home

Matthew 10:28 “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Iran Sentences Christian Man to 10 Years in Prison for Hosting House Church Worship Gathering?
  • The Revolutionary Court of Tehran has sentenced an Iranian-Armenian Christian man to 10 years in prison for establishing a house church, which the judge called “propaganda contrary to and disturbing to the holy religion of Islam,” according to reports.
  • Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran, headed by Judge Afshari, sentenced Anooshavan Avedian, 60, to 10 years of imprisonment, alongside two others who are members of his house church — Abbas Soori, 45, and Maryam Mohammadi, 46

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Pakistan court sentences Christian to death on blasphemy charges

Paramilitary soldiers stand guard outside the Supreme Court building in Islamabad, Pakistan January 29, 2019. REUTERS/Saiyna Bashir

By Mubasher Bukhari

LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) – A Pakistani court on Tuesday sentenced a Christian man to death on blasphemy charges.

Asif Pervaiz, a garment factory worker, had been accused by his supervisor of sending derogatory remarks about the Muslim Prophet Muhammad to him in a text message.

Insulting the prophet carries a mandatory death penalty in Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim country.

Pervais was convicted after a trial in Lahore that ran since 2013. His lawyer Saif-ul-Malook told Reuters he would appeal the sentence.

The court order, seen by Reuters, said Pervaiz would first serve a three-year prison term for “misusing” his phone to send the derogatory text message. Then “he shall be hanged by his neck till his death.”

He was also fined 50,000 Pakistani rupees ($300), the order said.

Pervaiz told the court his supervisor made the accusation only after he had refused to convert to Islam, Saif-ul-Malook said. The complainant’s lawyer, Murtaza Chaudhry, denied this was the case.

Human rights groups say blasphemy laws are often misused to persecute minorities or even against Muslims to settle personal rivalries. Islamist extremism has been on the rise in Pakistan and such accusations can end up in lynchings or street vigilantism.

A U.S. citizen of Pakistani origin on a blasphemy trial in the northwestern city of Peshawar in July was shot dead in the courtroom by a teenager who told bystanders he killed him for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Since his arrest, the alleged shooter has been glorified as a “holy warrior” by supporters in Pakistan and thousands of Islamists have rallied to demand his release.

(Writing by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

U.S. Supreme Court allows public money for religious schools in major ruling

By Andrew Chung and Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the separation of church and state in a major ruling on Tuesday by endorsing Montana tax credits that helped pay for students to attend religious schools, a decision paving the way for more public funding of faith-based institutions.

In a 5-4 decision with the conservative justices in the majority and the liberal justices dissenting, the court backed a Montana program that gave tax incentives for people to donate to a scholarship fund that provided money to Christian schools for student tuition expenses.

The ruling, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, represented the court’s latest expansion of religious liberties, a priority of its conservative majority in recent years.

The court sided with three mothers of Christian school students who appealed after Montana’s top court invalidated the tax credit for violating the state constitution’s ban on public aid to churches and religious entities.

Roberts wrote, “A state need not subsidize private education. But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

The justices faulted the Montana Supreme Court for voiding a taxpayer program merely because it can be used to fund religious entities, saying it violated the U.S. Constitution’s protection for the free exercise of religion.

President Donald Trump’s administration supported the plaintiffs in the case. His education secretary, Betsy DeVos, is a prominent supporter of such “school choice” plans. Christian conservatives are an important voter bloc for Trump, who is seeking re-election on Nov. 3.

Thirty-eight states have constitutional provisions like Montana’s barring public aid to religious entities. Opponents have said these provisions were the product of anti-Catholic bias and resulted in impermissible discrimination against religion.

Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in dissent that the ruling risks “entanglement and conflict” over where to draw the line between allowing free exercise of religion while protecting against government endorsement of religion, both of which are required under the Constitution.

The decision followed the court’s major 2017 religious rights ruling in favor of a Missouri church, Trinity Lutheran, that challenged its exclusion from state playground improvement grants generally available to other nonprofit groups. The court ruled in that case that churches and other religious entities cannot be flatly denied public money even in states whose constitutions explicitly ban such funding.

Churches and Christian groups in the United States have sought for years to widen access to taxpayer money for religious schools and places of worship, testing the limits of U.S. secularism.

The Montana tax credit program, created in 2015, provided up to $150 as an incentive for donations to groups that fund scholarships for tuition to private schools including religious schools. In practice, most of the money went to Christian schools. The one such scholarship organization currently operating provides $500 payments to schools, primarily to help lower-income students attend.

The dispute began when state tax officials limited the program to non-religious schools to comport with the state constitution’s prohibition on “direct or indirect” public aid to any church or “school, academy, seminary, college, university or other literary or scientific institution controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination.”

Lead plaintiff Kendra Espinoza and two other mothers of students at Stillwater Christian School in Kalispell, Montana challenged the exclusion, saying state officials infringed their religious rights under the U.S. Constitution.

The Montana Supreme Court struck down the scholarship program entirely in 2018 because it could be used to pay for religious schools. Most private schools in Montana are Christian.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York and Lawrence Hurley in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham)

Lebanon’s most senior Christian cleric steps into crisis

Lebanon’s most senior Christian cleric steps into crisis
By Ellen Francis and Tom Perry

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s highest Christian authority called on Wednesday for a change in government to include qualified technocrats and urged the president to begin talks to address demands of demonstrators in the streets for a seventh day.

Throwing his weight behind demands for at least some change in government, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai was the first major religious figure to wade into the crisis.

With a population of 6 million people including around 1 million Syrian refugees, Lebanon has been swept by unprecedented protests against a political elite blamed for a deep economic crisis.

Flag-waving protesters kept roads blocked around the country with vehicles and makeshift barricades on Wednesday, while banks and schools remained shut.

Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s government announced an emergency reform package on Monday, to try to defuse the anger of protesters demanding his government resigns and also to steer the heavily indebted state away from a looming financial crisis.

Rai said the measures were welcome but also required replacing current ministers with technocrats.

He did not demand Hariri’s resignation.

Hariri’s government, which took office at the start of the year, groups nearly all of the main parties in the Lebanese sectarian power-sharing system.

“The list of reforms is a positive first step but it requires amending the ministers and renewing the administrative team with national, qualified figures,” Rai said in a televised speech.

“We call on the president of the republic … to immediately begin consultations with the political leadership and the heads of the sects to take the necessary decisions regarding the people’s demands,” Rai said.

The president is drawn from his Christian Maronite community.

Political sources said a reshuffle was being discussed. One told Reuters the idea of a change in government was “starting to mature”. “But it is not there yet. Not everyone is at the same state of emergency,” the source said.

“The street is imposing its rhythm on the political class, the political class has to be dynamic with it. It is a standoff – who will concede first?” the source said.

GLOBAL UNREST

Lebanon’s unrest is the latest in a flare-up of political protests around the world – from Hong Kong and Barcelona to Quito and Santiago – each having its own trigger but sharing some underlying frustrations.

Lebanese army troops scuffled with demonstrators on Wednesday as they struggled to unblock main roads.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a Shi’ite Muslim, said Lebanon could not remain in such chaos and said he feared any power vacuum.

“Everything the political class is doing now is clearly to buy time … the reform list is a lie. Today the demand is for the government to fall,” said Manal Ghanem, a protester at a barricade in Beirut.

“We want to get an interim government that holds early elections … We need to stay strong, to stay in the streets,” said Ghanem, a university graduate who works in a coffee shop.

Lebanon’s economy, whose mainstays include construction and tourism, has suffered years of low growth linked to regional turmoil. Capital inflows from abroad, critical to financing the state deficit, have ebbed.

Lebanon has one of the world’s highest levels of public debt compared to the size of its economy at around 150%.

The powerful Shi’ite group Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and heavily armed, said on Saturday it was against the government resigning and the country did not have enough time for such a move given the acute financial crisis.

The moves announced by Hariri on Monday included the halving of salaries of ministers and lawmakers, as well as steps toward implementing long-delayed measures vital to fixing state finances.

Under pressure to convince foreign donors he can slash next year’s budget deficit, Hariri has said the central bank and commercial banks would contribute 5.1 trillion Lebanese pounds ($3.4 billion) to help plug the gap, including through an increase in taxes on bank profits.

Hariri met Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh on Wednesday following his return from Washington, where the governor attended International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank meetings. He also met a delegation from the Association of Banks in Lebanon.

(Reporting by Ellen Francis, Eric Knecht, Tom Perry and Reuters TV; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Giles Elgood and Andrew Cawthorne)

The Middle East and Biblical Prophecy: Watch “The Underground” on the PTL Television Network

Joel Richardson - the Underground on PTL Television Network

By Kami Klein

Every single day world news focuses on the deadly and biblical chess match going on within the Middle East.  Pit against each other and against Israel a complicated whirlwind of hate, violence and the constant threat of war looms over the entire world.  

There are those that have a much deeper understanding of the religious and historical battles going on in the Muslim nations but for many, it is so difficult to comprehend the question,  ‘Who is the enemy?’ Right now with tensions rising, talks of Middle East peace proposals, Iran’s nuclear possibilities and the ever-expanding attacks by terrorist groups, having a biblical and current point of view is vital.  

In our incredible line up of Christian programming, the PTL Television Network offers “The Underground”, hosted by Middle East expert and prophetic author and teacher, Joel Richardson. “The Underground” explores the testimony of  Biblical prophets, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, current events and how all of these things relate to you and me.

With a special love for all the peoples of the Middle East, Joel travels globally, preparing the Church for the great challenges of our time, teaching on the gospel, living with biblical hope, the return of Jesus. He is the author, editor, director, or producer of several books and documentaries, Richardson’s book Islamic Antichrist is a New York Times bestseller.  

In a recent broadcast entitled “The prophetic implication of President Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan”, Richardson speaks on the history of agreements that Israel has entered into within biblical history and the dangers involved now.  His explanation and Bible-based teachings bring a better understanding of what is at stake not only for the Middle East but for the world.

We encourage you to tune into the PTL Television Network for Joel Richardson’s “The Underground” and get a better understanding from an amazing expert on the historical and prophetic events happening in the Middle East.  

You can enjoy “The Underground” as well as many other incredible Christian programs on the PTL Television Network on your Roku, Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV  or you can simply go to PTLnetwork.com and watch whenever you wish on your home computer, tablet or smartphone.  

Be informed on world events by those on the front lines! Check out the PTL Television Network Today!

Protests after Pakistan frees Christian woman sentenced to death over blasphemy

Supporters of religious and political party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) hold their palms to pray in a protest, after the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam, in Karachi, Pakistan October 31, 2018. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

By Asif Shahzad and Mubasher Bukhari

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE (Reuters) – Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday freed a Christian woman from a death sentence for blasphemy against Islam and overturned her conviction, sparking angry protests and death threats from an ultra-Islamist party and cheers from human rights advocates.

New Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a warning to the religious right late in the evening that any prolonged blockade of streets would be met with action.

Asia Bibi, a mother of four, had been living on death row since 2010, when she became the first woman to be sentenced to death by hanging under Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws, which critics say are too harsh and often misused.

She was condemned for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbors objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim. Bibi has always denied committing blasphemy.

The case has outraged Christians worldwide – Pope Francis said he personally prayed for Bibi – and has been a source of division within Pakistan, where two politicians who sought to help Bibi were assassinated.

Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, who headed a special three-judge bench set up for the appeal, cited the Koran in the ruling, writing that “tolerance is the basic principle of Islam” and noting the religion condemns injustice and oppression.

In overturning her conviction, the ruling said the evidence against Bibi was insufficient.

Bibi did not appear in the courtroom and her whereabouts were a closely held secret for fear of attacks on her and her family. Many have speculated they will be forced to leave the country, but there was no confirmation of their plans.

Her lawyer called the court ruling “great news” for Pakistan.

“Asia Bibi has finally been served justice,” lawyer Saiful Mulook told Reuters. “Pakistan’s Supreme Court must be appreciated that it upheld the law of the land and didn’t succumb to any pressure.”

Supporters of the Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan Islamist political party block the Faizabad junction to protest after the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam, in Islamabad, Pakistan October 31, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

Supporters of the Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan Islamist political party block the Faizabad junction to protest after the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam, in Islamabad, Pakistan October 31, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

DEATH THREATS

Supporters of Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) immediately condemned Wednesday’s ruling and blocked roads in major cities, pelting police with stones in the eastern city of Lahore.

Street protests and blockades of major roads were spreading by mid-afternoon, paralyzing parts of Islamabad, Lahore and other cities.

One of the TLP’s top leaders called for the death of Nisar, the chief justice, and the two other judges on the panel.

“They all three deserve to be killed. Either their security should kill them, their driver kill them, or their cook kill them,” TLP co-founder Muhammad Afzal Qadri told a protest in Lahore.

“Whoever, who has got any access to them, kill them before the evening.”

He also called for the ouster of Khan’s new government of and for army officers to rise up against powerful military chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who he said “should be sacked from the army”.

Khan addressed the nation in a televised speech on Wednesday night, supporting the court ruling and warning the ultra-Islamists not to disrupt the nation.

“We will not allow any damages to occur. We will not allow traffic to be blocked,” Khan said. “I appeal to you, do not push the state to the extent that it is forced to take action.”

The TLP was founded out of a movement supporting a bodyguard who assassinated Punjab provincial governor Salman Taseer for advocating for Bibi in 2011. Federal minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti was also killed after calling for her release.

In November, TLP staged a crippling blockade of Islamabad after small changes to a religious oath taken by election candidates, which it said were tantamount to blasphemy. Seven people were killed and more than 200 wounded in clashes with the police and TLP’s supporters only dispersed after striking a deal with the military.

BLASPHEMY LAW CRITICIZED

In February, Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, and one of her daughters met Pope Francis shortly before Rome’s ancient Coliseum was lit in red one evening in solidarity with persecuted Christians, and Bibi in particular.

The pope told Bibi’s daughter: “I think often of your mother and I pray for her.”

Christians make up only about 2 percent of Pakistan’s population and are often discriminated against.

Dozens of Pakistanis – including many minority Christians or members of the Ahmadi faith – have been sentenced to death for blasphemy in the past decade, though no one has been executed.

Rights groups say the blasphemy law is exploited by religious extremists as well as ordinary Pakistanis to settle personal scores.

Additionally, at least 65 people have been murdered over blasphemy allegations since 1990, including a 23-year-old student beaten to death on his university campus last year.

“This is a landmark verdict,” said Omar Waraich, deputy South Asia director for Amnesty International. “The message must go out that the blasphemy laws will no longer be used to persecute the country’s most vulnerable minorities.”

(Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Nick Macfie and Alex Richardson)

U.S. pastor Brunson arrives home in Turkey after release by court

U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson arrives home after his trial in Izmir, Turkey October 12, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

By Ezgi Erkoyun and Emily Wither

IZMIR, Turkey (Reuters) – The American evangelical Christian pastor at the center of a row between Ankara and Washington arrived at his home in Turkey on Friday after a Turkish court ruled he could go free, a move that may signal a major step toward mending ties between the allies.

Andrew Brunson arrived at his home in Turkey’s coastal province of Izmir, a Reuters cameraman said, having left the courthouse in a convoy of cars.

He was released after the court sentenced him to three years and 1-1/2 months in prison on terrorism charges but said he would not serve any further jail time. The pastor has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years and was put in prison two years ago and has been under house arrest since July.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has imposed sanctions on Turkey in an attempt to secure Brunson’s freedom, tweeted: “PASTOR BRUNSON JUST RELEASED. WILL BE HOME SOON!”

Dressed in a black suit, white shirt and red tie, the North Carolina native wept as the decision was announced, witnesses said. Before the judge’s ruling he had told the court: “I am an innocent man. I love Jesus. I love Turkey.”

After the ruling, Brunson’s lawyer told reporters the pastor was likely to leave Turkey. The U.S. military has a plan to fly Brunson back to America on a military aircraft, officials told Reuters.

The diplomatic stand-off over Brunson, who had been pastor of the Izmir Resurrection Church, had accelerated a sell-off in Turkey’s lira currency, worsening a financial crisis.

Brunson had been accused of links to Kurdish militants and supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the cleric blamed by Turkey for a coup attempt in 2016. Brunson denied the accusation and Washington had demanded his immediate release.

Witnesses told the court in the western town of Aliaga that testimonies against the pastor attributed to them were inaccurate.

Brunson’s wife Norine looked on from the visitors’ area.

Supporters of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson wait near his house in Izmir, Turkey October 12, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

Supporters of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson wait near his house in Izmir, Turkey October 12, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

‘GREAT CHRISTIAN’

Brunson’s mother told Reuters she and his father were elated at the news. “We are overjoyed that God has answered the prayers of so many people around the world,” she said.

Trump has scored points with evangelical Christians, a large part of his political base, by focusing on the Brunson case. The release could boost Trump’s ability to encourage such voters to support Republicans in large numbers in Nov. 6 elections, which will determine whether the party keeps control of Congress.

The heavily conservative constituency voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016. He has called Brunson a “great Christian”, and Vice President Mike Pence, the White House’s top emissary to evangelicals, had urged Americans to pray for Brunson.

“We thank God for answered prayers and commend the efforts of @SecPompeo & @StateDept in supporting Pastor Brunson and his family during this difficult time,” Pence wrote on Twitter. “@SecondLady and I look forward to welcoming Pastor Brunson and his courageous wife Norine back to the USA!”

U.S. broadcaster NBC said on Thursday that Washington had done a secret deal with Ankara to secure Brunson’s release.

“After an unjust imprisonment in Turkey for two years, we can all breathe a sigh of relief,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Twitter.

The lira stood at 5.9600 to the dollar at 1530 GMT, slightly weaker on the day after firming 3 percent on Thursday on expectations that Brunson would be freed.

NATO ALLIES

Relations between the two NATO allies are also under strain over U.S. support for Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, Turkey’s plans to buy a Russian missile defense system, and the U.S. jailing of an executive at a Turkish state bank in an Iran sanctions-busting case.

With Brunson’s release, attention may now turn to the fate of a Turkish-U.S. national and former NASA scientist in jail in Turkey on terrorism charges, as well as three local employees of the U.S. consulate who have also been detained.

Washington wants all these people released, while Ankara has demanded the extradition of Gulen. The cleric, who was lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999, denies any role in the attempted coup.

Friday’s decision could be a first step to ease tensions, although Turkey’s presidency took aim at what it said was a prolonged U.S. effort to put pressure on its courts.

“It is with great regret that we have been monitoring U.S. efforts to mount pressure on Turkey’s independent court system for some time,” Fahrettin Altun, the presidency’s communications director, said.

Further moves which have been discussed include the return to Turkey of bank executive Mehmet Hakan Attila to serve out his sentence, the release of the U.S. consular staff, and agreement that the U.S. Treasury avoid draconian steps against Halkbank, the state lender.

“Like the Turkish courts, the Republic of Turkey does not receive instructions from any body, authority, office or person,” Altun, the Turkish official, said. “We make our own rules and make our own decisions that reflect our will.”

(Additional reporting by Mehmet Emin Caliskan in Izmir, Ali Kucukgocmen and Sarah Dadouch in Istanbul and Matt Spetalnick, Susan Heavey and Jonathan Allen in Washington, Writing by Daren Butler, David Dolan and Dominic Evans; Editing by Angus MacSwan, David Stamp, William Maclean)