Sri Lanka blasts were revenge for New Zealand mosque killings: minister

A man holds a cross during a mass burial of victims, two days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter Sunday, at a cemetery near St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

By Sanjeev Miglani and Shihar Aneez

COLOMBO (Reuters) – Devastating Easter bombings in Sri Lanka were retaliation for attacks on mosques in New Zealand, a Sri Lankan official said on Tuesday, as Islamic State claimed responsibility for the coordinated blasts that killed 321 people.

Islamic State’s claim, issued on its AMAQ news agency, came shortly after Sri Lanka said two domestic Islamist groups, with suspected links to foreign militants, were believed to have been behind the attacks at three churches and four hotels, which wounded about 500 people.

People attend a mass burial of victims, two days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter Sunday, in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

People attend a mass burial of victims, two days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter Sunday, in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

Islamic State gave no evidence for its claim. The government has said at least seven suicide bombers were involved.

“The initial investigation has revealed that this was in retaliation for the New Zealand mosque attack,” junior minister for defense Ruwan Wijewardene told parliament.

He did not elaborate on why authorities believed there was a link to the killing of 50 people at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch during Friday prayers on March 15. A lone gunman carried out those attacks.

Wijewardene said two Sri Lankan Islamist groups – the National Thawheed Jama’ut and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim – were responsible for the blasts early on Sunday during Easter services and as high-end hotels served breakfast.

U.S. intelligence sources said earlier the attacks carried some of the hallmarks of Islamic State, even though it had not made an immediate claim of responsibility, as it usually does.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told parliament investigators were looking into foreign links.

Earlier on Tuesday, Sri Lankan government and military sources said a Syrian had been detained among 40 people being questioned over the bombs.

“He was arrested after the interrogation of local suspects,” one of the sources said, referring to the unidentified Syrian.

A woman reacts during a mass burial of victims, two days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter Sunday, in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

A woman reacts during a mass burial of victims, two days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter Sunday, in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

FUNERALS

Tuesday was declared a national day of mourning and the funerals of some of the victims were held, as pressure mounted on the government over why effective action had not been taken in response to a warning this month about a possible attack on churches by the little-known National Thawheed Jama’ut group.

The first six attacks – on three churches and three luxury hotels – came within 20 minutes on Sunday morning.

Two more explosions – at a downmarket hotel and a house in a suburb of the capital, Colombo – came in the early afternoon.

Most of the dead and wounded were Sri Lankans, although government officials said 38 foreigners were killed. That included British, U.S., Australian, Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nationals.

The U.N. Children’s Fund said 45 children were among the dead.

Footage on CNN showed what it said was one of the bombers wearing a heavy backpack. The man patted a child on the head before entering the Gothic-style St. Sebastian church in Katuwapitiya, north of Colombo. Dozens were killed there.

The bombs brought a shattering end to a relative calm that had existed in the Buddhist-majority Indian Ocean island since a bitter civil war against mostly Hindu, ethnic Tamil separatists ended 10 years ago, and raised fears of a return to sectarian violence.

Sri Lanka’s 22 million people include minority Christians, Muslims and Hindus. Until now, Christians had largely managed to avoid the worst of the island’s conflict and communal tensions.

The government imposed emergency rule at midnight on Monday, giving police extensive powers to detain and interrogate suspects without court orders.

An overnight curfew has also been imposed since Sunday.

People react as silence is observed as a tribute to victims, two days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter Sunday, during a memorial service in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

People react as silence is observed as a tribute to victims, two days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter Sunday, during a memorial service in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

FBI TO HELP

U.S. President Donald Trump called Prime Minister Wickremesinghe on Monday to pledge U.S. support in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

The Washington Post quoted an unidentified law enforcement official as saying Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents were being sent to Sri Lanka to help with the investigation.

The FBI had offered expertise to test evidence and analysts were scouring databases for information, the Post said. Counter-terrorism officials from Britain were also due on Tuesday, a Western diplomat in Colombo said.

The attacks have also underlined concern over fractures in Sri Lanka’s government, and whether the discord prevented action that might have stopped them.

The government received a tip-off from India this month about a possible attack on churches by the National Thawheed Jama’ut.

It was not immediately clear what action, if any, was taken in response. A government minister said on Monday that Wickremesinghe had not been informed about the warning and had been shut out of top security meetings because of a feud with President Maithripala Sirisena.

Sirisena fired Wickremesinghe last year only to be forced to reinstate him under pressure from the Supreme Court. Their relationship is reported to be fraught.

The U.S. State Department said in a travel advisory “terrorist groups” were possibly plotting more attacks in Sri Lanka.

China’s embassy warned its nationals against traveling to Sri Lanka in the near term because of “huge security risks”.

China is a major investor in Sri Lanka. The embassy said one Chinese national was killed, five wounded and five were missing.

(Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani; Additional reporting by Ranga Sirilal, Joe Brock, Mark Hosenball and Kieran Murray in WASHINGTON, and Stella Qiu and Ryan Woo in BEIJING; Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Michael Perry, Paul Tait and Alex Richardson)

CHRIST IS RISEN! Pastor Jim Bakker preaching at Morningside Church Easter Morning! Join us or watch LIVE!

Three Crosses

But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came by man, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15:20-22 MEV

It’s Easter and a time of new beginnings, joy and hope!  This Resurrection Sunday, April 21st, 2019, Pastor Jim Bakker will be preaching at Morningside church on Grace Street beginning at 10:30 am ct. This very special service will be broadcast LIVE on the Jim Bakker Show website as well as the PTL Television Network and you are warmly invited to join us!

Pastor Jim Bakker

Pastor Jim Bakker

Now is the time for Christians to gather together in praise, celebrating our Lord for His sacrifice which brings new life! John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Our faith is centered on that Eternal Love!  Be a part of the celebration and join us!

Our Live Broadcast will begin at 10:30 am central time, this Sunday.  You can find us on the PTL Television Network on your Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV or go to the PTLnetwork.com or jimbakkershow.com websites.

You are a part of the Morningside family!  Let us rejoice in HIS resurrection together!  

Christian family shot dead in southwestern Pakistan

Christian cross-

By Gul Yousafzai

QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) – Four members of a Christian family were gunned down in southwestern Pakistan on Monday, police said, in the latest attack on the minority community.

The family was traveling in a rickshaw when armed men on a motorcycle intercepted them and opened fire in Quetta city, the capital of Baluchistan province.

A woman was rushed to hospital. Her father and three cousins were killed.

“It appears to have been a targeted attack,” provincial police official Moazzam Jah Ansari told Reuters. “It was an act of terrorism.”

The attack comes a day after Pakistan’s Christian community celebrated Easter on Sunday. Around 2 percent of Pakistan’s population are Christians.

Minority religious festivals are a security concern in the majority Sunni Muslim country where there have been a number of high casualty attacks on Christians and Shi’ite Muslims.

Baluchistan, a region bordering Iran as well as Afghanistan, is plagued by violence by Sunni Islamist sectarian groups linked to the Taliban, al Qaeda and Islamic State. It also has an indigenous ethnic Baloch insurgency fighting against central government.

In December, a week before Christmas, two suicide bombers stormed a packed Christian church in southwestern Pakistan, killing at least 10 people and wounding up to 56, in an attack claimed by Islamic State.

The family killed on Monday had come to visit relatives in Quetta’s Shahzaman road area, where a large number of the city’s Christian community lives.

Rome’s ancient Colosseum was lit in red for an evening in February in solidarity with persecuted Christians, particularly Asia Bibi, a Catholic woman who has been living on death row in Pakistan since 2010, when she was condemned for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Islam.

(Writing by Saad Sayeed; Editing by Alison Williams)

Landmine clearing near Jordan River baptism site begins before Easter

By Eli Berlzon

QASR AL-YAHUD, West Bank (Reuters) – On the western bank of the River Jordan, not far from the spot where Christians believe Jesus was baptized, experts have begun clearing thousands of mines from the ruins of eight churches and surrounding land deserted more than 50 years ago.

Once the anti-tank mines and other explosives are removed, the compounds containing a Roman Catholic church and seven Eastern Orthodox churches abandoned after the 1967 Middle East war can be re-opened, said HALO Trust, a Scottish-based charity organizing the endeavor together with Israel.

The mined area, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, is about a kilometer (half-mile) from Qasr al-Yahud, the baptism site which HALO said was visited by around 570,000 Christian pilgrims last year.

A team of Israeli, Palestinian and Georgian experts, using hand-held mine detectors and armored mechanical diggers, began clearing the church compounds and the surrounding desert shrubland shortly before the Christian Holy Week that precedes Easter.

A sign warning from land mines is seen on a fence near Qasr Al-Yahud, a traditional baptism site along the Jordan River, near Jericho in the occupied West Bank, March 29, 2018

A sign warning from land mines is seen on a fence near Qasr Al-Yahud, a traditional baptism site along the Jordan River, near Jericho in the occupied West Bank, March 29, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Rusting barbed wire fences, with signs warning “Danger Mines!” in Hebrew, English and Arabic, run along a dusty road leading to the 100-hectare (27 acre) area. HALO says the land contains around 2,600 mines and an unknown number of other unexploded ordnance.

Some of the churches may be boobytrapped, the charity says.

In a safe zone at the riverside on Thursday, a family from Spain wearing white baptismal robes stepped into the water.

HALO has been raising funds for the project over several years and said in a statement it intends to complete work at the site by Christmas.

Israel’s Defence Ministry and its Israel National Mine Action Authority have contributed at least half the funding for the project, a ministry spokeswoman said.

HALO described the project as a rare example of multi-faith collaboration in the Middle East, involving Israel and the Palestinian Authority that administers limited self-rule in the West Bank, which welcomed the efforts.

The river area was once a war zone between Israel and Jordan. The two neighbors made peace in 1994 but it took many years before some mine clearing began.

Both claim that the site where John the Baptist and Jesus met is on their side of the biblical river. The Gospel of John refers to “Bethany beyond the Jordan” without further details.

In 2002, Jordan opened its site, showing remains of ancient churches and writings of pilgrims down the centuries to bolster its claim. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 2015.

A sapper belonging to the HALO Trust, an international landmine clearance charity, looks for old mines in an abandoned church property complex near Qasr Al-Yahud, a traditional baptism site along the Jordan River, near Jericho in the occupied West Bank, March 29, 2018.

A sapper belonging to the HALO Trust, an international landmine clearance charity, looks for old mines in an abandoned church property complex near Qasr Al-Yahud, a traditional baptism site along the Jordan River, near Jericho in the occupied West Bank, March 29, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Israel opened the baptism area on the western bank of the river in 2011. It has a modern visitor center and stairs for pilgrims to descend into the muddy water.

HALO, which has cleared landmines all over the world and was once sponsored by the late Princess Diana, said on Thursday that three of their staff members were killed and two injured by the accidental detonation of an anti-tank mine in Nagorno Karabakh.

The group were in a vehicle conducting a minefield survey when the explosion occurred in the separatist region in Azerbaijan.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Jerusalem’s Church of Holy Sepulchre to reopen after protest

A general view of the entrance and the closed doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City, February 25, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, revered as the site of Jesus’s crucifixion and burial, will reopen its doors after Israel backtracked on Tuesday from a tax plan and draft property legislation that triggered a three-day protest.

The rare decision on Sunday by church leaders to close the ancient holy site, a favorite among tourists and pilgrims, with the busy Easter holiday approaching put extra pressure on Israel to re-evaluate and suspend the moves.

After receiving a statement from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian clergy said the church would reopen Wednesday morning.

An Israeli committee led by cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi will negotiate with church representatives to try to resolve the dispute over plans to tax commercial properties owned by the church in Jerusalem, Netanyahu’s statement said.

Church leaders, in a joint statement, welcomed the dialogue.

“After the constructive intervention of the prime minister, the churches look forward to engage with Minister Hanegbi, and with all those who love Jerusalem to ensure that our holy city, where our Christian presence continues to face challenges, remains a place where the three monotheistic faiths (Judaism, Islam and Christianity) may live and thrive together.”

The Jerusalem Municipality, Netanyahu said, would suspend the tax collection actions it had taken in recent weeks.Mayor Nir Barkat has said the churches owed the city more than $180 million in property tax from their commercial holdings, adding that “houses of worship” would remain exempt.

Church leaders, in closing the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, said church-owned businesses, which include a hotel and office space in Jerusalem, had enjoyed a tax exemption.

While the review is under way, work on legislation that would allow Israel to expropriate land in Jerusalem that churches have sold to private real estate firms in recent years will also be suspended, Netanyahu said.

The declared aim of the bill, deemed “abhorrent” in a prior statement issued by church leaders, is to protect homeowners against the possibility that private companies will not extend their leases of land on which their houses or apartments stand.

The churches are major landowners in Jerusalem. They say such a law would make it harder for them to find buyers for church-owned land – sales that help to cover operating costs of their religious institutions.

A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on Israel to permanently cancel the proposed measures, which he said would “lead to escalating tension and to instability”.

A small minority of Palestinians are Christians, many of them in Bethlehem, the town in the Israeli-occupied West Bank – near Jerusalem – where Jesus is believed to have been born.

(Reporting by Ori Lewis, Mustafa Abu Ghaneyeh and Nidal al-Mughrabi; writing by Jeffrey Heller; editing by Mark Heinrich)

On Good Friday, Pope speaks of shame for Church and humanity

Pope Francis leads the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession during Good Friday celebrations in front of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, April 14, 2017. REUTERS/Max Rossi

By Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) – Pope Francis, presiding at a Good Friday service, asked God for forgiveness for scandals in the Catholic Church and for the “shame” of humanity becoming inured to daily scenes of bombed cities and drowning migrants.

Francis presided at a traditional candlelight Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) service at Rome’s Colosseum attended by some 20,000 people and protected by heavy security following recent attacks in European cities.

Francis sat while a large wooden cross was carried in procession, stopping 14 times to mark events in the last hours of Jesus’ life from being sentenced to death to his burial.

Similar services, known as the Stations of the Cross, were taking place in cities around the world as Christians gathered to commemorate Jesus’ death by crucifixion.

At the end of the two-hour service, Francis read a prayer he wrote that was woven around the theme of shame and hope.

In what appeared to be a reference to the Church’s sexual abuse scandal, he spoke of “shame for all the times that we bishops, priests, brothers and nuns scandalized and wounded your body, the Church.”

The Catholic Church has been struggling for nearly two decades to put the scandal of sexual abuse of children by clergy behind it. Critics say more must be done to punish bishops who covered up abuse or were negligent in preventing it.

Francis also spoke of the shame he said should be felt over “the daily spilling of the innocent blood of women, of children, of immigrants” and for the fate of those who are persecuted because of their race, social status or religious beliefs.

At the end of this month Francis travels to Egypt, which has seen a spate of attacks by Islamists on minority Coptic Christians. Dozens were killed in two attacks last Sunday.

He spoke of “shame for all the scenes of devastation, destruction and drownings that have become ordinary in our lives.”

On the day he spoke, more than 2,000 migrants trying to reach Europe were plucked from the Mediterranean in a series of dramatic rescues and one person was found dead. More than 650 have died or are unaccounted for while trying to cross the sea in rubber dinghies this year.

Francis expressed the hope “that good will triumph despite its apparent defeat.”

Security was stepped up in the area around the Colosseum following recent truck attacks against pedestrians in London and Stockholm. Some 3,000 police guarded the area and checked people as they approached. The Colosseum subway stop was closed.

Francis on Saturday is due to say an Easter vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and on Easter Sunday, the most important day in the Christian liturgical calendar, he reads his twice-annual “Urbi et Orbi” (“To the City and the World”) message in St. Peter’s Square.

(This version of the story has been refiled correct spelling in final paragraph)

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Bill Trott)

Egypt’s Christian minority in sombre mood for Easter holiday

Maha Ragaay prays and lights a candle in front of a wooden figure of Jesus on a cross in her home at the Cairo suburb of Maadi, Egypt, April 14, 2017. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

By Osama Naguib

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (Reuters) – Members of Egypt’s Christian minority flocked to church on Friday but two church bomb attacks on Palm Sunday that killed 45 people have left many in a sombre mood over Easter.

Worshippers from the nearly 2,000-year-old Coptic Christian community attended church services, but the holiday to mark the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ was being observed in subdued fashion, according to church officials.

In the city of Alexandria, Christians congregated at Saint Mark’s Cathedral, historic seat of the Coptic Pope, to attend Good Friday prayers. Worshippers passed through a metal detector at the building entrance, where one of the bombs went off.

Rafiq Bishry, head of the church’s organizational committee, said he was surprised that so many people had come.

“We expected that people would be too scared to attend prayers but there was no need for our expectations because there are a lot of people here,” he told Reuters Television.

“This is a clear message to the whole world that we are not afraid,” he said.

Last Sunday’s attacks in Alexandria and the city of Tanta were claimed by Islamic State, which has been waging an insurgency against soldiers and police in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.

The group has now stepped up assaults on Christians and warned of more attacks to come. It has claimed to have killed 80 people in three church bombings since December.

Maha Ragaay, a Coptic Christian teacher who lives in Cairo, said she had avoided watching television on Palm Sunday, afraid of seeing the bloody images broadcast after the bombings.

“I do not want (these attacks) to happen again, but I don’t feel that we’re doing anything to stop this,” she said, lighting a candle in front of a small statue of the crucified Christ as she celebrated Easter with family and friends at home.

“I believe the main point we should focus on (to solve this) is education.”

Ragaay said she would be marking Easter in a state of mourning for those who had lost their lives.

Following the attacks, the government introduced a three-month state of emergency which gives it sweeping powers to act against what it calls enemies of the state.

Copts make up about 10 percent of the 92-million population of mostly Muslim Egypt and are the region’s largest Christian denomination.

(Additional reporting by Mohamed Zaki in Cairo; Writing by Giles Elgood; editing by Michael Holden)

Iraqis celebrate Palm Sunday near Mosul for the first time in three years

Iraqis attend the first Palm Sunday procession in the burnt out main church of the Christian city of Qaraqosh since Iraqi forces retook it from Islamic States militants,

By Ulf Laessing

QARAQOSH, Iraq (Reuters) – Hundreds of Christians flocked to the Iraqi town of Qaraqosh on Sunday to celebrate Palm Sunday for the first time in three years, packing into a church torched by Islamic State to take communion at its ruined altar.

In October, Iraqi forces expelled the Sunni Muslim militants from Qaraqosh as part of a campaign to retake nearby Mosul, the country’s second-largest city seized by the group in June 2014.

Iraqis boys visit the burnt out main church as others attend the first Palm Sunday procession in the Christian city of Qaraqosh since Iraqi forces retook it from from Islamic States militants,

Iraqis boys visit the burnt out main church as others attend the first Palm Sunday procession in the Christian city of Qaraqosh since Iraqi forces retook it from from Islamic States militants, Iraq April 9, 2017. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

Iraq’s biggest Christian settlement until the militants arrived, Qaraqosh has been a ghost town as most residents are still too afraid to come back with the battle for Mosul, located 20 kilometers away, still raging.

But on Sunday church bells rang again across the town.

Hundreds arrived in cars from Erbil, the main city in autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan where most Christian had fled when Islamic State gave them an ultimatum to pay special taxes, convert or die.

“We need reconciliation,” Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Mosul Butrus Moshe told worshippers in the Immaculate Conception Church guarded by army jeeps.

Islamic State has targeted minority communities in both Iraq and Syria, setting churches on fire.

Scribbled “Islamic State” slogans could be still seen on the church’s walls while torn-up prayer books littered the floor.

Escorted by soldiers carrying rifles, the congregation then walked through Qaraqosh for Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week that culminates on Easter Sunday, holding up a banner saying “In times of war we bring peace.”

Iraqis attend the first Palm Sunday procession in the burnt out main church of the Christian city of Qaraqosh since Iraqi forces retook it from Islamic States militants,

Iraqis attend the first Palm Sunday procession in the burnt out main church of the Christian city of Qaraqosh since Iraqi forces retook it from Islamic States militants, Iraq April 9, 2017. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

Christianity in northern Iraq dates back to the first century AD.

The number of Christians fell sharply during the violence which followed the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and the Islamic State takeover of Mosul purged the city of Christians for the first time in two millennia.

“Almost 75 percent of houses were burnt so if people return where can they live?” said Aziz Yashou, a worshipper. “We call for an international protection in order to live here.”

(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Susan Fenton)

President Discusses “Less Than Loving” Christians At Easter Prayer Breakfast

President Obama diverted from his script at the White House Easter Prayer Breakfast Tuesday morning to discuss Christians he feels are “less than loving.”

The President was encouraging Americans to love our neighbors as ourselves.

“On Easter, I do reflect on the fact that as a Christian, I am supposed to love,” the President continued. “And I have to say that sometimes when I listen to less-than-loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned. But that’s a topic for another day.”

He then laughed as he noted, “I was about to veer off, I’m pulling it back.”

The President then went on to talk about how he sees Easter.

“For me, the celebration of Easter puts our earthly concerns into perspective,” the President said. “With humility and with awe, we give thanks to the extraordinary sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our savior. We reflect on the brutal pain that He suffered, the scorn that He absorbed, the sins that He bore, this extraordinary gift of salvation that He gave us. And we try, as best we can, to comprehend the darkness that He endured so that we might receive God’s light.”

The event at the White House included guests like Rev. Al Sharpton, singer Amy Grant and Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Vice President Biden attended the event, quoting Pope Francis.

“As a people and as individuals, we are defined by our ability to enter into the mystery,” the Vice President said. “To live Easter is to live with the constant notion we can always do better.”

Thousands Gather At Lincoln Memorial For Easter Sunrise Service

A celebration of the risen Lord stood boldly in the nation’s capital Sunday as over 7,000 Christians gathered at the Lincoln Memorial at sunrise.

The service, organized by Capital Church in nearby Vienna, Virginia, began at 6:30 a.m. and latest an hour and a half.  Worship was lead by Newsboys lead singer Michael Tait plus a choir, orchestra and band.

“Washington, D.C. is arguably the one most influential cities in the world and I do believe it is important in the heart of the most influential city of the world to declare on Easter morning our faith in the risen Lord,” Capital Church Pastor Amos Dodge told The Christian Post. “I think it is important to reclaim some of our own spiritual heritage and we do that from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and declare our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, who died and rose again.”

Dodge’s sermon focused on the fact that Christianity is the only religion in the world where their God is not dead.

“Christianity is unique in that we know that Muhammad may have said some wonderful things and done some wonderful things, but he is in a tomb. Confucius was noted for wise sayings but nobody has heard from him in a long, long time,” Dodge declared. “When you compare the claims of Jesus Christ to all the religions in the world, no other religion has a risen savior, the one who came back from the dead.”

“You can trust a man who died for you,” Dodge continued. “Jesus died for us and then came back from the grave.”

The Easter Sunrise Service at the Lincoln Memorial began in 1979.  Pastor Dodge had been walking past the Lincoln reflecting pool during a spring day and God gave him the vision of the service.  The first service had 150 people in attendance.

This year, the service welcomed Christians from all 50 states.