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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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It’s known as the historic reversal, and it appears irreversible: Places where the old outnumber kids.
What began in 1995 in a single country, Italy, will spread to 56 nations, economies as diverse as New Zealand and Georgia, by 2030. These are the findings of Joseph Chamie, who spent a quarter of a century studying population patterns at the United Nations in New York and now is an independent researcher.
Read it all.
A police officer with the Washington transit system has become the first American law enforcement officer to be charged with supporting the Islamic State, accused of trying to send financial help to the group after advising a friend on how to travel to Syria to join it.
In court papers filed on Tuesday and made public on Wednesday, federal law enforcement officials charged the officer, Nicholas Young, with attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization.
The charge is based on the allegation that Mr. Young bought gift cards worth $245 and sent their code numbers to someone he believed had joined ISIS in Syria, to help the group pay for mobile phone messaging with its supporters in the West.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Syria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Islamic State said it appointed a new leader for Boko Haram, in a sign that the Nigerian Islamist insurgency is retooling under the command of the terrorist group.
Sheik Abu Mossab al Bornawi was recently assigned to take command of the Nigerian insurgency, Islamic State’s weekly newsletter Al Naba said Tuesday.
The article didn’t say what happened to Abubakar Shekau, the former face of Boko Haram, who hasn’t been seen in videos since early 2015. It also isn’t clear if Mr. Shekau’s followers support the change in management.
Boko Haram, whose war with Nigeria’s government has left more than 30,000 people dead, declared loyalty to Islamic State in 2015. Mr. Bornawi told al Naba that the two groups have decided “to fight and unite under one umbrella.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria Middle East * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam
Isis has "fully operational branches" in 18 countries, a leaked briefing document received by the White House has revealed.
Read it all.
Should truth in advertising laws apply to religious claims? Should governments be in the business of defining authentic miracles? Which pastors are genuine, and which are fakes?
However fanciful such questions might seem, all these issues are very much alive in contemporary Africa. The Christian upsurge of the past half century has been marked by widespread claims of healing and miracles, often in the context of charismatic revivals and crusades. As in any such great awakening since apostolic times, a number of wild and bizarre claims have been made, and there is some evidence of active fraud. Every society has its own versions of Elmer Gantry, people who use religious deception as a money-making tool. The question then arises of who is meant to regulate or suppress such outbreaks.
One early attempt occurred in Nigeria in 2004, when the National Broadcasting Commission tried to prohibit anyone from showing “unverifiable” miracle healings on television.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Africa * Religion News & Commentary Religious Freedom / Persecution * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The dreaded Nigeria-based terrorist group, Boko Haram, established links with some international terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda, the Presidential Fact-Finding Committee on the Abducted Female Students of Government Secondary School, Chibok, has said.
The committee stated this in its report submitted to former President Goodluck Jonathan before he left office.
The 50-page report, which details were never made public, was obtained exclusively by Premium Times.
Read it all.
Last week, I was browsing the internet for information about the tragic attack in Nice on Bastille Day, when I spotted a story that suggested disturbing new images were circulating of the Isis attacks on Paris inside the Bataclan theatre late last year. I was about to click “Search” — but then I had a second thought and stopped.
Until recently, I assumed that one of the great benefits of the internet was that it could give access to any information we wanted, any time we wanted. But, as the fight with Islamist extremism intensifies, I now realise that this privilege has turned into a curse. These days, the war is not only being waged on the battlefield; a second front has opened up in cyber space. And what makes this second — largely hidden — fight so insidious is that it involves all of us, sitting in our own homes in front of our computer screens or mobile phones.
Isis has taken the media game to a new level. In the past, terrorist and insurgent groups have often used the media to propagate their messages. What makes Isis unusual is that it is not only extraordinarily adept at mastering modern media platforms but that it has made this a strategic priority, to spread fear and attract new recruits. Its media outreach has been so effective that some US intelligence observers even suspect that Isis has studied western consumer giants to replicate their marketing tactics.
It seeks to build “audience engagement” and “reach”, creating memorable “content” that can be easily “shared”.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Globalization Science & Technology Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Terrorism * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology
New from Bishop Michael Nazir Ali
Faith, Freedom & the Future
With unique insight and wisdom, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali surveys the current challenges facing today’s church and provides a compelling hope-filled vision of what a living Christian faith, and its comprehensive outworking, can offer society today. Bishop Michael boldly tackles a range of pressing and controversial issues with astute scholarship and understanding — including: the challenge of Islam, freedom and conscience, the ‘modern family’, bioethics and the uncertain future of the worldwide Anglican Communion and, by implication, other mainline denominations.
Read it all.
In December 2014, a middle-aged man driving a car in Dijon, France, mowed down more than a dozen pedestrians within 30 minutes, occasionally shouting Islamic slogans from his window.
The chief prosecutor in Dijon described the attacks, which left 13 injured but no one dead, as the work of a mentally unbalanced man whose motivations were vague and “hardly coherent.”
A year and a half later, after Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel slaughtered dozens of people when he drove a 19-ton refrigerated truck through a Bastille Day celebration on Thursday in Nice, France, the authorities did not hesitate to call it an act of Islamic terrorism. The attacker had a record of petty crime — though no obvious ties to a terrorist group — but the French prime minister swiftly said Mr. Lahouaiej Bouhlel was “a terrorist probably linked to radical Islam one way or another.”
The age of the Islamic State, in which the tools of terrorism appear increasingly crude and haphazard, has led to a reimagining of the common notion of who is and who is not a terrorist.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Globalization Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Terrorism * International News & Commentary Europe France * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
At its recent General Synod the Anglican Church of Canada took the first step in changing its Marriage Canon to allow for the solemnization of same sex marriages by its clergy. The entire process, beginning with the hasty vote in 2013 and concluding with the vote and miscount this past week, has been flawed and has inflicted terrible hurt and damage on all involved. We absolutely condemn homophobic prejudice and violence wherever it occurs, offer pastoral care and loving service to all irrespective of sexual orientation, and reject criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people.
Though the change to the Marriage Canon would require a second vote in 2019 in order to come into effect, some bishops have vowed to proceed with same sex marriages immediately, contrary to the explicit doctrine and discipline set out in our constitution, canons and liturgies.
In passing resolution A051 R2 the General Synod has taken a further step in ordaining something contrary to God's Word written and imperils our full communion within the Anglican Church of Canada and with Anglicans throughout the world. We believe that our General Synod has erred grievously and we publicly dissent from this decision. Resolution A051 R2 represents a change to the sacrament of marriage inconsistent with the Scriptures and Apostolic Tradition of the Church Catholic and the Book of Common Prayer. This would be a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of the Anglican Communion on the doctrine of marriage. Sadly, this complicates relationships within the Anglican Church of Canada and as a Province with the Anglican Communion.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Canada Global South Churches & Primates * Culture-Watch Globalization Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * International News & Commentary Canada * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Although he praised the “typically Canadian and commendably transparent process” that led General Synod to the marriage canon vote, he said that the conclusions this process led to—that same-sex marriage was theologically possible—“would be difficult to receive” for other parts of the Communion.
In his comments on the vote itself, he expressed concern over how either a “yes” or a “no” would be understood by the wider church.
“However you are led by the spirit in your reflection at this synod on the marriage of gays and lesbians in Canada,” he said, “I pray that your decision may be received in such a way by the provinces of the Communion that it will help, and not hinder, our equally vital agenda to change attitudes that would make people safe.”
Idowu-Fearon, who served as bishop of Kaduna in the Church of Nigeria before becoming secretary general in 2015, said it would be “impossible” to think about the 77-million member Anglican Communion without noting the “historic and ongoing” role Canada has played in it.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Canada * Culture-Watch Globalization Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Theology Anthropology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
As Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan, many are struggling to comprehend a wave of attacks that killed 350 people across several countries during the holy month and raised the question of what drives the militants to ever more spectacular violence.
The high-profile attacks underline the warnings by many experts that the Islamic State group, especially when on the defensive, will metastasize far beyond its theater of operations.
The extremist group has always sought attention and recruits through terrorism, which has proven to be a winning strategy among its disenfranchised and angry followers.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Q: Can you give us some highlights or stories from the council?
A: For me, the most obvious highlight was observing the bishops (25 from each church) speaking openly and honestly to one another, learning about their respective circumstances and contexts. On several occasions, I heard bishops saying: “I had no idea this was happening in Nigeria (or Albania, or Poland).”
One consequence of the walls of estrangement that existed between the various churches was that each of them developed — or responded to the modern demands of the West — at a different pace. Where, for example, we are quite accustomed to seeing images of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew working closely with the pope for many years, other churches (such as Bulgaria and Georgia) have struggled to communicate or cooperate with any Christian church whatsoever, withdrawing from the World Council of Churches in recent years. The same is true of the Patriarchate of Moscow, whose primate Patriarch Kirill met with Pope Francis earlier this year, only to return to a church protesting (even threatening schism) over his “heretical” flirting with the Vatican.
So this sort of uneven evolution required a council to establish some fundamental guidelines for the Orthodox Churches.
Read it all.
Middleton Place hosted 52 applicants for U.S. citizenship at its annual naturalization ceremony Monday morning, where each person completed the final step in their application process. The new citizens came from 28 different countries, including Mexico, Russia, Thailand, Egypt, India, China, Canada and Peru.
Middleton Place, formerly home to a signer of the Declaration of Independence, hosts the naturalization ceremony to provide Southeastern citizenship applicants the opportunity to be naturalized at a place imbued with American history. The applicants pledge allegiance just in time to celebrate their first Independence Day as American citizens and to vote in their first presidential election.
“It was time to get into a country where I can exercise my rights,” Hines, 40, said. “It gives me a voice.”
Read it all.
When matters didn’t go quite so smoothly, and when some groups in these liberal societies were in fact harmed by these developments, a degree of backlash was inevitable. It didn’t help that elites in many liberal countries made some critical blunders, including the creation of the euro, the invasion of Iraq, the misguided attempt to nation-build in Afghanistan, and the 2008 financial crisis. These and other mistakes helped undermine the legitimacy of the post-Cold War order, open the door to illiberal forces, and left some segments of society vulnerable to nativist appeals.
Efforts to spread a liberal world order also faced predictable opposition from the leaders and groups who were directly threatened by our efforts. It was hardly surprising that Iran and Syria did what they could to thwart U.S. efforts in Iraq, for example, because the George W. Bush administration had made it clear these regimes were on its hit list, too. Similarly, is it that hard to fathom why Chinese and Russian leaders find Western efforts to spread “liberal” values threatening, or why they have taken various steps to forestall them?
Liberals also forgot that successful liberal societies require more than the formal institutions of democracy. They also depend on a broad and deep commitment to the underlying values of a liberal society....
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization History * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Economy Foreign Relations Iraq War Politics in General War in Afghanistan * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. England / UK Europe * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The Obama administration is rushing to help contain the political and economic turmoil roiling Europe in the aftermath of the U.K.’s surprise decision to leave the European Union, with top U.S. officials seeking to ease tensions between European and British leaders over the timing of the divorce.
As the U.K.’s main political parties struggled to address a leadership crisis, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced plans to visit Brussels and London from Rome on Monday, attempting to gauge, and potentially tamp down, reactions among leaders across the world’s largest trading bloc. The trip is an opportunity to understand how the transition will occur -- something U.K. officials are still figuring out --and stress U.S. commitments to the U.K. and EU, a senior administration official said.
The blitz from U.S. officials come amid new uncertainty over the mechanics of Brexit, which has roiled global financial markets. European leaders this weekend sent new signals they’re eager to consummate the departure of the U.K. as a way to consolidate support for the union and ward off similar populist uprisings in their own countries.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Economy Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. England / UK Europe * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
For American bankers living in London, the Brexit signals uncertainty about the capital's status as the world's largest foreign exchange market.
US banks will have to decide on moving thousands of jobs to other major European cities such as Dublin, Frankfurt or Paris depending on whether the UK is able to negotiate new trade deals to retain access to the world's largest single market, the EU.
In a memo to staff on Friday, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon indicated that though the company planned to maintain a large presence in Britain, it would face significant hurdles.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. England / UK Europe * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
It is time for Project Grit. We warned over the final weeks of the campaign that a vote to leave the EU would be traumatic, and that is what the country now faces as markets shudder and Westminster is thrown into turmoil.
The stunning upset last night marks a point of rupture for the post-war European order. It will be a Herculean task to extract Britain from the EU after 43 years enmeshed in a far-reaching legal and constitutional structure. Scotland and Northern Ireland will now be ejected from the EU against their will, a ghastly state of affairs that could all too easily lead to the internal fragmentation of the Kingdom unless handled with extreme care.
The rating agencies are already pricing in a different British destiny. Standard & Poor’s declared that Brexit “spells the end” of the UK’s AAA status. The only question is whether the downgrade is one notch or two, and that hangs on Holyrood. Moody’s has cocked the trigger too.
Just how traumatic Brexit will be depends on whether Parliament can rise to the challenge and fashion a credible trade policy...
Read it all from Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Telegraph.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Economy Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK Europe * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, rather than economic prosperity, political sovereignty or national greatness, are the condition and possibility of movement into new kinds of relationship with God and neighbour. Yet this conversion demands that as humans we orientate ourselves in a particular way to living in time and the experience of flux and transition that is constitutive of being temporal creatures. Such an orientation rules out a nostalgic division that poses the past as good and the present as intrinsically bad, as well as making judgments about who is and who is not on the "right side of history."
Rather, ways must be found to identify with Christ and thereby dis-identify with the historical idols and cultural systems of domination within which human life is always and already entangled. Politics, understood as action in time through which forms of peaceable common life are cultivated, is a necessary part of any such process of discovery. However, the tragic dimensions of social and political life cannot be avoided and failure is often the result. Yet faith, hope and love demands the risk still be taken.
Some will judge what I am saying as merely swapping one kind of dangerous sentimentalism for another. Nevertheless, I beg those who consider themselves Christians to take up forms of politics orientated to faith, hope and love, yet alive to the fragility of ourselves, others and the world around us and to ignore the siren calls of the politics of nostalgia.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization History Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK Europe * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Theodicy
The stage has been set for... [an] al Qaeda resurgence in Nigeria. One potential strategy for the group would involve building up a new pro-al Qaeda jihadi network in Nigeria that is designed to eclipse Boko Haram or pry away its members. To this end, AQIM could try to unite its Fulani members in Mali with Fulanis in Nigeria under a charismatic figure like Amadou Koufa, the leader of the Massina Liberation Front, an AQIM-created Malian faction that counts many West African Fulanis among its ranks. This could achieve a unified AQIM framework that stretches from Mali to Nigeria, allowing the group to exploit the grievances of Muslim Fulani herdsman, who have long felt abandoned and exploited by the governments of both countries.
Al Qaeda might also choose to negotiate directly with the leaders of friendly Boko Haram elements like the splinter group Ansaru, which could serve as a vehicle for sparking mass defections from Boko Haram. Although the top Ansaru commander, Khalid al-Barnawi, was arrested earlier this year, there are still key figures within the splinter group who maintain high-level contacts with AQIM and al-Shabaab, such as Mamman Nur, who masterminded the 2011 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Abuja. The task of prying away Boko Haram’s foot soldiers might be made easier by Shekau’s alleged flight to Libya, together with a key cadre of Islamic State loyalists, after facing increased pressure from the Nigerian-led regional military coalition.
Should Boko Haram ultimately turn its back on the Islamic State, it would send an enormous shockwave through the global jihadi movement. The Nigerian militant group is by far the highest-profile organization to leave an existing terrorist network to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State. If it were to suddenly cut ties with the Iraq- and Syria-based caliphate, it would send a powerful message to other al Qaeda affiliates toying with the idea of Islamic State membership: Baghdadi’s caliphate is a dying brand. But as brutal as it is, the Islamic State’s implosion would not herald an overall diminishment of the global jihadi threat. On the contrary, it would underscore that an even thornier problem remains: Al Qaeda, during its time under the radar, has become an even more formidable foe.
Read it all.
The range of culprits is quite large.
Some blame widening U.S. income and wealth inequality. Others point the finger at the fall in religious adherence or cite the increase in education and income of women, making women choosier about whom to marry. Still others focus on rising student debt and rising housing costs, forcing people to put off marriage. Finally some believe marriage is simply an old, outdated tradition that is no longer necessary.
But given that this is a trend happening across the globe in a wide variety of countries with very different income, religious adherence, education and social factors, it’s hard to pin the blame on just a single culprit.
Read it all.
At the recent General Conference, talk of a formal church split became more salient. A prominent self-professed centrist pastor suggested a three-way division among liberals, moderates and conservatives. Some liberal voices, frustrated by their declining influence, for the first time publicly sympathized with schism. A formal church split appeals to some as the ostensibly easy solution to nearly half a century of conflict over sexuality.
Except there would be little easy about it. Most United Methodist congregations are not homogeneously liberal or conservative or even centrist. A typical local church has a wide range of perspectives, reinforced by the denomination’s clergy appointment system, in which liberal clergy often are appointed by bishops to more conservative churches, and vice versa. A formal denominational schism would likely mean anguishing division in thousands of United Methodism’s more than 30,000 congregations, accompanied by years of litigation. The ultimate winners would be few.
Maybe such a cataclysmic denominational split for America’s third largest church eventually will occur. (A thoughtful proposal at this year’s General Conference allowing liberal churches that dissent from church teaching on sexuality passed in committee, but it got no plenary vote because of deferral of sexuality legislation to the bishops.) Some hope that the bishops’ new study commission on sexuality will propose formal division.
I expect and prefer a less disruptive scenario....
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Resources & Links * Theology Anthropology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
In fact, God’s prospects look a lot better than mammon’s. Projections from the Pew Research Center show that by 2050 Christians will have grown to near 2.9 billion and Muslims to 2.8 billion. With the oil price still low, the property bubble reaching pop, and many economists predicting yet another stock market crash, I’d say that God is holding up pretty well against his old enemy. Moreover, even the heartlands of the new atheism are not future proof against religious revival. On boats throughout the Mediterranean, growing numbers of religious poor are risking everything to make the journey to Europe to share in the wealth we have long been hoarding. In the Calais refugee camp, for example, it feels obvious that this is also a battle between makeshift cardboard churches and mosques and a secular France that is totally puzzled by the resurgence of religious values it has sneered at for centuries. From the favelas of Brazil, to the Mothers’ Union of the sub-Saharan Bible belt, to the archipelago Islam of Indonesia, the poor go for God. And they have more children. Europe will be 10% Muslim by 2050.
Christianity is currently dying in Europe and the US may gradually follow suit. Pew Research predictions have US Christianity declining from three-quarters today to two-thirds in 2050. But Christianity has been around for centuries, and it remains by far the largest ideological collective the world has ever known. This hasn’t died at all. It has simply shifted its global centre of gravity south and east. And the future is China. What has died in Europe is the cosy link between church and state that was first established by the Emperor Constantine. And good riddance. For this link confused the issue, long associating God with the ruling class. With that gone, God is once again released to have a preferential option for the poor. Don’t let this local atheist lull fool you. Religion remains the future.
Read it all.
This year, May 29th has been designated as a unique Sunday to pray for the Anglican Communion and give to the work of the larger Church. It is an exciting time to be an Anglican, and an important moment to stand for the truth and be counted.
The GAFCON movement is a global family of authentic Anglicans standing together to restore the Bible to the heart of the Anglican Communion, and we are growing. This last month at the Primates’ Council we launched a Bishops’ Training program, announced new appointments, and began work towards the next global conference in 2018.
Read it all.
Methodists from around the world are in Portland this week for their General Conference, a big meeting about church teachings and laws that happens every four years. This year, at least, the delegates aren’t focused on bureaucratic minutiae. They are considering whether [non-celibate] gay and lesbian pastors should be ordained, and whether same-sex couples should be able to be married in the church. Depending on what they eventually choose, they may effectively decide whether the denomination should schism.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths) * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
Mo, who attended one of the nation's top colleges, is one of a small group of American citizens and residents whose names were found in ISIS personnel files obtained by NBC News and verified by the West Point Combating Terrorism Center.
In the interview, he recounts his trip to Turkey and then Syria, his ISIS indoctrination, the violence he witnessed and the growing disillusionment that triggered his dangerous escape.
"The Islamic State is not bringing Islam to the world, and people need to know that. And I'll say that…till the day I die," he said.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
What should the church commissioners, who are responsible for its £7 billion investment portfolio, do? They are charity trustees. They have a duty to make a return on the funds entrusted to them. And every penny they can raise means another pound from the collection plate can be used for something else. The answer is, of course, that they must exercise judgment.
The good news is that they are already allowed to. The church commissioners do not, as a result, invest in pornography, tobacco, gambling, non-military firearms, high interest rate lending or human embryonic cloning. But on tax abuse, surely the clearest measure of a company’s social responsibility, they’re not so clear.
Their advisers stated three years ago that “tax ethics should be a subject for investor engagement where it appears that a company’s approach is blatantly aggressive or abusive”. In other words, investment in such companies is permitted so long as the church makes clear that it expects high ethical standards on tax. In this respect, the commissioners have clearly failed.
Read it all (requires subscription).
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Taxes Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
In “Notes from Underground,’’ Dostoevsky fired a broadside against all the Victorian do-gooders who dreamt of a perfectly rational society. “You seem certain that man himself will give up erring of his own free will,” he fulminated. He foresaw a ghastly future in which “all human acts will be listed in something like logarithm tables . . . and transferred to a timetable . . . [that] will carry detailed calculations and exact forecasts of everything to come.” In such a world, his utilitarian contemporaries believed, there would be no wrongdoing. It would have been planned, legislated, and regulated out of existence.
We are nearly there. Or so it seems....
I am deeply suspicious of the concerted effort to address all these problems in ways that markedly increase the power of states — and not just any states, but specifically the world’s big states — at the expense of both small states and the individual. What makes me especially wary is that today, unlike in Dostoevsky’s time, the technology exists to give those big states, along with a few private companies, just the kind of control he dreaded.
Consider some recent encroachments on liberty.
Read it all from the Boston Globe.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization History Poetry & Literature * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life The U.S. Government Politics in General City Government State Government * International News & Commentary Europe Russia * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The Church Commissioners for England have announced their latest financial results with the publication of their annual report.
The Church Commissioners' total return on their investments in 2015 was 8.2 per cent, exceeding their long-term target rate by 2%. Over the past 30 years the fund has achieved an average return of 9.7% per annum. After taking account of expenditure, the fund has grown from £2.4bn at the start of 1995 to £7.0 billion at the end of 2015.
In 2015, the charitable expenditure of the Commissioners was £218.5 million, accounting for 15% of the Church's overall mission and ministry costs. Commissioners-funded projects ranged from clubs and drop-ins to youth work and food bank hubs, all supported by local churches.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Stewardship * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Credit Markets Stock Market * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Fewer Americans are traveling to fight alongside the Islamic State and the power of the extremist group's brand has significantly diminished in the United States, FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday.
The FBI encountered "6, 8, 10" Americans a month in 2014 and the first half of 2015 who traveled to the Middle East or tried to go there to join the Islamic State, but that number has averaged about one a month since last summer in a sustaining downward trend, Comey said.
"There's no doubt that something has happened that is lasting, in terms of the attractiveness of the nightmare which is the Islamic State to people from the United States," he told reporters during a wide-ranging round-table discussion Wednesday.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Globalization Religion & Culture Teens / Youth Violence Young Adults * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Terrorism * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
[John] Kerry returned to some of his familiar themes including, first, that those who suppress religious freedom feed angers that make people more susceptible to recruiting by terrorists. Second, religious groups, because when they are demonstrably concerned with “stewardship of the Earth” may have many positive contributions to make. And, third, religions are mandated to help the poor and the marginalized. So their interest in job-creation globally makes them vital.
Some who read or hear Kerry (parts of whose speech are available online) will think he lives in a dream world if he thinks religions are ready to make such contributions. Some will resent his praise of religion, because they see religions by definition opposed to human good.
But the majority, if they tune in and are turned on by the Secretary of State’s words, can be readied to get back to the sources of their faith, heed the community-building (as opposed to terrorist-feeding) uses of religious mandates and promises, and offer hope for a better future. - See more at: http://divinity.uchicago.edu/sightings/religion-global-affairs#sthash.VwD1R87I.dpuf
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The center of gravity for both orthodoxy and evangelism is not among Anglo suburban evangelicals but among African Anglicans and Asian Calvinists and Latin American Pentecostals. The vital core of American evangelicalism today can be found in churches that are multiethnic and increasingly dominated by immigrant communities.
The next Billy Graham probably will speak only Spanish or Arabic or Persian or Mandarin. American evangelicals often use the language of “revival” — a word that is sometimes co-opted by politicians to mean a resurgence of a politically useful but watered-down civil religion. A congregation that ignores the global church can deprive itself of revival by overlooking those places where the Spirit is working.
The thriving churches of American Christianity are multigenerational, theologically robust, ethnically diverse and connected to the global church. If Jesus is alive — and I believe that he is — he will keep his promise and build his church. But he never promises to do that solely with white, suburban institutional evangelicalism.
The question is whether evangelicals will be on the right side of Jesus.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Culture-Watch Globalization History Race/Race Relations Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
But nones aren’t inheriting the Earth just yet. In many parts of the world—sub-Saharan Africa in particular—religion is growing so fast that nones’ share of the global population will actually shrink in 25 years as the world turns into what one researcher has described as “the secularizing West and the rapidly growing rest.” (The other highly secular part of the world is China, where the Cultural Revolution tamped down religion for decades, while in some former Communist countries, religion is on the increase.)
And even in the secularizing West, the rash of “religious freedom bills”—which essentially decriminalize discrimination—are the latest front in a faith-tinged culture war in the United States that shows no signs of abetting anytime soon.
Within the ranks of the unaffiliated, divisions run deep. Some are avowed atheists. Others are agnostic. And many more simply don’t care to state a preference. Organized around skepticism toward organizations and united by a common belief that they do not believe, nones as a group are just as internally complex as many religions. And as with religions, these internal contradictions could keep new followers away.
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For decades, the cultural gap between Southern cities and cities on the East and West Coasts has been narrowing to the point where the cultural riches of a place like Oxford, Miss. — with its literary scene and high end regional cuisine — are almost taken for granted.
But commerce and the Internet have pushed global sophistication into new frontiers. In Starkville, Miss., an unassuming college town that Oxford sophisticates deride with the ironic nickname “StarkVegas,” a coffee bar called Nine-twentynine serves an affogato prepared with espresso from Intelligentsia, the vaunted artisanal coffee brand.
With these cultural markers have come expressions of unblushing liberalism that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. In January, Bernie Sanders drew thousands to a rally in Birmingham, Ala. Last June, after the Supreme Court affirmed the right to same-sex marriage, the city government in Knoxville, Tenn., lit up a bridge in rainbow colors.
The result has been a kind of overlapping series of secessions, with states trying to safeguard themselves from national cultural trends and federal mandates, and cities increasingly trying to carve out their own places within the states.
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The United Nations World Tourism Organisation now puts the annual number of tourists making a journey to destination sites holy to their religion at 330 million — that is nearly one-third of all “leisure” travel worldwide. Big business for airlines, for those providing accommodation, and for travel companies.
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has just published a Special Report in its magazine. Take that massive number: 100 million are in India — visiting shrines, bathing in the Ganges. Muslims are expected to make a Hajj to Mecca at least once in their lifetime. The annual figure is over 3 million — of whom around 25,000 travel from Britain.
For Christians, at least 20 million visit Our Lady of Guadeloupe in Mexico City: however, as the population of Greater Mexico City is over 21 million, we can take it that most have not too far to travel.
In Europe, says ABTA, over 5 million visit the Vatican, 4 million go to Fatima in Portugal (on a hillside north of Lisbon) and the same number to Lourdes in France. Such visits are, for many, travel companies report, part of a general holiday break — Fatima has good beaches and hotels nearby.
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On Monday April 11 at 6 p.m. the Diocese will host an event at the Cathedral in Charleston where a number of honored guests from Africa and South America will speak about their work. A soup reception will follow. All are encouraged to join us for this unprecedented gathering.
• Bishop Rob Martin, Diocese of Marsabit, Anglican Church of Kenya
• Rose Kanyunyuzi, head of the Go Project in Uganda
• Bishop Joseph Abura, Diocese of Karamoja, Anglican Church of Uganda
• The Rev. Raymond Bukenya, the Diocese of Karamoja, Anglican Church of Uganda
• Bishop George Kasangaki, Diocese of Masindi-Kitara, Anglican Church of Uganda
• The Rev. Paul Ssembiro, recent past Provincial Coordinator for Mission and Evangelism in Uganda, and the present Country Team Leader of African Enterprises
• Bishop Elias Chakupewa, Diocese of Tabora, Anglican Church of Tanzania
• Bishop Raphael Samuel is the Bishop of Boliva
• The Rev. Geison Vasconcellos, Diocese of Recife, Brazil
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Your Graces, dear brothers in Christ
As we enter Passiontide, with less than two weeks until Easter, I wanted to write to wish you all a celebration of Holy Week and the day of Resurrection that is all-consuming in its joy and power. Uniquely, we proclaim a saviour who has overcome death, having lived fully through every experience and temptation of life, and having himself died.
Our great enemy, who tells us that all things end in pointlessness, is defeated by the empty tomb, and with all Christians around the world, we should celebrate without limit.
On Easter day, at Canterbury Cathedral, full of the memories of our Meeting in January, I shall be praying for you and rejoicing in your fellowship in the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ.
Since that Meeting, there have been numerous developments. First, we should be aware of the great rejoicing and thankfulness that the outcome of the Meeting gave to many Christians around the world. We have all received numerous comments of thankfulness that the Anglican Communion, deeply divided in many areas, managed in the part of its leadership which is the Primates’ Meeting, to vote unanimously, amongst those present, to walk together. As you will remember, at that crucial moment, we undertook to seek personally to ensure that what we voted, was put into practise.
Since that time, as I undertook to you, I have followed through by changing the representation of those bodies where I have the ability to make a decision, so as to put into effect the agreement we reached amongst ourselves.
We must, of course, remember that as in the early Church, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, there is never an end to these issues. So long as the Church is made up of human beings, it will be made up of sinners. In consequence, we will take decisions and say things that are inappropriate or wrong. The strength of the East African revival was not that it produced sinless people but that it taught sinners to walk in the light. That meant that they were to confess their sins, repent and acknowledge them.
At Lambeth 1998, Resolution III point 6, as well as affirming “the enhanced responsibility here in offering guidance on doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters” of the Primates’ Meeting, also said that the responsibility of the Primates’ Meeting “should be exercised in sensitive consultation with the relevant provinces and with the ACC or in cases of emergency the Executive of the ACC, and that while not interfering with the juridical authority of the provinces, the exercise of these responsibilities by the Primates’ Meeting should carry moral authority calling for ready acceptance through the Communion”.
There are numerous other examples indicating that we should work closely together.
In all cases, back as far as 1857, it is well recognised that there is no single body within the Anglican Communion that has juridical authority over individual provinces. We are autonomous but interdependent.
For these reasons, I hope and pray that every province that is able will be present in Lusaka. The decisions we took in January can only have effect if they gain general ownership amongst the Communion, taking in laity, priests and bishops. Even if a province is not able to be present, I urge you to pray fervently for the outcome of the ACC. We will need to elect a new Chairman, and such a position should be someone, who, speaking the truth in love, seeks to unite the Communion in truth-filled service to Jesus Christ, and not to uphold any particular group at the expense of the Common Good, so long as we are within acceptable limits of diversity.
The ACC is the only body in which laity and clergy, other than bishops, are represented, and is thus of a special importance. It will discuss many matters, including those that we raised in January at Canterbury. These will include our evangelism and witness, the impact of climate change, our response to the great global refugee crisis, our support for those caught in conflict, and above all persecution.
Only those who are present will be able to make their voice heard and their votes effective. I therefore urge you to make every effort to join us in Lusaka, so that, in the presence of the risen Christ, we may continue our often painful, but ever hopeful journey in his service.
This brings my love, respect and commitment to service in the name of Christ our peace, Christ our saviour and Christ our truth.
+ Justin Cantaur
The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Primary Source -- Statements & Letters: Primates Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Consultative Council Anglican Primates Primates Gathering in Canterbury January 2016 Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Kenya Episcopal Church (TEC) Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Culture-Watch Globalization Marriage & Family Religion & Culture * Theology Anthropology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
If we ask what is driving this assault on the free exercise of religious conviction, the answer is that it is in large part driven by a human rights agenda which sees religion and human rights as antithetical not simply on specific issues, but across the board. As the legal scholar Louis Herkin puts it: ‘The human rights ideology is a fully secular and rational ideology whose very promise of success as a universal ideology depends on its secularity and rationality.’
In addition, there is also deep seated fear about religiously inspired violence. The growing threat of terrorist activity driven by an Islamist ideology has led many governments across the world, including the government in this country, to conclude that religion can be dangerous and that the best way to counteract this danger is seek to suppress the dissemination of ‘extremist’ religious ideas.
What this combination of a secular rights ideology and fear of Islamic terrorism is in danger of leading to, if indeed it has not led to it already, is the undermining of the very rights that human rights advocates and Western governments say that they support.
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The ultimate sin today, [Andy] Crouch argues, is to criticize a group, especially on moral grounds. Talk of good and bad has to defer to talk about respect and recognition. Crouch writes, “Talk of right and wrong is troubling when it is accompanied by seeming indifference to the experience of shame that accompanies judgments of ‘immorality.’”
He notes that this shame culture is different from the traditional shame cultures, the ones in Asia, for example. In traditional shame cultures the opposite of shame was honor or “face” — being known as a dignified and upstanding citizen. In the new shame culture, the opposite of shame is celebrity — to be attention-grabbing and aggressively unique on some media platform.
On the positive side, this new shame culture might rebind the social and communal fabric. It might reverse, a bit, the individualistic, atomizing thrust of the past 50 years.
On the other hand, everybody is perpetually insecure in a moral system based on inclusion and exclusion. There are no permanent standards, just the shifting judgment of the crowd. It is a culture of oversensitivity, overreaction and frequent moral panics, during which everybody feels compelled to go along.
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...we are “To Make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age.”’
That was the T-shirt version, and it has stuck! I am more convinced now than ever, however inadequately we have received, embodied and conveyed it, that this was a vision from the Lord. I have also come to accept that what takes a year or two for a new rector to establish in a parish takes five years for a bishop to achieve in a diocese. It is only in recent years have I noticed rectors reciting this statement in a way that rolls naturally off of their tongues.
Now in this ninth year as your bishop I remain unswervingly committed to our calling. I see also the need to doggedly keep it before us. Frankly, this vision is like a railroad track—that is, it has two rails. One rail is a local focus and the other is more global.
So let me elaborate afresh: To Make Biblical Anglicans will mean two things:
• To help every congregation to engage every generation with the Good News of Jesus Christ
• To help shape emerging Anglicanism in the 21st Century
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A massive leak of top-secret Islamic State documents has exposed details of the terrorist network’s global recruitment programme.
Security services were last night examining files alleged to contain names, addresses and family contacts of 22,000 jihadist fighters, including at least a dozen British recruits.
The leak was hailed as a severe setback for Isis, providing vital intelligence on the war effort in Syria and Iraq. Will Geddes, managing director of International Corporate Protection, a threat management company, said that the leak, if verified, would be a blow to the group. “They will be in massive crisis mode, worried about what is in there, who is in there and how it will disrupt their activities,” he said.
Read it all (requires subscription) or Christian Today covers the story here (open access) and the original report from Sky is here
The coalition has managed to push IS out of the Iraqi cities of Tikrit and Ramadi, as well as an ever-increasing stretch of Syrian-Turkish borderland.
Enemies of the "caliphate", backed by (mostly) US fighter jets, are now bivouacked 50km (30 miles) from the IS "capital" of Raqqa, in northern Syria.
Yet IS' hold on its most valuable strategic terrain, the areas seized either in or before 2014, is still uncontested.
It is entrenched in Mosul and Raqqa and the Sunni Arab tribal heartland of the Euphrates river valley, which stretches from eastern Syria to western Iraq.
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Jewish students will turn their backs on leading universities en masse as they react to growing campus antisemitism, it has been claimed.
Jews disproportionately attend a small number of universities, which they have nicknamed “Jewnis”. The University of Manchester was once one of the most favoured but lost its place to Leeds, Birmingham and Nottingham after pro-Palestinian motions by its student union. These included twinning with An-Najah University in the West Bank.
Bristol has rapidly grown in popularity among Jews. Cambridge and Oxford also have significant numbers, as do University College London, King’s College London and LSE.
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This is all happening at a time, where across the Western world we are seeing the rise of a harder left and a harder right. This comes as a shock for since the fall of the Berlin Wall, with Bill Clinton and Tony Blair moving politics into the center, it seemed that such ideology had had its day. Yet ideology is back. What I find fascinating though is behind this move to further edges of the right and left is a common thread. Both espouse a kind of anti-institutional impulse which seeks to remove the restraints on the individual will. Both seek to either return to an idealized past or a utopian future through the hand of a kind of a benevolent, paternal entity be it government, tech companies, or the global financial market. Both end up ignoring, or bypassing the mediating institutions such as family, neighborhood, community organizations or church. Thus, creating the contemporary, atomized, and commitment phobic self, dizzy with choice. There is a significant and growing missional opportunity here for the church to inhabit and rehabilitate this ignored space....
Moore: What are a few goals you would like your readers to walk away with from having read Disappearing Church?
Sayers: There is no going back. We will most likely live the entirety of our lives in an increasingly diverse, contested, globalized, and divided world. As William Davidow and Moises Naim have shown, this world will also be a fragile one. Thus such a moment will be served by a church that is relevant by being resilient. With change and chaos as the norm, a nostalgic desire to return to halcyon days is deeply tempting. Instead of wanting to return to the past, we must learn from the past. Two thousand years of Church history have shown us that again and again, even as large portions of the Church compromise with the spirit of the day. Creative minorities, who engaged new landscapes with creativity alongside biblical orthodoxy and faithfulness, flourish, bring good news and live as ambassadors of the kingdom. This can and will again happen in our day. If in some tiny way Disappearing Church can contribute to that renaissance I will be deeply grateful to Him.
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It was a running-away-from-home nightmare for the age of global terrorism. Marilyn Nevalainen, a pregnant teenager, decided to follow her boyfriend last year when he set out to wage jihad, leaving the lakes and forests of southwest Sweden for life under the Islamic State in the desert heat of Iraq.
Apparently lacking any clear idea of what she was getting herself into, she ended up with militants near Mosul, with a new baby to care for and her boyfriend dead on an Iraqi battlefield.
Remarkably, Ms. Nevalainen, now 16, and her infant son made it out alive. Much remains unknown about how she turned up two weeks ago in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, and she has not spoken publicly beyond a brief television interview in which she contended that she had followed her boyfriend without knowing “what ISIS means, what Islam is, nothing.” She is now back in Sweden.
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Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, has been awarded the Templeton prize.
Sacks, 67, has written more than two dozen books targeted at bringing spiritual insight to the public. He has spent decades revitalizing Britain’s Jewry during his tenure as chief rabbi from 1991 to 2013.
Sacks has been an outspoken advocate of religious and social tolerance throughout his career. His most recent book, “Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence,” argues that violence in the name of God is the exact opposite of what any deity would expect of followers....
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The Anglican Communion has appointed former BBC journalist Adrian Butcher as its new director for communications. He will take up the post immediately after Easter.
Adrian brings a wealth of journalism experience to the role. He began his career in newspapers before joining the BBC in 1990 as a producer in its national radio newsroom where he wrote and edited news summaries and bulletins across the range of radio networks. He also worked on television, as a producer on the One and the Six o'clock news bulletins, and for the BBC World Service and at the parliamentary unit in Westminster.
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Ultimately, Rafi’s life was transformed because his eldest brother, Akhtar, pinched pennies and sent Rafi to the best public school in the family’s home province, Balochistan. Rafi had an outstanding mind and rocketed to the top of his class. But he also fell under the spell of political Islam. A charismatic Islamic studies teacher turned Rafi into a Taliban sympathizer who despised the West.
“I subscribed to conspiracy theories that 9/11 was done by the Americans themselves, that there were 4,000 Jews who were absent from work that day,” Rafi recalls. “I thought the Taliban were freedom fighters.”
I’ve often written about education as an antidote to extremism. But in Pakistan, it was high school that radicalized Rafi. “Education can be a problem,” Rafi says dryly.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Education Globalization Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Asia Pakistan * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
We’ve been at the heart of the ‘Aiming for A’ engagement initiative, which successfully filed shareholder resolutions at the BP and Shell AGMs last year. These companies were keen to work with us and our partners, and recommended that shareholders approve the resolutions. The companies are now legally required to step up their reporting of their strategic response to the challenges – and opportunities – posed to their businesses by climate change. This was an excellent example of what investors and companies can achieve when they work together. On the back of similar engagement, Aiming for A has filed more resolutions in the UK mining sector for this year’s AGMs which have been received by the companies in the same spirit.
Sadly, not all companies are responding constructively to the urgent need to mitigate climate change. We’ve been working with the New York State pension fund in the US to file a resolution at ExxonMobil in the United States. Rather than working with us to provide the reporting that institutional investors require, Exxon have gone to the US regulator – the Securities and Exchange Commission – to try to get the resolution struck off so that shareholders do not get the opportunity vote on it at Exxon’s AGM later this year. This week New York State have written to the SEC to ask them to deny this request, and to make sure that shareholders can indicate to Exxon’s board their desire for fuller reporting on the implications of climate change policy.
We are extremely disappointed that even after the Paris climate change agreement ExxonMobil has contested the relevance of the resolution we have co-filed.
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More than a year of U.S.-led airstrikes and financial sanctions haven’t stopped Islamic State from ordering supplies for its fighters, importing food for its subjects or making quick profits in currency arbitrage.
This is because of men such as Abu Omar, one of the militant group’s de facto bankers. The Iraqi businessman is part of a network of financiers stretching across northern and central Iraq who for decades have provided money transfers and trade finance for the many local merchants who shun conventional banks.
When Islamic State seized control of the region in 2014, the world’s wealthiest terror group made him an offer he decided not to refuse: You can keep your business if you also handle our money.
“I don’t ask questions,” said Abu Omar, whose money-exchange offices in the Iraqi cities of Mosul, Sulimaniyah, Erbil and Hit charge as much as 10% to transfer cash in and out of militant territory—twice normal rates. “Islamic State is good for business.”
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Canada’s spy agencies have tracked 180 Canadians who are engaged with terrorist organizations abroad, while another 60 have returned home.
The latest figures mark a significant increase from the findings of the 2014 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Can-ada, which identified about 130 people involved in terror-related activities overseas, including 30 taking an active role with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and the Nusra Front in Syria.
“The total number of people overseas involved in threat-re-lated activities – and I’m not just talking about Iraq and Syria – is probably around 180,” Canadian Security Intelligence Service director Michel Coulombe told The Globe and Mail after testifying before the House of Commons public safety committee. “In Iraq and Syria, we are probably talking close to 100.”
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Nearly 90 years ago, a missionary wrote a song meant to galvanize the Western church and draw hundreds of missionaries to China. This Sunday, more than 4,100 churches around the world will sing “Facing a Task Unfinished” with a modern twist.
In 1920, Frank Houghton traveled east with China Inland Mission. Nearly a decade later, the missions agency issued a call for 200 “men and women who know and love the Lord Jesus Christ” to minister to the country then torn apart by civil war.
Aided by Houghton’s song, the ministry got its 200 missionaries. And by 2015, the number of Christians in China grew to somewhere between 67 million and 106 million.
China Inland Mission became OMF International, which celebrated its 150th anniversary last year. As part of the commemoration, OMF asked Keith and Kristyn Getty to update the hymn.
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The world wasn't prepared for Zika to fly across continents in the span of a few months. In 2015, when the virus began rapidly spreading across the Americas, health workers were surprised, and researchers were caught flat-footed when it came time to provide information to protecting the public's health.
Scientists misjudged Zika virus as a minor and trivial ailment when it was discovered in 1947, says Dr. Ken Stuart, the founder and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Seattle. That oversight is one reason for the dearth of medical knowledge around the virus.
But it didn't have to be that way, he says. Stuart spoke with NPR's Ari Shapiro on why the Zika outbreak has unfolded the way it did and how things could have gone better. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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Why is the Middle East in flames and Russia on the rampage? In both Europe and the Middle East, it is common to hear the blame placed on Barack Obama. The US president, it is charged, is a weak and disengaged leader who has allowed international events to get out of control. Many Americans — both liberals and conservatives — make the same accusation. Sarah Palin, darling of the American right, has called Mr Obama “capitulator-in-chief”. Roger Cohen, a New York Times columnist, has blamed Syria’s agony on the “fecklessness and purposelessness” of the Obama administration.
Those who yearn for a more muscular US foreign policy often assume that Mr Obama will prove to be an aberration — and that the next president will “put America back in the game”. But that could well be a misreading of the underlying direction of US politics and foreign policy. The current frontrunners in the presidential election campaign — Donald Trump on the Republican side and Bernie Sanders for the Democrats — have embraced ideas that are isolationist, in all but name. If those ideas prevail, they would make Mr Obama look like a super-engaged internationalist.
Even if Mr Trump and Mr Sanders never get close to the White House, the popularity of their campaigns, and their influence on the more mainstream candidates, suggests that there is now a strong constituency in the US for a retreat from globalism: repudiating international military and economic commitments.
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Harvard Divinity School senior lecturer Diane Moore has modest goals for her upcoming online course, “World Religions Through Their Scripture.” She merely wants to increase religious understanding, open up crucial dialogues, and change the world — or at least to create a MOOC that will examine religion in a uniquely enlightening way.
The course, which launches this spring, will bring together Harvard’s leading scholars in the world’s major religions: Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. As a HarvardX MOOC (massive open online course), it was designed to attract an international, multicultural audience.
Moore, a senior lecturer on religious studies and education, a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of World Religions, and director of the Religious Literacy Project, has long been an advocate of “religious literacy,” meaning an understanding of how religion works in its cultural and political contexts. Thus her goal is not to champion one religion over another, but to heighten the study of religion itself. And it’s not often that scholars of each leading religion interact in the real world, much less online.
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In the meeting of the 38 Anglican-aligned national churches worldwide at Canterbury Cathedral last month, the confab condemned the Episcopal Church — as it is called in the States — but also made explicit statements about respecting the rights of homosexuals worldwide.
“What we got actually was a classic Anglican compromise. Anglicans are good at that,” says Elliott. “There [are] very strong statements about the civil rights of homosexual people and I think there is a door opened now to say to, for example, Anglicans in Uganda: Listen, church support of government policies that criminalize homosexuality and make it punishable both by imprisonment and in some cases the death penalty, that’s offside. Similarly, to the Episcopal Church, marrying same-sex couples, that’s offside.”
Canadians need to understand, he says, that priorities for people in other places are very different and progress on gay rights has come with incredible speed to parts of the Western world.
“I never imagined in my lifetime that gay people would be allowed to marry in Canada and it’s now been over 10 years that we’ve been allowed to marry, nor that the church would be seriously talking about this,” he says. “It’s light years ahead.”
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We toiling workers can allow ourselves a wry smile. For most of the last eight years the owners of wealth and inflated assets have had things their own way, while the real economy has been left behind.
The tables are finally turning. The world may look absolutely ghastly if your metric is the stock market, but it is much the same or slightly better if you are at the coal face.
The MSCI index of world equities has fallen almost 20pc since its all-time high in May of 2015, implying a $14 trillion loss of paper wealth. Yet the world economy has carried on at more or less the same anemic pace, and the OECD's global leading indicators show no sign that it is suddenly rolling over now.
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Those of us writing here at Providence share a common conviction about politics, namely that we should take human beings and human communities as they are and not how we would wish them to be. Human beings are broken creatures who are often driven by fear and greed. In political community, these propensities only become magnified and more volatile. This realism means that when we face problems such as aggressive nations and terrorism, we do so with sobriety that in order to stop certain people or groups from carrying out their harmful designs we must sometimes use military force. No amount of rational discussion or incentives will deter them from seeking to harm the innocent. Christians however bring to this sober realism the commitment to love their neighbors. To protect the innocent from the aggressor and to punish the aggressor is an act of love, not purely national interest or strategic benefit. This is what separates those who are realists from Christian realists.
As of late, I reckon, this take on politics has fallen on hard times. It’s hard to hold Christianity and realism together. We have Ted Cruz and Donald Trump preaching indiscriminate bombing campaigns to the applause of many. Bernie Sanders thinks that the Middle East is not a problem for Americans and that we should just let Syria burn. Most Christian voices in America are focused on the immigration crisis, with remarkably few Christians talking about intervention in Syria to protect the Syrian people and stabilize the situation. Marco Rubio has been one of the more nuanced and realistic candidates, and still his discussion of issues tends toward a more thoroughgoing realism than a Christian realism.
Into this current vacuum steps the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, to deliver what might be one of the most rousing calls to a truly Christian realistic approach to the current civil war in Syria and the rise of Islamic radicalism in recent memory. The Archbishop delivered the brief speech at the General Synod of the Church of England at Westminster on November 24th. It should be noted that the Archbishop delivered this speech in a resolution that was unanimously approved by the Synod on the current immigration crisis in Europe, primarily calling for protecting immigrants and welcoming a portion to the UK.
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How Emanuel AME Church reacted to the 90 seconds of terror that unfolded within its walls last year has some people mentioning the Charleston congregation in the same breath as the pope and others who have sought world peace.
The church on Monday joined Pope Francis as a nominee for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize, an honor that typically picks from hundreds of disparate political, religious and cultural pioneers who have helped civilizations in all corners of the globe cope with strife.
Inspired by the response to the mass shooting that befell the church and claimed nine parishioners’ lives on June 17, a group of Chicago-area political leaders led the Nobel effort and others, including U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., joined in. Though they announced the push months ago, the officials said they had followed through with the nomination by Monday’s deadline.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Globalization Race/Race Relations Religion & Culture Urban/City Life and Issues Violence * South Carolina * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
I write this article after having completed the first week of the Institute. If possible, it has already exceeded my expectations. Several things have especially stood out to me this first week.
First, the Beauty of Christ’s Global Body. Upon meeting my fellow participants the first day, I was surprised to discover that we had many mutual friends from places like India, South Sudan, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, etc. This was especially surprising in light of the fact that as a young priest I haven’t lived very long, haven’t traveled very far, and haven’t had a whole lot of life experience. In short, this instant connectedness was not about me but was simply a beautiful testament to how Christ’s body has grown—from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth—and to how the spiritual unity we have in Christ is being made visible by advances in modern technology.
Stemming from this unity, the fellowship has been both rich and challenging. With regards to the richness, one cannot hear eyewitness stories of martyrdom and persecution without being touched in the deep places of one’s soul and inspired to follow Christ more faithfully in one’s own walk (Heb. 11). Many of the participants have tread the path of persecution, and as a Westerner, their stories put my own ministry challenges in healthy and humbling perspective.
On the other hand, the diversity of the fellowship has challenged us to wrestle honestly with the unique cultural lenses we bring to ministry. Whether we’re asking questions after a lecture, breaking down a passage of scripture in a small-group preaching exercise, or analyzing a case study from mission field, it has been eye-opening to see just how pervasively our cultures influence our perspectives. Fortunately, as we wrestle honestly with these issues, our blinders begin to fall away, and we are able to more clearly see the pure and undiluted Gospel, in all of its glory.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture * South Carolina * Theology Christology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
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In the past migrating religious groups either merged into their host societies or else pickled the culture of the old country in aspic. Thanks to technology, today’s roaming worshippers have no such dilemma; a Nigerian or Brazilian in transit can adapt while maintaining contact with home. Globally dispersed Pentecostal churches meet both those needs. An outlying branch of the RCCG can offer job advice and a way to keep links with home. Global charismatic movements act as transmission belts along which ideas and worship styles can travel quickly. “A hymn can be composed in one continent and sung in another a few days later,” says Allan Anderson of Birmingham University.
Like water, charismatic religion takes the path of least resistance. Philip Jenkins, a scholar of global Christianity, cites several little-noticed examples. Dubai is now a bastion of Pentecostal-style worship, among migrants; the Muslim authorities do not mind as long as local Emiratis are not proselytised. Thanks to a shared language, Brazilian neo-Pentecostal churches do well in Angola and Mozambique. And though Filipino Christianity is almost entirely Catholic, the export variety, adapted to the diaspora’s needs, is intensely charismatic, offering a combination of mysticism and practical advice. One movement, El Shaddai, claims 8m members across the world. Worshippers at its Manila base wave their passports in the air as they pray for successful travels.
Politically, too, Pentecostal churches tend to be pragmatic rather than consistently conservative. Brazil’s globally successful Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) initially resisted the rise of the centre-left Workers’ Party, but went on to back its presidential candidates, including Dilma Rousseff, the incumbent.
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The Anglican Leadership Institute is an outgrowth of the Mere Anglicanism Conference that has been held in Charleston, SC for several years.
Bishop Mark Lawrence, in his 2014 Convention Address, called for the creation of a leadership training initiative that would bring future leaders in the Anglican Communion to South Carolina for periods of study, teaching, reflection and nurture.
The South Carolina Session was created in response to this call, offering men and women with a proven track of ministry a chance to spend a month in community under the guidance of expert leaders who have exercised faithful and effective ministry in their own contexts.
(The Anglican Leadership Institute Meets at the "Castle" in Sullivan's Island, SC.)
You can read more about the program here.
When he was an undergraduate at Cambridge, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was cox of a Trinity College rowing eight. Perhaps coincidentally, rowing metaphors flowed in September when he announced that he had invited all 37 global Anglican primates to Canterbury for a conference starting on January 11th, in what some see as a last-ditch attempt to save the Anglican Communion. One aide suggested that bishops should not spend so much time “trying to placate people and keep them in the boat, without ever getting the oars out and starting to row”. Frustrated that bickering is keeping Anglicans from their primary mission, the archbishop will need all his powers as a cox to head off a collision, or even the sinking of the global Anglican boat.
The problem is a row between liberals, mainly North American, who want the church to allow same-sex marriage, and conservatives, who think it must not. Some leaders from each side are not on speaking terms. Archbishop Welby is said to want a looser affiliation, so that both groups can keep relations with Canterbury and continue to call themselves Anglican but not have to deal with each other. He has no “papal” powers to kick out any provinces; previous attempts to discipline those who defy traditional Anglican teaching have been stopped from below. The archbishop is “not so much trying to get closer unity”, says one informed cleric; “he is trying to prevent greater disunity.”
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Many Christians around the world are celebrating Epiphany and Theophany – the day when the Three Kings of Orient arrived in Bethlehem to present Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh; and the celebration of the Baptism of Christ by John in the Jordan River – while others are preparing to celebrate Christmas.
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I know, you forgot, or you are not sure. But here is a great (and amazingly timely) topic and a chance to visit one of America's great cities for worship and spiritual nourishment at the start of the year--KSH.
One of the greatest challenges for Christians at the dawn of the 21st century is the power and influence of Islam. As the world’s two great missionary religions, Christianity and Islam are often at odds with one another, and the tension can at times feel palpable. How are we as Christians to respond to the threat and challenge of this growing and energetic religion? What should be the Church’s reaction in light of the Lord’s Great Commission to make disciples of all men? What does the Apostle Paul mean when he reminds believers that “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds”? Join us this year at Mere Anglicanism as we explore “The Cross and the Crescent: The Gospel and the Challenge of Islam.”
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In 2015, a sense of unease and foreboding seemed to settle on all the world’s major power centres. From Beijing to Washington, Berlin to Brasília, Moscow to Tokyo — governments, media and citizens were jumpy and embattled.
This kind of globalised anxiety is unusual. For the past 30 years and more, there has been at least one world power that was bullishly optimistic. In the late 1980s the Japanese were still enjoying a decades-long boom — and confidently buying up assets all over the world. In the 1990s America basked in victory in the cold war and a long economic expansion. In the early 2000s the EU was in a buoyant mood, launching a single currency and nearly doubling its membership. And for most of the past decade, the growing political and economic power of China has inspired respect all over the world.
Yet at the moment all the big players seem uncertain — even fearful. The only partial exception that I came across this year was India, where the business and political elite still seemed buoyed by the reformist zeal of prime minister Narendra Modi.
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Today religion is solid and that hybridity is lost. We are divided into mutually exclusive cultural zones. In Istanbul, as we near the new year, different neighbourhoods have adopted visibly different attitudes towards Christmas. As one drives from one area to another it is easy to tell which municipalities are run by the CHP, the main opposition party, and which by the AK party, the government. The glittery decorations and lights are almost always in the CHP areas. The only exception are the shopping malls, of which Istanbul has too many. Inside these are gigantic Christmas trees; and, in front of those trees, nowadays, angry protesters.
“We are not obeying a toy-distributing Santa, we are the followers of Prophet Mohammad,” reads one of the signs held by protesters. Another displays a verse from the Koran, plucked out of context and deployed for particular political ends. The protesters claim they are delivering God’s words to the ignorant.
Early in the year the Saadet (Felicity) party — a religious-based political party — called Santa Claus “a sinister and dirty project”, adding that “western colonialism tries to invade culturally what it cannot invade militarily.”
Through articles and distorted images, Santa Claus is vilified in Islamist newspapers. The situation is highly ironic given that the original St Nicholas was born in the town of Patara in Turkey in 260AD and to this day is regarded as part of Turkish history and culture.
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Of all the mysteries of the incarnation, its simplicity is the one that is born in/on me afresh each year. In its simplicity is its power and its challenge to us in these times of war and suffering, of multitudes on desolate roads seeking refuge. Caught between the Devil and the Sea, the desperate and hungry, make their way through unimaginable peril. Palestine was very much like that. It was not a place of safety, but of danger, and like those millions today, Jesus himself was carried by anxious parents to the safety of another land.
In memorable words at the Inauguration of the General Synod of the Church of England, the Preacher to the Papal Household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa said: “In many parts of the world, people are killed and churches burned not because they are Catholic, or Anglican, or Pentecostal, but because they are Christians. In their eyes, we are already one! Let us be one also in our eyes and in the eyes of God.”
Amidst the terrors of Paris, of Bujumbura, of Iraq and Syria, and amidst the fear which we so often allow to dominate, we are called back to the simplicity of the Incarnation. Jesus identified himself completely with the poorest and the most broken of the Earth. Those who are lost in our world today seek the simplicity and beauty of that gift, which as we identify together unites us in adoration of the God who gave his only son.
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Christians around the world today find themselves in contexts that are very different from those of 40 years ago. Since 1970, many societies have experienced dramatic social upheavals and severe environmental catastrophes, yet the period from 1970 to 2010 was also a time of great technological advancement and increased connections between people around the world. Such changes challenge Christians to think differently about the people among whom they live and work, the ways in which they interact with them, and the potential for future cooperation.
Christianity in its Global Context, 1970–2020: Society, Religion, and Mission, a report produced in 2013 by researchers at the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, Massachusetts, offers a timely overview of the changing demographics of Christianity and Christians’ activities over the past 40 years while looking forward to the next ten. If current trends continue, what will be the state of the world in 2020? Who will be the neighbors of Christians, and what issues will they be facing together? Here we summarize the key findings from the full report, which is available for PDF download at http://www.globalchristianity.org/globalcontext.
Christianity in its Global Context presents global data on the demographics of world religions, providing evidence for the continued resurgence of religion into the twenty-first century.
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The Islamic State in October released a video that is a stomach-wrenching glimpse of the worst kind of religious repression. Three Syrian Christian men, one a doctor, are made to kneel in the desert in orange jumpsuits and state their religion. Behind each is an executioner who then uses a handgun to fire a bullet into the back of each Christian’s head.
Some Christian leaders in America want President Obama to declare that a genocide is underway against Christians in the Middle East. I don’t think I’d call it a genocide, but it is absolutely the religious version of an ethnic cleansing.
In 1910, Christians made up 14 percent of the population of the Middle East. Today they are about 4 percent, the result of emigration, lower birthrates — and religious repression that threatens the viability of Christianity in much of the region where it was born.
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Tragically, present policy does not take into account the uniquely precarious situation of displaced Christians. Instead of receiving priority treatment, Christians are profoundly disadvantaged. For instance, the State Department has accepted refugees primarily from lists prepared by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees, which oversees the large camps to which refugees have flocked, and where they are registered. Yet endangered Christians do not dare enter those camps.
George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote in the Telegraph in Britain in September that a similar protocol in the U.K. “inadvertently discriminates against the very Christian communities most victimised by the inhuman butchers of the so-called Islamic State. Christians are not to be found in the UN camps, because they have been attacked and targeted by Islamists and driven from them.”
U.S. missteps and missed opportunities in the region contributed to the crises that disproportionately affected Christians. America’s policy should immediately be amended to include these refugees at the top of the list. Opening America’s doors to them first is the right thing to do.
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[The data in the economic background paints]...a very murky picture. This is the first time the Fed has ever embarked on tightening cycle when the ISM gauge of manufacturing is below the boom-bust line of 50. Nominal GDP growth in the US has been trending down from 5pc in mid-2014 to barely 3pc.
Danny Blanchflower, a Dartmouth professor and a former UK rate-setter, said the US labour market is not as tight as it looks. Inflation is nowhere near its 2pc target and the world economy is still gasping for air. He sees a 50/50 chance that the Fed will have to pirouette and go back to the drawing board.
“All it will take is one shock,” said Lars Christensen, from Markets and Money Advisory. “It is really weird that they are raising rates at all. Capacity utilization in industry has been falling for five months.”
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Hiltz also said that after his meeting with Welby, he came away “encouraged by his [Welby’s] clarity in terms of what the Primates’ Meeting is and what it’s not.”
The Primates’ Meeting “is not a decision-making body—it’s a body for people that come together to pray and discuss and discern and offer some guidance. We don’t make resolutions,” Hiltz said.
Since it was announced that Archbishop Foley Beach, the leader of the breakaway Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), would be present for the first part of the meeting, Hiltz said there has been concern in some quarters over whether or not attempts will be made to confront The Episcopal Church (TEC) over its decision this year to allow same-sex marriages. But Hiltz said Welby was quite clear that the meeting would not exclude any of the primates of churches that are members of the Anglican Communion.
“His principle is one of full inclusion of all the primates. I think he will encourage, and if need be, challenge, the primates to uphold that principle,” Hiltz said.
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Prof Percy critiques Archbishop Welby’s decision to invite Archbishop Foley Beach of the breakaway Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) to attend the Primates’ meeting, without consulting the official Episcopal Churches in the USA and Canada, and suggests:
‘So the Archbishop of Canterbury could begin proceedings in January by offering an apology to American and Canadian Anglicans for his intemperate gestures towards ACNA, and his lack of consultation, which has undermined them. He should further apologise for dealing in territories and spheres of authority that are simply not his to meddle with.’He also warns against using the widespread belief that the Anglican churches of the global south now form the majority and are the only ones growing numerically to cede ‘more moral ground…to African churches…than might be judicious’ in divisive debates over sexual ethics.
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Fifty years after the first major Catholic document rejecting anti-Semitism, the Vatican released a new document on Thursday reiterating that Catholics shouldn’t try to convert Jews and calling for a joint effort in the fight against religious discrimination.
Jewish leaders on hand for the Thursday presentation largely welcomed the document, although one complained that it doesn’t go far enough in recognizing the centrality of the land of Israel for Judaism.
Called “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable,” the document is a theological reflection that builds on five decades of interreligious dialogue that began with Nostra Aetate, a 1,600-word declaration from 1965 that helped reshape Catholic-Jewish relations.
The new document underlines the importance of Catholic-Jewish relations, calling the bond unique “in spite of the historical breach and the painful conflicts arising from it.”
Among other points, it plays down, though it does not reject entirely, missionary efforts directed at Jews.
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Speaking as the Church of England's lead on the environment, Bishop Nicholas has welcomed today's agreement at the UN Climate Change Summit in Paris. After two weeks of talks, participants have committed to hold the increase in global temperatures to 'well below' 2-degrees above pre-industrial levels, alongside clear rules on transparency and reviews of carbon emissions every five years.
Speaking about the COP21 agreement, Bishop Nick Holtam, said, "is good to have an ambitious agreement about the aspiration. What matters now is that governments actually deliver a low carbon future - the transparency of accountability and process of review will be what ensures that happens. This looks like real progress - there is now a much more positive spirit about what now needs to happen than after Copenhagen six years ago, but we are still at an early stage on the journey."
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Nearly 200 delegates from nations around the world on Saturday approved a framework to contain carbon emissions, in a move being hailed as a groundbreaking accord that requires the world's economies to take concrete steps to regulate gases linked to global warming.
After two weeks of marathon negotiations conducted in the shadow of the Paris terrorist attacks which shocked the world, national representatives appeared put a stamp of approval on a blueprint that commits signatories to curbing climate-altering greenhouse gases.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius hailed the "historic" measure for transforming the world's fossil fuel-driven economy within decades and turn the tide on global warming.
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As American intelligence agencies grapple with the expansion of the Islamic State beyond its headquarters in Syria, the Pentagon has proposed a new plan to the White House to build up a string of military bases in Africa, Southwest Asia and the Middle East.
The bases could be used for collecting intelligence and carrying out strikes against the terrorist group’s far-flung affiliates.
The growth of the Islamic State’s franchises — at least eight militant groups have pledged loyalty to the network’s leaders so far — has forced a debate within the Obama administration about how to distinguish between the affiliates that pose the most immediate threat to the United States and Europe and others that are more regionally focused. The regional groups, some officials say, may have opportunistically adopted the Islamic State’s brand to bolster their local clout and global stature.
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The young southern California parents who killed 14 people in a workplace rampage last week had both been "radicalized" into following an extreme form of Islam, an FBI official said Monday.
"As the investigation has progressed, we have learned and believe that both subjects were radicalized and had been for quite some time," David Bowdich, the FBI's assistant director in charge of the Los Angeles office, told reporters.
He added, "The question we're trying to get at is how did that happen, and by whom, and where did that happen. And I will tell you right now we don't know those answers at this point."
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What do American Muslims believe?
Our 2011 survey of Muslim Americans found that roughly half of U.S. Muslims (48%) say their own religious leaders have not done enough to speak out against Islamic extremists.
Living in a religiously pluralistic society, Muslim Americans are more likely than Muslims in many other nations to have many non-Muslim friends. Only about half (48%) of U.S. Muslims say all or most of their close friends are also Muslims, compared with a global median of 95% in the 39 countries we surveyed.
Roughly seven-in-ten U.S. Muslims (69%) say religion is very important in their lives. Virtually all (96%) say they believe in God, nearly two-thirds (65%) report praying at least daily and nearly half (47%) say they attend religious services at least weekly. By all of these traditional measures, Muslims in the U.S. are roughly as religious as U.S. Christians, although they are less religious than Muslims in many other nations.
When it comes to political and social views, Muslims are far more likely to identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party (70%) than the Republican Party (11%) and to say they prefer a bigger government providing more services (68%) over a smaller government providing fewer services (21%).
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Syed Rizwan Farook was looking for a woman. A few years ago, not long out of college, he went online to find a match. He was slim, dark-eyed, 6 feet tall and living with a parent in Riverside, his dating profiles explained.
He was Chicago-born, with Pakistani roots. He didn't drink or smoke. He avoided TV and movies, preferring instead to tinker with old cars, work out and memorize the Quran. He had a $49,000-a-year government job as a health inspector and wanted a young wife who shared his Sunni Muslim faith.
"Someone who takes her religion very seriously and is always trying to improve her religion and encouraging others to do the same using hikmah (wisdom) and not harshness," he wrote on BestMuslim.com, one of several dating and matrimonial sites he used.
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“I felt like I was betraying God and Christianity,” said Alex, who spoke on the condition that she be identified only by a pseudonym she uses online. “But I also felt excited because I had made a lot of new friends.”
Even though the Islamic State’s ideology is explicitly at odds with the West, the group is making a relentless effort to recruit Westerners into its ranks, eager to exploit them for their outsize propaganda value. Through January this year, at least 100 Americans were thought to have traveled to join jihadists in Syria and Iraq, among nearly 4,000 Westerners who had done so.
The reach of the Islamic State’s recruiting effort has been multiplied by an enormous cadre of operators on social media. The terrorist group itself maintains a 24-hour online operation, and its effectiveness is vastly extended by larger rings of sympathetic volunteers and fans who pass on its messages and viewpoint, reeling in potential recruits, analysts say.
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Dec. 7 marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most pivotal documents in the Catholic Church’s 2,000-year history: Dignitatis Humanae, or “On the Dignity of the Human Person.” Issued at the close of the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the work stated the church’s belief “that the human person has a right to religious freedom.”
This declaration was at once revolutionary and reaffirming of Catholic tradition—and its significance has only increased as attacks on religious freedom have proliferated in the intervening years.
In many ways, the Catholic Church’s affirmation of religious liberty echoes the American tradition of religious freedom, articulated so forcefully in the writings of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson and given constitutional enumeration in the First Amendment.
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Police and intelligence agencies have an enormously difficult job because radicalization pathways to violence are not always straightforward. Sometimes an individual on the periphery of an investigation, who is assessed as low risk, rapidly becomes a threat. Similarly, an individual considered very dangerous may never act or may disengage from extremism. As the 2009 investigation of al Qaeda operative and New Yorker Najibullah Zazi demonstrated, the manpower needed for physical surveillance of even a single individual requires dozens of agents and hundreds of man-hours, and that doesn’t include the analytic team required to evaluate electronic communications such as email, chat, tweets and phone data.
In the past, Western intelligence organizations intercepted communications that allowed security agencies to move against al Qaeda or ISIS operatives, often before they could strike. Now end-to-end encrypted communications apps like “Telegram” have become standard operating procedure among terrorists. So intercepting and deciphering communications is far more difficult, even for organizations as sophisticated as the National Security Agency or the FBI.
There is no doubt that al Qaeda and its remnants as well as Islamic State have the intention and capability to strike the United States using Western operatives. What happened in Paris can happen here. A false sense of security will be deadly. The U.S. must mobilize at home and lead abroad to defeat this increasing threat.
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At least 200 churches or places of worship are attacked every single day, a vice-president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, said this week, at a high-level meeting in Brussels investigating the persecution of Christians.
Mr Tajani, an Italian MEP in the Parliament’s European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) group, said on Tuesday that “every day, in every region of our planet, we register new cases of systematic violence and persecution against Christians. No other religious community is faced with such hatred, violence, and aggression as is the Christian community.”
A report prepared by the Parliament’s research unit highlighted the “paradoxical aspect of contemporary Christianity” in that, while Christians were in a majority across the world, they were in a minority in places of conflict.
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The profiles of the suspects behind the Paris terrorist attacks reflect a pattern often seen among perpetrators of previous atrocities—a group of guys who turned from drugs and petty crime to terrorism. What’s new is the potency of the movement that mobilized them.
To many in the West, Islamic State represents a medieval-style death cult. To its sympathizers, estimated to number in the thousands or even tens of thousands in Europe, its radical message of reviving the Sunni Muslim caliphate is strengthened by the fact that it already rules over territory.
Scott Atran, a Franco-American academic who has interviewed hundreds of radical Islamists over years, likens the rise and allure of Islamic State to the ascendancy of the Bolsheviks in czarist Russia and the National Socialist Party in Weimar Germany.
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Britain on Wednesday night opted to join a U.S.-led bombing campaign against Islamic State targets in Syria, with Parliament endorsing a push by Prime Minister David Cameron following a raucous debate marked by accusations that revived the ghosts of Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war.
The vote put an end to an awkward year in the close military alliance between the United States and Britain, during which the Britons joined the Americans in bombing the Islamic State in Iraq but drew a line at the Syrian border. The British government had reasoned last fall that — unlike in Iraq — the Syrian government had not invited Western intervention.
But after the Islamic State claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks last month that killed 130 people in Paris, Cameron vowed to expand his country’s military contribution to operations in both of the terrorist group’s main sanctuaries.
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After walking more than 200 miles in 14 days from London to Paris to highlight the need for a fair, ambitious and binding climate change deal at the UN climate talks, over 30 pilgrims are returning from Paris on the Eurostar in just a couple of hours. It has been quite a journey, both individually and for the group as a whole.
The pilgrimage began with a wonderful service at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, where more than 150 people came to show their support, including the Bishop of Salisbury and Church of England’s lead bishop on the environment, Bishop Nicholas Holtam, and Bishop John Sherrington from the Catholic Diocese of Westminster.
Later that morning we were joined by 150 primary school children from Archbishop Sumner School, who sang and played instruments to welcome the pilgrims as they walked through Kennington. There was even a steel band! It was especially moving since many of the pilgrims were walking for the futures of their own grandchildren.
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KOJA, Nigeria—This was a small town on the docks where steamships stopped when a traveling young nut merchant named Ahmed Musa settled here in the 1940s. He didn’t even lock his doors at night.
Now Lokoja is the fastest-growing city on Earth. His roof looks out over shanties and suburban estates tangling along the Niger River stretch where, a century ago, a British writer gazed across the water and coined the name Nigeria. Lokoja’s metropolitan population of 473,000 is set to rise 78% in the next 10 years, the United Nations projects, quicker than every other sizable town in the world.
The biggest human increase in modern history is under way in Africa. On every other continent, growth rates are slowing toward a standstill for the first time in centuries, and the day is in sight when the world’s human population levels out.
But not here—not yet.
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Hunger and food insecurity are so widespread in the United States they add $160 billion to national health care spending, according to a Christian advocacy group.
The Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, said on Monday (Nov. 23) that hunger was a key factor in the U.S. having the worst infant mortality rate among developed countries.
“It is like a massive terrorist attack,” he said at the presentation of the group’s annual Hunger Report. “All the things that we do that allow the infant mortality rate to be so high — that is in effect killing a hundred thousand babies in communities across this country a year.”
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“If ISIS is allowed to define the terms of this engagement then they’ve pretty much won the battle. We have to understand them and meet them where they’re coming from but not capitulate, not really surrender to the terror they’re trying to spread, because that’s the victory they are looking for,” says Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance.
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Boko Haram has become the most deadly terrorist group in the world, killing more people in terrorist attacks in 2014 than ISIS, according to the 2015 Global Terrorism Index.
The GTI attributed more than 6,644 deaths to Boko Haram in 2014, with most attacks occurring in northeastern Nigeria. ISIS killed 6,073 in terrorist attacks in the same year, according to the report.
The GTI noted a 317 percent increase of terrorism deaths in Nigeria, the largest increase ever recorded by any country, where newly elected president Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to contain Boko Haram by the end of 2015.
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In the five months since the horrific shooting at Emanuel AME Church left her mother dead, Nadine Collier hasn’t watched the news much, not given what’s on there so often.
But she heard about the shooting at a Paris concert hall. The nightmarish thoughts returned, fresh reminders of the loss of her mother, 70-year-old Ethel Lance.
“When I heard about it, I just prayed,” Collier said. “But I don’t want to be remembering back. I don’t ever want to go back.”
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Most importantly, we shouldn’t allow our domestic controversy over refugees to cloud the larger issue of what is driving the refugee crisis in the first place—a death cult with aspirations of regional or global dominance. Christian communities that have been in the Middle East since literally the Book of Acts are in danger of extinction, as are those who are in need of hearing the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.
We cannot love our neighbors at the same we’re standing aside and watching them be slaughtered. The Bible grants the state the power and mandate to use force to protect the innocent. That means both engaging ISIS with a strong military response and doing what is in our power to shield the innocent from terror. Anything less is not a sufficiently Christian response.
We cannot forget our brothers and sisters in peril. And we cannot seal ourselves off from our mission field. An entire generation of those fleeing genocide will be asking whether there is an alternative to the toxic religion they’ve seen.
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