Former Christian woman who converted to Islam claims to LBC her new faith has more ‘integrity’

Former Christian woman who converted to Islam claims to LBC her new faith has more ‘integrity’

A young former Christian woman who converted to Islam has claimed on LBC radio that her new religion has more ‘integrity’ because it adapts less to modern society.

Calling into the presenter Iain Dale, Dionne said: ‘I was brought up loosely a Christian and I just went in search of something with integrity.’

She added: ‘Christians in my experience really don’t know their Bibles that well, and they interpret things however they want to…With the Quran you can’t do that, you have to take every word literally.’

Dionne continued: ‘There is no modernizing of the Quran… there is no modernizing with this religion’.

Dale challenged the caller, saying: ‘Society changes, doesn’t it?’

Dionne replied: ‘It does, but does that mean truth has to change…Just because it sounds good to say that “surely it has to adapt to a modern age” it doesn’t mean to say that’s factually true.’

The pair then debated a range of issues relating to Islam, including whether or not Muslim husbands ‘owned’ their wives – which Dionne denied — and the plight of young British Muslim women who move to Syria.

Dale told Christian Today: ‘Dionne agreed with me that society does indeed change and adapt, but where we part ways – and perhaps I agree with some Christians on this – is that Islam and the Quran provide all the answers, literal or otherwise. After all, I’m an agnostic but I would still say that unlike Christianity, Islam has not been subject to decades of scholarship and scrutiny. It seemed to me that what pleased Dionne, ultimately, was that Islam has not been through an enlightenment.’

Once again, Pope Francis urges the world to welcome and protect refugees and migrants

Once again, Pope Francis urges the world to welcome and protect refugees and migrants

Pope Francis has again promoted the cause of refugees and migrants, saying that every stranger represents an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ and re-emphasising the need ‘to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate’.

The message, released by the Vatican, comes ahead of the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which will be celebrated on January 14, 2018.

And its release follows the publication yesterday by the Vatican of major new policy document which challenged world leaders to do more for the protection of refugees and migrants in a move it hopes will galvanise action in the same way as his 2015 letter on climate change.

That document, Responding to Refugees and Migrants: Twenty Action Points, was produced by a special Vatican unit set up by Pope Francis and reported yesterday by Christian Today.

The new message from Pope Francis says: ‘Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age.’

It continues: ‘The Lord entrusts to the Church’s motherly love every person forced to leave their homeland in search of a better future.This solidarity must be concretely expressed at every stage of the migratory experience – from departure through journey to arrival and return. This is a great responsibility, which the Church intends to share with all believers and men and women of good will, who are called to respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom and foresight, each according to their own abilities.’

The Pope reaffirms a message he has repeated before, that ‘our shared response may be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate’.

He expands on each theme: ‘Considering the current situation, welcoming means, above all, offering broader options for migrants and refugees to enter destination countries safely and legally. This calls for a concrete commitment to increase and simplify the process for granting humanitarian visas and for reunifying families.

‘At the same time, I hope that a greater number of countries will adopt private and community sponsorship programs, and open humanitarian corridors for, particularly vulnerable refugees. Furthermore, special temporary visas should be granted to people fleeing conflicts in neighboring countries.

‘Collective and arbitrary expulsions of migrants and refugees are not suitable solutions, particularly where people are returned to countries which cannot guarantee respect for human dignity and fundamental rights. Once again, I want to emphasise the importance of offering migrants and refugees adequate and dignified initial accommodation.’

Meanwhile, ‘protecting,’ says the Pope, ‘may be understood as a series of steps intended to defend the rights and dignity of migrants and refugees, independent of their legal status. Such protection begins in the country of origin, and consists in offering reliable and verified information before departure, and in providing safety from illegal recruitment practices.

Promoting, he says, ‘essentially means a determined effort to ensure that all migrants and refugees – as well as the communities which welcome them – are empowered to achieve their potential as human beings, in all the dimensions which constitute the humanity intended by the Creator.’

When it comes to integration, finally, the Pope says: ‘I reiterate the need to foster a culture of encounter in every way possible – by increasing opportunities for intercultural exchange, documenting and disseminating best practices of integration, and developing programs to prepare local communities for integration processes.

‘I wish to stress the special case of people forced to abandon their country of arrival due to a humanitarian crisis. These people must be ensured adequate assistance for repatriation and effective reintegration programmes in their home countries.’

The new Vatican policy document, meanwhile, urges governments to see migration ‘not as a new phenomenon, but rather as a natural human response to crisis and a testament to the innate desire of every human being for happiness and a better life’. The 20 points, it says, ‘advocate effective and proven measures which together constitute an integral response to the current challenges’ and are based on the Church’s practical experience of working with migrants and refugees.

The action points lay out specific proposals from the Church for governments to consider, ranging from the creation of humanitarian corridors for people fleeing conflict and providing access to work and education for refugees.

The manifesto also calls for greater support for countries which have borne the lion’s share of migrants, many of which suffer from high levels of poverty themselves.

‘I hope this is not the last time’: 100 Gaza children in rare visit to Jerusalem’s holy sites

‘I hope this is not the last time’: 100 Gaza children in rare visit to Jerusalem’s holy sites

Around a hundred children from Gaza have visited Jerusalem – including the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – for the first time, in a trip organised by the United Nations.

For most of the children, aged between 8 and 14, it was their first time not only to the Holy City but outside of Gaza, exit from and entry to which is controlled by Israel.

‘When we saw Al-Aqsa mosque, we felt so happy,’ said 13-year-old Hind Slameh Abu Hilu. ‘We prayed in Al-Aqsa, which we used to feel was impossible. We felt so happy,’ he told CNN.

The group was on a trip organised by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides help to Palestinian refugees in Gaza and the West Bank.

Organisers said that it was the first UNRWA trip designed specifically to bring children to visit the Jerusalem holy sites, including Al-Aqsa – said to be the third holiest site in Islam – and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the most revered site in Christianity where Jesus is held to have been crucified, buried and Resurrected.

The children are also visiting parts of the West Bank on their trip.

‘When we were on the road, a lot of them said to me, “I don’t feel that this is true.” Finally, it is going to be true,’ said Ragh Dahamdouna, one of the teachers accompanying the students. ‘The children here are so happy, so excited.’

Hundreds of Muslims in Barcelona protest against terrorism after last week’s attack

Hundreds of Muslims in Barcelona protest against terrorism after last week’s attack

Hundreds of Muslims in Barcelona protested against terrorism yesterday, four days after the attack in the Catalan city that left 13 people dead and at least 120 injured.

Members of the Muslim community gathered at the Plaza de Catalunya – just yards from where a van ploughed into pedestrians on Las Ramblas – with men and women crying as others held up large banners condemning the violence last Thursday.

People held up signs which read ‘Musulmans contra el terrorism’ – ‘Muslims against terrorism’.

Abdul Razzaq, national president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Spain, said: ‘The victims of the tragic and barbaric attacks in Barcelona and their families are in our special thoughts and prayers.

‘To harm the innocent is never acceptable and goes against the teachings of Islam, the holy Koran and the holy prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.’

The demonstration came as police shot and killed the man suspected of carrying out the attack.

Officers shot Younes Abouyaaqoub, a 22-year-old Moroccan national after he became Europe’s most wanted man.

According to the Daily Mail, he escaped the scene on foot before hijacking a car, stabbing its driver to death and ramming into a police blockade near Sant Just Desvern, outside Barcelona.

Abouyaaqoub reportedly spent four days in hiding before being spotted by a Catalan vineyard owner in the town of Subirats.

Romanian Orthodox bishop resigns after sex tape scandal

Romanian Orthodox bishop resigns after sex tape scandal

A bishop in the Romanian Orthodox Church has resigned after a video was released apparently showing him engaging in sexual activity with a 17-year-old male student from his seminary.

The Bishop of Husi, Corneliu Barladeanu, was suspended when the video was released, and on Friday resigned ‘for the peace and the good of the Church,’ the Romanian Church leadership said in a statement, according to AFP.

The Church’s ruling body, the Holy Synod, had met on Thursday and Friday to assess the matter for its first discussion of a sex scandal in its 92-year history. The Synod’s concluding statement added that a disciplinary process for Barladeanu would have exacerbated ‘for a long time the uncertainty within his diocese’.

The footage of the 51-year-old bishop was circulated online in mid-July, sparking scandal in Romania, where 85 per cent of the population are Orthodox Christians and homosexuality remains divisive.

Barladeanu has maintained his innocence and previously said that the footage had been tampered with. Now he has resigned, he will remain a monk with no official Church position, and he cannot celebrate the eucharist.

In late July, a similar scandal saw a priest from northwest Romania thrown out of the Church after alleged sexual ‘corruption’ with a 17-year old youth.

Friday’s statement added that ‘all believers…should respect the discipline of the Church and permanently renew their spiritual lives’.

Former Archbishop of Westminster is seriously ill in hospital

Former Archbishop of Westminster is seriously ill in hospital

The Catholic Church is asking for prayers for Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, former Archbishop of Westminster, who is seriously ill in hospital.

The Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, which the Cardinal led until his move to Westminster in 2000, has called for prayers for Cardinal Cormac in a statement on the diocesan website.

Bishop Richard Moth has written to all parishes stating: ‘Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor is seriously ill in hospital and I would ask you to remember him very specially in your prayers.’

His successor at Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, has written to all Catholic bishops in England and Wales stating: ‘These loving prayers are a source of great strength and comfort as he calmly ponders on all that lies ahead, all in God’s good time. May the Lord strengthen him in faith and trust and may the prayers of the Church, which he loves so much, comfort and uphold him.’

The Cardinal, 84, who received his red hat in 2001 from Pope John Paul II, retired in 2009. He was born on 24 August 1932 in Reading, Berkshire, the son of an Irish-born doctor and one of six children. Three of his five brothers became priests and another played rugby for Ireland.

He was a seminarian at the prestigious English College in Rome and was ordained priest in Rome in October 1956. He later became rector of the English College, from 1971 to 1972, and moved to Arundel and Brighton after that.

At a recent event at St Mary’s University, Twickenham to celebrate his 60 years as a priest, he told many amusing anecdotes, including how he recently encountered a journalist he knew outside his new home in west London. He asked her what she wanted. She told him she was there seeking help in writing his obituary.

Young people in Iran converting to Christianity in their droves despite Islamic indoctrination

Young people in Iran converting to Christianity in their droves despite Islamic indoctrination

The massive rise of Christianity in Iran, especially among youths, continues despite the Islamic government’s efforts to suppress the faith. Even Islamic leaders admitted that more and more young people are choosing to follow Christ.

According to Mohabat News, which reports on the persecution and state of Christianity in Iran, the “exponential rate” of Christian growth has been a factor for the last couple of decades.

Now even leading Islamic seminary officials, such as Ayatollah Alavi Boroujerdi, have pointed to “accurate reports indicating that the youth are becoming Christians in Qom and attending house churches.”

Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has also been raising alarm over the number of Iranian youths becoming Christians and has blamed “foreign influence” for the conversions.

Other ayatollahs, such as Wahid Khorasani, have slammed government officials “for their negligence in preparing counteracting strategies to stop the spread of Christianity.”

Mohabat News pointed out that “this high rate of conversion of Iranian youth to Christianity is in spite of rigorous Islamic indoctrination of the youth in their families and educational system.”

“The Islamic government of Iran dedicates massive budgets to the support of Islamic organizations that promote Islam among the youth within and without Iran’s borders. Such efforts to attract Iranian youth is much more noticeable in Islamic cities such as Mashhad and Qom,” it added.

“Regardless of such efforts, Iranian youth seem to become increasingly distant from Islam, which is a cause of great concern for the Iranian Islamic government.”

The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran said in a report in July that Iranian authorities are increasingly cracking down on Christian converts in the country, arresting and imprisoning believers in their attempts to suppress Christianity.

CHRI noted in its report that since June 2017, at least 11 Christian converts and the former leader of the Assyrian Pentecostal Church in Iran have been issued long prison sentences by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran.

“Christians are recognized as an official religious minority in Iran’s Constitution, but the state continues to persecute members of the faith, especially converts,” said CHRI’s executive director, Hadi Ghaemi.

“The state must respect its own laws and international obligations and allow Christians and all religious minorities full freedom of worship.”

The Iranian government has reportedly been spending millions of dollars for Islamic propaganda across the country, alongside its campaign to crack down on new Christian converts, and its closure of churches in Tehran and elsewhere.

The strategies have been ineffective, however, with mission group Elam Ministries separately estimating that there are as many as 360,000 believers in Iran today – up from only 500 in 1979.

“Church leaders believe that millions can be added to the church in the next few years — such is the spiritual hunger that exists and the disillusionment with the Islamic regime,” Elam Ministries said earlier this year.

“If we remain faithful to our calling, our conviction is that it is possible to see the nation transformed within our lifetime. Because Iran is a strategic gateway nation, the growing church in Iran will impact Muslim nations across the Islamic world.”

This article was originally published in The Christian Post.

One in three Jews considers leaving Britain because of rising antisemitism

One in three Jews considers leaving Britain because of rising antisemitism

One in three British Jews has considered leaving the UK due to surging antisemitism, according to a report today from the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA).

Surveys of more than 3,000 British Jews for the campaign’s Antisemitism Barometer by YouGov and the campaign found nearly a third of British Jews have considered leaving the UK in the past two years.

Just six in ten, or 59 per cent, of British Jews, feel welcome in the UK, and 17 per cent feel unwelcome. For the past two years, 37 per cent of British Jews has been concealing their Judaism in public.

Examples of those preparing to quit Britain include Mandy, a Jewish businesswoman whose father was the Lord Mayor of Birmingham and a Major in the army, and whose mother was a magistrate. Mandy is now making preparations to leave Britain due to mounting antisemitism in politics and antisemitic crime, and the failure to tackle it. Another is Michelle, a mother who has moved her family to Israel due to growing antisemitism in Britain, which made her fear for her children’s future.

Last month, CAA published police figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showing that there has been a 45 per cent surge in antisemitic crime since 2014. Additionally CAA revealed that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has yet to prosecute more than two dozen antisemitic crimes per year.

More than half of British Jews said that the CPS is not doing enough to fight antisemitism, and only 39 per cent of British Jews felt confident that antisemitic hate crime would be prosecuted.

Nearly eight in ten British Jews feel that recent political events have resulted in increased hostility towards Jews, and for two years, more than four-fifths of British Jews have considered the Labour Party to be harbouring antisemites in its ranks.

The failure of the criminal justice system and political parties to tackle antisemitism is in stark contrast with the attitudes of the British public towards Jews.

YouGov’s polling for CAA found that antisemitism, measured by how many respondents agreed with seven antisemitic statements, has been in decline for the past three years. In 2015, 45 per cent of British people held at least one antisemitic view, but that fell to 40 per cent in 2016 and then dropped again to 36 per cent in 2017.

In the report, CAA calls on the Government to urgently implement the recommendations of our last two National Antisemitic Crime Audits, and for all political parties to adopt our manifesto for fighting antisemitism.

‘Our recommendations for the criminal justice system include basic measures such as producing specific training and guidance on antisemitic hate crime for officers and prosecutors, instructing Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to review all police forces’ responses to antisemitic crime, appointing a senior officer in each force with responsibility for overseeing the response to antisemitic hate crime, and requiring the Crown Prosecution Service to record and regularly publish details of cases involving antisemitism and their outcomes, as police forces are already required to do.

‘Our recommendations for political parties are to adopt the Government’s definition of antisemitism, as many have, and to enforce it using transparent and robust disciplinary processes, with expulsion from the party in the worst cases,’ the campaign said.

Gideon Falter of the CAA said: ‘We now have data that show that in a very British way, fairly and quietly, Britons have been rejecting antisemitic prejudice. British society has shunned a growing worldwide addiction to antisemitism and proved that so-called British values are no mere buzzphrase, but are embedded in our national being.

‘However, our research shows that one in three British Jews has become so fearful of mounting anti-semitic crime and the failure to excise antisemites from politics that they have considered leaving Britain altogether. Our research clearly shows that British Jews have pointed their fingers at the Crown Prosecution Service and the Labour Party.

‘If British society can fight antisemitism, why are our world-renowned criminal justice system and some of our famous political parties still doing too little? There is not a moment to lose. Without urgent change, British Jews may start to leave, as has happened elsewhere in Europe.’

Evangelicals in Spain: ‘Respond to terror with values that respect the life of Jesus’

Evangelicals in Spain: ‘Respond to terror with values that respect the life of Jesus’

A woman places a candle on a placard, reading in Spanish and Catalan ‘Catalonia, place of peace’, in the area where a van crashed into pedestrians at Las Ramblas street in Barcelona, Spain August 18, 2017.
Evangelical Christians in Spain have spoken of their pain and devastation after the toll rose to 14 dead and nearly 100 injured in the two terror attacks in Barcelona. Police have shot dead five suspects.

The Evangelical Alliance of Spain tweeted: Let us pray for the Catalan Church, in a special way to make it that obvious sign of faith, hope and love that serves as an antidote to hatred