This edition of my week-in-review feature, "The 3", includes a golden opportunity for Christians and the church to be active in sharing the love of Christ in disaster, the life of a Christian pastor in Iran on the line, and a recent credible terrorist threat targeting religious centers.
3 - Relief organizations respond in light of Indonesian tsunami
In the aftermath of an earthquake earlier in the week, 2 additional disasters actually emerged - a tsunami that struck islands in the Mentawai chain of Indonesia, leaving some 400 people dead (and the death toll is apparently climbing), as well as the eruption of the Indonesian volcano Mt. Merapi.
Christian organizations have been mobilizing to respond to these remote areas, where suffering is rampant. World Vision, Southern Baptists, and others are reportedly attempting to transport the needed supplies into the affected areas. Here is an update from CBN News.
As I like to point out, the aftermath of disasters provide a tremendous opportunity for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ to reach out with humanitarian aid, helping to meet physical challenges and to address the spiritual needs of the affected people. As people are offered spiritual hope, in addition to physical help, they can experience of the love of God in action and perhaps come to a saving knowledge of Christ.
2 - Christian pastor in Iran faces possible execution
A Christian pastor in Iran has been placed on trial and found guilty of apostasy for questioning the domination of Muslim doctrine in the school his children attended. In his defense, he argued that Iran's constitution allows the practice of Christianity. His wife was also convicted of apostasy, but she was released earlier this month after serving 4 months in prison.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has urged President Obama this week to pressure Iran to release the pastor, Youdak Nadarkhani, who reportedly is facing a death sentence if he does not renounce his Christian faith. Here is the story from the Christian Examiner, which originally appeared in Baptist Press.
This is the type of scenario that is repeated all to often in some Islamic countries - freedom of religion is non-existent, and people face severe punishment, persecution, and even death because they dare to speak out on behalf of the Christian faith. Iran is a country of "particular concern", according to the U.S. State Department, and is high on the Christian organization Open Doors' "World Watch List". As the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church approaches on November 14th, we can be mindful of this and similar instances of Christian persecution in many areas of the world, where people place their lives on the line for the sake of their Savior, Jesus Christ.
1 - Churches and other houses of worship in Chicago area urged to be vigilant
With the disturbing announcement on Friday of the interception of explosives found in packages addressed to 2 Jewish houses of worship in the Chicago area, we can be alert or re-alerted to the religious nature of the conflicts that we face in this world. Again, we see the thread of fundamentalist Islam, as expressed here apparently by the militant radical group Al-Queda, which is believed to be responsible for the attempted attacks. Here is the story from The Christian Post about the warnings that have been issued to religious institutions in the Chicago area and beyond.
The religious motivation is seen in a couple of ways: these fundamentalist radicals are performing their deeds in the name of their god, Allah, believing they will be rewarded for their treachery. And, they are targeting, in these cases, other religious groups. We know all too well that Jews and Christians are not viewed favorably by these groups, and their motivation is to do harm to those who do not adhere to their religion. Vigilance is being called for across the country and around the world, and these events serve as a grim reminder of the nature of the religiously-motivated conflict that is transpiring across the globe.
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