Sunday, March 20, 2016

The 3 - March 20, 2016

In this edition of my week-in-review feature, The 3, a look at a tragedy involving four Bible translators who were recently murdered in the Middle East.  Also, the Georgia state legislature has approved a religious freedom bill.  And, the U.S. Secretary of State has designated atrocities committed by Islamic State as "genocide."

3 - 4 Bible translators lose their lives in Middle East

Some disturbing news out of the Middle East involves four Bible translators who were part of Wycliffe Associates. Christian Headlines reported this week that militants raided the translators' offices and that two of the translators were shot and killed, while another two died of wounds from being beaten. Those last two managed to protect and save the lead translator by lying on top of him while the militants beat them with their now-empty weapons.

The militants also destroyed translating equipment, including Print on Demand equipment, books, and translation materials. But, Wycliffe says the militants did not destroy the “computer hard drives containing translation work for eight language projects,” and thanked the Lord for that.

The story said that Wycliffe asked for prayer for the families of the slain translators, as well as these areas:

“Will you pray with me for the injured translators? Pray for others to step up and take on the translation task. Please ask the Lord to mend the hearts and wounds of the translation team who have gone through this horrible ordeal. Pray that God will strengthen their minds, their hearts, and their bodies to be able to continue the translation of the gospel for their people."

2 - States pass religious freedom protections

The Georgia Legislature has passed a religious freedom bill, which, while not as strong as some would have hoped, does provide a measure of protection for religious leaders from having to perform services that violate their deeply-held beliefs.  Liberty Counsel reported that the:

...“Free Exercise Protection Act” protects pastors and churches from being forced to perform or provide facilities for same-sex marriage. The bill also provides that faith-based organizations shall not be required to rent, lease, or otherwise grant permission for property to be used by another person for an event which is considered objectionable. The bill further provides that faith-based organizations shall not be required to provide social, educational, or charitable services that violate sincerely held religious beliefs. Faith-based organizations include churches, religious schools, associations or conventions of churches, mission agencies, or integrated auxiliaries.

The bill now goes to the desk of Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, who had said he won't sign any bill that promotes discrimination. A spokesperson for the governor was asked Wednesday night if the governor would sign the bill in its current form, and the spokesperson said Deal review the legislation next month.  

The business community in Georgia, as well as the governor, has united against religious freedom legislation, including a version of the bill that would have protected businesses against ramifications for acting according to their religious beliefs.

Meanwhile, this past week, Liberty Counsel reported that Governor Rick Scott of Florida signed the “Pastor Protection Act,” into law on Thursday, March 10. This law protects clergy, churches, and religious organizations and their employees from civil action for refusing to perform same-sex marriages.

1 - U.S. Secretary of State declares Islamic State activities as genocide

This past week, Secretary of State John Kerry was facing a deadline, imposed by Congress, to declare the activities of Islamic State against religious groups, including Christians, as "genocide." A WORLD Magazine report said that the State Department had issued a statement the day before the deadline that Kerry's decision would be delayed.

However, on Thursday, the day of the deadline, Kerry told reporters that he had completed his review and determined that Christians, Yazidis, and Shiite groups are victims of genocide and crimes against humanity by ISIS militants.

Kerry said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS, “In my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in territory under its control,” He went on outline a number of atrocities that he said the militants have committed against people and religious sites, as well as threats: “Daesh is genocidal by self-acclimation, by ideology, and by practice.”

The U.S. House of Representatives, in a 393-0 vote on Monday, had approved a resolution declaring the activities of Islamic State to be genocide.  Representatives Jeff Fortenberry, Republican from Nebraska and Ann Eshoo, Democrat of California, had introduced it last fall.  After Kerry's announcement, Fortenberry said, "The United States has now spoken with clarity and moral authority,” adding that he now hopes the genocide designation “will raise international consciousness, end the scandal of silence, and create the preconditions for the protection and reintegration of these ancient faith communities into their ancestral homelands.”

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