The U.N. says two peacekeepers in Central African Republic have been wounded in clashes with mostly Christian anti-Balaka militias who attacked the southern town of Pombolo.
U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq tells reporters that peacekeepers arrived in Pombolo the previous day to protect civilians in response to widespread violence that has reportedly killed at least 26 people and wounded dozens.
He said Friday that the two wounded were in stable condition and were being taken to Bria for medical treatment. Additional peacekeepers were being deployed to reinforce the U.N. presence in the area.
Central African Republic has been wracked by violence between Muslims and Christians since 2013, when predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels overthrew the Christian president and seized power.
NICOSIA, Cyprus – A senior cleric from Cyprus’ Orthodox Christian church has banned couples who marry in civil ceremonies to take wedding photos outside churches and chapels in a part of the island that is popular with holidaymakers.
Metropolitan Vasilios of Constantia and Ammochostos told local TV channel Sigma on Friday that he imposed the ban after “shameful” photos surfaced online of what appeared to be a bride performing oral sex on her husband outside a chapel.
The Metropolitan said he wrote the attorney general to ask if there are grounds to take legal action against the British couple, but hasn’t yet received a reply.
He said the couple’s behavior caused “great upheaval” in the community and was a moral affront. He says visitors should show more respect.
JERUSALEM – Israel’s nationalist government may be unpopular with Western liberals and much of its domestic press corps, but it has found a close friend among the world’s evangelical Christians and their media outlets.
The government this week is hosting a first-of-its-kind summit for Christian journalists, featuring softball questions, mutual admiration and a welcome respite for embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His outreach to evangelical leaders reflects striking tactical parallels to his close ally and fellow media basher, President Donald Trump.
About 130 journalists from some 30 countries are participating in the four-day summit, which ends Wednesday. The world’s largest broadcasters, including the Christian Broadcasting Network, Daystar, Trinity Broadcasting Network and God TV, are all represented.
Nitzan Chen, the director of Israel’s Government Press Office, said he believed the summit was long overdue, and that planners chose the 50th anniversary celebrations of Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem as a fitting occasion for the conference.
For many years, Israel has held a summit for Jewish media outlets, cultivating those journalists as unofficial “ambassadors” to help promote Israel’s image abroad, he said. “Using the same logic,” it decided to reach out to Christian media, in what could become a regular event.
The summit’s agenda includes meetings with top Israeli politicians, most from the nationalist side. Palestinian speakers barely appear on the agenda.
Sessions include discussions on archaeology and Jewish-Christian relations, but also “radical Islam” and alleged media bias, legal “warfare” and Palestinian “incitement” against Israel. While Israel’s West Bank settlements are largely vilified in the West, participants are offered a chance to visit one.
The media summit extends what has become a warm relationship between Israel and its evangelical supporters.
Local charities raise millions of dollars from Christian friends around the world, and evangelical Christians make up a sizeable segment of the tourism industry. Last week, thousands of Christians gathered in Jerusalem for an annual celebration and parade coinciding with the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
According to Israel’s Tourism Ministry, evangelical Christians account for roughly one-fifth of all Christian tourists visiting the country. Among American Christian visitors, the number of evangelicals is much higher, at nearly 40 percent.
“The evangelical market is one of our main target audiences,” said Eyal Carlin, director of the ministry’s Americas department. He said the ministry advertises in Christian media, sponsors trips for influential community leaders and works with Christian tour operators to offer visits with “faith-based or biblical themes.”
Gordon Robertson, chief executive of the Christian Broadcasting Network and a summit participant, said evangelical support for Israel was deep and heartfelt.
He described Israel’s modern-day history, from its founding in 1948 to its capture of east Jerusalem in 1967 to scenes last week of children laughing and playing in his Jerusalem hotel, as fulfilling biblical prophecy — the bedrock idea seemingly driving the Evangelicals’ support.
He also talked of his strong personal affinity for Israel and the Jewish faith, noting that he enjoys studying the Hebrew Bible. “I like to joke, the longer I’m a Christian the more Jewish I become,” he said.
CBN, known best for its “700 Club” show and which claims a worldwide audience of 360 million people, delivered its first satellite broadcast from Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives in 1976. Today, its Jerusalem operation is “one of our most productive bureaus in the world,” he said.
While Robertson, the son of famed televangelist Pat Robertson, said he did not consider himself to be a direct partner of the Israeli government, he said, “I think we can be a partner with the Israeli people.”
“Israel is obviously in a very difficult position with the Palestinians, with the Arab world, and there needs to be a voice that’s independent from Israel, saying, ‘wait a minute, Israel is actually doing the right thing.'” He said.
That strong support for Israel was evident at Netanyahu’s meeting with the visiting journalists.
Netanyahu, who routinely spars with local media and has accused them of reporting “fake news” in their coverage of a series of corruption scandals, received a warm welcome.
“Good to see you, my friend,” said one journalist before asking a question. “There’s no fake news here.”
Netanyahu’s embrace of the Christian media echoes the strategy employed by Trump.
White evangelicals were a core constituency that propelled Trump to victory in last year’s election. And even after the tumultuous start to his presidency, they remain staunch supporters. Trump, along with members of his administration and his family, have appeared regularly on CBN.
Robertson said that Christian voters were drawn to Trump in part because of his strong support for Israel. “It’s absolutely an issue. It will absolutely determine a vote,” he said.
Ahmad Majdalani, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said evangelical support for Israel is well-known but difficult to understand. He said that both Palestinian Christians and Muslims are harmed by Israeli policies.
“I think those evangelical people are deluded by the Israeli propaganda,” he said. “I recommend they go to Bethlehem and see the large swatch of Christian land that was confiscated and turned into Jewish settlements.”
Robertson echoed the Israeli claim that the Palestinians have rejected repeated peace offers and refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
He also rejected a common “accusation” in Israel that evangelical Christians are here to convert Jews or prepare for the End of Days.
“We really truly stand with Israel, and we really truly want to be dear friends,” he said.
Not everyone agrees. Jeremy Ben Ami, president of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group in Washington that is often critical of the Israeli government, said the evangelicals do not necessarily have Israel’s best interests in mind.
“Israel should be wary of embracing extreme Christian Zionist groups that may be more concerned with their own theological agendas than with Israel’s long-term survival as a secure, democratic homeland for the Jewish people,” he said.
“Social issues to return to the forefront on GOP trail”
That’s the title of an article in a recent edition of the Washington Post. It discusses the North Carolina legislation prohibiting men from using women’s bathrooms, Donald Trump’s dismissiveness of the issue, and Ted Cruz’s support of the Tarheel State’s commonsense efforts to sustain privacy and security in public accommodations.
What is striking about the article is its title. “Return to the forefront?” First, from the earliest days of the current presidential campaign to the present, social issues – protecting the unborn and their mothers, religious liberty, the radical agenda of LGBT activists, etc. – have been in the top tier of issues the candidates have been discussing.
The debate over the North Carolina measure, as well that over issues like dismemberment abortion and protecting the free exercise of religious conviction, are not sudden intrusions, as if unwelcome and unruly guests had burst into a sedate dinner party. These concerns are at the heart of the kind of country we want to be. Will we honor life at all its stages, uphold religious liberty as our most essential freedom, esteem marriage as the union of one man and one woman, for life, and strengthen families to better enable every child to be raised in a home with a mom and a dad? Or will we exalt radical sexual autonomy, continuously redefine human sexuality, treat the unborn as mere collections of blood and tissue and dehumanize their mothers through abortion-on-demand, and encourage the fracturing of families through laws that foster divorce, cohabitation, promiscuity, and pornography?
Second, secular journalists seem perpetually amazed that issues like abortion and religious liberty are actual concerns of real people. It is natural that like-minded people talk mostly to others with the same perspectives and don’t engage as much with those whose outlook is fundamentally different than their own.
Yet over the past several decades, has it not become apparent that a massive, even preponderant number of Republican voters are socially conservative and that, as the country undergoes profound social turmoil, the convictions of these voters will inform what their party’s candidates discuss in their campaigns?
As Terry Mattingly has convincingly documented for many years, most reporters “don’t get religion.” Mike Cromartie, long-time director of the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s Faith Angle Forum, has spoken of once being called by a journalist at a premier publication who “asked for the name of the author and publisher when Cromartie mentioned the book of Ephesians.”
Christians should not belittle journalists for their ignorance, but nor should journalists fail to recognize the significance of the traditional religious faith of tens of millions of their fellow citizens and its implications for American public life. As the Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life documented in a study released last year, more than 70 percent of the American people identify as Christians and many Jews and Muslims carefully observe the tenets of their faiths.
Of course, not all of these self-identified believers share the same convictions about the doctrines and practices and political implications of their faiths. But faith does have implications, real and compelling ones, for one’s beliefs about and conduct regarding the kind of government we should have and the kind of culture we should be. To dismiss them or pretend they are inconsequential shows a certain contempt for one’s fellow citizens and a measure of intellectual dishonesty when reporting about law, politics, social life, and so forth.
Writing of that great 19th century French observer of our then-new republic, Alexis de Tocqueville, historian Alan Kahan argues that “Tocqueville rejected the militant secularism that saw religion as the enemy, and there is no reason to believe he would have changed his mind today. He rejected equally the claim of some religious people that freedom was the enemy of religion. For Tocqueville, the only way for either freedom or religion to prosper in the long run was by recognizing that they were mutually necessary, and mutually beneficial.”
When journalists, on television or in print or online or on the radio, miss this central insight – that religion and liberty are entwined not only in the fabric of our country but the hearts and hands of scores of millions of Americans – invariably they will be surprised by social issues that just keep “returning” to the fore of public concern.
And that should be no surprise to anyone.
This is the headline of the Associated Press story carried on the website of the NBC affiliate television station (KXAN) in Austin, Texas.
It’s about a woman named Dynel Lane, who slit open the womb of Michelle Wilkins and removed her unborn baby girl. The baby died shortly thereafter. According to the AP, “Lane is charged with attempted first-degree murder, assault and unlawful termination of a pregnancy in the March 2015 attack on Michelle Wilkins in Longmont (Colorado).”
Here’s the moral irony: “District Attorney Stan Garnett said earlier that prosecutors couldn’t charge Lane in the baby’s death because a coroner found no evidence the fetus lived outside the womb. That angered conservatives in the Colorado Legislature, who had previously tried but failed to enact a law making it a crime to kill a fetus. Colorado’s law against unlawful termination of a pregnancy was a compromise that stemmed from earlier debates on the issue.”
It’s a “fetus” until removed from the womb, right? No: She was a baby whether in or out of the womb. The only thing that changed was where she lived. For the first eight months of her life, the baby lived inside her mother. For a few hours, she lived outside of her mother’s womb.
Yet even the AP or NBC headline writer couldn’t admit to the ridiculous terminological gymnastics demanded by a society whose unwillingness to acknowledge the personhood of unborn children requires it to retain the embarrassing legal fiction known as the “fetus.”
The writer of the headline called the child what she was: A baby.
Why do advocates of abortion on-demand insist on using this obscure, dehumanizing term (“fetus”)? Because if they acknowledge the personhood of the unborn child, suddenly the unavoidable reality of what abortion is – the killing of a tiny child at his or her most vulnerable stage of existence – roars into full view. And that they must bypass at all costs, stepping around “baby” like it is a rhetorical and, more importantly, a moral landmine for their cause. Which, of course, it is.
For all their professed care for women, the predatory abortion industry has a sordid record. As FRC recently document with our allies at the American Center for Law and Justice in a Supreme Court legal brief, “No one expects to see an ambulance pulling away from a dermatology or dental office. Yet ambulances are a frequent sight at abortion facilities.”
But there has been good news over the past few days concerning babies (unborn, that is) in Wisconsin and Ohio:
• “(Wisconsin) Gov. Scott Walker signed two bills Thursday (February 18) that cut by several million dollars a year the amount of public money that goes to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin … One bill restricts how much Planned Parenthood can be reimbursed for prescription drugs, stripping it of an estimated $4 million a year, according to Planned Parenthood. A second measure is expected to cut another $3.5 million in government payments to Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions.”
Of note is that Walker signed the measures publically at a local pregnancy care center, one that provides life-affirming options for women and their unborn children.
• Ohio Gov. John Kasich also “signed legislation Sunday (February 21) to strip government money from Planned Parenthood in Ohio.” However, unlike Walker, “The governor did not sign the bill in public. His office made the announcement in a statement.”
At least, though, Kasich did sign the measure. According to LifeNews.com, “Planned Parenthood runs three abortion centers in the state and every Planned Parenthood clinic refers women for abortions.”
This comes after Ohio Attorney General and former U.S. Senator Mike DeWinefound, in December of last year, that “Fetal remains from three Planned Parenthood facilities in Ohio were sent to companies that then disposed of them in landfills in violation of state administrative rules.” Quoted in Reuters, DeWine said at the time, “Disposing of aborted fetuses from an abortion by sending them to a landfill is callous and completely inhumane. It is important the public be aware that these practices are taking place at these Ohio facilities.”
Parents.com features a wonderful site called, “What My Baby Looks Like.” In it, all 40 weeks of an unborn child’s development are portrayed and described.
And the site says, as plain as day, “What My Baby” – not “Fetus” – “Looks Like.”
To learn more about Planned Parenthood’s notorious abortion business and its ongoing harvesting of baby body parts, read the important new study, “Investigating Planned Parenthood and Research Using Aborted Babies,” by the Director of FRC’s Center for Human Dignity, Arina Grossu.
A recent study has revealed that kids who read the Bible growing up are more likely to continue in the faith as adults.
The study, called “Nothing Less: Engaging Kids in a Lifetime of Faith,” was conducted by LifeWay Research. It found that the biggest factor in predicting whether or not a child would continue in the faith as an adult after being raised in a Christian home was based on whether or not the child read the Bible regularly growing up.
Other factors which influenced whether or not a child grew up to be a practicing Christian were whether or not they spent time in prayer, whether or not they served in church, whether or not they listened to Christian music, and whether or not they participated in mission trips or projects.
Researchers surveyed 2,000 Protestant and nondenominational churchgoers for the study. The goal of the study was to learn what parents can do to encourage their children in the faith so that they will remain faithful as adults.
“Churchgoing parents want to pass on their faith to their kids—and to see their children make that faith their own,” said Scott McConnell, the executive director of LifeWay Research. “But they don’t always know how best to make that happen.”