Thursday, July 31, 2014

prayer diary Thursday 31 July 2014

'So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire.' 
Matthew 13.49,50

Reflection
Again our Lord warns of the judgement to come and how terrible it will be 
on that day for those who reject God. His warning is one we must take seriously and share with others.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

prayer diary Wednesday 30 July 2014

‘On finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.' 
Matthew 13.46

Reflection:
All else is as nothing compared to what God offers us. Therefore no sacrifice we may make for the sake of entering into his kingdom can be too great.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

'to see a fellow-native die': the martyrdom of St David Lewis SJ

Reading an article about the adventures of Jesuit priest Fr John Gerard in Elizabethan England and his remarkable escape from the Tower of London in Crisis magazine (here) put me in mind of a post I did a couple of years back about a brother Jesuit of his who did not have the good fortune to escape, but instead went to the gallows for his faith: St David Lewis, the last martyr of the Reformation in England and Wales. I'm re-posting the piece below (which is the sermon I preached on him shortly after visiting his grave in Usk, Wales); his last words from the gallows can be found here  (the title of this post is taken from that speech) and another short piece I posted on him here


Mr Baker: his interesting life & extraordinary death

David Lewis
David Lewis (1616 – 27 August 1679) 

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

It is perhaps an occupational hazard for clergy that we enjoy going into churches and graveyards … and so, of course, I had a fine time on my recent holiday in Wales popping into several churches in the towns and villages that we passed through … and in case you starting to feel sorry for my family, thinking it was surely not much of a holiday for them, don't worry – we did other things as well as visit churches!

One of those we visited was the Priory of St Mary in the town of Usk, near the English border (not too far from Chepstow, famous for its race track). We had spent the day visiting an attraction about an hour from where we were staying; Usk was on the way back and we stopped to stretch our legs and have a little wander around. As it was evening the church was closed, but we had a look at it from the outside and at a few of the headstones.
 

One in particular caught my eye. It was a large marble stone, laid flat on the ground, near the church door. It looked fairly new, with some flowers on it. What caught my eye first was the name: Saint David Lewis. My first thought that it was a rather odd name … but as I read further, I realised that it was the grave of a reformation martyr, a Catholic priest who had been executed as a result of the religious intolerance of his time.

But how very strange, I thought, that his grave was in the local Anglican graveyard … and so close to the door of the church. There was more to this story than met the eye, I decided, and I determined to try and find out a bit more about this man when I got back home to the rectory.

The internet is a wonderful thing, and it didn't take me long to find out quite a lot about his story. He was a local man, born not far from Usk into what we would call a 'mixed marriage' with a Catholic mother and a Protestant father. He was raised a Protestant, but in his late teens was drawn to the tradition of his mother. Later he travelled to the continent where he trained as a priest and was ordained. He held some posts in Rome, but Wales seems to have always held his heart and he returned home to spend the next 30 years, the remainder of his life, quietly ministering to the spiritual needs of the Catholic community of the area in which he had grown up.

He lived under the name of Mr Baker and his public persona was that of a gentleman. But as he was a local, I find it hard to believe that this was not merely a polite fiction and that the non-Catholics of his community did not simply wink at his pretence. It was, of course, a capital offence for a Catholic priest to administer the sacraments at this time. But it was something that Fr Lewis thought important enough to risk his life to do… and despite the law, something that the non-Catholic part of his parish were content for him to do.

Alas, events far away were to have a tragic impact on the quiet and peaceful little town in Wales. In London what came to be called the Titus Oates conspiracy stirred up anti-Catholic feeling in the Capital. This might have made little difference, were it not for the fact that a reward was issued for anyone involved in the plot. Greed got the better of a couple of local servants … fifty pounds was a lot of money in those days … and Mr Baker was unmasked to the authorities as Fr Lewis. He was taken to London and questioned in relation to the conspiracy and found blameless … but there was no denying that he was a Catholic priest and for that he was sentenced to be hung, drawn, and quartered.
 
He as returned to Usk for the gruesome sentence to be carried out. It was a public execution, as was the custom of the day, and he was allowed to speak from the gallows, as also was customary. He affirmed that he committed no crime – and that he had been found innocent of any criminal conspiracy – and that he was to die only because he was a priest who had done his duty and administered the sacraments of the Church to his people. If this was something that he had to die for, then he died willingly, because he could not have done otherwise.

And so Fr Lewis was executed. But there is much about his death that speaks well not only of him, but also of the people of Usk. The local executioner could not be found to carry out the deed. He had run off rather than be the one who would kill the holy man. History records that a 'passing miscreant' was employed for the grim task. A local Protestant held Fr Lewis' hand as he was hanged and would not let go until he was sure the priest was quite dead, thereby sparing this 'local boy' the agonising horror of being drawn and quartered. And after it was all over, his body was taken for decent burial in the local churchyard, where it rests in a place of honour near the church door to this day.
 
St David was to be the last martyr of the reformation in England and Wales. His story is inspiring in many ways. The first is that the actions of his local, Protestant community show a quiet religious tolerance, remarkable for its day, accepting of Fr Lewis during his life, and doing their best for him at the time of his death. The second is that of Fr Lewis himself, risking his life to bring the sacraments to the Catholic people of the land he grew up in, and finally giving his life for having done so. And doing so cheerfully, a price he was willing to pay, because it was something that he saw as being that important.

I can't help thinking of the importance St David attached to the sacraments after our Gospel reading today: think about what Jesus says here: 'Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live for ever.’ 

These are Christ's own words - 'unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life'No wonder, perhaps, that Fr Lewis thought it right to risk his life to bring this life saving flesh and blood to his flock … no wonder that, believing Christ's words to be true, as he stood on the gallows, moments before the terrible death to which he had been condemned, he could calmly say that he could not have done otherwise and would do so again if he could. It was his task, his duty, his God-given vocation to bring the flesh and blood that brings eternal life to those he had care over and he could not and would not shirk that duty whatever the cost.

How many of us regard the sacraments with equal importance? How many of us would risk death to receive them or to bring them to others? St David died a martyr's death as witness to his faith in their importance, their necessity, in living a Christians life. And while I do not wish a martyr's death for anyone here, I do pray that we would all be inspired by his example to the extent that we would have even a fraction of the devotion to the sacraments Christ gave his Church … so that with God's grace we too may enter into the eternal life Christ promised all who followed him ... in the Name of the + Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit. Amen.

prayer diary Tuesday 29 July 2014

'Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.' 
Matthew 13. 40

Reflection
Judgement is not something that anyone likes to think about; but Christ warns us of it. If we take seriously his promises of eternal life we must also accept his warnings.

Monday, July 28, 2014

NIGERIA: EIGHT DIE IN THREE BOMB ATTACKS IN KANO IN 24-HOUR PERIOD

a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

At least eight people have died in three bomb attacks that rocked the capital of Kano State in northern Nigeria within a 24-hour period.

According to the Nigerian Police Force, a suicide bomber 'suspected to be a female' detonated a device at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Mega Filling Station in the Hotoro area of Kano City today, killing three people and injuring eight.

On Sunday 27 July, at least five people died and sixteen were injured when an improvised explosive device was hurled at Saint Charles Catholic church in the Sabon Gari suburb as the congregation was leaving the service. Local reports indicate the victims were a soldier who was guarding the church; a man, two women and a child. Three suspects arrested at the scene of the blast remain in custody. This was the second bombing in three days targeting the predominantly Christian and Igbo suburb. Five people died and many more were injured when a bomb exploded in the New Park Motor Park on 24 July.

Also on 27 July, a young female suicide bomber dressed in a black hijab detonated explosives after being challenged as she approached a police check point near the North-West University, injuring five officers.

Festivals marking the end of Ramadan were cancelled following Sunday's bombings.

On the same day, Boko Haram operatives are reported to have overrun Garkida Town in Gombi Local Government Area (LGA) of Adamawa State.

Elsewhere, the government of Cameroon has increased security in the north of the country after Boko Haram launched a sustained attack on Kolofata Town on 27 July and abducted several people, including the wife of the country's deputy prime minister, her maid, a local traditional ruler, and five members of his family. Deputy Prime Minister Amadou Ali and his wife had travelled to Kolofata to celebrate the end of Ramadan. While Cameroonian soldiers managed to rescue the deputy Prime Minister, they were unable to rescue his wife. According to local reports, two of Deputy Prime Minister Ali's brothers may have died during the attack, along with at least 14 others.

The assault on Kolofata Town was the third by Boko Haram in northern Cameroon in three days and is the latest involving kidnapping. In May, suspected Boko Haram members abducted ten Chinese workers, who remain missing.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said, 'We extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of those killed in the recent bombings in Kano. As the raid on Kolofata Town illustrates, Boko Haram poses a transnational security threat, and we urge continued collaboration between Nigeria and its neighbours to reinforce security on their borders and to jointly formulate an effective strategy to uncover the group's hideouts and release its hostages. We continue to call for a surge in troop numbers, in order to protect rural towns and villages which remain targets of Boko Haram's violent and nihilistic campaign.'

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

prayer diary Monday 28 July 2014

‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed …. the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it ... becomes a tree.' 
Matthew 13.31,32

Reflection
God's kingdom is an unstoppable force. Allow it to touch your heart and it will transform your life.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

hope and warnings in some short parables

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Over the past number of weeks our Gospel readings have been covering a short section from the 13th chapter of St Matthew comprised mostly of parables. Last Sunday and the Sunday before they were long parables: the parable of the Sower; and the parable of the wheat and the tares. Today we have a number of very short parables, some so brief that they are only one verse long. Each on its own has an important lesson for us; taken together, in the order the evangelist presents them to us, they act to reinforce each other and provide an even greater depth of meaning.

He begins with the parable of the mustard seed, one that is familiar to us all; with the context of hindsight it reminds us of how from seemingly tiny beginnings Christ's Church spread out over the whole world. The kingdom of God is a mighty and unstoppable force. Much the same message is contained in the first one verse parable that follows, of the yeast and the flour. Just as a little yeast causes a great amount of flour to rise, so Christ's good news will spread out and change all the world. 

The next two parables, about the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price, also only one verse long, explain why this is so: to be a part of God's kingdom is something beyond price or compare; it is worth any effort to attain, because whatever it costs us to enter in is as nothing compared to what we gain. We hear much the same message in our Old Testament reading from Genesis where Jacob works for seven years so that Rachel might be his bride 'and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.' When you consider that this was hard physical labour, tending flocks and herds during the cruel heat by day and harsh cold by night of that desert place, it was love indeed that seven years would seem like nothing as long as at the end of them he might win so great a prize. And it is exactly thus that all our labours for the kingdom should seem to us.

And lest we lose the run of ourselves, filled with warm, fuzzy notions about the kingdom being something inevitable and fantastic prize that all you have to do is wish for it, the final parable, the longest of the five, contains a grounding and sobering warning: not all will enter into the kingdom. On that great and terrible day when God's angels come, they will separate the evil from the righteous. Only the latter will enter into God's kingdom. The rest will be thrown 'into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

But that should not be cause for alarm. As the psalmist tells us: 'Blessed are all those who fear the Lord, and walk in his ways … it shall go well with you, and happy shall you be.' Those who faithfully follow Christ's teachings have nothing to fear. And there is more reason for us to hope, weak though we may be and prone to fail and fall prey to the temptations that the world, the flesh, and the devil daily present us with; for as St Paul tells us in our reading from his letter to the Romans 'It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.' The Son of God himself not only prays for us, but intercedes for us to the Father. Can mercy be withhold from those who truly repent and long for forgiveness if the Son himself is the one who asks for it? I think not, for as St Paul goes on to tell us 'I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.'

Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ and the hope that gives us of God's mercy at the last. But that does not mean that it will all be easy. The parable of the pearl of great price, the parable of the treasure hidden in a field, and the story of how Jacob has striven for many years so that he might have Rachel as his bride, warn us that hard work and effort is required. We must put our hands to the plough and not look back if we are to be worthy of the kingdom of heaven. But the effort will not be too much for us. As St Paul tells us 'If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?' God will supply the grace to all who will accept it to overcome all difficulties, even those caused by our own weak wills, so that at the last we may find ourselves in the place he created us to be – with him in heaven. Something that I pray for all here.


To him who is the shepherd and guardian of our souls, by whose wounds we are healed and who is with us always until the end of the ages, be glory now and forever. Amen

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Examin Saturday 26 July 2014

Another way in which the desires harm the soul is by making it lukewarm and weak, so that it has no strength to follow after virtue and to persevere therein. For as the strength of the desire, when it is set upon various aims, is less than if it were set wholly on one thing alone, and as, the more are the aims whereon it is set, the less of it there is for each of them, for this cause philosophers say that virtue in union is stronger than if it be dispersed. Wherefore it is clear that, if the desire of the will be dispersed among other things than virtue, it must be weaker as regards virtue. And thus the soul whose will is set upon various trifles is like water, which, having a place below wherein to empty itself, never rises; and such a soul has no profit.

St John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel 1.X.1

Comment: seek virtue and flee from all else to avoid sin and attain life eternal

prayer diary Saturday 26 July 2014

'Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.' 
Matthew 13.30

Reflection:
It may sometimes seem that there are those who escape justice in this life. But life does not end with the grave and justice must at last be faced. And severe indeed is the judgement for those who have refused to serve the Lord.

Friday, July 25, 2014

something old, something new ...

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

I'm sure you're all aware of the old tradition for weddings that the bride should wear something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue … and you can relax, Vivienne – I'm not going to quiz you from the pulpit as to whether you have kept up the tradition and if so in what manner. But I did think it might be interesting to try and incorporate something old, new, borrowed, and blue into my sermon today … if for no other reason than to keep everyone wondering until the end as to what my 'something blue' might be!

For my something Old, I chose our Old Testament reading for today from the Song of Solomon. To quote the from it: 'My beloved speaks and says to me: ‘Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.' Such beautiful words for a wedding day, speaking as they do of the mutual love between the couple. And it is that mutual love that is so important. Remember what God says in Genesis - ‘It is not good that the man should be alone' and so he creates the woman, of whom the man says - ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh' with the text going on to say 'Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.' This two becoming one is a great and beautiful mystery of the world in which we live and a most wonderful gift from the God who created us … and soon today we will have the privilege of witnessing that mystery take place before our eyes as Richard and Vivienne are joined together in Holy Matrimony.

For my something new I look to our Gospel reading from the New Testament. Some of you may be thinking 'but the New Testament is hundreds of years old!' To which I can only reply that this is a sermon, not a wedding dress! Today's Gospel speaks of the importance of a house having a solid foundation. And in the context of a wedding, when the couple are forming a new family unit, their own house if you will, having a good, strong foundation to their marriage is important for the success of their relationship. But Christ is not speaking of marriage specifically in this text – instead he is speaking of life in general, and what is the necessary underpinning to a good and fruitful life. And he makes it very clear what he means by a solid foundation – to listen to his words and to act on them. Lip-service alone is not enough – we must incorporate the Gospel message into our lives and place it at the centre of every action we take … and very importantly allow it to guide as to which actions we should not take as well as those we should. And having such a sound foundation for every aspect of our lives will, quite naturally I think, result in having an equally strong foundation to all the relationships we enter into, especially such an important one as marriage.

For my something borrowed, I thought I'd turn to the world of science. It never ceases to amaze me how very often science ends up reinforcing things that the Church has taught all along. For example when it comes to what we may discretely refer to as the marital act, the Church has always taught that it belonged within marriage; and logically enough that a married person should remain faithful to their marriage vows. Some modern commentators would say that the Church was really just being a bit of a spoilsport and a control freak and there's no good non-theological reason why people should have to behave that way. But there is. Science teaches us that during the marital act the chemical Oxytocin is released by the brain – the same chemical released during childbirth and breastfeeding for the purpose of helping the mother bond with her child.

During the marital act it is released by both the man and the woman for a similar purpose, of helping them bond. I think we can all see the dangers of bonding with people with whom we have no wish to, or no possibility of, forming any kind of lasting relationship; and the damage it can do to the relationships that we are already in if we risk bonding with someone outside that relationship; not to mention the hurt we cause to those who have bonded with us in good faith when they discover that we have betrayed them. So the science supports what the Church has always taught – fidelity is vital; and because of the importance of stable relationships to society, that makes it important for us all to encourage and support fidelity within marriage.

And so I come to the last on the list, something blue. I confess I had to wrack my brains a little as to how I might work that in. The word 'blue' has many meanings, but the most obvious one regarding colour is a little difficult to work into a sermon unless I were to use some kind of a visual aid. Blue can also mean being a bit rude, such as a blue joke, or turning the air blue with profanity, but that didn't seem too appropriate to a sermon for a wedding, or indeed any other occasion. Then there is feeling blue, as in feeling sad, but I worried that might be a bit of a downer on such a happy day as this. So then I wondered if I might go with 'the blues' as in music … and don't worry, I'm not planning to sing … we'll leave that to the soloist up in the gallery. 

And of course blues music, being heavily influenced by Negro spirituals from the American South, often have a biblical or religious theme. Take for example the song 'John the Revelator' in the version sung by Son House in the 60's. It begins with the fall of Adam in the garden of Eden and ends with the Resurrection of Christ that first Easter morning. It essentially walks us in brief through salvation history, reminding us of something very important – that we were made to be with God in heaven. And in the context of why we are all here today, it reminds us that all married couples are called to help each other on this journey to heaven. 

Of course they are; it would be a bit odd to say you love someone, and do all you can to make sure they have a happy life, but not to care one jot about their immortal soul. What kind of love would it be if it cared only for the body which we know will perish but worried not at all about the soul which lasts for all eternity? And so it falls to the spouse, to the one who thinks of the other as their beloved to whom they have become as one flesh, to help the other to live their life as God desires, doing nothing that would tempt their beloved into sin. To alter the words we heard earlier from the the song of Solomon, each should say to the other daily in the way they show their love: 'arise my love and come away from all that would harm you not only in this life but the next.'

And there we have it: something old, the mutual love the couple has for each other as they become one; something new, keeping that love on the sound foundation of Christ's teaching; something borrowed, remembering that his teaching is not just arbitrary rules, but 'real world' stuff backed up by science that will help keep a marriage strong; and something blue, a thought inspired from a blues song that the love the couple has for each other should not be limited to this life but spill over for concern for them in the next.


And so I end this sermon with a prayer, that as Richard and Vivienne begin their journey today, that their love will last them all their lives and through into eternity; and that all here will support them in that journey. Amen. 


prayer diary Friday 25 July 2014 (St James the Apostle, Martyr; day of discipline and self-denial)

'whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave.' 
Matthew 20.27

Reflection:
The only glory in the Christian life is that of humble service. But what glory it is! For in so doing we serve not only God, but walk the path that leads to his kingdom.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

SUDAN: MERIAM IBRAHIM ARRIVES IN ITALY

a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

Meriam Ibrahim and her family have arrived safely in Italy after criminal charges against her and her husband were dismissed and they were permitted to leave the Sudan.

On 24 June, Mrs Ibrahim and her husband Daniel Wani were detained as they attempted to leave Sudan, and were later charged with forgery and provision of false information under article 123 and 97 of the 1991 Criminal Code, due to alleged irregularities with her travel documents. Sources have informed Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) that these charges have now been dismissed, clearing the way for the family to leave the country. They left at approximately 4am Sudanese time on an Italian government plane, accompanied by the Italian Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs. Meriam and her children travelled on passports issued by Sudanese authorities and CSW was informed the family will eventually travel to the US.

On 23 June, the Appeal Court overturned the decision of the Public Order Court in El Haj Yousif, Khartoum to sentence Mrs Ibrahim to death for apostasy and 100 lashes for adultery. The Appeal Court also recognised Mrs Ibrahim's marriage to Daniel Wani and ordered her immediate release. However, the following day Mrs Ibrahim and her husband were detained at Khartoum Airport by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).

Mrs Ibrahim was born in western Sudan to a Sudanese Muslim father and an Ethiopian Orthodox mother. Her father left the family when she was six years old and she was subsequently brought up as a Christian by her mother. The case against Mrs Ibrahim began after her alleged family members made Sudanese authorities aware of her marriage to Daniel Wani, a Christian with joint Sudanese and American citizenship. Morning Star news reported that Mrs Ibrahim testified before the court on 4 March that she is a life-long Christian, producing her marriage certificate, where she is classified as Christian, as evidence. Three potential witnesses from western Sudan who went to court to testify of Mrs Ibrahim's lifelong adherence to Christianity were prevented from giving evidence.

Mrs Ibrahim's alleged family attempted to challenge the Appeal Court's decision to release her; however, CSW was informed this too has been dismissed. Her lawyers continue to face threats from extremists for working on her case. In a comment to CSW one lawyer said 'Now we are a target', adding that days earlier extremists had protested and reiterated they would kill Mrs Ibrahim and anyone who helped her. According to the lawyer, one of the people involved in this protest has been arrested.

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, 'We are delighted by the decision to drop the unwarranted cases against Mrs Ibrahim and her husband, and to allow the family to leave the country, and we commend the Italian government for its effective interventions on behalf of this family. However, the legal anomaly that allowed the prosecution and harassment of Mrs Ibrahim and her family continues still exists. In order to prevent further cases like Mrs Ibrahim's, we urge the Sudanese authorities to uphold the right to freedom of religion or belief for all of its citizens, as guaranteed in Sudan's Interim Constitution and in international statutes to which the nation is party. The Sudanese authorities must also ensure that human rights defenders are able to practice their profession without experiencing harassment and intimidation.'

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

prayer diary Thursday 24 July 2014

Jesus said: 'Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.' 
Matthew 13.17

Reflection
We are among those blessed to see and hear what so many longed for. Do not waste so precious a gift by taking it for granted. Instead daily give thanks to the Lord and serve him with all your heart, strength, mind, and soul.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

prayer diary Wednesday 23 July 2014

'Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.' 
Matthew 13.7

Reflection:
Jesus explained that the seeds that fell among thorns are those who lose faith in the face of the cares of the world. Take his warning, then, and do not lose eternal life for the sake of things that are passing.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

prayer diary Tuesday 22 July 2014 (St Mary Magdalene)

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord.’ 
John 20.18

Reflection
Privileged with the first post-resurrection appearance, Mary's immediate response was a declaration of faith. We also have the privilege of seeing the Lord, but through the eyes of faith. And like Mary we must publicly proclaim him as Lord.

Monday, July 21, 2014

prayer diary Monday 21 July 2014

But he answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.' 
Matthew 12.21

Reflection
Those without faith often cry 'extraordinary claims requires extraordinary proof.' Yet all the proof needed lies before us. Demands for more in the shape of signs and wonders is a sign in itself – of an evil and adulterous generation.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

short film: an Irish First Holy Communion

The boyfriend of one of my wife's best friends, Brian Stynes, is a cameraman and short film maker. The one posted below has done quite well on the circuit of film festivals and also has been picked up by RTE (Ireland's national broadcaster) for their short film slot. It details the chaotic few minutes in one Cork household before they head out for the church for their daughter's First Holy Communion. It is slightly over eleven minutes long and remarkably was done in only one take - no camera tricks or editorial slight of hand - an amazing feat for the director, cameraman, and the cast (I didn't catch a one of them flicking an eye at the camera roving through their midst even once). For those worried that the Cork patois might be beyond them, no worries - it is subtitled ... less because the director was afraid that English as spoken in Cork might come across as a foreign language to some, I think, than the sheer realistic bedlam taking place in the house often makes what is being said difficult to catch. Well worth watching for its own artistic merit and as a lovely representation of the lead up to an important rite of passage for most Irish children. 




Note: the film isn't rated, but I would suggest it might be considered PG on the basis of some mild profanity (with the proviso that what is considered mild by someone who has served his time in both the navy and the army might be thought less mild by someone else).

justice comes at the last

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our Gospel reading today is the parable of the wheat and the weeds – called the wheat and the tares in the King James Version. It presents the fairly curious scenario of an enemy sowing weeds in another man's wheat field and the dilemma that presents the landowner as to what to to rectify the situation.

There are some interesting points about the story. One is that the word translated as weeds or tares is in the Greek ziz-an-ia which scholars think refers to the plant darnel, a type of ryegrass that looks very like wheat when the plants are at an early stage of growth. Another is that there was in fact a law in ancient Rome forbidding people from sowing darnel in the wheat fields of those they didn't get along with too well. As the Romans were a very practical people, not much given to writing laws about situations that didn't exist, the fact they had this law on the books strongly suggests that this was something that really happened in the ancient world – and often enough to require laws prohibiting it. This makes the scenario that Jesus outlines in his parable a very realistic one, something that his listeners that day on the shores of Lake Galilee would have been aware of.

In that context, the actions of the landowner makes absolute sense: don't go in the field, tearing up the weeds, he says, because you can't do that without pulling up a lot of wheat as well … and that's what my enemy wants, that I'll damage my harvest in this way … what we must do instead is leave it until the harvest; then it will be much easier to sort things out and none of the crop will be wasted.

When Jesus is explaining the parable to his disciples, he doesn't cover this part; but it is not hard to imagine what he is saying here: don't rush to judgement; what you think are weeds might turn out to be wheat; leave it to God to decide. Teaching, which if it had been followed, might have led to a very different history for our Church, not just in ecumenical relations between denominations, but in the harsh and frankly judgmental treatment meted out to people for not living up to others' expectations down through the years.

But what Jesus does say in his explanation should give us pause for thought. The people represented by the wheat are God's children, those represented by the weeds are the children of the devil. All dwell in the world together now, but that will change at the time of the harvest, the end of the age. When that great and terrible day comes the good will be separated from the bad, with evil-doers going to the fire and the righteous to God's kingdom. The lesson of the parable is not that there is not judgement, but rather that it is not meted out in this world and certainly not by us!

The parable also presents us with another dilemma: since the wheat and the tares looks so much alike that they can not be told apart until it is time for the harvest, how can we be sure which we are? Is there a danger that we are going happily along, imagining that we are wheat, when in fact we are really tares? And if we are, what can we do to correct that, before it is to late? Because, remember, in Christian teaching there is always time to change our ways this side of the grave.

A key to avoiding the danger is to consider where this parable is placed in St Matthew's Gospel. It comes at the beginning of a section that culminates in our Lord's declaration to St Peter: 'thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.' For that reason the section is sometimes called 'the birth of the Church.' Jesus has left us his Body the Church to guide us along the right path. We all face many temptations every day – from the world, the flesh, and the devil – that may lead us from the true path … temptations that ease their way into our hearts often by claiming they are in fact Christ's teaching … there is nothing more seductive than a sin that disguises itself as a righteous act, all the while proclaiming that it is the righteous act instead that is shameful. But Christ established his Church with a purpose – if not, he would not have established it; and that purpose was to keep us on the right path; the path that leads to heaven; so that at the time of the harvest when he comes again we may enter into his kingdom. And I pray that all here will.


To him who is the shepherd and guardian of our souls, by whose wounds we are healed and who is with us always until the end of the ages, be glory now and forever. Amen

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Examin Saturday 19 July 2014

An evil that the desires cause in the soul is that they blind and darken it. Even as vapours darken the air and allow not the bright sun to shine; or as a mirror that is clouded over cannot receive within itself a clear image; or as water defiled by mud reflects not the visage of one that looks therein; even so the soul that is clouded by the desires is darkened in the understanding and allows neither the sun of natural reason nor that of the supernatural Wisdom of God to shine upon it and illumine it clearly. And thus David, speaking to this purpose, says: Comprehenderunt me iniquitates meoe, et non potui, ut viderem. Which means: Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, and I could have no power to see. 

St John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel VIII.1

prayer diary Saturday 19 July 2014

But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. 
Matthew 12.14

Reflection:
Consider how the Pharisees, who thought themselves godly men, deliberately set out to break God's law with this conspiracy. Sometimes people fool themselves into thinking they can achieve good ends by evil means. But if the seed is not good, then neither can the fruit be. Do not be tempted to break God's laws for any reason.

Friday, July 18, 2014

SUDAN: APPEAL CHALLENGING MERIAM IBRAHIM'S ACQUITTAL LODGED AT THE SUPREME COURT

a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

Christians Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has learned that Meriam Ibrahim's alleged family has lodged an appeal to the Sudanese Supreme Court, challenging the Court of Appeal decision to quash her death sentence for apostasy and 100 lashes for adultery.

Although the appeal has been lodged, the Supreme Court has yet to determine whether it will be accepted. Sudanese criminal procedures state that an appeal of a decision of the Appeal Court can be made by an interested party, but it is up to the Supreme Court to determine whether the individual has the necessary legal standing to do so. If the Supreme Court accepts the appeal, it will then review the Appeal Court decision. Ordinarily, this process can take up to three months.

On 23 June, the Appeal Court overturned the decision of the Public Order Court in El Haj Yousif, Khartoum to sentence Mrs Ibrahim to death for apostasy and 100 lashes for adultery, as prescribed in articles 146 and 126 of Sudan's Penal Code. The Appeal Court also recognised Mrs Ibrahim's marriage to Daniel Wani and ordered her immediate release.

Mrs Ibrahim was born in western Sudan to a Sudanese Muslim father and an Ethiopian Orthodox mother. Her father left the family when she was six years old and she was subsequently brought up as a Christian by her mother. The case against Mrs Ibrahim began after her alleged family members made Sudanese authorities aware of her marriage to Daniel Wani, a Christian with joint Sudanese and American citizenship. Morning Star news reported that Mrs Ibrahim testified before the court on 4 March that she is a life-long Christian, producing her marriage certificate, where she is classified as Christian, as evidence. Three potential witnesses from western Sudan who went to court to testify of Mrs Ibrahim's lifelong adherence to Christianity were prevented from giving evidence.

On 24 June, one day after her acquittal and release from prison, Mrs Ibrahim and her husband Daniel Wani were detained by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) at Khartoum Airport and later arrested and charged with forgery and provision of false information under article 123 and 97 of the 1991 Criminal Code, due to alleged irregularities with her travel documents. Both Mrs Ibrahim and her husband Daniel Wani are on bail pending further action on these charges. They are not permitted to leave the country while criminal charges are pending.

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, 'We urge the prosecutor to drop the criminal charges against Mrs Ibrahim and her husband, which have no legal basis, and to allow them to leave the country unhindered. CSW continues to call upon the Sudanese authorities to uphold the right to freedom of religion or belief for all its citizens, as guaranteed by article 38 of Sudan's own constitution as well as the international covenants to which Sudan is a signatory.'

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

prayer diary Friday 18 July 2014 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.’ 
Matthew 12.8

Reflection:
Christ told the Pharisees he was Lord of the Sabbath; and indeed he is. But his dismissal of the petty and arbitrary rules that they imposed on the people of their day is not to be taken as an excuse for us treating the Lord's Day as if it were no different than any other.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

prayer diary Thursday 17 July 2014

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.' 
Matthew 11.28

Reflection
Such famous words. And what true wisdom; for where else are we to find rest from all the troubles of this life other than in the one who created and sustains us?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

prayer diary Wednesday 16 July 2014

Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants.' 
Matthew 11.25

Reflection:
Humility is the key to true wisdom. For those who think themselves wise often reject God's law; but those who are humble are grateful for what he teaches and so may enter into the eternal life that others fail to achieve.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

prayer diary Tuesday 15 July 2014

'But I tell you that on the day of judgement it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.’ 
Matthew 11. 24

Reflection
Sodom was notorious in Scripture for its decadent living; and great was its fall. But its punishment will seem mild to that in store for those who respond to all that God does for them with contempt and ingratitude.

Monday, July 14, 2014

prayer diary Monday 14 July 2014

‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.' 
Matthew 10.34

Reflection
Christ does not, of course, want his followers going around attacking people with swords. But neither does he want them to back down in the face of every challenge for the sake of a quiet life. His Good News is not easy for every ear to hear – but that doesn't mean we must stop talking.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

sowing from the boat

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our gospel reading today concerns the parable of the sower. It is a ferociously familiar passage, one that we've all heard or read many times, as well as hearing it preached on or talked about in Sunday school … not to mention all the paintings, stain glass windows, and other images based on it … but I wonder how many of us take time to consider the opening verses of this passage?

It begins with the line: That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. The setting is, of course, Lake Galilee, and the house is Jesus' home there in Capernaum. In the verses preceding this passage, we read how the Pharisees are beginning to plot to kill Jesus, angered by the challenge of his teaching, and especially his doing things like healing on the Sabbath. So Jesus withdraws; he goes to a quieter place; he goes home. But still the people come to hear him teach. When he goes out of his house 'great crowds' gather around him. So many press around him as he sits there that those at the back probably cannot hear him speak. And so he gets into a boat, goes out a little way, and teaches them from there.
It is a remarkably clever thing to do. The flat surface of the lake would act almost as a stage; while the gentle slopes of the shore would act almost as a natural amphitheatre, so that all could see, even those standing at the back. And we all know how well sound travels over water; and so all would have been able to hear him clearly as well.

Now, I'd like you to hold that image of our Lord, sitting in the boat, teaching the crowd, in your mind for a few moments, because I think it is very important. Think about what is happening here: Jesus is having trouble reaching out to so many people to teach them, to share his Good News with them, and so he enlists the help of a boat in order to carry out his mission. Now consider that from the earliest days of Christianity it was quite common to compare the Church of Christ to a boat. Historical figures such as Tertullian and Hippolytus did so; and indeed, during the time of the undivided Church it was common throughout Christendom to refer to the Church as the Barque of Peter, barque meaning boat. What we have in our Lord's actions here, I think, is a foreshadowing of the birth of his Church, a term I do not use lightly. In fact, some commentators call the passages which immediately follow this episode in the Gospels 'the birth of the Church,' hardly surprising as they culminate in Jesus' famous words 'thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.'

And so I'd like to consider the parable of the sower in the sense of it being a charge to the church, with a sense of mission, purpose, command. It is easy, I think to see the parable as one concerned with personal holiness: our Lord sows the seed and depending on the ground it falls upon it bears fruit to a greater or lesser degree. And note carefully, by the way, that while in the parable the ground that the seed falls upon is what it is, rocky, thorny, thin, or rich; but in our Lord's explanation, the people whom he is talking about in the parable do have a choice – being overly concerned with the cares of this world, allowing oneself to continue in a lack of understanding of the Gospel message, letting ourselves be lead astray by the temptations of the world, the flesh, or the devil – these are all choices and we are responsible for them and therefore responsible for the the Lord's seed withering instead of producing good fruit. But what is that good fruit that others produce? Is it only personal holiness? Is it only having a more or less perfect relationship with God? Or is it not also reaching out to others to share this good news with them? When Jesus speaks of the harvest being plentiful but the labourers few, he is talking about need for men and women to follow in his way, spreading the word, and winning souls for heaven. So when he speaks of producing good fruit here, it is not unreasonable to suggest that such good fruit includes labouring in his vineyard to produce a rich harvest of souls for God. In which case, those who chose not to hear and receive his word in the ways outlined in the parable do not only do injury to themselves; they deny others whom they might have shared that word with the opportunity of hearing God's word. We sin not only in what we do but in the things we fail to do.

But returning to that scene with Jesus in the boat, an image I think which points us to the Church. And that reminds us that Christ has not left things to chance, to individual actions and responses; just as he used the boat that day for the sake of his mission, he now uses the boat of his church. He has entrusted the work he began to his Body on Earth, the Body that he continues to lead as its head; his Church continues his work of sowing the seed of his word; his Church continues to work the ground to make sure that as much of it as possible is good soil; and his Church continues to work to provide all with the possibility of bearing good fruit, in abundance, and so at the last being with our Lord in Heaven.


To him who is the shepherd and guardian of our souls, by whose wounds we are healed and who is with us always until the end of the ages, be glory now and forever. Amen

Examin Sunday 13 July 2014

The Church Fathers, those saintly men from the early days of the Church, advised that in order to live a holy life one should always keep in mind the prospect of death. This was not to be morbid or gloomy, but rather to remind one that this life was brief and transitory – and might indeed end at any moment - whereas the next life was eternal. This was to strengthen one for the ongoing spiritual battle that is this life, so that one might be better able to resist the many temptations that are daily faced … and remember to repent and seek God's forgiveness when in our frailty we fail to live according to the standards of God's Holy Law. So remember to keep the prospect of eternity always before you so that it may help you at the last attain it.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

prayer diary Saturday 12 July 2014

Jesus said 'Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.' 
Matthew 10.28

Reflection:
The cost of following Christ's teaching in this life may sometimes seem difficult, But how much greater the cost in the next life of not doing so

Friday, July 11, 2014

prayer diary Friday 11 July 2014 (day of discipline and self-denial)

Jesus said ‘See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves.' 
Matthew 10.16

Reflection:
Jesus knew his disciples would face dangers, yet he sent them anyway. But then, he was not afraid to face danger himself. And therefore neither must we fear what it may cost us to share the Gospel message.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

prayer diary Thursday 10 July 2014

Jesus said 'You received without payment; give without payment.' 
Matthew 10. 8

Reflection
All God gives us, the bounty of this world and the gift of Christ's good news, is freely given to us. And so we must freely share them with others.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

prayer diary Wednesday 9 July 2014

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” 
Matthew 10. 5-7

Reflection:
As Christians we are all sent into the world by Christ. And like those first disciples we must proclaim his good news in word and deed.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Catholic Cathedral attacked by terrorists in Central African Republic

a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

At least 20 people were killed and 22 injured when Seleka fighters and armed Muslim civilians attacked St Joseph's Catholic Cathedral in Bambari City, situated 328 km North East of the capital Bangui, on 7 July. The church was sheltering 12,000 displaced civilians.

The attack began at 3pm, when the armed fighters entered the grounds of the cathedral shooting indiscriminately. As well as causing deaths and injuries, the assailants razed 20 buildings, burnt three cars belonging to the bishop and carried away two others, along with every motorcycle in the compound.

Catholic Church representatives criticised French troops for their perceived delay in responding to the attack; however, a French military spokesperson has stated that the troops had positioned themselves between the armed Muslim group and the Christians by 4pm.

The attack on St Joseph's Church was allegedly carried out in retaliation for the killing of a Muslim civilian by anti-Balaka forces and occurred on the day the opposing militia groups were due to hold peace talks in Bangui in preparation for the upcoming national reconciliation initiative in Brazzaville in Congo. However, the talks have stalled indefinitely due to disagreements within Seleka. CAR President Samba Panza has reiterated her vision for the interim government to espouse political dialogue, reconciliation and justice. However, she has warned that 'masterminds of violence' must be prosecuted and that participation in political reconciliation should not be seen as compensation for violence and impunity.

Seleka, a predominantly Muslim rebel coalition, took power in a coup in March 2013 and installed one of its leaders, Michael Djotodia, as president. In September 2013, Djotodia officially disbanded Seleka; however many rebels refused to disarm and continued the sectarian attacks that had characterised the militia’s activities since late 2012, including killing, looting and burning villages, amidst worrying reports in November 2013 of an influx of extremists from other countries. The sustained and severe human rights violations resulted in retributive violence following the emergence of anti-Seleka groups commonly referred to as 'anti-Balaka' (anti-AK 47 bullets), and largely composed of ex-Seleka members, vigilante villagers and former members of the national army.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide said, 'We extend our condolences to the families of those killed during yesterday's senseless attack on a place of worship and on unarmed civilians who were already suffering the adversity of displacement. We call for the relevant authorities to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice and urge the deployed French troops to adequately fulfil their mandate in ensuring that civilians in Bambari are protected. We also call on the international community to ensure adequate and timely support for President Samba Panza and her interim government during this very difficult transition period.'

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

IRAN: CHRISTIAN CONVERTS ARRESTED BY IRANIAN SECURITY FORCES

a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

Iranian Christians Mohammad Roghangir, Suroush Saraie and Pastor Matthias Haghnejad were arrested by the security forces at the pastor's home in Bandar-Anzali on 5 July at 8:30am.

Sources close to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) report that security agents confiscated bibles belonging to Pastor Matthias' family during the raid, while Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) reports that pamphlets and a personal computer owned by the pastor were also taken.

Pastor Matthias has been targeted regularly by the Iranian regime and has been imprisoned on three other occasions. Mohammad Roghangir and Suroush Saraie were part of a group of seven Christians who were initially arrested on 12 October 2012, when security forces raided a prayer meeting. The group was sentenced on 16 July 2013, after being found guilty of 'action against the national security' and 'propaganda against the order of the system.' Mohammad Roghangir was sentenced to six years imprisonment, while Suroush Saraie received two and half years. Both sentences were upheld on appeal.

It is thought the recent arrests of Mohammad Roghangir and Suroush Saraie are related to their previous sentences, although this is yet to be confirmed, as details of their whereabouts remain unclear.

In other news, imprisoned prominent human rights lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani was examined for hypertension and heart complications on 6 July. HRANA reports that he was returned to his prison ward against the advice of physicians, who had recommended an echocardiogram.

Mr Soltani was arrested in September 2011 for 'being awarded the [2009] Nuremberg International Human Rights Award,' 'interviews with media about his clients' cases,' and 'co-founding the Defenders of Human Rights Center.' InJanuary 2012, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison, exile and a 20-year ban on practising law. The sentence was later reduced to 13 years by an appeals court.

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, 'CSW is deeply concerned at the news of arrests of Pastor Matthias Haghnejad, Mohammad Roghangir and Suroush Saraie, and the fact that their current whereabouts remain unknown. These men have been targeted by the Iranian authorities in the past, and despite the political charges being levied against them, they were clearly arrested on account of their faith. We urge the Government of Iran to halt its harassment and imprisonment of religious minorities and to uphold freedom of religion or belief, as outlined in covenants to which Iran is party. In addition, the international community must hold Iran to account for the wellbeing of prisoners of conscience, and particularly that of Mr Soltani, who was convicted on charges an independent court would have rejected, The Iranian government must ensure as a matter of urgency that Mr. Soltani receives the medical attention recommended by the physicians that examined him.'

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

prayer diary Tuesday 8 July 2014

Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’ 
Matthew 9. 37,38

Reflection
How many times have you heard these verses or even prayed them yourself? Have you ever stopped to wonder if you are called to labour for the Lord's harvest? You should – because it is something that all Christians are called to do.

Monday, July 7, 2014

prayer diary Monday 7 July 2014

He said, ‘Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. 
Matthew 9. 24, 25

Reflection
Those who put their faith in Christ have nothing to fear – in this life, or the next.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

SUDANESE AUTHORITIES DEMOLISH CHURCH BUILDING WHILST MOSQUE LEFT STANDING

a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

Sudanese authorities demolished the Church of Christ in Thiba Al Hamyida, North Khartoum on 30 June, after giving the church's leaders 24 hours notice of the action. However, a mosque on the same plot of land was left standing.

After their Sunday service on 29 June was interrupted by the authorities, who announced the planned demolition, the church's leader Rev Kwa Shamal appealed to the North Khartoum Commissioner, providing evidence that the Church of Christ was the legitimate owner of the land on which the church was built.

Morning Star news reported that Abdel Aziz Omer, office director for the commissioner, informed Rev Shamal that the government had intended to destroy the church since 2012 to make way for the construction of a hospital. However, the church building was destroyed while a mosque located on the same plot of land was allowed to stand.

Christians in Sudan have come under increasing pressure since the secession of South Sudan on 9 January 2011. In April 2013, the government announced that new church licences would no longer be issued. Since then the destruction of church buildings has continued unabated. Christians have also faced detention and interrogation by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), with several non-Sudanese Christians being deported at short notice.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, 'It is deeply concerning that Christians in Sudan are experiencing increasing repression. The demolition of the Church of Christ, while a mosque in the same location was left untouched is not only a blatant act of discrimination, but also appears to be part of a strategy aimed at restricting the rights of religious minorities incrementally, and in violation of the Sudan's own constitution, which recognises the nation as 'multicultural, multi ethnic, multi lingual and multi religious'. CSW calls on the Sudanese authorities to return the land and rebuild the Church of Christ in Thiba Al Hamyida, or alternatively, to compensate the church and allocate an equally viable location for a new building. Sudan must also fully guarantee the right to freedom of religion or belief for all its citizens, as per the Interim constitution and article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sudan is a signatory.'

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

Examin Sunday 6 July 2014

You shall not dishonour the Name of the Lord your God

Is causal blasphemy – taking the Lord's name in vain – part of your usual way of talking? Using the name of our Lord and Saviour as if it were on the same level as some 'four-letter word' is something that should be a cause of shame to anyone who calls themselves a Christian. More, it is an offence before God. And do you tolerate such behaviour in your presence; even laugh when another uses the Lord's name as part of their 'witty' banter, thereby encouraging them to continue to use the Divine name thus? When we cooperate, freely participate in, or otherwise order, advise, praise, or approve of the sins others commit we not only sin ourselves, but may in fact be one who causes these others to stumble.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

SUDAN: MERIAM IBRAHIM RELEASED, LAWYERS RECEIVE DEATH THREATS

(this is a little late to 'press' but I was away ...)

a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) can confirm that the appeal court reviewing the case of Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese Christian woman who was sentenced to death for apostasy and 100 lashes for adultery on 11 May, has quashed the original verdict, ordered her release, recognized her marriage and declared her innocent of all charges.

According to information received earlier by CSW, while in Omdurman Women's Prison along with her two young children, Mrs Ibrahim had been visited by an Islamic scholar who read to her continuously from the Qur'an in order to help her to 'return' to the Islamic faith.

On 4 March Mrs Ibrahim was charged with adultery and apostasy under articles 146 and 126 of Sudan's Penal Code respectively, after alleged family members whom she had never met informed the Sudanese authorities of her marriage to Daniel Wani, a Christian. The Public Order Court in El Haj Yousif Khartoum, chaired by Judge Abbas Khalifa, gave her three days to renounce her faith, and she was visited by Islamic scholars who attempted to pressure her to 'return to the faith of her fathers'. Her sentence was confirmed on 15 May, after Mrs Ibrahim refused to renounce her faith.

Mrs Ibrahim was brought up as a Christian by her Ethiopian Orthodox mother after her Sudanese Muslim father left the family when she was 6 years old. She testified of her lifelong Christian faith in court on 4 March, and Morning Star News reported that potential witnesses who also sought to testify of her lifelong adherence to Christianity were prevented from giving evidence to the court.

The Catholic Church of Khartoum issued a statement on 11 June confirming that Mrs Ibrahim and Mr Wani were married on 19 December 2011, and intimating that the alleged family members may have been motivated by a desire to access the couple's businesses, which include a barber shop and agricultural product. The statement also said that a lawyer who initially dealt with Mrs Ibrahim and Mr Wani's case in September 2013 was forced to stop representing them due to pressure from Mrs Ibrahim's accusers, including from her alleged brother.

Members of Mrs Ibrahim's current legal team have also received threats from extremists who have deemed their actions as 'un-Islamic', adding that they too should receive deaths sentences. Pressure has also come from Mrs Ibrahim's accusers; her alleged brother has publicly stated the family would carry out the death sentence should the court acquit her. According to local sources, other alleged family members have also issued daily threats statements in the Sudanese press against the lawyers, and AFP News Agency reports that extremist groups have lobbied the Sudanese government to uphold the sentence.

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, 'We are delighted to hear that Mrs Ibrahim and her children have been released into the care of her husband and that the unjust, inhumane and unwarranted sentences have been annulled. However, we remain appalled by the threats and hate speech that has been aired seemingly unhindered against Mrs Ibrahim and her lawyers and urge the international community to hold the Sudanese authorities to account for her safety and that of her lawyers. The right to freedom of religion or belief is guaranteed both by international statutes to which Sudan is party and article 38 of Sudan's Interim Constitution. The Sudanese authorities have a duty to ensure the protection of any citizen who seeks to exercise or uphold this right.'

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.