Rome – Iraq’s Sunni Muslim President Barham Salih attended a Christmas Eve Mass Thursday, telling faithful the country’s government not only should make every effort to defend Christians and help them return, but to clamp down on extremist violence and root out government corruption.
Speaking from St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Baghdad Dec. 24, Salih said the government “must make serious efforts to enable Iraqi Christians to return, and to live a secure and dignified life in their homeland.”
“Their religious and cultural rights must be protected. As the country’s history shows, they are a major and important part of Iraq’s people,” he said, noting that Iraq is an extremely diverse country, and without Christians, “the strength given us by our diversity of religions and ethnicities, would surely be lost.”
Salih, who processed in alongside Iraqi Cardinal Luis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, spoke shortly after the decision was announced by Iraqi parliament to declare Christmas an annual national holiday.
Previously, Christians had been given Dec. 25 off but it was not considered a holiday for the rest of the population in the Muslim-majority nation. Christmas had been granted a “one-time” holiday in 2008, but that decision was never renewed.
Already being hailed as a direct result of Pope Francis’s decision to visit Iraq from March 5-8, 2021, the decision on Christmas and Salih’s presence at Mass are no doubt signs of goodwill ahead of the pope’s trip, but they may send a message to Iraqi Christians that after decades of discrimination and persecution, there might be a reason for hope.
Under Iraq’s constitution, the presidency is largely a symbolic role with real power invested in parliament and the prime minister.
Iraq faces significant challenges over regional geopolitical tensions and an economic crisis tied to systematic corruption which is hampering efforts to rebuild villages destroyed by ISIS during its 3-year insurgency of the Nineveh Plain, and which has thrown swaths of the population into poverty.
In his speech at Mass, Salih thanked Iraqi parliament for its decision on Christmas, and hailed traditional values taught by Jesus Christ, such as “love, cooperation and tolerance for the sake of humanity, in the spirit of peace and co-existence.”
“We need the language of love instead of hate speech. We need peace instead of conflict and dispute. We need reconciliation, solidarity and unity instead of fighting and division,” he said, insisting on the need to fight for these values in a world marred by war, violent conflict, and extremism.
Recalling the economic and security challenges Iraq has faced in 2020, which were exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, Salih pledged to “do as much as is humanly possible” to promote peace going into the new year.
He called the upcoming papal visit to Iraq a source of optimism, citing all the ancient cultures and religions present in the country.
“Over recent years, Iraq’s Christians have suffered because of extremism and terrorism here. This has seen the country lose their human capital as they have been forced to leave their homes, or have been murdered or displaced, by primitive and backward groups,” he said.
“Their brothers from other parts of Iraqi society share in this tragedy,” Salih said, adding, “Terrorism and extremism do not distinguish between religion or nationality. They target all humanity.”
As a new year approaches, Salih said “bold steps” are needed to build “a decent and just government that guarantees a free and dignified life for all its citizens.”
What is needed for this to happen is “a capable and sovereign state able to defend citizens’ rights, to serve its citizens and to restore the leading role Iraq has historically played in the region, and in the world,” he said, stressing the need for vigilance when it comes to the ongoing fight against extremist violence and corruption.
“These cannot be tolerated because they are the true face of terrorism,” he said. “Extremism steals people’s choices and their free will. Corruption steals their livelihoods and erodes the state from within, corroding institutions and the state’s reputation, until it crumbles altogether.”
Calling extremism and corruption are “two sides of the same coin,” Salih praised efforts already made by Iraq to resist terrorism and extremism, saying a “total victory” cannot happen without a deep structural reform.
“We are optimistic about the new year. We hope that it will see the end of the coronavirus pandemic. It should mark the beginning of a new phase of peace and harmony in the region and the world,” he said, saying, “Peace will prevail if righteousness spreads. And we can achieve peace and security, through a spirit of togetherness.”
Do Christians Really Donate More? Bible’s Stunning Impact on Charitable Giving Revealed in Fascinating New Study
As the debate over the impact of Christianity on charitable behavior forges on, a new study reveals Scripturally-engaged Americans are “far more likely than others to donate to charity.”
In fact, the majority of these individuals — people who interact consistently with Scripture and allow it to shape their lives and relationships — report giving to such causes, according to the eighth chapter of “The State of the Bible” report.
“Americans who are engaged with the Bible gave $145 billion to charitable causes in 2021,” a statement from the American Bible Society read. “And … Practicing Christians, those who are actively living out their faith, are much more likely to give.”
The results are pretty stunning when comparing people engaged in the Bible with those who are disengaged as well as the so-called Moveable Middle, a group falling between those dynamics.
Bible-engaged Americans gave a total of $145 billion to charities in 2021, amounting to about $2,907 per household. The same figure for the Bible disengaged was just $924.
To underscore the monumental nature of that giving, consider that Scripturally engaged Americans account for just 19% of adults yet give 44% of every dollar donated.
The finer details point to the fascinating nature of this group’s generosity.
“People who are Scripture-engaged gave six-times as much to churches as those in the Movable Middle and 13-times as much as those who are Bible-disengaged,” a statement explained. “When it comes to non-church giving, Scripture-engaged Americans gave 9% more than the Bible-disengaged and 165% more than the Movable Middle.”
Giving among active believers is, thus, much higher than for other cohorts.
Dr. John Farquhar Plake, director of ministry intelligence for the American Bible Society, said his organization’s research continues to show “a strong correlation between charitable giving and human flourishing.” This is particularly relevant among Christians surveyed in the annual report.
“Engaging with the Bible and actively living out our faith doesn’t simply mean reading the words in the pages of Scripture — rather, it is a transformation of the heart that inspires us to love and live well,” Plake said.
The results for this chapter of the “State of the Bible” were collected from 2,598 phone and online responses from American adults in January 2022.
Atheists will often decry the Bible and its contents, yet study after study shows the strong benefits faith offers individuals and, in turn, the culture at large.
As Faithwire reported, an earlier chapter from the “State of the Bible” report showed “Americans who consistently read and apply the Bible report greater levels of hope and resilience.” Read more about the Bible’s significant impact on the faithful here.
PASTOR JACOB MATHEW – 57 MEMORIAL SERVICE 12/02/2022
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel,and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. We walk by faith, and not by sight! Pastor Jacob Mathew (57 ) has been promoted to his eternal home and went to be with Jesus on 11/24/2022 . He served as the assistant Pastor of the Mizpah Church of God. Pullad. He lived a life that exampled Jesus Christ, a life of servitude,faith,and love. He will be missed by his family, his wife Shiney,daughter Jesna Jacob and son Joel Jacob.
We kindly request for prayers at this time for the family. He is Survived by his mother, Thankamma Mathew, sister Mary Mathew, and brother Paul Mathew and family.
Christian Organization Wins Legal Battle, Will Be Allowed to Hire Christians
Just two months after the Wyoming Rescue Mission filed its federal lawsuit against state and federal agencies for threatening to punish the Christian nonprofit for hiring employees who share the ministry’s religious beliefs, attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) announced they reached a favorable settlement in the case.
As part of the settlement, state officials acknowledged that the rescue mission, as a religious organization, is free to hire like-minded employees who share the ministry’s religious beliefs and mission to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ through its homeless shelter, clothing voucher service, faith-based recovery programs, and life-rebuilding assistance to Casper residents.
“The First Amendment protects Wyoming Rescue Mission’s freedom to hire those who share its beliefs without being threatened and investigated by the government,” said ADF Legal Counsel Jacob Reed. “We’re pleased to favorably settle this case for the rescue mission so it can continue its critical work of serving some of Casper’s most vulnerable citizens and spreading the Gospel.”
On behalf of the faith-based organization, ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit, Wyoming Rescue Mission v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in the US District Court for the District of Wyoming.
According to court documents, the mission requires all employees to agree with its religious beliefs. Before being forced to remove it, the mission’s “Career Opportunities” webpage explicitly stated that “Employees are expected to commit to the precepts in our Statement of Faith, and to help the Mission fulfill its mission statement, vision statement, and ends statement.”
And the Mission’s employment application says: “The Mission considers every position one of ministry and a vital and valued part of our team. Therefore, it is essential that all employees of the Mission have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and subscribe to our Statement of Faith and Ministry Principles. Employees must be willing to lead and/or participate in Bible study, prayer, devotions, and sharing the Gospel.”
As CBN News reported, in 2020, the mission decided not to hire a self-proclaimed non-Christian for one of its Rescued Treasures Thrift Store associate positions. Included with this job is the responsibility of teaching the mission’s Discipleship Recovery Program guests how to spread the gospel and model Jesus Christ.
The lawsuit explains that the mission advised the applicant during the pre-screen interview that it is a Christian ministry and that all employees must agree with the Mission’s statement of faith and demonstrate Christian principles in their life and work as a condition of employment. The applicant responded that she did not have any faith.
The non-Christian applicant then filed a discrimination charge against the mission with Wyoming’s Department of Workforce Services and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), according to Decision Magazine.
State officials conducted a 16-month-long investigation to determine if the mission engaged in discrimination as prohibited by law.
The officials determined the mission likely violated the Wyoming Fair Employment Practices Act of 1965 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for refusing to hire the non-Christian applicant, ignoring the fact that neither of those laws applies to faith-based organizations’ religiously based employment decisions.
After ADF attorneys filed suit, the government capitulated and agreed the mission can hire only “those individuals who agree with and live out the mission’s religious beliefs and practices.”
“Like-minded employees who share the mission’s purpose to spread the Gospel and uplift the Casper community by providing free meals, shelter, recovery programs, and job training are essential for the Wyoming Rescue Mission to continue its important work,” said ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries. “Wyoming officials have rightly recognized that both state and federal laws protect religious organizations’ ability to hire those who share their beliefs.”
As part of the settlement in Wyoming Rescue Mission v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) agreed to pay the rescue mission’s attorneys’ fees. In light of the settlement, the court dismissed the EEOC from the case and signed a consent decree settling the case with the state.
A press release from the ADF revealed that in 2021, the mission served 60,862 free meals to the public; provided 41,037 beds for men, women, and children; enrolled 92 Discipleship Recovery Program participants; offered 5,597 case management sessions, and gave 1,208 thrift store vouchers worth $39,649.92 that provided free clothing and essentials to families and guests in need.
John G. Knepper, one of more than 4,600 attorneys in the ADF Attorney Network, served as local counsel for the Wyoming Rescue Mission.
Sources:BREAKING CHRISTIAN NEWS
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