Showing posts with label Persecution. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Persecution. Show all posts

24 February 2014

Museveni and the bill

Today is a very sad day, especially in Uganda.

The Ugandan bill
The Ugandan bill
Monday 24th February 2014 is almost certain to the be the day that President Museveni of Uganda signs his country's new law on homosexuality.

There is already a Ugandan law prohibiting sexual acts between men, but this is now being extended to cover women as well and the penalties are being greatly increased. Read the BBC's article for fuller details.

Originally, the new law would have included the death penalty for some activites, but mercifully (and wisely) this has been dropped. Heavy prison sentences remain (including life) and the law even makes it a legal requirement for all citizens to report people they believe to be gay.

Personally, I am strongly opposed to the new law. More than a year ago I signed one of the online petitions calling for the law to be abolished. But public petitions, religious leaders and foreign governments have all been ignored in their pleas and demands that the law be abandoned. Of course the pressure will not stop now, nor should it.

On the other hand, there are powerful political, public and religious pressures within Uganda backing the signing of the bill.

My personal plea to President Museveni (if he is paying attention to public comment) is to think again. Signing the bill is sure to lead to more difficulties internationally for Uganda. Turn back from the brink. Do not sign the bill. Resist the voices in Uganda demanding the signing of the bill.

24 June 2013

Those beatitudes

The beatitudes are well known and much loved by many. We try looking at the opposites of those who are blessed to see if we can throw more light on the meaning of these eight statements. If we take them seriously and personally there are some real challenges to all of us in these beatitudes.

A peaceful river scene
A peaceful river scene
Let's look at the beatitudes in a little more detail. I mentioned them in my last post and wrote that I'd revisit them in a bit more detail. And I linked to an older post that I'd now like to expand on.

The beatitudes are presented in Matthew 5:1-12, but my earlier post reversed them, stating what is not blessed as a way of better understanding the meaning.

Here are the beatitude statements again (NIV version), with the opposites that can't be blessed in italics, followed by some thoughts about the meaning.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
The opposite that cannot be blessed - The super spiritual.

The kingdom of heaven is simply not open to the super spiritual. This is astounding, most of us, most of the time, would say that to be worthy of the kingdom one would need to be very, very spiritual. But no! The kingdom is in fact open to those who are spiritually weak and lacking. Not only is it open to them, it is theirs, in some sense they inherit it and therefore own it.

Why is this so counter intuitive? It's because we don't inherit the kingdom of heaven by means of our own spiritual power and authority. Instead we need to understand our desperate lack, turn to Jesus, and receive from him the right to enter in as a gift of grace and love.

If I think I am spiritually rich and self-sufficient I will not (cannot) make the grade. It needs humility and dependence, not arrogant self-sufficiency.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted
The opposite that cannot be blessed - The ones who think everything's fine.

Mourning is not possible unless we are grieving about someone or something. If instead we think all is well, how can we be blessed? This may not refer to those mourning about the dead, but about those mourning over their own worthlessness and sin and that of those they love (the spiritually dead).

Yet in Christ there is no fear of any such thing. Perfect love casts out fear, and his love for us is indeed perfect. He is willing to comfort us in our shame and sorrow, but how can the happy and content be comforted?

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth
The opposite that cannot be blessed - The arrogant.

At face value this one seems simple, even obvious. But it's not. Look a little deeper. Very often it seems that the arrogant are the ones who inherit the earth. In their cocky, self-confident way they trample over others to get exactly what they want. It seems to be a dog-eat-dog world.

In fact, it's the meek who will inherit the earth. Why? The arrogant who think and say and do whatever they like will get what they want in this world - but no more. In their haste to have and consume they will forget that there is a King of Kings, the Prince of Peace who will have his way in the end.

The earth and everything in it belongs to the Almighty who will see justice done. The kingdom of heaven is not just in heaven, heaven rules over earth too. The kingdom is coming, is already here, and nothing is not under the King's lordship and rule. The arrogant need to be careful, someone more powerful is saying, 'Enough! I recognise neither you nor your authority'.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled
The opposite that cannot be blessed - Those who have no appetite for righteousness.

If you have no appetite you will not eat or drink, so how can you ever be filled? We need to be zealous for righteousness. We need to be like a starving person who will seek out food wherever it can be found, or a thirsty person who will drink whatever is available, even water from a river or a puddle. If you drink nothing you will die of thirst.

If you are hungry and thirsty for righteousness you will find it at any cost. You will find it in Jesus no matter what you must give up to receive it. You will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy
The opposite that cannot be blessed - The merciless

Forgive, and you will be forgiven (Matthew 6:14). Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us (Matthew 6:12). The parable of the wicked servant (Matthew 18:21-35).

There's a simple principle at work here, as far as mercy and forgiveness are concerned expect to receive what you mete out to others.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God
The opposite that cannot be blessed - The impure in heart

Impurity gets in the way. The Almighty is holy, so to stand in his presence we must be holy. We must be set apart for his use and his use alone. If there is anything impure in my heart, part of my heart is not available for his use. Therefore I am not holy. So I cannot stand in his presence. I cannot see him.

We don't have pure hearts through our own efforts of will. It's just not possible for fallen people living in a fallen world. So what hope do we have? Why, every hope in Christ who not only cleanses us but also gives us new hearts, new life and a new future with him.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God
The opposite that cannot be blessed - The peace destroyers

We usually think in terms of peace makers and peace keepers, but rarely if ever of peace destroyers. If those who make peace will be called 'children of the Most High', perhaps those who destroy it will be called children of the 'most low'. And who is the lowest? The enemy, the one who fell from heaven, who creeps along the ground on his belly.

But to fully understand we need to know what peace is. It is not just quiet and absence of conflict. Peace in Hebraic thinking is wholeness, completeness, it is health of body, mind and spirit, utter wellness. It is blessing. We could rewrite this beatitude, 'Blessed are those who create holistic blessing because they will be recognised as the children of the Most High'.

Because the Father blesses, his children will bless also. The nature of the Father is in his children and we will be named with his name. If we cannot or will not bless, if we are not peacemakers, we have no part in him.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
The opposite that cannot be blessed - Those who are not righteous enough to attract persecution

Have you been persecuted yet? If not, why not? If you are righteous you will be persecuted by almost everyone.

You will be criticised by church leaders who fear you may undermine them. You will certainly be persecuted by the enemy who knows you speak the truth and fears it spreading. In some countries you will be persecuted by the civil authorities who think you will cause social unrest or spark religious violence.

John the Baptist was executed, John was exiled on an island, Paul was hounded out of Ephesus. And Jesus himself was arrested and executed because of his life and teachings. Religious and civil authorities will fear the things you do and say and the light you shine into places they might prefer to remain dark. If you are righteous, persecution is inevitable.

Questions:

  • Which of the beatitudes is your favourite? Why?
  • Do you find the reversals useful in understanding the meaning?
  • Have you been persecuted, even in subtle ways? Be prepared to share your story with others.
  • What does it mean to you, personally, to be a peacemaker?

See also:

21 June 2013

Back to front truth

Leaders in the church, Part 11
< Jesus makes a start | Index | Some issues to grapple with >

Jesus gets away from the crowds and begins to teach his closest followers. There are strong hints here, and more than hints, that leading is going to be costly. It will require great humility and self sacrifice, hard labour, unpopularity and persecution, and (not least) righteousness.

Galilee with hills on the horizon
Galilee with hills on the horizon
Chapters 5, 6 and 7 of Matthew's Gospel show us Jesus teaching his close followers. It is his apprentices that he speaks to here, his disciples, not the crowd. Matthew 5:1 explicitly says that when he saw the crowds he went up on the mountain and while he was sitting there his disciples came to him.

In terms of leadership there are several things to pay attention to here. Yahshua has been travelling throughout Galilee speaking about the good news and showing it in action by healing the sick. As a result he is now being pursued by large crowds, he has become famous.

Heading out - Leaving these crowds deliberately, he goes to a remote spot involving a steep scramble that many of the sick would not have been able to tackle. He sits down on a hillside far above the lake and away from the towns and villages. Only the most determined would have followed him there. He wants to train those who will continue the work of the kingdom after he has returned to the Father.

Leaders all need to do this, at least some of the time. It's essential to reach the crowds, that is the purpose of the mission. But it's every bit as important to pass on the method and the foundational truths to the core followers. What is unique about Yahshua is not that he teaches his followers; all Jewish rabbis did that. He is different because he also goes direct to the crowds. The Pharisees and Sadducees taught their disciples in great detail, but they didn't touch the lives of ordinary people very much.

So here, in Matthew 5:1-20, Jesus comes away from the crowds and does some standard rabbinic teaching. As you read it, remember that he's speaking to leaders, those he will soon be sending out on their own. He needs them to understand some basic truths. And these truths are all back to front. Did the Pharisees think the weak would be blessed?

The beatitudes - These famous sayings of Jesus are very intriguing. Most people are puzzled by them at some level and it's likely the disciples were too. One way to get to the bottom of what seems to be a conundrum is to reverse the individual statements. I outlined this idea a couple of years ago and I have just revisited it in more detail in another post.

But the thing to notice right now is that these statements would have made the disciples think. They would have understood that this Jesus was not motivated by power or wealth, but by humility and compassion. And they would begin to realise that he wanted them to have the same approach to life. This is the underlying philosophy that all church leaders need to have. If not, church becomes an oppressive and hurtful place instead of the place of peace and welcome that Jesus intended.

Trouble, salt and light - In verse 11 Jesus makes it very clear that leaders can expect to suffer in a variety of ways because of him. Why because of him? Simply because anyone who says what Jesus says and does what he does will attract the anger of those holding worldly authority. The scribes, law teachers and Pharisees handed Jesus over for execution. The prophets suffered in the same way. The newly arrested John the Baptist was a very fresh example if one was needed!

And he explained that leaders are responsible for providing flavour and illumination. Those who do not provide these things are of little or no value as leaders in the kingdom. We often read these chapters as if they are written to all believers - and to some degree they are. But specifically they are for the disciples, then and now. Of course, we are all disciples and we are all called to lead and show one another the way. Also, we are all called to the mission of going and making disciples and teaching them everything Jesus taught us. Disciples follow and lead others so that they in turn will become disciples.

And what of the Law? - Jesus explains how his coming affects the Law. Again, it's all about leaders. Those who are obedient and teach others the same will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Do you want to be called great? You will need to become more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees (who attempted to obey the Law in minute detail). How can any man or woman become righteous? It's only possible by believing Jesus, and if we believe we'll teach others to do the same.

Clearly, the standard for leaders in the church is very high indeed. Not in terms of paper qualifications or head knowledge (the Pharisees had all the learning and theology anyone could wish for). Not in terms of appointed authority (the High Priest had that in spades). But in terms of Christ-likeness.

If you aspire to lead, begin by reading Matthew 5, 6 and 7. Then consider what it means to 'follow Jesus up the mountain'. It is hard and dangerous work but very rewarding.

Questions:

  • Are you a leader? What do you think defines a leader?
  • Are you following Jesus? If so you are a disciple, doesn't that make you a leader?
  • Why do you suppose Jesus wanted to spend so much time with his disciples (rather than the crowds)? Surely the more people he could reach the better.
  • Is it better to go wide or deep? Jesus went wide with the crowd and deep with the disciples.

See also:


< Jesus makes a start | Index | Some issues to grapple with >

04 November 2012

Astonishing tales of reconciliation

Hear some interviews with extraordinary people. This article provides a little background to some recordings available online and then suggests ways you might engage with the situations described. Listen and consider carefully what you hear.

A slimline microphone
In the last post we heard something of the need for reconciliation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. In this post we have more on the same theme.

Julia Fisher records interviews with some extraordinarily brave people engaged in sometimes suprising ways with Father's purpose for his people.

Here in the West we have little idea of what it means to be a believer in a place where it may be hard and dangerous.

Every week she broadcasts one of these short but informative, moving, challenging and encouraging interviews. Here's what she wrote about one of them a few weeks ago.

It may surprise you to hear that in the Arab neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem and in the West Bank there are a growing number of Palestinians who were born into Muslim families coming to faith in Jesus – these people are called Muslim Background Believers or MBB’s for short.

It is very dangerous for them to openly declare they are Christians. Equally for Christian Arabs to witness to Muslim people is very dangerous. My guest today is such a person. To disguise his identity let’s call him “J”. I met J in Jerusalem recently – he lives there. He spends a great deal of his time encouraging MBBs in the West Bank. I put it to him that not many people realise these people exist.

There's a full list of these broadcasts on The Olive Tree Reconciliation Fund website. You can listen to them online or download them (click the 'Radio' link at the top of the Home page). They are all worth hearing but the interview she refers to in the quote above is week 115. Listen to week 116 as well where the story continues.

These followers of Isa (Jesus) have truly difficult and dangerous lives, probably much like those of the early church persecuted by (among others) Saul of Tarsus (Acts 7:54-8:3). They need our help and support in prayer, and perhaps in other ways too.

A suggestion - Download the recordings for weeks 115 and 116 and listen to them with your friends. You could do this with any small group of twenty or fewer. Perhaps you are part of a cell group, a Christian Union, or a prayer group. After listening you could discuss what you have heard, pray for the people you heard about, pray for Julia Fisher and her work as an interviewer and broadcaster.

Questions:

  • Do you think it would be easier or harder to grow as a believer if you had no access to the Bible? Why? Did the early church have Bibles?
  • What does it mean to you to store up the word in your heart?
  • Apart from the Bible, what other aspects of our lives do you think Western believers take most for granted?
  • How can you help these people? How should you pray? What else might you do?

See also:

21 February 2011

THOUGHT - Pray for the people of Libya

I have watched events in Tunisia and then Egypt with great interest, and more recently events in Yemen, Bahrain, Morocco and particularly Libya. What is happening in Libya is of an altogether worse kind. All followers of Isa (Jesus) should be praying for those suffering people.

A mosque in LibyaI considered writing earlier to congratulate the people of Tunisia and then Egypt. They have brought about change in their lands and done it with remarkably little loss of life. They now stand a good chance of going forward into better times, influencing the nature of their own government.

But now Libya is in the news and some appalling things seem to be going on. It is likely that the Libyan air force has been ordered to carry out strikes on civilians, Apache helicopter gunships have already been used, as have army units with heavy weapons such as machine guns, mortar bombs, and missiles.

It's difficult to know how to respond; if the reports are correct it's savagery of the worst kind, usually limited to all out war.

I'm praying for the people in Libya right now and I urge everyone else to do the same. Men, women and children are dying in Libya tonight. They are guilty of nothing more than trying to replace a corrupt and brutal government that has been in power for decades.

Pray that these terrible times will be cut short. Pray that many who might otherwise die will be somehow protected and kept safe, even in the middle of the violence. Pray for the armed forces and the security and police forces, that many of them will disobey orders to fire on civilians. And yes, pray for those clinging to power including Mr Gaddafi and his family, that they will quickly see the folly of continuing as they are. Pray that many will be surprised by Isa himself appearing to them in their time of need, speaking comfort and peace and life into their hearts. And if you doubt that such a thing is possible, read this earlier post and then pray.

15 January 2011

RESPONSE - Heart warming news

A friend on Facebook posted a link to this news report. In Egypt, where there have been recent attacks against Coptic believers, a grass roots move of ordinary people has resulted in Muslims attending church services. They have been acting as human shields.

Alexandria HarbourIt's the sort of thing that shows human nature at its best, people putting the safety and well-being of others above their own. Aren't people amazing! The population in Egypt is about 10% Copt and 90% Muslim and ordinary people have decided that their minority neighbours need help.

So often, when there is violence in the world the response is some kind of counter violence. It's tit for tat, an eye for an eye. But revenge has never been a successful strategy for peace. Both Muslims and Christians claim to be people of peace. How often that has not been true historically. But this time significant numbers have moved to resist in a peaceful way. And that is inspiring.

Pray for a blessing on all people of peace, in Egypt, in the UK, and all around the world. Ask that people will be blessed whatever their culture, language or faith. Isa (Jesus) is the Prince of Peace.

The prophet Jeremiah knew what trouble was like in a wicked world, he cried out, 'They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. "Peace, peace," they say, when there is no peace.' (Jeremiah 8:11)

And Isa (Jesus) said in Matthew 5:3-12,
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Anyone who follows the teachings of Isa (Jesus) is doing what is right. Please join me in praying for all his followers everywhere, including both Copts and Muslims who read his words and study them and want to learn from them. May the Most High shine upon them and bless them in unexpected ways. May they find themselves coming closer to him in their hearts and minds. May his peace find a home in their hearts.

'Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.'

22 August 2010

REVIEW - Release International

Jesus' followers are being persecuted in many countries around the world. I have seen a number of websites providing information and comment, but one of the best must surely be Release International.

Release International's logoWhy is this a good website? It is balanced, focussed on reporting the unexaggerated truth, and provides useful ideas for action (prayer, petitions etc). Unlike some sites, Release International doesn't publish reader's comments which on other sites are are sometimes rude, inflammatory, or unreasonable

The organisation was set up by Richard Wurmbrand who himself suffered persecution in Communist Romania in the 1950s and 60s. He wrote many books and clearly understood the need for an international organisation to support the oppressed and persecuted.

For examples of the articles available, take a look at the current news page.

29 December 2009

Movements - Long term success

There have been many movements in the world's long history. Political movements - philosophical, art, and literature movements - scientific and technological movements - and not least, religious movements. Romulus Augustus, the last Roman Emperor in the WestAlmost all of these have failed after a few decades or centuries, many are forgotten, consigned at best to dusty tomes on library shelves.

Every organisation created by human ingenuity and effort has a lifespan and runs its course. Consider Communism, the idea that the Earth is flat, the Roman Empire, ancient Greek culture in what is now Turkey, the Gaulish language once spoken in Europe, the British Empire, Woolworths, or Real Tennis. All gone!

Some of these movements depended on repression, terrorism, crushing military might, or technological superiority for their spread and survival. Communism, Islam, and the Roman Empire are movements of this kind. Others have depended on ideas or beliefs that have been accepted freely, and paramount among these is the church. The first disciples followed Jesus by choice; he called them and they decided freely to follow him. And although the church sometimes depended wrongly on abuse of military or political power (as with the Crusades or the Inquisition) these were temporary and clearly contradicted Jesus' teachings about love.

Even within the church there have been monastic, doctrinal, denominational, and revival movements to mention just a few. Again, most of these have failed sooner or later. Consider some of the great Catholic and Anglican monastic orders. Most of these still exist, but as mere shadows of their former selves.

So what distinguishes successful and failed movements? It seems to me that coercion sooner or later fails, and fails absolutely. But the teachings of Jesus remain as powerful today as they were 2000 years ago. They are still seized upon eagerly by those who understand that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He was, is and will always be a success in the hearts of ordinary people because of his love and compassion. Alone among the originators of the world's religions, Jesus is an entirely attractive character who harmed no-one and called his followers to do the same. And his movement is alive and well today.

Where it has been complicated by methods and organisations it has failed again and again. But always the ideas and teachings of Jesus have moved on, leaving the methods and organisations behind and growing again in fresh pastures.

So let's be very careful to avoid any kind of worldly power, control, or system of management. And let's get right back to the roots of our faith - loving the Almighty with everything we have and everything we are, loving one another and our neighbours with the love we apply to ourselves, and yes - even loving our enemies. Those are the hallmarks of a movement that will know no failure or premature end!

Jesus alone is the one who leads us, our role is always to follow. He speaks clearly to his people, individually, day by day, guiding and encouraging. We must die to self in order to truly live. In poverty we are rich, the humble are lifted up, the powerful are brought low, it's an upside down Kingdom. But it works! And it lasts!

But all human ingenuity, system, power, and organisation will eventually fail - within the church and outside it. For only the Almighty can prevail, and he is love.

20 June 2009

A turning point for Iran

Today is a turning point for Iran.

Either there will be a change of direction as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei backs down and is, perhaps, replaced by the Assembly of Experts; Grand Ayatollah Ali Khameneior more likely he will continue along the path he's chosen and will try to stifle the opposition and return to some semblance of the repressed normality that has been Iran for so many years.

If he does continue to threaten violence and pretends to pin the blame on the opposition, there could be a rapid growth of upheaval and things would then become extremely unpredictable.

So, if there is violence, who will really be responsible for it? When a member of the Basij points a gun at unarmed people in a crowd and fires indiscriminately, fear has become cowardice and the responsibility for injury or death lies with the one who fired the weapon. To say that peaceful disobedience to the Supreme Leader shifts the blame for violence onto the crowd or onto Mr Mousavi is a strange argument. Surely it is an argument rooted in fear and desperation!

If you strike me or shoot me or burn my house it's my fault, not yours? I don't think so! Responsibility lies with the one who pulls the trigger and with those who give the orders to do so or try to justify such an act in advance.

Ali Khamenei is no more a Supreme Leader than I am! The very title is an affront to the Most High in heaven for he alone is Supreme Leader over Iran, the entire world, and indeed the Universe. It does not befit men or women to act as leader because there is One who has true authority. The Koran instructs its readers to also read the Injil (the gospel), and there every seeker of truth will find Isa (Jesus) who said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life'. He is King, he is the Great Shepherd of the sheep.

No mortal man or woman has a heart great enough, a mind wise enough, a spirit true enough, or an ego humble enough to be a Supreme Leader. No, not one! And we also know that every single one of us has sinned. Let no one stand against the Most High, for he alone has the true authority and power over the lives of men. He will have his way, better not to stand in his path for he will sweep aside everyone who opposes him.

What did Isa say about the law? He said that to love the Most High and to love the people around us (even if they are our enemies) is the fulfillment of the entire law. How can anyone do harm to those they love?

To the reader I say, 'Pray for the people of Iran, for Khamenei, for Mousavi, for Karroubi, for Khatami. Pray for peace, pray for wisdom, pray for the Almighty's will to be done. Pray for those who may decide to go out on the streets today, for the police, the army, the Basij. Pray that they will all hear and obey the voice of their Maker.'

This is a turning point for Iran, a turning forward or a turning back. It could be a disaster or it could be a wellspring of hope. Time will tell.

Speaks for itself...

A video from Iran - poetic, moving, heart rending, quiet, powerful...

16 June 2009

Eyewitness report from Tehran

This is an eyewitness account of the events in Tehran on 15th June 2009. It was posted on Facebook, Street protest in Tehranwhere you can read the original version.

In case you can't see the Facebook copy, here it is in full...


I left my home in Tajrish along with my family at 3 p.m. We went down Valiast Street which is the main northern-southern avenue in Tehran and entered the Evin Exp'way which leads to Enghelab Street. We knew that people are supposed to gather in Enghelab Sq. (Revolution Sq.) at 4 and march toward Azadi Sq. (Freedom Sq.). From Gisha Bridge onwards, we saw people walking down. Cars were blowing their horns and people were showing victory sign. We went to Navvab Street and parked our car at the end of the street. Then we took a taxi to bring us back to the Enghelab Street. On our way, near Jomhouri Sq. (Republic Sq.), I saw a group of about 20 militia with long beards and batons on motorbikes. My hand was out of the car window with a little green ribbon (the sign of reformists) around my finger. One of the militia told me to throw that ribbon away. I showed him a finger. All of a sudden, about 15 people attacked me inside the car. They beat me with their batons and wanted to pull me out. My wife and my daughter who were sitting in the back seat cried and hold me tight. I also hold myself tight on the chair. They wanted to shatter the car windows. The driver went out and explained that he is a taxi and we are his passengers and he has no fault. After about 5 minutes,they left. My elbow hurts severely. Then, a young man from their group came and kissed my elbow! I told him: You know, I don't hate you. I am like you with the only difference that I know more and you are ignorant. He apologized and left.

We joined the crowd in Enghelab Street.

Read carefully:

What I saw today was the most elegant scene I had ever witnessed in my life. The huge number of people were marching hand in hand in full peace. Silence. Silence was everywhere. There was no slogan. No violence. Hands were up in victory sign with green ribbons. People carried placards which read: Silence. Old and young, man and woman of all social groups were marching cheerfully. This was a magnificent show of solidarity. Enghelab Street which is the widest avenue in Tehran was full of people.

I was told that the march has begun in Ferdowsi Sq. and the end of the march was now in Imam Hossein Sq. to the further east of Tehran while on the other end people had already gathered in Azadi Sq. The length of this street is about 6 kilometers. The estimate is about 2 million people. On the way, we passed a police department and a militia (Baseej) base. In both places, the doors were closed and we could see fully-armed riot police and militia watching the people from behind the fences. Near Sharif University of Technology where the students had chased away Ahmadinejad a few days ago, Mirhossein Mousavi (the reformist elect president) and Karrubi (the other reformist candidate spoke to people for a few minutes which was received by cries of praise and applause. I felt proud to find myself among such a huge number of passionate people who were showing the most reasonable act of protest. Frankly, I didn't expect such a political maturity from emotional Iranians who easily get excited. My family and I had put stickers on our mouths to represent the suppression. Placards that people carried were different; from poems by the national poet Ahmad Shamlu to light-hearted slogans against Ahmadinejad. Examples include: " To slaughter us/ why did you need to invite us / to such an elegant party" (Poem by Shamlu). " Hello! Hello! 999? / Our votes were stolen" or " The Miracle of the Third Millenium: 2 x 2 = 24 millions" (alluding to the claim by Government that Ahmadinejad obtained 24 million votes) , "Where is my vote?" , " Give me back my vote" and many other.

We arrived in Azadi Square where the entire square was full of population. It is said that around 500,000 people can be accommodated in this huge square and it was full. Suddenly we saw smoke from Jenah Freeway and heard the gunshot. People were scared at first but then went forward. I just heard the gunshots but my sister who had been on the scene at that part told me later that she saw 4 militia came out from a house and shot a girl. Then they shot a young boy in his eye and the bullet came out of his ear. She said that 4 people were shot. At least one person dead has been confirmed. People arrested one of the Baseeji militia but the three others ran away when they ran out of bullet. At around 8 we went back on foot. On the way back people were still in the street and were chanting Allah Akbar (God is Great).

I was coming home at around 2 a.m. In parkway, I saw about ten buses full of armed riot police parked on the side of the street. Then I saw scattered militia in civil clothes with clubs in hand patroling the empty streets. In Tajrish Square, I saw a very young boy (around 16) with a club who was looking at the cars to see if he can find something to attack. I don't know how and under what teachings can young boys change into militia.

I came home. Tomorrow, people will gather again in Valiasr Square for another peaceful march toward the IRIB building which controls all the media and which spreads filthy lies. The day before Yesterday, Ahmadinejad had hold his victory ceremony. Government buses had transported all his supporters from nearby cities. There was full coverage of that ceremony where fruit juice and cake was plenty. A maximum of 100,000 had gathered to hear his speech. These included all the militia and the soldiers and all supporters he could gather by the use of free TV publicity. Today, at least 2 million came only relying on word of mouth while reformists have no newspaper, no radio, no TV. All their internet sites are filtered as well as social networks such as facebook. Text messaging and mobile communication was also cut off during the demonstration. Since yesterday, the Iranian TV was announcing that there is no license for any gathering and riot police will severely punish anybody who may demonstrates. Ahmadinejad called the opposition as a bunch of insignificant dirt who try to make the taste of victory bitter to the nation. He also called the western leaders as a bunch of "filthy homosexuals". All these disgusting remarks was today answered by that largest demonstration ever. Older people compared the demonstration of today with the Ashura Demonstration of 1979 which marks the downfall of the Shah regime and even said that it outnumbered that event.

The militia burnt a house themselves to find the excuse to commit violence. People neutralized their tactic to a large degree by their solidarity, their wisdom and their denial to enage in any violent act.

I feel sad for the loss of those young girls and boys. It is said that they also killed 3 students last night in their attack at Tehran University residence halls. I heard that a number of professors of Sharif University and AmirKabir University (Tehran Polytechnic) have resigned.

Democracy is a long way ahead. I may not be alive to see that day. With eyes full of tear in these early hours of Tuesday 16th June 2009, I glorify the courage and bravery of those martyrs and I hope that their blood will make every one of us more committed to freedom, to democracy and to human rights.

Viva Freedom, Viva Democracy, Viva Iran

15 June 2009

A free vote?

Here are the crowds in Tehran, protesting about the election results. Crowds in Tehran protesting about the electionThis picture was posted on Twitter just a few minutes ago.

Read the latest news from Tehran as it develops on Twitter. Some of the streams of tweets are coming from people on the streets in Tehran, posted from mobile phones (this guy deserves a medal but is probably in line for something much harsher). Others are comments from others not involved in the protest. And then there are also comments, good wishes, prayers, and thoughts from people world wide.

There are more photos online, and the major news channels have reports, for example the BBC. It'll be all over tomorrow's front pages for sure.

Live news reporting is one of the things that Twitter does best.

15 September 2008

Rape and pillage

When a nation is defeated in war, the victors take whatever remains. Bluefin tunaIn the last fifty years the human race has waged war on the environment, but the environment has pretty much lost the war and we're now taking what remains.

I assume you can see the terrible flaw in our thinking (or lack of it).


It was true of the ancient empires and city states and it's still true today - in all out war the victor takes anything that remains. Sometimes it's slaves, sometimes it's property, sometimes it's the lives and welfare of the defeated population, often it's all three, but when victory is complete it is always very bad news for the losers.

The BBC published an article today about the plight of the bluefin tuna, it's a good article, everyone should read it, but it's only the tip of the environmental iceberg. It seems the tuna is now in real danger of extinction, the very existence of the 'tiger of the sea' is precariously balanced and yet we are still overfishing it.

Big trouble - The fact is that the environment is in big trouble. The knowledge that we all depend upon it for our daily lives has not yet impacted us nearly enough. But it will do - you may depend upon it.

The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, even the very land we stand on is in danger. Mankind has won a great victory over nature, but has not properly considered that nature itself is our only provider. We have all but killed the goose, the supply of golden eggs is just about ended.

Cod - Here's another cautionary tale from the sea. Cod stocks on the Canadian Grand Banks off Newfoundland have been depleted, and despite measures to reduce catch levels or even ban fishing altogether, they have so far failed to recover (article section from Wikipedia).

But it's not just sea fishing that's at risk, here's a shortlist of some other factors to consider.

Climate - there's now strong evidence that the earth's climate is changing in response to rising levels of carbon-dioxide and other gases. Ice in the Arctic Ocean is vanishing year on year, sea levels are rising, glaciers are retreating all over the globe, storms are becoming more frequent and more violent, extremes of temperature and rainfall are more common.

Pollution - of the atmosphere, the oceans, and the land is better in some respects, but is worse in many others. The long term prospect remains poor.

Fresh water - sometimes too much (flash flooding) but often too little (droughts, dry reservoirs, falling levels in aquifers, spreading deserts).

Deforestation - there has been some recovery in north-west Europe, but much loss of tropical forest. This loss seems to be accelerating.

Easter Island - There is a stark warning in the story of this barren land in the Pacific. Once forested and fertile, it was home to the Rapanui people who carved the vast, stone heads or 'Moai'. The civilisation here was at one time advanced, writing was invented independently, farming technology was an important part of the economy, timber and stone were both in use for building and for artistic or ceremonial use. Yet now there are almost no trees and the civilisation has vanished. Why? Because they over-exploited their natural resources. This is the tragedy of the commons in action.

We also face the same tragedy. Genesis 1:26-28 calls on us to manage the earth and all that is in it. The Hebrew verb 'radah' can be translated 'dominate'. And although managing something involves taking charge, it also requires wisdom and stewardship. The Rapanui conquered and dominated their island but they did not care for it as good stewards. What will tomorrow's historians write about us? And in what sense did the Rapanui truly 'dominate' their island? They are certainly not dominant now.

16 August 2008

Living in fear in St Neots

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I've just read a distressing news report about a local family that are having their lives ruined by thoughtless, cruel, young people throwing stones at their home, calling out abusive remarks, and even breaking windows. The news report is online, take a look for yourself.

Let's list out a few basic facts about the situation and about me. After all, I live in St Neots, I am involved whether I wish to be or not, I'm part of this community.
  • The young people doing this are probably bored, perhaps they have nothing useful to keep them occupied. They probably get swept along in the moment, they each want to outdo the others. It's cool to do this stuff. There may be one amongst them who leads them into stuff they wouldn't otherwise do.

  • The police are only able to respond to crimes that are committed, they don't have the remit or the people to deal with any underlying problem.

  • The church will feel sorry that this has happened, but will think, 'What can we do?'

  • The people being victimised can do little to help themselves.

  • The neighbours will feel, 'I'm not getting involved otherwise I'll be next.'

  • I'm thinking hard about what I should do...



Mallard Lane is not the most prosperous part of town, hardship is a reality for some and local people are struggling with issues which include vandalism. Here's a map of the area (you can also view a larger map). The pin in the map just marks the street, not the position of the household under attack.

So what can I do? What can anyone do?

Here's what I propose, I will begin by praying.

I'll share this story with the friends I meet with on Thursdays, we can pray together.

If you're reading this and would like to pray too that would be great. The main things I'm asking as a start are
  • That I'll be shown clearly what, if anything, I am to do.

  • That the trouble will stop and the pressure be lifted.

  • That the woman in the story will be healed.

That's a start. But in practical terms here's what I'm thinking.
  • Make contact with the people who are being victimised.

  • Invite them round for a BBQ some time soon.

  • Send letters to the local church explaining the background and asking for prayer and any practical input they feel led to offer.

  • Consider encouraging a meeting to include the victims, the police, young people from the area (if possible), the church, neighbours, other organisations that might be able to offer support, help, or advice.

So far I have little idea where the Lord will lead me in this, but I know it would be wrong to 'just forget'. I'll post to the blog again to let you know what happens next.

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27 June 2008

Compass Direct

Compass Direct is a news website dedicated to reporting persecution of Christians around the world, it's almost like Amnesty International for believers. In the West we are used to the idea that a person's beliefs are their own business, but in many parts of the world this is simply not the case. In China, Iran, and dozens of other countries worldwide the state prohibits freedom of belief, and in other places individuals and gangs make it their business to persecute believers.

A recent example of state repression in Iran shows how shockingly bad it can become. A young couple in Tehran were imprisoned, physically abused, their four-year-old daughter was left alone in the empty house, possessions were confiscated, their livelihood threatened, and worse promised if they didn't return to Islam.

Often, all of this is in breach of international treaty committments, UN standards for basic human rights, and sometimes even a country's own national law.

25 June 2008

China - the hidden churches

The Chinese government accepts the presence of churches - provided they are registered with the government. In practice this means they are controlled and managed centrally and are not fully free to follow the leading of the Spirit.

Understandably, many believers meet in groups (large and small) that are not approved by the state. In this way they are free to believe and behave as they feel right. But there is a price for this freedom - persecution. Particularly as the Beijing Olympics approach, the repression has grown harsher and more widespread, yet the hidden churches in China continue to flourish.

An article in the Chicago Tribune, 'Behind China's Underground Church', describes the situation as noted by an investigative journalist.

23 June 2008

Jesus in the prison cell

This example of Jesus dealing individually and personally with an Iranian Muslim is quite extraordinary.

Afshin was in prison, there was nobody to tell him about Jesus, he had no access to a Bible, articles, or books that might explain what it is to be a believer. There was no-one to answer his questions or bring the truth to him.

Here, in his own words, he explains how he came to believe. Nothing can prevent Jesus reaching you and changing you, not isolation, or ignorance, or lack of resources. However, like Afshin you need to recognise that nothing you can do for yourself is sufficient, that you cannot save yourself. You cannot lift yourself into the Presence of the Almighty. But he can lift you into his own presence if you are willing to know your need of him!

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