This is the International Christian Herald podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.
According to Africa News, Popular Nigerian television evangelist, T.B. Joshua, has called upon his followers on Sunday to “pray for YouTube” and not to respond with hate after his channel was shut down for posting videos claiming to “cure homosexuality”. “Help me pray for YouTube,” the televangelist said in his Sunday sermon, which was reposted online Monday morning on Facebook. “Pray for them, we must consider them friends, we must be strong”. Last week, YouTube suspended his YouTube channel Synagogue, Church of All Nations (SCOAN), which is one of the most subscribed Christian channels on YouTube worldwide with over 1.8 million subscribers. The suspension came after the British association OpenDemocracy complained against his sentiments, denouncing hateful and homophobic speech. In one video, a woman was seen being severely beaten to get her free from the “demon of homosexuality” inside her. Facebook also removed several videos from its page, which has over 5.6 million subscribers, for violating the company’s policy prohibiting “attacks on people based on their sexual orientation or gender”. The decision caused a stir and an outcry over the social media in Nigeria, where the evangelical community is extremely powerful and church membership is in the tens of millions. Nigeria is among the most religious countries in Africa, and such acts of homosexuality are punishable by 14 years in prison. Temitope Balogun “TB” Joshua, who has a massive influence including heads of state and politicians among his followers, is famous throughout Africa for his supposed “miracles” and “resurrections”. He is one of the richest pastors in the world with an estimated fortune of several million dollars according to Forbes. He has since relaunched another YouTube channel on Sunday which has already gained over 24,000 subscribers in 24 hours.
According to the Daily Mail, Pope Francis has announced a ‘marathon’ month of prayer throughout May with the aim of ending the Covid-19 pandemic. The Pope has encouraged Catholics around the world to dedicate next month to praying for the end of the virus which has seen more than three million people die. The month will involve 30 Marian shrines, which are dedicated to the Virgin Mary, across the globe which will encourage worshippers to pray, reports the official Vatican News website. ‘The initiative will involve all the Shrines of the world in a special way, so that they might encourage the faithful, families, and communities to recite the Rosary to pray for an end to the pandemic,’ the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization said in a statement. The Pope, who has faced criticism over his reluctance to wear a face mask, will open the month of prayer on May 1 with a holy Rosary online broadcast. For 31 days, the recitation of the Rosary from the various Shrines taking part in the month of prayer will be broadcast by Vatican News with the hope of ending the pandemic. The global death toll from Covid-19 has surpassed 3 million, with the latest million virus casualties coming in just three months. Meanwhile, the number of cases has soared to more than 141 million. Pope Francis will close ‘marathon’ month with another specially-broadcast prayer.
According to the Christian Post, Christian activists are divided in their responses to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom again recommending the State Department place India on its list of “countries of particular concern” for the worst violations of religious freedoms in 2020. In its latest report, the bipartisan commission mandated by Congress to advise lawmakers and the federal government recommended for the second year in a row that the administration impose targeted sanctions on Indian individuals and entities for “severe violations of religious freedom.” “In 2020, religious freedom conditions in India continued their negative trajectory. The government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, promoted Hindu nationalist policies resulting in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom,” notes the report.
According to Christianity Daily, ChinaAid has been documenting abuses by the country’s communist regime and today, it released its 2020 Annual Persecution Report which covers last year’s crackdown on churches as well as persecution of Chinese Christians. “We are excited to release this report documenting the stories of Christians the Chinese Communist Party targeted for living out their faith,” said Dr. Bob Fu, Founder and President of ChinaAid. “We are dismayed, however, at the increasing number of persecution cases year after year. ChinaAid will continue to advocate for our brothers and sisters in China by sharing their stories of faithfulness and seeking justice against their oppressors,” he added. The report reveals that between January and December 2020, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) systemic harassment of Christians, other religious practitioners, and activists has steadily increased and intensified. Under President Xi Jinping’s orders, Chinese officials executed the “Five-Year Plan for the Sinicization of Christianity” which is now in its third year. Said campaign seeks to uphold Chinese traditions by regulating the teachings of faith groups to promote Marxist philosophies. Churches are also ordered to put up Chinese flags in their places of worship as well as sing patriotic songs in their services. In the name of economic and social contributions, churches under CCP’s Three Party Movement are ordered to make Xi Jinping the center of their theological teachings. Bible stories were also maliciously altered and distorted.
According to the BBC, Researchers say Artificial Intelligence (AI) has for the first time shown that two scribes wrote part of the mysterious ancient Dead Sea Scrolls. Tests were carried out on the longest text, known as the Great Isaiah Scroll. It was found that probably two unknown individuals had copied down the words using near-identical handwriting. The scrolls, which include the oldest known version of the Bible, have been a source of fascination since their discovery some 70 years ago. The first sets were found by a Bedouin in a cave at Qumran near the Dead Sea in what is now the Israeli-occupied West Bank. They contain manuscripts, mostly written in Hebrew as well as Aramaic and Greek, and are believed to date from about the Third Century BC.
According to the Christian Post, The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom warned Wednesday that some countries have used COVID-19 restrictions to discriminate against religious minorities or blame them for the spread of the virus. USCIRF, a bipartisan commission tasked with informing Congress and the federal government about global religious freedom concerns, released its 2021 annual report detailing the international religious freedom conditions in a year plagued by a pandemic. The cover of this year’s report, which details where religious freedom is “improving or in peril,” features a globe shrouded in a face mask, showing the worldwide implications the pandemic had.
According to the Daily Mail, Two ‘Benin Bronze’ sculptures gifted to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1982 that are set to be repatriated to Nigeria were made in the 1980s, officials have said. Sculptures and plaques made for royalty in the former Kingdom of Benin and seized by British forces in 1897 have been the subject of growing calls for repatriation to Nigeria after Black Lives Matter protests. The Benin Bronzes, among the most famous treasures taken, are currently on display at the British Museum, but a number of galleries have recently agreed to send similar items back, with the University of Aberdeen saying last month it would return a sculpture to Nigeria within weeks. Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, then pledged to return two statues to given to former Archbishop Robert Runcie and the Church of England by the University of Nigeria in a visit nearly 40 years ago. However, the two sculptures that are set to be returned as a ‘gesture of goodwill’ were in fact made in the 1980s, 100 years after most Benin Bronzes were seized, and have no links to Britain’s colonial past. Experts are now questioning why the sculptures are being returned at all, with critics accusing the Church of England of ‘penitent decolonialisation’ despite the items being unrelated to imperialism. A spokesman for the palace told the Telegraph: ‘The sculptures that we received as gifts in the 1980s are likely to be contemporary from that time.’
In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know Jesus as your Saviour, today is a good day to get to know Him. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Thanks so much for listening and may God bless your day!