This is the International Christian Herald podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.
According to CBN, A group of Egyptian Coptic Christians have been missing in Libya for nearly a month, sparking fears that an armed group abducted them from the north African country. According to International Christian Concern (ICC), the Egyptians have been missing since September 30. It is unclear who is holding them and why, however, there are suspicions that they were deliberately targeted for their faith. The faith community has raised concerns over a possible repeat of the 2015 massacre of Coptic Christians by ISIS. “The Copts were staying in the Gargash District in Tripoli. In this residency, they were surrounded by so many persons of other countries like India and Bangladesh,” said an Egyptian lawyer whose friend is one of the missing. “So the action of detaining 17 Copts only is such a mysterious action! We are fearing of repeating an incident like the one who did by ISIS. We are contacting the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to intervene in the situation.”
According to the Associated Press, President Joe Biden and the spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox Christians discussed ways to fight climate change and to end the coronavirus pandemic as well as the importance of religious freedom during an Oval Office session Monday. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, 81, met separately with Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken not long after being hospitalized overnight for feeling unwell at the outset of his 12-day visit to the United States. While Bartholomew’s visit was expected to draw attention to the plight of the small Orthodox Christian minority in his homeland of Turkey, he took a diplomatic tone at an earlier breakfast meeting hosted by Turkish Ambassador Hasan Murat Mercan, according to remarks released by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Bartholomew said his mission as patriarch “is purely spiritual, and demonstrates how Turkey can be — not only an inclusive society, but a bridge-builder between East and West.” He called the ambassador’s welcome an example of mutual “dialogue and respect.” The remarks did not refer to ongoing sore points such as the Turkish government’s closure of an Orthodox seminary on the Turkish island of Halki 50 years ago. “They discussed the U.S. commitment to supporting religious freedom around the world and opportunities to work with the Orthodox Christian community worldwide on issues of shared concern, as well as with religious minorities in Turkey and the region,” Price said. The White House said the meeting between Bartholomew and Biden “underscored the critical role that faith communities play in confronting the range of global challenges we all face.”
According to the Daily Mail, Joe Biden took communion when he attended mass at St. Patrick’s Church in Rome on Saturday night, the day after the president said Pope Francis told him he could continue to take the Holy sacrament. First lady Jill Biden accompanied him to the religious service. The English-speaking church is the main place of worship for the American Catholic community in Rome and is located near the U.S. Embassy. Speaker Nancy Pelosi attended mass there earlier this month when she was in Rome for a meeting of legislative leaders of G20 nations. Biden, the nation’s second Catholic president, stopped at the church after his first day of meetings at the G20 summit. He and the first lady are scheduled to attend a formal gala for the leaders of the world’s biggest economies later Friday evening. While Biden regularly receives Communion in his home dioceses in Washington and Delaware, it was significant that he also received Communion in Rome. The pope technically is the bishop of Rome, and while he delegates that to his vicar, St. Patrick’s parish is technically in the pope’s archdiocese. As such, Biden received Communion in the pope’s archdiocese. Biden revealed on Friday that Pope Francis told him he’s a ‘good Catholic’ and that the two men did not discuss the controverial issue of abortion during their 75-minute sit down behind the closed doors of the Vatican. He also said the pope told him to keep receiving communion. ‘We just talked about the fact he was happy that I was a good Catholic and I should keep receiving communion,’ Biden said after the meeting. Biden met with the pontiff amid pressure from conservative Catholics in the United States about his abortion stance.
According to CBN, Three Kachin pastors were among the 5,600 prisoners freed by the Myanmar military government last week. Pastors Koshan Singsar, Z Kaw Htinah and M Hawng Di were arrested in March while in the Naungmoon township of Putao district and later charged with organizing prayers for peace, Barnabas Aid reports. The pastors, who are from the Kachin Baptist Convention, were released on October 18 while awaiting trial for their role during the Feb. 1 protests against the coup. They received amnesty from military chief Min Aung Hlaing to mark the Lightning Festival “out of respect for the humanitarian cause.” This festival takes place on the full moon of Thadingyut in October marking the end of Buddhist Lent. Many were concerned over the pastors’ health, particularly 70-year-old Hawng Di who suffers from high blood pressure and stomach issues.
According to Christianity Today, The majority of Christian churches in Ghana are backing a proposed law that, if passed, could send lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to prison for five years and those who advocate for their rights for 10. The controversial Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill was drafted in part by Edem Senanu, chair of Advocates for Christ-Ghana. He told CT he believes the law is necessary because of the “escalating promotion of the LGBTQIA+ community in Ghana.” A South Africa-based group that advocates for LGBT rights attempted to organize a conference in Ghana in July 2020 and an LGBT resource center opened in Accra, the capital, in January 2021. Though the conference was canceled and the resource center closed, they raised concern among conservative Christians in the West African country. “It was an escalation,” Senanu said. “It seemed strange and also an affront that anyone could openly set up an office to promote the LGBTQIA+ community, using their clout and influence and financial resources to recruit young people to join their ranks.” Ghana law currently prohibits “unnatural carnal knowledge,” a statute carried over from British law when Ghana achieved independence in 1957. The crime carries a three-year sentence but is rarely enforced.
According to CBN, A Canadian pastor, who was arrested last week for reportedly violating COVID-19 health orders, spent an extra night in jail after police said he wouldn’t be released unless he agreed to stop preaching in church. Pastor Tobias Tissen of Steinbach, Manitoba, was detained by police during a traffic stop on Oct. 18. A warrant for his arrest was issued in May over a health order prohibiting outdoor gatherings of more than 5 people, Fox News reports. Tissen’s bail hearing was originally scheduled for Oct. 19 but was pushed back after he learned about the restrictions laid out by authorities that would prevent him from performing his pastoral duties. “They had these conditions that I wasn’t allowed to attend any gatherings that were in contravention of COVID-19,” Tissen told Fox News. “And that would automatically prohibit me from going to church and preaching. And I could not agree with that.” The pastor had avoided police for months before his arrest, only making appearances at his Church of God Restoration.
According to Christianity Today, In 2019, as Lebanon witnessed an unprecedented uprising against its entire political class, evangelical sermons grappled with applied theology: Whether to join in for justice or honor the king. Two years later, amid an economic collapse the World Bank says is the worst in 150 years, Lebanese Christians face an even greater pastoral challenge: Whether to stay and help or escape abroad. The nation has largely made up its mind. Estimates indicate as many as 380,000 people have left Lebanon. Every day witnesses another 8,000 passport applications. Food prices have increased 557 percent since the uprising, as the inflation rate has now surged past perennial basket cases Venezuela and Zimbabwe. Once featuring an economically vibrant middle-class, Lebanon now has a poverty rate of 78 percent. The minimum wage of $450 per month has devalued to a mere $33. “Ask first: Where can I love the Lord, obey the Lord, and serve the Lord—me and my family?” Hikmat Kashouh, pastor of Resurrection Church Beirut, preached in his recent sermon. “Praying faithfully, we may come up with different decisions.” Kashouh urged people not to emigrate easily, to seek counsel with church leaders, and to help the suffering whether they stay or leave. Fellow evangelical pastor Walid Zailaa, however, was blunt in his assessment. “Your presence is important. How can we enact God’s will if you are not here?” preached the pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mansourieh. “If you want to search for a better life for yourself and your children, it is your right. But it says to God, ‘You are not able to provide for me in Lebanon.’” Even the lions and tigers are leaving. “Lebanon is not fit for man or animal,” said Bassam Haddad, who runs discovery Bible studies alongside relief efforts. “But I am optimistic—not for the country but for God’s work.”
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!