This is the International Christian Herald podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.
According to the Daily Mail, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and veteran of South Africa’s struggle against white minority rule, has died at the age of 90. Tutu was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the late 1990s and in recent years was hospitalised on several occasions to treat infections associated with his cancer treatment. In a statement on behalf of the Tutu family, the Office of the Archbishop of South Africa said he, ‘died peacefully at the Oasis Frail Care Centre in Cape Town this morning.’ They did not give details on the cause of death. In 1984 Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent opposition to apartheid. A decade later, he witnessed the ends of that regime and chaired a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up to unearth atrocities committed during those dark days. He preached against the tyranny of white minority and even after its end, never wavered in his fight for a fairer South Africa, calling the black political elite to account with as much vigour as he had the white Afrikaners. In his final years, he regretted that his dream of a ‘Rainbow Nation’ had not yet come true. Tributes from around the world poured in on Sunday morning following the announcement, with the Archbishop of Canterbury saying Tutu ’embodied the hope and joy that were the foundations of his life,’ while Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab described Archbishop Desmond Tutu as a ‘truly great figure’.
According to Anglican News Service, The Anglican Church of Australia has restated its firm commitment to the safety of children and vulnerable people, following the defrocking of Roger Herft, formerly Archbishop of Perth and Bishop of Newcastle. The Episcopal Standards Board of the Anglican Church of Australia determined on 13 December the Mr Herft is “unfit to remain in Holy Orders” and so will no longer be recognised as an ordained member of the Anglican Church. The decision was made in response to the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, made public in 2020. The report determined that Mr Herft had failed to deal appropriately with allegations of sexual abuse of children during his time as Bishop of Newcastle between 1993 and 2005. There is no suggestion, and there has been no allegation, that Mr Herft himself personally participated in such behaviour. The Board has examined the extent to which he discharged his responsibility as bishop.
According to Christianity Today, Many Chinese Christians are lamenting that the winter of internet mission in China is entering its darkest and coldest hour. This week, Chinese state media reported the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) has announced its “Measures for the Administration of Internet Religious Information Services,” which will come into effect on March 1 and will restrict online ministry to Chinese government-approved religious groups with special permits on government-approved websites. “No organization or individual shall preach on the Internet, carry out religious education and training, publish sermon content, forward or link to related content, organize and conduct religious activities on the Internet, or live broadcast or post recorded videos of religious rituals…” without approval, stipulates the new regulation jointly formulated by five government bodies, including the Ministries of Public and National Security. A few months ago, I had a dream in which this passage of Scripture came up repeatedly: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations” (Ps. 90:1). In the dream, I thought “Lord, what is this to remind me of?” Then I woke up and learned that our ministry’s second main WeChat channel had been permanently shut down by the Chinese government, less than a month after our first channel was removed. Hundreds of thousands of followers just evaporated overnight. Having both major channels blocked meant it would be extremely hard for our ministry to regain as much influence as before.
According to the BBC, Pope Francis has warned that the world is becoming so desensitised to crises and suffering that they are now happening while hardly being noticed. In his annual Christmas Day message, the pontiff pointed to ongoing turmoil in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, as well as in areas of Africa, Europe and Asia. He also said the effects of the pandemic threatened efforts to resolve conflicts on an international level. He spoke outdoors again this year after making his speech indoors last year. Thousands of Catholic faithful – wearing face masks amid Covid precautions – watched in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican as the Pope delivered his Urbi et Orbi address from the balcony of the Basilica. Pope Francis warned about the social consequences of the pandemic, saying there was “a growing tendency to withdraw… to stop making an effort to encounter others and do things together”. He said that “on the international level too there is the risk of avoiding dialogue, the risk that this complex crisis will lead to taking shortcuts rather than setting out on the longer path” to resolve conflicts. “We continue to witness a growing number of conflicts, crises and disagreements,” he said. “These never seem to end and by now we hardly even notice them. “We have become so used to them that immense tragedies are being passed over in silence.” He singled out Syria, Iraq and Yemen “where an enormous tragedy overlooked by everyone has silently gone on for years”. He also urged people to keep in mind continuing tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, and the “unprecedented” economic and social crisis gripping Lebanon. Turning to Asia, the Pope asked God to comfort the people of Afghanistan “who for more than 40 years have been sorely tested by conflicts”, and to “sustain the people of Myanmar where intolerance and violence not infrequently target the Christian community and its places of worship”. He also prayed for peace to come to conflicts in other troublespots around the world, including Ukraine, Ethiopia and the Sahel, which has been a front line in the war against Islamist militancy for almost a decade. Earlier, Pope Francis, who is 85, marked Christmas Eve with Mass at the Basilica, where he urged followers to show more compassion towards the poor and to “value the little things in life”. “On this night of love, may we have only one fear: that of offending God’s love, hurting him by despising the poor with our indifference,” he said.
According to the Daily Mail, In Bethlehem’s Manger Square, visitors in Santa hats and scouts beating drums marked Christmas Eve on Friday but numbers were lower than usual as coronavirus fears overshadowed celebrations for a second straight year. The city where Christians believe Jesus was born is usually a focal point of the holiday, with thousands packing the streets and filling hotels. But Israel, which controls all entrances to Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, barred its borders to foreigners in an effort to rein in infections from the Omicron strain of the coronavirus. ‘It’s very strange,’ said Kristel Elayyan, a Dutchwoman married to a Palestinian, who came to Bethlehem from Jerusalem. ‘Before [the pandemic], you had a bunch of people coming in from different countries to celebrate Christmas, and now you know that everybody who is here is probably not a tourist.’ Last year, Bethlehem curtailed celebrations sharply because of the pandemic, with a virtual tree lighting and just a handful of visiting scouts. This year, the celebrations were more vibrant – but still a fraction of their usual size. ‘If it’s one year, it’s an interesting experience,’ Elayyan said of the pandemic. ‘But because this is the second year and we don’t know what is going to come in the future, it’s a huge loss for the people here.’
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!