This is the International Christian Herald podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.
According to the Christian Post, A church planter in India’s Maharashtra state was brutally killed by Hindu extremists after suffering years of abuse for his Christian faith amid escalating religious intolerance and violence in the country. Persecution watchdog International Christian Concern reports that on July 10, unknown Hindu extremists murdered Pastor Munsi Thado, 35, and left his body in the forest near Badpari village in the Godcharoli district of Maharashtra state. The Hindus reportedly dragged the pastor from his home, ignoring his wife Rajini’s pleas for his life to be spared. In the five years preceding his death, Pastor Munsi lived in the forest near Badpari village due to village pressure. Village leaders angered by Munsi’s evangelistic efforts demanded he recant his Christian faith. When the pastor refused to comply with their demands, he was chased out of the village. Following his ostracism from his community, Munsi, who was part of a Maoist separatist group prior to his conversion to Christianity, continued to evangelize, leading nearly two dozen families to Christ. “He was killed because of his faith, life, and ministry to the Adivasi people in the area,” one of his colleagues told ICC. “He led more than 20 families to Christ in the last five years, ever since he was thrown out the village by some Hindu radicals.” India has roughly 66 million Christians out of a total population of approximately 1.36 billion. The country has seen a steady rise in persecution of Christians over the past decade, according to Open Doors USA, which ranks India the 10th most dangerous place to live as a believer.
According to the Associated Press, The Catholic Church in Germany is setting up a new system to compensate survivors of sexual abuse by clergy that will provide for payments of up to about 50,000 euros ($58,400) each. Victims will be able to apply for payments under the new system starting Jan. 1, the head of the German Bishops’ Conference, Limburg Bishop Georg Baetzing, said Thursday after conference members signed off at a regular twice-yearly meeting on details of a proposal approved in March. The Catholic Church has been shaken in recent years by sex abuse and cover-up scandals in several countries, including Germany, the homeland of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. A church-commissioned report in 2018 concluded that at least 3,677 people were abused by clergy in Germany between 1946 and 2014. More than half of the victims were ages 13 or younger when the abuse took place, and nearly a third of them were altar boys. A top bishop has apologized for the abuse. The level of compensation will be based on the awards from court judgments and verdicts in comparable cases and oriented toward the “upper region” of those payments, Baetzing said, meaning “a framework of up to 50,000 euros.” “These are one-time payments that will be set individually by an independent body for every person affected who makes an application,” he added. The compensation-setting body will include medical, psychological, legal and educational experts who do not work for the church, the bishop said. Its members are to be appointed by a committee whose majority is from outside the church.
According to the Christian Post, After nearly four decades, the complete Bible is now available in American Sign Language for the first time ever. Deaf Missions, a ministry dedicated to communicating “the Gospel of Jesus with Deaf people through their heart language, culture and identity,” began the project in the early 1980s. In 2016, the mission partnered with Wycliffe USA, American Bible Society, Deaf Bible Society, Deaf Harbor, DOOR International, Pioneer Bible Translators, and Seed Company to complete the project, according to Mission Network News. The final books needed — Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel — were completed this fall. Now, the entire Bible is available to the world’s 70 million people who are deaf for free online, through social media, and on a smartphone app. The translation was led by people who themselves are deaf and trained in the biblical languages. “Roughly 98% of the worldwide population of Deaf people have never encountered the real Jesus,” notes the Deaf Missions website. “What is the number one issue Deaf people face when it comes to knowing Jesus? The answer boils down to two words: communication barriers.” Deaf Missions President Chad Entinger explained to MNN in an email that the ASL Bible has garnered a “tremendous and exciting reaction from the U.S. Deaf Christian community.
According to the Daily Mail, A Christian school secretary who was sacked for posting on Facebook about plans to teach LGBT relationships in primary schools is taking her case to an employment tribunal. Kristie Higgs, 44, was dismissed for gross misconduct by Farmor’s School in Fairford, Gloucestershire, last year. Mrs Higgs claims senior staff compared her views to those of ‘Nazi rightwing extremists’ after they saw a screenshot of a private Facebook post, The Times reported. The case began at the Bristol employment tribunal, where Mrs Higgs is seeking £56,000. The mother-of-two shared and commented on Facebook posts which raised concerns about relationship education at her son’s Church of England primary school. Mrs Higgs, who was posting on Facebook, under her maiden name, shared two posts in October 2018. In one, she urged people to sign an online petition against making relationships education mandatory. In the other, she shared an article from JudyBeth, an American conservative Christian commentator, about the rise of ‘transgender ideology’ in children’s books in American schools. Next to the article, she wrote: ‘This is happening in our Primary Schools now!’ The Christian Legal Centre is supporting Mrs Higgs’s case at the employment tribunal.
According to Religion News Service, An interpretation of Michelangelo’s iconic pietà featuring a Black Jesus has unexpectedly caused a debate about Black Lives Matter, the sanctity of art and the evangelization of Africa after the Pontifical Academy of Life, an official Vatican think tank, tweeted out a photo of the reimagined statue last Saturday (Sept. 12). The tweet, posted by the academy with the caption, “An image that is worth a speech,” was liked more than 1,000 times and received numerous retweets, with many commenters praising its message against racism. But others on Twitter criticized the photo for politicizing the figure of Jesus. “Jesus died for all, and this is racist to say the least,” wrote Philip Murrell, who calls himself a conservative and a Roman Catholic in his bio. He said the image was posted “to appease marxist communists and the arsonist terrorist (Black Lives Matter).” The conservative Catholic news website Church Militant used the image, which it said “profanes the Pieta” to criticize the head of the academy, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, saying the agency has been in a “downward spiral” since Pope Francis tapped Paglia to lead it in 2016. In an email to Religion News Service, Archbishop Paglia explained that the image the academy issued was inspired by the work of Italian sculptor Fabio Viale, whose version of Michelangelo’s pietà, which is in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, was exhibited in 2015 in Milan at the height of Europe’s immigration crisis. His statue, called “Lucky Ehi,” portrayed a 22-year-old Nigerian who fled his country to avoid persecution due to his Christian faith. At the time, the artwork was praised for its support of immigrants and condemnation of the ongoing persecution of Christians all over the world. The archbishops said that while the post didn’t refer to any specific case of racism, “If there is an reference, it’s to every unfair discrimination due to the color of one’s skin,” he said.
According to the Christian Post, A Christian pastor and Bible translator in Indonesia’s easternmost region of Papua was shot and killed in clashes between separatists and the military. Yeremia Zanambani, the pastor of the Gospel Tabernacle Church of Indonesia (GKII) known for translating the Bible into Papua’s Moni dialect, was found dead outside his home in the village of Hitadipa in Intan Jaya district on Sept. 19, UCA News reports. The death of the 67-year-old pastor, who also ran a local high school, was confirmed by GKII church officials in Jakarta. “Reverend Zanambani was shot dead on Saturday afternoon on his way to his pigpen. This is a deep sadness. We are deeply saddened by the loss of a religious leader who served the Moni community so well,” GKII said in a statement on Sept. 20. The local military commander also confirmed Zanambani’s death, claiming he been killed by a separatist group. “The ferocity of these Papuan terrorists continues in Hitadipa. Reverend Yeremia Zanambani was a victim of the group,” said Col. Gusti Nyoman Suriastawa, head of Regional Command III. However, another pastor at the church, Timotius Miagoni, told Reuters that Zanambani’s wife had found her husband bleeding in the pigsty and told Miagoni he had been shot by military personnel.
According to the Christian Post, In a recent survey of about 50,000 Iranians over the age of 20, a Netherlands-based secular research group found that 1.5% of respondents identify as Christian. Applied across Iran’s population of more than 80 million, the number of Christians in Iran is “without doubt in the order of magnitude of several hundreds of thousands and growing beyond a million,” the research group GAMAAN said after the study. Open Doors USA, a global persecution watchdog organization, says until now, there was no in-depth research to substantiate the claims about the number of Christians in Iran. “Given the high-stakes consequences of leaving Islam in Iran, estimates by Christian organizations in the past decade have been based only on extrapolations of the small known number of conversions—largely based on contact with Christian satellite television channels.” The nonprofit watchdog group Article 18 noted, “If this figure is extrapolated across Iran’s over 80 million people, then even taking into account the approximately 300,000 ‘recognized’ Christians of Armenian and Assyrian descent, this would suggest an additional one million converts to Christianity.” Mike Ansari of Mohabat TV, a ministry that broadcasts the Gospel into Iran, was quoted as saying, “Iranians are turning their back [on] their faith, [on] their institutional faith, and receiving Christianity as their new faith. One-point-five percent becoming Christian may not seem a big number. But for a country that is closed and persecutes Christianity, that number is a huge indication of the gospel growth.” Ansari told The Christian Post in 2018 that Iran had “one of the fastest growing underground church movements in the world” and that hundreds were asking about Jesus on a daily basis. But the growth has also led to ongoing persecution.
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