This is the International Christian Herald podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.
According to CBN, A Christian politician from Finland has been formally charged with three counts of hate speech against homosexuals and faces two years in prison if convicted. Päivi Räsänen, a member of the Finnish Parliament, has been under investigation since 2019 for social media posts questioning the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s official affiliation with the Helsinki LGBT Pride event. In her posts, Räsänen showed a photo of the Bible passage Romans 1:24-27, which condemns homosexuality as a sin. She is also charged for a pamphlet she wrote in 2004 entitled “Male and female He created them – Homosexual relationships challenge the Christian concept of humanity,” in which she said that God designed marriage for one man and one woman. And she’s accused of hate speech for comments she made about homosexuality on a Christian TV program in Finland. A charge has also been filed against Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola, the Dean of Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, which published the pamphlet on marriage. Räsänen said she does not apologize for her writings or for the writings of the Apostle Paul. “The decision of the Prosecutor General is surprising, even shocking,” Räsänen said. “The question is about the Bible’s teaching about marriage and sexuality. Ultimately, the three charges brought against me have to do with whether it is allowed in Finland to express your conviction that is based on the traditional teaching of the Bible and Christian churches. The Bible’s teaching is, however, (that) marriage is a union between man and wife and that practicing homosexuality is against God’s will.”
According to the Daily Mail, A Christian pastor who was arrested after he preached from the Bible against homosexuality said he had been treated ‘shamefully’. John Sherwood, 71, was led away in handcuffs, questioned in a police station and held overnight after being accused of making homophobic comments outside Uxbridge Station in west London. The grandfather claimed he was left bruised after police pulled him from a mini-stepladder he was using and cuffed his hands behind his back. Police said they had received complaints the man had been making ‘allegedly homophobic comments’ and arrested him under the Public Order Act, which can be used under the vague proviso that someone is using ‘abusive or insulting words’ that cause ‘harm’ to someone else. He was later released without charge. Mr Sherwood, a pastor for 35 years, said: ‘I wasn’t making any homophobic comments, I was just defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. I was only saying what the Bible says – I wasn’t wanting to hurt anyone or cause offence. ‘I was doing what my job description says, which is to preach the gospel in open air as well as in a church building. ‘When the police approached me, I explained that I was exercising my religious liberty and my conscience. I was forcibly pulled down from the steps and suffered some injury to my wrist and to my elbow. I do believe I was treated shamefully. It should never have happened.’ Mr Sherwood, who preaches at an independent evangelical church in north London, was arrested under the Public Order Act for allegedly causing alarm or distress. He was released without charge but a file has now been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service for review. The Metropolitan Police said a member of the public flagged down patrol officers and alleged Mr Sherwood had made homophobic comments. Mobile phone footage of Friday’s arrest shows Mr Sherwood standing on the stepladder with a Bible in his hand outside a Tube station in Uxbridge, west London. Officers can be heard telling him to get off his steps before they appear to grasp his hands and pull him down. Onlookers can be heard shouting, ‘He’s an elderly man – take it easy with him’, before officers put Mr Sherwood in handcuffs and take him to a police car.
According to Asia News, An increasing number of unofficial bishops in China are being prevented from carrying out their ministry. Placed under house arrest or detained in other locations, isolated, fined or encumbered in their daily lives render any gathering between the bishops and their priests or faithful increasingly impossible. The fact risks undermining the Sino-Vatican Agreement which, dealing only with the nominations of new bishops, left open the entire issue of unofficial prelates, recognized by the Holy See, but not by the Party. Instead, since the provisional agreement was signed and renewed, there have been increasingly blatant and aggressive interventions against underground bishops and their ministry as if to eliminate them, betraying the premise of the stand-by provided for in the agreement. The latest such incident occurred in Wangli (Cangnan County, Zhejiang). The area is within the diocese of Wenzhou, whose bishop – recognized by the Pope, but not by the Party – is Msgr. Peter Shao Zhumin. In Zhejiang, where the percentage of Christians exceeds 10%, some families have built private chapels on their property. On March 16, Mr. Huang Ruixun, 56, offered his chapel to Msgr. Shao Zhumin and about twenty faithful. As a result, he was sentenced to a fine of 200 thousand yuan (about 25510 euros). The charge: Mr. Huang hosted Msgr. Shao “for illegal religious activities, also providing him with lunch, a rest room, etc.”. The complaint by the county religious affairs office reminds us that “facilitating illegal religious activities” is against the new regulations on religious activities. The new regulations, launched a few months before the Agreement, in February 2018, in fact require that “regular” religious activities can only take place in places registered with the government. The fact that the chapel offered by Mr. Huang is the equivalent of a private dwelling and as such has all the regular permits to be used as a private chapel. This has led many Chinese faithful to question whether praying in groups at home – which has become the norm during the pandemic – is an “illegal religious activity” that must be fined.
According to the Daily Mail, Pope Francis has issued tough new anti-corruption regulations which bans Vatican staff from receiving any gifts worth more than 40 euros. New laws published today are believed to be aimed at putting an end to the lavish gifts given by wealthy benefactors, friends and fellow clerics. The Pontiff has preached about cleaning up corruption in the Vatican for eight years, but the new law marks his biggest step to ensure his own cardinals and managers are clean. The 40 euro limit on gifts applied to all Vatican employees of any level and the rest of the decree to managers, whether clerics or lay. It said managers must disclose at the moment of appointment and every two years after that if they have been the subject of financial investigations. It also says they cannot use tax havens or own real estate obtained with funds from illegal activity. Vatican financial authorities will be empowered with controls. The Pope wrote the regulations were necessary ‘because corruption can manifest itself in different forms and ways.’ He wrote: ‘Vatican superiors have the particular responsibility of making concrete the fidelity of which the Gospel speaks, acting according to principles of transparency and the absence of any conflicts of interest.’
According to the Jerusalem Post, In an extraordinary tale of what appears to be furtive and clandestine religious infiltration, a “rabbi” posing as an ultra-Orthodox Jew in the French Hill neighborhood of Jerusalem has recently been exposed as an apparent covert missionary and member of the Messianic Jewish Christian movement. Even more incredibly, this is the second community the missionary has infiltrated and the second time he has been outed. The individual in question, Michael Elkohen, or Elk as he was born, claims, however, that he is Jewish from birth, and that although he was a missionary in the Messianic movement, he is today a committed Jew. Elkohen has lived for the last five years in French Hill with his five children and, until February, with his wife, Amanda, who tragically died after a long illness two months ago. He worked as a scribe, writing mezuzot, tefillin, and other holy writings, studied in yeshiva, and posed as a learned rabbi who was well versed in Jewish law. Indeed, Elkohen did obtain rabbinical ordination from an Orthodox US institution in an online program. Elkohen claimed to be Jewish from birth, as did his wife, and even claimed to be a kohen, meaning that both his mother and father were Jewish and that his father was not descended from converts. He even served as a mohel and performed religious circumcision, apparently for several baby boys in his community. Elkohen’s children attend ultra-Orthodox schools. But at the same time, it is claimed that Elkohen was actually a member of the Messianic movement which believes in the fundamental tenets of Christianity, and is a covert missionary. He is, by his own admission, the author of a 2008 book called The Triumph of Justice about Messianic Judaism, and the author of a blog under the name Lev David about being a covert missionary. The Triumph of Justice is anonymously published by MorningStar Publications with attribution given to “An Orthodox Jewish Rabbi” and “Lev David Ministries.” MorningStar Publications belongs to the Morning Star Ministries Evangelical Christian organization based in South Carolina. In 2011, Elkohen, under the name Rabbi Michael, conducted an interview for MorningStar TV in his ultra-Orthodox garb in which he quoted from the New Testament; called on viewers to think about becoming missionaries in Egypt and Syria; prayed to God that the people of the Middle East would return to Jesus, specifically to “stir the Jewish people to jealousy” and to “a jealousy to seek Your face in Jesus’ name.” In 2014, while studying at a yeshiva in Beit El, Elkohen was confronted by the Yad L’Achim anti-missionary organization, and he confessed to being a missionary, both to the organization and in writing to one of his rabbis. He said, however, that the night prior to writing his confession he had decided to abandon his involvement with the Messianic movement and that he “chose Judaism.” Shannon Nuszen, a former missionary who runs the Beyneynu anti-missionary organization, believes, however, that Elkohen remains a covert missionary despite his 2014 confession.
According to the Christian Post, Christians are being urged to pray for India as more than 300,000 cases of COVID-19 were reported for the fifth consecutive day Monday, taking the total number of infections to over 17.3 million amid the Indian government’s lack of preparedness as hospitals turn away patients. The country of 1.3 billion people recorded over 350,000 new infections in the last 24 hours for the first time, Hindustan Times reported Monday, adding that 2,812 people died from COVID-19 in a single day, taking the total number of deaths to 195,123. Ram Gidoomal, who is of Indian origin and chair of the Christian charity South Asian Concern, described the situation as a “meltdown.”
According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, A pastor and his wife were severely injured after they were attacked whilst praying in their home on 22 April in Sitamarhi in India’s Bihar state. According to Pastor Ram Niwas, his four brothers and another villager, who are supporters of the Bajrang Dal (the militant wing of the Hindu nationalist organization Vishwa Hindu Parishad), broke into their property with a hammer while they were praying and started beating them with sticks. A church member called Narender, who had gone to the couple’s home for prayer, came to the couple’s aid, while the remaining mob from the Bajrang Dal stood outside the house. Pastor Niwas’s shoulder was fractured in the attack, while his wife Pinky sustained severe head injuries which required medical attention. Narender was also severely injured and was taken to the Muzaffarpur hospital for treatment. The attack was recorded on CCTV installed at the pastor’s house, but the recording and video camera was confiscated and handed to a local Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Singh. According to a local source, Pastor Niwas had been a target of the militant group for some time and has been accused of carrying out conversions and forcing people to consume beef (cows are sacred to Hindus).
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!