This is the International Christian Herald podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.
According to the Washington Post, Between 2002 and 2018, Apollo Carreon Quiboloy — the founder of a Philippines-based megachurch — and his accomplices recruited women and girls as young as 12 to work as Quiboloy’s personal assistants, or “pastorals,” prosecutors said. Under Quiboloy and his accomplices’ orders, women and girls prepared his meals, cleaned his multiple residences in the Philippines and the United States, gave him massages and accompanied him on trips around the world, court records state. For over 15 years, the victims were forced to devote their lives and bodies to the founder of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Name Above Every Name by writing “commitment letters” to Quiboloy, prosecutors state. Quiboloy, an ally of the Philippine president who has referred to himself as “the Appointed Son of God” and is believed to be 71, allegedly forced the women and girls to regularly engage in sexual acts with him in what he called the “night duty.” Quiboloy, also known as “sir” and “pastor,” and his accomplices would tell his victims that obedience to Quiboloy was “God’s will” and that “night duty” was considered a privilege and a means to salvation, court records state. Now, Quiboloy and two of his top administrators, Teresita Tolibas Dandan, 59, and Felina Salinas, 50, have been charged with orchestrating a sex-trafficking operation, federal prosecutors announced this week. Girls and young women were forced into sex with the church’s leader under threats of “eternal damnation,” according to a superseding indictment unsealed on Thursday and filed in the U.S. Central District of California. Quiboloy, Dandan and Salinas could not be reached for comment. An attorney representing Quiboloy did not immediately respond to a message from The Washington Post late Thursday. Court records do not list attorneys for Dandan and Salinas.
According to Christianity Today, Two members of a missionary group kidnapped in Haiti a month ago have finally been freed, leaving 15 Christians still in captivity. “The two hostages who were released are safe, in good spirits, and being cared for,” stated Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) on its website. The Ohio-based group said it “cannot provide or confirm the names of those released, the reasons for their release, where they are from, or their current location.” “We encourage you to continue to pray for the full resolution of this situation,” stated CAM. “While we rejoice at this release, our hearts are with the 15 people who are still being held. Continue to lift up the remaining hostages before the Lord.” The group of 16 Americans and one Canadian was visiting an orphanage when they were kidnapped by 400 Mawozo, a powerful gang whose leader threatened to kill the hostages if demands for a million-dollar ransom per person were not met. Christians in Haiti, both Haitian church leaders and other American missionaries, recently explained their concerns to CT about how the CAM workers could be released in ways that would embolden the gangs that have brought life in Haiti to a standstill.
According to the Daily Mail, After the Liverpool terrorist Bomber’s Outward Conversion, the Church of England Is being Criticized for Telling Failed Asylum Seekers That Being Baptised Can Help Them Stay in Britain. On the day of his confirmation, Enzo Almeni walked through the grand West Doors of Liverpool’s world-famous Anglican Cathedral, beneath the monumental statue of the Risen Christ. He crossed the marbled floor, past the stone tombs of long-forgotten clergymen and commemorative plaques to the great and good of the City, to take his place in a pew before the high altar. It was March 27, 2017, and Almeni was welcomed into the Church with open arms, in a ceremony attended by beaming friends and well-wishers — among them the retired, devout Christian couple who would invite him to live with them just days later. This week the cathedral was part of a key line of inquiry for counter-terrorism police investigating a bomb explosion in a taxi parked outside a hospital a mile away, at 10.59am on Remembrance Sunday. And, as we now know, the bomber was Enzo Almeni, a Christian convert who had changed his name by deed poll from Emad Al Swealmeen, and who had allegedly spent the months preparing explosives which, police confirmed yesterday, could have caused ‘significant injury or death’. The second terror attack in a month — following the killing of MP Sir David Amess — has seen the UK threat level raised to ‘severe’. It has also revealed to the wider public a flaw in the asylum process that some argue may have undermined national security for years: how churches and faith groups have, often innocently, aided some asylum seekers who falsely claim to be Christian converts in order to remain in the UK. In the wake of the attempted Liverpool atrocity — in which Almeni died — a row has erupted over the so-called ‘Pray to Stay’ racket. MPs from the Home Office Select Committee are demanding a Parliamentary inquiry, and a counter-extremism think-tank is calling for an investigation into the ‘Liverpool Cathedral convert cluster’.
According to the Christian Post, Dozens of churches in India were not allowed to hold worship services for a third consecutive Sunday after authorities imposed a complete ban on Christian religious gatherings at the behest of radical Hindu nationalist groups, according to a report. More than 50 house churches in the Jhabua District of Madhya Pradesh state were not allowed to gather for worship on Sundays due to the Sub-Divisional Officer issuing a circular to police stations in the Thandla and Megnagar blocks declaring a complete ban on Christian gatherings that do not have permission from the local magistrate, the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern reported. The circular was distributed at the behest of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) and other radical Hindu nationalist groups, ICC said, quoting local sources, adding that Christians are concerned they will no longer be allowed to exercise their religious freedom rights, guaranteed to them by India’s constitution. “I read the circular last Friday and decided not to have worship on Sunday,” a local pastor was quoted as saying. “The last five months have been difficult. Our congregation has been reduced from 40 members to 15. Even these 15 are now scared. “I know as a pastor that I need to endure hardships and persecution for my faith. But I am worried about those who are showing interest and coming newly to worship with us.” Local authorities have also previously sent out similar notices to Christian leaders in the district, demanding they show evidence of their legal conversion to Christianity.
According to Baptist Press, Ahead of Christmas, a towering wooden screen — once blackened with soot from millions of worshippers’ candles — is being restored to its gilded glory in the Church of the Nativity, built at the site where many believe Jesus was born. But few visitors are expected to see it during the upcoming Christmas holiday season. Biblical Bethlehem has struggled since the start of the coronavirus pandemic almost two years ago. Christmas is normally peak season for tourism in Jesus’ traditional birthplace, located in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. In pre-pandemic times, thousands of pilgrims and tourists from around the world celebrated in the Church of the Nativity and the adjacent Manger Square. Israel reopened its borders to vaccinated tourists earlier this month, but relatively few are expected to travel to Bethlehem this holiday season, and not nearly as many as in the record-breaking year preceding the pandemic. Most tourists visiting Bethlehem fly into Israel as the West Bank does not have an airport. Many of Bethlehem’s hotels have shut and shopkeepers have struggled to keep afloat. Aladdin Subuh, a shopkeeper whose store sits just off Manger Square, said he only opens his doors to air out the shop. “It’s almost Christmas and there’s nobody. Imagine that,” he said, surveying the few passersby in the hopes of spotting a foreigner in search of a souvenir. “For two years, no business. It’s like dying slowly.” Though the pandemic has blighted the Holy Land’s once thriving tourism industry for Israelis and Palestinians alike, for tourism-dependent Bethlehem, the impact has been especially severe. Israel, the primary gateway for foreign tourists, had banned most foreign visitors for the past year and half before this month’s reopening.
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!