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Opposition increases interest in Christian film

A message from Christian Concern and Christian Legal Centre: ‘Voices of the Silenced tells the story of fifteen people who have moved away from homosexual behaviour, showing that people don’t have to be defined by same-sex attraction. The film was to premiere at a West End cinema on 8 February. But pressure from opponents caused its cancellation – and publicity that opponents hadn’t intended. We issued a press release so that the media knew our side of the story, and filmed a peaceful protest outside the cinema at the time the film was due to be shown, which then received thousands of views on social media. Soon we received media requests. Our team appeared on the BBC and radio stations, and was quoted in newspapers and news websites globally. Finally the film was still shown at an alternative venue. So in God’s providence, the film was shown and received far more attention than we could have expected.’

Praise:

God for the turn of events for this important message. (Romans 8:28)

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Slaves released

An email to this office reads, ‘Praise God for 32 survivors rescued from slavery at a brick kiln this week, and please pray for ongoing obstacles in their case. These families were toiling in a brick kiln until International Justice Mission and a partner NGO arrived to rescue them on Wednesday. The families have been brought to safety, but their former owner is exerting his power in the community to influence local government officials, who are now delaying giving the rescued families crucial documents to mark their freedom and protect them long-term. We need God’s intervention to change the hearts of these officials so they do the right thing, seek justice and protect these children, women and men in their first critical days in freedom.’

Praise:

God for raising up people to protect the poor from violence and slavery. (1 Samuel 2:8)

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Financial education in primary schools

The Just Finance Foundation published a report on the impact of its LifeSavers programme in 30 primary schools across England. It said, ‘Primary school pupils should receive compulsory lessons on how to manage money in response to growing levels of financial insecurity and problem debt in the UK. Learning where money comes from, when to spend, and how to save is vital to children’s ability to navigate adult life and should be a mandatory part of personal, social, health, and economic education in primary schools.’ Currently 40% of UK adults have less than £100 in savings. Difficulties managing money are becoming a mainstream issue. LifeSavers equips children to manage money wisely now and in the future, providing training, support and resources which aid teachers to deliver financial education to all year-groups. It helps set up and manage school savings clubs, and encourages parental and wider community engagement. It says today’s children face the most challenging and complex financial landscape of a generation.

Pray:

for a classroom culture that develops positive habits when handling money. (1 Timothy 6:10a)

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Poisoning of two Russians – who and why?

Counterterrorism detectives have taken charge of an inquiry into the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a Russian double agent, and his daughter Yulia. They collapsed in Salisbury, and remain in a critical condition in intensive care. Many fear it is a Kremlin-sponsored assassination attempt. On 7 March Boris Johnson said that Britain would respond ‘robustly’ if evidence of Russian state responsibility emerged. Meanwhile theories across the internet range from a vote-winning ploy two weeks before the Russian presidential elections to warning other Russian operatives of the risks when working with foreign intelligence agencies. Conspirators and traitors are rife in Russia. Last January, two Russian cybersecurity officials were arrested for aiding the CIA. Modern Russian spies are no longer lured by ideological reasons; it is more a case of western agencies providing financial incentives.

Pray:

for this event to avoid having protracted political consequences. (Acts 9:1)

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Christian values v multiculturalism

Tim Dieppe of Christian Concern has written an in-depth article defining ‘multiculturalism’ and explaining how it is opposed to missionary activity or attempts to morally reform cultures, and therefore opposed to Christianity. He states, ‘From a Christian perspective we can reject the idea that “all cultures are equal”. Every culture proclaims certain values and ethical norms which are in direct conflict with another culture. It makes no sense to say that they are all equal. Is a culture that values free speech equal to one that does not? Is a culture that values women’s rights equal to one that does not? Is a culture that promotes promiscuity and homosexuality equal to one that does not? What about slavery, racism, polygamy, FGM, etc? All these are cultural practices, and they are clearly not equal.’ His article reminds us that our Christian faith glorifies God as superior to any idol or idea, so Christianity is directly opposed to multiculturalism. See also the Europe article below.

Pray:

for the UK’s social and moral framework to be based on Biblical standards. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

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Home-schooling children

In February the BBC reported that some schools are persuading parents to home-school troubled children so that their exam results do not count against the school. They are worried about poor Ofsted inspections, league table positions, and even losing their jobs because of academy takeovers. On 4 March the Times reported that religious extremists are exploiting lax home education laws to expose children to hate-filled material at scores of unregistered schools. Extremist texts seized from the schools allege that boys and girls can marry once they reach puberty, and one blames rapes on the way women dress. At least 350 unregistered schools have been set up across Britain, according to Ofsted, and over 50,000 children in the UK are currently being home-schooled.

Pray:

for adequate curriculum provisions for everyone home-schooling children. (Psalm 32:8a,9a)

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Church leaders ask Israel not to tax church properties

Further to last week’s article in the World section about Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre being closed, this week Archbishop Justin Welby and Cardinal Vincent Nichols called on the Israeli government to protect Jerusalem’s holy sites. A joint letter to the Israeli ambassador expressed their ‘deep concern at the discriminatory taxation of churches in Jerusalem’. Their letter said that the proposed taxes might seriously damage the Christian presence in Jerusalem, Christian families, and the Christian institutions, including hospitals and schools, which serve many of the poorest people, regardless of their background. Their letter continues, ‘These violations of historic agreements risk undermining prospects for peaceful coexistence between communities, at a time of already heightened tensions.’

Pray:

for protection for Christians and Christian sites in Jerusalem. (Psalm 5:11a)

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Foodbanks and poverty

The Trussell Trust runs a network of over 400 foodbanks across the UK, giving emergency food and support to people in crisis. Already this year they have given 586,907 three-day emergency food supplies to people in financial emergencies. Thousands of vulnerable people are finding that they cannot manage their budget when an unexpected extra expense occurs. They are barely surviving. On 7 March Trussell Trust’s Welsh branches called on Christians with knowledge of the welfare system to volunteer to help people, following a new Joseph Rowntree report revealing that a quarter of Welsh people are in poverty. Although overall poverty in Wales has gone down, specific groups, such as pensioners and single parents, have not seen any improvement.

Pray:

for people with appropriate understanding to help those needing advice. (Psalm 140:12)

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Meghan Markle baptised

Meghan Markle was baptised and confirmed by Justin Welby at a private ceremony at the Chapel Royal on the evening of 6 March. Meghan was raised a Protestant, went to a Catholic school, and previously married a Jewish man. She will marry Prince Harry at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle on 19 May. The decision for her to be baptised and confirmed before the wedding will be seen as a nod to the Queen’s strong faith and traditions within the monarchy.

Pray:

for God to bless them, bless all wedding planning, and bless their future. (Psalm 121:8)

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Europe - CLICK to return to Top of Bulletin

Europe: Judeo-Christian symbols disappear

Silent synagogues are witnesses to the fall of a fundamental branch of European civilisation as they are converted into museums, swimming pools, shopping centres, police stations, and mosques. The stars of David and the kipás are vanishing as Europe’s Jews feel unsafe when carrying or wearing symbols of their faith. Recently two men attacked an 8-year-old Jewish boy wearing a yarmulke in a Sarcelles street. It is not an isolated incident, but the ‘new normal’ for French Jews. European elites are preaching cultural relativism and multiculturalism; which is now resulting in attacks on Jews and deChristianisation as historic churches are being demolished. The most recent was flattened in Germany to make room for a coal mine. Religious symbols are an integral part of civilisation. Religion plays a key role in society and in its cohesion. When the old symbols disappear, the new ones – with their own identities – take their place. Is religion being replaced with multiculturalism? See also article 3 in the UK section.

Pray:

for God to strengthen His people in their walk with Him in a changing world. (Mark 13:5)

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Slovakia: press freedom

Transparency International reported, ‘Unfortunately this week we were reminded again of the terrible risks facing journalists who report on corruption. Ján Kuciak, a Slovakian investigative journalist, and his fiancée were shot dead in their home. Ján had been investigating Mafia activity in Slovakia – including suspected links to the highest levels of the Slovak government. Police confirmed that his murder was most likely linked to his investigative work.’ This delved into the Slovakian ‘Ndrangheta Mafia, one of the world’s most powerful and fearsome criminal groups, which holds a dominant position in Europe’s cocaine market and many other criminal fields, including weapons trafficking, fraud, corruption, intimidation, and extortion. One in five of the journalists killed since 2012 were covering a corruption story. Research reveals that countries with the least protection for press and activists also have the worst rates of corruption. Progress against corruption globally is stalling.

Pray:

for the hidden corrupt powers to be turned around and make way for political, economic and policing transparency. (Proverbs 19: 28, 29)

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North Korea: breakthrough?

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US president Donald Trump are to meet in person by May, it has been announced, an extraordinary overture after months of mutual hostility. This news came after South Korean officials had held talks with Mr Trump at the White House. They passed a verbal message from Mr Kim, saying the North Korean leader was ‘committed to denuclearisation’. Mr Trump hailed ‘great progress’ but said sanctions would remain in place. South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said the news was like a miracle. ‘If President Trump and Chairman Kim meet following an inter-Korean summit, complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula will be put on the right track in earnest’, he said. China welcomed the development, saying the Korean peninsula issue was ‘heading in the right direction’. However, correspondents say the North has halted missile and nuclear tests during previous talks, only to resume them when it felt it was not getting what it demanded. The dramatic announcement came days after a high-ranking South Korean delegation had met Mr Kim in Pyongyang. See also

Pray:

that this will indeed be a breakthrough, rather than a false dawn, leading to better relationships and denuclearisation. (Isaiah 21:11b)

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Burkina Faso: attack by Islamist terrorists

Arriving in pickup trucks and shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’, suspected Islamist terrorists in coordinated attacks struck both the French embassy and the army headquarters in Burkina Faso’s capital on 2 March. There was great confusion, especially near the embassy, and gunfire continued until midday. At least 90 were wounded in the attacks. Five of the extremists were killed near the embassy, and three others near the army headquarters. Landlocked Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in Africa, shares a border with Mali where Islamic terrorism has been an ongoing threat. President Macron of France visited the country three months ago: it is a former French colony, and has not experienced the same level of violence as some of its neighbours. So far no group has claimed responsibility; it could be an organised group or local insurgents. Please pray for all the wounded to experience complete healing physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Pray:

for ample intelligence reports to enable necessary steps to be taken to protect the area. (Joshua 23:10)

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Australia: anti-Semitism

On 15 February anti-Semitic flyers were distributed around Melbourne’s inner west suburbs. The Anti-Defamation Commission said they promoted dangerous stereotypes, conspiracy theories and fear, and was concerned that anti-Semites are ‘redoubling their efforts as never before’. The flyers blamed Jews for everything from mass immigration and overpopulation to ‘making life harder for parents, thus pushing children into childcare centres’. They stated, ‘The Jews are the whole world’s enemy and are pure evil.’ On 4 March, 300 Holocaust denial leaflets were found at the University of Melbourne, claiming Holocaust studies were ‘replete with nonsense, if not sheer fraud’. Jewish and Hebrew studies courses that include language, literature, history, art and politics have been taught at that university since 1946. See also

Pray:

for an end to growing hostile anti-Jewish propaganda in Australia. (Daniel 12:1a)

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Rwandan government closes 700 churches

700 churches in Rwanda have been closed in a mass government clampdown. The board which monitors public and private organisations said, ‘Some churches conduct worship services in shoddy, unclean structures, to the detriment of health and safety. Noise pollution has been reported, and some operate without the required operation permits.’ Pentecostal churches run by charismatic preachers claiming to hear directly from God or saying they can perform miracles have spread rapidly, and many operate out of tiny structures without planning permission. In order to start a church in Rwanda a pastor needs a government certificate that expires after one year. A new law will make it more difficult for a person to call themselves a preacher and start a new church without any theological training. Some preachers ‘deceive their congregation with misleading sermons’. However the authorities are accused of trying to control preachers’ messages, in a country often accused of stifling free speech.

Pray:

for this law to prevent heretical teaching but also to trigger a significant move of God’s Holy Spirit across Rwanda. (Mark 9:39)

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China: unlimited presidency and neighbours

Oh Ei Sun, for Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute, has said that scrapping the two-term limit on the Chinese presidency will have profound ramifications for the region. But it looks likely to happen, and Asia may have to accept that a more assertive China is here to stay. On 5 March China’s biggest two-week political meeting, Two Seasons, began. Thousands of advisors and legislative deputies will consider the election of state leaders, revising the constitution, and structural reforms. China’s elite members of the National People’s Congress will be there to rubber-stamp the end of two-term-limit of presidents. President Xi Jinping will soon be president for life – which brings cautious optimism regarding the tense situation surrounding North Korea. For when dealing with the most protracted issue – Pyongyang’s repeated attempts at developing nuclear weapons – China has, under Xi, demonstrated flexibility in its foreign policy by taking concrete actions to enforce some of the UN Security Council resolutions sanctioning the Kim regime.

Pray:

for the continuation of Xi’s tenure to be a positive influence on North Korea. (Proverbs 25:15)

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Syria: update

Heavy fighting stopped another aid convoy from attending civilians in eastern Ghouta. ‘The situation is evolving on the ground, which doesn’t allow us to carry out the operation in such conditions’, said a spokeswoman for the Red Cross. Syrian government forces divided the besieged enclave in two; further squeezing rebels and tens of thousands of civilians trapped there. At least 87 civilians were killed on 7 March, and dozens were also treated for breathing difficulties, after airstrikes hit eastern Ghouta late that same day. Medics reported symptoms consistent with a toxic attack. The observatory said 60+ people were left struggling to breathe after barrel bombs hit the towns of Saqba and Hammuriyeh. Doctors at one medical facility treated at least 29 patients for chlorine exposure, and it is likely that more victims were treated at other clinics.

Pray:

for God in His mercy to bring relief to these poor, starving, wounded people exposed to continuous physical danger and emotional trauma. (John 16:33)

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Saudi Arabia: potential for religious freedom

During a three-day visit to the UK Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, has vowed to promote religious freedom. He said this at an hour-long private meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury on 8 March. Justin Welby described the crown prince as ‘cordial and honest’ and a statement from Lambeth Palace said the prince had ‘made a strong commitment to promote the flourishing of those of different faith traditions and to interfaith dialogue within the kingdom and beyond’. 32-year-old Mohammed bin Salman, considered the presumptive heir to 82-year-old King Salman, is seeking to promote new reforms for Saudi Arabia. During the discussion the Archbishop pressed concerns over restrictions on Christian worship in Saudi Arabia, where converting away from Islam is punishable by death and non-Islamic places of worship are banned.

Pray:

for the Lambeth Palace talk to begin a Saudi Arabian walk towards religious freedom. (Hebrews 11:1,2)

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Prayer Alert is produced in partnership with The World Prayer Centre, Cornerstone House, 5 Ethel Street, Birmingham, B2 4BG, England.

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