Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Egypt: Coptic Orthodox Christians Without Church for Easter Following Muslim Mob Attack


Coptic Orthodox Christians continue to be under severe persecution in Egypt. This incident is just the latest in their ongoing harassment, at times deadly, at the hands of Muslims, often with the tacit approval of the government. The following is an unedited press release from International Christian Concern. Visit their website at https://www.persecution.org/ for more on Christian persecution and genocide around the world.  -- Tim Gamble

Children Traumatized and Three Injured in Attack on Egyptian Church

04/16/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on April 12, 2019, a mob of extremists attacked the Church of Society of Anba Karassof in Khalaf Allah Jaber village, located in Egypt’s Sohag Governorate. As a result, the church was damaged, three people were injured, Christian children attending Sunday School were traumatized, and the church was closed to avoid further violence.

The mob, armed with knives and sticks, attacked the church at 4:00 p.m. on April 12 as Christian children were attending Sunday School classes. According to local reports, a large iron gate delayed the mob in their assault which allowed local police to arrive and disperse the crowd.

However, the mob was still able to inflict damage on the church and injure several Christians, including two priests, Father Basil and Father Pachomius, and one Coptic man, Asaad Bakhit Rizk Allah. Following the attack, local police closed down the church in order to avoid further violence.

Though there were limited injuries, one local Christian woman said, “The hardest emotion in that incident is the kids lived the incident in the reality. They saw the extremists attacking the church and how they injured the priests. This incident will hurt them psychologically in the future.

A day prior to the attack, the village mayor confiscated building materials from the church and attempted to close down the church. According to local reports, the mayor became frustrated with the local church because the Coptic Christians were renovating their church building in an attempt to accommodate their growing congregation of nearly 1,300 Christians.

Though the church had applied for legal status in September 2017, it has yet to receive official authorization.

Commenting on the political environment surrounding the attack, one local said, “The motivation of this incident [is] the constitution amendments. Many Christians will accept it, while other Muslim [extremists] hate the continuation of Sisi’s presidency. The Christians are always the victims of this regime.

To date, the Church of Society of Anba Karassof remains closed to avoid additional violence. This is despite the fact that the Coptic congregation is commemorating Holy Week and preparing for Easter. With no other local church in the area, the congregation is likely to be left without a formal worship space this Easter.

ICC’s Regional Manager, Claire Evans, said, “Egypt’s Christians are often singled out during the celebration of Christian holidays, such as Easter. President al-Sisi has taken symbolic steps of support for the Coptic population. Now he must take action to protect the rights of Christians to worship in their churches. More must be done to protect Christians from both discrimination and violence.”
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Friday, April 12, 2019

Tips To Get Ready for the Next Great Recession

Avoid becoming this guy.
Regardless of if you believe the next economic downturn is imminent or not, one thing is certain - at some point, sooner or later, there will be another recession. Now, during a relatively good time economically, is when we need to prepare that that next Great Recession. Here are some ideas to help you prepare:

Realize that unless you own the company, you are not indispensable to it. No matter how great you think you are at your job, no matter how much you think your boss loves you, you can lose your job to downsizing during a recession. No one is immune.

That said, you don't have to make it an easy decision for them to fire you. Make yourself as valuable as possible to your company. Keep your skills up-to-date, and constantly learn new ones, even if they are not directly related to your current job. Downsizing often means that those who remain are expected to do their work AND the work that was being done by those fired. The more you are able to do, the more likely your company will choose to keep you on the job. 

Don't give your employer a reason to fire you. Keep your nose clean. Obey the company rules, spoken and unspoken. Don't cause conflict. Don't bad-mouth your company, bosses, or fellow employees. Don't be that problem employee they'll be eager to get rid of during a downsizing. Check out the Fifteen Commandments of Keeping Your Job.

Despite your best efforts, you may lose your job anyway during a recession. Get ready to look for a new job now, don't wait until you are fired. Keep your resume constantly up-to-date. Make sure you have updated contact info for all your references. Start networking - you will be more likely to find a new job through a friend or colleague than from the classifieds or even employment services. Building a network is essential career advice, good times or bad.

Please realize you may have to find a new job in a different field from your current job. Or you may have to go into business for yourself.  Learn new skills. Take some classes at a local community college. Take a marketing and/or public relations class (surprisingly useful to most jobs/careers). Learn to sell (read the book SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham - considered a business classic). Brush up on your computer skills. Learn coding. Learn bookkeeping & accounting. Learn Spanish for the workplace. Consider learning a trade (electrician, plumber, welder, HVAC repair, etc.) as a back-up to your current career. The more you know, the more employable you will be. 

Prepare financially to the extent you can. This means getting on a budget, living within your means,  paying off debt, and building savings. Not fun, I know, but a whole lot easier to do now than it will be after the next Great Recession hits. Need some ideas? Check out my articles Taming the Family Budget and Quick Financial Tips.

My opinion: The top two financial goals for most folks should be setting aside an emergency fund, while at the same time paying off high-interest debt items such as most credit cards and car loans. Between the two, I would actually prioritize the emergency fund until you have at least $1,500 set aside. Don't stop making your minimum payments, of course, since late fees and penalty interest rates add up astoundingly fast. But put any extra money into the savings for now. Once you got an emergency fund, then tackle the debt with extra payments. 

Need help getting that emergency fund going? Have a yard sale. You can declutter your house and raise money at the same time. Or, brown bag your lunch for awhile, putting the savings into your emergency fund. At five dollars a meal (and you're probably spending more with tax & tip), that's $25 dollars a week, or $650 in just a half-a-year.  

Ready to pay off your debt?  Dave Ramsey's debt snowball plan is easy to understand and implement. You can find it on his website at https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/get-out-of-debt-with-the-debt-snowball-plan/

Food storage and other aspects of preparedness can really help you get through a crisis. I know a guy who was a prepper back before the Financial Crisis of 2008 (he was preparing for peak oil at the time). Then the Great Recession happened, and both he and his wife lost their jobs (with different companies) during the same week, leading to an extended period of unemployment for both. His wife was out of work for over five months and he was unemployed for almost nine months. He has said that the extra food storage (and other supplies), along with many of his other peak oil preps, made it possible for them to survive during that time.

My recommendation: As soon as possible, acquire at least two weeks worth of food & supplies, then work towards building a month's stockpile, then six months, and so forth until you feel comfortable. For more on stockpiling as a preparedness strategy, please read my 2016 article Survival 101: Stockpiling as a Preparedness Strategy.

If you are new to preparedness, You should read my 2015 article A quick, no frills, down & dirty guide to preparing for the End for a good general outline of preparedness.
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Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Indonesia: The Growing Persecution Against Christians

Indonesia is the largest (by population) Muslim-majority country in the world. Indonesia is very diverse geographically, made up of over 17,000 islands, and ethnically, with 300 different ethnic groups and over 700 languages. About 87% of the country's 262 million inhabitants are Muslim. Many of these are only marginally so, with a large percentage mixing Islam with traditional folk religions and even Hinduism. Many others have a very secular lifestyle and view of the world, despite claiming Islam as their faith. 

Unfortunately, in recent decades, more extremist Muslim groups have grown both in numbers and in political & social power. Religious courts, practicing Sharia Law, have precedence over civil courts in matters between Muslims regrading marriage, divorce, and other family issues. In the province of Aceh. Sharia Law is now practiced officially and has jurisdiction in all civil and legal matters, including over non-Muslims.  According to journalist Mohshin Habib "Sharia law is spreading throughout all of the provinces of Indonesia; citizens are enacting their own variations of Islamic laws, and applying then to non-Muslims as well."

There is also a significant Christian minority, making up approximately 9.9% of Indonesia's population. In fact, Operation World states that Christianity is the fastest growing religion in Indonesia. These trends are creating increasing friction and conflict between Muslims and Christians in Indonesia. Mohshin Habib sums up the situation: "Indonesia, once a country of diversity, is now becoming a place for one-way Islam.

International Christian Concern, a Christian human rights organization, reports on the latest incident of Muslim intolerance for Christianity in Indonesia: "On April 6, more than 11 wooden crosses were pulled out, damaged and burnt at the Bethesda Christian cemetery in Mrican, Yogyakarta."
 
In recent months, religious intolerance in Yogyakarta, a de facto Islamic sultanate on the island of Java, has risen sharply. One example: In December 2018, more than 19 Christian tombs were vandalized and  crosses desecrated in Purbayan and Magelang.

In another example, just last week, a Catholic painter named Slamet Jumiarto was kicked out from his just-moved-in community with his family (all Catholic) for being “non-Muslim.”

These are just a few recent examples of Muslim intolerance of Christians in a country often widely praised by Western politicians and news media as a great example of a moderate Muslim democracy. 

Sources: 1) Press release from International Christian Concern, dated 4/9/2019; 2) Press release from International Christian Concern, dated 04/04/2019; 3) Article: Sharia Law Swallowing Indonesia, by Mohshin Habib, published on the Gatestone Institute website;  4) Information from the Indonesia entry of Pray for the World, a resource from Operation World; 5) Demographic information from the Indonesia entry of Wikipedia.
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Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Review: Japanese Hori Hori Gardening Knife

https://amzn.to/2WHVVlW
Before the start of last year's gardening season, I ordered a Japanese Hori Hori Gardening Knife. I had seen a few gardening videos on You Tube where these professional gardeners were using and recommending the Hori Hori knives and I was impressed by what I saw. Well, I used my Hori Hori knife all last year, and am using it again this year as I get my garden started. I really like it. So much so that I ordered a second Hori Hori, following the rule that "two is one, and one is none." 

What is a Japanese Hori Hori Gardening Knife? "Hori" is the Japanese word for "Dig," so a Hori Hori knife literally translates as a "Dig Dig knife." It basically is a hybrid between a tough fixed-blade camp knife and a garden trowel. 

The blade is curved for easy digging and scooping. One side is a serrated knife blade, the other side is a straight-edge knife blade - makes cutting through roots and other plant material easy. Inside the scoop are ruler markings up to six inches, as a quick guide to planting depth or spacing between plants.  

The Hori Hori Garden Knife is great for digging, planting, pruning, weeding, cutting sod, transferring plants, planting bulbs, splitting perennials, and so forth. The knife edges are very sharp, and easily cut through bags, twine, and cordage. 

https://amzn.to/2WHVVlWI've used my Hori Hori for over a year now, in both well-prepared garden soil and rocky red-clay soil. It also easily handled digging into the straw bales I used for my tomatoes and peppers last year.
After a year of heavy use, there have been no problems with my Hori Hori. No dents, dings, rolls, bends, or other damage at all to the Hori Hori. As I said, I was impressed enough to order a second one. 

If you are into gardening or homesteading, I highly recommend a Hori Hori to you. It is a great garden tool. Available on Amazon for under $30 (price subject to change by Amazon, of course), it comes with a sturdy leather sheath and a sharpener.
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Monday, April 1, 2019

China: Clergy Continuously Persecuted for Refusing to Join State-Sanctioned Church

The following is an unedited press release from International Christian Concern (ICC) on the ongoing persecution of Christianity by the communist regime in China.  You can visit the ICC website at https://www.persecution.org for more on Christian persecution around the world.

Underground Church Leaders Repeatedly Detained in China

04/01/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on March 28 and March 29, two underground church leaders in China’s Hebei province were taken into custody by local authorities. On March 28, vicar general Father Zhang Jianlin of Xuanhua diocese was taken into custody by provincial religious bureau officials. Coadjutor Bishop Augustine Cui Tai was seized the next day by officials from various agencies after he received a text message informing him of his pending arrest. His whereabouts are currently unknown.

This was not the first time that either of the Catholic clergymen have been detained. Father Zhang was detained in 2009 and again last January. Bishop Cui has been repeatedly kept in captivity since 2007, and only released during the Chinese holidays so he could return home to visit his elderly sister, before he was taken away again. His last detention ended on January 24.

“The government’s aim is to paralyze the diocese. If the diocese fails to manage the community, then the government will use this as an opportunity to take it over,” a priest from the underground community told UCA News. He added that the government would give control of the diocese to the state-backed Patriotic Church.

Some believe that the latest detention is linked to a former underground priest from the same diocese, Francis Zhang Li. Asia News reported earlier this month that Cui suspended Zhang for switching to a Patriotic Church and for his “charismatic” activities.

Displeased that Bishop Cui still refused to join the Patriotic Church, after the signing of a provisional deal between the Holy See and Beijing last September, and Cui’s criticism of the government, Zhang called for his arrest.

When inquired about this news, Father Francis Liu from Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness told ICC, “Actually, this is the norm – during Lenten season, in order to prevent underground bishops from performing the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, the government would take them away, forcing their parishioners to attend the Mass at another diocese or an official church [that is controlled by Beijing].” 

Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “The undisclosed Sino-Vatican deal has brought little positive development, if not more suffering for the underground Catholic community in China. The Holy See must have empathy for the underground Church and pressure China into respecting their religious freedom. A rapprochement with China should not be built at the expense of underground Chinese Catholics’ rights.”    ----------------  
 
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