Wednesday, April 30, 2014

prayer diary Wednesday 30 April 2014

'the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.' 
John 3. 19

People would not listen to Christ and crucified him instead. But as he died for our sins, by continuing in our sins we show our love for the darkness rather than the light. Repent, therefore, of your evil and enter into the light that is Christ.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Christian persecution in Mexico

Below is a press release (PR) dealing with Christian persecution in Mexico. The saddest part of it is that it is other Christians doing the persecuting. The first part of the PR deals with Catholics persecuting Evangelicals in one region; the second deals with Catholics and Baptists being persecuted by Presbyterians in another. Please pray for justice for the persecuted; and for a conversion of heart of the persecutors. 

a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release
Local authorities in the village of Union Juarez, in the municipality of La Trinitaria, Mexico, met yesterday in a move to cut the water supply to additional families belonging to the Mount Tabor Evangelical Church, because of the Protestants continued refusal to participate actively in Catholic ceremonies. 

The traditionalist Catholic village authorities cut the water and electricity supply to 25 Protestant families in February and arbitrarily detained one member of the community who attempted to reconnect his water supply. A total of 27 families are now without water and electricity as the village authorities seek to increase pressure on the Protestants.

Local human rights activists are concerned that religious intolerance in the village is escalating as government officials fail to intervene.

Meanwhile, on 26 April, young people who are members of a group of forcibly displaced Catholics and Baptists carried out a pilgrimage in order to draw attention to continuing threats and religious intolerance by majority Presbyterians towards Catholics and Baptists in the village of Puebla, in the state of Chiapas.

More than 200 people attended a mass in the municipal capital, Chenalho, to celebrate the end of the pilgrimage from the community of Tsabalho to Chenalho. Representatives from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) attended the religious service, which was presided over by Father Manuel Perez Gomez, who was arbitrarily detained for five hours and beaten by Presbyterian youths last August. In the aftermath of the incident, 15 Catholic and two Baptist families were forcibly displaced.

The group returned to their homes in Puebla on 14 April out of necessity. Their representatives told CSW that they received no support from the government during their displacement: 'We did not have enough to eat and decided to return so that we could work on our fields, even though we had no guarantees for our safety.'

They also told CSW that the government had failed to take action to punish those responsible for criminal acts targeting non-Presbyterians, including the beating of Father Perez Gomez. They expressed concern that disinformation, accusing the Catholics and Baptists of poisoning the village water supply, continued to circulate unchallenged by government officials and that acts of intimidation continue.

One member of the community told CSW: 'When I went into my house, I found a rotting dead cat filled with worms on the bed. I asked myself, 'What are they trying to tell me?' I shut the door and went to find my things. I was very afraid. I considered returning to Acteal, I felt threatened; before they had told us that they were going to burn down the house.'

CSW's Chief Operating Officer Andy Dipper said, 'We call on the Mexican federal government as well as the state government of Chiapas to urgently intervene in these two cases and to uphold religious freedom, as guaranteed in the Mexican constitution, for all of its citizens. The cycle of impunity and ongoing religious intolerance must not be permitted to continue; those responsible for criminal acts including physical violence, destruction of property and the arbitrary deprivation of basic services including water and electricity must be held to account. We stand in solidarity with the young people of Puebla and in agreement with their demand for justice.'

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email or visit

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

a little light reading ...

A couple of books available on free pdf downloads ... good news if you're interested, especially if you have a kindle ...

I went looking for the the first one (Google is a wonderful thing!). It's a classic of Orthodox spirituality, directed at increasing one's holiness of life ... now what Christian wouldn't want to be holier? And only about 125 pages ...

THE LADDER OF DIVINE ASCENT  St. John Climacus  (Translated by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore)

The second I stumbled across by accident in an article about the canonisation of (now) St John Paul II (I do think it's great when online newspaper/magazine articles give hyperlinks to what they're talking about) ... 

The Redemption of the Body and Sacramentality of Marriage

A lot longer at over 330 with footnotes. But of interest if you want to know more about his theology of the body ... and if you decide you don't after a few pages/screens, well at least it didn't cost you anything to find out.

prayer diary Tuesday 29 April 2014

'so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.' 
John 3.14,15

Eternal life comes through faith in Christ. And faith in Christ is shown through hearing and obeying his word. If you would have eternal life, therefore, you must obey Christ, whatever it costs you in this life.

Monday, April 28, 2014

prayer diary Monday 28 April 2014 (St Mark's, transferred)

'and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.' 
Mark 13.13

Christ warned his disciples of the consequences of following him. Should we not then expect to be persecuted by those who hold to the popular opinions of this day? And if we are not a thorn in their side should we not ask ourselves why we are not?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

how long do you have left?

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

When I was in the army I went to 'jump school'. Jump school is where you learn how to jump out of perfectly good airplanes while they are up in the sky. As you can imagine, there was a certain amount of grim humour used in such a place – after all, we were learning how to do something where the slightest mistake could lead to a sudden and spectacularly messy death. For example, I remember one of the instructors explaining to us what to do when we exited the aircraft.

'The first thing you're going to want to do,' he said. 'Is check that your parachute has deployed properly. Because if it is hasn't, you're going to need to use that reserve chute strapped to your chest. And soldiers – you have the rest of your airborne life to get it to work.'
He paused for a moment to complete silence. We were going to be exiting the aircraft at about 1000 feet. At that height, without a working parachute, you had about 10 seconds if you were lucky before you hit the ground.

Of course, whether we have ten seconds left to our lives, or 100 years, all our lives will end sometime. And we all have however much time we have left to get something right – something much more important that a parachute – we have to get things right with God.

We all of course get things wrong … and we all hope to be forgiven … but we all know as well that sometimes the chance for forgiveness may pass … think about our Old Testament reading today, from Genesis about Noah. Think of the flood … we may be sure that all the people who were not on the ark had plenty of time to change their ways and repent … in fact, it's quite likely that Noah himself told them … how likely is it that people didn't ask him what he was up to all those years he was building such a huge ark? And how likely is it that a good man like Noah wouldn't have told them the truth? But they wouldn't listen … and the time came when it was too late …

We can all understand what it means to be too late … I'm sure the children among us can all remember some favourite toy that their parents told them to be careful of or they would break it … but they didn't listen, and it did indeed break, and then all the tears and sadness couldn't make it right. The same kind of thing happens to grown-ups. Think of something as simple as not using your mobile phone when driving. The government had a big campaign last, warning people that the gardai would be out in force, looking for people who were breaking that law … and yet within a few hours of the crackdown beginning, they had caught hundreds driving with their phone in their hands … they didn't listen to the warnings … and at last it was too late … and all the pleading with the man or woman in blue at the side of the road couldn't change anything.

But of course I'm sure there were lots of people on their mobile phones in their cars over the last few days who didn't get caught. They got lucky. No being pulled over, no fines, no penalty points on their licence, no increase in what they have to pay for their insurance for not obeying the rules of the road. They got away with it – this time at least. But with God there is no getting away with it; he knows all the things we have done wrong. Luckily for us, when the time comes for us to stand before him, it doesn't have to be the case that the penalties and fines for all the wrong we have done all through our lives are waiting for us to pay them … because Christ has already paid it all in full for us …by dying for our sins he opened the door for each and everyone of to get into right relationship with God … It is not automatic, of course. We have to ask God's forgiveness and change our ways so that we live according to the way his Son taught us.

And when should we do that? Right now. Leaving it to the last minute is not a good idea. Because most of us will never know when that last minute will be. And if it does come upon you suddenly, you may well be too busy to think about repenting. Let me give you an example … On one of my parachute jumps I got things badly wrong and was steering my chute with the wind instead of against it; that meant I speeded up instead of slowing down … so instead of coming down gently, I slammed into the ground at around 30 miles an hour … luckily, about two seconds before I hit the ground I realised what I had done and I made up for my mistake by doing as near perfect a parachute landing fall as I could … the result was that I was pretty much a walking bruise, but I was otherwise uninjured … I could have been killed … but that didn't even occur to me until afterwards … 

I truly believe that when death comes upon us suddenly, most don't actually think they're going to die … which means there are no last second thoughts of repentance … there certainly wasn't in my case. Far better, I think, to ask forgiveness while there is time and then live the rest of your life as if there might never be chance to ask for forgiveness again. That is how I pray you all will live. Amen. 

Shakespeare and Christian Britain

I was reading what the Archbishop of Canterbury had to say about Britain being a Christian country. He mentions how the faith had shaped the laws and values of that nation; he also gives a nod to its impact on it artistic and cultural heritage. 

That got me to thinking about Shakespeare (whose 450th anniversary is being celebrated this year) - his works have the Christian faith woven through them. Take, for example, his perhaps greatest play, Hamlet. The scene with the prince and his father's ghost, for example, is imbued with a Christian understanding of the afterlife. So too is the scene where he refuses to take his revenge on his uncle while the villain is at his prayers - it would be a poor revenge if the result is that the murderer goes to heaven instead of hell (although, it must be said, it doesn't make Hamlet sound like the best of Christian men!). There's even the joke 'get thee to a nunnery!'

Reading the scene with his father's ghost led me to another thought. I have often heard speculation that Shakespeare was a 'closet' Catholic. Reading what the ghost had to say, I'm not so sure about the closet part:
I am thy father's spirit,
Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confined to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purged away.

The Bard, it seems, believed in Purgatory. Sounds pretty Catholic to me.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Examin Saturday 26 April 2014

It is hard to think of repentance at this time of great joy. And yet, consider how often we fail to translate the joy of Easter into action. Does that joy strengthen our resolve to even more faithfully hear the teachings of Christ and make them real in our lives? Do we share that joy with others, not only by sharing with them from the plenty with which God has blessed us, but the sometimes even harder sharing of the Good News of Jesus Christ? And ask yourself this: if you do not do all of these things, what does the joy of Easter really mean for you?

prayer diary Saturday 26 April 2014

Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. 
Mark 16.14, 15

Christ calls us all to proclaim to the world not only that he is risen, but what his Resurrection means for all. To do otherwise shows a lack of faith and stubbornness of heart.

Friday, April 25, 2014

prayer diary Friday 25 April 2014

Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ 
John 21. 5-6

Christ's words that day to his apostles recall the events of when he first called them to him, telling them that they would be fishers of men. It reminds us that our work continues and that we must strive daily to make disciples of all people.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

prayer diary Thursday 24 April 2014

Jesus said ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see.' 
Luke 24. 38,39

Christ's Resurrection was no spiritual thing. Death could not hold him. Body and soul together broke free of the tomb. And so we can be sure that the eternal life he promised waits for all who love him and show that love by hearing and obeying his word.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

prayer diary Wednesday 23 April 2014

Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. 
Luke 24.35

Each time we gather round the Lord's Table he makes himself known to us in the breaking of the bread. How blessed are we that we can share in the intimate experience of those who journeyed with him on the road to Emmaus whenever we gather to celebrate the Eucharist together.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

prayer diary Tuesday 22 April 2014

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her. 
John 20.18

We also encounter the Risen Lord daily in our lives. Like Mary we must proclaim this good news to others and be his witness to all the world.

Monday, April 21, 2014

prayer diary Monday 21 April 2014

Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 
Matthew 28.9

The joy of the disciples at the Resurrection of Jesus found its natural expression in immediate worship. So too must we be filled with this joy each day and worship our Lord who has risen from the dead and in so doing has vanquished death for us all.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

repreive: an Easter reflection

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

A remarkable story emerged out of Iran during Holy Week. Apologies if you have heard some of the details already, but even so I think they bear repeating. A young man, Balal, was due to be executed. Iran executes more people each year than any other nation except China; and of course Iran is a far smaller country. Several years earlier Balal had been involved in a stupid street brawl. He shoved another teenager called Abdollah. In retaliation, Abdollah kicked him. Balal pulled a knife and stabbed the other boy, fatally wounding him. Balal fled the scene but was later arrested.

 It took six years before the courts finished their work but in a country where the death sentence is so frequently used no one was surprised when Balal was sentenced to death. After all, it was not as if there was any doubt that he was the killer and there was no excuse for his crime. According to the law in that country Abdollah's family could have asked that his life be spared, but they did not and so a date was set for his execution by hanging. The day of his death was delayed several times, not because of any continuation of the legal process and hopes that he might be reprieved, but because the date did not suit Abdollah's family. In Iran the family of victim not only has the right to be present at the execution but to take part. Balal was to be hanged; he was to be placed upon a chair with a rope around his neck; and a member of Abdollah's family would be the person who would kick the chair out from under him and end his life. It might sound brutal to us, but in Iran it is unremarkable; it is something that happens literally every day.

Finally there were no more delays and the day he was to die came. Balal's family was there, including his weeping mother; Abdollah's family, of course, was there, among them his parents; and others were there also, officials of the state, as are present at any execution, and onlookers, for in Iran execution is a public affair. The guards shoved him towards the gallows, much as he had shoved his victim on that tragic day years before; the rope was placed around his neck; he was lifted onto the chair; and Abdollah's mother came forward. Balal watched, waiting for her to knock the chair out from under him, to leave him to hang there choking, slowly dying.

But that wasn't what happened. Instead, she slapped his face; and then the mother of the boy he had stabbed, stupidly and for no reason, publicly forgave him. Abdollah's father then came forward and removed the rope from around his neck. Balal had been spared. The two mothers embraced and wept in each others' arms. Why would they not?  One had lost a son; and the other's son had been saved. 

We can only imagine how Balal felt that morning, what it was like to be sentenced to death, to have the day of execution arrive, to be taken to the place where the sentence of death would be carried out, to be placed upon the gallows with the rope upon his neck, to see the executioner walk toward him, only to have the executioner instead of taking his life, telling him that he was forgiven, and instead of killing him, take the rope from his neck? Was he joyful? Overwhelmed? Grateful? All three? We may never know; the reason that the international media picked up the story was because of the dramatic circumstances of how he was spared from dying for the crime he was guilty of; how the grieving parents of his victim chose to be merciful in a country where such mercy in not the norm. Balal most probably will slip back into obscurity, going to prison instead of his grave, and there will be no follow up story.

But I tell this story today because I think there is a parallel to the story of Balal in all our lives. He was guilty of his crime and justly condemned to death according to the laws of his country and literally teetering on the brink of death only to be saved by those his terrible crime had wounded most. And thus it is for all of us, were it not for the empty tomb. Christ by his death has paid the price for our sins; the condemnation we would otherwise justly face has been borne by another, by God whom we offended against in the first place. Instead of death we are offered forgiveness and eternal life.

Every morning when we wake up we should feel as Balal must have felt upon the gallows as the rope was removed from around his neck. Feelings such as joy, gratitude, of being completely overwhelmed should flood us. We have been spared. We have been forgiven. Our condemnation has been set aside. We should feel it especially today, this Easter morning, because for us God has gone much farther than just sparing our lives as Abdollah's parents did for Balal; for us it is as if God has taken the rope from around his neck and placed it around his own instead. Christ has paid for our sins and by his walking free from the tomb assures us that death no longer has any power over us. Today the joy that fills us should be much greater than Balal felt that day on the gallows; for our lives have been spared for eternal life; something that can never be taken away from us as long as we continue to walk in the way of Christ. Amen

(source: Guardian/Irish Times)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

prayer diary Easter Eve, Saturday 19 April 2014 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. 
John 19.42

This day your Saviour's body lies in the tomb. He lies there for you. Let your every act and thought this day reflect your awareness of this.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday: The Prelude to the Crucifixion from the four evangelists

Matthew 27.1 -10 
When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death. They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor. When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ But they said, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself.’ Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself.But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, ‘It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.’ After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, ‘And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one on whom a price had been set, on whom some of the people of Israel had set a price, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.’

Mark 15. 2-15 
Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ He answered him, ‘You say so.’ Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, ‘Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.’ But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed. Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom.Then he answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate spoke to them again, ‘Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify him!’ So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them;

John 19. 1-7 
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.’ So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’ When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.’ The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.’

Luke 23. 26-28 
So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished. As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.

prayer diary Good Friday 18 April 2014 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

He said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. 
John 19.30

Christ died on the cross for you. He who was without sin gave up his life so that sinners might have eternal life. Do not reject the sacrifice that he made for you.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

There are ongoing concerns for the safety of 129 female students kidnapped from their school in Chibok in Borno State on 14 April by members of the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram, amid disputes over a statement issued by the Nigerian military on 16 April claiming to have freed most of them.

On the evening of 14 April, Boko Haram gunmen invaded the predominantly Christian town of Chibok in the Gwoza Local Government Area (LGA), setting fire to homes and public buildings and looting food items, before kidnapping 129 students from Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS), who were taking the West African Examination Council (WAEC) examination.

In a statement issued on 16 April, the Nigerian Defence Headquarters had stated that most of the victims had been freed 'in the ongoing Search & Rescue operations;' that 'the Principal of the school confirmed that only eight of the students are still missing', and that one Boko Haram member involved in the abductions had been captured. Earlier, 14 of the girls had managed to escape their captors when the vehicle transporting them ran into difficulties.

However, the principal of GGSS Chibok, Asabe Kwambura, has informed local media that the school was 'still waiting and praying for the safe return of the students. All I know is that we have only fourteen of them, and the security people, especially the vigilante and the well meaning volunteers of Gwoza, are still out searching for them.'

Borno state governor Kashim Shettima has offered a reward of around £180,000 for information leading to the girls' release.

Meanwhile, attacks in the area have continued. On 16 April, Boko Haram gunmen ambushed two buses carrying traders near Wala Village in Gwoza LGA, killing 18 of them, reportedly after identifying them as Gwoza residents, and injuring several others. On the same day, other Boko Haram gunmen had attacked Sabon Kasuwa Village in Hawul LGA, where they murdered the District Head in his bedroom before killing his guard and fleeing the scene

Last week Idrissa Timta, the Emir of Gwoza, appealed for effective protection, informing local media that Gwoza residents are being forced to flee and trade in food and goods is being disrupted: 'We want action from government so that lives can be saved; if nothing is done, we have no other option than to desert our homelands and flee into the neighbouring Cameroon towns where we may perhaps get protection.'

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said, 'We join with all people of goodwill throughout Nigeria in praying for the well-being and safe return of the abducted girls. We also condemn the continuing targeting of Gwoza residents and echo the calls of the Emir for effective action to increase security in Gwoza LGA so that normal life can resume and people are not forced to abandon their homes and livelihoods.'

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email or visit

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

prayer diary Maundy Thursday 17 April 2014 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 
John 13.5

Christ, God and man, was not above the humble service of others. What are the ways in which you are too proud to serve, thinking such actions beneath you?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

prayer diary Spy Wednesday 16 April 2014 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ 
John 13.22

Do not in your pride despise Judas. Rather, consider the ways you daily, even hourly, betray your Lord.

prayer diary Tuesday 15 April 2014 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 
John 11.24

Deny yourself that you may die to self and thus bear much fruit for Christ.

Monday, April 14, 2014

prayer diary Monday 14 April 2014 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’ 
John 11.8

There are some who think themselves too busy with the practical work of the Gospel to spend time in worship. Christ demands both of those who follow him.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Examin Sunday 13 April 2014

During this week we think more than ever on the Cross Christ bore for us. But where is the cross in your life? Christ told his disciples that they must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him. Consider your life – in what way do you deny yourself the pleasures and temptations of this world so that you may conform yourself to the will of Christ? What suffering is there in your life for the sake of the Gospel? Where is your cross? And if there is no cross in your life, in what way are you a follower of Christ?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Examin Saturday 12 April 2014

To carry our cross in this life is not easy. For most it means denying ourselves all that the world, the flesh, and the devil would tempt us with. Yet when all these seeming pleasures are seen in the light of his Resurrection, they mean little. Repent now of where you have fallen short and take up your cross anew and carry it joyfully to the eternal life that awaits.

prayer diary Saturday 12 April 2014 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him' 
John 11.47,48

The authorities of Christ's day feared people's faith in him. They still do today. This is why they either try to subvert it to their own ends or try to undermine it. But we, faithful to the teaching passed on from the beginning, must stand fast.

Friday, April 11, 2014


a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

Ayatollah Abdol-Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani, a senior Shi'a cleric, has given the Baha'i International Community a symbolic gift and raised concerns over their mistreatment in Iran.

The gift, which was presented to the Baha'i community this week, is an illuminated work of calligraphy made from the writings of Baha'u'llah, the Prophet-founder of the Baha'i Faith. Ayatolloah Tehrani stated on his website that the giving of the gift was a 'symbolic action to serve as a reminder of the importance of valuing human beings, of peaceful coexistence, of cooperation and mutual support, and of avoidance [of] hatred, enmity and blind religious prejudice.' He went on to say that Iranian Baha'is in particular 'have suffered in manifold ways as a result of blind religious prejudice and that the gift was 'an expression of sympathy and care from me and on behalf of all my open-minded fellow citizens.'

Commenting on this gift, Ms Bani Dugal, Principal Representative of the Baha'i International Community at the United Nations, said, 'The Baha'i International Community is deeply touched by this act of high-mindedness and the sentiments of religious tolerance and respect for human dignity that prompted it.' She added: 'This bold action by a senior Muslim cleric in contemporary Iran is is also remarkable in light of the ongoing and systematic persecution of the Baha'i community in that country by the Islamic government.'

Despite being the largest religious minority in Iran, numbering over 300,000, the Iranian Baha'i community is not recognised and refused official legal status by the Iranian regime. Baha'is are actively targeted by the authorities, and the Baha'i religion is deemed as undermining Shi'a orthodoxy.

Since 1979, over 200 Baha'i leaders have been killed or executed, with thousands more imprisoned. Baha'is are barred from accessing further education and employment in the public sector, with over 10,000 having been dismissed from university and government jobs. According to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), as of February 2013, at least 110 Baha'is are being held in prison solely because of their religious belief, twice the number held in early 2011.

14 April 2014 will mark the sixth year in detention of seven Baha'i leaders who were initially detained in 2008, and were sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in 2010 for 'forming an illegal cult.' 

Despite promises by President Rouhani to ensure equality for all Iranians, the situation for Baha'is and other religious minorities has not improved. 2013 saw the first religiously-motivated murder of a Baha'i in 15 years, which followed a speech by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei a week earlier that had denigrated the community.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said, 'Ayatollah Tehrani's kind gesture to the Baha'i community is particularly welcome at a time when the community is being actively targeted and vilified by the Iranian regime. Dozens of Baha'is are languishing in jail and the community is subject to attack, harassment and intimidation. CSW urges President Rouhani to emulate the Ayatollah's inclusivity by upholding the rights of the Baha'i community as equal citizens and to guarantee freedom of religion or belief for all religious communities, in line with Iran's international obligations as a signatory to the International Convent on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). We also urge the Iranian authorities to release, without reservation, the seven Baha'i leaders and all members of religious minorities who have been unfairly detained.'

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email or visit

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

prayer diary Friday 11 April 2014 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Many came to him, and they were saying, ‘John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.’ 
John 10.41

John the Baptist was the last and greatest of the prophets. The people of his time saw that all he told us of Christ was true. John continues to speak to us today through Scripture and he continues to testify as to who Christ is and what we can hope for as a result.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Just when you thought the wedding service was over ...

The couple thought the service was over and was getting reading to recede down the aisle ... next thing, the officiating priest gives them a surprise wedding gift they'll never forget. Not the kind of thing you hear or see every day - and Father certainly can sing! 

prayer diary Thursday 10 April 2014 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.’ 
John 8.51

By his resurrection we know all of Christ's promises are true. Life eternal awaits those who are faithful to his teaching in the face of all the temptations of this life.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

doggerel: I feed my cats on breadcrumbs

I feed my cats on breadcrumbs
in a good and holy way;
the crumbs go on the window sill
and when birdies come they prey!

Not really; but when I see the way my cats hang out around our feeder table I wonder if there isn't a grain of truth in it ...

prayer diary Wednesday 9 April 2014 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples' 
John 8.31

Those who follow Christ must be obedient to him. Reflect on this when next you find some of his teachings hard or another tries to tell you they are too hard to bear.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

Father Frans van der Lugt, an elderly Jesuit priest, was murdered in the city of Homs on 7 April.

There are conflicting reports on the circumstances surrounding Father Frans van der Lugt's death.

A statement by the Jesuits in the Middle East and Maghreb to their colleagues in Rome said Father Frans van her Lugt had been 'abducted by armed men who beat and then killed him with two bullets to the head, in front of the residence of the Jesuits in Homs.' However, Jan Stuyt, Secretary of the Dutch Jesuits, told Agence France Presse that 'a man came into his house, took him outside and shot him twice in the head.'

Father van der Lugt had refused to leave Homs during a UN operation earlier this year which saw approximately 1,400 civilians evacuated from the city, opting instead to stay behind with those who could not be evacuated in time. At the time he informed a Dutch radio station: 'I don't want to leave alone the 28 Christians that have remained.' 

Father van der Lugt arrived in Syria in the mid-60s after spending two years in Lebanon learning Arabic and was involved in various projects amongst the poor during his time in Syria. In the 1980s he set up a farming project to help young people with learning difficulties.

During his time in Syria, Father van der Lugt developed very good relationships with both Christians and Muslims and was widely respected. Since his murder, tributes have poured in locally and from around the world, including from the UN Secretary General, the Dutch Foreign Minister and the Vatican. Lord Alton of Liverpool also paid tribute: 'He personified all the best qualities and ideals which the Society of Jesus stands for. He joins a long list of Jesuit martyrs who have sacrificed their lives truly believing that a man has no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.' 

Syria's religious and ethnic minorities have been targeted increasingly by Islamist jihadi groups. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) remains concerned by the disappearance of Archbishop Boulos (Paul) Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church and Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church, who were abducted by gunmen on 22 April 2013, as they returned from a humanitarian mission near the Syria/Turkey border. Their whereabouts are still unknown. In July 2013, Italian Jesuit priest Father Paolo Dall'Ogglio was kidnapped by Islamists in the city of Al-Raqqa, as he tried to negotiate the release of several hostages. He too remains missing. Syrian Christians have called for a day of prayer and fasting for Syria on 11th April.

A recent study by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims that approximately 146,000 Syrians have been killed since the start of the civil war. Other reports confirm that approximately 7 million have been displaced during the war, amounting to a third of the country's population.

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: 'CSW is saddened by the news of Father van der Lugt's murder and offer our prayers at this difficult time for all who knew and loved him. He was clearly a man of extraordinary courage and commitment, who devoted his life to the Syrian people to the very end, as was demonstrated by his refusal to leave Homs and his decision to stay in solidarity with those who could not be evacuated. These are deeply worrying times for the people of Syria, as violence and atrocities continue, civilian casualties mount, and the warring parties exhibit a reluctance to pursue peace. CSW urges every party to the conflict to adhere to humanitarian standards with regard to the treatment of civilians, religious leaders and religious establishments, regardless of creed or ethnicity. We also reiterate our request for the safe and unconditional release of the two Archbishops, almost a year after they were abducted, and for the safe return of Father Paolo Dall'Ogglio.'

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email or visit

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

haiku: roadside field

roadside field
~edging the fence
a moat of clover blossom

prayer diary Tuesday 8 April 2014 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he' 
John 8.28

It is through the cross that God's plan is fulfilled and on it his Son is revealed to be who he truly is. It is through the cross also that God's plans for us reach fruition and we become who we were created to be. Which is why we must take up our own cross and follow Christ.

Monday, April 7, 2014

prayer diary Monday 7 April 2014 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’ 
John 8.11

Christ does not condemn the woman taken in adultery, but he does condemn her sin. His forgiveness is for all, as is his command to go and sin no more.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

no name unknown

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

I think it was the dictator and mass murderer Joseph Stalin who said something like that the death of one person was a tragedy, but the death of a million is a statistic. We have two such contrasting images of God's power over life and death in our readings today. One from the Old Testament on the grand scale, where thousands are restored to life, one from the New, where one man, Lazarus, a friend of Jesus and the brother of Martha and Mary is called forth from his tomb.

The first from the Old Testament is the well known story from Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones. The prophet stands -probably in  a vision - among the sun-bleached remains of thousands and thousands long dead and as he watches God restores sinew, flesh, skin, and breath of life and they stand up, a vast multitude. The story fills us with a sense of awe at the infinite power of God, but doesn't touch us on a personal level, I think. We don't know who these bones belonged to,  Are they the remains of an army, soldiers who died in battle and whose bodies were left to rot in the desert where they fell? Were they those of a great city who were destroyed by some great and sudden catastrophe that came upon them so suddenly that there was no time for the dead to be buried before all were consumed? We don't know. We don't know the names of those who died; we don't even know the name of the house or tribe of Israel they belonged to. They were, of course, known to God, but not to us.

But we know who Lazarus was and where he came from. We know he lived in Bethany, a pious and God fearing man, one who welcomed Jesus and his disciples into his home on many occasions; that he was the brother to two other important figures in the Gospels, Martha and Mary; Mary we are told by St John anointed the feet of Jesus with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; and St Luke tells us of the time when Mary sat at the feet of Jesus her sister Martha, harried by all the work she had to do in order to make thing ready for Jesus and his disciples, cried out to him, asking did he not care that her sister was leaving all the work to her? And his gentle reply to her was Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” 

These were people well known to the Lord; well known, indeed to us, because with him how many times have we entered in their home, how many times have we also been welcomed? Lazarus is not for us some anonymous dry bones lying in a valley somewhere; he is a flesh and blood human being in whose home we have been a guest, whose sisters have served us and made us welcome. We feel the sorrow of those two women at the death of their brother; the death of their protector in a society where the role of women was very different to that within our own. We feel the sorrow of Christ, who weeps at the tomb of his friend even though he knows that he will soon call him back to life out of that tomb. How many times have we heard that passage read at funeral services, reminding us that if Christ can mourn the death of a loved one, so may we? That it shows no lack of faith to weep and sorrow when we lose someone we love, for if Christ may do so, then so much more may we, we whose faith is so weak and small?

And how beautiful is the faith of Martha on this terrible day for her. Her brother has died; the one they thought would save him, as he had healed and saved others, did not come in time; yet she goes to him – Martha, the one who was overworked and harried on that other occasion, not Mary who had sat at his feet. There is sorrow in her words 'Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died' but such wonderful, marvelous faith in the words that follow 'But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.' She speaks these words ever before Christ's own resurrection from the dead, the foundation of our own faith. She has such faith in him. There is, perhaps, a moment of weakness when she stands before the tomb with Jesus and her sister and he tells the men to take away the stone, a worry about what they will find in the tomb after four days. But Jesus reassures, continues in his work, and her faith is rewarded.

Very dramatic, very personal, very intimate; if the death of one person is a tragedy, the restoration to life of one we know and love is a miracle, a joy, something that touches our very soul. And yet we all hope for that very miracle for ourselves. Through the reassurances we have through Christ's own resurrection, we hope that the day will come when we too are restored to life. As we say every time we pray the Creed: we believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. In the face of death – and realistically, we face death everyday, as we know not the day nor the hour – in the face of death we look beyond it to the time when Christ will call out our name, just as he did for Lazarus, and tell us to come out. And it won't matter on that day that there will be thousands, millions, billions. No one will a statistic that day, no one will be unknown, for all are known to God, and he will feel joy for each of us that he calls from the grave to eternal life with him – great is the joy in heaven over the sinner who repents. And we are all sinners. I pray that you will all repent and be called forth with joy on that last great and terrible day; and I ask that you pray the same for me. Amen

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Examin Saturday 5 April

Courage was the hallmark of the early Christians, willing to take up their cross and suffer and die for the sake of their faith, so that they might be true witnesses and bring all others to Christ. How many ways each day do we fail to show even a fraction of the same courage? Do we allow disrespect for God in our presence? Do we prioritise social events over worship? Do we avoid even mentioning our faith before others because it might be awkward or embarrassing? Pray for the courage to be a witness to your faith.

prayer diary Saturday 5 April ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Nicodemus .. asked, ‘Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?’ 
John 7. 50,51

Christ was an innocent victim in all that he suffered for us. Those who opposed him denied him everything, even simple justice. Yet he willingly endured it all for our sake.

Friday, April 4, 2014


a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

Six members of a group of eight Christians from Shiraz who were sentenced to various prison terms last year had their prison sentences upheld on 29 March, following an appeal.

On 16 July 2013, the Christians were charged with 'action against the national security' and 'propaganda against the order of the system'. Mohammad Roghangir was sentenced to six years in prison, Massoud Rezai to five years; Mehdi Ameruni and Bijan Farokhpour Haghighi received three year sentences, Shahin Lahouti and Suroush Saraie received two and half years, and Eskandar Rezai and Roxana Forghi each received a one-year sentence. However, charges against Roxana Forghi were dropped at the appeal on 29 March and Shahin Lahouti was released from prison in December 2013.

Seven of these Christians were initially arrested on 12 October 2012 when security forces raided a prayer meeting, while the eighth, Massoud Rezai, was detained a day later.

In other news, Mohabat News reports that Vahid Hakkani, a convert to Christianity, is currently on hunger strike in Adel-Abad Prison in Shiraz. Mr Hakkani began a hunger strike on the 20 March, after his appeal for conditional release was rejected. Mr Hakkani is reportedly on the second week of his hunger strike, despite suffering from digestive problems, for which he received surgery in the latter of part 2013. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) understands that his health is now deteriorating daily.

Mr Hakkani was part of a group of four converts who were sentenced by Branch 3 of the Revolutionary Court to three years and eight months imprisonment in June 2013 on charges of 'attending house church services,' 'promoting Christianity,' 'propagating against the regime,' and 'disturbing national security.'

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, 'Despite the promises of President Rouhani to ensure equality for all Iranians and to release political prisoners, it is disappointing to note that the Iranian regime continues to detain religious minorities on false political charges, as has occurred once again in this case. We call for the charges against the six Christians sentenced to be dropped, urge the government to end the practice of characterising legitimate religious activities as national security crimes, and to uphold the right of all religious minorities to freedom of religion and belief, as contained in Article 18 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which includes to right to change one's belief, and to which Iran is signatory. We also urge the regime to ensure the unconditional release of Vahid Hakkani, particularly in light of his deteriorating health. Finally, we call on the Iranian authorities to bring an end the harassment of religious minorities and to ensure that every Iranian citizen is able to enjoy the rights and freedoms to which they are entitled under national and international law, including the right to freedom of religion or belief.'

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email or visit

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

prayer diary Friday 4 April ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come. 
John 7. 30

Even as he journeyed to Jerusalem, Christ was always in control. He laid down his life willingly, for it was something that no man could take from him.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

A 24-hour curfew was imposed on Kafanchan, a major town in southern Kaduna State on 2 April after local youth reacted angrily to the discovery by law enforcement agents of weaponry in a truck carrying Fulani herdsmen to the area.

According to an eyewitness report received by Christian Solidarity Worldwide -Nigeria (CSW-N), following the discovery the youth of Kafanchan took to the streets demanding instant justice. The military responded by shooting at the protesters and wounding several, many of whom received medical attention. However an unconfirmed report states that two protesters may have died.

The southern part of Kaduna State, which has witnessed several deadly attacks by Fulani herdsmen* since 2011, saw a steep rise in this violence during 2014.

The most recent violence involved the destruction of three communities and the killing of over a hundred people in the Manchock area of Kaura Local Government Area (LGA). Amidst heightened local anger at a seeming official inability to prevent these attacks, on 30 March soldiers from the Nigerian Army raided Ladunga Village, an infamous Fulani settlement in Kachia LGA, southern Kaduna State, arresting 18 people and recovering several weapons. On 31 March, a major military offensive was launched to end similar attacks in Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa States.

Rev Yunusa Nmadu, CEO of CSW-Nigeria said: 'While commending recent pro-active interventions by security operatives to avert violence, we urge the government to illustrate consistent commitment to ending the culture of impunity surrounding attacks on rural communities, as insufficient intervention encourages such violence to continue. In addition, while understanding the source of the deep frustrations felt by young people in southern Kaduna in the face of the continuing attacks against their communities and deeply lamenting any deaths or injuries ensuing from yesterday's events, we caution against communities taking the law into their own hands, as this inevitably leads to further violence that undermines the rule of law.'

*some links giving more background on these attacks here, here, and here.
For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email or visit

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

you know you're getting old when ...

... you're taking down a message over the phone and before you say 'wait, let me get a pen' you say 'hold on while I find my glasses.

prayer diary Thursday 3 April ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. 
John 5.37

Christ, the Son of God, did the work of the Father; how can we, called to be as Christlike as possible, do less? Use this season of Lent to consider how it is that you fail to do the work that God calls you to do.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

Sawan Masih, a Pakistani Christian man who was convicted of blasphemy charges and sentenced to death on 27 March, filed an appeal against his conviction in the Lahore High Court on 1 April.

Masih was accused of blasphemy under Section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code on 8 March 2013. As news of the accusation spread, a mob of thousands targeted the Christian-majority area of Joseph Colony, Badami Bagh, Lahore, torching an estimated 198 properties on 9 March 2013.

Pakistan's blasphemy laws make it a criminal act to insult another's religion. Little evidence is required to register a case so false accusations are common and often used to settle personal scores, target religious minorities, or further extremist agendas.

Statistically, most of those accused of blasphemy in Pakistan are from Muslim backgrounds, although religious minorities such as Christians make up a disproportionate number of victims. The life of the accused is at risk from sympathisers of the accuser as soon as the allegation is publically known, and even after acquittal. There is a de facto moratorium on the death penalty in Pakistan.

Andy Dipper, Chief Operating Officer of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said, 'We urge the authorities in Pakistan to secure a speedy and fair trial for Sawan Masih, and to ensure his safety in custody. It must be remembered that those responsible for burning down the homes in Joseph's Colony have not been brought to justice. The government must punish those who incite and enact such violence, in order to end the cycle of impunity that fuels blasphemy allegations.'

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email or visit

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

prayer diary Wednesday 2 April ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the Sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God. 
John 5.18

The people of Jesus' day had no doubts about his claims to divine status. Ponder this deeply during the season of Lent and what it means for you that God became man and died for your sins.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

prayer diary Tuesday 1 April ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you. 
John 5.14

Even as he healed men's bodies, Christ's first concern was for the salvation of their soul. Strive this Lent for the healing of your soul so as to avoid the worst of all possible fates, the loss of eternal life.