Friday, January 28, 2011

Ramblings on "I Read Dead People"

Most of my major projects for the week are done. So I have no excuse not to tidy up my desk (a bit) and catch up on some paper work and quadrant 2 activities (ala Covey). And naturally, I have to face the fact that I have a  lot of reading to catch up on - and this includes a stack of  books to read among other things. But not much motivation - mostly overwhelming sense of it being a hopeless task. 

Anyway it was nice to catch on what is discussed on "Out of Ur" and to read this article by Skye Jethani: "I read dead people"

I particularly like the paragraph I have highlighted below. Makes good sense and I find it to be true. Just last week I was having a conversation with a church member (who has been with us less than a year). A really amazing mother of three who among other things is doing her Masters in Theology (part time). As we discussed books, I felt almost embarrassed (just for a moment) that I was so far behind on my reading. And it was just as embarrassing (also for a just a moment) for me to tell her (knowing me and my "honest" approach, I had to open my mouth and volunteer this bit of information) .... tell her that quite a few of the books we discussed I had read but for the life of me could not remember much about what I read. I believe I used the term, "not very memorable"! :-)

Don't feel so bad now LOL

People ask me all the time, “Who do you read?” In most cases they’re looking for book recommendations. (Some people, particularly Calvinistas, are trying to determine if I’m safe--are my ideas and my theology grounded in what they see as credible sources.) But my answer usually surprises them: “I read dead people.”

What do I mean? In my role with Leadership Journal I get dozens of books sent to me almost every week from publishers. They’re looking for some good press, an endorsement, or a review in our pages. And while there are some very good books being written these days (we feature the best every year with our Golden Canon awards), there is also a lot of chaff. I simply don’t have time to read everything.

So here’s what I’ve learned. If someone has been dead for a while and his book is still in print and widely read, then it’s probably worth reading. And, if we’re honest, there are precious few books written by Christian authors today that will still be read in 24 months, let alone 24 years. I want to use my reading time to immerse myself in powerfully formative material, and not just flash-in-the-pan trends. Does this mean I never read living authors? No, of course not. But if they’re not dead, I like them to be pretty close. I can usually trust that they’re not going to waste what time they have left on this earth writing sappy Hallmark card sentimental Evangelical fluff. 

For the rest of the article, of here

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Grad School Energy levels (PhD comics)

This is funny!! Glad that I am currently under the bottom left quadrant!

And I am having a mini celebration now as I have just completed this week's Sunday sermon  preparation ... and without the help of caffeine!

Ramblings on "Down to earth mentoring" by Fred Smith

It's Thursday already and I am feeling a bit under pressure.  So that's always a reminder to pause and try and "re-center". So it was nice to read this e-mail from Breakfast with Fred. 
Pastoral ministry inevitably is connected with some form of mentoring, whether one likes it or not :-)

One thing that struck me afresh in general is that mentoring and ethics go hand in hand. After all mentoring (Christian spirituality perspective) is about character development. On his questions. I love them - down to earth indeed. Will let you read his article first, then my comments (if you decide to carry on reading!)

"Down to earth mentoring"

What is the strength of your ethics?  Let’s find out by asking four questions.

1. Are you using a scriptural or a secular base?  In other words, are you using God’s law or man’s thinking  J.C. Penney, the respected merchant, said “I shall not be judged by the heavenly Father according to what I do nor by the material success I achieve.  I shall be judged by the honesty of my purpose and by the spirit with which I pursue life’s duties.”  He felt his work was his worship.

2. Do your ethics promote self-respect?  I was once asked, “How do you know when you have compromised your self-respect?”  The only answer I had was simple:  when I wake up in the middle of the night and try to talk to the little boy inside me who still knows right from wrong and he tells me to get lost, I know I am in trouble.

3. Does your ethical base accent responsibilities or rights?  I notice any individual, group, or society which accents its rights is constantly in conflict with others.  Responsibilities have a way of overlapping and forming a bond; rights clash against one another causing friction.  When we accent rights, paranoia eventually occurs.  Paranoia often results in “end justifies the means” thinking which is immoral.

4. How does your ethical base impact your character development?  A fast-moving executive came to me to talk.  “Fred, I’m really not happy with who I am becoming.  I’m not a better husband, a better father, a better citizen, or even a better person.  I’m successful, but I’m becoming a phony.”  Character is an inside job, largely determined by the succession of choices, desires, habits, and beliefs we inculcate and personify.

This week think about: 1) Who am I becoming? 2) What is the foundation of my ethics? 3) How effectively will my ethics hold in the tempest of temptation?

Words of Wisdom: “Responsibilities have a way of overlapping and forming a bond; rights clash against one another causing friction.”

Wisdom from the Word: “Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately." 2 Timothy 2:15 (NET) 


Do you have comments or thoughts about this week's Weekly Thought?
Share them in our discussion forum on 

To read more writings of Fred Smith go to

The Weekly Thought from Breakfast With Fred
Copyright ©2010 BWF Project, Inc.

No.1. I was reminded recently again of what a "lousy" counselor I am (not that anyone of late has complained about this to me or anyone! :-)). But it did strengthen my personal conviction that I should make no apologies for my self imposed 3 sessions "counselling"  requirements (very much like the ACT Party's "3 strikes and you are out!":-). As a pastor my counselling is based on biblical teaching / ethics and it is free to boot so take it or leave it! 

No.2 . Nice. There is too much unwarranted focus today in the church about self esteem. I like Fred's focus on "self-respect". Focusing on self respect is not only more down to earth but I think helps correct as lot of unbiblical psychology that has crept into the contemporary church.

No.3. Thank you! Nice to have someone I admire bring up the importance of "responsibilities" over "rights" . It's driving me crazy that in the world and church at large, so much weight is placed on "rights". Basic human rights are important. I would agree but I think it is gone way too far. I mean how silly is it that individual rights include such things as "the right to be entertained during worship" - music, songs, sermon ... etc. Or the right to be happy and undisturbed while waiting to go to heaven - cheap grace with no discipleship.... Better stop here :-)

No.4. A good tree will bear good fruit, and the proof is in the tasting ... nice affirmation as I go through my series on Leviticus! Too tired to explain how this connects :-)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Inside Jihad (Book) by Dr. Tawfik Hamid

Inside Jihad (Book) by Dr. Tawfik Hamid is now freely available on the Internet 

As a contribution to the field of fighting Radical Islam, Dr. Hamid decided to offer the PDF file of his book Inside Jihad: Understanding and Confronting Radical Islam to be available freely on the Internet.  
The PDF file of Inside Jihadis now available on the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies web site:

Please feel free to circulate the above link to Inside Jihad (PDF file).
Dr. Hamid will also make the book available soon for free download on hand-held devices.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

When we rely upon prayer, we get what God can do

Got this is my mail today ...  great food for thought and a big challenge.

When we rely upon strategy, we get what strategy can do.  When we rely upon organization, we get what organization can do.  When we rely upon goals, we get what goals can do.  When we rely upon brilliant communications, we get what brilliant communications can do.  When we rely upon networking, we get what networking can do.  When we rely upon teaching and preaching, we get what teaching and preaching can do. When we rely upon prayer, we get what God can do.
- E.M Bounds

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Guidelines For Muslims Celebrating Religious Festivals Of Non-Muslims

Welcome to "1 Malaysia" ... :-(

The 68th muzakarah of the National Fatwa Committee for Islamic Religious Affairs on April 12, 2005  discussed the Guidelines For Muslims Celebrating Religious Festivals Of Non-Muslims. The muzakarah has decided that:
In determining the non-Muslim celebrations that can be attended by Muslims, several main criteria should serve as guidelines so as not to contradict the teachings of Islam. The criteria are as follows:
1. The event is not accompanied by ceremonies that are against the Islamic faith (aqidah).
The meaning of “against the Islamic faith (aqidah)” is a thing, act, word or situation which if conducted will lead to tarnishing the faith (aqidah) of Muslims. 
For example:
  1. to include religious symbols such as the cross, installing lights, candles, Christmas tree and so forth;
  2. to sing religious songs;
  3. to put any religious markings on the forehead, or other markings onto parts of the body;
  4. to deliver speech or gestures in the form of a praise to the non-Muslim religion;
  5. to bow or conduct acts of honour to the religious ceremony of non-Muslims.
2. The event is not accompanied by acts against the Islamic law.
The meaning of “against the Islamic law” is a thing, act, word or situation which if conducted will contradict the Islamic teachings practised by the Muslim community.
For example:
  1. Wearing red costumes like Santa Claus or other garments that reflect religion;
  2. Serving intoxicating food or beverages and the likes;
  3. Having sounds or ornaments like church bells, Christmas tree, temple or breaking of coconuts;
  4. Having ceremonies with elements of gaming, worship, cult, superstitions and the likes.
3. The event is not accompanied by “acts that contradict with moral and cultural development of Muslim society” in this country.
The meaning of “acts that contradict with moral and cultural development of Muslim society” is a thing, act, word or situation which if conducted will contradict the values and norms of the Muslim society of this country which adheres to the Islamic teachings based on Ahlus Sunnah Wal-Jamaah.
For example:
  1. Mixing freely without any limit or manners;
  2. Wearing conspicuous clothing;
  3. Singing songs that contain lyrics of obscenity and worship;
  4. Organising programmes such as beauty pageants, cock fighting and such.
4. The event is not accompanied by acts that can “stir the sensitivity of Muslim community”.
The meaning of “stir the sensitivity of Muslim community” is a thing, act, word or situation which if conducted will offend the feelings of Muslims about their beliefs and practices.
For Example:
  1. Speeches or songs in the form of non-Muslim religious propaganda;
  2. Speeches that insult the Muslims;
  3. Speeches that insult Islam;
  4. Presentations with the aim to ridicule the religious belief of Muslims.
5. The organisers and the public are asked to get the views of religious authorities before organising or attending celebrations of non-Muslims. -- JAKIM

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

From Unceasing Thinking to Unceasing Prayer (Henri Nouwen)

The best insight on prayer in my life that comes from Henri Nouwen that I first discovered almost 20 years ago now that for me has been life changing and liberating!

From Unceasing Thinking to Unceasing Prayer
Our minds are always active. We analyze, reflect, daydream, or dream. There is not a moment during the day or night when we are not thinking. You might say our thinking is "unceasing." Sometimes we wish that we could stop thinking for a while; that would save us from many worries, guilt feelings, and fears. Our ability to think is our greatest gift, but it is also the source of our greatest pain. Do we have to become victims of our unceasing thoughts? No, we can convert our unceasing thinking into unceasing prayer by making our inner monologue into a continuing dialogue with our God, who is the source of all love.

Let's break out of our isolation and realize that Someone who dwells in the center of our beings wants to listen with love to all that occupies and preoccupies our minds.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Torture of an Indonesian maid in Saudi Arabia raises several concerns (Tawfik Hamdid)

Again, Dr. Tawfik raises some pertinent concerns

The Torture of an Indonesian maid in Saudi Arabia raises several concerns

By Tawfik Hamid
Last week an Islamic Sharia court in the Saudi city of Medina has sentenced a Saudi woman to three years in jail[i] for the severe physical abuse of her Indonesian maid. Sumiati Binti Salan Mustapa, 23, was admitted to hospital in November with broken bones and burns to her face and body. The Saudi woman for whom she found work as a maid was arrested after allegedly beating Ms Sumiati so severely she had broken bones and internal bleeding. She was accused of putting a hot iron to Ms Sumiati's head and stabbing and mutilating her with scissors.
The case received worldwide attention, and prompted the Indonesian president to demand justice for her "torture".
This "Sharia" punishment raises several concerns about the so called "justice of Sharia" Law as demonstrated two years ago when Abdul-Aziz al-Mutairi, a 22 year old Saudi , suffered a spinal injury which left him paralyzed when he was struck with a cleaver intentionally by another man. Saoud bin Suleiman al-Youssef, a Sharia judge of the northwestern Tabuk province contacted several hospitals in the area to see if they could perform a surgical procedure on the attacker which would paralyze him[ii],[iii]. The sentence was based on the Sharia concept of "An Eye for An Eye". This concept has roots in the Quranic verse {5:45 We ordained therein for them (the children of Israel): "Life for life, eye for eye, nose or nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal." 

In the case of the Indonesian lady it is reasonable to ask ourselves why the Sharia judge did not use the same Sharia principle "An Eye of An Eye" that had been used in the other case. Can this be related to the fact that the victim was not a Saudi citizen? In other words, was the Sharia court going to limit the punishment to only 3 years in prison for the assailer assailant if the situation was the other way around and the Indonesian servant was the one who tortured the Saudi lady?
Furthermore, when we, on one hand, see that the punishment of the Saudi Lady was only 3 years in prison after torturing another human being to this extent and, on the other hand, realize that a Lebanese man charged with sorcery (or future telling) had been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia and was scheduled to be beheaded in March 2010[iv], we must question not only the "Sharia Law" but the whole justice system that permits this bizarre situation to exist.
I hope that the soft punishment that has been given to the Saudi lady for torturing her maid is not in any way based on or related to the Sharia rule that a free man is not to be killed for the killing of a slave[v].
Didi Wahyudi, from the Indonesian consulate in Saudi Arabia, told the BBC that this country would press for a harsher sentence. "We are going to file an objection to the judge's verdict because the sentence is too light compared to the maximum jail sentence of 15 years according to Saudi law, whereas Sumiati has suffered extraordinary consequences." In addition, the defendant's lawyer also said she would appeal against the sentence, reported Saudi Gazette.

The Saudi Sharia judges should at least seek justice between humans irrespective of their class or nationality as the Quran states clearly {4:58 God doth command you to render back your Trusts to those to whom they are due; And when ye judge between humans, that ye judge with justice: Verily how excellent is the teaching which He giveth you! For God is He Who heareth and seeth all things. In addition, these judges need to learn from the Hadith of prophet Mohamed that described the reason for destroying some ancient nations was that they used to avoid punishing the criminals if they were from higher class and on the contrary they used to give touch punishment for the criminals if they were from a weak family.
In brief, the Saudi scholars need to reevaluate the sentence in Ms.Mustapa's case and enforce true justice.  

[v] See: Fiqh: According to the Quran & Sunnah Compoled -by Muhammad Subhi bin Hasan Hallaq Vol:2 Darussalam Publications


Ten books for Ten dollars

After my morning visitation cum brunch with a "former church member", I passed by a $1 book sale run by the Lions club of New Lynn (which is a suburb in West Auckland). So I made a detour and went to check out the books.

Last time I went to this sale I bought a couple of books - nothing much of interest to me as the bulk of the books are fiction novels.But this time I found a few interesting books amongst the pile of books and magazines.

Ended up with ten books. Is it worth spending the money on? I think so as if I do gain one thing out of each book, I think it's a great investment. I saw a few Star Trek novels and Part 2 of the Fellowship of the Rings! But did not buy them as I already have the Lord of the Rings trilogy and it won't be a priority for me to read Star Trek novels - would rather borrow graphic novels from he local library :-)

But here's what I bought ...

3 cook books :-) 2 books on mirco wave cooking. As this year I want to work on learning some desserts, this seemed like a good way to work on some fast recipes. Saw a few that looked interesting in one book, and thought, why not get a second book as well? Interestingly one is a Sanyo book and another a Toshiba book, so I think they were books that came with the microwaves ... The third book' title caught my eye "Recipes from the Pacific Rim" - regional specialities from West Coast of  USA, Mexico and Hawaii ... crab wontons look yummy ....

Then I bought two books on gardening - "Gardeners guide to Perennial". Looks a bit too complicated a book for me but since I started planting some perennials last spring and they turned out pretty well, thought it would be a good reference guide to have handy. The other is a step by step guide to the Flower Garden. I hope this will come in handy if I have a little extra time this year to try and beautify a test section of my little garden plot.

I bought a book on Buddhism "The Buddha's Ancient Path"  by a Sri Lankan monk and scholar. Looks to be a good reference book.

Then an interesting book on scientific facts - fun contemporary layout - like one of the dummies book. Catchy title: "Munching maggots, Noah's Flood and TV heart attacks, and other catclysmic science moments Looks to be fun easy reading and educational general knowledge.

Bought a heavy scholarly book "Jerusalem: a city and its future" published by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel studies. Fairly recent publication too - 2002. Looks very interesting and though I doubt I would be spending a lot of time reading the book cover to cover, the two chapters on the Temple Mount is something I hope to read soon. Spoke to a young Jew recently (looks after the Jewish library I am a member of) late last year and he told me something that piqued my interest. Serious religious Jews do not visit the Temple Mount! Not so much a political reason but a religious one. It interests me to find out more about the reasons and implications.

Last two books - took me by surprise - The Abingdon Preaching Annual 1998! Nice :-) And "The Magical Math book" by Bob Longe. Definitely worth the money.

Okay, going to stop now and do a little reading. Yeah NZ life is good!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Window into character (Fred Smith)

Another gem from the late Fred Smith


From the Breakfast With Fred vault here is a vintage Weekly Thought on understanding and measuring our character.

It would be helpful if we could have a load-limit sign on our character, like that on a bridge. One of my preacher friends was coming under the influence of a man of extensive wealth. As the man plied my friend with benefits, this wealthy person began to ask questionable favors. My friend broke the relation, saying to him, "I am afraid I have a price, and you're getting too close to it."

Character is a set of values we have chosen to live by, and hopefully ones that will work under pressure. It reminds me of the professional golfers who speak of a golf swing "that will work on Sunday" because it operates when the pressure is on.

Personality has an effect on character, for it fosters different pressures and desires. I know a talented, wealthy young executive who is exceptionally introverted. Occasionally he talks to me about the pressures of being an introvert and his desire to change. But his introversion protects his strong desire to be right. I have rarely met a man who wanted to be right as much as he. His introversion protects against an overwhelming desire to be liked, to be the first to talk, to lead. A situation must build pressure to bring him out. He does his homework. He synthesizes the aspects of an issue, permitting him to be in the limelight as little as possible. He must be drawn out, while most extroverts must be reined in, either by self or others.

As a leader, a friend, or a mentor, I have tried to validate the areas of health or weakness in the character of those with whom I share responsibility. I have sometimes been criticized by my associates for going to what they feel are extreme lengths to ascertain weakness and strength in a person's character. I do it for a definite reason—I don't want to be surprised. I want to know the person so I can build on his strength and buttress his weakness. Since character is the foundation of relation and accomplishment, I don't apologize for evaluating someone's strengths and weaknesses. I prefer to test someone when failure is not fatal.

Marines build character that will stand up under fire. They don't want failure when it counts most. To "give others the benefit of the doubt" sounds good, but that isn't good stewardship in leadership. Napoleon said that the most dangerous general was one who fought based on fantasy. So it is with a person trying to lead based on fantasy or ignorance of the character of his or her associates.

In evaluating character, I start with the known past. Few people change character after becoming an adult. I not only quiz the person but also everyone who might be knowledgeable about him or her, particularly the spouse. Our family and close friends know our character much better than our talents.

Another good method is to tell stories that get a reflex reaction. For example, a salesperson will laugh when another salesperson outwits a tough customer, but a doctor doesn't laugh when another doctor takes advantage of a patient. The ethics of the doctor will typically be higher regarding the patient than those of the salesperson regarding the customer. However, the doctor might guffaw at a story about beating the government out of taxes.

Stories reveal the heart. People become involved in stories. Humor draws out spontaneous reaction, which is a window into character. In the past I've spoken many times in Las Vegas at conventions and while there heard famous comedians. Inevitably they test the edge of social acceptance, even in such matters as ridiculing religion and God. Listen to the audience's reaction, and you have a fair evaluation of the character of a person or a crowd.

Knowing the load limit on your character gives you the freedom to say no. A strongly developed character operates out of experience and well-honed skills. There may be gaps in knowledge, but most failures occur because of cracks in the foundational character.

Think carefully about: 1) Do you know the load limit on your character 2) How do you evaluate character in others? 3) How are you building character?
Words of Wisdom: “Knowing the load limit on your character gives you the freedom to say no.”
Wisdom from the Word: “Finally, brothers and sisters,whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8 NET Bible) is a constantly growing online archive of Fred Smith, Sr.'s lifework. You will find hours of written materials, answers to currently-asked questions, oneliners, archived weekly thoughts and more more. If you have been enjoying these weekly thoughts you will find a treasure trove of work on communication, leadership and self-development as you explore the thousands of pages on
The Weekly Thought from Breakfast With Fred
Copyright ©2010 BWF Project, Inc.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Guard Your Calling, Frodo (Leadership Journal)

Article speaks for itself. Ok - back to work ... it's calling me :-)

Guard Your Calling, Frodo
Every worthy task can wear you down.
John Ortberg | posted 1/10/2011

Guard Your Calling, Frodo

Of course, lots of folks who didn't start in local church ministry will end up there. And we live in a day when job change is a way of life; "40 years and a gold watch" stopped a long time ago.
 ran across a striking statistic recently—90 percent of people who enter vocational ministry will end up in another field. (I wish I could remember the source. I'm pretty sure it was reliable, though I know our subculture is filled with what Christian Smith calls "evangelicals using statistics badly." And 80 percent of all statistics are just made up. You can quote me.)
But it got me thinking about the notion of calling.
There is something sacred about being called.

And a sense of calling needs desperately to be guarded.
My daughter and I were re-watching Lord of the Ringsbefore Christmas. At one point, on the last part of the journey through Mordor, Frodo turns to Sam and tells him how badly he wishes he did not have to be the one to carry the Ring. Being the Ring-Bearer was a difficult and dangerous role. He took it up voluntarily; he knew it was a worthy task; he understood in some dim way that he was suited for it—even his weakness was part of his gifting, and yet the cost of it wore him down.
Scholars sometimes speak of a distinctness that Christianity added to the idea of a vocation. The Greeks gloried in achievement; heroism was much to be aspired to. However, it was generally understood as a way to express the strength and greatness of the hero. The hero chose what army to lead and what battle to fight.

For the rest of the article, go HERE

Some good news in Pakistan and Egypt

For the past couple of months now I have been praying for Pakistan and Egypt in particular for the Christians who live there. The church has lately been undergoing even more suffering than usual - and this in turn has affected the whole country(ies). Religious extremism and terrorism affects everyone.

So it is good news for me to see how God is answering my prayers and that of countless others in unexpected ways. 

It is to me really good news to see many Muslims standing up for justice and willing to put their lives on the line for their oppressed Christian minority Christian fellow citizens.

See the two news articles below ...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Pakistani Christians hold memorial services for slain Punjab governor, Shaheed Salman Taseer 
Benazir Bhutto son hits out over Pakistan governor killing

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST MinistriesISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Christians across Pakistan on Sunday, January 9, 2011, held memorial services for slain Punjab governor Shaheed Salman Taseer, who was assassinated by a police guard for defending Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy.

Punjab governor Shaheed Salman Taseer
A report by said, "Congregations offered special prayers for Taseer on the call of the All Pakistan Minority Alliance. Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, joined prayers at Fatima Church in Islamabad.
"Special prayers were also offered for national integrity and prosperity of the country. The large gathering at Fatima Church showered flowers and lit candles at a shrine for Taseer as armed policemen stood guard outside."
Bhatti said the special congregations were arranged to promote inter-faith harmony, national integrity and religious harmony. Condemning the assassination of Taseer, Bhatti said the killer wanted to disrupt peace in the country.
"Taseer always tried to protect the rights of minorities," Bhatti said.
He then urged liberal, progressive and political forces to fight the forces who want to harm peace.
"Extremist elements want to destabilize Pakistan by creating anarchy," he added.

Pakistani police guards carry the coffin of the late Punjab governor during his funeral in Lahore under heavy security. Inset, the governor speaking at an event
Bishop Alexander John Malik led a gathering at a cathedral. Praising the slain governor, Malik said: "He was a voice for the oppressed. We dedicate this day to him."The Pakistan Masiha Millat Party, a Christian organization, organized a candle-light vigil in memory of Taseer in Lahore. Pakistan. People's Party (PPP) chief, Aslam Pervez Sahotara, and different Christian leaders, participated in the ceremony held outside the Governor's House.
People offered prayers for Taseer and his family. Speakers said Taseer's martyrdom was a big sacrifice for the Christian community that will always be remembered.
Taseer had angered religious hardliners by defending Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death last year under the controversial blasphemy law. He also called for the amendment of the law to prevent its misuse.

Meanwhile is reporting that the son of slain Pakistani ex-leader Benazir Bhutto has condemned those who have praised the assassination of a provincial governor opposed to the country's blasphemy laws.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari told mourners on Monday at the Pakistan High Commission in London, England, that people who have voiced support for the killer of Punjab provincial governor Salman Taseer were "the real blasphemers.""Because of you, the message of Islam is distorted in the eyes of the world," said Bhutto Zardari, whose father is Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.
"Those who attack my religion, especially those who corrupt its peaceful message, you are what I call covert blasphemers and you will be defeated," he continued.
"This will be our jihad."
Bhutto Zardari further pledged to defend Christians and other minorities in the country.
"We will defend you. For those who wish to harm you for a crime you did not commit, they will have to go through me first," he said.
Taseer was a member of the main ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of which Bhutto Zardari is co-chairman with his father.
The governor was shot dead by his bodyguard outside an Islamabad coffee shop on Tuesday last week, in the most high-profile assassination in Pakistan since ex-PPP prime minister Benazir Bhutto was killed in December 2007.

Many from Pakistan's conservative religious quarter have praised Taseer's killer for acting to silence the outspoken moderate politician.
The gunman, police commando Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, has said he killed in the name of religion because of the governor's stance on blasphemy laws.
More than 50,000 people from religious groups rallied in Karachi Sunday in support of Qadri, calling him a hero and demanding that any effort to reform the blasphemy law -- recently used to sentence a Christian woman to death -- be dropped.
Speaking at the memorial meeting late Monday, Bhutto Zardari compared the killing of Taseer with that of his mother three years ago, saying they both died defending the real message of Islam.
"My mother embraced martyrdom while defending our faith. She was martyred doing her jihad against those who had hijacked our religion," said Bhutto.
"On January 4, Shaheed Salman Taseer was assassinated because he too refused to be silenced. He too was assassinated in defense of our religion. He died defending the message of Islam."

Dan Wooding, 70, is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for 47 years. They have two son, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS) and was, for ten years, a commentator, on the UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC. He now hosts the weekly "Front Page Radio" show on KWVE in Southern California which is also carried on the Calvary Radio Network throughout the United States. The program is also aired in Great Britain on Calvary Chapel Radio UK. Besides this, Wooding is a host for His Channel Live, which is carried via the Internet to some 200 countries. He is the author of some 44 books. Two of the latest include his autobiography, "From Tabloid to Truth", which is published by Theatron Books. To order a copy, press this link. Wooding, who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, has also recently released his first novel "Red Dagger" which is available here

** You may republish this story with proper attribution.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Egypt’s Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as ‘human shields’ 

By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News ServiceCAIRO, EGYPT (ANS) -- Muslims turned up in droves for the Coptic Christmas mass Thursday night (Jan.6), offering their bodies, and lives, as “shields” to Egypt’s threatened Christian community.
Yasmine El-Rashidi, writing online for  says that
amidst clashes and threats, Copts feel marginalized in the Egyptian elections.
El-Rashidi says that from the well-known to the unknown, Muslims had offered their bodies as “human shields” for last Thursday night’s mass, making a pledge to collectively fight the threat of Islamic militants and towards an Egypt free from sectarian strife.
She states that: “We either live together, or we die together,” was the sloganeering genius of Mohamed El-Sawy, a Muslim arts tycoon whose cultural center distributed flyers at churches in Cairo Thursday night, and who has been credited with first floating the “human shield” idea.

The online article says that among those shields were movie stars Adel Imam and Yousra, popular Muslim televangelist and preacher Amr Khaled, the two sons of President Hosni Mubarak, and thousands of citizens who have said they consider the attack one on Egypt as a whole.

“This is not about us and them,” said Dalia Mustafa, a student who attended mass at Virgin Mary Church on Maraashly Street. “We are one. This was an attack on Egypt as a whole, and I am standing with the Copts because the only way things will change in this country is if we come together.”

The story goes on to say that in the days following the brutal attack on Saints Church in Alexandria, which left 21 dead on New Year’ eve, solidarity between Muslims and Copts has seen an unprecedented peak.

It stats that millions of Egyptians changed their Facebook profile pictures to the image of a cross within a crescent -- the symbol of an “Egypt for All.”
Around the city, banners went up calling for unity, and depicting mosques and churches, crosses and crescents, together as one.
According to the article, the attack has rocked a nation that is no stranger to acts of terror, against all of Muslims, Copts and Jews.

In January of last year, on the eve of Coptic Christmas, a drive-by shooting in the southern town of Nag Hammadi killed eight Copts as they were leaving Church following mass. In 2004 and 2005, bombings in the Red Sea resorts of Taba and Sharm El-Sheikh claimed over 100 lives, and in the late 90’s, Islamic militants executed a series of bombings and massacres that left dozens dead.

El-Rashidi writes: “This attack though comes after a series of more recent incidents that have left Egyptians feeling left out in the cold by a government meant to protect them.”
She reports that last summer, 28-year-old businessman Khaled Said was beaten to death by police, also in Alexandria, causing a local and international uproar. Around his death, there have been numerous other reports of police brutality, random arrests and torture.

El-Rashidi goes on to write: “Last year was also witness to a ruthless parliamentary election process in which the government’s security apparatus and thugs seemed to spiral out of control. The result, aside from injuries and deaths, was a sweeping win by the ruling party thanks to its own carefully-orchestrated campaign that included vote-rigging, corruption and widespread violence.

"The opposition was essentially annihilated. And just days before the elections, Copts -- who make up 10 percent of the population -- were once again the subject of persecution, when a government moratorium on construction of a Christian community center resulted in clashes between police and protestors. Two people were left dead and over 100 were detained, facing sentences of up to life in jail.”

She states: “The economic woes of a country that favors the rich have only exacerbated the frustration of a population of 80 million whose majority struggle each day to survive. Accounts of thefts, drugs, and violence have surged in recent years, and the chorus of voices of discontent has continued to grow.”

El-Rashidi concludes: “The terror attack that struck the country on New Year’s eve is in many ways a final straw -- a breaking point, not just for the Coptic community, but for Muslims as well, who too feel marginalized, oppressed, and overlooked by a government that fails to address their needs.

“On this Coptic Christmas eve, the solidarity was not just one of religion, but of a desperate and collective plea for a better life and a government with accountability.”

** Michael Ireland is Chief Correspondent for ANS. He is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB UK, a British Christian radio station. While in the UK, Michael traveled to Canada and the United States, Albania,Yugoslavia, Holland, Germany,and Czechoslovakia. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China,and Russia. Michael's volunteer involvement with ASSIST News Service is a sponsored ministry department -- 'Michael Ireland Media Missionary' (MIMM) -- of A.C.T. International of P.O.Box 1649, Brentwood, TN 37024-1649, at: Artists in Christian Testimony (A.C.T.) International where you can donate online to support his stated mission of 'Truth Through Christian Journalism.' If you have a news or feature story idea for Michael, please contact him at: ANS Chief Reporter

** You may republish this story with proper attribution

Tear Gas Or Palestinian Smokescreen? (Honest Reporting)

You decide! View the video that comes with this report too...

COMMUNIQUE: 11 January 2011
Tear Gas Or Palestinian Smokescreen? New York Times Takes Sides Against IDF
Why does the media not show the same skepticism towards Palestinian libels as it does towards official Israeli statements?
Following reports that a Palestinian woman was killed by tear gas fired by the IDF at a Palestinian demonstration, we asked why the mainstream media had reported this as fact even though there were more than enough question marks surrounding the circumstances of the death.
Considering that there are no recorded instances of anyone in the world dying as a result of tear gas inhalation in an open space and the fact that out of all of the Palestinians present at the demonstration, only one person was allegedly fatally affected, shouldn’t the media approach the Palestinian “eyewitnesses” with a certain degree of skepticism?
In light of the ever-increasing holes in the Palestinian story that were coming to light, it was disappointing that virtually no media outlets were prepared to follow up on a story that had all the hallmarks of an anti-Israel libel.
The New York Times, however, did follow up. Would this bastion of supposedly professional reporting re-examine its initial story? Unfortunately not. Instead, Isabel Kershner decided to concentrate on the supposed battle of narratives in an article headlined “Israeli Military Officials Challenge Account of Palestinian Woman’s Death”.
The article stated:
Pro-Israel advocates quickly pounced on the Israeli military official’s anonymous conjectures, accusing the Palestinians of fabricating the story of death from tear gas for propaganda purposes.
Considering the poor record of reliability and actively promoting Big Lies in order to discredit Israel, we wonder why many media outlets operate such a double standard when it comes to official or unofficial statements from Israeli sources such as the IDF.
In this case, Robert Mackey, writing on the New York Times’ blog The Lede, Mackey dismissed the views of a couple of pro-Israel bloggers by virtue of the fact that they had been invited to an IDF briefing on the matter, instead giving carte blanche to a group of left-wing Israeli bloggers commentating from one site with a very pronounced political bias. Rather than question the veracity of Palestinian claims, Mackey turned the issue into whether tear gas should be used at all to disperse Palestinian protestors.
Meanwhile, James Hider of The Times of London (subscription only) included the following statement in a separate story, filing this days after it was well known that the facts of the case had certainly not been established:
Last week, a Palestinian woman died after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli soldiers during a weekly demonstration against Israel’s huge security barrier built inside the West Bank.
Taking Sides
 .... for the rest of the report, go HERE