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North Korea is Still Number One . . .Persecutor of Christians PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 01 March 2008 19:49
From Open Doors:

North Korea Remains Number One Persecutor of Christians

This year's No. 1 spot on Open Doors' 2008 World Watch List is no stranger: North Korea has now topped the list for six years in a row. There is no other country in the world where Christians are being persecuted in such a horrible and relentless way.

Sherry's note: (Go here for more on the story of North Korea's underground Christians.)


More Christians were arrested in North Korea in 2007 than in 2006. Many have been beaten, tortured or killed because of their religious beliefs. Open Doors' local source estimates the number of underground Christians to be at least 200,000, and it's likely that there are as many as 400,000 to 500,000 believers. At least a quarter of the Christians are imprisoned for their faith in political prison camps, from which people rarely get out alive.

Carl Moeller, President/CEO of Open Doors USA, says: "It is certainly not a shock that North Korea is No. 1 on the shame list for the sixth year in a row. There is no other country in the world where Christians are being persecuted in such a horrible and systematic manner. I encourage you to join our prayer campaign for North Korea and to plug in to the many opportunities Open Doors offers to advocate for the oppressed believers during North Korea Freedom Week April 27-May 3."

The rest of the top ten:

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia holds a solid No. 2 place, followed closely by Iran. Maldives is No. 4.
New at No. 5 is Bhutan, moving a few places up from No. 7 last year, mainly because Somalia and Yemen saw a decrease in persecution. The No. 6 spot is taken by Yemen, whose position did not change in spite of a slight drop on the persecution scale.

Afghanistan rose from No. 10 to No. 7. Laos saw little change in religious freedom last year, but it moved up one place, from No. 9 to No. 8. Two new countries entered the Top 10: Uzbekistan at No. 9 and China No. 10. Uzbekistan was No. 11 last year and China No. 12.

Islam is the majority religion in six of the top 10 countries: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Maldives, Afghanistan, Yemen and Uzbekistan. Three countries have communist governments: North Korea, Laos and China. Bhutan is the only Buddhist country on the Top 10 list.

The World Watch List ranks countries according to the intensity of persecution Christians face for actively pursuing their faith. The list is compiled based on the answers to 50 questions covering various aspects of religious freedom from Open Doors' indigenous contacts, field workers and persecuted believers.
The State of Marriage in Europe PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 01 March 2008 19:35
The March edition of the Lausanne World Pulse is out and has some really striking articles in light of all the Pew flavored discussions this week.

First off, here 's a reality check about the status of marriage in Europe:

In 2007, France became the first non-Scandinavian country in Western Europe where a majority of births are now out-of-wedlock. In France, 50.5% of the 816,500 births registered in 2007 were to unmarried parents, up from 48.4% in 2006 and forty percent a decade ago. Out-of-wedlock births kept pace with the rise of civil unions. In 2007, there were 305,385 of said "unions" registered in France, compared to only 266,500 marriages.

C. S. Lewis advocated making a distinction between Christian marriage and secular marriage many years ago. But I don't think he envisioned "civil unions."

In Sweden, Norway, Estonia, and Bulgaria, out-of-wedlock births have also passed the fifty percent mark. In the United Kingdom, births to the unmarried were forty-four percent in 2006, up a percentage point from 2005. In Catholic countries like Italy and Spain, births to married couples are still the norm (illegitimacy is twenty-seven percent in Spain and seventeen percent in Italy). Even so, in those countries, the percentage of out-of-wedlock births has doubled in the past decade.

And this is important:

Guy Desplanques, head of France's agency for compiling demographic data, notes, "Marriage is now seen more as a celebration held to bring together family and friends, and less a necessary institution, especially given the growth of civil unions."

And the US is not far behind at 36.9%.

Via Christian Newswire.

Spain and Italy aren't as secularized as France - yet - but their figures doubled in the past decade so they are catching up fast. Britain is not far behind France.
Why some leave PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 March 2008 10:59

Written by the other Sherry

Sherry W. posted this over on Amy's blog in a comment box; I think it's worth repeating:

Here’s the deal. Everything in the Christian life isn’t about the intellect and content. Catechesis is only one part of the whole. Catechesis is not formation. Formation enables a man or woman to integrate his or her lived faith, intellect, feelings, relationship, and work into a whole life devoted to Christ.

For many people, relationship is the center of the universe - the center of their relationship with God, all meaning, all purpose - the point of everything! That’s where they start in any spiritual journey as well.

So they simply can’t survive on the combination of an impersonal formal liturgy and a non-existant community life. They leave for places where people actually know their name and notice when they show up.

Some people need to experience the healing and transforming *power* of God in their lives. Their marriage is failing, or their child is an addict, or they struggle with depression or a life-threatening disease, or are about to become homeless. They need to see God heal or transform their heart, or give them hope, or experience being actually cared about and for by a Christian community. They need to see something really different about Christians in order to trust them. They need to see - not just beautiful liturgical symbols of grace, but evidence of that grace really transforming a real human being’s life.

Transforming spiritual experience is not the same as being “touchy-feely”. Most of the post-V2 pablum that I’ve encountered is so emotionally bland, gutless, passionless and powerless as to be embarrassing. It has neither wit or wisdom to recommend it and usually leaves people’s lives untouched. Only the most repressed ecclesial bureaucrat could imagine that it would be gripping.
Transforming spiritual experience is St Paul (not exactly a passionless man) saying “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” with a complete human and lived integrity that others recognize immediately. Here is a man who has *lived* it to the depths, with his whole being - and is speaking from a existential depth that is utterly compelling.

Some people (and many cultures) are simply exuberant and openly emotional by nature. They process by emoting. They connect by emoting. They relate to God by emoting. They can’t worship without emotion and without contact with the feelings of others. They may give more reserved people hives, but they are part of the body of Christ too. There has to be room for them too in our worship, in our community, in our vision of what it means to be Catholic. Or they will go to places where there is room.

If you’d like to explore some other kinds of options when it comes to reaching out to the unchurched, Catholic or not, - check this out:

Pew Again PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 01 March 2008 06:15
Blogging this week has been interesting since it has been dominated by the Pew survey report which has generated lots of discussion. Here. Over at Amy's.

It has also generated inquiries from a couple of major Catholic on-line media outlets who had seen my comments.

One thing quickly became obvious. It is hard for many of us to set aside our internal concerns in order to simply listen to those approximately 15 million American Catholics who have left for the evangelical world. Can we grasp the basic needs or dynamics that have drawn so many into a very different sort of Christian experience and community? We cannot limit ourselves to the familiar currents of current intra-ecclesial debates if we are going to reach out to the many millions of lapsed Catholics in this country.

The fear seems to be that the only possible result of listening would be to simply adapt whole-sale evangelical assumptions and practices. I was challenged several times over at Amy's by commenters who seemed to think that my desire to listen was really a cover for some other intra-ecclesial agenda. In this case, a desire to "evangelicalize" the Church and undermine traditionalist sensibilities. I responded that I have no such agenda and tried to return to the question: 15 million Catholics didn't become evangelicals accidently. So how can we find out what drew them out of the Church and into the evangelical world?

And then someone else responded: "Sherry, be honest with us. Isn't this really about X(fill in your traditionallist cause)"

Because everything is really about our inner ecclesial battles, you know.

No. Really. It is really, really not about our endless debates over the Second Vatican Council and its impact. It is really, really not about our internal polarization and culture wars.

For one moment could we set aside our endless debates about the past and remember that the vast majority of people on the planet (including the majority of Catholics) don't care about the burning issues of chattering class ecclesial insiders? They make their decisions based upon their own burning issues which often are very different from our own.

Bringing those 15 million back - or losing them and their children permanently - will affect the Church's life profoundly for generations to come. (One estimate is that one third of US evangelicals are first or second generation former Catholics. Much depends upon how you count your evangelicals but you get the idea.)

One obvious question: how many among those 15 million would discern a priestly or religious vocation if they were active Catholics?

We must remember that what is at stake is not just those who have already left but those who are on the verge of leaving today and will be tempted to do so in the years to come - and their children. How many thousands of Catholics in this country are considering leaving the Church as I type this sentence? The 8:1 ratio is still alive and well and there is no reason to believe that it will simply alter in our favor without any attention or effort on our part.

15 million is just the beginning of our possible losses. I am not personally cheered by the prospect of knowing that there is a 1 in 3 chance that the child whose baptism I am celebrating today or next year will either be an evangelical or "nothing" in 20 - 30 years. Do we really want to function as a de facto farm team for other Christian groups?

Circling the wagons or retreating behind barricades is not the historic Catholic response to this sort of situation which we have faced many times before. Creative, imaginative, proactive mission outward is very much in the Catholic tradition.

And listening to and understanding what actually propelled people to leave does not compel us for a nanno second to trash the Catholic Tradition and mindlessly adopt evangelical methodology. LIstening gives us new eyes and new questions with which we can turn to the fullness of the faith and ask "How does our Catholic faith speak to this issue or this need?" It gives us the chance to learn from Catholic masters of evangelization and formation who have gone before us but whose pastoral genius has been lost to history. And it just might involve seeing something new in our faith that speaks powerfully to the needs of our day.

St. Dominic and his early friars went out to and among a huge movement of lapsed Catholics (Albigensians or Cathars) in his day - while when the order was still in its infancy. Even novices, who had not yet received theological formation, were expected to engage in evangelistic street preaching. "Hoarded grain goes bad." was Dominic's motto.

St. Frances De Sales became bishop the "evangelical" way. He set out on foot to re-evangelize an area of alpine France in which every Catholic church had been padlocked for 60 years! Through an astonishing, winsome 4 year personal ministry, he won back huge numbers of Catholics and then was made bishop of the people he had evangelized. "Let us see what love will do" was his motto in an era when armies usually decided the religious allegiance of a nation's citizens.

"The difference between ordinary people and saints is not that saints fulfill the plain duties that ordinary men neglect. The things saints do have not usually occurred to ordinary people at all. . . .'Gracious' conduct is somehow like the work of an artist. It needs imagination and spontaneity. It is not a choice between presented alternatives but the creation of something new." A. D. Linsay as quoted by Dorothy Sayers.
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