Christians, here’s why we’re losing our religion

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Recent research indicates that the number of people who do not consider themselves a part of an organized religion is steadily on the rise.

Interestingly enough, though the number of those religiously unaffiliated is increasing, there is little to no trend in the number of those who express atheist or agnostic beliefs. People aren’t saying they don’t believe in God. They’re saying they don’t believe in religion. They are not rejecting Christ. They are rejecting the church.

This begs the question, “Why are we losing our religion?”

Some may be losing their religion, but I challenge the notion that faith in general is waning.

I believe, instead, the trend of people who don’t identify as part of an organized religion speaks to an increasing wariness of labels in our culture. Those labels carry baggage for many who might have been hurt by the Church or let down by religion.

You see, religion alone can only take a person so far. Religion can make us nice, but only Christ can make us new. Religion focuses on outward behavior. Relationship is an inward transformation. Religion focuses on what I do, while relationship centers on what Jesus did. Religion is about me. Relationship is about Jesus.

In order to become a new person, we need Christ. Only through an active ongoing relationship with Jesus can we become transformed and overcome the labels that bind us.

In fact, I’ve struggled with what people think of my label: pastor. For many, this label carries emotional baggage.

When I meet someone new, I get to talk to him or her like a regular person. We joke around, talk about our families, and then the inevitable happens. “What do you do for a living?” When I answer this question, I typically get one of two responses. I either get an onslaught of Christianese phrases — “Oh, praise the Lord! What a blessing, brother Craig!” or I get stonewalled, and the conversation dies as quickly as it started.

One time when this happened, the person I was talking with politely shared that he didn’t like religious people. I chimed in that I didn’t like religious people either. His mouth nearly dropped to the floor. I explained that religion is about rules, but being a Christian is about relationship.

Now I’m not saying is that religious organizations are useless. Obviously, I’m a part of one. I am the pastor of a church and truly believe what Bill Hybels asserts: “The local church is the hope of the world.” But in order to reach the current generation and generations to come, we must change the way we do things. That’s why we like to say, “To reach people no one is reaching, we have to do things no one is doing.”

As churches, we don’t have the liberty to change the message, but we must change the way the message is presented. We have to discover our “altar ego”—and become who God says we are instead of who others say we are.

Peeling off the labels that cling to our reputation brings great freedom for us as individuals and as the global body of believers known as the Church. Only when we push past those artificial constraints can we truly become who God created us to be.

For example, many people think churches are “all about money.” The think that churches just want people to give to them but that they rarely give back.

Besides investing in our communities and helping the poor, our church moved beyond the labels and status quo to embrace generosity in a way that some have called crazy. We’ve created and given away millions of YouVersion Bible Apps every month—more than 85 million to date. We give away our weekend teachings to hundreds of churches every week, for free. Rather than selling products our church creates, we give away as much as we can. More than 100,000 pastors and leaders downloaded more than three million resources last year.

Despite the lack of religious affiliation the research shows, the interest in these spiritual resources has never been greater. As a church, we don’t see these research trends as a threat, but as an opportunity for us to do more.

China kills market birds as flu found in pigeons

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China announced a sixth death from a new bird flu strain Friday, while authorities in Shanghai halted the sale of live fowl and slaughtered all poultry at a market where the virus was detected in pigeons being sold for meat.

The mass bird killing is the first so far as the Chinese government responds to the H7N9 strain of bird flu, which has sickened 16 people, many critically, along the eastern seaboard in its first known infections of people. The first cases were announced Sunday, while two more were reported Friday, both retirees who were seriously ill.

Health officials believe people are contracting the virus through direct contact with infected fowl and say there has been no evidence so far that the virus is spreading easily between people. However, scientists are watching closely to see if the flu poses a substantial risk to public health or could potentially spark a global pandemic.

The Agriculture Ministry confirmed late Thursday that the H7N9 virus had been detected in live pigeons on sale at a produce market in Shanghai. The killing of birds at the Huhuai market in Shanghai started Thursday night after the city’s agricultural committee ordered it in a notice also posted on its website.

State media on Friday ran pictures of animal health officials in protective overalls and masks working through the night at the market, taking notes as they stood over piles of poultry carcasses in plastic bags. The area was guarded by police and cordoned off with plastic tape.

Experts urged Chinese health authorities to keep testing healthy birds, saying the H7N9 virus can infect birds without causing them to become ill, making it harder to detect than the H5N1 bird flu virus that is more familiar to Asian countries. H5N1 set off warnings when it began ravaging poultry across Asia in 2003 and has since killed 360 people worldwide, mostly after close contact with infected birds.

“In the past usually you would see chickens dying before any infections occurred in humans, but this time we’ve seen that many species of poultry actually have no apparent problems, so that makes it difficult because you lose this natural warning sign,” said David Hui, an infectious diseases expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The city of Shanghai also announced a suspension of the sale of live poultry starting Saturday, city spokesman Xu Wei said at a news conference.

Pigeon is a common type of poultry in Chinese cuisine and the birds are sold live in markets around the country. Chinese also raise pigeons as pets, but those tend to be a different type.

Hui said the pigeons were probably infected by wild or migratory birds, whose droppings can carry viruses. He said they were likely not the only species of poultry to be carrying the virus.

While health officials caution that there are no indications the virus can be transmitted from one person to another, scientists who have studied its genetic sequence said this week that the virus may have recently mutated into a form that spreads more easily to other animals, potentially posing a bigger threat to humans.

The latest death from the virus confirmed by the government Friday was a 64-year-old farmer in the eastern city of Huzhou. Authorities said Thursday the virus also killed a 48-year-old man who transported poultry for a living and a 52-year-old woman, both in Shanghai. Several among the infected are believed to have had direct contact with fowl.

Guidelines issued Wednesday by the national health agency identify butchers, breeders and sellers of poultry, and those in the meat processing industry as at higher risk.

Experts identified the first cases on Sunday. Some of the 16 confirmed cases fell ill several weeks ago but only now are being classified as having H7N9. The official Xinhua News Agency said six cases have been confirmed in Shanghai, six in Jiangsu, three in Zhejiang and one in Anhui.

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Missing dogs, ritualistic killing confound Idaho officials

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The mysterious disappearance of about 30 dogs in southern Idaho has baffled animal control officials and raised concerns among dog lovers after a German shepherd was found with its head crushed in a suspected ritual killing.

The missing canines range widely in size, breed and age.

“The dogs seem to vanish into thin air,” said Debbie Blackwood, director of the animal shelter in Twin Falls, Idaho.

Officials say some 30 dogs have gone missing in recent months in Twin Falls and nearby communities in an agricultural region in south-central Idaho known as the Magic Valley.

A man and his young daughter hiking along the north rim of the Snake River Canyon northeast of Twin Falls earlier this month discovered the remains of a German shepherd that had apparently been stoned to death, Blackwood said.

The dog, found in an area known as the Devil’s Corral in neighboring Jerome County, appeared to have suffered a “ritualistic execution” in which its head was crushed with rock and its carcass covered with a purple cloth, she said.

The case has prompted the Humane Society of the United States to offer a $5,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in the dog’s death.

The incident was under investigation, said Jerome County Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Ustick.

No one has stepped forward to claim the dog.

It was unclear if that case was linked to the rash of dog disappearances, authorities said. Dogs have been removed or released from private yards, unleashed from chains or failed to return home after roaming.

“Animals go missing every day. What’s disturbing about this trend is that there is absolutely no trace of them,” said Lisa Kauffman, Idaho director of the Humane Society of the United States.

John Goodwin, head of animal cruelty policy for the Humane Society, said it was unlikely dogs were stolen by people engaged in dog fighting, which is illegal in Idaho, because it was rare for those involved in the activity to use just any dog.

Twin Falls spokesman Josh Palmer said city officials on Wednesday consulted with the Humane Society and other animal rescue officials about the missing dogs.

Meanwhile, authorities were asking residents to report “any unusual activity, like the stalking or taking of pets,” he said.

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The Dark Side of Bible Prophecy By Gary Stearman on March 30, 2013

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People often ask why we spend so much time in the discussion of bizarre topics, like UFOs and hybrid giants. They wonder why prophecy studies give any time at all to weird subjects like mystery lights in the sky, aerial trumpets and explosions, “alien implants” and “the nephilim.” They wonder why some opt for prophetic sensationalism, rather than focusing on the Gospel, or maturing the saints with the Word of God through traditional Bible study.

Such questions are not really new. Traditionally, the mainline institutional church has criticized Christians at the cutting edge of prophecy study for being irrelevant and speculative. They have taken the view that this age is going to end somehow, but the details are so unsupportable that no one can say exactly how. They insist that the elements of Bible prophecy are so confusing that no one can understand them anyway. Rather than have disagreement, they say, let’s avoid the subject entirely. Let’s just spend our time on teaching the daily walk in Christ. Maturing the saints is the real work of the church.

But Bible prophecy is now shining light on places that we’ve never been before. The stage is set in the Middle East. Latter-day Israel is positioned to fulfill the many prophecies laid out in the Old Testament. These deal with Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan and other revolutionary powers appearing in the daily news.

In addition to that, the prophesied one-world governmental system is being forged into recognizable form, following two World Wars and growing stockpiles of superweapons. The shadowy outlines of Daniel’s fourth beast empire can now be recognized. It will arise out of a series of wars and economic cataclysms. All these things are poised for final fulfillment.

For over half a century, Bible scholars have detailed these and other international developments. Their books and recorded lectures are everywhere. They have sounded their warnings to anyone who would listen. Some have heeded their words; most have not. The important point here, is that regardless of the many disagreements, prophetic Bible study has now been accepted as more or less normal. There are different methods of interpretation, but the general belief is that we’re living in the end times.

This is an important factor for many Christians. In popular culture, it has become known well enough that non-Christians ridicule it. But even they grudgingly acknowledge its primary assertions. For example, the rapture is often lampooned on network television comedy stages. Even Jesus’ Second Coming is now being parodied as some kind of laughable fantasy.

Something New Has Been Added

The time has come. There is another aspect of Bible prophecy that, up until the last couple of decades, has remained quietly in the background. It grows out of the biblical pronouncement that the latter days would witness a veritable explosion of dark and alien power. The reality of this development is becoming self-evident.

Books, television, motion pictures and video games are replete with themes of malevolent beings that rise from the depths of Hades, and descend from the heavens. Whether they be outer-space aliens, fallen angels or devils escaped from the dungeons of the deep, they create a reality that haunts the mind of modern man. The veil that separates them from humanity is already growing thin. Among the young, there is a popular fascination with the human “undead” – werewolves, vampires, zombies and the like – who have risen to create their own reality. A generation ago, they fell in love with the cuddly E.T., the extraterrestrial. Creatures like him, both good and bad, have arrived in the hundreds. Fiction teems with his ilk.

These “imaginary” creatures have created a reality all their own. But curiously, they resemble biblical descriptions of the myriads of the damned. However, as mentioned in Scripture, they are anything but imaginary. Their presence should come as no surprise to Bible-believing Christians. Like expanding clouds, their presence rolls across the landscape, darkening this once-blessed nation.

In response, students of Bible prophecy are beginning to speak and write about subjects that have not been considered appropriate within the bounds of Christian tradition.

Actually, most of our time is spent on Scriptural exegesis concerning Bible prophecy and its relevance to current world events. And there, we are again faced with the basic question: If the supernatural is manifesting itself on a global basis, should we ignore it? Of course not! The Word of God always provides the best explanation for every event of our daily lives, no matter how bizarre or unexpected.

Once, not so long ago, the study of Bible prophecy was confined to certain classic approaches. Scholars dealt with prophecies of the Millennium, Daniel’s Seventy Weeks, Christ’s First and Second Comings, the destiny of the Church, the rise of the Antichrist, the nature and timing of the judgments, Dispensational issues and so on. But something in the world has radically changed. After two world wars and the development of computers, lasers, particle-beam weapons, high-tech surveillance systems and the rise of government monitoring, our vision of the future has become a ghastly mélange of sci-fi terror, satellite spying and the specter of genetic manipulation. DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research projects Agency, has declared its intent to develop genetically enhanced super-soldiers, and super-intellects with imbedded microchips. Once underway, there will be no end to such diabolical tinkering.

In the latter case, gene-splicing is now taking its place in modern medicine. Animals can be made to grow human replacement parts. But isn’t such an animal a chimera? And the Mosaic Law expresses God’s displeasure with such abortive creations. It forbids even the interbreeding of species, and current experimentation is much more serious than that.

Now, we are discovering that even classic physical and biological research is emerging at the forefront of the present eruption of sinister phenomena. This world has long been driven by dark entities lurking just behind the scenes. Now, they are coming forward into full view.

Those who bother to study the literature will quickly discover that every world government has highly-funded programs that deal with the paranormal: Top-secret organizations (already well established by the time of the Eisenhower administration) have devoted black budgets to the investigation and exploitation of strange alien activities. Their copious records reveal that they believe they are dealing with extraterrestrials from other planets. As we have pointed out over the years, every major government in the world has devoted its resources to working with these entities. Of course, we view them as demonic.

A visible example of this is the British military preoccupation with mysterious crop circles. Debunkers attempt to explain the complex mathematical designs as the products of imaginative hoaxers. But thousands of witnesses in England can document the sudden appearance of military helicopters and jets flying low over the newly-emerging crop designs that appear in the fields near Silbury Hill and Stonehenge. Curiously, these are the sites of ancient pagan religions … the “high places” of wicked sacrifices. Who’s making those exotic designs? None other than the ancient demonic powers!

From vampires to crop circles and beyond, ghostly and mystical apparitions appear in the vision of a public steeped in the ubiquitous background of dark supernatural literature, movies, video games, and demonic worship. In case you hadn’t noticed, these are constantly available in entertainment centers and living rooms around the world.

To explain these new experiences, we must turn to Scripture. After all, the Bible is the final authority on every aspect of life. More urgently than ever, we are returning to its pages in a quickening attempt to understand these new experiences. In the last couple of decades, we have become increasingly curious about UFOs and alien abductions. At the same time, we’ve become more conscious of the fact that Scripture speaks of aliens and their illicit relations with humans. It tells us about the fallen angels and giants who strode the Earth in ancient days, and their success in interbreeding with humans.

Scripture speaks of the unspeakable: Often, the ancient gods of Mesopotamia, Canaan and Egypt were human/animal hybrids, called “chimeras.” As this is written, they are a scientific reality. The coding of God’s genetic designs has been deciphered, enabling scientists to create genetic monsters in the name of improvement. The cure of disease and deficiency through creative genetics is possible, but at what price? The old world of Noah was destroyed precisely because of such genetic tampering.

Scripture tells us that there is nothing new about these things, as strange as they may seem. The Bible is becoming far more than a guide to daily devotions; it is a manual that offers the only hope for surviving the coming maelstrom.

Back to Daniel

To illustrate this premise, we should note that even the “prophetic classics,” like the book of Daniel, have recently opened up in unexpected ways that cast new light on the dark side of Bible prophecy. A perfect example of this is Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream:

“31 Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. 32 This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, 33 His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. 34 Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces” (Dan. 2:31-34).

The traditional interpretation of this monstrous image is that its four metallic sections represent four great world empires, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. The latter-day revived Roman Empire is seen in the statue’s iron legs and its feet of iron and clay. Iron is the metal of enterprise and the industrial revolution. Iron smelting in the Roman Empire and the Western world created armies and machines of war, later rising on the power of its development in shipping, railroads, skyscrapers and bridges, to name of few of its attributes.

Common sense and simple observation will tell anyone that when an attempt is made to mix iron and brittle clay, the result is structurally unsound. This prophecy suggests that the iron empire will ultimately collapse because of its weakened foundation. But this raises an important question. Namely, what does the clay represent? Iron, we can understand. But clay … is it an infiltration of opposing principles? Is it an invasion by other nations?

Until recently, it was conceded that this was some human scheme that would topple the empire of iron. A popular view was that it referred to political marriages. Others have conjectured about the meaning of this strange prophecy, but the answer has evaded their grasp.

Fortunately, thanks to the context of the contemporary era, we now know exactly what it means. The verses that follow mention a group of interlopers, who attempt to inject themselves into the human race:

“42 And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. 43 And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay” (Dan. 2:42,43).

Here, we find that a latter-day mystery group will endeavor to mix its own genetic material with the “seed of men.” This expression is clearly speaking of the human genome. The seed of man is his genetic signature. And from beginning to end, the Bible is preoccupied with the idea that this seed is central to salvation. From the seed of Adam and Eve came the seed of Abraham and the twelve tribes. From the tribe of Judah came the seed of the woman. From it, sprang the virgin-born Messiah, Jesus.

That being said, it is clear from this prophecy that there will be another, latter-day attempt by the mysterious “they” to infiltrate the genome of mankind. They know that if human seed can be corrupted, it will render God’s plan of redemption null and void.

When did this happen the first time, and who did it? The clear answer is given in Genesis, Chapter Six, in the record of the fallen angels who mingled their seed with the seed of mankind, resulting in a societal monstrosity that God was forced to destroy in the Flood of Noah. There is growing historical evidence that the entire creation – human and animal – was tainted.

Daniel’s prophecy tells us that just before the giant statue’s iron legs crumble (in the days of the Great Tribulation), fallen angels will descend openly to Earth once again. Then, they will repeat their evil work. Jesus own statement gives credence to this idea, as recorded in Luke 17:26:

“And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.”

Are we living in these days now? The answer is “Yes, certainly.” And how do we know this? Because those with eyes to see can understand that an alien force is now infiltrating the human race, with the express purpose of creating human-alien hybrids, some of which are indistinguishable from pure human beings. In other articles, we have documented the abduction phenomenon in explicit detail.

And why would they do this? To create a race of beings from which the Antichrist will emerge. In Revelation, he is called the “beast.” A beast is not a human being.

We have arrived at the heart of this “unmentionable” topic: human/alien hybridization. If it’s in the Bible, and if we see the first signs of it in daily observation, we should discuss it.

In Daniel, Chapter Eleven, the prophet gives us his view of the “beast.” It is couched in terms of what we would call “the supernatural.” But again, we must deal with it as a reality:

“36 And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. 37 Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all. 38 But in his estate shall he honour the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things. 39 Thus shall he do in the most strong holds with a strange god, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory: and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain” (Dan. 11:36-39).

Here, we see Daniel’s vision of the Antichrist. His description, perfectly in agreement with that seen in Revelation, displays a persona of things mystical and paranormal. He appears as superhuman, above earthly temptations of the flesh, disdaining relations with women and with any competing “god.” He sees himself as unique, even indomitable. His appearance suggests that he is something different from a normal human being. In fact, it is strongly suggested that he is controlled by a dark power who occupies and guides his mind. He would not be the first despot to fit this category, but he will be the most powerful example of it. To ordinary humans, he will seem like a superior being, able to summon the powers of the heavens.

In short, he is seen as godlike, making amazing proclamations of virtually divine nature, during the Tribulation.

He does not honor the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But he establishes himself in Jerusalem, apparently in an edifice built upon the Temple Mount. Who is he?

Seen in the context above, he must be something other than human … a semi-human creature spawned by the mysterious “they” of Daniel’s earlier vision.

We live in alarming proximity to the fulfillment of this prophecy. At present, we are in transition to a time when the supernatural will become the natural.

We have reached the time when Bible prophecy has become serious. Its dark side is rapidly becoming visible. This being the case, the end of the Church Age must be very, very near.

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Christian Pastor Pens Emotional Letter to Wife Detailing Horrific Abuse in Notorious Iranian Prison

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In January, TheBlaze first told you about Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American citizen imprisoned in Iran on charges that he was evangelizing in the militantly-Islamic country. Since his detention began, the faith leader’s situation has worsened.

It’s well documented that Iranian prisons are horrific in their treatment of inmates, with rampant abuse. In a letter to his wife, Abedini shared some of the physical and mental abuse that he has sustained while being held at the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran.

According to the letter, the pastor has been denied medical treatment because of his faith. This has resulted in pain, discomfort and mental anguish.

“The nurse would also come to take care of us and provide us with treatment, but she said in front of others ‘in our religion we are not suppose to touch you, you are unclean. Baha’i (religion) and Christians are unclean!’ She did not treat me and that night I could not sleep from the intense pain I had,” Abedini wrote in his note to his wife Naghmeh.

Perhaps the most moving portions of the letter recap on the pastor’s own inability to recognize himself amid the changes that his face and body have gone through as a result of the harsh conditions. Equally moving was the pain Abedini observed in his parents’ eyes as he saw how worn down they had become as a result of resiliently — yet unsuccessfully — fighting for his release.

But the most surprising sections of the letter focus on forgiveness, a concept that would be difficult for most to fathom, considering the unpalatable and dangerous situation that the pastor finds himself in. Yet, he spends a portion of the letter outlining his love for Naghmeh and talking about the essential forgiveness that is often necessary in life.

“I forgave the prison doctor who did not listen to me and did not give me the medication that I needed. I forgave the interrogator who beat me,” he wrote. “Every day when I would see the interrogator and for the last time when I saw him, I forgave him. I smiled at him and with respect shook his hand and I said my goodbye.”

Read the entire letter below:

Hello to my dear love and wife,

When I saw my family for the first time behind the glass walls, I could see my mom four meters away. As she approached me and saw my face, she broke down and could not get closer. She was crying. I understood what she felt because after weeks of being in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, I also got to see my face in the mirror of an elevator that was taking me to the prison hospital. I said hi to the person staring back at me because I did not recognize myself. My hair was shaven, under my eyes were swollen three times what they should have been, my face was swollen, and my beard had grown.

It was a few days ago when one of my family members, with weary eyes and after running around for 15 weeks in trying to get me out of prison, said that my dad says every single day that “this week I will get my son out of prison.” But this does not happen and he is not able to get me out of prison. In that instant I looked into the wrinkled and tired eyes of my dad. I could clearly see that he had ran around for months and he had no more strength left in him. It was very hard seeing my family in such a situation.

You, my wife, on the other side of the world, alone with the kids. Alone and worried. My family here in Iran, being interrogated, tired and under so much pressure.

With the loud voice of the prison guard, our visitation had ended and they put covers over our eyes and we returned to the dark room void of any natural sunlight.

I started praying for my family. My dear Naghmeh. You are the love of my life. I am always in love with you.

Dear Naghmeh, I have been stung so many times that I have become full of poison. This is an Iranian saying. A lot of people say that they have been stung by so many people that their whole being is full of poison like a poisonous snake. It means that we have been bitten by the snakes of this world so many times that, that all of the poison has collected in us and that we are like the poisonous snake. But if we sting anyone, we will die. This Iranian saying is full of spirit of revenge and unforgiveness and every time I would hear this in Iran, I would get very sick hearing it.

A few days ago they brought a young war veteran who was disabled in 80% of his body in my cell. He had been put in solitary confinement with his horrific condition. And this had made him very mad and he kept saying “why did they do this to me? I gave my whole life for their sake. See what they have done to me!!!” And when he would get very mad he would say “I will take my revenge!”

I spoke to this young man until 4 in the morning. I spent time with him and spoke to him to forgive. When we don’t forgive, we drink the poison ourselves and then wait for the other person to die. And we take the knife that has hurt us and we stab ourselves with it again! And this is the will of the evil one who wants to destroy us.

But when we forgive, we pour out the poison of the enemy and of the devil and we don’t let the poison stay in us and we don’t let the poison make us into poisonous snakes! So that we don’t become like the person we despised and who persecuted and tortured us.

Maybe you ask, what is the secret of being so happy in such a hard situation?

Forgiveness and a change of attitude. When we forgive, we become free and we become messengers of peace and reconciliation and goodness. And whoever stings us, we can take into our embrace and love them. And in this dark and evil time, we can live full of love and full of peace and full of joy and shine like the stars! Glory be to His Name.

I forgave the prison doctor who did not listen to me and did not give me the medication that I needed. I forgave the interrogator who beat me. Every day when I would see the interrogator and for the last time when I saw him, I forgave him. I smiled at him and with respect shook his hand and I said my goodbye. The minute I forgave them and loved them, that second I was filled with unspeakable joy. I saw in the eyes of the interrogator that he had come to respect me and as he was leaving, he could not look behind him. Love is as strong as death.

We have to get rid of the poison in our body because if we don’t, we will die. We have to get rid of both poisons; first the poison of the snake that bit us and also the poison in us that was created by that bite. We can get rid of the first poison by forgiveness and we can get rid of the second poison by humility, by dying to ourselves, and allowing the band-aid of love and goodness to replace the empty place of the wound. So that we are not a tool of darkness and revenge, but that we can be light and love and a vessel of forgiveness and we can be transformed in the process.

Surely you have someone in your family, city, work or environment that have become like poisonous snake who have bitten you and tried to make you poisonous. So, forgive them and use the antidote of love and be Victorious!

One of the chances of forgiveness came when I was blindfolded and a guard was holding my hand guiding me. He asked “what are you here for? What is your crime?” I said “I am Christian Pastor.” All of the sudden he let go of my hand and said “so you are unclean! I will tell others not to defile themselves by touching you!” He would tell others not to get close to me. It really broke my heart. The nurse would also come to take care of us and provide us with treatment, but she said in front of others “in our religion we are not suppose to touch you, you are unclean. Baha’i (religion) and Christians are unclean!” She did not treat me and that night I could not sleep from the intense pain I had. According to the doctor’s instructions, they would not give me the pain medication that they would give other prisoners because I was unclean.

I could not fall sleep one night due to the pain when all of a sudden I could hear the sound of dirty sewer rats with their loud noises and screeches. It was around 4 in the morning. It sounded like laughter in a way.

Even though many would call me unclean and filthy and would not even want to pass by me and they had abandoned me and they were disgusted to touch me because they were afraid that they would also become unclean, but I knew that in the eyes of Jesus Christ, and in the eyes of my brothers and sisters, I am like the sewer rat, beautiful and loveable – not disgusting and unclean – and like the rats I can scream with joy within those prison walls and worship my Lord in joy and strength.

The Joy of the Lord is my strength. Amen.

As previously reported, the American Center for Law and Justice has said that Abedini was sentenced by Judge Pir-Abassi – known as the “hanging judge” — for “threatening the national security of Iran through his leadership in Christian house churches.”

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THE NEW AMERICAN GOLDEN AGE, ECONOMIC BOOM AND BABYLON

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At the present moment all respected economic indicators project that America will soon experience economic chaos or collapse, food shortages, riots and social anarchy as the system collapses. This analysis is based on all existing economic indicators. However, what if some new technologies were to appear? What if seemingly out of nowhere organizational systems, technologies and new platforms for business arose and America began to experience an economic boom and a new Golden Age?

For many the mere reading of these words arouses a kind of slamming of the door in our human consciousness because of an inner belief system based on current evidence which strongly suggests the opposite is true. But this is precisely what I want to address. At the present moment America and much of the world is locked in a vortex of economic destruction that is partially engineered by an invisible and occult-based elite that have plans for a one world government, one world economic system and one world religion. Like economics or physics, all spiritual systems in the universe operate on laws.

A number of things have happened to produce the global economic crisis and the drive to a One World Socialist State. At present the control of these systems are in the hands of powerful and secret occult-based elite. These Satanic elites are accessing and utilizing powerful forces of spiritual darkness in order to increase the power of the occult pyramidal organizational and control grid. On the back of the U.S. dollar bill is an occult pyramid symbolizing the secret elite ruling at the very top of the pyramid just below the all-seeing eye of Lucifer, and below the rulers is the larger base of the pyramid which represents the masses, slaves or useless eaters who are under the rule of the secretive elite. It is an Egyptian / Pharaoh-based economic and political system where the Pharaoh, a superhuman ruler infused with occult powers, rules a system of spirituality, economics and culture. This occult system is also inspired by ancient Babylon and the Tower of Babel where the first one world government, one world economic system, and one world religion were formed under a god-man or superhuman ruler, born of Nephilim DNA, which was the product of interspecies breeding between fallen angels or the B’nai Elohim and human women, which produced the Nephilim. This was the superhuman race that developed highly advanced technology and built the massive antediluvian megalithic structures such as the Stonehenge, the Egyptian pyramids, and Incan and Mayan temples, all of which incorporated human sacrifice in ancient occult religions. These civilizations and ancient peoples like the Canaanites worshipped gods like Molech under many different names and sacrificed their children alive by placing their bodies on the glowing red hot metallic hands of Molech. These occult worship ceremonies were accompanied by the use of powerful psychedelic drugs, chanting and sexual orgies. This fulfilled spiritual law and opened portals in another dimension for forces and entities to come into the earth.

This occult worship allowed supernatural power from another dimension to enter the physical world and control the weather, crops, food supplies, economic prosperity, and technology and give these cultures power over their enemies. These occult-based systems which started at Babylon continued on through Atlantis, Sumerians, Egypt, Greece, Rome, the Incans, the Mayans, and Tibet and then continued on through Europe with the Black Nobility, Rosicrucian’s, Knights Templar, Illuminati, numerous secret occult societies like the Nazi Vril and Thule Societies, and the Great Satanist Aleister Crowley. It should be noted that these secret societies took control over the global economic system through the Rothschild family, along with science and culture. After World War II, during Operation Paperclip, over 4,000 Nazi rocket and mind control scientists took control over laboratories, think tanks and secret military projects in the United States. These Nazi scientists were members of secret societies and practicing Satanists.

It should be noted that the Nazi scientists under occult leader Adolph Hitler built a booming economy and invented the most advanced military technology the world had ever seen, including flying saucer technologies whose design was channeled to them through the occult society “Vril maidens,” who were clairvoyants and received detailed blueprints, formulas and diagrams for the construction of these flying saucer-like machines. The point is that not only was Adolph Hitler financed by international bankers, who were part of the Illuminati, but the Nazi party was first and foremost an occult party and they received their economic, military and scientific plans from another dimension through their secret Satanic ceremonies. The current new world order that was predicted by the Biblical prophets is receiving its plans from a supernatural dimension. Sir Francis Bacon, a Rosicrucian, helped set the stage for America to be the “New Atlantis,” before America was founded and for it to become the head of a new world order. The words Novus Ordo Seclorum, or new world order written on the bottom of the occult pyramid on the back of the U.S. dollar reveal the secret destiny of the United States. The new world order is a counterfeit of the Kingdom of Heaven.

At the same time the Illuminati were attempting to shape the destiny of the United States, deeply intelligent and spiritual Christians were attempting to steer our nation along the plans of God. These men, like Jonathan Edwards, the father of the First Great Awakening, unleashed an indescribable wave of supernatural power that ignited the thirteen original colonies and helped form the Constitution and Bill of Rights with a distinctly Christian input that is still protecting our liberties today. Year later, a former member of the Illuminati, Charles Finney rejected the teachings of the Illuminati for the teachings of Jesus Christ and accessed what he called, “power from on high,” which released a mighty Second Great Awakening. Finney discovered that this “supernatural power from on high” could be systematically released on individuals, communities and the nation. In Finney’s writings he taught how an individual could actually carry the supernatural charge of this power and the energy released was so powerful that when Finney traveled to a town or a large factory people would begin to tremble from its force before Finney even arrived. Without Finney saying a word, people would weep and cry out for salvation. In addition, Finney observed that once that spiritual atmosphere came over a town or nation that economic and social prosperity could be generated. This was not an economic prosperity built on self-indulgence or the conspicuous consumption of material prosperity but an economic prosperity that would benefit the common good. For the most part the modern church has lost this truly Biblical definition of economic prosperity, either perverting it into a “health and wealth” gospel or distorting it into a socialist gospel.

Ancient Babylon was economically prosperous and before the Flood of Noah a secret hybrid race of fallen angels breeding with human women was designed by Satan to circumvent God’s plans and create a race of Satanic supermen who would rule the world. The breeding of this race of god-men or supermen was an essential theme of all occult-based religions throughout history. In modern times, it was revived by the Rockefeller Foundation in the 1920’s with their Science of Eugenics. Adolph Hitler hoped to use this Science of Eugenics to scientifically breed a new master race of supermen or god-men. In our time the genetic breeding of Nephilim with animal and human DNA in laboratories is an attempt to create a new race of god-men or supermen. This science is called Transhumanism and it is an attempt to scientifically evolve the human race into gods, and many fear what is called the “Singularity,” the time when these Transhumanist gods, robots and Androids begin to rule us.

However, despite the optimism of the elite who hope to purchase new bodies and immortality through Transhumanism, the vast majority of Americans are facing the reality of a dark economic future. But, the reality of a dark economic future is not a fixed reality! It is one possible economic scenario among many, because the future is not fixed. There is great debate among theological circles as to precisely what is going to happen in the future. The study of Bible prophecy is called Eschatology. In addition to writing 22 books on the subject of prophecy, I have the privilege of being a Professor of Eschatology at a major university. Many times people E Mail me, assuming that I am not familiar with the wide spectrum of beliefs within Eschatology. Let me assure the reader, not only am I familiar with this spectrum of beliefs, but I have taught on them extensively and I am well aware of how these beliefs impact our world, our foreign policy, and the future.

But I want to begin at ground zero for understanding prophecy and how it affects the possibility of a new American Golden Age and an economic boom. Many people do not believe that is possible based on their understanding of prosperity. They assume that we must face a global economic collapse and massive social upheaval in the near future. In addition, many of these arguments revolve around hopes for a rapture and the timing of the rapture along with the Great Tribulation Period.

Although all of these issues are important and I teach on them, I personally do not like arguing about them. I have many well-known friends who have completely different views on this time table and I do not break friendships over these issues. The important question is what do we do now before the return of the Lord, whenever that is? The answer is given to us by Jesus Christ Himself, when He said, “Occupy until I come.” The Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus Christ devote an enormous amount of time to economics. The primary principle is found in Deuteronomy 8:18.18

“And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He. “And you shall remember that the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”

The key principle that America must re-learn is that it is God alone who gives the power to get wealth! Poverty, economic crisis, illegal immigration, food shortages, weather problem and every other adverse situation that negatively impacts the economy is at its root a spiritual curse. When you read Deuteronomy Chapter 28, God outlines the blessings and the curses on a very specific economic level. In order to access the very tangible economic blessing on America, the following law must be obeyed.

“Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God…”

America has never obeyed this law perfectly; no nation has. But, there was a time, not long ago when America made an attempt, however superficial to obey this commandment. The Personal Living God of the Universe honored this and this is the reason that economic prosperity, freedom, and peace made America unique in human history. America was the only nation in history where a prosperous middle class arose, consisting of millions of people. The category of the middle class had been basically unheard of in human history. America’s technological innovations, Constitutional freedoms, and material and economic blessings flow from the principle above. America was not prosperous because of its geographic position on planet Earth or its natural resources. Plenty of nations enjoy the same natural resources and geographic positioning. Collectively, on whatever level a significant number of Americans managed to adhere to the principle that God gives the power to get wealth.

Although, the seeds of America’s destruction were planted by the Illuminati in 1776 and then incrementally in 1913 and the following years with the League of Nations and the Illuminati’s Federal Reserve, it has been in the last sixty years that the collective consciousness of America has turned against the Personal Living God of the Universe. Starting at that exact time period we have enacted numerous laws that have thrown God and His laws out of our nation; we have mocked God and have become immoral; and fundamentally we have rejected the truth that it is God who is our Source! From that time period until now we have seen America devolve into chaos and moral anarchy and we are now approaching economic collapse. The only reason the Illuminati and other forces have been allowed to gain entrance into our nation and move their Satanic agenda forward through “Order out of Chaos” is that we, through our rejection of the fundamental economic operating principle of the universe, have collectively opened portals in the invisible realm for hordes of demonic forces to invade.

There is only one solution and one way out! We must undo what we have done. This was demonstrated by the father of the First Great Awakening Jonathan Edwards and the father of the Second Great Awakening Charles Finney. By turning to God as their Source and operating from the truth that “It is God who gives the power to get wealth,” they opened very real portals in the invisible realm for the supernatural power of God to set our nation on fire. The powers of darkness were driven back and there was an explosion of economic prosperity.

Between now and the return of Jesus Christ, there is nothing in the Bible that suggests that we cannot experience the New American Golden Age, even it is temporal. Author Dave Hunt, who was a guest on my national radio show, first planted the seed of this idea in my mind. Dave Hunt made reference to that fact that the Bible says:

“But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” -Matthew 24:37-39

The above passage suggests that this will be a time of economic prosperity. Although I don’t know if Hunt would take this as far as expecting an economic boom for America, as I am suggesting, but the verse certainly points to prosperity. I am not guaranteeing that America will absolutely experience a New Golden Age and economic boom. But I am suggesting that it is a viable possibility if certain conditions are met. When Jesus Christ said, “Nothing is impossible with God,” that is precisely what he meant. Jesus also specifically outlined in detail the laws of the Kingdom that have to me met in order for there to be a release of supernatural power and the miraculous in this world. This is specifically what I am talking about. How is that those in occult-based religions and even Satanism understand more about the relationship between power and economic prosperity and the methodology of accessing the supernatural than Christians and just everyday people do? The answer is that corporately they have studied, understood and experienced the supernatural realm.

Throughout history and in the Biblical accounts there are numerous records of God suspending so-called natural law or so-called reality and transforming it by the supernatural power of the miraculous. In actuality the Bible is far more than a religious book. It is a supernatural book that deals with multiple dimensions, existence out of time and space, genetics, DNA, neurological science, Transhumanism, economics, military science, medicine, nutrition, quantum physics, and the supernatural. Unfortunately, modern Christianity in the last 100 years has promoted a reductionist philosophy for understanding the Bible. Purely on a cultural and arbitrary basis, the Bible which has supernatural authorship has been reduced to an almost absurd set of irrelevant teachings. The result has been ridicule and rejection by the mass culture and rightly so. Why would anybody in their right mind and who has any intelligence accept a religious cartoon-like culture that is devoid of real supernatural power, intelligence and creativity?

When a nation or individual enters into supernatural communication with the Personal Living God of the Universe, all things become possible. Neurological, economic and so-called scientific barriers are removed and one views the eternal horizon of infinity. Those who operate on the laws of the Kingdom can supersede current economic forecasting and economic factors. Coming from another dimension as if it were out of the blue there can appear new technologies, economies, and new organizational and financial systems that can open the doors to a New American Golden Age where the economy grows faster than the speed of light. This system is supernatural, but it is rooted in the promise of God to give a person or nation the power to get wealth. In addition, in accordance with the blessings outlined in Deuteronomy 28, an economic boom can materialize, if the spiritual laws are met, such as repentance and the turning away from evil.

When Jesus Christ taught the laws of the kingdom, He emphasized the need for believing, faith and asking God to do the impossible. These were not “Greeting Card” sentiments; they were the mathematical formulae for calling resources in from another dimension. I believe that as we think about the various scenarios that could play out in the next several years, a New Golden Age for America must be seriously considered. The only thing that would prevent it is either the will of God or our activating laws of the Kingdom which would shut it down. Conversely, if we activate the laws of the Kingdom which release this into our physical world, there are no limits to what is possible.

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Nigeria Kills 13 Boko Haram Militants as Massacre of Christians Continues

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The Nigerian armed forces have fought back against the Islamic militant group Boko Haram, killing 13 suspected combatants in an attack on their stronghold in the town of Maiduguri on Tuesday.

The news was confirmed by the Joint Task Force Operation Restore Order, who said that they lost one soldier in the gunfight, CNN reported. Military spokesman Sagir Musa said that that Boko Haram have been carrying out “incessant callous, brutal, barbaric and impious killings,” and Human Rights Watch estimate that the Islamic group, whose name means “Western education is sacrilege,” have killed more than 2,800 people in the last several years, including at least 34 since Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, raids on two separate churches resulted in the deaths of 12 worshippers, including a pastor. Another 15 Christians were massacred six days later on Sunday at another church in Northern Nigeria.

“We had warned that Boko Haram would continue its tradition of killing Nigerian Christians on Christmas day. Last week marked the third straight year that the terror group has murdered Nigerian Christians in the church on a Christmas day,” a statement by the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans noted, calling for more action on behalf of authorities.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has said that despite these setbacks, Nigeria has been battling the terrorists, and a number of those who carried out the attacks have been apprehended “as a result of the diligence and steadfastness of law enforcement agents and security operatives across the country.” Jonathan made the remarks at a New Year’s service at Saint Anglican Church in Abuja, but did not reveal how many in total were in custody, AllAfrica reported.

Boko Haram have been bombing and burning churches and attacking Christians across the Muslim-dominated northern Nigeria for years, specifically targeting Christians in their mission to eradicate them from the country.

“The Nigerian state and Christians are our enemies and we will be launching attacks on the Nigerian state and its security apparatus as well as churches until we achieve our goal of establishing an Islamic state in place of the secular state,” the militants stated in no uncertain terms back in June.

Despite the slaughter of Christians and innocent people in Nigeria, the U.S. government has been reluctant to designate Boko Haram a terrorist organization, even though it has said some of its leaders are terrorists.

Nigerians have created a petition to the U.S. government asking for this to change.

“Our government in Washington DC, especially the White House and the State Department are fully aware of what is going on. But both President Barack Obama and outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have simply tolerated this impunity by their inaction,” the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans said about the petition.

“Already, American citizens have been affected, and the United Nations building in Abuja has been attacked by these terrorists. The U.S. Congress has affirmed that Boko Haram is a threat to the U.S., especially with the group’s suspected links to al-Qaeda.”

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Berkeley students seek Christmas ban on Salvation Army bell ringers

The student government at the University of California-Berkeley (CAL) passed a resolution last month that would ban Salvation Army bell ringers and their iconic red kettles from campus this Christmas because of the Christian organization’s alleged bias against homosexuality.

The resolution, cleared on November 14, accuses the charity of openly discriminating against gay individuals.

“Salvation Army church services, including charity services, are available only to people ‘who accept and abide by the Salvation Army’s doctrine and discipline,’ which excludes homosexuality,” reads the bill, SB 176.

In the resolution, the student body also demands school administrators revoke the Salvation Army’s permit, which currently allows them to collect donations on the Berkeley campus.

“Allowing the Salvation Army to collect donations on campus is a form of financial assistance that empowers the organization to spend the money it raises here in order to discriminate and advocate discrimination against queer people,” it adds.

In a statement to Campus Reform, the Salvation Army adamantly denied these charges, saying the allegations are based solely on “internet rumors.”

“The notion that we require those we help to ‘accept and abide by the Salvation Army’s doctrine and discipline which excludes homosexuality’ to receive assistance is totally false,” wrote Kathy Lovin, a spokeswoman for the Salvation Army.

She added that “the only requirement for service from The Salvation Army is demonstrated need and our ability to meet it.”

According to the bill, the student government also wants to formally express “disapproval of the presence of Salvation Army donation containers on campus” because “queer students…may take offense to the presence of collection containers operated by a discriminator religious organization in their places of living.”

A CAL spokesperson told Campus Reform that school officials are reviewing the matter, but declined to state whether the charity would be banned from campus.

The bill was authored by an openly gay student, Matthew Enger. He could not be reached for comment by Campus Reform.

On his public twitter account, however, he has hurled similar attacks at other organizations for supporting traditional marriage, writing that the Boy Scouts “can go f**k themselves” for refusing to admit homosexuals into their organization.

Enger has also used the popular social media platform to profess that he “hates the Republican Party,” later adding he hopes all conservatives leave the country.

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Church Calls Off ‘Charlie Brown’ Christmas Show Amid Controversy

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A church caught at the center of a controversy regarding a school trip to see their production of “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” has decided to cancel the show.

The Agape Church in Little Rock, which had initially intended to present the show to school children on Dec. 14, released a statement to KATV regarding their decision, signed by Pastor Happy Caldwell.

“[B]ecause of what this issue has become, as a church, it is not our desire to put hard-working, sacrificial teachers and cast members in harm’s way,” the release stated.

Instead of matinees for school children, a public performance will be offered at the church on Dec. 15.

The trouble reportedly stemmed from an invitation to first and second grade students at Terry Elementary School to see the Christmas production.

“Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” is the stage adaptation of the classic 1965 Peanuts cartoon, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The source material includes a retelling of the Nativity story from the Gospel of Luke, which is told by the character Linus in an iconic scene from the movie.

A parent who felt the trip was inappropriate reached out to the ASF to voice her concern with the show’s religious connotations, which reportedly differed from her own, the station learned.

From there, a campaign was launched to cancel the class trip.

“We’re not waging a war,” LeeWood Thomas, a spokesman for the group, told KATV. “We’re basically calling a foul against the separation of church and state.”

The organization took offense to both a planned field trip to a church with religious affiliation, and to a school-sanctioned presentation of religious material, the station additionally reported.

Representatives of the Little Rock School District had planned to go ahead with the trip before news of the show’s cancellation broke.

“The teachers wanted to provide a cultural opportunity through a holiday production and are supported by the superintendent and the principal,” said school district spokesperson Pamela Smith was quoted as saying to KATV. “The school district does not support or promote religious affiliations.”

In their release regarding the termination of the Friday showing, the church thanked the school for its intentions.

“In the wake of some controversy over our Christmas production offered to schools, Agape Church wishes to salute the courageous stand that the Terry Elementary Principal made in not succumbing to the pressure of one complaint voiced to the Arkansas Society of Free Thinkers and media,” Caldwell said in the release, according to the station. ”We applaud the support that the Little Rock School District has shown … and agree with their position that attending the matinees was not a constitutional issue.”

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Vatican hails U.N. Palestine vote, wants guarantees for Jerusalem

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The Vatican hailed the United Nations’ implicit recognition of aPalestinian state on Thursday and called for an internationally guaranteed special status forJerusalem, something bound to irritate Israel.

The 193-nation U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s observer status at the United Nations from “entity” to “non-member state,” the same status as the Vatican.

“The Holy See welcomes with favor the decision of the General Assembly by which Palestine has become a Non-member Observer State of the United Nations,” a statement said.

But it also said it was a “propitious occasion” to recall a “common position” on Jerusalem expressed by the Vatican and the Palestine Liberation Organisation when the two sides signed a basic agreement on their bilateral relations in 2000.

Thursday’s statement called for “an internationally guaranteed special statute” for Jerusalem, aimed at “safeguarding the freedom of religion and of conscience, the identity and sacred character of Jerusalem as a Holy City, (and) respect for, and freedom of, access to its holy places.”

The Vatican’s re-stating of its position on Jerusalem, which has remained mostly dormant for years, was bound to irk Israel, which says there is no need for an international status for Jerusalem because those guarantees already exist.

Israel declared Jerusalem its “united and eternal” capital in 1980 after annexing East Jerusalem in the Six Day War in 1967. World powers have not recognized the annexation.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of an eventual state.

Israel has always resisted the concept of any form of international mandate over Jerusalem.

It has been some time since the Vatican re-stated its position on the city so forcefully, and Thursday’s statement was bound to be received negatively by Israel, a diplomat with direct knowledge of their relations said.

Israel has always maintained that it already guarantees the city’s special nature as sacred to the three great monotheistic religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Thursday’s statement called on both sides to seek an “effective commitment to building peace and stability, in justice and in the respect for legitimate aspirations, both of the Israelis and of the Palestinians.”

The Vatican and Israel established full diplomatic relations in 1994. Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict visited the Jewish state and Palestinian territories.

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