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Britain's House of Lords is to be the venue for the launch of a major report into anti-Christian persecution next week. Compiled by the Christian charity Aid to the Church in Need, the report 'Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2013-15' is expected to reflect both the stark plight of Christians across the Middle East who have either been killed or forced from their homes amid the tumultuous upheavals across that region, and the rising tide of militant Islam in Africa which is having a direct impact on Christian communities there. Based on findings from 22 countries, the report seeks to examine the situation of Christians in those nations compared to study findings two years ago.
English Cardinal Vincent Nichols has urged prelates gathered in Rome for the Synod on the Family to recognise “the passionate love people have for their families”. As the Rome synod continues, Cardinal Nichols, who is acting as moderator for one of the English language groups involved in seeking pastoral responses to the modern family and the challenges it faces explained that the pre-synod consultations carried out among families in England and Wales had revealed that whatever problems people faced today, the family itself remains “the most important thing in their lives”, adding “that's what we have to learn in the synod”.
Two doctors in the Canadian province of Manitoba have said they will defy a requirement to cooperate with assisted suicide requests in any way, including referring patients to pro-assisted suicide doctors, even at the cost of their jobs. According to Lifesite News, Drs Mark Kristjanson and Larry Rados have spoken out in response to a call by the Manitoba College of Physicians and Surgeons for opinions from medical practitioners on the proposed adoption of a policy on assisted suicide and euthanasia. “The Hippocratic Oath is the foundation of medicine,” said Dr Kristjanson during an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Company. “And part of that tradition explicitly regards the patient, one's fellow human being, as sacred. There is a very explicit commitment to not take the life of a patient. It’s distressing, it's disturbing and saddens me it has come to this.”
Just 1.6% of British people are gay or lesbian, according to latest national statistics. In a study by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the results of which have just been released, of 247,623 people polled (with 238,206 valid answers), 92.8% identified as heterosexual, with 1.1% gay or lesbian and 0.5% bisexual. A further 0.3% described themselves as 'other'. The ONS stated that the latest figures revealed that there has been no significant change in the LGB population in Britain since 2013.
The US state of California has legislated for assisted suicide. Having “"carefully read the thoughtful opposition materials presented by...doctors, religious leaders and those who champion disability rights,” Governor Jerry Brown signed off on the controversial AB2X-15 Bill, meaning that assisted suicide will be an option for terminally ill patients from January 2016. Opponents of the new law have been quick to point out deficiencies in the legislation which, they insist, will ultimately lead to abuses for vulnerable patients.
Ireland needs “to discuss possible changes to education” towards better accommodating transgender pupils, a Government minister has stated. The message came from Community and Social Support Minister Kevin Humphreys at the conclusion of the first round of talks between the Department of Education and various groups, including school representatives and those of the LGBT community, in light of recently enacted legislation on gender recognition, according to The Irish Independent. The report says that schools - concerned both with this law and current equality legislation - are now faced with questions around issues such as uniforms and toilets as they are forced to consider the place of transgender students among the school population.
Pope Francis has said that the Church must fully support the traditional family. In his remarks on the second day of the synod on the family, the Pontiff described as “profound” the relationship between the Church and the family and stressed that “when families journey along the way of the Lord, they offer a fundamental witness to God’s love, and they deserve the full commitment and support of the Church”. The Church's role was all the more important, he added, as “political and economic life today does not always support the family, and seems to have lost the ability to incorporate the virtues of family life into the common life of society. Here the Church is called to exercise her mission by first examining to what extent she is living as the family of God.”
A Christian couple in the US state of Oregon fined for declining on conscience grounds to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding face financial ruin as the state moves to enforce the ruling. The couple have also been ordered not to speak about the case. The Bureau of Labour said the punitive actions against the couple was designed to “rehabilitate” them.
The British Government has said it has no plans to compile a watch list of faith leaders as part of its 'anti-extremism' strategy. Following a previous report by the Christian Institute's that the government was planning, in draft legislation, to create a national register and impose a requirement for faith leaders to undergo security checks before engaging with the public, the Institute now reports that Conservative MPs have moved to reassure religious communities that no such plans will be contained in any final legislation towards combating extremism.
Pope Francis has again offered a clear defence of the traditional family. Echoing the Book of Genesis, he said that God willed marriage to be “the loving union of a man and a woman”. He also reiterated the indissoluble nature of marriage. Speaking during the Mass to officially open the Synod on the family, the Pontiff outlined the challenges for enduring marriages posed by the “paradox of a globalised world filled with luxurious mansions and skyscrapers, but a lessening of the warmth of homes and families”.
A Christian employee of Britain's National Health Service (NHS) has been given leave to appeal a finding of harassment against her for sharing her faith with a Muslim colleague. Victoria Wasteney had been suspended for nine months from her post as an occupational therapist when a finding of ‘harassment’ and ‘bullying’ was made against her at an employment tribunal. That case had begun when her Muslim colleague complained that Wasteney had prayed for her, given her a book on a Muslim woman's encounter with Christianity, and invited her to her church, all of which the colleague interpreted as attempts to convert her.
The Vatican has moved to clarify details of the Pope's recent meeting with Kim Davis, the US clerk imprisoned for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licences. Amid a media storm over the meeting, which reportedly took place at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington DC during the recent papal visit, the Vatican Press Office issued a statement to offer what it calls “ an objective understanding of what transpired”.
School patronage in Ireland is creating segregation, a school principal has charged, despite evidence to the contrary. As four non-denominational Educate Together schools in Dublin launched a common enrolment system, Colette Kavanagh, a principal of one of the schools told The Irish Times newspaper that due to the current patronage system, new schools were becoming the schools of 'newcomer' families. “We don't want to say we have segregated schools, but we have,” Kavanagh insisted.
Religious freedom is increasingly under threat in the modern world, a Vatican envoy has warned. Addressing the issue of fundamental freedoms during a session of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Msgr Janusz Urba?czyk, the Holy See's Permanent Representative to that body, said: “The human rights of those who wish to profess and practise their faith freely, including Christians in particular, are often not guaranteed.”
The Pro-Life Campaign (PLC) has welcomed the defeat of a motion before Limerick County Council calling for the repeal of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution, which protects the life of the unborn. It was defeated by a two-to-one margin. The motion was tabled by Cllr Cian Prendiville, an Anti-Austerity Alliance member. He urged councillors to back the repeal of the amendment on the grounds that it poses very real difficulties for women.
Britain's Liberal Democrats party has called for the removal of the terms 'male' and 'female' from official forms to end ‘discrimination’ against transgender and intersex people. The plan, placed before the party's national conference, is entitled the Transgender and Intersex Health Charter, and would see a raft of measures introduced by the party towards greater accommodation of gender types other than male and female together with legal and medical supports to allow people to realise their preferred gender type.
The Labour Party has asked two campaigners who want an abortion regime in Ireland similar to what exists in the UK at present to prepare its alternative proposal to Ireland's constitutional protection for the unborn. Having pledged to offer a referendum on the issue of greater access to abortion if returned to government, party leader Joan Burton announced that she has asked Senator Ivana Bacik and Sinead Ahern of Labour Women, two well known pro-choice advocates, to formulate “a credible and detailed solution” to replacing the Constitution's 8th Amendment, under which the right to life of the unborn is protected.
German politicians and police representatives have called for refugees to be housed according to religion amid widespread attacks on Christians in refugee centres. The chairman of the governing CDU parliamentary group, Volker Kauder, called on Muslim authorities in Germany to “clearly renounce attacks on Christians in the asylum homes”. The call comes after recorded incidents of anti-Christian attacks in a number of shelters. In one case, reported by the German daily Die Welt newspaper, Muslim Chechens assaulted Syrian Christians in a camp near Berlin, while the newspaper quotes a spokesperson for the country's Central Council for Oriental Christians, Jakob Simon, who says that discrimination and blackmail against Christian refugees is now widespread.
Ireland’s leading prelate has welcomed news that Dublin is to host the World Meeting of Families in 2018. Primate of All Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin said he was “delighted” at the announcement, made at the end of the World Meeting in Philadelphia, concluding Pope Francis’ successful US trip. "I am confident that the World Meeting of Families in 2018 will also be an uplifting event for all of us," the Archbishop said. In a statement.
US children raised in homes with an absent father are far more likely to live in poverty, new census figures have revealed. According to data for the year 2014, released by the country’s Census Bureau, fully one third of all those living in poverty in the United States were children, accounting for over 15 million people aged under 18 years. However, of that figure, the census data reveals that children living in a home without a father outstripped those in marital homes by four to one.
US legislators in Wisconsin have moved to end funding for facilities offering abortions in that state. According to Lifesite News, a vote in the Republican-controlled State Assembly on 'Bill 310' on the issue of defunding abortion clinics - prompted by the ongoing body parts scandal surrounding the Planned Parenthood organisation - was passed by 60 to 35, progressing the bill to further debate and a final vote at the State Senate.
A pro-life Bill aimed at barring late-term abortions in the United States has been defeated in the country's Senate after Democrat legislators blocked a vote on the issue. The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Bill had passed successfully through the House of Representatives earlier this year, but once it reached the Senate, Democrat senators staged a filibuster, speaking at length during the debate on the legislation so as to delay it indefinitely. Under the rules of the Senate, those seeking to end such a prolonged debate must secure the backing of 60 senators in order to move business to the voting stage.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has sought to reassure those who voted against same-sex marriage in the referendum in May. She told the Dail on Wednesday, while introducing the new Marriage Bill, that the institution had not been weakened as a result of introducing same-sex marriage. She said: “In the wake of those often passionate debates, it is important to acknowledge that many who voted 'No' did so in the belief that it was the right thing to do. Many voted 'No' because they feared that a treasured institution would change. I put it to those people now that there is nothing to fear. Marriage will not be weakened by people who passionately wish to be able to marry.
Quebec's health minister has publicly stated he will discipline physicians refusing patient requests for assisted suicide, including referral to a pro-euthanasia doctor, regardless of conscientious objection. Ahead of the December 10 activation of the province's assisted suicide legislation, Gaetan Barrette warned doctors of the University of Montreal Health Centre – one of the largest facilities in the city – that any refusal to participate in a patient's assisted suicide would see a doctor stripped of his or her visitation rights at the hospital. Minister Barrette's threat comes as supporters of assisted suicide lobby him to end funding for Quebec's 29 palliative care hospices which have signalled their opposition to assisted suicide.
The British Government is drafting legislation that could see trustees of Christian charities and schools removed from their posts as part of the country's fight against 'extremism'. According to The Christian Institute, which cites leaked portions of the proposed law, Britain's Charity Commission would be granted new powers to force the removal of individuals deemed “extremist” from religiously affiliated boards in a move critics have branded a blow to religious freedom.
The number of women aged over 35 in Britain having babies now outstrips those under 25, new statistics reveal. According to The Daily Telegraph, latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 21% of babies born in England and Wales in 2014 were to mothers aged 35-plus, compared with 20% to those 25 years and younger. This finding stands in stark contrast to figures from just five years ago which showed younger mothers outnumbering older by 27%. In 2014, the average age of women having babies passed the 30-year mark for the first time.
A federal court in the US state of Missouri has ruled that the Obama administration's healthcare mandate for employers cannot compel religious organisations to provide the ‘Morning-After Pill’ to workers. The ‘Morning-After Pill’ can act as an abortifacient. According to Lifesite News, a three-judge panel of the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals in St Louis, in making its ruling against provisions of the Affordable Care Act (referred to as Obamacare) said it respected employers' "sincere religious belief that their participation in the accommodation process makes them morally and spiritually complicit in providing abortifacient coverage."
The Irish Government's free pre-school programme has been criticised as “a placebo” after a study found it is failing to close the education gap between children from different social classes, The Sunday Times reports. According to the study, the first to examine the Government's annual €175 million spend on providing every child with a free year of pre-school education, the programme has had no positive effect on the educational gap between children from higher and lower socio-economic groups.
An Independent TD has called on the Irish Government to officially recognise the persecution of Christians in Iraq and Syria as genocide. Deputy Mattie McGrath tabled an official motion before the Dáil, in which he says that “Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria will be exterminated or forced to migrate solely for their religion by the ‘Islamic State’ and other militant extremists”. The tabled motion points out that “since 2003, minority groups in Iraq and Syria have been the target of systematic violence, with millions fleeing their ancestral homes".
Executives of the US abortion provider Planned Parenthood have been filmed admitting that the organisation would suffer if the public became aware of its trading in foetal body parts. The admission has come in the 10th undercover video to be released by the Centre for Medical Progress, in which a vice president of Planned Parenthood, Vanessa Cullins, discusses the sale of aborted parts with investigators posing as buyers of foetal tissue. “This could destroy your organisation and us, if we don’t time those conversations correctly,” she warns when asked about sales of parts.
Ireland's Health Service Executive (HSE) has had to to conceal the identities of staff members engaged in drafting a document on medically challenging pregnancies because of an angry backlash from some pro-choice staff against some of the language being used in the document.
Doctors in Canada unwilling to assist patients to commit suicide are now required to refer patients to physicians who will under new regulations. According to Lifesite News, the country's College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has issued a new policy document, 'Planning for and Providing Quality End-of-Life Care', which aims to deal with issues surrounding assisted suicide. Included in the document is a section on conscientious objection, where doctor's are afforded the right to refuse active participation in assisted suicide, but simultaneously must adhere to another policy document of the College, 'Professional Obligations and Human Rights'.
Religious solemnisers will not be compelled to solemnise any marriage that is against their conscience on religious grounds, the Irish Government has said. As the country’s Justice Minister, Frances Fitzgerald, announced plans to bring the finalised Marriage Bill 2015 before the Dáil next week, she stressed that the new legislation will not place pressure on religious bodies to act against their beliefs on marriage as that between one and one woman.
A leading government MP in Britain has said that people of faith should be protected from bullying and harassment in their workplace. Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, made his comments at the launch of a new guide which aims to help employers better understand and accommodate the beliefs of Jews in their businesses, a guide which, in raising awareness of religious discrimination, Mr Smith said would benefit “the wider community in the UK”.
The Pro-Life Campaign (PLC) has issued a fresh warning on Ireland’s Constitutional protection for the unborn after Taoiseach Enda Kenny refused to be drawn on the question of a referendum on the issue after the next election. Questioned by reporters on the protective 8th Amendment to the Constitution, Mr Kenny only went so far as to state that he would not commit to repealing the amendment unless he knew with certainty what was to replace it.
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