News relevant to the church and faith.
The next Bishop of Waikato is embarking on a pilgrimage.
The Rev'd Dr Helen-Ann Hartley hits the road today, travelling the varied terrain of the Waikato and Taranaki as part of a five-day pilgrimage. She is undertaking the journey to be alongside her 'flock' in their places of worship, before she is consecrated and installed as the 7th Bishop of Waikato on February 22nd.
This fulfills a promise she made upon her election, in which the British-born Bishop declared, "I am greatly looking forward to putting on my tramping shoes and gumboots, getting to know people where they are, and finding out more about the landscapes and industries that are integral to life and ministry in the Diocese."
Helen-Ann says since ancient times people have gone on pilgrimages, and she is emulating the physical and spiritual journey that Christians have undertaken through the ages.
"We too as individuals and as a diocese are on a journey and I am looking forward to travelling and... finding out what God is already doing throughout the diocese and people’s hopes for the future.”
While everyone is welcome to attend her ordination later in the month, spending time with the Bishop on this pilgrimage is another way of being part of a diocesan celebration; and people are invited to join her as she stops in various places along the way - including St Mary’s Cathedral in New Plymouth, Katikati, Taumarunui, Okato, and Raglan Beach. Those interested can find twitter updates under the keyword, #pilgrimsprogress.
Rev'd Dr Helen-Ann's journey will end with prayer this Friday at St Peter’s Cathedral in Hamilton, where her pilgrimage began today.
"...from farmland to beaches, church happens in many ways in our lives, it will be good to be amongst it."(Rev'd Dr Helen-Ann Hartley)
- Rhema Media/ press rls
Related article: "New Bishop for Waikato"
"Today when I heard that President Obama has called for the release of my husband, Pastor Saeed Abedini, I wept." (Naghmeh Abedini)
The family and supporters of an American-Iranian pastor imprisoned in Iran for over a year have welcomed Barack Obama's public acknowledgement of the need for his captors to release him.
Saeed Abedini's plight has just been highlighted by the US President at a National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. The event opened with light banter, but quickly turned to serious matters.
President Obama talked about the role that faith has always played in progressing the human condition, which led him to expound on how important it is to uphold freedom of religion - not just in the United States, but to promote it everywhere as a key objective of U.S. foreign policy.
Barack Obama concluded his address at the Prayer Breakfast by honouring two Americans whose faith remains resolute in the face of persecution - Korean missionary Kenneth Bae, and Pastor Saeed.
"We pray for Pastor Saeed Abedini... And as we continue to work for his freedom, today, again, we call on the Iranian government to release Pastor Abedini so he can return to the loving arms of his wife and children in Idaho."
While several social media users expressed the view that the government's unequivocal support was a long time coming, the American Centre for Law and Justice (ACLJ) - the lobby group representing the Abedinis - published a statement simply welcoming the President's endorsement of Pastor Saeed's freedom.
"...we're hopeful that this new level of engagement by our government - President Obama publicly calling on Iran to release Pastor Saeed - will bring even more attention to the unjust treatment of a U.S. citizen who has been imprisoned for more than a year simply because of his Christian faith," wrote Executive Director, Jordan Sekulow.
Pastor Saeed's wife, Naghmeh Abedini, also shared her reaction to President Obama's speech. Mrs Abedini, who recently celebrated another birthday without her husband, turned to Facebook to thank all those who have supported her fight to free her husband."All I could see was each of you standing with us through your prayers, by calling your government officials, signing petitions, and sending the kids and I Bible verses and encouraging us not to give up and to continue.
"Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Each prayer and each voice counts. God Bless you all, Naghmeh."
- Rhema Media
Police in Italy are searching for thieves who've stolen a relic containing the blood of the late John Paul the second.
A vile containing the blood was taken from inside a small church east of Rome in the town of San Pietro della Ienca in the mountainous Abruzzo region over the weekend.
The theft sparked a major recovery operation.
Italian police suspect that it was a targeted theft, as nothing else in the church was stolen, with other value items on display in the same place.
The Catholic Church has appealed to thieves to return the reliquary calling the crime a "vile and sacrilegious theft".
As the late pontiff's blood would be difficult to sell, Italian police said it is possible the thieves may plan to use it for satanic rites.
Pope John Paul the second is due to be made a saint in May.
- RBG News
The cost of sending their children back to school has stressed parents calling on the Salvation Army to help them make ends meet.
New figures from ASG Education Programs New Zealand estimate it costs just over $38,000 for a 13-year state education in New Zealand.
Major Pam Waugh says January is an expensive time of year for many families trying to cope with holiday activities, Christmas bills and school expenses.
Warehouse Stationery has stepped in, offering their support to raise funds for these families to pay for their children’s school supplies.
Until 31 January, customers at Warehouse Stationery stores around the country can add $1 to their purchase at checkout to donate to the company's Back to School Appeal.
The Warehouse Group General Manager Community and Environment, Paul Walsh, says the company's community programme is centred around supporting families and young people who are struggling in many ways.
The funds raised from the Back to School Appeal will go toward stationery vouchers for Salvation Army centres to distribute to families before their children go back to school.
Major Pam Waugh says the Salvation Army is also providing families in need with food parcels to help them afford school costs.
- Rhema Media/NewstalkZB
US President Barack Obama will meet with Pope Francis on March 27th, as part of his visit to Europe.
The Pope’s social messages are causing a stir with conservatives in the United States.
The head of the Catholic Church has been critical of growing global inequality and what he calls the "impersonal economy".
US Correspondent, Richard Arnold, says that has not gone down well with many American conservatives.
"Right wing, radio man, Rush Limbaugh, accused the pope of 'espousing socialism’ and of being a Marxist. Sarah Palin says she has been taken aback by the Pope's liberal message."
However, in an interview with CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper" last November, Palin said "...unless I really dig deep into what his messaging is, and do my own homework, I’m not going to just trust what I hear in the media."
In an interview with Italian newspaper, La Stampa, last December, Pope Francis said Marxist ideology is wrong, but that he has known many Marxists who are good people and he is not offended.
In a White House statement, Presidential press secretary, Jay Carney, said the President “'looks forward to discussing with Pope Francis their shared commitment to fighting poverty and growing inequality.”
- RBG News/NewstalkZB
This year’s 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood, could see quadriplegic, Joni Eareckson Tada, singing at the ceremony.
According veteran Christian reporter, Dan Wooding, ‘The Hollywood Reporter’ (Paul Bond) says the 64-year-old, who runs a charitable organization 'Joni and Friends' recorded the theme of a Christian movie, ‘Alone Yet Not Alone’, attracting an Oscar nomination alongside themes from block-buster movies such as "Ordinary Love" from "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" performed by U2, and "Happy" from "Despicable Me 2".
Bond says the “devout Christian grew up singing hymns but has no professional training. With her lung capacity is just 51 per cent of what it ought to be, she was so weak her husband had to push on her diaphragm to give her enough breath to hit the high notes.”
Tada told Bond she was the least likely candidate to record a song for a movie. “I’ll tell you that up front, so it’s amazing. It’s amazing enough that a family friendly movie with a Christian theme is nominated in any category for an Academy Award.”
Paul Bond said “Alone Yet Not Alone” tells the inspiring story of Barbara and Regina Leininger and their journey of faith and survival during the French & Indian war in 1755. Captured by the Allegheny Indians in a raid on their home and transported over 300 miles of wilderness to Ohio, the sisters are sustained only by their abiding trust in God, and their hope of escape against all odds to be reunited with their family.
The movie had a week-long Oscar-qualifying run last September, but – according to the film’s website - will not be released in US theatres until June 13th.
Tada herself is not nominated for an Oscar, says Bond, more accurately it is Bruce Broughton who wrote the music, and Dennis Spiegel who wrote the lyrics. Speigel also wrote the theme for the Billy Graham film The Prodigal (1983).
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Academy is yet to indicate if singers of nominated songs will perform live during the March 2nd event, however - even if it does - Bond says Joni Eareckson-Tada may decline the invitation over concerns her physical condition could keep her from performing at her best. However, Tada has indicated on her website 'Joni and Friends', that she will be performing the song at the Movie Guide Awards in February.
Bond says Tada considers her recording of 'Alone Yet Not Alone' “a good but not a great one”, however, she says "the Academy recognizing this humble, good little song is rather wonderful.”
- RBG News
World Vision, UNICEF, UNHCR, Save the Children, and other agencies united behind a call to governments, aid agencies and the public to champion the children of Syria by backing a $1 billion “No Lost Generation” aid intervention.
The organizations are so concerned about the situation facing millions of Syrian children that they are uniting behind a call for donor and public support to fund critical education and protection programs to lift Syrian children out of misery, isolation, and emotional and mental distress.
The “No Lost Generation” strategy is being publically unveiled one week ahead of a major donor pledging conference in Kuwait.
A major public engagement campaign under the hashtag #childrenofsyria is also being launched, using social media to enlist influential supporters and public contributors in the run up to the third-year anniversary of the conflict in March. World Vision is backing the “No Lost Generation” initiative with its ‘Stand With Me’ campaign – that spotlights the challenges facing children.
“Millions of Syrian children are in dire need, out of school, living in extreme vulnerability and we need to stand with them,” said World Vision’s Regional Leader for the Middle East, Conny Lenneberg. “The world needs to do more to ensure we don’t lose a generation of children, with all the terrible long-term implications that could bring.”
For nearly three years, Syria’s children have been the most vulnerable of all victims of the conflict, say the four organizations, seeing their families and loved ones killed, their schools destroyed and their hopes eroded. They have been wounded either physically, psychologically or both. Children have also become vulnerable to the worst types of exploitation including child labour and recruitment into armed groups and forces.
Over one million Syrian refugees are children, of which more than 425,000 are under the age of five. Most have fled to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq. The situation for over three million displaced children inside Syria is even more dire.
World Vision, UNHCR, UNICEF, Save the Children and other partners across the region will channel the $1 billion into programs that, in partnership with governments and local communities, deliver safe education, protection from exploitation, abuse and violence, psychological care and support and offer more opportunities for social cohesion and stability in an already volatile region.
- RBG News
14 year-old Aitzaz Hasan laid down his own life to potentially save hundreds if not thousands.
The Pakistani boy stopped the would be bomber outside his school in the small town of Hangu, in North Western Pakistan.
It’s thought the bomber was targeting a school assembly where many of the students were gathered.
Aitzaz and his cousin were on their way to school when they became suspicious of a man dressed in their school uniform who asked directions to the school.
When Aitzaz noticed the bomb on the man outside the school gate he tackled the man.
During the scuffle the bomb went off, killing the bomber and Aitzaz.
"Shaheed Aitizaz's brave act saved the lives of hundreds of students," the prime minister said in a statement.
Aitzaz’s father Mujahid Ali, has hailed his son as a martyr; he told a reporter, "My son made his mother cry, but saved hundreds of mothers from crying for their children."
Reports claim the school has up to 2000 students from both muslim sects of Sunni and Shias.
Many on social media are declaring Aitzaz Hasan as a national hero, and want him to be recognised for his selfless act.
Aitzaz Hasan is yet another Pakistani student to become a national hero after Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head after Taliban gunman boarded her school bus.
Yousafzai survived the shooting and has since become an outspoken advocate for educating girls.
- RBG News
Aid agencies are moving fast to get relief to Cyclone Ian's victims.
A State of Emergency has been declared in Tonga after Tropical Cyclone Ian made landfall on Saturday, hitting the country's outlying islands hard. Authorities here in New Zealand are on standby as they await requests for assistance; and Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand (Caritas NZ) has pledged $40,000 in support of Caritas Tonga’s response to the disaster.
Cyclone Ian caused extensive destruction in Tonga's Northern Ha’apai islands on Saturday, and in a press release Caritas NZ highlighted concerns for the local ecosystem. Director Julianne Hickey says, "We expect significant physical and human impact as Ha`apai is a fragile environment, already experiencing the impacts of climate change."
Having worked closely with Caritas Tonga for more than a decade in emergency response and development programmes, the NZ branch of Caritas is anticipating assessments from Ha'apai's local relief committees once regular communication resumes - only government and Red Cross satellite phones have been working.
Most of today's response focus has been on clean-up and re-establishing electricity supply. The Secretary General of the Tongan Red Cross, Sione Taumoefolau says they need to clear the roads - particularly the airport route - which are strewn with roofing iron, felled trees and power lines.
Another concern is the mental and emotional impact of such devastation. The main island in the Ha'apai group has a population of 6,000 people - between half and two-thirds of them are sheltering in the evacuation centre.
Mrs Hickey says Caritas Tonga has particular expertise in providing psychosocial support following a disaster, and Caritas NZ will support this again if needed.
Caritas NZ is accepting online and postal donations to the Tongan emergency relief via the Caritas Pacific Cyclone Fund.
- RBG News/ Newstalk ZB
An Auckland father is taking his son's school to the Human Rights Commission over the issue of religious instruction.
Roy Warren says Christian education classes offered at St Heliers Primary School are a form of discrimination.
The classes aren't compulsory, and have the support of most parents at the school, but Secular Education Network spokesman David Hines says kids who don't take them can get a hard time.
He says parents have the right to opt-out, but many are scared to because their children might be ostracised.
Mr Hines says making the class opt-out is a form of religious discrimination.
He says an opt-out religious class is a crime against both non-religious people, and people of other religions who might find it objectionable.It's one of the first times the Human Rights Commission has heard a specific complaint from an individual parent about religious classes.
Newstalk ZB/RBG News