Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Christian soldiers who bring forgiveness

Ten minutes’ bumpy drive from the border with Thailand, past a strip of gaudy casinos and brothels in a landscape of denuded hillsides, is a place where travellers fear to stop.

Throughout Cambodia the border town of Pailin is known — apart from its gemstones — as the last bastion of the Khmer Rouge, from where its remnants fought the Government until 1998.

The reputation is enough to send most travellers rushing through to the capital, Phnom Penh, eight hours drive away. Locals say that about 70 per cent of the area’s older men were fighters and that nearly all families have links to the regime blamed for the deaths of 1.7 million of their compatriots between 1975 and 1979.

Among them are men guilty of the worst crimes of the 20th century. Yet in the past four years many who are now law-abiding farmers and traders have renounced their former leader Pol Pot as a servant of Satan; travellers today are likely to suffer nothing worse than a fervent attempt to bring them to the Lord.

Phannith Roth, a missionary who grew up half-starved in a labour camp, admitted that he was terrified when his congregation in the town of Siha-noukville begged him to go to Pailin to spread the Word.

“I was scared because there are landmines everywhere, malaria is rife and because of the Khmer Rouge, who everyone knows are cruel,” he said.

“But it was the Lord’s will.” Now his Pailin Bible Presbytery Church has about 40 former Khmer Rouge worshippers....

Pastor Phannith said that many chose Christianity because they did not find forgiveness in Buddhism, which teaches that a soul must pay for its sins during lives to come.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

What makes Christianity Different...

I was reading a paper that Dr Elaine Storkey presented at the Theologians Task Group at Amsterdam 2000. It was on the topic of the need for dialogue with people of other faiths in the pluralistic reality of today, and how it can be so important for the mission of the church.

Towards the end of the paper she tells a personal story that really illustrates why we as Christians need to be in dialogue with others...
I was recently involved in an inter-faith broadcast with the BBC World Service. The Jewish Rabbi and Islamic Professor and I were all answering questions sent in by listeners from all over the world. The discussion was courteous, good-humoured and pleasant until one question came up. It was about how we can identify the real believer from the counterfeit. We all agreed that it was by their fruits that we could know them. Then the Rabbi told us about the enormous weight of the Law which had been given to the people of Israel, and how we would need to see some evidence of seriousness about living in accordance with God's norms and standards. The Muslim went through all the obligations to worship, the great holiness of God, the need to counter all forms of evil and infidelity, the importance of the moral law, and on and on. When it came to me, the presented changed the question. "What do Christians have to do, Dr Storkey?" I took a deep breath and explained that Christians did not have to do anything. We had to simply hold our empty hands to receive all that Christ had done for us. For we could not reach these standards of God's on our own. It was only through the grace of God in the work of Christ that we were acceptable.

The Islamic professor was horrified, and lectured me for many minutes on the way this would open the door for young people to do anything they wished. I had two attempts to reply, when the Rabbi finally came to my aid. Putting a hand on the Muslim's shoulder he said, "My dear friend, you will have to accept what she says. You and I will never understand this. We are a Jew and a Muslim. But this grace is what Christians are all about. It is what makes Christianity different from every other religion." 

Evangelical Review of Theology 25:1 (2001) pp.45-52

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Obese men less likely to commit suicide, study finds - Los Angeles Times

"Obese men less likely to commit suicide, study finds" screamed the LA Times headline. It points to a study that shows that as the BMI of a man increases, the likelihood of him being depressive and suicidal decreases. If I couldn't enjoy food, I would be suicidal too!

Click here to read it.