Amidst what she believed to be a surge in “Islamophobia” following Donald Trump’s harsh comments about Muslims and ISIS, a Michigan woman took to the streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts, hoping to combat ignorance and redeem the religion of Islam.
Her experiment, however, yielded some unexpected results.
Mona Haydar, a native of Flint Township, was tired of hearing all of the anti-Muslim rhetoric being thrown around by Trump and other critics of Islam, so she decided to do something about it herself.
Image source: MLive/Mona Haydar
“There is definitely fear [in America], and I want to talk about it, because it’s actually misplaced and misguided — I am really nice!” Haydar told the Boston Globe.
Haydar and her husband, Sebastian Robins, were visiting Robins’ family in Massachusetts when Haydar said he got the idea to set up a booth and invite others to “Talk to a Muslim,” MLive reported.
“My husband Sebastian was inspired one night and remembered an episode of ‘This American Life’ where an Iraqi guy sets up shop with a sign that (read) ‘Talk to an Iraqi,'” Haydar told MLive. “So he thought why not do something similar.”
Haydar and Robins set up their booth outside a Cambridge library last Friday and Saturday with panels that read “Ask a Muslim” and “Talk to a Muslim,” the Globe reported. The couple supplied donuts, coffee and fruit to draw in the crowds.
“We just wanted to talk to people, and we didn’t see any harm in doing that,” Haydar told the Globe. “We are just normal people.” Haydar told the Globe.
But what happened next surprised Haydar.
According to the Globe, Haydar’s experiment sparked a series of conversations about religion, politics, history and even sports.
If fear and intolerance of Muslims in America has been on the rise lately, Haydar’s interactions with Cambridge locals did not reflect it. Her unexpected big takeaway was that “the community is loving.”
Though Haydar was hesitant at first “because of all the Donald Trump rhetoric,” she learned something during the experiment that confirmed her personal beliefs about humanity.
“I am love,” Haydar told the Globe. “All people at their cores are love. Some do bad things and stray from that, but ultimately I am good and kind because we all are. I am a reflection of my community. My human community.”
Haydar, whose experience has inspired her to set up another booth in the future, had positive things to say about Americans as a whole:
“We believe in what this country was built on,” Haydar told the Globe. “We believe in the dream of the Founding Fathers. Yes, we are largely a community with more recent immigrant roots than other Americans, but that doesn’t make us inferior. Every person in this country came from somewhere else except for my Native American sisters and brothers.”
(H/T: The Boston Globe)
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The city of Wadena, Minnesota, has received a lot of press this holiday season, but one woman thinks there is something the media overlooked.
Back in November, city officials voted to remove a cherished nativity display from a local park after the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based atheist activist group, threatened legal action.
Every year, the tiny city of roughly 4,000 would set up the beloved nativity in Burlington Northern Park, but the trouble began last year when the display was moved to a central location, TheBlaze reported previously.
“They were offended that we had put it out on city property,” Mayor George Deiss said. “When something is put up that many years it becomes a tradition to the city.”
But just recently a woman named Joan Anderson emailed TheBlaze, indicating that there is much more to this story.
Anderson, an Illinois native, was in Minnesota visiting her brother in a nearby town and decided to make a detour to see if there was any Christmas spirit left in Wadena.
What she found was what she describes as “a blue-collar town full of the Love of God and the birth of Jesus.”
The town, founded in 1858, has a long history of faith, with nine churches to serve its minuscule population.
Photo by Joan Anderson.
Anderson drove past many of the churches before stopping for lunch at the local diner, Boondoggles. In her email, she described the friendly service she received and the unique scene she witnessed.
“These were hard-working farmers, laborers, truckers working hard to put food on their table and keep Christ in Christmas,” Anderson wrote. “But there was something different — it took me a while to put my finger on it.”
Then, while glancing around at the packed diner, she realized: not a single customer had a cell phone out. She noticed that people were talking to their spouses, laughing with their children and talking about their Christmas shopping.
Many of the patrons prayed before their meal. Anderson described the scene as “surreal” and “fantastic.”
As for the nativity scene debacle, Anderson discovered that there were a few things the FFRF might have overlooked.
After leaving the diner, Anderson took a stroll down the whole two blocks that comprise downtown Wadena. To her delight, she saw Nativity scenes in “nearly every shop window.”
And there’s more. According to Anderson, Wadena is a regular Christmas wonderland.
The town square has a gazebo where, “every single day,” a different family rents the space and erects a different nativity scene.
“I started crying with joy,” Anderson wrote, calling the experience “absolutely magical.”
The diner where she had eaten lunch was streaming Christmas music from two speakers atop its roof, and “every person that passed by” wished her a “Merry Christmas.”
Anderson joined TheBlaze’s Mike Opelka on Wilmington, Delaware radio station, WILM. Listen here:[audio mp3="http://www.theblaze.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Joan-Phone-Call-smaller.mp3"][/audio]
The hopeful story of this tiny city is best captured in Anderson’s own words:
The Atheist Grinch tried to take Christ out of Christmas but the Whos down in Whoville, would not have it. Christmas came, it came bigger and better than before!
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The American Life League, a group opposed to abortion, praised the victory of pro-life Christmas carolers outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Falls Church, Va.
ALL released a new video of the carolers late Wednesday, showing the carolers opposed to abortion singing Christmas carols outside the clinic, though not speaking directly about abortion. The group videoed the caroling after having been disbursed by police the previous day.
“Expressing the joy of Christmas in songs honoring the Lord of life is not a threat to those who appreciate the value of family, but we understand that to Planned Parenthood such ideas are anathema to their evil agenda,” American Life League President Judie Brown said in statement. “We are thankful that in this case at least the Lord’s victory has been affirmed. That is what it means to build a culture of life: to stand always and everywhere for Him and His truth.”
After being told about the noise ordinance, the legal team appealed to authorities, who determined the noise ordinance didn’t apply in this case. The ALL press release said, “The carolers returned two days before Christmas to sing and celebrate the birth of Christ, and to pray for an end to abortion.”
Here’s video of police confronting the carolers.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpWEa85iZbc&w=650&h=366]
Here is the video after the carolers returned.
Posted by American Life League on Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a group of Jewish extremists “a danger to Israeli society” following the broadcast Wednesday night of video taken at a wedding where guests appeared to celebrate the burning to death of a Palestinian baby.
“The shocking pictures that were broadcast this evening show the true face of a group that constitutes a danger to Israeli society and to the security of Israel,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
Channel 10 reported that those attending the wedding where guns and knives were brandished included friends of men detained by Israeli security forces suspected of being connected to a July arson attack. (Image source: Channel 10)
Israel’s Channel 10 news obtained cellphone video that was taken at the wedding, in which extremist Israelis passed around army-issued automatic weapons and let children also dance with the guns. Other guests could be seen waving knives, and one man held what appeared to be a Molotov cocktail.
The most shocking part of the video appeared to show a wedding guest repeatedly stabbing a photo of 18-month-old baby Ali Dawabsha who was burned to death along with his parents in a July 31 arson attack on the family home in the village of Duma in the West Bank. Israeli investigators believe Jewish extremists were behind the attack.
“We are not prepared to accept people who deny the laws of the state and do not view themselves as subject to them,” Netanyahu said.
Channel 10 marked with a red circle the moment in the video (around 1:12) that guests began stabbing the photo.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfkd0r1yY10&w=650&h=366]
Israel’s Shin Bet security service arrested an unspecified number of Jewish suspects in connection with the arson attack and has reportedly been treating them in a similar manner to Palestinian terrorism suspects, which has elicited condemnation from their lawyers and supporters.
Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett confirmed Wednesday that the treatment in custody included preventing them from meeting with their lawyers and depriving them of sleep.
Answering criticism about the Shin Bet’s treatment of the detainees in an attempt to elicit confessions, Bennett of the right-wing Jewish Home party called the attack an act of terrorism.
“They burned a family in their sleep,” Bennett said in a speech Wednesday. “They want to tear apart the state of Israel. These are terrorists.”
Channel 10 reported that the wedding where the video was taken was of a couple “known very well in the extreme right wing,” adding that among the friends of the newlyweds were also friends of those arrested in connection with the arson attack.
Reporting on the suspects’ identity is subject to a court gag order in Israel; however, the U.S. Jewish newspaper the Forward reported that one of the suspects holds both U.S. and Israeli citizenship.
We live in an era that seems to be full of more despair and hopelessness than any time in recent memory. As we look around and see the increase in violence and poverty, just to name a few, many of us wonder what can be done to get our country back on track. It seems that with every step forward we take, it is inevitable that we eventually takes three steps back.
As the search for true change continues, there is one area quietly being reformed from the inside out – correctional facilities.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Investing in the incarcerated is a ministry seldom considered in today’s society. It isn’t as sexy as a mission trip to foreign countries nor is it as accessible as serving a meal at your local homeless shelter. Don’t get me wrong, all of those ministries are needed and do amazing work; but the need for sharing God’s love inside prison walls is just as imperative, yet is often overlooked.
Consider some of these facts:
These statistics impact all of us, even if we don’t personally know someone in prison. After all, those incarcerated will one day reintegrate back into the public, becoming our neighbors, coworkers and fellow citizens.
To make a lasting change, we must begin by building into these incarcerated men and women; instead of turning a blind eye.
There are some wonderful organizations around the country doing exactly that by bringing the love and grace of Jesus Christ into correctional facilities. For my family and I, working with the incarcerated has become one of our missions in life. That is why we serve with Kairos Prison Ministries and founded The Four-Seven.
Through these organizations, we have the honor of working one on one with incarcerated men and women. And what we have found is not surprising to those who have been a part of these ministries – it works.
For many of these men and women, they have never experienced unconditional love. They have never experienced forgiveness and grace. They have never experienced a supportive community. As many of them will tell you, like generational poverty, incarceration in their families has become a generational norm and expectation.
It is a struggle that many are not equipped to overcome.
But there is hope in the darkness.
When I sit and think of the times when God has transformed my life the most, I realize it has been when I am completely broken and totally lost. When I feel despair in my life, I become desperate for hope and saving. For many of us, that is the case.
That is why I believe the work of God is so powerful in our prison systems. These institutions are full of broken men and women who, like many of us on the outside, may feel lost and hopeless. And for God, they are the perfect clay to be molded.
It is important for us on the outside to show God’s love to those who are locked away. And we can only do that through community.
When it comes to sharing the Word of God, prisons are no different than city streets around the country – beating someone over the head with a Bible will accomplish nothing. Yet showing compassion, patience and love has the power to change lives.
If you don’t believe me, take it from a fellow who is currently serving time behind bars. This gentleman is engaging with these organizations of believers who come into the prison weekly to fellowship and share the Word of God. Here is what he shared with me (just one of many testimonies):
“[My life] has changed in so many ways in the nine years I have been locked up. First off, I’ve come to realize there is more to life than going to the bars every night getting drunk and partying. Family time and spending more time building these relationships are more important. Also, doing the right thing makes me feel good on the inside. Helping others brings you up and maybe helps lead them in the right direction.
Also, it helped show me there are people out there who really do care more for me than those ‘friends’ who were out there having fun with [me]. They’ve showed me that Jesus does love me no matter what sins I’ve committed and I’m not lost.”
How much of a change do these types of ministries have inside prisons? Take this for an example – the national recidivism rate (released inmates who re-offend) in the United States is just shy of 50 percent. The recidivism rate in the U.S. among inmates who have participated in the Kairos program? Less than 15 percent.
It works, and it changes lives forever.
These organizations are creating Godly communities in some of the darkest places in our country. And while they are incredibly successful, they are still in desperate need of additional volunteers to help reach more inmates around the country.
“Thank God for ministry that is holistic and meeting the needs of inmates in the prisons,” said prison chaplain Sylvia Moseley. “We need more prison ministries [and volunteers] that have a vision to reach, mind, body and soul, because we are commanded to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, and soul.”
As daunting as prisons and inmates may sound, God calls us to visit those in prison. Regardless of their crime, regardless of their past and regardless of their faults, they are just like you and I – children of God, worthy of His love.
If we want to change our neighborhoods, change our cities and change our world, we must start taking a strong interest in the lives of incarcerated.
And for those of you thinking this is a ministry you aren’t made for, I leave you with this:
Twenty-five years ago my father gave his heart to Christ – agreeing to do whatever the Lord asked of him, with one exception: working with inmates. My dad has spent the last 23 years sharing God’s love to men inside maximum security prisons.
It doesn’t take “someone special” to change the lives of the incarcerated, it just takes a willing heart.
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Amid the debate raging in Europe over the arrival of migrants from the predominantly Muslim Middle East and North Africa, British Prime Minister David Cameron emphasized in his Christmas message that the U.K. is a “Christian country” which has flourished due to its Christian values.
Cameron said that on Christmas, “[W]e celebrate the birth of God’s only son, Jesus Christ – the Prince of Peace. As a Christian country, we must remember what his birth represents: peace, mercy, goodwill and, above all, hope.”
“I believe that we should also reflect on the fact that it is because of these important religious roots and Christian values that Britain has been such a successful home to people of all faiths and none,” Cameron wrote.
He advised those celebrating the holiday with loved ones to take a moment to “think of those who cannot do the same,” such as those driven from of their homes by the Islamic State group.
“If there is one thing people want at Christmas, it’s the security of having their family around them and a home that is safe. But not everyone has that. Millions of families are spending this winter in refugee camps or makeshift shelters across Syria and the Middle East, driven from their homes by Daesh and [Syrian President Hafez] Assad,” Cameron said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.
The prime minister paid special tribute to doctors, nurses and volunteers who give their holidays to care for the sick and needy and military service personnel who are “targeting the terrorists” and defending Britain.
“It is because they face danger that we have peace,” he wrote.
According to a report issued earlier this week by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the number of migrants who have crossed illegally into Europe this year has passed one million.
President Barack Obama expressed his concern about persecuted Christians around the world, particularly an embattled church in the Middle East facing an onslaught from Islamic State terrorists.
“During this season of Advent, Christians in the United States and around the world are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ,” Obama said in the statement Wednesday. “At this time, those of us fortunate enough to live in countries that honor the birthright of all people to practice their faith freely give thanks for that blessing. Michelle and I are also ever-mindful that many of our fellow Christians do not enjoy that right, and hold especially close to our hearts and minds those who have been driven from their ancient homelands by unspeakable violence and persecution.”
P (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Obama is vacationing in Hawaii until the new year, but issued the written statement.
“In some areas of the Middle East where church bells have rung for centuries on Christmas Day, this year they will be silent; this silence bears tragic witness to the brutal atrocities committed against these communities by ISIL,” the president continued.
“We join with people around the world in praying for God’s protection for persecuted Christians and those of other faiths, as well as for those brave men and women engaged in our military, diplomatic, and humanitarian efforts to alleviate their suffering and restore stability, security, and hope to their nations,” Obama said.
He ended the statement, “As the old Christmas carol reminds us: The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men.”
An Iranian pastor serving a seven year sentence was released Monday after more than five years inside one of the country’s most brutal prisons, a church working to secure his freedom announced on its website.
“We are overjoyed and celebrating!” Elam church’s Executive Director David Yeghnazar said in a statement. “Farshid Fathi has been released today after five years in prison for his faith.”
Image source: Elam Church
“We are deeply grateful for your faithful prayers for Farshid while he has been in prison,” he continued. “We would like to request that you continue praying for Farshid today and in the coming weeks. Please pray especially for protection, his family and his adjustment to life outside prison.”
Yeghnazar said he would “share more information when possible.”
Fathi was arrested on Dec. 26, 2010, with dozens of other Christians in the Iranian capital of Tehran.
The married father of two was accused of taking “actions against national security,” according to the American Center for Law and Justice. He was scheduled for release next year, but was later granted an early release date before being set free this week.
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Singer David Crowder, who regularly churns out hits on the Christian charts, recently said on The Church Boys podcast that his two favorite songs ever written are “Happy Birthday” and the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
As for “Happy Birthday,” Crowder, who recently released the “Neon Porch Extravaganza” EP, said that there’s brilliance is in the fact that such a simple song allows for everyone’s name to be placed in the lyrics
“Happy Birthday” has become a beloved tradition and is, no doubt, the most well-known tune in America.
“Who could write a song that has everybody’s name in it?” Crowder said. “That’s genius right there.”
As for “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the national anthem of the United States of America, he called it “one of the most perfect pieces of poetry ever” and said that it’s “the best song ever written, maybe.”
“It’s unbelievable the way the story unfolds … you don’t even know what you’re singing about until later,” Crowder said of the lyrics. “You can’t see the flag until the moment of conflict … it’s ‘still there,’ ‘bombs bursting in air.'”
Crowder also discussed his career, the Grammys and plenty more. Listen to his Church Boys appearance at the 35:40 mark below:[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/237207440" params="auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height='450' iframe="true" /]
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Speculation about Jesus’ physical appearance is nothing new, with contemporary perceptions typically being restricted to depictions of Christ that are presented in the art and pop culture realms — illustrations that are frequently critiqued for being patently inaccurate.
That in mind, the Department of Art and Design at Bluefield College, a Christian, liberal arts school in Bluefield, Virginia, recently decided to create a composite image of 20 different actors who have played Jesus on the big screen.
“The origin of the idea is that with Christmas coming up, several of these movies will be played for the holiday season and it’s interesting to see how Jesus has been portrayed in Hollywood over time,” Ryan Taylor, who is helping promote the project, told TheBlaze. “So in a sense, it is a media studies, art and design, and holiday project all in one.”
Here’s what the college’s Jesus composite looks like:
The image combines photos of the following actors: Brian Deacon, Chris Sarandon, Christian Bale, Diogo Morgado, Enrique Irazoqui, Ewan McGregor, Haaz Sleiman, Halvard Hoff, HB Warner, Henry Ian Cusick, Jeffrey Hunter, Jeremy Sisto, Jim Caviezel, John K Steel, Juan Pablo Di Pace, Max von Sydow, Robert Powell, Ted Neeley, Will Ferrell and Willem Dafoe. You can see all of the images here.
But the Department of Art and Design didn’t stop with the composite image of Christ, going on to also create a separate photo that combines photos of 21 notable actors who played Satan.
“Originally, they were just going to do Jesus, but decided that it would be interesting to do the [devil] as well, considering there have been several portrayals of him in film,” Taylor said.
See the devilish composite below:
The actors included are: Al Pacino, Anton Lavey, Bruce Payne, Clarence Williams, Claude Rains, David Warner, Elizabeth Hurley, Gabriel Byrne, George Burns, Harvey Keitel, Jack Nicholson, Max von Sydow, Peter Cook, Peter Fonda, Peter Stormare, Robert De Niro, Rosalinda Celentano, Tom Waits, Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Price and Walter Huston. See that composite come to life here.
You might have noticed that both George Burns and Max von Sydow played both Christ and Satan, landing the latter in both composites.
As for the picture of Jesus, Taylor said that the most surprising element is “how ‘unsurprising’ it is,” as “Jesus has been portrayed as very ‘European’ or ‘westernized,’ sometimes even having blonde hair and blue eyes.”
“The composite image shows that pretty clearly,” he said.
As TheBlaze previously reported, the debate over Christ’s physical appearance continues to forge on. Read about it here.
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