Sunday, September 16, 2012

Motion 312 and the Quest for Justice

Last week my wife and I spent two days in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, visiting the battlefield where the greatest battle of the American Civil War was fought and where President Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address. We then spent two days touring the monuments of Washington D.C., including the Lincoln Memorial and the Holocaust Museum. Both stops on our trip provided their share of moving experiences and gave us a glimpse into a different time, but one with similar challenges.

As I read the Gettysburg Address my mind was drawn to what I view as the greatest injustice of our time. In Lincoln's day it was the slave trade. In our day it is the abortion industry. What would a Canadian Lincoln say today? I can't say for sure, but here's my best attempt.

In 1867 our fathers constituted a new nation on this continent - the Dominion of Canada. Psalm 72:8 was selected as a verse from which the name of the new country would be derived. Referring to a future Messianic king, Solomon wrote “He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth.” (Psalm 72:8) Our nation was founded by people of faith, who recognized God as the source of life, and the giver of freedom.

In 1982, as our nation established a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, included prominently among those rights was that "everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person..." Canadian men and women have laid down their lives to defend these rights, and to build a nation that has been known as a bastion of freedom and peace. Yet, in the midst of our peace-keeping and our defense of freedom we hear a barely audible cry from one segment of our society which has been denied those same rights which we all hold sacred.

Every year in Canada more than 100,000 people meet their demise at the hands of medical professionals who took an oath to do no harm. These human beings have no voice to defend themselves. With the inability to speak for themselves, they have even been stripped of their status as human beings, in spite of scientific evidence to the contrary.

Every effort to speak our on their behalf is met by extreme opposition by those who ought to be raising their voices to protect rather than destroy. As a nation, we have chosen to turn a blind eye to the plight of these multiplied thousands. Where are our leaders with the courage of their convictions?

In the heat of wartime, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that all American slaves would be "thenceforward and forever free." The moment had arrived for stating the obvious: among other issues, the Civil War was about the freedom of a people from the tyranny of slavery. Lincoln was the lightning rod for all of those who benefited from this obscene practice. We look back and shake our heads that anyone could have believed that it was their "right" to keep another human being as a slave.

It is my firm belief that we will look back, not many years from now, and hang our heads in shame that we allowed the despicable practice of abortion. We are at the place in our culture today that we cannot even have a civil discussion. In our popular media we don't refer to them as babies, they are human embryos or fetuses. We only call them babies when the mother wants them. A few years ago they were blobs of cells, but advancements in science have put the lie to that line of reasoning. Yet the truth is hidden from the public consciousness. A large percentage of Canadians actually believe that there is a law restricting abortion in Canada! We have been without one since 1982 - the only civilized country in the world with that distinction. 

While researching this article I searched for abortion methods in Canada and came across this site:  The clinical language used conceals the fact that living human beings are usually torn limb from limb as they are being suctioned from their mother's womb. This is the case for some 90% of abortions in Canada. The realities of abortion are far from clinical, and almost always stops a beating heart. 

M.P. Stephen Woodworth
Shamefully, none of the major political parties in Canada have leadership that will speak out in favor of the protection of the unborn. In fact Prime Minister Stephen Harper, (yes, the one that many media claim has a secret agenda to outlaw abortion) has spoken out against Motion 312, a Private Members Bill by one of his own Members of Parliament, Stephen Woodworth. He has also publicly stated that this bill will not be supported by the government, assuring its demise. What is the purpose of the Bill? To review the section of the Criminal Code which states that a child becomes a human being only at the moment of complete birth. It is a 400 year old law based on 400 year old science! Yet the entrenchment of abortion rights are so concretized that we cannot even have a discussion about the obvious.

How long will it be until people are willing to open their eyes, and what will it take to create the moral will to right this horrible wrong? If you are a student of history, you are aware that many cultures have sacrificed their children to their idols in order to curry favour in the form of good crops or protection in battle. We marvel at their ignorance and their cruelty. Yet our "modern civilization" has continued this practice by sacrificing our children on the altar of convenience and pragmatism. May God have mercy on us.

Related Articles:
Can We Talk? I Guess Not.
Conservatives Turn on Their Own
Canada Now an Abortion Destination
Why the abortion issue won't go away
Heads In The Sand


Friday, September 14, 2012

Why is Youcef Nadarkhani Free?

While I was on vacation, I heard the news that Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani had been released from the Iranian prison that held him captive for three years. That was September 8th. This was great news for the many people, including myself, who've been praying for his release since we heard of his plight. But why is he free, I was asked? We prayed, tweeted, and petitioned, but why now?

There are a lot of different factors at play here and, while this event means the world to Nadarkhani and his family and friends, it does not change the fact that people are being held in prison for their faith around the world - including still in Iran. In fact, some would say that Pastor Youcef may be in greater danger now than he was when he was being held in prison. It is all too common for Christian leaders to simply "disappear" one day and never be seen or heard from again.

The official word out of Iran was that Nadarkhani was acquitted by a court in Rasht after having been sentenced to death for abandoning Islam. He was, however, convicted of evangelizing among Muslims, a crime with a 3 year prison sentence - time he had already served. So he was released. But why now? And why the about-turn after repeated appeals that failed and even resulted in the imprisonment of his lawyer? I don't pretend to know the answers, but here are some talking points.

  • Iranian Prime Minister Ahmadinijad will be speaking at the United Nations in New York on September 26th. It makes sense that Iran would want to get this high profile case out of the news before his appearance. Nadarkhani's cause has been taken up by numerous world leaders and Iran can use all the good P.R. they can get. On the other hand, Iran has not shown much concern for international opinion.
  • It may be that Iranian leaders simply wanted to put an end to the public attention Youcef's case has been drawing, and they didn't want the negative attention his execution would bring. They were able to save face by convicting him of evangelizing among Muslims. Again, hopefully this does not result in a less formal or less public form of Islamic "justice."
  • There may have been disagreement among Iranian leadership as to what to do with Nadarkhani. His lawyer, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, argued in court that Iran, as a signatory to several international treaties, was required to allow freedom of religion.The idea that Iran allows for freedom of religion is a joke, not only in Iran but in any nation using Sharia law. 
The bottom line is that we really don't know the official machinations that resulted in Youcef's release. We do celebrate and rejoice with him and his family regardless and I do look at it as an answer to prayer. He has stated his intention to continue with his pastoral ministry, so I cannot believe that his troubles are over. Perhaps now, though, attention can turn to others who are suffering a similar fate as Nadarkhani was.

According to CIA's World Factbook, Christians, Jews and Hindi face relentless persecution. And according to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), the group largely responsible for bringing public attention to Youcef's case, another Pastor, Farshid Fathi, has been locked up in Iran’s Evin prison since December 2010 for what the ACLJ describes as practicing his Christian faith.

He was distributing Bibles in Iran's language of Farsi, and thus was accused of  “actions against national security.” The prison is notorious for its horrid conditions, physical and psychological torture, violent interrogations and sleep deprivation. He is one of many Iranian Pastors paying a high price for his faith.

What is the answer? I don't know. What I do know from history is that the church has often grown the most during times of persecution - witness the initial growth of the early church after persecution broke out in Jerusalem. In fact, throughout history, persecution in some form or another has been the norm. The church in Iran has been experiencing "explosive growth" says Open Doors, a ministry serving the persecuted church. While we must continue to pray for the wrongfully imprisoned, and work and speak out for justice, always remember that God often uses the most difficult situations to advance His Kingdom.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani (c) embracing his wife and children after being released from prison near Rasht, Iran, on Saturday, September 8. Photo: Church of Iran for BosNewsLife
In a letter to his church from prison, Pastor Youcef wrote, "Let us remember that sometimes the leap of faith leads us towards some impasses. Just as the Word led the sons of Israel leaving Egypt toward the impasse of the Red Sea. These impasses are midway between promises of God and their fulfillment and they challenge our faith. Believers are to accept these challenges as a part of their spiritual course." I admire his faith and thank God for his freedom.

Related Articles:
Iranian Pastor Sentenced to Death - Update
Iranian Pastor Sentenced to Death\
1000 Days In Jail
Iranian Pastor Conviction Is In - Death
Iran Arrests Nadarkhani's Lawyer