Friday, October 5, 2012

'Asia's Underground Railroad'

A scholar and author credits the efforts of many brave souls for the fact that a growing number of North Koreans have been able to escape the brutal dictatorship and reach sanctuary in South Korea and even the United States.

Melanie Kirkpatrick, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, has done extensive research on what has become the modern-day version of the Underground Railroad.

"North Korea is the world's most repressive state. It is truly hell on earth," she asserts. "The Kim family regime controls every aspect of a person's life, even whether or not they eat. Food is distributed by the state, and the elites get to eat, and the ordinary people sometimes don't."
Consequently, desperate North Koreans have made their way into China, hoping to connect to an underground railroad to the West.

"This underground railroad was set up about 12 or so years ago. And it is run by two groups of people: by brokers who are in it for the money, and then more importantly and perhaps more effectively, by humanitarians -- mostly Christians who are in it to serve God," the author details.
Kirkpatrick estimates that 24,000 North Koreans have made it to safety in South Korea since 1953, and more than half have gotten there in the past ten years. A core group of North Korean refugees now live in South Korea.


Mira Sorvino: Saving Sex Slaves

In 1995, Mira Sorvino won an Academy Award for her role as a prostitute in the Woody Allen film Mighty Aphrodite. Today, Sorvino, a mother of four and devout Christian, spends much of her time trying to free young women and girls from the throes of forced prostitution.

The UN's Goodwill Ambassador to Combat Human Trafficking, Sorvino is a passionate advocate for the cause—taking trips abroad to observe the problem, researching the issue, giving speeches and interviews on the topic, and, most recently, making a movie about it. Trade of Innocents, a drama about the sex trafficking industry in Southeast Asia, opens Friday in New York and will expand to other theaters across the U.S. in the weeks ahead.

Mira Sorvino in 'Trade of Innocents'
Mira Sorvino in 'Trade of Innocents'

In the film, Sorvino plays the wife of an NGO worker (Dermot Mulroney) in Cambodia who is trying to help local police crack down on human trafficking. Sorvino's character, grieving the murder of her own daughter, volunteers with girls who have been rescued from sexual slavery.

As a young girl, Sorvino read the Diary of Anne Frank and was influenced by the horrors of the holocaust. As a Harvard student, she wrote her thesis on the causes of conflict between Chinese and African students; she recently wrote (in Guideposts) that she "wanted to understand what gave rise to one human being's ability to see another as somehow less than human."

CT interviewed Sorvino recently by e-mail about Trade of Innocents and her passionate activism.
Why did you want to play this role?

I felt that it was a moving portrayal of the plight of children being sold for sex, and highlighted some potent strategies to fight it. Since I spend a great deal of my time working on that fight with the UN, I felt it could be a powerful combination of my activist efforts and my artistic ventures.

You did Lifetime TV's Human Trafficking back in 2005. Any similarities between the two projects?
They are both about modern day slavery, but Trade of Innocents is exclusively about the sale of children for sexual exploitation, and the protagonists are not law enforcement but NGO workers. 

Dermot's character works on undercover sting operations that gather evidence to spur police raids on brothels dealing in little girls, and I play his bereaved wife (we have lost our daughter to a pedophile) who is now finding new hope by helping formerly trafficked girls rehabilitate in a shelter. In real life, law enforcement and NGO efforts must go hand in hand; it is the only way to tackle the crime from both the perpetrator and victim sides of the fence.

When Self Injury Turns Suicidal for Teens

U. MISSOURI (US) — A survey of more than 60,000 Minnesota teens showed than about 4,000 reported injuring themselves and nearly half of those attempted suicide.

"Of the teens who engaged in non-suicidal self injury, hopelessness was a prominent factor that differentiated those who attempted suicide from those who did not have a history of suicide attempts," says Lindsay Taliaferro. (Credit: Veer)

Researchers who analyzed the survey have identified factors that will help parents, medical professionals, and educators recognize teens at risk for self injury and suicide.

“For many young people, suicide represents an escape from unbearable situations—problems that seem impossible to solve or negative emotions that feel overwhelming,” says Lindsay Taliaferro, an assistant professor of health sciences at the University of Missouri.


Letter from a Former Atheist

What happens when an atheist is honest enough to recognize the reality of the atheist worldview and then decides to read God's Word to see what the Creator of the universe has to say and offer? Read through Farris Johnson of Clemson University's account and then pray such a thing will happen to many more who are currently like he was.
Although I was raised in the conservative Bible belt, by middle school I had left any "faith" I might have had behind. I gravitated from a very early age towards liberal politics and humanism. As a young high schooler I made the intellectual leap from agnosticism to atheism and continued on in my humanist pursuits by working for many political campaigns and non-profit organizations.
As an atheist, I realized my claims about God, immortality, and morality was rendering a certain meaninglessness over life - however this is certainly not how I lived. I lived for political and social projects, I used language like "progress" and "injustice" while simultaneously knowing that if I were pressed to provide a definition to such things, I couldn't give an honest answer for why I believed they existed or even what they meant. Life was lived in two realms: 1) I knew their was a meaninglessness, non-absolute, subjective, and as far as I knew, possibly incoherent habitat for my 'existence,' but 2) I put this knowledge in a box in order to proceed with my own personal meaning. I realized that essentially, I was using some Grand Lie which ascribed unintelligible significance to my relationships and passions and work. As unstoppable meaning-makers, I think a secular person's difficulty is in eventually accepting that any meaning they create is nothing more than a very serious game of make-believe.
Make-believe isn't very difficult in itself, but it is very tiring to continue to realize that your whole life is inconsistent - this was the state of exhaustion I found myself at. I found myself very disillusioned by the intellectual and moral incoherence within my own thinking. I thought it would help to backtrack and be more careful in my rationale, become a more solid atheist, but came to a conclusion that it would be an impossibility for me to be completely consistent.


Amendment 8 pits religious groups against backers of church-state separation

Dead almost 120 years, James Blaine — the GOP presidential candidate in 1884 — is making an appearance in Florida's 2012 election.
When voters go to the polls in November, they will be asked if they want to delete the so-called Blaine Amendment from Florida's constitution. Also called the "no aid provision," it prohibits state aid to religious institutions.

The push to alter what has been in Florida's Constitution since 1885 has ignited a complicated, hot-button debate.
Those supporting a "yes" vote on Amendment 8 say removing Blaine's language will protect religious freedom and remove a sentence tainted by the politics and prejudices of the late 19th Century. Opponents call the measure an underhanded effort to expand school voucher programs and shift taxpayer funding from public to private schools.
Like similar provisions in more than 30 other states' constitutions, Florida's was named for Blaine, the Maine Congressman who tried unsuccessfully to get a similar sentence inserted into the U.S. Constitution. It bans state aid to "any church, sect, or religious denomination or…sectarian institution" and is viewed as a stricter requirement for church-state separation than found in the federal constitution.
The Florida Legislature, which put the measure on the ballot, wants it deleted and replaced with a sentence that says the government cannot deny funding based on religion. Sixty percent of voters must agree for the change to be made.
Catholic dioceses and organizations are leading the push for the proposal and have provided the bulk of the more than $177,000 raised in that effort.
They say the "no aid" provision is rooted in anti-Catholic bigotry — some argue racism, too — and threatens the ability of religious groups to offer government-funded social service programs.
The reason for the ballot push, they say, is a 2007 case in which two Christian halfway houses for prisoners were sued on the grounds that their state contracts violated Florida's "no aid" provision. The case remains unresolved, but an appeals court has ruled that a trial can proceed.
"We do see the current provision as a threat," said Michael Sheedy of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is representing the Florida halfway houses and has been fighting to remove Blaine Amendments from state constitutions.
"They act as kind of a disqualifying measure specifically for religious entities," said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel.
Opponents include most major education groups, such as the Florida PTA, the Florida School Boards Association and Florida Education Association teachers' union. They have $1 million from the union's political action committee to use in their campaign against it.
They call the ballot measure's "religious freedom" title a misnomer, arguing Catholics and other religious groups take part in many public offerings, from health-care to Florida's pre-kindergarten program.


Student Who Got 'Gay Cure' Sues California Over New Law

A college student who claims he once had same-sex attractions but became heterosexual after conversion therapy has filed a lawsuit against California, which has enacted a law that bans so-called "gay cures" for minors.
The lawsuit, also joined as plaintiffs by two therapists who have used the treatments with patients, alleges that the law banning the therapy intrudes on First Amendment protections of free speech, privacy and freedom of religion.
The student, Aaron Blitzer, who is studying to be a therapist in that field, said the law would prevent him from pursuing his career, according to court papers filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.
The lawsuit names as defendants California Gov. Jerry Brown, as well as 21other state officials, including members of the California Board of Behavioral Sciences and the California Medical Board.
The other plaintiffs are Donald Welsch, a licensed family therapist and ordained minister who operates a Christian counseling center in San Diego; and Dr. Anthony Duk, a psychiatrist and practicing Roman Catholic.
Both say the law would restrict their counseling practices, according to the lawsuit.
"It's it's an egregious violation of the rights of young people feeling same-sex attraction, and of parents and counselors who feel it would be beneficial for the individual needs of a young person," said Brad Dacus, president and attorney for the conservative Pacific Justice Institute, which asked a federal judge to prevent the law from taking effect.
"The legislature had an errant assumption that every individual struggling with same-sex attraction is caused by their DNA," he said. "It ignores thousands, including the plaintiff, who have gone through therapy and are now in a happy and healthy heterosexual relationship."
Dacus declined ABC News' request for direct access to the plaintiffs. 

6,000 Christian pilgrims arrive in Israel

Some 6,000 Christian friends of Israel from over 100 countries, led by Evangelical community leaders, have arrived in Israel to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles).

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov will welcome the thousands of Christian visitors to the feast in a special broadcast at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem.

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is arranging the events surrounding the feast, with assistance from the Tourism Ministry.

The events surrounding the Feast of Tabernacles, which is considered to be the largest single tourist event in Israel, attract thousands of Christian visitors from Brazil, Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Chile , Austria, India, Italy, Nigeria, Finland, Norway and other countries.
During the course of the week, the tourists will visit the major Christian holy sites around the country and will participate in seminars, lectures, workshops and the Jerusalem March on Thursday.
The visit by some 6,000 pilgrims is expected to add tens of thousands of overnight stays in hotels, and an estimated overall injection of about NIS 25-30 million (about $6.5-7.5 million) into the economy, including restaurants, sites, shopping, etc.

BE the CHURCH AMERICANS: Support Pours in for Blount County Church After Fatal Crash

Some members of Cedar Grove Baptist Church spent Thursday afternoon writing thank-you notes.
They've had to order new cards in the past few weeks simply to keep up with their responses to the dozens of cards, condolence letters and donations they've received recently.

"That's one of the things that has helped us - so many people are thinking about Cedar Grove Baptist Church now who didn't even know where we were before," Pastor Bob Lynch said.

Nearly three weeks ago, on the morning of Sept. 16, a church van carrying 12 members back from a youth retreat in Gatlinburg was struck head-on. It flipped and caught fire, killing 45-year-old Jeff Trussell and 16-year-old Courteney Kaliszewski, and injuring several more.

"The trauma is still as deep today as it was three weeks ago," Lynch said. "They were going to tell about their experiences on the retreat, they were going to lead in prayer, they were going to read scripture, they were going to share what God had been doing with their lives, but they didn't get to do that."


Jim Wallis’ Sojourners & Rabbis Group to Post Pro-Islam NYC Subway Ads to Counter Anti-Jihad Posters

The religious war is intensifying on New York City’s subway platforms. Two faith groups will hang ads urging tolerance toward Muslims alongside blogger Pamela Geller’s anti-jihad advertisements that equate Muslim radicals with savages.

The ads by Rabbis for Human Rights – North America and the Christian group Sojourners will go up Monday. This latter organization is led by Jim Wallis, a progressive pastor who advises President Barack Obama and who has been an outspoken proponent of liberal values. TheBlaze first told you about his group’s ad campaign on Monday.

The New York Times reports that they’ll hang in the 10 Manhattan subway stations where the anti-jihad ads implying enemies of Israel are “savages” appear. So far, no plans to counter Geller’s bus ads have been announced (the blogger is still awaiting approval from the Metropolitan Transit Authority to launch an expanded ad campaign on the NYC bus system).

The rabbis’ ad says: “In the choice between love and hate, choose love. Help stop bigotry against our Muslim neighbors.”
Jim Wallis Sojourners & Rabbis Group to Post Pro Islam NYC Subway Ads to Counter Anti Jihad Posters
Photo Credit: Rabbis for Human Rights - North America

“We wanted to make it clear that it is in response to the anti-Islam ad,” explained Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights. ”Geller thinks she is speaking for the entire Jewish community. We are a group of 1,800 rabbis and we want everyone to know that we have to work in partnership with the Muslim community and do not believe in dehumanizing them.”
Wallis’ Christian ad says: “Love your Muslim neighbors.”


FLORIDA NEWS: Churches to hold 40 days of prayer to deter crime

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings is hoping 40 days of prayer hosted by Orlando's faith community will help stem the tide of gun violence plaguing the area.
He's calling the program "Operation Transformation," which involves about 50 churches and community members pledging to pray against violence following the shooting of 15-year-old Danielle Sampson, who was caught in gunfire this summer and has been in a coma ever since.


Yale University May Revoke Fraternity's Charter Due to Its Christians-Only Bylaw

Reports from Yale University indicate that the largest Christian fraternity in the nation is struggling to attain official recognition at the prestigious school because its religion-based bylaws conflict with the school's non-discrimination policy.

Beta Upsilon Chi (BYX), the largest Christian fraternity in the nation, opened its new chapter at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., in mid-September. Just days after its opening, however, the school newspaper reported that the fraternity "will have to change its membership rules if it intends to comply with Yale's anti-discrimination policies."
The fraternity only allows men who are Christian to join, although it welcomes all students to its events.

"If somebody was interested in the group and was not Christian … unfortunately, we would not allow them to be able to rush the chapter," Victor Hicks, a 2015 graduate and the chapter's founder and president, told the student-run newspaper Yale Daily News.

"Being a brother of the fraternity is being a Christian. It's one of the requirements," Hicks added.
Yale's non-discrimination policy does not allow student groups to carry the Yale name if they in any way discriminate against "sex, race, color, religion, age, disability, or national or ethnic origin," although, as Christian student news source World on Campus points out, there are exceptions, such as the student group Yale Law Women barring men from membership.

Dem Politician Refuses to Lead Pledge of Allegiance at Meeting: ‘I Don’t Pray in Public’

Politicians and candidates are all-too-often derided for making accidental — and silly — public pronunciations and gaffes. But it’s not a frequent occurrence for a leader to make headlines for what he or she refrains from saying. However, this is the case surrounding Pennsylvania State Representative Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia), whose stance on the Pledge of Allegiance is creating controversy.

As WHTM-TV reports, Josephs refused to lead fellow politicians in the Pledge on Wednesday. Her reasoning? We’ll let her tell you in her own words: ”Based on my First Amendment rights and based on the fact that I really think it’s a prayer. I don’t pray in public.”

Chairman Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) and State Representative Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia)
She made the aforementioned statement in front of lawmakers after Republican Chairman Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) asked her if she would lead the group in the recitation. The odd moment, which WHTM-TV plainly describes as “awkward,” was quickly remedied when Metcalfe called on another member to recite the Pledge.
After the scenario played out, Josephs attempted to further explain her reasoning for not uttering the so-called prayer. The politician referenced the decision, in 1954, by Congress to add the words “under God” to the national declaration and said that the action — which was taken when she was just 14-years-old — makes the Pledge a prayer.
“How many years ago was 1954? I have not said the Pledge of Allegiance since and I will not say it into the future unless they take those words out and make it less of a prayer,” she said.


OHIO NEWS: Emmaus Road Releases Public Policy Book on Definition of Marriage

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio, Oct. 5, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ -- Emmaus Road Publishing (ERP) announced today the release of "Getting the Marriage Conversation Right: A Guide for Effective Dialogue," available online at, Amazon, or your local Catholic bookstores.

"Getting the Marriage Conversation Right" by William B. May has just joined the culture war. But this is not an anti-homsexual pro-Christian book, because (surprise!) it's not a homosexual vs. Christian quarrel. A thirst-quenching approach to the oft predictable war of words, May offers a conversation in a reality-based, reasoned approach to the public policy debate on marriage. He brings into the legal definition of marriage the rights of children, and provides sensible guidelines on how to avoid common traps that hinder communications for advocating public policy about marriage.

Mike Sullivan, president of Catholics United for the Faith (CUF) and publisher of ERP, said: "Today's national debate about the meaning of marriage is everywhere and is influencing our children, friends, and families. We must be part of it. CUF has long been at the forefront searching for clear ways to communicate with culture. That's why I'm thrilled to publish this 'how to' guide that will facilitate reasonable conversations about the true meaning of marriage."

Former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican and Mayor of Boston Raymond L. Flynn: "This communication guide is an invaluable resource for answering questions and explaining what is at stake for the future of marriage and the rights of children if marriage is redefined. Every family should have one."

If you've ever been in a discussion about marriage and not known how to explain it in non-religious terms, or if you have children or grandchildren and have struggled to answer the tough questions they bring home from school, or if you've had difficulty explaining the difference between civil and religious marriage or why the government should be in the business of sanctioning marriages at all, get this book! "Getting the Marriage Conversation Right" includes a substantial section of FAQs at the heart of the conflict.

Marriage is the only institution that unites children with their parents, and that has been recognized by every culture, society, and religion, each according to their own competencies. "Getting the Marriage Conversation Right" seeks to recognize that interest in laws, societal institutions, and individuals. It aims to rebuild a marriage culture by influencing public policy on the civil recognition of marriage.

Available at, Amazon, or your local Catholic bookstores.

Contact Shannon Minch-Hughes
Emmaus Road Publishing
827 N. Fourth Street
Steubenville, OH 43952
Telephone: 740-283-2484 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            740-283-2484      end_of_the_skype_highlighting; ext 115
Fax: 740-283-4011

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