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Filipinos celebrate Easter with crucifixion and flogging

Though frowned upon by the church, the gruesome re-enactments of Christ’s final moments draw thousands of believers — and tourists — in a carnival-like atmosphere that is big business for locals.

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Photos Courtesy: AFP

By AFP

Filipino zealots marked Good Friday with a bloody display of religious frenzy by having themselves nailed to crosses and whipping their backs raw in Asia’s bastion of Catholicism.

Though frowned upon by the church, the gruesome re-enactments of Christ’s final moments draw thousands of believers — and tourists — in a carnival-like atmosphere that is big business for locals.

DROPLETS

In towns located north of Manila at least three people had eight-centimetre (three-inch) spikes driven through their palms and feet in hot, dry fields. More devotees were expected to take part later in the day.

At the same time, bare-chested men, some of whose faces were concealed by hoods, lashed their backs bloody, as selfie-snapping onlookers watched.

A participant carrying his daughter walks to the crosses during a reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ during Good Friday celebrations ahead of Easter in the village of Cutud near San Fernando, north of Manila on March 30, 2018. PHOTO | NOEL CELIS | AFP

They left droplets of blood on cars, houses and even bottles of soda displayed on snack vendors’ tables that lined the road.

“If one of my family members gets sick, this is what we do,” said Norman Lapuot, 25, as he flogged himself with a bamboo-tipped whip. “I do this for my relatives.”

Lapuot, who said it was his fourth time taking part in the ceremony, added that he believed the ritual bloodletting had helped his grandfather recover from a stroke.

Participants have their bloodied backs whipped with bamboo as part of their penitence during the re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ for Good Friday celebrations ahead of Easter in the village of Cutud near San Fernando, north of Manila on March 30, 2018. PHOTO | NOEL CELIS | AFP

While a majority of the Philippines’ 80 million Catholics spend Good Friday at church or with family, participants undergo the gruesome spectacle to atone for sins or give thanks for divine intervention.

The mock crucifixions on Good Friday have been going on for decades despite official disapproval from the nation’s dominant Catholic Church.

“The church never encourages self-flagellation, much less crucifixion,” Roy Bellen, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Manila, told AFP.

Participants have their bloodied backs whipped with bamboo as part of their penitence during the re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ for Good Friday celebrations ahead of Easter in the village of Cutud near San Fernando, north of Manila on March 30, 2018. PHOTO | NOEL CELIS | AFP

“All sacrifices being asked from Catholics during Lent and Holy Week should lead to actions that benefit the poor and the needy,” he added.

Food stalls, cab drivers and even souvenir stands get a boost from the event which draws some 35,000 people every year to the area over the course of Good Friday.

Nearly 80 percent of people in the Philippines are Catholic, a legacy of the nation’s 300 years of Spanish colonial rule that ended at the turn of the 20th century.

Story Courtesy AFP

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Prophecy Watch

Kenyan clinic loses $2m in US aid over Trump abortion policy

Family Health Options Kenya has been forced to close one of its 14 clinics and curtail services at others due to US funding cuts amounting to Sh200 million ($2 million)

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Kenya’s longest-established family planning clinic has lost 60 per cent of its budget for defying a Trump administration policy forbidding women’s health providers from offering information or services related to abortion.

Family Health Options Kenya has been forced to close one of its 14 clinics and curtail services at others due to US funding cuts amounting to Sh200 million ($2 million), Washington-based National Public Radio (NPR) reported on Wednesday.

UNSAFE ABORTION

The loss of aid is leading some pregnant Kenyans to resort to unsafe measures, FHOK reproductive health nurse Melvine Ouyo told the US radio network.

Desperate to terminate unwanted pregnancies, these women and girls go to “curtain clinics” — clandestine settings that lack trained doctors and nurses, Ms Ouyo said. Others use crochet needles, added the nurse who works at a clinic in Kibera.

As an example of the help FHOK provides, Ms Ouyo cited the case of a young orphan girl whose uncle had repeatedly abused her sexually.

When the girl became pregnant at age 13, she was determined not to give birth to a baby that would be the product of incest, Ms Ouyo related.

“This girl comes to you suicidal,” the nurse told NPR. “She had already attempted unsafe abortion. She had taken herbs given by friends. Her friends referred her to us, and she was able to access safe abortion services.”

President Trump’s promulgation and expansion of what critics term a “global gag rule” could also prevent FHOK from delivering services unrelated to abortion.

HIV treatments, cancer screenings, post-natal care and vaccinations are among the services Family Health Options may be unable to provide due to the $2 million budget cut.

Deeply impoverished Kenyan women and girls are not seeking care from FHOK clinics because they are unable to pay the small fee the carer now charges to compensate for the loss of US funding, Ms Ouyo said.

Mr Trump and other Republican presidents dating to the 1980s have used the so-called gag rule to spread their anti-abortion policies to developing countries.

One day after taking office in 2017, Mr Trump ordered reinstatement of the rule that had been rescinded by President Obama.

But there is evidence that the ban on services or referrals fails to reduce the incidence of abortions—and may actually have the opposite effect.

A Stanford University study found that rates of induced abortions rose sharply between 1994 and 2008 in African countries most affected by the rule.

SOURCE: Daily Nation

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Prophecy Watch

Russia prepares for nuclear war with US, instructing citizens to buy water and gas masks

The channel’s newscasters also displayed charts explaining how much water people need to store for drinking, washing their face and hands, and preparing food every day—and how that amount changes depending on the temperature of a person’s bomb shelter

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Russian state-owned television is urging the country’s residents to stock their bunkers with water and basic foodstuffs because Moscow could go to war with Washington.

Warning that the potential conflict between the two superpowers would be “catastrophic,” an anchor for Russia’s Vesti 24 showed off shelves of food, recommending that people buy salt, oatmeal and other products that can last a long time on the shelves. Powdered milk lasts five years while sugar and rice can last up to eight years, the newscaster explained before showing videos of pasta cooking in a bomb shelter.

The channel’s newscasters also displayed charts explaining how much water people need to store for drinking, washing their face and hands, and preparing food every day—and how that amount changes depending on the temperature of a person’s bomb shelter. The program also recommended that people stock up on gas masks and read guides on how to survive nuclear war.

The program aired just one day after sources told Newsweek that “there is a major war scare” in Moscow, as President Donald Trump prepares to strike Syria in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons against civilians over the weekend. The Trump administration has said it believes Syria’s Russian-backed President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the attacks, and it plans to ensure that Assad pays the price. Russian military forces have responded by saying that Moscow would meet fire with fire and said that it will shoot down any U.S. missiles.

“If there is a strike by the Americans, then the missiles will be downed and even the sources from which the missiles were fired,” warned Alexander Zasypkin, Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon, during an interview on Tuesday with a television station linked to Hezbollah.

The increasingly bellicose rhetoric has sparked fears that a conflict could break out between two nuclear-armed superpowers. On Wednesday morning, Trump took to Twitter to issue a stark warning to Russia, which he accused of partnering with “a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”

But he later walked back the statement, calling for an end to the arms race with Russia.

Source: MSN

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Prophecy

What is the historical evidence that Jesus Christ lived and died?

Today some claim that Jesus is just an idea, rather than a real historical figure, but there is a good deal of written evidence for his existence 2,000 years ago

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Christ alive … Robert Powell as Jesus of Nazareth in 1977. Photograph: ITV/Rex

How confident can we be that Jesus Christ actually lived?

The historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth is both long-established and widespread. Within a few decades of his supposed lifetime, he is mentioned by Jewish and Roman historians, as well as by dozens of Christian writings. Compare that with, for example, King Arthur, who supposedly lived around AD500. The major historical source for events of that time does not even mention Arthur, and he is first referred to 300 or 400 years after he is supposed to have lived. The evidence for Jesus is not limited to later folklore, as are accounts of Arthur.

What do Christian writings tell us?

The value of this evidence is that it is both early and detailed. The first Christian writings to talk about Jesus are the epistles of St Paul, and scholars agree that the earliest of these letters were written within 25 years of Jesus’s death at the very latest, while the detailed biographical accounts of Jesus in the New Testament gospels date from around 40 years after he died. These all appeared within the lifetimes of numerous eyewitnesses, and provide descriptions that comport with the culture and geography of first-century Palestine. It is also difficult to imagine why Christian writers would invent such a thoroughly Jewish saviour figure in a time and place – under the aegis of the Roman empire – where there was strong suspicion of Judaism.

What did non-Christian authors say about Jesus?

As far as we know, the first author outside the church to mention Jesus is the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, who wrote a history of Judaism around AD93. He has two references to Jesus. One of these is controversial because it is thought to be corrupted by Christian scribes (probably turning Josephus’s negative account into a more positive one), but the other is not suspicious – a reference to James, the brother of “Jesus, the so-called Christ”.

About 20 years after Josephus we have the Roman politicians Pliny and Tacitus, who held some of the highest offices of state at the beginning of the second century AD. From Tacitus we learn that Jesus was executed while Pontius Pilate was the Roman prefect in charge of Judaea (AD26-36) and Tiberius was emperor (AD14-37) – reports that fit with the timeframe of the gospels. Pliny contributes the information that, where he was governor in northern Turkey, Christians worshipped Christ as a god. Neither of them liked Christians – Pliny writes of their “pig-headed obstinacy” and Tacitus calls their religion a destructive superstition.

Did ancient writers discuss the existence of Jesus?

Strikingly, there was never any debate in the ancient world about whether Jesus of Nazareth was a historical figure. In the earliest literature of the Jewish Rabbis, Jesus was denounced as the illegitimate child of Mary and a sorcerer. Among pagans, the satirist Lucian and philosopher Celsus dismissed Jesus as a scoundrel, but we know of no one in the ancient world who questioned whether Jesus lived.

How controversial is the existence of Jesus now?

In a recent book, the French philosopher Michel Onfray talks of Jesus as a mere hypothesis, his existence as an idea rather than as a historical figure. About 10 years ago, The Jesus Project was set up in the US; one of its main questions for discussion was that of whether or not Jesus existed. Some authors have even argued that Jesus of Nazareth was doubly non-existent, contending that both Jesus and Nazareth are Christian inventions. It is worth noting, though, that the two mainstream historians who have written most against these hypersceptical arguments are atheists: Maurice Casey (formerly of Nottingham University) and Bart Ehrman (University of North Carolina). They have issued stinging criticisms of the “Jesus-myth” approach, branding it pseudo-scholarship. Nevertheless, a recent survey discovered that 40% of adults in England did not believe that Jesus was a real historical figure.

Is there any archaeological evidence for Jesus?

Part of the popular confusion around the historicity of Jesus may be caused by peculiar archaeological arguments raised in relation to him. Recently there have been claims that Jesus was a great-grandson of Cleopatra, complete with ancient coins allegedly showing Jesus wearing his crown of thorns. In some circles, there is still interest in the Shroud of Turin, supposedly Jesus’s burial shroud. Pope Benedict XVI stated that it was something that “no human artistry was capable of producing” and an “icon of Holy Saturday”.

It is hard to find historians who regard this material as serious archaeological data, however. The documents produced by Christian, Jewish and Roman writers form the most significant evidence.

These abundant historical references leave us with little reasonable doubt that Jesus lived and died.

Adapted from The Gaurdian

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