President Trump “Pissed off” about COVID-19 Causing Churches to Shutdown

President Trump on Wednesday said his “single biggest disappointment” is that churches can’t meet during the COVID-19 pandemic and indicated it’s one reason he considered opening the country before Easter.

Although there is no federal policy governing churches meeting during the pandemic, the White House’s Coronavirus Guidelines urge Americans to “avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.” Vice President Mike Pence previously said the coronavirus is three times more contagious than the flu.

“My biggest disappointment is that churches can’t meet in a time of need,” Trump said, adding that times of need traditionally are “a great time for churches to be together for people.”

“And yet if you do that … you’re really giving this invisible enemy a very big advantage,” Trump said.

Churches, he said, were “one of the reasons” he considered an Easter date for re-opening the country. Trump called it an “aspirational” date. Eventually, he extended the Coronavirus Guidelines until the end of April.

“It’s very, very disappointing,” he said of churches being unable to meet, “but again, [if] you get too close and if somebody’s sick, you’re gonna probably catch it. So you have to be very careful.”

Some states, such as Washington, specifically prohibit churches from meeting. Others, such as Texas and Florida, specifically exempt churches from their coronavirus policy.

The guidelines suggest:

  • Listen to and follow the directions of your state and local authorities.
  • If you feel sick, stay home. Do not go to work. Contact your medical provider.
  • If your children are sick, keep them at home. Contact your medical provider.
  • If someone in your household has tested positive for the coronavirus, keep the entire household at home.
  • If you are an older American, stay home and away from other people.
  • If you are a person with a serious underlying health condition — such as a significant heart or lung problem—stay home and away from other people.
  • Work or engage in schooling from home whenever possible.
  • If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as healthcare services and pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule. You and your employers should follow CDC guidance to protect your health at work.
  • Avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.
  • Avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts — use drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options.
  • Avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips, and social visits.
  • Do not visit nursing homes or retirement or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance.
  • Practice good hygiene: wash your hands, especially after touching any frequently used item or surface; avoid touching your face; sneeze or cough into a tissue, or the inside of your elbow; disinfect frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible.

Foreign Christians Arrested on Charges of ‘Converting’ in Nepal

A Christian from South Korea arrested in Nepal on charges of “attempting to convert” was released on bail on Wednesday (Aug. 7), sources said.

Cho Yusang, a 73-year-old evangelical Christian, posted bail of 150,000 Nepalese rupees (US$1,330) after being arrested on July 23. His health deteriorated after he was incarcerated, and he had been hospitalized, said Tanka Subedi, chair of the Religious Liberty Forum Nepal (RLFN).

On Monday (Aug. 5), Subedi told Morning Star News that Cho had been released from hospital care.

“Though he was out of hospital, he was feeling dizzy this morning also,” Subedi said. “His health is still not good. He does not want to go back to the hospital, because he does not have much money left. He does not have insurance cover to pay his bills.”

In Nepal on a business visa, Cho was also charged with misuse of visa.

The charge of “attempting to convert” under Section 158 (1) of the Nepal Penal Code of 2017 calls for as much five years in jail and/or a fine of up to 50,000 Nepalese Rupees (US$445), according to Subedi.

Cho and two other foreigners working separately from him were found involved in conversion activity in Pokhara, in central Nepal, Raj Kumar KC, spokesperson of the District Police Office in Kaski, reportedly said.

Police arrested Cho for allegedly distributing leaflets and Bibles in the Barachi area of Kaski District, in Gandaki Pradesh Province, KC told the Kathmandu, Nepal-based news outlet Republica. The police spokesman said officers also arrested two Japanese nationals, Jehova’s Witnesses unaffiliated with Cho, in the Ratna area of the same district on the same charges.

KC reportedly said their arrest shows that “some foreigners do not come with good intentions,” and that they would be charged with proselytizing.

B.P. Khanal, national coordinator of Nepal for the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief [IPPFoRB], told Morning Star News that after arresting Cho from his lakeside lodging, police raided his room and confiscated some Bibles and Christian literature.

Khanal, who is responsible for inter-faith relations for the Nepal Christian Society, said possession of a Bible and Christian literature is not evidence of a crime.

“In this case the law is discriminatory, because it is not an offense to have Bibles in your room,” Khanal told Morning Star News. “The recovery of some Bibles and Christian literature from Yusang’s personal belongings is projected as an offense and as a crime Yusang committed. Anybody can have a Bible – it is not a drug or an explosive. Carrying a Bible should not be and must not be a criminal offense.”

The Nepal Christian Society has hired an attorney for Cho, he said.

U.S. Citizen Charged

Earlier, in Basgadhi of Bardiya District, police on June 21 arrested U.S. citizen Bradley Navarro Anagaran on a charge of possessing Christian literature, according to the RLFN.

When local pastor Hira Singh Sunar went to the police station to inquire about his arrest, officers arrested him as well, according to an RLFN statement. Both Anagaran and Pastor Sunar were charged with “attempting to convert,” it stated.

Anagaran was found with two discipleship leaflets designed for use within a church circle, Christian sources said.

“Apart from the literature on discipleship, police have confiscated a few pairs of reading glasses from his backpack, which means that the police did not find him distributing the literature to anybody,” Khanal of the IPPFoRB said.

The two Christians were moved from district headquarters of Gulariya to Bansgadhi police station. They were released on bail on July 3, and Anagaran has returned to the United States, but he must return for a hearing at the end of this month and every court date thereafter, Subedi of the RLFN said.

“I personally don’t know how he will be able to do that, as it is a great financial burden to travel every time for his court date from the United States to Nepal,” Subedi told Morning Star News. “The court procedures in Nepal take several years and are tiresome.”

A team from the Nepal Christian Society in Kathmandu, including Khanal, went to speak with local officials.

“We met with about 60 local pastors and mobilized prayer, as well as formed a task force,” Khanal said. “We met Bradley and Sunar inside the jail and comforted them. We met the police inspector who arrested Bradley, the deputy superintendent of police, chief district officer and the prosecuting attorney to discuss how the charges in the case could be minimized, for there was no ‘conversion attempt’ in the case at all.”

After the initial order for a week’s remand ended, police kept them in custody while extending the investigation for no apparent reason, sources said.

“Both Bradley and Sunar were being kept in a miserable condition while in custody,” read an RLFN newsletter. “They were treated as criminals even though they had not committed any crime.”

The Rev. Mukunda Sharma, spokesperson of the RLFN, was a part of the team visiting the duo in jail. He urged human rights and diplomatic officials to support them.

Khanal issued a plea for foreigners visiting Nepal to refrain from doing anything that will land them in legal trouble. He said that sharing the gospel where there are already local churches should not be taken up by Christians from other countries.

“Their role can be to inspire, educate and train local churches if they really want the bring the gospel to the people,” he said. “Let the local church in their local language share the gospel.”

As the Nepal Christian Society is taking up an increasing number of legal cases, he asked that the international Christian community pray for those accused under Nepal’s new criminal code.

An increase in persecution of Christians in Nepal began after a new criminal code was passed in October 2017, which took effect in August 2018.

Targeting Christians

Pastor Sagar Baiju, a senior Christian leader in the country, said that such incidents make it clear that government officials, police and politicians are targeting Christians.

“Unless this new law is revoked, such incidents will continue to increase in Nepal,” Baiju told Morning Star News. “When I travel to foreign counties, I carry my identity with me – and my identity is that I am a Nepali, but apart from being a Nepali, I am a Christian, so I always carry my Bible with me. How is it a crime, when foreign tourists come to Nepal to tour the country or to visit their friends, and carry their Bible in their hands?”

People of other religions erect huge tents, gather in large numbers and use loud sound systems for worship, and the lawmakers do not question them, he said.

“All the schools in Nepal have their morning devotions according to the faith that the school authorities follow,” he said. “In schools run by Hindus, they make the children perform Saraswati Vandana [a common Hindu mantra] in their morning devotion, and nobody objects to it. Then why is it a crime, if a Christian school makes the children say The Lord’s Prayer in the assembly? Why are objections raised and Christians ghettoized as criminals?”

There is a need for Christians to unite and raise the issue with a single voice, he said.

“A hospital owned by a Hindu has a big Hindu temple inside the premises,” he said. “They are free to write Hindu scriptures on the walls of the hospital and nobody objects. But if a Christian hospital has a Bible inside the hospital or a Bible verse hung on any wall, we are accused of preaching our religion, and the authorities running the hospital are in trouble.”

Nepal was ranked 32nd on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that can orient you on how to get involved.

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Remarkable Stories of Courage in Crisis and Two Ways to Partner with God

President Trump will visit El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, later today as political conflict over last weekend’s shootings continues. Politicians and the media are also debating the role of gun control in preventing such tragedies.

In a crisis, a secularized culture looks to the resources it has. Political leadership is obviously vital to our well-being, as is effective legislation.

Few, however, are asking about God’s role in the massacres and their aftermath. Scripture proclaims that “God is the King of all the earth” (Psalm 47:7) and that he “reigns over the nations” (v. 8).

So let’s ask: Where was God in El Paso and Dayton? What is he doing in the aftermath of these horrible tragedies?

WHERE WERE GOD’S ANGELS?
God gives us free will so we can choose to love him and each other (Matthew 22:37–39). When humans misuse our freedom, the fault is not the Lord’s but ours: “God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (James 1:13–14).

If God always prevented the consequences of sin, we would not be free. If he had intervened in El Paso or Dayton, or if he protects you and me from the results of our next sins, human freedom would not be real.

ere’s the dilemma: there are times when it seems this is just what he does. For example, King Herod misused his freedom when he imprisoned Peter and plotted his execution. But God sent his angel to free the apostle from his Roman jail (Acts 12:1–11).

It’s natural to ask: Where were his angels in El Paso and Dayton? Why pray for God to protect our children and grandchildren if he allows mass murderers to kill other children and grandchildren?

After Job lost his children, his possessions, and his health, he asked, “Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire?” (Job 3:11). The psalmist asked God, “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (Psalm 42:9). Even Jesus cried from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, quoting Psalm 22:1).

ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD BOY MAKES A REMARKABLE DIFFERENCE
Here’s what I do know: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). There is no burden we cannot share with him: “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT).

I also know that evil can be used for good. Consider some of the remarkable stories coming out of last weekend’s tragedies.

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

—Psalm 34:18
An eleven-year-old boy in El Paso has created the #ElPasoChallenge. Ruben Martinez wants to “challenge everyone to do 22 acts of good deeds in honor of the 22 people who were killed.” His “challenge” has gone viral, reaching people as far away as Germany.

We learned about Glendon Oakley, an Army serviceman who rescued multiple children during the El Paso massacre. He explained later: “That is what the military has taught me to do, and why I am thankful to be in the military.”

And we learned stories of incredible courage, such as the grandfather in El Paso who died shielding his wife and granddaughter from the gunman and the mother who was killed protecting her two-month-old son.

TWO WAYS TO PARTNER WITH OUR FATHER
I know another fact about God: he wants us to work with him. There is a divine-human partnership across Scripture and human history. Noah builds the ark, and God sends the Flood; Moses raises his arms, and God parts the Red Sea; Joshua and the people step into the torrential Jordan River, and God stops the flood.

How can we join God at work in these tragic days?

One: We can be proactive in responding to the crises we see in the people we know.

A grandmother in Lubbock recently took her grandson to a hospital after he told her about his plan to “shoot up” a local hotel and then commit suicide by cop. Officers then searched his hotel room, where they found an AK-47 rifle, seventeen loaded magazines, and multiple knives.

Pray for the discernment to know when you need to intervene and for the courage and compassion to respond. As the hands and feet of Jesus, we continue his earthly ministry through ours (1 Corinthians 12:27).

Two: We can use our gifts and influence to turn others to Christ.

Shortly after the El Paso and Dayton shootings, Max Lucado wrote an op-ed for Fox News that asks, “How are we to respond to this dark season of bloodshed?” After telling the story of Jesus walking on the stormy Sea of Galilee to his disciples, Lucado notes that “the moment they invited Christ into their boat was the moment they reached their destination” (John 6:21).

He then suggests: “Let’s follow the example of the disciples. Welcome Jesus into the midst of this turbulent time.”

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