Xmas trees gifted to animals at Moscow zoo

Because Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas two weeks after December 25, Russians usually keep their decorations around a bit longer than Western Europeans. But now, as these festivities come to a close, people in Moscow are hurrying to get rid of their trees. With some being gifted to the elephants, monkeys, bears and other animals of Moscow zoo, that enjoy playing with or simply eating them.

Christians celebrate Epiphany with swim in Istanbul

The Patriarch of Constantinople celebrates the Epiphany Mass before blessing the waters of the Golden Horn with a cross that young Greek Orthodox Christians recovered by diving into the icy water. The winner this year is Mihalis Vosnakiris.

In South-East Turkey, all Christians pray under one roof

In Diyarbakir, the main Kurdish city of South-East Turkey, there were once 46 churches. But today, only one remains open. The others are either destroyed or were closed by the government during clashes between Turkish army and the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party, the PKK. Chaldeans, Armenians, Assyrians and even some Muslims, all come together to celebrate Christmas mass in the Holy Virgin Mary church.

China Cracking Down on Christians

(7 Aug 2018) Amid the atheist ruling Communist Party’s ambitious new effort to dictate — and in some cases displace — the practice of faith in China, Christians have seen their churches raided, their Bibles confiscated and their pastors arrested. (Aug. 7)

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Inside one of the few serpent handling churches in Appalachia

Just a few thousand Christians that prove their faith by taking up serpents during church services remain in the United States today. But their unusual and dangerous practice has put them at odds with their neighbors, the wider church and sometimes the law.

Coptic Christians battle prejudice in Egyptian football

Youth members of “Je Suis” football academy, an initiative to protect the rights of Christians in sport, sit together on a pitch in the country’s second city of Alexandria. Under the name “Je Suis” in French, or “I am”, the academy’s founder Mina Bendary started the initiative after being told by football club officials to use a different name to conceal his religion if he was to play professionally in the majority-Muslim country.

This Is Why Evangelical Christians Love Israel (VICE on HBO, Full Segment)

Thomas Morton joined a group of born again Christians as they toured the Holy Land and found out the real reason why they support Israel. This is the episode from Season 2 of VICE on HBO.

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Orthodox Christians mark Good Friday in Jerusalem

Orthodox Christians celebrate Great Friday in Jerusalem by taking part in the procession of the way of the cross at the Via Dolorosa.

Germany Accuses Muslim Migrants Of Converting To Christianity To Get Asylum (HBO)

Salman Barbari was born in Iran to a strict Muslim family from Afghanistan. Last month he got baptized and became a Christian at Trinity Lutheran Church in Berlin. The potential consequences for his future and safety are vast.
Under Islamic law, Barbari could be sent to jail in Iran for converting to Christianity. In Afghanistan, he could be put to death. But his conversion could also allow Barbari to stay in Germany. He is applying for asylum here, and under German law migrants like himself can’t be deported if they face persecution at home.
Barbari told VICE News his conversion is sincere. “I didn’t get baptized to get asylum or anything like that.”
The German government may not believe him. It has rejected more than 90 percent of recent asylum applications submitted by members of Trinity Lutheran’s congregation.
Pastor Gottfried Martens’ ministry has focused on migrants since 2015. Today, 1400 of his 1600 congregants are Iranian and Afghan. Martens is furious that the German government is getting ready to deport both long-time Christians and recent converts like Barbari, who have completed three-month-long baptism classes at Trinity Lutheran as well as baptism exams.
“The state is a kind of secular version of the Holy Inquisition,” Martens told VICE News, “because the state says we can look into the heart of those people and can say who is the true Christian and who is not.”
The rejections themselves come in the form letters filled with template text blocks that often question the authenticity of of a convert’s beliefs. The fact that the decisions are based on short interviews conducted by administrators who have no religious background is particularly frustrating to Martens.
“I think a secular state is not able or not allowed to make such judgments about the faith of people.”
The increase in rejections may seem surprising given who is running the German government. Chancellor Angela Merkel is both the head of the Christian Democratic party and the daughter of Lutheran pastor. But she also faced significant backlash against her migrant-friendly policies in the months leading up to Germany’s national elections last year. During that time, Germany processed more asylum applications than all other EU countries combined. Since then asylum approvals have dropped.
Andrea Lindholz, a member of the governing Christian Social Union, says rejections are not politically motivated.
“Different aspects play a role. How did the person live his life in his country? How did he practice his faith there? Why did he decide to convert and how is he living his faith day to day?” Lindholz told VICE News. “In that context the pastor can only be one consideration and not the only one.”
Lindholz emphasized that simply converting is not enough to receive asylum, even if converts could face repercussions in their home countries.
“I don’t want to rule out that wrong decisions were made, but there is the possibility” of appealing rejections in court, she said. “It is a tough topic, and you will never find a satisfying solution.”

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