Thursday, June 14, 2007

Your Prayers, and Action, Please

I recently received this in my e-mail. The man in the story was born a Coptic Christian in Egypt. However, he later joined St. John Chrysostom Antiochian Church in York, Pennsylvania. If the government has its way, he may be put to death.

At this moment, the United States is threatening to deport Mr. Sameh Khouzam back to Egypt at the request of the Egyptian government. Mr. Khouzam is a Coptic Christian currently held at the York County Prison in Pennsylvania charged with crimes against a Muslim family in Egypt.

Why does that matter?

First, to date, no one has presented one shred of credible or verifiable evidence to substantiate the charges against Mr. Khouzam.

Additionally, we are certain that if Sameh is deported he will face torture and probable death upon his return. The government of Egypt has a well-documented history of human rights abuses against its own citizens, particularly against religious minorities like Coptic Christians.

In other words, Mr. Khouzam is facing imminent torture and likely death simply because he is a Coptic Christian--a member of a religious minority in Egypt.

The Institute on Religion and Public Policy will not stand still and let this happen. But, we need your help!

To save Sameh from certain torture and death we need you to click here and sign our Petition to Save Sameh Khouzam immediately.

Sameh Khouzam left Egypt in 1998 under intense pressure to change his religion. He was detained by the Egyptian government and forcefully "encouraged" to convert from his Coptic Christianity to Islam. He escaped Egypt, however, and fled to America - fearing for his life. Afterward, the Egyptian government informed United States officials that Mr. Khouzam was wanted for completely unsubstantiated crimes against a Muslim family.

Mr. Khouzam has proven to be an upstanding member of his local community yet when he voluntarily reported to U.S. immigration authorities last month he was detained, imprisoned, and scheduled for deportation.

He is now set to be deported MONDAY, JUNE 18!

This travesty of justice condemns Sameh to certain torture and death upon his return to Egypteven though there is NO CONCRETE EVIDENCE he committed any crimes in Egypt.

I believe he is being persecuted because of his religious identity.

And the potential for violence against Sameh is real. In fact, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals found it is "more likely than not" he will be tortured upon his return to Egypt. Yet, for apparent political reasons, our government still intends to deport him.

That's why I am determined to act to right this terrible wrong.

The Institute on Religion and Public Policy is poised to IMMEDIATELY deliver your signed Petition to Save Sameh Khouzam to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

But there is no time to waste. Sameh is scheduled to be deported THIS MONDAY!

And the U.S. Government simply will not act unless confronted by an overwhelming outpouring of outrage from its citizens!

That's why I need you to click here and sign our Petition to Save Sameh Khouzam right now!

Your participation may help save Sameh's life. But I need you to do more than just sign the petition.

I need you to forward this urgent, life and death petition to as many of your family members, friends, co-workers, co-religionists and others as possible. At the very least, please take a moment and immediately forward this appeal to at least 5 others.

Your few seconds of effort can make all the difference in rescuing Mr. Sameh Khouzam from the likelihood of torture, and possibly, death.

Please pass it on. I know the Pope recently condemned Amnesty International (belatedly, in my opinion) for its support of abortion. Perhaps he could steer his followers to support organizations such as the one that sent out this alert?

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A Sacramental Pentecostal

While reading an entirely different post at Ad Orientem, an inspiring article on the Apostles Fast, I was surprised by a quotation from Simon Chan, a professor of systematic theology at Trinity Theological College in Singapore and a member of Singapore's Assemblies of God. He is referred to as "the world's most liturgically minded Pentecostal." Before you scoff at that title, you should read his recent interview with Christianity Today, which was linked and quoted in the Ad Orientem article:
I think that missional theology is a very positive development. But some missional theology has not gone far enough. It hasn't asked, What is the mission of the Trinity? And the answer to that question is communion. Ultimately, all things are to be brought back into communion with the triune God. Communion is the ultimate end, not mission.

Communion means bodily presence. That's at the heart of our incarnational theology, God coming to us in person; it's the meaning of the resurrection of the body. So no matter what virtual reality technology can create, it will never be an adequate substitute for communion...

If we see communion as central to the life of the church, we are going to have an important place for mission. And this is reflected in the ancient fourfold structure of worship: gathering, proclaiming the Word, celebrating the Eucharist, and going out into the world. The last, of course, is mission. But mission takes its place within a larger structure. It is this sense of communion that the evangelical world especially needs. Communion is not just introspection or fellowship among ourselves. It involves, ultimately, seeing God and seeing the heart of God as well, which is His love for the world...

In many services today, the dismissal into the world is quite perfunctory. But if you go to an Orthodox service, you'll be amazed at the elaborate way in which the end of the service is conducted. It's not just a word of dismissal—there are whole prayers and litanies that prepare us to go back out into the world...

There is a certain habit of mind that enables [Pentecostals] to readily leave behind things that don't work and to move on to things that they think will work. Whereas the liturgy creates a different habit of mind, a habit of stability. This has its strengths and weaknesses, just as the Pentecostal mindset has its strengths and weaknesses. But in my view, in the modern world especially, the danger of a short memory far outweighs the danger of not being willing to change...

We need to rediscover this ancient word, catechism...And I don't think that the modern church can improve very much on what has already been given: the creeds, the great commandments, the Lord's Prayer...

Chan also believes one reason missions continue in "native" areas is they have not suffered the secularization that followed the "Enlightenment."

Christianity has a special appeal among what we might call tribal societies, where there is still a strong sense of the sacramental universe.

I had no broader agenda in posting this than to make some of my readers smile. There are many who have come to Orthodoxy from Pentecostal backgrounds, most recently St. Patrick Antiochian Orthodox Church of Warrenton, Virginia (a Western Rite parish). St. Patrick is "the first of several CEC congregations coming into the Church." For many, the fire of the Holy Spirit has led them deeper into communion with the Father and the Son.

If they follow Simon Chan's statements to their logical conclusion, they will soon follow St. Patrick's actions. Until then, may God continue to pour upon them "His divine grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit."

(Hat tip: Ad Orientem)

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