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Mosul Christian: Thanks for Changing Your #WeAreN Photo

Believers in Iraq rally around label that forced them out of their homes and churches.

Editor's note: In the reflection below, a young Christian from Mosul writes about the takeover of her hometown by the extremist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the recent international support shown through the #WeAreN campaign on social media. She has been living in the safer Kurdistan Region in the northern part of Iraq for the past few years and works with refugee relief efforts supported by Open Doors International as Mosul's remaining Christians flee north.

I can't believe what's happening now. And it's all happening all so fast. 2,000 years of Christian history and presence is being destroyed. I am confused and sad. Everybody is. On the news I saw the extremists replaced the cross on our church in Mosul with the black flag of the Islamic State. They are doing a call of Islamic prayer from our church. They have turned it into a mosque.

I can't believe it. I wanted to cry when I saw this on the news. This past weekend, the Islamic State gave Christians in Mosul an ultimatum: convert, pay a high tax, leave before Saturday at noon, or die. All Christians chose to leave. This is what we have feared for a long time.

My aunt and her sons were the last of my family to flee from Mosul. They left after the threat of the Islamic State last weekend and are staying with family here in the north now. They are devastated. My aunt kept crying. Her husband died a long time ago, and she has raised her children on her own. She cried, "What do I do now? I have nothing left. They even took my house."

Two other houses of relatives have also been taken. They left one of the houses a while ago. They asked a Muslim neighbor to live in it because they knew it would be protected if a Muslim ...

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Amid Israel-Hamas Violence, Reconciliation Between Palestinian Christians and Messianic Jews Continues

Musalaha participant: "I am sending this message over the walls with no rockets attached to tell you I pray for you."

As violence flares anew between Hamas and Israel, which is preparing for a ground invasion of Gaza in response to Hamas rocket attacks reaching as far as Tel Aviv, CT checked in with Jerusalem-based reconciliation ministry Musalaha for an update on reconciliation efforts between Palestinian Christians and Messianic Jews.

In 2009, CT reported how three weeks of Israel-Hamas fightingwhich killed 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelisleft Gaza's beleaguered Christians beginning 2009 in their worst situation since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. However, reconciliation work between Palestinian Christians and Messianic Jews continued.

Salim Munayer, executive director Musalaha, offered CT the following update on what, if anything, has changed since 2009:

What we see is that individuals who have been active in Musalaha for more than 2 years are writing statements to each other, such as the following:"Brothers and sisters in Jesus, In this time of trials and tribulations, let us not lose sight of what Jesus came to the earth to teach us. And that is Love. The greatest power that conquers all. Only God's love can teach us how to love and forgive our enemies, even if they trample you under their feet. ... I pray that the Lord shows all of us what love really means through His eyes and that He brings comfort to those with shattered hearts. Much much LOVE to everyone!" Deborah Holtz, Israeli participant"Hi brothers from the other side of the wall, are we both doing the same mistake, by watching and listening to the media that is making us look only at our people? I hope not, for I have done that, and look at me making sure only my people are doing well and praying for them. For I am sorry that I am doing that, and I am sending the message over ...

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Morning Roundup 7/24/14

Religious Freedom vs. LGBT Rights?; New Calvinism; Charismatic Catholics

Religious Freedom vs. LGBT Rights? It's More ComplicatedJohn D. Inazu

This is a very important article and I exhort you to take the time to read it.

Naming the New CalvinismTimothy Paul Jones

This is helpful to understand more about New Calvinism.

Nashville's charismatic Catholics want more from churchHeidi Hall

If you want to read more about the charismatic movement, take a look at this series (here, here, and here). Heidi Hall provides a fascinating look at Charismatic Catholics in Nashville.

Download this week's edition of The Exchange Podcast with Derwin Gray.

Matt Carter, Pastor of Preaching & Vision at the Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, joined me to talk about church culture, small groups and missional communities on this episode of The Exchange. In this clip, Matt explains about how Austin Stone does missional communities. Don't forget to join me every Tuesday at 3:00 PM Eastern for The Exchange.

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Leading Rabbi Nominated as First Non-Christian Religious Freedom Ambassador

Obama nomination of David Saperstein will require strong Senate support.

President Obama nominated Rabbi David Saperstein this morning to be the next—and first non-Christian—United States ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

The press statment said:

Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individual to a key Administration post: Rabbi David Nathan Saperstein – Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Department of State. President Obama said, "I am grateful that Rabbi Saperstein has chosen to dedicate his talent to serving the American people at this important time for our country. I look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead."

The previous ambassador at large, African-American pastor Suzan Johnson Cook, stepped down from the position in October 2013. This triggered great political pressure on the Obama administration to name a new ambassador-at-large quickly since religious freedom has been a contested issue in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Previously, Bob Seiple and John Hanford served in the position, which was created in 1998 as part of the International Religious Freedom Act.

Later today, the State Department released a major report on the state of international freedom. This is against the backdrop of ongoing conflict in Nigeria, Israel/Palestine, Iraq, and Syria—all conflicts with religious underpinnings.

Saperstein, 66, is a widely recognized figure. According to the White House:

He is director and counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, where he has served since 1974. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches First Amendment Church-State Law and Jewish Law.

Saperstein ...

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Leading Rabbi Nominated as First Non-Christian Religious Freedom Ambassador

Obama nomination of David Saperstein will require strong Senate support.

President Obama nominated Rabbi David Saperstein this morning to be the next—and first non-Christian—United States ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

The press statment said:

Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individual to a key Administration post: Rabbi David Nathan Saperstein – Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Department of State. President Obama said, "I am grateful that Rabbi Saperstein has chosen to dedicate his talent to serving the American people at this important time for our country. I look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead."

The previous ambassador at large, African-American pastor Suzan Johnson Cook, stepped down from the position in October 2013. This triggered great political pressure on the Obama administration to name a new ambassador-at-large quickly since religious freedom has been a contested issue in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Previously, Bob Seiple and John Hanford served in the position, which was created in 1998 as part of the International Religious Freedom Act.

Later today, the State Department released a major report on the state of international freedom. This is against the backdrop of ongoing conflict in Nigeria, Israel/Palestine, Iraq, and Syria—all conflicts with religious underpinnings.

Saperstein, 66, is a widely recognized figure. According to the White House:

He is director and counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, where he has served since 1974. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches First Amendment Church-State Law and Jewish Law.

Saperstein ...

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