Saturday, May 30, 2015

Turkish Muslim televangelist criticizes space probe Philae's comet mission as "maniacal."

No, it's not the same televangelist mentioned in the post below (Turkey seems to have its share). As reported in the Istanbul newspaper Hurriyet Daily News, November 14, 2014:


A popular televangelist in Turkey has condemned the European Space Agency’s (ESA) successful landing of the Philae probe on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, describing the mission as “maniacal.”

Most Earthlings are watching the comet-conquering landing craft with awe, but Ahmet Mahmut Ünlü, popularly known as “Cübbeli” (Robed) among his followers in Turkey, declared his skepticism of the mission in his latest televised sermon.

“It isn’t worth the expense. Is there water in Mars? Is there meat? ... These are maniacal issues,” Cübbeli said, expressing disdain for all forms of space exploration. He also voiced his belief that “the world will end” before a human steps on the Red Planet.

“They waste their money. Give me $100,000 and I will tell you about everything,” Cübbeli added.

Turkish Muslim televangelist says that male masturbation will result in pregnant hands in the afterlife

It's comforting (?) to find that weird doctrine from televangelists isn't restricted to English-speaking North America or "Christianity." I've been under the impression that the Islamic idea of the afterlife is a carnal paradise, but not if you're a man who masturbates, according to one Turkish Muslim televangelist (and if he's right, I want to cancel my afterlife). As reported by the Istanbul newspaper Hurriyet Daily News, May 25, 2015:


After claiming that a man would meet his masturbating hand “pregnant in the afterlife” and “asking for its rights,” a Muslim televangelist has set Turkish social media aflame.

Self-styled televangelist Mücahid Cihad Han dived into some delicate matters on May 24 when he answered his viewers’ questions on private television station 2000 TV, Turkish media has reported. Han initially looked puzzled when a viewer said he “kept masturbating, although he was married, and even during the Umrah,” a pilgrimage to Mecca performed by Muslims which can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to the Hajj.

After repeating the question a few times, Han claimed that Islam strictly prohibits masturbation as a “haram” (forbidden) act. “Moreover, one hadith states that those who have sexual intercourse with their hands will find their hands pregnant in the afterlife, complaining against them to God over its rights,” he said, referring to what he claimed to be a saying of Prophet Muhammad.

“If our viewer was single, I could recommend he marry, but what can I say now?” the televangelist added, advising the viewer to “resist Satan’s temptations.”

Is masturbation forbidden in Islam?

“Istimna,” the Arabic term for masturbation that Han also referred to, is a controversial issue in Islam, as there have been varying opinions on its permissibility throughout history. The Quran has no clear reference to masturbation and the authenticity of many hadiths is questionable.

Despite Han’s assertive religious stance, only a limited number of Islamic interpretations categorize masturbation as “haram,” while most of others call it a “makruh” (disliked) act. Many of the mainstream Islamic interpretations even allow it in certain conditions, like if the act could be used to avoid the temptation of an extramarital affair.

Han, who has more than 12,000 followers on Twitter, was mocked on Turkish social media on May 25, after newspapers published his latest television “fatwa.”

“Are there any hand-gynaecologists in the afterlife? Is abortion allowed there?” one Twitter user asked, while mentioning Han’s Twitter user name.

“So you think that being pregnant is a God-given punishment?” another user asked.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

South Korean-born Canadian Presbyterian pastor has been detained in North Korea

Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim, pastor of Light Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, Ontario, has made about 110 missionary visits to North Korea over the years, but has been detained in that country since early in 2015. His activities in North Korea included involvement in private business and have led to some controversy and possible diplomatic difficulties. It's not for me to say whether Rev. Lim's actions have been prudent or not, but let's pray for his release, and that the Lord will be glorified through whatever circumstances Rev. Lim is in.

See Unravelling the mystery behind the detention of reverend Lim by Nathan Vanderklippe in the Toronto newspaper The Globe and Mail, May 19, 2015.

July 31, 2015 update: As reported by Canadian Press, July 31, 2015:

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — A South Korean news agency is reporting that an Ontario pastor detained in North Korea has confessed to “subversive plots” against the Communist state during a televised news conference.

Yonhap says Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim of the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, Ont., is quoted by the Korean Central News Agency as saying he was “a servant of the U.S. imperialists and South Korean puppet group.”

A church spokeswoman says Lim was on a humanitarian mission to North Korea when he was detained in early February.

Lisa Pak says the 60-year-old Christian missionary left Canada on Jan. 27 with stops in South Korea and China before crossing into North Korea on Jan. 31.

She says Lim’s family remains hopeful he will be released at some point, but didn’t want to comment on the reports of his alleged confessions.

A Foreign Affairs spokeswoman says the government is “deeply concerned” and continues to try to arrange consular access and find a resolution to his case.

Assistance is difficult, however, because Canada has no diplomatic office in the Communist nation.

At Thursday’s news conference, Lim reportedly said that he travelled to several parts of the country pretending to deliver aid, but his real purpose was “to build a base to overthrow the system of the country and create a religious state.”

He then went on to apologize for his “indescribable treason.”

Pak says the pastor has a deep love for the North Korean people, which is the reason he has visited the country more than 100 times.

Lim’s family has previously said that much of his work has focused on the impoverished country’s northeastern region of Rason. Pak said he has also helped out schools, an orphanage and a nursing home.

Lim started the church nearly three decades ago, shortly after he immigrated from South Korea. He grew the congregation from about a dozen people in 1986 to more than 3,000 members today, Pak said. He also runs a smaller church in downtown Toronto that caters to young people, she said.
As reported by Associated Press, July 30, 2015:

PYONGYANG – Authorities in Pyongyang on Thursday organised the first appearance of a Canadian man detained in North Korea since early this year.

Reverend Hyeon Soo Lim appeared at the People’s Palace of Culture, a venue where North Korean authorities have arranged similar events in the past.

“The most serious crimes I have committed are that I severely slandered and impaired the supreme dignity and system of this country and perpetrated a scheme to overthrow the state,” Lim told a packed room.

He had travelled to North Korea on 31 January and was scheduled to leave on 4 February.

Lim is a pastor at the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto.

“In order to create the impression that it is God, and not the Worker’s Party and this country’s government which give things to eat and provide means to live, we intentionally drew the cross and wrote the name of the church and bible phrases on the sacks of provisions that were donated to several parts of the country such as Chongjin and Jagang Province,” he continued. “The purpose that I travelled about several parts of the country on the pretext of “aid” was to build a base to overthrow the system of the country and create a religious state, taking advantage of the policies of the US and South Korean authorities.”

“The basic purpose that I was so active in the (provision of) aid to this country in the past was to remove loyalty in the hearts of the North Korean people to their authorities. I deeply, deeply apologise from my heart, for my indescribable treason.”
December 16, 2015 update: As reported by Associated Press, December 15, 2015:

PYONGYANG--North Korea’s Supreme Court sentenced a Canadian pastor to life in prison with hard labour on Wednesday for what it called crimes against the state.

Hyeon Soo Lim, who pastors the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, was given the sentence after a 90-minute trial. He had been in detention since February.

Lim entered and left the court in handcuffs flanked by two public security officers in uniform. The handcuffs were removed in court during the trial. He kept his head bowed most of the time and answered questions in a subdued tone.

The crimes he was charged with included harming the dignity of the supreme leadership, trying to use religion to destroy the North Korean system, disseminating negative propaganda about the North to the overseas Koreans, and helping U.S. and the South Korean authorities lure and abduct North Korean citizens, along with aiding their programs to assist defectors from the North.

State prosecutors sought the death penalty.

Lim’s lawyer asked the court to take into account the fact that Lim is a fellow Korean and that he had frankly confessed to everything the prosecution had brought up. Lim pleaded to be given a chance and said if the court gave him a chance he would not do anything bad again.

Lim had earlier appeared at a news conference organized by North Korean authorities in Pyongyang in July and admitted to plotting to overthrow the North Korean state, but other foreigners detained in North Korea and then released have said they were coerced into making similar statements and confessing guilt during their detention.

Lim’s relatives and colleagues have said he travelled on Jan. 31 as part of a regular humanitarian mission to North Korea where he supports a nursing home, a nursery and an orphanage. They said Lim, who is in his early 60s, has made more than 100 trips to North Korea since 1997 and that his trips were about helping people and were not political.

A spokeswoman for the Canadian Global Affairs Department had no immediate information about his trial and sentence.

Lisa Pak, a spokeswoman for the family, has said Lim had no problems on his previous trips to North Korea.

She confirmed in March that Lim had been detained in the country.

One of the projects Lim spearheaded “aims to help the people there live sustainably,” she said at the time, adding “they can grow their own food now, so they don’t always have to receive aid.”

The previous Conservative government had said consular officials were in contact with family members and providing assistance, but that the process was difficult as Canada has no diplomatic presence in North Korea.

Last month, Lim’s family issued a statement saying it hoped the new Liberal government would be able to secure his release.

“It is our hope that Prime Minister Trudeau, Foreign Minister Stephane Dion and the newly elected government continues to hold this case in the highest priority, doing what is necessary to secure the safe and speedy return of Reverend Lim to his family and community,” the statement said.

The family said it was Lim’s compassion for the people of North Korea that motivated him to travel to there in support of many humanitarian aid projects that he had initiated.

Lim started the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, Ont., nearly three decades ago, shortly after he immigrated from South Korea. He grew the congregation from about a dozen people in 1986 to more than 3,000 members today, Pak said. He also runs a smaller church in downtown Toronto that caters to young people.

North Korea has very strict rules against any missionary or religious activities that it sees as threatening the supremacy of its ruling regime. Merely leaving a Bible in a public place can lead to arrest and possibly severe punishment.

Both the Canadian and U.S. governments warn against travel to North Korea.

Last year, the North released Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American missionary who was convicted of “anti-state” crimes and had been serving a 15-year sentence.

Bae, whose detention received worldwide attention, suffered medical issues in detention. He was freed along with one other American detainee after a secret mission to the reclusive communist country by James Clapper, the top U.S. intelligence official. He is reportedly planning a book about his 2-year-ordeal in detention.

An Australian missionary detained for spreading Christianity was deported last year after he apologized for anti-state religious acts and requested forgiveness.
December 28, 2015 update: As reported by Christina Commisso of CTV News, December 16, 2015:

Canadian officials say they're "dismayed" by the life sentence handed down to an Ontario pastor who was found guilty by a North Korean court of crimes against the state.

Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim, who pastors the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, was given the sentence after a 90-minute trial before the country's Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday that Canadian officials will continue to pressure North Korea to allow a meeting with Lim.

"We need to be able to meet with, and ensure that, Canadians are being properly treated everywhere around the world, including North Korea," Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa.

He added that the government is "very concerned" about the life sentence handed to Lim.

Earlier in the day, the acting director of Global Affairs Canada called Lim's sentence "unduly harsh."

"Canada is dismayed at the unduly harsh sentence given to Mr. Lim by a North Korean court, particularly given his age and fragile health," Francois Lasalle said in a statement to CTV News on Wednesday.

Top Conservatives also called the sentence “harsh.”

Conservative Party interim leader [Rona Ambrose] said the arrest was “an affront to Canadians’ belief in religious freedom.”

“We condemn it absolutely, and the government has our full support for any action it might take to secure his release and return to his family and congregation here in Canada,” Ambrose added.

Foreign Affairs Critic Tony Clement called it “a reflection of a cruel and unjust dictatorship that inflicts horrendous human rights abuses upon its own people, and threatens the world with its reckless nuclear ambitions...”

..."Despite repeated requests, Canadian officials have not been able to meet with him to verify his health and well-being," Lasalle said.

Officials said the first opportunity they had to see Lim since his arrest was during his trial. LaSalle said North Korea violated the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which safeguards the right of states have consular access to their citizens.

"Like Mr. Lim's family and friends, the Government of Canada remains concerned for his rights and well-being and wishes to see him return to Canada,” Lasalle said.
As reported by Ryan Maloney of Canadian Press, December 22, 2015:

North Korea says Canada and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are "recklessly spouting rubbish" by protesting the sentencing of a Canadian pastor to life in prison with hard labour for what Pyongyang calls crimes against the state.

A statement shared by North Korea's mission to the United Nations on Tuesday says Canada's government is "obliged to make an apology" for the crimes it says Hyeon Soo Lim committed.

Lim was sentenced last week after being accused of trying to use religion to destroy the North Korean system.

Trudeau's comments followed.

Lim's relatives have said the pastor, who is in his 60s, travelled in January on a regular humanitarian mission to North Korea.

A spokeswoman for Canada's Global Affairs Department has said Canada is "dismayed at the unduly harsh sentence."
August 12, 2017 update: Good news, as reported by Brennan Doherty and Michelle McQuigge of Canadian Press, August 8, 2017:

TORONTO — An Ontario church congregation is celebrating news of the release of their pastor from a North Korean prison more than two years after he was arrested in the country.

A decision from North Korea’s central court freed Hyeon Soo Lim from the prison where he was serving a life sentence for anti-state activities, the country’s Korean Central News Agency reported Wednesday.

The pastor’s release, which came on the heels of an official visit from a Canadian government delegation, was described as “sick bail” by the news agency. No other details were provided.

Lim, a pastor with the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, Ont., had been sentenced by a North Korean court to life in prison with hard labour for what it called crimes against the state.

Charges against him included harming the dignity of the supreme leadership, trying to use religion to destroy the North Korean system, disseminating negative propaganda about the North to overseas Koreans, and helping American and South Korean efforts to help people defect from the north.

Word of Lim’s release drew members of his congregation to their church, just west of Toronto, where they were seen hugging and crying Wednesday morning.

Charles Baik, an associate pastor with the church’s English ministry, said members are ecstatic at the prospect of Lim’s return.

“We’re so happy he’s been released, ” Baik said from outside the church.

Lim, who has a wife and son living in the Toronto area, started the Light Korean Presbyterian Church nearly three decades ago, shortly after he emigrated from South Korea.

He grew the congregation from about a dozen people in 1986 to more than 3,000 members. He also runs a smaller church in downtown Toronto that caters to young people.

The church has taken on numerous humanitarian projects in North Korea, one of which prompted Lim’s last trip there in January 2015.

Family and friends previously said he was visiting an orphanage, nursery and nursing home in the country at the time of his arrest. The pastor had successfully travelled to North Korea more than 100 times over the past two decades, they added.

Baik said the pastor’s ordeal would not deter the church from future humanitarian projects in the country.

“Missions will never stop, no matter where they may be,” he said.

Family members had urged the Canadian government to put pressure on North Korea to secure Lim’s release.

Their calls for action took on fresh urgency in June following the death of Otto Warmbier, an American student who lived only one week after being released from North Korean custody due to health concerns.

Lim’s own health was of concern to his family members, who had said the pastor needed medication to manage his blood pressure.

A Canadian delegation led by Daniel Jean, the national security adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, was in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang this week to discuss Lim’s case.

“Pastor Lim’s health and well-being remain of utmost importance to the government of Canada as we continue to engage on this case,” Cameron Ahmad, a spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office, told The Canadian Press on Tuesday.

Neither Ahmad nor Global Affairs responded to request for comment on Lim’s release.

Canada does not have an embassy in North Korea, and has advised against all travel there.

The Roman Catholic Church's influence in Ireland may be waning

See Irish support for same-sex marriage a questioning of faith as referendum looms by Mark MacKinnon in the Toronto newspaper The Globe and Mail, May 17, 2015. The discerning reader will note that among those supporting same-sex "marriage" is Bono, leader of the rock music group U2 and religious syncretist.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

50 years ago: Israel and West Germany establish diplomatic relations

On May 12, 1965, Israel and the Federal Republic of Germany established diplomatic relations, 20 years after the end of Nazi Germany's genocide of Jews during World War II. West Germany had recently paid Israel $75 million as the final installment of war reparations to the Jews. In March 1965, the Israeli Knesset had voted its approval of formal diplomatic relations with the Federal Republic of Germany.

By May 16, 1965, all Arab states except Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia had responded to this development by cutting diplomatic ties with West Germany.