- The Washington Times - Monday, January 22, 2024

There was no shortage of big news on the faith and culture fronts this week. One of the most salient stories centered on an annual report measuring religious persecution across the globe.

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The Open Doors World Watch List 2024 found nearly 5,000 Christians were killed for their faith, with anti-Christian assaults and attacks soaring around the globe. Overall, 365 million people now face intense persecution and discrimination, with much of it unfolding in Africa.

“Assaults in Nigeria were responsible for 82% of Christian deaths worldwide, while India saw a nine-fold increase in Christian killings last year,” The Washington Times’ Mark Kellner reports. “Meanwhile, North Korea kept its No. 1 spot among persecuting nations.” Read more about the report here.

Annual March for Life pushes support for pregnant women


The Washington Times’ Sean Salai braved snow and below-freezing temperatures to cover the annual March for Life, held Friday in Washington.

The thousands of activists at the 51st National March for Life, held in a snowstorm, expressed a renewed desire to support pregnant women with resources, as well as calling for legal restrictions on abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and the health of the mother, he reported.

“Though legislation protecting life remains critical, even more important is the work of changing hearts and minds,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life. “That’s why we will continue marching at the state and federal level until our nation’s laws reflect the basic truth that all human life is created equal and is worthy of protection.”

The theme of this year’s march: “With Every Woman: For Every Child.”

Read more about the march and the speeches here.

Holocaust survivor speaks: Hamas, Hitler and hope

Jochen Wurfl was a child when Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany, and with a Catholic father and Jewish mother, his family did everything possible to protect him and his brother, Peter, from the horrors of the unfolding Holocaust. But while their entire family died in concentration camps, Jochen and Peter survived by hiding in plain sight and joining the Nazi Youth.

Mr. Wurfl will join Higher Ground for a special event on Jan. 24 at 2 p.m. He’ll discuss his book “My Two Lives,” rising anti-Semitism and surviving Hitler’s horrors. Find out more about the event here.

Most Americans back sidewalk counseling

Most Americans say pro-life pregnancy counselors should be permitted to offer advice to women near and around abortion clinics. A new survey from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty found two-thirds of Americans don’t want local governments barring such activities, Mr. Kellner reports.

“In the public-interest law firm’s 2023 Religious Freedom Index, 62% of respondents said pregnancy counselors should be free to stand on a public sidewalk outside an abortion clinic and approach women with information and offers of help,” Mr. Kellner notes. “About 38% said counselors should not be allowed to accost women near clinics.” Read the full story here.

Biden’s LGBTQ judicial appointments

President Biden “already has appointed almost as many openly LGBTQ judges in his first four years in office as President Barack Obama did in eight years,” The Times’ Alex Swoyer reports.

Mr. Obama oversaw 11 LGBTQ judges confirmed during his two terms; Mr. Biden is currently at seven, with a year to go in his presidency. Read more about these appointments here.

America’s educational evolution

It seems American parents are increasingly looking for different — and diverse — schooling options for their kids.

The National School Choice Awareness Foundation found that the percentage of K-12 parents who considered changing schools more than doubled from 35% in 2022 to 72% in 2023, The Times’ Sean Salai reports. Another 56.7% said they were likely to choose a “different school or learning environment” this year compared to 43.6% of parents with more than one child who considered such changes last year — a 13-point jump.

Read more about the changes happening on the educational front here.

Christian singer Phil Wickham: ‘I’m proud of Jesus’

Christian artist Phil Wickham recently described in an interview with The Washington Times’s Higher Ground his gratitude for his music career, how God has worked in his life and the passion behind his latest album, “I Believe.” After 25 years of making music, he said the album is his testimony to help others discover the love and healing that Jesus offers.

Watch Mr. Wickham break it all down here.

A religious rights revolution

Who could look past some of the powerful survey results showing upticks in favorability about religion’s role in society, parental rights and a variety of other issues? New survey data from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty offers that and more.

“Americans increasingly support religious freedom, scoring the highest-ever 69 out of 100 in the public interest law firm’s fifth annual Religious Liberty Index,” Mr. Kellner writes. “Specific support was registered for parents having the right to raise their children in a way consistent with their faith.”

Meanwhile, 59% said they see religion as part of the solution to America’s problems. See the full results and article here.

A miracle rescue

Now for some more good news and inspiration: 4-year-old Phenix Wilkerson, the Alabama youngster who was found in the woods after disappearing for nearly three days, is capturing headlines — and so is the person who rescued him.

“As I was getting closer to him, my heart started rushing, so that’s how I knew I was getting close,’’ Markeith Williams said of the miracle find. “I knew it was God with me.” Read more about the miracle and why people are praising God for the child’s safe return home.

In our opinion

Bible on trial. Columnist Billy Hallowell writes about Finnish politician Paivi Rasanen’s legal battle, warning of its implications for religious liberty.

“In a plot seemingly ripped from the pages of an Alfred Hitchcock script, Ms. Rasanen, a member of the Finnish parliament who previously served as the nation’s interior secretary, was brought up on ‘hate crimes’ charges for simply expressing her Christian beliefs,” Mr. Hallowell writes. Find out the latest twist in her case — and why it’s so alarming.

Importance of loving others. Kori Pennypacker offers a reflective look at time, priorities and what really matters. While so many of us focus on the value of our time, Ms. Pennypacker urges readers to think deeper and more profoundly about what truly matters.

“We ask ‘what truly is important to us?’” she said. “That’s where we should spend our time. But I think the real question is not what, but who is truly important to us?” See why our answer to this question holds the power to change absolutely everything.

MLK’s most powerful quote. Columnist Everett Piper tackled a timely question last week in his “Ask Dr. E” column: “What was the most important thing that Martin Luther King Jr. ever said?” Hint: his answer has quite a bit to do with morals, goodness and God.

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