In a live streamed video call into the heavens Thursday, Pope Francis connected with astronauts aboard the International Space Agency and jumped right into the big question: What is our place in the universe?
Francis, the first pope to call the space station and second to speak to astronauts orbiting the earth via video call, conversed with Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency, Russian cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Sergey Ryazanskiy and NASA astronauts Randy Bresnik, Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba.
During his 23-minute call from the Vatican Library in Rome, Italy, the pope spoke in Italian and Nespoli translated for his fellow crew members.
“Your little glass palace in totality is greater than the sum of its parts, and this is the example that you give us,” Francis said through a translator.
He asked Nespoli, “What are your thoughts regarding the place of man in the universe?"
“Holy Father, this is a complex question," Nespoli replied in Italian as NASA TV displayed an English translation for viewers. “When we speak of these much more internal questions of where we come from, I remain rather perplexed. I think that our objective here is that of knowing our being and to fill our knowledge to understand what's around us. But on the other hand, an interesting thing is that the more we know, the more we realize how little we know.”
Francis also asked why they became astronauts and what they love about spending time at the ISS.
Ryazanskiy told the pope he was honored to continue his family’s legacy. Ryazanskiy’s grandfather had worked on the launch of the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik, which launched in 1957.
Francis, who has long exalted the role of grandparents, marveled at his response. “That's our strength: Never forget roots. It does me good to hear this! Thank you,” he said.
Bresnik described the overwhelming joy of looking outside and seeing “God’s creation from his perspective.”
“As we see the peace and serenity of our planet … there's no borders, no conflict. It's just peaceful,” Breskin said. “We hope that an example of what we can achieve together [in space] sets an example for the rest of the world.”
Pope Francis’ conversation with the astronauts, particularly Russian cosmonauts Misurkin and Ryazanskiy, also marked a small step toward softening Vatican-Russian relations.
When he asked the astronauts what they thought about Italian poet Dante Alighieri’s verse that love is the force that moves the universe, Misurkin said he had been listening to the audiobook of Antoine de St. Exupery’s “The Little Prince” and was moved by the young boy’s understanding of love.
“Love is the force that gives you strength to give your life for someone else,” he told the pope.
Francis, overjoyed by Misurkin’s response, said, “It's clear you have understood the message that St. Exupery so poetically explained, and that you Russians have in your blood, in your humanistic and religious tradition.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Updated Oct. 23, 2017
More than 600,000 Rohingya refugees have fled a brutal military crackdown in the Buddhist majority country of Myanmar, where they are denied citizenship and reportedly face an array of human rights abuses, to seek refuge in Bangladesh.
But many other Rohingya refugees have been turned away, leaving thousands stranded at sea.
Almost 40 percent of all Rohingya villages were empty last month, a Myanmar government spokesperson confirmed.
Zeid Ra‘ad al-Hussein, the United Nations human rights chief, has called what's happening to Rohingya in Myanmar “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic group living primarily in the Buddhist nation of Myanmar (or Burma). There are approximately 1.1 million Rohingya living in the country.
According to Al Jazeera, the Rohingya have been described as the “world’s most persecuted minority,” and have faced systematic persecution since Myanmar’s independence in the late 1940s.
Most Rohingya in Myanmar reside in the Rakhine State on the country’s western coast.
Rakhine State is regarded as one of the country’s poorest areas and lacks basic services in education and health care.The Rohingya’s history in Myanmar
According to historians, the group has been residing in Arakan (now Rakhine State) since as early as the 12th century, Al Jazeera reported.
When the British ruled between 1824 and 1948, they administered Myanmar as a province of India and, thus, any migration of laborers between Myanmar and other South Asian countries (like Bangladesh) was considered internal. The majority of the native Myanmar population did not like that.
After gaining independence in 1948, the Burmese government still frowned upon any migration that occurred during the period of British rule, claiming it all to be illegal.
In fact, many Buddhists in Myanmar consider the Ronhingya to be Bengali, or people from Bangladesh.
The discriminatory 1982 Citizenship Law officially prevented them from obtaining citizenship.
And according to a Human Rights Watch report from 2000, this is the basis the Myanmar government uses to deny Rohingya citizenship in the country.
Over the years, military crackdowns on the Rohingya have forced hundreds of thousands to escape.
According to the HRW report, Rohingya refugees reported that the Burmese army had forcibly evicted them. Many also alleged widespread army brutality, rape and murder.
Between 1991 and 1992, more than 250,000 Rohingya refugees fled to southeastern Bangladesh. But with the influx of refugees, the Bangladeshi government insisted the refugees return to Arakan (Rakhine State).
By 1997, according to the HRW report, some 230,000 refugees returned.
That same year, the Burmese government said it would not accept any more returning refugees after Aug. 15, 1997, leading to a series of disturbances in Bangladeshi refugee camps.
The Human Rights Watch has called the crisis a deadly game of “human ping-pong.”What’s happening to the Rohingya now?
Myanmar, a Buddhist-majority country, continues to deny the Rohingya citizenship, freedom to travel, access to education and the group still faces harsh systematic persecution.
In October 2016, the Burmese government blamed members of the Rohingya for the killings of nine border police, leading to a crackdown on Rakhine State villages in which troops were accused of rape, extrajudicial killing and other human rights abuses — all allegations they denied.
Satellite images have also shown Rohingya villages burning — at least 288 villages so far.
And most recently in August, violence erupted after a Rohingya armed rebel group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvatian Army (ARSA) attacked police posts and an army base in Rakhine, Al Jazeera reported.
ARSA has reportedly killed a dozen Burmese security personnel in the past. And according to the Washington Post, it’s unclear how much support the rebel group, which seeks an autonomous Muslim state for the Rohingya, actually has among the Rohingya.
Following the August event, civilians began paying the price for ARSA’s small insurgency as Burma’s military launched a “clearance operation,” which U.N. commisioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” the Washington Post reported.
More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh to escape the aforementioned allegations of human rights abuses such as rape, murder and arson, according to the United Nations.
Women, children and the elderly made up the bulk of that group.
Approximately 40,000 have also settled in India and 16,000 of which have obtained official refugee documentation.
But severe flooding in Bangladesh and India have made conditions in refugee camps even worse and according to National Geographic, there have been reports of cholera outbreaks, water shortages and malnutrition.
Over the past three years, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have tried to escape by boat to neighboring countries that refuse to let them in.
Approximately 8,000 migrants have been stranded at sea.Why won’t other countries take them in?
Many of Myanmar’s neighboring countries, including Bangladesh and Thailand, refuse to take them in.
The Thai navy has actually turned them away.
Lex Rieffel, an expert on Southeast Asia at the Brookings Institution, told NPR in 2015 that the Buddhist-majority nation of Thailand has been battling an Islamist insurgency for decades and has "no stomach" for bringing in more Muslims.
“Where will the budget come from? That money will need to come from Thai people's taxes, right?” Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters in 2015.
Malaysia and Indonesia, despite being Muslim-majority nations, have also prevented Rohingya from entering their countries, citing “social unrest.” And Indonesia worries about “an uncontrolled influx.”
“What do you expect us to do?” Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Jafaar told The Guardian in 2015. “We have been very nice to the people who broke into our border. We have treated them humanely, but they cannot be flooding our shores like this.”What is Aung San Suu Kyi saying?
The crisis has drawn worldwide criticism of Myanmar's government and its leader, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi.
Most human rights activists have denounced Suu Kyi for not publicly condemning the Myanmar military’s treatment of the Rohingya.
According to the BBC, Suu Kyi said “a huge iceberg of misinformation” was distorting the crisis.
“We know very well, more than most, what it means to be deprived of human rights and democratic protection,” she is quoted as saying to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a recent statement. “So, we make sure that all the people in our country are entitled to protection of their rights as well as ... not just political but social and humanitarian defence.”
But the misinformation or “fake news” is possibly generated by the Burmese government’s decision to deny media access to its troubled areas, BBC’s Tn Htar Swe said.
"If they allowed the UN or human rights bodies to go to the place to find out what is happening then ... misinformation is not going to take place.”
Condemnation of Suu Kyi’s inaction and response have led to calls for the rescindment of her Nobel Peace Prize, which she won in 1991 as a result of her long fight for democracy in Burma. According to the Washington Post, the Nobel Committee said that will not happen.How is the world reacting to the Rohingya crisis?
Bangladesh, which is facing the largest influx of Rohingyas from Myanmar, has called on the international community to intervene.
International aid to much of Myanmar’s Rakhine State have been suspended, leaving more than 250,000 Rohingya Muslims without medical care, food and other vital humanitarian assistance, the Human Rights Watch reported last month.
“The United Nations, ASEAN and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation need to ramp up the pressure on Burma, and provide more assistance to Bangladesh, to promptly help Rohingya and other displaced people,” said Philippe Bolopion, deputy diretor for global advocacy at Human Rights Watch.
The U.S. State Department also announced plans last month to dispense about $32 million in humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya ethnic minority facing persecution in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
“Through this support, the United States will help provide emergency shelter, food security, nutritional assistance, health assistance, psychosocial support, water, sanitation and hygiene, livelihoods, social inclusion, non-food items, disaster and crisis risk reduction, restoring family links, and protection to over 400,000 displaced persons in Burma and in Bangladesh,” according to the press release.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the world's largest Muslim body, also issued a statement urging Muslim countries to work together to help the Rohingya refugees.
Earlier this year, the United Nations Human Rights Council approved an investigative mission, but was denied entry into Myanmar in June. And when an envoy entered in July, the visit was met with protests.
Last week, the U.N. Security Council condemned the violence, its first unified statement on Myanmar in nine years, the New York Times reported.
But, according to the New York Times, the U.N. is unlikely to act against Myanmar.
China also blocked Egypt’s efforts to add language for Rohingya refugees to be guaranteed the right to return to Myanmar from Bangladesh.
Both China and Russie hold veto power in the U.N. Security Council and can block efforts to sanction Myanmar.
Aid groups continue efforts to reach Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and send aid to refugee camps.
The United Nations has pledged roughly $340 million and according to Mark Lowcock of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the U.N. and its partners are seeking $434 million to help the Rohingya Muslims through February.
According to the Indian Express, India sent an aircraft with the first shipment of humanitarian assistance to Bangladesh for Rohingya Muslim refugees last month.
Bangladeshi citizens themselves are also among those providing aid and shelter to the many starving Rohingya refugees in their country.
Jordan’s queen, Queen Rania, said last week after visiting a refugee camp in Bangladesh that she was shocked by the refugees’ limited access to basic support and health care, the Dhaka Tribune reported.
“It is unforgivable that this crisis is unfolding, largely ignored by the international community," she said. "The world response has been muted. I urge the U.N. and the international community to do more to ensure we can bring peace to this conflict.”
According to the Human Rights Watch, the Tatmadaw True News Information Team announced a military-led investigation of security forces in the Rakhine State.
“We want to go home and we want peace. But I believe the world is watching our crisis and that they are trying to help us,” Rahimol Mustafa, a 22-year-old Rohingya Muslim told Al Jazeera in an interview.
Mustafa fled Rakhine State a few weeks ago and is currently safe at a refugee camp in Bangladesh, but with “no shelter and no future.”
“We’re getting near that beautiful Christmas season that people don’t talk about anymore. They don’t use the word ‘Christmas’ because it’s not politically correct,” he said, explaining that politically correct culture has made it difficult to celebrate the holiday. “You go to department stores, and they’ll say ‘Happy New Year,’ or they’ll say other things, and it’ll be red -- they’ll have it painted -- but they don’t say -- Well, guess what? We’re saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”
The crowd at the Christian public policy conference went wild, cheering on the president as he went on to call for tax reform, calling the possibility a “Christmas gift.”
President Trump has frequently used the “war on Christmas” to fire up the evangelical Christian wing of his base, saying on the campaign trail that political correctness prohibits people from proudly celebrating Christian holidays such as Christmas.
“So, when I started 18 months ago, I told my first crowd in Wisconsin that we are going to come back here someday, and we are going to say Merry Christmas again,” he said at the time. “Merry Christmas. So, Merry Christmas everyone.”
Families in one California neighborhood barely made it out alive before a raging wildfire destroyed everything.
Margaret Curzon took this video of what's left of her parents' house in Santa Rosa.
They lived there for 26 years.
The only thing left standing when they returned was a statue of the Virgin Mary.
Her parents said they woke up Monday morning because their dog, Brady, was whimpering.
They only had minutes to leave, but their neighbors were also trying to escape, so they couldn't get out quick and could feel their car getting hotter as the flames drew closer.
But her parents finally made it out.
She said her father is a mailman, and he went to work Tuesday to try and get his life back to normal.
More than a dozen fires are still burning across northern California.
If you have plans for Saturday, you might want to change them. Well, if you believe a new claim that says the world is going to end Sept. 23, that is.
Christian publication Unsealed foretells the coming of the rapture in a four-minute YouTube video called "September 23, 2017: You Need to See This."
Why Saturday? According to David Meade, the date is derived from verses and numerical codes in the Bible.
"Jesus lived for 33 years. The name Elohim, which is the name of God to the Jews, was mentioned 33 times (in the Bible)," Meade told The Washington Post. "It's a very biblically significant, numerologically significant number. I'm talking astronomy. I'm talking the Bible . . . and merging the two."
Ed Stetzer, a pastor and executive director of Wheaton College's Billy Graham Center, takes issue with Meade and his claims.
The percentage of white Christians in America is decreasing, according to a new report.
The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) published the report Wednesday, with findings that U.S. residents who identify as white and Christian are less than half of the country’s population.
The shift comes with increased immigration into the country and as more people reject organized religion altogether, The Associated Press reported.
Forty years ago, about eight in 10 Americans were white Christians. Now, only 43 percent of the population identifies as such. Still, 70 percent of the overall population identifies as Christian, according to the PRRI.
The survey, conducted from January 2016 to January 2017, collected information from more than 100,000 participants. It found that 25 percent of the population doesn’t identify with a faith group.
Predominantly white Protestant denominations, such as Presbyterians and Lutherans, have seen drops in membership, and the number of white evangelicals has decreased, the survey found.
As the presence of Latino Catholics in the U.S. has increased, the percentage of white American Catholics has decreased; approximately 55 percent of American Catholics identify as white, compared with 87 percent 25 years ago. And some white Catholics are leaving the church.
The percentage of Americans who identify as white evangelicals has decreased too.
According to the survey, about 17 percent of Americans identify as white evangelical, compared with 23 percent 10 years ago.
In regard to political affiliation, the PRRI found that more than 33 percent of Republicans identify as white evangelicals and nearly 75 percent identify as white Christians.
Only 29 percent of those who identify as Democrats are white Christians. Forty percent of Democrats surveyed said they have no religious affiliation, according to the report.
Read more at The Associated Press.
In a recent speech, Jesse Jackson criticized Donald Trump saying that the president would “not qualify to get into Jesus’s kingdom.”
Jackson was in Washington, D.C., on Monday for the Ministers March for Justice when he made the remarks.
In his speech, he hit on a number of topics, but criticism of President Trump was an underlying theme throughout the remarks. The march was intended to harken back to Martin Luther King’s famous march and speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
“Trump says you must be able to speak the language of English, (be) qualified and have a job skill. Jesus would not qualify to come in Trump’s country. (Trump) would not qualify to get into Jesus’ kingdom,” Jackson said.
Jackson then read from the Gospel of Matthew in the Bible: “I was hungry, you fed me; naked, you clothed me; captured, you set me free.”
During his speech, Jackson also called for the removal of Confederate monuments. He referenced the woman murdered in Charlottesville, Heather Heyer, saying, “The blood of Heather Heyer ... shows the power of non-violence.”
While he was critical of Trump on Monday, Jackson has previously praised Trump’s philanthropy. A 1998 clip of the reverend on C-SPAN shows him thanking the then-businessman for his dedication to Jackson’s causes.
Rosie O’Donnell took to Twitter on Wednesday to implore Houston pastor Joel Osteen to be more like Jesus following his “Today” interview, during which he disputed reports that his megachurch turned away Hurricane Harvey evacuees.
O’Donnell tweeted in response, “hey @JoelOsteen – when u mess up – fess up ask god for forgiveness – then ask the people of texas be humble joel – be human – be like JC.”
“[The city] didn’t need us as shelter then,” Osteen said on “Today” in an explanation for why his megachurch did not open its doors until after it received public pressure and media attention. “If we needed to be a shelter, we certainly would’ve been a shelter right when they first asked.”
“Once they filled up, they never dreamed that we’d have this many displaced people, [and] they asked us to become a shelter,” Osteen continued. “I think this notion that somehow we would turn people away or we weren’t here for the city is about as false as can be.”
Osteen was on the receiving end of major backlash from social media users over the weekend after word got out that he had not offered his 16,800-capacity church to those escaping the storm. He later said the city of Houston didn’t ask him to do so. O’Donnell made it clear she thinks he should apologize.
A family says a statue of the Virgin Mary is all that remained after a fire destroyed their home during Hurricane Harvey, and that symbol is giving them hope.
The Rojas family of Robstown, Texas, evacuated their homes on their family property before the Category 4 hurricane made landfall, and after seeing what happened to three of the family’s houses, they say they’re glad they left. They returned to charred remains where the houses once stood.
“The first thing I thought is we would have died in here if we would have stayed. We left, so we’re alive and I just wish this wouldn’t have happened,” homeowner Natali Rojas told KRIS.
Rojas said one of the only items that remained after the fires was a statue of the Virgin Mary. She said it’s a reminder to stay strong.
“Appreciate what you have, listen to the warnings, hug your children and thank God for today and yesterday, and pray for a better tomorrow,” Rojas said.
The Rojas family set up a GoFundMe account to raise money to rebuild. If you would like to donate, click here.
In an effort to “Make the Church Relevant Again,” church leaders took a marketing tip from Atlanta-based hip-hop star 2 Chainz himself and decorated their sanctuary with a miniature Pink Trap House, a pink stove and a pink toy car.
The church shared its one-of-a-kind service led by Bishop William Murphy on Facebook Live and as of Monday morning, the post has garnered nearly 30,000 views.
Viewers and attendees alike lauded Bishop’s and the dReam Center Church’s unique way of attracting the youth for its Sunday service.
And 2 Chainz himself took to Instagram to praise the service, writing, “I think it’s dope to be used by God in different ways.”
2 Chainz’ Pink Trap House, a flipped home at 1530 Howell Mill painted pink to mimic his album’s cover art, was a hot Instagram spot last month.
The artist, currently performing in a pink wheelchair after breaking his leg on tour, initially used the venue to host a listening party to promote his project with actress and writer Issa Rae, “Pretty Girls Like Trap Music.”
But the house was also used as a site for free HIV testing and for a “Trap Church” event hosted by Street Groomers, a neighborhood watch group and local faith leaders such as Michael Wortham, minister of young adults at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.
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