Monday, May 18, 2015

​France’s main Protestant Church gives blessing to gay marriages

France's largest Protestant Church, the fourth-largest religious group in the country, has voted for its pastors to give their blessing to homosexual couples. The move comes two years after Paris legalized same-sex marriages.
"The synod has decided to take a step forward in accompanying people and these couples by opening the possibility of celebrating liturgical blessings if they want," said Laurent Schlumberger, president of the Church.

The United Protestant Church of France, claims it has about 110,000 active members and 400,000 believers. It was created back in 2012-2013 after the merger of the Reformed Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church. It ranks behind Catholicism, Judaism and Islam in numbers of adherents.

The decision was supported by 94 delegates out of 100. Only three voted against blessing homosexual couples. However, the vicars who oppose the practice won’t be forced to perform it.

“The decision was adopted overwhelmingly and calmly, and has allowed us to move forward together, even if different positions within our Church remain on this subject,” Schlumberger added.

“It’s an option, not an obligation,” as “every pastor and every parish is free to implement this change.”

The Popular Evangelical Mission, which is much smaller than the United Protestant Church, previously authorized a ceremony of "prayer and liturgical welcome" for same-sex couples in France.

Read more
Tear gas, clashes after same-sex marriage law protest in Paris (PHOTOS, VIDEO)
France legalized gay marriages and adoption of children by gay couples in May 2013. The first official same-sex ceremony was held soon afterwards, on May 29, in the city of Montpellier. The bill saw nationwide protests defending traditional family values.

On Saturday, the Church of Scotland moved even further and voted to accept ministers and deacons in same-sex civil partnerships.

The Synod of the Lutheran Church of Sweden said yes to same-sex weddings back in 2009 and Denmark in 2012 made it mandatory for all churches to offer full religious weddings for gay couples. Norway followed its neighbors in 2014.

However, not all churches are so liberal towards same-sex weddings. Conservative Protestant churches, especially evangelicals, oppose the practice.

READ MORE: Ultra-conservative Catholics hit out at possible Vatican plans to welcome gays

The Vatican policy towards homosexuals became milder since Pope Francis was ordained. In 2013 he stated, "If a person is gay and seeks God and has goodwill, who am I to judge?"

The Catholic Church still condemns homosexual acts; however, it recognizes that gays could play a role within the Church.

​Saudis resume airstrikes on Yemen following five-day humanitarian ceasefire

The five-day humanitarian ceasefire in Yemen has ended with the resumption of Saudi-led air strikes against Houthi rebel positions, despite United Nations envoys’ calls for an extension of the truce.

Coalition airstrikes hit rebel positions and tanks in several neighborhoods of the port city of Aden, Yemeni security officials told the Associated Press when the ceasefire expired at 11:00pm on Sunday.

“They began bombing Aden a few minutes ago,” an army commander loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh confirmed to Sputnik.

Reports from the ground said explosions could be heard near the airport and the districts of Khor Maksar and Crater. Air raids have allegedly hit the Houthi-held presidential palace as well as a military base military officials and witnesses told Saana.

The bombardment resumed despite UN calls to extend the humanitarian pause which has largely held in the country since.

“I call on all parties to renew their commitment to this truce for five more days at least,” UN envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said shortly before the resumption of air campaign. “This humanitarian truce should turn into a permanent ceasefire.”

Read more
Iran will protect ‘oppressed’ in Yemen, Palestine and Bahrain – Khamenei
The UN call for peace comes as Yemeni political parties gathered in the Saudi capital Riyadh in search of a political solution to the crisis. Houthis, the main rebel fighting force on the ground, however decided not to send their representatives as some 400 delegates including ousted President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi took part in the talks.

While tribal fractions seek stability, the UN World Food Program (WFP) said that getting aid into the country during the five-day pause in fighting was largely successful. The agency was able to deliver vital food, fuel and medicine supplies that were needed in Saudi-blockaded Yemen.

UN estimates that conflict in Yemen has killed more than 1,400 people, many of them civilians, since the Saudi-led air campaign began in late March.

ISIS claims full control of Ramadi after Iraqi troops abandon positions (VIDEO)

Iraqi forces have retreated from a compound they used as a command center in Ramadi, losing control of Aden’s provincial capital to Islamic State militants, despite substantial US airstrike support helping Iraqi troops and loyal militia hold the city.

“Ramadi has fallen,”said Muhannad Haimour, a spokesman for the governor of Anbar province. “The city was completely taken. ... The military is fleeing.”The spokesman added that at least 500 people were killed in the jihadist offensive.

The militants claimed their full control of the city after squashing last major pocket of resistance from tribal and government forces.

“God has enabled the soldiers of the caliphate to cleanse all of Ramadi... after storming the 8th brigade. They (now) control it along with a battalion of tanks and missile launchers and in addition to the Anbar operations command,” the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) statement said. The group also said it had seized tanks and killed dozens Iraqi security forces.

The final ISIS offensive that drove out government forces and tribal militias began early Sunday. Militants focused their attack on police officers defending the Malaab district in southern Ramadi by simultaneous bombings. Another three suicide bombers stormed the gate of the military headquarters to take control of the Anbar Operation Command.

Jihadis “pushed into the Ramadi military command headquarters after a fierce fight. The whole city is under their control,” Ahmed al-Dulaimi, a tribal leader told Bloomberg via phone.

Local security officials told AP that the militants already carried out mass killings of Iraqi security forces and civilians. Sunni tribal leader, Naeem al-Gauoud, said that bodies litter the streets in Ramadi, while others are thrown in the river.

Two days of fighting in Ramadi had displaced around 8,000 people according to the International Organization for Migration.

Read more
ISIS captures capital of Iraqi Anbar, raises black flag over Ramadi govt HQ
Ramadi has been captured despite US-led air support and a counter-offensive by Iraqi forces to recapture the city. At least seven airstrikes in Ramadi were conducted in the last 24 hours – the highest number of strikes to target any single location. “It is a fluid and contested battlefield,” said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. “We are supporting (the Iraqis) with air power.”

The Pentagon refused to immediately admit Ramadi had fallen, with Defense Department spokeswoman Maureen Schumann saying it was “too early to make definitive statements about the situation on the ground.” She said the United States was “continuing to monitor reports of tough fighting in Ramadi and the situation remains fluid and contested."

The Islamic State indeed has military advantage in Ramadi, the Pentagon confirmed, warning that the city falling into the hands of jihadists would be a great propaganda boost for them. But in the worst case, official said according to Reuters, the US-led coalition would support Iraqi army in taking the city back “later.”