Persecuted for Their Faith

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven – Matthew 5:10

I have been aware of how much the church has been persecuted in different parts of the world through emails from Voice of the Martyrs Canada.  I have read many heartbreaking stories but I will share two of them.  A Christian woman named Mariam was expelled from her home by her husband who had militant Muslim views because she refused to renounce her faith.  At the time Mariam was pregnant and due to give birth soon.  She had to be cared for by church members.  In 2012 when she became a Christian, her Muslim family provoked an attack, forcing her to live on the streets.  Mariam is from the Ivory Coast which has seen an increase in violence since November 2010.

In Pakistan a teen died after being set on fire.  He was approached by two men who asked him about his religion.  After Nauman told them that he was a Christian, they proceeded to beat him.  He tried to run away but they followed him and doused him with kerosene and set him on fire.  Unfortunately, his attackers wore masks so there is little hope that they will be caught.  And it doesn’t help that the authorities show little interest in further investigation.

I thought that what these people experienced in their countries was bad but Ivory Coast and Pakistan are not even part of Gospel for Asia’s list of the top 10 countries where Christians are persecuted.  Life for Christians in these countries is simply horrendous.  First up is North Korea.

North Korea is the worst persecutor of Christians in the world. Christians are tortured, imprisoned and murdered. Private, non-state-sanctioned religious activity is prohibited. Anyone discovered engaging in clandestine religious activity is subject to arrest, torture or even public execution – Voice of the Martyrs – North Korea.

Yang was a Christian woman who became a follower of Jesus while she was still living in North Korea. Watch her incredible story of pain and hope.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” – John 16:33

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam is known for being one of the worst places when it comes to women’s rights and religious freedom.  According to VOM Canada, it is one of the most oppressive nations in the world for Christians.

Religious freedom is nonexistent, and leaving Islam is punishable by death. Non-Muslims are not permitted to become citizens of Saudi Arabia, and no places of worship other than mosques are permitted in the country. All non-Muslim religious rituals and materials are banned. Converts from Islam to Christianity are rare, and converts have been executed for the offense. Anyone who performs mission work or converts a Muslim faces jail, expulsion, lashing, torture or execution. Non-Muslim worship, even private worship for foreign Christians, is prohibited, and Saudi religious police have been known to raid homes where expatriate workers were worshiping – Voice of the Martyrs – Saudi Arabia.

In September 2014, a house church in the city of Khafji was raided and 28 people were arrested, including children. Bibles and musical instruments were also seized. The worshippers, mostly expatriate workers from South Asia, were held overnight and released the following day, apart from a leader of the group who was held for another night – Church in Chains.

Can you imagine receiving 200 lashes and two years in prison if you are from Saudi Arabia and 300 lashes and six years in prison if you are from another country?  In 2012, two men, one Lebanese and the other Saudi Arabian were charged with brainwashing a Saudi woman into becoming a Christian.  These charges were levelled against them by the woman’s family.  The woman, known as the “girl of Khobar” is living in Sweden where she has been granted asylum.  She wasn’t brainwashed, she chose to become a Christian (Church in Chains).  Watch as she and another Saudi share their testimonies.

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” – John 8:36

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan does not recognize any Afghan citizens as being Christians, nor are Afghan citizens legally permitted to convert to Christianity. Although there are no explicit laws that forbid proselytizing, many authorities and most of society view the practice as contrary to the beliefs of Islam. There is only one legally recognized church in Afghanistan and it is located within the diplomatic enclave, and not open to local nationals.  Muslims who change their faith to Christianity, are subject to societal and official pressure, which may lead to death penalty. However, there are cases in which a Muslim will adopt the Christian faith, secretly declaring his/her apostasy. In effect, they are practising Christians, but legally Muslims; thus, the statistics of Afghan Christians does not include Muslim apostates to Christianity – Wikipedia

I read that the growing number of Christians in Afghanistan is causing great concern among the Muslim leaders and they are calling on President Hamid Karzai to “limit the number of aid workers and Christian missionaries coming to Afghanistan” to keep Afghanis from converting to Christianity.”  Apparently this all started when a TV station in Kabul reported the conversion of several Afghans to Christianity and broadcasted photos of them praying and being baptized.  This sparked an outrage and a call to convict believers under the Sharia Law which decrees that anyone who leaves Islam and converts to another religion that person will be executed – Christian Headlines.  The Afghan Christians have no church building where they can go because the last one was destroyed two years ago.  They are completely underground now and are risking their lives to meet in homes.

This is my comfort in my affliction, For Your word has given me life – Psalm 119:50

The situation of religious freedom for Christians has seriously deteriorated under the influence of the establishment of the Islamic State in large parts of Iraq. In June 2014, a strict version of Islamic law was implemented in the area the militants of Islamic State hold. Christians were forced to convert, flee or pay a tax for religious minorities. As a result, many Christians fled. Moreover, the broader Iraqi society is turning more Islamic, with increased social control on women wearing a veil and observance of Ramadan. Christians most affected by persecution are converts from Islam. However, in areas held by radical Islamic groups all Christians are under great pressure – Open Doors USA

A family of four was forced to flee Iraq because of militants and a man for questioning the Quran.  Read their stories.

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand’ – Isaiah 41:10

Last year a Somalian believer was dragged outside of her home and murdered by a group of armed men. Anyone who tried to rescue her was shot at.  Her parents witnessed this terrible tragedy.  If a Somali was discovered to be a follower of Jesus, that person was going to face certain death not only in Somalia but in neighbouring countries where they are forced to flee as refugees.  According to one VOM source, “In Somalia, they kill you if they just find a piece of literature” (VOM USA).  My thoughts are with this young woman’s family and I pray that they are leaning on Jesus and trusting Him to strengthen them each day.

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You – Psalm 9:10

Maldives is one of the least evangelized countries in the world. The 0.2% figure for Christians refers to expatriate Christians. Citizens of the Maldives are automatically Muslim, and non-Muslims may not become citizens. The open practice of any religion other than Islam is forbidden. Maldivian believers are carefully watched. They suffer ostracism, mockery, incarceration and even torture. Christians cannot meet or read the Scriptures openly. Expatriate believers have been expelled, especially after sharing their faith – VOM Canada.

Citizens of the Maldives who convert to Christianity lose their citizenship and risk torture. Expulsions of Christians occurred several times in the last 10 years (Wikipedia).

In his presidential campaign the current President of Maldives, Abdulla Yameen promoted himself as a saviour of Islam. “Think for yourselves, do you want Islam in the Maldives or do you want to allow space for other religions in the Maldives,” he said in an election speech.  In his speech on Maldives Conversion to Islam Day, he told the citizens, “We should also be very vigilant of foreign influences attempting to weaken our religious faith” (The Diplomat).  Clearly, things for Christian believers in Maldives is not going to change any time soon.  Let’s lift them up in our prayers that they will remain strong and steadfast until the Lord returns.

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you – 1 Peter 5:10

It has been said that Mali has always been a dangerous place for Christians.  Christians who have fled are afraid to return and those who return find their properties occupied by Muslims.  There is no normal church life for Malian Christians in the north and those living in the south feel threatened by the Islamic groups in the north (source:  Open Doors).  Read about a pastor who escaped a deadly plot in Mali.

For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil” – 1 Peter 3:12

Imagine risking your life to tell others about Jesus in a country where religious freedom is on the decline. Watch this compelling video of a Iranian woman named Padina who was about to commit suicide but God intervened.

“I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” – John 8:12

Yemeni citizens are not allowed to convert to Christianity (or other religions). Converts from an Islamic background may face the death penalty if their new faith is discovered. Converts from Islam also encounter opposition from extremist groups, who threaten “apostates” with death if they do not revert to Islam. Proselytizing of Muslims is prohibited – VOM Canada

How frustrating it must be to have to hide your new faith or face possible death if it is discovered.  Please pray that your Yemeni brothers and sisters will be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1).

Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the LORD – Psalm 31:24

I received a prisoner update of an Eritrean man named Mussie Eyob who has been in prison since 2011. He was arrested because of his faith and his desire to share the Gospel with others.  Mussie became a Christian in 2008.  Three years later, while he was living in Saudi Arabia, he went to a mosque where he spoke about Christianity.  He was arrested on February 12, 2011.  It is a capital offence to proselyte in Saudi Arabia.  Praise God, He intervened through the appeals from various human rights groups and individuals.  Mussie was deported to Eritrea.  You can read his story here and see how you can reach out to him and his family.

It is ironic that as the people of Eritrea celebrated 24 years of independence in March 2015, religious freedom for Christians is still a concern.   According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), the greatest shortcomings in religious freedom are felt by minority groups such as evangelical Christians.  So once again, in 2015,  USCIRF holds to its position that Eritrea is to be designated as a “country of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act.

In the wake of their independence, Eritrean Christians had to flee to Ethiopia to escape their hardships where they continue to boldly share their faith.  “They are actually seeing many from (various) religious backgrounds — Muslim and Orthodox — enter into a personal relationship with Jesus” says Greg Musselman, a spokesman for The Voice of the Martyrs Canada.

“Today, you’ve got anywhere between 3,000 to 4,000 Christians there who are imprisoned in shipping containers or military camps because of their faith.”  Can you imagine dealing with torture, acts of cruelty, random arrests and detention without charges? Musselman believes that these practices are as a result of the government’s belief that evangelical Christianity is “western” and is linked with the CIA (ERITREA: Refugees Boldly Testify of Christian Faith; Source: Mission Network News).

It is encouraging to know that despite the ban on their religious activities, the imprisonments and persecutions, the Eritrean Christians are holding on.  They have this assurance that they are not alone and that they are fighting the good fight which will carry them through these fiery trials.

“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life – Revelation 2:10

If you are moved to pray for the Christians in these countries, find out how at this link.

“Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” Hebrews 13:3

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; Voice of the Martyrs Canada; Open Doors; Church in Chains

Baby Girls are not Celebrated

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you – Jeremiah 1:5

 

 

Imagine as you hold your baby daughter in your arms for the first time or you remember the first time you looked into those big, innocent eyes, that there is another baby girl who is not wanted simply because she is a girl.  As you tell your daughter or grand-daughter how much you love her, imagine a little girl whose father doesn’t love her because she is not a boy.  As you reminisce about the day you brought your daughter home from the hospital and laid her in her crib, watching her lie there, surrounded by stuff animals, and pretty wallpaper, welcoming her to her new home, think about another little girl who is abandoned–with no home to go to or a pretty room to call her own.  Hard to believe, isn’t it?  However, this is the reality that many women and girls face in South Asia.  It is Mayuri’s reality.

After five years of barrenness, Mayuri finally got pregnant.  For nine months she and her husband Rafat were looking forward to the day their son was born.   This child would restore peace to a home that had been fraught with years of disappointments and bitter arguments.  He would be the pride and joy of his family.  Things were finally looking up.

The big day arrived.  Excitement filled the air as Mayuri went into labor.  However, when the baby boy turned out to be a baby girl, the celebration was over.  Hope turned to horror as Mayuri was to face what usually happens to a woman when she gives birth to a girl instead of a boy.  It is the same thing Mayuri’s mother no doubt faced when she had her.

Like most girls, Mayuri was not loved by her father.  In fact, he drank, gambled and chased after women while she and her mother worked everyday to earn enough money to feed the family of five.  When they refused to give their wages to her father, he beat them.  Sometimes he beat her mother for no apparent reason.

Life at home was terrible for Mayuri.  So much so that her mother, Olimani prayed to all the deities and local goddesses, hoping that her husband would change but her prayers went unanswered.  He remained the same.  As any mother does, Olimani wanted a better life for her daughter.  She wanted Mayuri to escape her father’s abuse so she married off her when she was 14 years old.

Sadly, Mayuri’s new life turned into a nightmare.  She escaped abuse at her father’s hands only to experience abuse from the man she was to spend the rest of her life with…

The abuse women face for bearing daughters is so great that many have resorted to gender-selective abortion and infanticide, resulting in millions of “missing girls” in Asia. Discover more about this and other issues facing South Asian women in Gospel for Asia’s new film documentary, “Veil of Tears.”

At first, life with Rafat seemed promising but that soon changed when they were unable to have children.  The couple’s infertility caused tension in their relationship.  Unfortunately, in South Asia, the woman is blamed for the couple’s inability to have children.  Mayuri bore this shame alone for more than four years.  How she must have suffered.  I can’t help but think of Hannah who was barren but had a husband who loved her dearly.  And of Abraham who didn’t love Sarah any less because she couldn’t conceive.  Yet women like Mayuri are blamed, scorned and mistreated because they have trouble getting pregnant.

And when Mayuri finally got pregnant, she gave birth to a girl.  She could not even celebrate having a child, regardless of the gender, after trying to get pregnant unsuccessfully for five years .  She is punished by her husband.  It’s unthinkable that the woman is blamed for the baby’s gender when it’s the man who determines the sex of the child.  Ultimately, it is God who decides the gender and in His eyes, a child, whether it is a boy or a girl, is a gift from Him.

God blessed Mayuri with a second daughter but this made life worse for her.  The abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband got worse.  She got no sympathy from her mother-in-law and her husband disrespected her in front of the family.  Things got to the point where Mayuri had to flee.

Furious at Mayuri for having two daughters after five years of infertility, Mayuri’s husband and mother-in-law abused her until she ran away.

Alone and with two daughters to raise there was nowhere for Mayuri to go except to her parents’ home.  It grieved Olimani to see that her daughter had suffered abuse at the hands of her husband just as she had herself.  Thankfully, Mayuri’s father was no longer living there.  He had left and remarried.  However, Mayuri’s problems were far from over.  After losing her money to a con artist, she had to find work and the only option she felt she had was to turn to prostitution in order to keep her daughters from starving.

Desperate to support her daughters, Mayuri became a prostitute, which meant being shunned by the entire community—except for a GFA pastor.

It’s heartbreaking to see the lengths a mother will go in order to take care of her children.  It’s also heartwarming to see the way God works.  It was when Mayuri had a health crisis that she came to know Him.  In search of healing she visited temples and offered sacrifices but her condition only grew worse.  Until one day, Gospel for Asia pastor Patakin offered her the chance to pray to a different God.  That meeting changed Mayuri’s life forever.  Through the prayers of the members of the church where she was invited to worship and fellowship, God healed her.  Today, Mayuri sees God’s faithfulness in her life and in the lives of her daughters as He has provided her with a respectable job and a school for them.

“Today, I am living; that is only by the grace of God.  I was totally healed from my sickness by the blood of Christ. … Now I am living by faith in Jesus Christ” – Mayuri

By His act of love and mercy, God showed through Gospel for Asia and their missionary work that every life is precious and cause for celebration.  If you are interested in helping other women and girls like Mayuri and her daughters, sponsor a woman missionary.  Find out how here.

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,And that my soul knows very well – Psalm 139:14

Source:  Gospel for Asia

In the Driver’s Seat

Imagine waking up every weekday, going along the same route and meeting up with trouble. You are doing your job and following rules but you are disrespected, yelled at, called names and threatened. This is the kind of day *Susan has every week as she goes along her bus route.

On several occasions when I have ridden on the bus there have been problems. Students get on the bus and do not show proper id. They come up with all sorts of excuses and hold the bus up. The driver sticks by the rules. She refuses to budge even though the students are arguing with her and a few of the passengers are siding with them. One man even said, “Why don’t you let them on? It’s obvious that they’re students.”

Others grumble because they don’t want to be late for work. They fail to realize that it was not Susan who was delaying them. The students are unwilling to pay the fare. They refuse to abide by the rules. They want to have their own way.

Would they try this with another driver? They probably think that because Susan is a woman she would be lenient. When they realize that she is no push over, they resort to profanity, name-calling and then stomp out of the bus.

On the morning of November 3 when the bus pulls up and I see Susan behind the wheel, my heart sinks. I wonder what trouble lay ahead for this poor woman. I didn’t have to wait long to find out. About five minutes after we pull away from my stop we get to the third bus stop where Susan waits for a few minutes like the other bus drivers do.

After glancing at her watch, a woman decides to approach Susan. She leans over and says something to her. Gradually low voices are raised and pretty soon there is a shouting match. The woman is angry with Susan because she thinks she is running behind schedule. This is not the case.

The bus scheduled to come earlier was either late or simply did not show up. This has happened before. Susan tries to reason with the woman but to no avail. The woman returns to her seat and after a few more angry remarks, she simmers down. The bus moves off and the rest of the trip is uneventful.

When we get to the station I am impressed to go over to Susan. I say to her, “Don’t let them get to you.” She assures me that she wouldn’t and that she is simply doing her job. As I turn away, she calls out to me, “Thanks. I really appreciate this.” I tell her to have a good day and leave.

God wanted me to lift up this hard-working, dedicated public servant who has been put down too many times because she refuses to break or bend the rules.

A year has passed and I no longer see Susan. Maybe she had enough and asked to be put on another route. Please keep drivers like Susan in your prayers. And ask God to soften the hearts of the difficult people they have to deal with.

*Susan is not her real name.

 

bus

No Hitting

I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong in hitting a woman, though I don’t recommend you do it the same way that you hit a man.  An openhanded slap is justified–if all other alternatives fail and there has been plenty of warning – Sean Connery
Man-hitting-womanJust recently I was watching Turner Classic Movies (TCM) with my son and we saw the trailer for the movie, Too Late for Tears.  There was a scene where Dan Duryea slapped Lizabeth Scott.  I turned to him and I said, “A man should never hit a woman.”  And he nodded in agreement.  Then, I added, “And a woman should never hit a man.”

Some time ago, there was a commercial where a woman slapped her boyfriend because she thought he was watching an attractive woman as she walked by a parked car.  It turned out that he was admiring the car.  My manager objected to the commercial because he thought it was wrong to have the woman slap the man.  I guess others agreed with him because when I saw that commercial again, the scene with the slap was no longer there.

I don’t think a man should ever hit a woman.  In From Russia With Love, there was a scene with James Bond and Tatiana Romanova where he grabbed her and dragged her to her feet, his expression thunderous because he thought she was lying to him.  He was gripping her tightly by the arms and when she told him that he was hurting her, he threatened that he would do worse.  And he did by giving her a backhanded slap across the face, sending her reeling backwards.  Thankfully, she lands on the bed.  I read online that Sean Connery said he never hit or would ever hit a woman but that there are times when hitting one is justified.  He said if a woman were hysterical or a b—, then it was okay for a man to hit her.  “It’s not the worst thing to slap a woman now and then.” In his interview with Barbara Walters, Connery argued that if you’re having an argument and you’re trying to get the last word in and the woman won’t let you have it…then “it’s absolutely right.”  I guess if he had a daughter, he wouldn’t have a problem with his son-in-law slapping her if she got out of hand.

Interestingly, Roger Moore who also played 007, revealed that he suffered domestic violence at the hands of two of his former wives.  His first wife repeatedly punched and scratched him and also threw a teapot at him.  She even punched the doctor who treated him for the slash on his hand.  His second wife was also violent and attacked him after learning he had been unfaithful.  It doesn’t come as a surprise that Roger Moore didn’t enjoy filming a particular scene in Man With the Golden Gun.  It was of James Bond twisting the arm of Andrea Anders behind her back, and threatening to break it unless she told him what he wanted to know. Roger felt that Bond would have instead charmed the information out of her.  I agree.

I read this article by Todd Dunn and thought I would share it.  He gives 4 good reasons for a man to hit a woman and 5 bad reasons.  Then, he makes it clear, that it is never justifiable for a man to hit a woman.

woman-hitting-man-300x124What about a woman hitting a man?  Is it ok for her to do that?  In my opinion, it is never right for any woman to hit a man.  In the article, Women: hitting your man is not cute; it’s abuse, it was noted that pop culture gives the impression it is cute, funny, empowering or even sexy when women hit men.  “The casual female on male violence that we accept on our screens is also sexist, as it presumes that women cannot do men any real harm. The size of bruises and the amount of blood spilled is not the only way one measures the effect of violence, as any man or woman who has been belittled or controlled or intimidated by their partner will tell you.”

I wonder how sympathetic people, particularly women, would be toward men who admit that they have been hit by their girlfriends or wives.  Would they ask, “What did you do?” or assume, “you must have done something to deserve it.”  Would an abused woman have to deal with this question or assumption?  Hitting, slapping, punching, abuse is wrong, regardless of gender.  There are other better and healthier ways to deal with conflict.  When things start to get too heated, walk away or go and let off some steam in the gym or go for a walk or jog to cool your head.  Don’t use each other as a punching bag.

I saw this quote on HealthyPlace:   “A woman should never invest in a relationship she wouldn’t want for her daughter, nor allow any man to treat her in a way she could scold her son for.”

I think it should apply to men too.  “A man should never invest in a relationship he wouldn’t want for his son nor allow any woman to treat him in a way he could scold his daughter for.”  Both men and women deserve to be in loving and healthy relationships.

 

Source:  The Telegraph

Ingrid Bergman

I just read in the Stabroek News that the 68th Cannes Film Festival unveiled its official poster featuring legendary actress Ingrid Bergman in a tribute to what would have been her 100th birthday this year.  I think that’s wonderful.  She was an actress I truly admired and appreciated.  She had gentle beauty and an air of quiet refinement.  She was very classy.  I remember her in films like Casablanca, Gaslight, Anastasia and For Whom the Bells Toll.  She acted with some of Hollywood’s A list male stars–Humphrey Bogart, Gregory Peck, Cary Grant and Gary Cooper.  It would have been interesting to see her star opposite Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart and Burt Lancaster.

Acting was something Ingrid always knew she wanted to become.  Her father, a Swedish artist and photographer wanted her to become an opera star and had her take voice lessons for three years.  She wore her mother’s clothes and staged plays in her father’s empty studio.  He documented all of her birthdays with a borrowed camera.  He died when she was thirteen.  Her German mother had died when she was two years old.

After her father’s death, Ingrid was sent to live with an aunt who died just six months later from a heart disease.  She moved in with another aunt and uncle who had five children.  Her aunt Elsa was the first one who told Ingrid when she was 11 years old that her mother may have “some Jewish blood”, and that her father was aware of this long before they got married.  Her aunt cautioned her about telling others about her possible ancestry as “there might be some difficult times coming.”  This reminds me of Queen Esther who was intially cautioned by her uncle not to let anyone know that she was a Jew.

In 1932 when she was 17, Ingrid had only one opportunity to become an actress by entering an acting competition with the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm.  For Ingrid it was a terrible moment.  She recalled:  As I walked off the stage, I was in mourning.  I was at a funeral.  My own.  It was the death of my creative self.  My heart had truly broken…they didn’t think I was even worth listening to, or watching.”

This couldn’t have be further from the truth as she soon learned after meeting one of the judges who told her, “We loved your security and your impertinance.  We loved you and told each other that there was no reason to waste time as there were dozens of other entrants still to come.  We didn’t need to waste any time with you.  We knew you were a natural and great.  Your future as an actress was settled.”  What a thrill and relief that must have been for the aspiring actress.  She received a scholarship to the state-sponsored Royal Dramatic Theatre School where Greta Garbo had earned a similar scholarship just years earlier.

Ingrid’s dream was now a reality.  She was given a part in a new play and over the summer break, she was hired by a Swedish film studio which led to her departure from the Royal Dramatic Theatre a year later to work full-time in films.  She starred in a dozen films in Sweden, including En kvinnas ansikte which was later remade as A Woman’s Face, starring Joan Crawford.  Ingrid made one film in Germany in 1938.

Then it was off to Hollywood…Thanks to David O. Selznick, she starred in Intermezzo:  A Love Story, her first acting role in the United States.  It was a remake of her 1935 Swedish film, Intermezzo.  Ingrid didn’t plan to stay in Hollywood.  She thought she would complete this film and return home to Sweden to be with her husband, Dr. Peter Lindstrom and their daughter, Pia.

Selznick had concerns about Ingrid.  “She didn’t speak English, she was too tall, her name sounded too German, and her eyebrows were too thick.”  However, Ingrid was accepted without having to modify her looks.  Selznick let her have her way because he understood her fear of Hollywood makeup artists who might turn her into someone she wouldn’t recognize.  He told them to back off.  Besides, he believe that her natural good looks would compete successfully with Hollywood’s “synthetic razzle-dazzle.”

Selznick, who was filming Gone With the Wind at the same time, shared his early impressions of Ingrid in a letter to William Hebert, his publicity director :

Miss Bergman is the most completely conscientious actress with whom I have ever worked, in that she thinks of absolutely nothing but her work before and during the time she is doing a picture … She practically never leaves the studio, and even suggested that her dressing room be equipped so that she could live here during the picture. She never for a minute suggests quitting at six o’clock or anything of the kind … Because of having four stars acting in Gone with the Wind, our star dressing-room suites were all occupied and we had to assign her a smaller suite. She went into ecstasies over it and said she had never had such a suite in her life … All of this is completely unaffected and completely unique and I should think would make a grand angle of approach to her publicity … so that her natural sweetness and consideration and conscientiousness become something of a legend … and is completely in keeping with the fresh and pure personality and appearance which caused me to sign her.

Not surprisingly, Intermezzo was a huge success and resulted in Ingrid becoming a star.  She left quite an impression on Hollywood.  And Selznick’s appreciation of her uniqueness made he and his wife Irene remain important friends to Ingrid throughout her career.

Before making Casablanca, Ingrid made one last film in Sweden and appearing in three moderately successful films, Adam Had Four Sons, Rage in Heaven and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  According to her biographer, she felt guilty that she had misjudged the situation in Germany.  She had dismissed the Nazis as a “temporary aberration, ‘too foolish to be taken seriously.’ She didn’t believe that Germany start a war because the good people of the country would not allow it.  Sadly, she was wrong.  She felt guilty for the rest of her life and when she was in Germany at the end of the war, she had been afraid to go with the others to witness the atrocitites of the Nazi extermination camps.

In 1942, she starred opposite Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, a movie famous for its wonderul lines and the famous song, “As Time Goes By”.  I was surprised to read that Ingrid did not consider it to be one of her favorite performances.  She said, “I made so many films which were more important, but the only one people ever want to talk about is that one with Bogart.”  I thought she and Bogart were great together.

I think I only saw For Whom the Bell Tolls once but really liked it.  My sister and I liked how she looked with her short, blond, curly hair and a “sun-kissed complexion”.  I read that Ernest Hemmingway wanted her to play the part of Maria.  When he met her, after studying her, he exclaimed, “You are Maria!”  When Ernest told Ingrid that she would have to cut her hair to play the part, she was quick to respond, “To get that part, I’d cut my head off!”

For Whom the Bell Tolls, was the film that saved the song, “As Time Goes By” from being removed from Casablanca.  Warner Brothers wanted to substitute the song and planned to re-shoot some scenes with Ingrid but thanks to her hair-cut, they had to drop the idea as there would be a problem with continuity even if she wore a wig.

A year later, Ingrid won the Academy Award for Best Actress for Gaslight.  It was a gripping and suspenseful movie of a wife being driven to madness by her husband, masterfully played by Charles Boyer.  She next starred as a nun in The Bells of St. Mary opposite Bing Cosby, garnering her third consecutive nomination for Best Actress.   She came in a succession of Alfred Hitchock movies, Spellbound, Notorious and Under Capricorn (I never heard of this one).

During her marriage to Lindstrom, Ingrid had a brief affair with Gregory Peck.  This affair was kept private until five years after Ingrid’s death, when Gregory revealed in an interview with Brad Darrach of People, “All I can say is that I had a real love for her (Bergman), and I think that’s where I ought to stop…. I was young. She was young. We were involved for weeks in close and intense work.”

Unlike her affair with Gregory Peck, the one with the Italian film director, Roberto Rossellini was a very public one.   Although Ingrid received another Best Actress nomination for Joan of Arc in 1948, the film was not a hit, partly because news of her affair with Rossellini broke while the movie was still in theatres.  It was her admiration for Rossellini which had led Ingrid to write him a letter, expressing her admiration and suggesting that she make a film with him.  She was cast in his film, Stromboli and during production, she fell in love with him and they began an affair.  She became pregnant with their son, Bergman became pregnant with their son, Renato Roberto Ranaldo Giusto Giuseppe (“Robin”) Rossellini and this affair caused a huge scandal in the United States.  She was denounced on the floor of the United States senate and Ed Sullivan chose not to have her appear on his show despite a poll showing that the public wanted her there.  However, Steve Allen had her on his equally popular show, noting, “the danger of trying to judge artistic activity through the prism of one’s personal life.” 

The scandal drove Ingrid back to Italy, leaving her husband and daughter.  She went through a very public divorce and custody battle for their daughter.  She and Lindstrom divorced a week after her son was born and she married Rossellini in Mexico.  In 1952, Ingrid gave birth to twin daughters Isotta Ingrid Rossellini and Isabella Rossellini.  Five years later she divorced their father and the following year she married Lars Schmidt, a theatrical entrepreneur from a wealthy Swedish shipping family.  That marriage lasted until 1975 when they divorced.

In 1956, Ingrid starred in the movie, Anatasia. It was her return to the American screen and her second Academy Award for Best Actress which her best friend Cary Grant accepted for her.  She made her first appearance in Hollywood since the scandal when she was the presenter of the Academy Award for Best Picture at the 1956 Academy Awards.  She received a standing ovation after being introduced by Cary Grant.  In 1969, she starred opposite Walter Matthau and Goldie Hawn in the hilarious and delightful movie, Cactus Flower.  It was nice seeing Ingrid take a turn in a light romantic comedy.

In 1972, US Senator Charles H. Percy entered an apology in to the Congressional Record for Edwin C. Johnson’s attack on Ingrid 22 years ago.  In 1974 she won her third Oscar for Murder on the Orient Express, earning her the distinction of being one of the few actresses ever to receive three Oscars.  Her final role was as Golda Meir in A Woman Called Golda.   She was offered the part because, “People believe you and trust you, and this is what I want, because Golda Meir had the trust of the people.”  This interested Ingrid and the role was greatly significant for her because she still carried the guilt of misjudging the situation in Germany during World War II.  Ingrid was frequently ill during the film although she hardly showed it or complained.  She was a real trooper.  Four months after the film was completed, on her 67th birthday in London, Ingrid died of breast cancer.  Her daughter, Pia accepted her Emmy.

Ingrid was a  woman of grace, natural beauty who brought realism and dignity to her roles.  She was a star with no temperament, making her a delight to work with, unpretentious, unique, hard-working, “a great star” who “always strove to be a ‘true’ woman.”  She was not a saint but a woman with real emotions.   She was not afraid to speak out against racism.  During a press conference in Washington, D.C. where she was promoting, Joan of Lorraine, she protested against the racial segregation she witnessed firsthand at the theatre where she was performing.  This drew a lot of publicity and some hate mail.  In a news column in the Herald-Journal, she is reported as saying, “I deplore racial discrimination in any form.  To think it would be permitted in the nation’s capital of all places!  I really had not known that there were places in the United States–entertainment places which are for all the people–where everybody could not go.”

Notes to Women salute this remarkable woman and actress who won our hearts and deepest admiration with her grace and courage.  We celebrate one of the greatest leading ladies that ever graced the silver screen.  She once said, “I am an actress and I am interested in acting, not in making money.”  Dear Ingrid, we are so very thankful that you chose acting over opera.

I have no regrets. I wouldn’t have lived my life the way I did if I was going to worry about what people were going to say.

I can do everything with ease on the stage, whereas in real life I feel too big and clumsy. So I didn’t choose acting. It chose me.

I don’t think anyone has the right to intrude in your life, but they do. I would like people to separate the actress and the woman.

Time is shortening. But every day that I challenge this cancer and survive is a victory for me.

If you took acting away from me, I’d stop breathing.

ingrid-bergman

Sources:  Stabroek News ; Wikipedia; IMDB; Brainy Quotes; Herald-Journal

The Cruel Cut

Photo:  The Guardian

FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.

When I read the article in The Daily Mail on Female genital mutilation, I was incensed.  I couldn’t believe the reasons behind this barbaric practice.

  • In some cultures, it is seen as a right of passage into womanhood and a condition of marriage.
  • Some believe that the genitals will be unclean if the female does not have the procedure.
  • There is also a common belief that women need to have FGM to have babies.
  • Religous reasons

Egypt has one of the highest rates of female genital mutilation in the world and even thought the practice was criminalized in 2008, it still remains widespread.  Up to 92 percent of married women have undergone FGM and most females have the procedure between the ages of nine and 12.  Some have it done earlier than nine years old.  Can you imagine a five year old girl having part or all of her external genitalia removed?  There are no anaesthetics and antiseptic treatments used and FGM is performed with knives, scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass or razor blades.  This can lead to severe bleeding and infections which can last a woman her entire lifetime.  And it is estimated that 3 million girls are subjected to this barbarism every year in the UK, parts of Africa, Middle East and Asia.  And believe it or not, the procedure is usually done by a woman with no medical background.

Girls are going to grow up believing that their genitals are unclean and only a cruel cut can make them clean and fit for marriage.   What about the infections that they get or what about those who die from the procedure like the 13 year old Sohair el-Batea?  The doctor responsible for her death was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to more than two years in jail.  This was a victory for women but more needs to be done.  FGM is still being practiced.

According to Egyptian Streets, statistics showed that 30% of married women believe that FGM should be banned but more than half were in favor of the procedure for religious reasons.  It’s hard to accept that women would be in favor of such a practice.  It is even harder to accept that they would force their daughters, granddaughters, nieces to go through what they themselves had gone through.  As a mother, I could never subject my daughter to this.  As a woman, I could never bring myself to do this horrible thing to another female.

And which religion would condone this?  God created the human body and He put everything in its place for a reason.  No one has the right to tamper with nature.  How could anyone use religion as an excuse to mutilate young girls and in some cases, babies?  And as far as FGM being necessary in order to have babies, that is ludicrious.  The reality is that FGM can cause infertility and increase the risk of complications in childbirth.

FGM, known as the “cruel cut” needs to be banned the regions of Africa and countries where it is still common.   According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated that more than three million girls in Africa are at risk.  Something needs to be done to stop girls and babies from is done in ignorance and in the name of tradition.  Girls should not see the parts of their bodies that is unique to their gender as unclean.  No where in the Bible is female circumcision practiced.  God never intended for girls and women to be circumcised.  It is a man-made procedure and it needs to be outlawed.

I encourage you to watch the video of Leyla Hussein, the founder of Daughters of Eve as she talks to her mother about FGM.    You can visit Leyla’s website to find out more information about FGM and see what you can do to stop this cruel and inhumane practice.

 

 

 

Source:  WHO; The Daily Mail

Her Nazi Grandfather

I lapsed into silence, I slept a lot and I wasn’t really functioning. Only afterward did I begin to analyze the situation and try to understand the characters of my mother and my grandmother. I only started to learn more about my grandmother at the end. Today I understand that I went through the process step by step, peeling away layer after layer. But in the first months I had no idea what to do.

2349077637Imagine how you would feel if you were to find out that Amon Goeth was your grandfather. He was the sadist Nazi Commandant at the Plaszow concentration camp near Krakow from 1943 to 1944 whom Ralph Fiennes portrayed in an Oscar worthy performance. I remember the scene in the movie where he would be on the verandah with his rifle and would randomly shoot people as if it were a sport.

This man murdered prisoners on a daily basis and actually trained his dogs to tear inmates to death. He shot people his office window if they appeared to be moving too slowly or resting in the yard. He even shot to death a Jewish cook because the soup was too hot. He brutally mistreated his two maids, Helen Jonas-Rosenzweig and Helen Hirsch, who, along with the other inmates, lived in constant fear for their lives.

In the movie he was attracted to Helen Hirsch, looking at her and wondering “is this the face of a rat?” At one point in the movie, Helen had resigned herself to idea that Goeth was going to kill her. “He will. I see things. We were on the roof on Monday, young Lisiek and I and we saw the Herr Kommandant come out of the house on the patio right there below us and he drew his gun and shot a woman who was passing by. Just a woman with a bundle, just shot her through the throat. She was just a woman on her way somewhere, she was no faster or slower or fatter or thinner than anyone else and I couldn’t guess what had she done. The more you see of the Herr Kommandant the more you see there are no set rules you can live by, you cannot say to yourself, “If I follow these rules, I will be safe.””

It’s hard to believe that a person could be capable of such horror. And it’s even harder to accept that you are related to such a person. This was the shocking reality for Jennifer Teege, a bi-racial woman who found out quite by accident that Amon Goeth was her grandfather.  She plucked a book from a library shelf and recognized photos of her mother and grandmother in the book.  It was then that she discovered the horrifying fact that her grandfather was Nazi butcher, Amon Goeth.  His daughter, Monika Hertwig was Jennifer’s mother. Monika had met and fallen in love with a Nigerian man. Their relationship didn’t last. Monika’s own experience in dealing with the truth about her father’s role in the Holocaust is showcased in the 2006 documentary film, The Inheritance. In the movie, Monika meets Helen Jonas-Rosenweig at the scene of the former concentration camp, the latter at first unwilling to meet the daughter of the man who terrorized her and so many others.

I am not clear on how Jennifer Teege came to be adopted. Apparently she was close to her grand-mother who committed suicide not long after she did an interview. Jennifer is convinced that had she been around when her grandfather was alive, he would have shot her because she was not a member of the master race–she didn’t have blond hair and blue eyes. Many of us would not have survived.  Jennifer shares her story in the book, My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me which she co-wrote with award-winning journalist Nikola Sellmair.

If you are interested in hearing Jennifer’s story, listen here.

Sources: The Current; Jennifer Teege; Jennifer Teege’s Longreads

Ruth’s Story

You Should Have Been a Boy!

One of my favorite Biblical characters is Jethro.  He was a wise man, loving father and friend.  He had seven daughters and never once did he ever make them feel unloved or unwanted.  Not so, with Ruth.  Ruth is a young Asian woman who lives in a world where being a girl can stir hatred, abuse and neglect and even lead to death.

As the youngest of three girls in my family, I cannot imagine my father hating me because I turned out to be a girl instead of a boy.  Yet, this was Ruth’s experience.  Her father displayed exceptional hatred toward her until finally she had to find out why.  Why did her father hate her so?  What had she done to stir such toxic feelings in him?  She asked and his response was, “You should have been a boy!” Afterwards, he stopped speaking to her altogether.   Not once did my father ever mistreat me or make me feel unloved or unwanted because he his third child to be a boy and got another girl instead.  I grew up with my father’s love unlike Ruth…

All Ruth knew was hatred.  Both of her parents hated her because before Ruth, the couple had three daughters.   Another daughter meant that the family name will not be carried on, there will not be enough income provided for her parents and it meant another marriage dowry which would sink them into debt.  They were so desperate for a son that they sold one of their fields and gave the money to a priest.  They asked him to pray to his gods so that they could have a baby boy.  They truly believed that they were going to have a boy this time and when they didn’t…

For more of Ruth’s story, watch the video and see how God changes her circumstances from pain and heartache to triumph and in the process, change her father.

Ruth’s story has a happy ending.  Thanks to the women missionaries of Gospel for Asia, she learned that there is a Father who loves her.   God showed her that she has value and He called her to serve Him.  You can help other girls like Ruth—sponsor a woman missionary today.

God’s kingdom will be made up of sons and daughters and we will reign one day as co-heirs with our Lord Jesus Christ who died for everyone.

Life for Women in India

Beneath the veil of society are the tears of India’s most oppressed members of society–women.  The movie, The Veil of Tears tells the untold story of millions of women who are victims of abuse, abandonment, adversity and gender segregation.  This movie dares us to go beyond awareness and to take action.  I encourage you to watch the trailer.

India has the reputation of being one of the worst places in the world to be a woman. They are married early, having no say in the matter.  Arranged marriages are still the norm.  They need to get permission to visit the doctor.  According to a survey, 54 per cent said they expected to be beaten by their husbands if they left the house without his permission.  Women are also beaten if they cook a dish badly or if their dowry is inadequate or if they neglect their household duties.

Life in India is a constant struggle for women.  Veil of Tears draws us into their dark reality but also allows us to share in their triumphs.  And in spite of all the suffering, there is hope.  Through the work and ministry of Gospel for Asia, these women can be rescued from persecution and rejection and given the hope that is found only in Jesus Christ.

For more information about the movie and how you can help to make a difference visit this link:  http://veiloftearsmovie.com/

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD – Psalm 31:24

Sources:  The Globe And Mail; Gospel for Asia