Today, this was Something Else

What a festival of decency, sanity, and hope. What a relief.  It feels like hostages have been finally released from a hijacked plane. A precious moment not to be taken for granted.

Exactly four years ago, on another inauguration day, on Friday, January 20, 2017, I wrote on my Facebook profile the following reflection: 

“What shall I say at the end of the day? Let’s put it this way. Some of you might know the feeling: you are watching the inauguration and listening to the president’s speech, and this quiet voice within you keeps on telling you that something is very wrong, despite the fact that the name of the Lord has been invoked multiple times. 

This blend of nationalism, craving after greatness and power through physical strength, exclusivism that borders with superiority, and all of these mixed together with claims that ‘God is with us’, and fervent prayers and supplications to God to make America into ‘the shining city on the hill’ – all of those are something that cannot have the approval of Heaven, regardless of all the prayers uttered today. 

The Lord will not let us turn Him into a mascot of our private or national pride, ambitions and Interests. He will not let us treat Him as if we own Him. Today we witnessed a big act of worship, but I fear that we ‘offered strange, unacceptable fire before the Lord’. Lev. 10:1. 

No, my friends, these are not the words of someone bitter towards America. These are the words of someone who empathizes with a multitude of Americans who know that our God is not a tribal god, and that He has only one ‘nation’ on this earth – his Church redeemed by the blood of Jesus; which is not geographically, ethnically or racially defined.”

I wrote this four years ago. But today, this was something else. 

What a difference between the two men!

What a difference between the two occasions! 

What a difference between the two inaugurations! 

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How to Respond to a Coup

How to Respond to a Coup, Lisa Sharon Harper’s Kitchen Table conversation. Lisa Sharon Harper (Freedom Road) and Tihomir Kukolja (Leadership Focus International) share a honest and engaging conversation about the current insurgence in the US, signs pointing to its coming, consequences, accountability, Christian nationalism, racism, conspiracies. Time :61 min. The show was webcast live on Friday, January 8, 2021. In its entirety it could be watched at this location.  

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Democracy in Distress, a Christian Perspective

The year 2020 was a challenging and overwhelming one. We have every reason to ask, have we Christians been the salt and the light to the world, or a part of the problem?

Over the past several months a group of ten international leaders have addressed this question in the series of Face to Face webinars, organized and presented by Leadership Focus International.

They talked about democracy, truth telling, social justice, integrity, critical thinking, populism, nationalism, politicized faith, conspiracies, elections, pandemics and more.

At the end of this year we would like to share a group of highlights that remain relevant at the time when we are facing a new year full of questions, uncertainties and rapid changes.

This compilation of highlights, extracted from thee webinars (Speaking Truth to Power and Each Other, Leading and Believing Beyond 2020, Following Jesus in a Rapidly Changing World) we have named – Democracy in Distress, a Christian Perspective on 2020 and Beyond

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Showing Now: Following Jesus in a Rapidly Changing World

Now Showing: Watch and recommend the latest Face to Face webinar “Following Jesus in a Rapidly Changing World”. An international group of panelists discussed the questions such as: Are politics and ideology becoming America’s national religion? What does a healthy separation of Church and State look like? How should one’s Christianity influence their public life? Where are all the spiritual shepherds? Modern-day prophets and the unchecked power of mega-churches and their celebrity leaders? What is the measuring stick for leaders, public servants who claim they are Christians? What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus in a rapidly changing world? Panelists and moderators included John Hart (US), Jyl Hall Smith (US), Camilla Bocaniala (Romania/Norway), Susan Kerr (Luxembourg), Heather Staff (UK), Liviu Bocaniala (Romania), Tihomir Kukolja (US).

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Webinar: Following Jesus in a Rapidly Changing World

Access to the webinar via zoom requires registration

In a rapidly changing world being a Christian means many things to many people. Things are said and done, in the name of a Christian faith, that radically oppose and contradict each other. An international group of panelists will wrestle with the questions: How to offer meaningful responses to the complex social, political and life issues, rather than simplistic, over-spiritualized, virtue-signaling responses? How to engage and make a difference without getting drowned in the ever-deepening confusion? How to keep Jesus in focus even when we disagree? What is it that makes a Follower of Jesus stand out as the light and the salt to our communities in these changing times? 

Our panelists include: Liviu and Camilla Bocaniala, social activists, artists, co-founders of Polylogos, Cluj-Napoca, Romania; Heather Nicole Staff, political adviser on refugee and migration policy to UK parliamentarians, London, UK; Jyl Hall Smith, adjunct professor at United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio; John Hart, co-founder of a policy advocacy group C3 Solutions, an award-winning writer, journalist, media commentator, Brownsville, Maryland; Susan Kerr, expert in European public affairs, the editor of the book- Is God a Populist?; and Tihomir Kukolja, former (ROM) Renewing Our Minds Director. Join us. Share. Invite a friend. 

Make plan to be with us on Tuesday, December 8, 2020. Register now. Access to the webinar via zoom requires registration

Our Panelists:

Make plan to be with us on Tuesday, December 8, 2020. Register now. Access to the webinar via zoom requires registration

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Webinar, Leading and Believing Beyond 2020

Webinar “Leading and Believing Beyond 2020”

Join our Face to Face online Zoom webinar with the theme “Leading and Believing Beyond 2020” on Tuesday, October 27, 2020 at 19.00 UTC/GMT featuring an international group of panelists. The webinar will be featured live on the Face to Face Facebook page too.

What has gone wrong with the kind of Christianity that endorses evil, political and social confusion, hate, racism, discrimination, lies and the wildest conspiracy narratives? How should our Christian faith inform and guide our political and social decisions and actions? Why does it matter what the rest of the world thinks about the US right now? How is the US right-wing evangelicalism influencing European and global Christians? Evangelical dualism and its contribution to the political narrative?  How to advance leadership of truth, integrity, peace and reconciliation beyond 2020? 

These are some of the questions our panelists will wrestle with on Tuesday, October 27, 2020.

The panelists are: Camilla Bocaniala, social activist and cofounder of Polylogos, Cluj-Napoca, Romania; Heather Nicole Staff, political adviser on refugee and migration policy to UK parliamentarians, London, UK; Jack Fallow, cofounder of The Magna Carta Institute, London, UK; Jyl Hall Smith, adjunct professor at United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio; Tihomir Kukolja, former Renewing Our Minds Director

Access to the webinar via zoom requires registration: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcqceuoqD8pGNxWTmly3U3ISFoRdlkSIFAL

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Webinar: Challenges Facing Palestinian Christians

More info about the upcoming Face to Face webinar premiere “Challenges Facing Palestinian Christians in Israel and Palestine”, on Thursday, August 6, 2020, at 5pm GMT (12pm CST, 7pm CET).

While it is true that many Christians in the West (US especially) believe and generously promote that it is our Christian obligation to stand with Israel, very seldom one hears a call to embrace Palestinian Christians. Consequently, many of our Palestinian brothers and sisters feel abandoned by the international Christian family.

Only a few days ago I had a privilege to record a webinar session with five young Palestinian Christians, all of them leaders in peace building, reconciliation, education, and advocates for human rights and social justice. They talked about some of the most persistent internal and external challenges Palestinian Christians are facing in Israel and Palestine. 

They talked also about the harmful nature of the attitudes and behavior, ideologically driven, and shared by many Christians in the West. They talked also about their involvement in peace building and reconciliation, and about the impact of some regional, current events upon their community. 

Our five panelists/presenters are:

Areej Murad was born and raised in Bethlehem. She works as the Development and Coordinator at Bethlehem Bible College. Areej is also a project research consultant on Palestinian matters with Northumbria University, UK.

Shadia Qubti comes from Nazareth. Shadia worked as an influential peacemaker associated with Musalaha, a well-known Middle East peace building ministry. Shadia is also the Editor of the Women Behind the Wall podcast.

Yousef Alkhouri was born in Gaza. He lives with his family in Bethlehem and serves as a lecturer at the Bethlehem Bible College. He is also a member of the Christ at the Checkpoint conference, and a member of the Academic Alliance for Interfaith Dialogue in Palestine.

Lamma Mansour is an Oxford student and a youth leader in her church in Nazareth. She is also a member of the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference.

Jack Munayer lives in Jerusalem, where he works with the World Council of Churches. He is also the Coordinator of the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference.

Our panelists are open to your questions and further conversation.

The webinar premiere will take place this Thursday, August 6th, 2020, at 5.00pm GMT, on: 

YouTube https://youtu.be/LzJZ0P7G6jY 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/weshallseefacetoface/

Vimeo:

This is a kind of webinar that ought not to be missed. Make plans to watch it and share the link with your friends.

YouTube Premiere:

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Challenges Facing Palestinian Christians in Israel and Palestine

Upcoming Face to Face Webinar Premiere – Challenges Facing Palestinian Christians in Israel and Palestine. Thursday, August 6, 2020., 5.00pm GMT. Many Christians in the West, the US especially, believe that it is their Christian obligation to stand with Israel. Very seldom does one hear a call to empathize and embrace Palestinian Christians. Five young Palestinian Christians will help us understand the challenges Palestinian Christians are facing in Israel and Palestine, from within and from without. Plan to be with us for this unique YouTube, Facebook and Vimeo premiere on Thursday, 6th August, 2020, starting 5pm GMT.

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Webinar: Speaking Truth to Power and Each Other

A Brief introduction to our panel discussion today:

We are living in the days of radical upheavals, in the US, UK, everywhere. Increasingly, it seems good is called evil, and evil good. Christians are either resigning themselves to passivity from any social or political engagement, or they are vocally polarized, speaking and acting from the most opposing and incompatible value platforms, often voicing a cognitive dissonance rather than seeking to follow Jesus consistently and with deliberation. 

This dissonance of attitudes is easily seen in the ways diverse groups of Christians relate to Covid-19 pandemic, nationalism, racism, treatment of immigrants, refugees, homeless, minorities. Instead of brining healing and sanity to our conversations, and offer some reasonable solutions to social challenges, we Christians have contribute to growing social and political confusion. 

So, we must ask: “Should we, followers of Jesus, speak truth to power at all in our post-truth days? For example, are we Christians supposed to join the protests against injustice, racism, social abuse? Should we, Christians, stand up for refugees and immigrants? Should we, and how, express our concerns through media, especially social media? Should we lift our voices against inhumanity, injustice, other social deviations at all?  Or, should we pray only and be quiet, neutral, conveniently safe? Can we afford to remain the stance of neutrality in the face of growing evil? Or should we be involved, active, act responsibly? If we should, how?

These are some of the questions our panelists are trying to address today.  They are in the order of speaking: Camilla Bocaniala, the co-founder of Polylogos, a community bridge-building association in Romania, and social activist in peace-building and reconciliation; Liviu Bocaniala, President of Polylogos Association and artist; Heather Staff, a political advisor on refugee, asylum and migration policy for a member of the UK Parliament; Hermund Haaland, cofounder and International Director for Tanskmien Skaperkraft in Norway, and a Production Manager of a recently published book “Is God a Populist”; Edlira Cepani, human rights activist and community organizer in Albania; and, Zdravko Plantak, Professor of Ethical Studies at the Loma Linda University, USA, and the author of the book “The Silent Church”. I am Tihomir Kukolja, the editor and producer of Face to Face Forum

Objective of our conversation today is to encourage a very much needed conversation on the relevant theme of how to speak the truth to power and to each other in our post-truth era from a Christian perspective. Since our conversation is only starting today, we would welcome your comments, questions. Our panelists are ready to face your questions and comments, and respond to them in one of our future Face to Face Conversations, soon. You are more than welcome to email us your questions. Also, you may share your questions and comments on the social media platforms that are making this conversation available to you. Let us hear from you soon. 

And now, take time and watch our conversation.

Available also on Face to Face, Facebook.

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Webinar Conversation: Speaking Truth to Power and to Each Other in the Post-Truth Era, Christian Perspective

An international group of six leaders from different walks of life and professions are sharing their understanding and experience, as followers of Jesus, on “Speaking Truth to Power and Each Other in the Post-Truth Era.”

Today we are surrounded by confusing voices as to what constitutes evil and what constitutes good. Consequently, any Christians are are either resigning themselves to passivity from any social or political engagement, or they are acting selectively, preferentially in their choices of engagement. Or, they are vocally polarized as they speak and act from very much opposing and incompatible platforms of “truth”, often voicing cognitive dissonance rather that pursuing Jesus consistently and with deliberation. We, Christians, have to admit that we too have often contributed to growing social and political confusion.

Our panelists are addressing questions such as: Should we, Christians, followers of Jesus, stand publicly and actively for social justice, including standing for immigrants, refugees, homeless, minorities, and against systematic racism, racial supremacism, nationalism, and other forms of inhumanity and social deviations? Or, should we pray only, and remain quiet, neutral, safe?

Our panelists are Camilla Bocaniala, the co-founder of Polylogos, a community bridge-building association in Romania, and social activist in peace-building and reconciliation; Liviu Bocaniala, President of Polylogos Association and artist; Heather Staff, a political advisor on refugee, asylum and migration policy for a member of the UK Parliament; Hermund Haaland, cofounder and International Director for Tanskmien Skaperkraft in Norway, and a Production Manager of a recently published book “Is God a Populist”; Edlira Cepani, human rights activist and community organizer in Albania; and, Zdravko Plantak, Professor of Ethical Studies at the Loma Linda University, USA, and the author of the book “The silent Church”.

Join us for the coming Youtube and Facebook premiere, Wednesday, July 15, 2020, 5.00pm GMT.

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