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The Rev. Billy Graham, prominent Christian evangelist, dead at 99

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The Rev. Billy Graham , the Christian evangelist whose worldwide crusades and role as adviser to decades of U.S. presidents made him one of the best known religious figures of his time, died Wednesday at age 99 at his home in Montreat, N.C, Todd Shearer of DeMoss Associates told Fox News.

Graham, who had been in ill health for a number of years, was regularly listed in polls as one of the “Ten Most Admired Men in the World.”

Shearer told Fox News that Graham died from “natural causes.” 

His Christian crusades took him from the frenzy of Manhattan to isolated African villages and according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website, he preached to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history.

U.S. evangelist Billy Graham spoke in the East Berlin Gethsemane Church, center of last year's uprising on March 9, 1990. Graham was due to address a rally on Saturday in front of the old Reichstag parliament building at the wall in West Berlin.  REUTERS/Juergen Schwarz    BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE - GF2E4480MIT05

U.S. evangelist Billy Graham spoke in the East Berlin Gethsemane Church, center of last year’s uprising on March 9, 1990.

 (REUTERS/Juergen Schwarz)

The BGEA put his lifetime audience at nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories, with “hundreds of millions more” viewing him on television, video, film and webcasts.

“My one purpose in life,” he said, “is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which, I believe, comes through knowing Christ.”

FILE - In this June 26, 2005 file photo, the Rev. Billy Graham speaks on stage on the third and last day of his farewell American revival in the Queens borough of New York.  A spokesman said on Graham has died at his home in North Carolina at age 99. (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams)

In this June 26, 2005 file photo, the Rev. Billy Graham speaks on stage on the third and last day of his farewell American revival in the Queens borough of New York

 (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams)

Graham was last hospitalized in 2011 at Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C. for what was described as “evaluation and treatment of his lungs.” He was also hospitalized that year due to pneumonia.

William Franklin Graham Jr. was born Nov. 7, 1918 and raised on a dairy farm in Charlotte, N.C.

At 15, he made his personal commitment to Christ at a revival meeting in Charlotte. After attending Bob Jones College and the Florida Bible Institute, Graham was ordained a Southern Baptist clergyman in 1939.

Former U.S. presidents, George H.W. Bush (L), Bill Clinton (2nd L) and Jimmy Carter (R), pose with evangelist Billy Graham and Franklin Graham (2nd R) before the Billy Graham Library Dedication on the campus of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Charlotte, North Carolina May 31, 2007 . REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES) - GM1DVJPRZLAA

Former U.S. President George W. Bush (L) signs a copy of his new book “Decision Points” for Billy Graham (R) at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina December 20, 2010.

 (REUTERS/Chris Keane)

In 1943, he graduated from Wheaton College, where he met fellow student Ruth McCue Bell, daughter of a medical missionary, who had spent the first 17 years of her life in China.

They married in August 1943 and had five children, 19 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren.

Ruth Graham died in June 2007 after 64 years of marriage.

Graham vaulted to national prominence with his 1948 Los Angeles crusade, scheduled for three weeks and extended to eight.

Subsequent crusades in various cities around the globe also lasted far longer than scheduled – in New York, he ran nightly for four months at Madison Square Garden in 1957.

Rev. Billy Graham (L) sits with First Lady Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton at the head table during a prayer breakfast at the Washington Hilton hotel Feb 04, 1993.  The White House said today that President Clinton will support a United Nations peace plan for Bosnia if the parties to the conflict accept it.   REUTERS/Gary Cameron    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - GM1E8161BBO01

Rev. Billy Graham (L) sits with First Lady Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton at the head table during a prayer breakfast at the Washington Hilton hotel Feb 04, 1993.

 (REUTERS/Gary Cameron)

In 1950, Graham founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, based in Minneapolis, Minn. until it relocated to Charlotte in 2003.

Through the BGEA he conducted his weekly “Hour of Decision” radio program and published “Decision” Magazine as well as producing television programs for Christian networks.

In addition, Graham wrote 33 books, including his autobiography “Just As I Am.” His last book, “Where I Am: Heaven, Eternity, And Our Life Beyond The Now” was published in 2015. 

In the 1960s, he ardently opposed segregation, refusing to speak to segregated audiences.

“The ground at the foot of the cross is level,” he once said, “and it touches my heart when I see whites standing shoulder to shoulder with blacks at the cross.”

Graham also was noted for consulting and praying with every U.S. president from Dwight Eisenhower to Barack Obama, who in April 2010 visited Graham at his mountaintop cabin in North Carolina. He also met with President Harry Truman in what was initially a contentious meeting after Graham spoke to the press, but the two men later viewed the episode as a humorous incident.

The White House later said Obama was “extraordinarily gratified” that Graham took the time to meet with him.

Graham presided over the graveside services for President Lyndon Johnson in 1973 and spoke at the funeral of President Richard Nixon in 1994.

On September 14, 2001 he led a national prayer service at Washington National Cathedral after the 9/11 attacks.

He and his wife were both awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1966.

But Graham found himself the target of criticism in 2002 and again in 2009 following the release of tapes of 1973 conversations he had with Richard Nixon that were critical of Jews.

He remained active well into his 70s but in recent years had been slowed by Parkinson’s Disease, which he’s had since 1992, and other medical problems.

His last crusade was in 2004. His elder son, Franklin, has long been expected to succeed his father as head of his ministry.

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‘Iraq will always remain with me, in my heart’: Pope’s message to packed Erbil stadium | World News

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Pope Francis has said Mass to thousands of people in the packed Franso Hariri stadium in Erbil.

At the end of the last official event before he returns to Rome on Monday, Francis told the crowd: “Iraq will always remain with me, in my heart.”

He closed by saying “salam, salam, salam [peace, peace, peace]”.

Pope Francis in Mosul - on the third day of his historic tour
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Pope Francis in Mosul – on the third day of his historic tour

Earlier, The Pope led prayers in Mosul – a former stronghold of terror group Islamic State.

He flew in by helicopter and was greeted by crowds in the decimated northern Iraqi city, where just a handful of Christian families now live.

Thousands of Christians fled the area during the IS occupation, where they were faced with conversion, death, or paying a tax for non-Muslims.

On the way to the venue, he stopped by the ruins of homes and cathedrals that had been destroyed by IS violence, to hold a moment of silence.

He then took part in the service from a once-bustling city square, surrounded by the ruins of several damaged churches, which were destroyed when IS overran the area in 2014.

The papacy visited an area that was ruined by IS during their occupation
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The Pope visited an area that was ruined by IS during its occupation

“How cruel it is that this country, the cradle of civilization, should have been afflicted by so barbarous a blow, with ancient places of worship destroyed and many thousands of people – Muslims, Christians, Yazidis and others – forcibly displaced or killed,” he told the crowd.

“Today, however, we reaffirm our conviction that fraternity is more durable than fratricide, that hope is more powerful than hatred, that peace more powerful than war.”

Pope Francis added that hope could not be “silenced by the blood spilled by those who pervert the name of God to pursue paths of destruction”.

In prayer, he said: “If God is the God of life – for so he is – then it is wrong for us to kill our brothers and sisters in his name. If God is the God of peace – for so he is – then it is wrong for us to wage war in his name.

“If God is the God of love – for so he is – then it is wrong for us to hate our brothers and sisters.”

Pope Francis releases a white dove during a prayer for war victims at 'Hosh al-Bieaa', Church Square, in Mosul's Old City, Iraq, March 7, 2021. REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily
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A white dove is released in a sign of peace

He concluded the prayer saying: “To you we entrust all those whose span of earthly life was cut short by the violent hand of their brothers and sisters; we also pray to you for those who caused such harm to their brothers and sisters. May they repent, touched by the power of your mercy.”

A white dove was also released by Pope Francis, to symbolise peace – a running theme for his papal visit.

In 2014, in Mosul’s al-Nuri mosque, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi gave a sermon in an extremely rare public appearance, where he announced the IS caliphate.

Mosul was liberated in July 2017 after a brutal three-year regime of terror in the city, that left an estimated 9,000-11,000 people dead.

Pope Francis arrives to hold a minute of silence at the destroyed cathedral
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Pope Francis arrives to hold a minute of silence at a destroyed cathedral

The Vatican hopes that Pope Francis’s appearance in Mosul will encourage Christian communities to stay in the area, despite years of violence and persecution.

The Pope visited one of the most influential Muslim leaders in the world on Saturday, Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, where the men discussed the issues facing Christian communities in the country.

Following the meeting, al Sistani said he wanted Muslims and Christians to coexist in Iraq, and called on other religious leaders to hold great powers to account and for wisdom and sense to prevail over war.

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Myanmar protests: Demonstrators ‘fired on’ amid funeral of political organiser said to have died in custody | World News

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Witnesses have said police have opened fire on protesters in Myanmar, amid reports at least one political organiser from the democratically elected government’s party has died in custody.

Several people were wounded in the historic temple city of Bagan, according to witness accounts and videos on social media, while demonstrations were held in at least half a dozen other Myanmar cities.

Residents in the southeastern city of Dawei said soldiers and police moved into several districts overnight, firing shots. They arrested at least three people in Kyauktada Township, residents there said.

Protesters create a shield formation in Nyaung-U, in a still image taken from a video obtained from social media
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Protesters create a shield formation in Nyaung-U

One protest leader said to the crowd in Dawei: “They are killing people just like killing birds and chickens. What will we do if we don’t revolt against them? We must revolt.”

A ward chairman from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party was found dead in a military hospital on Sunday morning by people who lived in his Yangon neighbourhood, according to a post on Facebook by NLD MP Sithu Maung.

Several on social media speculated that U Khin Maung Latt, 58, died after being beaten in custody after being taken from his home, but no official cause of death was immediately announced.

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Reuters news agency said it saw a photograph of his body with a bloodstained cloth wrapped around the head.

Another Facebook poster said he had been arrested on Saturday in 30th Street in Pabedan Township.

There were emotional scenes in Yangon as his funeral was held in accordance with Islamic tradition later on Sunday.

At least three protests were held in Yangon, despite overnight raids by security forces on campaign leaders and opposition activists, and video posted by media group Myanmar Now showed soldiers beating up men.

Meanwhile, police fired tear gas to break up a sit-in demonstration by tens of thousands of people in Mandalay on Sunday.

Protesters run away from tear gas in Mandalay
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Protesters run away from tear gas in Mandalay

Security forces continued to crack down on many of the other protests, which have erupted following last month’s coup.

The United Nations says more than 50 people have been killed by security forces since the military overthrew and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi on 1 February.

A junta spokesman did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.

The state-run Global New Light Of Myanmar newspaper reported that police said security forces were dealing with the protests in accordance with law.

Protesters set up a makeshift shield formation in preparation for potential clashes in Yangon
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Protesters set up a makeshift shield formation in preparation for potential clashes in Yangon

More than 1,700 people have been detained by the police and military in Myanmar, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group said. The latest figure did not include overnight detentions.

Meanwhile, Myanmar’s authorities claimed an activist who was shot dead could not have been killed by police because the wrong sort of projectile was found in her head.

They had exhumed the body of 19-year-old Kyal Sin, who died during the protests in Mandalay on Wednesday wearing a T-shirt that read “Everything will be OK”.

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Moment nun stands up to Myanmar military

State-run MRTV said a surgical investigation showed she had been shot from behind, while police were in front.

Photographs taken on the day showed her head turned away from security forces moments before she was killed.

Opponents of the coup accused the junta of attempting to cover-up their responsibility.

Protesters have demanded the release of Ms Suu Kyi and that military leaders respect the result of November’s election – which her party won in a landslide.

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Myanmar soldier points gun at hidden resident

The army has said it will hold more elections at a date in the future yet to be set.

Israeli-Canadian lobbyist Ari Ben-Menashe, hired by Myanmar’s junta to act as a spokesman, told Reuters the military leaders want to leave politics and improve relations with the United States and to distance themselves from China.

He said Ms Suu Kyi had grown too close to China.

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Equatorial Guinea: At least 20 killed in series of explosions at military base | World News

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At least 20 people have been killed after a series of large explosions at a military base in the city of Bata in Equatorial Guinea.

The cause of the blasts is not yet known but reports on the TVGE news channel suggested authorities had ruled out an attack.

TVGE called on people to donate blood and said hospitals in the Central African nation were full of people injured in the explosions.

In the blast area, iron roofs were ripped off houses and lay twisted amid the rubble.

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