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AUSTRALIANS GO ONLINE OR TURN TO FRIENDS OR FAMILY FOR ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS OF FAITH

By Australian Newsletter

Australians are most likely to go to friends and family (52%) or online (48%) to find answers to questions they have about faith, belief and spirituality a new study has found. The poll, conducted by McCrindle Research on behalf of Alpha Australia also found that 1 in 9 Australians have wanted a conversation about Christianity in the past year, but have not been engaged. The study, which surveyed 1,000 Australian adults, found that as well as approaching family and friends for answers, online communities (18%) and online content such as videos, talks and sermons (30%) were a key source of insight in their spiritual journey. Melinda Dwight, National Director of Alpha Australia says, “We have known for years the important role close relationships, such as friends and family have played in spiritual formation. But to see more than half of Australians would reach out to those close to them, is a significant reminder.

In these past 12 months as our lives have been disrupted, we have seen that the exploration of faith has continued through online connection.” The survey also found that almost half of Australians (45%) had had a conversation about faith and beliefs with a Christian in the past 12 months. 1 in 9 Australians said they had wanted to have a conversation about Christianity but had not engaged with someone (11%).  Izzy Marshall this year won the 2021 Young Australian of the Year – receiving her award from Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. Marshall is an advocate for Alpha and has seen how it’s led to honest discussions about her faith and faith in general in today’s society, she says, “You just need to host an Alpha and start a conversation. You don’t need an outcome, it just sparks an intellectual conversation, in a non-judgmental space.

Marshall went on “When I have hosted Alpha sessions with my friends, I have always been surprised at just how open they have been to hear and discuss issues of faith. It has never been about converting them, it was more about sharing why Christianity and faith is so important to me and the difference it has made in my life.” A recent study found that 4 in 10 Australians were either extremely (20%) or very (18%) open to exploring different faiths and spiritual views and that younger Australians were more likely to be extremely or very open to these conversations (50% Gen Z, 44% Gen Y  39% Gen X, 25% Baby Boomers; 31% Builders). Millions of people around the world have attended Alpha and despite recent reports of Christianity in decline in Australia in recent decades, Alpha Australia has seen over 500,000 attending since it launched.

Dwight concludes, “The results of the survey show that while we have often felt isolated and disconnected, many have continued to share their faith. The fact that 1 in 10 Australians didn’t have the conversation but were keen to do so, shows there remains a great opportunity for churches and for Christians across the country to talk to those in their families, neighbourhoods and workplaces about what the good news means for them.” Millions of people have tried Alpha all around the world, and it has been translated into over 100 different languages. Developed as a short course at Holy Trinity Brompton in London, in 1990 Nicky Gumbel took over running Alpha and found that many people outside of the church wanted to explore the Christian faith. Alpha now runs in every part of the global church, including the Catholic and Orthodox Churches and all mainline Protestant denominations.

Source: Jersey Road Press

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CONVERSION THERAPY LAWS ARE COMING TO WESTERN AUSTRALIA

By Australian Newsletter

The March 13 landslide election victory in Western Australia has delivered 53 seats out of 59 in the Legislative Assembly to Labor, and in the Legislative Council Labor has 22 out of 36 seats in the Legislative Council.  This will allow Labor to push through its legislative agenda, which on the opening of parliament was announced to include banning so called “gay conversion therapy.” The Labor Government has indicated it plans to ban gay conversion therapy through implementation of the National Code of Conduct for unregulated health workers. The main targets of conversion therapy legislation are Christian counselors, Christian therapists and Christian support groups, we expect the Government will legislate to make pastors and counselors subject to this code.

However, in September last year the Hon Alannah Clohesy said: “Separate legislation, similar to Victoria’s, could be considered in the future if the national code of conduct was not effective in preventing gay conversion therapy.” Prior to the election, Premier McGowan refused to rule out introducing legislation similar to the Victorian Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Act 2021. As a result, Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) WA State Coordinator, Peter Abetz along with James Parker of True Identity, held dozens of events to highlight the draconian and freedom-destroying nature of this law.

Last week over 500 people participated in two webinars that included the powerful testimonies of local people, who through counselling, spiritual help, and therapy, have been able to leave behind their LGBT identity. The ACL will shortly launch a campaign to inform MPs that many people have left behind their LGBT identity through counselling, therapy and spiritual help. We must ensure that the legislation does not remove the right of people experiencing unwanted same sex attraction or gender dysphoria from being allowed to access life changing ‘therapies’ of their choice.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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NATIONAL FAMILIES WEEK CELEBRATES FAMILY LIFE IN ALL ITS DIVERSITY

By Australian Newsletter

Australia’s biggest celebration of families in all their diversity is set to take place this month – National Families Week runs between May 15-21. Coinciding with the UN International Day of Families on May 15, the theme of this year’s celebration will be “stronger families, stronger communities”. Families Australia CEO Dr Brian Babington told Hope 103.2 that the theme “highlights the important role families play as the central building block of our communities and delivers the message that community wellbeing is enhanced by family wellbeing”. Dr Babington said that National Families Week will be “a time to celebrate the meaning of family and make the most of family life”. But he also acknowledged that not all families are the same.

“In all their marvellous diversity, families need nurturing, respect and support,” Dr Babington said. And, someone who understands that all too well is Family Spirit foster carer, Dave. Five years ago, Dave began the process of becoming a foster carer with Catholic Care’s fostering agency, Family Spirit. As a self-employed IT trainer, he knew it was important that he was able make a real difference in the life of a foster child. Dave made the decision to foster a child over the age of 11. The need for foster carers for children between 11 and 15 years old is very high and so Dave’s decision helped to fill a critical gap. Dave began caring for foster child Nathan when he was 11. While Nathan and Dave have now been together for over 4 years, it’s important to both of them that Nathan has continued contact with his mother, siblings and grandparents.

For Dave, he knows that Nathan’s continued contact with his relatives builds a stronger community around their family. In addition to the care that he provides for Nathan, Dave has opened his home for other children requiring short-term foster care. However, he said the decision to bring another child into their home is one that Nathan and Dave make together. “It can sometimes be a bit disruptive, but overall, it is a positive experience for both of us,” Dave said. Dave sees the fostering experience as one which provides benefits for both the child and the carer. He said that many people tell him that Nathan is lucky but Dave strongly believes that he is the lucky one to have Nathan in his life.

Adoptive parents Maria and Charles understand that feeling. The couple adopted their two daughters Revathi and Aradhana. Maria said that she and Charles are “eternally grateful to their birth parents for the sacrifice they made to help us be parents.” For Maria and Charles, the journey to parenthood was not an easy one. “My husband and I experienced unexplained infertility and the road was long and hard, but it was worth every second,” Maria explained. Raising their family was not something Maria and Charles said they have achieved alone. Their faith has been central to how they have raised their daughters. “We have the support and wisdom of our priests and elders in the church, the friendship and acceptance of members of our own age group and the joy and love of younger members of our community,” Maria said.

She hopes that by raising her daughters in the faith, they too will experience Jesus in their lives. Charles added that their Faith in God made them stronger as a family. “We are never alone when Christ is the head of our home, a silent listener to every conversation and an unseen guest at every meal,” he said. For 17-year-old daughter Revathi, it is communication that has cemented her family’s bond. “We can talk about anything; how we feel, what we do, and we are listened to and our opinion matters,” she said. But it’s not all serious, with 13-year-old Aradhana telling about the family laughter. “We laugh at the silliest things, at the smallest jokes that sometimes aren’t really funny but we laugh anyway.” It is love that binds their family together. “Ours is a family joined not by an umbilical cord that is cut at birth but by heart strings that cannot be broken.”

Source: 103.2FM

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A CHURCH’S BOLD MOVE TO STAMP OUT VIOLENCE

By Australian Newsletter

Anglicare has launched a new youth program aimed at preventing an all-too-common form of violence in Australia. It’s an alarming stat that shocked Australians: 55 women died at the hands of their intimate partner last year. It means that on average, at least one woman dies each week as the result of domestic violence. And, at least one in every four women, and one in 13 men, suffer abuse by an intimate partner. Now, Anglicare has teamed up with Youthworks to tackle the problem. Both Anglicare’s Community Services team and Anglicare’s youth initiative, Take Love, have joined forces with Youthworks to create the youth group program Before It Starts. The four-week downloadable program focuses on teaching high school-aged girls and boys how to build healthy relationships.

The program, which includes survivors’ stories, Bible studies and games, evolved from within the Anglican ministry. “It came out of people in the ministry talking about the issues and concerns that they were needing to respond to,” Lynda Dunstan, Anglicare Sydney’s family and domestic violence advisor said. “With the current conversation in our community about sexual assault experienced by young women, it is very clear to see that these are significant issues impacting young people.” The initiative covers topics including identity, love, power, romance and friendship. It also teaches young women to recognise when they are in a potentially abusive relationship. “That’s a significant part of the education,” Ms Dunstan said.

“It’s teaching young people what good, healthy, respectful relationships are for Christians. But we want young women to really be aware of some of the red flags of when the relationship is maybe not going to be OK.” The program is aimed at both girls and boys. “We’ve designed it for any youth group, young women and men together,” Ms Dunstan said. “There are some activities where they might have discussion groups for girls only or boys only, but mostly it’s designed for male and females together. “It involves some teaching components, Bible study and discussion questions. It’s really designed to give you a full program including activities and teaching.” Rev Mike Dicker, Dean of Students at Youthworks College, said: “We really hope this program will shape the behaviours of our young people to follow the gracious and loving behaviour of the Lord Jesus”.

Source: 103.2FM

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FACEBOOK SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO CRUSH FREE SPEECH

By Australian Newsletter

Facebook’s virtual monopoly status means it should be required to allow free speech or be banned from operating in Australia, the Christian Democratic Party (CDP) has stated. CDP spokesman Lyle Shelton said Facebook was in effect a public information utility and as such should not be allowed to operate in an anti-democratic and partisan manner. “Facebook should not be allowed to interfere with lawful speech in this country,” Mr Shelton said. “If the Morrison government can require Facebook to pay for news content, surely it can require Facebook to allow free speech. By virtue of its market power, Facebook has a responsibility to act in the public interest and it should not be allowed to censor public debate” Mr Shelton said.

“It is chilling that an elected member of the Australian Parliament, Craig Kelly, has had his account suspended, not for inciting hate or violence, but simply for providing information. His posts should be debated, not cancelled” Mr Shelton said. “Cancelling people with whom we disagree is un-Australian and sets an ugly precedent for the future of our Democracy. Freedom of political debate is one of the most precious human rights there is and Big Tech oligarchs should not be allowed to crush this”. Facebook claims Mr Kelly was spreading ‘misinformation’ but doesn’t say if Mr Kelly has breached any laws. Mr Shelton said Mr Kelly was not the only one subject to censorship from Facebook. Mr Shelton had an edition of his YouTube Channel, The Lyle Shelton Show, censored. “I assume it is because I provided analysis of the November 3 US Presidential election.”

Source: 103.2FM

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CHRISTIAN HERITAGE SACRIFICED IN SCHOOL CURRICULUM SHAKE-UP

By Australian Newsletter

Australia’s Christian heritage has been erased from a proposed new national school curriculum that promotes Indigenous history, culture and perspectives and teaches children that British colonisation was an “invasion”. Secondary school students will no longer be taught that Australia is a secular nation and a multi-faith society with a “Christian heritage”, according to the revised curriculum documents released by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACRA).  Instead, they will learn the nation is a “culturally diverse, multi-faith, secular and pluralistic society with diverse communities, such as the distinct communities of First Nations Australians”. Experts, including Australian Catholic University research fellow Kevin Donnelly expressed alarm at the proposed direction for school education, which includes a significant cut to humanities content across both primary and secondary years.

“The entire curriculum is awash with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture and spirituality to the detriment of teaching students about Australia as a Western liberal democracy with a Christian heritage,” Dr Donnelly said. “It smacks of cultural relativism.” While some broad history topics such as Investigating the Ancient Past, which encompasses events across Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Greece, Rome, India, China and the Maya, have been removed, others have been rewritten with a specific Indigenous focus. Previously, under the curriculum, the theme Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures has been listed as a “cross-curriculum priority”, meaning it should be taught as part of all subjects, ranging from English to history.

However, following feedback from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Advisory Group, it now has elevated importance and has been incorporated directly into several subjects. ACU Senior Research Fellow Dr Kevin Donnelly says all top-performing academic countries “get rid of all the faddish rubbish” and focus on what is essential, as sweeping changes are proposed to the national curriculum. Among the proposed changes, primary school students will no longer study internationally significant commemorations such as Bastille Day in France, Independence Day in the US or Chinese New Year. Instead, they will focus on the importance of Australia Day, Anzac Day and National Sorry Day and will examine British colonisation through the perspective of First Nations people.

From Year 4, students will learn about the “arrival of the First Fleet and how this was perceived by the First Nations Australians as an invasion”. And while students in Year 4 have previously been required to study at least one world navigator, that topic has been replaced by an exploration of the significance of trade to First Nations People of Australia. The influence of the Indigenous perspective is also visible in the proposed new civic and citizenship curriculum. Where Year 8 students previously studied “values and beliefs of religions practised in contemporary Australia, including Christianity”, they will now learn about Australia as a “culturally diverse, multi-faith, secular and pluralistic society with diverse communities”.

New content under the topic Laws and Citizens will teach students about the effectiveness of the justice system “in achieving equality of access, equity of outcomes, procedural fairness, the right to appeal, and remedies for injustices, particularly for First Nations Australians”.  Curriculum documents will also no longer reference the terms Aboriginal and Indigenous, which will be replaced by First Nations Australians or Australian First Nations Peoples, after the advisory group raised concerns about the “accuracy and adequacy” of the overarching themes of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures cross-curriculum priority. Other feedback from the advisory group included that the current national curriculum did not include enough “truth telling” about the experience of First Nations Australians since the arrival of Europeans.

The current curriculum also failed to recognise that the First Peoples of Australia experienced colonisation “as invasion and dispossession of land, sea and sky”; lacked mention of the Native Title Act 1993 as a law passed by the Australian parliament that recognises the rights and interests of First Nations Peoples of Australia in land and waters according to their traditional laws and customs; and failed to showcase the sophisticated political, economic and social organisation systems of the First Peoples. Sky News host Andrew Bolt says “race propaganda” is coming to a classroom near you “very soon” with the new proposed changes to Australia’s national curriculum. The changes have been recommended by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority.

“We keep spending billions more on education, yet keep seeing standards fall,” Mr Bolt said. “Looking at these proposed changes, spare us. Why is it that radicals seem in charge of deciding what gets taught? “The deeper you look into these changes the worse it gets.” In the subject of English, texts from Aboriginal authors “will be promoted” and it’s recommended the terms ‘Aboriginal’ and ‘Indigenous’ should be replaced with ‘First Nations Australians’ or Australian First Nation Peoples’. “Our classrooms are just being prepped here for race politics,” Mr Bolt said. “I’m not jumping at shadows here.” The director of the Institute of Public Affairs’ western civilisation program, Bella d’Abrera, criticised the removal of references to Christianity, Ancient Greece and many of the institutions and values of Western culture under the guise of “decluttering” the curriculum.

D’abrera said “This is not clutter; this is knowledge that every Australian child should learn,” she said. “This is giving licence for children to unlearn the freedoms of our democracy and brainwash them into becoming political activists.” Historian Geoffrey Blainey said: “By all means teach Indigenous history, but not at the expense of classical and Western civilisations. Ancient Rome surely did at least as much as Uluru to shape the modern Australian way of thinking and living.” Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation chief executive Simon Haines said although he had yet to examine the curriculum changes in detail, he would be concerned about students losing a world view of history. “It would be a pity if a significant increase in Indigenous history, while a subject of great importance, were to be at the cost of meaningful education in the major historical events of the wider world,” Professor Haines said.

Haines went on “Australia is an island. We need to know our own history, of course, while at the same time not being too insular.” History Teachers Association of Australia president Catherine Baron said the inclusion in the Year 7 history curriculum of First Nations culture was welcome. “They will be looking at two ancient cultures, and instead of that being two cultures from around the world, one will be a First Nations culture. It’s a good thing for kids to learn about their own nation’s cultural history,” she said. ACARA chief executive David de Carvalho said: “The proposed revisions in the curriculum give students the opportunity to discuss and understand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives, for example, how the arrival of the First Fleet was perceived and interpreted.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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PRIME MINISTER URGES “DON’T GIVE IN TO IDENTITY POLITICS”

By Australian Newsletter

Scott Morrison has urged Australians not to surrender to “identity politics” and the forces that undermine the community, declaring freedom rests on “taking personal responsibility”.  In a speech outlining his values and beliefs, the Prime Minister launched an impassioned critique of the “growing tendency to commodify human beings through identity politics” and elevated the necessity of viewing “people as individuals with agency and responsibility”. Speaking at a United Israel Appeal NSW donor dinner in Sydney, Mr Morrison set out his vision of morality, community and personal responsibility in the modern world while warning that reducing individuals to their attributes would end in division and a broken society.

“We must never surrender the truth that the experience and value of every human being is unique and personal,” he said. “You are more than your gender, sexuality, race,  ethnicity, religion, language group, or age. “All of these contribute to who we are and the incredible diversity of our society, but of themselves they are not the essence of our humanity. “When we reduce ourselves to a collection of attributes, or divide ourselves on this basis, we can lose sight of who we are as individuals, in all our complexity and wholeness. We then define each other by the boxes we tick or don’t tick rather than our qualities, skills and character. “Throughout history, we’ve seen what happens when people are defined solely by the group they belong to, an attribute they have, or an identity they possess. The Jewish community understands that better than any.”

Journalist and Managing Director at Adoni Media Lisa Goddard says “we’ve all been waiting on Scott Morrison to show some leadership on the relentless attacks of identity politics on broader society.  We need some common sense,” Ms Goddard said. Mr Morrison will use the speech, titled “You Matter: The responsibility of citizens in building community to achieve national success”, to frame the values that will guide his government ahead of the next election, due by May next year, and draw a contrast with the Labor Party. “My message is simple: you matter, you make the difference, you make community,” he said. “Together with family, marriage and association, clubs, community groups, faith networks, and so much more these combine as the further building blocks of community, providing the stability and sinews of society that bind us to each other.”

The speech follows his address to the Australian Christian Churches conference last week in which he cited the works of the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks to discuss faith, morality and identity politics in comments that triggered a fresh debate about his religious views as the nation’s first Pentecostal Prime Minister. Speaking before Jewish community leaders Steven Lowy, Lance Rosenberg and Jillian Segal, the acting ambassador of Israel Jonathan Peled, Employment Minister Stuart Robert and government MPs Dave Sharma and Julian Leeser, Mr Morrison again cited Rabbi Sacks on the “covenant of community”. He said this was about “not leaving it to another” and urged Australians to re-frame their thinking on rights, arguing that citizens should be contributing more to society than they expected to receive back from it.

Sky News host Paul Murray says people who have doubts about Australia’s leadership will “feel a whole lot better” after the prime minister’s speech affirming his belief in the Judeo-Christian principle of “inherent human dignity”. “That is the moral responsibility and covenant of citizenship, not to think we can leave it to someone else. “There is a warning though. Where we once understood our rights in terms of our protections from the state, now it seems these rights are defined by what we expect from the state. “As citizens, we cannot allow what we think we are entitled to, to become more important than what we are responsible for.” Mr Morrison said “human dignity” was at the heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition underpinning modern Australian society and was also foundational for freedom in a liberal democracy. “Everything else flows from it,” he said.

“Seeing the inherent dignity of all human beings is the foundation of all morality. “It makes us more capable of love and compassion, selflessness and forgiveness. “Because if you see the dignity and worth of another person, you’re less likely to disrespect them; insult or show contempt or hatred for them; or seek to cancel them, as is becoming the fashion of some. You’re less likely to be indifferent to their lives, and callous towards their feelings.” Mr Morrison said Rabbi Sacks had concluded in his final work Morality that “if you lose your own morality, you are in danger of losing your freedom” as he sought to elevate the Liberal Party’s core value of individual responsibility. “Liberty is not borne of the state but rests with the individual, for whom morality must be a personal responsibility,” he said.

There is a real “degrading of people of faith” from those on the left and in the commentariat which often manifests itself in attacks on the prime minister, according to International Development Minister Zed Seselja. “Freedom therefore rests on us taking personal responsibility for how we treat each other, based on our respect for, and appreciation of, human dignity. “This is not about state power or market capital. “This is about morality and personal responsibility. Morality is also the foundation of true community.” Amid rising tensions in the Indo-Pacific region and China’s increasing efforts to disrupt democracies, Mr Morrison also said “we stand as a sovereign and free nation in an increasingly uncertain part of the world”.

He said community “matters” in a democracy. “It’s a source of strength, that’s why foreign actors seek to sow discord online, by inflaming anger and hatred, and spreading lies and disinformation. “The right to disagree peacefully is at the very heart of democracy, but democracy is also a shared endeavour, and civility, trust and generosity are the currency that mediates our differences.” Mr Morrison reflected on Australians coming together through the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters. “I’ve been incredibly heartened to see people show the best of us this past year, the heroic virtues of our people,” he said. “Through drought, bushfires, floods, cyclones and pandemic, Australians have found ways to support and stand with each other, checking in on each other, keeping jobs open, volunteering, helping neighbours with their shopping.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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THE STORY BEHIND MOTHER’S DAY 

By Australian Newsletter

In Australia we celebrate Mother’s Day this Sunday, 9th May. Motherhood is a very special relationship, rated more highly than most others because of the love, dedication and often sacrifice of mothers for their children. That is why Mother’s Day is now celebrated across some 50 different countries of the world. But not all on the same day. In the UK, Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man, Ireland and Nigeria, Mother’s Day was celebrated on 14 March this year. The UK Mother’s Day, often known as Mothering Sunday, is always held on the fourth Sunday of Lent. From the 1500s, this was the day Christians would visit their “mother church” – where they were baptised, or their local parish church, or their nearest cathedral (the mother church of their diocese).

In later times, Mothering Sunday became a day when domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother church, usually with their own mothers and other family members. It has morphed into a celebration of all mothers and grandmothers. Other countries have their Mother’s Day at a different time from the UK. Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Germany and Italy are among those that follow the United States, celebrating mums on the second Sunday in May. The US tradition began with Miss Anna Jarvis, a Philadelphia schoolteacher. In 1907 she started a movement to set up a national Mother’s Day in honour of her mother, Mrs Ann Jarvis. Mrs Jarvis had spent her life mobilising mothers to care for their children, and she wanted mothers’ work to be recognised.

“I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mothers’ day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it,” Mrs Jarvis said. Miss Jarvis sought to fulfil her mother’s wish. She and her supporters began to write to ministers, businessmen, and politicians in their campaign to establish a national Mother’s Day. The first Mother’s Day observance was a church service on the second anniversary of her mother’s death, the second Sunday of May. Anna handed out her mother’s favourite flowers, white incarnations. By 1911, Mother’s Day had spread nationwide and was being celebrated in almost every US state. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May as a national holiday in honour of mothers.

Over the years, Mother’s Day became increasingly popular, and the current traditions of card and gift-giving increased. The blatant commercialisation angered Anna – she even began to campaign against the greed and profit motive that was demeaning her day of remembrance. But Mother’s Day continues. Many Christian families ignore the commercialisation, making an effort to show their appreciation for their mums with a special visit, meal, or gift of flowers. And remember the first Commandment with a promise: “Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” – Exodus 20:12  Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers and thank you for your tireless love and service to your families.

Source: FamilyVoice Australia

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