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More than 215 million Christians in the world are under serious threat of being persecuted for nothing more than what they believe and the practice of their faith. They frequently suffer harassment, kidnapping, rape, church bombings, arrest and even the threat of receiving state-sanctioned death penalty. Why talk about such a dark topic so near Christmas? Most of us are not worried about being bombed at Christmas Mass or service. They are.  Part 1 an introduction of the topic of freedom and some examples. Part 2 will be more in-depth with real life stories. 

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What are the hidden costs of some of the gifts we buy? For some workers, including children, our purchases might be costing them their health, education, freedom, dignity, even lives. We can give twice through thoughtful shopping. It's easier than you think, and the good we do makes gift-giving more meaningful. 

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Too often, gay persons in churches feel invisible, unwanted, even marginalized. This is particularly true in more traditional churches. The message seems to be "shut up and go away." Our guest, Bridget Eileen, a committed Christian and celibate lesbian, lends her perspective to this problem. How can churches help facilitate gay persons feeling more fully a part of their communities? Should gay Christians "come out?" These are just a couple of the questions we discuss. To learn more about Bridget and her writing, go to her blog at www.meditationsofatravelingnun.com

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What do you get when a nun gathers 90 transgender women around her? (No, this isn't a joke!) You draw close to what it means to be a fully alive human being. We feature Sr. Monica, a nun in Argentina, who loves and serves transgender women, helping them know they have great value and are worth loving. Listen to this truly inspiring story, share, and give us your feedback wherever you listen or at @merrymortal on Twitter. 

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Human resilience, even amidst intense hatred and violence, is nothing short of amazing. Although the suffering and oppression is real for those who identify as transgender in many countries, their determination to survive and thrive is clear. We feature two countries, Jamaica and India, where transgender persons are often victims of horrific violence and discrimination. Yet despite the obstacles, they form community with each other and fight for the right to exist in peace and equality in their homelands. They want us to see their humanity. 

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The Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh was abhorrent and tragic with 11 dead and 6 injured. We interview Rabbi Leonard Sarko of the Congregation Achduth Vesholom in Fort Wayne, Indiana, who shares with us the pain, but also an inspiring and hopeful message on how the Jewish people are united with one another and seek to remain focused on life and peace even during dark times.   

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There are many heroes fighting for the safety and freedom of gay persons in countries that criminalize being gay. Unfortunately, most of them must remain hidden for fear of arrest, beatings, torture and imprisonment. In this episode you will meet a couple of heroes and organizations trying to be a voice for a brutalized minority. (Listen to our previous episode for a more in depth look at the persecution itself).

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Being LGBT is criminal in 72 countries. Yes, you can be imprisoned, tortured, even executed, for being gay. As though human rights abuses by states is not enough, LGBT persons are often rejected by their families and communities. They are frequently physically abused, denied jobs, homes and normal lives. They live in fear. Ultimately, they are too often dehumanized. Let's work to change this injustice. We can make a difference.

*[This is part one of a six-part series featuring LGBT persecution and the heroes who love and help them] 

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Serving others makes us more fully human. There are people who selflessly give of themselves to serve the homeless every day, helping with food, shelter, healthcare, or to just acknowledge their humanity. In this episode we feature healthcare professionals making "street calls." We also discuss how the homeless are often heroes themselves. 

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The homeless can often feel nameless and faceless, on the outside of society. Many cities even make it a crime to sleep in vehicles and/or the streets. In effect, these municipalities make it a crime for the homeless to live. We can make a difference. We can help the homeless feel more fully human by speaking with them, asking them their names, simply acknowledging they are respected and loved. 

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What's a human? Why does the question even matter? How does it pertain to you? This question is really a matter of life or death. People are often valued for what they can produce, how they look, who they know, how much they have, etc, but this type of thinking is dangerous and destructive. When we get humanity right, we can know peace in culture and we can change the world. 

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Many children around the world are working in public labor, some resulting from slave practices, others to help their families survive. Some of the work is dangerous, keeping them from school and play. Solving the problem is often as complicated as resolving issues surrounding poverty in families and communities. Other times, resolution must come through action against those using children as slaves, reducing their human worth to what they can produce for profit. These children need justice.

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Children are vulnerable and impressionable. In conflict zones they are sometimes kidnapped, coerced or lured into being soldiers. They are forced to kill and commit other atrocities, acts that leave scars. Instead of playing and learning in school, they must submit to adults who use them for political ends. Many people are trying to respect the dignity of children by ending this practice and helping children recover from the wounds of war.  

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The depravity of sex slavery is related to the dehumanization of girls and boys, women and men, for the sake of money, feeding the "pleasures" of an increasingly high-demand market. For traffickers and those "renting" them, sex slaves become little more than commodities supplying the demand. But there's good news. There are many heroes who humanize these victims, rescuing them and helping them recover. 

September 28, 2018

Introduction

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An overview of the main points as you begin listening to the podcast. What does it mean to be human? Why is it so important to get this right? What are the consequences of getting it wrong?