TIME Sudan

Sudan Finance Minister Pushes Washington to Lift Sanctions

A woman rides a donkey past a convoy of government troops in Tabit village in the North Darfur region of Sudan, Nov, 2014.
Abd Raouf—AP A woman rides a donkey past a convoy of government troops in Tabit village in the North Darfur region of Sudan, Nov, 2014.

Sudanese minister of finance and national economy Bader Eldin Mahmmoud Abbas Mukhtar visited Washington recently to lobby the United States to lift sanctions and remove the country from a list of states that sponsor terrorism.

This is the second time this year that a high profile Sudanese delegation has received visas to visit Washington. Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti visited in February for the National Prayer Breakfast. Mukhtar was in town for the World Bank-International Monetary Fund spring meetings, and his delegation included representatives from the Central Bank of Sudan.

Mukhtar met with Assistant Secretary of Treasury Marisa Lago and Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth on April 18. His goal, he tells TIME, was to move forward on the “improvement of the bilateral relations rather than always talking about domestic political issues in Sudan.”

The domestic political issues in Sudan — including the extensive fighting between numerous government and rebel factions, as well as the government denial of humanitarian aid and mounting allegations of military war crimes against civilians — were the subject of a February feature in TIME, “Sudan: The Forgotten War.

Sudan’s tactics in fighting rebel groups have been widely criticized. According to the U.N., the Sudanese Armed Forces burned an average of about 22 villages a day in Darfur over the first half of last year. In the South Kordofan region, reports of government planes bombing civilian and medical targets arrive regularly. In February, the United Nations Security Council threatened new sanctions against Sudan, and Samantha Power, United States Ambassador to the U.N., accused Sudan of “obstruction, harassment and direct attacks that have impeded efforts to deliver humanitarian aid in Darfur.”

From TIME’s February story: “‘It is not any different than what is happening in Syria,’ says Tom Catena, a U.S. surgeon who runs the only full-scale hospital for the nearly 1 million civilians caught in the Nuba Mountains region of South Kordofan. ‘It just has been going on three decades longer.’” (Catena is one of the 2015 TIME 100.)

Here’s the topline of Mukhtar’s interview with TIME at the Washington Press Club, with his quotes, condensed for length:

He is frustrated with the United States policy on Sudan. “Let me be frank with you,” Mukhtar says. “We have tried a lot to engage with the Americans. … They are always coming with moving political targets. … Our feel is that the object of the American policy towards Sudan is the regime change, not having any cooperation. … We are always trying to cooperate with the Americans … and the international community in combatting terrorism and we are adopting standards of antiterrorism finance in our financial systems and anti-money-laundering. … Instead of being rewarded for that, we have been punished.”

He is unwilling to entertain reports of human rights abuses in Sudan. Mukhtar denied allegations of humanitarian abuse, unethical mining of gold, and exploitation of citizens in Sudan. “This is reflected by some of the activist groups,” he says. (Gamal Goraish, a counselor from the Embassy of Sudan in the United States who was present at the interview, clarifies, “The Enough Project mainly.”) Mukhtar continues, “They are trying to say that a country or a government exploiting the people. What on Earth that a country or a responsible government that is slaying its people, exploiting them, abusing them, violating rights, not respecting them?”

He continues the Sudanese government’s denial of a mass Sudanese military rape of 221 women and girls in the Darfur village of Tabit, reported by Human Rights Watch. “Nobody can say that also government encouraging or motivating people to do bad things like this. Even in our religion in Sudan, this is out of any religion beliefs. … This has been crafted unfortunately even by some of the people inside the UNAMID (United Nations Mission in Darfur), trying to say that government of Sudan is encouraging such bad things. … The people of Sudan are not you see like animals in a forest.” (A woman with the Central Bank of Sudan, also part of the delegation, adds, “No man can treat woman badly, never.”) He concludes, “They talk about the collective raping event which is not true.”

He thinks the U.S. should support debt relief for Sudan, in part due to Sudan’s assistance to the U.S. in fighting terrorism. Sudan’s debt, according to the Embassy of Sudan in Washington, amounts to $43.5 billion, of which $2.6 billion is owed to the U.S. “We are playing a positive role in Libya trying to stabilize the situation there. With our partners there, we are pushing negotiations between the conflicting parties there in order to reach a compromise. … Now the situation in Darfur is much better… this not because the government goes there and killing the people irrationally, the conflict was being caused by the conflict on natural resources, by the nomads and the farmers, this is triggered the instability. … the government is trying to fix the situation, trying to reach compromise.”

He defends Sudan’s high arms import budget. “Buying weapons, a country which is facing lot of challenges, if the rebels started any activity in the United States, do you think that the government just will stay there just to come to power in Washington, or they should defeat them there? If any group of people are out of law… the responsible government should act responsibility to protect the security of the county and to bring security for the people and to prevent anarchy to happen in the country. … This is why we are trying to also strengthen our security capabilities and to strengthen our army. What do you expect us to do as a responsible government?”

The Central Bank of Sudan has approximately $21-24 billion in foreign exchange currency (Forex). “The international reserve is always evaluated in terms of months of imports. Now the Central Bank has about three months reserve of foreign currency and we are trying to build more reserves. Our import bill is $7-8 billion. You can calculate after that.”

TIME Religion

A Bishop’s Resignation Puts All Eyes on Chile

Catholic Bishop Charged
Tammy Ljungblad—AP Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph appears during a bench trial Sept. 6, 2012 at the Jackson County Courthouse in Kansas City, Mo.

The Vatican’s announcement that Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Missouri, was just one line, released in Tuesday’s daily press bulletin. The only reason given was a provision of canon law that allows bishops to resign early due to illness or another grave cause. But everybody knew the real punch: this was the first time a pope took public action against a priest who covered up sexual abuse.

Today’s Francis fever and sky-high favorability ratings makes it easy to forget just how deeply the story of priestly sexual abuse has defined the Catholic Church in recent decades. The legacy of the scandals in the United States alone is beyond weighty — a 2004 USCCB report detailed the severity of the crisis nationwide — more than 4,000 priests faced more than 10,000 allegations of child sexual abuse from 1950-2002, with half the alleged victims between the ages of 11-14. Dioceses have shelled out millions, and in some cases hundreds of millions, of dollars to settle cases.

For many victims and Vatican watchers, Tuesday’s announcement was a long time in coming, especially since Francis made it clear from the beginning that his papacy would have a zero-tolerance policy. In February 2014, Catholics petitioned Pope Francis to take disciplinary action against Finn. Pope Francis launched an investigation into Finn in September, and in November, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, who leads the Church sex abuse commission, said that the Vatican needed to “urgently” address Finn’s case. This past weekend, Irish abuse survivor and member of the sex abuse commission Marie Collins told the Catholic news site Crux, “I cannot understand how Bishop Finn is still in position, when anyone else with a conviction that he has could not run a Sunday school in a parish. He wouldn’t pass a background check.”

It is one thing for Francis to accept the resignation of a bishop who mishandled abuse allegations. It is another for him to appoint and defend one who has long been associated with similar scandal. Protests erupted in January when Francis announced he was appointing Bishop Juan Barros to lead a Chilean diocese. Barros has long been accused of covering up the sexual abuse committed by his mentor, Rev. Fernando Karadima, whom the Vatican found guilty of in 2011. Members of the sex abuse commission have been speaking out in concern in this case as well. “It goes completely against what he (Francis) has said in the past about those who protect abusers,” Collins told the AP last month. “The voice of the survivors is being ignored.”

The Vatican made clear its position on the Barros appointment three weeks ago in another one-sentence statement: “The Congregation for Bishops carefully examined the prelate’s candidature and did not find objective reasons to preclude the appointment.”

The lesson of Kansas City is that the Vatican takes covering up abuse seriously. Chile is the next test.

TIME Pope Francis

Pope Francis’ Latest Mission: Stopping Nuclear Weapons

Pope Francis attends a private audience with President of Slovakia Andrej Kiska at the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City, Vatican, on April 9, 2015.
Getty Images Pope Francis attends a private audience with President of Slovakia Andrej Kiska at the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City, Vatican, on April 9, 2015.

The U.S. State Department is revving up its efforts to work with the Holy See

The Vatican has long opposed nuclear weapons, but Pope Francis is making the cause one of the top diplomatic priorities of his two-year-old papacy.

In December, the Vatican submitted a paper calling for total nuclear disarmament to the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. In January, Pope Francis touted nuclear disarmament as a major goal alongside climate change in his speech to the Vatican’s diplomatic corps. And on Easter Sunday, he publicly prayed that the prospective multi-nation deal to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program would be “a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.”

Many observers expect the Pope to raise the topic in his speech to the United Nations in September, especially as that event also commemorates the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s historic U.N. speech calling for “never again war, never again war.”

“Pope Francis has recently pushed the moral argument against nuclear weapons to a new level, not only against their use but also against their possession,” Archbishop Bernedito Auza, the Holy See’s Ambassador to the U.N., says. “Today there is no more argument, not even the argument of deterrence used during the Cold War, that could ‘minimally morally justify’ the possession of nuclear weapons. The ‘peace of a sort’ that is supposed to justify nuclear deterrence is specious and illusory.”

The Vatican push on nuclear weapons comes as the United States is in the final stages of negotiating a deal with Iran and as 190 parties that have supported the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty prepare for its five-year review. The upcoming NPT RevCon, as the U.N. treaty review conference is called, is the first NPT review during the Francis papacy, and Francis’ voice is already adding moral and political weight to the conversation. The Holy See, a party to the Treaty, has opposed the possession and use of nuclear weapons since the beginning of the nuclear age.

The Holy See is “very concerned,” Auza adds, about nuclear-capable states’ commitment to disarmament, arguing that the central promise of the treaty remains unfulfilled. “The fact that nuclear-possessing States not only have not dismantled their nuclear arsenals but are modernizing them lies at the heart of nuclear proliferation,” he says. “It perpetuates the ‘injustice’ in the NPT regime, which was supposed to be temporary while nuclear disarmament was in progress…. how could we reasonably convince the pre-NPT non-nuclear countries not to acquire or develop nuclear arms capabilities? Now, the real and present danger that non-state actors, like terrorist and extremist organizations, could acquire nuclear weapons ‘in the black market’ and ‘not-so-black market,’ ‘in the back alleys’ and ‘not-so-back alleys’ should terrify us all.”

On Thursday, two events on opposite sides of the planet signaled Pope Francis’ diplomatic reach ahead of the NPT review. In New York at the United Nations’ headquarters, the Holy See’s Mission to the U.N. and the Global Security Institute hosted a conference of diplomats and interfaith partners to promote the abolition of nuclear weapons. At the Vatican, a United States diplomatic delegation was courting Catholic Church leaders on President Obama’s commitment to nuclear disarmament.

Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller has picked up on the Vatican’s keen interest in nuclear disarmament and has made it a priority to engage the Holy See. Gottemoeller first visited the Vatican in January to discuss arms control and nonproliferation issues with several counterparts. In late March, the State Department invited the Holy See to participate as an observer in its new disarmament verification initiative, the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification. This week, Gottemoeller returned to the Vatican with Madelyn Creedon, the Department of Energy’s principal deputy administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration, for a two-day diplomatic visit.

Gottemoeller’s efforts have centered on briefing the Vatican on the United States’ disarmament agenda. She has been working to reach highest-level counterparts, as well as technical experts and non-governmental experts. “President Obama from the very beginning of his term in office has been very clear that his goal is to proceed with nuclear disarmament,” she says. “People think sometimes that that is just a kind of propaganda slogan out there without a lot of ‘there’ there, so I wanted to make sure that our Vatican counterparts knew the degree to which the President’s Prague initiative has become substantively a very significant part of our national policy.”

The United States knows the political capital Pope Francis holds when it comes to national and international decision-making. Most notably, the White House credited Francis for his role in brokering the U.S.-Cuba deal in December. “I think there is a huge moral impact of the Vatican on issues that relate to nuclear weapons deterrence and the disarmament agenda overall,” Gottemoeller says. “I see it is as a confluence of interest in a very positive sense. … You can’t just wave a magic wand and make nuclear weapons go away. It takes hard work and it takes a lot of very practical steps, but we can get there, and that is the President’s message. I just hope that we will be met by patience from the community trying to work on these issues.”

For Francis, nuclear disarmament—like most everything—must be viewed from the position of the poor instead of the position of the powerful. Inequality and nuclear power are interwoven. “Spending on nuclear weapons squanders the wealth of nations,” Pope Francis wrote to the Vienna Humanitarian Conference in December. “To prioritize such spending is a mistake and a misallocation of resources which would be far better invested in the areas of integral human development, education, health and the fight against extreme poverty. When these resources are squandered, the poor and the weak living on the margins of society pay the price.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has also been deepening its theological and political attention to disarmament. Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace, spoke at the Holy See’s U.N. panel. During the NPT RevCon, the USCCB plans to sponsor an event with the Kroc Institute on evolving Catholic perspectives from nuclear deterrence to disarmament. Stephen Colecchi, director of the USCCB’s Office of International Justice and Peace, says that the USCCB is trying to move the Holy See’s moral discussion forward in the U.S.—the USCCB had a close relationship with the Administration during the time of the New START Treaty, and has continued the dialogue with Gottemoeller, who is Catholic. “We certainly urge the United States to work with Russia and we have been urging them to separate the issue of the day, which is Ukraine, from the issue of the decades, which is nuclear disarmament,” Colecchi says. “Deterrence is even less stable in a multipolar world. We might ask, Are nations, including our own, serious about nuclear disarmament if they are modernizing nuclear weapons systems?”

After a period of denuclearization in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union, several states in the developing world went nuclear and events recently have further undermined the NPT. U.N. Ambassador Libran Cabactulan of the Philippines—who was the president of the previous NPT RevCon—flew in from Manila to speak at the Holy See’s event at the U.N. on Thursday. “Nothing has been achieved. Nothing much,” Cabactulan told the U.N. gathering, describing the progress of disarmament in the last five years. “What perhaps I achieved, that was calling more on temporal power, and maybe I failed, because in the order of things it’s the tally sheet, what has been done. And that is why I am gratified…to have spiritual leaders.”

Ambassador Antonio Patriota, permanent representative of Brazil to the United Nations, believes that Francis’ position will resonate during the NPT review conference. “He himself coming from South America, we feel that he has a very deep understanding of the challenges posed by inequality,” Patriota says. “His words carry quite a bit of political weight. It is a powerful message from man of high moral standing in a time when leadership is scarce.”

TIME Religion

The Pope’s Silversmith is Creating an All-American Chalice

Pope Francis stands next to Argentinian craftsman Adrian Pallarols as he poses for the family photo with international football players at the Vatican on Sept. 2014 prior to an inter-religious "match for peace" soccer game that played at Rome's Olympic Stadium.
Vincenzo Pinto—AFP/Getty Images Argentinian silversmith Adrián Pallaros and Pope Francis pose with international soccer players at the Vatican on Sept. 2014 prior to an inter-religious "match for peace" soccer game that was played at Rome's Olympic Stadium.

It would be made from silver donated by Americans from around the country

An Argentinian silversmith is in New York City this week drumming up support for an unusual project: a silver communion chalice for the pope’s upcoming trip to the United States.

A seventh-generation silversmith who has known Pope Francis for more than a decade, Adrián Pallarols intends to make the chalice by melting down silver jewelry—”an earring, a little ring you don’t use,” anything with silver in it—donated by Americans from across the country.

Pallarols, 43, says Pope Francis would use the chalice during a mass when he visits New York City in September. Neither the Vatican nor the Archdiocese of New York has yet confirmed where that might be held. With a design featuring a map of the United States in the center of the handle plus the donated metals, the symbolism would be rich, Pallaros argues.

“Everybody, the whole country, will be in the prayers of Pope Francis here in New York when he lifts the chalice in the consecration,” Pallarols says. “Everybody can be in his hands for the prayers.”

Pallarols presented the idea for the chalice to Pope Francis in a private audience last month. He says any extra silver will be sold and the proceeds donated to Pope Francis’ efforts with the poor in the United States.

Courtesy of Adrian Pallaros

His family began handcrafting and designing silver in the 1750s in Barcelona, and they continued when they moved to Argentina in 1804. In recent years, the family’s clients have included Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, and Frank Sinatra, according to Vatican News.

When Pope Francis was still Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, he married Pallarols and his wife, and later he baptized their daughter. The Cardinal would stop by Pallaros’ workshop, Pallarols recalls, and chat about art and music. The Pallarols family crafted the chalice that Cardinal Bergoglio presented to Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, and after Bergoglio was named Pope, they crafted the personal chalice that Pope Francis uses for masses at his Vatican residence at Santa Marta, as well as various other projects.

Pallarols says the idea for the chalice came when he was approached for a paid assignment to create a cup for the pope’s New York visit. He recalled how then-Cardinal Bergoglio would often bring him gifts of silver he had received to sell and use the proceeds to buy food, clothes and blankets for the poor.

That’s a philosophy Pallarols wanted to bring to bear on this effort. Not only can thousands of Americans contribute a meaningful memento from their own life stories to the chalice, but the poor would also benefit from the overflowing of contributions.

“When you have a lot of money, you have chances to get a special place, because you can give a lot of money,” says Pallarols. “But in this way, having a little part of each person who will send a bit of silver, they can feel they can participate and they can see this piece of silver will get to the hands of Pope Francis.”

The project is still in the early stages, and Pallarols still has a lot of work ahead for it all to work. He aims to finalize the details during his trip to New York this week, and he is working to arrange the banking and donation details to meet Internal Revenue Service requirements and recruit corporate sponsors to help receive and mail the silver from around the country to one central location.

He plans to melt the silver pieces in New York into an ingot to transport to Buenos Aires to craft it into the chalice at his workshop. Pallaros says he can craft the chalice in one to two months, but he needs to have all the metal by June in order to finish the project by September.

“My biggest concern is not the constructing, it is the raising of the metal and participation of the people,” he says.

 

TIME ted cruz

Ted Cruz Launches Presidential Campaign at School Known For Glass Ceilings

Senator Ted Cruz(R-TX) delivers remarks before announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination to run for president on March 23, 2015, at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Paul J. Richards—AFP/Getty Images Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) delivers remarks before announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination to run for president on March 23, 2015, at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virginia.

He offers a message of female empowerment at a school with few women leaders

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz launched his campaign for the presidency Monday with effusive praise for the boundary-breaking women in his life and a call for mothers, sisters and daughters to join his coming campaign.

“The answer will not come from Washington,” he said of the challenges facing the nation. “It will come only from the men and women across this country—from men and women, from people of faith, from lovers of liberty, from people who respect the Constitution.”

In a speech at Liberty University, the world’s largest Christian school, he praised the entrepreneurship of his wife, Heidi, a managing director at Goldman Sachs, who started in business as a child, baking bread and selling it at a nearby apple farm. His mother, he said in video message earlier in the day, was “a pioneer in computer science, smashing glass ceilings at a time when women were discouraged from following their dreams.” Her father, he continued in the speech, “frankly didn’t think that women should be educated.”

The praise for gender equality was all the more resonant—or perhaps discordant—because of the setting. Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., bars women as a matter of theology from becoming pastors or holding high-ranking roles of church leadership. In fact, the leadership at Liberty, where more than half the student population is female, is almost entirely male.

The school’s executive leadership is composed of 21 men and one woman, the executive vice president and vice-president of human resources. Liberty University’s Board of Trustees is comprised of 38 men and two women whose husbands also serve on the board: Beverly LaHaye, founder of Concerned Women for America, and Gaye Overton Benson, for whose family the Liberty School of Business is named. The 32 positions on the committees of the Board of Trustees are also filled entirely by men.

Likewise, all of the faculty are male at Liberty University’s Baptist Theological Seminary, where despite the ban on women becoming pastors, women can receive degrees. At the larger school, just over half of the residential student body is female, and just more than 60% of the online student population is female. “Women need to be advised that few opportunities presently exist for ordination of women among Baptist churches and Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary supports the Baptist Faith and Message as amended by the Southern Baptist Convention of June 2000,” the school tells applicants on its website.

The larger Southern Baptist Convention believes the bible bars women from becoming pastors. “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture,” reads the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

There are some programs specifically designed for women. Liberty has a Center for Women’s Ministries, which educates “today’s woman in basic principles of Biblical femininity” and seeks to equip her “to effectively evangelize and disciple other women living in America and throughout the world,” according to its website. Career opportunities for women with this focus, the site says, include women’s ministry directors, teen girls’ leaders, and event planners.

Christine Caine, an activist with Hillsong Church in Australia, partnered with the school in January to launch a broader initiative called “Propel” to equip Christian women for broader leadership, especially when they work outside the home. “For generations, women have navigated the nuances of being a woman in leadership without a roadmap,” Caine said in a news release. “Gaps in leadership training have forced women to compartmentalize their lives, separating work, church, home and personal life.”

Liberty’s glass ceilings—and those of the religious constituency Liberty signifies and that Cruz is trying to court—could complicate his message going forward. In his announcement speech, Cruz cast himself as a values candidate, with a view of American history centered around faith. “What is the promise of America?” he asked at one point in his speech. “The idea that—the revolutionary idea that this country was founded upon, which is that our rights don’t come from man. They come from God Almighty.”

Stylistically, his speech had more in common with Sunday preaching than a traditional campaign address. He roamed the circular stage, often turning his back to the television cameras, with a microphone affixed to his neck, telling the stories of redemption that lifted his family, and charting a road map for lifting the nation. “Today, roughly half of born again Christians aren’t voting,” he said. “They’re staying home. Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values.”

TIME

Pope Francis to Dine with Gay and Transgender Inmates in Naples Prison

He made a special request to have lunch with inmates

Pope Francis will have lunch on Saturday with some 90 inmates at a prison near Naples, including some that reportedly come from a ward housing gay, transgender and HIV-infected inmates.

Tv2000, a television network operated by Italy’s Catholic bishops, reports that lunch at the Giuseppe Salvia Detention Center was originally not on the schedule, but Pope Francis made a special request to dine with the inmates. A number of the estimated 100 prisoners are gay, transgender and/or infected with HIV, the report said.

The prisoners were chosen via raffle from the facility’s 1900 inmates, writes David Gibson, a top Vatican watcher at Religion News Service. Pope Francis intends to greet each prisoner after a short and simple meal, Vatican Radio reports.

Pope Francis has made caring for inmates a priority of his papacy. He washed the feet of Muslim and women prisoners weeks after his election as pope, and is planning to wash inmates feet again this upcoming Holy Thursday. Pope Francis on Friday also reiterated the Catholic Church’s position that no crime deserves the death penalty. Capital punishment, he said, is “inadmissible, however serious the crime.”

The report of the lunch is also a reminder of the new tone and signature phrase of the Pope Francis papacy–“Who am I to judge?”–which was the Holy Father’s response to a question about homosexuality months after his election.

[Religion News Service]

Read next: I’m Proud To Be a Transgender Catholic

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME faith

Like Instagram, But for the Bible

Silicon Valley, meet the Sermon on the Mount.

A new app lets people share inspirational images online, but instead of trending hashtags they can peg them to their favorite Bible verses.

Launched on March 5, the Parallel Bible is different from traditional Bible apps such as the popular YouVersion, which focus on the individual’s experience with the Word.

Instead, users sign into a virtual fellowship, uploading their own photos and videos and tagging them with related verses, searching Scripture to see other users’ photos and sharing stories in small groups or on their own news feeds.

“What we want for the Bible is to turn it back into a big table where everyone feels like they can be welcome,” co-founder Andrew Breitenberg says. “If you are a human being, you qualify—you don’t have to be a Christian to read the Bible.”

Breitenberg founded Parallel with his brother Chris. The brothers who grew up in Princeton, N.J., and who now live in Virginia Beach and Washington, D.C. Andrew, 36, is a graduate of Swarthmore and spent the last six years doing street art and graffiti in Cape Town. Chris, 33, is a graduate of Davidson and has worked at a peace-building nonprofit and spent time traveling Asia.

Both have explored evangelical and Eastern Christian traditions, and their spiritual influences include French mystic and activist Simone Weil, American Catholic mystic Thomas Merton, and the British theologian C.S. Lewis, beloved by evangelicals worldwide. For the past six months, Richard Rohr, a Franciscan friar and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, has been their mentor.

Their core idea is the theological principle that the Bible is inherently more than a book, it is a shared experience. Biblical texts began as oral traditions, and only became bound in one cohesive, written form after hundreds of years. The modern idea that the Bible is a just book with a beginning, middle and end, misses the diverse cultural contexts that it contains, as well as the way that people have interacted with those stories over the centuries and the participation that is possible in the Bible’s stories today.

“Ultimately faith is not individual but communal with God and the people around you,” says Chris. “We are just shortening that leap.”

Parallel Bible is currently free. The Breitenberg brothers do not believe in putting ads or commercials in the middle of the Bible, and their goal is to create the new community first and monetize later. That strategy, they say, has so far not deterred investors. Their team is small—right now they have just one developer—and their startup budget for the past two years was about $100,000. It is currently only available for iTunes (an Android version is in the works) and they have had about 1,000 downloads. But, as Andrew says, this is just the beginning. “You can’t build something that looks like Instagram overnight.”

Beyond the development process however, the app signals a new evangelism, the communal sharing of stories rather than overt proselytization. And the founders are thinking big. “It literally could be the next Bible that the world uses,” says Andrew.

TIME Civil Rights

Christian College Student Attacked With Apple for Questioning Treatment of Gays

Wheaton Forum Wall Bulletin Board Gay Student
Sara Kohler A note on a student bulletin board at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., Feb. 24, 2015.

The apple thrower then posted a defense of his actions on a campus wall

After a student at a prominent evangelical college questioned his school’s stance against homosexuality in an all-school forum on Monday, another student allegedly threw an apple at him “as a warning against insulting the Spirit of grace.”

The incident, which college administrators are now addressing, took place on Monday at Wheaton College, Billy Graham’s alma mater outside Chicago, during the campus’ traditional “Town Hall Chapel,” a campuswide question and answer session where the college president, currently Philip Ryken, takes questions from the student body. Wheaton holds marriage to be between one man and one woman, and requires students and faculty to uphold that sexual ethic. Christian colleges such as Wheaton have been at the center of the evangelical fight over lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) acceptance, especially as younger generations grow increasingly more accepting on issues such as same-sex marriage.

The most recent conflict began when Philip Fillion, a class of 2015 organ performance major and married heterosexual, asked Ryken a question about the theological consistency of Wheaton’s position against homosexuality. He posted his question in full in a public note on his Facebook page:

“All students, via the Community Covenant, and all faculty, via the Statement of Faith, are required to affirm a sexual ethic that denies everyone except celibates and married straight people a place in the kingdom of God. This sexual ethic is not at all universal and depends on a reading of scripture that is incredibly narrow and ignores history, culture, and science. The Statement of Faith and the Community Covenant also lack any language about the sacraments of the Christian church. Why is it the case that our college, in documents we all must agree to or be expelled, insists on formally condemning and denying equality to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, on spurious theological grounds, yet completely leaves behind baptism and Eucharist, which Jesus Christ himself instituted to grow and strengthen the Christian community?”

As he returned to his seat, the college tells TIME, another student sitting nearby threw the apple at him, and missed. Fillion tells TIME it hit him on his left shoulder partly through his question. “There was no response when the fruit was thrown. No boos, no gasp,” he says. “A student was in line after me and when it was his turn to ask a question, he began his time at the microphone by calling out whoever had thrown the fruit, remarking that such behavior was inappropriate and disrespectful. There was restrained applause for this.”

“President Ryken did not see the incident and did not fully understand what happened until after chapel ended,” Wheaton College told TIME in a statement.

At first, the apple was the end of the story, though some students were bothered. Justin Massey, a senior political science major and a co-founder of the campus’ LGBT student group Refuge, was disturbed that the incident did not garner more serious attention. “I saw peers exert more effort into rationalizing the offense rather than demonstrating support to the LGBT community whose experiences were disrespected,” Massey wrote on his blog. “From three separate individuals I have heard that the disruptive student simply felt ‘the question was just too long,’ ‘the tone of the inquiring student appeared rude,’ and even ‘it was simply a joke gone wrong.’ Each of these answers has one thing in common: they take responsibility off of the offending individual in an attempt to absolve this student of displaying any prejudice against a minority group.”

But the situation escalated dramatically when a student claiming to be the apple-thrower then posted a letter on the campus’ public bulletin board, the “Forum Wall,” a space traditionally designated for student opinions, accepting responsibility for and defending his actions, Wheaton confirms. “Dear Enemy,” the note began. “In regards to ‘casting a stone,’ you would be mistaken to think that I threw the apple out of hatred. I have strong aim and could hit a head at fifteen meters if I wanted to. No, I threw it purposefully as a warning against insulting the Spirit of grace. Because Truth itself was maligned. For the destruction of those who ‘have the form of godliness but deny its power’ was written about long ago. And in regards to the story of the adulteress, have you not read what Jesus told the woman, ‘God now and leave your life of sin.’ ? So neither do I condemn you, but do fear God and live in righteousness! Do not choose destruction.” Signed: “Not ashamed of Truth, Roland Hesse.”

Late Tuesday night, Massey wrote a letter to Ryken and other campus leaders, alerting them of the Forum Wall letter and arguing that the incident was more than just a theological dispute. “Upon reading this letter I feel threatened and unsafe, and I know that I am not the only student who feels this way,” Massey, who is openly gay, wrote. “This action of throwing an item at another student is violent in nature and his sentiments reflected in the Forum Wall post are threatening….My peers and I strongly feel that prompt discussion, discipline, and communication with the student body must take place to explicitly call out these actions and properly deal with this situation.”

Massey and other students, LGBT and allied, met with campus officials Wednesday morning to discuss the situation. “The religious tone and justification that he voiced, that was really frightening to us,” Massey says. “That is why we are asking for the College to specifically recognize that this incident targeted a minority group of people, that this wasn’t just a theological disagreement—this was LGBT students feeling the weight of the actions.”

Ryken briefly addressed the situation to the student body in Wednesday’s all-school chapel. The incident comes the same week as another Wheaton student was arrested for allegedly secretly filming a female Wheaton student in her shower since October 2014. “He asked our community to pray for leaders from Student Development and the Chaplain’s Office who hold students accountable and work with them for repentance, healing, and reconciliation,” Wheaton’s statement to TIME continues. “Wheaton College unequivocally condemns acts of disrespect, aggression and intimidation. While expressions of disagreement are to be expected in a liberal arts learning environment, our expectation is that members of our Christian community express disagreement and debate important issues with courtesy, respect, and love for God and each other—values we express in our Community Covenant. This is especially important when we discuss sensitive and challenging topics, or when our convictions are disputed.”

Wheaton added that “students who violate community standards are held accountable for their actions” but that “federal privacy laws prevents the College from commenting extensively on disciplinary matters.”

However, Massey said that he learned the student has been disciplined.

“It has been confirmed to me that as of this afternoon, the offending student will no longer be on campus, and if he is on campus, LGBT students that feel threatened will be immediately notified,” Massey says. “I’m incredibly impressed at how the administration is responding—I’m very pleased to know they are taking this seriously.”

As Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits.”

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