Saturday, 29 December 2007

India Christian leaders condemn government probe into deadly violence

Orissa's tiny Christian minority is struggling to overcome violence, church leaders say. BHUBANESWAR, INDIA (BosNewsLife)-- Christian leaders in India’s tense eastern state of Orissa said Saturday, December 29, they are skeptical about a local government-ordered judicial inquiry into Hindu-led violence that rocked Kandhamal district this week, killing some nine Christians and damaging over 50 churches and other buildings.

"Christians are not safe in Kandhamal. Anti-social elements are attacking Christians, burning churches, setting fire to the houses of Christians and raising slogans against them," said Raphael Cheenath, the Catholic archbishop of the areas of Cuttack and Bhubaneswar, Orissa’s capital.

(read more)

He said the violence in Orissa seems even worse than attacks in the Indian state of Gujarat where between December 25, 1998, and January 3, 1999, in Dangs and neighboring districts over twenty churches were reportedly burned or destroyed, and scores of individuals were physically assaulted.

The attacks were followed by the burning alive of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his small sons Timothy, 9, and Philip, 7, in his station wagon at Manoharpur village in Orissa’s Keonjhar district in January 1999. Orissa’s Christians comprise about 900,000 people of the 36-million strong population of the predominantly Hindu state, according to official estimates. (BosNewsLife's Chief International Correspondent Stefan J. Bos contributed to the story. Stay with BosNewsLife for continues coverage on the crisis in Orissa)

Christians face Christmas beatings, church burnings (WorldNetDaily, 04 Jan 2007)

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Friday, 28 December 2007

Malaysian row over word for 'God'
BBC, 28 Dec 07

A church and Christian newspaper in Malaysia are suing the government after it decreed that the word "Allah" can only be used by Muslims.

In the Malay language "Allah" is used to mean any god, and Christians say they have used the term for centuries.

Opponents of the ban say it is unconstitutional and unreasonable.

It is the latest in a series of religious rows in largely Muslim Malaysia, where minority groups claim their rights are being eroded.

A spokesman for the Herald, the newspaper of the Catholic Church in Malaysia, said a legal suit was filed after they received repeated official warnings that the newspaper could have its licence revoked if it continued to use the word.

"We are of the view that we have the right to use the word 'Allah'," said editor Rev Lawrence Andrew.

(read more)

Related article:
Malaysian court postpones hearing on church's use of 'Allah' materials
(Christian Post, 6 Nov 2008)

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Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Muslim scholars send rare Christmas greetings

PARIS - LEADING Muslim scholars have addressed warm Christmas greetings to Christians around the world, a message notable both for what it said and the fact that it was sent at all.

The greetings, sent by a group of 138 Sunni, Shi'ite, Sufi and other scholars who recently proposed a dialogue with Christian leaders, called for peace on earth and thanked church leaders who have responded positively to their invitation.

The message, as the dialogue proposal made in October, was unprecedented because there has not been until now such a large group of Islamic scholars that could draft a common letter.

Islam is a decentralised faith, with no pope or archbishop who can speak for believers as a group. While individual Muslim clerics have exchanged holiday greetings with Christians in the past, nothing on this scale has been possible before.

'Al-Salaamu Aleikum, Peace be upon you, Pax Vobiscum,' the greetings letter began in Arabic, English and Latin. The text is available on the group's website

It noted that Christmas came just after the Muslim haj pilgrimage to Mecca and the Feast of Sacrifice (Eid al Adha) recalling how the Prophet Abraham almost sacrificed his son.

'God's refusal to let Abraham sacrifice his son ... is to this day a divine warrant and a most powerful social lesson for all followers of the Abrahamic faiths, to ever do their utmost to save, uphold and treasure every human life and especially the lives of every single child,' it said.

'May the coming year be one in which the sanctity and dignity of human life is upheld by all,' it added. 'May it be a year of humble repentance before God and mutual forgiveness within and between communities.'

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Keeping the faith in China
BBC, 25 Dec 07
James Reynolds

At an underground church service in China, you pray as quickly as you can - and hope the police do not come running in.

At the end of an alleyway in the north of Beijing, 40 Chinese Christians gather in a small classroom. At the beginning of the service, they bow their heads and pray.

Their priest, Zhang Minxuan, stands in front of them. Twenty years ago he was a barber with no interest in religion. Then he got into trouble with the Communist Party and was jailed. After that he became a Christian.

Since then he has led an underground church and been detained a dozen times.

(read more)

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Christians celebrate Christmas as leaders urge peace

BETHLEHEM (West Bank) - CHRISTIANS around the world celebrated Christmas on Tuesday as the Catholic leader in the Holy Land pleaded for peace in the Middle East and Pope Benedict XVI spoke against selfishness.

In Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah said in a sermon for Christmas midnight mass: 'This land of God cannot be for some a land of life and for others a land of death, exclusion, occupation, or political imprisonment.'

'All those whom God, the lord of history, has gathered here must be able to find in this land life, dignity and security,' he said, addressing thousands of Christians from all over the world in a sermon delivered in his native Arabic.

Christians celebrate Christmas as leaders urge peace (, 26 Dec 07)

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Monday, 24 December 2007

Bethlehem celebrates Christmas
by Dalia Nammari (24 Dec 07)


Gloom was banished from Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem for the first time in years on Monday as Christian pilgrims from all over the world flocked here to celebrate Jesus' birth in an atmosphere of renewed tranquility.

After Israeli-Palestinian fighting erupted in 2000, most of the people milling around Manger Square in the center of this biblical town on Christmas had been local Palestinians. But this year there were large numbers of tourists from all over the world, back after avoiding the region's strife.

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Queen Elizabeth to air Xmas message on YouTube

LONDON - QUEEN Elizabeth II will urge everyone to care for the vulnerable and those excluded from society in her annual Christmas Day message, palace officials said.

The queen will also pay tribute to the sacrifices made by the armed forces in her speech, Buckingham Palace said.

Tuesday's message marks 50 years since the queen's first televised Christmas message and will set a new milestone by being the first posted on the video-sharing Web site YouTube, the palace said in a statement.

In a preview of this year's speech, the monarch is seen standing in Buckingham Palace, watching black and white footage of herself delivering her first televised broadcast.

The footage of the queen's 1957 Christmas TV broadcast, posted on YouTube on Sunday, reminds viewers that TV once was as groundbreaking a creation as the Internet is today.

(read more)

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Saturday, 22 December 2007

Biblical Inerrancy

Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy
International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, 1978

1. God, who is Himself Truth and speaks truth only, has inspired Holy Scripture in order thereby to reveal Himself to lost mankind through Jesus Christ as Creator and Lord, Redeemer and Judge. Holy Scripture is God's witness to Himself.

2. Holy Scripture, being God's own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: It is to be believed, as God's instruction, in all that it affirms; obeyed, as God's command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God's pledge, in all that it promises.

3. The Holy Spirit, Scripture's divine Author, both authenticates it to us by His inward witness and opens our minds to understand its meaning.

4. Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God's acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God's saving grace in individual lives.

5. The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible's own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.

Evangelical Theological Society

"The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory."

Explaining Inerrancy: A Commentary - R. C. Sproul

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Friday, 21 December 2007

Police target Christmas services to arrest believers

Dozens of Christians have been questioned, arrested, jailed or beaten in a series of attacks on house church Christmas programs as China tries to wipe out "subversive" or "reactionary" forces before the 2008 Olympics, according to China Aid Association.

The organization has released a list of the most recent assaults on Christians, including the detention in Henan province of Pastor Liang Qi Zhen, vice president of the Chinese House Church Alliance.

"After disbursing Liang's congregation, police officials took him by force and transported him to an undisclosed location where he was tortured for several hours. Liang's ears and right hand were injured during the lengthy assault," said the organization, which seeks to be a window into China so the world can "witness the oppression, imprisonment and torture of Christians�"

The organization also said of the 270 protestant pastors arrested in Shandong province recently for participating in the Bible study, only 200 have been released and 70 remain in custody.

In Jiangsu province, a house church was attacked by police officials during members' Christmas celebration, and four women were "detained," including one who was hospitalized, the group said.

(read more)

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Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Huckabee Ad appeals to Christians

TITLE: "What Really Matters"
LENGTH: 30 seconds
AIRING: Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina

SCRIPT: Mike Huckabee: "Are you about worn out by all the television commercials you've been seeing, mostly about politics? Well, I don't blame you. At this time of year sometimes it's nice to pull aside from all of that and just remember that what really matters is the celebration of the birth of Christ and being with our family and friends. And I hope that you and your friends will have a magnificent Christmas season. And on behalf of all of us, God Bless and Merry Christmas. I'm Mike Huckabee and I approved this message."

KEY IMAGES: Huckabee, wearing a red crew-neck sweater, faces the camera, a large stone fireplace behind him and a Christmas tree decorated with colored balls to his left. The lighting is warm and the atmosphere cozy. A piano can be heard softly playing "Silent Night."

ANALYSIS: The ad is unusual for a presidential candidate in that it is a religious message that excludes all religions except for the predominant Christian faith. Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor and ordained Southern Baptist minister, is appealing to the Republican Party's important conservative Christian base, reminding them that he shares their values. Indirectly, the ad also reminds voters in the three early primary and caucus states where it is being aired that Huckabee is a bona fide conservative Christian, unlike former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is thrice-married and holds liberal positions on social issues, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, whose Mormon faith is looked upon skeptically by many Christians.

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Saturday, 15 December 2007

Christianity's forgotten impact
Straits Times, 15 Dec 07
by Roland Chia

IN RECENT years, there has been a spate of anti-religion literature authored by atheists who are either crusading for religion to be privatised or abolished.

The titles of their books openly declare their basic agendas: The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins), God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (Christopher Hitchens), The End Of Faith (Sam Harris) and Breaking The Spell (Daniel Dennett). These authors champion atheism and the ideology that it has spawned, namely, secularism.

They argue that religion is responsible for some of the worst atrocities in history and that society's future lies in a secularism that would keep religion out of the public square.

These authors often quote stark examples in history of the chaos and bloodshed for which religion was allegedly responsible. And one of their favourites is surely the Thirty-Year War (1618-1648), which involved the Holy Roman Empire and the Protestant states in Germany.

(read more)

Greatness of Christianity: Fallacious claims by writer (ST Forum, V. V. Menon, 24 Dec 07)

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Indonesia to probe forced church closures

JAKARTA - INDONESIA'S human rights commission will investigate a report by Christians accusing officials and Muslim radicals of closing, damaging or burning churches, a newspaper reported.

The Communion of Indonesian Churches and the Indonesian Bishops Conference filed the complaint with the National Commission on Human Rights on Friday, the English-language Jakarta Post reported on Saturday.

The church organisations said among those responsible for the forcible closure of 108 churches, many of them in West Java province, were local officials and members of Muslim radical groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front and the Anti-Apostasy Alliance, the newspaper said.

In some cases Muslim radicals also attacked and burned churches, according to the report.

(read more)

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Sunday, 9 December 2007

Shooting at Colorado Springs church\Top%20Headlines\20071212\Church_Shootings_20071212.xml&cat=topheadlines&subcat=&pageid=1

A gunman opened fire in the parking lot of a Colorado Springs church on Sunday, striking four people, the church's pastor said.

The conditions of the people shot outside the New Life Church were not known, El Paso County Sheriff's Lt. Lari Sevene said.

Lance Coles, a pastor at New Life Church, told The Associated Press he received a report that a man was shooting at people in the church parking lot and that the gunman may have entered the church.

It was not immediately known whether the shootings were related to an earlier shooting about 70 miles away in the Denver suburb of Arvada. There, two people died and two were wounded early Sunday when a gunman opened fire in a dormitory at a YWAM missionary training center on the campus of Faith Bible Chapel.

New Life was founded by the Rev. Ted Haggard, who was fired last year after a former male prostitute alleged he had a three-year cash-for-sex relationship with him.

Haggard, then the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, admitted committing undisclosed "sexual immorality."

The church is one of Colorado's largest with about 10,000 members.

2 dead in Colo. shootings 65 miles apart (, 9 Dec 07)

Colo. church gunman had been kicked out (, 10 Dec 07)

Group targeted in Shooting has Far Reach (, 10 Dec 07)

4 dead in 2 shootings in Colorado (ST, 10 Dec 07)

Colo. gunman may have warned of attacks (, 11 Dec 07)

Gunman may have warned of 2nd attack (, 11 Dec 07)\Top%20Headlines\20071212\Church_Shootings_20071212.xml&cat=topheadlines&subcat=&pageid=1

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Saturday, 8 December 2007

Bio: Darrell L. Bock

Darrell L. Bock (b. 1954) is a New Testament scholar and research professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, TX. He has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin (1975), a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary (1979), and a Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen (1983). Bock has also done postdoctoral study at Tübingen University in Tübingen, Germany where he was a Humboldt Scholar. He is an expert on Luke-Acts. Bock is the Professor for Spiritual Development and Culture for the Center for Christian Leadership.

His works include the monograph "Blasphemy and Exaltation" in the collection Judaism and the Final Examination of Jesus, and volumes on Luke in both the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament and the IVP New Testament Commentary Series. Bock is a past president of the Evangelical Theological Society (2000-2001). He is the editor at large for Christianity Today, and has published articles in Los Angeles Times and the Dallas Morning News. He serves as an elder at Trinity Fellowship Church.

Biography links

Online sermons & writings
Series Title: Historical Backgrounds to the Gospels and Life of Jesus
Do Gender-Sensitive Translations Distort Scripture? Not Necessarily
The Kingdom of God in New Testament Theology: The Battle, The Christ, The Spirit-Bearer, and Returning Son of Man
When the Media Became a Nuisance
Roots Matter (Christianity Today)

Bock's Blog

See also
Progressive Dispensationalism (PD)

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Thursday, 6 December 2007

Movie Review - The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

My 2 cents on an upcoming movie "The Golden Compass" (scheduled release in Dec 2007)
by Carolyn Chiam
19 July 2007

Heard of "The Golden Compass", by Philip Pullman?

It's based on book 1 of "His Dark Materials" trilogy (increasingly popular children fantasy
books) and has been in the stores for quite a while. It will be released as a blockbuster movie
by New Line Cinema this Dec. Starring Daniel Craig (yes the new James Bond), Nicole Kidman, Eva Green, etc. with super-special effects, I foresee the movie could generate huge hype. On the big screen, the books' anti-Christian contents may be toned down but the film could attract readers to the 3 books, which I read about couple of years back and finished, hoping that the day will never arrive for the books to warrant much attention. Well, it seems that day's approaching!

As much as I am a fantasy fan and I enjoyed Harry Potter, my personal take on "His Dark Materials" books (how the 1st book won the prestigious Whitbread award really confounds me!) is that they were rather distasteful. Good fantasy is the process of allowing the world to be dipped in myth and magic so that we can see it anew and reopen our eyes to the wonder of God's creation around us - take LOTR or CS Lewis' Narnia for e.g.

Of course the beauty of literature and power of words is that people may interpret various
meanings differently, depending on our values, cultural backgrounds, experiences, etc.
But "Golden Compass" and its 2 other books blatantly distort Christianity, give a warped
version of Genesis, embrace sin as freedom and defame God, even if the author started
out well in the beginning of the book...

The trilogy is a sad excuse for this Oxford grad atheist of a writer to release his anti-Christian worldview which arose from past bad experiences with Christianity, however true they may be. And while one may sympathise with him in view that Christianity as a concept has been fraught with the ills of legalism, fundamentalism and repression in our fallen world, we do NOT condone his actions!

Imagine creating an idea of God that is negative within a world that the author can control.
The danger of this translating to life when read by young impressionable readers is how God
is increasingly portrayed as the ultimate bad guy in these 3 novels. Well, of course children
are not dumb, only a strange few would attempt to fly out of the window, thinking they've got
powers after watching Superman for e.g.

We are called to make informed judgements and teach our juniors and children (if any)
to do so. So instead of reacting in fear or phobia, it is time to engage in intelligent criticism
of the books and movie, by being aware of its warned.

While all things are permissible but not all are beneficial....CS Lewis once wrote in "Mere Christianity":
When a man is getting better, he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse, be understands his own badness less and less. A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is allright. This is common sense, really. You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping. You can see mistakes in arithmetic when your mind is working properly: while you are making them you cannot see them. You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.
I've extracted some reviews below from Christianity Today. Interestingly, the issue at hand is not so much of "Bad movie! Bad book! Beware book! Ban book from our kids!" resulting in another wave of something akin to Potter paranoia.

BUT how are we as Christians to respond in responsible ways that honour God, be a good testimony and not turn off pre-Christian believers and without compromising godly principles? Ah, fine balance... In touch with the world but not of it, by relying on God's grace and strength, I say. How that translates into concrete day-to-day action on our part is the challenge now and ahead!

Review: His Dark Materials - Christianity Today Movies

Sympathy for the Devil - Plugged In (by Focus on the Family)

Movie's influence is over-rated (Electric New Paper, Jeanmarie Tan, 5 Dec 2007),4136,149738,00.html

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Monday, 3 December 2007

I want to be a woman again,4139,149502,00.html
Electric New Paper, 3 Dec 07

MOST sex-change patients undergo the transformation only once.

But odd-job worker Michael Berke chose to do it twice - going from man to woman, and then back again.

Now, he hopes to have a third one to get back his D-cup breasts, pouty lips and long red hair.

All because he said that he never wanted to change back into a man in the first place, blaming a church support group for pressuring him into reversing his surgeries.

Picture Gallery,6303,StoryPage-149502-2,00.html

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Looking for the Church of Our Imagination (COOI)

by Soo-Inn Tan, 3 Dec 2007

I am at my church's annual camp. Tonight, during the first talk, my pastor and friend Mark, said that many of us are looking for COOI, the Church Of Our Imagination. It's the ecclesiastical holy grail, the perfect church where we truly belong.

It's the church that accepts us for who we are yet challenges us to grow. It has the intimacy of a church of 30 and the efficiency and range of services of a church of 3,000. The people are friendly and caring but make no demands on us. The pastors are always available but are also generals in God's army leading the church to victory after victory for Jesus. The leaders are top biblical scholars and bible expositors who also cast out demons and heal the sick when they are not out evangelising, feeding the poor, and agitating for societal change. Welcome to COOI, the church that exists only in our imagination.

Many of us will feel insulted if we are thought to be so unrealistic. Yes we know the perfected and perfect church awaits us in heaven. Yes we know that if we do find the perfect church, not to join it so that we won't spoil it. And no, we will not be guilty of "realised eschatology." And yet many of us still do the circuit, subconsciously perhaps, but still looking for COOI. And even if we do not go church shopping, we still are haunted, using up precious energies nurturing the suspicion that COOI must be out there.

Perhaps it is a symptom of the consumer society we live in today. At every turn we are led to believe that there is a better product out there or a newer, better version of the same product that we just must have. Our hearts are trained to have minimal loyalty to the things in our lives so that we will go looking for that perfect service or product. So we are always wondering, always fantasizing, about the next best thing. Why shouldn't we have the same restlessness about something as important as our faith community? Because it cheats us of being part of God's purposes in the here and now.

Indeed the perfect and perfected church is in the life to come. In many ways the COOI is actually the COTE, the Church Of The Eschaton, the church that will be there at the reconciliation and renewal of all things when time shall be no more. There is nothing in the New Testament that remotely encourages us to expect a perfect church on earth before Christ's second coming. Indeed so much of the New Testament is made up of documents written to correct various serious problems in the churches.

The biblical teaching is that the church this side of heaven is work in progress. The dynamic for this transformation is God's own Spirit. Talking about the Spirit's work of transformation, Paul is clear that it is a process. He writes in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18:
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (TNIV)
Instead of any encouragement to look for the perfect church, we are instead commanded to be part of God's programme of building His church.
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors, and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:11-16 TNIV)
Paul wants to see the church mature and he is clear that a key way the church grows is when all Christians do their part and commit themselves to "works of service."

Some time ago one of my mentors became very frustrated with his denomination and seriously considered switching to another denomination. He took a long hard look at the other denominations and realized that they had as many problems as his denomination if not more. He decided to stay within his denomination and work for renewal from within.

I am not saying that we should never leave a church. For example there are times when a church has become dysfunctional and to stay is to risk emotional and spiritual collapse. There are times when our major doctrinal convictions have changed and are now at odds with the church where we hold membership. There are occasions when we have good biblical reasons not to submit to the authority of the people in leadership in the church. In other words, there will be times when we must leave a church.

But our bias must be to stay and help in the building of God's church. And definitely we are not to embark on any quest for COOI and end up hopping from church to church, spiritual tourists who never lay down roots in any community. We end up not only not participating in God's purposes in helping the church to grow, and there is great joy in that, we also cheat ourselves of our own growth.

If we truly love the Lord we must love His church and that means loving the real church, warts and all, not some fantasy church that exists only in our imagination. No, there is no COOI but there is the church and there is work to be done.

Your brother,
Soo-Inn Tan

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