Billy Graham: Preacher to millions, adviser to US presidents

Evangelist Billy Graham
Updated 21 February 2018
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Billy Graham: Preacher to millions, adviser to US presidents

WASHINGTON: Rev. Billy Graham, the influential Southern preacher who became a spiritual adviser to several US presidents and millions of Americans via their television sets, died Wednesday. He was 99.
The one-time backwoods minister who eventually became the world’s foremost Christian evangelist, spread a message of spiritual redemption at tent and stadium revival meetings, in a career that spanned decades.
“The GREAT Billy Graham is dead,” President Donald Trump tweeted in tribute. “There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man.”
The Southern Baptist preacher was close to the family of President George W. Bush, who once said that a private meeting with Graham in 1985 helped him quit drinking.
More recently he was portrayed in the Netflix drama series “The Crown” as giving counsel to the young Queen Elizabeth II as she confronted the burdens of rule.
“Billy Graham is the closest thing to a national pope that we shall ever see,” journalist Garry Wills once wrote in The Washington Post.
His death was confirmed by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the religious organization headed by his son.
Graham was a pioneer of “televangelism” to convert souls to Christianity as television got off the ground in the 1950s.
Born on Nov. 7, 1918, he was raised as one of four children on a dairy farm in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Graham had a spiritual awakening in 1934 that changed the course of his life. He subsequently attended the Florida Bible Institute, now Trinity College of Florida, and was ordained as a Baptist minister in 1939.
In 1950, he founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) in Minneapolis, Minnesota and launched a weekly “Hour of Decision” radio program.
His ministry led him to preach the gospel around the country — and the world.
Over the course of his career, he was consulted by presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy. For a time he was Richard Nixon’s chaplain and golf partner. President George H.W. Bush invited him to pray at the White House in 1991 for guidance through the first long day of the Gulf War.
But of all the US leaders — almost all of whom have described themselves as practicing Christians — Graham found only Jimmy Carter to match him in dedication to his faith.
“Carter alone among the presidents... taught the Bible throughout his life, wrote books of religious meditations, and needed no help with Scripture or its challenges,” wrote authors Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy in a Graham biography, “The Preacher and the Presidents” published in August 2007.
Graham also has been credited with helping hasten the end of segregation in his native south by refusing to preach to segregated audiences after 1953.
Graham and his wife Ruth Bell Graham — the daughter of a missionary surgeon who grew up in China — had five children.
These include Anne Graham Lotz, a Christian author and speaker, and two sons, who like their famous father became ministers.
One son, William Franklin Graham III is now the head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, now headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina.
His wife Ruth, although married for nearly 64 years to the world’s most famous Baptist preacher, remained a lifelong Presbyterian. She died in June 2007 at the age of 87.
Seen as a comforting presence during times of crisis, Graham led a national prayer service for the September 11, 2001 attacks. He also presided at graveside services for president Lyndon Johnson in 1973 and spoke at Nixon’s funeral in 1994.
His participation in a record number of presidential inaugurations underscored his legendary political connections. He was the author of 31 books, most of which have been translated into several languages.
His most recent include “The Heaven Answer Book” (2012) and “Nearing Home” (2011).
While he never snagged the top spot, Graham was on Gallup’s list of most admired men more than any other — 55 times since 1955, the polling institute said in December 2011.
Among his many honors, he was presented with an honorary knighthood in 2001 and received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1996.
“My greatest comfort comes from knowing that I belong to Christ, and that no matter what happens, he will never leave me or forsake me. He will be with me as long as I’m on this Earth, and some day I will go to be with him in heaven forever. I look forward to that day,” he once told the Minneapolis Tribune.
Graham had his detractors: noted Christian theologian Reinhold Niebuhr challenged his preaching as far too simple and not reflecting the complexity of human existence.
And one-time associate Charles Templeton, a former evangelist turned atheist, wrote: “I disagree with him profoundly on his view of Christianity and think that much of what he says in the pulpit is puerile nonsense.”
But he added: “There is no feigning in him: he believes what he believes with an invincible innocence. He is the only mass evangelist I would trust.”
No other religious figure in America has had Graham’s impact. Through a newspaper column, he answered thousands of questions about spirituality.
Unlike other high-profile evangelists, Graham managed to escape sex and money scandals by keeping a meticulous watch over his staff and finances.
“My greatest fear is that I’ll do something that will bring disrepute on the Gospel of Christ before I go,” Graham said in a 1991 interview.
He suffered from a host of ailments late in life, including Parkinson’s disease and prostate cancer. In 1995, weakened by illness and old age, he turned over operation of his ministry to his eldest son.


Protests across Spain as sexual abuse gang released on bail

Demonstrators shout slogans as they take part in a protest rally in Valencia on June 22, 2018, a day after a court ordered the release on bail of five men sentenced to nine years in prison for sexually abusing a young woman at Pamplona's bull-running festival. (AFP)
Updated 23 June 2018
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Protests across Spain as sexual abuse gang released on bail

  • All five, aged between 27 and 29, were convicted of sexual abuse in April but were acquitted of the more serious crime of sexual assault
  • Thousands of people had already protested in Pamplona, Bilbao, Barcelona and other cities on Thursday after the court issued its ruling

MADRID: Protesters hit the streets across Spain for the second day running on Friday, after five men sentenced to nine years in prison for sexually abusing a young woman at Pamplona’s bull-running festival were released on bail.
The men, who called themselves “The Pack” in a WhatsApp messaging group, had been accused of raping a woman, then 18, on July 7, 2016, at the start of the week-long San Fermin festival, which draws tens of thousands of visitors.
All five, aged between 27 and 29, were convicted of sexual abuse in April but were acquitted of the more serious crime of sexual assault — which includes rape — as the court did not consider the victim to have been subjected to intimidation or violence.
The men appealed their jail terms and a Pamplona court on Thursday ordered the five to be released on bail of 6,000 euros ($7,000) pending the outcome of the appeal.
Thousands of people of all ages demonstrated outside the justice ministry in central Madrid on Friday evening, shortly after the five men left jail after spending nearly two years in custody.
“I was stunned” by the court ruling, Aratz Beranoaguirre, a geologist, told AFP at the Madrid protest.
“Men have been educated with the idea that we can do anything, and with this ruling we have seen that you can rape and nothing happens.”
The crowd chanted: “They don’t believe us if they don’t kill us.”
Other protests were held in the southern city of Seville, the hometown of the five men, Pamplona — where the crowd held a large banner that read: “No is no. Justice!” outside of city hall — Granada, and elsewhere.
Thousands of people had already protested in Pamplona, Bilbao, Barcelona and other cities on Thursday after the court issued its ruling.
Women’s groups took to social media to call the protests with the slogan: “If the pack hits the streets, we will as well.”
Marches after the verdict in April brought tens of thousands of protesters out on to the streets.

“It is not fair that they are released with a sentence of nine years, and just a few days before San Fermin, they can even go there,” said Lucia Rodriguez, a 60-year-old protester in Madrid, referring to the upcoming running of the bulls festival which gets underway on July 6.
In its decision on Friday, the Navarre court said the five had been allowed out on bail because the social pressure on them made it “practically unthinkable” they would risk re-offending.
The men will remain under judicial monitoring. They have had their passports withdrawn and must report to court three times a week.
They are also banned from traveling to Madrid, where the victim lives.
One of the men is a policeman with the Guardia Civil — who is currently suspended — and another was once in the army. Several are “ultras” or hardcore fans of FC Sevilla.
The fact that the men videoed the attack on their smartphones and bragged about it within their WhatsApp group added to the outrage over the case.

The mayor of Pamplona, Joseba Asiron, said Friday his office would appeal the decision to release them, saying there was “a growing distance... between society itself and certain decisions taken by the courts.”
An online petition calling for the five to be kept behind bars had garnered 657,000 names by Friday night.
New socialist Justice Minister Dolores Delgado has not commented on the court decision, speaking only of a need to “change mentalities.”
The first step announced by the government of Pedro Sanchez, who took office earlier this month at the head of cabinet that includes 11 women, was to train magistrates in awareness about violence against women.
Noelia Garcia, 41, said she did not trust that the situation would change with a new government dominated by women.
“That is not enough. There needs to be a reform of the judicial system. Judges from another era need to be replaced,” she added at the Madrid protest.