Singapore, November 28, 2015: The Conservative government of Singapore has lifted the ban on 240 publications hitherto forbidden. These include texts that are inspired by Chinese communist doctrine such as “The Long March”, as well as short stories and tales of the colonial past such as the collection of erotic stories “Fanny Hill” of 1748. However, according the Media Development Authority (MDA), religious texts that refer to Jehovah’s Witnesses, outlawed since 1972, are still banned.
Mda explain officials say The Media Development Authority said it “routinely reviews prior classification decisions, in order to ensure that they keep pace with societal norms”.
The “Undesirable Publications Act” maintains the ban for 17 publications which, according to the executive of the city-state, are contrary to public order and morality. This is while the ban remains on the importation, sale and distribution of this material.
These include magazines and books for adults with evident pornographic content and also religious material relating to the doctrine and beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The sect has been outlawed since 1972, because they are opposed to compulsory military service and refuse to sing the national anthem.
The Constitution of Singapore on paper guarantees religious freedom but it is restricted in practice. The government requires and encourages the so-called “religious harmony”, prohibiting speeches or initiatives that could be sources of division or discord interfaith.
Buddhists are the largest religious group in Singapore, with about 33% of the population, followed by Christians who represent 18% (7% Catholics), agnostics with 16% and Muslims with just over 14%. There is also a large representative sample of other religious groups, such as Sikhs, Jews and Zoroastrians.
Religion is carefully monitored and each group with more than 10 members must register with authorities. In addition, the law provides for the possibility of outlawing any religious group considered potentially dangerous by the State or inclined to disturb the harmony, public order or the welfare of citizens. To date, only two religious groups have been declared as such by the Government: Jehovah’s Witnesses, outlawed in 1972, followed a decade later by the Unified Church, founded by Korean Reverend Sun Myung Moon.
Speaking to Le Messenger, an Egpytian Catholic magazine, Youan spoke passionately about the “chaos” that Western governments have caused by ignoring the advice of Syrians, assuming that Assad’s regime could be destroyed in a few months, and now having faith in airstrikes as the answer when ISIS has thoroughly infiltrated Iraq, Syria and beyond.
“We Christians are not able to live in this chaos,” the Syrian Patriarch said. “The West has betrayed us.”
The patriarch accused Western governments of wanting to “perpetuate the endless conflict in Syria” and of having “betrayed the Christians of the East. We explained from the beginning that our situation was different from that of other nations in the region, they were not listened to. And now we mourn deaths over the past five years. ”
He described the current situation in Syria as “dramatic, and all the Syrian people are living in pain” as they are trapped under the regime of ISIS and other terrorist groups “who use Islam as an excuse to ‘purify’ areas under their control in the name of religion, and Muslim scholars who tell us that Islam is alien to these facts.
“It’s a shame that the West has abandoned Christians to this situation,” he said.
The patriarch said that terrorist groups, with financing from Saudi Arabia and other countries in the area, have thoroughly infiltrated Iraq and Syria, and there are now terrorists moving into Europe posing as refugees.
ISIS “have already infiltrated in European populations. For years they have received money, weapons and religious indoctrination from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, with the supervision of the West. To claim that the solution is to carry out air strikes [in Syria and Iraq] is a lie”, he said.
This is futile, he said, “because their supporters have infiltraded the population, they are financed and have access to weapons and religious indoctrination.”
- christian today
Uzbekistan, November 24, 2015: Ten Christians have been fined by a criminal court in Uzbekistan for meeting together without state permission. The court ordered that their confiscated Bibles and church songbooks be destroyed. In a separate incident, a believer in capital city Tashkent was bullied by police for carrying a Bible in his bag, and fined by a court.
On 25 September, the Karshi Criminal Court in Uzbekistan’s south-eastern Kashkadarya Region fined three Christians 50 times the minimum monthly wage and seven more 30 times the minimum monthly wage, for violating the Religion Law and illegally storing religious literature, according to news agency Forum18.
The same court also ordered that the believers’ personal Bibles, Easter greetings cards, and church songbooks, all of which had been seized by Uzbek authorities, be destroyed.
The Christians had been meeting together without the required state registration when authorities raided their meeting on 26 April. They recorded the names of the believers, questioned them, and filmed the worship service, said Forum18.
Children were also present at the meeting. The authorities filmed a man who said he was speaking on behalf of the Karshi City Education Department. The Church “poisons the minds of the children and deprives them of their bright future,” he said. The head of the Karshi Education Department later confirmed to Forum18 that this man was unknown to them.
Authorities again raided a meeting on 2 August, asking why the Christians were continuing to meet. They promised court action would soon be taken.
Christian man detained and bullied by police in capital city
In a separate incident, Timur Akhmedov, an Uzbek Christian, was stopped by police at a Metro Station in the Mirabad District of the country’s capital city, Tashkent, on 21 September. He was searched, and when the officers discovered his Bible, Christian literature and discs, they confiscated them.
Two weeks later, he was summoned by police and questioned. “Mirabad Police bullied Akhmedov, pushing and pulling him, hitting him a couple of times,” said local Christians. “Officers questioned him about where he received the literature.”
The Tashkent Mirabad District Criminal Court fined Akhmedov five times the monthly minimum wage for illegally storing religious literature, and ordered that it be destroyed.
The publication and distribution of religious literature is subject to intense state control in Uzbekistan and all Christian activity is illegal for members of unregistered churches. Uzbekistan has long been recognised as one of the most repressive regimes in Central Asia with respect to religious freedom.
- barnabas team
Syria, November 20, 2015: “This grace was given to me for the comfort of many,” said Father Jacques Mourad, a priest in the Syriac Catholic Church. When he was in Beirut, we met at the Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation. Head of the Mar Elian monastery and responsible for the Christian residents in the village of Al-Qaryatayn, near Palmyra, Fr Murad was abducted by men from the Islamic State group (Daesh), back on 21 May. He was held in captivity for 4 months and 20 days, before he was able to join the so-called free world on 10 October.
Harassed, threatened, and pressured to convert to Islam, he went through several mock decapitations. He was even flogged once, and went through a mock execution the next day. He was held with a seminarian in a bathroom lit only by a skylight, and was reduced to a diet of rice and water, twice a day, without electricity or a watch, completely cut off from the outside world. Yet he managed to remain watchful, and never saw his faith weaken. On the contrary.
His grace, or the miracle in Fr Mourad’s words, was staying alive, not abjuring his faith, and finally finding freedom. “The first week was the hardest,” he said. “After being held for several days in a car, on Pentecost Sunday, I was taken to Raqqa. My first days of captivity were full of fear, anger and shame.”
For Fr Jacques, the turning point in his captivity came on the eighth day when a masked man in black came to the cell, someone who looked like those who appear in Daesh’s videos. “My time is up. That’s it,” he thought. Instead, after asking him his name and that of his fellow prisoner, the man addressed him ‘As-salamu alaykum’, ‘Peace be upon you,’ and entered the cell. A long talk followed as if the unknown man wanted to understand really the two men in front of him.
“Think of this as a spiritual retreat,” he told him, when Father Jacques asked why he was being held. “From then on, my prayers and my days made sense,” the Syrian priest said. “How can I explain this to you! I felt that through him, the Lord was speaking to me. That was very comforting.”
“Through prayer, I was able to regain my peace,” he added. “It was May, the month of Mary. We began to recite the rosary, which I had not done a lot before. My relationship with the Virgin was renewed. The prayer of Saint Teresa of Avila ‘Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing make you afraid’, also helped me. For her, one night I came up with a melody that I started to hum”.
“Charles de Foucauld’s prayer [also] helped me abandon myself in the hands of the Lord, conscious that I had no choice. For every indication suggested that it was either conversion to Islam, or decapitation. They came into my cell almost every day to ask me about my faith. I lived every day as if it were my last. But I did not give in. God gave me two things, silence and friendliness. I knew that some answers could provoke them, that any word might condemn you.” For instance, “They asked me about the presence of wine in the convent. When I started to answer, the man cut me off. He found my words unbearable. I was an ‘infidel’.”
“Thanks to the prayers, at the Psalms, I entered a peace that has never left me. I even remembered Christ’s words in the Gospel of Saint Matthew, ‘bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.’ I was happy to be able to live out these words. It is no small feat to experience the Gospel, especially these difficult verses, which previously were theoretical. I started to feel compassion for my captors.
“Occasionally I would remember Fairuz’s poetic songs,” Fr Jacques said, “especially one about dusk, which I sang during June’s long nights in Raqqa, when we were left in the dark. Even these words and their music became a prayer. They spoke of suffering carved ‘in the twilight’.”
Then one day, Father Jacques Mourad was flogged.
“It was the 23rd day of my captivity,” he said. “They came in suddenly. It was all staged. Flogging lasted about 30 minutes. The whip was made from a piece of garden hose and ropes. It hurt physically, but inside of me, I was at peace. I was consoled by the knowledge that I was sharing something of Christ’s suffering. I was also extremely confused because I felt unworthy of it. I forgave my tormentor even as he whipped me.
“From time to time, I comforted deacon Boutros, my fellow prisoner, with a smile, who could hardly contain himself over my flogging. Later, I remembered the verse in which the Lord says that his strength manifests itself in our weakness. That really struck me because I felt I was weak, spiritually and physically. You see, I have suffered from a bad back since childhood and my conditions in detention were such that the pain should have in principle gotten worse. At the monastery, I had a special mattress, and an ergonomic chair. In prison, I was sleeping on the floor, and I could not walk around the bathroom.
“Later, I got really scared,” Fr Jacques said, “when a man armed with a knife came into our cell. I felt the blade on my neck and the countdown for my mock execution began. In my fright, I entrusted myself to God’s mercy. But it was nothing but a sham.”
On 4 August, the Jihadis took Palmyra and Al-Qaryatayn. The next day at dawn, they took 250 civilians hostage, and brought them to Palmyra. On 11 August, Father Jacques and his companion followed. This is how, “A Saudi sheik came into our cell. ‘Are you Baba Jacques?’ He said. ‘Come on, move it! Qaryatayn Christians can’t stop jabbering about you!’
“I thought I was being taken to be executed. Instead, we travelled by van for four hours. After Palmyra, we took a mountain path leading to a building with a big iron door. When it was opened what do I see? The whole population of Al-Qaryatayn, amazed to see me. It was a time of unspeakable suffering for me – for them, an extraordinary moment of joy. Twenty days later, on 1 September, we were brought to Al-Qaryatayn, free but banned from leaving the village.
“A collective religious contract was signed. We were now under their protection (ahl zemmeh), upon payment of a special tax (Jizya) imposed on non-Muslims. We could practice our rites, provided they did not offend Muslims.
“A few days later, after one of my parishioners died of cancer, we went to the cemetery, near the Convent de Mar Elian. Only then did I find out that it had been levelled. Strangely, I did not react. Inwardly, I felt that Mar Elian had sacrificed his convent and his grave to save us.
“Today, I still feel the same about my captors as I felt when I was their prisoner: compassion,” said Fr Jacques, who is tight-lipped about the way he defied the ban to leave Al-Qaryatayn. “This feeling comes from my contemplation of God’s gaze upon them, despite their violence, as he does upon any man, a gaze of pure mercy, without any wish for revenge.
“Today I know that prayer is the way to salvation,” said the priest, who was a monk at the monastery of Mar Musa, founded by Father Paolo Dall’Oglio. Hence, “We must continue to pray for the still missing bishops and priests whose fate is still unknown; we must pray for my brother, the Father, Paolo Dall’oglio, who disappeared in Raqqa in July 2013).
“We also must pray for a political solution in Syria. This year, we mark a hundred years since the slaughters and exodus of 1915. Without a political solution, emigration will finish the work that began with the 1915 massacres.”
Proposed Iraqi Law Would Force Some Children to Become Muslim
Iraq, November 16, 2015: A new law in Iraq would require the conversion of Children to Islam if their father were to convert or if their mom were to marry a Muslim man or a Muslim-Background Christian. The long-term implications for this would be devastating as changing your ID back to Christian is nearly possible. This puts even greater strain on the church in Iraq and raises serious questions regarding the basic rights and religious freedoms in the country.
1,000 Schools Destroyed by Boko Haram, many Christian Institutions
Nigeria, November 17, 2015: This year alone, Boko Haram has destroyed 1,000 schools in the northeastern portion of Nigeria. Boko Haram, which means no western or ‘non-Islamic’ education has targeted countless schools and universities since their inception as an Islamic terror group. They are most infamous for their attack and subsequent kidnapping of 276 Christian school girls in Chibok, a government area in Borno State, Nigeria. Since their abduction in 2014, 53 have escaped but the rest remain missing. It is likely those who remain missing are either hidden as converted Muslim wives or dead as a result of being used a suicide bombers.
Assyrian Protestant Church in Turkey Reopens 6 Decades Later
Turkey November 17, 2015: One of the oldest protestant churches in the Middle East has been reopened after sitting in ruins for nearly 60 years. The Mardin Protestant Church in Turkey has reopened for services, the first in 60 years. There is just a small population of protestants, or Christians of any denomination, remaining in this part of Turkey, a region that a century ago was home to a substantial number of Christians.
The Priest Who Provides a Safe Haven for Iraqi Christian Refugees
Iraq, November 15, 2015: In the small town of Marka, Jordan, about 20 minutes from downtown Amman, hundreds of Christian refugees and their families live under the steadfast care of Father Khalil Jaar, a humble priest originally from Bethlehem. As hundreds of thousands of Christians have been forced to flee their homes in Iraq and Syria, many have sought refuge in the region, in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. While many of these congregations are themselves small and struggling, they have stepped up to serve those in need.
Large-Scale Islamic Terrorist Attacks in Paris Kill at Least 128
France, November 14, 2015: ICC condemns the horrific attacks and mourn with the families of those who lost loved ones and condemns the brutal attacks which took place across the heart of Paris on Friday evening. The Islamic State (IS, ISIS, Daesh) claimed responsibility for the attacks, threatening that the operation was the “first of the storm.”
Christians And Muslims Fight To Protect Ancient Christian Town Against ISIS
Syria, November 11, 2015: The fighting in Syria has now put another Christian town squarely in the crossfire of Islamic groups attempting to control the country and the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The historic town of Sadad has been under fire since October 31 as militants try to advance along a strategic highway linking Damascus and Homs. Hundreds of Christian and Muslim fighters are battling to defend it. Sadad is considered strategic because it lies between Homs and Damascus, the capital of Syria, and two years ago was overrun by ISIS. It was recaptured by the Syrian army, but not before almost 50 Christians were massacred, and believers are once again fleeing the town in fear of the militants.
U.S, November 18, 2015: One afternoon this past October, I was sitting at the bar in a packed out Starbucks when a young, Middle Eastern man tapped me on the shoulder. “Is it okay if I sit here?” he asked in a thick accent, pointing at the chair to my immediate right.
I nodded my head and told him that was absolutely okay. I was kind of taken aback that he had even asked. Most people would have quickly hopped up into that chair without a word (seats at Starbucks are hard to come by!).
I scooted over to give him some room as he situated himself and pulled some materials out of his bag — an iPhone and a spiral notebook. Being the nosey person that I am, I eyed the content of his notebook as he flipped through the pages. I saw lots and lots of written lines — one sentence written in a foreign language, the next sentence written in English — repeated continually down each piece of paper. The thick accent combined with what looked to be efforts to learn the English language led me to suspect he had just freshly landed on American soil.
“Sir?” he whispered, stretching out his hand timidly to get my attention, “I’m sorry to interrupt you, but could you help me understand how to connect to this place’s Internet?”
After I walked him through connecting to the Starbucks Wi-Fi, he gave me some dap (fist bump), thanked me, and introduced himself, “My name is Ibrahim. It’s nice to meet you.”
For the next hour and a half, Ibrahim and I chatted about many different things. He told me he was born and raised in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where his entire family still lives. He grinned from ear to ear as he told me about his hardworking father who has made sacrifice after sacrifice to ensure Ibrahim could come to the U.S. for his college education. And his mother — he could have gone on for days about his love for his mother! It was evident from just the first fifteen minutes of talking with Ibrahim that he loved and missed his family intensely.
As we continued to chitchat, he mentioned something in passing about prayer. I guess he saw my eyes light up because he paused in mid-sentence and then backtracked a bit.
“You know that I am Muslim, right? Is that okay with you?” he asked.
I could sense the hesitation in his voice and suspected that he had already faced some uncomfortable situations because of his ethnicity and religion. I’ve spent my entire life in the ultra-conservative, right wing South and know well the judgmental, suspicious attitudes many hold toward Muslims.
“Of course it’s okay with me,” I reassured him. “I mean, I’m a Christian and I don’t believe Islam is the truth, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be friends.”
He smiled and gave me some dap, again. He seemed super pleased, and I think a bit shocked, at my response. To show him all the more I was tolerant (in the true sense of the word) of his religion, I began to ask him questions about his beliefs and practices. The remainder of our conversation was spent gently, respectfully, and dare I say it — lovingly — dialoguing about Islam, Christianity, and the differences between the two.
As has been true of every Muslim person I have ever met, Ibrahim’s devotion to Allah is something to be marveled at. After I commended him for his devotion (and told him all the devotion in the world can’t make something true and right if it’s not true and right), Ibrahim was quick to say that his practice of Islam is one filled with love, peace, mercy, forgiveness, and tolerance.
I’ve read portions of the Quran and don’t think you can really be loving, peaceful, merciful, forgiving, and tolerant to all if you really wish to obey all of its commands. However, I decided not to point this out in that moment, because I sensed what he was trying to get at and didn’t want to detract from his point. I think Ibrahim was contrasting himself against the “devout” Islamic radical extremists like ISIS. I think he wanted to make sure I knew he wasn’t one of them.
Ibrahim is Muslim, but he doesn’t hate people who aren’t. He isn’t some crazy, suicide-bombing maniac. He is just Ibrahim — a nineteen year old young man from the other side of the world who wants to worship Allah and also be friends with people who don’t. When I walked away from the conversation with my new friend that day, I knew he wanted me to know above all else that he was just a nice, regular guy.
My intent today is not to wade into political waters. There are enough folks getting into all that. I wrote this blog merely to remind my American friends that the overwhelming majority of Muslim people are just people, not killers. I have taken massive issue over the last few days with the way many fearful Westerners are vilifying and dehumanizing not just ISIS, but all Middle Eastern, Islamic people. Here are just a couple of comments I’ve seen on Facebook this morning pertaining to the Syrian refugees — not ISIS, but the Syrian refugees in general:
“I say wipe them off this planet. They are terrorizing so many people and countries …. There isn’t any other way around it.”
“They are all programmed to kill and destroy Christians! From the time they can walk and talk!!”
Really? This is ignorance. This is foolishness. This is hatred. This has to stop.
It’s been said over and over, but the horse obviously isn’t dead so I’ll say it again: Not every Muslim is a terrorist.
Not every Syrian refugee is trying to infiltrate countries under the guise of helplessness to slay innocent people. It is an extremely small sect of Islam that is responsible for the horrors that took place in Paris and have been taking place in other areas of the world (that we never hear about nor does anyone seem to care about).
My friend Ibrahim — and multitudes of other Muslims like him — is not to blame for the hellish acts of ISIS, and he shouldn’t be looked at, talked about, or treated like he is.
- christian post
UK, November 19, 2015: Nissar Hussain, a British man of Pakistani descent who converted from Islam to Christianity, was brutally beaten outside his home in Bradford on Tuesday (17 November) and left with multiple fractures and severe bruising.
The two attackers, their faces concealed, were waiting in a car outside Mr Hussain’s home, and jumped out just as he left his house to move his car. They knocked him over with the shaft of a pickaxe and savagely beat him while he was on the ground.
Terrified that they would kill him, Mr Hussain covered his head with his arms to protect himself. “Thank God that He was watching my back,” he wrote to Barnabas Fund as he praised God that he was not hit on the head.
The attack, however, was brutal and left Mr Hussain with a fractured kneecap on his left leg and fractured bones in his left hand. On Wednesday, he underwent surgery to insert pins into the fractured bones.
This vicious act of brutality comes after many years of harassment, intimidation, insults, physical abuse, and attacks on his car, his property and his family members at the hands of the Muslim community who have sought to destroy him and his family. Earlier this year, he faced false accusations which found him locked in a police cell for 16 hours. His wife, too, was detained on false allegations.
In all of this, he has been betrayed time and again by those who are there to protect. Police, church leaders and political authorities have rigidly refused to concede that it is his status as a convert from Islam that has made him a target in the eyes of the Muslim community. Apparently none of them wanted to compromise their relationship with Muslims.
For over 20 years, Mr Hussain has complained to police about the persistent persecution that he, his wife, and their six children have endured ever since coming to faith in the Lord in 1996. Yet the barrage of attacks has continued unabated. They have made their plight known to church leaders and political authorities, but to little effect.
Then, two weeks ago, a group of young people huddled across the street from the house where the family live, hurled a lit firework rocket at the window of his child’s bedroom and pelted the house with eggs. The incident was caught on CCTV and was featured on the ITV local TV channel. At last, people began to take notice. I had already advised him to move house to a safe part of the country, because his life and his family’s lives could be at risk.
But how long must this persecution be allowed to continue against Mr Hussain? Must he be killed before people understand the very grave reality of the threat to his family? And what of other converts – those who face unremitting harassment, false accusations, intimidation and discrimination simply because they have chosen to stand firm in the Lord?
Recently Nissar shared with me his heart. He said that, whilst he remained fully committed to Christ, he feels rejected by British Christians, by British police and by British institutions. He and his wife feel they can no longer go to church because they feel that British Christianity no longer understands them or wants them. As converts they feel they have stood alone against all the odds. But they are not the only ones. There are others like them in the UK. Barnabas Fund exists to stand for justice, for righteousness and for truth, alongside our brothers and sisters, whether it be a case of the false accusations and injustices of Pakistan or the same in Great Britain. As both an Asian and a convert, Nissar has had a double experience of discrimination, alienation and prejudice coupled with deep hostility. He has been rejected by the Church and by the Muslim community.
I am thankful to say that, since reporting this case, there are Christians across the UK who have responded positively, expressing a deep concern and care for the wellbeing of Nissar and his family. But others have raised questions. Underlying it all, from the perspective of Nissar and his family, is the point that nobody believed them and that the threats to their lives were neither accepted nor understood. For this, church leaders and the police must both take responsibility.
France, November 19, 2015: On Friday evening in an attack by eight jihadists in Paris 129 people were killed and 352 wounded. Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility describing the attack as: “a blessed battle whose causes of success were enabled by Allah” to strike “the capital of prostitution and vice, the lead carrier of the cross in Europe — Paris”.
Barnabas Fund wishes to extend its deepest condolences to those of all faiths and none, including Christians, Muslims, Jews and atheists, who have suffered as a result of the terror attacks in Paris. We would wish to assure all who have suffered of our prayers for their healing and safety.
For more than 20 years Barnabas Fund has highlighted the threat that radical Islam and sharia enforcement pose to both ordinary Muslims and non-Muslim communities around the world. Our current projects include helping victims of IS in Iraq and Syria and Boko Haram in northern Nigeria and surrounding regions.
Islamist violence is not mindless. The aim of Islamist terrorists whether in Paris or Syria is to “persuade” countries to accept the enforcement of Islamic law (sharia) and Islamic government. Non-violent Islamist groups share these same aims, they just use different means – generally seeking to use the political process to gradually align Western law with sharia and eventually create an Islamic government. Both these aims and the concept of violent jihad are deeply rooted in the Quran and hadith.
We are very aware that the majority of ordinary Muslims in the UK are shocked and horrified by the Paris attacks. We also hear of individual acts of kindness and sometimes courage shown by Muslims who have sought to protect Christian friends and neighbours from Islamist violence in places such as Syria. Yet the fact remains that those who carry out such attacks are motivated by an understanding of Islam that has existed for many centuries. In fact, throughout much of Islamic history there have been two broad streams of Islam, a peaceful one that has emphasised piety and devotional practice and another which has particularly emphasised law (i.e. shariaenforcement) and sometimes jihad.
One of the tragedies of both the Paris attacks and the continuing attacks by IS and similar organisations on Christians in the Middle East is that Western governments repeatedly listen to the propaganda claims of political Islamists that “this has nothing to do with Islam”. Until Western governments grasp this nettle and accept that concepts such as jihad, sharia enforcement, and dhimmitude (second class citizenship for non-Muslims with negligible rights – which IS are seeking to enforce in Syria) are specific Islamic concepts, then it is tragically likely that the violence and persecution we are currently witnessing will continue to escalate.
What happened is Paris is tragically not a new phenomenon. For several centuries Christians in the Islamic world have at various times and places been massacred. In fact, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the worst atrocities of the Armenian massacre, a series of atrocities committed between 1894 and 1918 that led to the deaths of an estimated one and a half million Armenian and Assyrian Christians in the Ottoman Empire. Between 1894 and 1896 over 100,000 inhabitants of Armenian villages were slaughtered during widespread pogroms conducted by Islamic forces loyal to the Sultan of Turkey, with atrocities continuing in subsequent years.
In 1909, for example, two hundred villages were plundered and over 20,000 persons massacred in the Cilicia district. The atrocities continued after the Young Turks seized power and in 1915 hundreds of Armenian Christian leaders were rounded up and shot, bayonetted or hanged. Those who were not were sent on forced marches to Syria with vast numbers being killed or dying on the way. Significantly, this all happened more than a generation BEFORE the founding fathers of modern Islamism, Hasan al Banna (b.1906), Abul A’la Mawdudi (b.1903) and Syed Qutb (b.1906) even began preaching their Islamist message.
Today we are seeing similar massacres in Syria and Iraq – the very regions where those who survived the Armenian genocide settled.
Our brothers and sisters in places such as Iraq, Syria and northern Nigeria who live daily in fear of attacks by Islamists intent on forcing them to submit to dhimmitude, enslaving, massacring them or worse are baffled and hurt that Western governments refuse to accept that there is any connection between Islam and persecution or terrorism. What they are experiencing has been experienced by previous generations of their families over several centuries.
- barnabas team
Rome, November 16, 2015: In the wake of ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks in Paris over the weekend, the Vatican’s top diplomat has supported military intervention to disarm “an unjust aggressor” and also acknowledged that the Vatican itself could be a target “because of its religious significance.”
Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, made the comments in an interview with the French Catholic newspaper La Croix published on Sunday.
The Catholic Church subscribes to a just war doctrine that holds that military action is justified only when the damage inflicted by the aggressor is lasting, grave, and certain; there is no other way to end the conflict; it is likely to succeed, and the use of arms does not “produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.”
Parolin was asked about comments by Pope Francis in August 2014, when the pontiff said it’s “licit” to use force to stop an unjust aggressor. Parolin said that position remains valid, because “blind violence is intolerable, whatever its origin may be.”
“The pope cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says, ‘The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm,’” Parolin said.
He continued the quote: “For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility,” Parolin said.
The Catechism, approved by St. John Paul II in 1992, sums up the teaching of the Catholic Church.
Parolin said Church teaching recognizes the right of a state “to protect its citizens and repel terrorists,” but said it’s important that any such military action enjoy international support.
“It is understandable that after the attacks there are feelings of revenge, but we must fight against this urge,” he said.
Parolin also indicated that the Vatican will not back any specific plan for action against ISIS.
“Our role is to remember these conditions, not to specify means to stop the aggressor,” he said.
Parolin argued for a broad global mobilization in the fight against terrorist violence.
There’s a need of “a general mobilization of France, of Europe, and of the whole world” to eradicate terrorism, involving security agencies, police forces, and religious leaders “to root out this evil,” he said.
Parolin said this response should also involve spiritual resources, one “that passes through education to the refutation of hatred, giving responses to young people who leave for jihad.”
Without a political and religious alliance at an international level, Parolin said, “this difficult battle won’t be won.”
“It’s necessary to involve the Muslim community,” he said. “They must be part of the solution.”
Parolin said he believes the Holy Year of Mercy, called by Pope Francis to begin Dec. 8, is an opportunity to provide an “offensive of mercy” in a world torn by violence.
He also candidly conceded that the Vatican itself could be at risk.
“The Vatican could be a target because of its religious significance,” Parolin said when asked about the possibility of Francis changing his calendar as a result of the attacks.
“We can augment the level of security measures in the Vatican and its surroundings, but they cannot paralyze us with fear,” he said.
On the question of military force against Islamic-inspired terrorism, the Vatican has been offering a cautious yellow light for some time.
Last March, for instance, the Vatican’s top diplomat at the United Nations in Geneva called for a coordinated international force to stop the “so-called Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq from further assaults on Christians and other minority groups.
“We have to stop this kind of genocide,” said Italian Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative in Geneva. “Otherwise we’ll be crying out in the future about why we didn’t so something, why we allowed such a terrible tragedy to happen.”
That position reflects the sentiment of local Catholic bishops in the Middle East.
In a Crux interview last month, for instance, Patriarch Louis Sako of Iraq called on the United States to commit ground forces to an anti-ISIS offensive as part of a broad international coalition.
On Monday evening in Rome, as he was participating in a workshop on mercy, Parolin talked about the pope’s upcoming visit to Africa, hinting that the pontiff’s security team will decide at the last minute whether to change his Africa itinerary amid continued unrest in the Central African Republic.
Francis is due to visit Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic Nov. 25-30.
“The three stops remain, but we’ll see depending on the situation on the ground,” Parolin said.
Even with more than 11,000 United Nations troops and police in the Central African Republic, protecting the pope will be a major security challenge as violence between Christians and Muslims continues in the capital, Bangui, and elsewhere ahead of December elections.
Iraqi Parliament passes “discriminatory” law denying children of converts to Islam the right to retain Christian faith
Iraq, November 11, 2015: The Iraqi Parliament passed a law on 27 October that states that the Christian children of a father who converts to Islam or a mother who marries a Muslim, automatically become Muslim. An amendment proposed by Iraq’s non-Muslim religious communities suggesting that minors keep their religion until the age of 18, was overwhelmingly rejected by 137 votes to 51.
The law, part of the National Card law, under Article 26, paragraph 2, contravenes the Iraqi Constitution’s provision for ethnic and religious diversity (Article 3), protection against “religious coercion” (Article 37.2), and freedom of “thought, conscience and ideology” (Article 42), said Iraq’s Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael I Sako.
“This norm is one of the most discriminatory,” said the senior church leader, “because it shows a total disregard for the values of the civilisation of Iraq and against those who are considered to be among the first citizens of this country.”
The new law has not been enforced in Iraqi Kurdistan, a semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq, but Bishop Rabban al-Qas of Amadiya and Zakho, Iraqi Kurdistan, has warned that the new law “will drive Christians away”, further exacerbating the existential threat to Christianity in Iraq.
“We are facing a genocide in a country that knows only death and liberticidal laws,” he said. “Here there is neither freedom nor respect.”
The threat to the Christian presence in Iraq is very real. “Christianity [in the Middle East] will probably survive,” said Canon Andrew White, who is well known for his work in Baghdad and as the founder of The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation for the Middle East (FRRME), last week. “But this is the hardest thing it has been through.”
Iraq’s Assyrian, Yazidi, and other non-Muslim minority communities, determined to bring the matter to the attention of the international community, protested against the new law on 4 November in front of the UN building in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan.
“We appeal to the President of the Republic of Iraq, Fuad Masoum, that he return the bill to the Assembly of Deputies to be modified and at the same time, we urge Members to assume their responsibilities and really create conditions of justice and equality among all Iraqi citizens,” said Mar Sako.
- barnabas team