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16 August 2013 - Understanding the present situation in Egypt

To watch a video on FOX News that points to the truth about the Muslim Brotherhood, click here or go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJTJZuuzhh8&feature=share

 

Article by Dr. Terence Ascott, CEO and Founder, SAT-7 International - Special to ASSIST News Service

 

Many of us involved in Christian ministry in Egypt are appalled at the misunderstandings about the situation in Egypt being propagated by even normally balanced international media like the BBC, and the way it has, in general, portrayed the Muslim Brotherhood as the victims of injustice.

 

So, on behalf of myself, Ramez Atallah (General Secretary for The Bible Society of Egypt), Pastor Fayez Ishaq (part of the leadership team at Kasr El Dubarrah Evangelical Church), other ministry leaders in Egypt and the leadership of Middle East Concern, please allow me to paint a bigger picture of what has been going on the past year or so:

 

Yes, former President Morsi was elected "democratically" in June 2012, but only by the slimmest of majorities, and only 13 million people (out of a total population of 83 million) voted for Morsi at all. And yet he took this as a mandate to do as he wanted, with a winner-takes-all attitude. His new government was not inclusive and he quickly appointed former Muslim Brotherhood leaders (some with previous convictions for violence or incitement to violence) to serve as regional Governors or government Ministers. In November 2012, he illegally gave himself new sweeping powers to act without censure, and rushed through a new pro-Islamic constitution despite the protests and boycotts from liberals, moderate Muslims and Christians, and then he refused to call for new elections - as had previously been agreed to do after a new constitution had been adopted.

 

And, of course, the economy was very poorly managed by the new Ministers, whose only apparent qualification for office was the fact that they were Muslim Brotherhood loyalists. By the end of 2012 the country's infrastructure had begun to fall apart, electricity and fuel supplies became unreliable, prices for basic commodities soared and Egypt struggled to get much needed international financing.

 

By June 30, 2013, on the first anniversary of Morsi's election to office, the Egyptian people had had enough! Perhaps as many as 30 million people came out to demonstrate against Morsi continuing in office - this included many who had voted for Morsi a year before and, even if the figure of 30 million cannot be independently verified, it is clear that the number of people on the street was far more than the number of people who had ever voted for Morsi. But, unlike the President of any normal democracy, he refused to go, or even seek a renewed mandate through new elections - confirming to many that the Muslim Brotherhood were just using the new democracy in Egypt to establish a theocracy.

 

In a situation like this, the last line of defense for democracy is the army. They alone have the power to re-start the democratic process and, by (very) popular demand and with due notice, the army did step in and remove the former President - to the absolute delight and relief of MOST Egyptians!

 

In the past six weeks the Muslim Brotherhood has occupied a number of public spaces, to demonstrate for the reinstatement of the former President (currently being held by the army and facing charges related to abuse of power, including substantial material and intelligence support to Hamas).

Unlike the peaceful occupation of Tahrir Square by demonstrators in January 2011, and again at the end of June 2013, these Muslim Brotherhood occupations were dominated by calls for violence against the army, the police, the liberals and, specifically, the Coptic Christians in Egypt - all resulting in the violence witnessed on August 14th, when police stations, hospitals, private and public property were destroyed. Many Christian churches (at least 40 so far), homes and businesses were also attacked, as well as a monastery, three religious societies, three key bookshops belonging to the Bible Society in Egypt, three Christian schools and an orphanage.

 

The Coptic Orthodox Pope, HH Tawadrous II made a statement about the attacks on churches this week, saying that "this had been expected and, as Egyptians and Christians, we are considering our church buildings as a sacrifice to be made for our beloved Egypt". Other church leaders have made similar statements, stressing that church buildings don't make the Church but the Church is the Body of Christ, made of people who have their faith in Him, and that is getting stronger as it passes through these challenging times.

 

It is also important and encouraging to note that some Muslims went to protect churches and that, in return, many Christians then sent messages to their fellow Muslim citizens saying, "Buildings can be rebuilt again, but you are priceless, so stay safe, and don't worry about the churches". And the Egyptian government also announced today that the State would take the financial responsibility for the rebuilding of damaged churches.

 

The Muslim Brotherhood have been, and remain very effective in portraying themselves as the victims to the media, pointing to how Morsi had been "democratically" elected and that the army "coup" was a major setback to the country's democratic progress. They have known what buttons to push with the Western press and this seems to be the version that most of the World is hearing - but it is not a version of truth that resonates with the vast majority of Egyptians.

 

And, while the loss of life these past few days has been most regrettable it has not only been Muslim Brotherhood supporters that have died, and there has been scant reporting on the Muslim Brotherhood's attempts to destabilize Egypt, its calls for violence against the government and its supporters; and there has been a total lack of reporting concerning weapons that the Brotherhood had in the camps and used against the army as it sought to dismantle the sit-ins.

 

In closing, can I ask for your prayers for this important country - the largest in the Arab World, with the largest Christian Community in the Middle East.

 

Please pray that:

·         The current violence will end soon

·         The effective rule of law and order will be re-established for the benefit of all citizens

·         There will be effective protection of church and other property against attacks by extremists

·         Egypt will be governed for the benefit of all its citizens, with people of different persuasions able to live alongside one another peaceably

·         Egyptian Christians will have opportunity to play an increasingly prominent and effective role in addressing the needs of all Egyptians and helping to bring healing and reconciliation in the country

 

Black Friday: A turning point for Turkey (AlMonitor)

(AM) 05 June 2013 - 

Students of history often look for key dates that mark the beginning of change, revolution or a turning point in a nation’s political life.Jan. 26, 1952, became known as Black Saturday in Egypt. Riots spread across the capital of Cairo, where 750 buildings were either burned or looted after British forces killed 50 Egyptian auxiliary troops in the Suez town of Ismailia. This paved the way for the Free Officers’ Revolution of July later that year.

In May 1968, student occupational protests and general strikes led to the resignation of French President Charles de Gaulle.

 

Bloody Sunday 1972 was also a turning point in the conflict in Northern Ireland. Twenty-six civil rights protesters were shot by British forces in Derry. The Northern Irish troubles intensified.

The assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on Feb. 14, 2005, triggered the Cedar Revolution, a series of weekly protests that would ultimately lead to the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon after 30 years of occupation.

 

Dec. 17, 2010, was the day that Mohamed Bouazizi, having been assaulted by a police officer and had his produce cart confiscated, committed an act of self-immolation which sparked Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution that would put an end to President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s two-decade rule of the North African country and would spread across the Middle East in what has become known as the Arab Spring.

And now there is Turkey’s own Black Friday.

 

During the early hours of Friday, May 31, peaceful activists gathered to protest the demolition of a small park in central Istanbul. They were met by tear gas and police batons. Soon, protests spread across Turkey’s commercial capital to demonstrate against the heavy-handed tactics of the police who only intensified their brutal crackdown. Protests spread throughout Istanbul and other Turkish cities.

 

The protests come as Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking to change the Turkish constitution to give more powers to the president, an office Erdogan is believed to be eyeing when his term as prime minister soon expires. Many Turks believe that this will give him further powers. Already there are deep concerns over sweeping laws and policies passed by Erdogan which threaten to alter the nature of Turkey's identity to one that favors Islam over secularism without transparency or due process.

 

Last week, with little public debate, Turkey’s parliament passed legislation to restrict the sale of alcohol. "We don't want a generation wandering around in a merry state day and night," declared Erdogan. This is despite the fact that Turkey enjoys one of the lowest levels of alcohol consumption and drink-related problems in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

 

Also last week at a groundbreaking ceremony for a third Bosporus bridge in Istanbul, it was announced that the bridge would be named after Selim the Grim, a conquering Ottoman sultan known for his aversion to alcohol and his massacres of Alevis, a constituency that represents roughly 15% of Turkey’s population. This controversial decision was again made without public consultation.

 

Meanwhile, the independent media, a pillar of any healthy democracy, has been consistently targeted by Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP). According to the Reporters Without Borders’ 2013 World Press Freedom Index, Turkey is "the world's biggest prison for journalists," where approximately 70 journalists are still behind bars. Turkey was ranked 154th for open press out of 179 countries, a worse ranking than Iraq, Afghanistan and Russia.

 

This has not gone unnoticed by the public. The almost total media blackout of the first day of protests shocked many Turkish demonstrators who took to Twitter and Facebook to transmit news. But even social media has not escaped the wrath of Erdogan. “There is a now menace which is called Twitter,” the prime minister remarked, “Social media is the worst menace to society."

 

Another source of public concern is the peace talks between Ankara and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Considered a terrorist group by Ankara, the PKK has waged a battle against Turkey since 1984 in its demand for Kurdish rights and autonomy. However, there was little public knowledge or debate about the negotiations. When a team of “elders” was finally selected to discuss the issue with the public, its members were drawn almost exclusively from supporters of Erdogan’s party. Many Turks and Kurds doubt the sincerity of the peace process; there are more than 8,000 Kurdish politicians, journalists and activists behind bars, mostly for non-violent offenses.

 

The planned demolition of Gezi Park is symptomatic of Erdogan’s authoritarian style of rule. Little debate, no public consultation and forced-through measures. Although the recent protests are unlikely to lead to his resignation, Erdogan will be obliged to reappraise his leadership style or face further demonstrations and disruptions in the forthcoming weeks, months or even years ahead.

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(AM)  http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/06/black-friday-turning-point-turkey.html?utm_source=&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=7413

Prophetic perspective on persecution by David Foster

We've all been shocked at seeing recent Jihadist attacks in Boston and London. Even more terrible, however, are the inconceivable atrocities afflicting the Middle East involving tens of thousands of Muslims slaughtered by fellow Muslims. On April 21st 566 bodies were found -- the highest death toll thus far in the Syrian civil war! Muslims and non-Muslims, alike, struggle to understand the self haemorrhaging of the Muslim world. A Reuters report says it
has “turned into civil war, pitting the Sunni majority against minorities, in particular the Alawites, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.”

There are undeniable similarities with the bloody sectarian clashes that continue to ravage Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan – attacks mainly involving Shi'ites and Sunnis.

The Hadith explains “there will be much killing” in the end times (qiyamah).  Also it warns that when leaders, like Bashar al Assad, “fail to govern according to the Book of Allah, you should realize that this has never happened without Allah making them into groups and making them fight one another.”*

While minority Muslim sects are suffering at the hands of their brothers, other religious minorities are also suffering, notably Christians. In fact, according to a recent book, written by three highly reputed scholars, "persecution of Christians is wide-spread, intense, and ominously increasing in the Muslim world." (Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians)

If the Hadith warns followers of Muhammad of sectarian conflict in the end times, the Injil (Gospel) warns followers of Christ they will experience "great persecution." Muslims would agree, in principle, that Isa could have made such a prediction, however, seldom do they think through the implications. Read more ...

http://www.muslimhope.com/RolandClarke/PersecutionSignOfOurTimes.htm

The Dhimma returns to Syria

The following report comes from Martin Janssen in Amman, Jordan (original in Dutch). The preceding notes and translation from Dutch into English are by Dr. Mark Durie, an Anglican vicar in Melbourne, Australia, author of The Third Choice, and an Associate Fellow at the Middle Eastern Forum.

In his report Janssen tells of his experience of a prayer walk in Amman, held on May 21 2013 for the two abducted Syrian clergy, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim.  These Archbishops have been captured by Syrian rebels.

After the prayer walk Janssen had the opportunity to meet with Syrian Christian refugees, who told him how they came to flee their homes and villages.  Their village was occupied by rebel forces, who proceeded to announce that they were now under an Islamic emirate, and were subject to sharia law.

The Christian residents were offered four choices: 

1. renounce the ‘idolatry’ of Christianity and convert to Islam;
2. pay a heavy tribute to the Muslims for the privilege of keeping their heads and their Christian faith (this tribute is known as jizya);
3. be killed;
4. flee for their lives, leaving all their belongings behind. 

Some Christians were killed, some fled, some tried to pay the jizya and found it too heavy a burden to bear after the rebels kept increasing the amount they had to pay,  and some were unable to flee or pay, so they converted to Islam to save themselves.

The scenario reported by Syrian refugees is a re-enactment of the historic fate of Christians across the Middle East.  The Muslim historian Al-Tabari reported that when the Caliph ‘Umar conquered Syria, he gave the following command to his armies:

“Summon the [conquered] people to Allah; those who respond unto your call, accept it [their conversion to Islam] from them, but those who refuse must pay the jizya out of humiliation and lowliness. If they refuse this, it is the sword without leniency.”

Umar's command referenced Sura (chapter) 9 verse 29 of the Koran:

“Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the jizya readily, being brought low.”

This policy of subjugating Christians under the yoke of jizya taxation was also based upon the teaching of Muhammad who said:

“Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah.
Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war …
When you meet your enemies who are polytheists,
invite them to three courses of action.
if they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold
yourself from doing them any harm.
Invite them to (accept) Islam;
if they respond to you, accept it from them
and desist from fighting against them ….
If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the jizya.
If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands.
If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them.”
(Sahih Muslim. The Book of Jihad and Expedition. [Kitab al-Jihad wa’l-Siyar])

Classical Islamic law mandates that ‘People of the Book’ should be given three choices, however the Syrian rebels are augmenting this with the fourth option of allowing them to flee. 

In Islamic law, Christians who accept to pay the jizya in order to keep their faith – and their head – are known as dhimmis.For a full explanation of the Islamic doctrine of the three choices, including the psychological meaning of the jizya tribute, see The Third Choice especially Chapter 6: The Dhimma: Doctrine and History).

It is a matter of deep concern that European states and the US are assisting the Syrian rebels as they implement this Islamic ‘emirate’, which includes the restoration of the dhimma system by re-enacting the conditions of jihad conquest against Christians.


A conversation with Syrian refugees in Ammanby Martin Janssen
Last Tuesday, May 21 a prayer walk was held in the Jordanian capital Amman around nightfall.  Its purpose was to inquire after the unknown fate of the two Syrian bishops who were kidnapped over a month ago.  I had agreed with some members of the congregation where I always worship to take part and traveled there with them. During the journey I was brought into contact with a Syrian priest from Aleppo who after the journey was concluded introduced me to a group of Syrian Christian refugees. The priest suggested that we all spend the rest of the evening together so that as a correspondent from Europe I could listen to the stories and testimonies of these Syrians.

Syrian refugees of all religious backgrounds – not just Christians – do not feel at ease in neighboring countries such as Lebanon and Jordan. They get the very strong impression that they are not welcome and that the open hostility of the local population towards them is growing. In Jordan, for example, some parliamentarians have been calling on the government for months to expell all Syrian refugees from the country because they pose a security risk. The problem is that this accusation contains an kernel of truth. Our evening discussion group of 12 people included some Jordanian Christians. They reported that a few weeks early the Jordanian security services had managed to thwart an assassination attempt on Abdullah, the Jordanian monarch. This attack was planned and orchestrated by a sleeper cell of the Syrian, al-Qaida affiliated, Jabhat al-Nusra movement. It was precisely to escape such radical Islamic movements that Syrian Christians have fled to Jordan.

My interlocutors this evening were almost all from northern Syria. They came from Idlib, Aleppo and villages in the countryside between the two cities. Their testimony was unanimous. Many of these villages had a large Christian presence until a few years ago, but now Christians no longer lived there. Jamil, an elderly man, told the following story during which other attendees began to nod violently in agreement. They appeared to have experienced exactly the same things.

Jamil lived in a village near Idlib where 30 Christian families had always lived peacefully alongside some 200 Sunni families. That changed dramatically in the summer of 2012. One Friday trucks appeared in the village with heavily armed and bearded strangers who did not know anyone in the village. They began to drive through the village with a loud speaker broadcasting the message that their village was now part of an Islamic emirate and Muslim women were henceforth to dress in accordance with the provisions of the Islamic Sharia. Christians were given four choices. They could convert to Islam and renounce their “idolatry”. If they refused they were allowed to remain on condition that they pay the jizya. This is a special tax that non-Muslims under Islamic law must pay for “protection”. For Christians who refused there remained two choices: they could leave behind all their property or they would be slain. The word that was used for the latter in Arabic (dhabaha) refers to the ritual slaughter of sacrificial animals [MD: i.e. by cutting the throat].

After Jamil had finished his story a gloomy silence descended. I asked him how the 30 Christian families in his village had perished since then. He replied that a number of families – including his own family – had initially opted to pay jizya. When the leader of the armed militia in their village, however, noticed that they were able to do this, the amount kept increasing in the following months. Like almost all other Christian families he eventually fled the village. His land and farm were lost. Some Christian families in his village who were unable to escape or pay the jizya converted to Islam. To his knowledge, there were no Christians killed in his village, but he had heard other stories from a neighboring village where only three Christian families survived. They were all murdered in the middle of the night.

Miryam, an Armenian middle-aged woman from Aleppo, made the biggest impression on me. A common thread running through all the stories from different places in northern Syria during this evening was the constant complaint that armed militias looted and plundered. From wheat, bread and diesel in the villages to the complete inventory of schools, businesses and factories in Aleppo. Factory owners who protested were executed without mercy. Miryam said acquaintances who fled to Turkey learned that members of these armed militias were selling this “war booty” at bargain basement prices in Turkey. Miryam looked at me thoughtfully and said something which remained constantly with me over the following days. She told me that she had learned last year that a human being has a tremendous ability to adapt to the most difficult conditions. They had to learn to live in Aleppo without water or food, and sometimes no electricity for days on end. They even had to learn to live with the sounds of explosives and gunfire that tore them from sleep at night.

However, what a man cannot live with is the constant terror that paralyzes him completely:  the daily fear that the bus transporting children to their school would be targeted by a suicide attack; the psychological fear that comes over you on Sunday when you go to church knowing there are groups active in your neighborhood who consider it a religious duty to kill as many Christians as possible; and finally the situation that at night you do not dare to go to bed because you have received reports about acquaintances and relatives who were surprised by a rocket that crashed out of nowhere onto their property while they slept; or what can happen when you spend hours in a long line at one of the few bakeries that still make bread. Indeed Miryam told me that she never could have imagined that even the simplest of life’s activities had suddenly become dangerous.

At the end of the night I struggled inwardly with a question that I did not dare to express but which I finally found the courage to utter. What next? What did these Syrian refugees have to say about their own future and that of Christianity in Syria? Later I realized that in fact no one answered this question. The Armenian Miryam said she was thinking of emigrating with her family to Armenia, while Jamil talked about relatives who lived in Sweden.  Perhaps their answer to my question lay hidden in these comments.

Just after midnight I drove home with the members of my church from Amman. Everyone was silent and seemed lost in thought. I was to be dropped off at the church. This church sits on a hill which was once almost always enchantingly lit, but I had  noticed recently that this was no longer the case. While getting out of the car I asked about the reason and was told that “there were people who had taken offense”. I also saw three young men quasi-nonchalantly keeping watch at the church.  When I asked if this was necessary, the short reply I got was “Yes.”

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This report was originally published by the Religious Freedom Coalition

 

Mark Durie is an Anglican pastor and Associate Fellow at the Middle Eastern Forum.
Subscribe to markdurie.com blog by email.
This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL. 

Islamist Ultimatum to Christians (AINA) 

(AINA) 19 April 2013 - Syria's Christians fear an Islamist takeover should the current government be overthrown. During the ongoing civil war there has been a well-documented rise in the number of salafi-jihadist groups operating in Syria that pose a direct threat to Syria's Christian community.1 These militant opposition forces espouse an Islamist ideology, which incorporates elements of Wahhabism2 and Salafism3 and whose stated goals and objectives are by definition hostile towards Christians. Firsthand accounts from Syrian Christian refugees in Lebanon reported by award winning investigative journalist Nuri Kino detail the horror in which they described kidnappings, rapes, harassment, theft and other violent reprisals at the hands of Islamist groups.

Those who survived reported "just being Christian is enough to be a target,"4 disproving theories that violence and kidnapping directed towards Syrian Christians is purely incidental or for economic reasons. One individual openly declared "We're not poor. We didn't run from poverty [...] we ran from fear."5

There are several dozens of armed Salafi-jihadist groups both foreign and domestic currently operating in Syria that explicitly advocate Islamist agendas and possess the intentions and capabilities to commit violent persecution towards Syria's Christians. Most notably from the global Sunni jihadist milieu is al-Jabhat al-Nusra lil-Ahl al-Sham min Mujahedin al-Sham fi Sahat al-Jihad (The Front for Supporting the People of Greater Syria by the Mujahedin of Syria on the Battlefields of Jihad) A.K.A. Jabhat al-Nusra, which in December 2012 the U.S. government officially listed as a terrorist organization.6 Also, on April 9 of this year the leader of Tanzim Qai'dat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn(Organization of Jihad's Base in Mesopotamia) A.K.A. al-Qaeda in Iraq released an audio announcement that officially declared the unification of al-Qaeda in Iraq and Jabhat al-Nusra including the establishment of an Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, effectively expanding the threat to Syria's Christians.7 The other notable militant Islamist group is al-Jabhat al-Islamiya al-Suriya (Syrian Islamic Front), a large armed coalition force comprised of several interdependent blocs and alliances organized throughout Syria.8 Even the relatively less hardlineal-Jaysh al-Suri al-Hurr (Free Syrian Army) and al-Majlis al-Watani al-Suri (Syrian National Council) are by no means monolithic entities, rather both exist as umbrella organizations comprised of several independent and competing ideological currents and sub-currents including Islamism.

Indeed, regardless of the means employed whether violent or non-violent to achieve the stated goals and objectives of these Islamist movements, the future is unfortunately no less hostile towards Christians. Within an Islamic State governed by Shari'a (Islamic Law), Jews and Christians, known colloquially as ahl al-Kitaab (People of the Book), are afforded a certain protected status called dhimmi, but only if they willingly submit to a tribute or coercive tax known as jizya.9 Based on Islamist interpretation, which is strictly literal and employs the "doctrine of abrogation" promulgated by the 13th century Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyyah,10 the later and more belligerent suras (chapters) of the Qur'an take precedence over the earlier and more tolerant suras.11 As a result, the salafi-jihadists frequently reference Sura al-Tawba (The Repentance) otherwise known as Sura al-Bara'a (The Ultimatum), which is the 9th chapter of the Qur'an, to justify their violent actions. Numerous internationally recognized translations of Verse 29 of Sura al-Tawba explicitly state,

 

Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.12

 

Ultimately, Syria's Christians as well as Jews will be forced to suffer persecution at the hands of Islamists unless they convert to Islam, submit to Shari'a and pay the jizya, emigrate or die.

Guilt by Association: Syria's Christians Labeled Pro-Assad

The question of who would protect the Syrian Christians after the fall of Assad has historically led many Christians to support the status quo out of fear.13 A Congressional Research Service report from August 2012 accurately portrays the dilemma of Syrian Christians who are "caught between their parallel fears of violent change and of being associated with Assad's crackdown."14 According to a September 2012 report by the Institute for the Study of War, President Assad has "used the threat of jihadists within the opposition to galvanize support for the regime among the Alawite and Christian communities."15 Similarly, the U.S. State Department's 2011 International Religious Freedom Report for Syria also recognizes the rising level of animosity towards Syria's Christians as well as Assad's attempts to translate their fears into political support by sponsoring pro-government demonstrations in predominantly Christian neighborhoods and violently rebuffing those viewed as undermining this effort.16 Consequently, even individual Christians who have neither professed nor shown any inclination of support for the regime may still be identified as pro-Assad and thereby targeted for violent persecution by the Islamists and other opposition forces, or by government security forces for being perceived as unsupportive.

"Arab Spring" is "Christian Winter" -- Persecution of Christians is a Regional Issue

Christian persecution is prevalent not only throughout Syria but also the entire region. Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Virginia) has consistently published reports testifying that Christians throughout the Middle East, specifically in Syria, Egypt and Iraq, have been suffering persecution at an alarming rate, including a sustained campaign of violence, discrimination, mass emigration and internal displacement -- all of which too often go unrecognized and unreported.17

In an urgent attempt to bring attention to and spur action from policymakers, Congressman Wolf recently traveled to the region and met firsthand with Christian refugees from several Arab nations, including Syria, and reported "In fact, it often appears that there is an anti-Christian bias at the State Department. For years the department refused to recognize that Iraqi Christians were being targeted, insisting instead that they were simply victims of generalized violence."18 Unfortunately, the same can now be said of Syria's Christians, as Western naivety falsely assumes that anti-Assad opposition forces are automatically pro-democracy, pro-secular, and pluralist and Christians are merely victims of incidental violence. However, a recent report from the British newspaper The Guardian reveals that until recently hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians sought refuge in neighboring countries like Syria, but now they are once again forced to flee due to rampant religious persecution. The report continues by stating the majority of Christians have been emptied from the broader Middle East, and while the "Arab Spring" may have sprung new life for Islamists in the region, it has most certainly brought death to Christianity in places like Syria.19

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(AINA)  http://www.aina.org/releases/20130418143615.htm

Tipping point for Global Christianity 

 

In Libya, a shocking display of anti-American violence erupted on the very day Americans were remembering the eleventh anniversary of 9/11.  The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three embassy staff were killed in an attack on the Benghazi consulate and a safe house refuge, and an American flag was burned outside more than 21 US and German Embassies including Iraq, India, Indonesia, Tunisia and Sudan.  All the violence happened as Islamists blamed America for a film they said insulted the Prophet Mohammad (see side for link and explanation). (Aljazeera)

 

From a Christian perspective the attacks on embassies seem to be a tipping point for global Christianity.  Mary Farr, Founder and President of The Christian Emergency Network (CEN), described the attacks as “unprecedented, well-organized and that the loss of security and sovereignty represented by each embassy is a “world changing” event for Christians, churches, and missionaries around the globe.”

She began by saying, “These events beg the questions:  If the U.S. cannot or will not defend embassies, what will be defended?   If the embassy staff, in Libya or elsewhere, is not defended, what will the aid be to any U.S. citizen travelling in a country who may be at risk? What does this mean for Christians, churches and missionaries around the globe?”

Marr went on to say, “This cauldron has been simmering for a very long time. Anyone can readily see this level and highly organized outrage was not simply because of one movie.  These are highly orchestrated protests with historic and current security consequences for all Christians and missionaries.  Historically, in times of battle when a fort is taken, a victorious flag rises as a symbol of defeat, such as we have seen with the U.S. flag in many countries being replaced by a black Islamist flag in recent days.  

Erecting the Islamist flag over embassies makes the statement that the Islamist flag has replaced the sovereignty of the country and it is no longer recognized as a place of security and defence for that country or the citizens who reside in those countries. 

 

3 out of 27 - Will Christians in Egypt be heard? (HuffingtonPost)

(HuffingtonPost) 06 September 2012 - CAIRO — Egypt's Islamist leadership took a new move Tuesday to put its stamp on the country's government, appointing members of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood as provincial governors and installing ultraconservatives and other Islamists in the state's top human rights body and a powerful media council.

The shake-up was the latest step by President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood to reshape state institutions that were long the monopoly of ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak, his ruling party and the military that backed him.

Supporters have praised the moves as part of a drive to cleanse the system of Mubarak loyalists after Morsi was inaugurated in late June as the country's first freely elected president. But the heavy infusion of Islamists into government institutions has raised fears of Brotherhood domination monopolizing power as much as Mubarak did and moving Egypt into a more religious rule.

The governorships of Egypt's 27 provinces have long been prime posts for solidifying the president's power. The governors are appointed by the president and generally implement his policies. Under Mubarak, the positions went to retired military generals or ruling party loyalists

 The new 27-member council includes at least seven Islamists, including several members of the ultraconservative Salafi movement, which advocates a strict, segregationist interpretation of Islam similar to Saudi Arabia's.

Many Salafis have voiced opposition to international human rights treaties as "Westernized" standards and to many women's rights advocates they feel are un-Islamic. They also oppose equal political rights between Muslims and Christians.

Only two members in the new lineup are known as longtime human rights advocates, said Bahy Eddin Hassan, who heads the Arab Center for Human Rights Studies and is not among those on the council. The lineup includes three women – two of whom are Christians – and a third Christian.

"For the first time, we see a council tasked to defend human rights while its members are opponents to human rights," 

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(Huffington Post)  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20120904/ml-egypt/

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From an INcontext perspective: 

The Egyptian governments attempts at isolating Christians and limiting their rights have taken a new turn as Egyptian president Mr. Morsi appointed a majority Islamist governance over Egyptian states. 

As mentioned in the article above , those appointed to uphold human rights in each of the individual states, are most opposed to human rights. The US, who champion human rights throughout the world, continues to finance the new democracy in Egypt, while Egyptian lawmakers use the newly acquired democratic freedoms to destroy democracy, with human rights suffering most. 

Christians in Egypt, who form the majority of believers in the Arab speaking world, are facing an increasing uphill battle against their Muslim neighbors.  Discrimination against Christians are on the rise, together with a number of social injustices against them.

However, even with uncertain times ahead, Christians in Egypt choose to believe that things will once again turn towards good. Most Christian leaders confirm that the situation in Egypt will undoubted first become worse before it will become better. During this time of renewed persecution against the body of Christ in Egypt and the Arab speaking world, the church in the west must stand up and allow the Egyptian church to lean on her, to be encouraged by her and motivated by her.

Murdering of Christians in Egypt has begun (JW)

(JW) 21 Aug 2012 - Hours after leaflets from Egypt’s jihadi organizations were distributed promising to “reward” any Muslim who kills any Christian Copt in Egypt, specifically naming several regions including Asyut, a report recently appeared concerning the random killing of a Christian store-owner.

According to reporter Menna Magdi, writing in a report published August 14 and titled “The serial killing of Copts has begun in Asyut,” unidentified men stormed a shoe-store, murdering the Christian owner, Refaat Eskander early in the morning. The son of the slain Copt said the murderers took advantage of the fact that his father was alone in the store at the time, adding that his father had no known quarrels with anyone. Only one witness saw one of the assassins as they fled the scene, who was dressed in Salafi attire. 

Also, Coptic Solidarity reports that the “Christian Copts in Upper Egypt are under attack, hours after a call for their eradication appeared in the form of leaflets calling on Muslims to kill Copts, specifically naming regions of Upper Egypt.” The report tells of how Christians are being beat, their businesses set on fire, and their properties plundered, even as their attackers declare that “any Christian who dares to leave his house will be killed.” As usual, police appear only after all the damage has been done and the terrorists have fled with their booty.

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From an INcontext Perspective:

The resent killings in Egypt that include a reported crucifixion of a Christian protester who protested against President Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, and now a Christian shop owner are all echo's from warnings previously made by Islamists in Egypt. 

Starting right after the Arab Spring Revolution that gripped Egypt in January 2011, Salafists together with the Muslim Brotherhood made numerous threats, directly at the Christian population. It comes therefore as no surprise, that Christians are being persecuted in Egypt, as they have always been, now with more intensity.

INcontext visited Egypt a month ago and after interviewing leaders from both the Evangelical and Coptic churches, the answer to the question;what does the future hold for Christians in Egypt?,   was the same from both sides.

A prominent Coptic Bishop said ;"restrictions and physical persecution will first become a lot worse before it will get better"

One of the leaders from the Evangelical alliance said that  "if we all left the country, who would be left to share the Gospel? We want to stay, knowing that things will get a lot worse"

The time to strengthen the Church in Egypt is now. pray now. Support now.  

Iran's leadership believes Islamic messiah coming soon, ex-CIA spy reports (Godreports)

Godreports - 17 July 2012As a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard he witnessed unspeakable torture that caused him to question his faith in Islam and Iran’s government. As an ex-CIA spy who escaped to the U.S., his knowledge of the mindset of Iran’s current leadership leaves him deeply troubled.

“Iran’s leaders believe they can facilitate the coming of the last Islamic messiah,” says Reza Khalili, a pseudonym taken by the ex-spy for safety reasons. “They believe the centuries old Hadith predicts this and that the time is close.”

This thinking pervades the highest levels of Iran’s leadership. “The Ayatollah Khamenei for the first time published in the Iranian papers that he thinks they must get ready for war,” Khalili notes.

“He has told close associates that he will be the one to pass the flag of Islam to Imam Mahdi, the Islamic messiah. Khamenei believes he is the one.”

Khalili saysIran’s leaders think there are only “two triggers” left before the return of their messiah. First, is the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. “Because of the current situation they are very excited, because he is very ill and has been on his deathbed several times.”

The ex-CIA spy personally translated a film authorized by the highest levels ofIran’s leadership, “The Coming is Upon Us.” The presenter in the film makes this claim:

“According to the Hadith, upon the death of a ruler named Abdullah, conflict and struggle for power will increase in Saudi Arabia and this will continue until the reappearance of the last messiah, Mahdi. Isn’t the presence of Abdullah, his illness, and his uncertain condition, great news for those anxious for The Coming? When Abdullah dies, the reappearance is guaranteed.”

The second trigger is the destruction of Israel. “They will attack Israel and we are allowing them to get the nuclear bomb,” Khalili warns.

“The first trigger is a sign that the second trigger needs to take place,” he notes. “Once King Abdullah dies, that will tell them the time is now.”

In audiences where Khalili addresses his concerns, some can’t believe Iran’s leaders could be so fanatical. “This is the danger of this regime, which the current U.S.administration is missing. Some people try to discredit me, thinking it’s crazy. That’s the core of the problem.”

One of the hadiths the Iranians believe has already been fulfilled relates to the rise of a black leader in the West, ruling the largest army on Earth.

According to the film previously cited, its presenter states: “This hadith, relating to Imam Ali, the prophet’s cousin and son-in-law and the most revered figure in Shi’ite Islam, says: ‘Before the return of Mahdi, a tall black man will rule the West and the largest army on Earth. He will carry a ‘clear sign’ from my son, Hussein Ibn Ali [the third Shi'ite imam].’  Shi’ites believe Barack Obama, with his middle name Hussein, is this man.”

Khalili’s intelligence reports the Iranians are attempting to arm their missiles with nuclear warheads, which still has not happened. “Ukraine, North Korea, and China are providing the re-entry vehicle for the missiles and they are working on the bomb,” he notes.

Once Iran has nuclear-tipped missiles and attacks Israel, Khalili says the Hadith predicts an apocalyptic scenario unfolding, in which one-third of the world population will die and the world economy collapses.

Most, but not all of Iran’ senior leadership believe in this prophetic picture. “Those who don’t believe it are there for the money, profiting from trading,” he says.

--------------------------------------------- 

Godreports, Article by Mark Ellis 

http://blog.godreports.com/2012/07/irans-leadership-believes-islamic-messiah-coming-soon-ex-cia-spy-reports/ 

Future of Christians in Egypt (ChristianPost)

(ChristianPost) 02 July 2012 - As Egypt's torrential state of instability continues, the country's Christians continue to fear their fate in the North African country that they have called home since biblical times.


The country, in its quest for democracy, has seen a wave of positive and negative outcomes of the 2012 presidential election, which, in itself, is a large step from the dictatorial rule of former President Hosni Mubarak, who was removed during the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.

Currently, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood is the president of the country, although critics are weary of the interim military government's willingness to turn presidential power over to Morsi.

Even if Morsi were given enough presidential power to rule the country, he may not be keen on free Christian worship in the country, allegedly telling a journalist in a private meeting in May that Christians should "convert, pay tribute, or leave."

Additionally, the ruling military council has recently deconstructed Egypt's parliament, as well as the country's 100-person constitution council, making hope for a true democracy, as opposed to a continued military dictatorship, seem dismal.

Syrian Christians feel vulnerable as country burns (AP)

(AP) 25 June 2012 -  Inside the besieged Syrian city of Homs, where hundreds of civilians are caught up in a fierce battle between rebels and government troops, a small group of Christians is making its own desperate pleas for safety.

Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Syria's population, say they are particularly vulnerable to the violence sweeping the country of 22 million people. They are fearful that Syria will become another Iraq, with Christians caught in the crossfire between rival Islamic groups.

"What is happening in these neighborhoods pains our hearts," said Maximos al-Jamal, a Greek Orthodox priest who is still in Homs. He says about 90 of the civilians in two besieged Homs neighborhoods are Christians, down from thousands who lived in the area before the uprising began.

"Before we were staying here to guard our homes but now the situation is unbearable," one Homs resident told The Associated Press by telephone, asking that his name not be used for fear of reprisals by both sides of the conflict.

He said he feared the rebels want to keep the Christians trapped in the city as a bargaining chip while the army's bombardment and ground attacks on the city intensify. Syrian Christians have largely stuck by President Bashar Assad, fearing the strength of Muslim hard-liners in the uprising against his rule.

Several mediators have made an urgent appeal to evacuate the Christians who they fear could be targeted for their religion. Syrian Christians don't have to look far for an example of brutal treatment. Hundreds of thousands of Christians fled Iraq after their community and others were repeatedly targeted by extremist militants in the chaotic years after Saddam Hussein's 2003 ouster.

The Christians, who are trapped in Homs' Hamidiyeh and Bustan Diwan neighborhoods, include four children under the age of 10. There is barely any electricity or running water, telephone lines are unreliable and they are forced to hide in shelters during daily shelling.

Pictures posted online from the neighborhoods show empty streets full of debris, bullet-riddled buildings and churches with blown up walls and windows. Al-Jamal said a Greek Orthodox and a Protestant church were destroyed.

Father Michel Noman, who is trying to mediate a safe passage for the Christians, wrote on a Facebook page dedicated to Hamidiyeh, that the people trapped in the area are tired.

"I tell them all, there are people who have been working to get you out. We will keep trying 20 more times and 30 more times in order to rescue those human beings," Noman said.

The turmoil stemming from the Arab Spring has deeply unsettled the Middle East's Christian population.

Syria's Sunni majority makes up the backbone of the opposition, and minorities such as Christians have generally stuck to the sidelines, in part out of fears that they will be marginalized — or even targeted — if Sunnis take over.

Assad and the ruling elite also belong to a minority sect, the Alawites. Assad's regime always pushed a secular ideology, which was seen as giving minorities a measure of protection.

Christians hold senior positions in the state, although some have joined the opposition, including prominent writer Michel Kilo and a top member of the main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, George Sabara, who were jailed by Assad for dissent. The most senior Christian government official is Defense Minister Dawoud Rajha, a former army general.

Homs, Syria's third largest city, has been one of the hardest hit regions since the uprising against Assad's regime began in March 2011. Rebels control several neighborhoods, sparking intense attacks by government troops over the past two weeks.

The International Committee of the Red Cross called on Syria's government and rebel groups Wednesday to allow it to reach trapped civilians and evacuate the wounded and sick.

"Hundreds of civilians are stuck in the old city of Homs, unable to leave and find refuge in safer areas, because of the ongoing armed confrontations," said the group's head of operations for the region, Beatrice Megevand-Roggo.

The rebels have controlled the Christian neighborhoods of Hamidiyeh and Bustan Diwan since early February. Sporadic clashes between rebels and troops have forced tens of thousands of Christians to flee the neighborhoods to a relatively safe area known as the Valley of the Christians, just outside the city.

But those who remain say three attempts to evacuate them so far have failed despite efforts by Sunni clerics and tribal leaders to help.

Al-Jamal, who took part in three rounds of failed negotiations, said there would be a fourth attempt but he felt "hopeless."

Al-Jamal said that in past attempts, the army had agreed to a two-hour truce to allow the mediators to evacuate the besieged people but they were blocked by the rebels.

A Christian from Homs said two of his relatives were killed by shrapnel this month. The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said the two were buried inside the old cemetery in Hamidiyeh because it was not possible to take them to the new cemetery outside the city because of the violence.

On Tuesday, Syria's government said it was ready to act on a U.N. call to evacuate civilians trapped in Homs for more than a week, but blamed rebels for obstructing efforts to get them out.

Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, the Norwegian chief of the U.N. observer mission in the country, has demanded that all warring parties in the conflict allow safe passage for women, children and sick people trying to get out.

Al-Jamal said that many Christians from Homs are coming to his office in the city to get marriage or birth certificates to apply for visas to leave the country.

"If Syrian Christians get visas from other countries, I say more than 70 percent of them will leave," he said.

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(AP) Syrian Christians feel vulnerable as country burns  http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hQ_zhlwiRpI4NtzlqJRTJMktR9Lg?docId=f01f4279390348ebbd2f8f575a02dbf6 

Survey Reveals Increase in Number of 'Worldly Christians' (ChristianPost)

Christian Post - 6 June 2012 An online quiz started a year ago that examines how consistently Christians are living out the teachings of Jesus Christ has found an increase in the number of believers who are "Christians in name only."

"The results are disturbing, as 1 in 3 self-proclaimed Christians admit they rarely live the teachings of Jesus Christ," said R. Brad White, the founder of Changing the Face of Christianity, which created the test. "Our mission is to reverse negative Christian stereotypes by helping Christians become more like Jesus Christ. And so, our goal is to work with local churches and to help transform these unChristians into spiritually mature Christians who walk the walk, and better represent our faith to the world."

The nonprofit Christian education organization released last week the results of the anonymous self-assessment test, which asked Christians how they would act in real-life dilemmas and sought to determine whether respondents were "Far from Christ," a "Worldly Christian," a "Good Christian," or a "Spiritually Mature Christian." Started in 2011, the results initially indicated that one in four scored as "Worldly Christians," or "Christians in name only" as the organization describes them, but now, the latest results show that the number has risen from 23.7 percent to 30.9 – or almost 1 in 3 who are now "Worldly Christians."

More than 1,500 people have responded to the quiz, which was started in Sept. 2011 and collected results up to April 2012. In the three other categories, only 2.9 percent ranked in the "Far From Christ" section, 38.5 percent were "Good Christians," while 27.8 percent were "Spiritually Mature Christians."

"A significant majority of Christians consistently live their faith. In addition to the 27.8% of spiritually mature Christians out there, 38.5% of Christians take their faith seriously and are striving daily to live as good Christians. Yes, we are still human. We stumble. We fail. We make mistakes. We screw up. These Christians aren't perfect, but are striving to consistently practice their faith. These Christians are at the tipping point and very close to becoming spiritually mature. This is incredibly promising to us. But there is also a risk that many of them will go the other way," added White.

Some of the questions on the quiz included: "How often do you read your Bible and/or have quiet time with the Lord?" and "How have you been transformed by your acceptance of Jesus Christ as your savior?" The test is still available on the website for people wishing to take it.

-------------------------------------------

Article by Stoyan Zaimov, Christian Post Reporter

http://www.christianpost.com/news/survey-reveals-increase-in-number-of-worldly-christians-76013/ 

Halaal trade in South Africa: Have we let it go too far? (GatewayNews)

Gateway News - 4 June 2012Halaal certification is a lucrative, and seemingly growing business in South Africa. Should Christians be concerned about the halaal food trade? Or is it a non-issue for Christ followers because we are not bound by religious restrictions on food? KAMIL KIROGLU, a Christian missionary from Turkey and former Muslim who teaches a biblical perspective on Islam, says while eating halaal food is not a sin, there are compelling ethical and biblical reasons why Christians should become informed and take a stand against the trade.

Much has been said and much has been discussed regarding the halaal food trade in South Africa. Although, the halaal food trade is gradually becoming a growing concern for many South Africans, it has been in this country for many years. The Muslim Judicial Council claims to have been “in the field of Halaal certification for over 50 years and was the first such authority in all Africa” (MJC 2012). In other words, its been over 50 years that South Africans have been consuming halaal products. Surely, 50 years ago the percentage of halaal food in the market was much less than  it is today.

 

Today, there are four established and active halaal certifying companies in South Africa: MJC (http://www.mjc.org.za/), SANHA (http://www.sanha.co.za/), NIHT (http://www.halaal.org.za/), and ICSA (http://www.islamiccouncilsa.co.za/). Besides these four,  there are many other minor Muslim initiatives trying to establish themselves in order to take a bite from the lucrative halaal trade. Most of the food parcels you buy from shops bear the stamp of one or other of these halaal certifying companies and many restaurants serve halaal food. Each one of these halaal certifying companies accumulates millions of rands annually, simply by providing halaal certification for food, cosmetics and other products. For example, an auditing report by Nkonki KZN, dated September 1, 2011, shows that SANHA’s revenue for 2010 was R9 615 988, and for 2011 it was R11 221 289 for the year ended on February 28, 2011 (Richards 2012:30).

According to Malaysian state minister Abdul Malik Kassim “the global halal products market is estimated at US$2.3 trillion” which is not limited only to food market. According to a research article, Hoodwinked by Halaal, by Concerned Citizens Council chairman, Tony Naidoo, “Rainbow Chicken, for example, pays over R320 000.00 a year for only its KZN operation. Unilever pays over R650 000.00 for its Durban plants” (n.d.). All these astronomic halaal certification expenses are indirectly projected onto consumers. Every time we buy a product which bears the halaal mark, we are paying an indirect  halaal surcharge.

Because almost all food products and many restaurants in South Africa are already halaal certified, it is almost impossible not to buy halaal products. In other words, we are all indirectly forced to buy halaal food and pay a halaal “tax” every time we buy food which is our very basic need to survive.

SA consumers paying surcharge for halaal certification
The halaal trade is an Islamic trade system which operates according to the principles and regulations of the religion of Islam. It regards and respects only the religion of Islam. In principle, it benefits only Muslims. Because of its lucrative nature, Muslims gladly participate in it and support it. However, in a country like South Africa where Muslims constitute only about 2% of the population, stamping all the food products as halaal and forcing non-Muslims to pay for the halaal certification is not only unethical but also unconstitutional.

About 98% of South Africa is not Muslim, but all of us are forced to buy halaal food and pay a surcharge to enrich the 2% Muslim population. None of the non-Muslims benefit from the astronomical halaal income but we are all forced to buy halaal products and support the halaal trade. Muslim halaal authorities claim that they use their income for charity and religious work. Very well, but what religion are they supporting and propagating? Our Christianity or their Islam? It is ridiculous to think that 98% non-Muslim South Africans will be happy to give millions of rands from their hard-earned money for the Islamization of our country. It is even more ridiculous to think that 98% of non-Muslim South Africans will be desperately demanding to eat food offered to the Muslim god and prepared and sold according to Islamic religious regulations. However, worst of all is that we have millions of very poor people in this country who can only buy very basic food. Please tell me how ethical it is that the halaal trade is taxing even these poor people every time they buy food. Our government does not tax the unemployed and the poor but the Muslim halaal trade does. Even if you are about to starve to death and have only R7 to buy a loaf of bread you still have to pay your halaal tax (surcharge) as you buy your bread.

A Biblical Analysis of the halaal food trade
What does the Bible say about the halaal food trade? Of course, if you do a word search in your Bible for “halaal” you will find nothing. However, if you start searching and studying the concept of eating food offered to idols then you will quickly bump into Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 8:1-10. It seems that Paul does not want to make a huge issue of eating the food offered to idols. He simply says that “we are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do” (1 Cor 8:8, ESV). Based on a simple reading of this passage many Christians choose to ignore the halaal food issue. However, we need to understand that the halaal food trade in South Africa is not equivalent to what Paul was writing about in a predominantly pagan society. Paul’s teaching was to a small group of believers who were living in the pagan Roman Empire. We however, live in a predominantly Christian South Africa where there are thousands of churches, Bible schools, seminaries and about 75% of the population claim to be Christian. The Muslim community, which is the reason for halaal food, is only about 2% of the population. Our current situation is therefore the opposite to Paul’s situation. As the Christian majority of South Africa, instead of influencing the marketplace with the Gospel and offering our food to the only true God Yahweh, we have been both allowing and funding the worshipers of Allah to offer most of our food to their god and to take control of our market. How sad!

As Christians we are called to be a blessing to our community and country by influencing them with the love and knowledge of God. We are called to proclaim the name of God and to offer both ourselves and all we have to Him. Allowing and funding the offering of our food to any other so-called god, whether it be Allah or Buddha, is absolutely unbiblical. If our tiny Muslim minority want to eat halaal food they are welcome to offer their own food to their own god, at their own expense. However, as the Christian majority we have the constitutional right and the biblical responsibility to reject halaal food and declare the name of our God Yahweh over our food, our markets and our country.

As Christians we are also called to uphold the truth and defend the weak. Halaal trade in our country is done in a very deceptive and oppressive manner. Consumers are forced to pay for something which they did not ask for and about which they are not informed. Rich, poor, Christian, non-Christian — all are forced to pay for the halaal trade surcharge. It is our biblical responsibility to bring this matter into the light of the truth and to do all we can to defend the poor and the weak. Most genuine Christians prefer to eat food which is not offered to any so-called god. They would rather offer themselves, their lives, their food and all they have to Yahweh.

Although, the consumption of halaal food is not a sin, it does not honour the name of God either. The nature of the halaal trade is unethical and oppressive. Judge for yourself: Will you continue to be a victim of the halaal trade and support the Islamization of our country?

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Article by Kamil Kiroglu

http://gatewaynews.co.za/2012/05/31/halaal-trade-have-we-let-it-go-too-far/ 

Former Revolutionary Guard member describes the crackdown on Christians in Iran (MohabaNews)

MohabaNews - 31 May 2012The Iranian government is said to be launching a new wave of persecution against Christians.

CBN -- According to the Daily Caller, the regime has ordered Iranian intelligence to infiltrate church groups in major Iranian cities.

Agents are identifying pastors and other Christians, targeting them for arrest and torture in prison.

Former member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Reza Kahlili, verified the crackdown. He said Iran's ayatollahs are frustrated with the large number of Muslims who are now embracing Christianity.

Kahlili is author of A Time to Betray. He wore a disguise to protect his identity as he talked to CBN News. Below you read the transcription of the interview:

Q: Reza Thanks for joining us. What can you tell us about this latest crackdown? How extensive is it?

A: It’s been an order to the Iranian intelligence apparatus  specifically the guard’s intelligence to monitor the activities of Iranians for converting to Christianity, to suppress them, make arrests, terrify them and finally to torture them. And according to a source within the guard’s intelligence, they have tens of thousands of files for Iranians for converting to Christianity. This is a big concern for the government. They don’t know how to handle it. In one city, just the city of Shiraz with over one million population, according to the source, they have thirty thousand files of Iranians who they have confirmed that they have converted to Christianity. But the source says that tens of thousands more are unknown to the intelligence apparatus.

Q: How is this recent effort different from the ongoing attacks that Christians have faced from the Iranian government over the years?

Well, let me make one thing clear. Before the Islamic revolution, many in Iran, the youth, the elderly, though they did not adhere to the Islamic rules or practice Islam, they respected Islam. But today, that respect is visibly gone and they oppose the religion and what it prescribes. They are very outspoken about it.  People are joining the move to convert to the Christianity.

Q: Give us some examples; can you say specifically what is happening against the Christians there?

A: Well, according to this source, who himself was in the intelligence unit, and he saw and he witnessed some of the tortures being done. What they do they raid homes where teachings are taking place, they arrest them, they are taken and sometimes they beat their wives in front of their eyes to break them down, to force them to come before television and make false confessions. The source says that one of those arrested, a male, after three months in total darkness, and then he was all of a sudden brought to the courtyard, where he immediately lost his eye-sights. So, it is unimaginable what they do with the Christian converts. Khamenei, the Iranian supreme leader ordered the guards to burn ten thousand of confiscated Bibles, saying that it is not a holy book and therefore, it is legal to burn them in order to stop the conversion.

Regime’s authorities anxious

Mohabat News believes, the above interview indicates the anxiety of the Iranian security organization and government officials about the increasing growth of Christianity among the people of Iran. The issue has become so serious that some prominent clerics complained about this increasing tendency toward Christianity and warned their fellow Mullahs about the significant trend of the youth toward Christianity in Qom which is recognized as the spiritual capital of the Islamic Republic.

This anxiety, as well as the enormous growth of house churches,  impacted Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, to the extent that in his nine day trip to Qom on October 19, 2010, he reluctantly acknowledged this growth and spoke about the regime’s decision to deal with false mysticisms and house churches.

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Mohabat News, CBN

http://www.mohabatnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4665:former-revolutionary-guard-member-describes-the-crackdown-on-christians-in-iran&catid=36:iranian-christians&Itemid=279 

What Syrian Christians are saying about Syria (twocircles.net) 

(twocircles.net) 23 May 2012 - Damascus : Christians living in conflict-torn Syria are afraid their community would fall victim of religious extremism if President Bashar al-Assad's regime collapses and Islamists come to power.

"I am afraid that we will suffer bad times," a member of Damascus's Christian community, who identified himself as Jorge, told Russia's RIA Novosti news agency.

A full-fledged civil war will break out in Syria if Assad's enemies and their western supporters continue efforts to topple the president, he said.

"If the regime falls, Islamists will come to power," Jorge said.

Islamists "wrongly believe that we support the current regime", and for that reason they will complicate the life of Christians, he said.

"Sunni Muslims who predominate Syria think that if President Assad's regime representing the interests of the Alawi minority falls, they will live better. But I personally think that they are wrong. Syria is a secular state and its people, including Muslims, will not like it if the new power starts thrusting orthodox Islamic norms of moral and behaviour on them," he said.

According to Jorge, extremist forces rather than liberals would come to power in Syria.

Another Syrian, an engineer from Homs, said on condition of anonymity that he is sure that if Assad's regime falls, Christians will be "expelled from the country in one day".

Presently, the situation in Homs is quite complicated. Almost all of the local Christians have moved away. Their homes have been occupied by militants and their families, and the shops have been looted. Refugees are temporarily living in other regions of the country.

Jorge said Islamists are trying to show that if the regime changes, Christians would not come under attack.

"They do it to appease them (the Christians), attract them thus losing their support of the regime," he said.

Muslim leaders put messages on social networks saying that Christians and Muslims have for centuries lived together in Syria. They have also tried to distance themselves from the damage that has been inflicted on Christian homes and churches in Homs.

The engineer from Homs said that government forces could have "pushed out" Islamist militants from Homs if they continued shelling the city for at least three more days.

"But then they adopted (UN and League of Arab States ambassador) Kofi Annan's plan and gunfire was terminated. But this does not bring anything good to us. Our homes remain occupied by militants," he said.

He said the majority Christians do not consider emigration a possibility. "This is our homeland. Christians have been living in Syria long before the Muslims. Why should we move away?"

Christians make up about 10 percent of Syria's 23-million population. Approximately half of Syria's Christians belong to the Antiochian Orthodox Church.

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(twocircles.net) Syrian Christians fear Islamist rule if Assad goes  http://twocircles.net/2012may15/syrian_christians_fear_islamist_rule_if_assad_goes.html Article by  IANS/RIA Novosti 

Christians fear Islamic takeover on eve of presidential elections (AINA) 

(AINA) 14 May 2012 - A year after an attack by ultraconservative Muslims raised the spectre of a wave of religious strife in Egypt, the Christian churches in Cairo's Imbaba district have been repaired, with sturdy wooden rafters, fresh paint and portraits of the Virgin Mary and Jesus ready to be hung anew. But the deep wounds from those attacks and ensuing clashes, which left 12 dead, cannot be painted over.

Coptic Christians, whose forefathers lived in Egypt before the arrival of Islam, had hoped that the 2011 uprising that ousted authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak would give them equal rights.

Instead, things have worsened. Egypt's Christians have been the victims of threats and dramatic violence, and they fear the ascendance of political Islam.

With landmark elections set to begin May 23, many of the country's Christians fear that the next president could turn Egypt into a conservative Islamic state that does not have room for their community of at least 8.5 million.

Under Mubarak, Christians complained they were treated like second-class citizens -- forced to get special permission to build churches, and subjected to hate crimes that went unpunished.

But now, with the race shaping up as a choice between Islamists and former members of Mubarak's government, most Christians are rallying behind the latter -- despite past persecution.

Some are attracted to former Arab League chief Amr Moussa, a Mubarak-era minister who has advocated a separation of religion and state.

Other Christians are rallying behind Ahmed Shafiq, the last premier who served under Mubarak, even though he is derided by revolutionaries as a symbol of the corruption and oppression of the former regime.

In addition to the attacks on churches, Christians have been terrified by other acts of aggression. Ultraconservative Muslims known as Salafists are accused of slicing off a Christian man's ear over accusations that he rented his apartment to prostitutes. Coptic families in Alexandria were displaced over a rumor that a Coptic man and a Muslim woman were romantically involved.

Christians also have encountered problems with the military. Last year, military forces cracked down on peaceful Christian protests, running over demonstrators with armored vehicles as state television anchors called on "honorable" Egyptians to protect the military. Nonetheless, some Copts are so fearful of a restrictive Muslim government that they hope the generals will intervene to stop an Islamist from becoming president.

In Imbaba, where garbage is heaped along unpaved roads and children play on broken jungle gyms, George Gamal, a Christian, said he wanted Shafiq for president.

"If religion is mixed with politics, this country will be destroyed," the 50-year-old shop owner said. "It will be an Islamic emirate."

The fact that the leading Islamist candidates have promised not to impose a discriminatory version of Islamic law did not reassure him.

People stopped in to buy eggs and juice from him as he chatted politics with Waleed Fawaz, a rickshaw driver.

"People need to know that an Islamist president will lead to civil war. This is our country, too," Fawaz said.

In the dusty offices of El Watani, a Coptic Christian weekly newspapers, editor Yousef Sidhom said the country's religious tensions were exacerbated by Christians' increasing isolation in recent decades.

Despite making up at least 10 percent of the population, they were barred from being in the president's administrative intelligence force, he said, and have a miniscule role in other major institutions. In the new 508-member parliament, there are only seven Coptic Christians.

Faced with decades of discriminatory policies, Christians withdrew into their churches and clubs, he said.

"The church itself played a role in keeping this sick situation," he said, rather than working to increase integration and resolve problems of discrimination.

In January 2011, that isolation seemed to end. Christians joined the anti-government protests. Muslims and Christians wore Christian crosses and Muslim crescents intertwined around their necks and an aura of unity descended over Tahrir Square, the center of the revolt.

"Copts enthusiastically flocked to Tahrir and all major squares to revolt against Mubarak," Sidhom said. "But no one ever imagined how strong and fierce political Islam would come back."

While Egyptians expected the well-organized Muslim Brotherhood to do well in parliamentary elections, many were shocked by the roughly 25 percent of seats the Salafists won.

Sidhom said he hopes that the Islamists will pay at the polls for their track record so far. The Muslim Brotherhood has lost popularity by breaking its promise not to field a candidate for president, and for doing little to alleviate problems of unemployment and crime. As for the more conservative Salafists, some leaders have floated the idea of forcing women to wear veils, and one parliamentarian advocated banning English in schools, drawing severe criticism from a wide swath of Egyptian society.

Some Christians say they could live with a victory by presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, an Islamist who is seen as more moderate than Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Mursi. Aboul Fotouh has said he would support a law that wouldn't require official permission for the building of churches or mosques. He has also said Copts and women should be allowed to run for president.

But when ultraconservative Salafists endorsed him, many Copts withdrew their support.

Amir Dous, an upper-class Coptic Christian, struggles with his choice for president every day. He protested in Tahrir Square last year with his wife, and now looks at the 13 presidential candidates with dismay.

Some days he thinks he'll choose Moussa, even though he does not represent revolutionary change. Moussa has sworn to serve only one term if he's elected president, and the four years could give floundering liberals time to organize, Dous said. Other days he favors Aboul Fotouh, whom he believes would protect minority rights and the goals of the revolution.

Then there are days when he thinks he might just leave Egypt if the country becomes more Islamically conservative.

"It scares me that maybe we could become Iran," he said. "We as educated people came out with the revolution and supported it and promised the poor people things would get better. I have the means to leave, but I will leave those people behind, stabbing them in back."

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(AINA) Coptic Christians fear rise of Islamists  on eve of presidential elections  http://www.aina.org/news/20120513112057.htm                                                                                                         Article by Leila Fadel 

Islam in Africa (Arutz Sheva)

(ArutzSheva) 08 May 2012 - The UN does nothing, the world is silent, and most Western citizens, who know little about Africa, do not know it is happening. The goal is creating a big African-Islamic continent. Christians must be killed or expelled.

Fom Nigeria to Sudan, it is raging,  the “Odium Fidei”, the war of religion.

A genocide epitomized not by the images of Sydney Pollack’s “Out of Africa”, which presents a continent that is rich and attractive, but by the Nigerian village of Dogo Nahawa, where Islamists, armed with machetes, killed 300 Christians, mostly women and children.

The Nigerian Nobel Prize Laureate for Literature, Wole Soyinka, called them “the butchers of Nigeria”.

It’s an invisible genocide where sadistic killers slaughter and execute thousands of Christians. 

According to Philip Jenkins, a leading expert on Christianity, in Nigeria, what is at stake is the balance between Islam and Christianity. It’s the largest Muslim country of Africa, a global leader in oil production and a country where the future of religious cohexistence is precarious, since the country is divided in a half between Islam and Christianity.

The Islamic conquest of Africa began in the seventh century, when the Umayyads spread the faith in the Mediterranean lands which had long been Byzantine. But in deeper Africa, the penetration was difficult and for centuries Islam was unable to climb over the Horn of Africa.


Gambia, Senegal and Mauritania are already 90 percent Islamized.
Now, with modern methods of warfare, we are witnessing a wave of Islamization with unforeseeable, tragic consequences. The "Islamic project" is trying to build a unique ‘adan' (Islamic call for prayer) from the Libyan minarets to the Juma Mosque in Durban, South Africa.

Gambia, Senegal and Mauritania are already 90 percent Islamized, the rate decreases as one moves downward, reaching nine per cent in South Africa and almost none in the rest of the southern region - so far.

The goal is creating a big African-Islamic continent. Christians must be killed or expelled.

On January 3, the Islamic groups issued an ultimatum to the Christian community in Nigeria: “You have three days to leave, or you’ll die”.

If on Darfur there was some mobilization in favor of the victims, who cared about the campaigns of extermination sustained by the Christians in Sudan and Nigeria?

The West doesn’t hear the cry of these pariahs, trying to atone for its colonial past by not intervening.

In South Kordofan, Sudan, Christians are still subjected to bombardment, targeted killings, the kidnapping of children, forced conversions. 

Over 13,750 Christians have been killed by Muslims in northern Nigeria since the introduction of Sharia laws in 2001.

 If the Islamists are dreaming of an Arab caliphate from the Atlantic to the Suez Canal, south of Sahara, Islam is conquering cities and entire populations. It’s collapsing the historical dividing line along the sixteenth parallel, which divided the land of the Cross from the land of the Koran.

All that remains of the “dar al harb”, land of war, must become “Dar al Islam”, land of Islam.

According to the NGO Open Doors, in the northern states that have adopted Sharia law, five million Christians are under severe repression. Islam has planted the idea that the Muslim religion is “original in Nigeria” and that the spread of Christianity is “a threat”, “an enemy to destroy”.

The troubles in Nigeria began back with the Kano riots of 1980, when a Muslim leader named Marwa Muhamadu said to the young people that whoever wore a cross or expensive clothes was an “infidel”.

The election of Miss World in Abuja in 2002 lit the fire of jihad in a haystack, leaving 200 dead on the ground and 10.000 Christians fleeing.

From the Gulf of Guinea to the Red Sea, via northern Nigeria, Sudan and Somalia, Sharia has become the only law in many regions. Today Islam is the first religion in a dozen of African countries.

A year ago, the Nigerian police stopped a shipment of arms directed to the Hisba, the movement that seeks to impose Islamic law in northern Nigeria, and to the faction of Boko Haram.

The cargo came from Tehran, part of the “Africa Plan” launched by the mullahs to expand Iran’s influence in the continent by supporting Islamic governments and groups. These terror groups use guns, gasoline bombs and machetes, they shout “Allahu akbar” (“God is great”) while launching attacks on citizens.

They have so far focused on killing Christian clerics, politicians, students, policemen, and soldiers, as well as Muslim clerics who condemn their mayhem. 500 Christians have been killed since last December. 300 churches have been demolished.

The case of the Anglican Rev. Seth Saleh, in Zamfara, is emblematic. In 2003, the director of the local government knocked on his door and handed him a letter. “The governor - said the letter - informs you that your church will be demolished before his arrival in town tomorrow”.

In Romain Gary’s novel “The Roots of Heaven”, which won the Goncourt Prize in 1956, a Muslim character says: “One day black Africa will be on our side, our religion is younger and has the power of the desert, it will eventually triumph. An Islamized Africa will be an irresistible force for the world”.

prophecy which seems about to become true. Will the world stand to prevent another Rwanda? 

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(ArutzSheva) Islam in Africa; The invisible genocide of Christians  http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/11609#.T6iuRuim-59                                                                 Article by Giulio Meotti

Christians targeted from East to West Africa (ASSIST)

(ASSIST) 03 May 2012 - Security is deteriorating rapidly for Christians along Africa's notorious ethnic-religious fault-line: roughly between the 5 to 10 degree north parallels. Genocidal Islamic jihad has displaced Christians in Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria, Mali and Ivory Coast.


Multitudes of predominantly Christian, ethnically southern Ivorian refugees feel forgotten. Displaced during the French-backed Islamic coup of April 2011, they remain desperate and vulnerable, unable to return home because their homes and farms have been occupied by pro-Ouattara supporters who are being protected by armed 'dozos' from the north. Appointed by Ouattara's Republican Forces (former 'rebels') to crack down on crime, 'dozos' are a 'brotherhood of initiated traditional hunters renowned for their mystical powers'.

Further to this, terrorist groups such as al-Shabaab in Somalia and Kenya, the Government of Sudan, Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria and eastern Mali and Ansar Dine in Northern Mali are targeting C hristians continually. These groups are seeking at the very least the subjugation of Christians and in some places their total eradication. The jihadists receive support from Islamist governments and from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) which gets most of its funds from trafficking drugs, weapons and human beings.

TERROR IN KENYA

After Kenyan troops crossed into Somalia to fight al-Shabaab in October 2011 the Somalia-based jihadists threatened Kenya with 'a long, protracted war'. On Saturday evening 31 March militants believed to be from al-Shabaab hurled explosives into a prayer meeting in the coastal town of Mtwapa, just 16km from Mombasa. A woman and a nine-year-old boy were killed while around 30 others were wounded. On Sunday 29 April some 50 believers were worshipping in God's House of Miracles International Church in Nairobi when a militant simply walked in and hurled a bomb at the altar. 'I heard a blast and then around me everyone was covered in blood,' said Steven Mulinge, the church pianist. One perso n was killed while 15 others were treated in hospital for shrapnel wounds. Four victims with critical injuries have been transferred to Kenyatta National Hospital.

TERROR IN NIGERIA

On Sunday 29 April believers worshipping at Bayero University in the northern city of Kano were targeted by militants from Boko Haram. The jihadists attacked the open-air service outside the faculty of medicine, throwing explosive devices amongst the worshippers then chasing and shooting believers as they fled. They also attacked a worship service being held in the sporting complex, again throwing explosive devices amongst the believers who were then chased and gunned down as they fled. Twenty-one people were killed and more than 20 were treated in hospital for gunshot wounds. In an almost simultaneous attack, six Boko Haram gunmen burst into a Church of Christ in Nigeria chapel the northeast city of Maiduguri, spraying bullets throughout the sanctuary. Whilst the worshippers escaped with wounds but no fatalities, the pastor and three oth ers who were preparing to serve communion were found dead in the sanctuary. 

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(ASSIST) Africa: Christians targeted from east to west                                                                                                      Article by  Elizabeth Kendal 

Syria: The battleground between Sunni and Shia Muslims (AINA)

(AINA) 24 April 2012 - In a late 2011 article, I argued that Syria's upheaval thrusts Turkey and Iran into a collision course because of their opposing geostrategic interests in Syria. Four months later, it has become increasingly clear that the Syrian uprising transcends Iran's and Turkey's strategic interests. It has become the epicenter of conflict between Sunni and Shiite communities throughout the Middle East.

The rift in Syria divides along a clear sectarian line: the Sunni axis led by Turkey and Saudi Arabia and the Shiite axis led by Iran. The new political order that will emerge in Syria will determine not only the success or failure of Iran's aspiration to become the region's hegemon but also whether or not the Sunni Arab world will maintain its dominance. Hence, the conflict will be long, costly and bloody, reflecting the troubled history between the two sides that has extended over a millennium.

History may not repeat itself, but it remains instructive. The Sunni-Shiite schism goes back more than a thousand years, starting in 632 with the death of Prophet Muhammad and subsequent dispute over the Islamic Caliphate and carrying through to the conflict in the 16th and 17th centuries between the Shiite Safavid dynasty in Persia and the Sunni Ottoman dynasty in Turkey. This conflict has, in fact, shaped the geography of Shiite Islam to this day: Persia and its periphery are Shiite, and Sunnis are located to its East and West. There were periods of conflict and periods of peace, such as the epoch that existed between the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of the secular Pahlavi dynasty in Iran in the 1920s. This period was broken by Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979, whose vigorous attempt to export the revolution to its Sunni Arab neighbors met with fierce resistance and ultimately led to the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

There is no greater evidence of the intense sectarian conflict than in Bahrain, where the Saudi military helped squash a Shiite uprising to ensure Sunnis remained in power.. In Iraq, the Sunni insurgency continues to terrorize the Shiite majority, and dozens of innocent civilians on both sides die each week. The Shiite's Hezbollah group in Lebanon continues to support the Syrian government's violent crackdown on its citizens, killing by most estimates more than 10,000. Sunni Hamas, which has enjoyed financial and military support from Iran while simultaneously receiving political and logistical support from the Syrian Alawite regime (an offshoot of Shiite Islam), has left its headquarters in Damascus and now condemns the Syrian Authority's bloodletting against its Sunni population.

Diplomatic tension rose last week between Ankara and Tehran over statements from Iranian officials about moving the nuclear talks to a more "neutral territory" such as Syria, Iraq or China, resulting in an angered Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who bluntly criticized the Iranians' "lack of honesty." A dichotomy on Syria exists between Iran and Turkey: whereas the former supports the Assad regime with everything he needs, the latter hosts the main opposition body, the Syrian National Council (SNC). This is indicative of their interests in dominating a country that provides both an opportunity to assert themselves as the region's hegemon. Above all else, however, the Sunni Islamic movement, in the same vein as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), adamantly opposes a Shiite dominance in its neighborhood.

At greater stake in Syria is the national interest of Saudi Arabia as the conservative leader of the Arab Sunni world. A consolidation of Iran's grip over Syria would transcend the Shiite influence over the entire crescent of landmass between the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean. Though Saudi Arabia did not pay much heed to the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's ultimate fate (who once threatened to invade the kingdom), handing Iraq to Shiite Iran on a golden platter in the wake of the Iraq war of 2003 remains deeply troubling to Riyadh. The fact that Iraq is ruled by a Shiite regime closely allied with Tehran explains why Saudi Arabia provides refuge to Iraq's top Sunni political figure, Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, whose political conflict with the Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki resulted in him being sought by Iraqi authorities on terrorism charges. It is critical for Saudi Arabia to pull Syria out of Iran's belly, which explains why the Saudi government is supportive of arming the rebels in Syria in the hope of toppling the Assad regime.

Moreover, there is no love lost between Iran and the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood -- a regional Islamic Sunni movement whose local parties will certainly form the new regimes in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia. Although all three countries are undergoing a difficult transitional process, they would cheer the collapse of the Assad regime and would do whatever they could to support the emergence of a Sunni government in Syria. The new transitional governments in Libya and Tunisia recognize the SNC as the legitimate authority of Syria. Similarly, the turmoil in Egypt did not prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from clearly indicating that they do not see eye to eye with Iran. In fact, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee in the Egyptian parliament, the Muslim Brotherhood Freedom and Justice Party member Dr. Essam al-Arian, stated ominously that the Arab Spring would also reach Iran.

As Iranian leadership started to feel the bite of international sanctions, they agreed to re-engage in negotiations with the UN Security Council and Germany over their nuclear program. Equally motivating to Tehran, however, is the situation in Syria. The deteriorating conditions of Syria and Iran's nuclear issue have become intertwined because the Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons is driven not merely by national security considerations but essentially by Tehran's desire to secure nuclear weapons to bolster its regional hegemony. Assad's Syria is crucial to this strategy, and its fall would further increase Iran's isolation in a mostly-Sunni neighborhood and cut the direct links between Tehran and its Hezbollah ally in Lebanon. Also, if Assad's Syria unravels, Iran's influence on Iraqi politics would certainly diminish. Indeed, it is more than likely that Iraqi nationalism would eventually trump the internal Sunni-Shiite divide as Iraq historically takes pride in its unique place as the cradle of Arab civilization.

It follows that Iran may well be willing to demonstrate flexibility in the nuclear talks by using its Russian patrons to convince the West to curb the pressure on the Assad regime, and buying time to prevent an attack on their nuclear facilities by Israel and/or the US. From the Iranian perspective they can always resume the nuclear program once the Assad regime is re-stabilized. One can only hope that the West would not fall for the manipulative mastery of the Iranians. Note that the sacrifice of a pause in the nuclear program in return for higher political purpose was tried successfully by Tehran in 2003.

In the wake of the imminent collapse of UN peace envoy Kofi Anan's plan to end the conflict in Syria, the leading Sunni countries Turkey and Saudi Arabia now have the opportunity and the obligation to bring an end to the Assad regime, end the massacre and pave the way for the emergence of a Sunni government in Damascus. To achieve that, both nations (deriving their legitimacy from the Arab League) must provide military assistance to the rebels. Turkey should carve a significant landmass along its border and with its NATO allies, enforce a no-fly zone to protect the Syrian refugees and the Free Syrian Army. Moreover, both nations should make every effort to enlist the international community to bestow legitimacy on the SNC to provide the foundation for a transitional government. Such an effort will save Syria as well as the national interest of the Sunni states in the region while depriving Iran of its aspiration to become a regional hegemon equipped with nuclear weapons.

Anything short of that would mean handing Iran a complete victory and surrendering the Middle East to an inevitable, but wider, violent conflict between the two axes of Sunnis and Shiites.

By Alon Ben-meir

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(AINA) Syria: Battleground between Sunni's and Shia's                                                                                          http://www.aina.org/news/2012042292725.htm

Will Christians have freedom under new Egyptian President? (CT)

(Christianity Today) 19 April 2012 - The religious freedom for Christians in Egypt (Copts) and other religious minorities hangs in the balance as Egyptian voters prepare to select a new president on the weekend of May 23-24.

This is the first open presidential elections in a generation. If voters favor a hard-line Islamist as president, existing religious freedoms are at greater risk. At least one moderate candidate favors less state involvement in religion.

Right now, the two major contenders for the presidency are Amr Moussa, belonging to the old guard around former President Mubarak, and Abdel-Moneim Abol Fotoh, an Islamist with roots in the Muslim Brotherhood.

Until mid-2011, Moussa was Secretary-General of the Arab League and is widely recognized as an establishment figure. His hard-line criticism of Israel has proven to be popular in Egypt.

Abol Fotoh, a political moderate, quit the Muslim Brotherhood in 2011 after decades of involvement in order to run for president. In the late 1990s, Abol Fotoh spent five years in prison for his political activism.

In the past week, popular resentment in Egypt exploded when the Election Commission disqualified 10 candidates, including three well-known and controversial figures: Khairat al-Shater (Freedom Justice Party, Muslim Brotherhood); Omar Suleiman (former vice president and spy chief under Mubarak); and, Hazem Abu-Ismail (an ultra-conservative Salafist). This week, Shater alleged that the commission’s move was an attempt the rig the election.

During the Egyptian parliamentary elections, 75 percent of voters voted for an Islamist party, indicating enormous popular support for religiously conservative candidates. Since Moussa may have the backing of Egypt’s military, but is certainly no Islamist, it is quite possible that Egypt’s next president would have an Islamist background.

Among the Islamist candidates, Abol Fotoh is more openly seeking support of moderates—Muslims and Christians. Abol Fotoh agreed to an interview with Christianity Today to explain: his point of view on Muslim-Christian relations, the primary place of Islam in governing Egypt, the role of the new president, and relations with the United States and Israel.

Abol Fotoh told CT, “The president of Egypt needs to be religious. Egyptians, Christians and Muslims are a religious people. They love religion. We do not have extremist secularism in Egypt as there is in Tunisia or Turkey, which is why people cannot imagine a secular president would rule Egypt.”

He said, “The president needs to protect citizenship with honesty and righteousness.” Egypt needs “justice with the presence of a real independent judiciary.” (During the days of Mubarak, many criticized the justice system as politicized and corrupt.) 

Abol Fotoh supports the controversial Article 2 of Egypt’s Constitution. This article establishes Islam as the state religion, Arabic as the national language, and Shari’ah (the Islamic legal code) as the principal source for legislation.

He said, “Article 2 does not contradict with freedom of belief. Legislation is done under the observance of the Constitutional Court. The role of clerics—Christian and Muslim, is only to advise and give opinions and not to dominate, legislate, or monitor the legislation.”

He said many of the tensions between Muslims and Christians are over conversions from one religion to the other and construction of new church buildings. Abol Fotoh said that changing religion is “a personal right” and that religious groups and state should refrain from seeking to supervise religious conversion.

Abol Fotoh believes that the sometimes-violent confrontations over church building construction occurred because such buildings require near-impossible to obtain special permits. “Egyptians,” he said, “do not need [more] churches or mosques; they need farms, scientific research centers, colleges, factories, houses.”

Abol Fotoh welcomes pluralism in Egyptian society. He said his “Christian brothers” were living in a self-imposed ghetto prior to the 2011 revolution. They are now “present in the Egyptian community, participating in political parties."

“They are present in the [Muslim Brotherhood-supported] Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and other parties, doing their work. Christians initially only made their voices heard in church but now have become vocal in the community of all. The nation belongs to all Egyptians, whether they are Christians or Muslims, men or women, Islamists or they have Islamic, leftist, or liberal ideologies.”

Abol Fotoh does not reject his Muslim Brotherhood background. But he said, “I run as an independent, not representing any political party or power. I have no administrative or organizational business with the Muslim Brotherhood now. But this does not mean that a person should give up his ideologies. I’m still proud of my progressive, enlightened, moderate Islamic ideologies and that has been known about me for 42 years.

“I work in public activism with these ideologies and visions, which fight extremism, violence, and seek to build the nation and rapprochement of all citizens in the service of this country.”

Abol Fotoh does not endorse the concept that Muslims have a superior role in society. “Muslims and Christians are equal. God in the Holy Qur’an protects human dignity and that includes all humanity. Unfortunately the West has drawn incorrect conclusions because of ultra-conservative Islamists.”

The relations between Abol Fotoh and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party are far from ideal. He earlier said, “The Brotherhood should not be engaged in party politics and competing for power, but it does because the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party are mixed.”

The Muslim Brotherhood has fielded its own now-disqualified candidate, Khairat al-Shater, and the organization publicly opposes the candidacy of Abol Fotoh.

But even if this stance of the Brotherhood is sustained until election day, the public dispute between Abol Fotoh and the Muslim Brotherhood will divide the Islamist vote. The Brotherhood has a back up candidate: Mohammed Morsi, chair of the Freedom and Justice Party.

There will be a runoff election in June if no candidate gains a clear majority.

Abol Fotoh supports a mixed parliamentary-presidential system. “I support that the parliament should have a supervisory role over the executive power.” This role would give the Parliament greater power than they had before during the decades following the revolution of 1952.

The Egyptian economy is in shambles and the state is on the brink of bankruptcy. Abol Fotoh said Egypt first of all needs internal and external security for building up the economy. Fear is that a bankruptcy will drive prices up which in turn will create a revolt of the poor who easily can be manipulated by all kinds of extremists.

He said addressing the needs of the poor would be an important priority on becoming president. Fighting chronic poverty will require funds that Egypt’s national government currently does not have.

Abol Fotoh said he personally does not recognize the state of Israel. “War is not in the interest of Egypt, but in talks with Israel the interests of Egypt should have priority.”

In all international relations, including the United States, he said, “Relations must be to the benefit of Egypt. U.S. aid to Egypt serves U.S. interests in Egypt and therefore both need to be in relation to each other.”

Cornelis Hulsman in editor in chief of the Arab West Report in Cairo.

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(Christianity Today)  Will Muslim-Christian relations improve with a new president in Egypt?  http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctliveblog/archives/2012/04/will_muslimchri_1.html

Media, Muslims and the persecution of Christians (Gatestone)

(Gatestone) 17 April 2012 - When it comes to Muslim persecution of Christians, the mainstream media (MSM) has a long paper trail of obfuscating. While they may eventually state the bare-bone facts—if they ever report on the story in the first place, which is rare—they do so after creating and sustaining an aura of moral relativism that minimizes the Muslim role.

False Moral Equivalency

As previously discussed, one of the most obvious ways is to evoke "sectarian strife" between Muslims and Christians, a phrase that conjures images of two equally matched—and equally abused, and abusive—adversaries fighting one another. This hardly suffices to describe the reality of Muslim majorities persecuting largely passive Christian minorities.

Recently, for instance, in the context of the well-documented suffering of Christians in Egypt, an NPR report declared, "In Egypt, growing tensions between Muslims and Christians have led to sporadic violence [initiated by whom?]. Many Egyptians blame the interreligious strife on hooligans [who?] taking advantage of absent or weak security forces. Others believe it's because of a deep-seated mistrust between Muslims and the minority Christian community [how did the "mistrust" originate?]." Although the report does highlight cases in which Christians are victimized, the tone throughout—and even from the title of the report, "In Egypt, Christian-Muslim Tension is on the Rise"—suggest that examples of Muslims victimized by Christians could just as easily have been found (not true). The accompanying photo is of a group of angry Christians militantly holding a cross aloft—not Muslims destroying crosses, which is what prompts the Christians to such displays of solidarity.

Two more strategies that fall under the MSM's umbrella of obfuscating and minimizing Islam's role—strategies with which the reader should become acquainted—appeared in recent reports dealing with the jihadi group Boko Haram and its ongoing genocide of Nigeria's Christians.

First, some context: Boko Haram—acronym for "Western Education is a Sin", its full name in Arabic is "Sunnis for Da'wa [Islamization] and Jihad"—is a full-throated terrorist organization dedicated to the overthrow of the secular government and establishment of Sharia law. It has been slaughtering Christians for years, with an uptick since the Christmas Day church bombing in 2012, which left at least 40 Christians dead; followed by its New Year ultimatum that all Christians must evacuate the northern regions of Nigeria or die—an ultimatum Boko Haram has been living up to: hardly a day goes by without a terrorist attack on Christians or a church, most recently on Easter day, leaving 20 dead.

Blurring the Line Between Persecutor and Victim

Now consider some MSM strategies. The first one is to frame the conflict between Muslims and Christians in a way that blurs the line between persecutor and victim, as in, for example, a recent BBC report on one of Boko Haram's many church attacks that left three Christians dead, including a toddler. After stating the bare-bones facts in a couple of sentences, the report went on to describe how "the bombing sparked a riot by Christian youths, with reports that at least two Muslims were killed in the violence. The two men were dragged off their bikes after being stopped at a roadblock set up by the rioters, police said. A row of Muslim-owned shops was also burned…" The report goes on and on, with a special section about "very angry" Christians, until one all but confuses victims with persecutors, forgetting what the Christians are "very angry" about in the first place—unprovoked and nonstop terror attacks on their churches, and the murder of their women and children.

This broadcast is reminiscent of the Egyptian New Year's Eve church bombing that left over 20 Christians dead: the MSM reported it, but under headlines such as, "Christians clash with police in Egypt after attack on churchgoers kills 21"(Washington Post) and "Clashes grow as Egyptians remain angry after attack"(New York Times)—as if frustrated Christians lashing out against wholesale slaughter is as newsworthy or of the same value as the slaughter itself, implying that their angry reaction "evens" everything up.

Dissembling the Perpetrators' Motivation

The second MSM strategy involves dissembling over the jihadis' motivation. An AFP report describing a different Boko Haram church attack—another one, which also killed three Christians during Sunday service—does a fair job reporting the facts. But then it concludes: "Violence blamed on Boko Haram, whose goals remain largely unclear, has since 2009 claimed more than 1,000 lives, including more than 300 this year, according to figures tallied by AFP and rights groups."

Although Boko Haram has been howling its straightforward goals for a decade—enforcing Sharia law and subjugating, if not eliminating, Nigeria's Christians—the media with a straight face is claiming ignorance about these goals (similarly, the New York Times described Boko Haram's goals as "senseless"—even as the group continues justifying them on Islamic doctrinal grounds). One would have thought that a decade after the jihadi attacks of 9/11—in light if all the subsequent images of Muslims in militant attire shouting distinctly Islamic slogans such as "Allahu Akbar!" ["Allah is the Greatest!"] and calling for Sharia law and the subjugation of "infidels"—reporters would by now know what their goals are.

Of course, the media's obfuscation of jihadi goals serves a purpose: it leaves the way open for the politically correct, MSM-approved motivations for Muslim violence: "political oppression," "poverty," "frustration," and so on. From here, one can see why politicians such as former U.S. president Bill Clinton cite "poverty" as "what's fueling all this stuff" (a reference to Boko Haram's slaughter of Christians).

In short, while the MSM may report the most frugal facts concerning Christian persecution, they utilize their entire arsenal of semantic games, catch phrases, and convenient omissions that uphold the traditional narrative—that Muslim violence is anything but a byproduct of the Islamic indoctrination of intolerance.

Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum

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(Gatestone)  How the Media Whitewashes Muslim Persecution of Christians  http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/3002/media-whitewash-muslim-persecution-christians                                        Article by Raymond Ibrahm 

Is the Christian Era in the Middle East over? (AINA)

(AINA) 10 April 2012 - Israel has become the only safe haven for Christians in the Middle East, Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, wrote in a recent op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal.

"As 800,000 Jews were once expelled from Arab countries, so are Christians being forced from lands they've inhabited for centuries", Ambassador Oren stated, comparing the expulsion of Jews after the establishment of the state of Israel with the Arab countries' current treatment of their Christian minorities.

The numbers are telling. Today there is only one Middle Eastern country where the number of Christians has grown: Israel. As documented in the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, the Christian community that numbered 34,000 people in 1949 is now 163,000-strong, and will reach 187,000 in 2020.

In the rest of the Middle East, the drive for Islamic purity is going to banish all traces of pre-Islamic pasts. When the Islamists will have prevailed, the Middle East will be completely green, the colour of Islam.

Therefore, it is time for Christians to recognize Israel's survival as critical and vital also for them. Instead, Arab Christians chose to react to Ambassador Oren by embracing Islam and demonizing the Jews.

"As Christian leaders in Palestine, we were appalled by the baseless allegations you published in the Wall Street Journal", says one letter signed by many Arab Christian personalities published in the Palestinian media outlets. "Your attempt to blame the difficult reality that Palestinian Christians face on Palestinian Muslims is a shameful manipulation of the facts intended to mask the damage that Israel has done to our community. The Israeli occupation is the primary reason why so many members of the oldest Christian communities in the world have left the holy land, Palestine. Our reality is one of occupation, oppression and loss".

The letter is signed by Palestinian ministries, activists, priests and mayors and members of the PLO.

Arab Christianity is near its extinction everywhere. "Christianity in Iraq could be eradicated in our lifetime, partially as a result of the US troop withdrawal", declared Leonard Leo, chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

In Egypt, 100,000 Christians already have left the country - after Hosni Mubarak's fall last year. The Egyptian Union of Human Rights is denouncing this "mass exodus".

Even more dramatic is the collapse of Christian Arab society following Israel's handing over of large parts of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinian Authority. Christians have suffered the most from the mafia-style rule of Yasser Arafat's kleptocracy.

Christian sites and cemeteries were desecrated by Muslims. Slogans like "Islam will win" and "First the Saturday people, then the Sunday People" have been painted on walls, and PLO flags were draped over Jesus crosses.

Ramallah was 90% Christian before the 1948 War of Independence and Bethlehem was 80% Christian. Today Ramallah is a large Islamic city and Bethlehem's Christians are near extinction.

Given their common status as minorities within an overwhelmingly Islamic region, you might expect Christian Arabs to find common cause with Jews and Israel. But the traditional hatred of Eastern Christianity for Judaism, combined with the futile hopes for assimilation within the Arab world, have closed off that option.

As the letter clearly shows, Arab Christians are lost to Islam. This unavoidable historical process has been explained by the pioneer Bat Ye'or, the most important historian of the "dhimmitude".

Many Palestinian terrorists came from the Christian community. George Habash, who has been dubbed "the godfather of Middle East terrorism", was a Greek Orthodox Christian who sang in his church choir as a boy back in the town of Lydda. His background was almost identical to that of his best friend, Wadia Haddad, the No. 2 in the PFLP and the operational genius and passionate proponent of the group's terrorist acts.

For years after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the public face of that nation's diplomacy was deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz, who was born with the distinctly Christian name of Michael Yuhanna.

British author, William Dalrymple, suggests that by the 1990s, five out of Hafiz al Asad's seven closest advisors were Christian. Today, the suave symbol of the Palestinian cause in the West is a Christian, Hanan Ashrawi, who signed the letter against Oren.

Coptic Christians were prominent in the pioneering nationalist anti-Israel Wafd Party of Egypt in the 1920s. From the 1930s, Arab Christians were deeply influenced by the fascist and ultra-nationalist models they could see in Europe, and they formed their own parties in this mold.

One of the first was the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, founded by the Christian Antun Saadeh, who preached the establishment of a Great Syrian empire covering not just modern-day Syria but also Judea, Samaria, Lebanon, Cyprus, and other stretches of the Near East.

In 1940, another Christian thinker launched what would be a still more influential variety of pan-Arabism, namely the Movement for Arab Renaissance (Ba'th). The key founder was Michel Aflaq, who had been educated at the Sorbonne.

The most prominent Palestinian intellectual in the world was a Christian, Edward Said (it was in Nazareth, in fact, that Said's mother was born; his grandfather founded the city's first Baptist church).

The use of the term "nakba" for the Israeli War of Independence was an innovation of Constantin Zureiq, the intellectual father of Arab nationalism. George

Antonious' book "The Arab Awakening" is one of the earliest intellectual expressions of Palestinian Arab resentment about Zionism. Antonious was far from alone as a Christian Arab who saw his future with the aspirations of the Muslim majority in the Arab world.

You also have the case of Azmi Bishara, the Arab MK who betrayed the State of Israel, who comes from a middle-class Christian family from Nazareth.

Meanwhile, in Lebanon, the Christian movements of General Michel Aoun and Sleiman Frangieh are allied with Hizbullah.

Christians have also been part of municipal councils headed by Hamas. Now that the Nasserite mixture of socialism and secularism is outclassed by Islamist fury, Christians are vanishing from their cradle.

Arab Christians are paying the anti-Israel appeasing choice: they feed the Islamic crocodile hoping it will eat them last. Nonetheless, the Islamic tiger is devouring the Christian lamb.

Indeed, the Christian era in the Middle East is coming to an end. After Arab nationalism failed to eliminate Israel, Arab Christianity and the Vatican are now building a Palestinian identity hostile to Israel and the Jews.

The Christian criminalization of Zionism, which Arab Churches made a basic condition for "Muslim-Christian rapprochement", grants the elimination of the Jewish State priority over defending the rights of their own beleaguered communities.

As was the case of the European Christians in World War II, Arab Christianity is now pursuing a joint cause with evil forces to buy temporary security. They will be responsable for their own destruction. When in 1991, the first Iraqi Scuds hit the Tel Aviv area, Palestinians in Judea and Samaria and Gaza, in defiance of the curfew, mounted rooftops and joyfully chanted: "Saddam, Saddam, ya habib, oodroob oodroob Tel Abib" ("Saddam, Saddam, you darling, hit Tel Aviv over and over again").

A few rocket attacks later, a paraphrased version of that ditty spread around: "Saddam, Saddam, our boss, go ahead and hit the Cross".

Arab Christians have been Islamicized. Supported by the Vatican and the Orthodox Churches, they choose the war against the Jews. They will be paid back with their own extinction.

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(AINA) Is the Christian era in the Middle East over?                                                           http://www.aina.org/news/20120406125710.htm                                                                                                               Article by Giulio Meotti 

Who will take the presidency in Egypt? (NYTimes)

(NYTimes) 14 March 2012 - One spent a career working beside Hosni Mubarak, the former president. The other spent years in his jails. Now both are top contenders in what promises to be the first credible, competitive presidential election in Egyptian history. Amr Moussa, a charismatic former foreign minister, is the clear front-runner.

But the most unpredictable variable in the race is his leading challenger, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhoodwhose iconoclastic campaign is now attracting the support not only of young Islamists but also of a growing number of liberals, like Rabab el-Mahdi.

“I felt Egypt needs to hear the core ideas of the left, but through an Islamist voice so it does not sound so alien,” said Ms. Mahdi, 37, a Marxist and feminist who taught political science at Yale before joining his campaign.

In practical terms, nearly everyone seems to agree that economic revival and public security are the most decisive issues in the race. But the contest is also setting off the first vigorous national dialogue about the balance between the free market and big government, the application of Islamic law, the status of women and Christians and relations with the United States and Israel.

Reliable opinion polling is scarce, and in the days since registration opened, more than 300 people have sought to enter the race. But aside from Mr. Moussa and Mr. Aboul Fotouh, most of the best-known contenders represent familiar political types: an old-school, ultraconservative Islamist, a Nasserite populist-socialist and a representative of the military and business elite who was Mr. Mubarak’s last prime minister.

Waiting in the background is the Muslim Brotherhood, the mainstream Islamist group whose political party won nearly half of the parliamentary vote.

The Brotherhood pledged soon after Mr. Mubarak’s overthrow last year that it would not field a presidential candidate. Its leaders said they feared that a victory might provoke a military crackdown. Instead, Egyptian politics now buzz with rumors about which candidate the Brotherhood might endorse or oppose.

The military rulers who took power after Mr. Mubarak have also pledged to stay out of the race, which they say will be their finale. After a first round of voting on May 23 and 24, a runoff on June 16 and 17 and the naming of a winner by June 21, the generals have promised to return to the barracks.

But, intentionally or not, the military-led transitional government has already tilted the playing field in favor of the best-known candidates, which in practice means Mr. Moussa.

The military has preserved the Mubarak-era election rules that hindered potential challengers. A compressed schedule, convoluted financing rules and strict spending limits all make it hard for newcomers to reach voters. Even getting on the ballot is a significant obstacle. The easiest way is to win the endorsement of one of the handful of parties in Parliament, or at least 30 of the roughly 500 lawmakers. Alternately, a candidate has to get a total of 30,000 citizens from 15 provinces to fill out an elaborate form during business hours in various central administrative offices — all in less than a month.

Only the campaign of Mr. Moussa, who is far ahead in name recognition, is happy with the rules. Mr. Moussa, 75, spent a decade in the 1990s as Mr. Mubarak’s foreign minister, during which he conducted a legendary televised debate with his Israeli counterpart that made him a national hero. In 2001, he inspired a popular song, “I Hate Israel and I Love Amr Moussa.”

That is when Mr. Mubarak moved Mr. Moussa to a lower-profile post as secretary general of the toothless Arab League. He held the post until he quit to run for president.

Mr. Moussa, however, is not expected to radically shake up the Egyptian government or its relations with Israel. He has sought to stake out the political center without spelling out specifics or offending powerful interests, including either the military or the Islamists.

Political activists, though, despise him as a conservative vestige of the Mubarak era, an image his campaign concedes may be his biggest challenge

 

“The question is not ‘Was he part of the previous regime?’ Yes, absolutely, he was,” said Hisham Youssef, a senior adviser. “But the question should be about his performance. Was he inferior or superior to those who preceded and succeeded him? Was he corrupt, or an honest politician?”

Mr. Aboul Fotouh, a trained doctor, is not as well known outside Islamist or political circles. He first came to national attention as a student at Cairo University, after a public forum with President Anwar el-Sadat. He directly challenged the president over the removal of an Islamist sheik from a major mosque, telling the president that he was surrounded by “sycophants” and “hypocrites.”

“Stand right there, stop,” Mr. Sadat shouted.

“I am standing, sir,” Mr. Aboul Fotouh replied evenly.

Many had gone to prison for less, and recordings of Mr. Aboul Fotouh’s now legendary defiance still circulate on the Internet.

He was later elected to lead the doctors’ trade group, a Brotherhood stronghold. He spent more than six years in jail for his work with the group, then the principal opposition to Mr. Mubarak’s monopoly on power. But he also became outspoken as an advocate of liberalization inside the Brotherhood.

In a conservative purge of moderates two years ago, he was removed from the group’s ruling Guidance Council. Last year, he was expelled for defying the Brotherhood’s decision not to offer a candidate for president.

His advisers say that many members of the Muslim Brotherhood, especially the younger generation, still support him, and he has won the endorsement of some prominent religious scholars, including Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an influential Egyptian exile living in Doha, Qatar.

Mr. Aboul Fotouh argues in television interviews, a staple of his campaign, that the Brotherhood should stop calling itself Islamist and instead say it is conservative, since in an open society Islamists can also be moderate or liberal. Of all the presidential contenders, Mr. Aboul Fotouh has been the most outspoken about full civilian control of the military, the protection of civil liberties and government spending on health care and education. His biggest challenge, his advisers say, is the opposition of his former colleagues in the Muslim Brotherhood. Its spokesman, Mahmoud Ghozlan, declared this week that the group would expel any member who supported Mr. Aboul Fotouh.

“Dr. Aboul Fotouh is very dangerous for them — a matter of life and death,” Ms. Mahdi said. “If he succeeds, it means the Brotherhood loses its monopoly on moderate Islam. It shows that there is a multiplicity in Islam big enough to include Marxists and liberals. It tells their moderates that you can leave the Brotherhood and it is not the end of life.”

--------------------------------

(NYTimes) Top challenger in Egypt vote  is an Islamist, and moderate  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/14/world/middleeast/top-challenger-in-egypt-vote-is-an-islamist-and-moderate.html?pagewanted=1&ref=world                                                                                                                                         Article by  

 

The New Middle East - Sunni vs Shia (The Islamic divide) 

06 March 2012 - The new Middle East strategic battle is heating up and this is only the start. It has nothing to do with Israel and everything to do with two more serious lines of battle: Arabs versus Persians and Sunni versus Shia Muslims.

 
The Arab-Israeli or Israel-Palestinian dispute is increasingly unimportant, despite the hatred of increasingly powerful Islamist forces for Israel. The real struggle is over who will control each Muslim majority country and who is going to lead the Middle East. Both issues have almost nothing to do with Israel. At the same time, Israel has virtually no role to play in these struggles, except to ensure that Hamas doesn't take over the West Bank and the Palestinian Authority.

 
The Sunni Arab position was stated very clearly by Amr Moussa, a veteran Arab nationalist and candidate for Egypt's presidency: "[The] Arab Middle East will not be run by Iran or Turkey." Note that he didn't even mention Israel, in sharp contrast to how the issue would have been defined in previous decades:  as a Zionist threat to rule the entire region.

Iran is Persian-ruled (though only about half the population is ethnic Persian) and Shia Muslim. Turkey is ruled by ethnic Turks even though it is predominantly Sunni Muslim.

 
What we are seeing again, for the first time in three decades-since President Anwar al-Sadat put the priority on a domestic focus, peace with Israel, and alliance with the United States--is an Egyptian bid to lead the Arabic-speaking world and even the whole region. On this point, Egyptian leftists, nationalists, and Islamists are united.  And in the first round, the battle over control of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, Egypt won and Iran lost.

 
Note that this has nothing to do with the current military rulers of Egypt who will be out of power before the end of June. This is a long-term struggle led by the civilian, primarily Islamist, politicians. And it is a program over which the Islamists can unite the country behind them in a wave of patriotic, Arab, and Sunni zeal. Building on this agenda, often used demagogically, also requires Cairo to distance itself from the United States.
 
Here's another point to keep in mind. The head of the Egyptian parliament's foreign affairs committee is now Essam al-Arian, one of the most outspokenly radical Muslim Brotherhood leaders. He's outspokenly in favor of destroying Israel and U.S. interests in the region. This is one more of an endless amount of evidence about the Brotherhood's extremism and the coming
collision with Washington.
 
At the same time, al-Arian is strongly anti-Iran, predicting the overthrow of the Tehran regime in an internal revolution. When a Muslim Brotherhood says such a thing that isn't an example of political analysis but of advocacy. 

In another example of Brotherhood, and Egyptian, hostility to the Iran-led bloc, Egypt has pulled Hamas into its orbit. The Brotherhood supports its Syrian brothers in their revolution against the pro-Iran regime in Damascus. It also backs the Bahrain government against Shia oppositionists there and is hostile to Hizballah in Lebanon.  

And so despite the fact that Iran has now offered Egypt financial aid, which that country needs, the Egyptians are ignoring the proposal. They do not want to be beholden to Tehran any more than they would be to the United States.

It has not yet been widely recognized that the last year has been a disaster for Iran's strategy of gaining regional leadership. Outside of Syria, Bahrain, and Iraq-where Tehran is backing forces which aren't doing so well at present-only in Lebanon does Iran still have real influence. Its potential appeal is now limited to the Shia Muslims, who are minorities everywhere except in Bahrain and Iraq.

Two years ago, an Iranian nuclear bomb would have sparked a wave of pro-Iran reaction throughout the Middle East, now it will have little effect on (Sunni, Arab) public opinion. Similarly, two years ago threats to wipe Israel off the map made Iran more popular while hostility toward Israel did the same for Turkey. Now such ranting does nothing to promote Iran's or Turkey's regional influence.

For Turkey, too, the "Arab Spring" ended that Islamist regime's regional ambitions. Nobody needs the Turks as regional leaders. Indeed, efforts to claim such a role have created intense resentment in both Egypt and Iran.

In contrast, the Muslim Brotherhood has expanded its influence to a remarkable extent. Aside from probably ruling Egypt, the Brotherhood can now claim the Gaza Strip, Tunisia, and Libya as being within its sphere of influence. And it is also the patron of the Brotherhood branches in Syria and Jordan.

Another result of this process is the orphaning of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which has no foreign patron whatsoever. Iran, Egypt, and Syria back Hamas.  The PA's patron should be wealthy Gulf states, notably Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Yet it has never won back their support after the rupture caused when PA leader Yasir Arafat backed Iraq's takeover of Kuwait in 1990-1991.


A weakened PA has no maneuvering room except to protect its militant credentials by refusing to negotiate or compromise with Israel while talking in a radical manner. The Israel-Palestinian peace process has in fact been dead since 2000 but only now is most of the world acknowledging the obituary.   


This is the new Middle East, quite different from the region as understood for the last sixty years. The battle for predominance among the three strong Arab nationalist regimes-Egypt, Iraq, and Syria-has now given way between Sunni and Shia blocs. Increasingly, Arab assessments of threats from Egypt in the west to the Persian Gulf on the eastern end barely mention Israel at all.

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Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. Other recent books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center  and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.


A different version of this article has been published in the Jerusalem Post. This is my preferred version, I own the rights, and I ask you to read this version and link to it.

 

ARTICLE LINK:  <http://rubinreports.blogspot.com/2012/03/new-middle-east-arab-versus-non-arab.html>

 

Syria: The next exodus of Christians? (ACN)

(ACN) 05 March 2012 - A SENIOR bishop in Syria has warned that Christianity in his country may suffer the same terrible fate as in neighbouring Iraq. 

Speaking from northern Syria, the bishop, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said that “his most important” concern as a Christian leader was the danger of a mass exodus of faithful as happened in Iraq after 2003 following the fall of Saddam Hussein. 


The bishop’s comments, made recently , come amid widespread fears that Christians will be among the worst to suffer if Assad falls and power is seized by Islamist rebel groups. Meantime, some Church organisations have reported from centres of conflict, such as Homs, that up to 80 percent of Christians have fled in part as a result of an upsurge in religiously-motivated violence. 

In his interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, the bishop said: “We in Syria do not want to become like Iraq [where] we have lost so many Christians because of war and devastation.” He added: “Of course people want to stay but the insecurity and violence encourages them to leave.” While saying he had no statistics on recent Christian emigration from Syria, the bishop underlined his concern of a mass exodus similar to the one in Iraq where Christians fell quickly from five percent of the population in 1997 to less than 300,000 in the years following the downfall of Saddam Hussein.

Many thousands of Iraqi Christians sought sanctuary in Syria which today has 2.5 million faithful who have traditionally prospered in one of the most liberal and tolerant countries in the Middle East. The bishop said: “We Christians want to stay in Syria and live peacefully and with everybody and continue our presence serving our country and our people.” The bishop’s comments follow reports of earlier this month which quote Ignatius Joseph III, Patriarch of the Syrian Catholic Church, warning Assad’s downfall might provoke disaster for Christians, with Islamic terrorists “targeting” Christians. 


In his ACN interview today, the Syrian bishop went on to say poor people were desperate for medicine and food after prices shot up dramatically. He said many people could not even afford basics such as rice, cooking oil, sugar and tea. The bishop added that the Church was helping people in need adding: “We have to support poor families in most need of food and medicine.” The bishop went on to resist calls for foreign intervention in Syria, saying the country was capable of resolving its problems internally. He said: “We do not accept foreign intervention. Action of this kind is against every international law. We are able to organise ourselves and continue our life.” 


His comments follow those of Lebanon’s Archbishop Paul El-Sayeh who in an interview with ACN last week called on all sides in Syria to put down their arms in a bid to prevent the conflict escalating into full-scale civil war. 
The bishop in Syria said that in his region in the north of the country, the situation was calm and that life was “carrying on as normal” in spite of attacks earlier this month. He added: “The attacks put fear into the hearts of people but now the situation is calmer with people going to work and doing what they always do.” 

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(ACN) Syria:The next exodus of Christians?                                            http://members4.boardhost.com/acnaus/msg/1330482108.html

Afghanistan - A personal observation

The following observation was sent to INcontext by a partner who has worked, lived and ministered in Afghanistan for nearly 5 years

Having spent nearly 5 years living in Afghanistan until 2009, I would like to share some perspectives. We lived among the Afghans as neighbours, learnt their language, drove in their taxis, attended weddings and birthdays, worked daily alongside them, played with their children, shopped, ate, fellowshipped and shared life with them.  We drove through the countryside and visited several towns and flew to even more.

Afghans are hospitable people but blinkered by their past, Islamic traditions, superstitions and lack of education. Many returning Afghans who fled the wars and have lived in the West hold other views, but they are in the minority. Even for Afghan Christians who have been discipled to some extent, it remains very difficult to discern if a local belief is actually Biblically acceptable or not. The belief had been assumed to be true for centuries. Westerners often fail to understand that Afghans were so disconnected from the world, that even America was largely unknown to the average Afghan 10 years ago. The huge and intense shake-up in the Afghan lifestyle since 2001 is hard to comprehend.

Fear is probably the biggest debilitating factor for local Christians to express themselves, and for good reason. Persecution is severe and best avoided. Whilst friendship may keep a Muslim from exposing a Christian friend, it is a perilous situation for the Christian. As Afghans themselves admitted (and I experienced it myself), friendships are there for personal gain, not trust and integrity. Society is based on the clever abuse of relationships and fear, not on truth or ethical values & principles. Islam and local traditions have distorted absolute truth and values so much that most Afghans do not even recognise the problem, nor do outsiders perceive the impact of this in dealing with them until it is too late.

Many people think that the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 destroyed the country. This is blatantly false. The Russians destroyed many parts of the Afghan countryside, but built up Kabul as their local capital. When the Russians left, the power vacuum was filled by Afghan Mujahidin groups fighting for power. The southern part of Kabul was totally destroyed by the warring Afghans themselves. The Taliban stopped the civil war, but the desolation in hearts and souls intensified. The Americans are certainly not loved by the average Afghan, but the vast majority support the Americans forces over the Taliban, even today. The progress in rebuilding Kabul, providing essential services, technology implementation, commercial growth, setting up governmental systems and education facilities have been phenomenal given the deserted local infrastructure, security situation, education level of the people and negative attitude of uninformed Westerners. The Americans and international forces would be wise to understand and respect the local customs better (evidence of this often surfaces in the news), but without the stanch resolve of the Afghan people to rid themselves of the Taliban among them, they cannot win the war. The fear for and stronghold of fundamentalist Islam on the average Afghan is stronger than his will to stand for absolute righteousness. As an Afghan man told me: “When a Talib walks down the street, an Afghan man becomes like a woman”. To break the oppression of fear, unrighteousness and fundamentalist Islam, the Afghans have yet to pay the price.

A new year of Dhimmitude for Egypt's Copts (stonegate)

(stonegate) 22 February 2012 - For Egypt's Christian Copts, the New Year began with threats that their churches would be attacked during Christmas mass (celebrated on January 7). Because many were eyeing the situation-several Coptic churches were previously attacked, including last Christmas (eight dead) and New Year's day (23 dead), not to mention ominous harbingers around the world, such as the Nigerian Christmas day church bombings (40 dead) -the Muslim Brotherhood proclaimed it would "protect" the Copts during their church services. Happily, Coptic Christmas came and went without incident.

Yet, if the Muslim Brotherhood "protected" Coptic churches when many around the world were watching, as soon as attention dissipated, it was business as usual: a large number of Salafis and Muslim Brotherhood members entered a church, asserting that it had no license and no one should pray in it, with hints that it might be turned into a mosque-an all too typical approach in Muslim countries where building or even renovating churches is next to impossible.


More to the point, 2012 appears to be unfolding as the "year of dhimmitude" for Egypt's Christians. Consider the following anecdotes starting from just last January, all of which demonstrate an upsurge in the treatment of Egypt's Copts as dhimmis (dhimmi being the legal term for Islam's "protected" non-Muslim minorities-"protected," that is, as long as they agree to a number of debilitations that renders them second-class citizens):

Insulting Islam

According to the Pact of Omar (which is also one of the earliest sources banning the construction or renovation of churches), dhimmis must "respect Muslims" and never insult them or their religion. Accordingly, a prominent Christian, Naguib Sawiris, is charged with "contempt of religion" for twittering a cartoon of a bearded Mickey Mouse and veiled Minnie: "The case has added to fears among many that ultraconservative Islamists may use their new found powers to try to stifle freedom of expression." Nor are the double standards in Egypt's "contempt of religion" law missed: Christianity is daily disparaged in Egypt with impunity.

Likewise, a 17-year-old Christian student accused of posting a drawing of Islam's prophet on Facebook-which he denies, saying it was posted without his permission-triggered days of Muslim violence and havoc, including the burning of three Christian homes to cries of "Allahu Akbar." The student, who was beaten, is to be "held" for fifteen days, "pending investigation." Muslim leaders agree "that priests should publicly apologize for the images, and that the student as well as his family should move out of the governorate."

Conversion Issues

Also according to the Pact of Omar, dhimmis "shall not prevent" any of their family members from converting to Islam. Accordingly, thousands of Muslims just attacked a Coptic church, demanding the death of its pastor, who, along with "nearly 100 terrorized Copts sought refuge inside the church, while Muslim rioters were pelting the church with stones in an effort to break into the church, assault the Copts and torch the building." They did this because a Christian girl who, according to Islamic law, automatically became a Muslim when her father converted to Islam, fled her father and was rumored to be hiding in the church. This would not be the first time in recent months that churches are attacked on similar rumors.

Collective punishment

Traditionally, if one dhimmi transgressed, all surrounding dhimmis were collectively punished. As the jurist al-Murtada writes: "The agreement will be canceled if all or some of them [dhimmis] break it"; another jurist, al-Maghili taught that "the fact that one individual (or one group) among them has broken the statute is enough to invalidate it for all of them."

Accordingly, a mob of over 3,000 Muslims attacked Christians in an Alexandrian village because a Muslim barber accused a Christian of having "intimate photos" of a Muslim woman on his phone (Sharia bans non-Muslim men from marrying Muslim women). Terrified, the Christian, who denies having such photos, turned himself in to the police. Regardless, Coptic homes and shops were looted and set ablaze. Three Christians were injured, while "terrorized" women and children, rendered homeless, stood in the streets with no place to go. As usual, it took the army an hour to drive 2 kilometers to the village: "This happens every time. They wait outside the village until the Muslims have had enough violence, then they appear." None of the perpetrators were arrested.

Since the initial attacks, and in an effort to empty the village of its 62 Christian families, Muslims attacked them again, burning more Coptic property. According to police, the woman concerned has denied the whole story, and no photos were found.

Jizya

Koran 9:29 commands Muslims to "Fight the People of the Book [Jews and Christians] until they pay the jizya [monetary tribute] with willing submission and feel themselves subdued." Although abolished under Western pressure during the colonial era, Muslim demands for jizya are back. And though it has currently not been reinstated, some Muslims have taken matters in their own hands by extorting money from Christians in lieu of jizya. (Who can forget the Egyptian preacher Abu Ishaq al-Huwaini's lament that Muslims could alleviate their economic woes if only they returned to the good old days of Islam, when plundering, abducting, and selling/ransoming infidels were a great way of making a living?) Thus, Two Christians were killed "after a Muslim racketeer opened fire on them for refusing to pay him extortion money." The local bishop said "I hold security forces and local Muslims fully responsible for terrorizing the Copts living there, who are continuously being subjected to terror and kidnapping."

Islamic Superiority

Then there is the Islamic principle that necessity makes that which is forbidden permissible. In this context, the rights of dhimmis can be trampled upon so long as an Islamic interest is served. Accordingly, in a region that is half Christian, Muslim mobs went on a rampage, attacking Copts, destroying and torching their homes and property to more screams of "Allahu Akbar." Why? Simply to prevent Copts from voting and to ensure that a Salafist (Islamist) candidate win. "No Copt from Rahmaniya-Kebly was able to vote today, so the Salafists will win the elections," descried a witness. Equally telling is that, while the population of this region is half Christian, there are 300 mosques and only one church.

Institutionalized Discrimination

Finally, perhaps nothing better demonstrates the return of dhimmitude for Copts as when the Egyptian government itself-as opposed to "radicals" or "mobs"-openly treats Christians as second-class citizens. Aside from the aforementioned "contempt of religion" cases, other anecdotes surfacing in January include a legal case revolving around the abduction of a 16-year old Christian girl. The court sided with Islamist lawyers, in a decision that Coptic activists are saying will "encourage Islamists to continue unabated the abduction of Christian minors for conversion to Islam." Similarly, rather than punishing the aggressors, the government has arrested and is trying two priests in connection with the Maspero massacre, when the military opened fire on and ran tanks over Copts protesting the constant destruction of their churches. Finally is the fact that, although Egypt's new parliament has 498 seats, only six are Copts, though Copts make up at the very least 10% of the population, and so should have approximately 50 seats.

Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Muslim Brotherhood Declares "Mastership of World" as Ultimate Goal

19 January 2012, ICC -- Although many Muslim leaders openly articulate their efforts as part of a larger picture—one that culminates in the resurrection of a caliphate adversarial by nature to all things non-Muslim—many Western leaders see only the moment, either out of context or, worse, in a false context built atop wishful thinking.

Among other things, this myopia causes virtually all Western politicians to overlook long-term threats and focus exclusively on violence and terror, the tangible and temporal—those things that may coincide with their tenure.

This narrow-sighted approach sometimes leads to absurdities, such as when Homeland Defense’s Paul Stockton, being questioned by Dan Lungren at a recent hearing, refused to agree that al-Qaeda “is acting out violent Islamist extremism,” insisting instead that the group merely consists of “murderers.” In doing so, he divorced reality from any meaningful context, thereby living up to the Obama doctrine of not knowing your enemy.

Of course, all Islamists have the same goal: the establishment of a sharia-enforcing caliphate. The only difference is that most are prudent enough to understand that incremental infiltration and subtle subversion—step by step, phase by phase, decade after decade—are much more effective for securing their goals than outright violence. Then, once in power, “they will become much more savage.”

Accordingly, thanks to the so-called “Arab spring” and its Western supporters, more and more clerics feel they are nearing their ultimate goal of resurrecting the caliphate, the capital of which is to be Jerusalem. This sheikh, for instance, recently boasted that the caliphate will soon be restored and the West will pay jizya—tribute and submission, via Koran 9:29—“or else we will bring the sword to your necks!” So too this sheikh, citing infidel Germany as an example. And of course calls for jizya from Egypt’s Christian Copts are growing by the day.

Now, consider the clear, unequivocal words of Dr. Muhammad Badi, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. According to Al Masry Al Youm (as translated by Coptic Solidarity):

Dr. Muhammad Badi, supreme leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, said: “The Brotherhood is getting closer to achieving its greatest goal as envisioned by its founder, Imam Hassan al-Banna. This will be accomplished by establishing a righteous and fair ruling system [based on Islamic sharia], with all its institutions and associations, including a government evolving into a rightly guided caliphate and mastership of the world.” Badi added in his weekly message yesterday [12/29/11]: “When the Brotherhood started its advocacy [da’wa], it tried to awaken the nation from its slumber and stagnation, to guide it back to its position and vocation. In his message at the sixth caucus, the Imam [Banna] defined two goals for the Brotherhood: a short term goal, the fruits of which are seen as soon as a person becomes a member of the Brotherhood; and a long term goal that requires utilizing events, waiting, making appropriate preparations and prior designs, and a comprehensive and total reform of all aspects of life.” The leader of the Brotherhood continued: “The Imam [Banna] delineated transitional goals and detailed methods to achieve this greatest objective, starting by reforming the individual, followed by building the family, the society, the government, and then a rightly guided caliphate and finally mastership of the world” [emphasis added].

Even so, it matters not how often and openly Islamic leaders like Badi articulate their grand agenda for the world to hear. Western leaders have their intellectual blinders shut so tight, frozen before the word “democracy”—even if "Arab spring" people-power leads to fascism (which, after all, will be someone else’s problem after they leave office).

Thus, here is former U.S. president, Jimmy Carter, who not only is “very pleased” with Egyptian elections—despite widespread allegations of voter-fraud against the Muslim Brotherhood—but, when asked if the U.S. should be concerned about the Islamist victory, said “I don’t have any problem with that, and the U.S. government doesn’t have any problem with that either. We want the will of the Egyptian people to be expressed.”

Accordingly, the Muslim Brotherhood and all its offshoots can rest assured that, so long as they do not engage in direct terrorism, they can continue unfettered on their decades-long march to resurrecting the caliphate, which—if history and doctrine are any indicators—will, in its attempt to claim "mastership of the world," be a global menace.

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(ICC) Muslim Brotherhood Declares "Mastership of World" as Ultimate Goal

http://www.jihadwatch.org/2012/01/ibrahim-muslim-brotherhood-declares-ultimate-goal-mastership-of-world.html

Article by Raymond Ibrahim

 

Religious Cleansing Happening In Nigeria? (ICC)

 ICC 19 January 2012, Nigeria -- With more than 80 Christians killed by radical Muslims since Christmas, a Nigerian church leader believes that Islamists are carrying out religious cleansing against Christians in northern Nigeria.

In an exclusive interview with ICC, the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, called upon Nigerian Christians to defend themselves from the ongoing pogrom.

The Christian leader decried the Nigerian government's failure to protect Christians from the killings and accused some security agents of taking sides. He said, "The security agencies are polarized along religious lines. Even when the security agents have information (concerning security measures to be taken against Boko Haram), some of them pass the information to these criminals. This is because some of the security agents are more loyal to their religion (Islam) than to Nigeria as a nation."

In a disturbing development, the violence has also spread to southern Nigeria where Muslims and their places of worship have been attacked in apparent retaliation for the killing of Christians in northern Nigeria. According to a report by BBC, a mosque and an Islamic school were burned down in the southern Nigerian city of Benin on January 10. Five people were killed and six were injured in violence in the city, but the report did not specify the identities of the victims.

In a direct message to Nigeria's president Goodluck Jonathan, Pastor Ayo said, "You must muster the political will to make strong decisions. Any of the heads of the security agencies that are not performing, you should remove."

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(ICC) Religious Cleansing Happening In Nigeria?

http://www.persecution.org/2012/01/18/religious-cleansing-happening-in-nigeria/

 

What would an Islamic Egypt mean? (CNN)

(CNN) 12 January 2012 -The final runoff of Egypt's first free elections in recent memory has ended and the result is clear: Islamist parties have swept the popular vote.Should the international community worry?

In every Arab country where popular uprisings have pushed dictators out of power, Islamist parties have become the most powerful political force. That has caused anxiety among progressive Arabs and a great deal of confusion in the West. After all, the uprisings that were optimistically labeled the "Arab Spring" were supposed to herald a blossoming of freedom, democracy and equality. Do Islamist parties believe in freedom, democracy and equality? ask them, you will hear a symphony of reassurances and contradictions, punctuated by an occasionally jarring declaration, as when Egypt's Salafi Nour Party proclaimed that "democracy is heresy.

"If there were a surprise in Egypt's parliamentary elections, it was the strong showing of the ultraconservative Salafis, who would like to turn the social clock back by several centuries and return to the rules that governed Muslim lands in the days of the Prophet Muhammad, about 1300 years ago.

The Salafists have proposed banning women and Christians from holding office, ending alcohol sales and cutting off the hands of thieves. They call Christians and Jews "infidels."The other electoral surprise, in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world, is just how badly liberal groups -- the ones who launched the uprisings and embrace the kind of democracy we would recognize in the West -- fared at the polls.The Freedom and Justice Party of the Muslim Brotherhood came on top in Egypt's latest election, taking about 40% of the vote. The Salafis came in second with about 25%. This means that Islamist parties captured a whopping two-thirds of the vote.

The winners will form Egypt's first democratically-elected parliament, which will choose the people who write the country's new constitution.The Salafis' extreme views have helped the Brotherhood look moderate, which is exactly the image they want to project to the West.Leaders of parties affiliated with or inspired by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood who have won elections in Tunisia and even in Morocco, where King Mohamed VI allowed elections to prevent an uprising, say they support democratic principles. When speaking to the Western media, they have especially tried to send out a reassuring message.

But occasionally they have slipped up.In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood is still trying to sort out where it stands on many issues. A case in point is the peace treaty with Israel. The group has said it has no intention of revoking the treaty. But a few days ago, the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Rashad Bayumi, told the newspaper Al Hayat that the Brotherhood would never recognize Israel, is not committed to the peace treaty and would take steps to change it.At the moment, liberal Egyptian activists are more focused on how to wrest power from the military.

But, assuming that battle succeeds, their attention will turn to what an Islamist government would mean. Both the Salafis and the Brotherhood acknowledge plans to impose Sharia, the traditional Islamic law. The difference is that Salafis want to do it immediately. The Muslim Brotherhood, which has learned patience during decades of operating underground, says it will bring it back gradually, over many years.It wasn't very long ago the Muslim Brotherhood declared it would not allow a Christian to become president.

About 10% of Egyptians are Coptic Christians, who have endured brutal attacks since the uprising that ended the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. But the Muslim Brotherhood has been steadily toning down its rhetoric. Throughout the region, the long-time leaders of Islamist organizations, which had been banned by regimes often supported by the U.S. and its European allies, are emerging as powerful politicians trying to convince the rest of the world to trust them.

Countries like Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, all need Western tourists and their hard currency. The last thing they want is to spook investors and worsen their already dire economies.In the West, some are convinced that this turn of events spells disaster. They don't believe the Islamists' claims to moderation and think they are biding their time and will eventually show their true, radical colors.

After all, the Muslim Brotherhood has deep extremist roots. One of the major figures in the organization's history, Sayid Qutb, had a passionate hatred of the U.S. and the West. His views on the Jews fed the worst anti-Semitic conspiracy theories among his followers. It's hard to imagine all of this has suddenly evaporated.And yet, the Brotherhood also has a strong pragmatic streak. While it is true that it provided the ideological fuel for al Qaeda and for the Gama'a al-Islamiya and Islamic Jihad -- the group that assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat as punishment for making peace with Israel -- it is also true that these terrorist groups emerged after the Muslim Brotherhood renounced violence.So, what do Islamists really hope to accomplish?

Washington doesn't need to wait for an answer to that question before it starts responding to this uncertain situation. In fact, it can already start helping to shape the future of the Arab world by strongly promoting the ideals it supports. The Egyptian people have not studied democracy the way Americans or Europeans have.

President Obama and his counterparts in other liberal democracies should help explain the West's vision of democratic principles and tolerance. They should talk about how democracy does not just mean majority rule; it also means protection of minorities, equality for women and for people of all religions. It means rule of law and an independent judiciary.

The West should make clear that those leaders who help preserve peace and build that vision of society in the emerging Arab democracies will have its support while those who don't will not have its backing. 

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(CNN) What would an Islamic Egypt mean?

http://edition.cnn.com/2012/01/10/opinion/ghitis-egypt-islamists/?hpt=hp_t3

Article by Frida Ghitis 

Al Jazeera top 10 stories of 2011             INcontext top stories of 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

Al Jazeera released the following report as their ten top stories of 2011.  For a full report visit:

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/spotlight/

aljazeeratop102011/

 1. The Arab Awakening

The uprising that has spanned two continents, toppled three regimes and involved millions of people is our No. 1.

2. Japan: Reeling from triple disasters

The earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown which killed around 20,000 people was our No. 2.

3. Bin Laden: US kills al-Qaeda leader

The US special forces raid in Pakistan which killed al-Qaeda's leader was our No. 3.

4. Horn of Africa: A devastating drought

The world has watched in horror as the humanitarian disaster continues to ravage 13 million people, making it our No. 4.

5. Europe's year of austerity

The bond market has achieved what elected politicians never could - a complete victory for neoliberalism in our No. 5.

6. Occupy Wall Street: 'We are the 99%'

Leaderless protest movement targeting economic inequality starts in New York and quickly goes global in our No. 6.

7. South Sudan: Birth of a new country

South Sudan's secession began smoothly with little violence but tensions have been heating up in our No. 7.

8. UK riots: London burns as anger erupts

Widespread riots across England led politicians to open a discussion about "broken Britain", landing our No. 8.

9. Palestine Papers: The secret negotiations

The leaked documents shocked the world with the minutes of secret negotiations between the PLO and Israel in our No. 9.

10. Iraq: US troops leave

The withdrawal of US troops after almost nine years has unveiled a dire situation, rounding out our No. 10 spot.

Other significant news events

11. North Korea: The 'Dear Leader' departs

Observers have no real idea where Swiss educated, untested, politically inexperienced Jong-un will take North Korea.

12. Norway: Rise of right-wing extremism

Anders Breivik wreaked havoc in Norway when he bombed Oslo's government district, then opened fire on a youth camp.

13. Ivory Coast: The brink of civil war

Laurent Gbago's refusal to step down threw the country into turmoil and onto the world stage.

14. Palestine: The quest for statehood

Palestine's bid to join the United Nations reignited international debate on the longstanding conflict with Israel.

Looking Back – 10 Significant Events That Changed the Christian World in 2011

1. MOHATTAM GATHERING

On 11 November 2011, more than 70 000 Christians in Egypt joined together in an unprecedented all night prayer meeting in Mohattam, Cairo. From a Christian perspective, this event is probably one of the most significant events on the “spiritual” calendar of 2011.

2. BIRTH OF A REVOLUTION

On 17 December 2010, Mohammad Boazizi provided the necessary spark for a situation to explode. While burning to death as he set himself alight, the flame of revolution swept across the Arab World, and within a couple of weeks 14 of the 23 nations within the Arab World were engulfed in riots. The Arab World, North Africa and the world will never be the same again.

3. COPTIC MASSACRE

On 10 October 2011, during a peaceful demonstration in Cairo, 27 Coptic Christians were killed and more than 300 injured. Estimates show that Coptic Christians have been persecuted more since the start of the revolution than in all the years during the Mubarak rule. With more than 100 000 Christians fleeing the country, the fate of the Church stands in the balance.

4. 7 BILLION REASONS

On 31 October 2011, the world population officially reached the 7 billion mark. The From a Christian perspective, the world population has increased by roughly 4.5 billion people in the last 60 years alone. During the same period however, the Church has grown with less than 1 billion new souls and 76% of this growth came from the developing world (The Atlas of Global Christianity). It is clear that the imbalance between population growth and Church growth is widening exponentially.

5. LONDON RIOTS

On 6 August 2011, London youth started riots, looting and burning shops as they protested unemployment in the United Kingdom. From a Christian perspective, we are witnessing a generation caught up in a morally collapsed society. 

6. DEATH OF A TYRANT

On 20 October 2011, Libyan rebel soldiers captured and killed former Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi. In many ways, the death of the Arab Spring coincided with the death of Muammar Gaddafi. However, Syrian leader Assad, in his refusal to step down, keeps the flame of revolution burning.

7. CHINA TO THE WORLD

On 13 March 2011, the ‘Dragonfly’ got ‘Eagle’s Wings’. Chinese leaders in China signed agreements with Mission leaders in the Gulf region to accept, mentor and disciple missionaries sent from China. This was indeed a small, private and secret event, but the consequences of China now maturing into a sending nation of note has the potential to change the Muslim World.

8. BHUTAN

18 May 2011. The Church in Bhutan has been given the option to register their churches and members or to stay unregistered and have their church meetings in secret. Even though this might seem like a positive move, the effects of such a registration could result in more persecution and hardship.

9. BIRTH OF A NEW NATION

On 9 July 2011 a new African nation was born when North and South Sudan separated, creating a clear divide between persecution and freedom.  From a Christian perspective, many Christians living in North Sudan are now moving to the South. Those who choose to stay behind in the North will pay the ultimate price.

10. YOUCEF NADARKHANI

The story of a man accused of apostasy and sentenced to death in Iran has caught the attention of the world. From a Christian perspective, Youcef has become the face of persecution in Iran, just like Asia Bibi has become the face of persecution in Pakistan. Youcef Nadarkhani has made persecution real to many western people who live in free countries. He has made persecution personal and in a very real way placed the plight of the persecuted Church on the agenda of Christians in the western world. Please go to our website to read more about this hero of faith. www.incontext.webs.com/youcefnadarkhani.htm

Neighboring countries, Imprisoned Christians, Await Outcome of New Korean Leadership (ANS)

20 December 2011 - SEOUL/PYONGYANG (ANS) -- The sudden, but not entirely unexpected passing of longtime North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, 69, not only has neighboring countries on-edge, wondering how his death will affect countries in Asia and how his successor will run the country, but also how Christians will fare under new leadership.

There are asc yet not many answers to those questions, but responses to the North Korean leader's death are pouring in, according to http://www.christianpost.com/.  

The foreign ministers of both France and Australia said that the death of Kim Jong-il could serve as a sign of hope in the country that suffers from chronic food shortages, poor infrastructure, and frequent power outages, the website said.

"It is at times like this that we cannot afford to have any wrong or ambiguous signaling. This time also presents an important opportunity to the new North Korean leadership to engage fully with the international community," said Australia's Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.

"We hope one day the North Korean people will find freedom," said France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe.

ChristianPost.com said Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who has visited North Korea as an unofficial U.S. envoy eight times, commented Monday on CNN, "The issue is going to be, will there be stability in the North Korean leadership? Will they continue their recent efforts of engaging South Korea and the United States over food aid, over nuclear talks?"

He added, "I think it's important that if the signs are positive that there's a stable succession, and we don't know that, that we engage North Korea, that we proceed with humanitarian aid."

ChristianPost.com says Communist China, one of North Korea's strongest allies, issued a statement through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs: "We were distressed to learn of the unfortunate passing of the senior-most North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and we express our deep grief about this and extend our condolences to the people of North Korea."

The Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines also issued a statement reading, "The Government and the people of the Philippines convey our condolences to the Government and people of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on the death of President Kim Jong-il."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague echoed remarks by Australia and France, saying, "This could be a turning point for North Korea."overnment and the people of the Philippines convey our condolences to the Government and people of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on the death of President Kim Jong-il."

Other countries responded to the death, saying that they hoped the unexpected loss would not increase security concerns in the region, according to the ChristianPost.com website.

"For the sake of the future of the Republic of Korea, peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula is more important than anything else," said South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

"We hope this sudden event does not have an adverse effect on the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula," said Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura.

ChristianPost.com reported the Obama administration has not said much on Kim's death, saying simply that it was "closely monitoring reports." The White House has reported that President Barack Obama spoke with South Korea's president and had reconfirmed the U.S. commitment to the region.

Kim Jong-il led North Korea with an iron fist since 1994. He inherited power from his father and founder of North Korea, Kim Il-sung. His funeral is exoected to take place on Dec.28, but it wa snot immediately known whether or not foreign diginatiers would be able to attend.


On Monday's "special announcement," the television announcer -- dressed in all black and clearly emotional -- said that the "Dear Leader" died of physical and mental overwork. It was later reported by KNCA television that he died of "severe myocardial infarction along with a heart attack."

Kim Jong Il's death adds to uncertainty about the plight of as many as one million prisoners, including many Christians, who human rights activists say are held in the Communist country's notorious concentration camps.

Kim's youngest son, Kim Jong Un, who is believed to be in his late 20's, has already been promoted to the rank of four-star general, and is believed to be North Korea's next leader in what was seen as a bid to extend the world's only Communist family dynasty to a third generation.

Sources familiar with the persecution of Christians in North Korea said it was not immediately clear what impact the changeover would have on the number of North Koreans who are imprisoned in concentration camps.

Open Doors, a group supporting persecuted Christians in North Korea said there may be as many as half a million Christians in North Korea, many of whom are practicing their faith in secret.

At least tens of thousands of Christians are believed to be among those imprisoned for their faith in political prison camps, according to Open Doors and other human rights activists. People rarely get out alive, the small number of survivors living in exile have said.

Human rights groups also say it was also not immediately clear whether a new leader would change the current ideology.

Christians often suffer as North Korea's "Stalinist system" is based on total devotion of the individual to an ideology promoted by the late leader Kim II-sung and his successor and son, Kim Jong II, said observers who visited the country.

The ideology, known as Juche, largely resembles a religion or cult, and refugees' accounts say those who oppose it are dealt with severely, often ending up in prison camps.

Refugees who are detained in China or North Korea can be sentenced to a few years in a prison camp. But if the North Korean authorities discover that the refugees have been in touch with Christians, they are dealt with much more harshly. Torture and execution often occur.

Why Are North Koreans Dramatically Weeping?

"Citizens of North Korea are brainwashed to cry dramatically at the death of Kim Jong-il, yet they can face execution if they show emotion in other instances," says C. Hope Flinchbaugh, coauthor of Out of North Korea.

As North Koreans received the news that their "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il died December 17, 2011, the rest of the world marvels at dramatic photographs and video footage of North Koreans who fall prostrate on the ground and cry uncontrollably in mourning for the fallen dictator.

Flinchbaugh said, "This week, after the passing of Kim Jong-il, North Korean citizens will be expected to show dramatic displays of grief. Yet these same citizens are forced to watch public executions but forbidden to show any sign of emotion over the execution, even if the person being executed is a family member."

Flinchbaugh is the coauthor of Out of North Korea, A Korean Boy Tells His Rescue Story in Pictures, an adult book packed with shocking pictures drawn by a North Korean boy that depict a dismal and oftentimes gruesome boyhood inside North Korea.

"Out of North Korea begs the adults in our world to hear the voice of a child-to pause for a moment to see his world through his eyes, in his pictures," says Flinchbaugh.

"As this nation reels from the passing of its leader, I hope that the world will give attention to the story of a North Korean child as told from the child's point of view-a story we can't soon forget."

A New Chapter for Human Rights in North Korea Needs To Unfold

The death of Kim Jong Il on December 17, 2011 represents a unprecedented opportunity for North Korea's new leaders, including Kim Jong-un, to turn a new page on the human rights situation in the country and put an end to widespread and systematic violations which have characterized the regime and brutalized the North Korean people for too long, said the International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK) today.

In a statement made available to the media, ICNK says the North Korean government must cease these violations, end impunity and ensure justice for countless victims.

"The leaders of DPRK should immediately put an end to practices such as forced labor, forced abortion of returnees, torture or executions, close all kwan-li-so (political prisoners' camps) and release all political prisoners and abductees," ICNK urged.

"North Korea remains a closed country and access is therefore urgently needed for independent and neutral human rights monitors, in particular the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in North Korea and international humanitarian organizations", said Souhayr Belhassen, president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

The Coalition will continue its campaign for the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry to investigate crimes against humanity that have characterized North Korea today and in the past.

"The death of Kim Jong-il opens up an opportunity which the international community should seize, to help free the North Korean people from decades of brutal oppression," ICNK said.

"While there may be a period of uncertainty and instability in the days ahead, the international community should ensure that the severe human rights and humanitarian crisis in North Korea is placed firmly on the agenda alongside security and political concerns," said Benedict Rogers, East Asia Team Leader at Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). "Action must be taken to bring an end to the regime's crimes against humanity and the culture of impunity."

The International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK) includes human rights campaigners from around the world, including Asia, Latin America, North America, and Europe. Survivors of North Korean prison camps, and their groups such as Free NK Gulag, have added their support to the Coalition.

The full statement summarizing the objectives of the ICNK is as follows:

"The International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea unites the world's major international human rights organizations, campaigners for freedom for North Korea and survivors of the North Korean gulags in a global campaign seeking a full investigation of the regime's crimes against humanity through a United Nations Commission of Inquiry.

"The Coalition aims to bring together all the key organizations and individuals working on North Korean human rights, because we believe that a common, united effort will influence international political and public opinion and send a powerful message to the regime.

"The Coalition fully recognizes the need to deploy a wide range of skills and initiatives to bring change to North Korea, and completely respects the individuality of each Coalition member. Coalition members will be free to pursue a variety of approaches, but will unite in a common campaign to seek the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry.

"Coalition members will include organizations and individuals from across the world, including throughout Asia, North America, Latin America and Europe."

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By Michael Ireland
Senior International Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

Tunisia one year on: Where the Arab Spring started (BBC)

(BBC) 19 December 2011 - The man who lit the touch-paper of revolt in North Africa exactly a year ago was no fiery revolutionary. Mohamed Bouazizi was a young fruit and vegetable seller, supporting eight people on less than $150 (£100) a month.

His ambition was to trade up from a wheelbarrow to a pick-up truck.

"On that day Mohamed left home to go and sell his goods as usual," said his sister Samya.

"But when he put them on sale, three inspectors from the council asked him for bribes. Mohamed refused to pay."

"They seized his goods and put them in their car. They tried to grab his scales but Mohamed refused to give them up, so they beat him," she said.

Whether he was also insulted and spat at by a female official is disputed, but something snapped inside the 26-year old grocer.

He went to the governor's office to ask for his goods back; the governor would not see him.

So he acquired a can of petrol, poured it over himself and lit a match.

'Wave of sympathy'

Mohamed Bouazizi was rushed to hospital in a coma with 90% burns, but his act of desperation brought angry crowds onto the streets.

There was something about his helplessness in the face of corrupt officialdom, rising prices and lack of opportunities that triggered a wave of sympathy.

Faced with brutal security forces, the protesters did not back down, they grew bolder. 

When Bouazizi died of his wounds on 5 January the rioting intensified. Hundreds were killed, hundreds more arrested.

Tunisia's President Ben Ali, a military autocrat in power for 23 years, went on television to appeal for calm.

"Unemployment was a global problem," he said.

He blamed the violence on masked gangs, calling them "terrorists".

Like so many rulers in the Arab world, Tunisia's president saw himself as a bulwark against Islamic extremism.

He believed that alone gave him carte blanche to crush anything approaching democracy.

But he under-estimated the depth of resentment his people felt at the cronyism, the corruption, economic hardship and simple bad governance.

Eulogised

Just nine days after the death of the street vendor, Tunisians heard the prime minister announce that the president was "unable to carry out his duties". 

In fact he had fled abruptly with his family, trying first to escape to France, which refused to let his plane land, then to Saudi Arabia, which granted him asylum if he gave up all political activities.

The rule of President Ben Ali was over, triggered on the face of it, by the suicidal actions of a frustrated grocer.

If Mohamed Bouazizi had never lived then something else would almost certainly have set off the so-called "Arab Spring" - this eruption had been building for decades.

But across the Arab world and beyond, his name and that of his country, is now eulogised in poems, in speeches, in songs.

The mould of unquestioned dictatorship had been broken forever. 

----------------------------------------------

article by Frank Gardner

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-16230190

Two minds over Islamist gains in election (ReutersAfrica)

(ReutersAfrica) 12 December 2011 - An Islamist surge in Egypt has left a large Christian minority divided over whether to flee the country, stay silent or reach out to a political force that seems guaranteed a major role in the country's future.

The pessimists say a revolution that began with the uprising against Hosni Mubarak in January is unravelling because many Islamists, who won a first round of parliamentary elections, have little interest in civil liberties or religious freedom.

They say pledges from Islamists to protect the Copts, the mostly Orthodox Christians whose roots go back to before the arrival of Islam in the seventh century, contradict much of their campaign rhetoric.The Muslim Brotherhood, whose party is set to take the most seats in the new assembly, has long said "Islam is the Solution" for a country where one-tenth of the population is Christian.The runners-up were ultra-conservative Salafis, whose brand of Islam reflects the strict Wahhabi ideology born in Saudi Arabia, where no other religion is permitted.

"We fool ourselves if we think the Islamists will give Christians more rights or freedoms," said 29-year-old film critic Joe Fahim, a Christian. "Many of my Christian friends fear for the future and what will happen if the Brotherhood and Salafis govern Egypt. Many are thinking of leaving the country."

HOPE IN DEMOCRACY

The Copts face a paradox of the Arab Spring, namely that more freedom for the Muslim majority can mean more pressure on a non-Muslim minority. Iraq's Christian community was shattered by Islamists after dictator Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003.

But the Arab Spring revolts were a grass-roots surge for democracy, not an invasion led by the United States, and they introduced a new political system that may help balance competing interests in Egyptian society.Coptic and liberal Muslim intellectuals say Islamist parties cannot claim victory yet with two more rounds of the election still to come. They are also divided, with the Brotherhood ready to cooperate with liberal parties but not the Salafis.These intellectuals hope the liberal Egyptian Bloc can win enough of the final vote to be a decisive player in parliament.If that fails, they are already contemplating Plan B - forge a working relationship with moderate Islamists - said Youssef Sidhom, editor-in-chief of Orthodox Coptic newspaper al-Watani.

"We have to be prepared for the day (when) we must make up our minds," Sidhom told Reuters. "Will we be satisfied with any sort of opposition, whether weak or strong, or can we take a step forward to working with each other?"Even if the Brotherhood consolidates its first-round success, he said, its desire to appear like a government-in-waiting might ensure its more moderate wing prevails.

"They know they cannot honour the responsibility that has been bestowed upon them by the people by only preaching Islamic beliefs and a fundamentalist Islamic way of life," he said.

 

DISCRIMINATION

Brotherhood officials say they want to build a modern, democratic state based on sharia, the Islamic code of morals and law. Its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) speaks of spreading the values of sharia, while insisting that followers of other faiths would be governed by their own laws on religious matters.

While some Copts say Egypt is turning into an Islamic theocracy like Iran, others say this comparison to the Shi'ite revolution there four decades ago is alarmist and unsuited to a traditional Sunni country in the era of Facebook and Twitter."We are betting on Egyptian society's vigilance and instincts that have always been against extremism," said Gamal Eid of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information.Copts have long complained of discrimination in the job market and before the law, and have reported problems getting licences to build churches.

Such grievances spilled over into street violence in the months before Mubarak's overthrow and up to 23 people were killed by a Jan. 1 blast at a church in Alexandria.Occasional clashes have erupted since the uprising and at least 25 people died in October when Christians clashed with military police in central Cairo.If the Brotherhood opts to cooperate with the Salafis in the new parliament, they could make life harder for Copts, Eid said.

"They could, for example, find it hard to get hired in certain posts or get promoted and we could also see a narrowing of the space given to Christians to publicize their feasts and celebrations in state media," he said.

 

CHURCH ACCUSED OF SILENCE

While fearing second-class status under an Islamist government, some Christians say Muslims could be bigger losers."I think the moderate Muslims will be harmed more than any other group under Islamic rule as they could find themselves forced to abide by rules that they do not necessarily want to follow," said Christian rights activist Mamdouh Ramzy.

Some Christians criticise their religious leaders for avoiding direct confrontation with the Islamists."The church is so silent," said Fahim, the film critic. "I saw a priest on an Egyptian Christian channel hosting an interview with a Salafi leader. It kind of implied that the church is sending a message to people to calm down and accept the result - accept to be ruled by Islamic laws."

Church leaders were reluctant to speak on the record as they feared stoking tension with Muslims who voted for Islamists, but said they were worried by the Brotherhood's mixed messages."The Muslim Brotherhood's leaders were not very clear about their plans," said a senior official in the Coptic church."Shortly after the uprising, they said they wanted a civil state, then they said a civil one based on Islamic laws and now they say they want a modern Islamic state. All this is so confusing and worrying."

The Muslim Brotherhood says Christian fears about an Islamist parliament are unfounded, adding that all Egyptians, regardless of religion, should be respected as citizens.Such assurances left the church official skeptical.

"I feel we are heading towards a dark tunnel and we don't know what waits at the end," he said. "But at the end, I think we will make it through. I know many Muslims are not happy with Islamists winning in the parliament vote." 

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(ReutersAfrica) Egypt Christians in two minds over Islamist gain

http://af.reuters.com/article/egyptNews/idAFL5E7N63D420111207?sp=true

Article by Yasmine Saleh 

Fears of Coptic massacre (HudsonNY)

(HudsonNewYork) 09 December 2011 - During a recent altercation in Egypt, a Christian inadvertently killed a Muslim. This incident, according to anAINA report, "turned into collective punishment of all Copts in the majority Christian village." Two Christians "not party to the altercation" were killed; others were stabbed and critically wounded. As usual, "after killing the Copts, Muslims went on a rampage, looting and burning Christian owned homes and businesses."

Despite all this, "Muslims insist they have not yet avenged" the death of their slain co-religionist; there are fears of "a wholesale massacre of Copts." Many Christians have fled their homes or are in hiding.

Collectively punishing dhimmis—non-Muslims who refused to convert after their lands were seized by Muslims, and who are treated as infidels, or "second-class" citizens—for the crimes of the individual is standard under Islam. In this instance, dhimmis are forbidden to strike—let alone kill—Muslims, even if Muslims perpetrate the conflict. Prior to the fight that killed him, the Muslim in question had, through the help of radical Salafis, burned down the Christian's home and was threatening him over a property dispute. Still, non-Muslims are forbidden to raise their hands to Muslims, even in self defense.

Collective punishment for Egypt's Christians is common. Earlier this year, when a Christian was accused of dating a Muslim woman, 22 Christian homes were set ablaze to cries of "Allahu Akbar" ["Allah is Greater"]; when Muslims made false accusations against another Christian, one was killed, ten hospitalized, an old woman thrown out of her second floor balcony, and homes and properties were plundered and torched, as documented in a report aptly titled "Collective Punishment of Egyptian Christians."

Nor are such examples limited to Egypt: when Muhammad cartoons deemed blasphemous by Muslims were published in Europe, Christians in faraway Muslim countries such as Nigeria were killed; when Pope Benedictquoted history deemed unflattering by Muslims, anti-Christian riots around the Muslim world ensued, churches were burned, and a nun was murdered in Somalia. Months ago, when an American pastor from a fringe groupburned a Koran, dozens of U.N. aid workers were killed by Muslims in Afghanistan; some were beheaded.

This practice of attacking one set of Christians as retribution for the acts of another set has roots in Islamic law. The Pact of Omar, a foundational text for Islam's treatment of dhimmis, makes clear that the consequences of breaking any of the debilitating and humiliating conditions non-Muslims are made to accept -- such as to be granted a degree of unguaranteed safety by the Muslim state -- were stark: "If we in any way violate these undertakings … we forfeit our covenant, and we become liable to the penalties for contumacy and sedition"—penalties that include enslavement, rape, and death.

As Mark Durie points out in The Third Choice, a book on dhimmitude,

Even a breach by a single individual dhimmi could result in jihad being enacted against the whole community. Muslim jurists have made this principle explicit, for example, the Yemeni jurist al-Murtada wrote that "The agreement will be canceled if all or some of them break it" and the Moroccan al-Maghili taught "The fact that one individual (or one group) among them has broken the statute is enough to invalidate it for all of them."

This approach applies to all non-Muslim groups —Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.—living among Muslim majorities. Yet, because Christians are the most visible infidel minority in the Islamic world, most examples relate to them. The Copts, for instance, are especially targeted because they comprise the largest Christian bloc in the Middle East. (Centuries before the Muslim conquests, Egypt was a major center of Christianity, and Alexandria arguably equal to Rome in authority. The result is, after centuries of persecution, there is still a viable Christian presence in Egypt—much to the Islamists' chagrin.)

Today, however, as the world shrinks—and as Muslims conflate the West with "Christianity"—the reasons to persecute Islam's Christians grow: ethnicity and geography no longer matter; shared religion, even if nominal, makes all "Christians" liable for each other.

Consider Iraq: its persecuted Christians are being targeted in part "over their religious ties with the West." Last year's Baghdad church attack, when over 50 Christians were butchered, was initiated in "retaliation" to absurd accusations against the Egyptian Coptic Church.

Just as the Copts today are cited as the reason behind the massacre of Iraqi Christians, nearly a millennium ago, so Copts were massacred when their Western coreligionists—the Crusaders—made inroads into Islam's domains. The logic was clear: we will punish these Christians (Copts), because we can, in response to those Christians (Crusaders).

It is in this context that one can understand the rationale of the jihadists behind the Baghdad church attack, when they went so far as to threaten all Christians around the world as "legitimate targets for the mujahedeen[holy warriors] wherever they can reach them."

Bold as that seems, "wherever they can reach them" simply means that it is the Islamic world's accessible, vulnerable non-Muslims—Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus—not their Western counterparts, who will continue to be targeted, even as the West looks the other way.

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(HudsonNewYork) Collective punishment under Islam

http://www.hudson-ny.org/2646/collective-punishment-islam

Article by Raymond Ibrahim 

Islamist power rises across North Africa (RLPB)

(ReligiousLibertyPrayerBulletin) 02 December 2011 - 

TUNISIA: EVIDENCE OF RADICAL IDEOLOGY SLIPS OUT

Last month, Tunisia's Islamist, long-banned Ennahda party emerged victorious winning 89 of 217 assembly seats in the first election of the 'Arab Spring'.

Ennahda has been striving to present itself as 'moderate'.

Yet on 13 November Tunisia's new Prime Minister, Ennahda's Hamadi Jebali, told a rally, 'My brothers, you are at a historic moment in a new cycle of civilisation, God willing. We are in a sixth caliphate, God willing.' With a Hamas MP by his side, Jebali declared that 'the liberation of Tunisia will, God willing, bring about the liberation of Jerusalem'.  When this upset his prospective coalition partners, Jabali simply said his words had been misunderstood and taken out of context.('Moderate' and jihadist Islamists have the same radical goal and differ only regarding tactics.) Pray for the Church in Tunisia. 

MOROCCO: ISLAMISTS WIN ELECTIONS

Last week Morocco's Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) emerged victorious, winning 107 of 395 assembly seats in the second election of the 'Arab Spring'. Though being lauded in the West as 'moderate', the PJD is the political wing of the Uniqueness and Reform movement which represents the Muslim Brotherhood in Morocco. Earlier this year, as the Middle East simmered in discontent, Morocco's ruling elite lessened the risk of mass revolt by enacting constitutional 'reforms'. According to the new constitution, Morocco is no longer a 'unitary sovereign state', but a 'Muslim sovereign state'.  And whilst clause three of the preamble was amended to include the goal of 'deepening the sense of belonging to the Arab-Islamic umma [nation/community]', clause two of article 25 that guaranteed the 'freedom of conscience' was dropped entirely. Of the Moroccans who voted, 98.5 percent approved the constitutional amendments.

Pray for the Church in Morocco. 

EGYPT: MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD

Egyptians are now voting in what is the third election of the 'Arab Spring'.

The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood's long-banned Freedom and Justice Party

(FJP) is widely expected to do well in a three-stage legislative election that began on Monday 28 November and concludes in January. There have been numerous reports of vote-buying and religious sloganeering.

Christians are mostly voting for the Egyptian Bloc list headed by the liberal Free Egyptians Party, which is strongly opposed to the FJP.  They are anxious about the future. If Islamist power rises in Egypt, the Copts will be in a very vulnerable situation indeed. Even now the media, the army, the Salafists and masses of radicalised 'loyal' Muslims are ready to subjugate the Copts as dhimmis under Islam. According to Islam, any resistance to dhimmitude may be met with jihad (slaughter). Pray for the Church in Egypt.

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(ReligiousLibertyPrayerBulletin)  Islamist power rises across North Africa

 

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 136 | Wed 30 Nov 2011 NOVEMBER 2011 UPDATE By Elizabeth Kendal

 

High turnout of voters as Egypt breaks free from the past (AlJazeera)

(AlJazeera) 30 November 2011 - Turnout in the election was reported to be high, with many Egyptians voting for the first time in their lives.

The SCAF had extended voting in the first of the three stage process for a second day to absorb the vast number of voter turnout."There is no actual or definitive estimate, but I assure you that, until now, it will go above 70 per cent. I hope it will reach more than 80 per cent by the end of the day," General Ismail Atman told Al Jazeera. 

"What we saw yesterday and today was something that exceeds what could be imagined and exceeds the whole world's expectations."
Mohamed Kamel Amr, Egypt's foreign minister, told Al Jazeera that the preliminary voting results of Egyptians voting abroad show that turnout was approximately 60 to 70 per cent across more than 100 embassies. 

Independent election monitors up until Tuesday afternoon said there had been a high turnout and one official, representing a number of monitoring groups, said that it could easily rise above 50 per cent.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday praised the "generally calm and orderly" election and hailed the country's role in the Arab Spring uprisings, his spokesperson said.Ban "commends the population and authorities of Egypt for the enthusiastic participation in this first stage of the electoral process and for the generally calm and orderly manner in which voting took place," said Martin Nesirky.

But the elections could be the start of other problems for the military.

A parliament "with a strong popular legitimacy can also in the future challenge the power of SCAF," said Karim al-Assar, an analyst with the Cairo-based independent Signet Institute.


The military council has said that it will have the authority to appoint the cabinet, rather than the parliament that is set to be elected in the elections that began on Monday.
Already, the Muslim Brotherhood, whose political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), is widely expected to do well in the legislative elections, is taking a stance that could set them on course for a row with the SCAF.


But Mohamed Mursi, leader of the FJP, said on Tuesday that a cabinet not backed by a parliamentary majority could not govern in practice - a statement that suggests his party might push for a speedier transition to civilian rule. 

"A government that is not based on a parliamentary majority cannot conduct its work in practice," Mursi said to reporters during a tour of polling stations in the working class district of Shubra in Cairo on Tuesday. 

"Therefore we see that it is natural that the parliamentary majority in the coming parliament will be the one that forms the government."

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(AlJazeera) Egyptian elections mark break from the past

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2011/11/2011112919319900697.html

Article by Malika Bilal 

Election Q & A (TheTelegraph) 

(TheTelegraph) 29 November 2011 -                                    Why are these elections important?

As the first elections since the fall of the former dictator Hosni Mubarak, they will choose a parliament to draw up a constitution. Just as importantly, they will test the political views of the Arab world's most populous country and the extent to which they are compatible with economic progress and good relations with the West.

When will we know the result?

Not for weeks. Because of the number of voters – 50 million out of a population of 80 million – the Egyptian election is being carried out in three phases, with nine of the country's 27 governorates voting for the lower house of parliament this week, nine more in the week starting December 14, and the last nine from January 3. For each governorate, there will be two days of voting, plus a third a week later for "run-offs" between candidates.

The process will start again for the upper house or Shura on January 29.

Both. In each constituency, electors vote once for a party and twice for individual candidates – who can represent a party or be independent. To make matters more confusing, the two votes have to be for a "professional" candidate and a "worker or peasant" candidate.

Why is the electoral process so complex?

Critics, of which there are many, say the interim authorities have deliberately made the process complicated so that it has less legitimacy and there will be fewer protests when the army tries to cling on to power. There may be some truth in that but some aspects of the system, such as the compulsory "worker and peasant" candidates, are hangovers from the old regime.

Who is likely to win?

Most analysts expect the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Freedom and Justice Party to win the most votes and seats, but not an overall majority, as similar parties did in recent elections in Tunisia and Morocco. The rest of the field is made up of liberals and leftists, parties which regard themselves as "moderate with a respect for Islam", and ultraconservative religious parties, but in such profusion that none is likely to get a large block of seats. Parties that have sprung from the ruins of Hosni Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party, now disbanded, may do better than many expect.

Will Egypt become an extremist Islamist country?

The Muslim Brotherhood says that it is committed to pluralist, democratic politics, and will not force anyone to pursue an Islamic lifestyle against their wishes. The FJP has appointed a Christian vice-president. But some liberals say they do not trust the Brotherhood not to impose a more radical agenda once it has been successful.

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(TheTelegraph) Egypt Elections Q&A

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/egypt/8921553/Egypt-Elections-QandA.html

Article by  

Behind the Egyptian elections

(Bloomberg) 28 November 2011 - Egyptians begin voting today in the first parliamentary elections since the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak in February. Following are facts and figures on the voting.

Timetable: Voting for the lower house of parliament takes place in three stages, corresponding to three sets of governorates. Polls open in Cairo, Alexandria and seven other provinces on Nov. 28, with a second round of voting to decide seats with no outright majority scheduled for Dec. 5. Voting in provinces including Giza, Aswan and Suez begins on Dec. 14, with run-offs on Dec. 21. The third round of voting, for the North and South Sinai and seven other governorates, takes place on Jan. 3 with a run-off on Jan. 10. Each round of voting will take two days. Final results are due by Jan. 13.

Later elections: Voting for the upper house begins in January. Egypt’s ruling military council has said it will transfer power to an elected president before the end of June, without specifying a date for the presidential vote.

Parliament: Egypt’s parliament is divided into an upper house, the Shura Council, and the lower house, or People’s Assembly.

The lower house, which is the country’s main legislative body, has 498 elected members and as many as 10 others appointed by the president.

Voting: Two-thirds of the assembly are elected using a complex, closed proportional list system via 46 multiseat districts, while the remaining third, or 166, of the members are elected via 83 two-seat constituencies. In both cases, half of the elected members must be classified as “workers and farmers” (see Eligibility, below).

Voters cast two ballots, the first for one candidate list of their choice, and the second for the two-seat constituency where they choose two candidates.

Supervision: The elections commission supervises all aspects of the poll, from registration of voters and candidates to the counting of ballots. It comprises seven of Egypt’s most senior judges. The ruling military council has said it won’t allow international monitoring of the voting but “observers” are welcome.

Eligibility: Candidates must be over 25 and have a father who is an Egyptian citizen. The clause on “workers and farmers,” a legacy of the socialist presidency of Gamal Abdel Nasser, stipulates that candidates must be registered with a labor union and not have a university degree to qualify as a worker. “Farmers” must derive their main source of income from agriculture and own less than 10 feddans (10.4 acres) of land.

Voters must be 18 or over. Members of the armed forces and police, convicted criminals, those who’ve been declared bankrupt and people in the care of mental health institutions aren’t eligible to vote. Egyptians abroad began voting via their embassies on Nov. 23.

Parties: With more than 50 parties registered by the time the election process started in September, the political spectrum in Egypt ranges from small parties formed to support a single candidate to larger groupings such as the Democratic Alliance.

Adding to the confusion for voters is the presence of politicians from the former ruling National Democratic Party, now dissolved, who are running on new platforms. One-third of seats in the upper and lower houses of parliament will be filled using a first-past-the-post system that favors candidates with strong local ties, which includes many former NDP members.

Egyptian law forbids overtly religious parties from running, hence candidates from the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest de-facto opposition group under Mubarak, run as members of the Freedom and Justice Party. Other Islamist groups have adopted nominally secular platforms.

Salafi groups, who follow a strict interpretation of Islam, have emerged from relative obscurity since the ouster of Mubarak, and are represented by a range of political parties including the Nour Party.

Many Egyptian political parties reject the labels applied to them by outside commentators, with the Freedom and Justice Party declaring it itself a civil party and others such as the Wafd Party dismissing the notion that they are “liberal.”

Wafd was born as a nationalist movement opposed to British rule and was Egypt’s most powerful party in the early decades of the 20th century. Banned following the revolution of 1952, its popularity has waned since.

An early attempt to form a Democratic Alliance across the spectrum of groups was largely undermined as secular parties including Wafd defected, leaving the alliance dominated by the Freedom and Justice party.

The Free Egyptians Party, co-founded by billionaire Naguib Sawiris, is a main member in the Egyptian Bloc alliance, which also includes Tagammu and the Egyptian Social Democrats.

Youth organizations played a key role in the uprising that led to the ouster of Mubarak, from groups such as the “We are all Khaled Said” movement that helped organize the first protests in January to the Alliance of the Youth Revolution, which brings together representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Youth Movement for Justice and Freedom and the National Association for Change, among others.

While they have retained a presence in Egyptian politics through the demonstrations Cairo’s Tahrir Square and other cities, the influence such youth movements can bring to bear in elections hasn’t yet been tested. Many have called for the postponement of voting and reform of the electoral process, amid concerns that the Muslim Brotherhood, which played little part in the earliest days of the protests, and former NDP members will have an unfair advantage in the ballot.

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(Bloomberg)  Egypt Election 2011: Facts and Figures for Parliamentary Vote

 http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-11-28/egypt-election-2011-facts-and-figures-for-parliamentary-vote.html

Article by  Digby Lidstone and Mariam Fam

Don't expect these pastors to stand up (WorldNetDaily)

(WorldNetDaily) 15 Nov 2011 - About half of all the pastors in America's churches today do not want to tell their congregations that there are forces in the world that persecute Christians for their beliefs, because it's a "downer," according to the results of a startling new poll.

The Barna Research Associatessurvey, commissioned by Open Doors USA, says a significant majority of American Christians, some three out of four, want to hear about the persecuted church.But the samestudyshowed that 52 percent of America's pastors don't want to talk about persecution and have no plans to talk about it.In the nationwide poll of more than 800 Christians,74 percent of America's churchgoers want to hear about the persecuted church.

But the same survey said only 48 percent of the pastors want to discuss the issue.Open Doors PresidentCarl Moellersays the survey shows that American Christians are not isolationists."Much of what we've been hearing from people and in my experience of speaking with people all over the country would indicate that American Christians really want to know what's happening to their brothers and sisters in Christ all around the world, particularly those that are suffering for their faith in Christ," Moeller said.

Moeller said that perception led him to commission the study."And so, we did a survey with Barna that was two parts. The first part was asking pastors when they think they might preach on persecution or the suffering church around the world," Moeller said."We had several options there, but 48 percent said they weren't ever planning on preaching about persecuted Christians. Some said they would be preaching on it sometime in the future and a few said they preach on it regularly," Moeller said.

"That 48 percent kind of stuck with me. 'Wow, 48 percent never plan to talk about the persecuted church," Moeller said.

Moeller said the story was different in part two of the study."Seventy-four percent of American Christians who go to church regularly said they would like to hear sermons from time-to-time on the suffering church or persecuted Christians," Moeller said."That was a huge gap, we thought. Almost half of the pastors in American were never planning on preaching on something but three-quarters, almost three-quarters of their congregations want to hear on it regularly," Moeller said."We thought that that was worthy of reporting back to the American press and to the American church, pastors in particular," he said."People are really hungry; they want to know, they want to pray. They want to do something, speak out, take action, on behalf of suffering Christians wherever they can," Moeller said.

Christian human rights groupInternational Christian Concern'sMiddle East Area Specialist Aidan Clay believes the problem comes from the pulpits."The persecuted church reminds us that the decision to follow Christ is all or nothing," Clay said. "It reminds us that Jesus promises persecution in the Scriptures and that the Christian life was not intended to be easy."

Clay said the reality about Christian persecution isn't popular.

"That's a difficult teaching to swallow in some American churches today that are centered on self-improvement and feel-good sermons. And, perhaps pastors fear that the topic of Christian persecution will drive complacent Christians or those who are unsure what they believe out of the church," Clay said.Clay said he's pleasantly surprised that the message of persecution has a solid impact on American Christians."However, I’ve learned when speaking to Western Christians that the opposite is true. Upon hearing the stories of the persecuted, Western Christians are enlivened, driven to prayer, and begin seeking ways to assist and raise awareness," Clay said."Even complacent Christians often find greater purpose when awakened to the harsh realities Christians face in other parts of the world. We are strengthened and encouraged when hearing the stories of Christians who remain joyful and continue to trust God after being imprisoned or even tortured for following Jesus," Clay said.

Moeller agreed, saying that sometimes persecution stories bring out the best in American churches.

"Persecution teaches us what the global church, the suffering church, has learned that maybe we've forgotten. I think that maybe there's a disconnect in this way," Moeller said."When we speak about persecution, the initial perspective that Americans have is that it's a horrible message of suffering and destruction. The straight fact of the matter is that it's actually a story of inspirational courage and fortitude and faith," he said."There's great inspiration that comes from being exposed to what the suffering church is going through. So if I can put it this way: I think American pastors are still hoping to mobilize their congregations to a level of engagement with the Gospel," Moeller said."But they have forgotten that we can be inspired, not just by clever stories about our neighborhood evangelism which can give us techniques in how to share our faith, but we can be inspired by the big story of Christ's church expanding," Moeller said.

"It's an epic story that can inspire the church to reach out," Moeller said.

Moeller added that the story of the persecuted church can teach the American church something that many other lessons cannot."Just because people are concerned about their own personallivesdoesn't mean that they can't draw strength and encouragement from those that are going through suffering," Moeller said."I like to refer to my mom who said a very wise thing to me one time. She said, 'Carl, experience is not the best teacher. Someone else's experience is the best teacher," Moeller said."In many ways, the American church is longing for the kind of personal purpose and satisfaction that comes from being deeply connected to God's plan for the world," Moeller said.

"They (American Christians) are finding a deep hunger to be connected to deep things for their own personal benefit, to grow in their faith by being inspired by the suffering church," Moeller said."I think once people understand that there are Christians who are standing firm, they want to know, 'How can I also stand firm in the struggles in my life,'" Moeller said.Clay said that some Christians even gain comfort from the stories of persecuted believers."And, there is great comfort in knowing that we are not alone, but part of the same church that was built and has endured because of the trials, sufferings and perseverance of faithful men and women before us who never gave up despite the cost," Clay said.

"Those are the footsteps that we follow. When hearing about the devotion of today's persecuted Christians, we are motivated to honor their sacrifices by living out our own faith purposefully in obedience to Scripture," Clay said.

Islam in South Africa

Dr. Daniel Shayesteh on South Africa and her loyal pious Moslems                http://danielshayesteh.blogspot.com/2011/11/south-africa-and-her-loyal-pious.html

 Once upon a time, many pious Muslim leaders could not keep quiet against the oppression and discrimination of the white government against the Native South Africans. Even though the tyranny and discrimination in their own Muslim countries had reached excessive heights, they called the ruling white government a barbaric, repressive and racist regime, and desired that one day Islam would take root in South Africa and show the world the prevailing of justice and the return of the native South African’s God-given honor, autonomy and freedom back.


Nobody but these pious Islamists knew that the guise of supporting the native Africans could give them an opportunity in the future to impose their sharia law, enslaving them to Islam. This is what you see now if you travel to South Africa and visit their restaurants and groceries. Even the water bottles are marked with the Islamic Halal logo, meaning that Muslims should not drink water bottled by non-Muslim Africans. Once these Muslims, who would not stand for the racism of the white government, and showed loyalty to the native Africans, have now forced the 98.5% of non-Muslim South Africans to follow Islam’s dehumanizing Sharia while they themselves make up only 1.5% of the South African community. At a time where 20% of the South African Government is made up of Muslim politicians, the non-Muslim South Africans are exposed as unclean souls under the banner of the Islamic Halal logo and Muslims are encouraged not to use any food products by non-Muslims – even water – that cannot be categorized Islamic or non-Islamic! Where there was once a stand against discrimination and segregation, there is now its promotion. 

It was understandable that the native African leaders appreciated what Muslims did for years in defending their rights against the authoritarian white leaders. However, these African leaders were unaware that pious Muslims could not function in the light of justice and equal opportunity. They were wolves in sheep’s clothing. They stood with oppressed people, not because of their rights, but for the establishment of Islamic Sharia, exactly what their Quran and prophet have instructed them to do:
Let not the believers (Muslims) take for friends or helpers unbelievers rather than believers: if any do that, in nothing will there be help from Allah: except by way of precaution, that you may Guard yourselves from them. But Allah cautions you (to remember) Himself; for the final goal is to Allah (Q.3:28).
The Quran tells Muslims repeatedly that they should not take as friends those outside their faith, unless it is to "guard themselves” for implementing the goal of Allah, thus the establishment of the Islamic law at the cost of all other beliefs and values.

South Africans are now treated as second class citizens by their so-called faithful, pious Muslims, and are to follow the rules of the 1.5% minority in their own land for which they themselves paid a great price. 

Did South Africa fight and suffer only to replace the white government’s suppression with the discriminating values of Islam? There is no doubt that they would not desire such a thing and would not even imagine that their closest Muslim friends would one day undermine their freedom espousing such values. Sadly, many South Africans, especially politicians, are still unaware that non-Muslims (infidels in Islam) will not be able to make a caring and loving friend of pious Muslims, since the only solution for infidelity in Islam is the dominance of Islamic law. This is why Muslims are trying to put the “Halal” logo on every food item - in order to Islamize life at all levels. Unfortunately, South Africans thought that Islam would be different in their country, and many are ignoring warning signals from experiences in the West, that Islam cannot be compatible with any democratic values.

History shows that ignorance does not result in pleasure and comfort, but in loss and suffering. To make good friends, friends who never want to impose themselves on us, we need to know their beliefs and their priorities in relationships. There have been many non-Islamic communities who believed the superficial claims of friendship by pious Muslims, without realizing that they were handing over themselves to the tyranny of Islam. What is now happening in such countries as Iran, Egypt and Lebanon, is the result of ignorance by their forefathers who failed to dig deeper and understand well.

May the Spirit of Jesus Christ touch and bless South Africans, all Muslims and non-Muslims to follow the model of Christ for friendship and peace. He did not impose Himself on others, but poured out His life for foes and friends alike. He filled them with the immeasurable extent of His care and love, even to the point of laying down His life; the crown of love among humanity. Jesus said:
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends (John 15: 13).
I close with the words of Jesus.
"The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." (Matthew 9:37, 38)

1 Year after Baghdad church massacre (ANS)(ICC)

(ANS)(ICC) 31 Oct 2011 - Monday, October 31, 2011, marks the anniversary of last year's four-hour siege on a Syriac Catholic church in that ended with al-Qaida linked militants massacring 58 worshippers. The attack was the worst against Iraqi Christians since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and enticed many of the already dwindling Christian population in Baghdad to leave the city permanently.

"We've had enough now. Leaving Iraq has become a must," Jamal Habo Korges, a Christian mechanic and father of three, told the United Nation's humanitarian news outlet IRIN. "We've been suffering since 2003 and we can't take it anymore. The latest carnage is the final warning."

Father Douglas al-Bazi, who was kidnapped and tortured four years earlier, told The Christian Science Monitor after the attack that his Chaldean parish in Baghdad had dwindled from 2,500 families in the 1990s to less than 300.

"Of course I cannot ask anyone to stay," he said. "Everyone tells me 'Father, I am sorry - I will leave.' I tell them, 'Don't be sorry, okay? No one is pushing you to die, what's the benefit of dying?'"

Iraq's Christian population prior to 2003 was estimated at one million or more. Today, fewer than 350,000 remain. Those who leave either become internally displaced - most going to the less violent Kurdish north - or flee the country altogether.

Of the two million Iraqi refugees worldwide, nearly half reside in neighboring Syria. Twenty-five percent of them are Christian according to local church leaders - a stark comparison to the four percent that made up Iraq's Christian population before the war.

Upon arrival in Syria, many Iraqi Christian immigrants have nothing more than the shirt on their backs. "Most of these families arrived with their hand bags and nothing else in their hands. It is a pitiful situation," a Syrian church leader told World Magazine. The Syrian government does not allow refugees to hold jobs or apply for residency, and does not offer public assistance for health care, schooling, or other legal services needed to file for refugee status.

Conditions are similar in Turkey, but there is generally greater optimism among refugees that eventually they will be allowed to immigrate to a western country. However, the wait period often takes two to five years and refugees, including asylum seekers registered with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), have been known to be arbitrarily deported back to their homeland by the Turkish government.

Ala'a and her family had fled to Turkey three years ago from Mosul. Her father, from a Sunni background, and mother, from a Shia background, converted to Christianity in 2005, the result of a close friendship with a local Chaldean bishop who encouraged them to read the Bible. When returning to Mosul after a trip outside the country in April 2008, Ala'a's family learned that the bishop had been murdered and their conversion had become known.

Hiding in obscure hotels and plotting their escape, a family relative eventually found them. With a knife and gasoline, he entered their hotel room, but only found Ala'a present. Pinning Ala'a to the ground, he poured petrol over his cousin's body from the neck down and lit her on fire. "I'm doing this because you're a Christian and you're going to have to marry a Christian now," Ala'a, who was only fourteen at the time, recalls him saying.

Returning to the room from an outdoor latrine, Ala'a's younger brother Muhammad found his unconscious sister on the floor and sought help. Ala'a was confined to a hospital bed for a month before she and her family could flee Mosul to Erbil and later to Turkey for refuge.

"[Our nephew] would have tried to kill the entire family if we had been home," Ala'a's father told ICC. "Thankfully, our 12-year-old son was not in the room also or he would be dead."

Ala'a's story sounds all too familiar among Iraqi Christians. Three years after Ala'a's flight from Iraq, the situation for Iraqi Christians remains the same. On August 15, the Syriac Orthodox Church of Mar Afram in Kirkuk was bombed by insurgents, making it the third time the church has been bombed in the past five years. On September 30, three Assyrian Christians and a Turkman Muslim were ransomed after being kidnapped a week earlier near Kirkuk. And, on October 1, the bodies of two Christians, Hanna Polos Emmanuel and Bassam Isho, who had been shot, were found in or near Kirkuk.

Of the hundreds of thousands of Christians who have left Iraq because of religious-based violence, few wish to return. "If all of Iraq was given to me, I would not go back. There is no life, no law," a Christian mother in the Kurtulu? district of Istanbul, which is often called 'Little Baghdad' and is populated by mostly Christian refugees, told the Turkish daily Hürriyet.

Iraqi Christians, many of whom were formerly doctors or business owners in their homeland, now wait years without employment as impoverished refugees to immigrate to a western nation. Their desperate circumstances raise the question: are western governments and agencies that are mandated to protect and support refugees doing enough? Many Iraqis reply by saying that they are not getting the help they need.

"These Assyrian [refugees] have no land to return to. Assyrians need security [in Iraq], they are not leaving for any other reason. Why is it that the West is not assisting?" Mar Dinkha IV, Patriarch of the Assyrian of the East church in Iraq, asked me in genuine disbelief. Sadly, no adequate response to his question can be given to grant Iraqi Christian refugees the consolation they need during these difficult times. 

Obama: A Second Carter for the Middle-East

Dr.Daniel Shayesteh on Islam and Freedom

http://danielshayesteh.blogspot.com/2011/03/obama-second-carter-for-middle-east.html

 

Dr Daniel was born into a Muslim family in Northern Iran. He became a radical Muslim leader and teacher of Islam in the militant Free Islamic Revolutionary Movement, closely supporting Ayatollah Khomeini. However, after falling out of favor with Khomeini’s political group, he escaped to Turkey where there began an amazing journey to faith in Jesus Christ.

Daniel's mission is to help others understand and lovingly respond to those who do not know Christ. He is also deeply concerned for the future of Western societies, their loss of confidence in Judeo-Christian values, and their persistent naivete about the implications of the world-wide Islamic revival.

 

Obama: A Second Carter for the Middle-East

 

Jimmy Carter received a Nobel Peace Prize for his great efforts in paving the way for peace and democracy in the Middle East. One of his masterpieces was a friendly approach to the Ayatollah Khomeini, who established the Islamic Republic of Iran, the same Republic which has been shedding the blood of thousands of Iranians and has become a threat to the world.

Jimmy Carter said to his fellow citizens that there was nothing to worry about the Iranian radicals of the 1979 Revolution.  Soon after this, his so called ‘peaceful Ayatollah’ took over the US embassy in Tehran and held its workers hostage for 444 days. Since then, the Ayatollah’s followers have been working diligently to attack American interests everywhere, and have even realized some of their anti-American objectives in some places via Hezbollah.

Carter has always tried to promote radicals as peaceful. His recent comment about the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is another one of his shocking 'masterpieces'. He said that there is nothing to worry about the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is the mother of contemporary terrorism.  It has given birth to Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Palestinian Liberation Army and almost all other Islamic terrorist groups in the Sunni countries.

The tolerance which Carter has shown toward radical Muslims is mind-blowing compared to his stand towards pro-democratic voices in the Middle-East. He hated the Shah of Iran, offering no help to him against radical Muslims.  Carter even rejected the Shah's requests to enter America for surgery. The Shah was a pro-Western king and America’s long standing friend in the Middle-East.

It seems that America has really been missing Carter-type peace laureates, and for that reason has handed Carter’s torch over to another Nobel Peace laureate, President Obama.

Obama has continued the task of encouraging people not to worry about radical Muslims, this time the Muslim Brotherhood, who may also, in turn, establish an Iranian-style terrorist government in Egypt. Not only does it seem to be acceptable for the Muslim Brotherhood to take government, or take part in government, in Egypt:  Obama is also trying to convince people to hold in high esteem the advances of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt’s struggle for peace and freedom.

Why are these presidents trying to teach Americans and the world to respect blood-thirsty radical Muslims? Are they trying to condition people to surrender? Are they trying to exalt the things radicals did in Iran and Lebanon in destroying secularism and democracy? Are they trying to hasten the unity of radical Muslims against Israel and the West? An interesting possibility!

Most Egyptians understand that the Muslim Brotherhood’s overriding focus is to establish Shari’a in Egypt and the world for the establishment of Islamic Imperialism: this is the dream of the Caliphate. In their own words, the Brotherhood have revealed that they cannot have peace with non-Muslims and their aim is to conquer Israel, America and the rest of the world. With their own actions they have proved they are serious about their claims. What more evidence do we need than their very own words and deeds to prove their inhumane stand towards humanity? Despite all the evidence, why do American presidents speak in favor of radical Muslims?

Americans have experienced evil things from the followers of the Muslim Brotherhood in their own homeland. There are more than enough credible documents which reveal the evil works and plans of the Muslim Brotherhood in and against America. Their followers have been pressing aggressively into all areas of American life in order to wage cultural and political warfare against its people, with the goal of eventually taking over from within, through infiltration of government agencies.

Are these presidents unaware of what the Muslim Brotherhood has done in America? Are they waiting for more to happen in order to accept the seriousness of the threat inside America itself?  One cannot help asking what is wrong with these leaders!

The problem with Obama, Carter and many other world leaders is not that they are unable to see the very obvious threats posed to their countries by radical Muslims. Their problem is hearts overcome by political correctness and dulled by relativistic and ambiguous moral standards. While a child is able to distinguish the difference between what is good and what is bad, some of our leaders hesitate and fail to do so. What do we need to do in the face of such damaging attitudes?

Let us pray that our leaders wake up to the enormity of the threats posed by radical Muslims to our countries and to the world. Let our leaders be a blessing to people rather than a curse. Let us raise our caring, prophetic and victorious voices in Christ in order to drown out the noise of hostile ones (Isaiah 25:4-5) and pave the way for the Coming King who cares for people from every nation, race and language group, including Muslims.

 

"For you have been a refuge to the poor,
   a refuge to the needy in their distress,
   a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.
When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm,
   the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place,
you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds;
   the song of the ruthless was stilled."

 

Comments on the present situation in Egypt:  by "B.A"

24 October 2011

Two days after the tragic events in Cairo one of the Mission leaders from South Africa travelled to Egypt and wrote the following report:

 

The church in Egypt is going through a very difficult time. On Sunday 9 October a large number of Christians had a peaceful march, asking for justice and fair treatment of Christians, the protection of Christians by the law and that no more churches will be burned and destroyed by the Muslims. There were a good number of Muslims that joined the march. The Christians had only crosses and no weapons. Many Muslims came and threw stones and started attacking the Christians. Many were injured. The military came with armoured vehicles and one of them just drove into the crowd and many were killed. The army opened fire on the crowd and many were wounded and killed. The media reported 25 deaths and 200 wounded, but this is not the real number. Eye witnesses saw numerous bodies, (adults and children), simply been thrown into the Nile. These people were not counted. The number of wounded people are closer to 400 than the 200 that the media reported. The media reported that one soldier has been killed by the protesters and that this incident sparked the violence. This is however totally false.

 

There is a very real and direct attack on the Christians - an open bias against Christians. Christians are currently not being protected by police or army. There are senior leaders in the country that do not put any value to the life of Christians and are very open and franc about it in the media.

 

 

Fasting for three days - God's intervention

 

Tuesday to Thursday 11-13 October 2011 Pope Shenouda of the Coptic Church called the more than 13 million Coptic Christians to 3 days of prayer and fasting. This is the first time in 30 years that the pope called for three days of prayer and fasting. The previous time was in 1981. The Christians were ordered not to have any demonstrations during these three days, only prayer and fasting. The basic prayer during this time is literally just the words: "Lord have mercy" (Kyrie Eleison). When I asked one of the priests in the Coptic Church how many people are fasting, he simply said: All of them.  Add to this Evangelicals, Catholics, Anglicans, etc. and the 8-10 million Coptic Christians outside Egypt that are also fasting and praying. There is a great expectation amongst the Christians that God will move on their behalf.

 

In 1981 the Coptic Church called for 3 days of prayer and fasting when Anwar Saddat said that he will introduce Sharia law in Egypt and make sure that within 30 years all Christians will be doorkeepers and hold only the most humble of positions in society. Within a week after the 3 day fast, Saddat was assassinated, nothing came of his intentions to introduce Sharia law and today (30 years later) nearly 50% of the money in Egypt belong to Christians.

 

In 979 a Muslim caliph in Cairo, with the name Al-Mu'iz Li Din Illah strongly oppressed the Christians. One day he heard that there is a verse in the Bible that if Christians will speak to a mountain, the mountain will move (Matt.17:20). He called pope Abram of the Coptic Church and gave him four choices: Move the mountain and the Christians will live, but if the mountain does not move they have a choice to die, to leave Egypt or become Muslims. The pope called the church to a three day fast. The evening of the third day, the pope ask St Simon the Tanner to pray and ask the Lord to move the mountain. For three days the Christians had prayed this simple prayer: "Kyrie Eleison", which means O Lord, show mercy.  There was an earthquake and the mountain moved some two kilometres. Since then till now, this mountain is called Mokattam, which means "cut".  The Caliph became a Christian and the Christians were saved. There are three reasons to believe that the story is the truth. 1. It is written in great detail in the literature of the Coptic Church. 2. The story was recorded in the historic literature of the Muslims in Egypt. 3. There is definite geological evidence that the type of stone on at the base of the mountain is not the same as that of the rest of the mountain, but that the same type of stone can be found some 2 km away from the mountain

 

Since 67 AD when St Mark planted the first church on African soil in Alexandria, the Church in Egypt suffered much persecution. Since about 650 AD the Coptic Church has been persecuted and humiliated by successive Muslim regimes. It is a church that suffered immensely. Sometimes tens of thousands were literally slaughtered in the streets of cities and towns and steams of blood were flowing in the streets. At one point in time the tongues of Christians were cut out so that they could not speak about Christ. History records an incident where a shipment of 250 000 tongues were send to Iraq. But the church is still following Christ. Sometimes the "pulse" of the church is not strong, but in the last two decades there are some definite signs of renewal and positive change in the Coptic Church.

 

Many Muslims are coming to Christ. Muslim leaders believe that there are at least one million Muslim Background Believers (MBB). The Christians however believe that the number will be closer to 2 million or more.

 

In conclusion:

1.     One man summarised it very well when he said: There is a need for blood in the nation. Revolution begets revolution. What starts in revolution, will normally birth more revolution. The revolution in Egypt brought change but it came at the price of much blood. What have been gained by revolution will have to be maintained by force and to bring any change will necessitate revolution.

2.     We have not seen the end of the revolution in Egypt.

3.     In the months and years ahead there will be an intensified battle between Islam and Christianity, an increase of violent attacks on the church and there will be more bloodshed, unless God intervenes in extra-ordinary ways. There may very well be increased violence between die fundamentalists (salafists) on the one side and the Brotherhood, the more secular Muslims and the younger generation on the other side.

21 Oct 2011 - Death of Muammar Gaddafi - Christian perspective 

 

As we received the news of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi being killed on Oct 20th, 2011, INcontext would like to give the following Christian perspective:

------------------------------------------------------ 

As the world rejoices at the death of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, we look back at the day we received the news of Osama Bin Laden's death.  Filled with sorrow we could not help but wonder: were our prayers in time? Why did we not lift these men and their families to the Lord a long time ago, knowing that God is sovereign above all. 

The death of Gaddafi is a tragedy.  The loss of any soul is a tragedy.  As Christians we can never rejoice over the death of the unsaved. 

Muammar Gaddafi, a man who dictated his will for over 40 years, oppressing his own people, yet never knowing the creator, the saviour Jesus Christ. It seems as if the knife is cutting both ways as the rebels who killed Gaddafi are just as far away from God as he was. Could we have exchanged gunfire for prayers instead?  

What does the future hold?

As the age old saying goes: “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know”. In the case of Libya it is a matter of “the tyrant we knew could possible be better than the tyrant we do not know yet”. The fact of the matter is that Libya has no history of democracy and therefore no platform to launch a new democracy. Under the rule of Col. Gaddafi there were clear borders of his tyranny and even though there was no democracy, there was a sense of stability as everybody “understood the rules”. Under a new rebel leadership the challenge will be not to fall into a destabilizing and chaotic tyranny of retaliation and reprisal.

Islamic democracy differs vastly from a western understanding of democracy and the future of Libya could turn out to be as fatal as that of Iraq and Afghanistan. The economy remains a challenge. Expectations for economic reforms will be high and, if not met swiftly, could result in more acts of violence. Libya needs economic reform as much as it needs political reform with an oil-wealth that created a distorted society.

However, a key consideration is the future of the Church in Libya. Even though only 2.6% of the population of Libya is Christian it is home to the second largest number of believers of the 8 nations in North Africa. Egypt has 10.3 million Christians and Libya is second with 171,000 Christians. It might be small in number but it is still significant in presence. Every Christian that flees the country during these troubled times means there is one witness less in North Africa. Of the 54 nations in Africa, Libya receives the 4th least number of missionaries with less than 18 missionaries for every 1 million people. The already small candle of a Church under pressure is now facing the danger of being completely extinguished.

Christians, being the minority in these regions, will ultimately be caught in the cross-fire. What will their future be? As Christians we need to keep a close eye on the revolution. We cannot afford to see the faithful brethren, who have been “fighting” for ‘liberation’ while being persecuted for their faith, be forgotten? Today, the silent revolution continues as Christians are suffering in prisons, murdered, raped and beaten for the sake of Christ. If one Arab generation could stand up and change history forever, this generation of Christians can also stand up for the 200 million persecuted believers in the world.

We ask that you continue in your prayers for Libya and the Arab world. Pray for their leaders and for the people to come to the knowledge of Christ Jesus who is able to save them.

No one dares to imagine - 14 October 2011 - Montreal gazette

Sherif Emil, a Montreal physician who left Egypt at age 17, provides the following perspective on the massacre in Egypt in the Montreal Gazette.  To read more go to: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/attacks+Christians+Egypt+crimes+against+humanity/5547173/story.html#ixzz1ajYL7mo1

 

“Last May, I wrote a long Opinion article for The Gazette on the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution. The headline, “Still waiting for an Egyptian revolution” expressed my disappointment at its results and my concern for the Islamic radicalism it had let loose on society, particularly on the Christian  minority. Describing the surge in Islamic violence, I wrote: “The Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood and the tens of millions of their supporters smell an Islamic state in the making. Only one barrier stands in their way: 10 million indigenous Egyptian Christians who have preserved their faith intact despite 14 centuries of uninterrupted suffering. And so the Islamists are accelerating their attacks that led to last week’s bloodshed, and whose end  no one dares to imagine.”

This last weekend, we were forced to imagine it. A week before, a mob had burned down a Christian church in a small southern village – the fourth incident of its kind in less than a year. The church was 60 years old, had all the valid permits from the government, and had already agreed  not to hang a cross or ring its bells. Yet that still wasn’t enough. In yet another sign of lawlessness and a drive for hegemony by radical Islamists, the governor of the province condoned the church’s destruction and refused to bring the perpetrators, who in the meantime had also destroyed several Christian homes in the village, to justice.

That was finally enough for the Christians. On Sunday, they marched peacefully in Cairo to protest and stage a sit-in in front of the national television building, whose news anchors had waged a campaign against Christians for the last several months. What followed was state-sponsored terrorism directed at the state’s own people, a crime against humanity. The army fired live ammunition into the crowds, and used  its armoured personnel carriers to mow down protesters. Thirty people were killed, and more are dying every day of serious injuries. More than 100 Christians have lost their lives to violence in Egypt since the beginning of this year alone.

On Sunday, Egyptian army soldiers were killing their own country people indiscriminately, yelling “Allah Akbar.” They were encouraging marauding gangs with clubs, machetes, and swords to capture and kill Christians. Victims were mutilated, and many corpses were riddled with bullets. Egyptian state television, now slave to a new master – Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the supreme commander of the armed forces – incited the people to come out and defend the army against the Coptic Christians. It aired interviews with soldiers and others describing Christians as “sons of dogs” and “not worthy of living.” The next morning, anchors were rationalizing this behaviour by claiming that there are more churches than mosques in Egypt.

The Egyptian official establishment – government, army and media – has evidently decided to join other elements of society in marginalizing Christians. Each Friday, sermons blasted on mosques’ loudspeakers describe Christians as infidels, foreigners, crusaders, aliens. Imams are directing their followers to boycott Christians, turn their faces away from them, prevent their children from playing with Christian children. The prime minister, Essam Sharaf, has stood and watched, unwilling to enforce existing laws against incitement of violence, let alone indiscriminate killing and destruction of property.

Does all of this sound familiar? It should.

Egypt has become a pre-genocidal society, where a segment of the population has been singled out for labelling as sub-human, unworthy of rights, unworthy of protection. The message is that Christians can be killed with impunity and their property and rights can be violated without repercussions. This is no longer just the work of Islamist groups. It has now been condoned and institutionalized by the government and the military, a military infiltrated with Islamists, a military that still receives $1 billion a year from the U.S. government. The end result that we dare not imagine is dangerously close.

Sunday’s events will quickly fade from the news – until the next massacre. But we, who thanks to television and the Internet have witnessed peaceful young Egyptians dragged, clubbed and killed, who hear the terror in the voices of our families in Egypt, who can attest to the resilience of Egyptian Christianity in the middle of unbridled hostility – we will not let this pass. We will call these incidents what they are: crimes against humanity.

We will ask Western governments to immediately cut off all aid to the Egyptian military – a military that is behaving more like a street gang than a professional army. This is no longer a time for statements, condemnations or marches. It is a time for action. This is Egypt’s last chance to step back from an intensely dark future, and it is our collective responsibility to see to it.

 

A Double-Bind Upon the Copts: dhimmitude in action

By Mark Durie

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 01:38 PM PDT

Over the weekend, violence on Cairo's streets resulting in the deaths of dozens of Copts and the wounding of hundreds more.  The killings occurred when the Egyptian military dispersed a protest against a recent incident of church destruction in Elmarinab village, in Aswan province.  Videos, including footage shown on Egyptian television, protray military vehicles deliberately running over bystanders (here and here), and another taken in a morgue shows a man whose throat had been cut.

The church destruction took place on 30 September when a mob of thousands of Muslim men went on a rampage after attending Friday prayers at local mosques in the village.  Father Salib of St George's church said that his church was destroyed, along with some homes and other property belonging to local Copts, after a local Imam told Muslims to 'take matters into their own hands' (see
here).  The trigger for the attack was officially approved renovation work on the church building, which had become so dilapidated that it had been declared unsafe (see here).  Reports indicated that the military looked on while the destruction was taking place.  Afterwards Egyptian media reports denied the incident: for example the Governor of Aswan provide went on state television to deny that the building had been a church.

Why would restoring a church have caused Muslims to be enraged?
Why would church renovations be a topic for a Friday sermon in a mosque?
Why would Egyptian military stand by and do nothing?  Or run over protestors?
Why was the attack denied and covered over by the media?

The answers are theological:  they involve Islamic political theology.

For many secular western people, the word 'theology' carries little meaning.  The term could be better rendered as 'ideology', but one which is based upon spiritual presuppositions and beliefs. 

These days many critics of Islam are stating that Islam is not a 'religion' at all, but an 'ideology'.  There are 184,000 hits on Google for the phrase "Islam is an ideology".  See for example
Geert Wilders explaining that Islam is 'not just another religion' but is 'an ideology'.

It is not necessary to turn to Islam's critics to hear this view.  An article posted by Muslim students on the Student Association website of Northern Illinois University is entitled '
Islam is an ideology'.  It explains that Islam requires that all legislation must be god-given, which means laws are to be based upon the Qur'an and the life of Muhammad (the Sunnah):  "Islam forbids for any legislation to be taken other than that contained in the Qur'an and Sunnah".  Moreover  the very practice of Islam itself requires that the state must be Islamic, for 'our worship of Allah is incomplete' without the full application of the five pillars of Islam, and each pillar "remains suspended in part while the Islamic state is not existent, as they depend upon the state for their full implementation."

What this is saying is that Islam demands that the state - indeed any state - must be regulated according to sharia law, and unless and until Islam dominates in the public sphere, Muslims will not have true freedom to practice their religion.  The Northern Illinois State University article also counts it a failure of Christians and Jews, that they have submitted to other authorities besides God (for example in a democracy, where the people have power to determine the government):  such submission is idolatry (shirk) "the very mistake that the Christians and the Jews have made until the present day."

I do not agree with those who say that Islam is not a religion.  It is a religion.  But both Geert Wilders and the Muslim Student Association of Northern Illinois University are also correct.  Islam classically demands a political realization, and specifically one in which Islam rules over all other religions, ideologies and competing political visions.  Islam is not unique in having a political vision or speaking to politics - most varieties of Christianity and Judaism have a lot to say about politics - but it is unique in demanding that it alone must rule the political sphere.

Today, the root of massive human rights abuses being suffered by the Copts is entirely theological.  Their difficulties are grounded in an Islamic vision for society which affords a clearly defined place for non-Muslims and specifically including Christians.  Not all Muslims are seeking to implement this vision, but many are, and there is no coherent alternative vision being offered to Muslims in Egypt today.

The Islamic political vision, which is the root of the Copts's sufferings, demands that non-Muslims accept a place defined for them by Sharia law.  This is the status of the dhimmi, who is permitted to live in an Islamic stated under terms of surrender as laid out in the dhimma pact.  These terms are a well-established part of Islamic law, and can be found laid out in countless legal text books (see for example
here, Ibn Kathir's commentary on Sura 9:29). 

The pact of surrender of non-Muslims is understood in Islamic law to include a series of conditions, which conquered Christians (such as the Copts) have endorsed.  For example, the
Pact of Umar, established after conquest with the Christians of Syria, stated:  

"These are the conditions that we set against ourselves and followers of our religion in return for safety and protection. If we break any of these promises that we set for your benefit against ourselves, then our Dhimmah (promise of protection) is broken and you are allowed to do with us what you are allowed of people of defiance and rebellion."

 These conditions include: 

"We made a condition on ourselves that we will neither erect in our areas a monastery, church, or a sanctuary for a monk, nor restore any place of worship that needs restoration."

The 'crime' of the Copts in Aswan province was simply that they wished to repair their church.  This is opposed by the (theological) logic of the dhimma pact, which states that non-Muslims are not allowed to repair places of worship, on pain of being treated as 'people of defiance and rebellion', from whom 'safety and protection' has been withdrawn.  In other words, such a person can be killed and their belongings plundered (because they are entitled to no protection under Islamic law).  

For some pious Muslims in Egypt today, the act of repairing a church is a flagrant provocation, a breach of the peace, which amounts to a deliberate revocation of one's rights to exist in the land.  The becomes a legitimate topic for sermons in the mosque, as the faithful are urged to use their hands to uphold the honor of Islam.  It is seen as no injustice, and even a duty, to destroy the church and even the lives of Christians who have the temerity to repair their churches.  Likewise those who go to the streets to protest church destruction are also rebels who have forfeited their rights to 'safety and protection'.

It is this theological worldview which motivates both the church destruction, and the killing of protestors by members of the military chanting 'Allahu Akbar' (Allah is greater). 

Such ideas are not new.  They are as old as Islam itself.  However for obvious reasons - the sheer offensiveness of Islam's ideological treatment of non-Muslims - the dhimma  is concealed and its provisions denied.

On the one hand the dhimma is denied by many in the West.  Emblematic of this denial was President Obama's claim in his Cairo Speech in June 2009 that "throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality".  Western denial explains the reluctance of Western media to give coverage to the present-day sufferings of the Copts, for to look too closely at the pattern of these afflictions will bring into the light of day the underlying cause, which is the dhimma.  If the dhimma must be denied, then its manifestations must be denied as well.  To do otherwise is just too threatening for comfortable Western leaders and opinion makers.  The consequences of openly acknowledging the existence and persistence of the dhimma system are just too overwhelming.
 
On the other hand, some Muslims who to varying degrees share the dhimma worldview have proved themselves to be masters of misdirection and concealment.   For example, although St George's church had official documents approving its renovation, the Governor of the Aswan Province
went on air to state that the building was a "guest home" and not a church, and the fault of the Copts was that they built it 13 meters high instead of 9 meters.  In response Father Salib of St George's said that the Governor had signed the approval for the renovations himself in 2010.  The Governor's comments are most revealing. He is in fact appealing to the dhimma worldview, because restrictions on the height of buildings are part of the dhimma pact:  non-Muslim buildings are required in Islamic law to be lower than Muslim buildings.  (Even in Melbourne, Australia, Muslims have been known to protest when they considered plans for a Christian Community Centre to be too high.)  The Governor was in fact defending the destruction of the church with reference to dhimma criteria: how dare those Christians build their church so high! How understandable that local youths wanted to tear it down!

Also when the Governor spoke of 'reconciliation' meetings between the Muslims and Christians in Elmarinab, he was indulging in a common piece of deceptive terminology for what has often turned out to be standover tactics designed to compel Christians - under threat of violence, kidnapping or destruction to their possessions - to accept that none of the attackers will be prosecuted.  Here another feature of the dhimma legal system comes into play, namely that non-Muslim testimony against Muslims is invalid in a court of law, so Christians have no effective way of bearing testimony to what Muslims have done to them.  The Governor's account must be accepted over that of the Christians because he is a Muslim and they are not.  This asymetrical view of the worth of human testimony encourages systemic abuses against the truth.

There are many other ways in which the manifestations of the dhimma are denied and concealed in Egypt.  Initial Egyptian media reports of the October 9 demonstration reported the killing of soldiers by protestors, and not the dozens of Copts who were killed.  There were also reports that the military was attacked a television station to prevent it from reporting on the killings (see
here).  Such local 'filtering' of abuses functions to confuse and dull the minds of the Western media observers.  So Western media reflects the bias of the dhimma worldview. 

It must also be acknowledged that Egyptian Muslims who act from a dhimmitude mindset vary a great deal in the degree of their commitment to the dhimma, and in the degree to which they will support an explicit revival of the dhimma.  Some Egyptian Muslim leaders have been unashamed in making public calls for full reinstatement of the dhimma system, including the disciminatory jizya tax, but many other other Muslims simply subscribe to the worldview of dhimmitude because they absorbed it as part of their mother's milk.  It just seems normal not to prosecute Muslims who attack Christians and burn their churches.  It just seems normal to disbelieve Christian testimony.  It just seems normal to rejoice that a Christian girl, kidnapped, raped and coerced into marrying a Muslim, has converted to Islam, and is now under his guardianship and cut off from her family.  Such prejudice is just normal.

 Meanwhile the Copts are in a double bind.  If they protest against the abuses brought upon their heads by the dhimma system, they are treated as rebels, and the value of their blood and possessions discounted accordingly:  the more they protest, the less right they have under Islamic law even to exist.  On the other hand, the more they acquiesce, the more voracious and emboldened their persecutors will become.  This is  what happened in Elmarinab:  after the Christians made major concessions, their radical Muslim neighbors just
demanded further concessions.

At the same time, Western praise for the "Arab Spring", and the recent waves of protest across the Middle East is giving the Copts hope that the world just might pay attention to their plight.  They are no strangers to suffering and martyrdom - endurance of persecution has run in their veins for two thousand years - but yet they are hoping the world has the moral integrity to pay attention.  They take to the streets out of the conviction that, although it should cost them their lives, they must speak out and be heard.

In this light, I do commend the Australian Coptic Community, under the leadership of Bishop Suriel, for their courageous stand, in calling on the Australian government to expel the Egyptian diplomats (see
here):

Bishop Suriel, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Australia, is demanding the expulsion of  the Egyptian Ambassador, and two Egyptian Consul Generals.  In a Statement issued today, Bishop Suriel notes:

 “Their presence in Australia is of no meaning to the Coptic community in Australia, in light of the events which have occurred in Egypt, and their subsequent failure to act in a capacity which represents the interests of both the Coptic and Muslim dynamic of the community. They have failed to take a proactive approach to advocate for the rights of the Coptic people in Egypt or to speak out against the atrocities and intense persecution the Coptic people in Egypt are facing.”

The international community will be held accountable if they do not act swiftly on the brutal attacks towards Egypt’s Coptic Christians who are suffering under a modern day form of apartheid where institutionalised discrimination and deadly attacks have a become a way of life for Egypt’s 15 million Copts.

Such a response would be timely and appropriate to the desperate injustices faced by Christians in Egypt today. 

Mark Durie is an Anglican pastor and author of The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom.

Middle East Christianity and Islamic Ideology (AsiaNews)

(AsiaNews) 19 Sept 2011From September 6 to 10 last, the 23rd European Week focusing on the life history and tradition of the Christian communities of Antiochian tradition (Maronite, Byzantine, Syriac, Chaldean, Armenian, Malankara, ... ) was held in Gazzada (VA).


These weeks are organised by the Fondazione Ambrosiana Paolo VI and the Catholic Sacro Cuore University and are held in the magnificent setting of Villa Cagnola, an eighteenth-century jewel. The specific theme was "From the Mediterranean to the China Sea. The irradiation of the Christian tradition of Antioch in Asia and in its religious universe. "

Over the course of very intense days of academic study and debate on the various Christian experiences in Turkey, Persia, Central Asia, India, China, the characteristic of the Antiochian tradition emerged, a tradition capable from the outset of communicating with the surrounding cultures and religions, along with a strong sense of Christian identity. The conference was attended by personalities and scholars from around the world. Among them, some witnesses to the current life of these churches, such as Msgr. Louis Sako, Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk, and Fr Samir Khalil Samir, an expert on Islam and professor in Beirut.

The concluding day, Sept. 10, was devoted to the situation of these churches, often subjected to severe persecution. The director of AsiaNews was asked to present a paper entitled "Islamist Ideology and situation of Christians in the Middle East", which we publish below. The Paul VI Foundation is already drafting a publication that will include all the interventions of the conference proceedings.

Radical Islam has always been present in Islam, but it has emerged in recent decades thanks to the Muslim Brotherhood (founded in Egypt in 1928) and with the support from the Saudi Wahhabi ideology. It supposes a literalist interpretation of Islam and a return to the origins of Islam - that of Mohammed and the four caliphs - as a way to reaffirm the dignity of the Muslim communities in the world.

Their enemies are the corrupt Islamic governments (almost all) the atheist and colonial West, the State of Israel, and finally Christians, often banded together with the West, although the Islamists often target the Christian communities who were present in the Middle East long before Muhammad.

The choice of violence and terrorism seen as a religious act in praise of Allah that purifies the world by destroying the enemies of Islam is linked to the Islamic world.

What weight does this interpretation of Islam have?

A survey by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion published by AsiaNews [1] March 4, 2009, showed that at least 30% of respondents in several Muslim countries - Egypt, Palestine, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Jordan and Morocco - supported the use of bombs and murder to achieve political and religious purposes.

A large majority supported the goal of al Qaeda to "push the U.S. to remove its bases and its military forces from all Islamic countries". These include 87% of Egyptians, 64% of Indonesians, 60% of Pakistanis.

Other aims of al Qaeda also received wide support. Among these, "the strict application of sharia law in all Islamic countries and the unification of all Islamic countries into a single Islamic state or Caliphate" received the support of 65% of Egyptians and 48% of Indonesians, 76% Pakistanis and Moroccans. "Keeping Western values out of Islamic countries", another of the organization’s goals gained the support of 88% in Egypt, 76% in Indonesia, 60% in Pakistan and by 64% in Morocco.

Support for figure of Osama bin Laden - still alive at the time – was more contentious With the exception of Egypt (with 44%), and the Palestinian territories (with 56%) in other countries, "positive feelings" towards him reached 14% in Indonesia, 25% in Pakistan, 27% in Morocco; 27% in Jordan, 9% in Turkey and 4% in Azerbaijan.

We can say that this mentality is still present, even after the death of Osama bin Laden. Tony Blair, former British prime minister, in an interview with the BBC (09/10/2011) said that the West "had beaten Al Qaeda militarily," but it has not yet won "from the ideological point of view."

There is therefore a discreet influence of this Islamist mindset in the Muslim world. It is enhanced by two other factors:

1) the silence of the moderate or modernizing Muslim world, that wants a reform of Islam based on a new interpretation of the Koran and Sharia law subject to universal human rights;
2) the spread of Islamist thinking through the preaching in mosques and Islamic schools.

Because of this, in recent decades Islamic propaganda has been on the steady increase in countries in the Middle East with mosques, movies, books, videos, use of the veil, the beard, the practice of Sharia law. Such propaganda has silenced the moderate voices and urged Christians to increasingly take refuge in their communities, at most resisting this new type of colonization, by remaining anchored to their tradition.

The political use of Islam was accelerated in 1979 with the Iranian revolution and the assault on the Twin Towers in New York in 2001. However, it mainly feeds on a sense of crisis that pervades Muslim communities, who feel out of place in the modern world, incapable of producing influential and desirous cultures while at the same time wanting to live their religious faith.

The (easy) option is a return to the original Islam, the religious formalism proposed by the imams, who are repeating patterns taken from the past in every aspect of life: work, daily living, gender, justice, value of women, apostasy, etc..

The governments of the Middle East, all extremely fragile, depend on aid from Saudi Arabia and suspend the already marginal political value of the Christians - a minority - often they do not defend Christians, but prefer to leave more room in society to Islam, though sometimes they appeal for society to be protected from terrorism.

The West, for its part, by supporting the cause of Israel, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, has also chosen a conflictual path in the relationship, while maintaining economic ties, and relegating cultural and religious dialogue to last place.

Not to mention the tendency in the West to blame itself for all the problems of the Arab world, attaching them to its colonial past. A West that defends sharia as an untouchable cultural element, which defends all the rights except that of religious freedom … it must be said that these positions of the West strengthen Islamism, which is convinced of the West’s "predator" and "atheist" character and he sees in the oppression of Christians ("Crusaders") a victory for these positions.

This situation of insecurity, war, cultural oppression is emptying the Middle East of Christians. Emigration is the road chosen by many, often forever.

In Lebanon, at the time of the Constitution in '46, about 60 years ago, there was a small Christian majority, compared to Muslims and Druze. Now nobody wants to do a census, but Christians have fallen below 40% (perhaps 35%). And this is undermining the country's political balance. In other countries of the region, like Turkey, we see the Christian presence in free fall: in the space of a century it has dropped from about 20% to 1%.

Some years ago the Custody of the Holy Land presented some striking data. It claims that between 1840 and 2002, the Christian population of Jerusalem fell from 25% to 2%. In 1863, Bethlehem was an almost entirely Christian city with 4400 Christians to 600 Muslims. Even in 1922 there were still 5838 Christians and only 818 Muslims. But in 2002 the City of David is home to only 12 thousand Christians, while Muslims are now 33,500.

Dr. Bernard Sabella, of Bethlehem University, a scholar of labour migration, says that since 1948 at least 230 thousand Arab Christians have left the Holy Land; since the war of 1967 35% of the Palestinian Christian population has emigrated. It is expected that in 2020, Christians will represent only 1, 6% of the total population. The unstable political situation, tensions with Israel which slow development and job prospects, the growth of Islamism among Palestinian Muslims (in a population that once was the most secularized in the Middle East); any violent incident against churches and Christian schools, especially in Gaza are all contributing factors to Palestinian emigration.


The case of Iraq

The situation of Christian communities in Iraq is even more emblematic. Since 2003, the year of the U.S. invasion and ouster of Saddam Hussein, the country has become unstable, insecure, with fundamentalist groups that fight foreign troops, but also their Iraqi "allies", Muslims or Christians.

The lack of security, the slowness with which the political alliances and governments were formed have increasingly deteriorated the situation.

In this sense, Christians have suffered the same trials and violence as other groups - Sunnis, Shiites, Yazidi, Arabs, Turkmen, etc. ..

The Christians were, however, a particular target of violence, to the point that many bishops feared the existence of a plan to rid Iraq of Christians, similar to the 1970s when there was one to drive Christians from Lebanon.

The culmination of this open persecution emerged in the Oct. 31, 2010, terrorists attack on the church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Baghdad. In the afternoon, while Sunday Mass was being celebrated, a group of youths - 14-15 years of age - fully armed with machine guns and grenades entered the church and began to shoot, detonating their grenades among the faithful gathered for the Eucharist . 55 people were killed, among them many children, women, elderly as well as two priests, along with about 70 wounded [2].

The attack was immediately claimed by the "Islamic State of Iraq", a cell of al Qaeda in Iraq. In their rambling statement, they claim that the attack was retaliation against the Egyptian Church, "guilty" of incarcerating two Christian women who wanted to become Muslim.

It is important to note that since then they say that all Christians of the Middle East have become "legitimate targets" of the war of Islam against idolatry and against the "pollution" that Christians bring to Arab culture [3], referring to the church targeted in the attack as a "dirty den of idolatry." [4]

Christians are therefore "legitimate targets" for allowing more dialogue between East and West, for having encouraged a growth in the values of modernity Arab culture, for affirming the dignity and equality of women and men, for offering education to girls, for nurturing a mature secular state, for accommodating all religious minorities.

This explains why in all these years in Iraq priests, bishops, but also lay faithful - Christian university students, male and female, university professors, professionals - have been targeted.

Al Qaeda is against the Christian faith and its contribution to the advancement of society, wanting to return the country to primitive Islam, where the woman stays at home and does not study, where there is no culture if not the literal study of the Koran, where pluralism is absent from society.

The bombing of the church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help has led many Muslim intellectuals to (re) discover the value of the Christian presence in the Middle East, and some have launched the slogan: Let us save the Christian presence in the Arab world [5].

The invitation of the Synod on the Middle East

One important coincidence is that a few days before the attack in Baghdad the Synod on the Churches in the Middle East had just concluded at the Vatican, where the importance of the presence of the Eastern Churches in the fabric of the Middle East was stressed.

And the Synod launched the urgent invitation to Christians to "remain" in the Middle East, not for masochistic voluntarism or blindness, but in the name of the vocation and mission that Christians have in these lands [6].

The Synod's invitation to "stay" was voiced by Benedict XVI to the Christians of the Holy Land, during his trip in May 2009 [7].

This "stay" is an integral part of the search for a more complete religious freedom, but also that of a constantly growing collaboration as equal citizens of Middle Eastern society.

Arab Spring

A historic occasion for the implementation of this mission is the turbulence that is crossing many countries of the Middle East.

The so-called "Arab Spring" or "jasmine revolution" that began in Tunisia and spread to Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and especially Syria.

All of these riots started because of hunger (rising food prices), unemployment, injustice, corruption. The many young people who participated in the demonstrations were asking in particular for dignity and work, but also democracy and constitutional reforms to eliminate the personal dictatorships that dominated their country for decades, enriching themselves and groups linked to them.

The demonstrations were mostly non-violent and without Islamic confessional elements. Indeed, especially in Egypt, the friendship between Christians and Muslims was openly stressed and the demand that the constitution ensure full citizenship to all the minorities remains.

It is true that the situation of greater freedom created by with the fall of dictators (in Tunisia and Egypt and now in Libya), is bringing out the highly organized Muslim Brotherhood or fundamentalist groups linked to al Qaeda, (in Libya), who make their influence felt.

It is possible that in future elections in these countries, fundamentalist forces may gain the upper hand, aided by their organization and perhaps even the ignorance and illiteracy of the masses.

The fear of a future dominated by fundamentalists has pushed and is pushing almost all the Christian leaders to see every change of regime in a negative way and to condemn the "Arab Spring".

Not so among the Christian laity, who instead are divided between advocates of change and supporters of these regimes.

The most typical example is Syria for months in revolt at first, non-violent, but now in danger of generating a civil war. The leaders of Christian churches, however, continue to defend Bashar el-Assad. In the words of Melkite Greek-Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham, "We are not afraid of Islam. We are afraid of a chaos taking over, similar to that in Iraq. " [8]

The pope, for his part, called on Christians to pray, but he also asked the parties to find ways of reconciliation, also seeing just demands in the requests of the anti-Assad protesters.

It is a critical moment of discernment for the Christians of the Near East, to augment the demands for justice with the need for order, security and freedom. And that is part of their mission and of their "staying".

Concluding this overview, it is worthwhile to at least touch on some important paths that are emerging in these times and which mark that a change is underway in the Middle Eastern world:


a) increasingly the Muslim world, including Muslim institutions, are openly condemning terrorist violence;

b) many Muslim intellectuals have spoken out in defence of Christians and their presence in the Middle East, and for their contribution to society, without which their lands would become "barbaric" and places of perpetual ethnic wars;

c) facing the threat of extinction of Christians in the Middle East, the various churches are seeking ways to collaborate and to evangelize together, e with a much more solid ecumenism than in the past (see in particular Turkey, Iraq, the Holy Land);

d) the Christian communities of the Diaspora do an excellent job in supporting religious freedom in their communities of origin, but are tempted by a singularly conflictual approach to the Islamic world, without being of real help to the mission of Christians in Middle Eastern societies;

e) the West (see the U.S. and Europe) seem less interested in a Middle Eastern solutin in justice, peace and respect for human rights. Their only concern is maintaining economic ties without any political or cultural dialogue;

f) the churches of the West are engaged in charity and in solidarity with the churches of the East, but hesitate to suggest ways of engagement in 
Middle Eastern societies inspired by the social doctrine of the Church; at the same time they fail to influence their governments to bring political and cultural pressure to bear on the Middle Eastern States.

[1] Cfr.: AsiaNews.it, 04/03/2009, Islamic countries reject al Qaeda, but also American policy. 

[2] For the massacre’s story told by the injured, s. AsiaNews.it, 11/25/2010 The martyrs of the massacre in Baghdad, a sign of unity for all Iraq’s Christians (by Simone Cantarini) and AsiaNews.it, 11/30/2010 I try to forget, but I will always see the blood stained church of Baghdad (by Giulia Mazza).

[3] Cfr AsiaNews.it, 11/03/2010 Al Qaeda threat: Christians are legitimate targets. 

[4] Cfr. CBN News, 11/05/2010, Al Qaeda Group Promises Attacks On Iraqi Christians.

[5] For all, s. AsiaNews.it, 11/13/2010 Christians in the Middle East essential for the survival of the Arab world

[6] Cfr the nn 106-110 of Instrumentum Laboris on “The Catholic Church in the Middle East:Communion and Witness”, Vatican City, 2010; the No. 5 of “Message to the People of God” (cfr. AsiaNews.it, 10/23/2010, Synod for the Middle East: a Message to the People of God ). 

[7] Cfr. AsiaNews.it, 05/10/2009, Pope prays Christ will give “his courage” to the Christians of the Holy Land

[8] Cfr. AsiaNews.it, 08/09/2011 The Pope's appeal and the fears of Christians in Syria

9/11 Remembered

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

By Wayne Pederson - Special to ASSIST News Service

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO (ANS) -- Where were you on September 11, 2001? On that 9/11, I was involved in a meeting of National Religious Broadcasters in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Erwin Lutzer was keynote speaker. As we learned of the tragic attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, we gathered the group and Dr. Lutzer began to teach of St. Augustine's "City of God" vs. the "City of Man".

This world is not our home. The City of God is real and permanent. The City of God is a heavenly and spiritual matter, as opposed to an earthly and political affair. The City of God was contrasted with and in conflict with, the city of men. But the City of God's eventual triumph is assured by divine prophesy.

Our world has changed since 9/11/01. One can't get on an airplane without thinking how our world has lost its innocence. And the attacks on our nation transformed America from the great benefactor of the world to a country fearful and suspicious of our international colleagues. Many call them "the enemy"

However, many mission organizations have chosen to not view people in these nations as enemies. Jesus taught to love our enemies and pray for those who despise us. He gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

In the last few years, HCJB Global has re-doubled efforts to proclaim the message of Christ through media and demonstrate God's love through human care.

The verse I discovered in 9/11/01 rings true this 9/11. It's Psalm 91:1. "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty."

In fact, all of Psalm 91 is a statement of God's shelter and protection. It might be good reading and reflection on this 911.

The Psalm goes on to state: "you will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day.

If you make the Most High your dwelling, even the Lord who is my refuge, then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent."

This is better than taking your shoes off before your board an airplane. This is the calm assurance that God's protection is worth more than the war on terror, or the TSA screenings.

King James Bible and the Arab Spring

7 Septemebr - From the Office of the Chief Rabbi  http://www.chiefrabbi.org/ReadArtical1760.aspx

 

The word calls us to create the freedom that honours all equality as the image of G-d

 

This week sees the 400th anniversary of the book that changed the world, the King James Bible. Not exactly, you might think, a scoop to tweet about. But I want to suggest that that moment is extraordinarily similar to what's happening today throughout the Middle East.

 

What had happened, centuries ago, was the invention of a new form of information technology – printing, developed by Guttenberg in Germany and Caxton in England. This suddenly made books cheaper and opened up, to whole populations, knowledge that previously had been the prerogative of an elite.

 

Then came the Reformation and the democratizing idea that it was each individual, not just the religious establishment, who had a personal relationship with God.

 

Putting these two developments together, people started translating the Bible into the vernacular so that everyone could read it. In England, this was done most famously by William Tyndale. The authorities tried to put a stop to this. Tyndale was arrested and put to death.

 

But it's hard to stop the tide of information once it starts flowing. English scholars fled to Geneva and produced their own version which sold in huge numbers until King James realised that what he couldn't stop he could at least control. So he assembled a team of scholars who produced their own version, a masterpiece of English prose, that owed much to Tyndale.

 

But the turbulence continued, eventually becoming a full scale revolution. James’ son Charles I was executed, and it wasn’t until the Restoration in the 1660s and the Bill of Rights in 1689 that the political storm subsided, the face of English politics permanently changed.

 

The similarities between that and the Arab spring that’s led to uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen, are many. Again the driver has been new information technology – the Internet, smart phones and social networking software. There’s been a religious revival and a challenge to the ruling elites, who find that they can no longer control the flow of information or the democratization of power.

 

Right now we’re at the beginning of the process, and if the events of four centuries ago are any guide, we’re in for a period of turbulence that may last for decades.  The outcome is likely to be, as it was then, greater liberty and more effective limits to the use of power. In the beginning was the word, and whether spread by printing or the internet, it still calls us to create the freedom that honours all equally as the image of God.

 

Can Freedom in Libya be good for Christians? (MissionNetworkNews)

(MNN) 24 Aug 2011 - Now that rebels have stormed Tripoli, there are growing rumors hinting that Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi could flee to Venezuela or Cuba.

In the meantime, the European Union welcomed the advance and called for Gaddafi to step down. Whether or not the state of Libya will remain the same over the next 72 hours is yet to be seen.

What makes this advance particularly significant in the six months of civil war is the absence of key leaders who defected over the last few weeks, leaving Gaddafi increasingly isolated. Could another assault force a reset of the conflict? That's unknown.

However, says Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs, change is likely to favor those seeking freedom, specifically, the Christians. Libya is ranked 25th on the Open Doors World Watch List, a spot earned because "there was heavy persecution, particularly of Muslim converts. There were some churches in the city of Tripoli that were allowed to be open, allowed to operate, but primarily they dealt with foreigners."

Libya adheres to Islamic law, and all citizens are Sunni Muslims "by definition." Conversion to Christianity is forbidden, and there are few native Libyan believers. Nettleton explains that "where you run into persecution is where a Muslim changes [his or her] faith and comes to Jesus Christ. Those are the people who face really heavy persecution."

The National Transitional Council is urging Libya to start an "all-inclusive" dialogue leading to democratic elections. Watchdog groups warn that the transition could bring more violence with it. Nettleton says, "There's just a lot of questions at this point, and we need to pray that Christians will be protected, that whoever ends up in government authority will provide protection, will recognize the rights of minority groups like Christians."

Currently, most Libyan Christians are forced to believe in secret and are afraid to meet with other believers. Small Christian communities do exist, mostly consisting of sub-Saharan migrants and Western expatriate workers. They've remained active throughout the longest periods of oppression. Nettleton says because of this, "In some cases, Bibles have been able to be delivered into Libya because of some of the upheaval. Maybe the border is not being as tightly monitored as in previous years. "

That's nothing new. With Gaddafi's strict control of the country, evangelism has been difficult and any Christian literature that got into the country was smuggled in. At the crossroad of change, could there be more freedom? Nettleton indicates it's too early to know yet, but "we can pray about that as well, that Scriptures will go in and that Christian work can fill some of the voids."

Given the significance of the persecution and harassment in Libya, just 3% of the population is believers. That begs the question: Is Libya home to a remnant church? Nettleton replies, "There is a vibrant group of believers that are there, that are sharing the Gospel. So while I would say a 'remnant' is a fair description, don't be confused into thinking that there aren't really bold, on-fire believers there, because there absolutely are."

As Libya looks forward to a new beginning, Christians are encouraged to "pray first, pray second, and pray third. I think at this point, because there's so much upheaval, I think prayer really is the frontline of the spiritual battle for the nation of Libya.

Riots and God

19 August 2011:  By J.John - Special to ASSIST News Service

CHORLEYWOOD, UK (ANS) -- Many people had long felt that there was something very nasty lurking beneath the placid waters of British society. The sudden, brutal and mindless violence that erupted in large parts of London and other cities over the last few days was an unpleasant demonstration that this potential for nastiness was not only real, but closer to the surface than anybody feared. Just as troubling was the realization that the police - those traditional guardians of the once secure British way of life - might be powerless to deal with it.

Even before the smoke has cleared away people are proposing reasons for the violence. It's clear that while the disturbances may have started with a particular grievance within one community, they ended up as a collective violent lashing out against any and every target, by a range of largely young people from many different communities.

It's hard to argue against the significance of some of the reasons proposed: there is an enormous and apparently growing inequality in British society, there are many young people who are alienated and hopeless and there is too much cheap alcohol. Yet to me these are all too superficial. Exactly how superficial they are was demonstrated by the way - shocking to many commentators - that many ordinary "decent" young people with jobs and responsibilities became involved in the looting and arson.

While I sorrow over this I am less surprised. As a Christian who takes the Bible seriously I am under no illusions about the human nature: we are inclined to precisely commit the sort of deeds that we have seen so graphically on the media. The reality is that breakdown in society has roots that go deeper than politics and economics.

My own diagnosis is that the nation has lost the Christian faith that, in a quiet and unnoticed way, acted as the glue that has held the British social fabric together. For two generations it has been fashionable to sneer at Christianity and to consider it unnecessary for a modern civilized society. The result has been a moral vacuum and amongst the noise of sirens and breaking glass many people heard the sound of chickens coming home to roost.

These terrible events have simply strengthened my own belief that Britain desperately needs to go back to the Maker's instructions, the Ten Commandments. It is God who encourages the poor to work hard and, whatever the injustices, to obey the law. It is God who challenges those in power to govern honestly and to give all they can to those in poverty. It is God who encourages love and care between individuals and in doing so, creates bonds between potential social divides. It is God who gives people the power to resist the temptation to go on a rampage "for kicks".

God have mercy on us.

 

 

J.John, who is a Canon in the Church of England, lives in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire in England. He is married to Killy and they have three sons, Michael, Simeon and Benjamin. J.John is a speaker with an appeal that transcends gender, age, race, culture and occupation. To date, he has completed thousands of speaking engagements in 69 countries on 6 continents. J.John has also authored several titles. For further information about J.John please visit http://www.philotrust.com/ and to follow him on Twitter: Canonjjohn (http://twitter.com/#!/Canonjjohn)

11 August 2011 - New Pew Forum Report Analyzes Religious Restrictions Around the World

Three-Year Study Finds One-Third of Global Population Experiences An Increase

 

 Washington, D.C. — More than 2.2 billion people, nearly a third (32%) of the world’s total population of 6.9 billion, live in countries where either government restrictions on religion or social hostilities involving religion rose substantially between mid-2006 and mid-2009, according to a new study on global restrictions on religion released today by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. Only about 1% of the world’s population lives in countries where government restrictions or social hostilities declined.

 

In general, most of the countries that experienced substantial increases in government restrictions or social hostilities involving religion already had high or very high levels of restrictions or hostilities. By contrast, nearly half of the countries that had substantial decreases in restrictions or hostilities already scored low. This suggests that there may be a gradual polarization taking place in which countries that are relatively high in religious restrictions are becoming more restrictive, while those that are relatively low are becoming less restrictive.

 

These are among the key findings of Rising Restrictions on Religionthe Pew Forum’s second report on global restrictions on religion. The study is part of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project, an effort funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation to analyze religious change and its impact on societies around the world.

 

Other major findings include:

 

·         Restrictions on religious beliefs and practices rose between mid-2006 and mid-2009 in 23 of the world’s 198 countries (12%), decreased in 12 countries (6%) and remained essentially unchanged in 163 countries (82%).

 

·         Among the world’s 25 most populous countries, which account for about 75% of the world’s total population, restrictions on religion substantially increased in eight countries and did not substantially decrease in any. In China, Nigeria, Russia, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Vietnam, the increases were due primarily to rising levels of social hostilities involving religion. In Egypt and France, the increases were mainly the result of government restrictions. The rest of the 25 most populous countries, including the United States, did not experience substantial changes in either social hostilities or government imposed restrictions.

 

·         The Middle East-North Africa region had the largest proportion of countries in which government restrictions on religion increased — with nearly a third of the region’s countries (30%) imposing greater restrictions. Egypt, in particular, ranked very high (in the top 5% of all countries, as of mid-2009) on both government restrictions and social hostilities involving religion.

 

·         Europe had the largest proportion of countries in which social hostilities related to religion were on the rise from mid-2006 to mid-2009. Indeed, five of the 10 countries in the world that had a substantial increase in social hostilities were in Europe: Bulgaria, Denmark, Russia, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Social hostilities involving religion have also been rising in Asia, particularly in China, Thailand and Vietnam.

 

·         Overall, 14 countries had a substantial increase in government restrictions on religion, while eight had a substantial decline. In terms of social hostilities involving religion, 10 countries had a substantial increase, while five had a substantial decline. No country rose or declined substantially in both categories over the three-year period. One country, Kyrgyzstan, showed a substantial increase in government restrictions and a decrease in social hostilities, so it was treated as having no overall change.

 

·         The extent of violence and abuse related to religion increased in more places than it decreased. The number of countries in which governments used at least some measure of force against religious groups or individuals rose from 91 (46%) in the period ending in mid-2008 to 101 (51%) in the period ending in mid-2009. This violence was wide-ranging, including individuals being killed, physically abused, imprisoned, detained or displaced from their homes, as well as damage to or destruction of personal or religious properties.

 

·         Adherents of the world’s two largest religious groups, Christians and Muslims, who together comprise more than half of the global population, were harassed in the largest number of countries. Over the three-year period studied, incidents of either government or social harassment were reported against Christians in 130 countries (66%) and against Muslims in 117 countries (59%). Buddhists and Hindus, who together account for roughly one-fifth of the world’s population and who are more geographically concentrated than Christians or Muslims, faced harassment in fewer places; harassment was reported against Buddhists in 16 countries (8%) and against Hindus in 27 countries (14%).

 

·         In proportion to their numbers, some smaller religious groups faced especially widespread harassment. Although Jews comprise less than 1% of the world’s population, government or social harassment of Jews was reported in 75 countries (38%). Incidents of harassment involving members of other world religions — including Sikhs, ancient faiths such as Zoroastrianism, newer faith groups such as Baha’is and Rastafarians, and localized groups that practice tribal or folk religions — were reported in 84 countries (42%).

 

·         Restrictions on religion are particularly common in the 59 countries that prohibit blasphemy, apostasy or defamation of religion. While such laws are sometimes promoted as a way to protect religion, in practice they often serve to punish religious minorities whose beliefs are deemed unorthodox or heretical.

 

·         In nearly three-quarters of all countries, private citizens or groups committed crimes, malicious acts or violence motivated by religious hatred or bias. Such acts occurred in 142 countries (72%) in the period ending in mid-2009, about the same as in the previous reporting period (141 countries or 71%). The number of countries that experienced mob violence related to religion rose from 38 (19%) as of mid-2008 to 52 (26%) as of mid-2009.

 

·         Religion-related terrorist groups were active in 74 countries around the world in the period ending in mid-2009. The groups carried out acts of violence in half of the 74 countries. In Russia, for example, more than 1,100 casualties resulted from religion-related terrorist attacks during the two-year period ending in mid-2009 — more than double the number of casualties recorded in the previous reporting period. This includes people who were killed, wounded, displaced from their homes, kidnapped or had their property destroyed in religion-related terrorist attacks.

 

Like the baseline report, the new study scores 198 countries and territories — more than 99.5% of the world’s population — on a total of 33 measures phrased as questions about government restrictions (government laws, policies and actions) and social hostilities (acts of religious hostility by private individuals, organizations and social groups). The study uses 18 widely cited, publicly available sources of information, including reports by the United Nations, the U.S. State Department and Human Rights Watch.

 

The full report — including a summary of results, index scores by region, results by country, the methodology and an interactive graphic showing the levels of restrictions in the worlds’ 25 most populous countries — is available on the Pew Forum’s website.

 

 

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The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life conducts surveys, demographic analyses and other social science research on important aspects of religion and public life in the U.S. and around the world. As part of the Washington-based Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan, nonadvocacy organization, the Pew Forum does not take positions on policy debates or any of the issues it covers.

15 July 2011:  Caution: Storm Approaching

By Caroline Glick:                     

It was seven months ago that Mohammed Bouazizi, a vegetable peddler in Tunisia set himself and the Arab world on fire. The 26-year-old staged his suicidal protest on the steps of the local city hall after a municipal inspector took away his unlicensed vegetable cart thus denying him the ability to feed his family of eight.

Most depictions of the Arab revolutions that followed his act have cast them as struggles for freedom and good government. These depictions miss the main cause of these political upheavals. No doubt millions of Arabs are upset about the freedom deficit in Arab lands. But the fact is that economics has played a decisive role in all of them.

In Bouzizi's case, his self-immolation was provoked by economic desperation. And if current trends continue, the revolutionary ferment we have seen so far is only the tip of the iceberg. Moreover, the political whirlwind will not be contained in the Middle East.

Most of the news coming out about Egypt today emanates from Cairo's Tahrir Square. There the protesters continue to demand ousted president Hosni Mubarak's head on a platter alongside the skulls of his sons, business associates, advisors and everyone else who prospered under his rule. While the supposedly liberal democratic protesters' swift descent into bloodlust is no doubt worth noting, the main reason these protesters continue to gain so much international attention is because they are easy to find. A reporter looking for a story's failsafe option is to mosey on over to the square and put a microphone into the crowd.

But while easily accesible, the action at Tahrir Square is not Egypt's most important story. The most important, strategically consequential story is that Egypt is rapidly going broke. By the end of the year, the military dictatorship will likely not only default on Egypt's loans. Field Marshal Tantawi and his deputies will almost certainly be unable to feed the Egyptian people.
Some raw statistics are in order here.

Among Egypt's population of 80 million, some 32 million are illiterate. They engage in subsistence farming that is too inefficient to support them. Egypt needs to import half of its food from abroad.

As David Goldman, (aka Spengler), reported in Asia Times Online, in May the International Monetary Fund warned of the impending economic collapse of non-oil exporting Arab countries saying that, "In the current baseline scenario the external financing needs of the region's oil importers is projected to exceed $160 billion during 2011-13."

Goldman noted, "That's almost three years' worth of Egypt's total annual imports as of 2010."

Since Mubarak was overthrown in February, Egypt's foreign currency reserves have plummeted from $36bn to $25-28bn. Last month Tantawi rejected an IMF loan offer of $3bn. claiming he would not accept any conditions on the loans. Instead he accepted $4bn in loans from Saudi Arabia and another $2.34bn from the Gulf States.

And still, Egypt's foreign currency reserves are being washed away. As Goldman explained, the problem is capital flight. Due in no small part to the protesters in Tahrir Square calling for the arrest of all those who did business with the former regime, Egypt's wealthy and foreign investors are taking their money out of the country.

At the Arab Banking Summit in Rome last month, Jordan's Finance Minister Mohammed Abu Hammour warned, "There is capital flight and $500 million a week are leaving the Arab world."

According to Goldman, "Although Hammour did not mention countries in his talk... most of the capital flight is coming from Egypt, and at an annual rate roughly equal to Egypt's remaining reserves."

What this means is that in a few short months, Egypt will be unable to pay for its imports. And consequently, it will be unable to feed its people.

EGYPT IS far from alone. Take Syria. There too, capital is fleeing the country as the government rushes to quell the mass anti-regime protests.

Just as Egyptian and Tunisian protesters hoped that a new regime would bring them more freedom, so the mass protests sweeping Syria owe in part to politics. But like the situation in Egypt and Tunisia, Syria's economic woes are dictating much of what is happening on the ground and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Last month Syrian President Bashar Assad gave a speech warning of "weakness or collapse of the Syrian economy." As a report last month by Reuters explained, the immediate impact of Assad's speech was capital flight and the devaluation of the Syrian pound by eight percent.

For the past decade, Assad has been trying to liberalize the Syrian economy. He enacted some free market reforms, opened a stock exchange and attempted to draw foreign investment to the country. While largely unsuccessful in alleviating Syria's massive poverty, these reforms did enable the country a modest growth rate of around 2.5% per year.

In response to the mass protests threatening his regime, Assad has effectively ended his experiment with the free market. He fired his government minister in charge of the economic reforms and put all the projects on hold. Instead, according to a report this week in Syria Today, the government has steeply increased public sector wages and offered 100,000 temporary workers full-time contracts. The Syrian government also announced a 25% cut in the price of diesel fuel at a cost for the government of $527 million per year.

Boasting foreign currency reserves of $18bn, the Syrian regime announced it would be using these reserves to pay for the increased governmental outlays. But as Reuters reported, the government has been forced to spend $70-80 million a week to buck up the local currency. So between protecting the Syrian pound and paying for political loyalty, the Assad regime is quickly drying up Syria's treasury.

In the event the regime is overthrown, a successor regime will face the sure prospect of economic collapse much as the Egyptian regime does. And in the event that Assad remains in power, he will continue to reap the economic whirlwind of what he has sown in the form of political instability and violence.

What this means is that we can expect continued political turmoil in both countries as they are consumed by debt and tens of millions of people face the prospect of starvation. This political turmoil can be expected to give rise to dangerous if unknowable military developments.

POOR ARAB nations like Egypt and Syria are far from the only ones facing economic disaster. The $3bn loan the IMF offered Egypt may be among the last loans of that magnitude the IMF is able to offer because quite simply, European loaners are themselves staring into the economic abyss.

Greece's debt crisis is not a local problem. It now appears increasingly likely that the EU is going to have to accept Greece defaulting on at least part of its debt. And the ramifications of Greek default on the European and US banking systems are largely unknowable. This is the case because as Megan McArdle at The Atlantic wrote this week, the amount of Greek debt held by European and US banks is difficult to assess.

Worse still, the banking crisis will only intensify in the wake of a Greek default. Debt pressure on Italy, Ireland, Spain and Portugal which are all also on the brink of defaulting on their debts will grow. Italy is Europe's fourth largest economy. Its debt is about the size of Germany's debt. If Italy goes into default, the implications for the European and US banking systems - and their economies generally -- will be devastating.

The current debt-ceiling negotiations between US President Barack Obama and the Republican Congressional leadership have made it apparent that Obama is ideologically committed to increasing government spending and taxes in the face of a weak economy. If Obama is reelected next year, the dire implications of four more years of his economic policies for the US and global economies cannot be overstated.

DUE TO the economic policies implemented by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu since his first tenure as prime minister in 1996, in the face of this economic disaster, Israel is likely to find itself in the unlikely position of standing along China and India as among the only stable, growing economies in the world. Israel's banking sector is largely unexposed to European debt. Israel's gross external debt is 44 percent of GDP. This compares well not only to European debt levels of well over 100 percent of GDP but to the US debt level which stands at 98 percent of GDP.

Assuming the government does not bend to populist pressure and take economically hazardous steps like reducing the work week to four days, Israel's economy is likely to remain one of the country's most valuable strategic assets. Just as economic prosperity allowed Israel to absorb the cost of the Second Lebanon War with barely a hiccup, so Israel's continued economic growth will play a key role in protecting it from the economically induced political upheavals likely to ensue throughout much of the Arab world and Europe.

Aside from remaining economically responsible, as Israel approaches the coming storms it is important for it to act with utmost caution politically. It must adopt policies that provide it with the most maneuver room and the greatest deterrent force.

First and foremost, this means that it is imperative that Israel not commit itself to any agreements with any Arab regime. In 1977 the Camp David Agreement with then Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in which Israel surrendered the strategically invaluable Sinai for a peace treaty seemed like a reasonable gamble. In 2011, a similar agreement with Assad or with the Palestinian Authority, (whose budget is largely financed from international aid), would be the height of strategic insanity.

Beyond that, with the rising double specter of Egyptian economic collapse and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power, Israel must prepare for the prospect of war with Egypt. Recently it was reported that IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz has opted to spread over several years Israel's military preparations for a return to hostilities with Egypt. Gantz's decision reportedly owes to his desire to avoid provoking Egypt with a rapid expansion of the IDF's order of battle.

Gantz's caution is understandable. But it is unacceptable. Given the escalating threats emanating from Egypt - not the least of which is the expanding security vacuum in the Sinai -- Israel must prepare for war now.

So too, with the US's weak economy, Obama's Muslim Brotherhood friendly foreign policy, and Europe's history of responding to economic hardship with xenophobia, Israel's need to develop the means of militarily defending itself from a cascade of emerging threats becomes all the more apparent.

The economic storms may pass by Israel. But the political tempests they unleash will reach us. To emerge safely from what is coming, Israel needs to hunker down and prepare for the worst.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.  ARTICLE LINK: <http://www.carolineglick.com/e/>

19 June 2011 - Salafi Muslims' Agenda behind Christian Persecution in Egypt

By Jeremy Reynalds - Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

EGYPT (ANS) -- A recent spate of violence in Egypt, mostly incited by conservative Salafi Muslims after President Hosni Mubarak's downfall, has left over 24 killed, more than 200 wounded and three churches destroyed.

According to a report by the World Evangelical Alliance's Religious Liberty Commission (WEA-RLC), the perception of threat to Christians is so severe that many of them are reportedly seeking to move out of the country.

WEA-RLC said while for the youth and moderate Muslims of the country the Jan. 25 uprising was about democratic freedoms, the Salafis who had been inactive for decades quickly saw it as an opportunity to push an Islamist agenda.

Sectarian violence, mostly against Coptic Christians, escalated amid a debate on the role of religion in politics that began following the departure of Mubarak and picked up pace after the announcement of a referendum to adopt an interim constitution (mainly amendment to the 1971 constitution) paving the way for a democratic election.

WEA-RLC said the bone of contention was Article 2 of the previous constitution which stated that Islam was the state religion and legislation must be based on the principles of Islamic law. Although this article was retained in the draft constitution and insulated against the voting, there was still apprehension.

WEA-RLC said Islamists thought if Egyptians were to reject the draft constitution, a new one would have to be drawn up from scratch which might not include the content of Article 2. Liberal Egyptians, who see Islam mainly as a form of private faith, feared that the retention of the Article could lead to discrimination against Coptic Christians and other minorities - more than they experienced during Mubarak's regime.

In the March 19 referendum, WEA-RLC said, a majority said "yes" to the amendments and the interim constitution was adopted. However, the debate is not over yet. The Salafist struggle for the formation of a more conservative state carries on.

WEA-RLC said Salafis read the Quran literally, and try to maintain a lifestyle that replicates early Islam in the days of Mohammed. They follow the salaf, Muhammad's 7th century companions, and reject later movements as heresy. They believe in banning alcohol, the "mixing of sexes" and Christian worship. It is believed that they are being guided and funded by their counterparts in Saudi Arabia.

Before Mubarak's departure, WEA-RLC said, Salafis would do little more than preaching and were known for dismissing democracy as un-Islamic - but they would not call for a revolt. But now things are different.

WEA-RLC said Salafis seem to have concluded that it is easier to establish an Islamic state through elections. They have founded a political party, Al Nour, and backed the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's most organized political group, during the March 19 referendum for the interim constitution.

In April, when Egypt's military establishment, now the new government, appointed a Christian as the new governor of the Qena Governorate to replace the previous official who was also a Christian, the Salafis protested, saying a Christian could not be given authority of Muslims. They demanded that a Muslim governor be appointed.

In March, WEA-RLC said, a Salafi leader, al-Hosseini Kamal, a suspected terrorist, had cut off the ear of a 45-year-old Christian Coptic man, Ayman Anwar Mitri, in Qena. Kamal was one of the thousands of terror suspects who were released from detention after the revolution.

WEA-RLC said the provocations of the Salafis seem to be aimed at mobilizing Egyptian Muslims. Doing so is the easiest and fastest way to gain support from conservative sections of the Muslim community.

WEA-RLC said the Salafis cannot be expected to do well in the parliamentary election expected in September, but its sectarian activities are helping other religious groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, which claims to be a moderate Islamist party and promise equality to Coptic Christians, to garner support.

WEA-RLC said the Salafi violence makes the Muslim Brotherhood appear more mainstream, more tolerant and a saner option to the voter at a time when other political groups are still struggling to organize themselves.

Salafi leaders have also said they would partner with the Muslim Brotherhood to field Islamist candidates for the election.

One of the reasons why Salafi violence is not being dealt with strictly is that it is helping the military leaders, who, WEA-RLC said, have been eyeing increased financial aid from the United States in the wake of Mubarak's downfall. Any possibility of an Islamist party coming to power makes Washington nervous and therefore more generous towards to transitional government.

WEA-RLC said giving in to pressure by the protesting Salafis, the military government on April 25 announced on national television that Qena's new (Christian) governor's appointment had been stayed for three months and the deputy governor, a Muslim, would temporarily act as the governor.

According to WEA-RLC, this sent a wrong signal to the Salafis that they can arm-twist the government, which claims it can no longer curb any "public" rally, lest it be seen as "authoritarian."

There are many other obstacles.

WEA-RLC said Egypt's media has been co-opted by the Salafis as they are being covered widely and their voices featured in news which further emboldens them. Some newspapers and news channels go to the extent of reporting on rumors which often result in violence.

Laws that help Islamists to incite violence also remain intact, WEA-RLC said. Egyptian law makes it difficult for Christians to build places of worship while Muslims can construct theirs without much regulation. As a result, many new churches use their buildings officially meant for other purposes for worship which causes tensions. Also, the authorities use Article 98(f) of the Penal Code, the blasphemy law, to restrict evangelism efforts.

In addition, WEA-RLC said, the Salafis are not an officially organized group without any provision for membership. Therefore, dealing with the movement is difficult, as only the individuals held responsible for an action can be prosecuted, which, too, happens rarely. Moreover, values such as secularism, justice and freedom are seen as "Western imperialism," and therefore difficult to promote.

In addition, sectarian violence mostly takes place in regions where poverty prevails and where most people follow their religious leaders almost blindly - particularly in provincial towns in southern Egypt.

WEA-RLC said while there are always triggers of violence, the causes of the divide among sections of majority Muslims and minority Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 80 million people, are rooted in history. Christianity in Egypt predates Islam but by the 10th century, the Christians were reduced to a minority.

While the "Hamayouni Decree" brought some equality in 1856, discrimination against the Christians returned with the Nasser Revolution of 1952 and remained in place for decades.

Solutions to the problem of sectarianism should be sought keeping these complexities in mind, WEA-RLC said.

Primarily, WEA-RLC said, the transitional government should be encouraged to ensure institutional equality for the minorities. Washington, WEA-RLC said, is currently best positioned to do so by linking its aid to sincere political and economic reforms and human rights and freedoms.

The Egyptian government must be asked to prevent the Salafis from receiving funding from abroad and enjoying impunity, WEA_RLC said. In addition, an effort should be made towards an institutional protection for Christians before the election. If it is left to the regime that comes following the election, which is likely to be dominated by Islamists, there will be little hope for equality.

WEA-RLC said military rulers should also be urged to engage the country's elite - politicians, the intelligentsia, Islamists, and Coptic leaders - in discussions to address grievances and persuade them to refrain from any provocation. The government has made attempts earlier, but not wholeheartedly.

Let us help prevent conditions that can cause an exodus of Egypt's Christians, the WEA-RLC report concluded.

The World Evangelical Alliance's Religious Liberty Commission works to help individuals and groups pray for, and act on, religious liberty issues around the world.

Six divides in a post revolution Egypt

A reflection on the situation in Egypt, 3 months after the revolution

The first impression one gets, driving through the streets of Cairo, is that life is back to normal.  There are one or two subtle indications that things have changed but for the untrained eye life in Cairo is as chaotic as ever.  The first observation is the red capped military police that replaced the previous black and white uniformed police.  Then the posters catch the eye.  Strategically placed along the road to Alexandria are pictures depicting the 25 January “day of Anger” as a victory for the Egyptian People.  Posters proclaim the message by Pres. Barak Obama  that teenagers in the USA should be trained to follow the example of young people in Egypt.  The most obvious change however is the absence of tourists.  The pyramids are empty and vendors turned into vultures as they struggle to survive.  But, generally, from the outside, life is back to normal.

 

The word from the inside however paints a different picture.  Fear and hope are mingled into expectations and predictions.  Different groups share different perspectives and the divide is evident as truths are shaped by perceptions, promises and expectations.  Predictions mostly depend on hope and not on reality. 

 

The only certainty at the moment is the uncertainty about the future and the division between different groups and different classes.  Anyone who dares to make a prediction now would be slightly arrogant and hopelessly unrealistic.

 

There are six divides in what seems to be an already divided society. 

 

  1. The religious divide

Firstly there is the religious divide.  Christians and Muslims radically differ in their expectations for the future.  Most Muslims are optimistic about the future with a defiant faith that things will dramatically improve after the September 2011 elections.  Who can blame them, they have nothing to lose.  There is no doubt that the leadership in a new Egypt will be Muslim. The only question is how radical.  But even for a moderate Muslim, radical Islam will not necessarily be worse than the rule of Mubarak.

 

In a conversation held with a Salafist, the message was quite clear; “Praise be to God!  This is our hour.  This is what we have been waiting for.”  These comments alone should cause concern for every non-Salafi, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

 

Adherents of Salafi ideology believe in the strict imitation of religious standards practiced by the prophet Muhammad and his close circle of followers in the seventh century AD. They oppose religious innovations, usually dubbing opponents as infidels, a doctrine known as takfir, be they Muslim or non-Muslim. The zealous Salafi movements are currently challenging not only pro-Western regimes like the Hashemite Jordanian monarchy but also devoutly Islamic ones like Hamas in Gaza and the Wahhabi regime of the Al-Saud dynasty in Saudi Arabia.

For the Church, this prospect of a radical group such as the Salafi or the Muslim brotherhood in control of Egypt is a matter of life and death... literally.   When we met with a prominent Christian leader from Cairo he shared that thousands are leaving the country after the revolution, mostly Christians.  There are fears that things will get worse and sporadic incidents of Christians being stopped and harassed and Churches being attacked adds fuel to these rumours.   We asked him about his view on current events.  “I am a man of peace brother.  I still have a simple belief that God is in control.  I see opportunities and know we need to be here to make a difference here. But the opportunities equal the challenges and we need to be ready when things get worse.  However, we do have golden opportunities now regardless of the future and we need to use them.”

 

In our final meeting with one of the leading Bishops in Upper Egypt these comments were confirmed “We face the new challenge of migration” he said “Copts never left Egypt because of persecution or martyrdom.  For the first time in our history Christians are fleeing the nation by their thousands.  This will be devastating to the Christian community, not only in Egypt but to the whole Arab world.  .”

 

Our meeting with an MBB revealed similar thoughts but greater fears were evident.  “After the revolution the Salafist movement is very prominent and we are getting new threats on our lives.  Now is not a good time to be a MBB.  We estimate that there are more than 3 million secret believers in Egypt and a new rise in fundamentalism will not bring any improvement.  Probably the opposite”

 

  1. The Christian divide

But even within the Christian community there is a divide as well.  There seems to be different perspectives between two sides and are generally, but not always, between the Evangelical Church and the Coptic Church.  Since the 25 January revolution mainly Coptic Churches were attacked with a number of Copts being killed.  It seems like the small minority of Evangelical believers (<1% of the population) is currently escaping sporadic attacks and are therefore far more optimistic about the future.  Coptic Christians are concerned about a lawless society without the presence of police that results in attacks and persecution.  The Muslim Brotherhood is more prominent in society after the fall of their oppressor, Mr.Mubarak and still demands that Egypt is rule under Islamic law.  It is especially the Coptic believers of Upper Egypt that face the greatest challenge.

 

  1. The generational divide

Thirdly there is also a generational divide.  When you talk to the young people in Egypt you get a sense of hope, an uncompromising belief that things can ONLY get better.  Nobody under the age of 30 has ever known a leader besides Mr.Mubarak.  Any change will be a good change whether it is or not.  It was the young generation that initiated the revolution through the social media and it will depend to a large extent on their optimism to make a NEW Egypt a reality.  It is after all their future that is at stake.

 

The older generation are less optimistic and cautious of a new oppressor replacing and old oppressor.  Years of hardship has led to a decrease in hope and an increase in Sinicism.  Who can blame them? 

 

  1. The geographical divide

A fourth divide is found between the mega pole of Cairo and the isolations of villages in the south of Egypt.  In Cairo there is a sense of purpose as Christians and Muslims joined in a common cause.  Even though Christians form a minority they are more visible and the people are generally more tolerant.  In Upper Egypt villages are isolated, people are vulnerable and Christians a minority.  “It only takes a spark” remarked the one Bishop... “and it only takes one comment or one instigation to provide that Spark.  Churches are being attacked and Christians are being harassed on a daily basis.  We are facing challenging times at the moment.  It is worse now than before the revolution.”

 

One of the leading Bishops in Upper Egypt shed a new light on current events and future predictions.  “The 2nd in charge of AlQeda will be returning to upper Egypt soon.  This does not predict a good future for us as Christians.” 

 

  1. The social divide

But there is also the social divide.  When you talk to the vendor in the street his anger explodes as he reflects on a lawless society where there is no police, no hope and no future.  “We want Mubarak back” he shouts  “At least when Mubarak was here there were tourists and we had food.  We were protected by the police and we could do our business.  Today we have no tourists, no safety, no food and future”

 

Wealth always provides more options in times of change and the wealthy can use a new leadership to serve a new future.  The poor have very little scope to deal with transition.  It will only get worse.

 

  1. The Academic divide

The challenge for those who live simple lives in rural areas is not to be manipulated into radicalism that will steer the country into further disaster.  “Our only challenge at the moment is to get rid of ignorance” said Gabriel.  “It is ignorance that make people believe everything they are told and then make wrong decisions as to future leaders”

 

Academics are more involved in the process of securing a stable society but unfortunately it will not be their votes that ultimately decide the outcome.  The masses are vulnerable and easy to manipulate. 

 

What does the future holds?  Only God knows.  What do people predict?  It mainly depends who you are, where you live and what you believe.  A young Muslim graduate from Cairo will disagree with an elderly Coptic believer from Upper Egypt. 

 

But there are some points of agreement.  Firstly, there is a new boldness amongst Christians of all denominations in Egypt.  Opportunities are seized like never before.  An SMS sent from one of the leading Coptic Bishops in Cairo to Christians across Egypt perhaps sums it up best: “Share the resurrection of Christ with Muslims today!  Pass this SMS to everybody you know!”  “This is unprecedented in Egypt” our friend commented.  “We would never have the courage to do this in the past”. 

 

Secondly there is also an agreement that these opportunities will be met with challenges and that the future could change dramatically.   

BUT all agree that there will always be hope. 

 

How can we pray?

A leader supplied us with 5 specific prayer points to assist us in praying for the region.

  1. For clear Christian ethics in the lives of Christians in Egypt.  That their lives will testify of a living Christ through love, forgiveness and care
  2. For unity.  Not only unity in the Church but unity in humanity, between all peoples.  This can be life changing for the Church in Egypt
  3. For a clear understanding that the fight is not against flesh and blood but against the principalities of darkness
  4. To strengthen the body of Christ in Egypt.  In the body white cells will rush to the area of need.  This needs to happen in the body of Christ
  5. Lastly, more a request than a prayer, help people understand the challenges of Egypt without creating fear  or anger

Who is navigating our societies? (Daniel Shayesteh)

The whole Middle-East is on the verge of falling into the hands of blood-thirsty radicals because of our leaders’ so-called humanitarianism. Our leaders are approaching radicals in the name of humanitarianism, but these radicals are taking this as an opportunity in strengthening their stronghold against the West.

In our last update, I expressed my concerns over Carter’s and Obama’s positive views about the revolutionary movement of the Muslim Brotherhood, the radical Islamic group in Egypt. They held the view that the Muslim Brotherhood was a powerless minority, with no major influence in Egypt and a friendly and peaceful opponent to the ruling government. President Obama placed considerable pressure on the Egyptian dictator, Hosni Mubarak, to step down and hand over the leadership to various opposing parties for the establishment of a democratic Egypt. He believed that if Hosni Mubarak stepped down, Egypt would have a healthier political future. The majority of American media supported Obama’s approach to Egypt. Some western politicians were even a step ahead of Obama, expressing their desire to build a positive relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood for the establishment of a peaceful Egypt. Now, we can see the result of such ignorant optimism; it has been paving the ground for the pro Hamas and al-Qaida radicals to penetrate the future government and destroy what remains of peace in the area. Similar foreign policy was also pursued by the West concerning Gaza and Lebanon which both fell into the hands of terrorist groups of Hamas and Hezbollah! Now, Egypt is preparing itself for a theocracy and unity with Hamas, thus establishing itself as a direct threat to Israel and the West. The same scenario is on the screen in various Islamic countries and the ground is ripe for radicals’ takeover.

It is greatly perplexing to see the decisions of our leaders in the Middle East throughout the past few years. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, they have served the enemy with further opportunities for the establishment of more radical Islamic governments.  It is such politicians as these who are the navigators of our societies. They have closed their eyes to the radical president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has turned Iran into a slaughterhouse and a serious threat to Israel and the West. They did not force the government in Sudan to step down despite massacring Christians and countless innocent victims in the south for thirty years. Yet, the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, who had been a friend to the West, fought radical Muslims, had been a barrier to Iran in equipping the terrorist governments of Hamas and Hezbollah, had to leave.

This irresponsible foreign policy should be recorded down in history as a shameful Western failure. In comparison to Ahmadinejad, Mubarak had not oppressed his own nation to the same extent as Iran’s and Sudan’s dictators. This is truly mind-blowing that in the name of democracy our leaders are placing pressure on the least dangerous leaders in Islamic countries and opening up the leadership for a vicious dictatorship!

Since the rise of Islam, the leadership in the Middle-East has always been either a totalitarian nightmare of radicals, or a nationalistic military dictatorship of moderate patriots that also fought radicalism to some extent. Maybe our leaders are not aware that there is not a third option for democratic leadership in the Islamic countries. Democratic leadership had not worked in that region as Islam is not compatible with democracy. You cannot establish democracy in a community that is founded on totalitarianism in every aspect of life. How can our leaders establish their trust in the revolutionary Muslims, who believe that democracy belongs to hell, against less radical Muslim leaders? Are they willfully disregarding the fact that revolutionary Muslims have turned Iran, Lebanon, Gaza (Palestine in general), Sudan (now northern) and Somalia into hubs of terrorism? Why are they pushing the relatively secular Islamic governments to step down and give way to their radical Muslim citizens? In the name of equal opportunity and a so-called humanitarian approach, our leaders have been supporting radicals and even pouring millions of their tax-payers’ dollars into some Islamic states (one example is Gaza) only to have that support turn against our societies.

Not only do our leaders lack an effective policy in fighting revolutionary and terrorist Muslims, but with their irresponsible words and actions, they have even been the cause for the continued growth of radicalism and unity among radicals who are preparing themselves for war against Israel. The war, as the Bible has predicted in Ezekiel 38 & 39, is unavoidable, but, it is heart-breaking to see that some of our leaders have served the cause of this war rather than fighting against it.

Middle-Eastern countries are preparing themselves for such a destructive war. Sadly, the destructive nature of this war will also ensnare those countries whose leaders have, intentionally or unintentionally, been providing the opportunity for the strong establishment of radicalism.

Let us cry to the Lord to anoint servant and Christ-like leaders for our societies, leaders who do not compromise with evil ones and do not hide them from the sight of their people for the sake of political correctness or personal gain. Let us cry to the Lord so that He comes and protects our lands from the destructive war of Islam. Let us humble ourselves in the presence of God, as He says: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 KJV).

Church Planting Movements Among Muslim Peoples

March 01, 2011 by Kevin Greeson:  http://www.missionfrontiers.org/issue/article/church-planting-movements-among-muslim-peoples

 

Kevin Greeson, a veteran missionary church-planter among Muslims, is author of The Camel: How Muslims Are Coming to Faith in Christ! Greeson currently serves as the Southern Baptist International Mission Board’s strategist for South Asian diaspora people groups.

 

Church Planting Movements Among Muslim Peoples

Some historians have described the spread of the gospel as if it were a divinely driven wind that has swept through history. They contend that what began in Jerusalem blew westward across Europe until it reached the Atlantic and then continued to the Americas. In the 18th and 19th centuries the gospel wind crossed the Pacific, and last century swirled through the cities and provinces of China. China’s recent “Back to Jerusalem” (B2J) house-church movement anticipated the next direction the gospel wind would blow as they followed it into the Muslim world. Today, a growing number of Christians are riding this wind across the Muslim world.

When I began working among Muslims in 1997, I knew of only two church-planting movements (CPMs) among Muslim people groups. By 2010, we could identify at least 25 Muslim populations that had seen at least 1,000 baptisms and/or 100 churches planted over the previous decade. Of those 25 movements, a dozen reported more than 3,000 baptized former Muslims, some as many as 300,000 converts from Islam. At least 16 of these movements appear to be church planting movements in the fullest sense of the word.

 

Why the sudden increase in Muslims coming to faith in Christ and new church-planting movements? Of the 25 movements mentioned above, I have been personally involved, primarily as a “player coach,” with six of them. In this article, I will share insights and lessons from these six movements.

Between December 1999 and May 2002, these six emerging church-planting movements saw approximately 4,500 Muslims come to faith in Christ and baptism and 315 new house churches formed. By 2009, each of these six movements has surpassed 2,000 baptisms.

 

The largest of the six movements has seen 7,290 baptisms with 545 new house churches. Prior to the outbreak of the movement, missionaries had worked among Muslims in this country for 30 years. Though they experimented with some contextualized approaches for engaging Muslims, their efforts yielded little fruit, with only a handful of Muslim-background converts. What were the changes that brought about a movement?

No one can say that God is at work more now than he was 20-30 years ago. Nevertheless, stories of Muslims having dreams that lead them to pursue Jesus are more prevalent today than what was being reported years earlier. The attacks of 9/11, as Muslims saw themselves portrayed as members of a terrorist religion, also rattled the conscience of the Muslim society.

 

Other key factors were the 1998 publication of a contextualized Muslim-friendly Bible, followed soon after by a contextualized Jesus Film. Both used terminology that was more intelligible to Muslims rather than the earlier translations that reflected non-Muslim worldviews and vocabulary. In 1999, the contextualized Jesus Film played on national television during the Christmas season, prompting 22,000 responses to Campus Crusade. Evangelists soon began using contextualized gospel presentations to Muslims. All these factors ushered in a new season of harvest that greatly exceeded what missionaries experienced in the previous three decades.

 

Another crucial influence on the emergence of the movement came as my colleagues and I were exposed to evangelism and church planting unfolding in another region of the country that was reporting 20,000 Muslim baptisms. The methods used by these indigenous MBBs differed from those that had characterized traditional missionary efforts over the past two to three decades.

 

Breakthrough Lessons Along the Way

We learned many lessons along the way. In February 1999, a national Baptist pastor and I began work in a remote district where no known previous mission work among Muslims had been attempted. The first baptisms took place in December of that same year, and we discipled new believers in an abandoned fish-processing factory. We placed one of the new believers who showed leadership abilities over the emerging movement. By 2006 the movement saw over 1,200 baptisms in 47 house churches. As early as 2005, though, signs of stagnation were visible, and by the end of 2007 growth had stopped. Growth to this point had been dependent on the leader’s abilities and he had reached his limits. It was then that we realized that we did not have a reproducible discipleship plan.

 

In 2007, I introduced the Muslim-background leader to a fellow missionary who had adapted a T4T1 type of training program that incorporated high accountability and immediately trained new believers to tell their story of how they came to faith in Christ. This missionary had already seen several thousand Hindus come to faith and continue their training to several generations of new believers. The leader knew this was what the Muslim-background CPM needed as well.

 

My national Baptist partner approached the 47 churches in his association with an offer of CPM training, but only three churches agreed to do it. In 2008, my partner made a bold move to disassociate himself from the other 44 churches and run the training with the three cooperating churches. In 2009 alone, they saw 2,680 new MBB baptisms with multiple streams of 2rd generation house churches. The combination of the bold move to distance himself from the 44 unwilling churches and the addition of the high accountability T4T training was like pouring kerosene on a fire. The CPM today has doubled its size since 2009 and is spreading its training program all over the country.

 

The issue of legal identity for new Muslim-background believers (MBBs) was the second lesson for us to learn. The answer to this crisis was the formation of government-registered societies. One such society is called, “Way of Life.” In their legal rules of incorporation, to be a member of “Way of Life” one must believe that Jesus is the only Savior and that the Bible is the true Word of God. These societies provide new believers with an identity that distinguishes them from “Western Christianity.”  Becoming a member of “Way of Life” minimizes the confusion associated with the title, “Christian.”2 In addition, not every Muslim is immediately ready to drop their Muslim identity and identify as “Christian.” Though persecution is not eliminated with this strategy, everyone in the six CPMs continues daily to face insults, rejection, physical beatings, and isolation, but becoming a member of “Way of Life” has diminished persecution, providing MBBs an easier way to explain their new belief to their Muslim friends and family members. Rather than explaining who they are NOT, they begin with who they have become.

 

Finally, I did not realize beforehand how much I would struggle with my own fear and security. Consuming the mission community for decades was the notion that if a missionary’s work was too visible, it would result in his expulsion by the government. We decided to take the risk. For a year and a half, we led a large number of high profile volunteer teams from the U.S. into a new area. We systematically distributed tracts and Bibles along every highway; we rode bicycles down village roads, and even paddled down small rivers. One of these outings resulted in a late night knock on the door of the place where we were staying. Under the cover of darkness, a Muslim seeker was seeking us out. Three months later, this Person of Peace along with 18 others were baptized. Within one year, this emerging movement experienced explosive growth with three hundred baptisms from the Muslim community.

 

In a village less than an hour’s drive away, our volunteer team walking from village to village encountered a young Muslim man who gladly received our witness and a Bible. Later, this young man came to faith in Jesus and started 24 churches in that area among his family and friends over a two-year period of time. Today, this Church Planting Movement has close to 4,000 baptized Muslim-background believers with 560 house churches and is reaching into distant countries with their own missionaries. During this high visibility period of time I did not face any visa problems with the government as previously feared.

 

An overly cautious security level that goes unchallenged for years can be costly to the goal of finding Muslim seekers who have the potential of starting movements. We may have access to highways and waterways, but there remains a roadway that we will never be allowed to travel. This young Muslim man traveled down his own oikos3 roadway and saw incredible fruit. The risk of losing my visa was worth it to gain access to this young MBB. I learned that, in a sense, the Person of Peace is looking for us as much as we are looking for him. If we are hidden beneath a platform or covered with fear of losing our visas, we may miss meeting that Person of Peace. Without that meeting, movements never begin.

 

New believers typically imitate the security level of those who win them. Even if we do win a Person of Peace, if he adopts the extremely high security level of the foreign missionary he will not lead to a movement. 

The level of security floating around the mission community for several decades, and that I was indoctrinated into when I first entered the country, was built on a foundation of exaggerated stories. Granted, security concerns and platform issues are real, and my intention is not to belittle this serious matter. The lesson for me, though, came down to the fact that I had been asking the wrong question. I was asking, “What’s it going to take to stay in the country?” instead of asking, “What’s it going to take to find Persons of Peace who can start movements?” Both questions are legitimate, but for me the second question transformed our ministry and our results.

 

What future breakthroughs await us?

God is full of surprises and continues to reveal effective strategies that he is willing to bless. From my perspective, we are in urgent need of breakthroughs in three main areas.

 

First, the number of secret believers4 among Muslims appears to be staggering. One CPM I worked with maintains very careful record keeping of secret believers they encounter. They reported 53,890 secret believers over the past nine years. Most of these secret believers are waiting for a critical mass of believers to form within their community before they are willing to come out of hiding. Missionaries need new strategies that will reach behind closed doors to disciple these secret believers.

 

Second, we are seeing an unprecedented emergence of Internet and satellite TV ministries that are opening new avenues to Muslims who were previously inaccessible to the gospel. Internet ministries are seeing remarkable numbers of professions of faith. Global Media Outreach, for example, reports some “22,000 indicate receiving Christ every day - one every 6 seconds.”5 In the Arabic-speaking world, no one has had a greater impact with Muslims than the Coptic priest Zakaria Boutros who has seen thousands of Muslims respond to his gospel and apologetic message.6 Other media ministries such as Sat/77 and Arabic language al-Hayat8 are also seeing a growing number of Muslims come to faith.

 

Finally, with the emergence of Muslim-background church-planting movements, we must find creative ways to mobilize these movements to send out their own missionaries. Recently, I helped a Muslim-background CPM leader visit five members of his movement who were working as migrant laborers in a distant country. During his visit, he challenged these laborers to see themselves not as secular migrant workers, but rather as missionaries. He commissioned them to start new churches. Within two weeks they had baptized eight Muslims and formed a church; another seven Muslim converts await baptism. These diaspora MBBs may represent the next direction that the gospel wind is blowing.

markdurie.com blog : The Dhimma Time Warp Returns for the Copts of Egypt  

Posted: 11 Apr 2011 11:33 PM PDT

In recent weeks a series of incidents in Egypt give evidence that, post-Mubarak, the Copts are being pressured to assume the time-warped status of dhimmis, a captive people in their own native lands, whose status is to be tightly circumscribed by traditional sharia law.

The ancient dhimma pact, which determined the status of non-Muslims after Muslim conquest and occupation, includes specific regulations limiting the construction, repair and maintenance of churches, as well as the public display of religious symbols and public performance of rituals.  Muslim legal authorities based these regulations on the model of the Pact of Umar, a treaty attributed to the second Caliph, ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab, around the time of his conquest of Syria in 634-638.   A version of this pact can be found in Ibn Kathir's highly respected commentary on the Qur'an (see
here), from which various quotations below are taken.

Now, 1400 years later, a
series of assaults on churches in Egypt have demonstrated the enduring power of this piece of paper to control the lives of Middle Eastern Christians today.

In one incident, Muslim radicals occupied the entrance to the church of St John the Beloved in the village of Kamadeer, praying and sleeping there, while thousands of local Copts stages a sit-in in front of the governor's offices in Minya, demanding the return of their building. 

Why would Muslims not want Christians to use their church?  The explanation can be found in the Pact of Umar.  Back in the 7th century, the Christians of Syria agreed, as a condition of their surrender, that they would not build or repair any churches:

When you (Muslims) came to us we requested safety for ourselves, children, property and followers of our religion. We made a condition on ourselves that we will neither erect in our areas a … church …  nor restore any place of worship that needs restoration

In the Pact of Umar, Muslims also were given the right to occupy churches if they wished:

We will not prevent any Muslim from resting in our churches whether they come by day or night...

The Muslims who have occupied the church in Kamadeer this past week did so because they objected to a plan to repair it.  As Mary Abdelmassih for the Assyrian International News Agency reported:

The problem started when the heavy rain in January 2011 caused the church, which is built of clay bricks and has a timber roof, to suffer severe cracks. The Copts requested from the military permission for repairs. Last week inspectors from the local council visited the church and confirmed the church is dilapidated and poses a threat to the parishioners and must be repaired.

When Muslims saw that the Copts were going to get permission to repair the building, they occupied it, saying 'we allowed you to pray here, but there is no question of any building work to be done, this will have to be over our dead bodies'.

Why would fixing a crack in a roof be a matter for which these Muslims are prepared to sacrifice their lives?  The reason is devotion to sharia: the dhimma laws forbid Christians from repairing churches after Muslim conquest.

The Muslims in Kamadeer also demanded that the Christians move their church to another site, so, after a process of 'reconciliation' the Copts have been compelled to relocate to a site 200 meters away from the old church.  The new building is to be strictly limited in size: it must be one story high – not two as the old one was – and must not have any recognizable signs, visible or audible, of being a church, such as a dome, cross or bell.

Why these specific conditions?  The reason is that the dhimma demands them.  As the Pact of Umar puts it, Christians living under Islam are to refrain from all public displays of their religion:

We will not … publicize practices of Shirk ['idolatry' - i.e. non-Islamic belief]… We will … refrain from erecting crosses on the outside of our churches and demonstrating them and our books in public in Muslim fairways and markets. We will not sound the bells in our churches, except discretely, or raise our voices while reciting our holy books inside our churches in the presence of Muslims, nor raise our voices [with prayer] at our funerals, or light torches in funeral processions in the fairways of Muslims, or their markets.

The restriction on the height of the new church is also determined by dhimma regulations, which demand that non-Muslims' buildings cannot be as high as the houses and mosques of Muslims.

In
another incident, Muslims demanded that approved renovations to St. George's Church in Beni Ahmad, 7 KM south of Minya, be demolished, or else they will destroy the church.  This also accords with the dhimma pact.  The authorities have backed the radical Muslims, telling the Christians they must comply with these demands. 

Part of the Pact of Umar is permission clause given by the Christians that if they breach any of the pact's conditions, they can be treated as rebels (i.e. killed, looted and enslaved):

These are the conditions that we set against ourselves and followers of our religion in return for safety and protection. If we break any of these promises that we set for your benefit against ourselves, then our Dhimmah (promise of protection) is broken and you are allowed to do with us what you are allowed of people of defiance and rebellion.

This is the threat which is forcing the Christians to accept such demeaning outcomes:  if they attempt to pursue justice by appeals through the  courts, and insist on their right to repair their churches, their whole community could be attacked, and the church destroyed and looted. Through acts of 'reconciliation' Copts are being forced to accept the demands of the Muslims for the delapidation or relocation of their churches, and the removal of overt Christian symbols from their buildings.

There is no justice here for the Christians, not in any reasonable understanding of the word.  The Egyptian authorities have failed them, by acquiescing to the revival of the dhimma in the streets of Kamadeer.

This is the  consequence of the collapse of the Mubarak regime, which devoted much of its resources to suppressing radical Islam.  Now the suppression is gone, supporters of the Islamic revival are gaining confidence to restore sharia law, including implementing it on the heads of their Christian neighbours.  With Mubarak gone, the state authorities seemingly have little will to stand in their way.

Of course, not all Egyptian Muslims wish to destroy Christian churches in this manner, so as to send the Copts back into the grim past!  But those who do have enough self-confidence and aggression to intimidate the rest.  Sadly, the worst is yet to come.

All across the Muslim world there are signs
the dhimma is returning.  The Copts of Kamadeer are not suffering alone.  The whole point of the dhimma system, as the eminent (and mainstream) Pakistani jurist M. Taqi Usmani explained in his Islam and Modernism, is to demolish the 'grandeur' of non-believers, so that Islam will be attractive for all to follow.  Such is the utopia which the Islamic revival movement offers to the world.

It would be completely irresponsible and misleading to refer to such events as the destruction of the church in Kamadeer as a manifestation of 'sectarian conflict', 'ignorance' or 'extremism'.  Those who have worked for this outcome include trained religious scholars, and they have the solid backing of 14 centuries of Islamic jurisprudence behind them.  It is entirely correct to call such people 'radicals', because they understand and wish to revive the the radix or 'root' of their faith.

The real problem is that this legal foundation remains unrenounced by so many of the leading Islamic jurists of our day, and unacknowledged too by so many among the scholarly and political elites in the West, including those church leaders who know more about interfaith schmoozing than about radical  Islam.

Bringing the dhimma back is not extremism, but 'mainstream-ism' and it will remain so until both the Muslim and Western 'mainstreams' reject the dhimma comprehensively and without apology or camouflage, as an instrument of oppression best left to languish in the dark ages of Islamic history.

The destruction of the church in Kamadeer is a witness to the collusion of so many Western scholars and political leaders, who have proclaimed for more than a century that non-Muslims enjoyed unparalleled 'tolerance' living under Islamic rule.  The dhimma, we have been told, provided for an enviable conviviencia between faiths in a golden past.

What we are seeing in Egypt gives the lie to such claims.  To call the bitter dhimma conditions 'tolerance' only gives implicit support to such assaults as have been played out in Kamadeer this past week, for if the 'golden' Islamic past under dhimma conditions was the epitome of tolerance, then modern-day rigor in re-imposing these very same conditions on the heads of Egypt's Christians must also be quietly accepted as 'tolerance' too.

The demolition squad for the church of St John the Beloved is not only composed of the hot-blooded Salafi Muslims who have been rolling out their prayer mats in its entrance.  It also includes a legion of others, the cheer squad of silence, pursuing respectable and irenic careers in the West. 

The ahistorical cant which eulogizes the dhimma has become a poisoned chalice for the Copts of Egypt today.

markdurie.com blog : Muslim violence a fact, not prejudice

Posted: 24 Mar 2011 07:38 AM PDT.  This opinion piece appeared in The Age newspaper of March 25, 2011

THOSE who denounce critics of Islam should allow that, like all global faiths, Islam has its detractors and a religion will be judged on what its followers say and do.

There is a debate going on about Islam. The question being asked is: Does Islam itself - not just poverty or social exclusion - provide ideological fuel for extremism and violence?

It is all too tempting to promote one-dimensional explanations of religious violence. Monash University doctoral candidate Rachel Woodlock said on this page on Wednesday that social exclusion was the root of Islamic radicalism.

On one hand, there are those who, like Woodlock, demand that critics of Islam be stigmatised as ignorant, right-wing racists. On the other hand, Islam's problems cannot be simplistically reduced to social or economic factors.

Violence in the name of Islam is well-attested in nations in which Muslims are dominant, and it is non-Muslim minorities that suffer the exclusion. It does not do to argue that religion has no relevance to such events.

In Muslim-majority Pakistan on December 3, Pakistani imam Maulana Yousuf Qureshi, in his Friday sermon, offered a $6000 bounty to anyone who would murder Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who has also been accused of "blaspheming Allah". Pakistani minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti and Punjab governor Salman Taseer were subsequently assassinated because of their opposition to Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

These laws are supported by Pakistan's Islamic elites. The killer of Salman Taseer, Mumtaz Qadri, was praised by religious leaders from mainstream schools of Pakistani Islam, and when he was being led to court on January 6, 400 Muslim lawyers showered him with rose petals, offering him their legal services free of charge.

There has also been a rush of recent assaults on Copts and their places of worship in Egypt, sparked by a wild tirade by a leading Egyptian cleric.

Closer to Australia, there have been well-publicised attacks on Ahmadiyah Muslims in Indonesia, including brutal murders. These were undoubtedly influenced by a theological belief that Ahmadiyah adherents are apostates from true Islam. Although prominent Indonesian leaders were quick to express abhorrence for the attacks, many Indonesian Muslims have called for Ahmadiyahs to be outlawed.

These events demonstrate the ugly effects of stigmatising minorities, and it would be deplorable to simple-mindedly extrapolate the religious views of Pakistani, Egyptian or Indonesian Muslims and apply them to Australia.

However, it is irrational to insist that any and everyone who seeks to expose the religious roots of such hatred must themselves be decried as haters.

All over the world, every religious belief is disliked by someone or other. Christianity has its prominent detractors, too, from Bertrand Russell to Richard Dawkins. A Google search for "Evils of Christianity" yields tens of thousands of hits.

Australians can be thankful for a culture of tolerance, which has been carefully nurtured over decades. Tolerance is strengthened when people are able to debate ideological issues freely - especially those which impact profoundly on human rights - without being shouted down.

Victorian Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Nettle, in his findings on the case of the Islamic Council of Victoria v Catch the Fire, pointed out that criticism - or even hatred - of a religion should not be conflated with the hatred of people who hold those beliefs. It is one thing to promote tolerance, quite another to mandate it.

Perhaps the most powerful evidence against Woodlock's thesis - that it is exclusion, and not religion, that drives some Muslims to terrorism - is the fact that across the globe the most diverse religious minorities do not resort to violence, even when persecuted.

There are no Falun Gong terrorists in China, despite all the bitter persecution. The same can be said for persecuted Christians in many nations.

Even in Australia, many ethnic and religious groups have been subjected to disadvantage and exclusion, but none have produced the level of terrorist convictions of our own home-grown Islamic radicals.

It is a bitter pill for the vast majority of Australian Muslims to swallow that their faith has been linked, globally and locally, to religious violence.

Unfortunately, this link cannot be dismissed as the product of media prejudice or "Islamophobic" propaganda. It is in part an issue of some Muslims behaving very badly, and their often strident claim is that they do this in the name of religion.

Taking such claims seriously and debating them publicly must not be equated with stigmatising law-abiding and peaceable Australian Muslims.

Mark Durie is a Melbourne Anglican vicar, human rights activist, and author of The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom.

 

 

The Mufti of Egypt Stands up for Christians - Or Does He?

Posted: 24 Mar 2011 07:30 AM PDT

In the context of the recent outpouring of hatred and violence against the Copts, and specifically the destruction of the ancient church in Soul, the Mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Ali Gomaa (or Jum'a) has issued a fatwa condemning violence against Christians and their places of worship.   A report on this fatwa was published by youm7.com, a popular Egyptian news site, on March 12, 2011. 

Fatwas are opinions issued by someone with a recognized authority in Islam. They are not binding, but may be used to guide Muslims.  The Mufti of Egypt heads the Dar al-Ifta or 'Fatwa Institute' in Egypt, which regularly issues thousands of rulings on a myriad of topics.  This particular fatwa was issued by this same office (see here).

In the context of discussing his fatwas on the status of Christians, it is important to note that Ali Gomaa is regarded as a moderate cleric.  He was appointed by Hosni Mubarak and is reportedly strongly opposed by some radical Muslims.  An example of one of Gomaa's moderate positions is his opposition to female circumcision (see here).   (Gomaa's contribution to female circumcision debate is analysed on pp. 75-76 of The Third Choice).  Gomaa was a signatory to the Common Word letter from Muslim scholars to the Christians of the world.

Typical of Gomaa's approach to modern conditions is that he affirms the validity of traditional jurisprudence on the one hand, while allowing that changed conditions permit a different interpretation of Islamic law, subject to the application of reason.  He believes that female circumcision was valid in the past, given the knowledge Muslims had then, but is invalid today, because of changed understandings.  He places great importance on the contributions of reason and context to interpreting Islam.

Concerning wife-beating, Gomaa has argued that for a Muslim to beat his wife in Canada could be against Islam, because it is reasonable to take into account the culture of the surrounding society, whilst it would at the same time be a legitimate practice in a Muslim state, because of different understandings about domestic violence in the two contexts.  Gomaa claims, for example, that in Muslim Arab societies women welcome and even desire beatings by their husbands, so the practice is not inconsistent with Islam (see here) but serves to safeguard the family.

My assessment of Gomaa is that he is an intellectual who straddles the traditional world of Islamic jurisprudence and the modern world of technological advance and changing social conditions.

In the rapidly changing political context in Egypt, a more radical Islamic government in Egypt would almost certainly appoint more conservative Mufti than Ali Gomaa, with potentially significant consequences for the daily lives of Egyptian citizens.

Fatwas are typically issued as an answer in response to a specific question or set of questions.  In this case the questions were: what is the legitimate Islamic ruling concerning attacks on churches and Christian places or worship, attacking them by arson or bombs; what is the legal ruling if there are people praying inside the church at the time; and is the claim valid which denies that a dhimmah (pact of surrender or protection) exists between Copts and Muslims at the present time?

Why would Muslims be asking about the dhimmah pact in the very period when Copts are being persecuted and killed, and their places of worship burnt and bombed?  For understand this, it is important to grasp the function of the dhimma pact.  (The detailed functioning of the dhimma is described in detail in my book  The Third Choice.)

Non-Muslims living under Islamic law are traditionally considered as dhimmis, or people of the dhimma pact of surrender.  Islamic laws understands dhimmis, who include Christians, to be people who have surrendered to the forces of Islam under certain specific conditions.

These conditions include payment of the jizya tax, and acceptance of being made 'small' as Sura 9:29 of the Qur'an puts it. See for example, the explanation by Ibn Kathir of what being made 'small' laid down in a section of his commentary entitled Paying Jizyah is a sign of Kufr (infidelity) and Disgrace.  Ibn Kathir states that non-Muslims living under Islamic rule are to be 'subdued', 'miserable', 'humiliated', 'disgraced', and 'belittled'.

Classical Islamic law included many debilitating restrictions on Christians living in an Islamic state, including, for example, prohibitions on building new churches or repairing old ones, restrictions on bearing arms, limitations on the height of houses, and legal disabilities in sharia courts.

Islamic jurists considered that dhimmis who paid the annual jizya tax were purchasing their life back for the year ahead.  In effect, the non-Muslim who agreed to submit to these principles of Islamic law was allowed to live by virtue of paying his taxes.  If the non-Muslim failed to observe the conditions of the dhimma, his head was forfeit, and his possessions (including wife, children, house and place of worship) could lawfully be confiscated by Muslims.

The eminent nineteenth Algerian Qur'anic commentator Muhammad ibn Yusuf at-Fayyish (d. 1914) explained the meaning of the jizya tax in his commentary of Sura 9:29.

It was said: it [jizya] is a satisfaction for their blood.  It is said 'X' has sufficed … to compensate for their not being slain. Its purpose is to substitute for the duties (wajib) of killing and of slavery … It is for the benefit of Muslims.

Or as William Eton wrote in his compendious Survey of the Turkish Empire  in 1799:  'the sum of money received [from non-Muslims] is taken as compensation for being permitted to wear their heads that year.'

The system of jizya payments was mainly dismantled in the 19th and 20th centuries across the Islamic world, under pressure from European powers. 

Now here comes the point about the Mufti's fatwa.

Since it is the dhimma pact and observance of its conditions which is supposed, according to Islamic law, to guarantee the safety of non-Muslims living in the Islamic state, the contention has been arising among radically minded Muslims, influenced by the worldwide sharia revival, that today's Christians, living in Muslim lands, are not protected by a dhimma pact, because they do not pay the jizya, and are not submissive to classical sharia conditions for dhimmis.

The inescapable logic of this line of argument is that Christians living in Egypt – and elsewhere in the Middle East – have no right to life: the men can lawfully be killed by Muslims, and their possessions, including women and children – can be confiscated.  That is, as long as they are not under a full dhimma pact.

This perspective, which seems outlandish and utterly pernicious to non-Muslims minds, is precisely the issue which Egypt's Mufti is intending to address with his fatwa.  In the context of attacks on Christian churches and homes, and repeated killings of Copts, the Mufti is rejecting the reasoning which says that the dhimma no longer applies to protect the Christians of Egypt.

The very existence of this fatwa is an important admission of the existence of the way of thinking, because the Mufti is trying to root it out.  All the recent attacks on Copts – a list of which is given in my previous blog post, might be claimed to be justified by radically minded Muslims, on the basis of the contention that Christians without a pact are fair game.

So, for example, we could assume that the off-duty policeman who shot and killed a 71 year old Christian man on a train in January believed he had a right to kill Christians because the  jizya as 'satisfaction for their blood', as At-Fayyish described it, is not being paid by them.  Also the Coptic demonstrators who have been attacked and killed have presumably been considered to be acting arrogantly, and not 'submissively' as the dhimma demands of non-Muslims, for one of the conditions of the dhimma is that non-Muslims must not criticize Islam or Muslims.  Likewise monks who have been attacked for building security fences were regarded as pact breakers because they were making modifications to a place of worship, which is forbidden by dhimma laws.

There is a good deal of references being made to jizya payments and the dhimma among radical Muslims in the Middle East today.  The argument is being put that Christians will not be safe until they pay the jizya and submit to dhimma conditions, because then and only then will a religious obligation exist for Muslims to respect the right to life of Christians.  Gradually, year by year, calls to return jizya are emerging from the shadows into the light of day.

In the worldview of dhimmitude, non-Muslims have no inherent right to life.  Muslims do have this right under sharia law, as it is a capital offence to kill a Muslim.  However non-Muslims only have a conceded right to life, if they agree to redeem their life each year with jizya payments, and submit to the rules of the dhimma. (And even then, killing a dhimmi is not  the capital offense that killing a Muslim is.)  This is the worldview to which radicals like the Islamic Brotherhood wish Egypt to return.

Back to the Mufti of Egypt 

How then can the Mufti address this pressing challenge, that some Muslims in Egypt think it acceptable to bomb and burn churches and Christian homes, and to kill Christians, because they no longer have a dhimma to protect them?

It seems to me that he could oppose this on two grounds.  He could argue the universal brotherhood of all people,  that all people have a right to life and liberty granted by their creator.  He does not do this, perhaps because it is so far from mainsteam Islamic attitudes to non-Muslims.  Normative Islam is based on lack of reciprocity and lack of equality between Muslims and non-Muslims.

What Sheikh Gomaa does instead is argue that being a citizen of a modern state gives an equivalent level of protection to the dhimma pact. The fatwa states:

... assaults on Christians living in Egypt are a breach to the citizenship contract, for [Christians] are citizens who have the rights to citizenship. They made a contract with Muslims, and have subjected themselves to a covenant to live together [with Muslims] in the land in peace and security. Assaulting them, or causing them harm, or terrorising them – in addition to killing them and destroying their churches – is a breach of this contract, and of the covenant that we [Muslims] have the duty to fulfil.

What Ali Gomaa is saying, quite explicitly, is that being an Egyptian citizen gives Christians the same protection which the dhimma gave.  The fatwa states:

The state Mufi pointed out that the saying of some people that

“the covenant between us and them is the dhimmah pact, which lapsed in this [modern] era, therefore we are not bound (to them) by a covenant"

is a false saying, and lacks much understanding. Citizenship, in its agreed understanding,  has been established within the Islamic world’s constitutions and laws, including the Egyptian constitution, which ... in its second article on the authority of the Islamic sharia ... acknowledges [the rights for] citizenship – as Muhammad did in the Medina Constitution.  This has provided for the coexistence and cooperation between the children of the one homeland [i.e. Muslims and Christians] even if they differ in religion, and if there is no dhimma contract or jizya. Therefore, the [citizenship] contract is one of the legal contracts must must be fulfilled, exactly like the dhimma contract.  

And:

[The Mufti] has made it clear that claiming the dhimma era has lapsed, and denying them [Christians] a covenant with Muslims is false talk.

The Mufti also cites some hadiths (traditions) which point to the special status of the Copts in Islam's destiny, and emphasizes that those who do violence against  Copts only empower the enemies of Islam:

 ... acts of destruction distort the image of Islam in the West and the East, and they support the false image that Islam is bloodthirsty.  This gives license to lurking enemies to interfere in our internal affairs...

Ali Goma also cites various Islamic canonical sources which address the issue of mistreating dhimmis, and argues that attacking them or their buildings is a terrible offense against Allah's laws, which will lead to a very bad outcome on judgement day.  He considers attacks on churches accompanied by killing to be 'worse than murder, theft or adultery', which are already very serious crimes in Islam.

In comparison to the religious leaders who are baying for Christian blood in Egypt today, Ali Gomaa is acting like a decent man.  He is trying to do what he can to avert a catastrophe.  Nevertheless, his whole worldview presupposes the need for a 'covenant' to apply between Muslims and Christians if Christian blood is to be protected.  He does not stand up for an inalienable right to life for all, irrespective of creed.

Gomaa is seeking, within the limited parameters of Islamic understandings of the rights of non-Muslims to propose a compelling argument to pious Muslims that they should not attack and kill Christians.  Yet in order to do this he gives away the fundamental human rights of non-Muslims.

There is another problem with Gomaa's fatwa.  In the dhimma pact system, there are multiple possibilities of pact violations.   If a dhimmi steps out of line, their protection lapses.  Gomaa appears to avoid this issue altogether.  This is problematic, because some of those who have attacked Christians verbally have used arguments to show that Copts' actions have abrogated the protection which would have applied under dhimmi conditions.  By this way of thinking, there could be no protection, even if the dhimma did apply.  People whose thinking goes in this direction will not be convinced by Ali Gomaa's arguments, because he ommitted to address the issue of pact violations in his citizen pact model.

Hopefully I will be able, in another post, to explain how verbal attacks on Copts have invoked the concept of the dhimma pact.  They have done this by making allegations which are obviously intended to be regarded as violations of dhimma conditions.  Radical Muslims in Egypt have been accusing Christians of being pact breakers, and by this means putting pressure upon them to accept again the age-old form of servitude known as the dhimma.  Up until now the Copts have been resisting this pressure, and continue to protest.

What the outside world needs to do is grasp these dynamics, so that it can make an fair and accurate assessment of what is going on in Egypt.  It is necessary to grasp why the concept of the dhimma is  central to understanding what is happening with the Copts of Egypt at this time.  They are between a rock (violence) and a hard place (the return of the dhimma and fearful subservience to Islam).

 

 

A Tsunami of Persecution Against the Copts of Egypt

Posted: 24 Mar 2011 05:05 AM PDT

Back on October 17, 2010, I commenced a blog post on Egypt.  I meant to title it Storm Clouds Gather over the Christians of Egypt.  My first sentence was to be "We seem to be on the verge of witnessing a tragic, and even catastrophic assault by radical Muslims on the Christians of Egypt." 
The reason for starting my post was a shocking interview on Al Jazeera of Egyptian Cleric Muhammad Salim Al-Awwa by host Ahmed Mansour, on the program 'Without Borders'.  This had been broadcast on September 15, 2010. 

At the time I was simply too distressed to continue with the post, and it was never finished. I regret this lack of courage, and the purpose of this post is to note the events which have happened since them.

After Al-Awwa's broadcast tepeated mass demonstrations of Egyptian Muslims were staged. These threatened reprisals against the Copts and Pope Shenouda.  There was also a string of articles in newspapers inciting hatred against Christians. 

The following incidents have come to my attention since then:

On 24 November 2010 around 5,000 soldiers attacked St. Mary and St. Michaels in Talbiya, Giza over an alleged building code violation.  They used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition.  Three Copts were killed, and a young child died from tear gas thrown into a chapel. Hundreds were injured, and more than 150 Copts were arrested.

A devastating New Year's Eve suicide bomb attack on the Saints Church in Alexandria killed 23 worshippers and injured 70, the worst mass attack on Copts for a decade.

A drive-by shooting of worshippers on the Coptic Christmas (6 January 2011) killed six Christians and a Muslim policeman.

On January 11, an off-duty policeman used his service revolver to shoot Copts on a train.  A 71 year-old man was killed, and five others were injured.

On February 19, 2011, the home of the Christian building contractor who was building the controversal St Mary and St Michael church in Talbiya was broken into, and his 18-year old daughter was abducted.  The abductors wrote on the wall the Muslim Brotherhood slogan 'Islam is the solution' and "The Church has to be demolished'.  

 On 21 February 2011 the body of Rev Dawood Boutros was found, murdered two days earlier in Shotb, just outside Assiut City, southern Egypt. Journalist Ahmed Zaki Osman reported for Al-Masry al-Youm: 'According to the slain priest's neighbours, four people killed the Coptic cleric in his home while "chanting Islamic slogans". (Report by Elizabeth Kendal).

In multiple incidents from February 20-26, 2011 (see here, here, and here) Egyptian armed forces demolished fences which  monks had erect to protect the monastery during a chaotic period when hundreds of criminals had escaped from prisons in Egypt.  In one incident, when the monks tried to address the soldiers, they opened fire with live amunition, wounding six Copts.  The soldiers were crying "Allahu Akhbar" as they demolished the fence, and prevented the monastery's car from taking the wounded to hospital.  The Monastery of St Makarios of Alexandria was also attacked, where one monk was shot, and ten were wounded through being beaten by batons.

On February 28, 2011, the Governor of Minya ordered the demolition of ten homes belonging to  Coptic families in the village of Saeed Abdelmassih, 30 km from Minya.  The families had refused to pay a bribe to prevent the demolision, and to donate land for a mosque in the village, where no Muslims lived.

On March 5, 2011 a mob of over 4,000 Muslims attacked Coptic homes and burnt down an ancient Coptic church in Soul, near Cairo. The attackers played 'soccer' with the relics of the saints and martyrs taken from inside the church, and converted the site into a mosque, naming it the "Mercy Mosque".  Later reports stated that the church is being rebuilt by the army.

On March 8, 2011, a mob of some 15,000 armed Muslims attacked a vastly outnumbered crowd of Christians on the outskirts of Cairo.  The Egyptian army, which was called to restore order, joined in the attack, shooting the Copts with live ammunition. Nine Christians were reported to have been killed and over a hundred injured.

On March 14, 2011, over a dozen Copts were shot and beaten by Egyptian soldiers, some of whom were crying Allahu Akbar during the attack.  The Copts had previously been part of a protest against the Sool attack on March 5.

Just a few hours ago, I received a report that some Muslims claimed to have executed the rules of sharia law when they amputated the ear of a Coptic man for leasing an apartment to two single women. The perpetrators also burned the apartment - what they called "the crime scene" and his car.  After they finished they called the police and said "we have executed the law of Allah, come and apply your law".

Japan: After Empathy and Aid, People Want Answers

Mar 17, 2011 01:30 am - by John Piper

Priorities

First things first.

When Christians see suffering they feel empathy. We too have bodies (Hebrews 13:3). Therefore, love commands, “Weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

Then comes aid. We want to help relieve human suffering—all of it, especially eternal suffering:

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10).

And that includes enemies:

 

  • Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you (Luke 6:27); 
    • If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink (Romans 12:20).
  •  

    But sooner or later people want more than empathy and aid—they want answers.

    Proclamation and Power

    When love has wept and worked, it must have something to say about God. It doesn’t need to have all the answers. Only God does. But it has the Bible, and the Bible is not silent on this matter.

    No earthquakes in the Bible are attributed to Satan. Many are attributed to God.1 This is because God is Lord of heaven and earth.

    • He commands even winds and water, and they obey him (Luke 8:25);
    • He sends forth His command to the earth. . . . He gives snow like wool; He scatters hoarfrost like ashes. He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before His cold? . . . He makes his wind blow and the waters flow (Psalm 147:15-18);
    • He looks on the earth and it trembles . . . touches the mountains and they smoke! (Psalm 104:32);
    • [He] shakes the earth out of its place, and its pillars tremble (Job 9:6).

    Earthquakes are ultimately from God. Nature does not have a will of its own. And God owes Satan no freedom. What havoc demons wreak, they wreak with God’s permission. And God has reasons for what he permits. His permissions are purposes. That's the point of Job 1-2 and Luke 22:31-32.

    Purpose

    God does nothing without an infinitely wise and good purpose:

    • He is wise and brings disaster (Isaiah 31:2);
    • The Lord is good (Psalm 100:5);
    • All his works are right and his ways are just (Daniel 4:37).

    Therefore, God has a good and all-wise purpose for the heart-rending calamity in Japan on March 11, 2011 that appears to have cost tens of thousands of lives.  Indeed, he has hundreds of thousands of purposes, most of which will remain hidden to us until we are able to grasp them at the end of the age:

    • How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (Romans 11:33);
    • The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us (Deuteronomy 29:29).

    Yet there are possible purposes revealed in the Bible that we may pray will come to pass:

    • The end-time earthquakes in the book of Revelation are meant as calls to repentance—to warn people who deny Jesus Christ that a day is coming when unbelievers will cry to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Revelation 6:16).
    • The end-time earthquakes in Matthew 24:7-8 are meant to be interpreted as “the beginning of the birth pangs.” That is, they are a wake-up call to this world that God's kingdom will soon be born. So be alert and prepare to meet Jesus Christ.
    • God's unilateral taking of thousands of lives is a loud declaration that “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21). The message for all the world is that life is a loan from God (Luke 12:20) and belongs to him. He creates it and gives it and takes it according to his own will and owes us nothing. He has a right both to children (2 Samuel 12:15) and to the aged (Luke 2:29). It is a great gift to learn this truth and dedicate our lives to their true owner rather than defraud him till it is too late.
    • The power felt in an earthquake reveals the fearful magnificence of God. This is a great gift since “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10). Most of the world does not fear the Lord and therefore lacks saving wisdom. The thunder-clap summons to fear God is a mercy to those who live.
    • When the earth shakes under our feet there is a dramatic sense that there is no place to flee. In most disasters the earth is the one thing that stands firm when wind and flood are raging. But where do you turn when the earth itself is unsafe? Answer: God.

    Pray

    And let us pray that in this catastrophe the Lord fulfills two other purposes:

    • That Christians repent of worldliness. “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).
    • That Christians in Japan and around the world would step forward with extraordinary, sacrificial love to show more clearly the mercy of Christ who laid down his life in the midst of the Father's judgment. The suffering and death of Jesus Christ for the sin of the world is the one place where empathy, aid, and answers meet. He invites everyone to come for all three.

    How fragile this life is. The world, and all its life-sustaining processes seem so sure and solid. They are not. One thing is sure and solid:  Let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28).

    1 2 Samuel 22:8; Isaiah 13:13; 24:18-20; 29:6; Psalm 60:2; Nahum 1:5-6; Revelation 6:12; 8:5; 11:13-14; 16:18

    (This post is adapted from what I wrote August 18, 1999, in response to the earthquake in Turkey that cost 17,000 lives.)