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Nearly 2,000 years ago, Today – Nisan the 14th

Bible Study Planet – Facebook

Nearly 2,000 years ago, Today – Nisan the 14th – Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Christ) died as our Pesach (Passover) Lamb just prior to the Festival of Unleavened Bread (John 19) on the side of a Hill just outside Jerusalem.

Nearly 3,500 years ago God worked through Moshe (Moses) to liberate Israel from the bondage of Pharaoh in Egypt during the first Passover.

Ironically, what was said of that physical Exodus under Moses foreshadowed what would be seen visibly in our spiritual Exodus under Yeshua…

‘and I will deliver you from slavery to them,
and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm’ ~ Exodus 6:6

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The Precarious State of Middle East Christians

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By Lee Smith

(AINA) Klaus Wivel is a reporter writing for the Danish weekly Weekendavisen. His book about Middle Eastern Christians, The Last Supper: The Plight of Christians in Arab Lands, was just published in the United States. Wivel sat down with me recently to discuss his book, the Christian community in the Middle East, how those Christians are received in Europe, and what the future holds.

THE WEEKLY STANDARD: What drew you to the story of Middle East Christians?

KLAUS WIVEL: I started writing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 1998. At the time of the Second Intifada, 2000-2005, it became increasingly evident that Palestinian Christians felt vulnerable. They had been an instrumental part of the Palestinian national movement, but the character of Palestinian nationalism shifted in a more Islamic direction during those years. The Christians told me that they felt like strangers in their own land, and began to leave by the thousands. I was told by Christians in Bethlehem that if the emigration kept going at this pace, no Christians would be left in a couple of decades, besides a few monks and custodians maintaining the holy sites. Being only two percent of the Palestinian population in the West Bank, this assessment wasn’t an exaggeration.

Around 2006 even more catastrophic news made its way from Iraq where it was stated that up to two thirds of the Christian population–among the oldest in the world–had left the country. Several churches were bombed, priests were killed, Christians were kidnapped by the thousands, and whole areas of the major cities Baghdad and Mosul were being evicted.

Then in 2011, following the Arab Spring and the ouster of then-president Hosni Mubarak, the same stories were heard in Egypt. Christians here, too, were under attack and with even less protection from the security forces than they’d received under Mubarak. I decided at that point to travel to the area to investigate the story myself.

TWS: How does the Sunni-Shiite conflict affect Middle East Christians?

WIVEL: In Iraq, Christians were caught in the middle during the war. It’s worth remembering that the Christians in Iraq where not a part of the civil war and had no armed militias. They were left more or less unprotected. Both Shiites and Sunnis would kill or kidnap Christians, although it’s unclear whether their crimes had anything to do with religion or sectarian strife or if it was simply local thugs using the shield of militant jihad to get rich from hostage taking.

In Syria it’s a little different. Here the Christians have been allied with the Assad regime, made up of Alawites, who constitute a heterodox branch of Shia Islam. For that reason Sunnis have attacked Christians who are seen as Assad loyalists.

In Lebanon the Christians are divided against themselves. One part has been aligned with the Sunnis since the pro-democracy March 14 movement ousted the Syrians from Lebanon following the murder of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005. The other part of the Lebanese Christian community, led by Michel Aoun, is siding with Hezbollah.

TWS: What do the Middle East Christians want from the Christians of the West, especially North America and Europe?

WIVEL: Attention. Many of the Christians I met were baffled by the fact that the Christian West was not up in arms about this. But it’s a delicate matter. Some Christians think–especially among the clergy–that if Western governments state the case of the persecution of the Christians too forcefully, they will really place the Christians in the poisonous position of being accused of being lackeys of the West.

I’m certain that this was one of the main reasons why Western governments gave no warnings about the persecution of Iraqi Christians during the Iraqi war. They feared that if they did that, the invasion would be viewed as a Christian invasion, a “crusade”, a word President Bush learned the hard way never to use again. It was a fair point, but silence didn’t help either. Today there are hardly any Christians left in the areas outside of Kurdistan.

This is why it was important when Secretary of State John Kerry recognized Islamic State atrocities against minorities as a genocide. Nonetheless, Christians and Yazidis living in Kurdish refugee camps lack everything, including the most basic supplies like food and medicine. This is a scandal. If we can’t find the means to help the ones who are still in the area it’s no wonder millions of refugees are going to Europe. Our priorities need to be fixed.

TWS: Have lots of Middle East Christians found refuge in Europe? Are you working with Christian groups in Europe now to help Christians from the Middle East?

WIVEL: Many don’t realize the dire nature of the situation. In my home country, Denmark–officially a Christian nation, but among the most secular places on the planet–the most unpleasant experience a priest ever will encounter is preaching to an empty church. Middle Eastern Christians tend to choose to go to the Americas. They view Europe as a post-Christian society. However, there are some exceptions. For instance, the Swedish town of Södertälje has welcomed Christian immigrants since the 1970s, first from Turkey, then from Syria, and since 2003 from Iraq. Södertälje accepted more refugees from the Iraqi war than the US did.

TWS: How does this end for Middle East Christians? The Jews built their own state, but this is unlikely with the Christians. So does someone step in and save their towns and regions, or is this a community on the verge of disappearing?

WIVEL: There’s certainly a feeling among the Iraqi Christians that after 2000 years the Christian presence in Iraq, outside of the Kurdish area, is finished. Everyone knows that Sunni Muslim locals helped Islamic State in pointing out where the Christians lived in the summer of 2014 so that they could be evicted, enslaved or killed. Even if Islamic State is defeated the distrust toward the locals is monumental.

Many call for a safe zone in the Nineveh Plains guarded by troops from the international community, but that’s doubtful. In other Arab countries like Egypt, Christians will continue to leave, but since there are several millions still living there, there will continue to be Christian presence for a long time. There are two things preventing Middle East Christians from leaving. First is that there is no Christian version of Israel where they can find refuge in the region. Second, migration to the West is becoming increasingly difficult. Europeans are not more welcoming of Christians than of Muslims.

VOP PRAYER REQUEST:

With no end to radicalism and the persecution of Christians in the Middle East in sight, the signs seem to point to the prophesies and intensifying violence and battle in this war torn region. No matter your political or spiritual view regarding the current unrest, as Christians we can unite on the front line in the fight together in prayer.

  • Almighty God, in the name of Jesus defend your faithful in their time of need. Help them endure all that may come against them. Comfort them in their suffering, fear and grief.
  • We pray freedom for those held captive.
  • We ask that you intervene when violence and evil plots against your people.
  • Father, help them to forgive.
  • Oh God, give us your heart for the persecuted Church and for the persecutors.
  • Refresh your Church with the Holy Spirit.
  • May your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
  • Come quickly Lord Jesus, our Savior.

In His Holy name, we ask these things. Amen.

 

7 Assyrian Refugees Drown While Crossing Aegean Sea

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(AINA) — Over a dozen passengers drowned when a boat carrying refugees across the Aegean Sea to Greece capsized on November 17. Seven of the passengers were Assyrian refugees from Baghdede (Qaraqosh), Iraq. The Assyrians, 4 of them children, were members of two families. They have been identified as:

  • Stephen Marzena Marogeh
  • Silvana Sami Marogeh (wife)
  • Angie Marogeh (Daughter)
  • Mark Marogeh (son)
  • Samah Sami Marogeh (Silvana’s sister)
  • Haneen Salem Saman Shasha (Samah’s daughter)
  • Marvin Shasha (Samah’s son)

Baghdede, formerly the largest Assyrian town in Iraq with 50,000 residents, was captured by ISIS last year on August 7, causing all 50,000 Assyrians to flee (AINA 2014-08-07). They have not returned and are living in Ankawa, a suburb of Arbel, and Dohuk (Assyrian Noohadra). Many have left the country and most of the others have expressed a desire to leave.

The Snake Creeps As The West Sleeps – A Warning

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(Voice of the PersecutedWritten by a Christian brother who has been directly affected by persecution in Syria. He has suffered the greatest loss anyone can experience, his family. The persecution of his family was a turning point in his life. He realized he needed to tell the truth of what’s happening in Syria and the need to warn and wake the West.

While the extremism and persecution is being directed against Christians in the Middle East, which is a crime against civilization as well as humanity, the effect of this campaign of violence and intimidation has been devastating for Christianity in Syria. Syria boasted a flourishing Christian population of at least 3 million. Today,  the small number of Christians left is astounding. Most of these Syrian Christians have fled the country, but a staggering number have been killed.

All should see and realize what happened not only to the Christians in Syria but to the civilization.

Radical Islamism and the terrorism that has come to be associated with it, has peaked in the Middle East and especially in Syria. Violent radical Islamism is no longer, if it ever was, limited to the likes of al Qaeda (or ISIS), but rather like-minded networks of autonomous Islamist radical terror cells who aid one another in pursuit of common goals now crisscross the globe and the next journey is to the West.

The blood lust of Islamism is thus rooted in a perverted religious impulse to kill and mutilate in the name of Allah. This is what makes it so insidious and wicked. The killing of innocent men, women, and children in the name of Islam becomes a thing of praise and a badge of honor. The more you kill, the more Allah is honored.

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But the world is lulled to sleep while the enemy gathers its strength for an all out offensive against the civilian populations. It has attacked Syria now, but the tumor will spread. All that seems benign in the West shall at one time turn cancerous and will be difficult to control.

yawnsIslamic fundamentalists plan on putting together an Islamic Empire composed of Turkey, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Nigeria, the former Muslim Soviet states such as Uzbekistan, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Their plan is on schedule and they are taking over country after country while the West sleeps securely with its naive dreams of endless peace and prosperity of a ‘new world order’. Each day’s headlines demonstrates the timeliness of this important analysis of the emerging transnational radical Islamic movement… and the growing danger that the Islamic extremist elements may seek to exploit the present vulnerability with devastating results.

I did not expect that the extremism would reach Syria in the dreadful way it has, but having swept over massively to kill every living creature—you can expect your door to be knocked at soon.

God bless you, brother. You’re always in our prayers.

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Christians in Syria Struggle to Survive amid Terrors

Many-Syrian-refugees-have-opted-for-life-on-the-streets-of-foreign-countries-such-as-this-family-in-Istanbul-Turkey-rather-than-the-horrors-of-war.-Morning-Star-News

Many Syrian refugees have opted for life on the streets of foreign countries, such as this family in Istanbul, Turkey, rather than the horrors of war. (Morning Star News)

Pastor caught between obligations to ministry and to family.

(Morning Star News) – His 6-year-old daughter still wakes up screaming, more than three years after the sounds and sights of war first gave her night terrors.

At least a few times each week, she wakes up with her muscles clenched, her head thrown back and her mouth open, screaming. Her father, a pastor in western Syria, had already taken his family and fled to another city in Syria after her terrors began, only to find that the war followed them there. Now they live in the quiet – for now – city of Sweida, but the night terrors still come.

“Doctors told us this is just from the fear,” he said. “We rely on the Lord.”

The pastor, whose name is withheld for security reasons, and his family typify the many Christians scrambling to survive in Syria. With an estimated 700,000 of Syria’s pre-war population of 1.4 million Christians having already fled, he too harbors the question, “Should I flee my country, and if so, when and where should I go?”

In a country where the Islamic State (IS) is carving out a caliphate with atrocities committed against those who don’t swear allegiance to it, it is a high-stakes question. In an unnamed village outside Aleppo, according to Christian Aid Mission, which assists indigenous Christian workers in their native countries, Islamic State militants on Aug. 28 crucified four Christians, including a 12-year-old boy, and beheaded eight others in separate executions. The boy was the son of a Syrian ministry team leader who had planted nine churches.

“In front of the team leader and relatives in the crowd, the Islamic extremists cut off the fingertips of the boy and severely beat him, telling his father they would stop the torture only if he, the father, returned to Islam,” Christian Aid reported. “When the team leader refused, relatives said, the ISIS militants also tortured and beat him and the two other ministry workers. The three men and the boy then met their deaths in crucifixion.”

They were killed for refusing to return to Islam after embracing Christianity, as were the other eight aid workers, including two women, according to Christian Aid. The eight were taken to a separate site in the village and asked if they would return to Islam. After refusing to renounce Christ, the women, ages 29 and 33, were raped before the crowd summoned to watch, and then all eight were beheaded.

They prayed as they knelt before the Islamic State militants, according to the ministry leader Christian Aid assists, who spoke with relatives and villagers while visiting the site.

“Villagers said some were praying in the name of Jesus, others said some were praying the Lord’s Prayer, and others said some of them lifted their heads to commend their spirits to Jesus,” the ministry director told Christian Aid. “One of the women looked up and seemed to be almost smiling as she said, ‘Jesus!’”

Their bodies were hung on crosses for display after they were killed, he added.

All Syrians are suffering in the war, but Christians are exposed to greater risks because of their outsider status within Syria, according to human rights activists. Even before war broke in 2011, the country was divided into numerous ethno-religious factions. Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, Christians, Druze, and Kurds all vied with each other and with the Alawites, a sect of Shia Islam of which President Bashar al-Assad is a member.

Almost all the sects have long-standing hostilities toward the Christians, but that aggression was held at bay in the name of public order for decades by the ruling Assad family. When myriad armed factions rose up against Assad, the Christians lost their protector and had to navigate old prejudices alone.

Ever-shifting alliances among groups intent on securing a beneficial position added to Christians’ problems. Militia groups, including the nascent Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, now known as the Islamic State, attacked church buildings and Christians along with their property.

This new reality became evident soon after the pastor in Sweida moved back to his hometown of Kharaba; an Islamic militia group attacked Christians, threw them out of their homes and replaced them with 500 Muslim families.

“My family in Kharaba faced some attacks, and my house in Kharaba was taken by Jabhat al-Nusra,” he said. “They took the keys from me. All of us, my uncles’ families, my family, my sister’s family and my brother’s family faced attacks in our home village, Kharaba, which was at one time 100 percent Christian.”

After the attacks, 85 percent of the Christians fled Kharaba. Only 70 Christian families remained, and they are dominated by the militia and the Muslims they brought into the village. Even now, the pastor said, no one is allowed to open the church building in the town, ring its bell or hold worship services there.

The pastor, who continued leading a church group in Daraa, was also leading another church group in Kharaba. After eight months in Kharaba, he was asked to temporarily lead an additional church in Sweida. The pastor of that church told him he would return in five months.

“I kept doing that for a month, but the situation in Kharaba got worse, and I had to take my family and move to Sweida,” the pastor said. “The five months are finished, and now two and half years later, the pastor still hasn’t returned. He is not coming back and told me that later.”

The pastor moved to Sweida with his wife and three children, the youngest a toddler and the oldest in ninth grade. His traumatized middle daughter improved after they moved, but then he was faced with the hardships of living in a city isolated by war. The city is over-crowded. There are shortages of basic supplies, especially medical supplies, food and water. When staple items are available, they are extremely expensive. Finding a place to live is a problem. There are rolling blackouts, little gas for cars and scarce heating oil for homes.

In Sweida, about 25 miles north of Syria’s border with Jordan, most residents are Druze, who believe in a gnostic blend of several philosophies and religions. There is a small minority of Christians, mostly Greek Orthodox and Muslim Bedouins.

The Druze initially thought the Assad regime would protect them, but among them are elements both for and against Assad, and most recently they have formed armed groups under government eye to protect their land. They are willing to defend against attack from any party, but they don’t have sufficient weaponry.

Most of the militia groups around Sweida are from Jabhat al-Nusra, the Free Syrian Army or individual gangs from Bedouin tribes. IS hasn’t come to Sweida yet, but there have been reports of IS troops fighting in the province of Sweida, further filling the city with refugees. The pastor said that Sweida will be a target of the Islamic State: The militants consider the Druze loyal to the government, so IS will target them, especially as they are non-Muslims. Also, Druze women wear modern fashions, and the Druze generally are well educated and open to ideas that are anathema to Muslim extremists.

“We have some displaced people who fled from ISIS,” he said. “There are a lot of examples, but I can’t give names. We have some that were kidnapped, and others whose homes were taken from them. We have a family from Damascus who have no idea what happened to their home and farm and are living in a difficult situation.”

The pastor said that he doesn’t think there will be an attack to overrun the city anytime soon, but there have been car bombings.

“The general situation in Sweida is safe and OK, though there have been some individual cases such as kidnapping or individual crimes, but they have to do with the overall situation of the country,” he said. “For example, the last incident was a month and half ago, when a Catholic priest and a friend of mine named Tony al-Botros, was kidnapped and released about 10 or 15 days ago. He was kidnapped for about a month, and then a ransom was paid and that’s why he was released.”

When the civil war originated in 2011 out of a series of protests, Syrians waited, assuming that the conflict would be over in months. But as it became evident that the parties were in a stalemate and the brutality of the fighting increased exponentially, people started fleeing. When IS took over wide swaths of territory, a wave of refugees fled the country. More than 4 million of Syria’s pre-war population of 22.5 million people are estimated to have left.

First the rich left, and then the middle class. Now the people fleeing Syria are the most desperate, the destitute and the chronically ill. Faced with all the hardships, the pastor also has considered leaving. Because he carries the burden of ministering to three church groups in three different cities, though, he feels the weight of responsibility and won’t leave them.

But if God opened a door to leave and arrangements were made to keep the ministries running, he would likely leave, he said.

“In the past two months, because of all the difficulties we were going through, we have been thinking if there is a chance to leave Syria, we will,” he said. “The situation now doesn’t show any hope but hints to getting worse in the future in Sweida.”

World Ignores Christian Exodus from Islamic World

Christian refugees, who fled or were expelled from Mosul, crowd around a truck distributing food aid.

Christian refugees, who fled or were expelled from Mosul, crowd around a truck distributing food aid. Photo: Ray Ibrahim

(Gatestone InstituteWhile the world fixates on the conflict between Israel and Hamas—and while most mainstream media demonize Israel for trying to survive amid a sea of Arab-Islamic hostility—similar or worse tragedies continue to go virtually ignored.

As Reuters reported:One of the most ancient Christian communities in the world, that of Iraq—which already had been decimated over the last decade, by Islamic forces unleashed after the ousting of Saddam Hussein—has now been wiped out entirely by the new “caliphate,” the so-called Islamic State, formerly known by the acronym “ISIS.”

Islamist insurgents have issued an ultimatum to northern Iraq’s dwindling Christian population to either convert to Islam, pay a religious levy or face death, according to a statement distributed in the militant-controlled city of Mosul….

It said Christians who wanted to remain in the “caliphate” that the Islamic State declared this month in parts of Iraq and Syria must agree to abide by terms of a “dhimma” contract—a historic practice under which non-Muslims were protected in Muslim lands in return for a special levy known as “jizya.”

“We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract—involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword,” the announcement said.

The amount of jizya-money demanded was $450 a month, an exorbitant sum for Iraq.

Hours after the demand for jizya was made, Islamists began painting the letter “n” on Christian homes in Mosul—in Arabic, Christians are known as “Nasara,” or “Nazarenes”—signaling them out for the slaughter to come.

Most Christians have since fled. A one-minute video in Arabic of their exodus appears here—women and children weeping as they flee their homes—a video that will not be shown by any Western mainstream media outlet, busy as they are depicting instead nonstop images of Palestinian women and children.

The Syrian Orthodox bishop of Mosul said that what is happening to the Christians of Mosul is nothing less than “genocide… not to mention the slaughters and rapes not being reported… Forcing more than a thousand Christian families out of Mosul, and turning Christian churches into Muslim mosques, is equivalent to genocide.”  Of course, the word genocide means to kill or make extinct a people.

Others were not as lucky to flee. According to Iraqi human rights activist Hena Edward, a great many older and disabled Iraqis, unable to pay the jizya or join the exodus, have opted to convert to Islam.

Meanwhile, the jihadis continue destroying churches and other ancient Christian holy sites in the name of their religion, and murdering any Christians they can find. Among other acts, they torched an 1800 year old church in Mosul, stormed a fourth century monastery—formerly one of Iraq’s best known Christian landmarks—and expelling its resident monks.

Most recently, in Syrian regions under the Islamic State’s control, eight Christians were reportedly crucified.

The Islamic State’s call for Christians to pay jizya is not simply about money. It is about subjugation. Most Western media reporting on this recent call for jizya have failed to explain the accompanying dhimma contract Christians must also abide by. According to the Islamic State, “We offer them [Christians] three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract—involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword.”

The “dhimma contract” is a reference to the Conditions of Omar, an Islamic text attributed to the caliph of the same name that forces Christians to live according to third class citizen status.

In fact, several months back, when the Islamic State was still called “ISIS,” it applied the Conditions of Omar on the Christian minorities of Raqqa, Syria. The Islamic group had issued a directive

citing the Islamic concept of “dhimma”, [which] requires Christians in the city to pay tax of around half an ounce (14g) of pure gold in exchange for their safety. It says Christians must not make renovations to churches, display crosses or other religious symbols outside churches, ring church bells or pray in public. Christians must not carry arms, and must follow other rules imposed by ISIS… “If they reject, they are subject to being legitimate targets, and nothing will remain between them and ISIS other than the sword,” the statement said [emphasis added].

The persecution and exodus of Christians is hardly limited to Iraq. In 2011, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom noted: “The flight of Christians out of the region is unprecedented and it’s increasing year by year.” In our lifetime alone “Christians might disappear altogether from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Egypt,” all Muslim majority nations.

Under Saddam Hussein, and before the 2003 U.S. “liberation” of Iraq, more than a million Christians lived in Iraq; Mosul had some 60,000 Christians. Today there are reportedly none thanks to the new Muslim “caliphate.”

In Egypt, some 100,000 Christian Copts fled their homeland soon after the “Arab Spring.” But even before that, the Coptic Orthodox Church lamented the “repeated incidents of displacement of Copts from their homes, whether by force or threat. Displacements began in Ameriya [62 Christian families evicted], then they stretched to Dahshur [120 Christian families evicted], and today terror and threats have reached the hearts and souls of our Coptic children in Sinai.”

In late 2012, it was reported that the last Christian in the city of Homs, Syria—which had a Christian population of some 80,000 before jihadis came—was murdered. An escaped teenage Syrian girl said: “We left because they were trying to kill us… because we were Christians…. Those who were our neighbors turned against us. At the end, when we ran away, we went through balconies. We did not even dare go out on the street in front of our house.”

In the African nation of Mali, after a 2012 Islamic coup, as many as 200,000 Christians fled. According to reports, “the church in Mali faces being eradicated,” especially in the north “where rebels want to establish an independent Islamist state and drive Christians out… there have been house to house searches for Christians who might be in hiding, church and Christian property has been looted or destroyed, and people tortured into revealing any Christian relatives.” At least one pastor was beheaded.

One can go on and on:

  • In Ethiopia, after a Christian was accused of desecrating a Koran, thousands of Christians were forced to flee their homes when “Muslim extremists set fire to roughly 50 churches and dozens of Christian homes.”
  • In the Ivory Coast—where Christians have been crucified—Islamic rebels “massacred hundreds and displaced tens of thousands” of Christians.
  • In Libya, Islamic rebels forced several Christian nun orders serving the sick and needy since 1921 to flee and killed several Coptic Christians, causing that community also to flee.
  • In Muslim-majority northern Nigeria, where hardly a Sunday passes without a church bombing, Christians are fleeing by the thousands; one region has been emptied of 95% of its Christian population.
  • In Pakistan, after a Christian child was falsely accused of desecrating a Koran and Muslims went on an anti-Christian rampage, an entire Christian village—men, women, and children—was forced to flee into the nearby woods, where they built a church, to permanently reside there.

Despite all these atrocities, exoduses, and even genocides, the mainstream media seems to spend every available moment airing images of displaced Palestinians and demonizing Israel for trying to defend itself. Yet Israel does not kill Palestinians because of their religion or any other personal aspects. It does so in the context of being rocketed and trying to defend itself from terrorism.

On the other hand, all the crimes being committed by Muslims against Christians are simply motivated by religious hate, because the Christians are Christian.

It is to the mainstream media’s great shame that those who slaughter, behead, crucify, and displace people for no other reason than because they are Christian, rarely if ever get media coverage, while a nation such as Israel, which kills only in the context of self-defense, and not out of religious bigotry, is constantly demonized.

by Raymond Ibrahim

Raymond Ibrahim was recently interviewed by Fronda, a leading website in Poland.  The English-language version of the Polish interview, originally titled “Raymond Ibrahim: Prostration before Islam, English version – Read it HERE

Syrian Believers are running out of options

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Syria (MNN) — Ukraine has taken over the world’s spotlight, but developments in Syria are cause for concern: believers are running out of options. David Curry of Open Doors USA explains: “Over the past several months, Christians have increasingly been caught in the cross-fire of the battle between those that are loyal to the government and the Muslim extremists.

“Some extremist groups have been quoted as saying, ‘We’ll either kill you or you’ll have to leave.’ There’s a concerted effort to put Christians in the middle of these battles because they want them to leave; they want to impose Sharia law.”

Believers in Homs are standing firm, though: Open Doors says a small group of 28 Christians is refusing to leave the city. They feel that if they leave, there will be nothing to return to when things calm down.

“Extremists and/or government loyalists will claim a historic Christian site as a battleground…and it basically creates these situations where Christians are forced to leave their homes–historic Christian villages, historic Christian places–and maybe lose their homes, maybe never be able to come back,” explains Curry.

Last month, hundreds of Syrians were evacuated from Homs during a temporary ceasefire. At the same time, humanitarian aid and food were brought in. But it wasn’t enough, according to Dutch Jesuit priest Frans van der Lugt.

“They [the UN] brought pans and cloths the people didn’t need. We need rice and food. That didn’t come in sufficiently,” he told Dutch NOS Radio 1 during the evacuation.

“There is a huge lack of food. At our breakfast, we eat olives and drink tea. In the afternoon, we make soup with what grows between the stones on the street. In the evening, we just see what we can get.”

The “starvation tactics” used by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, wherein cities are constantly shelled to prevent movement of goods and people, are taking a toll. Rebels are reportedly striking ceasefires with local governments, turning in their weapons to authorities so that food and medical aid may enter the city.

Open Doors is partnering with churches and Christian partners to help 8,000 families in Syria, including relief products.

“We provide food and water and assistance to help people survive,” explains Curry. “We want to make sure that Christians have the ability to stay and to remain in their home country.”

There’s a way for you to help, too.

“We need to have Christians in the West calling their representatives in Congress and Senate and saying, ‘Hey, will you please pay attention to what’s happening to Christians in Syria?’” says Curry.

“A lot of times, people don’t realize Christians are being targeted…but it’s becoming a big problem.”

Pray for strength and courage for the believers choosing to stay in Syria.

Islamist Militias attack Christian City of Sadad

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Sadad, SYRIA (Agenzia Fides reports) – The Christian city of Sadad, situated in a strategic area along the road that joins Homs to Damascus, has been  at the center of the battle between the army of Assad and rebel militias hegemonized by Islamist groups.

The assault of Sadad by rebel militias took place on Monday afternoon, October 21. According to local sources, also re-launched by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in London, the raid took place in a similar way to that suffered a month ago in the historic Christian village of Maalula. Several hundred men distributed among the elements of the brigades al-Faruk and Islamists of the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the East entered in Sadad from three directions, with thirty military vehicles, targeting initially the city hospital and seizing government buildings.

On Tuesday, the army began a counteroffensive, intervening in support of the local police forces. Meanwhile, some of the 15 thousand inhabitants – mostly Orthodox Christians and Catholics of the Syro rite – began its exodus in the direction of the artery link between Damascus and Homs, which is 15 kilometers.

The biblical city of Sadad, cited in the Book of Numbers and the Book of Ezekiel, is 95 kilometers from Damascus and sixty from Homs. The city is home to two churches dedicated to St. Sergius and St. Theodore, famous for their frescoes.

Syrian Orthodox Bishop: a humanitarian corridor to save civilians of Sadad is needed

(Agenzia Fides) The Metropolitan Silwanos Boutros Alnemeh, titular of the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Homs and Hama, has launched an appeal to institutions and international humanitarian organizations on behalf of the civilian population – about 3 thousand people – have remained besieged in the villages of Sadad and Hofar, in the region of Qualamun, about a hundred kilometers north-east of Damascus, where another front of the conflict between the government army and anti-Assad militias has opened.

Those responsible of the siege – the Bishop explains in his message must “facilitate the departure of the population safely in any direction, both towards the monastery of Al-Attieh, and in the direction of the city of Homs, where we could welcome them”. Metropolitan Silwanos begs international organizations, recipients of his appeal, to avoid “statements that may compromise the safety of the residents of the besieged cities and residents in Syria”.

As sources of the Syrian Orthodox Church explains to Fides, over a thousand militiamen largely linked to Islamist factions, with thirty military vehicles, equipped with machine guns, have invaded the city occupying the police station, government centers, public facilities, the hospital, post office, causing three deaths among local Christians and damage to several churches. The civilian population has begun the exodus towards Homs and the airport in Damascus.

Sadad has a historical, archaeological and religious importance and is mentioned more than once in the Bible. According to Fides sources, its people – mostly Christians – had refused to form armed “popular committees of defense”.

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