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(Voice of the Persecuted) Hundreds of years before the Muslim prophet began receiving ‘revelations’ around 600AD, the beginnings of Islam, Christians have lived in the Iraqi city of Mosul for nearly 2,000 years.
ISIS militants imposing harsh Sharia law in Mosul (Iraq’s second largest city) gave Christians a 24 hour ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a steep tax in submission, leave, or be executed. Thousands of terrified Iraqi Christians evacuated their homes—many headed towards Kurdistan for protection. Unconfirmed reports claim only 20 Christian families still remain. About 100,000 Christians had resided in the city 10 years ago, but their numbers have diminished as they became targets of Islamic hardliners and ongoing violence.
CT reports the Vicar of Baghdad’ Canon Andrew White who visited the UK over the weekend said an ISIS presence was also in Baghdad. He added, “They just go around and shoot the odd person dead.”
“I can’t do anything. I can’t go and visit my people any more.”
“The only answer is that we stay together, we keep loving each other and loving God, that is all we can do. There is no solution in a place where you cannot even have a government.”
“Are we seeing the end of Christianity? We are committed come what may, we will keep going to the end, but it looks as though the end could be very near.”
He called on the British government to do more to help Christians fleeing Iraq.
On Monday, French ministers offered asylum to the thousands of Mosul Christians forced from their homes.
The offer was made in a statement, by Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister, and Bernard Cazeneuve, the interior minister, who said they were shocked by the persecution of the minority.
“France is outraged by these abuses that it condemns with the utmost firmness,” the statement said. “We are ready, if they so desire, to help facilitate asylum on our territory.”
Present-day Mosul encompasses the site of the ancient Assyrian capital of Nineveh, where, the Bible teaches, the Prophet Jonah preached. Although this is disputed, a tradition holds that Jonah was buried within the city, on Tell Nebi Yunus, or Hill of the Prophet Jonah.
An Assyrian church stood over the tomb for centuries. After the Muslim conquest, the church became a mosque.
Last week, ISIS prevented worshipers from entering the mosque and using explosives reduced it to rubble, as a crowd looked on.
Scholar, Sam Hardy, told the Washington Post that the destruction of the tomb shows that ISIS is willing to destroy “pretty much anything in the Bible.”
The violent jihadist group is part of the Salafi movement, a Sunni branch of Islam trying to cleanse the area of anyone who won’t follow an extreme form of Sharia, Islamic law. The movement rejects the centuries of subsequent developments in Islam as unjustified innovations–pagan accretions that adulterated the faith. The veneration of the tomb is considered by them as a kind of idolatry.
Salafi Islam is widespread in Saudi Arabia, where it enjoys the patronage of the royal family. On the Arabian Peninsula, as now in Iraq, Salafis have destroyed the tombs of Islamic holy men. When the Saudi royal family captured the city of Medina in the 19th century, Salafis systematically destroyed the tombs of several of the Prophet Mohammed’s companions and family members, leaving only the Prophet’s tomb. Some think that the Saudi government plans on dismantling even that tomb, but hesitates to do so because of the uproar it would cause.
The fighting between the Sunni Muslim militant group and the Shia-dominated Iraqi military gives us a glimpse into the wider sectarian war plaguing the country. For years, Sunnis and Shiites have been in disagreement with each other about everything from politics to religion to shares of national wealth, and have fought for power. That infighting is now presenting itself on the frontlines in the form of ethnic cleansing — a crime against humanity punishable under international law.
Ethnic cleansing is not easy to define, especially during wartime. At times, it is indistinguishable from forced emigration and it also merges with aspects of deportation and genocide. A 1993 report to the U.N. Security Council, during the Bosnian war, defined ethnic cleansing as “rendering an area ethnically homogenous by using force or intimidation to remove persons of a given group from the area.”
ISIS, now calling themselves IS (Islamic State) has been instilling fear by executing innocent civilians and sharing the atrocities on video.
Where is the moderate majority of Muslims doing more to stomp out the radical factions of Islam and protect minorities, throughout the Islamic world. To not take on this responsibility is consent of the extreme intolerance and violence and they will see the extremism continue to spread. One day, they too will find themselves forced to join the radicals or face the same type of oppression we’re witnessing today.
Please keep Christians, others being persecuted and the nation of Iraq in your prayers.
By L. Kanalos, Voice of the Persecuted
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.
Reblogged from Vine of Life
Jim Wallace writes in The Australian:
THE hardest test of foreign policy is not its intersections at the lofty geopolitical level but where it inevitably affects ordinary people, and nowhere is this test as difficult as in the Middle East.
As I visited the area recently to assess the situation of minorities in the Syrian conflict, it quickly became evident that the West’s policy there courts a disaster.
I was not surprised. While my experience was dated, I had lived in the Middle East and observed some of its most enduring conflicts. Unfortunately, the passage of time seems to have taught us little.
Some level of confusion about Middle East politics is excusable for anyone.
Attempts to decipher it are always muddied by a bewildering array of sects and agendas in the context of alliances of convenience, even between sworn enemies.
But surely an alliance with al-Qa’ida is beyond the pale for any US government, even if its purpose is to counter Iran’s influence.
The pictures of the American family devastated by the Boston bomb would be enough for me, but the US State Department certainly hasn’t considered Syria’s Christian minorities adequately.
There are reports of heartbreak as people who lived in harmony for decades are suddenly turned into bitter enemies by the radicalisation of previously moderate Sunnis under the influence of the al-Qa’ida proxy Jabhat al-Nusra.
Syria has always been somewhat unusual in the Arab world for its secularism and religious freedom.
When I lived in Damascus for six months, Christian churches were easy to find and join. There was also a ready acceptance by Muslims and Druze, many of whom became good friends. And it seems this continued to be the case until the revolution two years ago. Then cries of “Alawites out” and “Christians to Lebanon” suddenly filled the air in crowds stirred up by extremists.
For Christians to be thrown out of Syria after more than 2000 years of history is too much for most. Despite the steady flow of refugees, most will stay. But the cost of staying is extreme.
Al-Nusra empties any area it captures of the “infidels”. Occupants of centuries-old Christian quarters in the ancient cities of Aleppo, Hama and Homs have been turned out of their homes with nothing. The aged are not spared and those refusing to leave are sometimes killed.
Also heartbreaking for these ancient communities is that their churches in the occupied parts of these cities have been destroyed and desecrated, at least one being used as a toilet by al-Nusra, as an illustration of its utter contempt for Christianity.
There are some Christians fighting with the Free Syrian Army. Although they were part of an initially secular opposition, their position becomes increasingly tenuous as al-Nusra’s dominance of the opposition increases by the day.
As always in war, it is perhaps the women who suffer most.
Al-Nusra fighters see Christian women as little more than booty. One woman tearfully told of a friend considering suicide as she contemplated the possibility of rape, which two of her friends had suffered. As a Christian in an al-Nusra-held area, she knew she risked the same fate.
These are ancient Christian communities that look to Western governments not to abandon them by pursuing irrational policies, including a partnership with foreign jihadists allied to al-Qa’ida.
It is long past time for the West to make a stand in two other areas that are essential to combating Muslim extremism at home and abroad.
The first is that Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are funding the extremist al-Qa’ida fighters, must be told to back off. In addition we cannot accept that as many as 200 Australians might be fighting for al-Qa’ida in Syria as part of a contingent of foreign fighters drawn from Western and Middle Eastern Islamic communities.
All Western countries must pass and enforce anti-mercenary laws that will forbid their nationals from fighting as mercenaries without losing their nationality.
We have an army to fight our wars and joining it should be the only way for an Australian to become a combatant.
The so-called Arab Spring was never going to be that for anyone but extremists across the Middle East. Unless the West reconsiders its support to an opposition dominated by al-Qa’ida, vulnerable Syrian Christians will face even worse persecution than that experienced by Egypt’s Copts.
-posted by Theodore Shoebat
Obama Pushes Funds for Islamists — Trashes Their Christian Victims
snipped: Boko Haram frequently attacks Nigeria’s police and military forces. In 2012 as documented by the Facts on Nigeria Violence website, there were at least 67 attacks, almost exclusively by Boko Haram, against military barracks, police stations, prisons, and other government facilities, as well as against individual soldiers, policemen, and civil servants. But Boko Haram’s main targets are northern Nigeria’s Christians and churches. Read More
Open Doors Appeals For Prayer After Reports of Boko Haram Attack
Open Doors USA has issued an urgent appeal for prayer after receiving news that suspected Boko Haram terrorists attacked the predominantly Nigerian Christian village of Zangan in southern Kaduna around midnight on Monday. Local sources report fatalities and Open Doors says it understands “the entire village has been destroyed.” The village chief’s residence was reportedly burnt to the ground and the village chief’s whereabouts remain unknown after he fled Zangan.Churches and homes were among the buildings destroyed in the attack. Open Doors reports: “Zangan villagers are fleeing in large numbers for fear of escalating violence. Local sources have told us that Boko Haram had vowed earlier to destroy the predominantly Christian communities located in southern Kaduna. “We do not have any more details at this stage, but understand that this area saw a similar attack about four weeks ago. Open Doors urges to pray for the people of southern Kaduna state and Zangan village in particular.”
“The extremists group Boko Haram wants to create an Islamic state and put Sharia Law into effect in a country split almost equally between Christians and Muslims,” says Open Doors USA spokesman Jerry Dykstra. “Attacks by Boko Haram have killed more than 3,000 people since 2009, based on figures from Human Rights Watch. Please pray for peace as the violence is spreading, especially in northern Nigeria.” Read More
More Trouble With Pakistan’s White Stripe
Image: Reporter Mobeen Azhar speaking to Bushra Masih. Her home was burnt down after her brother was accused of insulting the Prophet Mohammed—Pakistan’s Christian minority is facing persecution through the controversial and far reaching blasphemy laws. Earlier this year, 120 Christian-owned homes in Joseph Colony, Lahore, were burnt down after one Christian man was accused of insulting the Prophet Mohammed.
As Pakistan completes its first democratic transition, minority rights have been an electoral non-issue. Mobeen Azhar speaks to cricketer turned politician, Imran Khan, to ask why. Many Pakistanis now believe the nation is at a cross roads. We hear from senior Christian politician, Akram Masih Gill, who has called for a separate province for Pakistan’s Christians.
Mobeen also hears from families who have been forced to flee persecution, a social worker who devotes his life to relocating Christians families who have been forced into hiding and Bushra Masih, the sister of the man at the center of the Joseph Colony burnings. Source
Persecution of Pakistani Christians- By Tabish Irfan
It is very sad to state that Christians of Pakistan are day by day persecuted under false cases in blasphemy law. This shows the weakness of Government and law & order department. Where as, many speeches had been made for the protection of minorities and all happenings show that this is only limited to words.
In March 2013, 178 houses of Christian Community in Badami Bagh Lahroe were burnt in the presence of Lahore Police which clearly shows that Christians are not safe in Pakistan under such Law and Order situation where the Government and Law and Order department are helpless in saving human lives against mindset of Islamic extremists. An other case in March 2013 was also booked in Shahdara Lahore under Blasphemy Law in which a hawker was arrested by police and declared insane, by declaring such things what would have happened to the family of the hawker. Many such, numerous cases take place whereas many of them are not high-lighted and reported in the Media. Another such case came into notice of a lady Mrs. Tabassum Khurram residing in Defence Lahore Pakistan who was booked under Blasphemy Law 295-B-C only for teaching poor Christian Children in remote areas as she was voluntarily working for the uplift of Christian Community. Even though a Minister Shehbaz Bhatti in support of Asia Bibi and to make amendment of Blasphemy Law was brutally murdered. This shows clearly that in this Blasphemy Law if a high profile case is not safe how can a normal living person be safe. We all are pray full that Our Lord may Protect His People.
German Homeschoolers Denied Asylum
(BP) — A German homeschooling family has been denied asylum in a unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upholding a ruling by the Board of Immigration Appeals. “Congress might have written the immigration laws to grant a safe haven to people living elsewhere in the world who face government strictures that the United States Constitution prohibits. But it did not,” the judges wrote in releasing their ruling today, May 14th. Instead, asylum laws apply only to those who have a “well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion,” and the Romeike family did not make a sufficient case, the judges ruled.
The Romeikes fled Germany in 2008 because of mounting fines and the threat of losing custody of their children unless they attended public school in a country where homeschooling is illegal. In 2010 they were granted asylum, but the Obama administration appealed the decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals and won.The Home School Legal Defense Association, representing the Romeike family, had argued that the right of parents to direct the education of their children, including homeschooling, is a fundamental human right that the government must protect.
“We believe the Sixth Circuit is wrong and we will appeal their decision,” Michael Farris, founder and chairman of HSLDA, said in a statement. “America has room for this family and we will do everything we can to help them.” Mike Donnelly, HSLDA’s director of international affairs, said Germany continues to persecute homeschoolers. “The court ignored mountains of evidence that homeschoolers are harshly fined and that custody of their children is gravely threatened — something most people would call persecution. This is what the Romeikes will suffer if they are sent back to Germany,” Donnelly said. Read More
Egypt: detained Christian teacher released on bail
ERITREA | CSW Calls for End to Human Rights Violations in Eritrea
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) renews its call for an end to human rights violations in Eritrea, including the abuse of freedom of religion or belief, ahead of the 11th anniversary of a government crackdown on all but three Christian denominations and the start of mass detentions of Eritrean Christians.
On May 15, 2002, all churches, except those belonging to the Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran denominations, were effectively banned, and the era of mass arrests of Christians began. Over 2,000 Christians are currently detained in Eritrea without charge or trial, often in life threatening conditions pending denial of their faith.
Initially members of independent evangelical and charismatic churches were singled out. Even permitted churches, eventually, began to experience persecution. Orthodox patriarch Abune Antonios has been under house arrest since 2006 for resisting government interference in church affairs. Priests seen as sympathizing with him are detained, harassed, forced out of the church, or conscripted following the 2005 revocation of clerical exemption by the government. The government has also attempted to seize Catholic schools and projects, and the conscription of seminarians and other church workers is reportedly occasioning a shortage of personnel.
CSW will join six organizations from the UK and Ireland in a protest vigil against human rights abuses in Eritrea outside the Eritrean embassy in London on May 30, which will be followed by an evening of prayer for the nation. Read More
From Saeed’s wife, Nadhmeh Abedini:
There has been a Farsi (Iranian) human rights Facebook page started to raise awareness to the Iranian population on Saeed’s imprisonment and human rights violation for his religious freedom. Please share and spread the word.
Please pray for continued open doors for me with the Iranian media (BBC Farsi, VOA Persia) and other secular Sattelite TV that reaches the Iranian population.
Time is of the essence to bring awareness to the Iranian people and support them in speaking out against Iran’s human rights violation as the Iranian election nears (June 14)…. The Iranian people who are open to the Gospel and are speaking up about human rights in Iran need our support and prayers.