Middle East Archives

Christianity Under Fire in the Middle East

According to the US State Dept., there is not a single Christian church left in Afghanistan.

The last public Christian church in Afghanistan was razed in March 2010, according to the State Department’s latest International Religious Freedom Report. The report, which was released last month and covers the period of July 1, 2010 through December 31, 2010, also states that “there were no Christian schools in the country.”

“There is no longer a public Christian church; the courts have not upheld the church’s claim to its 99-year lease, and the landowner destroyed the building in March [2010],” reads the State Department report on religious freedom. “[Private] chapels and churches for the international community of various faiths are located on several military bases, PRTs [Provincial Reconstruction Teams], and at the Italian embassy. Some citizens who converted to Christianity as refugees have returned.”

In recent times, freedom of religion has declined in Afghanistan, according to the State Department.

“The government’s level of respect for religious freedom in law and in practice declined during the reporting period, particularly for Christian groups and individuals,” reads the State Department report.

“Negative societal opinions and suspicion of Christian activities led to targeting of Christian groups and individuals, including Muslim converts to Christianity," said the report. "The lack of government responsiveness and protection for these groups and individuals contributed to the deterioration of religious freedom.”

And in Egypt, with the power vacuum left after the exit of Mubarak, the lid is coming off anti-Christian hatred there, too.

Now many fear that the power vacuum left after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak is giving Muslim extremists free rein to torch churches and attack Coptic homes in the worst violence against the community in decades.

An assault Sunday night on Christians protesting over a church attack set off riots that drew in Muslims, Christians and the police. Among the 26 people left killed in the melee, most were Copts. For Coptic scholar Wassem el-Sissi, it was evidence that the Christian community in Egypt is vulnerable as never before.

"In the absence of law, you can understand how demolishing a church goes unpunished," he said. "I have not heard of anyone who got arrested or prosecuted."

Once a majority in Egypt, Copts now make up about 10 percent of the country’s 85 million people. They are the largest Christian community in the Middle East. Their history dates back 19 centuries and the language used in their liturgy can be traced to the speech of Egypt’s pharaohs. Proud of their history and faith, many Copts are identifiable by tattoos of crosses or Jesus Christ on their right wrists, and Coptic women do not wear the veil as the vast majority of Muslim women in Egypt do.

But then, it wasn’t all that wonderful under Muarak, either.

Under Mubarak, the problems of Copts festered even if they faced less violence than they do now. Their demands for a law to regulate construction of churches went unanswered and attacks on churches went unpunished.

There was some hope at the start of the Arab Spring, but it didn’t last long.

Copts shared in the euphoria of the 18-day revolution that ousted Mubarak and like so many other Egyptians their hopes for change were high. Mainly, they wanted to be on equal footing with Muslims.

At Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the revolution against Mubarak, there were glimpses of a fleeting utopia where coexistence and mutual respect between Muslims and Christians was the rule. The iconic image of Christians forming a human shield around Muslim worshippers during Friday prayers to protect them from thugs and pro-Mubarak loyalists spoke volumes to the dream.

But shortly after Mubarak’s ouster, a series of assaults on Christians brought home a stark reality: The fading of authoritarian rule empowered Islamist fundamentalists, known here as Salafis, who have special resentment for Christians.

Pray for the persecuted church. It really still does exist, and in more places than you may think.

Shining the Light on Oppression

As they say, sometime light is the best disinfectant. The Iranian pastor who wouldn’t renounce Christianity and was being sentence to death has has his case moved to the top.

The case of an Iranian pastor facing a possible death sentence for apostasy has reportedly been referred to Iran’s supreme leader, a move some say shows the Islamic republic is feeling pressure in the face of growing international support.

Attorney Mohammad Ali Dadkhah told AFP on Monday that an Iranian court has decided to seek the opinion of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — the Islamic republic’s spiritual leader and highest authority — in the case of Youcef Nadarkhani, a 32-year-old pastor who was arrested in October 2009 and later sentenced to death for converting to Christianity.

Messages seeking comment from Dadkhah were not immediately returned early Monday.

Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, a Washington-based organization that is monitoring Nadarkhani’s case, told FoxNews.com that the move was unusual and is part of the “secretive process” within the Iranian judicial system.

“Based on these reports, Pastor Youcef is alive and we have reached the highest level of Iranian government,” Sekulow said on Monday. “I don’t believe this would’ve ever reached the level of Khamenei without the media attention and outpouring of support we’ve seen.”

Sekulow said the move to involve Khamenei in a case before a regional court is uncommon and indicates that “Iran is feeling the pressure” of the growing international community in support of Nadarkhani.

Pray that he will be spared, and that the world will see this for what it is; Christian persecution.

A Century of Conflict in the Middle East

How far back does the Israel/Palestinian conflict go? Would you believe about 100 years?

Hat tip to PowerLine.

I noted this on my Facebook page, and had one friend comment that he’s through worrying about this because of the fighting by both sides. I replied that the two sides version of "fighting" are quite different; Israel defending itself vs. Arab’s attempted genocide. Given how many opportunities the Palestinians have had to get there own homeland (as noted in the video) and how often they have rejected the option and instead chose to try to exterminate the state of Israel, do you really think this would end once they got official statehood?

Given the history, I don’t, and a clear understanding of history is needed to come to a proper conclusion. Watch the video and see what I mean.

September 11, After the Fact

The 9/11 memorial services came and went yesterday, with the appropriate solemnity and words for those who lost loved one, and for the rest of us who were also affected by the terror attacks. I talked again with a couple of my kids of their memories of that day, and mine, and of a family member who watched it happen live from the roof of the building where he worked in downtown New York. I think it’s good, and cathartic, to relive that occasionally and really remember how strange and terrible it was.

But it’s September 12th today. It’s after. The past decade has been one of conflicting ideas of how our country has gone and should have gone following those events. Over the weekend, I read an article that got me thinking; we’ve actually done pretty well.

With the headline “9/11: the decade since the September 11 attacks has been one to celebrate”, Richard Fenning (CEO of Control Risks, a firm advising on political, security and integrity risks), writing in the London Telegraph, reminds us that the past 10 years, while having its own set of concerns and political arguments, has actually been good for the US.

Al-Qaida and its affiliates continued to plan attacks. Some succeeded, others were frustrated by massive international counter-terrorism efforts. But we became conditioned to the inevitability of future attacks. This anxiety was used to justify forms of intelligence-gathering – extraordinary rendition, water-boarding – we had previously preferred not to know about.

Public support fractured. Moral clarity was partly replaced by cynicism in the West as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq became less about building shiny new nations and more about bringing our troops home with a modicum of dignity intact. Western opinion seemed to oscillate between aggressive defensiveness from the political right and hand-wringing contrition from the left. There seemed little space for consensus.

In the Muslim world, responses varied. In countries like Saudi Arabia, pragmatic support for the US remained firm, founded on shared animosity to Iran, and fear of local, radical Islamism. In Pakistan, the Afghan spillover ruptured fragile political stability, culminating in the killing of bin Laden by US Special Forces a few miles from a top military establishment. The prospect of an enduring peace between Israel and Palestine remains pretty much where it was ten years ago: nowhere.

But to everyone’s surprise – including a deflated al-Qaida – the decade ends with the ‘Arab spring’ dispatching rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya. Syria hangs in the balance. Theirs is an unfinished story in which unpredictability is the only certainty.

Fenning’s business is one of managing risk, so he obviously stresses those situations where things are shaky. But I would point out the good news:

  • There have been no major terrorist attacks in the US in the past 10 years. Say what you will about the measures that have been taken, if anyone, during the year after 9/11 that we’d be completely safe from anything close to that for 10 years, they would have certainly hedged any bet on that.
  • It’s the Arabs that are having a “spring”. It is they who are overthrowing their longtime dictators. Indeed, as Fenning notes, what’s to come is still uncertain, but the upheaval that bin Laden was hoping to cause here was very short-lived, relatively speaking. Instead, the Middle East is busy tearing down its autocrats, while Israel and the US are as stable as ever (economic self-inflicted wounds here notwithstanding).
  • And speaking of bin Laden, he’s no longer with us.

There are still those out there that wish to harm us, and have succeeded, on occasion, to a very small extent. But we have emerged from this ordeal with, I think, a more sober view of the world and of our “untouchableness”. The realization of who the major enemy is has been understood to varying degrees by most people.

And the feared mass persecution of Muslims never materialized. There may have been an uptick in violence, and there are those now who (fairly or not) still regard Muslims in airports with additional scrutiny, but the fact remains that the trend worldwide is still that Christians are the ones most persecuted (75% of incidences in a recent report).

I believe we’ve taken this tragedy and turned it around. Granted, as fallible human beings, not all the lessons to be learned were, and not all the changes made were for the better. But in the big picture, I think we’ve done pretty good with the hand we were dealt in 2001.

And that’s worth remembering, too.

Well, this was just a matter of time. "New congressional estimates say the trust fund that supports Social Security disability will run out of money by 2017, leaving the program unable to pay full benefits, unless Congress acts. About two decades later, Social Security’s much larger retirement fund is projected to run dry, too, leaving it unable to pay full benefits as well."

A Jewish friend of mine give a report on Glenn Beck’s "Restoring Courage" rally in Caesarea, Israel.

"A pregnant woman, her husband and their three-year-old son were killed in a house fire early yesterday as police who arrived before the fire brigade prevented neighbours from trying to save them." Yes, you read that right. Read the rest of it.

Good news on the abortion front. Defenders of human life are advancing in the war of ideas.

If unions can get their gravy train, they’ll just take their ball and go home.

The long obsolete Fairness Doctrine finally, officially, dies.

When Bush’s approval ratings were low, hardly a day went by when the media made note of it. Now that Obama is in the same territory, all of a sudden approval ratings don’t seem to be news. (Just like involvement in foreign wars and casualties from the same.)

The media will ask conservatives "Yes or no, do you believe in evolution?", but they’ll never ask a liberal "Yes or no, do you believe in the Bible?"

Could you escape a terrorist attack in 15 seconds? In southern Israel, where rockets from Gaza are a nearly-daily occurrence, they have to.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) (no, really, "CERN") published a report in the magazine "Nature" that shows the Sun really does have more influence over our weather, clouds specifically, and thus current climate models will need to be (and I quote) "substantially revised".

Sorry, no cartoon this week. Nothing really stuck out.

Friday Link Wrap-up

A new experiment suggests that the Sun may play a bigger part than first though in climate change. But since this challenges the current orthodoxy, "The chief of the world’s leading physics lab at CERN in Geneva has prohibited scientists from drawing conclusions" from that experiment. Further, a peer-reviewed study using NASA satellite data shows that the Earth is releasing more heat into space than climate computer models assumed.

Anders Breivik, the madman who was responsible for the recent massacre in Norway, is often referred to as a "Christian terrorist". Granted, he called himself "Christian", but his aims were political. But the Left really, really wants to use him to equate radical Islamic terrorism and so-called "Christian terrorism". The Blaze asks,

Have any churches or clergymen openly celebrated Breivik’s slaughter of innocents? Are young Christian children dancing in the streets anywhere in Europe, as young Muslims did in Gaza on September 11, 2001? Could any honest observer of the world over the past 30 years believe that Christianity and Islam have played equal parts in terrorist attacks?

And Chuck Colson notes, the secularization of Europe, with its refusing to understand the problem of evil and sin inherent in human nature, is not helping Norway work through this or prevent it happening again.

More rationing of health care in England. This will happen here under ObamaCare. History has already spoken.

What G. K. Chesterton had to say about the Tea Party. (Sort of.)

Obama may have inherited a mess from Bush, but y’know Reagan inherited a similar mess (in some cases, a worse mess) from Carter. And he did far better with it.

The US accuses Iran of aiding Al Qaeda. Are pitiful sanctions really helping things out here? AQ would love to get its hand on a nuke, and so would Iran.

Government, apparently in the pocket of Big Agriculture, bringing more red tape and expense to the family farm.

The Obama administration admits "the White House doesn’t create jobs". It’s about time you realized that, guys. Congress doesn’t either. Government can get out of the way (or get in the way) of business, which does create jobs.

When Sarah Palin came onto the scene, with her history of speaking truth to power, even within her own political party, I noted that the Democrats, who purport to love that sort of thing, went on the attack instead. Like watching "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and rooting against Jimmy Stewart. Now, the same Dems who purport to want grass-roots groups to help fix Washington ask the media to ignore the biggest grass-roots effort in a long time. True colors: Shown!

And speaking of "terrorists" (click for a larger version):

The Truth About the West Bank

Israel’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Danny Ayalon explains the historical facts relating to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. The video explains where the terms "West Bank", "occupied territories" and "67 Borders" originated and how they are incorrectly used and applied. Before you can have a reasonable discussion about the Middle East and the Israel/Palestinian issue, you need to know your history. This is a good summary in 6 minutes.

"Smart" Diplomacy

All that goodwill that George W. Bush squandered, especially in the Muslim world, was going to be returned under Obama. Yeah, right.

Today’s eye-opening IBOPE Zogby International poll for the Arab American Institute Foundation should be a wake-up call to the White House on its failing foreign policy. After two and a half years of bashing Israel, appeasing rogue regimes such as Iran and Syria, and promising a new era of relations with the Muslim world, Washington is now less popular in major Arab countries than it was when George W. Bush was in the White House.

The poll surveys Arab opinion in six countries: Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, and reveals that “Arabs see the Obama Administration’s handling of most Middle East policy issues as having made no contribution to improving US-Arab relations. Only on the issue of the “no-fly zone over Libya” do a majority of Saudis and plurality of Lebanese see a positive contribution.”

I don’t think Obama ever said how it was going to be different; he merely declared it would be so. Well, it’s different, just not in the way those who voted for him expected.


Friday Link Wrap-up


UK cancer survival rates are the worst in the Western world. And yet another example of Sarah Palin’s death panels, "And the elderly are routinely denied surgery or drugs to remove tumours because doctors think it is not worthwhile."


President Obama brings bi-partisanship to Washington. "Crossing party lines to deliver a stunning rebuke to the commander in chief, the vast majority of the House voted Friday for resolutions telling President Obama he has broken the constitutional chain of authority by committing U.S. troops to the international military mission in Libya.

Obama wouldn’t defend federal law in court (DOMA), wouldn’t abide by the War Powers Act, and is now ignoring a law intended to protect Medicare.

Medical & Politics

You can keep your current insurance under ObamaCare…unless your employer is one of the 30% that say they’d drop it.

Under a Republican administration, this would be considered a church/state entanglement. For a Democrat, free pass.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asked black pastors and clergy members to help the administration fight what she called “mistruths” about the health care reform law President Barack Obama signed into law last year

Middle East

When 90% of folks in the Middle East hold an unfavorable opinion of Jews (Jordan 97%, Palestinians 97%, Egypt 95%, Lebanon 98%), you gotta’ wonder how possible peace is between them. You also gotta’ wonder how much is prejudice. Once you get to know those Jews, attitudes turn around. "By contrast, only 35% of Israeli Arabs expressed a negative opinion of Jews, while 56% voiced a favorable opinion."

Iran suggests that the day after their first nuclear test would be no big deal. They are floating the trial balloon. Will the world notice?


And finally, some sacrifice is shared rather unequally. (Click for a larger version.)

This is 4 minute of PM Netanyahu’s speech to the US Congress today. If the Palestinians will acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, that would put so much on the table.

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