Wednesday, March 4, 2015

'This little girl puts us to shame!' (VIDEO)

A Christian girl in Iraq, displaced from her home and village by ISIS, praises God and shares her faith, love and forgiveness in this deeply moving interview.

#PrayForMyriam

Many thanks to Fr Steven and Presvytera for sharing this uplifting video. His comments below... I would only detract with my words if I tried to add anything.




Here is another quite remarkable video forwarded by Presvytera featuring an extraordinary young girl named Miriam. Virtually impossible not to be deeply moved by this interview.  Miriam is not only articulate for her age, but she is a powerful Christian witness!  What Miriam says is not merely "cute" and her words spoken to her interviewer went well beyond any sentimental appeal.

"This little girl puts us to shame!"

There is something else at work here.  In fact, though it is not fair of me to speak for others, one of my first impressions was:  this little girl puts us to shame!  Her pure faith, her assurance of God's providential care for everyone, her openness in speaking of Christ, her maturity in articulating difficult feelings, and especially her attitude toward the ISIS forces that stripped her of her native town, might just eclipse our own Christian witness - by far!  I do not think that we need to necessarily consider her capacity to forgive as merely an indication of her young age and naïve outlook on life.  There is something experiential in her words.

Ten Beliefs About Jesus According to Traditional Islam

Bill D. has been posting some good introductory articles on Islam especially important for Christians to read and share. The Islamic teaching on Jesus (whom the Koran calls 'Isa') is completely at odds with Christian orthodoxy, and is a mix of fables and passages adapted from gnostic texts. In short, Islam presents "another Jesus" and a "different gospel," which the Apostle Paul warns against (see 2 Cor. 11:3-4). This is a topic I deal with at length in my book, Facing Islam.


Ten Beliefs About Jesus According to Traditional Islam 

The Koran states that Jesus was not
crucified, which echoes gnostic and Docetist
heresies of the 2nd and 3rd centuries.
Islam teaches that Jesus stood in a long line of prophets leading up to Muhammad. But, a number of beliefs about the life of Jesus are based on historical and theological confusion of sources. The list below is based almost entirely on the Quran, with some additions from canonical traditions (hadith). All ten beliefs are taught by Sunni Islam (Sunnis comprise 85%-90% of all Muslims).

1. Jesus was miraculously born by the Virgin Mary near the trunk of a palm tree. Mary was said to be the sister of Aaron (the brother of Moses) and the daughter of 'Imran. Apparently Muhammad and the early Muslims confused Miriam, the sister of Moses, with Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was born some 1300 yrs later.

2. The Jews charged the Virgin Mary with being unchaste; but the babe, speaking from his cradle, vindicated his mother's honor. This story is based loosely on the apocryphal book, Infancy Gospel of Thomas.

3. Jesus performed miracles, giving life to a clay figure of a bird (Infancy Gospel of Thomas), healing the blind, curing the leper, quickening the dead, and bringing down a table from heaven "as a festival and a sign."

4. Jesus was specially commissioned as the Apostle or Prophet of God to confirm the Law and to reveal the Gospel.

5. He proclaimed his mission with many manifest signs, being strengthened by the Holy Spirit. He also foretold the advent of another Prophet, whose name should be Ahmad (i.e., Muhammad).

6. The Jews intended to crucify him, but God deceived them, for they did not crucify Jesus, but only his likeness—a concept taught by some gnostic sects of the second and third centuries.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Countering Jihad, a Two-Part Discussion

Came across this recently from Faith McDonnell at Juicy Ecumenism, the Blog of The Institute on Religion and Democracy. I am only posting parts 1 and 2, as part 3 was an action list that had already expired by the time I came across it. You may wish to follow Faith's ongoing work on the topic, Genocide in Iraq.


by Faith McDonnell, Juicy Ecumenism, February 16, 2015

Part 1: Religious and Ethnic Minorities in Iraq Can’t Wait

As we know only too well, the Islamic State (IS) has spread far beyond Iraq, recruiting fighters from Europe and even America. The Islamic State’s goal is a worldwide Caliphate. Sadly, U.S. Administration policy still fails to identify accurately the threat. Instead, this week the White House is hosting a summit on “Countering Violent Extremism.” What is needed for national and global security and for the preservation of religious minorities, like those in Iraq, is to counter jihad.

From the Middle East, Sudan, and throughout Africa, and from North America, England, France, and Denmark to Australia, acts of “violent extremism” — whether by so-called lone wolves or bloodthirsty packs of wolves like Boko Haram;  whether by non-state actors, states like Sudan and Iran, or ideological states like the Islamic State — are perpetrated in aid of the end goal of a global caliphate.

But Christians and other minorities in Iraq cannot wait for the United States government to grasp adequately the ideology behind what it terms “violent extremism.” Even as the poison spreads, the Islamic State’s continued persecution and slaughter of Christians and other minority communities in Iraq is unrelenting. These beleaguered communities, and others like them, need help now.

A report by the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, a new Christian human rights organization, reveals the findings from a January 21-28, 2015 trip to northern Iraq . Led by 21 Wilberforce’s president, Randel Everett, and former U.S. Representative Frank R. Wolf, who is now a Distinguished Senior Fellow with 21 Wilberforce, the trip team investigated the situation of internally displaced Christians and Yezidis, Shabaks, Turkmen, and others.

You can download the trip report, Edge of Extinction: The Eradication of Religious and Ethnic Minorities in Iraq. The report warns, “Immediate action including fresh policy approaches and targeted humanitarian assistance is essential if these minority communities are to be protected within their historic homeland.” After relating in heartbreaking detail the experiences of Christians and other victimized communities, the report offers six recommendations to which the United States government should listen:

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Assyrian Christians Cry Out 'The Whole World Is Watching History Repeat Itself' as ISIS' Relentless Horror Escalates in Syria

This is "not only a genocide against [the] Assyrian people, but also an attempt to cleanse [their] culture and history from the land."

Related:
  • Learn about the full-length feature documentary, 'Mourning In The Garden of Eden'
  • Sign the Petition urging the White House to "condemn this act of genocide and get involved in protecting minorities in Syria."
  • See this article and video providing historical perspective on genocide committed against the Assyrian Christians in the 1930s and today.

By Sami K. Martin, Christian Post
February 27, 2015

Assyrian Christians are seen in Iraq during a service, in this still image taken from “Mourning in the Garden of Eden,” a feature-length documentary film by Gwendolen Cates currently in post-production. (Photo: Gwendolyn Cates)

More than 200 Assyrian Christians have been kidnapped by the terrorist organization ISIS, and prayers have gone out around the world for their safe return. Two members of the Assyrian Church of the East spoke with The Christian Post about the situation in Syria and the loss of several religious artifacts at the hands of ISIS.

Jennifer Griesenauer and her aunt, Toni Abraham, who live in the United States, have watched in horror as members of their faith are systematically being targeted for kidnapping and execution. This week it emerged that ISIS fighters also destroyed religious artifacts, reaching new levels of destruction and animosity.

"Oh my God it's horrible," Toni told CP late Thursday. "Khabour River area is where my great grandfather held a priest school. Under his teachings, we have many well-known bishops, priests and deacons who are scholars in Aramaic, the language Christ spoke, currently the Assyrian Church of the East. It's sad to see that church destroyed and our Assyrian people still being targeted because of our Christian religion."

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Biggest Threat Now is not Radical Islam. It is 'Apocalyptic Islam'

"For the first time in all of human history, we have not just one but two nation states whose rulers are driven not by political ideology — or even mere religious theology — but by apocalyptic, genocidal End Times eschatology."

Related:

The biggest threat now is not Radical Islam. It is 'Apocalyptic Islam'. Let me explain. 
by Joel C. Rosenberg, February 27, 2015 - (hat tip to John B.)

Joel C. Rosenberg addressing the National Religious
Broadcasters Convention (photo credit: NRB)

(Nashville, Tennessee) — Yesterday, the Christian Post published the following article: “ISIS, Iran Are Agents of ‘Apocalyptic Islam’ Paving Way for ‘Islamic Messiah,’ Says NYT Bestselling Author.” I hope you will take a few moments to read it and consider the analysis.

Last night, I discussed this subject in more detail at the closing dinner of the National Religious Broadcasters convention. Here are excerpts from those remarks. I also promised to post stunning research data on the End Times beliefs of Muslims from a 2012 Pew Research Center study. You will find those numbers below.

—————

THE THREAT OF “APOCALYPTIC ISLAM”

The threat we face is not simply from Radical Islam. Indeed, it not even primarily from Radical Islamic groups like Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and al Qaeda at this hour, as serious as these threats are.

The most serious threat we face in the Middle East and North Africa is what I call “Apocalyptic Islam.”

This term — “Apocalyptic Islam” — is one that each of needs to become familiar with and begin to teach others. Why? Because for the first time in all of human history, we have not just one but two nation states whose rulers are driven not by political ideology — or even mere religious theology — but by apocalyptic, genocidal End Times eschatology.

The Islamic Republic of Iran today is ruled by an apocalyptic, genocidal death cult. (see also here, here and here)

So is the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. (see here and here)

The former are Shia. The latter are Sunni. Both believe the End of days has come. Both believe their messiah – known as the “Mahdi” — is coming at any moment. Both are trying to hasten the coming of the Mahdi. Yet each has entirely different strategies to hasten his arrival or appearance on earth.

Islamic State: All Churches in Cairo Must Be Destroyed

ISIS cites "the consensus of the righteous forefathers [Salaf]" in article worded like an Islamic ruling, or fatwa.


by Raymond Ibrahim, February 27, 2015

Hussein bin Mahmoud, a jurist of Sharia law for the Islamic State, said in an article published on February 17 and appearing in various jihadi websites that all Christian churches in Cairo must be demolished.

Titled the “Ruling on Egypt’s Christians,” the article, written like a fatwa, asserts that
The ruling concerning the churches that are in Cairo is that they be destroyed, according to the consensus of the righteous forefathers [Salaf], because they are new under Islam, and Cairo is a new city whose original inhabitants were Muslim; there were no churches in it previously. 
As for churches in Upper Egypt, which may have been in existence before the Islamic conquest of Egypt, these may remain but may never be renovated or fixed.

The Islamic state cleric cited medieval jurist Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328), some of whose fatwas deal with Islam’s views on churches which are described as “worse than bars and brothels.” And in fact, Taymiyya and many other jurists (such as Ibn Qayyim) called for the destruction of all churches built after the conquests (see Crucified Again, pgs. 35-36 for a review of the relevant fatwas/teachings).


‘With This Sword Is Civilization And Humanity Slaughtered’

ISIS destroys priceless ancient statues and artifacts in Iraq stating, "The Prophet ordered us to get rid of statues and relics, and his companions did the same when they conquered countries after him."

by Raymond Ibrahim, February 27, 2015



The above cartoon from Arabic social media captures well the significance of the Islamic State’s recent destruction of priceless and ancient statues dating back thousands of years and which were once a reflection of the grandeur of early human civilization.

In the picture above, an IS member unsheathes his sword as he prepares to behead an ancient Babylonian statue.  His sheath is the Koran and the sword is covered with verses from the Koran. The caption states: “With this sword is civilization and humanity slaughtered.”

For more on this story, the Daily Mail reports:
Islamic State thugs have destroyed a collection of priceless statues and sculptures in Iraq dating back thousands of years. 
Extremists used sledgehammers and power drills to smash ancient artwork as they rampaged through a museum in the northern city of Mosul. 
Video footage shows a group of bearded men in the Nineveh Museum using tools to wreck 3,000-year-old statues after pushing them over...




Islamic State murders 15 Christian hostages, beheads woman; 35 Christian villages now entirely uninhabited

Further developments on this story... 

Jihad Watch, February 27, 2015

“One source has said that a mass execution is being planned for Friday, February 27, in the mosque of Bab Alfaraj, a Sunni village in the area..”

The burning of a church in Hasaka by ISIS.
ISIS kills 15 Christian hostages in Syria, beheads woman 
ANSAmed, February 26, 2015 (thanks to Insubria):

(ANSAmed) – ROME – The Islamic State (ISIS) has killed 15 of the Christians it took hostage in northeastern Syria earlier this week.

The news was given by Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana to the Catholic organization Aid to the Church in Need on Thursday. ”Many of them,” he said, ”were defending their villages and their families.” One woman was beheaded in the village Tel Hormidz and two men were shot to death. There is no information at the moment on how the other 12 were killed.

Friday, February 27, 2015

National Review: 'Heaven In The Face Of Hell'

The families of 21 Coptic Christians martyred in Libya showed a gratitude not of this world. 

by Kathryn Jean Lopez
National Review, February 23, 2015

Twenty-one Egyptian Coptic Christians were slaughtered on a beach in Libya a week ago. And even in his mourning, the brother of two of them gave thanks. 

Beshir Kamel, brother of both Bishoy Astafanus Kamel, who was 25, and Somaily Astafanus Kamel, who was 23, thanked their murderers for not editing out the name of their Savior when disseminating the video of their beheadings. 

Appearing on an Arabic Christian television station, Kamel said that the families of the men, laborers who were working in Libya in order to provide for their families — 13 of them from the same small, impoverished village — were congratulating one another. “We are proud to have this number of people from our village who have become martyrs,” he explained.

Who would have an ounce of gratitude at such a moment? The answer: one who has hope — hope of something real and eternal. 

It sounds crazy to a modern secular society, one that tends to view religious faith as sentiment, comfort, and milestone ritual. 

Kamel said: “Since the Roman era, Christians have been martyred and have learned to handle everything that comes our way. This only makes us stronger in our faith because the Bible told us to love our enemies and bless those who curse us.” And he relayed what his mother had said, when asked what she would do if she ever met the man who had beheaded her son. “My mother, an uneducated woman in her sixties, said she would ask [him] to enter her house and ask God to open his eyes because he was the reason her son entered the kingdom of heaven.” 

Britain's Coptic Christian Community 'Scared to be in UK' after Libya killings

“We are not fighting an invasion – this ideology is already here, it is spreading like a cancer... To be frank this is only the tip of the iceberg. Unless the world unites, it will be a disaster for all of us.” — Coptic Christian in the UK

Pravoslavie — February 26, 2015

Egyptian Christmas eve service at St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church in Kensington. Photograph: Eugenie Absalom/Eugenie Absalom/Demotix/Corbis

Among Britain’s Coptic Christians there was a sense of stupefied horror, as film of the murder of 21 Egyptian Copts, at the hands of Isis in Libya sent shock waves throughout the community.

The video of the mass beheading of the 21 prisoners in Libya was released on Sunday, but for days images of captives in regulation orange uniforms, paraded by black-clad gunmen had haunted the international community.

“We have met this news with sorrow and disbelief – although people saw this coming there was a hope that something could be done to change the outcome,” said Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom. “When it came it was so heartless and inhumane.”

Angaelos, head of the orthodox Christian community in the UK, received a call from the prime minister, who expressed his condolences for the murder of the guest workers, who were kidnapped in Sirte, on Libya’s coast, by Isis members in December and January. A video made of the murders titled “a message signed in blood to the people of the cross’, makes reference to the “hostile Egyptian Church”.

“The prime minister focused on the fact that these actions are unacceptable by the principles we live by in this country,” he said.

That may come of little consolation to UK Coptic Christians, most of whom have relatives in Egypt, some from the very same villages and provinces as the killed hostages.