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."


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 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 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.

Saying 'AMEN' to the Canonization of the 21 Coptic Martyrs of Libya

"All twenty-one were offered the chance to save their lives by embracing Islam, and all twenty-one refused, confessing Christ and dying for Him as true Christian martyrs."

by Archpriest Lawrence Farley,
Orthodox Christian Network, February 25, 2015

Many have heard the dramatic story of the twenty-one Coptic Orthodox Christians working in Libya who were captured and beheaded by ISIS as part of their ongoing campaign of provocation and terror. What may not be as well known in the media is that all twenty-one were offered the chance to save their lives by embracing Islam, and that all twenty-one refused, confessing Christ and dying for Him as true Christian martyrs.

Indeed, it appears that the Coptic Orthodox Church has already canonized them (i.e., declared them to be saints), and some ask what response the Chalcedonian Orthodox Churches should make as regards these courageous Christians. The question involves a look at the evolving practice of official canonization in the church.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Coptic Monks Lay Before Bulldozers to Protect Ancient Christian Site, Muslim Workers Yell ‘Allahu Akbar!’

by Raymond Ibrahim, February 25, 2015

A project to build a road around Fayum, Egypt, crosses the territory around the Coptic monastery of St. Macarius and threatens to destroy the ancient archaeological site around a church dating from the 4th century, or some 300 years before Islam was born and invaded Coptic Egypt.

In response, the monastery’s monks have objected with passive resistance — laying their bodies before the path of the bulldozers, which arrived with shouts of “Allahu Akbar” from the company drivers and workers (pictures above and below).

BREAKING: New ISIS Video threatens to slaughter Assyrian Christian hostages unless US stops bombing Islamic State forces


by Gianluca Mezzofiore, International Business Times
February 26, 2015

UPDATE TO STORY BELOW: The BBC has quoted a spokesman for the Syriac Military Council, A Christian militia fighting with the Kurdish forces (YPG), as saying that between 350 and 400 civilians have been abducted by IS militants. 

Islamic State (ISIS) militants who are holding about 150 Assyrian Christians hostage, including many women and children, are expected to release a video threatening to kill them if the US-led coalition airstrikes do not stop, activists and local officials report.

Jihadists attacked the village of Tal Shamiram, in the north-eastern Syrian province of al-Hasakah, at dawn and abducted dozens of people and took them to an Isis-held city named al-Shadadi.

In al-Shadadi, an Isis-held town in the same Hasakah province, IS militants placed women and children in different houses to use them as human shields in case of possible US-led airstrikes.

The jihadist group is expected to issue a video in which they address US president Barack Obama and threaten to kill all the Assyrian hostages if coalition airstrikes don't stop, Osama Edward, president of the Sweden-based Assyrian rights group, told IBTimes UK

IOCC Assists Syrian Christians Traumatized in Deadly Attack

Exhausted and traumatized Christians from villages in northeastern Syria gather at an Orthodox Christian Church in Hasakah, seeking refuge after their small communities were terrorized this week. IOCC with its church partner, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (GOPA), is providing food, medical attention, and emergency aid to more than 1,000 displaced families. photo: IOCC/GOPA

Baltimore, MD (IOCC) Feb. 25, 2015 — Fleeing for their lives, more than 2,400 exhausted and traumatized Christians from northeastern Syria sought refuge in the towns of Hasakah and Qamishli after their small communities were terrorized this week. The attackers targeted a stretch of villages along the southern bank of the Khabour River, where they burned homes and churches, murdered a fleeing 16-year-old boy, and abducted 150 Assyrian Christian men, women and children from their homes. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Truth about the Crusades: Recent Scholarship reveals Noble and Self-Sacrificial Defense of Christendom against centuries of Islamic Invasion

Crusading was understood as an an act of love—in this case, the love of one’s neighbor. The Crusade was seen as an errand of mercy to right a terrible wrong. As Pope Innocent III wrote to the Knights Templar, “You carry out in deeds the words of the Gospel, 'Greater love than this hath no man, that he lay down his life for his friends'."

Raymond Ibrahim, February 12, 2015

Were the Crusades a reflection of the “terrible deeds [done] in the name of Christ” as U.S. President Obama recently warned, or were they a reflection of something else, namely, centuries of Islamic jihad?  In the following essay, one of the top historians of the Crusades definitively answers the question.

Thomas Madden — former Chair of the History Department at Saint Louis University and Director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies — wrote this article in 2002 when President Bush used the word “crusade” in a positive sense, creating controversy.  Its relevancy today is that Obama invoked the Crusades in a negative sense, also creating controversy.

Madden presents the most recent scholarship on the Crusades — scholarship that completely contradicts the popular image of these wars that permeates much of Hollywood, the writings of amateurs such as Karen Armstrong and, as seen, the worldview of Barack Obama.

(Due to its length (approximately 4000 words), only the most germane portions appear in the significantly shorter version below; especially relevant sentences and paragraphs are highlighted in bold, while removed text is reflected by bracketed ellipses.)

The Real History of the Crusades
By Thomas Madden


Misconceptions about the Crusades are all too common. The Crusades are generally portrayed as a series of holy wars against Islam led by power-mad popes and fought by religious fanatics. They are supposed to have been the epitome of self-righteousness and intolerance, a black stain on the history of the Catholic Church in particular and Western civilization in general. A breed of proto-imperialists, the Crusaders introduced Western aggression to the peaceful Middle East and then deformed the enlightened Muslim culture, leaving it in ruins. For variations on this theme, one need not look far. See, for example, Steven Runciman’s famous three-volume epic, History of the Crusades, or the BBC/A&E documentary, The Crusades, hosted by Terry Jones. Both are terrible history yet wonderfully entertaining.

So what is the truth about the Crusades? Scholars are still working some of that out. But much can already be said with certainty. For starters, the Crusades to the East were in every way defensive wars. They were a direct response to Muslim aggression—an attempt to turn back or defend against Muslim conquests of Christian lands.

Christians in the eleventh century were not paranoid fanatics. Muslims really were gunning for them. While Muslims can be peaceful, Islam was born in war and grew the same way. From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword. Muslim thought divides the world into two spheres, the Abode of Islam and the Abode of War. Christianity—and for that matter any other non-Muslim religion—has no abode. Christians and Jews can be tolerated within a Muslim state under Muslim rule. But, in traditional Islam, Christian and Jewish states must be destroyed and their lands conquered. When Mohammed was waging war against Mecca in the seventh century, Christianity was the dominant religion of power and wealth. As the faith of the Roman Empire, it spanned the entire Mediterranean, including the Middle East, where it was born. The Christian world, therefore, was a prime target for the earliest caliphs, and it would remain so for Muslim leaders for the next thousand years.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Persecution of Christians a Significant Indicator of Future World Chaos

"With nearly twice the number of Christians persecuted over the previous year, it’s clear why Christians should be very concerned."

by David Curry, President of Open Doors USA,  February 9, 2015

Click through for Open Doors 2015 World Watch List full report & map.
Boko Haram continues its march toward making Nigeria an Islamic state. A few weeks ago, as the world focused on the terror attacks in Paris, the group continued its murderous rampage across the northern part of the country. Last weekend it killed dozens in Maiduguri. These are just the latest atrocities from Boko Haram, which has kidnapped hundreds of schoolchildren, murdered thousands of innocent men, women and children and driven hundreds of thousands more from their homes.

Unfortunately, all indicators point to the likelihood that the worst is yet to come.

Last month, Open Doors released its 2015 World Watch List, an annual survey of the most dangerous and difficult places in the world to be a Christian. This year’s report uncovered some startling and worrisome trends. In every region of the world — Africa, Asia and even in the Americas — persecution of Christians is growing. There was not one country on the 2015 list that decreased its acts of violence and persecution from the previous year. The escalation of violence over the past year was so great that the threshold used to create the list had to be increased. With nearly twice the number of Christians persecuted over the previous year, it’s clear why Christians should be very concerned.

What may not be as clear is why everyone else should care.

New Martyr Fr. Daniel Sysoev's writings being made available in English!

Many of Fr Daniel Sysoev's writings are now available to order in physical book form in English and Russian (with more English editions to follow, I am informed) from the Orthodox Internet Store of Rev. Daniel Sysoev.

In addition, a new online 'shop' has been opened on the ISSUU digital platform, with books and booklets by Fr Daniel Sysoev, including many titles in English.

One of if not THE most significant of the New Martyrs of the 21st Century under the Sword of Islam, the righteous Fr. Daniel Sysoev of Moscow was shot and killed by a Muslim in front of the altar at the church he founded.

Fr Daniel was not any ordinary casualty of Islam's renewed war on Christians. He was a towering figure in the Russian Orthodox Church, a theologian, writer, evangelist and missionary, who engaged in open debate with Muslims, and converted some eighty or more of them from Islam to the Orthodox Faith, including a number of Wahhabi extremists.

ISIS Attacks Assyrian Villages in Syria, 4 Killed, Dozens Captured, Churches Burned

ISIS may intend to use Assyrian hostages for a prisoner swap with Kurdish fighters.

AINA, February 23, 2015

The Assyrian church of Mar Bisho on fire, in Tel Shamiran, Syria.
Hassaka, Syria (AINA) -- Fighting broke out at 5 AM today between ISIS and Assyrian and Kurdish fighters in the Hasaka province in northeast Syria. ISIS attacked the Assyrian villages of Tel Goran, Tel Hurmiz, Tel Tamar, Tel Baloaa Tel Shamiran, Tel Riman, Tel Nasra, Tel Khareta, and Abu Tena. The ISIS fighters were met by members of Assyrian Guards (called Natorehs), an Assyrian Militia, and Kurdish fighters form YPG. 4 Assyrian fighters were killed as well tens of ISIS fighters. According to the latest reports, fighting is still ongoing in Tel Tamar.

ISIS has abducted dozens of Assyrian men, women and children, including 12 from Tel Hurmiz, 15 from Tel Goran. They have been brought to Jabal Abdul Aziz. The residents of the villages of Tel Shamiran (approximately 50) and Tel Jazira (about 40) are being held captive in their own villages by ISIS.

According to a report by Newsweek, ISIS will use the Assyrian hostages for a prisoner swap with Kurdish fighters.

A number of churches have been destroyed, including the church in Tel Hurmiz, one of the oldest churches in Syria, the Mar Bisho church in Tel Shamiran, the church in Qabr Shamiy and the church in Tel Baloua.

Is Islam Really 99.981% Terrorism-Free? Refuting Fareed Zakaria on ISIS

by Timothy R. Furnish, Mahdi Watch, February 22, 2015

Muslims the world over await the Mahdi's return.

Fareed Zakaria penned a rather inane article in “The Washington Post” last week, entitled “The limits of the Islamic label” (which he adduced at length in his “GPS” show this morning).  The point therein: to criticize Graeme Wood for his “Atlantic” article, “What ISIS Really Wants,” in which the latter dares to state that ISIS is profoundly Islamic, and even apocalyptic, in its belief system and actions. Zakaria supports President Obama’s Machiavellian “terrorism means never having to say ‘Islam’ ” strategy on the grounds that it avoids alienation of 1.6 billion Muslims, and takes Wood (and those of us like-minded) to task with the metric that ISIS’s 30,000 members only comprise .0019% of the world’s Islamic population.

But ISIS isn’t the only terrorist organization which adduces Islam as its raison d’etre—it’s only the most brutal.  I scrutinized the data on the other three dozen major terrorist groups which are Islamic, on the US State Department site as well as several others, and came up with a rough membership number for all the non-ISIS Sunni Muslim terrorist groups of some 65,000.  Adding in ISIS’s 30,000 puts the global Sunni dedicated terrorist ranks into the 100,000 range—especially when we consider that State enumerated the membership strength of a number of these entities as “unknown:” it’s certainly reasonable to estimate that these half-dozen groups (which include the likes of al-Qa`idah [AQ] central and the Abd Allah Azzam Brigades) count several thousand adherents.  

But wait, there’s more that refutes Zakaria’s specious claim.  

Monday, February 23, 2015

Mark Durie: ‘A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross’

by Mark Durie, February 21, 2015

This post is a analytical explanation of a film produced by Al-Hayat Media of the Islamic State,  which portrays the ritual slaughter of 21 Coptic Christians on a beach in Libya, in the film “A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross”.  
Indented, italicized text is commentary by Mark Durie.
Asterisk indicates words from the film, either in the form of titles or sub-titles, or as narration.   
This is Part 2 of a pair of posts about this film.  Part 1 is Bearing the cross: a letter to the Islamic State.  
This post has also appeared on Lapido Media.

Mark Durie: Bearing the Cross — A Letter to the Islamic State

Anglican pastor and author of key books on Christianity and Islam, Mark Durie, pens a powerful and evangelical response to ISIS in the wake of the martyrdom of the 21 Coptic Christians in Libya. Read all the way to the end, and share widely.

by Mark Durie, February 21, 2015

This is the first of a two-part post on the 21 Egyptian martyrs killed in Libya.  This first part is a reflection, as a Christian, on aspects of this event and reactions to it.  The second part, ‘A message signed with blood to the Nation of the Cross’ consists of explanatory notes on the texts – spoken and written – which were part of the Islamic State’s film of their ritual beheadings.  This post has also appeared on Lapido media.

The Islamic State sent me a letter this week. This letter was in the form of a short film produced by the Islamic State’s Al-Hayat Media centre.  This was not addressed to me personally, but to all Christians everywhere.  Its title was A Message Signed with BLOOD to the Nation of the Cross.  This was a video of the ritual slaughter of the 21 Egyptian Christians.  Their blood flowing in the ocean waves was the ‘signature’ at the end of the video.

As I write this it is Ash Wednesday.  This is the start of forty days of Lent, a period of fasting and contemplation for Christians all over the world.  For many centuries it has been a custom of Christians to receive a mark of the cross in ash upon the forehead as a sign of repentance.

A Coptic Girl with a Wrist Cross Tattoo
As I received this mark of the cross today I was thinking of the 21 Egyptian Christian martyrs.  Copts permanently bear the sign of the cross, tattooed on their wrists, as a sign that they will refuse to renounce their beliefs.

I intend to read out these men’s names at our morning church services this Sunday, here in Melbourne, Australia.  And I also choose to honour them today by writing to acknowledge the truth about why they were killed, and in particular the explanation given by their killers. 

I also wish to record, as a Christian and a pastor, my intense protest at the White House official statement of February 15 2015 concerning this event.  This makes no mention of the reason the twenty one were killed: their Christian faith.  This culpable denial dishonours them, as it dishonours me and Christians everywhere.  

The White House statement claimed that “ISIL’s barbarity knows no bounds. It is unconstrained by faith, sect or ethnicity.”  Not true.  The Islamic State’s actions are constrained by its theology, and in this case its targets are also determined on religious grounds; they were Christians.  It is not an endorsement of the killers’ Islamic beliefs to acknowledge that these jihadis follow a form of Islam, and that their sect and faith does constrain their behaviour accordingly. 

President Obama has defended his administration’s misrepresentations on the grounds that the radicals are “desperate for legitimacy” so “They try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of Islam.” But these are not desperate people.  They are shockingly confident in their beliefs. They do not “try to portray themselves” as Islamic: they sincerely believe they are. Christopher Hitchens got it right over a decade ago when he suggested of Al Qa’ida recruits that “they believe their own propaganda,” and “absolutely subscribe to the tenets of their version … of their religion, Islam.”

Obama also stated that “we must never accept the premise that they put forward, because it is a lie.”  This too is nonsense.  A lie is a deliberate intention to deceive, and these self-described jihadis are – at least by their own understanding – speaking the absolute truth when they claim to speak for Islam. 

Some years ago I had the privilege of reading the Gospel at a Coptic service held in St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, here in Melbourne.  The service was held to commemorate the 22 martyrs of the attack on Al-Qiddisin Church in Alexandria on New Year’s Eve. It was led by Bishop Suriel, Melbourne’s Coptic bishop.

The Al-Qiddisin martyr’s service impressed me deeply. I long pondered the fact that the Coptic church of Egypt has been grieving over the freshly dug graves of its martyred sons and daughters since the dawn of Christianity.  As I sat through the service and sung the hymns about martyrdom, I thought, “So this is what it means to be a Copt”.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Fr Georges Massouh on the 21 Martyrs in Libya

"Middle Eastern Christians are called today to become words, to become wounds that wipe away the sins and transgressions of this Middle East. They heal it through their suffering in all their tragedies, wars and woes and they spread peace wherever they are found."

Arabic original here.  In a similar vein, I’d highly recommend reading these two articles recently published in The Atlantic: What Isis Really Wants and Why Obama Won’t Talk about Islamic Terrorism.

The Innocence of Islam, not of Islamic Institutions
Fr Georges Massouh, OCP Media, February 21, 2015

The apologetic and justificatory rhetoric has become repugnant. The excuse has become more vile than the crime. The pictures of imams and patriarchs coming together have become unconvincing… What happened in Libya– and before that in every part of this suffering Middle East– cannot be confronted with a parroted rhetoric about religions’ not being responsible for the spread of terrorism in our lands. If it is axiomatic to say that religions are not responsible, this in no way means that religious institutions and their leaders are not responsible for the growth of extremism and the rejection of those who are different, even if they belong to the same religion.

If it is true to assert that Islam is innocent of the crimes and atrocities of ISIS, religious institutions that have not  undertaken their duty to disseminate a culture of mutual respect and total equality between Christians and Muslims are responsible for the dissemination of the culture of religious hatred and rejection of people of other religions and creeds. These same institutions are likewise responsible for disseminating a culture of hatred between sects of Islam, since they have not done enough to eliminate the causes of religious divisions and disagreements between Muslims themselves.

Coptic Christian Mother Forgives, Prays for ISIS Slaughterers of Son

The Mother of a Martyred Saint shows the Love of Christ to those in the Devil's Grip.

Today (Sunday, February 22) is the Sunday of Forgiveness in the Orthodox Church. Great Lent begins with the Vespers of Forgiveness on the evening of this Sunday. May Christ our True God grant this faithful mother profound consolation for her Christ-like love for her enemies.

via Coptic Christian Mother ‘Thanks’ ISIS Slaughterers of Son
by Raymond Ibrahim, February 21, 2015
h/t OCP Media

The mother of Kyrillos (Cyrus), one of the 21 Coptic Christians recently butchered by the Islamic State in Libya, said in a recent interview that she forgives the Muslim murderers of her son — since he is now “with his Lord” — and prays that they see the light and turn from evil.

Said the mother of the 22-year-old martyr — one of the many Copts who testified the name of Christ seconds before their heads were cruelly hacked off: “My son is with his Lord. He wasn’t kidnapped.  They always told me ‘your son has been kidnapped,’ but I said, ‘No, he is with the Lord.’”

When asked if she had any message for her son’s executioners, she said, “I thank you [for his martyrdom], may the Lord touch your hearts and light a way for you so you don’t end up in a bad place — light a way for you so you don’t end up in hell.”

New Martyrs of Libya added to the Coptic Synaxarium

Diocese of Los Angeles, Southern California and Hawaii
February 21, 2015 — h/t John

His Holiness Pope Tawadros II announced the inclusion of the 21 Coptic New Martyrs of Libya in the Synaxarium of the Coptic Orthodox Church today. Every year, they will be commemorated on 8 Amshir in the Coptic calendar, which corresponds to 15 February in the Gregorian calendar, the same day as the Feast of the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple.

Axios, Axios, Axios!

This beautiful icon, which is also featured on the diocese front page, was drawn by Tony Rezk. May the Lord reward his talents.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Metropolitan Tikhon speaks at NY memorial for 21 Coptic martyrs

Excerpts from His Beatitude's memorable address at the Memorial held on Thursday, February 19, 2015 - February 20, 2015
There are those who would overcome the world with weapons of violence, but this is not our way. 
There are those who cling to death and to sin in order to bring about more death and more evil, but this is not our way. 
There are those who blame religion for tragedies such as the one we mourn today, but they are blind to the reality that true believers become such only when their hearts are purified of sin and their lives filled with the light of the Resurrection. 
Let us, who stand fast in our faith in Christ and His eternal victory, remember that He alone has trampled on death by His own voluntary death. 
Let us, who are filled with the hope of the resurrection, give glory to God for the martyric witness of the 21 souls who now witness to this victory. 
And let us, who each struggle in our own way to remain faithful to God, give example in our own lives of those things which we hold dear—Peace, rather than violence; love, rather than hate; and forgiveness, rather than revenge.

You may read the full text here.

AXIOS! Metropolitan Tikhon!

‘What ISIS Really Wants’ — A brief review of Graeme Wood’s Feature Article in the March issue of The Atlantic.

by Ralph H. Sidway

Graeme Wood’s 11,000 word article on the Islamic State hit the blogosphere like a bomb this past week. Thank God.

One of my friends and co-strugglers immediately posted a link to the online edition on his Facebook page. And Robert Spencer over at Jihad Watch posted this stirring assessment of its importance:

This is an extraordinary piece, as it represents one of the first, if not the first, mainstream media acknowledgment that... jihadis use the texts and teachings [of Islam] to justify their actions and make recruits, and make a case that obviously convinces many young Muslims, that they represent the truest and most authentic expression of Islam.

The publication of Mr. Wood’s extremely cogent and informed piece couldn’t be more timely, arriving the same week as the President’s “Summit to Counter Violent Extremism”, whose false premises it ably refutes.  Wood’s work is made all the more compelling through his in depth interviews and face time with ISIS supporters from Australia and Britain, through whom he conveys the supernatural allure, the “pull” which ISIS exerts upon Muslims who begin to buy into its end-times theology. This journalistic aspect of the article balances the analytical, and makes it real for us, putting a human face on ISIS. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

ISIS renames Christian City which had the word 'Monastery' as part of its name

This is consistent with Islam's historical trend of appropriating or wiping out all traces of the cultures and faiths it conquers. This is also a case study in how U.S. support for the "Free Syrian Army" in 2012 aided the rise of ISIS. 

Pravoslavie — February 9, 2015

(Deir ez-Zor, February 4, 2015)  The Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor which for many centuries was the haven for Christians of north-eastern Syria today has lost its Christian name—now its occupants-islamists call it “Wilayat ul-Hayr”, reports the Calam1 portal.

Thus, islamists, members of “The Islamic State” terrorist organization have decided to abolish the very name of the city which since the 8th century has had the word “deir”, that is, “monastery”, as part of its name that refers to Christianity and the Christian heritage of Syria.

However, the new place name, “Wilayat ul-Hayr” (Arabic: “Wilayat of good”) is intended to remind the residents of the new order of life of religious minorities on the territory occupied by ISIS.

According to the eyewitnesses’ evidence, early in 2012 many residents of Deir ez-Zor rose against the Syrian ruling regime which enabled the “Free Syrian Army” militants to take some positions in the city. But already in 2013-2014, following the consolidation of Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS both politically and militarily some Christians of the city resolved to leave their homes.

Saudi Arabia Is Building A 600-Mile 'Great Wall' To Shield Itself From ISIS

Sign of the Times is rich with Historical Irony: "Those Muslims that Saudi Arabia is trying to keep out are the very same Muslims most nurtured and influenced by a Saudi — or “Wahabbi,” or “Salafi” — worldview."

Living and Dying by the Sword of Jihad
by Raymond Ibrahim, February 19, 2015

In a move reminiscent of “ancient history,” Saudi Arabia is building a 600-mile-long “Great Wall”—a combined fence and ditch—to separate itself from the Islamic State to the north in Iraq:

Plans for the 600-mile wall and ditch Saudi Arabia will build with Iraq in an effort to insulate itself from the chaos engulfing its neighbors. 
Much of the area on the Iraqi side is now controlled by Isil [the Islamic State], which regards the ultimate capture of Saudi Arabia, home to the “Two Holy Mosques” of Mecca and Medina, as a key goal…

The irony here is that those Muslims that Saudi Arabia is trying to keep out are the very same Muslims most nurtured and influenced by a Saudi — or “Wahabbi,” or “Salafi” — worldview.

Put differently, Saudi Arabia is again appreciating how jihad is a volatile instrument of war that can easily backfire on those who support it.  “Holy war” is hardly limited to fighting and subjugating “infidels” — whether the West in general, Israel in particular, or the millions of non-Muslim minorities under Islam — but also justifies fighting “apostates,” that is, Muslims accused of not being Islamic enough.

Muslim Persecution of Christians: A 1,400 Year Saga

Muslim persecution of Christians is as old as Islam.

by Raymond Ibrahim, February 5, 2015

A Coptic church burns in 2011,
just as thousands of Coptic churches
before it were burned over the course
of almost 14 centuries, since Islam
invaded and colonized Egypt.
The one glaring fact concerning the persecution of approximately 100 million Christians around the world today is that the overwhelming majority of it is being committed by Muslims of all races, nationalities, languages, and socio-political circumstances: Muslims from among America’s allies (Saudi Arabia) and from its enemies (Iran); Muslims from economically rich nations (Qatar) and from poor nations (Somalia and Yemen); Muslims from “Islamic republic” nations (Afghanistan) and from “moderate” nations (Malaysia and Indonesia); Muslims from nations rescued by America (Kuwait) and Muslims from nations claiming “grievances” against the U.S. (fill in the blank __).

This fact is underscored in Open Doors’ recent 2015 World Watch List—a report that highlights and ranks the 50 worst nations persecuting Christians.  It finds that “Islamic extremism” is the main source of persecution in 40 of the top 50 countries—that is, 80 percent of the nations where Christians are persecuted are Muslim.  As for the top ten worst countries persecuting Christians, nine of them are Muslim-majority—that is, 90 percent of nations where Christians experience “extreme persecution” are Muslim.

Still, considering that the 2015 World Watch List ranks North Korea—non-Islamic, communist—as the number one worst persecutor of Christians, why belabor the religious identity of Muslims?  Surely Christian persecution is not intrinsic to the Islamic world, but is a product of repressive regimes and other socio-economic factors—as the North Korean example suggests and as many analysts and media maintain?

Here we come to some critically important but blurred distinctions.   While Christians are indeed suffering extreme persecution in North Korea, these fall into the realm of the temporal and aberrant.  Something as simple as overthrowing the North Korean regime would likely end persecution there overnight—just as the fall of Communist Soviet Union saw religious persecution come to a quick close.

In the Islamic world, however, a similar scenario would not alleviate the sufferings of Christians by an iota.  Quite the opposite; where dictators fall (often thanks to U.S. intervention)—Saddam in Iraq, Qaddafi in Libya, and ongoing attempts against Assad in Syria—Christian persecution dramatically rises.  Today Iraq is the third worst nation in the world in which to be Christian, Syria fourth, and Libya 13th.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Quiet Christian Insurgency in the Middle East

This excellent article describes the creative efforts of Christian converts from Islam, who present Muslims with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and thus counter the global jihad with the Love of the True God, presented with the help of social media and modern publishing tools.

We Orthodox, Copts and Oriental Christian can learn a great deal from such efforts, and be inspired to a new activism of our own.

by Katie Gorka, Breitbart News, February 12, 2014

While the U.S. government continues to search for an information campaign that can effectively weaken ISIS and other radical groups, Christians have been waging a surprisingly successful war of ideas against radical Islam.

The New York Times recently published an article on an initiative by Maj. Gen. Michael K. Nagata, commander of American Special Operations forces in the Middle East, which brought together a group of experts to figure out a strategy for weakening the Islamic State’s appeal. But according to the article, General Nagata expressed a dismay that has become a common theme of the Obama administration: “We have not defeated the idea. We do not even understand the idea.”

The State Department’s counter-terrorism messaging initiative equally fails to inspire confidence. The Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) was created in 2011. With a budget of about $5 million and a team of 50 as of 2014, it works to counter the tweets and Facebook posts of jihadists. It is best known for its campaign, Think Again Turn Away. Its current Facebook page, which has 10,455 likes, features the question, “ISIS: Why is Your ‘Caliph’ Hiding?” It maintains a count of the days since Baghdadi was last seen (220 as of February 9, 2015).

But the campaign has about as much subtlety as the “Just Say No” campaign against drugs. As Jacob Silverman, an author who writes about social media, noted, “State’s messages usually arrive with all the grace of someone’s dad showing up at a college party.”

Islamic State: “Great Reward” for Killing Coptic Christians

How the Islamic State justifies the killing of all Christians anywhere, in the context of collective punishment

by Raymond Ibrahim, February 13, 2015

Some of the 21 Coptic Christians executed by the Islamic State in Libya

The following excerpt from the Islamic State captures well the perverse logic that its many members and even more sympathizers operate on.  It recently appeared in an Islamic State report explaining why the jihadis already did... execute 21 Coptic Christian workers abducted in (post-”Arab Spring”) Libya.   The justification begins by positioning the 2010 Islamic raid on the Our Lady of Salvation Church in Iraq — where nearly 60 Christian worshippers were slaughtered (graphic pictures here) — as a response to the absurd allegations (based on Muslim projection) that the Coptic Church of Egypt was forcing — and killing — Muslim women to convert to Christianity.   In short, the Islamic State justifies the killing, not only of Coptic Christians, but all Christians anywhere, in the context of, yet again, “collective punishment.”  The excerpt follows, interspersed with my observations (emphases mine):

Names of the Martyrs and Statement on the Martyrdom of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya

Diocese of Los Angeles, Southern California and Hawaii

His Grace Bishop Serapion, along with the clergy and laity of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles, offers prayers, condolences, and sympathy to the families of the 21 Coptic martyrs of Libya who received the crown of eternal life on February 13, 2015.

We pray that the Lord may receive their pure souls in the Paradise of Joy and grant them eternal rest in the company of all of the holy saints who have pleased Him.

We encourage our children to share their names rather than continue to post the videos and photos of their martyrdom. Our Holy Church depicts martyrs as victorious in Her sacred iconography. Thus, it is more suitable to remember their names in our prayers as those who were victorious over the world and the evil in the world rather than to focus on the gruesome depiction of their martyrdom.

The Martyrs’ Names
The names of the martyrs are:

Orthodox Bishop: ‘We Palestinian Christians Say Allahu Akbar’

I hesitate to comment much on this story, except to point out that zealous Muslims all over the world routinely scream "Allahu Akbar" when slaughtering their victims. Out of over 25,150 Muslim terrorist attacks since 9/11/01, I think it's safe to estimate that in upwards of 25,148 of them, the Muslim terrorists were screaming "Allahu Akbar" when they were shooting, stabbing or self-detonating. What Christian, Arabic-speaking or not, would want to self-identify with that phrase?

I might also point out that in Malaysia, the Muslim community has been using everything from threats and open persecution of Christians, to the country's legal system, to forbid Arabic-speaking Christians from referring to God as "Allah." Malaysian Muslims would likely be rioting in the streets (or firebombing the church) if a Christian hierarch there made such statements.

Lastly, the situation for Palestinian Christians is considerably more complex and precarious vis a vis Muslims than this interview indicates, as per these reports:

Orthodox Bishop: ‘We Palestinian Christians Say Allahu Akbar’

The only Palestinian Orthodox Christian bishop in the Holy Land speaking about the suffering of Palestinian Christians, their unity with Muslims in the Palestinian struggle, about Orthodox Christian martyrs, and Ukraine.
Nadezhda Kevorkova — February 3, 2015 —

Nadezhda Kevorkova is a war correspondent who has covered the events of the Arab Spring, military and religious conflicts around the world, and the anti-globalization movement.

Archbishop Sebastia Theodosios (Atallah Hanna), 49, is the only Orthodox Christian archbishop from Palestine stationed in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, while all other bishops of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem are Greeks. The Israeli authorities had detained him several times, or stopped him at the border, and taken away his passport. Among all Jerusalem clergymen he is the only one who has no privilege of passing through the VIP gate in the airport – because of his nationality. “For the Israeli authorities, I am not a bishop, but rather a Palestinian,” explains his Beatitude. When talking on the phone he says a lot of words you would normally hear from a Muslim: “Alhamdulillah, Insha’Allah, Masha’Allah”. He speaks Arabic, and the Arabic for ‘god’ is Allah, whether you are a Christian or a Muslim.

Your Beatitude, what’s it like being the Palestinian bishop in the Holy Land?

Firstly, I’d like to confirm that I am the only Palestinian bishop in the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. A fellow bishop is serving in the city of Irbid in the north of Jordan; and there are also several Palestinian priests.

I take pride in belonging to this great religious institution that’s over 2,000 years old.

My church has been protecting the Christian presence in the Holy Land and the sacred items related to the life of Christ and Christian Church history.

I am proud of my religion and nationality, I am proud to belong to my fatherland. I am a Palestinian, and I belong to this religious people who are fighting for the sake of their freedom and dignity to implement their dreams and national rights.

I support Palestinians and share their cause and their issues. We the Palestinian Orthodox Christians are not detached from their hardships.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

'The Nightmare' — Europa and the Incubus

Europe, Britain and the West are pinned down by Sleep Paralysis beneath the weight of Islam and Muslim Immigration

by Ralph H. Sidway

The Nightmare, by Henry Fuseli (1781); a visual metaphor for the Incubus of Islam sitting astride the paralyzed, sleeping Europa.
Sometimes an image — a metaphor — is much more effective at presenting truth than even the most persuasive argument or laying out of facts.  'The Nightmare' is such an image.

Europeans may still have some dim collective memory of the Muslim conquest of the Iberian peninsula (Spain) in the early 8th century, of Islam’s nearly successful colonization of the rest of Western Europe (Gaul, etc.), of centuries of Muslim raids on Italy, of Muslim piracy and dominance in the Mediterranean Sea, of repeated Muslim attempts to invade Europe through the Balkans, and of the eventual fall of Constantinople in 1453, and of Turkish crimes against the Greeks during the 18th and 19th centuries and the Armenian Genocide in the early 20th.

Then there are the great, providential battles and movements which halted, turned back and expelled the Muslim invaders from the West: Charles Martel (“the Hammer”) and his victory in the Battle of Tours (732), the “Reconquista” of Spain, the valiant self-sacrifice of Tsar-Martyr Lazar and the Serbs at the Battle of Kosovo (1389), and the famous defense of Europe against the Ottoman Muslims at the Gates of Vienna in 1683.

Yet today’s Europe seems completely moribund, ignoring both its own history as well as the history of Islamic expansion. 

It is as if Europa and her Sisters (England, America, Canada, Australia, etc.) suffer from a nightmarish sleep paralysis like helpless maidens of old, the Islamic incubus pinning her down and completely sapping her will and strength to resist. 

The British have all but surrendered already, turning a blind eye to Muslim rape gangs preying on thousands of British girls, trampling on freedom of speech by shutting down criticism of Islam, and advancing Sharia courts and Islamic finance systems. The realm which gave us the Magna Carta is behaving as if she may voluntarily raise the black flag of jihad over Buckingham Palace, a final token act of appeasement as the Islamic crocodile gnaws on England’s extremities.

ISIS Targets Rome, ‘Nation of the Cross’, in Libya Beheading Video

“ISIS is at the door, warns Italy.”

by Ralph H. Sidway

In addition to using their savage beheadings and subsequent videos to try to “hotwire the apocalypse,” as Islam historian and Mahdi specialist Timothy Furnish calls it, in the most recent ISIS video, showing the beheading in Libya of twenty one Coptic Christian men, the narrator proclaimed an ominous goal.

According to a report by Jordan Schachtel of Breitbart News:

The Islamic State’s Al Hayat Media, the group that has published the previous beheading videos in the Middle East, produced the Libya video titled, “A Message Signed With Blood To The Nation Of The Cross.” 
“All praise is due to Allah the strong and mighty,” said an ISIS jihadist dressed in military fatigues in American-accented English. “And may blessings and peace be upon the ones sent by the sword as a mercy to all the worlds,” he added... 
After the ISIS leader finishes speaking, his fellow terrorists then commence the beheading of the 21 Egyptian Christians. “And we will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission, the promise of our Prophet, peace be upon him,” The militant leader says after his comrades slaughter the Christian hostages.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Dynamic Map of the Crusades vs the Global Jihad

Some of you may have seen this.  It is such a powerful resource that I wanted to post it here.  Share widely.

Raymond Ibrahim offers this introduction:

Speaking of the Crusades (as Obama recently did ), Dr. Bill Warner of the Center for the Study of Political Islam has created a nifty video (below) that maps out the location and amount of jihads throughout the centuries versus the location and amount of crusades throughout the centuries.   The sheer volume and ubiquity of jihads radically dwarfs the much more maligned crusades — placing in context the significance, or need, for the latter, which as discussed here, were “in every way defensive wars.”
For a text list of the battles Bill Warner refers to, see his post The Jihad That Led to the Crusades.