Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Christians in Philippines Fear Creation of Muslim Sub-State, Sharia Law, Increased Persecution

"If Bangsamoro, or 'Moro Country' with Moro being colloquial for 'Muslim', were ruled under sharia, non-Muslims would become second-class citizens with drastically reduced rights." Muslim separatist groups have increased their deadly jihad attacks in recent years...

Scroll down for map and link to report on Muslim Persecution of Christians in Philippines...

Morning Star News — June 26, 2015

MINDANAO, Philippines (Morning Star News) – Christians and others in the southern Philippines have expressed strong fears that legislation creating an Islamic sub-state on Mindanao Island will exacerbate religious tensions rather than resolve them.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), proposed by President Benigno Aquino III last September with the aim of ending decades of Islamist rebel violence in Mindanao, was approved by a House Ad Hoc Committee on May 20 with 50 members voting yes, 17 voting no and one abstaining. The area, comprising five provinces with sizeable non-Muslim populations, already enjoys a measure of autonomy as the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and the proposed BBL would give leaders sufficient independence to impose sharia (Islamic law).

“What President Aquino is doing is treasonous to Christian communities in Mindanao,” Rolly Pelinggon, national convener of Mindanaoans for Mindanao (M4M), told Morning Star News.

If Bangsamoro, or “Moro Country” with Moro being colloquial for “Muslim,” were ruled under sharia, non-Muslims would become second-class citizens with drastically reduced rights. Critics of the bill say it would render the federal government powerless to redress human rights abuses under Islamic law.

Monday, June 29, 2015

'Islamic State in Palestine' tells Christians to leave by Ramadan’s end or be killed

Many Palestinian Christians stand in solidarity with their Muslims neighbors, yet this report from East Jerusalem, together with threats against Christians throughout the Palestinian territories, make it clear that Islamic supremacism is overwhelming whatever tolerant attitudes local Muslims used to hold for their Christian neighbors.

See also: Muslim Persecution of Christians worsens in Israel & Palestinian Territories; Influence of Islamic State grows

A Chilling Message Was Sent to Christians from the ‘Islamic State in Palestine’
by Sharona Schwartz, The Blaze, June 28, 2015 (via Jihad Watch):

A group calling itself the “Islamic State in Palestine” spread fliers in east Jerusalem warning Christians who live there to brace themselves for “revenge,” an Israeli television station reported.

Israel’s Channel 10 television reported Thursday that it was the first time such a leaflet attributed to the Islamic State group was distributed threatening Christian residents of Jerusalem. The text of the message vowed to take “revenge” on “heretics.”

According to the Jewish Press, the flier threatened Christians that they would be killed if they did not leave by the end of the current Muslim holiday month of Ramadan.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Confederate Flag and the Flag of Jihad

Even Southerners are calling for the retiring of the Confederate Flag. Where are the Muslim protests to ban the Black Flag of Islam?

by Ralph H. Sidway

Over at The American Conservative, Rod Dreher has a really stirring piece in which he grapples with the complexity and pain of the guerre du jour, the movement to finally banish forever the Confederate Flag (a movement so sweeping that the classic film ‘Gone With The Wind’ may itself soon be gone with the wind). Dreher is a born and raised Southerner, and shares his inner struggle over the issue:

From the time I was old enough to realize what slavery and the ideology of white supremacy that sustained it, and that remained after slavery died, I have had a troubled conscience about the South. I found it so difficult to reconcile the place and the culture into which I was born, and which I loved, and do love, with the hideous facts of our history.

That is the tone of honesty grappling with reality. There’s much more, for Dreher strives to place himself (and his readers) in the shoes of any and all who have dark shadows in their cultural and societal and ideological history. To wit: 

Even though your people may have thought and behaved wrongly in a particular instance, you may try to explain the context in which the sin was committed, and to point out the complexity of the situation — not to excuse it, necessarily, but to shed light on the broken humanity of the phenomenon...

I would assert that such issues of situational “complexity” and “context” won’t wash when it comes to Islam and Muslims, because in Islam, it’s not about what Dreher calls “a few bad actors” in “particular instances.” It’s about a lot of bad actors — beginning with one in particular — consistently acting badly over fourteen centuries, under the black flag of divine sanction and command.

Indeed, if anyone has dark shadows in their history, it is Muslims. Yet we rarely if ever see from them any self-examination or troubled conscience such as Rod Dreher and other Southern progeny are displaying now. President el-Sisi of Egypt comes to mind, but most Muslim critics of Islam are ex-Muslims (think Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ibn Warraq). 

The darker side of Islam — jihad, genocide, sharia, apostasy and blasphemy laws, honor killings, abuse of women, child marriage, FGM, and that whole supremacist culture which eternally demands for Islam to reign supreme — is analogous neither to the white-supremacist side of Southern Culture, nor to other examples Dreher uses, such as the challenges within Black America or the Roman Catholic sex abuse scandals, all of which derive from the flaws of human nature in each person, extended at times to the mob.

As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, “The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”

Yet this is precisely why the case of Islam and American Muslims is radically unlike that of any other cultural, racial or religious group. The evils being perpetrated by the “bad actors” of Islam do not merely stem from the human heart of darkness, “the line dividing good and evil [which] cuts through the heart of every human being.” 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Raymond Ibrahim: 'Where’s the Pope’s Encyclical on Christian Persecution?'

Our beloved Orthodox hierarchs also might wish to consider Raymond Ibrahim's analysis here. Mr. Ibrahim, whom I know personally, is a Coptic Orthodox Christian. We were both presenters (along with Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro) at a conference on Orthodoxy, Islam and Muslim Persecution of Christians, held at an Orthodox Church in Ohio in 2011. His is a sober and informed voice we would do well to heed.

"The Christian worldview is not about 'saving the earth'—'where moth and rust do corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal'—but in saving souls, both in the now and hereafter. The Lord questioned Saul of Tarsus as to why he was persecuting his flock, not about the environment."

by Raymond Ibrahim — June 25, 2015

Pope Francis recently released a new encyclical.  Portions of it deal with environmentalism, global warming, and climate change.  Naturally, this has prompted controversy.

It’s noteworthy that Francis didn’t merely make a passing comment on global warming during this or that sermon, but that he issued a papal encyclical on the matter.  Encyclicals are much more formal and significant than remarks made during mass.  They are letters written by a pope and sent to bishops all around the world.  In turn, the bishops are meant to disseminate the encyclical’s ideas to all the priests and churches in their jurisdiction, so that the pope’s teaching reaches every church-attending Catholic.

All this leads to the following question: Where is Pope Francis’ encyclical concerning the rampant persecution that Christians—including many Catholics—are experiencing around the world in general, the Islamic world in particular?

To be sure, the pope has acknowledged it.  On April 21, during mass held at Casa Santa Marta, Francis said that today’s church is a “church of martyrs.” He even referenced several of the recent attacks on Christians by Muslims (without of course mentioned the latter’s religious identity).
Said Pope Francis:

In these days how many Stephens [early Christian martyred in Book of Acts] there are in the world! Let us think of our brothers whose throats were slit on the beach in Libya [by the Islamic State]; let’s think of the young boy who was burnt alive by his [Pakistani Muslim] companions because he was a Christian; let us think of those migrants thrown from their boat into the open sea by other [African Muslim] migrants because they were Christians; let us think – just the day before yesterday – of those Ethiopians assassinated because they were Christians… and of many others. Many others of whom we do not even know and who are suffering in jails because they are Christians… The Church today is a Church of martyrs: they suffer, they give their lives and we receive the blessing of God for their witness.

The pope is acquainted with the reality of Christian persecution around the world.  So why isn’t he issuing an encyclical about it?  Such an encyclical would be very useful.

The pope could instruct bishops to acknowledge the truth about Christian persecution and to have this news spread to every Catholic church.  Perhaps a weekly prayer for the persecuted church could be institutionalized—keeping the plight of those hapless Christians in the spotlight, so Western Catholics and others always remember them, talk about them, and, perhaps most importantly, understand why they are being persecuted.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Fr. Daniel Byantoro and the Future of Orthodoxy in Indonesia

"Despite the presence of Islam in Indonesia, there is great hope for Orthodoxy there... We are seeing in the world today a rising culture of hatred and death, and the only way to defeat it is with the culture of love and life—that is, the culture of the Gospel, the culture of Orthodoxy."

See also these feature articles:

via 'I Believe in the Future of Orthodoxy in Indonesia' — A Conversation with Archimandrite Daniel (Byantoro)
Pravoslavie — June 23, 2015 (Thanks to Bill)

Fr. Daniel at Sretensky Monastery, Moscow
On Monday June 15, Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro arrived in Moscow with his fellow priest Fr. Alexios. Fr. Daniel is the first Indonesian convert to Orthodoxy and the founder and heart of the struggling Orthodox Church there. He came to Russia for several days to visit holy sites, hierarchs and friends, and to spread the word of his mission to his spiritual brothers and sisters in Russia. On Wednesday he sat down for an interview with Pravoslavie.ru in which he spoke about his country and its Christian history.

At a public lecture the night before given at the Fund of Slavic Culture Fr. Daniel spoke more about his own conversion experience. Raised in an entirely Islamic village, all that he knew of Christianity came from the Koran: as Christians worship three Gods, turned a prophet into God and made God weak, unable to save His prophet from crucifixion, they are going to hell. Islam denies that Christ is the Son of God; they deny the Trinity as well as the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, and therefore, as Fr. Daniel noted, they deny the entirety of Christian teaching (see Koran 5:72, 73, 98:6 which Fr. Daniel referenced easily from memory).

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

ISIS Jihadist converts to Christianity after seeing Jesus in his dreams

In a word, YES!
There are numerous instances of Muslims throughout the Islamic world being converted to Christ through dreams and visions. Fr. Daniel Byantoro, head of the Indonesian Orthodox Mission, was himself strongly moved to follow Christ by a dream. 

The story below about an ISIS jihadi converting to Christ serves as a sign for hope, that the Lord Himself can and does reach out to touch the hearts of Muslims, even among the most bloodthirsty zealots, and leads them to repentance. It proves the Lord's love truly extends to all people. 

But this does not absolve Christians from doing all we can, both by presenting a vibrant witness through our grace-filled lives, as well as by sharing the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with our Muslim neighbors.

Notice how, in the story of this jihadi's conversion, it was not only the dreams, but it was also the witness of the Christian whom he killed, who gave him a Bible moments before he was martyred, which proved the truth of the Gospel to the ISIS jihadi.

Another powerful witness certainly having an effect on Muslims is how families of Christians martyred by Muslims are forgiving their attackers and praying for them to come to know Jesus Christ and be saved from hell. The witness, the prayers, and the dreams and visions are all combining to draw many to the Lord.

Fr. Daniel Byantoro provides some very helpful thoughts on how one may go about sharing the Gospel with Muslims in an excellent interview conducted with him by Road To Emmaus. We should also keep in mind the fervent example of New Priest-Martyr Daniel Sysoev of Moscow, who publicly debated Muslims and was eventually killed by an extremist Muslim group, because he had led over 80 Muslims into the Orthodox Church, including several hard-core Wahhabis.

Let us therefore have hope!

via REPORT: ISIS Jihadist converts to Christianity after seeing Jesus in his dreams
by Mary Chastain, Breitbart News — June 15, 2015

ISIS slaughters Christians and destroys churches while they establish their caliphate in Syria and Iraq. But one militant reportedly converted to Christianity after “a man in white” appeared in his dreams.

Gina Fadely, the director of Youth With A Mission Frontier Missions (YWAM), told The Voice of the Martyrs Radio Network one of their workers met a former ISIS fighter who murdered Christians, but converted after a dream:

“He told this YWAM leader that he had begun having dreams of this man in white who came to him and said, ‘You are killing my people.’ And he started to feel really sick and uneasy about what he was doing,” Fadely continued. “The fighter said just before he killed one Christian, the man said, ‘I know you will kill me, but I give to you my Bible.’ The Christian was killed and this ISIS fighter actually took the Bible and began to read it. In another dream, Jesus asked him to follow him and he was now asking to become a follower of Christ and to be discipled.”

“So who knows. Perhaps this man will be like Saul in the Bible that persecuted Christians and he turned from that persecution of the early church to become the Apostle Paul who led it,” Fadely added. “God can turn it around.”

Raymond Ibrahim: Islam’s ‘Baby Jihad’

Islamic aspirations to dominate the world are set to happen—if not through might of arms, then apparently through sheer numbers.

by Raymond Ibrahim — June 15, 2015

In 1900, the Muslim population of the world was less than 200 million.  Conversely, the Christian population of the world was almost 560 million—almost three times the number of Muslims.
Times have changed.  According to the findings of a Pew Research Center in America:

The number of Muslims will increase at more than double the rate of the world’s population, which is expected to rise by 35 per cent in the next four decades. 
There will be more Muslims than Christians in the world in less than sixty years, new research revealed. 
The [Islamic] religion’s share of the world’s population will equal the Christian share – at roughly 32 per cent each – in 2070, analysis by the Pew Research Center showed. 
By 2050 Muslims will make up around ten per cent of Europe’s population.

For a better idea of what is in store for Europe, simply look to the UK’s “Londonistan”—the apt name for London and other regions with a notable Islamic presence: Already with a 10 percent Muslim population, Londonistan is a reflection of Europe 35 years from now when it too is projected to be ten percent Muslim (and by which time the UK will likely have an even much larger Muslim population).

The same sorts of anti-infidel violence and sexual abuse that is a daily fixture in Muslim majority nations is already a normal feature of Londonistan with its mere 10 percent Muslim minority.

Put differently, if “ISIS” and other Islamic groups regularly behead “infidel” men and sexually enslave “infidel” women in the Middle East—so are “average” Muslims doing so in the UK:

Recall how in 2013, two Muslim men shouting “Allahu Akbar” beheaded a British soldier with a cleaver—in a busy intersection and in broad daylight no less.  They even boasted in front of passersby and asked to be videotaped.

Or recall how Muslims were recently busted for running a sex ring in Rotherham, England: 1,400 British children as young as 11 were plied with drugs before being passed around and sexually abused in cabs and kabob shops.

It was at least at least the fifth sex abuse ring led by Muslims to be uncovered in England—Muslims who only make 10 percent.

Pastor Saeed Abedini 'Viciously Beaten' in Iranian Prison, Told His Only Way Out Is to Deny Jesus Christ

"Abedini has been repeatedly told his prison sentence will be increased unless he denies his Christian faith — something his wife insists her husband will not do."

Pastor Saeed is one of the great Christian confessors of our time. His wife, Naghmeh, labors unceasingly on his behalf, trying to raise American awareness of his plight and that of other Christians imprisoned in Iran, but the Obama administration negates her efforts. 

Spineless and deceptive U.S. officials will have much to answer for at the judgment, as they aid Muslim persecution of Christians in the Middle East and all around the globe.

Related: Iran Sentences 18 Christians to Prison in New Crackdown on Christianity

via "Pastor Saeed Abedini 'Viciously Beaten' in Iranian Prison, Told His Only Way Out Is to Deny Jesus Christ"
by Stoyan Zaimov, Christian Post, June 11, 2015

Pastor Saeed and his family, before he was imprisoned
by the Iranian regime for his faith in Jesus Christ.
American pastor Saeed Abedini has reportedly been "viciously beaten" by fellow prisoners in an unprovoked attack in the Iranian prison where he's being held. The pastor was punched in the face, leaving his eyes beaten black and blue, but prison guards intervened and prevented further injury.

The American Center for Law and Justice, the law group which represents his wife, Naghmeh Abedini, and the couple's two children in the U.S., said that the prisoners also demolished a small table that the pastor had used to study and read during the beating that he endured last week.

Abedini was allowed to see a prison doctor, who determined that he does not have any broken bones. On Wednesday, he was able to see a family member who came to visit him and see his injuries first hand.

"It is heartbreaking to me and my family that Saeed was again beaten in prison. Saeed's life is continuously threatened not only because he is an American, but also because he is a convert from Islam to Christianity. It's time to get Saeed home before it is too late," Naghmeh Abedini said in response to the news.

Back in May, Abedini marked his 35th birthday in prison, where he has spent over two and a half years for his Christian faith. He was arrested in Iran in 2012 while working on an orphanage for children, and later sentenced to eight years in prison.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

On the Sunday of All Saints of North America

The Second Sunday after Pentecost (which is the Sunday after All Saints) each local Orthodox Church celebrates the Synaxis of All Saints of their particular land. This humble sermon presents a compelling case for a uniquely American saint, the beloved struggler, writer and ascetic, Hieromonk Seraphim Rose.

by Jesse Dominick, St Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary
Pravoslavie — June 14, 2015

Synaxis of All Saints of North America
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Last week the Church celebrated the great feast of All Saints—in which every Saint, known and unknown is commemorated—and this Sunday we commemorate specifically all the Saints of Russia, while especially in America are celebrated the Feast of All Saints of North America.

We have been blessed with several great Saints in our land—St. Herman who first brought Holy Orthodoxy to this continent from Russia in the 1700's, St. Tikhon, the Patriarch of Moscow who founded our St. Tikhon's Monastery, St. Nikolai Velimirovich, who taught and reposed at our Seminary, and St. John Maximovitch, the wonderworking bishop of San Francisco, among several others. But there is one person in particular that I would like to talk about today—the monk and priest Fr. Seraphim Rose.

Muslim Persecution of Christians worsens in Israel & Palestinian Territories; Influence of Islamic State grows

Mob violence against Christians, anti-Christian billboards and graffiti, and imams at major mosques preaching jihad and jizya:
“When you face a polytheist enemy [i.e. a Christian who worships the Holy Trinity], you should give him three options – they must convert to Islam, or pay the jizya [tax on non-Muslims], or else you should seek the help of Allah and fight them. You should fight them even if they do not fight you.” —Sheikh Issam Ameera, imam at the Al-Aqsa mosque, Jerusalem

Christians Suspect Islamic State Influencing Muslims in Palestinian Territories, Israel; Increased radicalization seen in attacks, rhetoric.
Morningstar News — June 11, 2015

Muslim billboard in Nazareth, threatening Christians.

ISTANBUL, Turkey (Morning Star News) – After months of Islamic State (IS) committing horrific violence in the Middle East and North Africa, Palestinian Christians say a large number of Muslims in the Palestinian Territories and Israel have become “radicalized” and are much more aggressive toward them.

Anti-Christian hostility boiling under the surface for years has come into plain view in the past few months in the form of physical attacks, incendiary religious speeches and inflammatory billboards, they said.

Palestinian Christian leaders said not all Muslims in the Territories and Israel have become extremists, and elders within the Muslim community are trying to dampen the effects of extremist ideology, but enough Palestinians have become radicalized that many Christians feel unsafe or, at minimum, openly unwanted. Whereas tensions between Christians and Muslims previously were seen as issues between individuals, there is now a definite “us vs. them” mentality from Islamic extremists, Christian leaders said.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Al Azhar Distributing Free Book Dedicated to Discrediting Christianity, the “Failed Religion”

The booklet will certainly help incite Egypt’s Muslims against the already heavily persecuted Coptic Christians.

This book from Al Azhar and its feeble claims are the height of irony and psychological projection, coming from the most respected Islamic university in the world, whose false religion was spread primarily by the sword and bloodshed, whose "prophet" personally beheaded hundreds of men, advocated the use of deceit against unbelievers, and was certainly of a depraved character, if not outright demon-possessed. The fruits of Islam's founder can be seen all around us today. This is much of what I present in my book, Facing Islam.

Epitaph of the Failed Religion, by Yusuf al-Qaradawi
One of Islam's leading figures recently admitted that Islam needs war-like threats — including the death penalty for apostasy — to keep its devotees in line. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, head of the Muslim Brotherhood and one of the most respected leaders of the Sunni world, recently stated on Egyptian television, "If they [Muslims] had gotten rid of the punishment [often death] for apostasy, Islam would not exist today."

That is the very definition of a failed religion! One which rules by fear and intimidation, requiring war and bloodshed to spread, and the death penalty to keep its followers from rejecting its false claims.

Don't take my word for it; I'm just a lazy sinner. Here is an excerpt from a divinely-illumined father of the Orthodox Church, St. Gregory Palamas, who, having been abducted by the Muslim Turks (just as Muslims kidnap Christians today, including clergy), spoke fearlessly to them of the falseness of their prophet and religion at the risk of his own life:

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sudanese Pastors accused of 'Offending Islam' boldly face persecution, possible execution

Pastors Yat Michael and David Yein have been imprisoned for two months with no contact with their families in the capital city of Khartoum, where numerous Christian churches have recently been desecrated.

Pravoslavie, June 8, 2015

Persecutions against Christians continue in the Islamic nation of Sudan, which last year sentenced a woman to death for marrying an American Christian. The Christian Post reports that now pastors Yat Michael and David Yein face possible execution for their boldness in preaching their Christian faith.

The two pastors, accused of spying and offending Islamic beliefs, have been imprisoned for two months with no contact with their families in the capital city of Khartoum, where numerous Christian churches have recently been desecrated. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Egypt: Terrified Christians flee homes following blasphemy accusations

"Coptic Christian homes have been attacked and families forced to flee from a village in Egypt after reports that Islam was insulted on Facebook."

Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch directs his introductory comments to this report as a warning to comfortable Christians in the West who oppose "provoking" Muslims through cartoons of Muhammad or other means. But as I wrote here recently,
"Christians themselves in the Islamic world — by their very being, by their very presence — are all the provocation Muslims need to slaughter them. No cartoons required."

Egypt: Terrified Christians flee homes following blasphemy accusations
Jihad Watch — June 8, 2015

The comfortable, suburban Christians who are sitting in their armchairs and tut-tutting at us for being so uncharitable as to hold a Muhammad cartoon contest should take careful note of this. Islamic law asserts authority over non-Muslims. To send the signal that we will submit to Sharia blasphemy laws regarding drawing Muhammad, even if we are doing so out of a misguided sense of “respect,” will only embolden Islamic supremacists to make more demands. The endpoint of these demands is shown in this incident in Egypt. These comfortable, suburban Christians in the West are ensuring a future of harassment, persecution, violence and bloodshed for their children and children’s children.

More on this story. “Terrified Coptic Christians flee from their homes following blasphemy accusations,” by Oge Okonkwo, Pulse, June 3, 2015:
Coptic Christian homes have been attacked and families forced to flee from a village in Egypt after reports that Islam was insulted on Facebook. 
But some Muslims in the Beni Suef governorate in Egypt tried to protect Copts from villagers angered over alleged “insults to Islam”.

Turks Glorify Historic Slaughter and Rape of Christians

The annual Muslim celebration of the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 by Sultan Mehmet is "tantamount to their saying 'We are proud of our fellow Sunni Muslims of the Islamic State—who are currently slaughtering, beheading, enslaving, and raping people simply because they are Christian 'infidels'.”

by Raymond Ibrahim — June 8, 2015

Fall of Constantinople, 1453; artist, Theofilos

A recent news report unwittingly demonstrates how Turkey—once deemed the most “secularized” Muslim nation—is returning to its Islamic heritage, complete with animosity for the infidel West and dreams of the glory days of jihadi conquests:
A group of devout Muslims from across Turkey prayed before the city’s historic Hagia Sophia on the 562nd anniversary of the Turkish conquest of Istanbul [Constantinople], demanding that the site be turned back into a mosque. 
Men and women from across the country gathered before the Hagia Sophia museum early May 31, as part of an event organized by the Anatolian Youth Association (AGD) with the motto “Break the chains, Open Hagia Sophia,” and prayed the morning prayer with a call for the reconversion of the museum into a mosque.

In fact, this is an annual ritual.  Thousands of Turks surround Hagia Sophia every May and call for it to become a mosque—often to Islam’s war-cry, “Allahu Akbar!”

This is not about a “minority of radicals.”  In a survey conducted with 401 Turks, more than 97 percent wanted Hagia Sophia to be turned into a functioning mosque.   Nor is this about Muslims needing a place to pray.  As of 2010, there were 3,000 active mosques in Istanbul alone.

Rather, this is about Muslims wanting to revel in the glory days of Islamic jihad and conquest.

Unlike historically-challenged Westerners, Muslims fully understand the significance of Hagia Sophia.  Hagia Sophia—Greek for “Holy Wisdom”—was, in fact, Christendom’s greatest cathedral for almost one thousand years.  Built in Constantinople, the heart of the ancient Christian empire, it was also a stalwart symbol of defiance against an ever encroaching Islam from the east.

After parrying centuries of jihadi thrusts, Constantinople was finally sacked by the Turks under Sultan Mehmet II on May 29, 1453.  Its crosses desecrated and icons defaced, Hagia Sophia—as well as thousands of other churches—was converted into a victory mosque, the tall minarets of Islam surrounding it in triumph.

Reading the primary historic texts from the period is not unlike reading current headlines concerning Islamic State atrocities—the massacres, beheadings, rapes, enslavement of Christian “infidels” and the defilement of their churches.  Writes an eyewitness to the 1453 Turkish conquest of Constantinople:

Islamic State announces plan to transform Mosul church into mosque

"Islamic State militants posted notices throughout the city announcing that the Syrian Orthodox Church of St. Ephrem, which they emptied last fall, will reopen soon as the 'mosque of the mujahideen' or jihad fighters."

As has happened throughout the Middle East for fourteen centuries following every successive Muslim conquest, Christian churches are either destroyed, or converted into mosques.

The removal of the cross last July from the Syrian Orthodox Church of St. Ephrem is standard Islamic practice, as the Christian symbol is not permitted in Muslim lands. The Islamic State is not alone in this practice; the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia has repeatedly called for the destruction of all churches in the Arabian Peninsula (see here and here), in accordance with Muhammad's command: “I will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslim” (Hadith from Sahih Muslim 19.4366).

Muhammad even prophesied that the prophet Isa (the Islamic name for Jesus) would return in the end times and break all the crosses (i.e., destroying all churches), abolishing Christianity, as cited in this apocalyptic hadith popular among devout Muslims:
Isa will “fight the people for the cause of Islam. He will break the cross, kill the swine and abolish jizya” and establish the rule of Allah throughout the world. (Hadith from Sunan Abu Dawud, Book of Battles, 37:4310)

Mosul is a sign of the Middle East of the 21st century, the final stage of religious cleansing conducted by the followers of Muhammad since the early 7th century.

Islamic militants announce plan to transform Mosul church into mosque
by Laura Ieraci, CNS via Pravmir — June 8, 2015

According to Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Islamic State militants posted notices throughout the city announcing that the Syrian Orthodox Church of St. Ephrem, which they emptied last fall, will reopen soon as the “mosque of the mujahideen” or jihad fighters.

The news came just before the one-year anniversary of the capture of Mosul by Islamic State fighters June 10.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

DABIQ: Islamic State could transport Nuke from Nigeria into U.S. through Mexico

ISIS op-ed "claims it could transport a nuclear device in the same way illicit drugs are smuggled into Europe through West Africa, adding that Boko Haram’s presence in Nigeria could facilitate the transaction."

by Edwin Mora, Breitbart News, June 3, 2015

The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), in the latest edition of its propaganda magazine, indicated that it could purchase a nuclear weapon in Pakistan, take it to Nigeria, and then smuggle it into the U.S. through Mexico by using existing trafficking networks in Latin America.

In an op-ed article published in the ninth edition of ISIS’ Dabiq magazine released in late May, the jihadist group claims it could transport a nuclear device in the same way illicit drugs are smuggled into Europe through West Africa, adding that Boko Haram’s presence in Nigeria could facilitate the transaction.

The Nigeria-based Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram, pledged allegiance to ISIS in March.

In March, Gen. John Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command (Southcom), warned that Islamic terrorist groups such as ISIS could exploit the capabilities and knowledge of Latin American smuggling networks to infiltrate the U.S. through Mexico and possibly bring in weapons of mass destruction.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

William Kilpatrick — 'Needed: A New Church Policy Toward Islam, Part 1 of 3'

I was revisiting this outstanding 3-part series today, and realized I somehow posted #3 as #1, and that I never actually posted Part 1!  Therefore, I am reposting it now.

Perhaps this is providential, as I think this is one of the best works on the subject of how the Church should approach the challenge of Islam.

William Kilpatrick wrote these articles for a Roman Catholic audience, but the questions raised are equally pertinent for Orthodox, Coptic, and all Eastern Christians. Indeed, everyone can profit by his patient reasoning. 

I humbly urge any Orthodox hierarchs and clergy reading this to spend some time with this series, and add these issues to your synodal and deanery agendas. 

Part One of a Three Part Series. See Part 2, Part 3.

Needed: A New Church Policy Toward Islam
By William Kilpatrick, Crisis Magazine — January 28, 2015


In a speech to Egypt’s top Islamic authorities, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi called for a “religious revolution.” Why? Because he believes that Islam has problems: “That corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the centuries … is antagonizing the entire world.” He continued: “Is it possible that 1.6 billion people should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants…?” He then warned the assembled imams not to “remain trapped within this mindset” but to “reflect on it from a more enlightened perspective.”

However you interpret el-Sisi’s remarks, it’s clear that he believes the problems of Islam are not the fault of a tiny minority. He seems to think that a great many are to blame, and he particularly singles out Islamic religious leaders, whom he holds “responsible before Allah” on “Judgment Day.” And, most tellingly, he refuses to indulge in the this-has-nothing-to-do-with-Islam excuse favored by Western leaders. Rather, he states that “the entire umma [Islamic world]” is “a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world” because of “the thinking that we hold most sacred.”

By contrast, after his visit to Turkey, Pope Francis compared Islamic fundamentalists to Christian fundamentalists and said that “in all religions there are these little groups.” A little over a year ago in his apostolic exhortation, he joined the ranks of those who say that terror has nothing to do with Islam by observing that “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.”

So the leader of the largest Muslim country in the Arab world thinks that the entire Islamic world is suffused with dangerous and destructive thinking, and the leader of the Catholic Church thinks terror is the work of a few misunderstanders of Islam.

Or does he?

ISIS threatens ancient monastery filled with Christians

A 1,650-year-old monastery in northern Iraq, one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world, is in danger of falling to ISIS.

by Leo Hohmann — June 2, 2015
WND via Pravmir

St. Matthew’s Monastery is a 1,650-year-old structure built into the side of a mountain
on the Nineveh Plain of northern Iraq.

St. Matthew’s monastery, founded in A.D. 363, has survived the Ottoman and Persian Empires, Mongol invaders and Kurdish conquests. Today it’s threatened by ISIS. Only three monks remain.
It has served as a place of refuge for persecuted Christians and other religious minorities for centuries, but now its very existence is threatened.

Some of the earliest Christians sought safety there. And when Islamic hordes stormed the city of Mosul, just 20 miles away, last June, the monastery’s thick stone walls again became a safe haven.
Located about 20 miles north of Mosul, the monastery is in protected Kurdish territory but is just a little more than three miles from the front lines of battle.

“We can see the battles and the airstrikes from here in front of us, especially at night. The sky lights up at night, but we of course are not scared. God protects us,” Father Yousif Ibrahim, one of three monks who resides in the monastery, told USA Today. There are also six students living at St. Matthew’s.

Before Iraq fell into chaos, the monastery was home to thousands of nuns, priests and students with the Syriac Orthodox Church. The ancient church traces its founding back to the time of Christ. Some of its earliest founders may have personally known Jesus Christ. They still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

It houses one of the most ancient Christian libraries in the region. Many of the oldest manuscripts have been removed and taken to Kurdish-controlled areas.

Christian refugees running out of places to hide

More than 125,000 Christians have been forced from their homes over the past 12 months. They now live as refugees, most of them in the semi-autonomous state of Kurdistan.

ISIS has previously vowed to destroy all Christian historical sites in the areas that fall under its control. In March, it destroyed the ancient Christian Mar Behnam Monastery in the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqosh in northern Iraq.

The jihadists have desecrated Christian cemeteries, seized Christian girls for sex slaves and killed other children in front of their parents’ eyes.

The Last Divine Liturgy in Hagia Sophia – Constantinople

"They entered the Holy Church with reverence, making the sign of the cross. Father Lefteris said, quietly, with great emotion: 'I enter into your house; I worship towards your Holy Church in fear…'

"He quickly moved towards the Holy Sanctuary, where the Holy Table would have been. He found a small table and placed it within the Sanctuary. He had everything in a small bag; he took everything out, he put on his vestments and began:

“'Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages'.

“'Amen', replied the Major Liaromatis. The Divine Liturgy had begun in Hagia Sophia, for the first time since the 29 May 1453."

The Last Divine Liturgy in St. Sophia – Constantinople
Londinoupolis via OCP Media — May 29, 2015

Many, even Orthodox, even Greeks, believe that the last Divine Liturgy in St. Sophia, in Constantinople, was celebrated on the 29 May 1453. However, the last Liturgy took place in 1919. The priest who celebrated the Divine Liturgy was Fr. Lefteris Noufarakis, who was from Alones Rethymnou, Crete. He was an army priest in the Second Greek Army Division, one of the two army divisions which was part of the allied expeditionary body in Ukraine. This Army Division went to Ukraine via Constantinople, which then was under ‘allied sovereignty’, after the end of WW I.

A group of Greek Officers, led by the priest, General Frantzis, Major Liaromati, Captain Stamatiou and Lieutenant Nikolaou were observing the City and Hagia Sophia, keeping to themselves their secret, i.e. to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in St. Sophia – a decision taken primarily by the priest. The difficulty of this endeavour was the fact that during that period St. Sophia was a mosque, creating therefore some major issues. This could have created a diplomatic incident between Greece and Turkey. However, Fr. Lefteris had decided that he was going to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in St. Sophia, whatever difficulty came his way.

Monday, June 1, 2015

‘The Butterfly Effect’ - Obama, Climate Change, and Islam’s War against the World

If even the wings of a butterfly have weight and shared causality, then what of the teachings and example of a seventh century desert prophet?

by Ralph H. Sidway

President Obama, during his recent address at the Coast Guard Commencement ceremonies, again offered his profound views on the myriad vectors shaping global unrest and chaos. Ranking high among the primal forces threatening us — high enough to be emphasized by the President of the most powerful nation on the planet — is that bane of mankind, “climate change.” 

Lest there be any doubt of the gravity of the situation, or of his authority in such matters, Mr. Obama predicates his mission with a great “I am” statement:

“I am here to say that climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security, and make no mistake, will impact how our military defends our country.”

The Obama Administration is consistent and adamant on this topic. This past February, Vice-President Biden told college students in Iowa that “global warming is the greatest threat of anything at all, across the board,” and Secretary of State Kerry has likewise been beating the same drum.  (Never mind that the data shows we have been in a “global warming pause” for nearly two decades, and that climate-change IPCC scientists resorted to manipulating the data in order to create the fraudulent "hockey-stick graph" and advance their agenda.)

Curiously, the Administration’s emphasis on the threat from “climate change” seems to roughly balance its insistence that the Islamic State Caliphate is “not Islamic” and is not much of a threat anyway.  One might be tempted to think that the “war against climate change” is being used as a tool to deflect attention away from Islam’s war against us.

But let’s allow, for the sake of argument (and in deference to the great Ray Bradbury’s short story, “A Sound of Thunder”), that there is some validity to “The Butterfly Effect,” the chaos theory corollary which postulates that events of great consequence may be set in motion by much smaller events separated by vast scales of time and distance. “Change one thing — Change everything,” says the tag for the 2004 Ashton Kutcher film of the same name. 

So, in the Obama narrative, chaotic weather shifts are contributing to drought, floods, poverty, inequity, and a host of other effects, all triggers generating global violent extremism, as disenfranchised groups duke it out for dwindling resources — or something like that.

But no matter how you dress it up with fancy words and phony analysis, the Obama narrative of “Blame it on the weather” is not only incorrect, it is as deceitful as the hockey-stick graph itself.

Let’s rather explore “the Butterfly Effect” and take a quick ride in Ray Bradbury’s time machine back to the early 7th century. Let’s set the dials for shortly after Muhammad makes his hijra to Medina (Year 1, in the Islamic calendar). Let’s listen to the prophet and watch his actions. But take care not to step off the path.

Muslims from across Turkey demand Hagia Sophia be turned back into mosque

Timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Muslim defeat of Constantinople in 1453. More Islamic supremacism in rapidly re-Islamizing Turkey. 


Morning prayer held before Hagia Sophia to demand re-conversion into mosque
Hürriyet Daily News, May 31, 2015 (via Jihad Watch)

A group of devout Muslims from across Turkey prayed before the city’s historic Hagia Sophia on the 562nd anniversary of the Turkish conquest of Istanbul, demanding that the site be turned back into a mosque.

Men and women from across the country gathered before the Hagia Sophia museum early May 31, as part of an event organized by the Anatolian Youth Association (AGD) with the motto “Break the chains, Open Hagia Sophia,” and prayed the morning prayer with a call for the reconversion of the museum into a mosque.

Islamophobia, Iconophobia, and Islamic Images of Muhammad

A helpful analysis of the place of images in Islamic history.


by Timothy R. Furnish, Mahdi Watch — May 31, 2015

Timothy R. Furnish holds a PhD in Islamic history; writes, lectures and consults on Islamic world issues; and blogs on Mahdism and Muslim eschatology at www.mahdiwatch.org.

Muhammad cavorting with houris, from the Ottoman palace museum.
THIS should upset Muslims more than anything from "Draw Muhammad."

The rather obscure realm of Islamic art, and in particular whether it’s “unIslamic” to portray Islam’s founder, Muhammad, therein, has become an important—indeed, potentially lethal—topic, first with the murders of the Charlie Hebdo publishers, then with the Garland, Texas, attack on the organizers of “Draw Muhammad” which resulted in two self-styled jihadists being dispatched to consort with the houris.  The brains behind “Draw Muhammad”—Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller—inspired another similar event in Phoenix this past Friday (May 29, 2015).  Geller, the lightning rod of the Spencer-Geller counter-jihad duo, recently mixed it up on CNN with Chris Cuomo, as the latter compared her push for people to draw Muhammad with using the “n-word” in referring to black Americans.  

Whether one feels that “Draw Muhammad” events are intentionally provocative, it’s clear that they are certainly legal on First Amendment grounds—so I do not wish to rehash that debate.  Rather, I think it more important to examine the history of Islamic attitudes toward art in general and the portrayal of humans, particularly prophetic figures, in particular.  Media experts are all over the map on this issue:  some maintain that images of  Muhammad are strictly forbidden in the world’s second-largest religion, while others argue that “the koran [sic]” does no such thing.