Wednesday, December 30, 2015

It's Not ISIS We Need to Beat — It's the Caliphate

"We are not at war with ISIS. We are at war with everyone on the Caliphate curve. Not because we choose to be, but because like Hitler’s Thousand Year Reich or Communism’s vision of one world under the red flag, the Caliphate is a plan for imposing a totalitarian system on us  to deprive us of our rights."

It's Not ISIS We Need to Beat — It's the Caliphate
Understanding the Caliphate Curve.
by Daniel Greenfield, Frontpage Mag, December 29, 2015:

A recent report by, of all places, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, found that the Syrian rebels were mostly Islamic Jihadists and that even if ISIS were defeated there were 15 other groups sharing its worldview that were ready to take its place. 

And that’s just in Syria. 

The official ISIS story, the one that we read in the newspapers, watch on television and hear on the radio, is that it’s a unique group whose brand of extremism is so extreme that there is no comparing it to anything else. ISIS has nothing to do with Islam. Or with anything else. It’s a complete aberration. 

Except for the 15 other Jihadist groups ready to step into its shoes in just one country.

Islamic Supremacist organizations like ISIS can be graded on the “Caliphate curve”. The Caliphate curve is based on how quickly an Islamic organization wants to achieve the Caliphate. What we describe as “extreme” or “moderate” is really the speed at which an Islamic group seeks to recreate the Caliphate.

ISIS is at the extreme end of the scale, not because it tortures, kills and rapes, but because it implemented the Caliphate immediately. The atrocities for which ISIS has become known are typical of a functioning Caliphate. The execution of Muslims who do not submit to the Caliph, the ethnic cleansing and sexual slavery of non-Muslims are not aberrations. They are normal behavior for a Caliphate.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

'Today the Virgin gives Birth to the Transcendent One...'

Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One,
And the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One!
Angels with shepherds glorify Him!
The wise men journey with a star!
Since for our sake
the Eternal God
was born
as a Little Child!

~ Kontakion for the Nativity of Christ

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Nativity: Christ 'submits Himself to that evil in order to destroy it forever'

Without specifically mentioning Islam, over a millennium of Muslim persecution of Christians, the genocide against Christians today, or the theological jihad of the tawhidists, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon, in less than 350 words, conveys the depth of the mystery, paradox and irony of the Incarnation:

[The Word of God] sees a world in bondage to the forces of evil and He submits Himself to that evil in order to destroy it forever.

It is because Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word and Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, voluntarily "submits" (the meaning of the word, "Islam") Himself to the forces of evil, that His extreme humility, His kenotic sacrifice, destroys that evil forever.

This is why the forces of Islam "rage against the Lord and against His Christ" (cf. Psalm 2), for they know that they have been defeated by Him Who is pure, holy, humble, and meek, Who becomes man and sacrifices Himself to restore all mankind to the Father.

Through His meekness, the proud are humbled.

Through His submission, those who try to force submission from others are overthrown.

Through His forgiveness from the Cross, even His persecutors can be converted and inherit the Kingdom!

We shall have to endure much to enter the Kingdom, but as His Beatitude and Bishop Paul remind us, Christ has already won the victory through His Incarnation, His sufferings, His crucifixion, and His Resurrection. Let us walk as Children of Light, and confess Him faithfully, so that we shall not be ashamed at His Second and Glorious Coming!

Nativity of our Lord 2015
Archpastoral Message of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

To the Honorable Clergy, Venerable Monastics, and Pious Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America,

My Beloved Brethren and Blessed Children in the Lord,

It is my joy and privilege to greet all of you on the radiant feast of the Nativity of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.  

In some 700 communities large and small sprinkled across the North American continent, from Canada, to the United States and Mexico, we gather together to celebrate the wonder of God’s entry into human history.  

For many in our society this message is still as foolish as it was in the first century.  But we continue to stand with the saints beside the manger, the Cross and the empty tomb to proclaim God’s sacrificial love for us and for His Creation.  As we sing on Christmas Day:

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Nativity Message of Bishop Paul, OCA Diocese of the Midwest

"Whenever the Church is in danger of being extinguished, it is always the faithful martyrs who guarantee its ongoing life."

His Grace, Bishop Paul, has delivered us a prophetic message of hope and encouragement, just at this time when the global persecution of Christians is worsening, when Islam seems to be poised to eradicate Christianity from the Middle East, and darkness is settling across the United States and all around the world (except in Russia, where the Orthodox Church continues its miraculous renewal).  Bishop Paul asks,
"Is Christianity in trouble?  Is it in danger of becoming extinct?  I don’t believe so..."

His reasons are challenging, for he bases his answer on The Apocalypse, and on what it means to be a faithful Witness — a Martyr — for Jesus Christ. This is the Gospel, being proclaimed by a Faithful Shepherd of the Church... Let us heed his call!


Beloved Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of the Diocese of the Midwest:

Christ is Born — Glorify Him!

Recently, I have been thinking about how there is so much happening in the Middle East that has impacted the lives of the region’s Orthodox Christians.  We have heard reports of bishops kidnapped (and maybe slain), Coptic Christians martyred in Egypt, and Christians fleeing Iraq and, most recently, Syria.  Various Orthodox Churches and other groups have made efforts to contact governments to call attention to the fact that a form of genocide against Christians is occurring in the Middle East.  This is a difficult time for Christians there.  Many of our churches are offering regular and necessary prayers for those who are suffering and being persecuted for their faith.

The current situation could be interpreted as very discouraging.  The public media does not consider such things to be newsworthy enough to report.  One might question whether Christianity is in trouble (and whether it will survive) in the region.  Something needs to be done to end this genocide by government intervention to protect those being persecuted merely because of their faith in Christ.  There is much about the above thought I share.  But I do ask the question, is Christianity in trouble?  Is it in danger of becoming extinct?  I don’t believe so.

As I reflect upon this in light of our approaching celebration of the Lord’s Nativity, I offer the following thoughts.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Feds don’t know whereabouts of 9,500 with visas revoked over terrorism

"The Obama administration cannot be sure of the whereabouts of thousands of foreigners in the U.S. who had their visas revoked over terror concerns and other reasons, a State Department official acknowledged Thursday..."

See also:

Feds can’t say whereabouts of those whose visas were revoked over terror threat
Fox News, December 19, 2015 (via Jihad Watch):

The Obama administration cannot be sure of the whereabouts of thousands of foreigners in the U.S. who had their visas revoked over terror concerns and other reasons, a State Department official acknowledged Thursday.

The admission, made at a House oversight hearing examining immigrant vetting in the wake of major terror attacks, drew a sharp rebuke from the committee chairman.

“You don’t have a clue do you?” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told Michele Thoren Bond, assistant secretary for the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Fr. Stephen Freeman: 'Living in the Real World'

As we prepare to celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ, the Word of God Incarnate, here is a reminder of what is real:
"God gives us Himself, His life-creating grace, in very concrete and particular ways. The reason is simple – we were created to live in a concrete and particular way. The life of abstraction is alien to the life of grace. There is no sacrament of the abstract, vague or general. The only Presence is a real presence..."

Living in the Real World
Fr. Stephen Freeman, Glory to God for All Things, November 24, 2015

Nothing exists in general. If something is beautiful or good, it is manifest in a particular way at a particular time such that we can know it. And this is our true life. A life lived in a “generalized” manner is no life at all, but only a fantasy. However, this fantasy is increasingly the character of what most people think of or describe as the “real world.”

A monk lives in a monastery. He rises early in the morning and prays. He concentrates his mind in his heart and dwells in the presence of God. He will offer prayers for those who have requested it. He will eat and tend to the work assigned for him to do. And so he lives his day. He works. He prays.

And someone will say, “But what does he know about the real world?” But what can they possibly mean? He walks on the earth. He breathes the same air as we do. He eats as we do and sleeps as we do. How is his world any less real than that of anyone else on the planet?

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Revealing of Neo-Martyr St. Ephraim of Nea Makri in 1950

St Ephraim was martyred by the Muslim Turks over six-hundred years ago, but like the newly-appeared Martyrs Raphael, Nicholas and Irene, his story was concealed by God's providence, only to be revealed in our days.

The lives of these newly-revealed Neo-Martyrs are a sign and call to us to persevere in Christian faith, godliness and holiness, and to be strengthened to defend our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ even unto death. They ought also to be a great encouragement to those who struggle and persevere in isolation and obscurity, for God preserves and rewards the righteous, and reveals them in His time.

The Revealing of Neo-Martyr Ephraim of Nea Makri
Read the full account of St Ephraim here.

...These things remained forgotten for nearly 500 years, hidden in the depths of silence and oblivion until January 3, 1950 (December 21, O.S.). By then a women's monastery had sprung up on the site of the old monastery. Abbess Makaria (+ April 23, 1999) was wandering through the ruins of the monastery, thinking of the martyrs whose bones had been scattered over that ground, and whose blood had watered the tree of Orthodoxy. She realized that this was a holy place, and she prayed that God would permit her to behold one of the Fathers who had lived there.

After some time, she seemed to sense an inner voice telling her to dig in a certain spot. She indicated the place to a workman whom she had hired to make repairs at the old monastery. The man was unwilling to dig there, for he wanted to dig somewhere else. Because the man was so insistent, Mother Makaria let him go where he wished. She prayed that the man would not be able to dig there, and so he struck rock. Although he tried to dig in three or four places, he met with the same results. Finally, he agreed to dig where the abbess had first indicated.

In the ruins of an old cell, he cleared away the rubble and began to dig in an angry manner. The abbess told him to slow down, for she did not want him to damage the body that she expected to find there. He mocked her because she expected to find the relics of a saint. When he reached the depth of six feet, however, he unearthed the head of the man of God. At that moment an ineffable fragrance filled the air. The workman turned pale and was unable to speak. Mother Makaria told him to go and leave her there by herself. She knelt and reverently kissed the body. As she cleared away more earth, she saw the sleeves of the saint's rasson. The cloth was thick and appeared to have been woven on the loom of an earlier time. She uncovered the rest of the body and began to remove the bones, which appeared to be those of a martyr.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Jihadist who fled Syria: Islamic State is planning ‘mega attack’ in Europe

A former propaganda ‘mastermind’ for Islamic State says the terrorist group has plans for a “series of coordinated attacks across European cities” to replicate the bloody Paris attacks on other streets.

Islamic State Plans ‘Coordinated Terror Attacks’ Across European Cities
by Sarkia Zeronian, Breitbart London, December 19, 2015:

"The Islamic State is in Rome..."

The plan for the coordinated terror attacks was told to authorities by a former Islamic State jihadi identified only as Harry S, reports The Express. He fled the terror group’s territory and is now being questioned by intelligence officers in Germany after having been charged with membership of a terror group — a conviction for which would result in a lengthy prison sentence.

He claims senior Islamic State commanders asked him and other fighters to “bring jihad back to their homeland”. The coordinated terror attacks across Europe would be the result. He explained:

“They want something that happens everywhere at the same time. 
“All you need is to take a big knife, and go down to the streets and slaughter every infidel you encounter.”

The German jihadist — one of 700 according to estimates from Germany’s domestic intelligence agency — used to lead the Islamic State’s mass executions and weekly ideological training sessions in its nominal capital, Raqqa.

Coptic Bishop Angaelos addresses international conference on Christian response to persecution

"The world seems to be waking up to the fact that there is a problem in the Middle East... There has been a systemic persecution of Christians throughout the Middle East over centuries... Our silence has been a contributing factor to what we are seeing today."

ICN via AINA, December 19, 2015:

His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, gave an address titled 'Christians in the Middle East: Light in darkness, hope in despair' during a conference at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, on 12 December.

He said: "The world seems to suddenly be waking up to the fact that there is a problem in the Middle East. That problem, however, did not start with the mass exodus of Christians from Mosul, because there has been a systematic and systemic persecution of Christians throughout the Middle East over decades and indeed over centuries. This ethnic cleansing is an accumulative effect and our silence has been a contributing factor to what we are seeing today."

"The Christian presence in the Middle East decreased from 25% to just 5%. An even more alarming statistic, is when you take Egypt out of the equation as the most populous country with the most populous Christian presence, that percentage falls from 5% to somewhere between 1% and 2% because there are 13 million Christians in Egypt."

"That said, I welcome the recent steps taken to present the actions of the caliphate to be those of genocide. I also welcome even more strongly, the efforts in the past few days that have sought to ensure that Christians are not excluded from that equation."

Christian Parents in Virgina Protest over Islamic Indoctrination Efforts in School

Virginia School District closed on Friday, blaming "tone and content" of parents' protest over Islamic indoctrination assignment, but with "no specific threat."

The outrage from many parents dealt with the secretive, deceptive methods used by the teacher to have students write the shahada, the Muslim declaration of faith. Per an update from Dr. Susan Berry at Breitbart (emphasis added):
Kimberly Herndon said she was “shocked that this was sent home, shocked that this was in the schools [and] shocked that this was right here in our small town,” reports Herndon added she felt her rights as a parent had been violated... 
I will not have my children sit under a woman who indoctrinates them with the Islam religion when I am a Christian, and I’m going to stand behind Christ,” Herndon said.
“That’s why we need to join together,” Herndon said. “If my truth can not be spoken in schools, I don’t want false doctrine spoken in schools. That’s what keeps it even across the board.” 
One county resident who worked as a teacher told the News Leader that if she had assigned her English students to copy down Bible passages in an assignment, she would have been fired. 

Update on this story.

Virginia School District Closes After Controversial Assignment Forces Students to Write Muslim Oath
by John Hayward, Breitbart News, December 18, 2015:

Virginia School deceives Christian students into writing the Muslim declaration of faith.

An entire school district in Virginia is closed Friday, after the backlash against an assignment which forced students to write the shahada, the Muslim oath that declares “There is no God but Allah. Mohammed is the messenger of Allah.”

Friday, December 18, 2015

VIDEO: The Nine - Overcoming ISIS (The Great Persecution of our Time is Here)

Watch this powerful mini-documentary about nine confessors of Jesus Christ in Iraq...

Lord Jesus Christ, grant us all this faith and courage to bear our crosses and confess You before the world, to love and forgive our persecutors, and to follow You even to Golgotha. And to give You thanks and glory through it all!

video by Mighty LA, the ones who brought you 'Who Would Dare to Love ISIS? (A Letter from the People of the Cross)':

“Who would dare to love ISIS?” was the question asked in the first film. Now, come and hear the testimonies of 9 refugees who fled ISIS and left everything behind. They dare to love ISIS and they dare to bring a message of hope - to counter ISIS’s message of hate. In light of global terrorism, millions of displaced refugees, and a complacent western church, their testimony and faith, forged by fire, will bring healing to the nations. God has shaken the Middle East and from its ruins, deep faith is stirring in the hearts of the persecuted. They are the nine, and all of heaven is cheering them, and us, on.

All of the refugees are still currently living in the Middle East.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

William Kilpatrick: The Vast Majority Myth

"The majority of Muslims aren’t waiting to see which side is the most tolerant or which side takes in the most refugees; they are waiting to see which side is winning."

William Kilpatrick discerns why the "Tiny Minority of Extremists" may not be as tiny as we would like to think, and why the "Vast Majority of Peaceful Muslims" is neither a realistic nor comforting concept.

The Vast Majority Myth
by William Kilpatrick, Crisis Magazine, December 15, 2015:

We often hear it said that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and reject violence. That proposition is worth examining because if it’s not true there is cause to worry. Of course, you should be worried already. Even if only a small percentage of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are prepared to use violence, that still works out to a large number. However, if the vast-majority thesis doesn’t hold up, you might want to order a Kevlar vest from Amazon, or, if you’re the accommodating type, you could start practicing the Shahada—the Islamic declaration of faith.

There is a good deal of polling data to suggest that the vast majority of Muslims are not just your standard-issue vast majority. For example, Pew polls of public opinion in Pakistan and Egypt show that the vast majority (about 82 percent) favor stoning for adultery, amputation for theft, and death for apostates. So, even if a majority in these countries are not personally inclined to violence, they have no problem with the violent application of sharia law.

But rather than rely on polling data, let’s look at some other ways of assessing the “vast majority” proposition. For some perspective, here are some other “vast majority” propositions that just popped into my head:

Proposition 1. The vast majority of people are peaceful until they’re not. 
Proposition 2. The vast majority of people go with the flow. 
Proposition 3. The majority of people in any society are women and children.

With the exception of the third proposition, there is no empirical evidence for these propositions, but they seem just as reasonable as the proposition that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful—a supposition which also has no empirical support. However, Proposition 3 does lend credence to the “vast majority of Muslims” thesis since women and children are, for various reasons, less inclined to violence than adult males. It would therefore be reasonable to say of any society that at least a majority are peaceful.

But people who are peaceful today will not necessarily be peaceful tomorrow. It’s probably safe to say that the vast majority of Hutus were behaving peacefully before the Rwanda genocide of 1994 … and then they stopped behaving peacefully. Using clubs, machetes, and, occasionally, guns, the Hutu managed to kill about 800,000 Tutsi in the space of one hundred days. It’s likely that the vast majority did not take part in the killings, but, by all accounts, a sizeable number did, and an even greater number were complicit. According to reports, most of the Tutsi victims who lived in rural villages were murdered by their neighbors.

So, in line with Proposition 1, the majority of the Hutu were peaceful until they were not. And, in line with Proposition 2, the majority of the Hutu went with the flow—the flow, in this case, being in the direction of mayhem. It should be noted, however, that there were powerful incentives to go with the flow. Moderate Hutus who declined to join in the killing were often killed by their fellow Hutus as a warning to others.

Although women took part in the slaughter, Proposition 3 would suggest that the majority of them did not. And if you combine the women with the children, the elderly, and the moderates, it is reasonable to assume that the majority of Hutu did not participate in the carnage. That, however, would have been small comfort to the Tutsi. The more you think about it, the less comforting it is to know that the vast majority of any population won’t take up arms against you.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Mark Durie: Anyone Using The Phrase ‘Islam Is A Religion Of Peace’ Needs To Read This

"One may well ask how ‘the religion of peace’ became a brand of Islam, for the phrase cannot be found in the Qur’an, nor in the teachings of Muhammad."

by Mark DurieIndependent JournalDecember 17, 2015

Days after the ISIS-inspired terrorist attack in San Bernardino, President Obama’s address to the nation concerning the threat of ISIS missed the mark. In fact, President Obama seemed at times to be more concerned with Americans ostracizing Muslim communities through “suspicion and hate,” than he was with protecting innocent American civilians from murder in the name of radical Islam.

It is high time for western political leaders to stop responding to terrorism by naming Islam as ‘the religion of peace’. It is time to have a hard conversation about Islam.

The West is in the throes of acute cognitive dissonance over Islam, whose brands are at war with each other. On the one hand we are told that Islam is the Religion of Peace. On the other hand we are confronted with an unending sequence of acts of terror committed in the name of the faith.

There is a depressing connection between the two brands: the louder one brand becomes, the more the volume is turned up on the other.

Why Has the Church Abandoned the Christians of the Middle East?

Western Christians have been slow to respond to Muslim Persecution of Christians, and reluctant to name Islam as the cause. This article asks why.

See also: 

Why Has the Church Abandoned the Christians of the Middle East?
by Judith Bergman, Gatestone Institute via AINA, December 12, 2015:

The 21 Coptic Christians Martyrs before being beheaded by followers of Muhammad.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was interviewed recently about the Paris attacks and asked about his reaction. "Like everyone else -- first shock and horror and then a profound sadness..." he replied. "Saturday morning, I was out and as I was walking I was praying and saying: 'God, why -- why is this happening?'"

Welby is the principal head of the Anglican Church and the symbolic head of the Anglican Communion, which stands at around 85 million members worldwide and is the third largest communion in the world -- after the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. This is a man with an extremely high public profile, and millions of Christians looking to him for spiritual guidance.

But why is a man who is the symbolic head of 85 million Christians worldwide expressing shock at yet another terrorist attack perpetrated by the Islamic State? Had the Archbishop of Canterbury paid more than just fleeting attention to his fellow Christians in Iraq and Syria, he would know that the Islamic State has been slaughtering Christians in the Middle East since 2006. Between 2004 and 2006, before the Islamic State evolved out of Al Qaeda in Iraq, it hardly showed less zeal to root out Christianity even then.

The Archbishop had eleven years to get used to the idea of people being made homeless, exiled, tortured, raped, enslaved, beheaded and murdered for not being Muslims. How much more time did he need?

The Archbishop of Canterbury had more wisdom to offer in the interview. "The perversion of faith is one of the most desperate aspects of our world today," he said, explaining that Islamic State terrorists have distorted their faith to the extent that they believe they are glorifying their God. But it is unclear how he is as qualified an expert in Islam as Islamic State "Caliph " Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, who possesses a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Baghdad.

Christians, Yazidis and persecuted Muslims in the Middle East can probably point to aspects of the world more desperate than "the perversion of faith," but then again, the Archbishop does not seem too preoccupied with the situation on the ground.

Fortunately, others are. In a piece for The Atlantic, "What ISIS Really Wants," Graeme Wood spent time researching the Islamic State and its ideology in depth. He spoke to members of the Islamic State and Islamic State recruiters; his conclusions were the following:

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Swedish Government in “State of Panic” After ISIS Letters Give Citizens Three Days to Convert to Islam or Be Decapitated

Time to read this book...
The ISIS letter relates the classic "invitation" to Islam, which is commanded in the Koran and by the words and example of Muhammad:

“Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued” (Qur’an 9:29). 
Muhammad said: “Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war…When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them…. If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them." (Sahih Muslim 4294.)

Time to read this book too...!
Wherever Islam spreads and Muslim numbers increase, this is the result. Mark Durie has dedicated an entire book to this very topic, titled The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom. It is one of the most important books on Islam for a Christian to read. 

How may Orthodox Christians prepare themselves for the trials ahead? 
1. By an ever deepening life in Christ through the Church, the sacraments, repentance and confession. 
2. By daily prayer and reading of the Holy Scriptures, especially the Gospel. 
3. By reading the lives of saints, especially the accounts of the Holy NeoMartyrs under the Ottoman Muslims, as found in the book Witnesses for Christ: Orthodox Christian Neomartyrs of the Ottoman Period, 1437-1860. 
4. Reading accounts of martyrs during our own age. This would include during the Soviet horror (see New Confessors of Russia, St Herman Press), and of new martyrs of the 21st century under the sword of Islam, a number of which can be found on the left-hand column of this blog.

Brothers and sisters, let us be faithful to Jesus Christ even to the end, that we may inherit the crown which He has promised to those who love Him and look for His Coming!

Swedish Government in “State of Panic” After ISIS Letters Give Dozens of Citizens Three Days to Convert to Islam or Be Decapitated
Raymond Ibrahim, December 13, 2015

According to a report by RT Arabic published on December 12, the “Swedish government is in a state of panic after dozens of its citizens received threatening letters signed by ISIS and offering them three choices, either conversion to Islam, payment of jizya, or decapitation.”

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Importance of St Herman for Orthodox Christians in America Today

St Herman of Alaska is commemorated on December 13 (repose) and August 9 (glorification).

When we really stop to reflect upon what Blessed Father Herman accomplished in Alaska—and what his significance is for us today—we should be stunned by his humility, his selflessness, and his simple and pure dedication and obedience to his original mission to bring the Orthodox Faith to his new land. 

The greater part of his forty-plus years in Alaska he lived alone, tirelessly caring for the native Alaskan peoples who, seeing the Love of Christ embodied in their beloved "Apa" (grandfather) became themselves pious and faithful Orthodox Christians. We should be similarly moved and converted in our hearts by Elder Herman's witness. As one monastic writer in North America has put it:

The first saints God raises up in a country contain a special message about what Orthodoxy must be like for that nation.  Thus, Sts. Boris and Gleb for Russia—the passion bearers.  And it is not a coincidence that Holy Russia begins with passion bearers and ends with passion bearers (the royal martyrs) and a whole host of New Martyrs!

So what is the lesson the Lord wants American Orthodox like us to learn from St. Herman? He was a meek and humble monk, not even a priest, but a strong witness against injustice and a confessor of the true Faith.  

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Russian New Martyr's Prophecies offer Warnings, Consolations, for our Darkening Times

The saints always call us to repentance, call us to a deeper, more authentic life in Christ, without guile. They may rebuke us for our sins, our laziness, our erratic and inconsistent following of the Lord, but at the same time, they offer great consolations and comfort for those who do struggle, who do labor in repentance, who do persevere to the end.

The persecutions facing us today are subtle (for the most part), cultural pressures, but with increased legalized marginalization of traditional Christian life and morality. Now Christians are being prosecuted for saying no to sin, and for not saying yes to the demands of the lost, who want the entire world to affirm their sins and lifestyle. This will likely metastasize into open persecution in the months and years ahead.

Our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, Africa, Central and South Asia, and around the world are suffering horrific open persecution from Muslims energized by their excitement over Islam's global resurgence. A new, "great cloud of witnesses" for Christ, New Martyrs of the 21st Century under the Sword of Islam, is being raised up. You can learn about some of them through the links on the left-hand column of this blog.

Truly, we live in a new age of martyrdom, in which we must be prepared to be faithful to Jesus Christ and confess Him to the end. The martyrs who lived through earlier persecutions can help us, by their examples, by their words, and by their intercessions.

Holy Hieromartyr Seraphim (Chichagov) of Petrograd warned of the trials to come upon the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian people as early as 1910, and before he was killed by the Soviets in 1937, sought to encourage his scattered flock with these words:
“The Orthodox Church is undergoing serious trials. Whoever remains faithful will be saved. Because of the persecutions many are leaving the Church, others are even betraying it. There have been other periods of persecution in history, but they all ended in the triumph of Christianity. That is how it will be with these persecutions. They will end, and Orthodoxy will triumph once again. Now many are suffering for the faith, but they are the gold that is purified in the furnace of persecution. There will be more new martyrs suffering for the Christian Faith than there ever has been throughout the history of Christianity.”

Bishop Tikhon Shevkunov has presented us here with a powerful icon of a prophetic witness for Christ, and urges us to seek the intercessions of Hieromartyr Seraphim and all the new martyrs:
"We need to pray [to the holy new martyrs, and] especially to Holy Hieromartyr Seraphim (Chichagov) that he would enlighten our minds; that we would see life as it really is before God and not before people; that we would understand the signs of the times, and be able to make sense of the complicated, contradictory world in which we live, in which God has judged that we must live."

A Prophetic New Martyr: St. Seraphim (Chichagov)

by Bishop Tikhon (Shevkunov) of Egorievsk, Pravoslavie, December 11, 2015

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Today we commemorate a nearly unknown yet great saint, Holy Hieromartyr Seraphim (Chichagov) of Petrograd. This was a man born in the second half of the nineteenth century, to an aristocratic family. He received a brilliant education, graduated from the Page Corps, became a well-known scholar, received a humanitarian as well as a natural sciences education, and was part of the upper echelons of society. He had a brilliant military career, having fought in several wars, but he left all this and became a priest. He did more than anyone else for the canonization of St. Seraphim of Sarov. (1)  This was his particular service.

Holy Hieromartyr Seraphim was not only a priest (later a bishop)—he was a true prophet. 

If we turn to the new martyrs with prayers for help—prayers to those who live in the kingdom of heaven for those who live here on earth—they can provide that help, because they once lived as we do, here on earth. Thus, Holy Hieromartyr Seraphim possessed a remarkable gift—the ability to recognize the signs of the times.

Friday, December 11, 2015


This week I received a warm and heartfelt email from Priest Joseph Farooq of the Archangel Michael Orthodox Mission in Pakistan.

Please consider his appeal on behalf of the Mission, and the children and widows whom he hopes to bless this Christmas. Perhaps you could share the appeal with your parish, and help support this growing oasis of light.

At the website, you will find a wealth of info on the growth of the Mission, photos, news stories, and more. There are links on the left hand column to follow by email, to their Facebook page, and to follow by Twitter. There is a Tab for Donations as well.

Mission Website:

See all posts related to Pakistan, including the Mission...

Dear Zosimas, 
Greetings and blessings in the Holy Name of Jesus! 
I extend my heartfelt thanks for your kind concern and support for the orthodox mission in Pakistan. I am sorry for being delay to answer your mail please accept my apology. 
I am sending you the link of my website and the information you sent me are no more functioning with our mission. I humbly request you please share information about orthodox mission which are posted on our website and on the website of
Every year I distributed rations and warms clothes among widows and the needy orthodox families and small gifts to orthodox children to share happiness, joy and blessings of Christmas. 
This year again the blessings of God I wish to repeat this event again. The most important thing to share that I do not have any sort of funds in hand for Christmas celebrations, I most humbly request you if you may send some generous help for the poor and needy orthodox widows and for the happiness of children, mission needs at least 1200 US dollars for the Christmas celebrations. 
I will thankful to you for your kind and generous help. 
May this season of Nativity fasting bring many blessings and happiness for you and all your your family. 
God bless you. 
Yours in Christ,

Thursday, December 10, 2015

RADIO INTERVIEW: Ralph Sidway on Donald Trump and 'Sandboxing' Islam

My sincere thanks to John and Kathy of WORD-FM 101.5 in Pittsburgh, who had me on for a great segment this afternoon. We discussed Donald Trump's proposal for a freeze on Muslim immigration, the challenge of Islam and Muslims in America, my article on 'Sandboxing Islam', and how to meet the Jihad Threat without losing our Christian charity or our basic humanity.

My segment begins at about 14:15 and runs to about the 39 minute mark.

Share widely...

Muslim Persecution of Christians — Call it what it is: GENOCIDE

While I prefer to speak of our age as the New Era of Christian Martyrdom, by the secular definition, the global Muslim persecution of Christians, especially that perpetrated by the Islamic State in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa, clearly should be classified as genocide.

Observers have been calling it genocide for years now, including the highly respected Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), head of the Department of External Church Relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, and Pope Francis I of Rome.

Now the issue is front and center in a unique way, as the U.S State Department is set to release its findings on whether ISIS is indeed committing genocide against minority groups in the Middle East. This report will influence U.S. policy on everything from refugee issues, to immigration, to the war against ISIS, to aid to Middle East and African nations, and so on.

Kirsten Powers, in an important article in USA Today, emphasizes the urgency of the genocide ruling:

Invoking the “g word” to recognize this fact is not just a matter of semantics. “Groups that have been designated as genocide victims are much more likely to receive military protection, including arming and training their militias for self-defense, which is always the best defense against genocide,” Gregory Stanton, the former president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, told me. “Members of such groups are also much more likely to receive preferential treatment as bona fide refugees under the U.N. convention and protocols on the status of refugees.”

An article in CRUX sets out the concerns many Christians have that the Obama administration is preparing to exclude Christians from its category of groups suffering genocide:
A group of 30 Christian leaders, including Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, has asked for a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry in advance of the State Department’s declaration of genocides taking place around the world. 
The group believes Middle East Christians should be included in any listing of genocide victims based on their treatment by the Islamic State, commonly called ISIS. 
“We recently learned that a State Department finding is imminent that ISIS is committing genocide against the Yazidis,” an Iraqi ethnic group that traces its origins to biblical times, said the Dec. 4 letter to Kerry. “We would wholeheartedly endorse that finding, but we are deeply troubled by the prospect that the department’s statement will either omit or reserve judgment on whether ISIS is committing genocide against Christians” in the Nineveh area since summer 2014.

The State Department seems to be paving the way for exclusion of Christians from its findings through a series of statements and press reports. The CRUX article continues:
One reason given for the State Department not counting Christians as genocide victims, according to the letter, is that it “lacks sufficient information about the experience of the Christian communities in Nineveh during that time to conclude that genocide took place.” [...] 
Another reason is a press report indicating that “unlike Yazidis, ISIS gives Christians a ‘choice’: They can convert to Islam, pay an Islamic tax, or be killed, enslaved, tortured, or held hostage. The implication is that ISIS abides by traditional Islamic sharia, under which other ‘people of the book’ — Christians and Jews — pay a tax in exchange for protection by their Muslim rulers,” the letter said. “We would like the opportunity to explain why this is emphatically not the case.” 
Note the naked hypocrisy here. The Obama administration steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the Islamic State as "Islamic," yet when it comes to the question of whether ISIS is committing genocide against Christians, the State Department presents ISIS' application of the terms of the dhimma contract in offering Christians the classic three choices mandated by Islamic law, as evidence that ISIS is not committing genocide against Christians, but showing them tolerance.

Only the devil himself would make such an argument.

The Cross and the Crescent - 2-Part AUDIO PODCAST

I am in the process of listening to this excellent presentation by Fr. Josiah Trenham of Patristic Nectar Publications, and strongly recommend it. It is long, two parts, each over an hour in length... Perhaps an excellent opportunity for parish study groups.

Orthodox Christian Synergy’s Annual Symposium 2015
Ancient Faith Radio, December 2, 2015 (Thanks to Theophan):

Orthodox Christian Synergy is a pan-Orthodox organization consisting of clergy and lay representatives of Chicago-area Orthodox Christian parishes who seek to project awareness of Orthodox Christianity to the public at large. Synergy works together with its parent organization, the Orthodox Christian Clergy Association of Greater Chicago, and with the blessings of the Chicago-area Orthodox hierarchs.

The topic of Synergy’s 2015 Symposium was “The Cross and the Crescent” and featured Fr. Josiah Trenham, the priest at St. Andrew Orthodox Church in Riverside, California. The gathering took place at Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago, Illinois, on Saturday, October 17, 2015.

The Cross and the Crescent: Part One 
Length: 1:30:28 • PlayDownload

The Cross and the Crescent: Part Two
Length: 1:12:16 • Play • Download

For more talks and audio productions by Fr Josiah Trenham, visit Patristic Nectar.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

‘Sandboxing’ Islam: How to Protect America from Jihad Terrorism

Donald Trump’s recent call for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” is not a new or original idea. 

Senator Rand Paul put forth a similar policy recommendation way back in July, following the Chattanooga jihad attack, and again in November called for a halt to “all immigrants, visitors and students” from countries with “large jihadist movements” from entering the United States.

In the wake of the San Bernardino jihad massacre, Mr. Paul and his fellow senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz have amped up this message, calling for a halt on immigration from nations with “active terrorist networks,” and a “moratorium on refugees from countries with a significant al Qaeda or ISIS presence,” respectively.

These candidates and all elected officials with eyes to see need to work hard to “make the case” for these steps, which may sound drastic to some, and hate-filled and bigoted to those on the Left.

The below article I wrote back in August is a modest effort to “make the case.” By using visual concepts like “sandboxing,” and enforcing the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), America can protect herself from jihad attacks, and reverse seven years of willful blindness in the face of Islamic terrorism.

When I start hearing “sandboxing” and FARA being discussed by Republican presidential candidates, I’ll feel greatly encouraged. As I conclude below,
It is time to “sandbox” Islam in America, and use decisive, legal means to counter its threat to our freedoms and our way of life.

‘Sandboxing’ Islam: How to Protect America from Jihad Terrorism,” by Ralph Sidway, Jihad Watch, August 21, 2015:

Enforcing the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) can give us the legal and tactical edge in countering the threat from Islamic supremacism.


It should be obvious for anyone with eyes to see that Islam — its scriptures, the example of Muhammad, its doctrines, and its overall ideology — is behind the spread of most terrorism and unrest in the world today.

From the Islamic State (ISIS), Boko Haram, al-Nusra and al-Shabaab, to slightly older groups such as al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Muslim Brotherhood, to lesser known jihadi organizations throughout Central Asia, India, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Rim, and China, a survey of terrorist attacks reveals Muslim involvement throughout the entire world.

Here in the United States, we are seeing a dramatic rise in Muslim “lone wolf” jihad terrorist attacks (and, as some have described them, known wolves”). Further, from all points of the compass, we are seeing literally tens of thousands of Muslims flocking to the Middle East to join the Islamic State caliphate and support the jihad with their very lives.

The scenario gets worse. Some analysts argue that we are seriously underestimating the numbers of Western Muslims joining the Islamic State. 

Here at home, we have a “full blown insurgency.” The FBI has already arrested seventy IS-inspired Muslim terrorists, and has active investigations of IS-inspired jihad plots in all 56 of its field offices. NewsMax reports “the government’s terrorist watch list carries 700,000 to a million names.”

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Counting the Tragedies from the San Bernardino Jihad Attack

Trying to assess the magnitude of the loss in last week's massacre committed by two devout Muslims...

A composite photo of all 14 victims from the San Bernardino shooting rampage. They are top row left: Robert Adams, Isaac Amanios, Bennetta Betbadal, Harry Bowman and Sierra Clayborn. Second row from left: Juan Espinoza, Aurora Godoy, Shannon Johnson, Larry Daniel Kaufman and Damian Meins. Bottom row from left: Tin Nguyen, Nicholas Thalasinos, Yvette Velasco and Michael Wetzel. (Courtesy of family / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles Times has put up a very respectful piece honoring the San Bernardino shooting victims. Short bios with photos portray a very diverse group of good, dedicated people. You can read their stories here, and then say a prayer for the repose of their souls, and for God's care for their families.

It's important to reflect on the loss. Perhaps like many of us, I've been focused in my earlier posts on the attack and the details surrounding it, the connections to ISIS, and the ongoing threat from Muslims inspired to zealously follow the example of Muhammad and the words of the Koran.

I'd like to reflect now on the depths of the tragedy of San Bernardino from a different perspective.

In the Orthodox Church, at the Midnight Office, we pray:

for protection...  from plague, famine, earthquake, flood, fire, sword, invasion by enemies, civil war and sudden death; and that our good God, who loves mankind, will be merciful, kindly and easily entreated, turn away and dispel all wrath and disease stirred up against us, and deliver us from his just threat that hangs over us, and have mercy on us.

In the Orthodox view of life and salvation, sudden death is a tragedy, because those who die unexpectedly are deprived of that final time of preparation for eternity which a final illness provides. Who among us is repenting until their last breath? Who among us would feel prepared to face the judgment if we were confronted by violent attack by "sword, invasion by enemies, civil war and sudden death"?

So we pray for the souls of those whose lives were cut off so suddenly, without that time for preparation. May God have mercy on their souls!

There is, however, another element to this tragedy, which I wish to explore, and that concerns the deluded, deceived jihadis, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik.

We must not forget that these two people were also created in the image of God. 

How deceived they became by immersing themselves in the Koran and the example and words of Muhammad! How tragic that they took Islam so seriously that they allowed their God-given conscience to be nullified, neutered, deadened. 

And then, having murdered their God-given conscience, they then proceeded to plan and implement the wicked, evil, bloodthirsty mass murder of other people created in the image of God! (And people who had thrown them a baby shower only months earlier!?)

Do we see how the one murder leads to the second? 

But this is not merely an individual tragedy. This is the tragedy at the very heart and core of Islam.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

8 Unanswered Questions About the San Bernardino Attack

To me, the strangest aspect, and one of the eight questions Ben Shapiro raises below, is Why Was CAIR So Quick To The Podium?

This struck some observrs as very odd, and hints at behind the scenes coordination between law enforcement, CAIR, the Farook family, and perhaps even the FBI and the Obama administration:
  • Toby Harnden: Weird weird weird @CNN right now. No mention of Islam & then live to CAIR presser w multiple people saying it’s nothing to do with Islam.
  • toddstarnes: Not quite what to make of that CAIR presser….Odd.

8 Unanswered Questions About the San Bernardino Attack
by Ben Shapiro, Breitbart News, December 4, 2015

On Friday, the FBI finally announced that it would be investigating the San Bernardino shootings as a terrorist attack. But there are still an enormous number of unanswered questions ranging from government policy to the terrorist cell itself.

Here are the top eight.

Who Were The Terrorist Influences Syed Farook Communicated With? 
The federal government didn’t have Syed Farook on a terror watch list or a no-fly list. According to CNN, however, Farook was “in touch with people being investigated by the FBI for international terrorism, law enforcement officials said Thursday.” If so, why wasn’t Farook on a watch list? Who are these influences?

Who Were The Middle Eastern Men Reported By The Neighbor? 
CBS Los Angeles reported: 
A man who has been working in the area said he noticed a half-dozen Middle Eastern men in the area in recent weeks, but decided not to report anything since he did not wish to racially profile those people. “We sat around lunch thinking, ‘What were they doing around the neighborhood?’” he said. “We’d see them leave where they’re raiding the apartment.” 
Who were these suspicious people, especially now that the FBI has said there was no indication that these two were part of an organized terror cell?

Where Did Farook Get Their Terrorist Armory? 
We know they purchased their guns legally, but their apartment was apparently an IED factory. According to Chief Jarrod Barguan, there were three pipe bombs rolled into a remove control car device, as well as 12 pipe bombs in the garage and “hundreds” of tools used to build bombs. Where did they get all of this? Were they supplied by anyone else?

Was Another Attack Planned? 
According to Barguan, “clearly they were equipped” to stage another attack. The FBI’s David Bowdich said as much on Friday, stating it was “certainly a possibility” they were looking to commit a second act of terror.

The Taqiyya Factor

Keep the below article on the Islamic doctrine of taqiyya in mind, as you read reports on Muslim responses to the San Bernardino Jihad Massacre such as these:

The Taqiyya Factor
by Carol Brown,  American Thinker, November 12, 2015

The CAIR Press Conference with the Farook family: Why was it staged before the jihadi's name had even been released?

Taqiyya is an Islamic doctrine that allows Muslims to deceive non-Muslims. As in lie to them. Dr. Sami Mukaram, author of Taqiyya in Islam, writes: “Taqiyya is of fundamental importance in Islam. Practically every Islamic sect agrees to it and practices it… Taqiyya is very prevalent in Islamic politics, especially in the modern era.” (Specific references to taqiyya in the Quran, the Hadith, and in Islamic law, can be found here.)

One of the most common and persistent forms of taqiyya we are witnessing today is noted at Islam-Watch:

When placed under scrutiny or criminal investigation, (even when there is overwhelming, irrefutable evidence of guilt or complicity), the taqiyya-tactician will quickly attempt to counter the allegation by resorting to the claim that it is, in fact, the accused who are the 'the victims'. Victims of Islamophobia, racism, religious discrimination and intolerance. Currently, this is the most commonly encountered form of distraction and 'outwitting'….

Indeed. We see this manifest just about every day as Muslims claim to be victims when it is they who are the aggressors. And the goal is always the same: deceive the non-believer in order to advance Islamic supremacy. Of course, the non-believers can only be outwitted if they are also non-thinkers.

Here are three among a seemingly infinite number of examples of taqiyya in action.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Russia – a Game Changer for Global Christianity

"Russia derives its spiritual strength after the Cold War from a mighty revival of the Orthodox Christian faith while the West is abandoning its Christian identity. The East and the West have switched roles as Christian superpower and defender of the Christian faith."

by Iben Thranholm, RT, November 10, 2015

Syrian Christians, father and daughter, visiting their house abandoned during the military action in the center of Homs. © RIA Novosti

At no time in history has the persecution of Christians been as intense and widespread as it is at the moment. There is a global war on Christians, which has escalated in scale and intensity since the US invasion of Iraq.

After the deliberate destruction of nation states and government structures all over the Middle East, Islamist groups have seized the opportunity to wage war on and persecute Christians.

American journalist and poet Eliza Griswold has written extensively in the New York Times about how the US invasion has caused hundreds of thousands to flee in Iraq. “Since 2003, we’ve lost priests, bishops and more than 60 churches were bombed,” Bashar Warda, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil said.

...the USA, supposedly ‘God’s Own Country’, created hell on earth for Christians all over the Middle East and then turned a blind eye to beheadings, rape of children and unspeakable atrocities.

With the fall of Saddam Hussein, Christians began to leave Iraq in large numbers, and the population shrank to less than 500,000 today from as many as 1.5 million in 2003.

With the Arab Spring things only went from bad to worse. ISIS’ success in Iraq has inspired similar groups in other continents, most notably Africa, where the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood commit numerous atrocities against Christians, as do Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al-Shabaab in Somalia.

Not only has the USA, supposedly ‘God’s Own Country’, created hell on earth for Christians all over the Middle East and then turned a blind eye to beheadings, rape of children and unspeakable atrocities. America appears to be deaf, dumb and blind to the problem, and that is obviously bad enough. But in addition to this, Western foreign policy has failed miserably. It has failed by underestimating the significance of religious faith in the countries subjected to Western intervention. The West’s most egregious foreign policy error is the assumption that the Western secular model, which demands clear separation between organized religion and politics, may be imposed on the rest of the world, irrespective of cultural or religious background.

St John of Damascus (Dec 4)

St John of Damascus was born less than fifty years following the traditional date of the death of Muhammad. As the Muslims had conquered Syria and the Middle East, John grew up in a Christian household under Islamic rule, and so had a first-hand and intimate acquaintance with Islam.

St John of Damascus was a theologian and a zealous defender of Orthodoxy. Since he was known as a hymnographer, we pray to St John for help in the study of church singing. His most important book is the Fount of Knowledge. The third section of this work, “On the Orthodox Faith,” is a summary of Orthodox doctrine and a refutation of heresy.

Read St John's Critique of Islam, from his section 'Heresies', contained in The Fount of Knowledge.

Life of St John of Damascus 
(Commemorated December 4)

Saint John of Damascus was born about the year 680 at Damascus, Syria into a Christian family. His father, Sergius Mansur, was a treasurer at the court of the Caliph. John had also a foster brother, the orphaned child Cosmas (October 14), whom Sergius had taken into his own home. When the children were growing up, Sergius saw that they received a good education. At the Damascus slave market he ransomed the learned monk Cosmas of Calabria from captivity and entrusted to him the teaching of his children. The boys displayed uncommon ability and readily mastered their courses of the secular and spiritual sciences. After the death of his father, John occupied ministerial posts at court and became the city prefect.

In Constantinople at that time, the heresy of Iconoclasm had arisen and quickly spread, supported by the emperor Leo III the Isaurian (717-741). Rising up in defense of the Orthodox veneration of icons [Iconodoulia], St John wrote three treatises entitled, “Against Those who Revile the Holy Icons.” The wise and God-inspired writings of St John enraged the emperor. But since the author was not a Byzantine subject, the emperor was unable to lock him up in prison, or to execute him.