Sunday, March 25, 2012

Christian photographer killed in Mosul

Four days after his abduction, Salmon Dawoud Salman, a 45-year old Christian, was shot nine times at close range by his kidnappers.

Chinese police desecrate grave of priest with sledgehammer

On March 19, 2012 Chinese police destroyed the tombstone of Father Joseph Shi Liming, a priest of the "underground" Church in China, with a sledgehammer who taught in the clandestine seminary in Baoding.  The day marked the 100th anniversary of his death in a car accident.

The faithful in China are saying, "Beijing is even afraid of the dead."

Christian family expelled from Egyptian town

After living in Amriya for nearly twenty years, Nabil Gergis and his family - who are Coptic Christians - has been expelled from the Egyptian town where the majority of residents are Muslim.  The cause of his expulsion is a sex tape purported to show his brother with a Muslim woman.

From the Associated Press:
Angry residents in the conservative, Muslim-majority town held protests and set fire to the Gergis family businesses. None of the attackers was prosecuted. Instead, a committee of tribal elders, local lawmakers and security officials ordered the 11 members of the Gergis family — the brother, Nabil and others — to leave town.


The incident erupted in late January, when the explicit video allegedly showing Nabil Gergis' brother with a Muslim woman circulated on residents' cell phones. The brother, who is married, has denied any affair.

Any sex outside of marriage is a lightning rod for controversy in the Muslim world, where a woman's chastity is vociferously protected by her family. That a Christian man might have an affair with a Muslim woman only further fanned the flames.

The rumors sparked widespread protests by Amriya residents, who are mostly tribal and deeply traditional. Angry residents set fire to three stores owned by the Gergis' family, which were under their homes. Some Muslim residents tried to help, but were outnumbered by the ultraconservative rioters.

Police showed up hours later and instead of investigating the attack called in the brother for questioning, Gergis said.

With tempers still high, local officials and tribal leaders held a series of meetings and decided to order the expulsion of the entire Gergis family. A Muslim family who had fired shots in the air during the protest to protect their property were initially told they must leave too, but were later allowed to return.

Amriya police argued that they could not guarantee the Gergis family's safety in the face of angry protesters, according to security officials and the Gergis family. Last week, with the family gone, their homes were robbed of cash and other belongings they had to leave behind, Gergis said [more].

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

More on the Grand Mufti's words

Over at his online Coffeehouse, Brian - a friend who is more knowledgeable in things of the Middles East than I - cautions against an over-reaction to the recent calls of Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia to "destroy all the churches".
Among other things, Brian notes that the Grand Mufti's call would violate Article 2 of the Kuwaiti Constitution, as Yousef Al-Shayeji, Secretary General of Democratic Platform, said. Even so, I don't think we such simply dismiss his words.
In an effort to correct the Grand Mufti's words, Dr. Bader Al-Dehani, Deputy Chairman of Kuwait Graduates Society, said:
It is inimical to democratic principles that revolve around values, tolerance, mutual respect and preservation of freedom to demolish any mosque, church or other places of worship.
If this is true, why are Christians not already to freely and publicly practice their faith in Kuwait and in other Muslim countries? Why are they only allowed to practice their faith - in his own words - according to the permissions provided in the Constitution?
I am grateful for the many denouncements of the Grand Mufti's words, but where are the calls for the full, public, and authentic legal extension of the freedom of religion to Christians?
While it is true that in some places in the Muslim world Christians are granted some freedom. The government of Qatar recently approved the building of a Maronite Catholic church in Abu Hammour. Even so, this very permission demonstrates a lack of full and public freedom of religion for Christians in Muslim countries.
As another example, if we look at the Grand Mufti's Saudi Arabia, his words simply could not be followed because of one simple fact: there are no churches in Saudi Arabia, despite there being many Christians. As Father Alexander Lucie-Smith writes in the Catholic Herald:
The Grand Mufti and all who think like him need to be challenged. Religious freedom is something we claim of right, not of privilege. The freedom of Christians to pray, to meet, to organise, to own buildings – these are non-negotiable.
His Eminence Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, in speaking of common misunderstandings of Christians about Muslims and of Muslims about Christians, recently said of Christians in the Middle East, "You cannot deny that they are the target of a kind of opposition. I have been in the Middle East for many years and what I felt was that Christians feel they are second-class citizens in countries where Muslims are the majority."
The Prince of Jordan, Hassan Ibn Talal, recently spoke at a conference that focused on the theme, "Christianity in the East: To Where?" He said, in part, "The Arab Christians are Arabs, and are the pioneers of thought and Arab revival."
Summarizing the Prince's remarks, Father Samir Khalil Samir, S.J. said, "Prince Hassan asked for the meeting to stop this exodus [of Christians] and to ask Christians very clearly to remain." But if this is to happen, if Christians are to remain, Father Samir said, "The conditions to remain is to be recognised by the constitutions as true citizens, having the same rights of citizenship and true equalities as everybody."
I hope and pray that these conditions are being recognized for Christians in Muslim countries, but at the moment I don't see it happening.
The Grand Mufti's words come several months after Salem Abu Al-Futouh, an Egyptian Muslim cleric said that Islam will conquer Rome:
The Prophet Muhammad told us that Islam would spread. He told us about the Islamic conquest of Constantinople - Turkey of today - and indeed, it was conquered. He also told us about the conquest of Rome, which is Italy. People find this strange. "How can we conquer Italy?" they say. "We are too weak." You should consider the number of Muslims in that great Christian center - another person converts to Islam every day. Check on the Internet how many people want to convert to Islam in the very heart of that papal center of Christianity, on their own turf.
Brothers and sisters, Islam spread by means of the power of Allah, because it is the religion of Truth. When a Westerner whose heart is not filled with the hatred of Islam, someone who has not been raised on the hatred of Islam, begins to contemplate all the religions, he finds no other religion that respects human rights, and is in keeping with equality, justice, freedom, and democracy.
How he can claim that Islam respects human rights (despite the numerous restrictions placed on women in Muslim countries) and is in keeing with equality and justice (while treating Christians, at best, as second class citizens and refusing to allow them the free practice of their faith) is beyond me.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia: "Destroy all the churches"

You won't likely learn about this in the main stream media, but this past Thursday the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, called on Muslims in Kuwait to do whatever is "necessary to destroy all the churches of the region."

Not only is the Grand Mufti the supreme Islamic leader in Saudi Arabia, he is also the head of the Supreme Council of Ulema (an Islamic scholarly association) and of the Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing of Fatwas.

The situation in Kuwait where only Islam can legally be practiced will soon likely grow much more serious, especially since a Kuwaiti Parliamentarian, Osama Al-Munawer, has already called " to ban the construction of churches and non-Islamic places of worship in the Gulf state," according to Arabian Business. Another member of the Kuwaiti Parliament, Mohammed Hayef, said his country "already has an excessive number of churches compared to the country’s Christian minority."

The Washington Times ran an editorial on Friday in which the editorial staff wrote:
If the pope called for the destruction of all the mosques in Europe, the uproar would be cataclysmic. Pundits would lambaste the church, the White House would rush out a statement of deep concern, and rioters in the Middle East would kill each other in their grief. But when the most influential leader in the Muslim world issues a fatwa to destroy Christian churches, the silence is deafening.
Get Religionist Mollie asks the same question:
Can you imagine the coverage if, say, the Pope or some other major religious leader called for similar destruction? Even if it were a minor Christian or Jewish figure using such rhetoric, one imagines it would receive tremendous coverage.
Lest anyone think the Grand Mufti's words should not be troubling, it should be noted as The Washington Times goes on to say,
This is not a small-time radical imam trying to stir up his followers with fiery hate speech. This was a considered, deliberate and specific ruling from one of the most important leaders in the Muslim world. It does not just create a religious obligation for those over whom the mufti has direct authority; it is also a signal to others in the Muslim world that destroying churches is not only permitted but mandatory.

Nigerian government meets with Boko Haram

The government of Nigeria met last week with leaders of Boko Haram to discuss an end to the growing violence against Christians by the Muslim terrorist group.
"BH (Boko Haram) has mentioned a conditional ceasefire but it wants all its members released from prison. The government sees this as unacceptable but is willing to release foot soldiers," a traditional leader and civil rights activist involved in the talks told Reuters, asking not to be named. 
"It is the first time a ceasefire has been mentioned, so it is a massive positive, but given the lack of trust a resolution is still a way off," he added [more].

Friday, March 16, 2012

Christians fleeing northern Iraqi refuges

The New York Times has published a good article describing the decline of Christianity in Iraq as Christians flee their refuges taken up in the north of the country:
Iraq’s dwindling Christians, driven from their homes by attacks and intimidation, are beginning to abandon the havens they had found in the country’s north, discouraged by unemployment and a creeping fear that the violence they had fled was catching up to them [more]. 

Policemen rapes Christian girl

During the night of 7/8 March, a Pakistani policemen raped a 14 year old Christian girl, even as an another man bound and gagged her grandparents in another room.  Reports are calling the girl "Kiran" to protect her identity.

From Asia News:
 Nawaz Wahla, a law enforcement official, along with an accomplice Mehboob, a milkman, jumped the fence and broke into the house. According to the newspaper The Express Tribune reports they tied up the grandparents and repeatedly raped the girl, at gun point. 
Once she had escaped, Kiran released the grandparents who have accompanied her to the hospital for medical treatment, however, neither the doctors nor the police wanted to bring relief to the Christian girl, or take action to catch the perpetrators of violence. Only the official opening of the investigation, initiated by a diligent judge allowed the detention of Mehboob - the accomplice - while Nawaz has so far eluded capture.

Boko Haram threatens eradication of Christianity in northern Nigeria, followed by attacks

On March 4, 2012, Boko Haram threatened the eradication of Christianity in northern Nigeria, saying "we will create so much effort to end the Christian presence in our push to have a proper Islamic state that the Christians won’t be able to stay."

A spokesman told that over the coming weeks Boko Haram "will launch a number of attacks, coordinated and part of the plan to eradicate Christians from certain parts of the country."

The spokesman also warned of a plot to kidnap Christian women, saying, "we are going to put into action new efforts to strike fear into the Christians of the power of Islam by kidnapping their women" to hold them for ransom.

On March 7, 2012, Boko Haram gunmen shot and killed Adamu Ahmadu, a customs official, after they stormed his home in Potiskum.  They killed others with him, as well.

On March 11, 2012, an explosion at the gate of St. Finbar's church in Jos has killed at least ten people (including the attacker who drove a car loaded with explosives) and wounded several others, just ten minutes after Mass began.  Boko Haram is suspected in the attacks, which regrettably led to retaliatory vandalism and violence, killing another ten people.

His Excellency the Most Reverend Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, Archbishop of Jos, called upon the faithful to "overcome evil with love, overcome evil with good, and then to allow God to take control of the situation, while at the same time asking God’s men to something urgently to bring this to a final conclusion"

On March 15, 2012, Reuters posted an excellent Factbox and summary of Boko Haram.

This year alone, Boko Haram is responsible for at least 300 deaths.

And still Boko Haram is not among the U.S.'s suspected terror groups even though Boko Haram's spokesman calls their activities a "campaign of terror."  Why?

Catholic land seized in Vietnam

Government officials in Vietnam have seized land belonging to the Redemptorists, whose spokesperson told Asia News:
We have already sent three petitions, with all the evidence to the legal committee of the people and all those responsible, but so far we have not received any response from any office. Meanwhile , the properties of which we are the legal owners, has been violated.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Two Christians kidnapped in Pakistan

Two Christians were recently kidnapped in Karachi:
Thirty residents of the village of Kot Meerath in the eastern Pakistani province of Punjab brutally tortured Seema Bibi, a Christian woman, and paraded her through the streets because of her “anti-Islam” views. Police have made 26 arrests [more]

7 American missionaries attacked by 200 Muslims

Seven Presbyterian missionaries from America were recently attacked by at least 200 angry Muslims in Bangladesh:
Police arrested two teachers and a student from an Islamic seminary in Madarganj, 200km (120 miles) north of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, following the attack.  
At least 200 angry locals chased the missionaries’ car and threw stones at it, leaving three with cuts from broken glass, the district police chief said [more] 

Sawiris still faces charges of contempt of Islam because of tweets

Back in mid-January, Naguib Sawiris, an Egyptian Christian, posted pictures of Mickey Mouse with a beard and Minnnie Mouse with a face veil, which led to his being charged with contempt of Islam.

A court in Cairo recently dismissed this charge, though Sawiris still faces two similar charges because of the same images.

Egyptian Christian sentenced for contempt of Islam

Makram Diab, an Egyptian Christian, was sentenced to six years in prison after being found guilty of a charge of contempt of Islam:
An Egyptian court has sentenced a Christian man to six years in prison on charges of showing contempt for religion and insulting the Prophet Mohammed, reported the semi-official newspaper Al-Ahram on Thursday.

The court, in the southern Egyptian province of Assiut, said that Makram Diab, a school employee, had made offensive remarks against Islam's prophet, according to the report.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Christians stone on Temple Mount

In Jerusalem this past Sunday morning, a group of Christian pilgrims were stoned atop the Temple Mount by a group of 50 Palestinian Muslims:
A mob of some 50 Palestinian Muslims stoned a group of Christian tourists atop Jerusalem's Temple Mount on Sunday morning. Three of the Israeli police officers who acted to protect the Christian group were wounded by the stone-throwers. 
Police arrested 11 Palestinians, several of them minors, for their role in the attack.
The attack is believed to have been instigated by the former Muslim mufti of Jerusalem, Ekrama Sabri [more].