In any conflict, explains Australian author Denis Dragovic, the wealthy are the first to flee. Then, as life becomes intolerable, the middle class flee across borders into camps where they wait in hope that the fighting will end and they will be able to return to their homes and businesses. When the fighting doesn’t end, they seek alternatives, including the services of people smugglers. “In the case of Syria’ says Dragovic, ‘we are now in that last phase.” Lacking resources, the poor have little choice but to stay and watch their children grow up traumatised, brutalised and without stable education. When peace comes, says Dragovic, the fighters are rewarded with top jobs while the traumatised poor have little to offer, making reconstruction virtually impossible. At this point the protagonists — neo-Ottoman Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, al-Qaeda and ISIS — will doubtless fight to fill the void.
Like many analysts, Dragovic maintains that a more sustainable solution is to ‘better resource the front-line countries, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, while putting pressure on Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states to accept asylum applications’. A Europe struggling with demographic decline might hope to benefit from an influx of skilled migrants. However, the mass inflow of an alien culture brings with it huge risks. Parallel societies will consolidate and racial-religious tensions will escalate. This will most certainly end badly. Muslims (generally) are aware of Muhammad’s alleged prophesy that Islam would first conquer Constantinople, the capital of eastern/Byzantine Europe, (which it did in 1453) and then Rome (the capital of western/Latin Europe). Islamic fundamentalist ideologues and militants are certainly aware of it and doubtless are deliberately hastening it.
Australia has promised to take more refugees, specifically family groups belonging to ‘persecuted minorities in camps’. It is very exciting that Australia has finally acknowledged that Christians are facing an existential threat. Muslim, human rights and Opposition groups are rejecting the policy as ‘discriminatory’, which is untenable as Arab Muslims are clearly not facing elimination. On the other hand, the Australian and UK commitment to only take refugees from camps is problematic, as Christians are generally not in the camps. The camps are simply too dangerous for religious minorities. Consequently Christians seek refuge in monasteries, churches and Christian schools. From there, most either share rental properties or are billeted out to local Christian families. Thus the local church carries the burden, not the UN. The global Church needs to share this load and send aid to the churches that are caring for refugees.
Whilst multitudes of Christian youths and families are understandably desperate to leave the Middle East, their pastors and priests are understandably desperate for them to stay. ‘The almost communal wave of youth emigration, especially in Syria, but also in Lebanon and Iraq breaks my heart, wounding me deeply and dealing me a deadly blow,’ laments Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III. ‘Given this tsunami of emigration … what future is left for the Church? What will become of our homeland? What will become of our parishes and institutions?’ he asks as he appeals to Christians to stay. Many Christian leaders believe the temptation to flee must be resisted, as the Christian exodus only serves to facilitate the Islamic agenda of a total religious cleansing of the Middle East. But Christians will only stay if they are secure.
In Syria, Christians are only secure in the 20 percent of the country still under government control. Instead of taking directions from regional powers Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran — all state sponsors of terror — the West should prioritise protecting minorities and working in their interests, so that Christians might be safe in Christianity’s historic heartland. To do that, the West might need to swallow its pride and talk to Assad and to Russia. Ever since the Crimean War (in the 1850s) the Islamic powers of the Middle East have exploited their geo-strategic position and played the West off against the East to advance their own ends. Ever since the Crimean War the West has backed Muslims at the expense of persecuted Christians. Surely the time has come for the West to be astute, identify the real enemy and put an end to this ruse, for the sake of imperilled Christians.
The Christian crisis in the Middle East is existential. Of course Christian families should be rescued, but the greatest need of all is for a safe haven in the Middle East where Christians can preserve their heritage and culture, and worship freely while educating their children in security. Around the time of World War One, as the Ottoman Empire unravelled, Assyrians sought to establish an independent free Assyria. More recently the appeal has been for an autonomous region in the ancient Assyrian homeland of the Nineveh Plain. Each appeal has triggered a massacre and today most Western politicians dismiss the prospect of an autonomous Assyrian province in northern Iraq as impossible. But the Assyrian hope lives on, fuelled by faith and rooted in the promise of God in Isaiah 19:23-25. And in that day, the Lord of hosts will say, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance’.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT
* the Lord of Hosts will intervene on behalf of each imperilled believer in the Middle East — may those requiring rescue be rescued and those who want to stay in their homeland have sanctuary.
* God will intervene personally on behalf of each monastery and church sheltering and caring for Christian refugees by releasing the necessary funds and giving a voice to the voiceless. Pray that the Lord Almighty will secure justice and liberty for his precious people and the Lord of Hosts be their defence.
* the Holy Spirit will flood the hearts of all pastors, priests and Christian religious workers across the Middle East that they will know his love, grace and comfort; may their faith remain strong and their hope not fade; may the Lord bless them for their faithful service. Pray that our faithful God will intervene to establish ‘the work of His hands’ — an autonomous Assyrian province in northern Iraq. And may all the glory go to him.
Source: by Elizabeth Kendal – Religious Liberty Monitoring
Pope Francis spent his US visit bridging the realms of the disadvantaged and elite, trying to turn the attention of the mightiest nation away from ideological battles and towards a world he said desperately needs help. From his first appearance, he wove together issues that are rarely linked in American public life. At the White House with President Barack Obama, he upheld religious freedom while seeking urgent action to ease climate change. Addressing congress, he sought mercy for refugees, while proclaiming a duty “to defend human life at every stage of its development”, a challenge to abortion rights. Standing on altars before the nation’s bishops, he acknowledged the difficulties of ministering amid “unprecedented changes taking place in contemporary society”, a recognition of gay marriage.
He urged US Catholic leaders to create a church with the warmth of a “family fire”, avoiding “harsh and divisive” language and a “narrow” vision of Catholicism he called a “perversion of faith”. The statements amounted to a reframing of issues within the church and a hope for less polarisation. “Recalibration and reorientation are good words to describe it,” said John Green, a specialist in religion at the University of Akron in Ohio. “The Pope is very adept politically. Even people who disagree with him find him an attractive and persuasive man. I thought he was quite inspiring.” So did many others. Tens of thousands of cheering, flag-waving people lined the streets in Washington, New York and Philadelphia to greet Francis, some waiting for hours to catch a glimpse of him. The Argentine pontiff, on his first visit to the US, introduced himself as a fellow American and quoted from the country’s founding documents.
He answered critics who said he was overly focused on the poor to the exclusion of the middle class. His moral challenge could be seen in the complex heroes he held up in his speech to congress: Abraham Lincoln; the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr; Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk who condemned war and advocated interfaith co-operation; and Dorothy Day, founder of the pacifist Catholic Worker Movement that helped and advocated for the homeless. By his very presence, as a Spanish-speaking son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, Francis put the Latino Catholic community at the heart of the US church, where they are expected to become the majority. He canonised the Franciscan missionary Junipero Serra of Spain, who brought Catholicism to the West Coast, spoke about immigrants in nearly every public appearance and told Latinos “do not be ashamed of what is part of you”.
Gonzalo Mercado, director of the Staten Island Community Job Centre in New York, a non-profit group that helps domestic workers, many of them in the US illegally, said Francis’s immigration message was crucial. “To have an amazing figure like the Pope take a stand with the least among us and recognise the contributions of immigrant workers is a breath of fresh air,” he said at the Harlem parish school Francis visited in New York. John Carr, a former social justice director for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, summarised the Pope’s message on issues such as abortion and the family, as “no obsession, no retreat”. “He said he came not to lecture the bishops, but what he did was to show them how to be pastors in challenging and promising times in the church,” he said.
MUSLIM COUNTRIES REFUSE TO TAKE A SINGLE SYRIAN REFUGEE
Five of the wealthiest Muslim countries have taken no Syrian refugees in, arguing that doing so would open them up to the risk of terrorism. Although the oil rich countries have handed over aid money, Britain has donated more than Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar combined. Between 10 and 12 million Syrians have been displaced by the civil war raging in their country. Most still remain within Syria’s borders, but around 4 million have fled over the borders into neighbouring countries, mostly Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and beyond. Lebanon, which has 1.1 million Syrian refugees, shut her borders to the Syrians in June of last year. Jordan, host to another 630,000, followed suit in August last year, preventing more Syrians from abandoning their country. By August 2015, European states had received nearly 350,000 asylum seekers from Syria, nearly a third of whom applied to Germany for asylum.
Another 65,000 have applied to Sweden and 50,000 to Serbia. Hungary and Austria have received 19,000 applications each, while the UK is processing 7,030 applications, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Yet it has transpired that of the five wealthiest countries on the Arabian Peninsula, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain, not one has taken in a single refugee from Syria. Sherif Elsayid-Ali, Amnesty International’s Head of Refugee and Migrants’ Rights, has slammed their inaction as “shameful”. He said: “The record of Gulf countries is absolutely appalling, in terms of showing compassion and sharing the responsibility of this crisis. It is a disgrace.” Instead the countries, all of which are within the Top 50 list of wealthiest nations by GDP, have opted to donate aid to those affected by the crisis.
The UAE funds a refugee camp in Jordan giving shelter to tens of thousands of Syrians, while Saudi Arabia and Qatar have donated funds, food, shelter and clothing to Syrians in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. Donations from the Gulf States have totalled £589 million, less than a quarter of America’s £2.8 billion, and a fraction of the £65 billion they spent on defence in 2012 alone. The UK has handed over £920 million so far, but the Prime Minister has pledged to increase that figure to £1 billion. He also promised to take in thousands more refugees. Al-Qassemi argues that the wealthy Muslim countries have a moral obligation to step in. They form “the most influential bloc within the 70-year-old Arab League. With great power comes great responsibility. The Gulf must realise the need to change their policy regarding accepting refugees from the Syria crisis. It is the moral, ethical and responsible step to take.”
ACTRESS ANGELINA JOLIE WARNS ISIS USING RAPE AS A WEAPON OF WAR
Award-winning actress Angelina Jolie has warned that Islamic State militants are using sexual violence against women “in a way we’ve never seen before” and called for stronger action against the terrorist group. Jolie, a special envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and active campaigner against the use of sexual violence in conflict, told a British parliamentary committee that ISIS is using rape as a “policy”. “The most aggressive terrorist group in the world today knows what we know; knows that it is a very effective weapon and is using it as a centerpoint of their terror and their way of destroying communities and families and attacking, destroying and dehumanizing,” Jolie said. She added, “This is what is beyond something we have seen before. This is actually put into their policy. They are saying: ‘we should do this, this is the right way to build a society, so we tell you to rape.'”
The report notes that the popular actress appeared at the House of Lords committee alongside former foreign secretary William Hague to discuss their Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative, which they launched 3 years ago. Thousands of women and young girls, many of them from Christian and Yazidi communities, have been abducted, raped and sold into sexual slavery by Islamic State over the past year. Large swaths of Iraq and Syria are currently under the control of the terrorist group, which has viciously purged the region of those who do not adhere to their particular brand of Islam. ISIS fighters regard themselves as entitled to use captured women as sex slaves, viewing them as “spoils of war. When a child or a woman is taken captive, they become slaves by the fact of capture, and the woman’s previous marriage is immediately annulled,” explains Christian author and Jihad Watch director Robert Spencer.
“However Islam avoids the appearance of impropriety, declaring that the taking of these sex slaves does not constitute adultery if the women are already married, for their marriages are ended at the moment of their capture,” he continues. A sobering report released last November reveals that not only are the militants forcefully marrying the captured women, they are also selling girls as young as one year old into sex slavery to fund their army. The document, issued by ISIS, shows a full list of prices as well as some basic rules for who was permitted to buy the girls and when. It also claims that anyone violating the price controls will be killed. In its English propaganda publication, “Dabiq,” ISIS earlier sought to justify its treatment of females, saying it is “Islamic” to capture and forcibly make “infidel” women sexual slaves.
One woman was abducted by soldiers and taken to a camp, tied up and raped repeatedly for 2 months. Another was kidnapped with her 15-year-old sister and raped every night for 5 nights. A third was taken to a forest with her 12-year-old daughter where both were raped. The abduction of women and girls for use as sex slaves — some held indefinitely, tied up with hundreds of others in secret rape camps — is a disturbing new aspect of South Sudan’s 21-month conflict. Nigeria’s “Chibok girls”, abducted by Boko Haram in April last year, and Iraq’s Yazidi women taken as sex slaves by Islamic State are well known. But the plight of thousands of South Sudanese women and girls, abducted, brutally raped in slave-like conditions has remained hidden until now. In dozens of interviews conducted a pattern of abduction and rape perpetrated by government soldiers and their allied militia have been exposed.
The investigation focused on attacks by government forces but both sides have perpetrated massacres, recruited and killed children and carried out widespread rape, torture and forced displacement of people. Nyabena, a 30-year-old mother was seized when soldiers attacked her village. Men and boys were shot. Women and girls were rounded up with 40 taken from neighbouring settlements. She wells up with tears when she talks about being torn away from her 5 children. Nyabena was held in Kotong, a stronghold of Major-General Matthew Puljang, commander of a tribal Bul Nuer militia aligned with South Sudan’s army, the SPLA, which has been battling rebels since December 2013. From April to July this year the SPLA and Puljang’s militia carried out an offensive UN investigators have described as a “scorched earth policy”. One military expert estimated “thousands of women” were abducted during the offensive.
“In all the southern Unity counties it’s been the same: those women who escape are lucky. Those who don’t are raped and abducted or killed,” said the human-rights investigator. Those who escaped recount their stories with numb, quiet voices. Nightmares plague some who wake up terrorised, thinking they are still captive. After her abduction Nyabena was put to work during the day, carrying looted goods and food, collecting water and hoeing farms. She was guarded constantly during the day and tied up at night with other women. “When one of the soldiers wanted to have sex he would come, untie us and take us away. When they were finished they would bring you back and tie you to the post again,” she said. Being raped by four men a night was common, she said.
UK FAITH LEADERS MAY HAVE TO REGISTER IN AN ATTEMPT TO THWART EXTREMISM
Priests, rabbis and imams as well as other religious leaders will have to join a national register for faith leaders as part of the Home Office’s plan to tackle extremism. Those on the list will be subject to training and security checks. The controversial proposal was leaked in a draft of the government’s counter-extremism strategy. The document is due out in coming months. It says it will “require all faiths to maintain a national register of faith leaders” and that the government will “set out the minimum level of training and checks” that faith leaders will have to go through. Registration will be compulsory for any faith leaders that want to work in the public sector, including universities. In practice this would cover almost all faith leaders as many people often deal with the public.
A spokesperson from the Catholic Church said that it had not been consulted on the proposals and that the proposals would be “firmly resisted”. Maulana Raza, the Imam who was a founding member of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, a body designed to promote best practice, warned the government “not to meddle in religious affairs or to expand the state’s involvement in deciding on religious and theological issues.” He went on to say: “The Government should concentrate on ensuring that safeguards are in place to protect the public and treating all faith communities equally.” The document defines extremism as “the vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.”
EUROPEAN HUMAN RIGHTS COURT UPHOLDS ITALY’S BAN ON EMBRYO RESEARCH
The European Court of Human Rights recently affirmed Italy’s right to protect human embryos as it sees fit, in a ruling that rejected an Italian woman’s request that she be allowed to donate her frozen embryos to scientific research. Adelina Parrillo, now in her early sixties, obtained the embryos through in vitro fertilization in 2002 together with her husband, a filmmaker who died in tragic circumstances during a bomb attack in Iraq in late 2003. She was challenging a law passed in Italy in 2004 that prohibits research on human embryos, on the grounds that the law is “incompatible with her right to respect for her private life and her right to the peaceful enjoyment of her possessions,” as guaranteed by the European Convention of Human Rights. In other words, Parrillo was asking the Court to recognize that human embryos are objects, “possessions” whose owners may use them as they see fit.
The embryos had not been implanted at the time of her husband’s death so the widow decided not to go ahead with the reproduction procedure. The frozen embryos were kept in storage in the Rome fertility clinic where the in vitro fertilization took place. Parrillo wanted her embryos offered up to a “noble cause,” as she calls it: embryonic stem cell research. She explained that donating the five embryos would “be a source of comfort to her after the painful events that had occurred in her life,” rather than destroying them or letting them die. The clinic’s director refused so Parrillo immediately turned to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that any action before the ordinary courts in Italy was bound to fail because of the “blanket ban” on donating embryos to scientific research. The European Court ruled against Parrillo’s application in a landmark ruling that upholds Italy’s legal sovereignty.