Islamists who led a Sunni militant offensive that captured swathes of territory in Iraq have declared a “caliphate’’. The spokesman for the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, made the announcement in a statement posted online. Islamic extremists have long dreamt of recreating the Islamic state, or caliphate, that ruled over the Middle East in various forms for hundreds of years. The announcement came as Baghdad took delivery of Russian warplanes to aid it in a crisis said to rival the brutal sectarian war of 2006-2007. Alarmed world leaders have urged a speeding up of a new unity government warning the conflict cannot be resolved by force alone.

Whilst Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has conceded a political solution is necessary, he is placing hope in his Tikrit operation, which could be crucial tactically, and for the morale of security forces. “The security forces are advancing from different areas” around Tikrit, said Lieutenant General Qassem Atta. Mr Atta said troops had detonated bombs planted along routes into the city, which militants took more than two weeks ago. Witnesses reported waves of government air strikes in central Tikrit and Saddam’s palace compound in the city. The Iraqi forces according to Mr Atta, are coordinating with recently-arrived US military advisers in “studying important targets”.

Abu Mohammed al-Adnani declared Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as the new leader of the Islamic state, and called on those living in areas under the organisation’s control to swear allegiance to al-Baghdadi and support him. “The legality of all emirates, groups, organisations and states becomes null and void by the expansion of the caliph’s authority and the arrival of its troops in their areas,” al-Adnani said. He added that the group was now changing its name to just the Islamic State, dropping the mention of Iraq and the Levant. Al-Adnani defined the caliphate’s territory as running from northern Syria to the Iraqi province of Diyala, a vast stretch of land straddling the border that is already under the Islamic State’s control.

Analysts expect the announcement of the new Islamic State to have a dramatic effect on the wider jihadi community. Charles Lister, from the Brookings Doha Centre, said it will have a global impact as al-Qa’ida affiliates and independent jihadist groups must now definitively choose to support and join the Islamic State or to oppose it. “The Islamic State’s announcement made it clear that it would perceive any group that failed to pledge allegiance an enemy of Islam,” he said. “Already, this new Islamic State has received statements of support and opposition from jihadist factions in Syria. This period of judgment is extremely important and will likely continue for some time to come.”

But the greatest impact, Mr Lister said, may be on al-Qa’ida, that for years has carried the torch of international jihad. “This announcement poses a huge threat to al-Qa’ida and its long-time position of leadership of the international jihadist cause,” he said. “Taken globally, the younger generation of the jihadist community is becoming more and more supportive of the Islamic State, largely out of loyalty to its slick and proven capacity for attaining rapid results through brutality.” Al-Baghdadi has long been at odds with al-Qa’ida leader Ayman al-Zawahri, a spat that became public after al-Baghdadi ignored al-Zawahri’s demands that the Islamic State leave Syria. Al-Zawahri formally disavowed the Islamic State earlier this year.

The U.S. has stopped short of calling for Mr Maliki to quit but has left little doubt it feels he has squandered the opportunity to rebuild Iraq since the withdrawal of American troops. Mr Maliki’s security spokesman has said hundreds of soldiers have been killed since the insurgent offensive was launched, while the U.N. puts the overall death toll at over 1000, with 1.2 million people having been displaced by unrest this year in Iraq. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, revered among the country’s Shiite majority, has urged political leaders to quickly form a unity government. Mr Maliki has acknowledged political measures are necessary, but has cautioned that naming a new cabinet could still take a month or more.

Source: Compiled by APN from media sources

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Across American Christianity, compromise on sexuality is crumbling at the foundation of holiness. The United Church of Christ (UCC) bills itself as “the church where God is still speaking.” Apparently, God’s Word is falling on deaf ears of the leadership. The UCC, which considers itself a mainline Protestant denomination—claiming over 1 million members and about 5,200 congregations in the U.S.—proudly announced it will serve as a major sponsor of the Gay Games. The UCC will now go down in Christian history as the first major denomination to sponsor the homosexual Olympics when the games roll into Cleveland, Ohio, in August.

In April the UCC filed a gay marriage rights lawsuit in North Carolina. J. Bennett Guess, one of the UCC’s national officers and its first openly gay church executive, calls it a social justice issue and says the denomination prides itself on “being a bold voice for progressive Christianity.” Progressive Christianity is defined as having a strong focus on social justice and environmentalism. Progressive Christianity focuses on concepts like “collective salvation”—where entire cultures and societies, rather than just individuals with faith in Christ, are redeemed—and bends toward a Marxist economic philosophy. And Progressive Christianity does not subscribe to the biblical doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture.

That last line explains why the UCC was the first mainline denomination to affirm same-sex marriage and the first to ordain an openly gay man. It also  explains why the UCC has fallen into the deception of sponsoring events that celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, and Tran-sexual (LGBT) people instead of trying to love them to Christ. Even denominations that don’t consider themselves part of the Progressive Christianity movement are falling into this deception. The Presbyterian Church (USA) last week voted to allow its ministers to perform gay weddings. Methodist Pastor Frank Schaefer, defrocked for officiating at his son’s gay wedding, was fully reinstated and the Moravians voted to ordain gay clergy.

Research shows there is a growing list of gay-affirming denominations, including the Affirming Pentecostal Church International. We are seeing 1 Timothy 4:1 playing out before our very eyes. It’s called the Great Apostasy and it’s well underway. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.” We’ve witnessed more than one man of God with a major ministry platform bow a knee to doctrines like universalism, deceiving and being deceived with this deadly heresy. Despite many in the church lifting their voice against heretical teachings, these deceived ministers hold fast to their doctrines.

That’s why I am praying for a third Great Awakening. I am committed to crying out to God to see a cultural transformation—a spiritual revolution. Although the Great Falling Away is prophesied in Scripture, I am contending for a revival—a Great Awakening—that will sweep through the nations and cause people to turn back to God. I will not give up. Before each of the last Great Awakenings, people of God thought it was hopeless—and they didn’t see the half of what we’re seeing. But I am convinced God wants to turn this around—and I am convinced God can turn this around. Nothing is impossible with God. A Great Awakening is our only hope. Will you join me in praying for another Great Awakening?

Source: by Jennifer LeClaire, News Editor at Charisma News

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Israel and Hamas are bracing for a major escalation of hostilities after the bodies of three Israeli teenagers were found more than two weeks after they went missing. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed “Hamas will pay” while Hamas said any new attack would “open the gates of hell”. “They were abducted and murdered in cold blood,” Mr Netanyahu said. Israelis were devastated by the news, having held scores of prayer vigils and rallies  calling for their safe return. Only the night before they were found the mothers of the three teenagers attended a large prayer vigil in Tel Aviv.

After an 18-day search across the West Bank, or Palestinian territories, the three bodies were found under rocks in a pit near Hebron, a 10-minute drive from where they were kidnapped. The leader of the Shas religious party, Arye Deri, said: “All of Israel is mourning with the three bereaved families who showed us all what faith and strength through Judaism means.” The case has dominated Israel’s news and public discussion since the disappearances on June 12. Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, were kidnapped while trying to get a ride at a popular hitchhiking spot near the settlement of Gush Etzion. They had been studying in the West Bank and trying to return to their homes in Israel.

One managed to make a call to police saying he had been kidnapped but the operator thought it was a hoax and ignored it. Hamas has denied any involvement but Mr Netanyahu insists he has evidence that they were involved. The Israeli army planted explosives around the home of one of the men they said was responsible and destroyed it. The Israel Defence Force (IDF) also bombed 34 targets in the Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas, but said this was in response to rocket fire, not the kidnappings. The discovery of the bodies inflamed tensions in Jerusalem. Israeli army radio reported that a Palestinian youth was attacked by a group of Jews in the centre of Jerusalem and that a Palestinian taxi driver was attacked with tear gas. Subsequently a Palestinian youth was found dead in what is suspected as a revenge attack for the killing of the Israeli young men. Police are still investigating the death and still have not confirmed whether there is a link. 

U.S. President Barack Obama condemned “this senseless act of terror against innocent youth”. IDF spokesman Brigadier General Moti Almoz said: “We will strike at Hamas and to attack any target connected to Hamas to reach the kidnappers and their helpers.” Several groups in Israel warned against collective punishment. Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said collective punishment had been employed by Israel during the search for the perpetrators — which included the killing of five Palestinians. The leader of the Meretz party, Zahava Gal-On, said: “There should be a distinction between the perpetrators, who should be punished to the full extent of the law, and the moderate forces in the Palistinian Authority.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media sources

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Some church leaders are advising parishioners not to bring guns to services, after Gov.Nathan Deal signed what critics call the “guns everywhere” law. Robert Wright, Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta, has sent an open letter to 56,000 members that make up the dozens of Episcopal churches in north Georgia with a simple message: Don’t bring guns into the house of God. The Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014, which went into effect July 1, allows Georgia residents with concealed carry permits to bring guns into churches that give express permission, while lowering the fine for bringing a gun into a place of worship to $100. It also permits guns in bars, schools, government buildings and certain areas inside airports.

The law says the state no longer has to fingerprint law-abiding gun owners to renew their licenses, and that dealers won’t be required to keep sales records for state purposes. The National Rifle Association has called it “the most comprehensive pro-gun bill in state history.” Opponents have derided it as the “guns everywhere” bill. The new law has split the state’s Christian denominations between the Georgia Baptists, who support the bill, and Episcopal and Catholic leaders in the Atlanta area, who have strongly come out against it and expressly told their congregants to leave their guns out of the pews.

Bishop Wright says that while he understands the need for protection for those wanting firearms for self-defence or for sport he sees the very idea of guns in church as blasphemous. The Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta issued similar guidelines for its parishes throughout Georgia. The Georgia Baptist Convention, made up of 3,600 Baptist churches, lobbied on behalf of the bill largely because it gives its churches more autonomy, allowing each to determine whether to allow firearms. Mike Griffin, a Baptist pastor said that while other denominations often determine policies from the top down, Baptists historically operate from a church-up approach, and the bill recognizes that sort of decision-making.

State Rep. Alan Powell, a co-sponsor of Georgia’s gun bill, says the law was written with those churches in mind and has no problems with churches banning guns. Rep. Powell said “We had numerous churches testify about wanting to protect themselves from criminal elements. At times, when they’re counting tithes, for example, deacons weren’t allowed to carry a weapon.” But Bishop Wright says he believes most people of faith don’t want guns on church property. And it’s not just Christians. He says he’s heard from Muslim and Jewish leaders as well who oppose it. “I don’t know how you reconcile Jesus who says, ‘Love they neighbour, love thy enemy, and at the same time being armed to the teeth”, Wright says.

Source: Atlanta Journal

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The stunning victories by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) in Iraq have left thousands of broken lives in its wake. CBN News, Middle East Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell visited a refugee camp erected just a few days ago. It’s one of many U.N. refugee camps set up in a region where literally hundreds of thousands of displaced people are living.  This camp is about a 15 minute drive from where ISIS forces are operating. Most of the people there are from the city of Nineveh, and many of them have seen the worst of the fighting. “I saw bodies without heads lying on the streets” one resident told CBN News. “I saw this with my own eyes,” Sha’alan Abdulwahab, an Iraqi man who served Iraqi intelligence, told CBN News.


He added, “When they (the jihadists) got into Nineveh, they entered the houses and killed whole families. This means they don’t care about the ages or the humanity. They only care about themselves.” That carnage drove these people to take shelter together in refugee camps. Many declined to be interviewed on camera because they expect to return to their homes. CBN News said others, even some young teenage girls, said ISIS would kill them if they went back. Now they have to adjust to another life. “In the region, according to the government, they said there were 100,000 coming to Erbil and 500,000 refugees across the country,” camp manager Simon Ravelli said. 

He added, “But this is a real serious crisis and a challenge for all of Iraq. We, as an international organization, are here to support everyone who is in need in this crisis.” The people need help. The camps reduce life to the basics: People need water. They clamour for ice. Kids cool off in the 100 degree heat. People fight boredom. Yet they survived the butchery of ISIS.  Sha’alan said he had interviewed captured ISIS soldiers who revealed the terror group’s long-term agenda, which goes beyond Iraq. “We know that ISIS is not dreaming just to rule over Iraq, but they are dreaming to go to Europe and rule over all of the European continent. And, if I’m allowed to say, ISIS is dreaming to rule over the whole world,” he said.


Source: by Jeremy Reynalds Senior Correspondent for Assist News Service

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There are reports that Islamists are taking over schools in the English Midlands and encouraging students to believe in the biblical account of creation and accept the separation of girls and boys in classrooms, swimming pools and sporting fields. Education Officials have launched an inquiry into 21 schools in the Birmingham area suspected of being part of an Islamist plot. Six of them gave rise to what the office calls “serious concerns,” which include allegations that staffs were appointed on the basis of their religious beliefs. Education Secretary Michael Gove raised a storm when he appointed a counterterrorism expert, Peter Clarke, to look into the claims. Birmingham is dominated by Muslim communities.

But not everyone believes this is a cause for alarm. Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, called on the media to show “a sense of proportion” after tabloid reports of the takeover plot by hard-line Muslims.. A 2011 census showed that there were 2.8 million Muslims in England and Wales — up from 1.6 million in 2001. Hobby insists Muslims have reacted positively to a government call on leaders of ethnic communities to provide schools catering for the needs of local communities. In many parts of the Midlands, ethnic communities are in the majority. A new book published by the think tank Policy Exchange says ethnic communities will make up a third of Britain by 2050.

Source: Religion News Service

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