Category : Violence

(C of E) Statement following IICSA preliminary hearing

Read it all:

Bishop Peter Hancock, lead safeguarding bishop for the Church of England said:

“We welcome the comments today from Fiona Scolding QC* on the wider church hearing scheduled for July which outlined the focus of the Inquiry.

We fully support the emphasis on the present and future of safeguarding in the Church of England which will help with our commitment to make the Church a safer place for all. Miss Scolding QC said the Inquiry will be looking at whether changes being implemented by the Church of England are relevant and purposeful. I believe this part of the Inquiry will be critical in helping us ensure that our safeguarding work is effective and rigorous and that survivors’ and victims’ views are heard.

We continue to be committed to working closely with the Inquiry in a constructive and transparent way.”

*Fiona Scolding is the counsel to IICSA for the investigation into the Anglican Church in England and Wales.

(Interested readers will note the link to the full transcript of the hearing at the end to read more).

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(WSJ) Marlo Safi–Is Abdel Fattah Al Sisi Good for Egypt’s Christians?

Samuel Tadros, a fellow at the Hudson Institute, says Copts are blocked from nearly all important government positions: “Copts are excluded from Egypt’s intelligence service and state security, their percentage in the armed services and police force is capped at 1%, and they are similarly discriminated against in the foreign service, judiciary, education sector and government-owned public sector.” It’s no surprise, then, that the government hasn’t effectively responded to Copts’ pleas for better representation and prosecution of those who persecute their community.

Ms. Riad says neighbors are often doing the persecuting. Coptic homes are burned down. Some children change their names from conspicuously Christian ones such as George so they can play on private or national soccer teams. Coptic women face near-daily public harassment. “It doesn’t take ISIS to kill, and it could just be your neighbor because you’re Christian,” Ms. Riad says.

A 2016 law, implemented by Abdel Fattah Al Sisi’s government, allows for the legalization of existing churches and the creation of new ones. The implementation of the law is another story. Mr. Tadros notes that the government has approved less than 17% of 3,730 requests submitted by the three major Christian groups—Coptic Orthodox, Catholic and evangelical Protestant. The law has instead fueled sectarian violence within Egypt.

Egyptians have rioted and protested against approved churches. In 2016, after Copts in the village of Manshiet El-Naghamish applied to build a church, locals organized and attacked the Christians. Egyptians looted and burned Coptic properties and assaulted Copts. This was only one attack in a string of many, which are often incited before a church is even built.

Read it all.

Posted in Coptic Church, Egypt, Middle East, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Violence

Bishop Rachel Treweek’s recent speech in the House of Lords on the stewardship of girls in refugee camps

My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, for securing this debate. It is a great honour to be taking part and to listen to the contributions of so many amazing supporters of women and girls. I should also like to draw attention to my interests as set out in the register.

Following previous speakers, I too should like to reinforce what has been said about violence and access to education. As has been said, before, during and after conflict girls face both physical and sexual violence. It is important to note that trauma follows adolescent girls when they flee from conflict, whether they become refugees or are internally displaced. There is a high ​risk of sexual abuse in overcrowded, unsanitary and unsafe refugee areas. Girls face not only prostitution and the risk of early marriage; they also face isolation and a lack of access to healthcare and psychological support. I would like to ask the Minister: what specific action are the Government currently taking to support girls in these vulnerable places, and how will rebuilding peace after conflict specifically involve support for these girls?

This year, when the Government will host an international meeting on preventing sexual violence, will there be a focus on support for girls in particular? Where a country experiences violence, women and girls also face increased domestic violence in the home. Can the Minister let us know when the Government plan to introduce domestic legislation that will allow the UK to ratify the Istanbul convention? In particular, UK nationals must be able to be tried in UK courts for domestic violence committed against women abroad.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Violence, Women

(WSJ) Jihadists Behind Bars Pose New Threats for Europe

A terrorism trial starting here on Thursday highlights the difficulties Europe’s courts and prisons face containing the spread of jihadist ideology behind bars.

Mehdi Nemmouche, a 33-year-old Frenchman of Algerian origin, faces life in prison for allegedly shooting and killing four people at the Brussels Jewish Museum in May 2014. But once in prison, law-enforcement officials warn, terror suspects and convicts breed even more plots and spread their ideology to other inmates.

European prisons are fertile recruiting ground for new terrorists despite efforts in France, Belgium and other European countries to isolate dangerous and radicalized suspects in dedicated wards to prevent them from proselytizing. The perpetrators in several recent attacks were radicalized in prison, including Mr. Nemmouche and an alleged accomplice also on trial, say prosecutors. In Belgium, which has the highest per capita rate of returnees from Syria and Iraq in Europe, one third of 125 returnees were in prison in early 2018, according to the Egmont Institute, a Brussels-based think tank….

Read it all.

Posted in Belgium, Europe, France, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(Telegraph) One in ten members of clergy victims of violence as anti-Christian hate crimes rises

One in ten members of the Church of England clergy has been the victim of violent behaviour in the last two years, a government-funded survey has found.

The same proportion say they are experiencing more anti-Christian hate crime than they did two years ago.

The survey also found that more than two-thirds have been on the receiving end of verbal abuse and one in five has experienced threatening behaviour over the last two years.

The findings, released on Friday, also showed that clergy who have suffered violence are more likely to find their work “more challenging” than they did previously.

The research was carried out by academics at Royal Holloway, University of London, with £5,000 from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, amid fears that increasing secularisation, the declining status of clergy and abuse scandals may be impacting on the way clergy are treated.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Christian Post) Fulani Militia “bigger threat than Boko Haram” – Archbishop Kwashi

The Bishop of Jos, Anglican Communion and in-coming General Secretary , Global Anglican Future Conference, GAFCON, the most Rev Benjamin Argak Kwashi, has described the Islamic Fulani cattle herdsmen militias who have ravaged towns and villages, killing mostly women and children, in the predominantly Christians central region of Nigeria, as “a bigger threat” than Boko Haram Islamic terrorist Jihadi sect.

“Boko Haram operates in the northeast and scantily moves into other areas, but the Fulani herdsmen are widespread. They’re everywhere now. So the Fulani are a bigger threat,” Kwashi said.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Nigeria, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Nigeria, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(New Yorker) The Women Rescued from Boko Haram Who Are Returning to Their Captors

Since its founding in northern Nigeria, in 2002, Boko Haram has razed villages and massacred townspeople in an effort to establish an Islamic caliphate in the region, which is largely Muslim. The militants have bombed dozens of public places, including the United Nations building and the national police headquarters, both in Abuja, the country’s capital. In 2011, the government launched an offensive, forcing the militants to flee from their base in Maiduguri into the Sambisa Forest, a former game reserve. Nigerian soldiers destroyed their homes and arrested any family members left behind, including the widow of Mohammed Yusuf, Boko Haram’s founder, and the wife and children of Abubakar Shekau, the group’s leader. Shekau threatened retaliation; since then, the militants have kidnapped thousands of girls and women, using them as servants and marrying them to militants against their will. In 2014, Boko Haram abducted two hundred and seventy-six girls from a school dormitory in Chibok, prompting a global campaign for their release—led by spokeswomen including Michelle Obama and Malala Yousafzai—called Bring Back Our Girls.

Aisha was driven through a dense tangle of tamarind and baobab trees, deep into the Sambisa Forest. After hours of travelling, the group arrived at a clearing filled with zinc-roofed buildings and tarpaulin tents, home to scores of militants and their families. The women were taken to a tent and fed dates—known in the Hausa language as dabino. Dates are revered in Islam: during Ramadan, the Prophet broke his fast with them, and many Muslims do the same today. Locals believe that militants place charms on the dabino that they feed their captives, in order to bewitch them. Some former captives have told me that they surreptitiously avoided eating the dates. Aisha did not believe that they were enchanted, but she was struck by the gentleness with which the militants fed them the fruit. They offered the women water to drink and encouraged them to get some rest. “That was when I started realizing that they were not as bad as people said they were,” she said.

Aisha began her life in captivity as a slave, running errands and doing chores for the wives of the militants and spending eleven hours a day in Quran classes. The captives were all kept in a single small tent, and militants came each day to select wives from among them. Almost immediately, a man named Mamman Nur began courting Aisha. Nur was a senior commander, or amir, and a close adviser to Shekau. He is thought to have been the mastermind behind the U.N. bombing, in 2011; shortly after the attack, the Nigerian government set a hundred-and-sixty-thousand-dollar bounty on his head. But to Aisha he was tender. Whenever he visited the tent, he paid her compliments and sang her songs in Arabic. “He was very romantic,” she said. “He showered me with gifts, like expensive wrappers, jewelry, and so on—any of the kind of things that women like.”

Read it all.

Posted in Nigeria, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(ACNS) Primate of South Sudan plans New Year’s Eve peace march and prayer service

The Archbishop of South Sudan, Justin Badi Arama, is calling on Christians in the country to take part in a peace march and prayer service on New Year’s Eve. Archbishop Justin’s vision is for 10,000 Christians to take part in the march, which will set off from Buluk Field in Juba at 9.00 am EAT (6.00 am GMT) on 31 December. They will take part in a mile-long march to All Saint’s Cathedral, where a prayer service will be held, “asking God for real peace in our nation in 2019.”

There is renewed hope for peace in South Sudan since the warring parties signed a peace agreement in Khartoum at the end of August. But many Anglicans remain in exile in neighbouring countries – many of them in Uganda. Archbishop Justin has played a significant role in the peace negotiations and is working to ensure that “peace on paper becomes peace on the ground”.

The Episcopal Church of South Sudan facilitated the inter-communities Peace Conference between Jubek and Terkeka states, , which successfully concluded this week. “I urge all the South Sudanese communities to embrace the same spirit so that we live in harmony”, Archbishop Justin said afterwards. Last month, the Archbishop met with President Salva Kiir to pray for peace….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, --South Sudan, Religion & Culture, Sudan, Violence

(Star-Telegram) Hundreds of sex abuse allegations found in fundamental Baptist churches across U.S.

Read it all. (Please note that this is a long and painful article whose content may not be suitable for some blog readers–KSH.)

Posted in America/U.S.A., Baptists, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

The Diocese of Birmingham Response to Channel 4 News story this week

In response to the news report and interview with Jo Kind on Channel 4’s news programme (Weds 5 Dec 7pm) we believe that it is important to clarify a number of elements of the story as reported in that instance.

Most importantly, we need to make clear that the Church of England – Birmingham has never restricted, or sought to restrict Jo from telling her story. This is not the purpose of the NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement). It was and will always be her story to tell. The decision with regards to the NDA was made to protect the many contributors to the report, some of whom wish to remain unidentifiable, along with the many others whom this situation affects. The suggestion of asking Jo to sign the NDA was also made by the independent reviewer once the report had been finalised. We encouraged Jo to seek legal advice, which she did, before signing the NDA, rather than ‘forcing it on her’ as reported.

It is important to understand that Jo was not asked to sign a ‘confidentiality clause’. Such a clause would have prevented her from disclosing information contained within the reports that she was already aware of, or where elements were already in the public domain. Jo was asked to sign an NDA with the intention to prevent from sharing information not belonging to her that she was not previously aware of (for example elements within the report that refer to information provided from or by other individuals, along with factors that could lead to the identity of the contributors and others who have been affected by this from being identified).

Simply put, Jo is and always has been free to tell her story, but we need to protect others who do not want their story to be told….

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

(Atlantic) Beth Kissileff–Pushing Back the Darkness in Pittsburgh

I was walking somewhere I was afraid to go, even though I had been there many times before. But I had not been to a religious service at the Tree of Life synagogue—where my husband is the rabbi of New Light Congregation—in more than 30 days, since a shooter killed 11 people in that spot.

Though it was not quite 6 o’clock on Sunday evening, the first night of Hanukkah, the winter darkness enveloped my neighborhood. I walked past the shopping district, the dry cleaners, my dentist’s office, and the home of my husband’s college roommate. All was familiar, yet I was scared to be outside in the open air with a group of Jews. If we had been targeted inside, where our Torah scrolls and prayer books were and where we were not being public about our faith, wouldn’t this be a provocation, a taunt to anti-Semites, wherever they lurk, to come and get us? A therapist told me to use my rational mind and remember that this was the only event of its kind, the only synagogue shooting that had happened in the United States. That is true, but when it happens at your own place of worship, statistics and rationality take a back seat to raw fear.

As I walked down Shady Avenue, approaching the corner of Wilkins, I saw the police barricades at Northumberland Street, a block before the synagogue. I told a police officer that I was glad to see him, and that I was scared to be here. He told me I did not need to be afraid.

That has been the message I have gotten in so many ways over the past few weeks….

Read it all.

Posted in Judaism, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(Channel 4 News) Church of England gags abuse victim with NDA

A woman who claims she was abused by a vicar has told Channel 4 News she was forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) – before she was allowed to read an official review accusing the Church of England of mismanaging her complaints.

Channel 4 News has seen a copy of the report, which makes a series of damning criticisms of the way a serving bishop handled her allegations.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) Martin Sewell–Church in Wonderland: the Clergy Discipline Measure shoves victims down a rabbit hole

What is missing in all this is the option of an ‘Admonishment’. By that, I mean that the Church of England does not currently accompany a ‘no action’ outcome with a plain unequivocal finding that ‘this was wrong’. Vindicating the victims complaint is immensely important to them, regardless of the sequelae.

Surely we need such an option in a revised system, preferably published and accompanied by a victim impact statement, and perhaps even an agreed statement of reconciliation in which the wrongdoer can offer an acknowledgement of error and a proper apology and, if possible an (entirely voluntary) acceptance. Closure on such a basis might be attainable with all parties able to move forward.

As it is, the Bishop is untouched, the Deputy President emerges as a humane judge constrained by an insufficient legal structure, and the role of the Chaplain has slipped under the radar. The Archbishop has been affirmed in his procedural propriety and judgment, and does not have the embarrassment of having to find against his fellow Bishop. Everyone within the church wins.

The only one… the only one for whom the whole prolonged process has offered nothing whatsoever is the poor victim, who has received no justice, no closure, and no apology whatsoever from anyone involved. On what basis do we in the Church suggest that this kind of outcome is anything other than a disgrace?

Talk to victims and they speak of an Alice in Wonderland world where injustice is justice, and due process means just what the church says it means: episcopal clothing is metaphorically rent, yet no apology escapes their lips. No wonder that victims increasingly advise each other not to disappear down this particular rabbit hole.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

The Full Text of Archbishop Justin Welby’s Sunday Telegraph Article–We must not forget Christians in the Middle East

At this point you may be wondering: what needs to be done to address this deeply alarming situation?

First, everyone can remember Christians in the Middle East and pray for them. At the beginning of Advent our eyes turn towards Bethlehem in the West Bank, to Nazareth, to Egypt and to other places in the Christmas story. It’s a time to pray with special focus and dedication for those Christian communities who trace their roots right back to the time of these stories. God is faithful and hears our prayers.

Second, we must understand their plight and not present it as simple or with obvious solutions. For example, to ask Syrian Christians to choose between President Assad, under whom they were tolerated, and the unimaginable horrors and threats of so-called Islamic State, is to impose a choice that we would not accept for ourselves, and which we should not judge too easily.

Third, we must support and help them in every way we can. Where they wish to leave, they will be refugees in need of asylum. Where, courageously and by the grace of God, they choose to remain, they need publicity and external, visible support. Whether in large and flourishing communities, such as in Lebanon or Egypt, or smaller, struggling Churches, they need the protection and encouragement of governments and people at home and abroad. and foreign popular expression. Without this they cannot live out their vocation as citizens of their native lands in co-operation with other religious groups.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Middle East, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(Sunday Telegraph) Christians on brink of extinction in Middle East, warns Archbishop of Canterbury

Christians who were the first founders of the church are on brink of “imminent extinction”, the Archbishop of Canterbury warns today.

Describing the “daily threat of murder” faced in the Middle East, the Most Reverend Justin Welby says Christians are experiencing “the worst situation since the Mongol invasions of the 13th Century”.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Archbishop Welby, the most senior clergyman in the Church of England, calls on the Government to take in more refugees.

It comes as figures have revealed just one in 400 Syrian refugees given asylum in the UK last year were Christians despite them being subjected to “horrendous persecution”.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Middle East, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(Local Paper) ‘Emanuel’ documentary produced by Viola Davis and Steph Curry gets to heart of grace

Filmed in the homes of victims’ family members, and inside the church, the 75-minute award-winning documentary “Emanuel” was produced by Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis, a native of St. Matthews, and NBA basketball star Steph Curry, who started a film production company earlier this year and is outspoken about his Christian faith.

“They both love the film, not only for its message of forgiveness and faith, but also for its dedication to justice and peace in America,” Ivie says. “Their partnership is a rare one in a very divided industry, but it obviously speaks to the power of the story and the heart of these people that we are humbled to represent.”

The documentary is among a few made about the shooting, including hour-long public radio release “Eyes Closed in Prayer” and Tribune Film Festival’s “Leo Twiggs: Requiem for Mother Emanuel.” Yet, it stands apart in its search for the source of the unexpected forgiveness that touched so many heavy hearts in the wake of the tragedy.

There have been other attempts to tell this story,” says Ivie. “Many of them do mention forgiveness, but I also think what separates our telling from all the others is our theological understanding of where that forgiveness comes from. And that is the cross of Jesus Christ.”

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in * South Carolina, Movies & Television, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology, Violence

(WSJ) Mene Ukueberuwa–The Vatican prevents American prelates from addressing clergy sexual abuse

Ahead of the conference, the bishops coalesced around two proposals to impose accountability. The first is a simple code of conduct extending to bishops the zero-tolerance policy for sex abuse enacted for priests in 2002. The second is an independent review board to investigate claims against bishops and refer credible cases directly to the Vatican. “Each bishop would have to agree to allow himself to be investigated by the committee,” San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone told me last week. He described the bishops’ shedding of immunity as “a covenantal sort of relationship” that would allow them to police each other better.

Yet the Vatican’s surprise announcement means the new covenant will have to wait. The Holy See barred the conference from voting on new sex-abuse protocols until after a summit in Rome this February. Naturally, the bishops were shocked when they received the news Monday morning. Instead of returning to their dioceses with a concrete agreement, they’ll bring nothing but assurances of future reforms. More than 15 years after the sex-abuse crisis first surfaced in the U.S., such promises do little to quell public anger or ease prosecutorial pressure.

The delay shows that the Vatican simply doesn’t place the same value on speed and openness with the public that the U.S. episcopate does. American bishops are closer to the schools and parishes where abuse actually takes place. When one leader fails to respond appropriately to abuse, they all take on the stench of corruption. And unlike the pope, local bishops generally are seen as dispensable by their followers—shepherds to be discarded if they fail to protect the flock.

Despite the imprudent delay, U.S. bishops can continue cleaning their own pastures ahead of the Rome summit.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(NYT Op-ed) Dana Horn–American Jews Know How This Story Goes

“There are no words.”

This was what I heard most often last weekend from those who were stunned by the news: 11 people were murdered at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh — believed to be the largest massacre of Jews on American soil. But there are words for this, entire books full of words: the books the murdered people were reading at the hour of their deaths. News reports described these victims as praying, but Jewish prayer is not primarily personal or spontaneous. It is communal reading. Public recitations of ancient words, scripts compiled centuries ago and nearly identical in every synagogue in the world. A lot of those words are about exactly this.

When I told my children what had happened, they didn’t ask why; they knew. “Because some people hate Jews,” they said. How did these American children know that? They shrugged. “It’s like the Passover story,” my 9-year-old told me. “And the Hanukkah story. And the Purim story. And the Babylonians, and the Romans.” My children are descendants of Holocaust survivors, but they didn’t go that far forward in history. The words were already there.

The people murdered in Pittsburgh were mostly old, because the old are the pillars of Jewish life, full of days and memories. They are the ones who come to synagogue first, the ones who know the words by heart. The oldest victim was Rose Mallinger, 97….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Judaism, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Theology: Scripture, Violence

(NYT) ISIS Claims Credit for Attack that Kills Christians in Egypt

Islamist gunmen killed at least seven Coptic Christian pilgrims in Egypt on Friday and wounded at least 16 in an attack later claimed by the Islamic State.

The attack — an ambush on two buses — ended a nearly yearlong lull in major attacks on Copts in Egypt, and may signal a resumption of the Islamic State’s campaign to sow sectarian divisions in Egyptian society.

It was also a setback for President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has put security concerns at the heart of his autocratic style of rule and has repeatedly vowed to protect Christians, a minority in the country, from attack.

The shooting occurred as two buses carrying pilgrims left the Monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor, 85 miles south of Cairo, in Egypt’s Western Desert.

Read it all.

Posted in Coptic Church, Death / Burial / Funerals, Egypt, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(BBC) Can artificial intelligence help stop religious violence?

Software that mimics human society is being tested to see if it can help prevent religious violence.

Researchers used artificial intelligence algorithms to simulate actions driven by sectarian divisions.

Their model contains thousands of agents representing different ethnicities, races and religions.

Norway and Slovakia are trialling the tech to tackle tensions that can arise when Muslim immigrants settle in historically Christian countries.

The Oxford University researchers hope their system can be used to help governments respond to incidents, such as the recent London terror attacks.

However, one independent expert said that the tool needed more work before it could be used in real-life situations.

Read it all.

Posted in Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Violence

(GR) Ira Rifkin–Pittsburgh surprised many: But not those who repeatedly reported rising American anti-Semitism

Some 15 years ago I wrote a piece on anti-Semitism for an online Jewish publication that began as follows: “It is an irony of Jewish life that it took the Holocaust to give anti-Semitism a bad name. So widespread was international revulsion over the annihilation of six million Jews that following World War II anti-Semitism, even of the polite variety, became the hatred one dared not publicly express. But only for a time.”

Saturday’s synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh underscored how anti-Semitism is no longer the hatred one dares not publicly express — though that’s been obvious for some time to all who cared to recognize it. I’ve tried to make the point in numerous GetReligion posts.

The details of what happened in Pittsburg, on the Jewish Sabbath, are by now well known, thanks to the wall-to-wall coverage, much of it sympathetic, detailed and excellent — including their understanding of the Jewish religious and communal aspects.

The extensive coverage is entirely appropriate, I’d say. Because more than just a display of vicious anti-Semitism, what happened in Pittsburg was an American tragedy. It underscored how threatened the nation is today by our corrosive political environment.

Read it all.

Posted in Judaism, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) ‘We will not be broken:’ Emotional vigil held for victims of Squirrel Hill synagogue shooting

To an audience of more than 2,000 inside Soldiers & Sailors Hall and many more gathering in the damp weather outside, after all the dignitaries had spoken, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers told of his night of restlessness, of wrestling with Scripture.

When he has sleepless nights, he said, he often turns to the Psalms. But there was no night like Saturday night, just hours after Rabbi Myers survived the deadly gunman’s attack on his Tree of Life / Or L’Simcha synagogue in Squirrel Hill.

He thought of the 23rd Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.”

“Well God, I want!” he said, his voice reverberating through the hall during Sunday’s interfaith vigil in honor of 11 victims killed and the six wounded Saturday at the Squirrel Hill synagogue building shared by three congregations.

“What I want you can’t give me,” he continued. “You can’t return these 11 beautiful souls. You can’t rewind the clock.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(NYT) Jonathan A. Greenblatt on the Squirrel Hill (Pittsburgh Area) Jewish Massacre–When Hate Goes Mainstream

This has been a very difficult 24 hours for the Jewish community — and for America. What started as a normal Sabbath for Jews — a time to be with family and community, celebrate bar and bat mitzvahs, hold baby namings, pray to God — ended with news of the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. This was the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history.

While the horror of this massacre is shocking, it is not entirely surprising.

At the Anti-Defamation League, we have been tracking and fighting anti-Semitism for over a century. And while Jews have enjoyed a degree of acceptance and achievement in the United States perhaps unrivaled in our people’s history, recent trends have been alarming.

While the overall trend in anti-Semitic incidents has been a downward one, last year we saw the largest single-year increase since the A.D.L. began this annual audit in 1979 — a 57 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2017. These incidents include high-profile ones such as neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville, Va., chanting “Jews will not replace us,” physical assaults, vandalism and attacks on Jewish institutions.

Part of this sharp rise comes from a large increase in anti-Semitic incidents in grade schools and on college campuses, which nearly doubled for the second year in a row….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(CT) Nobel Peace Prize Goes in part to a Christian Doctor Who Heals Rape Victims

A Christian gynecologist who has dedicated his career to caring for victims of rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been awarded a 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.

Denis Mukwege, nicknamed “Dr. Miracle” for his specialized procedures, was a co-recipient for the annual honor alongside Nadia Murad, a Yazidi activist who survived rape and kidnapping by ISIS in Iraq. The Nobel committee said both winners modeled “efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.”

Over the past 20 years, Mukwege has treated tens of thousands of women in Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, many of who had been gang raped by militants in the midst of the country’s conflict, left scarred and stigmatized.

His faith influences his approach to caring for patients holistically, “not only to treat women—their body, [but] also to fight for their own right, to bring them to be autonomous, and, of course, to support them psychologically. And all of this is a process of healing so women can regain their dignity,” he told NPR.

Read it all.

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Republic of Congo, Sexuality, Theology, Violence, Women

A Former Sex Trafficking Victim Describes Her Ordeal and Rescue

You need to take the time to watch it all. If you cannot handle it visually please read the transcript there.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Sexuality, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence, Women

(Atlantic) Alexis Madrigal–Facebook believes too strongly in the goodness of people

In an unusually revealing moment for Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg told Recode’s Kara Swisher on Wednesday that he didn’t support taking down content about Holocaust denial on Facebook. Zuckerberg is Jewish, and he finds such denials “deeply offensive,” he said. But Holocaust deniers were not “intentionally getting it wrong.”

When Swisher followed up that “in the case of Holocaust deniers, they might be,” Zuckerberg retreated to a stance he’s never quite made explicit before. “It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent,” he said.

In place of “understanding” the intent, this statement makes clear that Facebook takes a default stance of assuming users act in good faith—or without intention, at least. Zuckerberg and Facebook have been repeatedly criticized, and accepted the criticism as largely true, that they have been too willing to ignore the potential negative ways the platform can be used. And yet here, one of the basic principles of how they moderate speech is to be so optimistic as to give Holocaust deniers the benefit of the doubt.

Zuckerberg seems to be imagining a circumstance where somebody watched a YouTube video that makes a case against the (real, documented, horrifying) Holocaust and ignorantly posts it to Facebook. Under the rules the platform has established, there is no penalty for that (in countries where Holocaust denial is not illegal)….

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Germany, History, Judaism, Theology, Violence

(Patheos) It is Well With My Soul: The Witness of the Church of Nigeria

At present, the future for all Christians in Nigeria looks grim:

  • Nine of the country’s thirty-six states impose full-blown Sharia. This forces Christians in those states to navigate a minefield. In this minefield, Islamic rage could be detonated by anything as seemingly innocuous as a gesture, a word, or even an act of God. In one such incident, Muslims blamed Christians for a lunar eclipse and went on a killing spree.
  • Then there is the murderous violence of Boko Haram. For years the U.S. State Department seemed determined to see Boko Haram as “disenfranchised, impoverished youth.” (Forget the fact that they were driving around the northern and middle belt states in fully-loaded SUVs, accompanied by their own chef.) Elites complained that they were just “in need of job counseling and midnight basketball.” But determined activists, of which I was one, finally broke through the false narrative. State designated Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization in November 2013.
  • In more recent years, nomadic Fulani “herdsmen” have evolved into Fulani Jihadists. They target Christians, wiping out entire villages and grabbing the land. If Christians attempt to defend themselves, they are accused of “retaliating.” As one Nigerian Christian told a member of Congress, “We are told to ‘turn the other cheek,’ but we have no more cheeks left to turn.” The Fulani are now ranked above Boko Haram as deadliest terrorists. They murdered more people than Boko Haram in 2015, 2016, and 2017. And they are already on their way to beating their own record in 2018.

Faith and Peace

Still, at GAFCON it was obvious to me that the Nigerian archbishops, bishops, clergy, and lay delegates were full of the joy of the Lord. A talented and powerful worship team from Nigeria had led our music all week long. I was happy to see Nigerian church leaders that I already knew. Among those were the Archbishop and Primate, the Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh. And there was Bishop Nathan Inyom, whose Diocese of Makurdi is a refuge for those fleeing from Fulani.

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Posted in Church of Nigeria, Nigeria, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(AP) ‘Sheltering wings:’ Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston’s memorial plan conveys solace

Church officials unveiled detailed plans Sunday afternoon for the permanent tribute designed by the architect behind the 9/11 Memorial in New York. The announcement, coinciding with the 200th anniversary of the church known as “Mother Emanuel,” will be followed by a push to raise the money needed to build the memorial and prayer garden.

Church officials say the design conveys both solace and resiliency. A marble fountain with carvings of the victims’ names will be flanked by curved stone benches that rise above visitors’ heads and cradle the space “like sheltering wings,” according to a news release.

“When you walk into the memorial, it’s going to give you the feeling of being embraced, just embraced with warmth,” said City Councilman William Dudley Gregorie, a church trustee who lost a loved one in the June 2015 attack.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

(AP+PPG) Federal government reopens probe of 1955 Emmett Till slaying

The federal government has reopened its investigation into the slaying of Emmett Till, the black teenager whose brutal killing in Mississippi shocked the world and helped inspire the civil rights movement more than 60 years ago.

The Justice Department told Congress in a report in March it is reinvestigating Till’s slaying in Money, Mississippi, in 1955 after receiving “new information.” The case was closed in 2007 with authorities saying the suspects were dead; a state grand jury didn’t file any new charges.

Deborah Watts, a cousin of Till, said she was unaware the case had been reopened until contacted by The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The federal report, sent annually to lawmakers under a law that bears Till’s name, does not indicate what the new information might be.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Law & Legal Issues, Race/Race Relations, Violence

Gerald Mcdermott–An Interview with Archbishop Ben Kwashi

Your grace, you were attacked the other night for the third time.  Some think the Fulani are targeting you.  Are you afraid?

I am not afraid to die, I continue to live my normal life as you have seen but I do nurse the fear that I might get killed. My sure faith, however, is that until my time is over and assignment completed nothing shall yet happen to me. So I live between these tensions.  

Archbishop, you have just released a new book, Evangelism and Mission: Biblical and Strategic Insights for the Church Today (Africa Christian Textbooks).  Why did you write this book?

I wanted to give pastors a book they could use.  No one has any business being a priest if he does not do the work of an evangelist and missionary.  That is what we are called to first and foremost, to be missionaries.  This book tells them how to do this.

In 1992 when I started as a bishop, most Anglican pastors in this part of Nigeria were doing “church” in a way that was alien to what I had learned from my own experience of planting churches.  They had no understanding of the church as a vehicle of salvation for people who did not have the gospel.  I had been teaching and doing this for years.

Once they started seeing how we do this in rural areas, there was a domino effect.  We sent teams out without cars or bicycles, with just enough money to buy transport.  They had to minister by faith, and see God provide for them.  It was crucial to their learning how God meets their needs day by day.  They learned what Anglicans should mean by “apostolic succession”—planting churches from scratch like the apostles did.

I also wanted to explain in the book why we must not make the mistake of the early African church, that lost North Africa to Islam.  That church did not do enough mission.  We must not make that mistake.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Church of Nigeria, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Nigeria, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence