Category : Violence

(NYT) All 9 of Sri Lanka’s Muslim Ministers Resign, as Bombing Backlash Intensifies

All nine Muslim ministers in Sri Lanka’s government and two Muslim provincial governors resigned on Monday as the fragile, Buddhist-majority country grappled further with the communal backlash of the Easter Sunday bombings that killed as many as 250 people.

The resignations were in response to a hunger strike by an influential Buddhist monk, Athuraliye Rathana, who said he would fast to death unless the country’s president removed three senior Muslim officials — the two provincial governors and one of the ministers — that he accuses of having ties to the suicide bombers who targeted churches and hotels.

The eight ministers not targeted by Mr. Rathana announced their resignations in what appeared to be an act of solidarity with the three officials accused by the monk, who also serves as a member of Parliament and an adviser to the president, Maithripala Sirisena.

Read it all.

Posted in Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Terrorism, Violence

(CEN) Victims of John Smyth ‘exceed 100′

Court papers have revealed that the number of victims of the late John Smyth QC have exceeded 100.

Smyth, who groomed his victims when he was chair of the Iwerne camps from 1975-82, was previously known to have beaten at least 26 young men in the UK.

When his crimes came to light in 1982 the leadership of the Iwerne network arranged for him to move to Zimbabwe to work with a missionary organisation.

Once there, Smyth started his own network of camps, in which boys were routinely beaten for his sexual pleasure. A court case was launched but aborted in 1997, and court papers from that case reveal that as many as 90 boys made formal complaints against him.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Sexuality, South Africa, Teens / Youth, Violence

A New Benjamin Kwashi Biography released for your reading list consideration

Herewith the blurb form the publishers website:

In the warzone that Nigeria has become, Archbishop Ben Kwashi has survived three assassination attempts. A brutal assault on his wife, Gloria, drove him to his knees – to forgive and find the strength to press on. Islamist militants have Nigeria in their sights. These are the terrorists who kidnapped hundreds of Christian schoolgirls – who have vowed to turn Africa’s most populous nation into a hard-line Islamic state. Their plan is to drive the Christian minority from the north by kidnapping, bombing and attacking churches. Plateau State is on the frontline. But holding that line against Boko Haram, and standing firm for the Gospel, is Ben Kwashi, the Anglican Archbishop of Jos. In Jos, churches have been turned into fortresses and Archbishop Ben now conducts more funerals than weddings and baptisms put together. Yet his faith grows ever more vibrant. He has adopted scores of orphans who live in his home, including many who are HIV positive. And the challenge of his message – to live for the Gospel even in the face of terror – has never been so timely.

Posted in Children, Church of Nigeria, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Nigeria, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(Atlantic) The Impossible Future of Christians in the Middle East

The call came in 2014, shortly after Easter. Four years earlier, Catrin Almako’s family had applied for special visas to the United States. Catrin’s husband, Evan, had cut hair for the U.S. military during the early years of its occupation of Iraq. Now a staffer from the International Organization for Migration was on the phone. “Are you ready?” he asked. The family had been assigned a departure date just a few weeks away.

“I was so confused,” Catrin told me recently. During the years they had waited for their visas, Catrin and Evan had debated whether they actually wanted to leave Iraq. Both of them had grown up in Karamles, a small town in the historic heart of Iraqi Christianity, the Nineveh Plain. Evan owned a barbershop near a church. Catrin loved her kitchen, where she spent her days making pastries filled with nuts and dates. Their families lived there: her five siblings and aging parents, his two brothers.

But they also lived amid constant danger. “Everybody who was working with the United States military—they get killed,” Catrin said. Evan had been injured by an explosion near a U.S. Army base in Mosul in 2004. Catrin worried about him driving back and forth to the base along highways that cross some of the most contested land in Iraq. Even after he stopped working for the military, they feared he might be a victim of violence. That fear was compounded by their faith: During the war years, insurgents consistently targeted Christian towns and churches in a campaign of terror.

The Almakos had watched neighbors and friends wrestle with the same question: stay, or go? Now more and more Christians in the region were deciding to leave. The graph of the religion’s decline in the Middle East has in recent years transformed from a steady downward slope into a cliff. The numbers in Iraq are especially stark: Before the American invasion, as many as 1.4 million Christians lived in the country. Today, fewer than 250,000 remain—an 80 percent drop in less than two decades.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Middle East, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

A NYT Review of Jennifer Berry Hawes’ New Book on the Charleston 9 and the Mother Emmanuel Massacre

Hawes is a poised writer and a patient observer who trains her focus on the present. She gestures briefly to Charleston’s role as the epicenter of the nation’s slave trade (“as the Civil War approached almost three in four white families here had owned slaves”) and the long history of attacks on black churches, including Emanuel, which was first burned to the ground in 1822. Her primary interest is in the lives of the survivors and the families of the victims, “the people who will live this story forever.”

For most, trauma begat trauma: health problems, even sudden deaths. One widower lost 60 pounds and became unable to return to work. Bitter divisions flared. Eleven months after the shooting, Sharon Risher and Nadine Collier, two daughters of Ethel Lance, one of Roof’s victims, couldn’t even agree on a headstone for their mother. When Risher finally had one erected over the grave, Collier installed her own version directly in front of it. At one point, according to the author, Risher felt it was more likely that she might forgive Dylann Roof than her sister.

Even those who fought to return to some semblance of normalcy found that their lives had become uncomfortably public. Private people felt forced into activism and advocacy even as the shootings had left them adrift — and they felt spiritually abandoned by their church (which itself became mired in controversy after donations went missing).

Roof remains a shadowy figure in the narrative (see the journalist and critic Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah’s Pulitzer Prize-winning profile for a more detailed look at his life and radicalization). He is not even named at first, referred to only as “a young white man, lean of frame…”

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Books, Death / Burial / Funerals, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer, Violence

(LSE BR) Basil Cayli reviews ‘How Violence Shapes Religion: Belief and Conflict in the Middle East and Africa’ by Ziya Meral

The relationship between violence and religion is highly complex. Reductive analyses and explanations produce destructive outcomes. In How Violence Shapes Religion: Belief and Conflict in the Middle East and Africa, author Ziya Meral avoids popular explanations and refutes instrumentalism to offer the reader a systematic comparison that uncovers the complicated relationship between violence and religion. The book conveys the argument that violence shapes religion at different levels and religion influences the situation before the use of violence, its legitimisation in the course of violent attacks and its aftermath in a post-conflict era. As a result, what we see through these multidimensional interactions ‘is not an outcome of an intrinsic clash between imagined civilizations, but a very real case of self-fulfilled prophecies that create new fault lines across the world’ (176).

The author’s personal, academic and professional curiosity directed him towards showing the complexities in the multifaceted relationship between violence and religion (5). Meral argues that exposing these helps us to better understand the grim realities that lead to violence in different societies, where religion is perceived as a formidable social, political and cultural force. For this reason, Meral’s principal argument is based on two cases: Nigeria and Egypt. The meticulous analyses of violence in these two nation states reveal the dynamics of the relationship between religion and violent conflict in today’s world.

The author asks two key questions: 1) ‘Do religions in general, if not particularly Islam, cause such conflicts?’; and (2) ‘Are we really witnessing an escalation to extremes at a planetary level between followers of the world’s two largest religions, Islam and Christianity, showing itself in local conflicts between Muslim and Christian communities?’ (20). The book employs a comparative approach and analyses these questions within a political science theoretical framework. The multiplicity of ethno-religious communities in Nigeria on the one hand, and the disruptions of violence on the other, make the country an interesting case to study. The comparison of Nigeria with Egypt increases the originality of the book because an overwhelming majority of the population observe Islam in Egypt, whereas Muslims make up almost half of the population of Nigeria and are concentrated in the northern part of the country. Violence between Christian and Muslim communities is prevalent in Nigeria, while Egypt has millions of Christians who are frequently subject to discrimination and violence.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Egypt, Nigeria, Religion & Culture, Violence

A Riveting and Heartbreaking NPR Piece on Police Suicide Featuring the widows of four officers

SIMON: We met with a group of four women from different parts of America who share a solemn sorrow. Each was married to a police officer who took his life.

Kristen Clifford’s husband was Officer Steven Clifford of the Nassau County, N.Y., police. They had just gotten a puppy. They looked forward to having children. One day in May 2017, he wasn’t responding to her text messages, so she drove home.

KRISTEN CLIFFORD: And I went inside, and I saw a bunch of notes, his police identification, his driver’s license, everything laid out very neatly, methodically. And I ran down the hallway to our bedroom, and the door was closed. And there was a note on it that said, I did it. Do not enter. Call 911.

SIMON: Melissa Swailes was married to Officer David Swailes of the Los Angeles Police Department. They had four sons. David Swailes had symptoms of post-traumatic stress from his time in the U.S. Navy. On their youngest son’s second birthday, Melissa Swailes came home and found her husband behind their bathroom door.

MELISSA SWAILES: I remember just screaming over and over, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.

SIMON: Erin Gibson was married to Sergeant Clinton Gibson of the Liberty Lake, Wash., police. They were high school sweethearts. They had four children.

ERIN GIBSON: It didn’t even register in my mind that Clint was dead. Nothing made sense after that, so…

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Police/Fire, Psychology, Suicide, Theology, Violence

(Church of England) Statement on IICSA report from members of House of Bishops

From there:

A statement from members of the House of Bishops in response to The Anglican Church Case Studies IICSA report:

“We write on behalf of the whole House following the publication last week of the IICSA report into the Peter Ball and Chichester Diocese case studies. We recognise that the publication of this report causes most hurt and concern to survivors themselves. It reopens wounds.

“At this week’s meeting of the House of Bishops, Archbishop Justin asked every one of us to read and study the full report in detail and we are absolutely committed to this. The Church has failed survivors and the report is very clear that the Church should have been a place which protected all children and supported victims and survivors. We are ashamed of our past failures, have been working for change but recognise the deep cultural change needed takes longer than we would like to achieve.

“We welcome the recommendations.

“The report will now go to the National Safeguarding Steering Group next month so the Church can formulate a detailed response to the findings and recommendations as we approach IICSA’s wider Church hearing in July. The lead bishop for safeguarding has been asked to report back to the House and to General Synod.

“It is absolutely right that the Church at all levels should learn lessons from the issues raised in this report and act upon them”

Bishop Paul Butler
Bishop Christine Hardman
Bishop Peter Hancock
Bishop Sarah Mullally

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Violence

(CNN) Attack on Catholic church in Burkina Faso leaves 6 dead

Six people were killed Sunday during mass at a Catholic church in central Burkina Faso, according to state media.

Gunmen on motorcycles stormed the church in Dablo on Sunday morning, killing six men, including the priest, identified as Father Simeon Yampa. The attackers then set fire to the church and other buildings in the area, the Burkina Information Agency reported.

Read it all.

Posted in Burkina Faso, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic, Terrorism, Violence

(Church Times) ‘Secrecy and prevarication’: IICSA indicts C of E safeguarding record

For decades, the Church of England repeatedly and seriously failed to respond to allegations of child sex abuse made against clerics and churchpeople, the official abuse inquiry has concluded.

It also failed to implement safeguarding structures to protect children and vulnerable adults who “should have been safe” under its care.

These conclusions are included in the report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA), Anglican Church Case Studies: the Diocese of Chichester and the response to allegations against Peter Ball, published on Thursday.

The 252-page report summarises the thousands of documents, witness statements, and oral evidence given during two public hearings in London in March and July 2018. The hearings used the diocese, and the case of the disgraced former Bishop of Lewes, Peter Ball, as case studies to examine the extent to which the Church of England as a whole failed to protect children and vulnerable adults from abuse over several decades.

In both the diocese and the wider Church, the report states: “The responses to child sexual abuse were marked by secrecy, prevarication, avoidance of reporting alleged crimes to the authorities and a failure to take professional advice.”

This includes the Church’s “unwavering support of Peter Ball” during the Gloucestershire Police investigation (allegations about Ball came to light when he was translated to from Lewes to Gloucester), and its failure afterwards to “recognise or acknowledge the seriousness” of Ball’s misconduct.

The report comments specifically on the evidence given by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, on the case, whose response is described as “weak”. His “compassion” towards Ball did not extend to the victims, it says.

Read it all.

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

(Guardian) Church of England put reputation above abuse victims’ needs, inquiry finds

The Church of England put its own reputation above the needs of victims of sexual abuse, with a serious failure of leadership by the former archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, in its handling of the case of a bishop who eventually went to prison, an official inquiry has concluded.

It also found that Prince Charles and other members of the establishment were misguided in their expressions of support of Peter Ball as he battled the accusations.

Ball, a former bishop of Lewes and Gloucester, was jailed in 2015, more than 20 years after allegations were made against him that were largely ignored or downplayed by the church. Ball accepted a police caution in 1993 and resigned as bishop but was allowed to continue officiating in the C of E.

Ball “seemed to relish contact with prominent and influential people”, a 250-page report published on Thursday by the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA) said. He “sought to use his relationship with His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to further his campaign to return to unrestricted ministry”.

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

(Economist) The West’s new front against jihadism is in the Sahel

One cannot generalise easily about African jihadist groups. Some are strictly local, having taken up arms to fight over farmland or against corrupt local government. Some adopt the “jihadist” label only because they happen to be Muslim. Many young men who join such groups do so because they have been robbed by officials or beaten up by police, or seen their friends humiliated in this way.

worrying groups are adherents of is that seek to hold territory. An offshoot of Boko Haram, for example, is building a proto-caliphate in northern Nigeria.

Jihadist groups of all varieties are expanding their reach in the Sahel and around Lake Chad. Last year conflicts with jihadists in Africa claimed more than 9,300 lives, mostly civilian. This is almost as many as were killed in conflict with jihadists in Syria and Iraq combined. About two-fifths of those deaths were in Somalia, where al-Shabab frequently detonates car bombs in crowded streets. Many of the rest were in Nigeria, where the schoolgirl-kidnappers of Boko Haram and its odious offshoot, Islamic State West Africa Province, shoot villagers and behead nurses.

However, the area that aid workers and Western spooks worry about most is the Sahel. In Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso the number of people killed in jihad-related violence has doubled for each of the past two years, to more than 1,100 in 2018….

Read it all.

Posted in Africa, Burkina Faso, Niger, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(NR) Dealing with the Shock of an Evangelical Terrorist

So if the concern isn’t over theology — or any specific, known teaching of the church — then why the alarm bell?

It should warn us about our vulnerability. The shooting in Poway is a terrifying reminder that the church isn’t immune to any moral malady that stalks our land. It may land within the church with varying degrees of intensity and frequency, but it will land in the church. And as we see the spread of the very kind of online hate that seduced the Poway shooter, it’s incumbent upon the church to wake up and deal with this modern, deadly incarnation of the very old sin of white supremacy.

In 2015 and 2016, when my family was in the crosshairs of the alt-right — with my adopted daughter the subject of vile and vicious online memes — members of my church (and my Christian friends from across the nation) were shocked and appalled. The vast majority didn’t even know online communities such as 4chan or 8chan existed. Some were completely unfamiliar with terms such as “meme” or words like “sh**posting” or even “trolling.”

Even folks who were far more wise to the Internet’s ways assured me that there was no real risk. The sh**posters and trolls were in it for the “lulz,” the laughs. They just wanted to inflict — and mock — our family’s pain. In hindsight, that complacency was foolish.

Now we know. Now we have no excuse not to know. Among the many malevolent forces that stalk our children — including the children of the faithful — is a new form of an old evil.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Judaism, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(CNN) Houses of worship worry: Who’s next?

A massacre in New Zealand on jumah, the Muslim weekly communal prayer.

Suicide bombings in Sri Lankan churches on Easter, the holiest day of the Christian calendar.
On Saturday, another attack inside a sanctuary, this one on the final day of Passover, a sacred time commemorating Jews’ escape from violence and oppression in ancient Egypt.
Saturday’s shooting at Congregation Chabad in Poway, California, came six months to the day after the worst anti-Semitic violence in American history, when an accused white supremacist slaughtered 11 Jews inside a Pittsburgh synagogue.
After Saturday’s attack, Chabad, an Orthodox Jewish movement, addressed the recent spate of sacrilegious violence, of which it was the latest victim:
“The fact that these G-dless acts have multiplied of late underscores with even greater urgency the critical need for proper moral education for our youth, rooted in the belief in a Supreme Being — Whose Eye that Sees and Ear that Hears should preclude anyone from devaluing the life of another human being.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Liturgy, Music, Worship, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(ABC Aus.) ISIS ‘leader’ mentions Australian jihadist and Sri Lanka Easter bombings in first appearance in five years

A man purported to be reclusive Islamic State (IS) group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has made reference to the Sri Lanka Easter bombings and an Australian IS member in what appears to be his first appearance in five years.

The recently-released propaganda video appears to offer evidence that al-Baghdadi is alive, after many had speculated he had been killed or seriously injured.

The US has vowed to track down and defeat surviving leaders of the Islamic State group after the release of the video.

In the video, a man purporting to be al-Baghdadi acknowledged defeat in the group’s last stronghold — the Syrian village of Baghouz — but vowed a “long battle” ahead.

Read it all.

Posted in Australia / NZ, Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Terrorism, Violence

(The Lincolnite) Former Bishops of Lincoln ignored abuse claims, investigation finds

Two former Bishops of Lincoln “turned a blind eye” to alleged abuse cases and did not report them to police until decades later, a BBC Panorama investigation…[revealed yesterday].

A list of 53 Lincoln Diocese clergy and staff was also eventually referred to the police in 2015, eight years after a review into past safeguarding disclosures was announced.

The Church of England Past Cases Review which examined thousands of records in 2008 and 2009, including some child abuse cases, found that some names could have been referred years earlier.

The police investigation that followed resulted in the conviction of three people….

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Media, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Violence

(BBC’s Panorama–Scandal in the Church of England

Watch it all (30 minutes).

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

(AFP) Jihadists kill pastor, four others in Burkina church attack

Sunday’s raid took place in the small northern town of Silgadji near Djibo, the capital of Soum province.

“Unidentified armed individuals have attacked the Protestant church in Silgadji, killing four members of the congregation and the main pastor,” a security source told AFP.

“At least two other people are missing,” the source added.

It was the first attack on a church since jihadist violence erupted in Burkina Faso in 2015.

Former colonial ruler France has deployed some 4,500 troops in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad in a mission codenamed Barkhane to help local forces try to flush out jihadist groups.

“The attack happened around 1:00 pm, just as the faithful were leaving the church at the end of the service,” a member of the church who did not want to be identified told AFP.

Read it all.

Posted in Africa, Burkina Faso, Parish Ministry, Terrorism, Violence

(WSJ) Egyptian Copts who once expressed hopes for more safety under President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi say their situation is worsening instead

Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority is facing a surge in sectarian attacks, with increased instances of violence and threats from Muslim neighbors forcing churches to close and casting a pall over Orthodox Easter on Sunday.

In one recent incident that echoed many others, residents of central Egypt’s Sohag province were seen in a video recorded earlier this month and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal beating their male Coptic Christian neighbors with sticks as women screamed, leading to the shutdown of a local church, according to Coptic groups and a human- rights organization that documented the incident.

Nowhere has the assault on Copts been worse than in Minya province, some 130 miles south of Cairo on the western bank of the Nile, the site of at least three mob attacks on Coptic churches since August. On Jan. 11, a crowd waving wooden clubs jeered at a group of Copts as they fled in a pickup truck through narrow streets. “Leave! Leave!” the crowd chanted, as seen in a video filmed by residents and corroborated by church officials. The Coptic church in the village was closed indefinitely. The month before that incident, a police officer shot dead a Coptic man and his teenage son following a dispute, triggering angry protests by Christians in the area. The officer was sentenced to death earlier this month for the killing.

Read it all.

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

(NYT) Sri Lankan Accused of Leading Attacks Preached Slaughter. Many Dismissed Him.

Zaharan Hashim, a radical Muslim preacher accused of masterminding the Easter Sunday attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, never hid his hatred.

He railed against a local performance in which Muslim girls dared to dance. When a Muslim politician held a 50th birthday party, he raged about how Western infidel traditions were poisoning his hometown, Kattankudy.

There were, Mr. Zaharan said in one of his online sermons, three types of people: Muslims, those who had reached an accord with Muslims, and “people who need to be killed.”

Idolaters, he added, “need to be slaughtered wherever you see them.”

Mr. Zaharan has been described by Sri Lankan officials as having founded an obscure group with inchoate aims: a defacement of a Buddha statue, a diatribe against Sufi mystics.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(Crux) John Allen–Easter attacks on churches in Sri Lanka are tragic, but hardly surprising

Sadly enough, there’s now an ugly and utterly predictable dynamic on Easter Sunday: Somewhere in the world, full churches will be attacked and some number of Christians will die for no other reason than that they chose to attend services to celebrate what is supposed to be the faith’s great celebration of life.

Today, it happened in Sri Lanka, where, as of this writing, at least 138 people have been killed and more than 560 injured after coordinated bomb blasts hit a number of high-end hotels and churches across the country.

At St. Sebastian’s in Katuwapitiya, located in a heavily Catholic neighborhood north of Colombo known as “little Rome,” more than 50 people had been killed, a police official told Reuters, with pictures showing bodies on the ground, blood on the pews and a destroyed roof.

In all, three churches and three hotels were struck in what seemed a calculated attack on “foreigners” – both the sorts of foreign visitors who stay in four and five-star hotels, and faiths perceived as “foreign” by nationalists and extremists.

Read it all.

Posted in Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Terrorism, Violence

(WSJ) Carl Anderson–The Next Big Threat to Iraq’s Christians

Before visiting Iraq last month, I met with Pope Francis. He told me that “a Middle East without Christians is not the Middle East.” Baghdad’s ambassador in Washington often says that “Iraq is not Iraq without its minorities.” Consider these sentiments as Christian towns in Iraq increasingly look neither Christian nor Iraqi—but Iranian.

The public identifies the threat against Christians in Iraq and Syria as emanating from Islamic State. After a hard-fought war, ISIS is no longer a territorial power. But the religious minorities persecuted under the caliphate remain in peril, thanks to the Iraqi government’s tolerance of Iranian influence.

Five years ago, ISIS swept through Northern Iraq, killing and displacing hundreds of thousands of Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities. The Obama and Trump administrations each declared ISIS’ actions “genocide.” The proof lay not only in the dead but in the collapse of communities that had survived for millennia. There were as many as 1.5 million Iraqi Christians before 2003. Today some 200,000 remain.

Read it all.

Posted in Iraq, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

‘Why Kill the Innocents?’ Sri Lankans Mourn Bombing Victims

The little room, like much of Sri Lanka, could hold no more grief.

All day Monday, through the steamy heat, mourners quietly stepped inside and paused in front of a sealed coffin containing what was left of Sneha Savindi Fernando.

Sneha was 11 years old and standing in line for communion at Easter Mass on Sunday when she was blown apart.

“Why did you leave me?” her grandmother cried, sitting in front of the coffin and rubbing its sides, the anguish tight in her hands. “There are so many bad people in the world. Why kill the innocents?”

It was a question all of Sri Lanka was asking.

The day after suicide bombers carried out coordinated attacks on half a dozen hotels and churches across this island nation, Sri Lanka remained in shock. The death toll continued to climb, with the authorities saying the attacks had killed at least 290 people.

Read it all.

Posted in Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Terrorism, Violence

(Telegraph) Charles Moore–What can happen when a Pope kisses your feet?

It was moving to watch Pope Francis kiss the feet (or, to be absolutely accurate, the shoes) of the warring leaders of South Sudan last week. In human terms, it was particularly touching because the Pope is an old man, so his physical effort added to the gesture of humility.

As it happens, I met one of those leaders, Riek Machar, when I visited South Sudan a few years ago. Despite holding a PhD in “Philosophy and Strategic Planning” from the University of Bradford, he is something of a rough diamond. I would not have risked kissing his feet myself. But that, of course, is only 
the more reason for Pope Francis 
to have done so: great sinners have great need.

The story of South Sudan shows how much divine help is required. 
At the time I met Dr Machar, his country had just emerged from many years of tyranny under the government of North Sudan – whose appalling ruler, Omar al-Bashir, was finally removed in a coup last week after 30 years of wrongdoing. South Sudan thus became a place enjoying new freedom.

That feeling came partly from the fact that it is mainly Christian: the Khartoum government which oppressed it had once harboured Osama bin Laden. It was run by extreme Islamists who persecuted Christians. So when the leaders of this new Christian country later turned on one another and began killing, this represented spiritual as well as political failure.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, --South Sudan, Archbishop of Canterbury, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Sudan, Violence

(The State) ‘The devil you know.’ South Carolina residents are selling family members into the sex trade

A Richland County woman told her 13-year-old sister and her friend they were attending a birthday party one Saturday night in 2016. Instead, the woman lured the teen girls into a trap, according to police reports, court records and interviews with law enforcement.

The woman delivered her sister and friend to Quincy Brian Bright in north Columbia. He told the girls he had invited men over to have sex with them. The men were paying customers, he told them.

The girls were separated, and the 15-year-old friend was taken to a room with a man she had never seen before. He raped her, according to the police report. But it wasn’t over.

She was taken to another room, where a second man raped her. Afterward, she was taken to another room, where a third man forced her to perform a sex act. Court documents show she, and the woman’s little sister, became victims of sex trafficking that night.

Data suggests South Carolina is grappling with one of the most horrendous crimes imaginable — familial trafficking. People are introducing or selling their family members into the sex trade. The reason why it happens is unclear, but officials who work the cases point to heroin, crack and opiate addictions.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Police/Fire, Sexuality, Violence

(SA) One in 9 Christians experience high levels of persecution

A dozen more countries have been added to the list of areas where Christians experience high persecution, according to Open Doors International.

The latest survey by the persecution watchdog shows one in nine Christians globally experience “high” levels of persecution, as compared to one in 12 the previous year. It is worst across Asia and the Middle East, where one in three Christians experience “high” levels of persecution.

Open Doors also warns that new laws in China and Vietnam are part of an effort to control all religious expression. In China, the wave of persecution is as high as that experienced during the cultural revolution of Mao Zedong in the 1970s. Many churches have been forced to close down, crosses have been removed from a number of buildings and some believers have been sent to “re-education camps”.

The annual ranking of religious persecution in 50 countries indicates that at least 245 million Christians in 73 countries experience high levels of persecution – up from 215 million in 58 countries in the previous year. The sources of persecution vary from government and nationalist crackdowns to Hindu and Islamic attacks.

North Korea remains the world’s worst persecution hotspot, as it has been every year since 2002. Persecution rose in Myanmar – it is now up to 18th position from 24th – and Indonesia rises to 30 from 38th position last year, mainly due to suicide bombing attacks against churches. China moved up 16 positions to number 27.

Read it all.

Posted in Globalization, Religion & Culture, Violence

(C of E) More than 900 reports of potential modern slavery recorded through app

Drivers using a pioneering app to gather information on modern slavery in hand car washes made more than 900 reports of potential cases over a five-month period, according to research published today.

The Safe Car Wash app, which allows drivers to respond to a check list of key factors that may suggest modern slavery or labour exploitation in hand car washes, has been downloaded 8,225 times since its launch by the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales last year.

Between June and December 2018 there were 2271 completed entries using the app, with 41 per cent, or 930 reports, where after responding to a number of questions, users were told there was a likelihood of modern slavery at the hand car wash. They were then asked to call the Modern Slavery Helpline and their anonymised findings were shared in real time with police and the Gangmasters’ and Labour Abuse Authority.

Analysis by the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab in a new policy report released today showed that nearly half of reports, or 48 per cent, commented that workers did not have access to suitable protective clothing such as gloves or boots, despite many hand car washes typically requiring their workers to use potentially harmful chemicals such as hydrochloric acid.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(NYT) 3 Black Churches Have Burned in 10 Days in a Single Louisiana Parish

Three historically black churches have burned in less than two weeks in one south Louisiana parish, where officials said they had found “suspicious elements” in each case. The officials have not ruled out the possibility of arson, or the possibility that the fires are related.

“There is clearly something happening in this community,” State Fire Marshal H. Browning said in a statement on Thursday. “That is why it is imperative that the citizens of this community be part of our effort to figure out what it is.”

The three fires occurred on March 26, Tuesday and Thursday in St. Landry Parish, north of Lafayette. A fourth fire, a small blaze that officials said was “intentionally set,” was reported on Sunday at a predominantly black church in Caddo Parish, about a three-hour drive north.

“But just as we haven’t connected the three in St. Landry, we haven’t connected the one in Caddo,” said Ashley Rodrigue, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal, on Friday.

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Posted in Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Economist Erasmus Blog) Finding a new equilibrium after Christchurch won’t be easy

In response to all this, Muslim representatives frequently stress that the problem of Islamophobia (a term that remains contentious in many countries) is by no means confined to a far-rightist fringe. They insist that an anti-Muslim climate has been created by politicians much closer to the respectable centre-right, or in the French case by zealous advocates of the century-old doctrine of laïcité, or strict secularism.

At Birmingham Central Mosque, one of the leading places of Islamic worship in Britain, the initial reaction to New Zealand’s horror was one of inter-faith solidarity. Representatives of all local creeds gathered to offer sympathy and support. But mosque leaders say their people live daily with abuse, spitting, jostling and in the case of women, attempts to grab their scarves. Nassar Mahmood, a mosque trustee, says social peace in the city is challenged on many fronts. Reduced levels of policing (because of budget cuts) lead to a rise in petty crime that, he fears, may be blamed on Muslims. “We could very easily face attacks similar to those in New Zealand that would destabilise our social harmony,” he says. In the early hours of March 21st, five mosques in Birmingham were attacked with sledgehammers.

Salma Yaqoob, a local politician of the left who may be Birmingham’s best-known Muslim woman, has been adamant that the problem goes far beyond an extremist white-nationalist fringe. Her response to the New Zealand massacre was to “call out” mainstream Tory politicians who in her view played to the gallery with anti-Muslim innuendos.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Australia / NZ, Blogging & the Internet, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Violence

(RNS) Shattered statues and satanic symbols mark rise in attacks on French churches

Sometimes it’s a cross of human excrement smeared on a church wall, with stolen Communion hosts stuck at the four corners. Other times, a statue of the Virgin Mary lies shattered on the floor.

Now and then, a fire breaks out in a house of prayer.

Roman Catholic churches have increasingly come under attack in France, a country so long identified with Christianity that it used to be called “the eldest daughter of the church.”

A recent fire at St. Sulpice, the second-largest church in Paris, has shed light on a trend that has become commonplace in many smaller towns.

“Who has heard of the sacking of the monastery of Saint Jean des Balmes in Aveyron? Of those teenagers who urinated into the holy water font of the church at Villeneuve de Berg in Ardèche?” the Paris daily Le Figaro asked last week in an article highlighting some of the lesser-known profanations around the country this month.

Incidents such as these get a brief mention in the press, complete with quotes from Catholics shocked at the sight of scattered hosts or beheaded statues, and sometimes a short video clip on national television.

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Posted in France, Religion & Culture, Violence