Category : Terrorism

(NYT) The Evolution of ISIS: From a Rogue State to a Tiny Sliver

Beginning in 2016, the Islamic State lost ground nearly as quickly as it had captured it.

In Iraq, security forces backed by the United States, and elsewhere Iranian-backed Shiite militias, ousted the group, retaking Mosul in mid-2017 and officially declaring the group defeated in the country by the end of the year.

American-backed, Kurdish-led forces regained territory in Syria, including Raqqa in October 2017. Along Syria’s eastern border, forces backed by the Assad government and Russia also took back territory. But many of the cities once held by the Islamic State are shells of their former selves. In Raqqa, two-thirds of the city was destroyed in the coalition fight against the group. In Mosul, centuries-old mosques and markets were reduced to rubble.

But even as territory has been wrested from the Islamic State, the group has continued to spread its ideology online and encouraged supporters to carry out attacks worldwide. While the state it once declared has largely disappeared, it remains a significant threat, experts say.

Read it all.

Posted in Syria, Terrorism

(FA) Peter Bergen and David Sterman–The Real Terrorist Threat in America

Broader trends also raise the stakes. Trump has turned a blind eye to far-right terrorism, while some of his most prominent supporters such as Lou Dobbs and Ann Coulter have denied the existence of a right-wing threat. Right-wing media personalities and activists, including Candace Owens and even the president’s son Donald Trump, Jr., have peddled conspiracy theories regarding recent attacks. At the same time, politics, particularly on the right, is shifting into a more radical register. Recent public marches organized by the far right have resulted in violence, including the vehicular ramming that killed Heather Heyer during the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally last year.

This new terrorist threat cannot be addressed with an overwhelming focus on jihadist ideology. Nor will a travel ban address a threat rooted in domestic politics and the Internet’s conveyance of global issues into American homes. Instead, today’s terrorist threat requires effective law enforcement, a real discussion of the dangers of lax gun laws, policies to regulate the ways social media has helped spread violence, community resilience, and a reckoning with the forces driving U.S. and global politics increasingly toward radicalism.

Since 9/11, the U.S. government has been extraordinarily successful in disrupting foreign terrorist organizations’ ability to strike the United States. But the task of renewing and strengthening American society to face down the new terrorist threat could be even more difficult.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Globalization, Terrorism

Archbishop of Canterbury: “Hatred of Muslims is blasphemy”

Much of what I was going to say has already been said. The killings in New Zealand are monstrous. The response of New Zealand, all its people, with Muslims in the forefront, is beautiful and inspiring. What they say to each other we say to you. Those who attack Muslims in THIS country or elsewhere attack every human being. You are not “the other”, you are us. Those who act out of hate for Muslims act out of hate for all here. Those who acted or supported the actions in New Zealand attack all of us.

For British Muslims who are feeling under threat, we are with you. Hatred of Muslims denies and blasphemes Christ. Those who co-opt Christian language and history for hatred commit blasphemy.

We will work with Bishops in the Church of England to see how we can be more effective in visible signs of togetherness.

We educate one million children in Church of England schools and have 8000 clergy. We will renew what we do in our Near Neighbours scheme. We will work with bishops to see how we can be more effective in dioceses.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Australia / NZ, Islam, Terrorism

(Post-Gazette) Pittsburgh Area Jewish group creates relief fund following massacre of Muslim faithful in New Zealand

With the shock still fresh and hearts still mending some five months after the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Squirrel Hill, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has set up a relief fund to help the Muslim community in the wake of another deadly hate crime.

The group is soliciting donations to the New Zealand Attack Emergency Relief Fund following Friday’s terror attack at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand that killed 50 people and injured dozens more.

“Show New Zealand and the world how we are all stronger together,” the federation said on its website.

The Jewish Federation is the charitable organization for the Jewish community around the world and has aided many people in crisis — from the earthquake in Haiti to the wildfires in California.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Australia / NZ, Islam, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Terrorism, Violence

Church leaders offer prayer and solidarity after New Zealand mosque attacks leaves 49 dead

Anglican archbishops in New Zealand, Australia and England have spoken out after gunmen attacked two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. At 9 pm Friday NZDT (8 am GMT), the official death toll from the terror attacks stood at 49 people with another 39 being treated in Christchurch Hospital. New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush told a press conference that 41 people were killed at the al-Noor mosque on Deans Avenue; and seven at the Linwood Islamic Centre on Linwood Avenue. Another person died at Christchurch Hospital.

The City of Christchurch was put on lockdown after news of the attacks emerged at around 1.40 pm NZDT (12.40 am GMT). Four people have been arrested. One, a man in his twenties described as a white supremacist, has been charged with murder and will appear in court tomorrow (Saturday). One armed man arrested near the scene has been ruled out of involvement. Police are continuing to investigate whether two other people arrested at the scene with firearms were involved in the attacks.

The Bishop of Christchurch, Peter Carrell, issued a statement on behalf of the leaders of churches in Christchurch city and Canterbury province. “Church leaders are absolutely devastated at the unprecedented situation in Christchurch this afternoon and our hearts and prayers go to all involved,” the statement said. “No religious organisation or group deserves to be the target of someone’s hate – regardless of beliefs.

“We stand for an Aotearoa New Zealand which will never condone such violence. So across the churches of Christchurch and Canterbury, we are praying for our Muslim brothers and sisters, for those injured and those who have lost loved ones, for the police, ambulance and other emergency services, and for all in the city of Christchurch who are feeling distress and fear due to this event.

“We are upholding you all in our prayers. We pray too for the shooter and their supporters, because for any person to do this, they must have such hatred in their hearts, such misalignment of the value of human life, that they too, need our prayer. We thank many others from around our nation and the world who are praying for peace in Christchurch.”

Read it all.

Posted in Australia / NZ, Islam, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer, Terrorism, Violence

(NZ Herald) Terror Attacks on New Zealand Mosques; 49 Dead

A horrific shooting at a Christchurch mosque was livestreamed for 17 minutes by the gunman.

Australian police have identified the shooter as Brenton Tarrant – a white, 28-year-old Australian-born man. Twitter has shut down a user account in that name.

The gunman published an online link to a lengthy “manifesto”, which the Herald has chosen not to report.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed an individual taken into custody was an Australian-born citizen. He called him “an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist”.

Sky News reported that the man’s home town of Grafton was in shock, trying to come to terms with how a “polite, well-mannered young man” came to find himself on a path that led to Christchurch.

He was a student at the local high school and went on to work at a gym, where his former boss said he regularly volunteered his time to train kids for free.

Read it all.

Posted in Australia / NZ, Islam, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

(BBC) ISIS women defiant in face of lost caliphate

As the battle against the Islamic State (IS) group in eastern Syria enters its final stages, the BBC’s Jewan Abdi says the mood amongst many of the jihadists’ supporters who have left the area, including many women, remains defiant.

The encampment in the village of Baghuz is barely more than a few holes in the dirt covered with blankets. It is squalid and filthy.

But above it flies the black Islamic State flag, fresh and clean. IS fighters had raised it only the day before, an act of defiance in the face of overwhelming odds.

“That’s a sign they will fight,” says a soldier belonging to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on the front lines battling the jihadists.

Just 24 hours later the battle resumed. It was the end of a ceasefire that had seen more than 12,000 leave in the preceding few days.

Read it all.

Posted in Middle East, Terrorism, Women

(Observer) Nigeria election marred by vote buying, tech failures and violence

Nigeria’s long-awaited presidential election went ahead on Saturday, marred by heavy gunfire in the north-east, killings in the south and reports of technology failures and vote buying across the country.

Some voters arrived at polling stations at 3am to ensure their ballot was counted in an election dominated by the current president, Muhammadu Buhari, and a former vice-president Atiku Abubakar.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Nigeria, Politics in General, Terrorism, Violence

(60 Minutes) The Chibok Girls: Survivors of kidnapping by Boko Haram share their stories

Rebecca: Yes, they say if you didn’t convert to Islam you wouldn’t get home alive. That’s what they say.

Here are some of the girls two years ago right after they were released, alive but looking like concentration camp survivors, haunted and numb. This is Rebecca, skin and bones.

Lesley Stahl: I heard you were eating grass.

Rebecca: Yeah. Some of us eat that. And we are just be patient and live like that. No food. No anything.

Look at them today, in their 20s. They’re healthy and full of spirit at a school created just for them, paid for by the Nigerian government and some donors, where they are making up for lost time.

They’re from Northern Nigeria, where life can be hard and opportunities for women are limited. Now, in their Wi-Fi-equipped dorms, they have smart phones, and lap tops and their own beds.

They go back to Chibok to see their parents twice a year; over Christmas and during the summer.

Read it all (video highly recommended).

Posted in Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Nigeria, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Teens / Youth, Terrorism, Theology, Women, Young Adults

(NYT) The English Voice of ISIS Comes Out of the Shadows

More than four years ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation appealed to the public to help identify the narrator in one of the Islamic State’s best-known videos, showing captured Syrian soldiers digging their own graves and then being shot in the head.

Speaking fluent English with a North American accent, the man would go on to narrate countless other videos and radio broadcasts by the Islamic State, serving as the terrorist group’s faceless evangelist to Americans and other English speakers seeking to learn about its toxic ideology.

Now a 35-year-old Canadian citizen, who studied at a college in Toronto and once worked in information technology at a company contracted by IBM, says he is the anonymous narrator.

That man, Mohammed Khalifa captured in Syria last month by an American-backed militia, spoke in his first interview about being the voice of the 2014 video, known as “Flames of War.” He described himself as a rank-and-file employee of the Islamic State’s Ministry of Media, the unit responsible for publicizing such brutal footage as the beheading of the American journalist James Foley and the burning of a Jordanian pilot.

Read it all.

Posted in Canada, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Terrorism, Violence

(NYRB) Undefeated, ISIS Is Back in Iraq

Now, more than four years after the black-clad men conquered Mosul, a major city in northern Iraq, a third of the country remains pulverized, both physically and socially. Overlaid across territory that has been reclaimed from the Islamic State is a patchwork of various sectarian militias that now claim fiefdom. Thousands of families with alleged links to ISIS are exiled, their birthrights reduced to being names on militias’ wanted lists, their dignity violated in irreversible ways. Rather than address this deep residue of fears and feelings of injustice felt by many, Iraq has foolishly declared the Islamic State defeated, as though its threat were now confined to the country’s past. But the signs of the ISIS’ resurgence are troubling, and the sense of grievance that fired it in the first place remains just as palpable—and just as unresolved.

The intelligence that my colleagues and I in the Kurdistan Region Security Council have collected is disturbing. Over the past fifteen months, hundreds of attacks linked to the group took place in areas that were supposed to have been freed from ISIS. Pushed out of Mosul, Islamic State fighters have regrouped in the provinces of Kirkuk, Diyala, Salahaddin, and parts of Anbar—territory they know well. From the city of Hawija to the westernmost town of Tal Afar, these guerrillas are mounting ambushes against Iraqi security forces in attacks the scale of which has not been seen in years.

What makes these fighters so much more of a threat now is their ability to make good on their promise to hunt down those they accuse of betraying them. In a night raid last October, after security forces had retreated to nearby bases, Islamic State assassins dragged a village chief from his home, and summoned locals to a public place, where they executed him. Even in parts of Mosul itself, reconquered in 2017 by government forces after a long and costly campaign, the ominous black-and-white ISIS flag has flown again in recent months, causing panic and fear in village after village. Credible threats have also forced the Iraqi authorities to relocate prisoners to prevent their escape in the event of a brazen attack like the prison breakouts the group has pulled off in the past.

The reasons for the return of ISIS are obvious. For years, the conventional approach to stopping the group has depended on airstrikes and local proxy forces; stripping away territory and revenues from ISIS has been the marker of success. But this is a gross misunderstanding of the group. The original synergy between former Iraqi officers and jihadists that created al-Qaeda in Iraq led to a calculating organization capable of learning from its mistakes and adjusting accordingly.

Read it all.

Posted in Iraq, Terrorism

(NYT) ‘It’s Not Getting Better’: Nigeria Braces for Election Day as Frustrations Boil

Nigeria is bracing for what could be a tight election this weekend. Threats of violence loom.

In the northeast of the country on Tuesday, a convoy heading to an election event and carrying Kashim Shettima, a state governor, was attacked by Boko Haram, an extremist Islamist group which operates in the region. At least three people were killed, officials said. Many of the governor’s entourage fled into the bush after militants dressed as soldiers and riding in stolen military vehicles attacked, local news media reported.

The incident drew attention to another of Mr. Buhari’s 2015 pledges: to destroy Boko Haram. Far from being crushed, Boko Haram has recently been gaining strength.

In the south, militants in the oil-rich Delta threatened to disrupt the economy, presumably by blowing up pipelines, if Mr. Buhari were re-elected. At a rally for the president in Rivers State this week, at least four people were killed in a stampede. Election officials reported fires in several sites where ballot materials were being stored.

Tensions have been so high that after the American ambassador to Nigeria called on both campaigns to carry out fair elections, Mr. Buhari’s party called his statements “implicit attacks against the government.”

Mr. Buhari and Mr. Abubakar, who each have pledged to accept the election results peacefully, wrapped up final appearances this week at rallies across the country, where thousands turned out wearing dresses, rings, hats and scarves plastered with their candidates’ photos.

Read it all.

Posted in Muslim-Christian relations, Nigeria, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(NYT) Described as Defeated, Islamic State Punches Back With Guerrilla Tactics

For three years, terrorists controlled a huge stretch of territory in Iraq and Syria. They ran their own state, collecting tens of millions of dollars in taxes and using the proceeds to fix potholes, issue birth certificates, finance attacks and recruit followers from around the world.

All but 1 percent of that territory is now gone, which has prompted the White House to describe the Islamic State as “wiped out,” “absolutely obliterated” and “in its final throes.” But to suggest that ISIS was defeated, as President Trump did when he announced plans to pull out American troops from Syria, is to ignore the lessons of recent history.

The group has been declared vanquished before, only to prove politicians wrong and to rise stronger than before.

The attack last week by a suicide bomber outside a shawarma restaurant in the Syrian city of Manbij, which killed at least 15 people including four Americans, is one example of how the group still remains a serious, violent threat.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iraq, Middle East, Military / Armed Forces, Syria, Terrorism, Violence

(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

(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

([London] Times) Iraq’s battered Mosul clears rubble to greet first Christian back from Isis exile

For as long as he can remember, every Christmas Eve Majdi Hamid Majid would go to the nearby Clock Church in Mosul with hundreds of other local families where they would light candles and sing carols and then eat sugary biscuits. “It was beautiful,” he said.

This year the former stonemason will sit alone on a makeshift bed of planks in the ruins of his house, sip a Pepsi and smoke a cigarette under the postcard of the Virgin Mary he has stuck on the wall.

Majdi, 43, is the first Christian to move back to the Old City since Isis took it over four years ago, driving out his family and about 10,000 more from one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East.

The Iraqi city was recaptured almost 18 months ago after a massive battle that left its ancient heart on the west bank of the Tigris a nightmarish vision of bombed-out buildings, twisted metal and staircases to nowhere. Last week a few bulldozers were pushing stones back and forth, making little difference to what the UN describes as 10m tons of rubble that will take 10 years to clear.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

(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

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

(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

(WSJ) Bernard-Henri Lévy–ISIS Overlooks a Synagogue in Mosul

In short, a few hours of lively conversation on social media generated at least one area of agreement: ISIS, in its abysmal stupidity, had not understood that in its midst, converted into a cache for rockets and ammunition, stood a synagogue on par with those found in Kurdish Iraq. The discovery is a reminder of Mosul’s once thousands-strong Jewish community, which was evacuated in the early 1950s.

It also shows that what goes for hearts also goes for places: To survive, they sometimes have to borrow an identity, to pretend. It may well be, in other words, that cities, like Spanish Jews, can be Marranos, living undercover. This marranism is so powerful that when the jihadists took control of the region—and methodically destroyed churches, Yazidi temples and the ancient al-Nuri mosque—they managed to miss a holy place where the eternal continued to be praised, though in secret.

It raises a question: Is the world serious about saving what still can be saved of one of its oldest cities? Does Unesco mean what it says when it baptizes its program of urban and political reconstruction “the spirit of Mosul”? Will Americans and Europeans have what it takes to remake this disfigured city into what it was for centuries—a crossroads of peoples, religions and civilizations—and what its immortal soul aspires to become once again?

If so, we must heed the erudite Muslim of Mosul Eye. Watching and writing from his hometown, from the quiet heart of what was the epicenter of world jihadism, he called on us to rebuild the last synagogue still standing in the city of the prophet Jonah.

Read it all.

Posted in Afghanistan, Judaism, Terrorism

(NBC) One Woman’s way of honoring those who lost their lives on 9/11

Terrific and touching–watch it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Terrorism

Kendall Harmon for 9/11: Number 343


(You may find the names of all 343 firefighters here–KSH).

On Monday this week, the last of the 343 firefighters who died on September 11th was buried. Because no remains of Michael Ragusa, age 29, of Engine Company 279, were found and identified, his family placed in his coffin a very small vial of his blood, donated years ago to a bone-marrow clinic. At the funeral service Michael’s mother Dee read an excerpt from her son’s diary on the occasion of the death of a colleague. “It is always sad and tragic when a fellow firefighter dies,” Michael Ragusa wrote, “especially when he is young and had everything to live for.” Indeed. And what a sobering reminder of how many died and the awful circumstances in which they perished that it took until this week to bury the last one.

So here is to the clergy, the ministers, rabbis, imams and others, who have done all these burials and sought to help all these grieving families. And here is to the families who lost loved ones and had to cope with burials in which sometimes they didn’t even have remains of the one who died. And here, too, is to the remarkable ministry of the Emerald Society Pipes and Drums, who played every single service for all 343 firefighters who lost their lives. The Society chose not to end any service at which they played with an up-tempo march until the last firefighter was buried.

On Monday, in Bergen Beach, Brooklyn, the Society therefore played “Garry Owen” and “Atholl Highlander,” for the first time since 9/11 as the last firefighter killed on that day was laid in the earth. On the two year anniversary here is to New York, wounded and more sober, but ever hopeful and still marching.

–First published on this blog September 11, 2003

Posted in * By Kendall, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Police/Fire, Terrorism

May we Never Forget Sixteen Years Ago Today–A Naval Academy “Anchormen” Tribute to 9/11

Posted in History, Military / Armed Forces, Music, Terrorism

Billy Graham’s Address at the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance in 2001

President and Mrs. Bush, I want to say a personal word on behalf of many people. Thank you, Mr. President, for calling this day of prayer and remembrance. We needed it at this time.

We come together today to affirm our conviction that God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious, or political background may be. The Bible says that He’s the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our troubles. No matter how hard we try, words simply cannot express the horror, the shock, and the revulsion we all feel over what took place in this nation on Tuesday morning. September eleven will go down in our history as a day to remember.

Today we say to those who masterminded this cruel plot, and to those who carried it out, that the spirit of this nation will not be defeated by their twisted and diabolical schemes. Someday, those responsible will be brought to justice, as President Bush and our Congress have so forcefully stated. But today we especially come together in this service to confess our need of God. Today we say to those who masterminded this cruel plot, and to those who carried it out, that the spirit of this nation will not be defeated by their twisted and diabolical schemes. Someday, those responsible will be brought to justice, as President Bush and our Congress have so forcefully stated. But today we especially come together in this service to confess our need of God.

We’ve always needed God from the very beginning of this nation, but today we need Him especially. We’re facing a new kind of enemy. We’re involved in a new kind of warfare. And we need the help of the Spirit of God. The Bible words are our hope: God is our refuge and strength; an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way, and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.

But how do we understand something like this? Why does God allow evil like this to take place? Perhaps that is what you are asking now. You may even be angry at God. I want to assure you that God understands these feelings that you may have. We’ve seen so much on our television, on our ”” heard on our radio, stories that bring tears to our eyes and make us all feel a sense of anger. But God can be trusted, even when life seems at its darkest.

But what are some of the lessons we can learn? First, we are reminded of the mystery and reality of evil. I’ve been asked hundreds of times in my life why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I really do not know the answer totally, even to my own satisfaction. I have to accept by faith that God is sovereign, and He’s a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering. The Bible says that God is not the author of evil. It speaks of evil as a mystery. In 1st Thessalonians 2:7 it talks about the mystery of iniquity. The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah said “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” Who can understand it?” He asked that question, ”˜Who can understand it?’ And that’s one reason we each need God in our lives.

The lesson of this event is not only about the mystery of iniquity and evil, but secondly it’s a lesson about our need for each other. What an example New York and Washington have been to the world these past few days. None of us will ever forget the pictures of our courageous firefighters and police, many of whom have lost friends and colleagues; or the hundreds of people attending or standing patiently in line to donate blood. A tragedy like this could have torn our country apart. But instead it has united us, and we’ve become a family. So those perpetrators who took this on to tear us apart, it has worked the other way ”” it’s back lashed. It’s backfired. We are more united than ever before. I think this was exemplified in a very moving way when the members of our Congress stood shoulder to shoulder the other day and sang “God Bless America.”

Finally, difficult as it may be for us to see right now, this event can give a message of hope ”” hope for the present, and hope for the future. Yes, there is hope. There’s hope for the present, because I believe the stage has already been set for a new spirit in our nation. One of the things we desperately need is a spiritual renewal in this country. We need a spiritual revival in America. And God has told us in His word, time after time, that we are to repent of our sins and return to Him, and He will bless us in a new way. But there’s also hope for the future because of God’s promises. As a Christian, I hope not for just this life, but for heaven and the life to come. And many of those people who died this past week are in heaven right now. And they wouldn’t want to come back. It’s so glorious and so wonderful. And that’s the hope for all of us who put our faith in God. I pray that you will have this hope in your heart.

This event reminds us of the brevity and the uncertainty of life. We never know when we too will be called into eternity. I doubt if even one those people who got on those planes, or walked into the World Trade Center or the Pentagon last Tuesday morning thought it would be the last day of their lives. It didn’t occur to them. And that’s why each of us needs to face our own spiritual need and commit ourselves to God and His will now.

Here in this majestic National Cathedral we see all around us symbols of the cross. For the Christian ”” I’m speaking for the Christian now ”” the cross tells us that God understands our sin and our suffering. For He took upon himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, our sins and our suffering. And from the cross, God declares “I love you. I know the heart aches, and the sorrows, and the pains that you feel, but I love you.” The story does not end with the cross, for Easter points us beyond the tragedy of the cross to the empty tomb. It tells us that there is hope for eternal life, for Christ has conquered evil, and death, and hell. Yes, there’s hope.

I’ve become an old man now. And I’ve preached all over the world. And the older I get, the more I cling to that hope that I started with many years ago, and proclaimed it in many languages to many parts of the world. Several years ago at the National Prayer Breakfast here in Washington, Ambassador Andrew Young, who had just gone through the tragic death of his wife, closed his talk with a quote from the old hymn, “How Firm A Foundation.” We all watched in horror as planes crashed into the steel and glass of the World Trade Center. Those majestic towers, built on solid foundations, were examples of the prosperity and creativity of America. When damaged, those buildings eventually plummeted to the ground, imploding in upon themselves. Yet underneath the debris is a foundation that was not destroyed. Therein lies the truth of that old hymn that Andrew Young quoted: “How firm a foundation.”

Yes, our nation has been attacked. Buildings destroyed. Lives lost. But now we have a choice: Whether to implode and disintegrate emotionally and spiritually as a people, and a nation, or, whether we choose to become stronger through all of the struggle to rebuild on a solid foundation. And I believe that we’re in the process of starting to rebuild on that foundation. That foundation is our trust in God. That’s what this service is all about. And in that faith we have the strength to endure something as difficult and horrendous as what we’ve experienced this week.

This has been a terrible week with many tears. But also it’s been a week of great faith. Churches all across the country have called prayer meetings. And today is a day that they’re celebrating not only in this country, but in many parts of the world. And the words of that familiar hymn that Andrew Young quoted, it says, “Fear not, I am with thee. Oh be not dismayed for I am thy God and will give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand upon “thy righteous, omnipotent hand.”

My prayer today is that we will feel the loving arms of God wrapped around us and will know in our hearts that He will never forsake us as we trust in Him. We also know that God is going to give wisdom, and courage, and strength to the President, and those around him. And this is going to be a day that we will remember as a day of victory. May God bless you all.

Posted in Christology, Terrorism, Theodicy, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Remember 9/11 Prayer


From here:

Almighty God, the past year will be indelibly inscribed in our memories.

We looked with horror on the terrorist attacks of last September 11th.
But we looked with honor on acts of courage by ordinary people
who sacrificed themselves to prevent further death and destruction.

We shed our tears in a common bond of grief for those we loved and lost.
We journeyed through a dark valley, but your light has led us to a place of hope.
You have turned our grief into determination.
We are resolved to do what is good, and right, and just.

Help us to remember what it means to be Americans””
a people endowed with abundant blessings.
Help us to cherish the freedoms we enjoy and inspire us to stand
with courage, united as one Nation in the midst of any adversity.

Lord, hear this prayer for our Nation. Amen.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Spirituality/Prayer, Terrorism

The Legacy Website for September 11, 2001

This site is intended as a place to remember and celebrate the lives of those lost on September 11, 2001. It includes Guest Books and profiles for each of those lost.

Originally launched in September 2001, the site has received more than 6 million visitors and more than 200,000 Guest Book entries….

It is well worth your time to explore it thoroughly today.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Terrorism

A Prayer for 9/11 by Kendall Harmon

Almighty God and Father who wills that people may flourish and have abundance of life, be with us especially on this day when we remember such destruction, darkness, devastation, death and terror; help us to honor the memory of those whose lives were utterly cut short, and to believe that you can make all things new, even the most horrible things. Redeem and heal, O Holy Spirit, grant us perspective, humility, light, trust and grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Spirituality/Prayer, Terrorism

(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.

Read it all.

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