Category : Asia

(NPR) ‘Illegal Superstition’: China Jails Muslims For Practicing Islam, Relatives Say

This August, Aibota Zhanibek received a surprising call in Kazakhstan from a relative through Chinese chat app WeChat. It was about her sister, Kunekai Zhanibek.

Aibota, 35, a Kazakh citizen born in China, knew that Kunekai, 33, had been held for about seven months in a detention camp in China’s Shawan county, in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. For six of those months, Kunekai was forced to make towels and carpets for no pay, Aibota says. On the call, Aibota was told that Kunekai had been released and assigned a job in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

That was the good news. But the relative also told Aibota Zhanibek that her 65-year-old mother, Nurzhada Zhumakhan, had been sentenced in June to 20 years in Urumqi’s No. 2 Women’s Prison. According to a verdict sent to Zhanibek ‘s relatives, Zhumakhan was guilty of “illegally using superstition to break the rule of law” and “gathering chaos to disrupt social order.”

As Muslim Kazakhs, Zhanibek’s mother and sister are among the targets of a sprawling security operation by Chinese authorities.

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Posted in Anthropology, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture

(FA) The Unwinnable Trade War–Everyone Loses in the U.S.-Chinese Clash—but Especially Americans

In late June, the leaders of China and the United States announced at the G-20 meeting in Osaka, Japan, that they had reached a détente in their trade war. U.S. President Donald Trump claimed that the two sides had set negotiations “back on track.” He put on hold new tariffs on Chinese goods and lifted restrictions preventing U.S. companies from selling to Huawei, the blacklisted Chinese telecommunications giant. Markets rallied, and media reports hailed the move as a “cease-fire.”

That supposed cease-fire was a false dawn, one of many that have marked the on-again, off-again diplomacy between Beijing and Washington. All wasn’t quiet on the trade front; the guns never stopped blazing. In September, after a summer of heated rhetoric, the Trump administration increased tariffs on another $125 billion worth of Chinese imports. China responded by issuing tariffs on an additional $75 billion worth of U.S. goods. The United States might institute further tariffs in December, bringing the total value of Chinese goods subject to punitive tariffs to over half a trillion dollars, covering almost all Chinese imports. China’s retaliation is expected to cover 69 percent of its imports from the United States. If all the threatened hikes are put in place, the average tariff rate on U.S. imports of Chinese goods will be about 24 percent, up from about three percent two years ago, and that on Chinese imports of U.S. goods will be at nearly 26 percent, compared with China’s average tariff rate of 6.7 percent for all other countries.

The parties to this trade war may yet step back from the abyss. There have been over a dozen rounds of high-level negotiations without any real prospect of a settlement. Trump thinks that tariffs will convince China to cave in and change its allegedly unfair trade practices. China may be willing to budge on some issues, such as buying more U.S. goods, opening its market further to U.S. companies, and improving intellectual property protection, in exchange for the removal of all new tariffs, but not to the extent demanded by the Trump administration. Meanwhile, China hopes that its retaliatory actions will cause enough economic pain in the United States to make Washington reconsider its stance.

The numbers suggest that Washington is not winning this trade war. Although China’s economic growth has slowed, the tariffs have hit U.S. consumers harder than their Chinese counterparts. With fears of a recession around the corner, Trump must reckon with the fact that his current approach is imperiling the U.S. economy, posing a threat to the international trading system, and failing to reduce the trade deficit that he loathes.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(PM) Olivia Enos & Yujin Kim–Deceived and Sold: How China Treats North Korean Female Defectors

The United States Department of State designated North Korea in 2019 as one of the world’s worst perpetrators of human trafficking for the nineteenth consecutive year. Those who desire to escape from forced labor and human trafficking in North Korea mostly head to China.

When they flee North Korea, they have high hopes to reach freedom only to be captured by human traffickers who lie in wait, in some cases right across the border. An estimated 74.6 percent of North Korean defectors become victims of human trafficking in China.

The situation is worse for female defectors, who are a majority of the defector population in South Korea and China. After getting married, North Korean women are usually not required to work in formal government-mandated employment, which makes running away easier. Consequently, more women than men defect and are subsequently trafficked.

China’s flourishing sex trade is a major reason why women fall prey to trafficking.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, North Korea, Women

(NYT) China Wants the World to Stay Silent on Muslim Camps. It’s Succeeding.

When Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, visited Beijing this summer, he hailed a new Silk Road bridging Asia and Europe. He welcomed big Chinese investments for his beleaguered economy. He gushed about China’s sovereignty.

But Mr. Erdogan, who has stridently promoted Islamic values in his overwhelmingly Muslim country, was largely silent on the incarceration of more than one million Turkic Muslims in China’s western region of Xinjiang, and the forced assimilation of millions more. It was an about-face from a decade ago, when he said the Uighurs there suffered from, “simply put, genocide” at the hands of the Chinese government.

Like Mr. Erdogan, the world has been noticeably quiet about Xinjiang, where China has built a vast network of detention camps and systematic surveillance over the past two years in a state-led operation to convert Uighurs into loyal, secular supporters of the Communist Party. Even when diplomats have witnessed the problems firsthand and privately condemned them, they have been reluctant to go public, unable to garner broad support or unwilling to risk financial ties with China.

Backed by its diplomatic and economic might, China has largely succeeded in quashing criticism. Chinese officials have convinced countries to support Beijing publicly on the issue, most notably Muslim ones in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. They have played to the discord within the West over China. And they have waged an aggressive campaign to prevent discussion of Xinjiang at the United Nations.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NYT) Rod Nordland–Waiting for the Monsoon, Discovering a Brain Tumor Instead

On the morning of July 4, I left Delhi for Uttar Pradesh to report a story on India’s feverish toilet-building campaign. I was out on the street most of the day, when I noticed ink in my journal was smudged with raindrops. “The monsoon has arrived,” I noted.

The smudged page also contained a fragment of overheard conversation: “We will marry our daughter to you only if you have a foot.” It was the first line of an intriguing story I would never write, because the next day I went for a morning jog in Delhi’s beautiful Lodhi Gardens.

That is really the last thing I remember with certainty. I only learned later that I had, somehow, made my way from the gardens to New Delhi’s Golf Course Colony, several miles away.

This is where a malignant brain tumor, as yet undiagnosed, struck me down and left me thrashing on the ground.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, India, Media, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc.

(NBC) How U.S. troops helped this young Afghani pianist pursue his dreams

Here is the NBC blurb:

Elham Fanous grew up in Afghanistan. At the time, the Taliban had made playing or listening to music a crime, but American forces put an end to that in 2001, when Elham was four. He is now headed to grad school at the Manhattan School of Music, and says none of it would have happened without the U.S. troops who gave music back to the Afghan people.


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Posted in Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Immigration, Music, War in Afghanistan, Young Adults

(Church Times) Archbishop Welby’s India trip to be ‘pastoral, not political’

The Archbishop of Canterbury will give a “full and very transparent account of what happened” when he becomes the first C of E Primate to visit the site of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, in India, his interfaith adviser said this week.

After a trip to Sri Lanka to show solidarity with the Christian community in the wake of the Easter bombings, the Archbishop will begin a ten-day trip to India on 31 August, travelling to seven cities and towns in the Church of North India and the Church of South India.

At a briefing for journalists on Tuesday, his interfaith adviser, the Revd Dr Richard Sudworth, emphasised that the visit was pastoral rather than political, after being questioned about whether the Archbishop would be challenging the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, on the status of minorities (News, 16 January 2015).

“The Archbishop will be going to listen and learn what the situation is,” he said. “There seems to be a very varied picture, and what we are encouraged by here is that the Indian constitution does give freedom of religion and belief, and that is something we will be hoping to affirm and hear about as we travel around.”

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, India, Religion & Culture

(NYT) China Says It Has Released Most Muslims Held in Camps. That’s Difficult to Prove.

Senior Chinese officials made the surprising announcement on Tuesday that the authorities had released most detainees held in the government’s mass internment program for ethnic minority Muslims in China’s far west, but provided no firm numbers or specific details to support their assertion.

Alken Tuniaz, vice chairman of the government of the region of Xinjiang, said 90 percent of people held in what the government calls vocational training centers had been returned to society. It was a contention that would be nearly impossible to independently verify in the tightly controlled region and flew in the face of accounts of disappearances and detentions that have been compiled by relatives abroad and human rights groups.

Detainees who have been released from the camps say they were subjected to a high-pressure indoctrination program with the goal of removing any devotion to Islam and encouraging loyalty to China and its ruling Communist Party.

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Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture

(Local Paper) Charleston-area churches, bookstores could feel Trump tariffs and so-called ‘Bible tax’

Christian book publishers and some Charleston-area faith leaders fear that a proposed tariff on Chinese imports could lead to a shortage of Bibles in the United States.

Millions of Bibles are produced in China annually and a 25 percent tariff recently proposed by President Donald Trump would make it more expensive to print the religious text, according to Mark Schoenwald, CEO of HarperCollins Christian Publishing. That cost increase likely would be passed on to consumers, who would pay more for the world’s best-selling book.

If the 25 percent increase is reflected in the sticker price, a Bible that costs $15 today would cost $18.50 after the tariff takes effect.

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Posted in * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Books, China, Economy, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(BBC) Faith in ruins: China’s vanishing beards and mosques

“The BBC has found new evidence of the increasing control and suppression of Islam in China’s far western region of Xinjiang – including the widespread destruction of mosques.

Authorities provided rare access to religious sites and senior Islamic officials to support their claim that their policies only target violent religious extremism, not faith itself.

But after his official tour was over, China Correspondent John Sudworth set out to investigate.”

Watch it all (about 5 1/3 mins).

Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(ABC Aus) Hong Kong Christians turn ‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’ into unlikely protest anthem

In Hong Kong there have long been links between the pro-democracy activists and in particular the Catholic Church, which has a decades-long unresolved dispute with China’s Government over the right to ordain bishops.

The city’s most prominent young political activist, Joshua Wong, is a devout Christian, as are many older members of the pan-democratic camp.

“Some Christians, including me, are afraid that if the extradition bill is passed, it could affect freedom of religion in Hong Kong and freedom of religious activities,” Mr [Edwin] Chow said.

He believes it is this fear that has mobilised a larger-than-normal turn-out among the city’s Christians, who number around 900,000 — or about 12 per cent of the population.

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Posted in China, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Music, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(NYT) A Muslim Family Sought Help at the Belgian Embassy in Beijing. The Police Dragged Them Out.

The last time Abdulhamid Tursun spoke to his wife, she was huddled in a Beijing hotel room with their four children, frightened after being evicted from the Belgian Embassy in the dead of night. Suddenly, plainclothes police officers burst into the room, cutting off the couple’s video call.

Mr. Tursun says he has not heard from her since.

His wife, Wureyetiguli Abula, 43, had gone to the Belgian Embassy to seek visas so the family — from the Uighur Muslim minority group — could be reunited with Mr. Tursun, 51, in Brussels, where he won asylum in 2017.

But instead of finding protection, Ms. Abula and her children, ages 5 to 17, were dragged away after the Chinese police were allowed to enter the embassy.

Now the case is raising alarms back in Belgium, where lawmakers are asking how it could have happened and where Mr. Tursun’s family has been taken. It illustrates how, two years after China began detaining Uighurs in a vast network of internment camps, the group has limited protections — even from Western democracies — against persecution by the Chinese government.

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Posted in Belgium, Children, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

(BBC) Inside China’s ‘thought transformation’ camps

The BBC has been given rare access to the vast system of highly secure facilities thought to be holding more than a million Muslims in China’s western region of Xinjiang.

Authorities there insist they are just training schools. But the BBC’s visit uncovers important evidence about the nature of the system and the conditions for the people inside it.

Watch it all (just under 12 minutes).

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NYT) China Frees Church Leader After 6 Months in Detention

A key figure in one of China’s best-known churches was released on bail this week, six months after she and dozens of other members of the congregation were detained and their church was closed.

The release on Tuesday of Jiang Rong, 46, still leaves her husband, Wang Yi, pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church, and four other church members in detention. According to a church news release posted on the church’s Facebook page, Ms. Jiang was reunited with the couple’s son, Shuya, who had been living without his parents since they were detained on Dec. 9.

News of the release of Ms. Jiang and another church member was confirmed by a human rights lawyer familiar with the case, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of government retribution.

More than 100 members of Early Rain, which is based in the southwestern city of Chengdu, were detained on Dec. 9 as part of a continuing crackdown on churches, mosques and temples not registered with the state. About half of them were quickly released, but 54 were held for a period of days or months.

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Posted in Anthropology, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NYT) As Trade War With U.S. Grinds On, Chinese Tourists Stay Away

A new battlefront has opened in the trade war between the United States and China: the $1.6 trillion American travel industry.

A Los Angeles hotel long popular with Chinese travelers saw a 23 percent decline in visits last year and another 10 percent so far this year. In New York City, spending by Chinese tourists, who spend nearly twice as much as other foreign visitors, fell 12 percent in the first quarter. And in San Francisco, busloads of Chinese tourists were once a mainstay of one fine jewelry business; over the last few years, the buses stopped coming.

Figures from the Commerce Department’s National Travel and Tourism Office show a sharp decline in the number of tourists from China last year.

Industry professionals worry that the drop-off is picking up speed this year, affecting not just airlines, hotels and restaurants, but also retailers and attractions like amusement parks and casinos.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General, Travel

(Wash Post) Ajay Verghese–Is India becoming a ‘Hindu state’?

So what does the BJP’s victory mean for Indian secularism?

First off, the term “secularism” is quite different in Indian politics — it’s not what U.S. audiences imagine it to be: a separation between church and state. Instead, it refers to religious neutrality (dharmnirpekshta): the equal treatment of all religious communities, irrespective of size, by the government.

Secularism in India is less concerned with religion interfering in politics (as in the United States) than with the state interfering in religion. As Rajeev Bhargava argues, Indian secularism is about maintaining a “principled distance” between the state and religion.

To get a better understanding of secularism in India, I conducted research in villages in the northern Indian state of Bihar in late 2017, and in February 2018, I conducted a survey of 900 Hindus across the state on religion and politics.

My preliminary findings show that Hindus in Bihar overwhelmingly support many of the ideals of Indian secularism — even government support for mosques. Critically, however, this is not true for more pious Hindus: The more religious voters are, the more they subscribe to the tenets of Hindu nationalism, especially the idea that Hindus deserve preferential treatment over Muslims.

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Posted in Hinduism, India, Religion & Culture

(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.

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

(BBC) The man who might have stopped Sri Lanka’s Easter bombings

In March, just over a month before the Easter attacks, a gunman quietly entered [Mohammad Razak] Taslim’s house in the early hours of the morning. He was lying in bed, next to his wife, and his youngest son. The gunman shot him once in the head.

“At first I thought the phone charger had exploded, but I looked and it was fine,” Taslim’s wife told me. “Then I tried to wake him up, and I could smell gunpowder… I reached out to him and I realised he wasn’t conscious. I thought he was dead.”

Taslim was rushed to hospital. He survived the attack, but it’s not clear if he will ever fully recover.

Sri Lanka’s army commander, Lt Gen Mahesh Senanayake, is now playing a leading role in the investigation into the Easter Bombings. He told me it had been confirmed that the “same network” was also responsible for the desecration of the Buddhist statues, the explosives hidden in the coconut grove, and the shooting of Taslim.

He admitted that the previous incidents should have made the authorities more alert to the dangers of a jihadist attack. Instead, warnings by the Indian security services in the days and hours leading up the bombings weren’t followed up, due to what the army commander referred to as problems with “intelligence sharing” between different departments.

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Posted in City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Politics in General, Sri Lanka, Terrorism

(NYT) Trade War Starts Changing Manufacturers in Hard-to-Reverse Ways

…evidence is mounting that the conflict has taken an economic toll. The Commerce Department said Thursday that trade — both imports and exports — slumped in April, and data released earlier this week showed a sharp slowdown in manufacturing, amplifying a recent trend. The bond market in recent days has been sending signals that the trade war could be a threat to growth in the United States and globally. The impact could deepen if Mr. Trump follows through on his promise, made Thursday, to impose new tariffs on imports from Mexico.

And as the conflict drags on, there are signs it is beginning to reshape the global economy in more fundamental ways.

“There’s definitely lasting damage that has been done,” said Mary Lovely, a Syracuse University economist and senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “It’s not going to mean the end of the world tomorrow, but it’s death by a thousand cuts. How competitive is America going to be in 10 or 15 years?”

Tariffs have not yet compelled businesses to return large-scale production to the United States, where labor and other costs tend to be much higher than in China and other overseas manufacturing hubs.

But trade tensions are accelerating a corporate trend of shifting supply chains away from China. In a recent survey of more than 200 corporate executives by the consulting firm Bain, 42 percent said they expected to get materials from a different region in the next year, and 25 percent said they were redirecting investments out of China.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(WSJ) Nina Shea and Bob Fu–Inside China’s War on Christians

President Xi Jinping last year began enforcing religious regulations to rein in church growth and bend Christian belief to party dictates. Mr. Xi gave direct control of churches to the officially atheistic Communist Party. Some urban underground megachurches were shut down. Thousands of congregants were arrested and several prominent Protestant pastors received lengthy prison sentences. Earlier this month, the regime launched a nationwide campaign to eradicate unregistered churches.

Mr. Xi calls this policy “sinicization.” The goal is to make religions “instruments of the Party,” the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions asserts. The government confirmed this when it inadvertently posted internal documents—downloaded by ChinaAid, a nonprofit Christian human-rights organization—revealing that it intended to “contain the overheated growth of Christianity.”

Last year in Henan province, 10,000 Protestant churches were ordered shut, even though most were registered with the state. During 2018, more than one million Christians were threatened or persecuted and 5,000 arrested. Among them is an American permanent resident, Pastor John Sanqiang Cao, 60, who is serving seven years for “organizing illegal border crossings” to deliver aid in Myanmar.

Mr. Xi’s regulations also ban minors from entering churches and forbid Sunday schools and Bible camps. In churches, Christian symbols sometimes are being replaced with pictures of Mr. Xi. Surviving churches may substitute biblical teachings with socialist values.

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Posted in China, Religion & Culture

(CEN) Church leaders welcome Modi victory, but concerns remain

Church leaders have welcomed the re-election of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister of India, but campaigners warned that his nationalist stance could leave Christians vulnerable.

The recent election, which took place in seven stages, saw 900 million people eligible to vote. The turnout at 67 per cent was the highest ever in an Indian general election and it also saw the highest participation by women.

The main opponent of Mr Modi and his BJP party, Rahul Gandhi’s Indian National Congress and the United Progressive Alliance failed to secure the 10 per cent of the seats needed, meaning that India is without an official opposition party.

Archbishop Joseph D’Souza, on behalf of the Good Shepherd Churches in India and All India Christian Council has congratulated His Excellency Shri Narendra Modion his historic landslide win.

The Archbishop said that the members of the All India Christian Council and their churches would be praying for Shri Narendra Modi and his government ‘as he governs the nation with challenges ahead of him’.

However, other Christian groups were more circumspect.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Ethics / Moral Theology, India, Other Churches, Politics in General

(Sunday [London] Times] Niall Ferguson–the world cannot afford another Thirty Years’ War: History suggests the US-China conflict will need a Westphalian resolution

The end of the Thirty Years’ War was not brought about by one treaty, but by several, of which the most important were signed at Münster and Osnabrück in October 1648. It is these treaties that historians refer to as the Peace of Westphalia. Contrary to legend, they did not make peace, as France and Spain kept fighting for 11 more years. And they certainly did not establish a world order based on modern states.

What the Westphalian settlement did was to establish power-sharing arrangements between the emperor and the German princes, as well as between the rival religious groups, on the basis of limited and conditional rights. The peace as a whole was underpinned by mutual guarantees, as opposed to the third-party guarantees that had been the norm before.

The Cold War ended when one side folded. That will not happen in our time. The democratic and authoritarian powers can fight for three or 30 years; neither side will win a definitive victory. Sooner or later there will have to be a compromise — in particular, a self-restraining commitment not to take full advantage of modern technology to hollow out each other’s sovereignty.

Our destination is 1648, not 1989 — a Cyber-Westphalia, not the fall of the Great Firewall of China. If we have the option to get there in three years, rather than in 30, we should take it.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., China, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(AFP) Taiwan legalises same-sex marriage in first for Asia

Taiwan’s parliament legalised same-sex marriage on Friday in a landmark first for Asia as the government survived a last-minute attempt by conservatives to pass watered-down legislation.

Lawmakers comfortably passed a bill allowing same-sex couples to form “exclusive permanent unions” and another clause that would let them apply for a “marriage registration” with government agencies.

The vote — which took place on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia — is a major victory for the island’s LGBT community and it places the island at the vanguard of Asia’s burgeoning gay rights movement.

Thousands of gay rights supporters gathered outside parliament despite heavy downpours, waving rainbow flags, flashing victory signs and breaking into cheers as the news filtered out.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Sexuality, Taiwan

(Scotsman) Gavin Matthews: We must find the right response to Sri Lanka Easter Sunday massacre

The foundational idea of Easter is that Jesus was ‘given’ to the world. Behind the religious violence of his death, we are invited to believe that, “God so loved the world that he gave his son”, and that Jesus “laid down his life for his friends”. Our first instinct should then be to give to the victims of religious violence and persecution. The Christian charity csw.org.uk works tirelessly for the freedom of religion and belief for people of all faiths and none. Giving to an organisation such as this might be our first response.

Then, on Good Friday, when Jesus was executed by the Roman soldiers, he famously cried out, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” – and this should frame our second response.

Jesus recognised that the foot-soldiers who were setting about his physical destruction were not the authors of his agonies, but were mere pawns in bigger schemes. Critically though, Jesus didn’t send his followers off to indiscriminately kill Roman citizens in response, but prayed for their salvation.

Today, offering Christian forgiveness does not mean that the state should not pursue justice through due process. However, it does mean that we cannot indulge in acts of revenge or hostility to anyone or any community, or propagate cycles of violence.

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Posted in Easter, Sri Lanka, Terrorism

(NYT) Running Out of Children, a South Korea School Enrolls Illiterate Grandmothers

Every morning on her way to school, Hwang Wol-geum, a first grader, rides the same yellow bus as three of her family members: One is a kindergartner, another a third grader and the other a fifth grader.

Ms. Hwang is 70 — and her schoolmates are her grandchildren.

Illiterate all her life, she remembers hiding behind a tree and weeping as she saw her friends trot off to school six decades ago. While other village children learned to read and write, she stayed home, tending pigs, collecting firewood and looking after younger siblings. She later raised six children of her own, sending all of them to high school or college.

Yet it always pained her that she couldn’t do what other mothers did.

“Writing letters to my children, that’s what I dreamed of the most,” Ms. Hwang said.

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Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Education, South Korea

(WSJ) Easter Attacks Leave Muslims Shaken and in Fear of Reprisals

In the days after the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka, a group of local men gathered outside the home here of one of the bombers to establish what they called a neighborhood watch—and prevent the Muslim family inside from committing more terrorist acts.

Inside, the bomber’s family grappled with grief over what one of their own had done and fear that his actions could bring reprisals against their Muslim minority.

“It is very hard to face people because of what he did, even just going outside is difficult,” said a sister of the bomber, 22-year-old law-school graduate Ahamed Muath Alawudeen. As she spoke, cries of her distraught mother echoed off the tile floors of the spacious home in an upscale Colombo neighborhood.

Since the Islamic State-linked attacks killed more than 250 people at Sri Lankan churches and hotels, Muslims have reported getting detained in security sweeps for simply carrying the Quran. In other cases, they have been refused access to public buses and taxis. On Sunday night, an apparent car accident in the city of Negombo, the scene of one of the bombings, led to a clash between Muslims and non-Muslims, news reports showed.

Sri Lanka’s Muslims, who make up less than 10% of the island nation’s population, have seen lesser sparks turn into fury against them. Last year, in days of religious riots, mobs of Buddhist extremists targeted Muslims for beatings.

Security forces now deployed across the Sri Lankan capital to prevent more terrorist attacks are also on alert for sectarian reprisals.

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Posted in Muslim-Christian relations, Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Terrorism

(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.

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

(CT) Ajith Fernando–Six Biblical Responses to Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings

4) Leave Vengeance to the Lord

In our hearts we must apply the principle of God’s “holy-love” as we think through the situation. The Bible is clear that our holy God punishes wrong. The reason we are to “never avenge [ourselves]” is because we “leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Rom. 12:19). When wrong is done, something in us says, “That deserves to be punished.” That is a biblical sentiment. God has given government officials the authority to be agents of his wrath by punishing wrongdoers (Rom. 13:3–4). We must let justice take its course. But even if it doesn’t take place on earth, we know that it will at the final judgment.

The doctrine of judgment on earth and at the end of time is one of the factors influencing our response to the evil that occurs on earth. God gives us the freedom to take our hands off the revenge cycle. Instead we are told to do what we can do: We are to love our enemies and bless them (Rom. 12:17–21). Without a doctrine of judgment, we would be too bitter to forgive and show love to those who hurt us. Freed from bitterness, we can be agents of healing and reconciliation. This is especially true in a situation like Sri Lanka’s attacks which are being touted as revenge for the Christchurch mosque attacks. We can choose to stop the downward spiral of revenge where violence begets violence and huge destruction results.

Revenge is often considered the honorable response to harm in Sri Lankan culture. It comes out of the correct notion that sin must be punished, but misapplied to personal revenge. We must teach our people that personal revenge does not solve problems. We leave it to the state and to God to handle that. That is a hard lesson for our people to learn. But I believe that when it springs from the doctrine of God, there is a convincing base for people to latch onto. How important to teach these aspects of God’s nature to Christians before tragedy strikes!

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Posted in Christology, Evangelicals, Sri Lanka, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(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.

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

A Statement from Archbishop Ben Kwashi, following the Easter Sunday atrocities in Sri Lanka

Greetings to you in Peace.

Yesterday suicide bombers unleashed death and destruction as unsuspecting Sri Lankan Christians gathered to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. Together with those killed in hotels, the death toll has reached 310, with many more injured, and our hearts go out in prayer for all who have been caught up in these deeply traumatic events.

News of this atrocity came through just before I preached at All Souls Langham Place and let me repeat what I said then, “The resurrection of Jesus is a total defeat of death and of those who would want to use death to scare people off from faith in Jesus. His resurrection has made death powerless against all who believe in Jesus Christ.”

At our recent conference in Dubai, Gafcon resolved to stand with the Suffering Church and this will be a leading agenda item for our Primates Council as it meets in Sydney next week. Meanwhile, in this Easter week let us remember that the one who drew alongside two sad and discouraged disciples on the Emmaus road was the Risen Christ who yet still bore the wounds of the cross. By death he has destroyed death and he will be with us until the very end in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Risen Lord be with you!

 

Archbishop Ben Kwashi, Gafcon General Secretary

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Easter, Eschatology, GAFCON, Sri Lanka, Terrorism, Theology