Category : Middle East

(AS) Bill Murchison–Is Anti-Semitism Creeping Back Under Episcopal Church Auspices?

I return to the so-called Israeli question: the acid test of logic, saying nothing of decency and generosity. The infection of anti-Semitism appears to be spreading. As if “the Jews” somehow — as used to be asserted by the brain-deprived — league and conspire and plot and plan to take over the world. I think we must not tax my fellow Episcopalians — at this present time —with outright anti-Semitism; that is, with the desire to put the Jews in their place. At General Convention, they affirmed, formalistically, Israel’s right to exist within secure borders. Then, without a sideways glance at Palestinian vows to eradicate Israel, and at the street violence constantly to be feared, and often witnessed, the Episcopal resolutions slammed Israel for measures intended to keep the peace: measures sometimes violent, sometimes ham-handed but generally efficient.

The problem is not American in isolation. It is international. It is political. In the July/August issue of Commentary, Melanie Phillips, the British journalist, asks whether the Jews of Europe should ponder leaving — given the recrudescence in their homelands of squalid anti-Semitism, practiced by the left. The same left, more or less, that dominates the national hierarchy of the Episcopal Church. “The symbiosis,” she writes, “between hatred of the Jewish state and hatred of the Jews is now part of the DNA of the progressive world.” It arises “because the West is in trouble. And a society in trouble always turns on the Jews.”

The Phillips thesis delves deeply into the moral flabbiness that seems, in 2018, to characterize judgment of rights and wrongs in the relationships of nations and people jostling each other in the communist twilight, seeking to distinguish friend from adversary and competitor.

A certain clarity in foreign policy — so he claims — lights up the mind of Donald J. Trump. More than anything else, it underscores the unclarity, the confusion muddying up 21stcentury life.

Read it all.

Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, General Convention, Israel, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Egyptian Legislation treats social-media accounts with more than 5,000 followers as media outlets, opening Twitter and Facebook users to prosecution

Egypt’s parliament passed a law giving the government sweeping powers to regulate traditional and social media, a move critics say will boost the Sisi regime’s ability to crack down on free speech and dissent.

The measure allows authorities to penalize traditional media like television and newspapers for spreading what the government terms fake news. It also treats social-media accounts with more than 5,000 followers as media outlets, opening Twitter and Facebook users to prosecution on vague charges including defaming religion and inciting hatred.

Most prominent media outlets in Egypt are pro-government, and some analysts and rights groups see the law as an aggressive attempt to restrict social media, which remains one of the few remaining arenas of free expression in a country where independent news websites are often blocked and unauthorized street protests banned.

“These laws would legalize this mass censorship and step up the assault on the right to freedom of expression in Egypt,” said Najia Bounaim, North Africa campaigns director at Amnesty International, commenting on the law and related legislation ahead of the vote.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Egypt, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Media, Middle East

(CC) Bobby Ross Jr–Wissam Al-Aethawi’s long road from Baghdad

The story of Al-Aethawi’s unlikely journey from Baghdad to Dearborn goes back to 1979.

That was the year Saddam Hussein rose to power — and the year Al-Aethawi was born to a poor family who lived in a mud house with steel sheets as the roof. In the winter, rain dripped on the young boy, his sisters and parents as they slept.

Each Friday, Al-Aethawi went to a neighborhood mosque to pray.

But he never felt comfortable with a religion he believed called him to hate people he didn’t know and offered no hope after his 4-year-old sister, Amina, died of food poisoning in 1996.

Wissam Al-Aethawi, right, enjoys fellowship with Steve Spiceland after preaching at the Sunset Church of Christ in Taylor, Mich. (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)References to Bible verses in American novels that Al-Aethawi read piqued his curiosity, as did Tom Cruise picking up a Gideon Bible and reading from Job 3:14 in the movie “Mission: Impossible.”

At the massive Al-Mutanabbi flea market in Baghdad in 1997, Al-Aethawi — then an engineering student at the University of Baghdad — bought the Gospel of John….

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Iraq, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

The Gafcon Chairman Archbp Nicholas Okoh’s June 2018 Letter

My dear people of God,

The ‘Songs of Ascents’ (Psalms 120-134) express a deep sense of longing, hope and confidence in the living God. For ancient pilgrims it was wonderful to be standing together within the gates of Jerusalem and for us today it is no less wonderful because in Jesus the hope which Jerusalem and its temple represented has been fulfilled.

Some 2,000 delegates will be welcomed to Jerusalem this month and many more will be able to share in GAFCON 2018 as it unfolds with reports through each day and live streaming accessed through the Gafcon website.  We thank the Almighty God for the privilege of being able to gather in this city where the great events of our salvation were enacted, but it is not now necessary to go on pilgrimage to encounter the living God. Through God’s Word and by the power of God’s Spirit, every local church becomes the household of God and an anticipation of the heavenly Jerusalem.

This is why our conference matters so much for the many of you who are not able to attend in person, yet have a vital role to play. Our purpose is to see faithful Anglicans everywhere equipped and empowered so that the churches of our global Anglican Communion, from parishes to provinces, will be united in one gospel and with one voice will serve the purpose of our conference theme ‘Proclaiming Christ faithfully to the Nations’.

A major way in which this great task will be carried forward beyond the conference is through the launch of nine key networks: Theological Education, Church Planting, Global Mission Partnerships, Bishops Training, Youth and Children’s Ministry, Women’s Ministry, Sustainable Development together with an Intercessors Fellowship and a Lawyers Task Force.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Nigeria, GAFCON, Israel

(Economist Erasmus Blog) Followers of Jesus fail to agree about his homeland

Hundreds of millions of followers of Jesus Christ are about to celebrate the annual feast of Pentecost, which celebrates an event in Jerusalem roughly 2,000 years ago, when it is believed that cultural and ethnic barriers were miraculously overcome. The festival, which falls on May 20th in this year’s western Christian calendar and a week later in the Orthodox one, commemorates what many regard as the establishment of the Christian church. A new kind of divine inspiration, including the ability to communicate with speakers of any language, is said to have come over the disciples who had gathered in the holy city for the Jewish festival of Shavuot, which falls seven weeks after Passover.

So there is sad irony in the fact that people who cherish that sacred story seem more divided than ever, with some rejoicing in Jerusalem’s rising earthly status and others expressing the very opposite view.

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Posted in Israel, Middle East, Religion & Culture

(Washington Post) Bernard Lewis, eminent historian of the Middle East, dies at 101

Bernard Lewis, a preeminent scholar of Middle Eastern history whose work profoundly shaped Western views of the region — including fears of a “clash of civilizations” — but also brought scorn from critics who considered his views elitist and favoring Western intervention, died May 19 at an assisted-living facility in Voorhees, N.J. He was 101.

The death was confirmed by his romantic partner and co-author, Buntzie Churchill, who did not cite a specific cause.

Dr. Lewis’s prolific scholarship — including more than 30 books, hundreds of articles and competence in at least a dozen languages — traced fault lines that define the modern Middle East, such as sectarian divisions, the rise of radical Islamists and entrenched dictatorships, some backed by the West.

Along the way, Dr. Lewis often gained a privileged vantage point for events in the region during a life that spanned the era of T.E. Lawrence, oil discoveries in Arabia and showdowns against the Islamic State.

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Posted in Anthropology, Books, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Middle East, Religion & Culture

(NYT) The ISIS Files–We unearthed thousands of internal documents that help explain how the Islamic State stayed in power so long

The commander who strode in sat facing the room, his leg splayed out so that everyone could see the pistol holstered to his thigh. For a moment, the only sounds were the hurried prayers of the civil servants mumbling under their breath.

Their fears proved unfounded. Though he spoke in a menacing tone, the commander had a surprisingly tame request: Resume your jobs immediately, he told them. A sign-in sheet would be placed at the entrance to each department. Those who failed to show up would be punished.

Meetings like this one occurred throughout the territory controlled by the Islamic State in 2014. Soon municipal employees were back fixing potholes, painting crosswalks, repairing power lines and overseeing payroll.

“We had no choice but to go back to work,” said Mr. Hamoud. “We did the same job as before. Except we were now serving a terrorist group.”

The disheveled fighters who burst out of the desert more than three years ago founded a state that was acknowledged by no one except themselves. And yet for nearly three years, the Islamic State controlled a stretch of land that at one point was the size of Britain, with a population estimated at 12 million people. At its peak, it included a 100-mile coastline in Libya, a section of Nigeria’s lawless forests and a city in the Philippines, as well as colonies in at least 13 other countries. By far the largest city under their rule was Mosul.

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Posted in City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iraq, Middle East, Terrorism

(NYT Op-ed) Mustafa Akyol–How Islamism Drives Muslims to Convert out of Islam

As a Muslim who is not happy to see my coreligionists leave the faith, I have a great idea to share with the Iranian authorities:

If they want to avert more apostasy from Islam, they should consider oppressing their people less, rather than more, for their very oppression is itself the source of the escape from Islam.

That truth is clear in stories told by former Muslims, some of which I have heard personally over the years. Of course, as in every human affair, motivations for losing faith in Islam are complex and vary from individual to individual. But suffering from the oppression or violence perpetrated in the name of religion is cited very often.

Take, for example, the words of Azam Kamguian, an Iranian former Muslim, in “Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out,” a collection of memoirs. “I have lived thousands of days in Iran when Islam has shed blood,” he wrote, referring to the violence of the Islamic Revolution. “Islam ruined the lives, dreams, hopes and aspirations of three consecutive generations.” The perpetrator of the mass killings or jailings he talks about was, of course, not “Islam”; it was the Islamic Republic of Iran. But apparently it is easy to conflate the two, extending a resentment of a theocratic regime to the theology it claims to represent.

This trend is certainly not limited to Iran. Authoritarianism, violence, bigotry and patriarchy in the name of Islam are alienating people in almost every Muslim-majority nation….

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Posted in Iran, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Politics in General, Psychology

(Express) Christianity on the brink: Religion DECIMATED from its Middle eastern birthplace – ‘We NEED help’

Christianity, a leading Catholic charity has warned, could be reduced to a “token religion” in the country unless worshippers receive urgent aid.

Islamic extremists have driven tens of thousands of Christians from their homes, with Islamic State (ISIS) destroying towns and churches.

As the sick death cult retreats further and further in Iraq and Syria, some Christians are returning home to find devastation and destruction, with urgent funds needed to rebuild communities.

However despite this, foreign governments are giving “no help” to Christian communities, leading to tens of thousands of believers to abandon their homelands.

One priest said believers could leave Iraq for good unless desperately needed aid was given to help rebuild nine Christian towns.

Read it all.

Posted in Middle East, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(CBS) Marking 7 bloody years since the Syrian civil war

Take the time to watch it all and pray for the end to this unimaginable tragedy.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Middle East, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Syria, Uncategorized, Violence

Archbishop Justin Welby and Cardinal Vincent Nichols call on Israeli government to protect Jerusalem holy sites

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, have called on the Israeli government to protect the status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem.

In a joint letter to the Israeli Ambassador to London, Mark Regev, the two faith leaders expressed their deep concern at the events unfolding in Jerusalem of unprecedented, punitive and discriminatory taxation of Christian Institutions, and their fears that this dispute could inflict long-term damage on relations between the two communities.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecumenical Relations, Israel, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(ACNS) Bishop Mouneer Anis receives Archbishop of Canterbury’s award for peace and reconciliation

The Bishop of Egypt, Mouneer Anis, has received an official award from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, for his “invaluable” contribution to the work of peace and reconciliation. The Hubert Walter Award for Reconciliation and Inter Faith co-operation was presented to Bishop Mouneer last night (Wednesday) during a meeting of the Anglican Inter Faith Commission in Cairo. He was presented with the award by Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, on behalf of Justin Welby at Cairo Cathedral.

The citation for Bishop Mouneer’s award recognises his relationship with the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, the leading Islamic mosque and educational institution in Alexandria. It says that Bishop Mouneer “has made a unique contribution and example through his ability to establish deep relationships; this is largely because of his openness, creativity and ambition to move people towards reconciliation. At times, this inevitably makes him a counter cultural voice within his setting.

“Particularly of note is his role as a bridge builder between the most important official international Christian-Muslim dialogue that the Anglican Church has with al-Azhar al-Sharif and is a most highly trustworthy representative for Archbishop Justin to the Grand Imam himself.

“Moreover, Bishop Mouneer is incredibly generous with his time: cultivating relationships with those from different faiths and background whilst running the Cathedral in Cairo, all within a context in which Christians are a vulnerable minority. He also maintains good contact across different institutions, with charitable and political leaders and is able to bring together all of these networks for the common good.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Egypt, Inter-Faith Relations, Middle East, Pastoral Theology, The Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East

(Christian Today) Holy Sepulchre closed because Israel’s Christians believe they are under threat, says Bishop of Southwark

The Bishop of Southwark has called on Christians around the world to show ‘solidarity’ over the indefinite closure of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre in protest at a bill affecting church lands and new taxes on churches that are ‘unfair, inappropriate and arbitrary’.

Speaking to Christian Today from Galilee on the final day of a pilgrimage with 84 people from the south London Anglican diocese, Bishop Christopher Chessun also expressed his disapproval of a bill in the Knesset, or Israeli parliament, supported by Israeli settlers, that would allow the state to expropriate land in Jerusalem sold by churches to private real estate firms in recent years.

‘The bill going through the Knesset is of course at the instigation of particular groups and it is very important that the powers that be recognise the significance of the status quo which governs the relationship formally between the church and the state,’ Chessun said.

‘So if there are actions taken by different groups of settlers or whatever else and that leads to poor leadership by the powers that be then there will be massive consequences.’

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Israel, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Taxes

(Guardian) Patriarch Theophilos III–Christians are at risk of being driven out of the Holy Land

[Yesterday]…7 January, is Christmas, according to the Orthodox Christian calendar. And Orthodox Christians are keeping the feast in the Holy Land, where Christmas – and Christianity – began.

Much attention has been paid recently to political decisions recognising Jerusalem in one light or another. The media attention highlights the seemingly intractable political struggle here. But as well as the threat to the political status quo, there is a threat also to the religious status quo, a threat instigated by radical settlers in and around Jerusalem, the heart of Christianity. And one group that has always been a pillar of society in the Holy Land – Christians – seems to have been rendered invisible in this standoff.

Christians have lived a history in the Holy Land that spans more than two millennia. We have survived countless invasions, and have flourished under many different forms of government. We know that our survival has depended on the principle that the holy places must be shared by and be accessible to all. For it is the holy places that have given meaning to the region for both inhabitants and conquerors of all faiths. The protection and accessibility of the holy places are understood through a set of rules called the “status quo”, which has been followed by all religious and governmental authorities of the region through the ages.

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Posted in Church History, History, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Reuel Marc Gerecht–The Secular Republic of Iran

Few organizations still carry the revolutionary torch. The Revolutionary Guards are willing to kill and die in Syria. The Basij, a “mobilization” force of club-wielding thugs under the command of the Guards, has been willing to murder its own countrymen to preserve the clerical state. But its commitment appears so sharp precisely because Iranian society as a whole has moved on.

Mosques all over Iran are empty at prayer times. In 2015 a Revolutionary Guard commander, Ziaeddin Hozni, revealed that only about 3,000 of the country’s 57,000 Shiite mosques were fully operational. And of the 3,000, some were only functioning during the religious months of Ramadan and Muharram. The Shiites have usually been less diligent than Sunnis in mosque attendance, but lack of attendance is striking in an explicitly Shiite state run by mullahs.

Do not underestimate how these trends influence the protests. Youth unemployment and the ever-rising price of food matter. But even more important is the collapse of the revolution’s civilizing mission among the college-educated children of the ruling elite and the poorly educated urban working class. Nothing in the nuclear accord can revive the fraternity that once bound Iranians together. The current eruptions may well fail to unseat the mullahs. Yet as the great medieval historian Ibn Khaldun warned, there is always another asabiyya, or galvanizing spirit of a superior force, waiting outside the capital, gaining unstoppable momentum.

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Posted in Iran, Islam, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism