Category : * Economics, Politics

(Economist) Drawing the line between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel

One reason debate over Israel gets heated is that both sides question each other’s motives. Supporters of Israel note that anti-Semites often cloak their prejudice in criticism of the Jewish state. They say some views—like saying that Israel should not exist—are by definition anti-Semitic. Pro-Palestinian advocates retort that charges of Jew-hatred are intended to silence them.

Such mistrust has grown in Britain and America, as anti-Semitism has resurfaced at both political extremes. On the left, legislators in America have accused pro-Israel colleagues of dual loyalty, and implied that Jewish money bought Republican support for Israel. In 2012 Jeremy Corbyn, now the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, defended a mural depicting hook-nosed bankers.

The right has used similar innuendo, often by linking liberals to George Soros, a Jewish investor. Muddying matters more, Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has also denounced Mr Soros. In America right-wing anti-Semitism also takes a more explicit, occasionally violent form. In 2017 marchers in Virginia chanted “Jews will not replace us.” And in 2018 a shooter at a synagogue in Pittsburgh killed 11 people.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Israel, Judaism, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Sightings) Peter Sherlock–Religious Discrimination: The Australian Debate

Most submissions in response to the consultation draft of the bill agree that discrimination on the basis of religious belief—or its absence—should be prohibited. In this respect, the bill simply gives effect to article 18 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, that everyone should have a right “to manifest … religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” Moreover, in Australia, the national Constitution was written in the 1890s with a view to preventing religious interference in the making of laws. While Parliament still opens each day with the Lord’s Prayer, there arguably is a need for legislative protections against religious discrimination.

Several submissions, however, indicate significant opposition to the bill as it stands because its religious protections would facilitate other forms of discrimination. This includes, for the first time in modern Australia, the introduction of religious exemptions in discrimination legislation covering race and disability, paralleling those in sex discrimination legislation. Furthermore, the bill does not go far enough for some religious groups, who argue it would open them up to what the Catholic Church has described as “lawfare” in relation to employment practices at faith-based schools or agencies. The Sydney Anglican submission, for its part, dramatically argues that, as it is presently drafted, the bill would force the church to make its campsites available for hire for satanic black masses.

All the same, the debate surrounding the bill has largely overlooked two aspects of religious liberty. The first is religious harassment. This is a concept found in other discrimination laws, such as measures to define and prosecute sexual harassment. What will happen when conflicting religious beliefs and behaviors come into contact, including not only religious speech but religious dress, sounds, or rituals? How can the rights of people of no religion be protected? What are the limits of accommodation and respect?

The second regards the nature of power. We can glimpse this point in a unique provision of the bill: companies with a turnover greater than $50,000,000 would be prohibited from preventing its employees from expressing religious views that discriminate against others unless it can prove that such expression would lead to serious financial harm for the company. Discrimination which may lead to the harm of others is acceptable, in other words, unless it is going to cost a business a great deal of money. In modern Australia, money equals power; the widow and her mite would appear to have no protections whatsoever.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Australia / NZ, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(Atlantic) Why You Never See Your Friends Anymore

Experiments like this one have given social engineering a bad name. Nevertheless, Americans are imposing a kind of nepreryvka on ourselves—not because a Communist tyrant thinks it’s a good idea but because the contemporary economy demands it. The hours in which we work, rest, and socialize are becoming ever more desynchronized.

Whereas we once shared the same temporal rhythms—five days on, two days off, federal holidays, thank-God-it’s-Fridays—our weeks are now shaped by the unpredictable dictates of our employers. Nearly a fifth of Americans hold jobs with nonstandard or variable hours. They may work seasonally, on rotating shifts, or in the gig economy driving for Uber or delivering for Postmates. Meanwhile, more people on the upper end of the pay scale are working long hours. Combine the people who have unpredictable workweeks with those who have prolonged ones, and you get a good third of the American labor force.

The personalization of time may seem like a petty concern, and indeed some people consider it liberating to set their own hours or spend their “free” time reaching for the brass ring. But the consequences could be debilitating for the U.S. in the same way they once were for the U.S.S.R. A calendar is more than the organization of days and months. It’s the blueprint for a shared life.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

(BBC) Church of Scotland considers selling half Aberdeen’s churches

Almost half of Aberdeen’s churches are being considered for sale as part of a “once in a generation” review.

The 10-year plan recommends 15 buildings for disposal, with 15 being retained and the future of a further three under consideration.

The Church of Scotland report said it aimed “to reshape the church estate”.

Rev Scott Rennie, planning convener for the Presbytery, said there were “many more” church buildings than needed and that “difficult choices” lay ahead.

Read it all.

Posted in --Scotland, Church History, Housing/Real Estate Market, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(Church Times) This is how to honour the referendum: Welby clarifies Bishops’ statement

A binary “winner-takes-all” approach to Brexit does not honour the result of the 2016 Referendum, the Archbishop of Canterbury said this week.

Archbishop Welby has written to clarify the College of Bishops’ statement, issued two weeks ago. He repeats his view that a no-deal Brexit would be a “moral failure”, an expression that attracted “intense criticism”, he reveals.

The College of Bishops produced a statement a fortnight ago which included the sentence: “In writing, we affirm our respect for the June 2016 Referendum, and our belief that the result should be honoured” (News, 4 October).

Archbishop Welby argues, in response to criticism of the statement, in the Church Times and elsewhere: “To honour or respect the 2016 Referendum result is not to sign up to Brexit at any cost.

“Honouring the result means no more than paying proper attention to an outcome that saw 52 per cent of those who voted favouring leave, but 48 per cent favouring remain.”

He goes on: “It does not mean that the Bishops have aligned themselves with any particular political party, faction, or wing within a party.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Church Leaders meet Secretary of State on Northern Ireland political impasse

From here:

“As the leaders all of the main Churches in Northern Ireland, we met in Armagh last evening with the Secretary of State to highlight our strong concerns regarding the continued Stormont impasse. We discussed with him the urgent need for the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly to address issues such as welfare reform mitigations, health and education policy, as well as the urgent economic and wider issues surrounding Brexit. In particular we conveyed our strongly held and shared conviction that the devolved institutions need to be restored before the 21 October to avoid unacceptably wide–ranging abortion legislation being imposed on Northern Ireland. The protection and the dignity of all human life is of vital importance, both women and unborn children – both lives matter.

“We believe that our Northern Ireland political parties have it in their own hands to do something about this. They all need to take risks, especially for the most vulnerable in society, and make the compromises necessary to find an accommodation that will restore the devolved institutions.”

Posted in Church of Ireland, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General

(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.

Read it all.

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

(BBC) Edinburgh hosts world summit on ethical finance

Scotland’s role as a global leader in ethical finance is being highlighted at a world summit in Edinburgh.

Senior representatives from more than 200 companies and organisations are attending Ethical Finance 2019.

Speakers include Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The summit aims to “help define and shape the transition to a sustainable financial system where finance delivers positive change”.

The event is being hosted by the Scotland-based Global Ethical Finance Initiative (GEFI).

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, --Scotland, Archbishop of Canterbury, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance, Scotland, Stock Market, The Banking System/Sector

(Economist) Is The best way to eradicate poverty in America to focus on children?

Elderly residents of Inez, the tiny seat of Martin County, Kentucky, deep in the heart of Appalachia, can still vividly remember the day the president came to town. Fifty-five years ago, while stooping on a porch, Lyndon Johnson spoke at length to Tom Fletcher (pictured), a white labourer with no job, little education and eight children. “I have called for a national war on poverty,” Johnson announced immediately afterwards. “Our objective: total victory.” That declaration transformed Fletcher and Martin County into the unwitting faces of the nation’s battle, often to the chagrin of local residents who resented the frequent pilgrimages of journalists and photographers. The story never changed much: Fletcher continued to draw disability cheques for decades and never became self-sufficient before his death in 2004. His family continued to struggle with addiction and incarceration.

Today Martin County remains deeply poor—30% of residents live below the official poverty line (an income of less than $25,750 a year for a family of four). Infrastructure is shoddy. The roads up the stunning forested mountains that once thundered with the extraction of coal now lie quiet, cracked to the point of corrugation. Problems with pollution because of leaky pipes mean that some parts of the county are without running water for days. “Our water comes out orange, blue and with dirt chunks in it,” says BarbiAnn Maynard, a resident agitating for repairs. She and her family have not drunk the water from their taps since 2000; it is suitable only for flushing toilets. Some residents gather drinking water from local springs or collect rainwater in inflatable paddling pools.

The ongoing poverty is not for lack of intervention. The federal government has spent trillions of dollars over the past 55 years. Programmes have helped many. But they also remain fixated on the problems of the past, largely the elderly and the working poor, leaving behind non-working adults and children. As a result, America does a worse job than its peers of helping the needy of today. By the official poverty measure, there were 40m poor Americans in 2017, or 12% of the population. This threshold is extremely low: for a family of four, it amounts to $17.64 per person per day. About 18.5m people have only half that amount and are mired in deep poverty. Children are the likeliest age group to experience poverty—there are nearly 13m of them today, or 17.5% of all American children.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Poverty

(Diocese of Oxford) A Christian response to Brexit

  1. –Watch over other faith and minority ethnic communities. Hate crimes and crimes against other faiths increased after the 2016 referendum. Reconnect with the mosques, synagogues and gudwaras in your area.
  2. –Encourage truthful and honest debate. The renewal of our politics will need to be local as well as national. Plan now to host hustings during the General Election campaign. Don’t be afraid of the political space but step into it with a message of faith, hope and love.
  3. –Pray in public worship and private prayer for the healing of our political life, for wisdom for those who lead us, for reconciliation between communities and for stability in our government.

Don’t underestimate what we can achieve if every church, chaplaincy and school does something and if every Christian disciple takes some action, however small.

Don’t take on too much either: loving our neighbour through the Brexit process needs to be woven into everything we do anyway, not simply added into busy lives. Don’t be limited by this checklist – you might have even better ideas. If you do, spread them around.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Religion & Culture

(CT) Syrian Christians to US: ‘Don’t Abandon Us Now’

The Kurdish-controlled area of northeast Syria stretches 300 miles from the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border. Approximately 750,000 people live there, including estimates of between 40,000 and 100,000 Christians.

Over 700,000 Christians have fled Syria since 2011. And while some warn of further displacement, others fear a greater threat.

“Turkey aims to kill and destroy us and to finish the genocide against our people,” said a statement issued by the Syriac Military Council, a Christian component of the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF), as reported by the Christian Broadcasting Network. “We hope and pray that as we have defended the world against ISIS, the world will not abandon us now.”

The Christian community of Qamishli, on the border with Turkey near Iraq, issued its own statement.

“The Turkish regime is based on armed extremist and radical groups that commit crimes against civilians and humanity,” said Sanharib Barsoum, the co-chair of the Syriac Union Party. “Such threats endanger the life of Syriac people in the region.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Middle East, Military / Armed Forces, Religion & Culture, Syria, Turkey

(NPR) Older Americans Are Increasingly Unwilling — Or Unable — To Retire

Bob Orozco barks out instructions like a drill sergeant. The 40 or so older adults in this class follow his lead, stretching and bending and marching in place.

It goes like this for nearly an hour, with 89-year-old Orozco doing every move he asks of his class. He does that in each of the 11 classes he teaches every week at this YMCA in Laguna Niguel, Calif.

“I probably will work until something stops me,” Orozco says.

He may be an outlier, still working at 89, but statistics show that there may be more people like him in the near future. About 1 in 4 adults age 65 and older is now in the workforce. That number is expected to increase, making it the fastest-growing group of workers in the country.

Older adults are turning their backs on retirement for many reasons. Some, like Orozco, just love what they do. Others, though, need the money, and there are a lot of reasons why they do.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pensions, Personal Finance, Social Security, Theology

(Haaretz) President Trump’s Decision to Abandon Syria’s Kurds Is Bad News for All U.S. Regional Allies

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to move several hundred American soldiers out of the way as Turkey poises to invade southeast Syria is bad news for America’s allies in the region. Trump thereby gave a green light to a dangerous Turkish move while ditching America’s most reliable allies in Syria: the Kurdish fighters.

The president’s move paves the way for other players in the Syrian arena to realize their interests. First and foremost is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but ISIS, as well, and indirectly, the Bashar Assad regime in Syria and its two main supporters, Russia and Iran. From Jerusalem’s perspective, it is another warning sign that this president – until recently presented as Israel’s greatest friend ever in Washington – can’t be trusted.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Middle East

(NYT) For Churches, a Temptation to Sell

“With every real-estate cycle, developers will systemically call on religious institutions because their sites are soft,” Ms. Friedman said.

In a way, it’s an odd time for churches to disappear. The number of congregations in New York is actually increasing, according to census records. There were 1,426 congregations in Brooklyn in 2010, up from 959 in 2000, records show, with large gains in Manhattan and Queens, too. And the 2020 census is expected to show more growth, religious leaders predict.

But small mosques and storefront churches account for a lot of the uptick. Older and highly visible institutions that once served Episcopalians and Lutherans, for example, are indeed closing. And dozens of Catholic churches, facing low attendance, have also gone dark in the past 15 years.

“Every time we turn around, another is being sold,” Gilford T. Monrose, who directs the Office of Faith-Based and Clergy Initiatives on behalf of Eric L. Adams, the Brooklyn Borough President.

Concerned that the borough is losing an important source of community services, Mr. Monrose has been working over the past few years to get churches to consider affordable housing as a lifeline.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Housing/Real Estate Market, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(Church Times) Good Money Week: Using money for good

“In the present state of mankind,” John Wesley declared in his celebrated 18th-century sermon on the use of money, “it is an excellent gift of God, answering the noblest ends.”

Rightly used, he said, money could feed the hungry, provide drink for the thirsty, clothe the naked, and provide shelter for the stranger. “It may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame; yea, a lifter up from the gates of death!”

He warned against excessive spending, however, and condemned the exploitation of workers. He called on Christians to be generous in their financial giving, and recognised that money could be misused.

The right use of money has been a Christian concern since the early days of the Church, and, between then and now, both the institution and individuals, in their earning, hoarding, or spending of money, have fallen short of the ideals taught. Today, no doubt, Wesley would be a leading campaigner against the consumer society, drawing attention to how irresponsible and excessive consumption has led to environmental degradation.

Churches and faith investors have, for many years, done their best to align their investments with acceptable beliefs and ethics, and, despite good returns promised, have avoided buying shares in, for example, arms companies, and the tobacco and gambling industries. They have monitored businesses in which they invest closely to ensure they are not exploiting the vulnerable or despoiling the planet.

Read it all.

Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Stock Market

(IP) How some American Christians distort the gospel

Watch and listen to it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(PR) The number of people in the average U.S. household is going up for the first time in over 160 years

Over the course of the nation’s history, there has been a slow but steady decrease in the size of the average U.S. household – from 5.79 people per household in 1790 to 2.58 in 2010. But this decade will likely be the first since the one that began in 1850 to break this long-running trend, according to newly released Census Bureau data. In 2018 there were 2.63 people per household.

Households are increasing in size mathematically because the growth in the number of households is trailing population growth. The newly released data indicates that the population residing in households has grown 6% since 2010 (the smallest population growth since the 1930s), while the number of households has grown at a slower rate (4%, from 116.7 million in 2010 to 121.5 million in 2018).

The increase in household size is significant because it could have implications for national economic growth. Rising household size reduces the demand for housing, resulting in less residential construction and less demand for home appliances and furniture. In general, it leads to a less vigorous housing sector – fewer apartment leases and home purchases, as well as less spending related to housing, such as cable company subscriptions and home accessories suppliers.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Marriage & Family, Sociology

(MSN) Two Nigerian Evangelicals Executed in Boko Haram Video

Islamic extremist group Boko Haram released a video last week showing the execution of two Christian aid workers in Nigeria, sources said.

Lawrence Duna Dacighir and Godfrey Ali Shikagham, both members of the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) in Plateau state, are shown kneeling while three masked, armed men stand behind them in a video posted September 22 on Boko Haram’s Amaq news agency site. The two young men, who had gone to Maiduguri to help build shelters for people displaced by Islamic extremist violence, are then shot from behind.

Speaking in the Hausa language, the middle one of the three terrorists says in the video that they have vowed to kill every Christian they capture in revenge for Muslims killed in past religious conflicts in Nigeria.

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Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Nigeria, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

Gafcon General Secretary Ben Kwashi and his Wife Gloria Honoured with Religious Freedom Award

Randel Everett, former executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and former pastor of First Baptist Church of Midland, is the founder and President of 21Wilberforce. Randel Everett says, “their life story is one of courage, faith and boundless love.”

Archbishop Kwashi is the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Jos, Nigeria and General Secretary of GAFCON. He is well known as an evangelist throughout Nigeria, Africa, England, and the United States. Dr. Gloria Kwashi has been Diocesan President of the Mothers’ Union, Women’s Guild and Girls’ Guild, and is the Provincial Trainer for the Mothers’ Union (Church of Nigeria).

For many years Boko Haram, one of the deadliest terrorist groups in the world, has spawned unrest, displacement, and death in northern Nigeria. The Kwashi’s have not escaped the violence. Their vicarage and church were burned to the ground and they have survived several assassination attempts. In response, the Kwashi’s took in 50 orphans who lost their parents due to the violence. Dr. Gloria Kwashi also founded the Zambiri Outreach and Child Care Centre. The primary and secondary school serves 400 pupils – all of whom receive free education, free feeding, uniform, and medical care.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Nigeria, GAFCON, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence

(Church Times) Love one another, C of E Bishops urge politicians

The language used in debates both inside and outside Parliament has become “unacceptable”, the Church of England’s bishops have said in a joint statement.

The College of Bishops published a statement on Friday which argues that the tenor of the political debate is “not worthy of our country”.

The declaration, which was drafted by a group of senior bishops and put out in the name of all 118 bishops, reads: “In the last few days, the use of language, both in debates and outside Parliament, has been unacceptable.

“We should speak to others with respect. And we should also listen. We should do this especially with the poor, with the marginalised, and with those whose voices are often not heard in our national conversation.

“We should not denigrate, patronise or ignore the honest views of fellow citizens, but seek to respect their opinions, their participation in society, and their votes.”

The statement was released a few hours after the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, joined calls for the Prime Minister to apologise for his “destructive” language in the House of Commons on Wednesday evening.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Language, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(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

(EF) Decade of tears and blood: 10 years of Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria

A decade after Boko Haram began a bloody campaign to impose sharia (Islamic law) on all of Nigeria, Christian leaders say some areas are still under the control of the terrorists.

The Rev. Mohammed Abubakar Naga, chairman of the Borno state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), told Morning Star News that the terrorists are still active in the northeastern part of the country where the group originated and has displaced thousands of people, effectively closing many churches.

“Gwoza East, especially the hills, has been taken over by Boko Haram,” Pastor Naga said by phone. “The terrorists still attack Christian communities there. This is even with the presence of personnel of the Nigerian army in the area.” After beginning a violent campaign to establish an Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria 10 years ago, Boko Haram has killed an estimated 35,000 civilians, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The agency said 37 aid workers lost their lives in the course of serving those displaced by the attacks. Two of the many pastors Boko Haram killed in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state include the Rev. Faye Pama Musa, then secretary of the CAN’s Borno state chapter, slain on May 14, 2013 after the terrorists followed him from his church building to his house and shot him to death; and Pentecostal pastor George Ojih, captured in 2009 and beheaded for refusing to recant his Christian faith.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Nigeria, Politics in General, Terrorism

Kendall Harmon for 9/11: Number 343

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 America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Music, Police/Fire, Terrorism, Urban/City Life and Issues

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 Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Evangelicals, History, Terrorism

Richard John Neuhaus for 9/11–September 11th, Before and After

Fourth, after some initial sortings out, America will identify itself even more closely with Israel. Disagreements over the justice of how Israel was founded and how it has maintained itself in existence will not disappear. But the diabolical face of the evil that threatens Israel, and us, is now unveiled. Among Americans and all who are part of our civilization, it will be understood that we must never surrender, or appear to be surrendering, to that evil. Finally, the question of “the West and the rest” will be powerfully sharpened, including a greatly heightened awareness of the global threats posed by militant Islam. Innocent Muslims in this country and Europe are undoubtedly in for some nastiness, and we must do our best to communicate the distinction between Islam and Islamism, knowing that the latter is the monistic fanaticism embraced by only a minority of Muslims. But almost inevitably, given the passions aroused and the difficulties of enforcing the law among people who are largely alien in their ways, such distinctions will sometimes get lost. We can only try to do our best by those Muslims who have truly chosen our side in “the clash of civilizations.” It seems likely also that, after September 11, discussion about immigration policy will become more intense, and more candid.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Islam, Israel, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

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

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

Must not Miss 9/11 Video: Welles Crowther, The Man Behind the Red Bandana

The Man Behind the Red Bandana from Drew Gallagher on Vimeo.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Police/Fire, 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.

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

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Terrorism, Urban/City Life and Issues

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 History, Spirituality/Prayer, Terrorism

9/11 CNBC Coverage from 8:46-8:55

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Media, Movies & Television, Terrorism