Category : Middle East

Christianity is ‘over’ in Iraq, but ‘God is not dead despite terrible persecution,’ says ‘Vicar of Baghdad’

An eminent Anglican priest known as the “Vicar of Baghdad” has just presented two contrasting images of Christianity in Iraq.

First, in a Fox News interview on Tuesday, Canon Andrew White said Christianity is “over” in the region from which the faith originated.

However, on the same day, he posted a message on his Facebook page, saying, “God is not dead … despite the terrible persecution of much of the Church today in Iraq and the Middle East.”

White went on to say that God “is alive and doing the greatest things ever. Resurrections, healing and angels are part of daily life. We in the western world just do not know of the real majesty, glory and presence of Jesus.”

Read it all from Christian Today.

Posted in Iraq, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

Archbp Welby’s May visit to Holy Land will span Middle Eastern faith and politics

The Archbishop of Canterbury will spend 12 days in the Holy Land in early May, Lambeth Palace has announced.

He will travel to Jordan and spend time in a camp for refugees from the Syrian civil war, before moving on to the capital, Amman, where he hopes to meet King Abdullah.

He will then travel to Israel to stay as a guest of the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, the Most Revd Suheil Dawani. During that time, he will preside at an ecumenical service and be installed as an episcopal canon in St George’s Cathedral.

He will be focusing on “celebrating the gift of faith in the Holy Land and affirming St George’s and Bishop Suheil as centres of reconciliation”, a senior Lambeth Palace source said.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Middle East

(Economist) The Iraqi army is on the brink of defeating ISIS, but rebuilding will be a big challenge

Driving IS out of the city may come to be seen as the straightforward part, however. Judging by what has happened in east Mosul, rebuilding will be a slow process. Three months after their liberation, east Mosulites are getting fed up. They are still without running water, and the only electricity comes from private generators.

“We have security now, but no services at all,” complains Muhammad Ahmed, a pharmacist. “There is no government here.” The provincial governor lives in Erbil, a couple of hours’ drive away, partly along roads ploughed up by IS that show no sign of being repaired. No international agencies are to be seen in the recaptured city, bar a few clinics and some empty school satchels donated by UNICEF. The central government has failed to provide it with an emergency civilian administration, leaving it either to the army, which is otherwise occupied, or to the local government, which barely functions.

Mr Ahmed probably speaks for many when he recalls that in the days immediately after IS took control of Mosul, the jihadists were rather popular. The previous elected authorities had been corrupt and incompetent, and unable to deliver the basics. Electricity, he recalls, was available for just three hours a day. Under the caliphate the lights stayed on, at least until coalition air strikes began and then, shortly before losing control of east Mosul, IS blew up the city’s main power station and its water-pumping station.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Iraq, Politics in General, Terrorism

(ABC Aus) Coptic Christians flee an unwelcome Egypt, seek refuge in Australia

A church in the middle of Cairo is bombed. A 70-year-old woman is stripped naked and paraded through a southern Egyptian village.

Military vehicles run over Coptic protesters, dismembering and mangling 27 people in the worst massacre of Christians in the country’s history.

Firebrand preachers shout incensed anti-Christian messages from the pulpit and mobs attack Coptic churches, businesses and homes.

This is now a daily routine for Egypt’s Coptic Christians, the largest Christian minority in the Middle East.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Australia / NZ, Coptic Church, Egypt, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(NR) Kathryn Jean Lopez-Christians in the Middle East refuse hatred, even as they face the machete

Two years ago this month Beshir Kamel went on television and thanked so-called Islamic State terrorists for not editing out the last words of his brother and the other Egyptian men they beheaded on a beach in Libya. “Lord, Jesus Christ,” were the last words of the Coptic Christians slaughtered because of their faith.

The courage and integrity of their witness strengthened Kamel’s faith. “We are proud to have this number of people from our village who have become martyrs,” he said after his brother’s murder. “Since the Roman era, Christians have been martyrs and have learned to handle everything that comes our way. This only makes us stronger in our faith, because the Bible told us to love our enemies and bless those who curse us.” He further explained that his mother is prepared to welcome any of the men involved in her son’s beheading into her house. If one of them were to visit her, she would “ask God to open his eyes, because he was the reason her son entered the kingdom of heaven.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Christology, Coptic Church, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

Discovered – the Twelfth Dead Sea Scroll Cave of Israel

A stunning discovery by archaeologists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has uncovered a previously unknown cave in which lost Dead Sea Scrolls were hidden.

The cave is believed to have been looted by Bedouins in the middle of the last century and no documents remain. However, storage jars and lids were found hidden in niches along the walls of the cave and in a long tunnel at its rear. The jars were all broken and their contents had been removed, and a pair of iron pickaxe heads dating from the 1950s were also found.

Read it all from Christian Today.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, History, Israel, Middle East

(Telegraph) ISIS recruiting child refugees as they head to Europe

Hundreds of asylum-seeking young people are going missing from care once they arrive in Britain, amid concerns they have been targeted for radicalisation by extremist groups during their journey to the UK, a think tank report has warned.

Militant groups such as Islamic State are deliberately preying on vulnerable young people for recruitment, as they make the perilous journey across the Middle East and north Africa, to Europe.

Extremists try to “buy” the allegiance of migrants and make them feel indebted, by working with people traffickers and funding their travel, the research by the Quilliam Foundation found.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Children, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Immigration, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Theology, Violence

(WaPo) Trump wants to push back against Iran, but Iran is now more powerful than ever

President Trump’s tough talk on Iran is winning him friends in the Arab world, but it also carries a significant risk of conflict with a U.S. rival that is now more powerful than at any point since the creation of the Islamic republic nearly 40 years ago.

With its warning last week that Iran is “on notice,” the Trump administration signaled a sharp departure from the policies of President Barack Obama, whose focus on pursuing a nuclear deal with Iran eclipsed historic U.S. concerns about Iranian expansionism and heralded a rare period of detente between Washington and Tehran.

Many in the region are now predicting a return to the tensions of the George W. Bush era, when U.S. and Iranian operatives fought a shadow war in Iraq, Sunni-Shiite tensions soared across the region and America’s ally Israel fought a brutal war with Iran’s ally Hezbollah in Lebanon.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iran, Middle East, Politics in General, Theology

(SA) A new book documenting the lives of Arab women forced to flee their home countries

The book’s creative director and co-writer, fellow refugee worker Katrina Gulbrandsen, explains. “We want to introduce readers to the real, living, breathing faces of the current refugee crisis. By providing readers with personal and cultural insights into their lives we hope to trigger interest in Arabic culture and people, which will in turn challenge attitudes, hearts and minds, start conversations and kindle compassion and action.”

The book, titled Tea and Thread: portraits of Arab women far from home, is expected to be ready for publication early next year. The book will contain colour photos and first-hand stories from 20 Arab women detailing their experience as refugees, while also sharing crafts and recipes from their homelands with readers.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces, Books, Immigration, Middle East, Religion & Culture, Theology, Women

(CNS) No future for Christians in Mosul, says Iraqi Christian leader

As some residents of the city of Mosul celebrate their new freedom from the Islamic State group, an Iraqi Christian leader who visited the war-torn city said Christian residents are unlikely to return.

“I don’t see a future for Christians in Mosul,” said Father Emanuel Youkhana, a priest, or archimandrite, of the Assyrian Church of the East.

Father Youkhana, who runs Christian Aid Program Northern Iraq, a Christian program for displaced Iraqis around the city of Dohuk, entered Mosul in a military convoy on Jan. 27, the day Iraqi officials raised the national flag over the eastern part of the city. Islamic State seized the city in 2014, causing Christians and other minorities to flee.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(Reuters) Real Madrid logo won't feature traditional Christian cross in Middle East clothing deal

Marka MARKA.DU, a retailing group in the United Arab Emirates, has been granted exclusive rights to “manufacture, distribute and sell Real Madrid products” in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

But Marka Vice Chairman Khaled al-Mheiri told Reuters by phone Real Madrid has two versions of the crest for the Middle East market and that Marka would use the one without the Christian cross due to cultural sensitivities.

“We have to be sensitive towards other parts of the Gulf that are quite sensitive to products that hold the cross,” said al-Mheiri, who owns a Real Madrid cafe in Dubai.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Spain, Sports, Theology, UAE (United Arab Emirates)

(Guardian) Archbishop of Canterbury intervenes to stop Iraqi's deportation

The archbishop of Canterbury has intervened in an attempt to prevent an Iraqi Christian who fled Islamic State jihadis from being returned to his home country.

Justin Welby wrote a letter in support of the man ahead of an appeal against his rejected asylum claim, saying he supported his application to remain in the UK.

Last week, a second letter was sent by the archbishop’s interfaith adviser, Mark Poulson, “unequivocally endors[ing]” an appeal for asylum by the man, who met him and the archbishop while working as a volunteer.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Foreign Relations, Iraq, Law & Legal Issues, Middle East, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(ACNS) Egyptian Anglicans in peace building partnership with Bibliotheca Alexandrina

The Anglican Episcopal Diocese of Egypt has announced a landmark partnership with the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Alexandria Library) to advance co-operation in the art, science, culture, peace-building, dialogue and the combating of extremism. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina is a modern organisation designed to “recapture the spirit” of the ancient library of Alexandria ”“ one of the world’s earliest such institution.

The original library was founded by Ptolemy I in 288 BC; and suffered numerous attacks before disappearing in the seventh century. Julius Caesar is said to have set fire to it during a civil war in 48 BC; it was attacked by Aurelian between AD 270 and 275; the Coptic Pope Theophilus outlawed it as a pagan temple in 391; and there are claims that it was destroyed during the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 642.

The modern Bibliotheca Alexandrina was opened in October 2002 and has shelf-space for eight million books. It was created “to recapture the spirit of the original Library of Alexandria as a centre for learning, dialogue, and rationality,” Archbishop Mouneer said. Alexandria, on the Mediterranean coast was chosen by Alexander the Great to be the capital of his empire in 320 BC. “It soon became the most powerful and influential city in the region,” Archbishop Mouneer said, adding that the original library “functioned as an academy, research centre, and library,” he said that “the great thinkers of the age flocked to Alexandria to study and exchange ideas.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Books, Egypt, History, Middle East, The Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Urban/City Life and Issues

(AFP) Another 5,000 Jews quit France for Israel: agency

Another 5,000 French Jews emigrated to Israel last year, figures showed Monday, continuing a trend that has seen tens of thousands quit the country after a series of attacks targeting the community.

The Jewish Agency of Israel issued the update as France marked two years since attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices and on a Jewish supermarket in Paris, where four shoppers were shot dead.

Daniel Benhaim, who heads the Israeli-backed group in France, said that insecurity had been a “catalyst” for many Jews who were already thinking of leaving.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Europe, France, Israel, Judaism, Law & Legal Issues, Middle East, Other Faiths, Psychology, Religion & Culture

(Economist Erasmus Blog) Syria’s tragedy could poison inter-faith relations

Rashad Ali is a British Sunni Muslim who devotes most of his life to combating extremism and urging young co-religionists to reject the siren voices of jihadism. At the risk of making himself unpopular with some members of his community, he actively assists the government’s efforts to counter hard-line Islamism. He works mostly in his own country but also follows the Muslim scene in many other places.

Like many others working in his field, he is convinced that recent events in Syria have made his life much, much harder. Whether in Britain or in Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia or Morocco (all countries he has visited recently), he finds that ordinary Sunnis are appalled and angry over the suffering of civilians in east Aleppo before and during the collapse of the rebel stronghold.

The news has made them furious with Russia, which claims inter alia to be deploying its fighter-bombers in support of local Christians; angry with Iran and the Shia Muslim militias that it sponsors in Syria; and disappointed with Western countries for doing nothing to restrain the Russo-Iranian coalition. A common grievance, says Mr Ali, a fellow of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, is that Western consciences are moved by the plight of ethnic and religious minorities, such as the Kurds or Yazidis or small Christian sects, but indifferent to ordinary Sunni Arabs.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Syria, Theology