Category : Middle East

(WSJ) Nina Shea–How to Help Iraq’s Religious Minorities

As Islamic State heads toward defeat in Iraq, Christian and Yazidi survivors of genocide should be returning to their hometowns in Nineveh province. Instead, these fragile minority communities mostly remain stranded at displacement shelters in Kurdistan without the means to rebuild their villages. Many are fleeing Iraq, and the country now risks losing these religious minorities entirely. The Trump administration is making the situation worse by continuing Obama policies that effectively exclude these non-Muslims from U.S. aid in Iraq.

Today there are fewer than 250,000 Christians in Iraq, according to the State Department, down from as many as 1.4 million before the 2003 invasion. These Christians speak Aramaic, like Jesus of Nazareth, and trace their faith to Thomas the Apostle, whose relics were spirited from Nineveh by Orthodox monks as ISIS approached. The Iraqi Jewish community, its roots in the Babylonian exile, was forced out over the past 70 years; fewer than 10 Jewish families remain in Baghdad. Yazidis—who have lived near the Sinjar Mountains—number about 400,000. Nadia Murad, the voice for thousands of Yazidis enslaved by ISIS, warned a congressional panel earlier this year that her people could soon disappear because of emigration. This would signal the end of Iraq’s indigenous non-Muslim communities.

Since fiscal 2014, the U.S. has provided $1.4 billion in humanitarian aid for Iraq, but very little of it has reached the beleaguered Christian and Yazidi communities. This is because the Obama administration decided to channel most of it through United Nations refugee and development agencies, a practice the new administration has continued. There is no protection for religious minorities in the U.N.’s overwhelmingly Muslim camps, and Christians and Yazidis are terrified of entering them. The U.N. doesn’t operate camps in Iraq for displaced Christians, and the international body has enough resources to shelter only half the Yazidis who congregate around Dohuk, in Iraqi Kurdistan. U.N. programs also exclude the local churches that struggle to care for these minorities, forcing them to raise aid on a piecemeal and insecure basis from other sources.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Iraq, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(AAC) Canon Phil Ashey–Some Reflections on the Global South Primates Meeting

The Global South Primates are meeting their promise.  It is a promise, not a threat.  But as faithful members of the Anglican Communion, they can no longer wait for the Archbishop of Canterbury or the status quo structures to cure themselves.  In fact, at least three of the four Communion structures or “instruments” are at war with each other!  Consider the Anglican Consultative Council’s repudiation of the authority of the Primates over matters of doctrine and order at their April 2016 meeting in Lusaka (Zambia), and Canterbury’s deafening silence.

Since the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican status quo cannot heal the wound, the Global South will apply healing balm through a recovery of “enhanced ecclesial responsibility.”  What will these new structures look like in keeping with “faithful Anglican membership”?  How will the intensification of relationships around these new structures impact relationships around the current broken Instruments?  What charm offensive will we see from Canterbury to disrupt this work by the Global South?

Finally, the Global South Primates comments about the Church of England are also pointed.  They rightly praise Bishop Julian Henderson of the Diocese of Blackburn for coming over and reporting on “the challenges facing orthodox Anglicans in the Church of England.”  But it is noteworthy that they not only call upon faithful Anglicans to stand firm, but also to “speak up” for the central place of Scripture in the life of the Church.  Bishop Henderson came over and did so – but where are the other Bishops in the Church of England?  What does it mean to be an “evangelical” bishop in the Church of England these days if not to boldly speak up for the clarity, authority and centrality of the Scriptures in the life of the Church?  What challenge have the Global South Primates laid down to the Bishops of the Church of England in these carefully chosen words?

Oh, and by the way, who is “failing to walk together” when, as the Global South Primates note, the conditions for “walking together” were nullified by the Archbishop of Canterbury himself, in his failure to see that the restrictions on The Episcopal Church were observed and respected?

As the Canterbury Primates meeting October 2017 draws near, how many more Primates will say, in the same spirit as Nehemiah did when facing dilatory meetings, “My work is too important to stop now and go there. I can’t afford to slow down the work just to visit with you.” (Nehemiah 6:2-3)

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Posted in - Anglican: Analysis, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Egypt, Global South Churches & Primates, Middle East

The Global South Primates’ Communiqué of September 2017

We express our sadness for the decision taken by the Scottish Episcopal Church to change its doctrine of marriage and are thankful for the faithful remnant of the Scottish Anglican Network that continues to contend for God’s Word. We are also saddened by the decisions of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada to allow same-sex marriage. If this decision is ratified it will further tear the fabric of the Communion.

We invited Bishop Julian Henderson, President of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC), to address us about the challenges facing orthodox Anglicans in England. We commend the recent CEEC statements reaffirming the biblical definition of marriage. We encourage Anglicans in England to continue to stand firm in defence of the Gospel and to speak up for the central place of Scripture in the life of our Church, particularly in this 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

We are saddened that the 16th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Lusaka, Zambia, did not unequivocally accept the decisions of the last Primates Meeting. While we expressed a desire to walk together as a Communion, this was contingent upon our decisions regarding The Episcopal Church being respected and upheld. Unfortunately, this agreement was not enforced and The Episcopal Church has been allowed to take part in decision making regarding “matters pertaining to polity and doctrine.” They have also represented us in ecumenical meetings. This has led to a further breakdown of trust and confidence.

In light of this reality, we discussed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s invitation to the upcoming Primates’ Meeting. The conscience of some does not allow them to attend. Some intend to go in defence of the Gospel and some are continuing to discern what the Lord is asking of them in this hour. We have all agreed to pray that the outcome of the upcoming meeting will be decisive and lead to coherent and responsible action regarding the issues which continue to tear apart the fabric of the Communion, issues that have eternal consequences.

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Posted in Egypt, Global South Churches & Primates

(AI) Global South Leaders Meet in Cairo

Joining Dr. Anis at All Saints Cathedral were the Primates of Southeast Asia, Myanmar, Uganda, Congo, South America, Nigeria, Rwanda, West Africa and the Anglican Church in North America.

The primates of Uganda and Nigeria, the Most Rev. Stanley Ntagali and the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh have announced they will not attend the primates meeting scheduled for next month in Canterbury, England. However, the Global South leaders have not exercised a party line whip on attending the meeting, allowing each primate to decide.

Sources close to the primates tell Anglican Ink the Global South views attendance at the meeting to be a second order issue that does not require a uniform response. Where they stand united, however, is on issues of doctrine and discipline — are are opposed to the recent innovations of the American and Scottish Episcopal Churches and the Anglican Church of Canada.

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Posted in Egypt, Global South Churches & Primates, Middle East

(AP) Rights Group: Egypt Exerts Growing Control Over Local Media

Egypt’s privately-owned media are increasingly dominated by businessmen linked to the government and its intelligence agencies, a rights group said this week.

Reporters Without Borders, known by the French acronym RSF, said in a Tuesday report that “the regime’s domination of the media continues to grow and is even affecting pro-government media.”

Virtually all Egyptian media outlets are openly supportive of the government, which in recent months has blocked hundreds of websites, including many run by independent journalists and human rights organizations. Authorities have set up media watchdogs to monitor journalists’ work, made it a crime to report “false news,” and have arrested a number of reporters.

The suppression of independent media is part of a larger crackdown on dissent launched after the military overthrew an elected Islamist president in 2013. Since then, Egypt has ranked near the bottom of press freedom indexes.

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Posted in Egypt, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Media, Middle East, Politics in General

(Gafcon) Archbp Peter Jensen–Looking forward to Jerusalem 2018

There are several striking things about this moment.

First, the name. The 2008 Conference was a totally new initiative. It looked forward – it is a Future Conference. The Communion of old had changed irrevocably with events in North America which denied both the clear teaching of the word of God and also the value of Christian unity and fellowship. The Future Conference did not abandon the Communion: it looked to the future and saw what the Communion would have to become if it is to survive.

Second, the location. It was no accident that we were summoned to Jerusalem. Here was the scene of the Saviour’s death and resurrection. In Jerusalem, the Spirit came on the day of Pentecost and the Gospel was first preached. If we were looking and hoping for renewal and courage, symbolically there could be no better place than this. It took us back to our true roots.

Third, the participants. The key thing here is that not only bishops were invited, but clergy and laity, men and women, young and old. To have a future conference of bishops only would be a vote for the past. This was a new thing, a new day.

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Posted in GAFCON, Global South Churches & Primates, Israel

(AFP) A New bishop brings hope to some of Syria’s Christians

Syriac Orthodox Christians in Syria’s northeastern city of Hasakeh celebrated the inauguration of the community’s new bishop on Saturday, four years after the last one left the country.

Six years of conflict have ravaged Syria and displaced more than half of its population, including millions who have become refugees.

Christians in some parts of the country have been particularly targeted by the jihadists of the Islamic State group, who have torn down and desecrated churches and Christian icons.

In the Saint George Cathedral in Hasakeh city, worshippers said Archbishop Maurice Amseeh’s arrival was a sign that their community remained resilient despite the war.

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Posted in Middle East, Orthodox Church, Religion & Culture, Syria, Violence

(60 Minutes) A young American who grew up in the heartland tells Scott Pelley what made him try to join ISIS in Syria

Abdirizak Warsame learned the theology of murder in Minneapolis, Minnesota…

Scott Pelley: YouTube became more real to you than your neighborhood in Minnesota?

Abdirizak Warsame: Yes.

Scott Pelley: How could that be?

Abdirizak Warsame: It kind of takes control of you. And you think you’re doing something for a greater cause. And you think you’re doing it for good.

Scott Pelley: And what was that?

Abdirizak Warsame: Most of the videos would talk about how if you would engage in jihad you would be doing your family a favor. And that you would be saving their lives from eternal hell fire.

Scott Pelley:That if you died as a martyr you would not only go to paradise your whole family would go with you?

Abdirizak Warsame: Whole family would go to paradise.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Syria, Violence

([London] Times) German girl Linda Wenzel with Isis snipers ‘must face justice in Iraq’

A German teenager found with Islamic State snipers in Mosul must be put on trial, according to a Yazidi MP who is the most prominent spokesperson for her beleaguered people.

Linda Wenzel, 16, must be properly investigated before being allowed to return to Germany, Vian Dakhil said. Ms Dakhil sits in the Iraqi parliament and came to prominence with a tearful appeal for help when Isis was massacring thousands of Yazidis in 2014.

“A sniper #isis was captured in #Mosul, she is ‘German girl’,” Ms Dakhil tweeted. “The mother of the #sniper girl was found in #Germany and she didn’t deny that she is her daughter.”

Ms Dakhil later said that Linda’s mother, Katharina, had confirmed that the girl pulled from a tunnel in the bomb-ravaged Old City area of Mosul was her daughter.

“She is now being investigated by the security forces,” Ms Dakhil told The Times. “We will demand that the government does not hand her over to her country. She came to Iraq and joined a terrorist group and she has to be punished according to Iraqi law here.”

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Posted in Children, Germany, Iraq, Marriage & Family, Teens / Youth, Terrorism

(LA Times) Iran’s latest culture battle: Should women in cars keep their heads covered?

Reihane Taravati, an outspoken social media activist, was riding in a taxi the other day when she received a stern reprimand from the driver.

Unbeknownst to Taravati, 26, her headscarf — which Iranian women are required to wear as a show of modesty — had slipped down the back of her head, leaving most of her hair exposed.

“Fix your scarf, or the undercover [moral] police will see it,” the cabbie told her. He worried about receiving a ticket in the mail, which would cost him about $30.

As Taravati relayed this story while sipping tea with friends in a Tehran cafe, a debate was raging in the Iranian capital that combines two things that people here obsess over: cars and the way women dress.

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Posted in Iran, Travel, Women

(BBC) Why are Iraqi Christians facing deportation from US?

More than 100 Iraqi Christians in Michigan are fighting deportation after being arrested in an immigration crackdown ordered by the Trump administration.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Foreign Relations, Iraq, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Reuters) Egypt’s Coptic Christians to halt activities after security threat, sources say

Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Christians have been told by church leaders to cancel all events and activities outside churches in July because of a security threat, church and security sources said on Thursday.

The warning followed an attack in May by Islamic State on Copts traveling to a monastery in central Egypt that killed 29 people. A month earlier, 44 people were killed in bomb attacks at a cathedral and another church on Palm Sunday.

Sources said the warning was given to individual church leaders by a representative of the Coptic Orthodox Pope. Copts on trips or youth camps had been told to cut short their activities and return home early.

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Posted in Coptic Church, Egypt, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(NPR) For Christians In Egypt, Building A New Church Can Set Off Violence

ARRAF: Samuel was 20, and Beshoy was 22. They’re considered martyrs now. That’s because they were among 20 young Egyptian workers beheaded by ISIS in Libya two years ago. To commemorate their deaths, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi gave permission for a huge new church on the road to al-Our. Building churches is so controversial here, it took an ISIS attack to get permission to build one.

The village is 70 percent Muslim. Some of the villagers protested and threw stones when construction started on the church. Churches are a sensitive subject throughout Egypt, even though about 10 percent of the population is Christian. It’s hard to get permits to build them. In Minya, a poor province which has the biggest concentration of Christians, even talk of a church can be dangerous.

EBRAHIM FAHMY: (Through interpreter) They burned my house. They burned the house my brother was building and the houses of five other brothers. They thought we were going to open a church.

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Posted in Egypt, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Aleteia) The Coptic martyrs of Minya: poignant accounts of their final moments

While celebrating the liturgical feast of the Lord’s Ascension into heaven, as they made their way to the monastery of St. Samuel, 200 kilometers south of Cairo, dozens of Coptic pilgrims were murdered in a bloody ambush carried out by the Islamic State.

At least 29 persons were killed, and 25 wounded, as the terrorists opened fire on the pilgrims. It was the fourth attack against Christians in Egypt since December to be claimed by the ISIS, and comes in the wake of the suicide bombing on two churches in Cairo, in early April, that killed 45 Copts.

According to several witnesses, in the case of the Minya attack everything seems to indicate that the Egyptian Copts who were killed on Friday — many of them children — died as objective martyrs of the Faith. After robbing the pilgrims of their money, their jewels and other precious effects, witnesses say the terrorists told them to apostatize and pronounce the Islamic profession of faith: the shahada. The captives, kneeling, categorically refused. According to reports, they were immediately shot in the neck, head, throat or chest.

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Posted in Coptic Church, Egypt, Middle East, Terrorism

(Christian Today) Egypt’s Christians say they are proud to die for Jesus as ISIS continues its deadly attacks

Coptic Christians have said that they “take pride” in dying for their faith following the latest slaughterat the hands of Islamic State terrorists.

“We take pride to die while holding on to our faith,” Bishop Makarios, the top Coptic Orthodox cleric in Minya, said over the weekend, according to CBC News.

Reports have emerged revealing that IS gunmen forced Christians on their way to a monastery off a bus on Friday, where they asked them to denounce their faith and convert to Islam. The Copts, including children, refused, which led to the massacre of 29 believers, one of the chaplains comforting survivors revealed.

Thousands of Copts have been mourning the slain in the bus shooting, expressing their grief and rage at funerals for the victims.

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Posted in Coptic Church, Egypt, Middle East, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Uncategorized, Violence