Fr Stephen Smuts

Posts Tagged ‘Islam

Middle East Patriarchs Meet Diplomats : Call for Wiping Out Terrorists

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Via OCP News:

BEIRUT (CNS) — Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs of the Middle East denounced attacks on Christians and called upon the international community to work toward eradicating terrorist groups.
The patriarchs met Aug. 27 at the Maronite Catholic patriarchate at Bkerke, north of Beirut, for a special summit to address the crisis in the region. They were later joined by the United Nations’ special coordinator in Lebanon and the ambassadors of the five permanent member-countries of the U.N. Security Council.
“The very existence of Christians is at stake in several Arab countries — notably in Iraq, Syria and Egypt — where they have been exposed to heinous crimes, forcing them to flee,” the patriarchs said in a statement after the summit and meeting with diplomats.
They lamented the indifference of both Islamic authorities and the international community over attacks against Christians, who have been in the region for 2,000 years.
“What is painful is the absence of a stance by Islamic authorities, and the international community has not adopted a strict stance either,” the patriarchs said.
“We call for issuing a fatwa (Islamic religious ruling) that forbids attacks against others,” they said.
“The international community cannot keep silent about the existence of the so-called ISIS,” the patriarchs said, referring to the Islamic State. “They should put an end to all extremist terrorist groups and criminalize aggression against Christians and their properties.”
The prelates’ meeting was a follow-up to their first summit Aug. 7. It also follows a trip by several of them to Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region, to give moral and spiritual support to the flood of Iraqi minorities driven from the Ninevah Plain by the Islamic State militants.
The prelates stressed the need for cutting off the sources of terrorism and called on the world’s major powers to deprive extremist groups of resources by compelling countries financing them to stop their support.
Solutions to the Islamic State crisis must involve “dealing with the reasons that produced the miseries in the Middle East,” and harmony must be restored between the components of these countries, they said.
“The international community must act and eradicate” the Islamic State, the patriarchs said. “This is required from the United Nations and the U.N. Security Council.”
“We must stop using extremists, terrorists and mercenaries and (stop) supporting, financing and arming them,” they said.
They also stressed “the necessity of working to liberate the towns of Ninevah and facilitate the return of the displaced to their homes, in addition to ensuring the security of these towns with local and international guarantees to prevent displacement.”
The patriarchs denounced the “bleeding” that continues in Syria and said the conflict there must be solved by “dialogue and through a political solution.” They criticized the international community for not resolving the April 2013 kidnapping of two Orthodox bishops in Syria.
The prelates applauded the region’s Christians, who “are committed to the values of the Gospel and the teachings of Christ” exemplified in their relationships with others, “including their Muslim brothers, who live with them in the same nations.”

Read on here.

 

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

August 30, 2014 at 14:09

IDF on High Alert in Golan Heights

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IDF Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, tours the Bashan Brigade stationed at the border with Syria in the Golan Heights, northern Israel, on August 28, 2014. IDF forces have been reinforced along the Syrian border. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

Stand for Israel has been reporting on the developments across Israel’s border with Syria – of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters doing battle with Syrian forces. Israel is well aware of what is going on, and the IDF is on alert in the Golan Heights:
As a result of the fighting on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, the level of alert was raised on the Israeli side, an army spokesperson said Thursday, without confirming that it had been increased to the highest level.
The announcement followed several incidents in the area, including the capture and execution of 160 Syrian soldiers by the Islamic State, gruesome pictures of which appeared online Thursday, and the abduction, also Thursday, of 43 Fijian U.N. peacekeepers by al-Qaeda-affiliate al-Nusra Front at the Quneitra crossing with Israel, where fighting has raged this week between Syrian rebels and government forces.
Please pray for the return of the captured U.N. peacekeepers, for God’s protection over the brave men and women defending Israel in this dangerous situation, and for God’s peace over all of His people.

Source

 

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

August 29, 2014 at 21:32

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Boko Haram Says Part of Nigeria an Islamic State

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Theology and Society:

Boko Haram militants claim that they are turning Nigeria into an Islamic caliphate. The Muslim extremist organization is in control of three Nigerian towns, and continues to gain power and influence in the region, the Christian Headlines website reports today (August 29, 2014).

In video, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau is seen announcing, “Thanks be to Allah who gave victory to our brethren in Gwoza and made it part of the Islamic caliphate… By the grace of Allah we will not leave the town. We have come to stay.”

The militants conquered Gwoza on August 6, destroying homes and killing many residents. Some survivors fled to surrounding mountains, as well as bordering nation Cameroon.

Officials fear that Boko Haram is working with Islamic State terrorists, who have taken control of large regions of Syria and Iraq, and have given Christians in their seized land one of three choices: Convert to Islam, pay a non-Islam tax, or be killed.

 

 

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

August 29, 2014 at 21:26

James Foley’s Last Letter Home

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Which comes via released hostages:

The family of the kidnapped American journalist killed by Islamic State militants last week have posted a letter they say he sent while in captivity, via a fellow hostage.
James Foley was unable to write letters to his family because they were confiscated by his jailers.
Instead he asked another hostage who was about to be released to commit his letter to memory.
When that hostage was freed he dictated the letter to James’ mother, Diane.
The family posted the letter on Sunday evening, on a Facebook page they had set up to campaign for James’ release.
Earlier they had attended a memorial mass for James in their home town of Rochester, New Hampshire.
James Foley, a freelance journalist was abducted in northern Syria in November 2012, while covering that country’s civil war.
Last week, Islamic State militants released a video showing his beheading by a masked man with a British accent.
On Sunday, he British ambassador to the US told CNN that British officials were close to identifying the killer.
line
Last letter home
Dear Family and Friends,
I remember going to the Mall with Dad, a very long bike ride with Mom. I remember so many great family times that take me away from this prison. Dreams of family and friends take me away and happiness fills my heart.
I know you are thinking of me and praying for me. And I am so thankful. I feel you all especially when I pray. I pray for you to stay strong and to believe. I really feel I can touch you even in this darkness when I pray.
Eighteen of us have been held together in one cell, which has helped me. We have had each other to have endless long conversations about movies, trivia, sports. We have played games made up of scraps found in our cell… we have found ways to play checkers, Chess, and Risk… and have had tournaments of competition, spending some days preparing strategies for the next day’s game or lecture. The games and teaching each other have helped the time pass. They have been a huge help. We repeat stories and laugh to break the tension.
I have had weak and strong days. We are so grateful when anyone is freed; but of course, yearn for our own freedom. We try to encourage each other and share strength. We are being fed better now and daily. We have tea, occasional coffee. I have regained most of my weight lost last year.
I think a lot about my brothers and sister. I remember playing Werewolf in the dark with Michael and so many other adventures. I think of chasing Mattie and T around the kitchen counter. It makes me happy to think of them. If there is any money left in my bank account, I want it to go to Michael and Matthew. I am so proud of you, Michael and thankful to you for happy childhood memories and to you and Kristie for happy adult ones.
And big John, how I enjoyed visiting you and Cress in Germany. Thank you for welcoming me. I think a lot about RoRo and try to imagine what Jack is like. I hope he has RoRo’s personality!
And Mark… so proud of you too Bro. I think of you on the West coast and hope you are doing some snowboarding and camping, I especially remember us going to the Comedy Club in Boston together and our big hug after. The special moments keep me hopeful.
Katie, so very proud of you. You are the strongest and best of us all!! I think of you working so hard, helping people as a nurse. I am so glad we texted just before I was captured. I pray I can come to your wedding…. now I am sounding like Grammy!!
Grammy, please take your medicine, take walks and keep dancing. I plan to take you out to Margarita’s when I get home. Stay strong because I am going to need your help to reclaim my life.
Jim
line
 parishioner holds a prayer card in memory of James Foley after a Catholic mass in Rochester, New Hampshire The US and UK intelligence services are investigating Foley’s killing by Islamic State militants

 

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

August 26, 2014 at 16:28

ISIS Threats to March on Rome and Spain. We Can’t Say We Weren’t Warned…

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Barbarians at the gate:

It may sound perverse, but perhaps we owe a small note of thanks to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Like a bullet whistling overhead, the ruthless rise of ISIS under al-Baghdadi has had the effect of concentrating the fretful and forgetful minds of Western leaders. Despite the various terrors inflicted by al-Qaida, the Taliban and other radical Muslim groups over the years, and despite the spreading regional war between Islam’s Sunni and Shia factions, America and Europe have been losing interest in what seems like an endless fratricidal slaughter.
It is too soon to tell how the Sunni-Shia wars will end, but it is clear that Americans are war weary, and so is the rest of the West. Dealing with IEDs and suicide bombers and ungrateful local populaces has grown thin, and a general retreat has been sounded.
But al-Baghdadi has reminded the world of the barbarian at its gates. How barbarian? Even al-Qaida disowns ISIS as too extreme. ISIS fighters have turned the regional conflicts of Syria and Iraq into charnel houses of death and destruction.
As a petition written by Robert George on the website iraqrescue.org puts it, ISIS “is conducting a campaign of genocide against Christians, Yazidis and others in Iraq. In its fanatical effort to establish a caliphate, ISIS/ISIL has engaged in crimes against humanity by deliberately causing mass starvation and dehydration, and by committing unconscionable acts of barbarism against noncombatants, including defenseless women, children and elderly persons.”
With its recent occupation of the ancient Iraqi city of Mosul, ISIS has magnified the much larger war against Christians in the Middle East that has been going on for years. For the first time in perhaps 1,700 years, the Mass is no longer celebrated in Mosul because the Catholic community has been forced to flee rather than choose between death and conversion to Islam.
While the plight of 100,000 Christian refugees may not have galvanized United States leaders, the plight of the Yazidis did. This obscure and ancient religious sect has been ruthlessly attacked because Yazidis are viewed as infidels by the Islamists. They are fair game for the most inhuman treatment, and thousands have fled a remorseless genocide.
In the midst of this horror, it must be noted that there are reports that some of the photos “documenting” the ISIS atrocities are of dubious legitimacy. Propagandists are at work for their own ends, including those who seek to provoke a greater rift between Christianity and Islam than already exists.
Religious leaders like Pope Francis have been relentless in praying for peace, mindful that stirring up interreligious hatred will only worsen a terrible situation. But at the same time, if the pope is reluctant to “bless the tanks,” he has urged the world to “stop these crimes” by ISIS. Indeed, Vatican officials have been pointing out that under just-war teaching, in cases like genocide it is legitimate to seek to “disarm the aggressor.” Islamic leaders like Egypt’s grand mufti are beginning to raise their voices as well.
For at least the time being, there seems to be a religious, political and military consensus that the West must act to stop ISIS, whether one’s primary concern is the growing number of victims of this fanaticism or the worry that ISIS will soon bring its terror home to the West.
Meanwhile al-Baghdadi has plans of his own, announcing that “ISIS would march on Rome in its quest to establish an Islamic State from the Middle East across Europe,” saying that he would “conquer both Rome and Spain in this endeavor.”
We can’t say we weren’t warned.

 

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

August 21, 2014 at 19:52

James Foley Prayed the Rosary in Captivity

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The Catholic World Report:

The news broke late yesterday that Islamic State jihadists executed freelance journalist James Foley and posted a video of his beheading. Foley, 40, had been missing for two years while covering the conflict in Syria. I am not going to link to the video or include screen shots from it, but I will share another link that has been circulating since the news of Foley’s brutal death: an article he wrote for the alumni magazine of Marquette University, his alma mater. The piece is about the time Foley spent imprisoned in Libya in 2011:
I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. 
I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused.
Clare and I prayed together out loud. It felt energizing to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone. …
One night, 18 days into our captivity, some guards brought me out of the cell. … Upstairs in the warden’s office, a distinguished man in a suit stood and said, “We felt you might want to call your families.”
I said a final prayer and dialed the number. My mom answered the phone. “Mom, Mom, it’s me, Jim.”
“Jimmy, where are you?”
“I’m still in Libya, Mom. I’m sorry about this. So sorry.” …
“They’re having a prayer vigil for you at Marquette. Don’t you feel our prayers?” she asked.
“I do, Mom, I feel them,” and I thought about this for a second. Maybe it was others’ prayers strengthening me, keeping me afloat.
The official made a motion. I started to say goodbye. Mom started to cry. “Mom, I’m strong. I’m OK. I should be home by Katie’s graduation,” which was a month away.
“We love you, Jim!” she said. Then I hung up.
I replayed that call hundreds of times in my head — my mother’s voice, the names of my friends, her knowledge of our situation, her absolute belief in the power of prayer. She told me my friends had gathered to do anything they could to help. I knew I wasn’t alone.
My last night in Tripoli, I had my first Internet connection in 44 days and was able to listen to a speech Tom Durkin gave for me at the Marquette vigil. To a church full of friends, alums, priests, students and faculty, I watched the best speech a brother could give for another. It felt like a best man speech and a eulogy in one. It showed tremendous heart and was just a glimpse of the efforts and prayers people were pouring forth. If nothing else, prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released during a war in which the regime had no real incentive to free us. It didn’t make sense, but faith did.


And President Obama speaks about the death of James Foley, and the evils of ISIS:


 

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

August 20, 2014 at 20:09

Our Sufferings Are The Prelude Of Those That You Will Also Suffer

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So warns the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul.

Amel Shimoun Nona, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul, Iraq, who is now living in exile, warned that his diocese is now run by radical Muslims and that “liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here,” adding that “Islam does not say that all men are equal,” and if Westerners “do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed into your home.”
The Chaldean Catholic Church is an Eastern Rite church, under the authority of Pope Francis. In an interview with Corriere della Sera, Archbishop Amel Nona, now living in exile in Erbil, in Kurdistan Iraq, commented on his diocese in Mosul being overrun by radical Islamists.
“Our sufferings today are the prelude of those that you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future,” said the archbishop.  “I lost my diocese. The physical setting of my apostolate has been occupied by Islamic radicals who want us converted or dead. But my community is still alive.”
“Please, try to understand us,” he said. “Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims.”
“Also, you are in danger,” said the archbishop.  “You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles.”
“You think all men are equal, but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal,” said Archbishop Nona.  “Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home.”

Rest here.

 

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

August 18, 2014 at 21:30

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