Fr Stephen Smuts

Posts Tagged ‘Judaism

For Iraq’s Assyrians – the Second Holocaust

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Today a new and advanced version of Hitler is risen and his name is Abu Bakir Albagdadhi, he is carrying out the second Holocaust in our world, by targeting the Christians in Mesopotamia, and Humiliating, Killing, and displacing them, and marking them with a sign (N) which refers to Nasara, as a humiliation to the Christians.

You have three choices:

  1. Convert to Islam.
  2. Remain as a (Themi: a weak and undermined status of citizen) and pay an unknown amount of weakly tax
  3. Leave Mosul OR: The Sword is between us.

This is what ISIS (The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) leaders told Christian (Chaldean Assyrian Syriac) people of Nineveh to do.

The Christian heritage and history in Nineveh goes back to more than 5000 years. Their ancestors built this city, made it one of the wonders of the ancient world, a beautiful example of Assyrian Chaldean history.

Today, and for the first time since 3000 BC Chaldean Assyrian Syriac people, and since 2000 years as Christians of Mosul, Nineveh is empty of its indigenous people.

More than one thousand and one hundred Christian families have fled Mousil to Kurdistan Region. Now the territories of Nineveh plain are protected by the Peshmarga and Asayesh (Kurdistan Army and Security forces) for the first time since the fall of Baath regime in 2003.

Those displaced families lost their jobs, their homes, and whatever property and belongings they had collected in decades got lost at a glance by a word of the new extremist Khalipha Albagdadi!

This systematic and ongoing ethnic cleansing and demographic changing against the Christians people started in 2004 when several churches in the middle and south of Iraq were targeted and blown up.

As a result, 11 Christians were killed and dozens injured. In the same year, more than 196 Christians were kidnapped and 322 were killed according to the report published Hamurabi Human Rights Organazation.

The series of attacks on Christians continued.

Several clergymen, bishops and priests were kidnapped and killed.

The campaign reached its peak when the bishop of Chaldean Catholic Church (Mar Polis Faraj Rahoo) was kidnapped and killed together with three of his companions in Mousil in 2008. In 2010, more than 46 Christians were killed. The extremists attacked and blew Saydat Alnajat church up in Baghdad. Two Syriac Catholic Priests were killed in the same attack.

Not only the Christian churches were destroyed, the individual Christians were attacked and persecuted too.

The Christian students were forced to wear Islamic clothes in universities in Mousil and Baghdad. And in 2010, the buses carrying the Christians students were attacked by Al-Qaida terrorists, two students and another person were killed. In addition, more than 23 others were seriously injured.

According to “Alsharq Alawsat”, a well-known newspaper, 52 Christian churches were attacked between 2004-2010 and more than 900 Christians were killed and more than one million Christians have fled Iraq.

Most of the Christians, who were unwilling to leave their homes and their town, had no choice but to move to Kurdistan.

Many of them fled also to Ankawa, a town located in the north of Erbil. It was a town of 8000 Christians inhabitants before 2003. Now there are more than 55000 Christians that are living peacefully under the good care of the Kurdistan Regional Government. Others fled to Duhok , Zakho , and Sulamania provinces.

Historically, the Christians have been living in peace and harmony with the Kurdish Muslim majority.

The President of Kurdistan, Mr. Masoud Barzani, last week said to the Christian clergy representatives: “In Kurdistan either we all die, or live together in freedom and dignity.” And this manifests the true nature of the Kurdish Government and people towards Christians of this region and towards the Christian refugees.

The same day, Neqademos Dawod Maty Sharaf , the Bishop of Syriac Orthdox Church said on the radio < Russia Today’ “Without the protection of Kurdistan, the Christians would have been slaughtered by the ISIS.”

Today and after 11 years of the American intervention in Iraq, the Christian existence is in serious danger. More than 25 Christian families are fleeing Iraq every week according to local travel agencies and the number is increasing!

So, what is the best solution to protect the Christians in Iraq?

There are several proposals argued between the different Christian and Chaldean Assyrian parties:

Firstly, the autonomy for Christians : this proposal was made by the Christian politician Sarges Aga Gan Mamando, the former Minister of Finance and the Deputy Prime Minister of Kurdistan Regional Government. The draft of the right of getting autonomy within Kurdistan Region was submitted to voting in the Parliament in 2009.

This proposal is widely supported by the Christian political parties such as (Chaldean Syriac Assyrian popular council, Chaldean national congress, Bith Nahrin Democratic Party, Assyrian National party, Chaldean Democratic Platform, Bith Nahrin National Union, and Syriac Independent Movement).

Secondly, the self-governing province for Christians: this proposal was mentioned in the Iraqi constitution in 2005 and was supported by the Christian politician Younadam Yousif Kanna, the Member of the Iraqi Parliament and the former Minister of Industry in the Kurdistan Regional Government. This proposal was supported by Kannas (Assyrian Democratic Movement) as well.

Today the Christians people of Mesopotamia are at a crossroads, either to act fast and defend and preserve their existence in their ancestral historical land, or to face a similar destiny as the Jews in Iraq between 1948-1963. As we know, the Jews were targeted and killed for their religious identity. As a result, the whole Jewish population fled Iraq to Palestine.

Source

 

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

August 4, 2014 at 16:13

The Nations Surround Me; In The Name of G-d They Will Be Struck Down

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On Cranmer’s Blog:

In today’s synagogue service, Jews throughout the world will read the opening chapters of the book of Deuteronomy (1:1-3.22). Verses 1:41-44 recount the Jews’ response to the admonishment of Moses:

Then you [the Jews] answered and said to me [Moses], we have sinned against G-d; we will go up and fight, as the Lord our G-d commanded us. And when you donned your armour, you made light of going up into the hill country.
And G-d said to me: say to them. Neither go up, nor fight, lest you be struck down by your enemies; because I am not in your midst.
So I spoke to you; but you would not listen, rebelling against the commandment of G-d, presumptuously going up into the hill country.
And the Emorites, which dwelt in that hill country, came out against you, and chased you, as bees do, and destroyed you from Seir, as far as Chormah.

His Grace was sent this exposition yesterday (by a Jewish communicant [before the onset of the Sabbath]):

The early mediæval Rabbinic commentator, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, universally known by the acronym “Rashi”, explains that just as bees die immediately after stinging, so did the Emorites die following their attacks on the Jews. Rabbi Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik (1886-1959) asks the question: “Why does the Bible inform us (indirectly) what happened to the Emorites, when the principal purpose of the verses would seem to be to inform the Jews of the dire consequences of disobeying G-d’s word?” He answers that it is to tell us of the level of hatred the Emorites bore us, and that we should be under no illusions that the enemies of the Jews will never willingly decease from their attacks, irrespective of the consequences.

In similar vein, the verses in Psalm 118:10-12 read: “The nations surround me; in the name of G-d they will be struck down. They surround me, they also surround me. In the name of G-d they will be struck down. They surround me like bees. They will be consumed as a fire burns thorns. In the name of G-d they will be struck down.”

The commentators explain that initially the anti-Semites besiege us. If the initial siege looks as if it will be breached, they re-double their efforts by re-encircling the previous siege lines. If this too fails, they attack us with reckless disregard for their own safety. Our only protection is a recognition of the power of G-d; but with that, they can be destroyed as comprehensively as a fire destroys a dry thorn bush.

The symbolism of the thorn bush is perhaps that it appears impregnable, with devastatingly sharp thorns; it is unbelievably hardy with an ability to survive with minimal water (which itself represents Torah because of its life-giving properties as a channel between G-d and man). It also bears no useful fruit. However, when attacked through the appropriate medium, it consumes itself speedily and with ferocity, precisely because it contains so little water/Torah.

This is meaty stuff for the Christian, too. In Deuteronomy, Moses is not simply explaining the laws of God: he is earnestly enjoining them upon the consciences of his people, and urging them to pursue a holy life under the Covenant. Israel’s greatest peril is idolatry, which is to be resisted and suppressed with uncompromising severity. Faithfulness to the Covenant will be rewarded by material benefits; violation and disregard of the Covenant will be punished by material disaster and, ultimately, exile.

The overriding lesson which pervades the whole of the Old Testament is that a nation that turns its back on the Lord will be judged. And God will use the enemies of that nation to mete out that judgment. You might think this absurd, but the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing judgment is ongoing:

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
Of sin, because they believe not on me;
Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;
Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged (Jn 16:7-11).

God, sin, righteousness and judgment are real and present: they determine the meaning of the life that we are given to live in this age. But this age repudiates God, mocks sin, scorns righteousness and laughs in the face of judgment. It is no wonder that the thorn bush is being consumed.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

August 2, 2014 at 18:59

Shavuot 2014

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Celebrating the giving of Torah:

SHAVUOT

History
Shavuot is a Jewish holiday which celebrates God’s giving of the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai. It is also known as the “Feast of Weeks.” It has connections to an ancient grain harvest festival and is one of three pilgrimage holidays celebrated in ancient Israel.

Dates
Shavuot is celebrated seven weeks after Passover, exactly fifty days after the first seder. For this reason, some Jews refer to the holiday as Pentecost. It is a two-day holiday, though in Israel it is only celebrated for one day. In the Jewish calendar, it begins at sundown on the 5th of the month of Sivan and lasts until night falls on the 7th of Sivan.

In 2014, Shavuot begins on June 3 and ends on June 5.

Traditions
As Jewish kosher laws were part of the message included in the Torah, on Shavuot is is customary to eat dairy products. No work is done on this day. Holiday candles are lit, and some people stay up all night on the first evening reading the Torah.

Before the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, Jews would bake two special loaves of bread from their first grain harvest and present them to the Temple in Jerusalem.

Reflection
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, the founder and director of the Shalom Center, wrote a Shavuot reflection in a blog for The Huffington Post that relates the harvest of the grain to the spiritual rewards reaped by reading the Torah:

How can we unify the earth-Shavuot of wheat harvest with the word-Shavuot of Torah?

One first vision of a tiny practice that could bring new power to Shavuot: Each household bakes two loaves of bread to bring to the communal reading of that Moment on the Mountain.

As we share the bread with each other, touching the loaves and touching the others who are touching the loaves, we share with each other, with our partner the Earth, and with our Highest Selves, the One:

From Earth we receive,
To the One we give:
Together we share,
And from this we live.

 

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

June 3, 2014 at 19:26

Posted in Religion

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Christians Serving in the IDF

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The Jewish Press:

Father Gabriel Nadaf presents a soldier with an ICRF award.

Nearly 90 Christian soldiers from all over the country and from all IDF units came together earlier this week in Nazareth Illit for an event organized by the Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum. Although it has only been around for a little over a year, its impact has been astounding. Since its founding, the number of Christians enlisting in the IDF has doubled. According to the forum’s data, 84 Christian soldiers have enlisted since June 2013 alone. In previous years, that would be the amount to draft in an entire year and a half.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed and thanked these outstanding soldiers in a special video message. “The purpose of this forum is clear: to engage Christians who serve in the IDF,” he said. “The importance of your actions goes without saying. I was pleased to hear that over the course of the past year, there has been a significant increase in the number of soldiers. I salute and support all of you.”

“I know that the mission is not always easy,” he added. “But we will be with you along the way. All of Israel is proud and thanks you.”

Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest and president of the Forum, addressed the soldiers as well. “As a Christian spiritual teacher living in the Middle East, I understand that human rights are not something to be taken for granted. For that, I thank the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” he said. “I believe in cooperation between Jews and Christians and our shared fate in a Jewish country. I believe that we can contribute to Israel and I call on all Christians to join the army and help us to protect this country.”

The founder of the forum, Major Ihab Shelian, who serves in the Israel Navy, was overwhelmed to see so many soldiers of the faith gathered together in one place for the first time, a crowd which included high-ranking officers as well. Certificates of appreciation were presented to all the soldiers.

HTIrishanglican’s Weblog.

 

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

February 5, 2014 at 18:29

Posted in Church

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Who Is a Jew?

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Competing answers to an increasingly pressing question.

Who is a Jew? This question is becoming ever more pressing for Jews around the world. It looks like a religious issue, but is bound up with history, Israeli politics and the rhythms of the diaspora. Addressing it means deciding whether assimilation is a mortal threat, as many Jews think, or a phenomenon to be accommodated. The struggle over the answer will shape Israel’s society, its relations with Jews elsewhere, and the size and complexion of the global Jewish community.

For Orthodox Jews like Rabbi Tubul, the solution is simple and ancient: you are a Jew if your mother is Jewish, or if your conversion to Judaism accorded with the Halacha, Jewish religious law. Gentiles might be surprised that for Jews by birth this traditional test makes no reference to faith or behaviour. Jews may be atheist (many are: apostasy is a venerable Jewish tradition) and still Jews. Joel Roth, a Conservative rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, likens this nativist criterion to that for American citizenship: Americans retain it regardless of their views on democracy or the constitution. Some strict rabbis even think that a child is not Jewish if born to a devout mother but from a donated gentile egg…

 

The Economist has more.

 

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

January 15, 2014 at 14:06

Posted in Religion

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Ariel Sharon: His Eye Was Not Dim, by Elliot Abrams

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Via Fr Robert’s Blog:

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/ariel-sharon-his-eye-was-not-dim/

Ariel Sharon was simply a great man, Jew and Jewish PM! (RIP)

 

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

January 13, 2014 at 13:25

Posted in Culture

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What Makes Jerusalem So Sacred?

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CNN:

Perhaps the most repeated observation about Jerusalem is that it’s a sacred city for the three monotheistic faiths of the west, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Hundreds of tour guides tell it to the busloads of tourists brought to the city each day. Journalists who have to file stories from and about Jerusalem will use this description in their leads.

But what does that observation really mean? What does it mean to call a place, a city sacred?

Of course, this immediately refers to sites and buildings which contain and make concrete the sacred or the holy. In Jerusalem, there are literally hundreds of these containers, some better known than others.

One can immediately think of the Western Wall for the Jews, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher or the Garden Tomb for Christians, or the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque for Islam.

These containers are only the hardware of a sacred place. A more fundamental question is what are the dynamics or the software that make a place holy?

In each case the containers “mark” the breakthrough of the divine and transcendent world into the mundane, immanent world of humans.

This is the rock where God ordered Abraham to bind his son Isaac for sacrifice, and where later David and Solomon would build the central ritual structure of Judaism, the twice-destroyed temple that many Jews dream will be rebuilt in a messianic future when the dead are revived.

These are the streets and stones touched by Jesus, the son of God, the place where the central ritual of Christianity was revealed, which identified bread and wine with the sacrificial body and blood of the savior, and the place where the End Times will be orchestrated.

This is the place where God brought his Prophet Muhammad in a miraculous night journey.

From the very same rock, chosen by God, Abraham nearly sacrificed his son, Jesus was crucified and Muhammad ascended into paradise to receive the order of daily prayer for Islam. It’s also where the Day of Judgment will begin, where the righteous and the wicked will receive their rewards and punishments.

A sacred place pivots the heavenly world and the human world; it’s the meeting point between the two.

This means, of course, human behavior must be more disciplined and guarded than if one where just visiting another place like Los Angeles or Miami.

Rituals are required to maintain the presence of the sacred. Pilgrims and residents dress differently and speak differently, and often become nervous, tense and even violent when they think others are not behaving appropriately.

Time in sacred places is heavier than in other places. The present is soaked with the past and the future.

Memory is both individual (my mother and father owned a bakery there on that corner) and collective or national (my people began here) and is present in every action and in every encounter.

Your existential history is here, who you really are, and every event of consequence happened in this place.

In a place like Jerusalem, religion is politics and politics is religion. These human activities are seamlessly bound together.

Holy cities are not just divided by religion and politics, but, as the distinguished Israeli urbanist and former Jerusalem deputy mayor Meron Benvenisti noted, are polarized by religion and politics.

The sacredness of places like Jerusalem is never static. It always is changing, another layer of meaning and symbolism is built on those before, and others will be built in the future.

 

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

September 15, 2013 at 17:21

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