Church

Christianity ‘Close to Extinction’ in Middle East

Sad news, and certainly something to pray about this Christmas eve.

Christianity faces being wiped out of the “biblical heartlands” in the Middle East because of mounting persecution of worshippers, according to a new report.

In the Telegraph:

The study warns that Christians suffer greater hostility across the world than any other religious group.

And it claims politicians have been “blind” to the extent of violence faced by Christians in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The most common threat to Christians abroad is militant Islam, it says, claiming that oppression in Muslim countries is often ignored because of a fear that criticism will be seen as “racism”.

It warns that converts from Islam face being killed in Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Iran and risk severe legal penalties in other countries across the Middle East.

The report, by the think tank Civitas, says: “It is generally accepted that many faith-based groups face discrimination or persecution to some degree.

“A far less widely grasped fact is that Christians are targeted more than any other body of believers.”

It cites estimates that 200 million Christians, or 10 per cent of Christians worldwide, are “socially disadvantaged, harassed or actively oppressed for their beliefs.”

“Exposing and combating the problem ought in my view to be political priorities across large areas of the world. That this is not the case tells us much about a questionable hierarchy of victimhood,” says the author, Rupert Shortt, a journalist and visiting fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford.

He adds: “The blind spot displayed by governments and other influential players is causing them to squander a broader opportunity. Religious freedom is the canary in the mine for human rights generally.”

The report, entitled Christianophobia, highlights a fear among oppressive regimes that Christianity is a “Western creed” which can be used to undermine them.

State hostility towards Christianity is particularly rife in China, where more Christians are imprisoned than in any other country in the world, according to the report.

It quotes Ma Hucheng, an advisor to the Chinese government, who claimed in an article last year that the US has backed the growth of the Protestant Church in China as a vehicle for political dissidence.

“Western powers, with America at their head, deliberately export Christianity to China and carry out all kinds of illegal evangelistic activities,” he wrote in the China Social Sciences Press.

“Their basic aim is to use Christianity to change the character of the regime…in China and overturn it,” he added.

The “lion’s share” of persecution faced by Christians arises in countries where Islam is the dominant faith, the report says, quoting estimates that between a half and two-thirds of Christians in the Middle East have left the region or been killed in the past century.

“There is now a serious risk that Christianity will disappear from its biblical heartlands,” it claims.

The report shows that “Muslim-majority” states make up 12 of the 20 countries judged to be “unfree” on the grounds of religious tolerance by Freedom House, the human rights think tank.

It catalogues hundreds of attacks on Christians by religious fanatics over recent years, focusing on seven countries: Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria, India, Burma and China.

It claims George Bush’s use of the word “crusade” after the September 11 attacks on New York created the impression for Muslims in the Middle East of a “Christian assault on the Muslim world”.

“But however the motivation for violence is measured, the early twenty-first century has seen a steady rise in the strife endured by Christians,” the report says.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq left Iraqi Christians “more vulnerable than ever”, highlighted by the 2006 beheading of a kidnapped Orthodox priest, Fr Boulos Iskander, and the kidnapping of 17 further priests and two bishops between 2006 and 2010.

“In most cases, those responsible declared that they wanted all Christians to be expelled from the country,” the report says.

In Pakistan, the murder last year of Shahbaz Bhatti, the country’s Catholic minister for minorities, “vividly reflected” religious intolerance in Pakistan.

Shortly after his death it emerged that Mr Bhatti had recorded a video in which he declared: “I am living for my community and for suffering people and I will die to defend their rights.

“I prefer to die for my principles and for the justice of my community rather than to compromise. I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ, who has given his own life for us.”

The report also warns that Christians in India have faced years of violence from Hindu extremists. In 2010 scores of attacks on Christians and church property were carried out in Karnataka, a state in south west India.

And while many people are aware of the oppression faced in Burma by Aung San Suu Kyi and other pro-democracy activists, targeted abuse of Christians in the country has been given little exposure, the report says.

In some areas of Burma the government has clamped down on Christian protesters by restricting the building of new churches.

“Openly professing Christians employed in government service find it virtually impossible to get promotion,” it adds.

Again,

Christians suffer greater hostility across the world than any other religious group…

 

Church

Westboro Lunatics to Picket at Sandy Hook

In the Huffington Post:

The Westboro Baptist Church, the controversial group known for protesting outside funerals of slain U.S. service members, announced that it will picket a vigil for the victims of Friday’s Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the second-deadliest school shooting in American history.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, a spokesperson for the group and, like most members of the organization, a relative of the group’s founder, Fred Phelps, announced on Twitter on Saturday the group’s plan “to sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment”…

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church say that America is being punished for its acceptance of gays and lesbians. In recent days, Phelps family members have sent tweets about the Connecticut shooting that have said “God sent the shooter.”

Not surprisingly, the group’s announcement was met with resistance online…

The Southern Poverty Law Center calls the Westboro Baptist Church “arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America,” while the Anti-Defamation League calls it “a small virulently homophobic, anti-Semitic hate group.”

In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church, saying that the right to picket funerals was protected under the First Amendment. President Obama earlier this year, however, signed legislation that said that protests must be held 300 feet from military funerals.

 

Church

Virgin Mary Statue Beheaded; Owner Calls It A Hate Crime

Via the Huffington Post:

Usually, gnome news is good news, but it’s terrible for Darlene Fraga — and her Virgin Mary statue.

Vandals snuck on to Fraga’s property in Windsor Locks, Conn., a few weeks ago and hacked off the head of the Virgin Mary statue in her yard. A week later, the head was replaced with a garden gnome.

“It just hurts me so bad I want to cry,” Fraga told NECN.com. “They took a sledgehammer or something and decapitated her and took her crown of roses and her rosary beads.”

Police investigating the matter don’t have a suspect, but believe kids may be responsible since there have been other reports of random vandalism in the area.

Fraga has a different theory: The head hacking was a hate crime against her.

“That’s up in my yard. That’s not near the corner. That’s right on my yard,” Fraga told NBC2.com

Fraga’s friend, Roger Cygan of Somers, is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, according to Associated Press.

As hard as it’s been for Fraga, she has yet to move the Virgin Mary statue or the gnome.

“I think after I get over the initial shock, I’m going to take the whole thing down,” Fraga told NECN.com.

Regardless of whether there are any arrests, Fraga believes the culprit will have to answer to a higher authority.

“Whoever did it, God knows and you know,” she told the station. “It’s riding on your shoulder now.”

 

Church

Christians Monastery Vandalised Near Jerusalem

Haaretz reports on an anti-Christian attack on a Christians Monastery near Jerusalem:

Statement by top clerics, including Jerusalem’s Latin Patriarch, urges authorities to apprehend those responsible; Netanyahu: Israel will punish perpetrators severely.

The Catholic Church condemned the so-called “price-tag” attackagainst an Christians monastery on Tuesday, with high-ranking church offices denouncing the “teaching of contempt” against Christians prevalent in Israeli society.

Earlier Tuesday, the door of a Christian monastery in Latrun, the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Sept-Douleurs, near Jerusalem, was set on fire on morning and anti-Christian slogans were found spray-painted on the monastery’s walls.

The arson and graffiti are suspected to be a “price tag” attack, following the recent evacuation of Migron, a settlement outpost in the West Bank.

Monks residing at the monastery noticed the burning door on Tuesday morning, and called police after extinguishing the flames. Graffiti sprayed on the monastery walls included the words “Migron,” and “Jesus is a monkey.”

In a statement released later in the day and signed, among others, by the Latin Patriarch for Jerusalem Fouad Twal and Gerogio Lingua, Apostolic Nuncio for Jordan, and former Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the Catholic Church severely condemned the attack, saying it was the results of an Israeli tendency to scapegoat Christians.

“The Christian community awoke this morning… to discover with horror that once again it is the target of forces of hatred within Israeli society,” the missive said, adding “what happened in Latrun is only another in a long series of attacks against Christians and their places of worship.”

Further on, the statement asked: “What is going on in Israeli society today that permits Christians to be scapegoat and targeted by these acts of violence?,” questioning why the unknown assialtants chose to ” vent” their anger over the dismantling of West Bank outposts “against Christians and Christian places of worship?”

“What kind of ‘teaching of contempt’ for Christians is being communicated in their schools and in their homes? And why are the culprits not found and brought to justice?” the statement asked, urging Israeli “authorities to act to put an end to this senseless violence and to ensure a ‘teaching of respect’ in schools for all those who call this land home.”

The Church’s condemnation was followed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s denouncement of the act, saying in a statement earlier in the day that that attack was “a criminal act” and that “those responsible for it must be severely punished.”

Church

Historic Catholic Church Vandalised; 231-year-old Artefact Damaged

Santa Cruz – A vandal or vandals caused widespread damage at Holy Cross Church early Sunday in what police are investigating as a possible hate crime.

The damaged items included a baptismal font brought to Mission Santa Cruz by Junipero Serra in the late 1700s, a church spokesman said.

A custodian discovered the destruction to the main church and other areas on the property about 6:50 a.m., police spokesman Zach Friend said. Police believe the damage was done about 4 a.m., he said.

It included windows shattered by rocks and paint sprayed and poured on doors, walls, statues, a fountain area and sidewalks, Friend said. Some anti-church slogans and symbols were painted, he said.

Targets included the main church, the museum, the adjacent Siena House (a home serving pregnant women), and a garden area beside the historic chapel, said Warren Hoy, spokesman for the Diocese of Monterey.

The vandal or vandals went so far as to climb on the roof so they could spray paint on the church’s bell tower, Hoy said.

Paint was a poured on statues of Junipero Serra and the blessed Virgin Mary, he said.

Those statues and the original baptismal font were in a garden area adjacent to the chapel and Mission Galeria gift shop, he said.

“They got a little bit of everything,” Hoy said. “They were so thorough, that is why I keep saying ‘they.’ They took some time to do all this.”

Stained glass windows ringing the main church building, which was rebuilt after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, were largely spared, Hoy said. But some of the Plexiglas on the outside of those windows was damaged.

It’s unclear what the repair will cost, or whether the historic font could be repaired, he said.

“The sad thing is a lot of stuff they damaged were cultural artifacts, so they were not just attacking the church,” he said. “It’s the history of it.”

Holy Cross has suffered vandalism before, some of it specifically aimed at the history of the Mission era.

“Holy Cross is something of a lightening rod,” Hoy said. “It is the obvious famous church in Santa Cruz, so if you want to do something to the Church, with a capital C, you attack the Catholic Church, and when you do, you attack Holy Cross.

“And it’s readily accessible, it’s a church, it’s not walled off.”

Hoy added that while they are working with the police to find who damaged the property, they are praying for them too.

“They are obviously in a lot of pain and with any luck they will repent and turn themselves in,” he said.

The church is alarmed, but the vandalism outside did not prompt an alarm, Hoy said.

They might need to consider motion lights, he said.

Friend said the suspect damaged a video camera on the church property also, and that investigators are working to determine if any video was captured before the damage was done.

Police are looking into the possibility of this being a hate crime, he said.

Police ask anyone with information to call the anonymous tip line at 420-5995 or leave a tip at www.santacruzpolice.com or on its cellphone application at http://m.santacruzpolice.com.

Source with more photos.

Sick. Evil.

 

Church

Dawkins and US Atheists Prove it’s Not About Reason, it’s About Hate

Writes Deacon Nick:

Last Saturday’s gathering of 8,000 – 10,000 US atheists and agnostics in Washington for the Reason Rally was billed as seeking to ‘unify, energize, and embolden secular people nationwide, while dispelling the negative opinions held by so much of American society’.

It was also billed “the largest gathering of the secular movement in world history’, but only managed about the same low numbers as 2010 Protest the Pope demonstration, around 8,000.

The Reason Rally was supposed to be a “positive experience” to celebrate “secular values” and motivate atheists to “become more active”, but it soon degenerated into the New Atheists’ usual hate fueled ridicule of religion, particularly Catholicism.

Tim Minchin, originator the vile anti-Catholic Pope Song, thrilled the crowd with his refrain ‘F— the motherf—-, f— the mother—- pope’.

Bill Maher did his usual sneering comedy routine,  playing up to the atheists sense of teenage superiority, “When it comes to religion, we’re not two sides of the same coin and you don’t get to put your unreason on the same shelf as my reason. Your stuff has to go over there on the shelf with Zeus and Thor and the Kracken.’

Richard Dawkins chose the Eucharist as the focus of his attack on Faith, calling on atheists and agnostics to “ridicule and show contempt” for the Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation:

“Do you really believe that when a priest blesses a wafer, it turns into the body of Christ? Are you seriously telling me you believe that?  Are you seriously saying that wine turns into blood?”

“Mock them, ridicule them in public, don’t fall for the convention that we’re far to polite to talk about religion. Religion is not off the table. Religion is not off limits. Religion makes specific claims about the universe, which need to be substantiated.  They should be challenged and ridiculed with contempt.”

Charlie Spiering of Crisis Magazine concludes:

‘The speakers that drew the loudest applause were not the people who praised reason, but persecuted faith. Unchallenged and in like-minded company, the cultural and political leaders of the atheist movement freely mocked and dismissed people of faith.  The brash superiority preached by atheists such as Dawkins shows that they are not content with a right to “unreligious freedom,” but seek suppression of religious expression.

If people of faith allow themselves to be bullied into silence, we can expect this sentiment to grow in our society. The existence of such a society requires submission from people of faith.’

Protect the Pope comment: Tim Minchin mouthing mindless obscenities to rapturous applause shows the extent to which these new atheists have abandoned reason.

And this is the company that  Richard Dawkins, emeritus professor of Oxford, now chooses to keep. He has become such a diminished and shrill figure that he invites sympathy but for the fact that his hatred of faith, and the Catholic Church in particular, is destroying other people’s lives with bitterness and anger and the denial of God.

 

Church

Rev’d Stephen Sizer and his ‘Disgraceful’ Anti-Semitism

Writes Archbishop Cranmer:

From Anglican Friends of Israel:

Last weekend I debated a Christian critic of Israel. I challenged his assertion that the State of Israel ‘invites’ anti-semitism by its actions. Such thinking is very dangerous, I replied. It could provide an excuse for race hatred. He did not respond.

Our discussion sprang from a statement issued on 13 March 2012 by the much-respected Council for Christians and Jews in which they took one of Israel’s fiercest Anglican critics, Rev Stephen Sizer, to task publicly. CCJ’s Chairman, the Bishop of Manchester, called Sizer’s retaining of a link on his Facebook page to an article on an anti-semitic website for over two months, ‘disgraceful’ and conduct ‘unbecoming for a clergyman’.

The Middle East conflict arouses strong feelings on both sides: but whatever led a clergyman to overlook the hateful nature of ‘The Ugly Truth’ website having allegedly been warned twice about it? Is this an isolated incident, or just the tip of a larger iceberg?

Stephen Sizer is only one of a number of Evangelical Christians whose opposition to Israel and Zionism has arguably strayed beyond the limits of legitimate debate. Many follow the ‘Palestinian narrative’ of the ‘Naqba’ (catastrophe) of Israel’s foundation in 1948, and the Palestinian misery occasioned by Israeli oppression and injustice.

As a God of love and justice – not to mention the story of David and Goliath – are part of the Christian theological furniture, it isn’t surprising that this simple paradigm of weak vs strong and good vs evil strikes a chord with Christians. But it provides an inaccurate and perilous framework for understanding a complex conflict. It was developed by veteran terrorist Yassir Arafat – which ought to alert anyone not to take it at face value.

Christian anti-Zionists rely on two theological strands to bolster the Palestinian narrative, the first being Liberation Theology. They insist that standing against Israeli injustice and oppression becomes a Christian duty in response to The Lord’s Prayer “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.

The trouble is, the Middle East today is not the Latin American of the 1960’s. Israel is not a dictatorship but a vibrant democracy and contrary to the official narrative, Palestinians are not helpless peasants stripped of all power over their lives. Of course Israel gets things wrong; but to present her actions – actually her existence – as the sole cause of Palestinian misery is absurd.

Christian anti-Zionists all but ignore the appalling security dilemmas Israel faces. Israel’s efforts to prevent or defend itself from terrorism are labelled ‘humiliation’ of Palestinians or a ‘disproportionate response’. When Palestinian children are killed or injured in clashes, Israel alone is blamed. Christian anti-Zionists rarely criticize Palestinian leaders for feeding their children a daily diet of hatred in schools and the media; nor do they hold them responsible for aiming rockets at Israeli children from behind their own human shields, or parading their dead and injured children for cameras in order to whip up hatred of the Jewish State.

The second strand in anti-Zionist thinking within the Church is Replacement Theology…

And so we come to Toulouse. Muhammed Merar had already killed 3 soldiers when he sought out Jewish children at their school, and murdered three of them. He explained to a horrified world that he was taking revenge on behalf of Palestinian children. Hateful ideas became flesh as Merar translated a distorted narrative into action…

Read the whole post here.

Christian anti-Zionists sadly plague the blogosphere too, with their pure hatred. Sometimes veiled, hatred and hurtful it remains. And how unbecoming those who claim to be following an itinerant first century Jewish Rabbi.