Posted by Kendall Harmon

Islamist suicide bombers have killed an estimated 60 people in a crowded market in Nigeria. The attack comes just days after the Islamist group Al Shabab hijacked a bus in Kenya and murdered 28 non-Muslim passengers.

Could Africa go down the path of Iraq and Syria? Dr Leah Farrall, research associate at the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney and a former terrorism analyst for the Australian Federal Police, explains.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfrica* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted November 26, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

His views on the Middle East have often put him at odds with the Church. In his 20s, he abandoned a career as a doctor to become a vicar, eventually heading up the Church of England's International Centre for Reconciliation (ICR) where his work took him to the Middle East.

He backed the 2003 invasion in Iraq and afterwards restored St George's, the only Anglican church in the country. He has endured kidnappings, bombings and the recent onslaught of Islamic State, which forced him to leave in the face of grave threats to his life. Now, he is pushing for more war, saying the countries that invaded Iraq must go back in force to stop IS.

When he moves outside his church, White was protected by up to 35 Iraqi guards. But when he meets The Huffington Post UK, he is sitting without protection in a leather arm chair, at his home in Liphook, Hampshire. By White's own estimation, he has spent 70 to 80 days of the year at most in the UK since he went to the Middle East.

A family friend of White's told me he seems to know everyone wherever he is, to which White replies: "The only place I've ever been where I don't know everybody is here." The walls of this room are covered in crucifixes he collects, maps of Iraq and Baghdad and a letter from former US President George W. Bush thanking him for his work there.

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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsIraq WarTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted November 25, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Suspected Boko Haram militants attacked a Nigerian border town in the restive northeast on Monday, setting fire to houses and killing an unknown number of people, witnesses and government sources said.

Hours after the raid started on Damasak, gunmen still roamed the area, with many locals seeking to flee into neighbouring Niger, just to the north of the town.

It was the third major attack over the last week in Nigeria's Borno State, which have already seen close to 100 people die, including more than 25 people, mostly fishermen, shot dead in a remote community over the weekend.

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Posted November 25, 2014 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

PROFESSOR MIA BLOOM (Center for Terrorism and Security Studies, University of Massachusetts at Lowell): They really don’t have the ballast to be able to say, “No, I don’t think that’s what the Sura al-Tawba says.” They don’t really have the knowledge-base to be able to fend off that kind of manipulation of the religion that these groups are doing to convince them that this is the way that they can be the best Muslims they can be.

LOTHIAN: But some of the foreign recruits join the fight in Syria and Iraq with their eyes wide open. True believers in radical Islam. Professor Asani says they’re also lured by money, housing, wives, and a sense of belonging.

ASANI: You come and fight with us, and your visions, your ideas—you’re going to be valued. You’re going to be at the center of power.

LOTHIAN: And it’s not just young men. Three teenage girls from Denver, Colorado were detained in Germany after apparently trying to join Islamic militants in Syria. It’s reported dozens of French girls have also run away from home to sign up with ISIS.

Mia Bloom, professor of security studies at the University of Massachussetts, Lowell, has been investigating the recruiting of Western girls.

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Posted November 24, 2014 at 5:42 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[Canon Andrew] White has the optimism of the truly religious but he found this news devastating.“You can’t stop yourself despairing. You can only despair in that situation.”

In parts of the Middle East, Christianity is in danger of extinction. In 1991 there were 1.5m Christians in Iraq. Today there may be as few as 300,000. In Syria and Egypt, in places where there have been churches for almost two millennia, Christians are being persecuted and killed and their places of worship destroyed.

A report by the Pew Research Centre think tank in Washington found Christianity to be the world’s most oppressed religious group. What remains of the Iraqi Christian community has now lost one of its leaders. White, known as “the Vicar of Baghdad”, was recalled last month from St George’s Church by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, because of the danger posed by the terrorist group Isis.

Could the conflict spell the end of centuries of Christian life in Iraq? “If you’d asked me four months ago I would have said no,” says White. “But in the past four months I say yes. What is a Christian life there now? The Bishop of Mosul said recently that for the first time in 2,000 years there was no church in Nineveh [an ancient city that is now part of Mosul]. That’s the reality.”

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Posted November 23, 2014 at 12:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Christian and Muslim leaders fear more violence in the coastal city of Mombasa after the government indefinitely closed four mosques over suspected terror activities.

On Friday (Nov. 21), religious and political leaders united to urge the government to reopen the mosques. Muslim leaders accused the government of insensitivity, while Christian leaders feared being targeted in revenge attacks.

“We have always advised the government against adopting these counterproductive and draconian measures. It is unfortunate they ignored the Muslim leaders,” said Sheikh Abdulghafur El-Busaidy, the chairman of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims.

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Posted November 22, 2014 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Austria’s Muslim community is incensed over the government’s plans to amend the country’s century-old law on Islam.

The new bill, championed by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration Sebastian Kurz, forbids foreign funding of mosque construction or of imams working in the country and requires a unified German-language translation of the Quran.
The government argues the legislation, which Parliament will vote on this month, will help combat Islamic radicalism. Muslim groups and civic activists say it flouts the principle of equality.

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Posted November 20, 2014 at 11:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“I’m Nur. I’m 19. I’m an Arab, I’m a Muslim,” says a young man in a hoodie and grey sweats. “I’m a good person living in a bad area,” he pauses and looks up from his script. “Can someone listen while I speak?” Nur asks.

This is a rehearsal for Conflict of Silence, a radio play to be performed — and recorded — in Birmingham on November 17. The three stars, all unemployed, are different ages and of different ethnic backgrounds. What they share is religious faith: Derek, who reads his script straight, then in West Indian patois, is Christian. Nur and Hanna, a tall, leggy girl in a magenta hijab, are Muslim. And they could not be more different. “What I’ve learnt is the strong effect that different cultures have on Islam,” says Derek. Hanna is of Somali origin, Nur’s family are from Yemen. “We had a bit of a disagreement about women staying at home,” says Hanna lightly.

And that is the point. This is a project for InterFaith Week (which runs from tomorrow until next Satuday), and the aim is to air differences and have open debate. The audience will be invited to respond afterwards, ask questions, share thoughts. “The play is a question mark rather than a full stop,” says Steve, the Christian co-ordinating the play for Soul City Arts. The hope is to spark dialogue between polarised faith communities. He explains: “Our [faith] communities aren’t talking because we are afraid to challenge each other.” People remain polite, he adds, but, often in Muslim majority areas, community relations are perceived “as a question of them and us”.

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Posted November 20, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

SPIEGEL: Delivery is one thing. Why is Islamic State's message finding so much traction with young people?

Soufan: There are different motives that drive people to join this kind of organization. Most of today's IS followers were kids when 9/11 happened. You're dealing with a new generation that has a totally different view of global jihad. To them, al-Qaida is an assembly of old guys. I mean, look at Osama bin Laden's successor Ayman al-Zawahiri. He has no charisma. But IS now is new and modern, they succeeded in being the new guys -- at least relatively speaking. Nevertheless, Osama bin Laden is still their hero. His photo can be found on the websites of numerous IS followers. The ideology is the same, the strategy is different.

SPIEGEL: Are there any means for putting a stop to Islamic State's success?

Soufan: Our problem is that after 9/11 we never had a strategy that included fighting ideology, to counter their narrative. We had tactics designed to keep us safe, to disrupt their plans, to arrest and kill leaders, even to kill bin Laden. But there was no plan to counter their narratives. In 2004, bin Laden had around 400 fighters under oath. IS today has thousands fighters and followers in countries all over the world. This is an unfortunate failure.

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Posted November 20, 2014 at 6:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Canon Andrew White is one of the bravest people I know. For nine years this former Middle East envoy for the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has played a key role in freeing hostages in the region, has been the vicar of St George’s church in Baghdad.

As such, he has been the emblem and body-armoured defender of Iraq’s Christian community, which has been under murderous assault in the wars that have engulfed Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

A few days ago, at a conference I chaired in Jerusalem, Canon White told me that the Archbishop of Canterbury has now forbidden him to return to his church in its heavily barricaded compound. Given the advance towards Baghdad of Islamic State (Isis) — which has now murdered a fifth hostage, the American Peter Kassig — it is simply too dangerous even for him.

More than 1,200 members of his congregation and several of his staff have been murdered in the past few years. His flock has dwindled from 6,500 to 1,000 today, including the six remaining Jews in Iraq, who have lived under his personal protection.

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Posted November 17, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Setting aside the fact that Jesus had “connections” with prostitutes, tax collectors, religious zealots and one or two occupying Romans; and that British prime ministers and foreign secretaries have routinely made “connections” with a few murderous autocrats and “extremist groups” in their time; and that the Supreme Governor of the Church of England herself has shaken hands with Martin McGuinness, dined with dictators and bestowed honours upon nihilist thugs like Nicolae Ceausescu and Robert Mugabe inter alia, it is clear that if we are to coexist with Muslims at home and understand the religious inspiration of extremism at home and abroad, we must apprehend and challenge extremist ideology from within. It is not for the Church of England to define the tenets of ‘moderate’ Islam: it is for Muslim scholars to formulate their own 95 Theses and pin them to the principal gateway to Mecca.

Fuad Nahdi is an academic ally in this process of reformation: his mould-breaking Radical Middle Way (RMW) does indeed have “a long history of working with activists and groups tied to the Muslim Brotherhood” (which is, as Westrop observes, “at heart, a terrorist organization”) because “working with” includes notions of historical correction, religious enlightenment and diplomatic struggle. Was Senator George Mitchell “working with” the IRA in the late 1990s? Was the IRA not “at heart, a terrorist organization”? Was this “working with” not morally justifiable in pursuit of the Good Friday Agreement that led to lasting peace?

The problem with a phrase like “working with” in the context of terrorism is that it denotes complicity and conveys a sense of collaboration. That was plainly Westrop’s intention here: to tarnish Fuad Nahdi by association, trawling the internet to bolster a prejudice. Of course, you can list organisations like the Federation of Student Islamic Societies and the Young Muslim Organization – groups “heavily influenced by the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group… which is committed to establishing Islamic rule under sharia law”. But Fuad Nahdi has also been working with Toby Howarth, recently appointed Bishop of Bradford.

How troubling is that?

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted November 17, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Nigerian army says it has recaptured the north-eastern town of Chibok, which was seized by Boko Haram militants on Thursday.

Boko Haram fighters kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from the village in April, sparking global outrage.

The group, which says it is fighting to create an Islamic state in Nigeria, has repeatedly targeted villages in Borno state in recent months.

There are reports of many Boko Haram members being killed in Sunday's raid.

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Posted November 16, 2014 at 4:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

How were the teens radicalized? Multiple signs seem to point to social media.

In addition to following online jihadists from around the world, the teens followed the Twitter account "Jihadi News," which is the same account followed by Martin Rouleau. Rouleau, 25, drove his car into two Canadian soldiers in Quebec last month, killing one, and then committed suicide. They also followed the account "Women of Islam," which encourages women to make sacrifices for the sake of jihad, and they followed an account under the name "Sara," where YouTube jihadi lectures would be constantly tweeted.

"The process they underwent-- from use of social media, radicalization, recruitment online, even through the actual travel route to join the Islamic State -- all follow the exact same pattern shared by several hundred Westerners," wrote Katz, who has called the girls' attempted trip a "case study."

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingReligion & CultureTeens / YouthViolence* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted November 16, 2014 at 5:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Today, though, the Middle East and parts of Asia and Africa are undergoing a seismic shift in precisely the opposite direction. People are de-secularising. They feel betrayed by secular nationalist governments that failed to deliver prosperity and national pride. They consider the national boundaries imposed by colonial powers to be artificial and obsolete. They are uninspired by the secular culture of the West with its maximum of choice and minimum of meaning. And they have come to believe that salvation lies in a return to the Islam that that bestrode the narrow world like a colossus for the better part of a thousand years.

And though their faith is hostile to modernity, they sometimes understand modernity better than its own creators in the West. They know that because of the Internet, YouTube and the social media, communication, indeed politics itself, has gone global, and they also know that the great monotheisms are the most powerful global communities in the world, far broader and deeper in their reach than any nation state. And the religious radicals are offering young people the chance to fight and die for their faith, winning glory on earth and immortality in heaven. They have started recruiting in the West and they have only just begun.

But when ancient theologies are used for modern political ends, they speak a very dangerous language indeed. So for example, Hamas and Hizbollah, both self-defined as religious movements, refuse to recognise the legitimacy of the state of Israel within any boundaries whatsoever and seek only its complete destruction.

The Islamists also know that the only way they can win the sympathy of the West is by demonising Israel.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAfricaEngland / UKMiddle EastIsrael* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamSecularism* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted November 16, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

HODA ELSHISHTAWY (Muslim Public Affairs Council): Our biggest problem as Muslims and what we’re facing right now is extremism. We need to nip it in the bud. And that is through creating these healthy communities--and not just here in America but all around the world, so that Muslims can talk about these issues in an open environment and really take back our faith.

[KIM] LAWTON: But it’s been a controversial prospect. Some Muslims fear new projects to combat extremism will imply that the problem is bigger than it really is. And other Muslim voices are pushing for even more internal critique.

ZUHDI JASSER (American Islamic Forum for Democracy): The pathway to get there does involve airing dirty laundry, does involve open public acknowledgement that we have core interpretations, not the scripture, but interpretations of the scripture, that need to be modernized and are used by radicals.

LAWTON: Earlier this year, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, MPAC, released its Safe Spaces Initiative, which the group describes as a toolkit to help mosques and local community centers combat violent extremism. MPAC national policy analyst Hoda Elshishtawy says they recommend a multistep process which starts with holistic projects to help prevent extremism from ever taking hold.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted November 16, 2014 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Parishes* Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, Worship* General InterestPhotos/Photography* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted November 15, 2014 at 9:26 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Dear Brother and Sister Anglicans:

It is a beautiful building, isn’t it? Those white spires reaching into a perfect blue sky! Today, November 14, 2014, that building, the Episcopal Diocese of Washington’s National Cathedral, will for the first time offer Muslim Friday Prayers (Jumu’ah) within the sanctuary.

The prayers, which the Cathedral will proudly webcast live from their website, will be co-sponsored by the leaders of such Muslim organizations as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS), and Masjid Mohammed (The Nation’s Mosque), as well as South African Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool and the Cathedral’s Director of Liturgy, the Rev. Canon Gina Campbell. CAIR, ISNA, MPAC, and ADAMS are all affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood (the Ikhwan).

I took the photo of the National Cathedral in 2006 while I was with hundreds of Iranian Americans — both Christian and Muslim — protesting the Cathedral’s invitation to former Iranian president Mohammed Khatami to speak there. Family members of those who languished and/or died in Iranian prisons held posters with their loved ones’ pictures. Other signs showed women being stoned — during the years of Khatami’s presidency or tenure as Minister of Culture.

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Parishes* Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, WorshipParish MinistrySpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyChristology

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Posted November 15, 2014 at 9:16 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In welcoming comments, The Rev. Canon Gina Gilland Campbell of the National Cathedral noted she has learned the patterns and practices of prayer from Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs and others. Stating that “Openness to those whose prayer differs from our own is one thing” but that preparedness to exercise hospitality is another, Campbell announced that “deep relationships come out of shared prayer.”

No statement was offered noting the use of the Cathedral sanctuary for non-Christian worship, despite the space being consecrated to the worship of Christ. The sanctuary of the National Cathedral has also been used for Tibetan sand painting by monks and for a Native American smudging ceremony, in which a gift of smoking tobacco leaves was offered to welcome spirits from the four cardinal directions.

In his sermon, Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool of South Africa noted appreciation to the church for making the facility available, but explained the group chose not to have prayers in the “main church” (the nave) “lest subsequent generations of Muslims see that as a license to appropriate the church for Islam”

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)* Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, WorshipParish Ministry* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyChristology

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Posted November 15, 2014 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

While not the United States' official church, owing to a constitutional ban on such a delineation, the episcopal National Cathedral is nevertheless deeply symbolic, designated by Congress as America's "National House of Prayer." It is the final resting place of American icons such as Hellen Keller and Woodrow Wilson, and has hosted the presidential inaugural prayer services for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, both Bushes and President Barack Obama. Islam is the third-largest religion in the United States, behind Christianity and Judaism, and with an estimated 2.6 million adherents, constitutes approximately 0.8% of the country's population.

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)* Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, WorshipParish MinistrySpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* Theology

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Posted November 15, 2014 at 8:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

After a talk I gave in London a woman in the audience approached me: middle-aged, tall, and wearing a designer dress. Although she agreed with me on various issues she could not understand why I was critical of military takeovers. “In the Middle East a coup d’état is the only way forward,” she said. “If it weren’t for [Egypt’s president] General Sisi, modern women like me, like yourself, would end up in a burka. He’s there to protect the likes of us.”

As I listened to her, I recalled scenes from my childhood in Turkey. I remembered my mother saying that we should be grateful to General Kenan Evren, who led the coup d’état in 1980, for protecting women’s rights. After the military seized power, a number of pro-women steps were taken, including the legalisation of abortion. Yet the coup would eventually bring about massive human rights violations and systematic torture in police headquarters and prisons, particularly against the Kurds, maiming Turkey’s civil society and democracy for decades to come.

Female adulation of male autocrats is widespread throughout the Middle East. I have met Syrian women who have tried to convince me that Bashar al-Assad is the best option for modern women. The Syrian regime seems aware of this rhetoric, recruiting hundreds of so-called Lionesses for National Defense , who are said to be fighting against Islamic fundamentalism and defending women’s freedom.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchPsychologyReligion & CultureWomen* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted November 14, 2014 at 4:06 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

While international observers fixate on the Sunni-Shia rivalry’s role in shaping geopolitics in the Islamic world, deep fissures within the Sunni arc that stretches from the Maghreb-Sahel region of North Africa to the Afghanistan-Pakistan belt are increasingly apparent. Moreover, it is Sunni communities that produce the transnational jihadists who have become a potent threat to secular, democratic states near and far. What is driving this fragmentation and radicalization within the ranks of Sunni Islam, and how can it be managed?

The importance of addressing that question cannot be overstated. The largest acts of international terror, including the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, DC, and the 2008 Mumbai attack, were carried out by brutal transnational Sunni organizations (Al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba, respectively).

The Sunni militant group Boko Haram, known internationally for abducting 276 schoolgirls in April and forcing them to marry its members, has been wreaking havoc in Nigeria for years. And the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State, whose dramatic rise has entailed untold horrors to Iraq and Syria, are seeking to establish a caliphate, by whatever means necessary.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted November 14, 2014 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

To say, as Jerome Starkey does, (The Times 11 Nov) that insurgency in the North of Nigeria is fueled more by poverty than by Islamic extremism, is to undermine the truth with the same old story we hear again and again from those unwilling to face the connected and organized global jihadist network we face today.

Poverty does not explain the death by suicide bomb of 40 school children- Muslim children- in Potiksum yesterday. It does not explain the abduction, forced conversion, and forced marriage of some 200 girls in Chibok. To say that this is the result of poverty and corruption is to play down the evil of Boko Haram, and their form of Islam- an Islam we do not know from the Quran, or from the Muslims of my generation. Remember that often- as yesterday- those Muslims who do not share their extremist ideology are often their victims too. Boko Haram and their kind delight in massacres, slaughters, rape and murders- this is not the face of poverty, but the face of radical Islamist jihad.

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of Nigeria* Culture-WatchPovertyReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted November 14, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

At least 47 students have been killed by a suicide bomber at a school assembly in the north-eastern Nigerian town of Potiskum, police have said.

The explosion at a boys' science and technical school in the town is believed to have been caused by a suicide bomber dressed as a student.

Militant group Boko Haram is believed to be behind the blast, police said.

The group has targeted schools during a deadly five-year insurgency campaign to establish an Islamic state.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenEducationReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted November 10, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Even as the Nigerian military stepped up efforts at beating back the extremist Boko Haram sect from the areas it currently occupies, including the commercial border town of Mubi in Adamawa state, the militants are intensifying attacks on remote communities and villages, residents have told PREMIUM TIMES.

Also, there are reports that three retired Generals of the Nigerian Army narrowly escaped death when Boko Haram insurgents stormed their village asking for their whereabouts.

The insurgents did not succeed in their mission as they (the army Generals) were reportedly not around when the Boko Haram terrorists struck their village of Gashala in Hong Local Government, few kilometers away from Mubi town.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted November 8, 2014 at 4:31 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Myanmar government has given the estimated one million Rohingya people in this coastal region of the country a dispiriting choice: Prove your family has lived here for more than 60 years and qualify for second-class citizenship, or be placed in camps and face deportation.

The policy, accompanied by a wave of decrees and legislation, has made life for the Rohingya, a long-persecuted Muslim minority, ever more desperate, spurring the biggest flow of Rohingya refugees since a major exodus two years ago.

In the last three weeks alone, 14,500 Rohingya have sailed from the beaches of Rakhine State to Thailand, with the ultimate goal of reaching Malaysia, according to the Arakan Project, a group that monitors Rohingya refugees.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAsiaMyanmar/Burma* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted November 7, 2014 at 11:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As illustrated, there are a number of substantial factors that impede a wider Sunni armed pushback against the Islamic State within Iraq, but this does not mean no local gains or progress is possible in the campaign against the group. After US airstrikes began targeting Islamic State positions in northern Iraq in early August, it was apparent that the concentration of air power in support of effective ground forces could be successful in forcing the group to withdraw from territory. This was apparent in Iraq most recently with the breaking of the Islamic State's siege of Amerli by Shia militias and the group's loss of the Rabia border crossing in Ninawa province to the Peshmerga (Kurdish security forces).

However, neither the Peshmerga nor Shia militias have either the means or legitimacy to assert authority over the substantial swaths of predominantly Sunni territory that the Islamic State currently controls in conjunction with local Sunni insurgents. What is required for external airstrikes to be effective in these areas is a Sunni force with local legitimacy to be able to restore the presence and authority of the government. However, with a current severe disconnect between the government and the Sunni population of western and northern Iraq, what is required is deep internal change from within on the part of the government, in addition to a sea change in attitude among Sunni insurgents and their local supporters; whether such change is possible in the foreseeable future is in doubt.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted November 7, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The [Religious Freedom in the World] Report [2014] concludes that in order to begin to establish any form of consensus, responsibility for combatting violence and persecution rests, first and foremost, within religious communities themselves. The necessity for all religious leaders to loudly proclaim their opposition to religiously-inspired violence, and to re-affirm their support for religious tolerance, is becoming ever more urgent.

Although not explicitly phrased, this would appear to be directed toward Muslim leaders who too often have been unwilling or slow to condemn acts of violence carried out in the name of Islam. The Report has identified places where positive inter-religious bridges are being built at a local level, but these are few and far between.

There is certainly a need for this to happen in the UK, too, if the current national tensions surrounding the Islamic faith are to improve. And this an issue that our politicians must do more to address. The Report states that there is a pressing “need for the West to develop a fuller and more sophisticated understanding of religious motivation. The religious illiteracy of Western policy makers is creating a formidable barrier of understanding between the West and other parts of the world”. This is “hampering productive dialogue and effective policy making”.

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Posted November 6, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Muslim leaders have a duty to warn their own followers about the “indescribable tragedy” of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and around the world, the Prince of Wales has insisted.

He said that faith leaders must ensure their followers respect believers in other faiths “rather than remaining silent”.

His comments came in a special message recorded for the publication of a new report which concludes that Christians are the “most persecuted religious minority” in the world and that Muslim countries dominate the list of places where religious freedom is most under threat.

While emphasising the importance of his own personal Christian faith, he also signalled that he saw his role as to “defend” followers of other faiths including Islam.

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Posted November 4, 2014 at 3:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mass killings by Islamic State militants have seen 322 members of an Iraqi Sunni tribe killed in western Anbar province, Iraq's government says.

The country's ministry of human rights said more than 50 bodies were found in a water well, whilst 65 members of the Al-Bu Nimr tribe have been kidnapped.

The group's latest attack came on Sunday morning when militants shot and killed at least 50 of the tribe.

IS militants - also Sunnis - control large areas of Iraq and Syria.

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Posted November 2, 2014 at 5:56 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Boko Haram has claimed that the 219 schoolgirls it kidnapped more than six months ago have converted to Islam and been "married off", shocking their families and confirming their suspicions about a supposed ceasefire and deal for their release.

The Islamist group's leader, Abubakar Shekau, made the claim in a new video obtained by AFP on Friday in which he also denied government assertions of an agreement to end hostilities and peace talks.

The mention of the girls, who were abducted from the remote northeastern town of Chibok on April 14, is the first by Shekau since May 5, when about 100 of the teenagers were shown on camera.

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Posted November 1, 2014 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

‘Muslim communities in the West,” wrote Graham Fuller and Ian Lesser in 1995 (“The Geopolitics of Islam and the West”), “are more likely to exert influence on their countries and cultures of origin rather than receive influences from them; over time they may have a substantive effect on the perceptions of secularization and minority rights in the Middle East.”

This shift—from the American Muslim community being perceived as foreign and an extension of the Middle East and South Asia to American Muslims instead influencing the East—is the direction in which Muslims are heading. Rampant authoritarianism in the Muslim world and the regression of Muslim religious establishments funded by the same autocratic governments currently make Islamic reform unlikely in the region.

American Muslims can significantly contribute to the revival of Islam and restore human dignity as a central principle of the faith. From despotic regimes to religious extremism, authoritarianism in the Middle East and South Asia has devastated modern Islamic thought over the last few centuries. American Muslims have the freedom and the intellectual capacity to create positive change for Islamic reform.

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Posted October 31, 2014 at 12:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Beginning in the 1940s, Isaac Asimov created with his Foundation series an enduring classic of science fiction. He depicted the development of inconceivably vast galactic empires, guided by the predictive powers of a complex social and behavioral science known as Psychohistory. For millennia, the universe unfolds as it should. Then, overnight, all these plans are utterly confounded by the rise of a messianic prophet called the Mule, a mutant who brings all lesser mortals under his sway, and who conquers all rival empires. Instantly, all psychohistorical bets are off.

In this instance, as in so much else, Asimov took the Mule from the pages of Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall, and specifically the account of the Prophet Muhammad (570-632). And although Asimov was explicitly writing fantastic fiction, his account often echoes older historical writing on the rise of Islam. We read of the great Roman and Persian empires that dominated much of the known world, until very suddenly, a charismatic leader who believes he is instructed by God gathers faithful followers around himself. Ultimately, these supremely motivated legions pour out of Arabia into the civilized world, conquering most of it within a century or so. In this prophet-centered version, Muhammad is quite as radical a newcomer to the known universe as is the Mule, and his career is equally at right angles to conventional historical reality. He comes from nowhere, and the incredible rapidity of the rise of Islam seems near-miraculous.

Fortunately, the rise of Islamic empires can be explained without invoking either supernatural powers or genetic mutation, and Robert Hoyland's In God's Path offers a very convincing attempt. Hoyland's subtitle deserves careful reflection, with the distinction he draws between Arab and Islamic forces.

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Posted October 29, 2014 at 6:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

While no one would argue that the United States has more bombs, bullets and boots, the question is, “Why does the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) continue to gain territory and to recruit young people to their cause from the western world?”

The Jihadists see themselves in a struggle against evil and we are the face of their evil. We are attempting to win on the battlefield but we are losing the battle for hearts and minds.

Former Senator Birch Bayh referred to the Jihadist ideology as “empty” on Fox New Sunday (October 26th) If only. If only he was correct. We may kill their soldiers but their ideology, while evil, is robust, certain and virulent. The western world in general and the U.S. lack the courage of their convictions because they lack convictions. We have no vision and are lacking in moral authority. Do we honestly think that we could reinstate the draft to compel young men once again to fight this war?

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Posted October 29, 2014 at 7:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Basima al-Safar retouches a picture of Jesus on an easel outside her house overlooking the flat Nineveh plains, 30 miles north of Mosul.

The murals she paints tell the story of her people, Christians in Iraq. But with Islamic State militants nearby, she is worried that life in Alqosh and towns like it could soon come to an end.

The Assyrian Christian town of around 6,000 people sits on a hill below the seventh-century Rabban Hormizd Monastery, temporarily closed because of the security situation. Residents of Alqosh fled this summer ahead of Islamic State militants. Around 70 percent of the town’s residents have since returned. Still, a sense of unease hangs in the air.

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Posted October 28, 2014 at 6:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

They were among the final holdouts. Even as many of their neighbors fled the violence that engulfed Iraq after the American invasion, the three men stayed put, refusing to give up on their country or their centuries-old Christian community.

Maythim Najib, 37, stayed despite being kidnapped and stabbed 12 times in what he believed was a random attack. Radwan Shamra, 35, continued to hope he could survive the sectarian war between his Sunni and Shiite countrymen even after losing two friends shot by an unknown gunman who left their bodies sprawled in a Mosul street. And a 74-year-old too frightened to give his name said he remained despite the trauma of spending three anguished days in 2007 waiting to learn if his kidnapped 17-year-old son was dead or alive.

Now all three men from Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and its environs have fled with their families to Jordan, forced out by Islamic State fighters who left them little choice. After capturing the city in June, the Sunni militant group gave Christians a day to make up their minds: convert, pay a tax, or be killed.

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Posted October 27, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For six months the world has waited for news of the fate of more than 200 girls abducted by Nigerian militant group Boko Haram. As the Nigerian government insists a deal to release the "Chibok girls" is being negotiated, three girls who escaped their captors have told their story to BBC Hausa.

Lami, Maria and Hajara were at school in Chibok, north-eastern Nigeria, when they were kidnapped in April. Best friends Lami and Maria escaped by jumping from the back of a truck. Hajara was taken to a camp but later fled with another girl.

To protect the girls' identity we have portrayed their story as an animation, and provided an edited transcript of their account below.

The girls' names have been changed for their protection.

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Posted October 27, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Canadian authorities identified the gunman in the deadly shooting Wednesday of a soldier guarding the National War Memorial in Ottawa as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a Canadian born in 1982. Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau, who had a criminal record, recently converted to Islam, senior American law enforcement officials said. He was shot and killed in the attack.

The episode was the second deadly assault on a uniformed member of Canada’s armed forces in three days, and the latest in a growing list of attacks in the West against soldiers, and in some cases civilians, by individuals who have professed their affinity for radical Islam or sympathy to militant ideology.

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Posted October 23, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Pope Francis will travel to Turkey next month, the Vatican said on Tuesday, his first visit to the predominantly Muslim country which has become a refuge for Christians fleeing persecution by Islamic State militants in neighboring Syria and in Iraq.

During his three-day visit, the pope will meet with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. He will also meet Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Istanbul-based spiritual leader of the Orthodox churches that make up the second-largest Christian church family after Roman Catholicism.

"The Holy Father will visit Ankara and Istanbul from Nov. 28 to 30," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in a statement.

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Posted October 22, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Huntington’s sensitivity to religion-and-world-politics ought to have commended his analysis to the Vatican for thoughtful consideration and serious discussion. Instead, Huntington-the-straw-man-who-prophesied-endless-civilizational-war is dragged out whenever it’s deemed necessary for officials of the Holy See to say that “a war between Islam and ‘the rest’ is not inevitable” (true, if the civil war within Islam is resolved in favor of those Muslims who support religious tolerance and pluralism); or that Christian persecution and dislocation in the Middle East must be handled through the United Nations (ridiculous); or that the path to peace lies through dialogue, not confrontation (true, if there is a dialogue partner who is not given to beheading “the other”).

The Huntington proposal is not beyond criticism. But Huntington accurately described the Great Change that would take place in world politics after the wars of late modernity (the two 20th-century world wars and the Cold War); he accurately predicted what was likely to unfold along what he called Islam’s “bloody borders” if Islamists and jihadists went unchecked by their own fellow-Muslims; and he accurately identified the fact that religious conviction (or the lack thereof, as in Europe) would play an important role in shaping the 21st-century world. Thirteen years after 9/11, and in light of today’s headlines, is Huntington’s proposal really so implausible?

There is something very odd about a Holy See whose default positions include a ritualized deprecation of the Huntington thesis married to a will-to-believe about the U.N.’s capacity to be something more than an echo chamber.

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Posted October 19, 2014 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Asia Bibi’s death sentence was upheld by the Lahore High Court in Pakistan on Thursday. Bibi, a Roman Catholic mother of five also known as Aasiya Noreen, was sentenced to die in 2010 after she was convicted of blasphemy. Bibi’s Muslim coworkers accused her of drinking the same water as them and verbally challenging their faith.

“I met Asia in prison a month ago. She’s fine and was hoping to hear good news, but, alas, our ordeal is not over yet,” Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, told Morning Star News after yesterday’s decision.

World Watch Monitor reports that Bibi’s attorney Naeem Shakir challenged the testimony of the women who feuded with Bibi, arguing to the appellate court that their testimony had been hearsay because the complainant in the case had not heards Bibi’s words himself. The judges ignored Sharkir’s critiques, suggesting he should have raised them the trial level.

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Posted October 18, 2014 at 1:16 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

This “different spirit” is the key to Welby’s thinking, and it is not one that can be entrusted to our politicians. Whether we choose to accept religious belief or not, it does not alter the reality that religious faith and ideologies hold far more power than guns and bombs. In the first three centuries of the Church it had no armies and pitched no battles, yet it overcame the Roman Empire through love and a gospel of God’s peace. Religious leaders need to be given a place at the top table as much as military commanders. Their insights into the role of religious belief as a driving force in individuals’ lives, along with their status, hold great value and potential to change the stakes.

There is an onus, too, on all of our religious leaders to take the initiative and become more outspoken, addressing those both inside and outside of their respective religions:
Religious leaders must up their game and engage jihadism in religious, philosophical and ethical space. Religious justifications of violence must be robustly refuted. That is, in part, a theological task, as well as being a task that recognises the false stimulation, evil sense of purpose and illusory fulfilment that deceive young men and women into becoming religious warriors. As we have seen recently, many religious leaders have the necessary (and very great) moral and physical courage to see the need for an effective response to something that they have condemned. It is essential that Christians are clear about the aim of peace and the need for joint working and that Muslim leaders continue explicitly to reject extremism, violent and otherwise. Any response must bring together all those capable of responding to the challenge.
Justin Welby talks about treasuring and preserving our values, but also of reshaping them. This would appear to be contradictory, but the context suggests that he is referring to both the values that have built peace and progress and also those that we have developed that bear the hallmarks of selfishness and self-preservation.

This is the battle that Justin Welby is calling for.

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Posted October 17, 2014 at 3:56 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

This struggle is not simply a religious conflict, but a terrible mix of ethnicity, economics, social unrest, injustice between rich and poor, limited access to resources, historic hatreds, post-colonial conflict and more. It is impossible to simplify accurately. We cannot tolerate the complexities and so we seek to hang the whole confusion on the hook of religious conflict. And because even to do that on a global scale is complicated, we focus on one area, at present Iraq and Syria, while others—Sudan, Nigeria and most recently Israel and Gaza—are forgotten. Or, equally dangerously, we deny it is religious, in the illusion that religion makes it unfixable.

The clear religious and ideological aspects of the conflicts have to be tackled ideologically, including through the leadership of those who see the world in religious terms. Religious leaders must up their game and engage jihadism in religious, philosophical and ethical space. Religious justifications of violence must be robustly refuted. That is, in part, a theological task, as well as being a task that recognises the false stimulation, evil sense of purpose and illusory fulfilment that deceive young men and women into becoming religious warriors. As we have seen recently, many religious leaders have the necessary (and very great) moral and physical courage to see the need for an effective response to something that they have condemned. It is essential that Christians are clear about the aim of peace and the need for joint working and that Muslim leaders continue explicitly to reject extremism, violent and otherwise. Any response must bring together all those capable of responding to the challenge.

It is hard to exaggerate this point, and it is one that was picked up recently by Richard Dannatt, former Chief of the General Staff of the British army. We should be quite hesitant about considering this only as a war of self-defence. The justification for our use of military force rests principally in the extreme humanitarian need of the local communities.

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Posted October 16, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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Posted October 15, 2014 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In a new publication, ISIS justifies its kidnapping of women as sex slaves citing Islamic theology, an interpretation that is rejected by the Muslim world at large as a perversion of Islam.

"One should remember that enslaving the families of the kuffar -- the infidels -- and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shariah, or Islamic law," the group says in an online magazine published Sunday.

The title of the article sums up the ISIS point of view: "The revival (of) slavery before the Hour," referring to Judgment Day.

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Posted October 12, 2014 at 12:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The self-proclaimed caliphate of Islamic State, also known as ISIS, is fighting across Syria and Iraq, pushing back larger armies and capturing entire cities. It is also waging an increasingly sophisticated media campaign: The militant group has recruited disillusioned youth as it tries to extend its reach across the Muslim world and beyond. How much do you know about the Islamic State? Test your knowledge.

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Posted October 8, 2014 at 5:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

He urged the Catholic Church not to “capitulate to culture” nor to succumb to a weakening of discipline that he said had “caused havoc” within the Anglican Church. He said that he had watched the growth of the ordinariate with close interest.

“Allowing Anglican patrimony to flourish should not just be taken as an exception, but it could be a charter for the future,” he said.

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Posted October 8, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Muslim population in Australia has climbed nearly ___% percent since 2001 and numbers some ____.

Make sure to guess both the % number and the absolute number and then read it all and find the answer.

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Posted October 7, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The American official coordinating the international coalition fighting the Islamic State said on Friday that the Iraqi military would not be ready for a campaign to retake Mosul, the largest Iraqi city under insurgent control, for as much as a year.

Mosul has become a symbol of the strength of the Islamist insurgency, which has made the city its stronghold, and of the failure of the Iraqi security forces, which wilted in June as militants swept across the Syrian border and overran the city as they pushed toward Baghdad.

The broad timeline given by the official, retired Gen. John R. Allen, seemed to reflect the immense challenges facing the Iraqi military command and its international partners, including about 1,600 American troops deployed by President Obama, as they seek to rebuild the Iraqi security forces.

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Posted October 5, 2014 at 11:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The writing of this letter in itself, however, is not enough. The statement is ambiguous in crucial areas, which not only weaken its argument, but also question whether it is truly a rigorous and valid refutation of ISIS’s deeds and claims. In what follows, I will focus only on two of them: the concept of jihad and the restoration of the Muslim caliphate. While this letter claims to present the correct version of the Muslim teaching, its imprecise description of important areas makes it subject to different, and sometimes opposite, understandings, leaving the reader, especially the non-Muslim, puzzled regarding correct Islamic teaching.

First, concerning the concept of jihad, the letter reads: “The word ‘jihad’ is an Islamic term that cannot be applied to armed conflict against any other Muslim.” Okay, but what about non-Muslims? Can jihad be applied against them? The letter, though recommending jihad as a form of self-piety or a way to strive against one’s ego, does not specify against whom armed jihad should be applied. This leaves the door open for interpretation.

Moreover, it states that “All Muslims see the great virtue in jihad,” and does not explain what “the jihad against the enemy” really means. In fact, the letter applauds and praises the “intentions” of the members of ISIS, noting, “it is clear that you [Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi] and your fighters are fearless and are ready to sacrifice in your intent for jihad.” The approval sends mixed signals....

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Posted October 4, 2014 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Air strikes ordered against Islamic State (IS) terrorists in Iraq have the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Several Free Church leaders have expressed their doubts, however.

Recalled to Parliament last Friday, MPs voted in favour of Britain's third intervention in Iraq in 24 years. Since then, RAF Tornado jets have flown a number of sorties into Iraq. It was revealed on Tuesday that British planes had bombed vehicles and fighters in Iraq for the first time, aiding Kurdish forces who are battling IS in north-western Iraq.

Speaking in Friday's debate in the House of Lords, Archbishop Welby said that this was a just cause. But he warned that the world would not be able to defeat Islamist extremism by force of arms alone.

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Posted October 3, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Islamic State extremists have herded hundreds of women to be given to its fighters in Syria as a reward or sold as sex slaves and have summarily executed women in professions, according to the United Nations.

About 500 women and girls of the Yezidi and Christian minority communities were given to Islamic State fighters or trafficked for sale in markets in Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, according to a report published today by the UN mission in Iraq and the world body’s human-rights office in Geneva.

“Women and girls are brought with price tags for the buyers to choose and negotiate the sale. The buyers were said to be mostly youth from the local communities,” according to the 29-page report, which cites testimony from witnesses and surviving victims. “Apparently ISIL was ‘selling’ these Yezidi women to the youth as a means of inducing them to join their ranks.” ISIL is an acronym for Islamic State’s former name.

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Posted October 2, 2014 at 3:24 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Islamic State insurgents in Iraq have carried out mass executions, abducted women and girls as sex slaves, and used children as fighters in systematic violations that may amount to war crimes, the United Nations said on Thursday.

In a report based on 500 interviews, it also said Iraqi government air strikes on the Sunni Muslim militants had caused "significant civilian deaths" by hitting villages, a school and hospitals in violation of international law.

At least 9,347 civilians had been killed and 17,386 wounded so far through September, well over half of them since the Islamic insurgents also known as ISIL and ISIS began seizing large parts of northern Iraq in early June, the report said.

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Posted October 2, 2014 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It’s not every day that a coalition of legal minds is rooting for a violent inmate convicted of stabbing his girlfriend in the neck.

When Gregory Holt’s case arrives at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday (Oct. 7), lawyers won’t be arguing about what landed him a life sentence in an Arkansas state prison, but rather what he wanted to do once he got there: grow a beard in observance of his Muslim religious beliefs.

The state of Arkansas says he can’t. Holt — a convert to Islam who now calls himself Abdul Maalik Muhammad — says he would keep his beard no longer than half an inch. But prison officials, backed by the state’s attorney general, argue that even such a short beard poses security risks.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPrison/Prison MinistryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted October 1, 2014 at 11:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Nearly two months on since the US began air strikes against Islamic State (IS) positions in northern Iraq, there are signs that the militants are adapting to the new reality.

Witnesses and tribal sources in IS-controlled areas have told Reuters news agency of a drop in the number of militant checkpoints and fighters using mobile phones less, apparently to avoid being targeted by air raids.

Reuters also reported that militants have been seen to ditch conspicuous convoys of armoured vehicles in favour of motorcycles.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraqSyria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted October 1, 2014 at 7:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Hundreds of young women and girls are leaving their homes in western countries to join Islamic fighters in the Middle East, causing increasing concern among counter-terrorism investigators.

Girls as young as 14 or 15 are travelling mainly to Syria to marry jihadis, bear their children and join communities of fighters, with a small number taking up arms. Many are recruited via social media.

Women and girls appear to make up about 10% of those leaving Europe, North America and Australia to link up with jihadi groups, including Islamic State (Isis). France has the highest number of female jihadi recruits, with 63 in the region – about 25% of the total – and at least another 60 believed to be considering the move.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingTeens / YouthWomen* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEurope* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted September 30, 2014 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Should democratically elected leaders in more or less secular countries ever say that this or that religion is essentially good or essentially bad? The dilemma is especially acute, perhaps, if the religion that they want to speak about is one which they don't happen to practise, and presumably don't know about in any depth. But ever since September 2001, and especially over the last few weeks of intensifying conflict with Islamic State, it has been a question that Western heads of government cannot completely duck. The West is at war with an adversary which claims to be acting in the name of Islam. Does that mean that the West is, in any sense whatever, at war with Islam?

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted September 29, 2014 at 3:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Religious leaders agree the Islamic State — also known as ISIL or ISIS — must be stopped. Their struggle is how best to do it.

“As mainstream religious leaders of different faiths get together, it strengthens the voice of moderation,” said Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group.

A group of mainstream Muslim scholars sought to strip the Iraqi and Syrian militants of any legitimacy under the cover of Islam in an open letter in Arabic issued Wednesday.​​

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* Theology

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Posted September 29, 2014 at 12:46 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For more than three years, Barack Obama has been trying to avoid getting into a fight in Syria. But this week, with great tracts of the Middle East under the jihadist’s knife, he at last faced up to the inevitable. On September 23rd America led air strikes in Syria against both the warriors of Islamic State (IS) and a little-known al-Qaeda cell, called the Khorasan group, which it claimed was about to attack the West. A president who has always seen his main mission as nation-building at home is now using military force in six countries—Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

The Syrian operation is an essential counterpart to America’s attacks against IS in Iraq. Preventing the group from carving out a caliphate means, at the very least, ensuring that neither of these two countries affords it a haven (see article). But more than the future of IS is at stake in the streets of Raqqa and Mosul. Mr Obama’s attempt to deal with the jihadists is also a test of America’s commitment to global security. It is a test that he has been failing until now.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted September 28, 2014 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In a speech before the U.N. General Assembly laying out a blueprint for the global battle against the group that calls itself the Islamic State, President Obama called on the world to take a stand against religious extremism. "The ideology of ISIL or al-Qaida or Boko Haram will wilt and die if it is consistently exposed and confronted and refuted in the light of day," Obama said.

Then he singled out one organization and one man leading that charge: the new Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies and Sheik Abdullah bin Bayyah. Describing the group's purpose, the sheik said, "We must declare war on war so the outcome will be peace upon peace."

Bin Bayyah, 79, is a prominent Muslim cleric and, as a respected religious scholar, has issued edicts to explain why groups such as the so-called Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, are misguided and should reverse course.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted September 28, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

William Hague today warned of a “mushrooming” threat from Islamist terrorism as two Tornado strike aircraft carried out the RAF’s first combat mission over Iraq since Parliament backed military action.

The jets took off from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus armed with Paveway laser-guided bombs and full authority to attack ground targets in Iraq. Accompanied by one Voyager tanker aircraft, the Tornados returned safely to their base.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said they were not called upon to drop any bombs during this sortie, adding: “The intelligence gathered by the Tornados’ highly sophisticated surveillance equipment will be invaluable to the Iraqi authorities and their coalition partners.”

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted September 27, 2014 at 5:59 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Christians in the Nineveh region of northern Iraq are unable to celebrate communion for the first time in two millennia, after Islamic State militants captured the area and took over the churches.

Canon Andrew White, vicar of the only Anglican church in Iraq, told the Telegraph that Isil have set up offices in the churches and have replaced crosses with the militant group's black flag.

"Last week there was no communion in Nineveh for the first time in 2,000 years," he said. "All [the churches] are closed, all their people have run away. It is so sad."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchHistoryViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* Theology

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Posted September 27, 2014 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Colin Powell famously told President George W. Bush before the Iraq invasion, "If you break it, you own it." Well, it's safe to say we broke Iraq.

That's the story I heard last week from two people who live there. I met with the Rev. Canon Andrew White — "The Vicar of Baghdad" — who serves as the chaplain to St. George's Anglican Church in the heart of Baghdad. We were joined by Sarah Ahmed, a director at White's Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East. Ahmed was born and raised in Iraq. White has lived there for 15 years.

"I was in favor of the U.S. invasion," White told me. "But we are literally 5,000 times worse than before. If you look at it, you can see it was wrong. We have gained nothing. Literally nothing. We may have had an evil dictator, but now we have total terrorism. We used to have one Saddam. Now we have thousands."

Read it all from USA Today.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsIraq WarPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* Theology

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Posted September 27, 2014 at 8:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In an article in this week’s The Tablet, Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme, half of whose diocese in northern Adamawa state is now under the control of Boko Haram, spoke of the appalling conditions for those Catholics who remained.

“We have our members who have been killed, those who have been abducted, among whom are men and women as well as children. There are those who are forced into marrying Boko Haram members, some have no houses to lay their heads. Also many have no food to eat nor do they have clothes to wear,” he said.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted September 26, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The growing trend of former church buildings being turned into mosques and Islamic centers has reached Kentucky’s largest city where even some once-thriving Southern Baptist facilities are now occupied by Muslims.

“On a trip to England a few years ago, I recall seeing dozens of churches that had become mosques and wondering how it could happen there; now it’s happening here,” said Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

Todd Robertson, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Louisville, said the religious makeup of the Bible Belt is rapidly changing with declining membership in many Christian congregations and growing participation in Islam and other religions.

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyHousing/Real Estate Market* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesBaptistsOther FaithsIslam

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Posted September 25, 2014 at 6:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Nigerian military said a man who appeared in recent videos claiming to be the leader of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, was killed in a battle last week.

The man, identified as Mohammed Bashir, died when government troops defending the northeastern town of Konduga killed some top Boko Haram commanders in an attack on a convoy of rebel vehicles on Sept. 17, Nigeria’s Defence Headquarters said late yesterday in an e-mailed statement.

Bashir “has been acting or posing on videos as the deceased Abubakar Shekau, the eccentric character known as leader of the group,” the army said.

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Posted September 25, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Camden School for Girls, in London, which describes itself as one of the top 100 schools in the country is refusing to allow the Muslim teenager to start her A-levels unless she stops wearing the veil.

The 16-year-old, who has attended the school for the past five years, was supposed to start her sixth form studies this month. Her 18-year-old sister described the school's decision as “very upsetting” for the family and said: “My sister just wants to wear the niqab for her own reasons and attend a school. I don’t feel like her education should be compromised or the way she dresses should affect the way anyone looks at her.”

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureTeens / YouthWomen* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted September 24, 2014 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The United States and several Middle East partners pounded Islamic State targets in Syria Tuesday with waves of warplanes and Tomahawk cruise missiles in an aggressive and risky operation marking a new phase in the conflict.

A statement issued by the U.S. Central Command early Tuesday said that a “mix of fighter, bomber, remotely-piloted aircraft and Tomahawk” cruise missiles destroyed or damaged multiple Islamic State targets in several parts of Syria, where a civil war has been raging for more than three years.

The U.S. statement said “partner nations,” including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, “participated in or supported” the operation. The involvement of these regional allies are key for the legitimacy and logistics of the operation.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & CultureScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastIranIraqSyria* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted September 23, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The suffering of Iraqi Christian refugees fleeing the depredations of the Islamic State (ISIS) are beyond description, the vicar-general of the Diocese of Zanzibar reports following a visit to Kurdistan last week. The Rev Jerry Kramer writes: “Right now we’re processing all that we saw and experienced firsthand. Honestly, we don’t have the words at the moment. The suffering is so immense. The magnitude of the disaster is beyond comprehension.” Fr Kramer, who served as the rector of an Episcopal congregation in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and was one of the leaders in the grassroots campaign to rebuild the city, but currently is a missionary in Tanzania with Love for the Least ministries stated: “Christians were given 48 hours to leave their homes. “Some paid to stay or converted to Islam.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaTanzaniaMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted September 22, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Pope Francis called Sunday for Muslims and all religious leaders to condemn Islamic extremists who "pervert" religion to justify violence, as he visited Albania and held up the Balkan nation as a model for interfaith harmony for the rest of the world.

"To kill in the name of God is a grave sacrilege. To discriminate in the name of God is inhuman," Francis told representatives of Albania's Muslim, Orthodox and Catholic communities during a half-day visit to Tirana in which he recalled the brutal persecution people of all faiths suffered under communism.

Francis wept when he heard the testimony of one priest, the Rev. Ernest Troshani, 84, who for 28 years was imprisoned, tortured and sentenced to forced labor for refusing to speak out against the Catholic Church as his captors wanted.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryEuropeAlbania* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Francis Other FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted September 22, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The United States has made the same mistake in evaluating fighters from the Islamic State that it did in Vietnam — underestimating the enemy’s will, according to James Clapper, the director of national intelligence.

Clapper’s comments came in a telephone interview Wednesday, in which he summarized the elements of a new National Intelligence Strategy released this week. Clapper also answered some broader questions about intelligence issues confronting the country.

Read it all.



Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureScience & TechnologyViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted September 19, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

That the majority of ISIL’s victims are Muslim does not exclude it from being a religiously motivated movement. For ISIL is part of the group within Islam whose motivation is religious - namely, the removal of apostasy.

We should take our opponents self-identity seriously. They are waging war in the name of Islam and in accordance with their Islamic beliefs. They wish to create the Caliphate. Their commitment is more than a power grab for land – it is a religious zeal and if we ignore it, we will seriously underestimate them.

We must not try to conform Islam to Christian ideals of religion. Jesus and Mohammed were very different in their life as well as in their teaching. Jesus arrived in Jerusalem on a donkey to be executed, a week later, for our sins. Mohammed arrived at Mecca in front of an army of 10,000 soldiers to take the city by force. In countries where Christianity has dominated, mosques can be built, the Qur’an can be read and studied and preached in the streets, and citizens can change religion without fear of persecution, let alone execution. None of these corresponding freedoms are available for Christians in countries where Islam holds sway.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesAnglican Church of Australia* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted September 19, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

None of that makes the religious heritage of Europe sound very appealing. But it is essential to remember that in Europe, with the Reformation, Enlightenment, Emancipation, we’ve moved on. Those of us who still practise a faith – Catholic, Protestant, Muslim or Jew – preserve a sense of sanctity without killing each other over it. Crucially, we’re no longer theocrats: the C of E may tell me adultery is sinful, but the state won’t stone me to death over it. But in moving on too fast, we’ve also lost the religious literacy that tells us why people look to priests and saints for guidance in the first place. There will always be those for whom the post-modern world just seems a bit too fractured, a bit too liberal, frankly, in all its dazzling, confusing choices, a bit too frightening. If we want to keep young Muslims from religious violence, the answer is not secularism, but religious alternatives. The violent history of Christianity shouldn’t be a reason to discredit our religious impulse, but to demonstrate the impossibility of repressing it completely.

And to despite the State Department’s best efforts, we can’t build the moral case against Isil simply by pointing out the cruelties it inflicts upon its enemies. As Professor Ian Robertson points out, that’s not how out-group/in-group dynamics work. Religious fanatics have always slaughtered their enemies – and for radical Sunnis, that includes the Shia. Instead, it is the mundane misery of Isil’s ideal state that should horrify the world. Amira Karroum isn’t scared of being beheaded, because she doesn’t think of herself as an infidel. But once the glamour of war is gone, does she really want to live in an eternal shroud, forbidden from leaving the house, denied an education? Do young British men – one of whom notoriously asked “Do the mujahideen play footy and that?” – understand that a state ruled by blasphemy laws is a state where a wise crack at the local cleric could cost you your life? Many states are forged in war – not all of them then ban music, art and history in peace time.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEurope* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted September 18, 2014 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Many displaced Christians now see no future in Iraq, home to one of the most ancient Christian communities anywhere.

"Now we know there is no more security in this country," said Father Bahnam Lalo, pastor of Bartella's St. George Church, who, like most of his parishioners, fled to Irbil, capital of the relatively safe semiautonomous Kurdish region. "We love this land, we're rooted to this land, but it's hopeless."

International attention last month focused on the plight of the Yazidis, another minority group, and their harrowing escape to Mt. Sinjar. But about 100,000 Christians also have fled the Sunni militants since June, church leaders say.

Multitudes of displaced Christians are now hoping to join relatives in Europe, the United States, Australia and elsewhere.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted September 18, 2014 at 7:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Australia's prime minister says intelligence that Islamic State supporters were planning to carry out a killing to demonstrate its abilities led to counterterrorism raids in Sydney.

Australian police detained 15 people Thursday in a major counterterrorism operation, saying intelligence indicated a random, violent attack was being planned on Australian soil.

About 800 federal and state police officers raided more than a dozen properties across Sydney as part of the operation — the largest in Australian history, Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Andrew Colvin said. Separate raids in the eastern cities of Brisbane and Logan were also conducted.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAustralia / NZ* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted September 18, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Christian minorities are in danger of being eradicated in the Middle East, leaders of evangelical and Protestant denominations in Syria and Lebanon said in a joint statement Aug. 29.

Leaders of the Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community in Syria and Lebanon, the highest representative body of all the Evangelical and Protestant denominations in the two countries, issued a “state of emergency” to preserve “what remains of the Christian and moderate non-Christian presence” in the region “and to circumvent its complete demise.”

“The issue of Christian presence in the Middle East has gone beyond the stage of calling for equal rights and protection from persecution,” the statement said. “It has become a cry of warning before further events cause the annihilation of Christian presence in the Middle East.”

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastLebanonSyria* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted September 17, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

United in the suffering of their people, five Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs from the Middle East urged Westerners to take action to help ensure that Christians and other minorities can remain in the Middle East.

“Christians are not (just) looking for humanitarian aid. They are looking for humanitarian action, to save Christianity in the Middle East,” said Catholicos Aram of Cilicia, patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

The Armenian patriarch said a comprehensive strategy is needed to defeat Islamic State extremism that “threatens the very survival of Christianity” in places like Iraq and Syria. He said it was essential to promote human rights, pluralism and religious freedom.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted September 16, 2014 at 11:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sketched out scenarios in which U.S. Special Forces might need to embed with Iraqi or Kurdish troops engaged in direct combat with Islamic State fighters.

Under questioning from lawmakers, Dempsey acknowledged that Obama has vowed not to send U.S. ground combat forces back into Iraq, less than three years after the president fulfilled a campaign promise to extricate the military from a long, costly and unpopular war there.

But the general revealed that U.S. commanders have already sought permission, on at least one occasion, to deploy small teams of U.S. advisers into battle with Iraqi troops. Dempsey also suggested that, while Obama has held firm, he might be persuaded to change his mind.

Read it all from the Washington Post.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted September 16, 2014 at 5:48 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Please note--be warned this contains content that is very disturbing--KSH.

Watch it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolenceWomen* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSyria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted September 16, 2014 at 3:41 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Christian fathers told to convert to Islam or watch their children lose their heads.

Christians fleeing their communities shot, their dead bodies lined up on the ground, then rolled over by a bulldozer as their loved ones watch.

These are just some of the stories Canon Andrew White and Dr. Sarah Ahmed shared at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Monday.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted September 16, 2014 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Police are trying to track down young women whom they believe have been lured over the internet to travel to Syria by Islamic State (Isis) with the promise of cash for babies.

At least three Somali families in Minneapolis have female members who have disappeared in the past six weeks. They are all from the St Paul area of the city. At the end of last month, a 19-year-old Somali woman from St Paul, who left home saying that she was attending a bridal shower, instead flew to Turkey and joined Isis in Syria.

On Friday, Shannon Conley, 19, from Colorado, pleaded guilty to trying to travel to the Middle East to enrol in Isis. She was arrested at Denver International airport in April with a one-way ticket and had been recruited online by a male militant in Syria.

Read it all (subscription required).


Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenReligion & CultureViolenceWomen* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastSyria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted September 15, 2014 at 5:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

French President François Hollande was set to order reconnaissance flights over Iraq on Monday as he kicked off an international conference aimed at shoring up a coalition to fight Islamic State militants.

On opening the conference, Mr. Hollande noted U.S. President Barack Obama's call for countries to join a broad military coalition to combat the militant group, which has seized territory straddling Iraq and Syria.

"Many countries have responded in the region and beyond. France will do its part," Mr. Hollande said, flanked by Iraqi President Fouad Massoum.

Read it all from the WSJ.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEuropeFrance* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted September 15, 2014 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There are various pieties that politicians observe in the wake of some barbarity committed by Islamic fundamentalists and duly David Cameron observed them in his statement yesterday about the murder of David Haines. Of the perpetrators, he observed:
‘They are killing and slaughtering thousands of people – Christians, Muslims, minorities across Iraq and Syria. They boast of their brutality. They claim to do this in the name of Islam. That is nonsense. Islam is a religion of peace. They are not Muslims, they are monsters.’
I really wish he wouldn’t. It doesn’t add anything whatever to our understanding of Isis to say that they are not Muslims but monsters. They may not be our preferred kind of Muslims – my own preference is for the C of E sort you used to get in the former Yugoslavia – but they are, unquestionably Muslims of a particularly unattractive stamp. Calling them monsters is an impolite way of abnegating any effort to understand them.

Read it all

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted September 15, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Speaking to BBC News in Bristol, where he is on a diocesan visit, Archbishop Justin said: "What we have seen in this dreadful video is an act of absolute evil, unqualified, without any light in it at all. There is a sense that within this area, and in many places in the world where this kind of thing is being done, that the darkness is deepening. It's being done in the name of faith, but we've heard already today faith leaders from Islam across the world condemning this.

"What's going on is a power-seeking activity. Faith is often used as a hook on which to hang other desires, and this is a desire for power and influence, and faith is being twisted to enable it to be used to gain power and influence for their own unspeakably evil ends. So today there is that sick sense of horror at the wickedness we see, a deep sense of compassion for the family, and prayer that they may be comforted by the presence and light of Christ in a very, very dark time indeed."

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted September 14, 2014 at 3:26 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

TARIN: What I think U.S. Muslims are doing, their feeling is that ISIS again has hijacked their faith. We saw this on 9-11, we saw this repeatedly with Al Qaeda. ISIS is again using religion to put forth political and social goals in the region. And I think American Muslims are coming out in staggering numbers. The leadership across the country has come out saying, “This does not represent us. This is not who we are.

And we will stand against you using our faith to push a political agenda in the region.”

LAWTON: Is there something, though, the community can do beyond just words? Is there something concrete, maybe, to stop this?

TARIN: Yes. Communities around the country are making sure that the Internet is not a place where young people are being influenced. Because the message of ISIS is black and white. It says the West and America is at war with Islam. And so what our communities are doing, our institution has launched a program called Safe Spaces, where we are making sure that our young people are civically engaged and are not vulnerable to the black and white message of ISIS and groups like it.

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Posted September 14, 2014 at 3:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There are three reasons for this invisibility. The political left in the West associates Christian faith with dead white male imperialism and does not come naturally to the recognition that Christianity is now the globe’s most persecuted religion. And in the Middle East the Israel-Palestine question, with its colonial overtones, has been the left’s great obsession, whereas the less ideologically convenient plight of Christians under Islamic rule is often left untouched.

To America’s strategic class, meanwhile, the Middle East’s Christians simply don’t have the kind of influence required to matter. A minority like the Kurds, geographically concentrated and well-armed, can be a player in the great game, a potential United States ally. But except in Lebanon, the region’s Christians are too scattered and impotent to offer much quid for the superpower’s quo. So whether we’re pursuing stability by backing the anti-Christian Saudis or pursuing transformation by toppling Saddam Hussein (and unleashing the furies on Iraq’s religious minorities), our policy makers have rarely given Christian interests any kind of due.

Then, finally, there is the American right, where one would expect those interests to find a greater hearing. But the ancient churches of the Middle East (Eastern Orthodox, Chaldean, Maronites, Copt, Assyrian) are theologically and culturally alien to many American Catholics and evangelicals. And the great cause of many conservative Christians in the United States is the state of Israel, toward which many Arab Christians harbor feelings that range from the complicated to the hostile.

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Posted September 14, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In discussions of the threat posed by the Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, a spinoff from al Qaeda in Iraq), some Western pundits have argued that the terror organization poses only a distant threat, not a near one. They have claimed that the Islamic State's goals are mainly territorial and focused on the Middle East, as compared to al Qaeda's, which are transnational and focused on attacking the West. On June 30, the US State Department referred to the ISIS' strategy as that of creating a regional caliphate.

That general view was fairly widely held until recently, when the Islamic State executed two American hostages, which brought home to the West that its citizens are at risk. But in addition to committing shocking crimes in Syria and Iraq against civilians, security forces, and Western captives, the group has also developed an international following. The Islamic State's growing international presence demonstrates the dangerous fallacy of the argument that the group has primarily only regional goals.

National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen said on Sept. 3 that the US currently has "no credible information" that the Islamic State is presently planning to attack the homeland. But that assurance is not a signal to dismiss the threats presented by the group. Although the IS arguably has reason to avoid crossing American 'red lines' as it attempts to solidify gains and develop infrastructure, it must be regarded as a formidable organization with sweeping global ambitions.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted September 13, 2014 at 3:40 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Why was there such a wave of opposition? In part because Americans had no confidence their leaders understood the complications, history and realities of Syria or the Mideast. The previous 12 years had left them distrusting the American foreign-policy establishment. Americans felt the U.S. itself needed more care and attention. By 2013 there was a new depth of disbelief in Mr. Obama's leadership.

But there was another, powerful aspect to the opposition.

Evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics who would normally back strong military action were relatively silent in 2013. Why? I think because they were becoming broadly aware, for the first time, of what was happening to Christians in the Middle East. They were being murdered, tortured, abused for their faith and run out of the region. And for all his crimes and failings, Syria's justly maligned Assad was not attempting to crush his country's Christians. His enemies were—the jihadists, including those who became the Islamic State.

In the year since, the brutality against Middle Eastern Christians, and Islamic State's ferocious anti-Christian agenda, has left many Christians deeply alarmed. Jihadists are de-Christianizing the Mideast, where Christianity began.Read it all.

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Posted September 13, 2014 at 7:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

To defeat a disciplined and fanatical insurgency inspired by ideological fervour anywhere, disciplined leadership is fundamental. Without such leadership the security forces are reluctant to engage. When rampant corruption is added to the mix, it is no wonder that West Africa’s putatively most powerful military force has been unable and unwilling to reduce Boko Haram to the pitiful state in which it existed four years ago. Now that the security forces have the benefit of outside help and sophisticated surveillance techniques, it should be easy. But if armies are not fully at one with their political leaders, and if armies believe themselves to be abused, there is no fight.

Victory over Boko Haram is only possible if Mr. Jonathan makes such a victory a national cause and if he and his close followers find a way to strengthen the legitimacy of the state and of key state institutions such as the military. This would involve Mr. Jonathan demonstrating a real belief in the integrity of the nation, casting aside party and ethnic considerations, and showing that he really is the leader of all Nigerians, not just southerners, Christians or the denizens of Abuja.

Until and unless Mr. Jonathan rises to as yet untouched heights of leadership, Maiduguri may well be overrun, and a jejune and greedy movement constitute Nigeria’s first breakaway state. The 19th-century Kanemi-Bornu emirate will then have been recreated in the guise of a fanatical caliphate with no real indigenous roots.

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Posted September 9, 2014 at 5:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Thanks to the Jay report, however, we can say that the Hodges rejoinder is not entirely true. The Rotherham problem​—​which we’ll call Childhood Sexual Exploitation, or CSE, because everyone uses that jargon​—​was the subject of repeated scrutiny throughout the period when 1,400 girls fell victim to it, not only by the local government itself but also by social services, private charities and their consultants, the National Health Service (NHS), and the police. The girls were abandoned only partly because so many made a cowardly choice to let a crime go unreported when they could not think of a “non-racist” way to describe it. They were also abandoned because of the way that these agencies tried to do good. The process of “caring for children” was already bad; the distortions and systematic mendacity encouraged by the ideology of multiculturalism and racial and gender theorizing made it worse.

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Posted September 9, 2014 at 3:36 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

French Muslim leaders called Tuesday for the nation's imams to use their pulpits against the Islamic State group and offer a message of support for Christians in the Middle East.

Christians and other minorities there are fleeing the militant organization by the thousands as they face a choice between converting or death.

On Tuesday, moderate Muslim leaders called on French mosques nationwide to offer prayers on Friday for endangered Christians.

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Posted September 9, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

DREW HINSHAW: That’s right. What they’ve been able to do here is empty out an entire countryside. The very far northeast part of Nigeria. Town after town after town is abandoned and Boko Haram has been able to do that just by sort of constantly, like you said, starting with hit and run attacks and eventually moving entire units into these towns scaring lots of people out.

You hear over and over again when you talk to people from these towns, the only people left in those towns are basically the elderly people, who don’t really want to move, or can’t move and don’t really pose a threat to Boko Haram. What’s interesting is they are raising their flags in some places, not all places. They’re not really sticking around and governing them, like you had in northern Mali.

They kind of go in, they make some weak effort to impose Sharia law, they tell women how to dress and then they go back into the caves and mountains and forests where they’re camped out. They don’t want to be sitting ducks in these towns.

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Posted September 8, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Islamic State (IS) continues its rampage through Iraq. The US air force has done its best to attack their onslaught from the sky. In particular they have targeted preventing IS from reaching the Haditha Dam. The Dam generates power for much of the country and is only 150 miles from Baghdad. Destruction of this Dam would destroy much of Baghdad and this is what the US Air force has been trying to prevent.

Iraqi society continues its daily life despite great opposition, if you move to the North of the country things remain very different. There are still hundreds of thousands of Internally Displaced People who have been forced to move from Mosul and Nineveh. A large number of these people are Christians. Our work supporting these people providing relief has been huge. We have provided food, medical care, wheel chairs, baby’s cots and much more.

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Posted September 8, 2014 at 5:28 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In this one day Justin Welby has explained with clarity and forcefulness much which many of us have longed for the British government to articulate; to publicly acknowledge the truth and extent of the situation for those minorities who have been systematically targeted by IS. And of these minorities Christians have suffered by far the most.

These are the words that could and probably should have been spoken by our Foreign Secretary by now. But even if they had come from Philip Hammond, they would have not had the same weight and authority as they did coming from Justin Welby. This is not because of any religious position the Archbishop holds. Instead it is because he has far more on-the-ground experience of conflict than any member of our government. Nor has any one of them come close to sacrificing as much personal risk, time and energy for the sake of reconciliation and peace as he has.

Even before he was ordained, as an oil executive Justin Welby was witnessing first-hand the deadly conflict raging between Christians and Muslims in Central Nigeria that continues to this day. In 2002 he was appointed as Canon of Coventry Cathedral and co-director of its world-renowned International Centre for Reconciliation (ICR), taking over from Canon Andrew White who went on to become vicar of St George’s Church in Baghdad. During his time in the position he worked closely with Andrew White on peace missions in Iraq. He also regularly visited Nigeria where he often risked his own life conducting delicate negotiations between militant groups in an effort to free hostages, risking his own life in the process. While in Nigeria he was repeatedly blindfolded, held at gunpoint and arrested. Of those experiences Justin Welby has said: ‘On three occasions it looked like I was going to get killed. One plan was to shoot me.’

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted September 7, 2014 at 12:40 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

One of Islam’s most revered holy sites – the tomb of the Prophet Mohammed – could be destroyed and his body removed to an anonymous grave under plans which threaten to spark discord across the Muslim world.

The controversial proposals are part of a consultation document by a leading Saudi academic which has been circulated among the supervisors of al-Masjid al-Nabawi mosque in Medina, where the remains of the Prophet are housed under the Green Dome, visited by millions of pilgrims and venerated as Islam’s second-holiest site.

The formal custodian of the mosque is Saudi Arabia’s ageing monarch King Abdullah.

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Posted September 7, 2014 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon


Dear Friends in Christ,

Many of us have been following with alarm the persecution of Christians in various countries of the Middle East and Africa. Concern has been expressed within our diocese by priests and laity of the need for us to have a diocesan response to this current crisis.

At our Diocesan Council Meeting last week all concurred that as Bishop I would appoint an upcoming Sunday to be set aside for specific prayer and intercession for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are in the midst of this persecution as well as a day for fasting on their behalf. I have appointed September 14th as a Sunday for such diocesan wide intercession. It is the Sunday nearest to Holy Cross Day which is transferred this year to be observed on Monday, September 15th.

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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Christian Life / Church LifeSpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* South Carolina

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Posted September 6, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When Janine Morna arrived in northern Nigeria in March to study child abductions by local militias, few outside the region had any idea of the scope of the problem.

That changed abruptly on the evening of April 14 - 15, when members of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram stormed a secondary school in the northeastern town of Chibok and captured some 300 teenage girls.

Suddenly, child kidnappings in northern Nigeria — which had concerned human rights researchers like Ms. Morna for years — were global front-page news. Around the world, nations pledged aid and counterterrorism assistance, while #BringBackOurGirls floated to the top of trending topics on Twitter. It gave many who live and work in the region hope that change was imminent.

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Posted September 5, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The United States is preparing to launch a "major" border security program to help Nigeria and its neighbors combat the increasing number and scope of attacks by Islamic extremists, a senior U.S. official for Africa said Thursday.

Nigerian insurgents have begun attacking villages in neighboring Cameroon and have been seizing land in northeast Nigeria where they proclaimed an Islamic caliphate.

Assistant Secretary of State Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a meeting of U.S. and Nigerian officials in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, that "Despite our collective efforts, the situation on the ground is worsening.

"The frequency and scope of Boko Haram's terror attacks have grown more acute and constitute a serious threat to this country's overall security," she said. "This is a sober reality check for all of us. We are past time for denial and pride."

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Posted September 4, 2014 at 6:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Christian groups and other faith were out in force to support a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution to urgently explore abuses of international law in Iraq committed by the Islamic State and associated terrorist groups.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican representative to the United Nations in Geneva told Vatican Radio he believed the meeting came as direct consequence of Pope Francis' letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The letter was regarding the need to take action to protect those persecuted by IS terrorists.

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Posted September 4, 2014 at 4:31 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The archbishop of Canterbury has condemned the "extreme religious ideology" behind the persecution of Christians and others in the Middle East. He also condemned the murder of American journalist Steven Sotloff and called for the perpetrators of violence in the region to be held to account.

Justin Welby was speaking at Lambeth Palace after a meeting with 20 leaders and representatives of Middle East churches before joining other faith leaders for a prayer vigil outside Westminster Abbey to show solidarity with the people of Iraq.

Welby admitted it took the west some time to realise how serious the situation was.

"It took the barbarism of jihadist militants to wake us up," he said.

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted September 3, 2014 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Watch it all.

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Posted September 3, 2014 at 12:16 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]




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