Posted by Kendall Harmon

The historian Tom Holland tweeted...[yesterday] morning: ‘What ‪#ISIS are doing to the people & culture of ‪#Assyria is worthy of the Nazis. None of us can say we didn’t know....’

There are a few thousand Assyrians in Britain, many of whom were given right of entry because their grandfathers fought alongside the British in two world wars. They are immensely proud of their heritage, and fond of the British Museum where so much of it remains safe; can one imagine how they feel watching footage of these savages destroying what their ancestors built and which they hoped to pass on to their descendants?

There are currently Assyrian troops fighting alongside the Kurds on the front line with Isis, but they are short of weapons. They say they have got little military support from the West, just as they have received little political support in the past; before the latest crisis broke out Assyrians in Iraq campaigned for a safe haven in the Nineveh Plains where they and other minorities, namely the Yazidi, could protect themselves inside the country. Without support from the Americans, the Baghdad government would not agree, and in light of recent events it seems like a reasonable request now.

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Posted February 28, 2015 at 1:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Three men from Brooklyn have been arrested and charged with trying to help the Islamic State, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in federal court on Wednesday.

They had also discussed harming President Obama and carrying out attacks in the United States if they were unable to travel overseas. One of the three men was arrested while trying to fly to Turkey, where authorities say he planned to head to the border with Syria to meet with representatives from the Islamic State. Another of the men planned to follow him there next month, while the third man was helping finance some of these travel efforts.

These are the latest in a string of similar arrests, episodes that have highlighted the concerns of federal officials who have publicly worried that young people in the United States could be lured to join the militant group in Syria.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetGlobalizationLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & CultureScience & TechnologyViolenceYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSyria

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Posted February 26, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The World Council of Churches condemns the latest attacks and atrocities by the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) most recently against Christian villages in the region of Khabour in the governorate of Hassake, Syria. According to reports received, in the early morning of 23 February large numbers of IS fighters attacked these villages, killing a number of civilians, taking approximately 100 people captive, and provoking a mass exodus from these communities. These attacks seem to be attempts at opening a new corridor towards the Turkish border that could facilitate the procurement of both weapons and mercenaries.

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Posted February 25, 2015 at 5:41 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq are living at the edge of extinction.

They are marginalized and under threat from the genocidal actions of the Islamic State in Iraq, resulting in the purging of religious and ethnic minorities from their historic homes.

If immediate action is not taken, the existence of religious and ethnic minority communities, such as Christians, Yazidis, Shabak and Turkmen, will continue on a trajectory of precipitous decline into virtual non-existence.

In the last decade, the Christian community has plummeted from approximately 1.5 million to 300,000.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther Churches

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Posted February 25, 2015 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Undaunted by the slaughter of 21 Christians in Libya, the director of the Bible Society of Egypt saw a golden gospel opportunity.

“We must have a Scripture tract ready to distribute to the nation as soon as possible,” Ramez Atallah told his staff the evening an ISIS-linked group released its gruesome propaganda video. Less than 36 hours later, Two Rows by the Sea was sent to the printer.

One week later, 1.65 million copies have been distributed in the Bible Society’s largest campaign ever. It eclipses even the 1 million tracts distributed after the 2012 death of Shenouda, the Coptic "Pope of the Bible."

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchBooksReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgypt* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesCoptic Church* Theology

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Posted February 24, 2015 at 11:26 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[ISIS] ...militants have kidnapped dozens of people from Christian villages in Syria, a human rights watchdog has said.

According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the militants stormed at least two villages, inhabited by the ancient Assyrian Christian minority, shortly after dawn, taking some 90 civilians captive.

Nuri Kino, the head of the activist group A Demand For Action, quoted villagers who fled the attacks as saying between 70 and 100 people are being held.

A number of children are understood to be among them.

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Posted February 24, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...privately, the Saudi view is that the air campaign against ISIS, now more than six months old, is not working.

"Having simply these pinprick attacks on certain areas is not going to resolve the issue," says Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief who also served as the ambassador to the U.S. from 2005-7.

An outspoken member of the royal family, Faisal, 70, no longer holds a senior post. But his views are considered to reflect the general thinking of the Saudi leadership.

He says the air strikes against ISIS are too limited and not well coordinated. In addition, he insists the coalition effort is undermined by politics in Europe and mistrust in the Middle East.

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Posted February 20, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Egyptian army launched airstrikes against ISIS targets in Libya hours after the release of a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Copts kidnapped by Libyan Islamists in December 2014 and January 2015. One may be tempted to say that President Sisi’s response to these murders is comparable to King Abdullah’s after a Jordanian pilot, Moaz al-Kasasbeh, was burned to death by ISIS. However, a closer examination of both leaders’ reactions shows a number of significant differences.

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Posted February 17, 2015 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has called for a United Nations resolution allowing international forces to intervene in Libya.

There was no other choice, he told French radio. "We will not allow them to cut off the heads of our children."

Egyptian jets bombed IS targets on Monday in response to a militant video of the apparent beheadings of 21 Egyptian Christians.

Rival militias have been battling for control in Libya since 2011.

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Posted February 17, 2015 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon



Watch it all and you can also read his statement there.

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Posted February 16, 2015 at 6:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It is with great sadness I write you today about the heinous murder of 21 Egyptian Christians at the hand of the so-called lslamic State branch in Libya. These men from the Upper Egyptian city of Samalout are no different from thousands of other Muslim and Christian Egyptians in Libya, seeking employment to support their families back home.

Except that these 21 were specifically chosen for their Christian faith. The video of their beheading expressed the lslamic State's intention to increasingly target the Copts of Egypt. This morning the Egyptian government launched airstrikes on lslamic State positions. lt has declared a week of mourning, banned further travel to Libya, and will work to facilitate the return of all Egyptian citizens. The foreign minister has been dispatched to the United Nations to discuss the necessary international response.

The Anglican Church in Egypt and the world expresses its deep condolences to the families of these men, and also to his Holiness Pope Tawadros ll, patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Please join me in praying for peace in Libya, Egypt, and the entire Middle East. Please pray the international community will act in wisdom, correctly and efficiently, and support Egypt in its war on terror. Please pray the churches of Egypt will comfort their sons and daughters, encouraging them to resist fear and hatred. And please pray for the perpetrators of this terrible crime, that God would be merciful to them and change their hearts.

Jesus tells us in John 16:33, "ln the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

Such cheer may seem impossible, but it is God's promise. Please pray for us, that we may live lives worthy of his name, and hold to the testimony exhibited by the brave Egyptians in Libya.

--The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Anis is Archbishop of the Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesThe Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaLibyaMiddle EastEgypt* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted February 16, 2015 at 2:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

"The terrible cruelty of the murders in Denmark, Libya and Nigeria call for deep compassion for the bereaved and killed. The killers seem to rejoice in ever more extreme acts carried out to inflict ever greater terror. We must all weep with those affected, and know that in the love of Christ all evil will be overcome.

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Posted February 16, 2015 at 10:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Pope Francis on Monday denounced the murder of 21 Coptic Christians by ISIL militants in Libya. The Islamist terrorist organization released a video of the killings on Sunday.

Speaking in Spanish to an ecumenical delegation from the Church of Scotland, the Holy Father noted those killed only said “Jesus help me.”

“They were murdered just for the fact they were Christians,” Pope Francis said.

“The blood of our Christian brothers is a witness that cries out,” said the Pope. “If they are Catholic, Orthodox, Copts, Lutherans, it is not important: They are Christians. The blood is the same: It is the blood which confesses Christ.''

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Posted February 16, 2015 at 9:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Egypt's Copts are the largest Christian community in the Middle East and are estimated to account for around 15% of the country's population.

"Coptic" is used to describe the native Christians living in the country, where Christianity is a large minority religion.

The Coptic Orthodox Church was founded in the first century by Saint Mark the apostle, who wrote the second Gospel of the New Testament.

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Posted February 16, 2015 at 8:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Islamic State released a video on Sunday purporting to show the beheading of a group of Egyptian Christians kidnapped in Libya, violence likely to deepen Cairo's concerns over security threats from militants thriving in the neighbouring country's chaos.

Egypt's state news agency MENA quoted the spokesman for the Coptic Church as confirming that 21 Egyptian Christians believed to be held by Islamic State were dead.

In the video, militants in black marched the captives, dressed in orange jump suits, to a beach the group said was near Tripoli. They were forced down onto their knees, then beheaded.

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Posted February 15, 2015 at 4:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon




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Posted February 15, 2015 at 2:14 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A video has emerged showing the beheadings purportedly of 21 Egyptian Christians who had been kidnapped by Islamic State (IS) militants in Libya.

The footage shows a group wearing orange overalls, being forced to the ground and then decapitated.

Egypt's National Defence Council is to meet in emergency session to discuss its response to the killings.

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Posted February 15, 2015 at 2:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

What do the ancient Christian communities of the Middle East, many of them threatened with extinction in lands where they have survived since the dawn of their faith's existence, most need from their co-religionists in the West? Some want more military support, but others take a different view. That difference emerged during a visit to London by Archbishop Bashar Warda, the top Catholic cleric in Erbil, the only Iraqi city where Christians live in significant numbers.

At a meeting yesterday in the House of Lords, co-organised by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, the archbishop reminded people of the hard realities facing his flock. As of a result of last year's onslaught by Islamic State, perhaps 400,000 people fled their homes in Mosul and the neighbouring Nineveh Plain and many sought refuge in the adjacent area controlled by the Kurdish regional government. The displaced include Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities. Of the 300,000 or so Christians who remain in Iraq (down from 1.4m a couple of decades ago), the great majority now live in Kurdistan, of which Erbil is the capital.

Iraqi Christians are practical, energetic sorts, the archbishop told his British hosts, and they are not sitting around bemoaning their fate. Huge efforts are being made to get the displaced families, who are now holed up in tents, portakabins and half-built shopping centres, into better accommodation where they can become economically active and their children can pursue studies. The archbishop is working hard to start, by next autumn, a new university which will be Catholic in inspiration but open to all faiths.

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Posted February 11, 2015 at 7:59 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Christians in Iraq "do not have much time left" without direct military action on the ground, the Archbishop of Irbil has told UK peers and MPs.

Archbishop Bashar Warda said air strikes were "not enough" to defeat Islamic State militants and "begged" for Western troops to be deployed.

He said Iraq's Christian population was declining and that he would speak to the UK government about further action.

The government has said efforts to defeat IS were "comprehensive".

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Posted February 10, 2015 at 6:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

"The Diocese of Guildford has taken extremely seriously the reports and complaints regarding Stephen Sizer over the past two weeks. Concerns surrounding Stephen were raised both in response to allegedly offensive materials linked from his Facebook account, and to comments he made to the Jewish News and the Daily Telegraph thereafter.

"Commenting on this matter, the Council of Christians and Jews has helpfully highlighted that:

‘It is perfectly possible to criticize Israeli policies without such criticism being anti-Semitic, and Christians and others should feel free to do so. However, such legitimate criticism must not be used as a cloak for anti-Semitism, nor can anti-Semitism itself ever be disguised as mere political comment’.

"Having now met Stephen, in my brand new role as Bishop of Guildford, I do not believe that his motives are anti-Semitic; but I have concluded that, at the very least, he has demonstrated appallingly poor judgment in the material he has chosen to disseminate, particularly via social media, some of which is clearly anti-Semitic.

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIsrael* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

4 Comments
Posted February 9, 2015 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Obama administration has touted the modest successes in recent months of Iraqi forces and paramilitary fighters, backed by U.S. air power, as they have fought to wrest towns, villages and parts of Iraq’s rugged countryside from the Islamic State.

Now, the renewed U.S. campaign in Iraq faces a greater challenge as American advisers scramble to prepare Iraqi forces for an offensive to reclaim some of Iraq’s most important cities, which remain under the militant group’s control.

Attempting to take back the city of Mosul, the country’s ­second-largest, as well as Tikrit and Fallujah, will test not only the fighting power of Iraqi forces and the country’s fragile sectarian compact but also President Obama’s indirect strategy for containing the Islamic State.

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Posted February 9, 2015 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Inclusive, integrated, peaceful and prosperous, the elegant city of Saint-Mandé — hard against Paris’s eastern fringe — has been a haven for Jews like Sebag whose parents and grandparents were driven from their native North Africa decades ago by anti-Semitism.

“I’ve always told everyone that here, we are very protected. It’s like a small village,” Sebag said.

But in an instant on the afternoon of Jan. 9, Sebag’s refuge became a target. A gunman who would later say he was acting on behalf of the Islamic State walked into her neighborhood’s kosher market and opened fire, launching a siege that would leave four hostages dead — all of them Jewish.

A month later, the Jews of Saint-Mandé are planning for a possible exodus from what had once appeared to be the promised land.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryEuropeFranceMiddle EastIsrael* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism

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Posted February 8, 2015 at 1:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

But there’s something else. When you watch these clips there’s a troubling ambiguity to them now. One frame around them is: Williams pays tribute to the troops who fought the war and protected him in the desert. He does a lot to make that message explicit, and this part of the performance requires expressions of humility. I’m no solider, I’m no war correspondent, I had no business being there, I’m so grateful for these brave men and women.

When you watch it now, though, you may wonder: Why does this story keep coming up? How is it getting in front of audiences repeatedly over the years?

Let’s take the Lettermen appearance in 2013. Did the show’s producers say, “Hey, it’s the tenth anniversary of Brian almost getting shot out of the sky in the helicopter, let’s have him on…”? Seems unlikely. Letterman says in the clip he either forgot or never knew about the episode. More likely: Williams wanted to talk about it, so they programmed it in. That’s not so modest.

Why is Madison Square Garden halting a hockey game and directing the attention of fans to Brian Williams and his military buddy being “reunited?” Because they knew about this story and thought it would be nice to revisit it 12 years later? Or because NBC promotion people alerted them and asked for the story to be re-told over the PA system?

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Posted February 8, 2015 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On its face, taking the Iranian side in a sectarian war in which the Islamic State stands on the other side may make sense in an enemy-of-my-enemy way. What could be wrong with using Iran to kill the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, even if the price is keeping a few bad guys in power in Damascus or Sanaa? Unfortunately, lots.

There is no reason to believe that a Shiite version of the one-stop dictator shop that characterized U.S. diplomacy for much of the 20th century will work any better than the earlier Sunni compact that denied tens of millions their democratic aspirations and paved the way to today’s turmoil.

What eludes the Obama administration, as it did George W. Bush, is that the battle for the future of the Middle East is a war of ideas. Taking sides in the Sunni-Shiite sectarian war will not restore the illusory stability of old. Rather, the path to long-term stability means working with groups that eschew violence, respecting religious preferences without sacrificing minorities, pressing toward market economies that empower individuals and building toward a region that rests on the consent of the governed. There is no secret path to peace, not through Tehran, not through Riyadh, not at all.

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Posted February 7, 2015 at 4:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Declarations of outrage swept the Middle East on Wednesday as a region already steeled to the brutality of the Islamic State expressed horror at the group’s killing of a Jordanian pilot by setting him on fire.

The region’s leaders have denounced the militant group on many occasions in the past, but the spectacle of an Arab pilot being burned alive in a cage triggered some of the harshest reactions yet.

Images of the grisly killing of Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh were broadcast on TV channels around the region, and the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat headlined its coverage with a single word: “Barbarity.”

“This killing really strikes at home for audiences across the region. Most of the people executed by [the Islamic State] have been foreigners, but this time it was an Arab-Muslim man,” said Labib Kamhawi, a political analyst based in the Jordanian capital, Amman. “That has had a bigger impact on people.”

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Posted February 4, 2015 at 3:28 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The contradiction in Mr. Sisi’s aim of keeping the heterosexual, conservative Muslim man at the top of Egypt’s moral hierarchy is glaring. You can’t trump the Islamists in their piety and lead a campaign against minorities like atheists and gay men even as you condemn extremist violence and show solidarity for free speech and free thinking.

This week we mark the fourth anniversary of the 2011 revolution. Although it has not delivered the political freedoms it called for, it did begin an unraveling of authority that has left Egypt’s self-appointed moral guardians disconcerted and scrambling. Armed with social media, more people are insisting on asking and telling — about personal belief and sexual identity. A reckoning is long overdue in a country where religion and morality have so often been bent to suit the political expedients of its rulers.

Despite the clampdown, atheists are openly challenging such hypocrisy. Social media has allowed those who “deviate” from the authoritarian template to find one another and express themselves in ways that the regime, its men of religion and its media otherwise deny them. A religious revolution has begun, but not on Mr. Sisi’s or the clerics’ terms. We all stand to gain if fathers no longer testify against sons, and families no longer feel the need to prove their loved ones are “real men.”

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Posted January 29, 2015 at 7:28 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, who took the helm of the world’s last absolute monarchy Friday, faces turbulence at home and abroad but is unlikely to change the course set by his predecessors.

“We will continue adhering to the correct policies which Saudi Arabia has followed since its establishment,” the king said in his first speech after succeeding his half-brother, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, who died early Friday at the age of 90.

Salman, 79, was serving as defense minister when Saudi Arabia joined U.S.-led airstrikes against the Islamic State. During his tenure, Saudi forces in the south came under attack by Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Houthis, now the dominant military and political force in Yemen, are backed by Saudi Arabia’s main rival and greatest threat in the region — Iran.

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Posted January 27, 2015 at 11:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As a young pilot of 24, Avraham Harshalom found himself hospitalized at Tel Hashomer hospital. He suggested to the doctor that while he was there, he could remove the tattoo from his left arm. "At that age you just want to be like everyone else," he says. "People would see the tattoo and look at you differently."

Sitting in the lobby of the Krakow Holiday Inn, Harshalom is for once surrounded by men and women who are not different to him. He is one of more than a hundred survivors of Auschwitz-Birkenau who have been brought here by the World Jewish Congress to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the camp's liberation. The survivors are at the center of attention here, surrounded by family members and well-wishers. Everyone is aware that this could well be the last reunion of such a large group of survivors.

Another thing these grandparents and great-grandparents in their late eighties and nineties have in common is that for decades after liberation, they did not share their experiences. They just tried to be like everyone else.

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Posted January 27, 2015 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Foreign ministers from 21 countries are meeting in London to discuss ways to co-ordinate their efforts to combat the jihadist group Islamic State (IS).

IS controls large swathes of Syria and Iraq and the US-led coalition has been carrying out air strikes since August.

But UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond insisted much more needed to be done.

He told the BBC that the countries wanted to find ways to halt the flow of recruits to IS, cut off its funding and "tackle the underlying narrative".

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Posted January 22, 2015 at 7:21 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The tide of foreign volunteers crossing from Turkey into Syria to fight for Isis cannot be stopped, the Turkish Prime Minister has warned, with authorities unable to close the porous 510-mile border between the two countries.

Ahmet Davutoglu, whose government has been accused of not doing enough to stop jihadi fighters from Britain and other countries crossing into Syria, told The Independent that Turkey could not put “soldiers everywhere on the border”. He added: “In any case, there isn’t any state on the other side [of the frontier].”

Turkey plays a crucial role in the Syrian crisis because of its long border with the country, part of which is now controlled by Isis. Mr Davutoglu described how Turkey’s close relations with Bashar al-Assad – “I visited there 62 times in 10 years” – soured in 2011 when “Assad started to kill his own people”.

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Posted January 21, 2015 at 6:11 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The U.S. has said it won’t be sending soldiers to fight ISIS but some Americans have found their own way there

When the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) surrounded the Yezidi tribes on Sinjar Mountain in August last year, Dean Parker was at his job as a commercial painter in the U.S.. That evening, he saw news reports of Kurdish fighters trying to liberate the mountain.

“I made the decision right there,” says Parker, now sitting in his hotel room in the northern Iraqi city of Sulaymaniyah. “I was online booking a ticket.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 21, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Five months after the United States began to bomb Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, it still has no new law authorizing this military action. President Obama had asked Congress to pass one. But lawmakers have so far failed to agree. Now the president has reversed course. He said this week he will propose his own law, known generally as an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).

This delay in providing a legal underpinning for the war reveals two nonlegal problems:

One, the threat from terrorist groups keeps shifting in geography and tactics. Are Al Qaeda groups aligned with Islamic State or opposed to it? What if new groups in Libya or Yemen pledge loyalty to IS? What if terrorists carry out attacks on more highly symbolic targets in the West, such as the one on the French satirical magazine?

Two, despite 13 years of experience since 9/11, Americans and their lawmakers have yet to define the core principles – beyond defense of Americans – that would guide the commander in chief in leading all types of counterterrorism activities

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 17, 2015 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Soon after four Jewish men were killed in a hostage-taking siege at a kosher market in Paris last week, the Israeli leadership leapt to offer refuge.

“To all the Jews of France, all the Jews of Europe, I would like to say that Israel is not just the place in whose direction you pray; the state of Israel is your home,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised address.

If a new wave of French Jews move to Israel, they will join what was a record 7,000 compatriots who made the journey last year. But that movement is already rekindling debate among Jews, who ask: Is it better for French Jews to come to Israel or stay home and insist that French society, including the country’s swelling Muslim population, accommodate them?

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeFranceMiddle EastIsrael* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 16, 2015 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Big terrorist attacks are often accompanied by calls for a reformation in Islam. But it will be a long wait for a Martin Luther. There is no church or hierarchy in Islam, and there are several schools of thought, so interpretations are usually based on the consensus of clerical institutions. The vast majority of clerics argue that jihadis misunderstand their religion and the overwhelming majority of Muslims never resort to any act of violence. But that is not to say there is no need for reform.

After the attacks of September 11 2001, a rare and welcome debate erupted over the ideology and teachings of the puritanical Wahhabi Islam practised in Saudi Arabia and its role in misleading youth. Liberals were given the space to argue their case and the language of clerics grew more moderate. But then the pressure faded and so did the reforms.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaMiddle East* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 15, 2015 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The statistics on Syria's civil war are horrifying. Since March 2011 around 200,000 people have been killed and 6.5m people have become internally displaced. A new report from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, published on January 7th, brought another grim figure: Syria has overtaken Afghanistan to become the biggest source of refugees in the world. More than 3m Syrians, or one in eight of its population, had fled the country by the end of June 2014, the most recent date for cross-country comparisons. In the six months since, another 300,000 have left.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSyria* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 13, 2015 at 5:14 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Although not widely reported in the United States or in Europe, at the Coptic Cathedral on Christmas Eve, President el-Sisi said the following:

I would like to say a few brief words. Please, allow me. It was necessary for me to come and present my wishes to you. I hope that I am not interrupting your prayers. I wanted to tell you something… Throughout millennia, Egypt brought humanism and civilization to the whole world…. And I’d like to tell you that the world is looking to Egypt even now, in this day and age and in the present circumstances. I thank you very, very much, but honestly, I don’t want His Holiness the Pope to be upset with me. Listen, it is very important that the world should see us… that the world should see us, Egyptians… and you will note that I never use a word other than “Egyptians.” It’s not right to call each other by any other name. We are Egyptians. Let no one ask, ”What kind of Egyptian are you?” or “From what religious denomination?” Please, please, listen to me. With these words, we are showing the world the meaning of …we are opening a space for genuine hope and light. As I said, Egypt has brought a humanistic and civilizing message to the world for millennia, and we are here today to confirm that we are capable of doing so again. Yes, a humanistic and civilizing message should once more emanate from Egypt. This is why we must not call ourselves anything other than “Egyptians.” This is what we must be — Egyptians, just Egyptians. Egyptians indeed!

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgypt* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesCoptic Church

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Posted January 12, 2015 at 3:25 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

More must be done in 2015 to combat the "suffering, destruction and devastation" of ancient Christian and other communities in the Middle East, according to a leading bishop from the region.

Bishop Angaelos, leader of the UK's Coptic Orthodox Church, warns that it is becoming "increasingly difficult" to give hope to those suffering gross violations of their human rights.

He says in his New Year message that much has been done to help already, but it still went nowhere near far enough.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesCoptic Church

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Posted January 3, 2015 at 11:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The school was started just two years ago by a woman who couldn't look away after feeling like 'the whole world let them down.'

Watch it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchCharities/Non-Profit OrganizationsChildrenEducationViolence* International News & CommentaryCanadaEuropeTurkeyMiddle EastSyria

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Posted January 3, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On most afternoons, Mor Barsaumo, a honey-colored, fifth-century stone church nestled in a warren of slanted streets, draws a crowd. In the narrow courtyard, old men smoke cigarettes and drink coffee, while children kick a soccer ball across the stone floor. In a darkened classroom, empty except for a few desks, a teacher gives private lessons in Syriac, derived from Aramaic, the language of Christ.

And now, the refugees also come.

Advised by relatives or other refugees, newcomers to Midyat often make the steps of the church their first stop. Midyat and its environs—known in Syriac as Tur Abdin, “mountain of the servants of God”—are the historical heartland of the Middle East's widely dispersed Syriac Orthodox Christian community. Now the region has become a haven as the fighting in Syria and Iraq has forced Christians to flee their homes.

“All Syriac Christians come here. Most of the aid is delivered from here,” says Ayhan Gürkan, a deacon at Mor Barsaumo and a member of the Tur Abdin Syriac Christians Committee, set up to look after Midyat’s Christian refugees.

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

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Posted January 2, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Anti-Christian violence in 2014 saw a transformation from under-told news coverage, to routine reports of radical Islamists seeking to obliterate Christianity’s presence.

Religious freedom experts captured the dire situation of Middle Eastern Christians in comments on Friday to The Jerusalem Post.

"Persecution no longer adequately describes the treatment of Christians in a growing number of Muslim areas.

Religious cleansing, a type of cultural genocide, which is a crime against humanity, is the more accurate description.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsChristmas* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted December 30, 2014 at 4:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I guess you could argue that this is all old news. A lot has happened since late November, and there are plenty of other stories to cover. By and large, the international media have moved on. But the refugees are still there, huddled together on the grounds of the church, or in other sites scattered around Kurdish-controlled territory (which has offered them a warm welcome despite its own lack of resources). The world may have forgotten these people, but they’re still struggling to come to terms with the catastrophe. The accounts repeat and overlap: “I hid our money in the house, thinking we’d be back in a few days. But now we realize that we’ll probably never be able to go back.” “They knew our cellphone number, so a few days later, they called us up and said they’d hunt us down and kill us.” “They took him away, and we’ve never heard from him again.”

Mukhlis Yusef Yacoub, 37, could be considered one of the lucky ones. Thanks to a benefactor from his hometown of Qaraqosh (a predominantly Christian city just east of Mosul), he’s found a job in Erbil, selling clothes from the back of a car, which gives him just enough money to afford a closet-sized apartment for him, his wife, and their three kids. But this is small consolation for the loss of their world.

“They came on August 6,” Yacoub told me, remembering how the jihadists began their assault on Qaraqosh. Islamic State fighters detained him and his 9-year-old son, Mark; his wife and two daughters managed to flee. His captors demanded that Yacoub convert to Islam. When he refused, they beat him so viciously that he lost his sight in one eye. Yet he would not bend — so his jailers decided to go after his son. “They tied a rope around Mark’s body and legs, and then they dragged him down the street behind a car.” But still, he said, he refused to submit. After 7 days, his jailers tired of the game, and they expelled Yacoub and his son from IS-controlled territory. The two of them walked on foot for miles until they reached the safety of Kurdish territory.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesCoptic ChurchOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted December 30, 2014 at 4:15 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

This year recorded the highest number of children caught in conflict zones who were directly and deliberately attacked. The targeting of children in conflict is not new, but it's rising at an alarming rate. In 2014, more children were killed, kidnapped, tortured, raped, forcibly recruited by armed groups and even sold as slaves than at any time in recent history.

The numbers are grim. In Pakistan, over 130 students — most of them 12 to 16 years old—were slaughtered in a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar earlier this month. In the Central African Republic, where 2.3 million children are entangled in a long-running sectarian conflict, as many as 10,000 children are believed to have been recruited as child soldiers, and more than 430 children were killed and maimed this year — three times as many as in 2013. When violence erupted in Israel and Gaza last summer, more than 530 children were killed, at least 3,370 children injured, and 54,000 children were left homeless, while countless others hid in fear from rockets, artillery and air strikes.

In Syria, where civil war, now approaching its fifth year, has created 1.7 million child refugees, there were at least 35 attacks on schools, killing and injuring hundreds of children. In Iraq, at least 700 children are believed to have been maimed, killed or even executed this year. In South Sudan, an estimated 12,000 children have been recruited and forced to fight in an ongoing civil war that has caused more than a million children to flee their homes. In Ukraine, 128,000 children have been displaced by violence.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchChildrenGlobalizationHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeUkraineMiddle EastIraqSyria* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted December 29, 2014 at 4:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It's always nice to learn something new. I was talking to some Lebanese students in London recently. They were looking forward to returning home for Christmas, and celebrating this great feast in traditional Lebanese style. In the West, we think of Christ lying in a manger in a stable. In Lebanon, I was told, Christians depict the nativity as taking place in a cave. The reasons for this are lost in the mists of time. Yet the image of Jesus being born in a cave is rich and suggestive.

As we reflect on what Christmas means for billions of Christians across the world, this image can help us unlock some of its themes, and help us understand why it is seen as being so significant....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsChristmas* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastLebanon* TheologyChristology

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Posted December 27, 2014 at 8:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The St. Raphael Cathedral near the Lebanese capital has added more than 1,400 Iraqi refugee families from Mosul alone to its aid rosters since July, all of them having fled the city now occupied by Islamic State fighters.

On Tuesday, several of the uprooted families stood in line at the cathedral in Baabda southeast of Beirut—the seat of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Lebanon—waiting for a food handout. As Rev. Youssef Denha —himself a refugee from Iraq—flipped through the pages of the ledger where he tracked each handout, he set aside any pretense of seasonal optimism.

“This is a holiday of sadness, not happiness. Daesh has left us with nothing,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsChristmas* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraqLebanon* Theology

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Posted December 24, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Although hundreds of thousands of refugees are displaced from their homes in Iraq and their futures remain uncertain due to the siege of the Islamic State, The Vicar of Baghdad wrote in an online Christmas statement that Christian refugees in Iraq have not been deterred from exhibiting joy in the only thing they have left: the unconditional of Jesus.

Writing from his new temporary home in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ, the Rev. Canon Andrew White, the only Anglican pastor in Iraq, said that even though ISIS has left these displaced Christian refugees with no homes, no clothes and, in some cases, no families, their faith remains strong in the "refugee child," Jesus.

"All you have got left is the love of that refugee child. That to us in the Middle East is all that matters this Christmas," White explained.

Read it all.



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

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Posted December 23, 2014 at 5:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In recent months, Church leaders have expressed concern about the departure of a rising number of Christians from the Middle East.

The civil war in Syria and the advance of so-called Islamic State militants in Iraq have led to appeals for greater support for some of the world's oldest Christian communities.

Read and listen to it all.


Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesThe Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKMiddle EastIsrael

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Posted December 22, 2014 at 8:25 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

KIM LAWTON, correspondent: Southeastern Turkey shares a 500-mile-long border with Syria. On this day, the view into Syria looks quiet, peaceful even. But just a few miles from here, Syrian government forces, rebel groups and ISIS are waging a brutal battle for control. So far, nearly 1.6 million Syrians have sought safety in Turkey, and more are coming every day.

SAVAS METIN, Kimse Yok Mu: They escaped from this conflict with their own clothes. They couldn’t bring any kind of stuff, their belongings, together with them. They just escaped. They left everything behind.

LAWTON: Since the beginning of Syria’s civil war in March 2011, nearly 11 million people have been forced to flee from their homes. Almost eight million are displaced inside Syria, while three and a quarter million have ended up in neighboring countries. Daryl Grisgraber focuses on the Middle East for the advocacy group Refugees International.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryEuropeTurkeyMiddle EastSyria* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith Relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted December 21, 2014 at 6:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“Egypt killed Islam in America,” said one Muslim-American of Egyptian origin, who had been involved in Muslim civic activism for years. He was responding to a question I had about Muslim-Americans’ reactions to the various twists and turns of the Egyptian revolution, after the well-known Swiss-Egyptian academic, Tariq Ramadan, had declared that he would boycott a gathering of Muslim activists in Canada, partly due to political differences over Egypt.

The activist’s answer was flamboyant, and likely overestimated the impact of the Egyptian revolutionary uprising and its aftermath on the development of a specifically Muslim-American consciousness. There are a number of different issues in the international arena that mobilise or interest Muslim-Americans, and there have been for many years – Egypt is certainly not the most critical one. But he had a point in noting that Egypt, before and after former president Mohammed Morsi had been ousted, had created two sharply opposing political camps in the Muslim-American community. That point has some currency far beyond the United States, in Canada as well as a number of European nations. In all of them, large numbers of Muslims are discussing the tensions arising from the Arab uprisings that began in 2011—and Egypt is a big part of that discussion.

The stances of those two camps are not only polarising—they are also inconsistent on the issue of speaking truth to power, in the midst of a multifaceted proxy war that remains deeply energised in the Arab world, and against the backdrop of clear positions on the normativity of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamism.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgypt* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted December 21, 2014 at 12:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Flagging morale, desertion and factionalism are starting to affect the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as Isis, testing the cohesion of the jihadi force as its military momentum slows.

Activists and fighters in parts of eastern Syria controlled by Isis said as military progress slows and focus shifts to governing the area, frustration has grown among militants who had been seen as the most disciplined and effective fighting force in the country’s civil war.

The group hurtled across western Iraq and eastern Syria over the summer in a sudden offensive that shocked the world. Isis remains a formidable force: it controls swaths of territory and continues to make progress in western Iraq. But its fighters have reached the limit of discontented Sunni Muslim areas that they can easily capture and US-led coalition air strikes partnered with offensives by local ground forces have begun to halt their progress.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted December 20, 2014 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

They are angry at the loss, frustrated that the battle for Mosul is on hold and that Baghdad has failed to support them. In the meantime, they have backing from the Americans who have visited this camp and offered to start training soon.

"Maybe in the next week. Maybe," says Hamdani. But the Americans have made no promises to provide the weapons Hamdani says he needs. "The weapons come from Baghdad."

So far, Baghdad has delivered one small shipment of 1,000 Kalashnikov rifles and 30 heavy machine guns. It's not nearly enough, says Hamdani, against a dangerous enemy that is well-armed with U.S. weapons seized in Mosul when the Iraqi army collapsed in June. The fleeing Iraqi army left behind millions of dollars worth of U.S. armaments.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted December 19, 2014 at 11:25 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

God, whose everlasting arms support the universe: We offer thanks for moving the heart of Lillian Trasher to heroic hospitality on behalf of orphaned children in great need, and we pray that we also may find our hearts awakened and our compassion stirred to care for thy little ones, through the example of our Savior Jesus Christ and by the energy of thy Holy Spirit, who broodest over the world as a mother over her children; for they live and reign with thee, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryMissionsSpirituality/Prayer* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgypt

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Posted December 19, 2014 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

She took the call herself the night the Islamic State came into Mosul. ‘Convert or leave or you’ll be killed,’ she was told. The callers, identifying themselves as Isis members, knew the household was Christian because her husband worked as a priest in the city. They fled that night.

Like many of their Christian neighbours they sought refuge in the monastery of St Matthew. But Isis took that over, tore down the Cross, smashed all Cross-decorated windows, used it for their own prayers and flew their black flag on top of the church. Across what was Nineveh, Iraq’s Christians spent this year fleeing from village to village, hoping to find safety somewhere.

This woman’s husband and son continued their ministry among the scattered congregations of Iraq. But the wife, who took the call, is now in west London. We spoke there one Sunday morning earlier this year. To attend the morning service in a Syriac church and hear the Lord’s Prayer uttered in the original Aramaic in which Jesus taught it is profoundly moving at any time. But this year the prayers of this beleaguered congregation of Iraqi Christians in Acton have taken on a terrible, plaintive urgency.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The findings suggest the supply glut that has sent prices tumbling could soon vanish as the oil majors delay big-ticket production projects — the lifeblood of future petrol supplies, heating fuels and chemicals.

Brent, the international benchmark, has fallen more than 45 per cent since mid-June amid surging US shale production, strong supply from the Opec cartel and weak oil demand in Europe and Asia.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeEnergy, Natural ResourcesForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSaudi Arabia* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted December 16, 2014 at 5:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the high-stakes contest between the United States, the biggest shale oil producer, and Saudi Arabia, the biggest oil exporter, America has blinked first.

The OPEC refusal to cut production at its November meeting was widely seen as the declaration of a price war against booming U.S. shale oil producers, which had sent their country’s oil production soaring. Saudis had watched as their market share dropped precipitously in the world’s biggest oil-consuming nation, and they wanted to send a clear message across the global energy market that they weren’t about to back off.

Oil prices have been in freefall ever since. Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, sank another 3 per cent Friday to $61.85 (U.S.) a barrel, while West Texas intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, dropped 3.6 per cent to $57.81, extending its slide from well over $100 a barrel in the summer.

If the global oil standoff pits the industry stalwart Saudi Arabia against the surging U.S. rival, other global players are coping with the pricing fallout, including Canada. Oil companies around the world are being forced to revisit their spending and production plans for 2015, and in the offices towers of downtown Calgary, those changes are already well under way.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeEnergy, Natural ResourcesForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.CanadaMiddle EastSaudi Arabia

3 Comments
Posted December 15, 2014 at 6:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Our guest speaker was His Grace Bishop Youssef, Bishop of the Diocese of the Southern United States of the Coptic Orthodox Church. His sermon focused on learning how to deal with persecution from the examples laid out for us in Holy Scripture. He expounded on how St. Stephen had two options during his martyrdom: look to his persecutors, or lift his eyes to heaven. The saints in the Middle East join
Stephen, with their eyes lifted up to the prize of their calling, Jesus Christ, seated on the right hand of His Father, in heaven. He commented that our service of prayer for our suffering brothers was kindred to the saints praying for Peter when he was thrown into prison....

Read it all.


Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, WorshipSpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesCoptic Church* South Carolina

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Posted December 15, 2014 at 6:06 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As the school year began in Mosul, the largest city controlled by the Islamic State, the extremists sent a message to teachers: Report for work or lose your jobs.

Then, directives bearing the group’s black flag and hung in schools dictated the new order. Males and females were split up. Girls were to swap their gray skirts and blouses for black gowns and veils that covered their faces. Sports were only for boys. Civics classes were scrapped. At the University of Mosul, one of Iraq’s top institutions, the schools of fine arts, political science and law were deemed un-Islamic and shuttered.

The teachers were in a bind. Not showing up meant defying a group that often murdered its foes. But going to work could anger the government in Baghdad, which still paid their salaries. Out of fear, many teachers complied.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted December 15, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

ISIS fighters stormed a town in Iraq's western Anbar province Saturday, killing at least 19 policemen and trapping others inside their headquarters, in the latest attack in the desert region where it controls large amounts of territory, officials said.

ISIS seized the town of Al-Wafa, 45 km west of Anbar's capital Ramadi Saturday after starting its assault early Friday.

With the capture of Al-Wafa, ISIS now controls three major towns to the west of Ramadi, including Hit and Kubaisa. ISIS and government forces have been bogged down in a monthslong battle for Ramadi.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted December 14, 2014 at 5:14 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

By October, it was becoming clear to us and others that Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Emirate allies could not afford to continue petro-pricing business as usual with sectarian wars exploding out of control, threatening the entire region.

In particular, they were infuriated that the Shia regime in Syria was being propped up by Iran and Russia. Moreover, Iran seemed to be getting closer to becoming a nuclear power with each month. Amid the chaos, the Islamic State terrorists had suddenly become a formidable challenge to the entire region, and they were getting increasing revenues from oil properties they had seized.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEnergy, Natural ResourcesForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussiaMiddle EastIranSaudi ArabiaSyria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted December 14, 2014 at 12:31 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mohammed Hamzah Khan, 19, rose before dawn on Oct. 4 to pray with his father and 16-year-old brother at their neighborhood mosque in a Chicago suburb.

When they returned home just before 6 a.m., the father went back to bed and the Khan teens secretly launched a plan they had been hatching for months: to abandon their family and country and travel to Syria to join the Islamic State.

While his parents slept, Khan gathered three newly issued U.S. passports and $2,600 worth of airline tickets to Turkey that he had gotten for himself, his brother and their 17-year-old sister. The three teens slipped out of the house, called a taxi and rode to O’Hare International Airport.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingReligion & CultureTeens / Youth* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The British embassy in Cairo suspended public services on Sunday for security reasons, an embassy spokesperson said.

The embassy declined to give more details due to the sensitive nature of the matter but one official said efforts were under way to make sure it could reopen “safely”. It was not clear when the facility would reopen.

The British embassy website said the office of the British Consulate-General in Alexandria was operating as normal.

Days earlier, the US embassy had released a statement warning staff not to stray too far from their homes.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKMiddle EastEgypt* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

This is a fantastic interview by the BBCWS with Denis Brian, author of The Seven Lives of Colonel Patterson How an Irish Lion Hunter Led the Jewish Legion to Victory. Among many other things, he says of Patterson "If you combined Roosevelt, Hemingway and Lawrence of Arabia you might have a man like John Henry Patterson." Listen to it all (about 3 minutes). Careful listeners will also be interested in the quote from Ze’ev Jabotinsky who once said of Patterson: “In all of Jewish history we have never had a Christian friend as understanding and devoted as he.”

Update" you may read more about the book and denis Brian there.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--IrelandMiddle EastIsrael* Religion News & CommentaryOther Churches

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Posted December 4, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Air strikes carried out by the US-led coalition on Islamic State (IS) have inflicted "significant" damage on the group's capabilities, US Secretary of State John Kerry says.

Mr Kerry said the campaign against the militant group could take years, but that the coalition would remain engaged "as long as it takes".

The US said earlier that Iran, not a coalition member, had carried out air strikes against IS in Iraq.

However, Iran has denied this.

Read it all.

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Posted December 3, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Iran’s judiciary should vacate the death sentence of a 30-year-old man who faces imminent execution for Facebook posts linked to his account. On November 24, 2014, Iran’s Supreme Court upheld a criminal court ruling sentencing Soheil Arabi to hang. The court transferred his file to the judiciary’s implementation unit, opening the way for his execution.

A Tehran criminal court had convicted him in August of sabb al-nabbi, or “insulting the prophet,” referring to the Prophet Muhammad, which carries the death penalty. Arabi’s legal team has asked the judiciary to suspend the death sentence and review the case.

“It is simply shocking that anyone should face the gallows simply because of Internet postings that are deemed to be crude, offensive, or insulting,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director. “Iran should urgently revise its penal code to eliminate provisions that criminalize peaceful free expression, especially when they punish its exercise with death.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIran* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted December 2, 2014 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

One of Islam’s most senior clerics is due to travel to Britain this week to take part in a debate organised by Ukip on religious extremism.

The Grand Mufti of Egypt is expected to meet Nigel Farage and will join a panel discussion on youth radicalisation, according to the party’s communities spokesman, Amjad Bashir.

Mr Bashir, an MEP and one of the party’s most prominent Muslims, has billed the event as an opportunity to remind young people of “the teachings of their religion and developing strategies for combating religious intolerance”.

Shawqi Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam is Egypt’s leading religious authority. He has become one of the most prominent Muslim critics of Islamic State, denouncing it as “an extremist and bloody group that poses a danger to Islam and Muslims”.

Read it all (requires subscription)



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Posted December 2, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The sea is a dangerous way to enter Europe. Nearly 3,000 people have died crossing the Mediterranean this year. Those rescued by the Chios Coast Guard arrive to a bare-bones shelter with no toilet, shower or running water. There, I visit Joud al-Bakri, an 18-year-old aspiring pilot from Aleppo. She sits on the floor of a wooden shack the size of a bedroom.

How many people are in this little house here?

JOUD AL-BAKRI: I guess 20.

KAKISSIS: Twenty.

AL-BAKRI: Maybe, yeah.

KAKISSIS: Is it comfortable?

AL-BAKRI: No, it's not. Actually, when you're sleeping, you just can't move.

KAKISSIS: The shack is crowded. Everyone sleeps on the floor.

AL-BAKRI: It's really hard even to sleep here without anything. And some people are sleeping outside, which is freezing.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilyViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeGreeceMiddle EastSyria* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted December 1, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Havdalah, the set of blessings that ends the Jewish Sabbath, means separation. The text talks about separating light from darkness, the day of rest from the six days of work, the holy from the ordinary, Israel from “the nations.” That last one stems from the controversial biblical concept of Jews as God’s chosen people, and is a reminder of the rough reality now playing out in this holy city.

After a torturous week that included a Palestinian terror attack on a synagogue and the attendant Israeli crackdown, about 200 people gathered Saturday night at Jerusalem’s renovated First Station complex for Havdalah and a pluralistic prayer for peace. Pluralism in this case meant among Jews — the rabbis up front included Reform and Orthodox, women and men, the descendants of Eastern Europe known as Ashkenazim and of those expelled from Spain, Sephardim.

The overwhelmingly Ashkenazi audience delighted when Rabbi David Menachem, whose grandfather came to Israel from Iraq, asked permission to chant Havdalah in “a Sephardi tune — a Jerusalem tune.”

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIsrael* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism

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Posted November 30, 2014 at 11:09 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.

Read it all.

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

[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.”

Read it all (requires subscription).

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesThe Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Two Palestinian assailants entered a synagogue in the quiet West Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof Tuesday morning with axes, knives, and a pistol and killed at least four worshipers in the single deadliest attack on Jews since tensions in this city began escalating this summer.

Three of the dead, all rabbis, were American immigrants to Israel. The fourth was a rabbi born in Britain.

Such an attack poses a challenge not only to Israeli security forces, but also to leaders on both sides as political tensions take on an increasingly religious tinge.

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Posted November 19, 2014 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“The upcoming OPEC meeting is going to be the most difficult one during this century,” said Mohammad al-Sabban, a former senior adviser to Mr. Naimi. “It seems that OPEC has forgotten how to cooperate.”

Within the group, officials are increasingly worried its divisions contribute to weaker prices. “If OPEC fails to reach an agreement,” one OPEC official said, “oil prices will keep on falling....”

A collective move to cut output could boost prices, but it would also rob OPEC members of revenue. It is unclear how long such vulnerable OPEC economies as Venezuela and Nigeria could afford to limit production without reopening the spigots.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeEnergy, Natural ResourcesForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAfricaMiddle EastSouth AmericaVenezuela* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted November 18, 2014 at 7:00 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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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted November 17, 2014 at 5:30 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

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was injured in a strike in Iraq's western Anbar province on Saturday, Iraqi security officials told The Associated Press.

The officials said that they did not know the extent of the top militant's injuries. Their accounts could not be independently confirmed, and it was unclear if the strike that might have wounded him was carried out by U.S. forces, which had targeted Islamic State leaders in the north of the country on Friday.

American officials said on Saturday that military aircraft had struck a convoy of armed trucks near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul the day before, and that they believed the vehicles had been ferrying some of the group's commanders. A spokesman for the U.S. Central Command said he could not confirm whether Baghdadi had been in the convoy, which was destroyed in the raids, officials said.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted November 9, 2014 at 4:10 pm [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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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

U.S. officials are weighing whether to broaden the air campaign in Syria to strike a militant group that is a rival to the Islamic State and that is poised to take over a strategically vital corridor from Turkey.

Extremists from the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra group were said Monday to be within a few miles of the Bab ­al-Hawa crossing in northwestern Syria on the Turkish border, one of only two openings through which the moderate Free Syrian Army receives military and humanitarian supplies provided by the United States and other backers.

Over the weekend, rebels said Jabhat al-Nusra forces swept through towns and villages controlled by the Free Syrian Army in Idlib province, west of Aleppo. Rebel groups associated with the Free Syrian Army were routed from their main strongholds, with scores of fighters fleeing toward Turkey or defecting to join the militants, according to opposition activists.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastSyria* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted November 4, 2014 at 5:45 am [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.

Read it all.


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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The U.S.-led airstrike campaign is hardly a plausible solution to quelling the encroaching and horrific reign of Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, says the Rev. Nadim Nassar, the lone Syrian Anglican minister and director of the London, England-based, Christian charity, Awareness Foundation.

“It can’t be the solution because it only adds to the casualties and destruction to the region,” said Nassar, who spoke at a gathering Oct. 28 at St. John’s (Stone) Church. “The only solution is to dry out external resources that it relies on and all the veins that are feeding it.”

Military response merely provides a distraction, he said, ­­ a “show that they are doing something” —while the situation worsens daily as more than a million dollars a day is pumped into the operations of the Islamic State (known as ISIS or ISIL), a radical group of insurgents in Iraq and Syria and an offshoot of the Islamist militant organization al-Qaeda.

The alternative, said Nassar, is to pinpoint the source of its funding rather than to raise arms.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted October 31, 2014 at 7:15 am [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?

Read it all.

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On 24 October 2014, all of us here in Egypt were shocked to hear the news of another terrorist attack in the North of Sinai.

The terrorists fired on a military border check point, killing 26 military officers and soldiers and injuring a further 25. This was a very serious incident and an attack on the forces of law and order, yet it was largely ignored by the international media.

Egyptians were angered and saddened by the attack and the government responded by tightening security measures, especially at the border with Gaza from where the terrorists possibly had crossed into Sinai, or from where they had received support. The government also declared a State of Emergency in the region.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesThe Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgypt

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Posted October 29, 2014 at 4:55 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.

Read it all.



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

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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.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraqJordan* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Iraq's fractured army has begun to regroup and stage modest, localized attacks on the Islamic State militants who routed them last spring and summer, but they are unlikely to be ready to launch a major counteroffensive for many months, senior U.S. military officials say.

"We've seen them start to act like an army," one official said Thursday in a lengthy exchange with a group of Washington reporters who were invited to U.S. Central Command headquarters for the command's most extensive briefings on operations in Iraq and Syria.

The Iraqi security forces, trained for years by the U.S. prior to its departure from Iraq in 2011, have suffered sectarian divisions, a breakdown in leadership and a loss of confidence. To compound the problem, they surrendered tanks, armored personnel carriers and other U.S.-supplied equipment several months ago when IS fighters overtook Mosul.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted October 24, 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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Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAfricaAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaEngland / UKEuropeMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Francis Other FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted October 19, 2014 at 3:00 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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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraqSyria* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Attalaf al Nour, a farmer who lives in Iraq’s Sunni heartland, long enjoyed a simple life that revolved around livestock, crops and trips to the city to sell his grain.

But since July, when Islamic State militants swept into Iraq, his world has been upended by new geographic and political borders that don’t yet appear on any map. They are fracturing Iraq’s fragile cohesion by forcing thousands of families to cross, at their peril, militant checkpoints to reach their markets, schools and jobs.

“Iraq is broken like never before, thanks to Daaesh,” said Mr. Nour, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State. “We are all divided and our lives are now upside down.”

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Posted October 15, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...this is a classic case of predatory pricing: set your price low enough long enough to do real damage to competitors, and reduce their market share, not just immediately, but in the middle to long term.

Now admittedly some pet targets may not be hurt as badly as hoped. Russia will suffer more of an opportunity loss than an actual cost from the price reduction, since the ruble has fallen significantly against the dollar. The Saudis may hope to partially displace Russia as a supplier of oil to Europe (now roughly 1/3 of the total) but refineries would need to be retooled to refine the Saudi’s light crude, so it isn’t clear whether even what amounts to bargain prices will offset this cost (and readers point out that Russian crude may also produced a better mix of distillates for European use, since they are much heavier users of diesel fuel than the US).

But aside from the not-inconsiderable economic impact, the surprise Saudi step looks to be an even bigger geopolitical winner. The US and Riyadh have been at odds for over a year; the Saudis were particularly unhappy over the US failure to try to topple Assad last summer (you may recall the intensity of the Administration warmongering versus the dubious US interest; even Congress showed an unexpected amount of backbone and made its lack of support for Syrian adventurism clear). The Saudis have also long been less than happy with the US refusal to attack Iran (which is a rare case of the US acting as a responsible hegemon and curbing a putative ally with a bad case of blood lust). That unhappiness has ben compounded by the US now effectively helping the Assad regime and working in as distanced a manner as possible with Iran in targeting ISIS.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyEnergy, Natural Resources* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.EuropeRussiaMiddle EastIranSaudi ArabiaSyria* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted October 15, 2014 at 6:00 am [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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Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & CultureViolenceWomen* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

An Iraqi provincial leader has issued a plea for US ground forces to head off total collapse in the country's largest province, a swathe of territory that could serve as a springboard for an assault on Baghdad by forces of the so-called Islamic State.

The call by Sabah al-Karhout, the president of Anbar's provincial council, will test the nerve of officials in the Iraqi and American capitals. It comes as a rash of suicide bombings in Baghdad late on Saturday killed more than 50 people and wounded nearly 100, mostly in Shiite districts of the city.

Set beside the ongoing failure of US-led airstrikes to turn the tide in the battle for Kobane, a small Kurdish community in the north of neighbouring Syria, and desperate fighting in the oil refinery town of Baiji, north of Baghdad, Mr Karhout's appeal will leave many in the region and beyond wondering how the US and its allies intend to save an entire country, when seemingly they can't save a single town.

Read it all from the SMH.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastIraq* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted October 12, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There are at least three levels of violence. The first demonstrates mere power and greed, with mobs and soldiers driving people out of their homes and businesses and into the streams of refugees. According to United Nations estimates, at least 1 million Iraqis have been displaced during the past four months.

The second level of everyday violence, she said bluntly, is "just shooting people."

On the third level, people move beyond deadly violence into unbelievable acts of terror. A Muslim who fled the fighting, said Ahmed, told her one story about what happened to some Iraqi men who could not flee fast enough. The Islamic State soldiers "lay them on the ground, after shooting them," and then rolled over the bodies with a tractor in "front of their families, just to devastate them."

[Andrew] White said those who survive are left haunted by what they have seen and, in some cases, what they themselves have done.

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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsJudaism

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Posted October 11, 2014 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

With food and jobs scarce, and their savings depleted, Syrian Christians and their neighbors are struggling to provide for their families.

Despite their own trauma, many believers are choosing to stay in their beleaguered communities and reach out in love amid their neighbors' pain.

Christians in Syria have been able to distribute food with the help of Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist-related relief organization. Families also are receiving blankets and medical care. Children who have been out of school for years once again are being educated.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSyria* Religion News & CommentaryOther Churches* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted October 11, 2014 at 1:16 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The US-led coalition has unleashed more than 40 airstrikes on Anbar since August, helping drive Isis back from the critical Haditha dam.

However, the strikes have failed to blunt the militants’ overall advance, which has accelerated dramatically in the past three weeks. They have taken two military bases and a string of strategic towns, putting the Iraqi government’s already tenuous presence in Anbar at risk. Daily attacks on Iraqi security forces are taking place around the provincial capital, Ramadi.

After the capture of Hit last week, Ramadi and Haditha are now the only two government-held enclaves standing in the way of an unbroken Isis supply line running along the Euphrates river from Raqqa, its de facto capital in Syria, to Baghdad.

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

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Posted October 11, 2014 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

After 16 years, Egypt has completed the restoration of a famous Cairo landmark — the St. Virgin Mary's Coptic Church, also known as the Hanging Church.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab and the country's Coptic Christian pope, Tawadros II, attended the Saturday's ceremony marking the end of the $5.4 million restoration project.

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgypt* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesCoptic Church

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Posted October 11, 2014 at 11:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon




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Posted October 10, 2014 at 3:31 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their work for children’s rights.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee cited the two “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”

Malala, 17, is the youngest ever winner of a Nobel Prize. A schoolgirl and education campaigner in Pakistan, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman two years ago. She.

Satyarthi, 60, has maintained the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and headed various forms of peaceful protests, “focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain,” the Nobel committee said.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenEducationGlobalizationViolenceWomen* International News & CommentaryAsiaPakistanMiddle EastSyria

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Posted October 10, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I doubt anyone in the Church of England who knows Rev. Stephen Sizer was surprised that he would attend a conference critical of Israel. Sizer, the Vicar of Christ Church in Virginia Water, Surrey, is an outspoken critic of what he calls Christian Zionism, that is, Christian support for the nation-state of Israel on theological grounds.

What is surprising is that a vicar of the Church of England would attend a conference in Iran to speak to a group of anti-Semites on the subject of the Zionist lobby in England. Other attendees of the New Horizon conference in Tehran include a long list of Holocaust deniers and 9/11 truthers. The conference included a panel discussion called “Mossad’s Role in the 9/11 Coup d’Etat” with the subheading “9/11 and the Holocaust as pro-Zionist ‘Public Myths.’”

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIran* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther Faiths* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted October 9, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Turkey is warning that the city of Kobani, which sits on the Syria-Turkey border, could at any moment fall to fighters affiliated with the Islamic State. That development would represent a huge setback for the U.S.-led air campaign in Syria and could portend a humanitarian catastrophe. Kurdish forces are warning of a possible massacre if Kobani falls to the Islamic State, which would solidify the group's control of a large chunk of territory along Syria's border with Turkey.

Kobani is now the sole remaining Kurdish-controlled town along a huge stretch of the Syrian border. To understand how isolated it is from the rest of the country, consider the map below. Syrian Kurds have in recent weeks been battling with Islamic State militants elsewhere in Syria, but it is in Kobani where that fighting has entered a key phase, as the militant group attempts to consolidate its rule in the north. Kobani is the small blot of yellow due east from where the Euphrates crosses into Syria.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchUrban/City Life and IssuesViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEuropeTurkeyMiddle EastSyria* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted October 9, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A parish priest and a number of Christians have been kidnapped from a Syrian village near the border with Turkey, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said on Tuesday.

The Latin Patriarchate, which oversees Latin Church Catholics in Israel and neighbouring countries, said Father Hanna Jallouf had been kidnapped on the night of Oct. 5 in Knayeh, a small Christian village. It said his kidnappers were brigades linked to the Islamist Nusra Front.

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the LaityMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSyria* Religion News & CommentaryOther Churches

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Posted October 8, 2014 at 7:10 am [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]




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