Posted by Kendall Harmon

Welby’s visit was to offer condolences for Egypt’s most recent witnesses, the twenty Coptic Christians and one Ghanaian martyred in Libya in February. The word ‘martyr’ is derived from a Greek word meaning ‘witness.’

Symbolically, Welby delivered to Pope Tawadros twenty-one letters written by grieving British families. One is believed to have been related to David Haines, the aid worker captured in Syria and beheaded last year.

“Why have the martyrs of Libya spoken so powerfully to the world?” Welby asked. “The way these brothers lived and died communicated that their testimony is trustworthy.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin WelbyAnglican ProvincesThe Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaEthiopiaMiddle EastEgypt* Theology

19 Comments
Posted April 23, 2015 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Nigeria’s military announced last week that it was raiding the Sambisa Forest, one of the last strongholds of Islamist extremist group Boko Haram. Liberating the forest might be the hardest part of the campaign against the group.

Aided by regional troops and foreign mercenaries, Nigeria’s military has managed to take back nearly all of the towns and villages controlled by Boko Haram in Nigeria’s northeast over the past few months.

But one area remains mostly under their control: Sambisa, a massive expanse of forest that spreads thousands of square kilometers over several states.

Read it all.


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

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Posted April 22, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

French anti-terror police believe they have foiled an 'imminent" terrorist attack against "one, maybe two churches" in Paris, the interior minister revealed on Wednesday.

"A terrorist attack was foiled on Sunday morning," said France's interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve in an impromptu media briefing.

Cazeneuve revealed announced that a 24-year-old IT student, of French Algerian origins, was arrested on Sunday in possession of a significant arsenal of weapons. It is believed he was intending to carry out an attack that very day.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireReligion & CultureUrban/City Life and IssuesViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEuropeFrance* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 22, 2015 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Post and Courier on Monday was awarded the year’s most prestigious Pulitzer Prize for its series about the deadly toll that domestic violence takes on South Carolina women.

The Public Service gold medal went to the newspaper for its “Till Death Do Us Part” articles that were published across five editions in August. Reporters Doug Pardue, Glenn Smith, Jennifer Berry Hawes and Natalie Caula Hauff authored the series.

Their work told the tales of domestic abuse survivors and of the 300 women in the Palmetto State who have been shot, stabbed, strangled, beaten, bludgeoned or burned to death by men during the past decade while legislators did little to quell the bloodshed.

A panel of seven judges from news media and academia called the newspaper’s work “riveting.”

Read it all and take the time to read the whole series.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilyMediaMenSexualityViolenceWomen* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralState Government* South Carolina* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

1 Comments
Posted April 21, 2015 at 6:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Anglican Bishop for Ethiopia has hailed as martyrs 28 Ethiopian Christians shot or beheaded in Libya by members of the terrorist group known as ISIS or ISIL.

"I have just learned the horrifying news that as many as twenty-eight Ethiopian Christians have been shot or beheaded in Libya by members of the terrorist group known as ISIS or ISIL. This alarming act of violence against those that ISIS calls “people of the cross” comes just two months after twenty-one other Christians - twenty Egyptians and one Ghanian, were beheaded on a Libyan beach." Bishop Grant LeMarquand said in a letter to be read in Ethopian churches and distributed overseas.

Bishop LeMarquand is Anglican Area Bishop for the Horn of Africa (Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia and Ethiopia) and Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa.

Read it all.

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

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Posted April 21, 2015 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Archbishop of Canterbury was in Cairo yesterday to show solidarity with Egyptian Christians murdered by jihadists two months ago. His visit was made more timely even as it was overshadowed by yet more murders. As he gave letters of condolence to the families of the victims of Islamic State’s last massacre of Christians, IS released sickening video footage of the next.

The latest film from the terrorist organisation holding the Middle East to ransom is as barbaric as anything it has produced. Prefaced with footage of jihadists vandalising Christian churches, the 29-minute video shows militants holding two groups of prisoners who they claim are members of an “enemy Ethiopian church”. Twelve are shown being beheaded on a beach. At least 16 more are shot in the head elsewhere. Both groups are thought to have been murdered in Libya.

Subject to verification of the footage this brings to more than 50 the number of Christians killed by IS in recent weeks. The strategy is clear. The leadership of the so-called caliphate, under pressure in Iraq, is seeking to expand its reign of terror in North Africa and in particular to sabotage efforts to bring stability to Libya.

Read it all (subscription required).

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaEthiopiaLibya* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted April 20, 2015 at 5:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The confirmation of the murder of Ethiopian Christians by Daesh (IS) in Libya has been received with deep sadness. These executions that unnecessarily and unjustifiably claim the lives of innocent people, wholly undeserving of this brutality, have unfortunately become far too familiar. Once again we see innocent Christians murdered purely for refusing to renounce their Faith.

The Christians of Egypt and Ethiopia have had a shared heritage for centuries. Being predominantly Orthodox Christian communities with a mutual understanding of life and witness, and a common origin in the Coptic Orthodox Church, they now also share an even greater connection through the blood of these contemporary martyrs.

This sad news came on the day that His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury visited His Holiness Pope Tawadros II in Egypt to personally express his condolences following the similar brutal murder of 21 Coptic Orthodox Christians in Libya by Daesh in February of this year.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaEthiopiaLibya* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOrthodox ChurchOther FaithsIslam* Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 20, 2015 at 4:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

South African President Jacob Zuma has visited a refugee camp in the port of Durban after a fresh outbreak of anti-foreigner violence.

Mr Zuma told those who had fled the violence that it went against South African values and he would bring it to an end.

But he was jeered by some in the crowd who accused him of acting too slowly.

At least six people have died in xenophobic attacks in Durban, with violence spreading to other areas.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPsychologyViolence* International News & CommentaryAfricaSouth Africa* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 18, 2015 at 1:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For those who survived the Oklahoma City bombing, this is a tough milestone, but it's also a moment to honor their resilience.

Watch it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryUrban/City Life and IssuesViolence* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralCity GovernmentTerrorism* TheologyAnthropologyEschatologyPastoral Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 18, 2015 at 12:18 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Look at them all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralCity GovernmentTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEschatology

0 Comments
Posted April 18, 2015 at 12:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Police in Australia say they have foiled an Islamic State-inspired plot to carry out an attack at a World War One centenary event.

Police arrested five teenage suspects, charging one 18-year-old with conspiring to commit a terrorist act.

The men were planning to target police at an Anzac memorial event in Melbourne next week, police said.

About 200 police officers took part in the counter-terrorism operation in the city early on Saturday.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & CultureTeens / YouthViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAustralia / NZ* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 18, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Armen Keteyian: Describe your emotional state at that point in time.

Mike Pressler: Really pissed. Really shocked that they would have this party first and foremost. But anyway, I asked each one of 'em to their face, one at a time. The astonishment on their face. And when you know your people, I knew exactly from their reaction to the allegations this was absolutely untrue.

The problem was, few others did. This is how the late Ed Bradley described the media storm surrounding the Duke rape case here on "60 Minutes":

The district attorney, Mike Nifong, took to the airwaves giving dozens of interviews, expressing - with absolute certainty - that Duke lacrosse players had committed a horrific crime.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesMediaMenSexualitySportsViolenceWomenYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralCity GovernmentState Government* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 17, 2015 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Days after Islamists killed 148 people at Garissa university, Kenya's president held out an olive branch to Muslims and urged them to join Nairobi in the struggle against militant Islam by informing on sympathisers.

But as Uhuru Kenyatta launches a battle for Muslim hearts and minds, his security forces must first reckon with the deep mistrust among ethnic-Somali Muslims in the country's northeast regions bordering Somalia.

Kenyatta also faces an uphill task in reforming the violent ways of troops on the ground. A day before he spoke, a soldier in Garissa was seen by a Reuters reporter lashing at a crowd of Muslim women with a long stick.

"We live in fear," said Barey Bare, one of a dozen veiled Somali-Kenyan women targeted by the soldier.

"The military are a threat and al Shabaab are a threat. We are in between."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaKenya* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 15, 2015 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A handful of families have taken refuge in the monastery, as Christians have done for centuries since Islamic armies first swept across the plain in the 7th Century with the Arab conquest.

Thirteen-year-old Nardine is all too aware of what IS fighters do to girls they regard as infidels. "They are very cruel, they are very harsh," Nardine whispered fearfully. "Everyone knows, they took the Yazidi girls and sold them in the market."

"Isis have no mercy for anyone. They select women to rape them," said Nardine's mother. "We were afraid for our daughters so we ran away."

Read it all.

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

3 Comments
Posted April 15, 2015 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Exploitative, crap journalism is nothing new, and yet distinct lessons can be learned from this example of it. I do hope we can find a place between never questioning a woman when she says she was raped and questioning her way more than everyone else.

There are parallels between this disgraceful episode and the satanic-ritual-daycare-child-sex-abuse panic of the 1980s – often seen as a reaction to a societal shift wherein more women entered the work force, and thus more children attended daycare. The impetus for that alarm (much like the heightened discussion of the number of women pursuing higher education) seemed to be that the trend was somehow unnatural and a close-to-supernaturally-extracted price must be paid.

This is not to suggest that sexual abuse of children – the kind mostly committed by relations of the children and people we know, who rely on the shame of their victims to hide their crimes – is not very real, any more than it is to suggest that rape on campus is not committed and protected in the same manner; only that the problem needs to be addressed calmly and intelligently.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMediaMenPsychologySexualityViolenceWomenYoung Adults* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 15, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

"It is impossible to go there, and to meet especially the children, without being determined that they must have a future," the Cardinal said.

But the task ahead is vast: regaining land from Islamic State, rebuilding ruined town and cities, establishing law and order and rebuilding society.

Nichols said that in the project to rebuild Iraq, "the presence of the Christian community is essential".

"I say that not out of a nostalgic sense that this is a Christian community that's 2,000 years old. This not a cultural, historical, or an archaeological issue. This is an issue of how do you build a stable, balanced society, in that region, and I think... the Christian presence is essential to that mosaic."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesRoman CatholicOther FaithsIslam* Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 15, 2015 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Three decades ago, plainclothes Syrian agents went door to door in this border village seeking out young Christian men, who were abducted and killed in a notorious chapter of Lebanon’s 15-year civil war.

The village’s nearly 2,000 Christians now find themselves siding with the same Syrian regime they blame for what many call the 1978 massacre.

That is because a few miles away, hundreds of Islamist extremists tied to al Qaeda and Islamic State stalk the porous border region separating Lebanon and Syria. Standing between the militants and the village are Lebanese troops aided by the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, whose men are also fighting for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“Yes, I prefer the Syrian regime over these terrorist groups,” a 45-year-old Al-Qaa resident said, but it is a choice “between the bitter and more bitter.”

Read it all from the WSJ.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamJudaism* Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 15, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Pontifical Science Academies have launched a new website aimed at combatting the worldwide scourge of human trafficking. The website builds on the success achieved over the past year by the ecumenical Global Freedom Network, including a joint declaration against modern slavery signed by Pope Francis and leaders of different faith communities in countries around the world.

Read it all and there is more there.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Culture-WatchGlobalizationLaw & Legal IssuesSexualityViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 14, 2015 at 3:14 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Events are taking place around the world to mark one year since Boko Haram militants abducted nearly 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria, sparking global outrage.

The girls were kidnapped from their school in Chibok, in the northeast of the country, leading millions around the world to call for their return as the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag exploded on social media.

A number of girls later escaped the militants, who often force those abducted to convert to Islam and fight or work as sex slaves, but 219 remain missing.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenHistoryMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureTeens / YouthViolenceWomen* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 14, 2015 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On January 7, 2015, two Islamist terrorists stormed into a small publisher's office in Paris and murdered 12 people. The world reacted swiftly and forcefully. Within a few days, an estimated 3.7 million freedom-of-speech sympathizers, joined by 40 world leaders, thronged the streets of Paris as a show of solidarity.

A few days earlier, some 3,000 miles to the south, the terrorist group Boko Haram swarmed into a small town in the northeast corner of Nigeria and slaughtered up to 2,000 villagers. Amnesty International called the attack "catastrophic." An eyewitness reported that the terrorists were killing people "like animals."

But the world hardly noticed.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 13, 2015 at 1:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Vernon testified that he hadn’t seen Franks die. He said the police fed him information – the battery acid, the caliber of the gun – and coerced him into testifying. He said they got mad whenever he got cold feet. They threatened to send his parents to jail. They controlled him with fear. And once told, Vernon’s story became a monster of its own volition.

“They were lies,” he testified.

“It was all lies?” the prosecutor asked.

“They were lies,” he said.

After Vernon’s recantation, Jackson took the stand. “Regardless of what happens here today,” he said, “somebody heard the truth for once. I spent 39 years of my life paying for something I didn’t do.”

In light of Vernon’s recantation, the state withdrew their case. The hearing ended on a Tuesday. That Friday, 39 years, 5 months, and 27 days after his arrest, Ricky Jackson walked out of the courtroom unshackled. He joined Ronnie and Wiley for a tearful, celebratory meal at Red Lobster.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchAlcohol/DrinkingAlcoholismLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FirePrison/Prison MinistryUrban/City Life and IssuesViolence* Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 13, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Islamic State has allegedly burned boxes of food aid coming from the United States that were intended for Syrian civilians.

The Independent reports that two trucks containing the food parcels were intercepted at an ISIS checkpoint manned by the group's "Hisba" police force in Syria's Aleppo province. The boxes had the markings of Koch Foods, a chicken company based in the state of Illinois in the US.

According to The Independent, the Islamic State seized and burned the boxes, which contained chicken meat, claiming that the animal products were not slaughtered according to Islamic law.

The International Business Times, however, said that the boxes had markings to show that the chicken meat was "halal," or had been slaughtered according to the dictates of Islamic Law.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchDieting/Food/NutritionPovertyReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSyria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

0 Comments
Posted April 12, 2015 at 4:56 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the wake of last week’s deadly attack against Christians at a college in Kenya, we talk with Father Thomas Reese, senior analyst at the National Catholic Reporter and a member of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, about growing concerns over anti-Christian violence around the world and the need for governments to protect religious communities.

Read or watch it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslam

0 Comments
Posted April 12, 2015 at 2:22 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

More to the point, the Paris attack struck close to home. The victims were journalists and journalists write the news. The terrorists hit a major Western city like the ones where the political leaders and opinion-makers live. The victims were aggressively secular. In marching for the victims, the famous and powerful were marching for themselves and their own.

Which does not apply to the victims in Nairobi and northern Nigeria. They were black Africans, not white Europeans; students, not journalists; living in the developing world, not Europe; and Christian, not modern and secular. No high official is going to fly to east Africa and march for them. The Kenyan and Nigerian victims are not their people.

They are ours. If someone could measure the amount of time American Christians spent reading about the three attacks, and the depth of of our emotional reaction, he would almost certainly find our time and emotional investment nearly as tilted to Paris as the secular Americans’. The more successful in the world, say in academia and publishing, the more this will be true. As a test, ask yourself what details of the Nigerian massacre you remember, compared with how much you remember of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. I remember a lot about the Nigerian massacre, but only because I read about it while writing this. Western journalists, even anti-Christian ones, are “our” people, Africa’s Christians a little less so.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchGlobalizationMediaReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAfricaKenyaNigeriaEuropeFrance* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslam* TheologyAnthropologyEcclesiologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

3 Comments
Posted April 11, 2015 at 11:26 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In an interview with SAT-7, the Christian TV station based in the Middle East, Archbishop Justin spoke about the suffering of Christians in the region, among other topics.

Watch and listen to it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther Churches* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 10, 2015 at 3:09 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...it is delusional for these terrorists to think that those who were killed in the line of “duty” are considered martyrs and will be rewarded with paradise. The terrorists who are killed aren’t considered martyrs according to Islamic law, even if they considered their act to be a form of jihad, had sincere intentions and were acting out of ignorance. Good intentions don’t justify illegal acts—and it is totally prohibited by Islam to kill innocent people. Thus terrorist acts like 9/11 in the U.S., 7/7 in London or any other similar horrendous attacks are sheer murder and have nothing to do with jihad.

In sum, the noble form of physical jihad—which is waged by legitimate state authorities to fend off aggression and establish justice—has nothing to do with the supposed jihad of these terrorists, who practice nothing more than the ruthless mass murder of innocents. Jihad is a war fought with honor and guided with moral codes of conduct.

Since terrorist groups have the audacity to interpret from the Quran selectively to suit their own agendas, their deviant ideology must be debunked by intellectual responses. The fight will be stronger with the help of the international media and academia in publishing and broadcasting the voices of authentic Muslim scholars who can counter the extremists’ false claims and their warped interpretation of the Quran.

Read it all.

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

0 Comments
Posted April 10, 2015 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

State Rep. David Mack, a North Charleston Democrat who is black, was a speaker a few years ago in classes on cultural sensitivity that were mandated for all new officers. It was a program designed to help them better understand policing from the perspective of those they serve. Mack thought the classes made a difference, but a video of Scott’s shooting that emerged Tuesday shows that the Police Department still has its issues, he said.

“It’s an ongoing battle,” he said. “I think we have made progress, but this incident ... wounded the community tremendously.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireRace/Race RelationsUrban/City Life and IssuesViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralCity Government* South Carolina* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 9, 2015 at 2:12 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Assyrian Chris­tians of northern Iraq are among the people who have been massacred and kidnapped by ISIS militants in recent months. Such accounts are depressingly familiar to anyone who knows the region’s history. In fact, this year marks a grim centennial. Besides be­ing the centennial of the Ar­menian Genocide, it’s the centennial of the year that the Ottoman Turkish regime struck at other Christian minorities whom it suspected of being sympathetic to Russia. The Assyrians call 1915 Sayfo, the Year of the Sword.

Assyrian Christians had very deep roots in the region, and their churches use a Semitic language related to Jesus’ own Aramaic. In late antiquity, believers divided over the Person of Christ. The Monophysite branch evolved to become the modern-day Syrian Orthodox Church. Their Nestorian rivals formed the Church of the East, which remained a flourishing trans­continental institution through the Middle Ages.

By the 20th century, the Assyrian community had declined, split between be­lievers affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church (Chal­deans) and the independent Assyri­ans. For historical convenience, the As­syr­ian label is often applied to all the Syriac-speaking denominations, in­cluding the Syrian Ortho­dox. Their combined population in 1914 was around 600,000, concentrated in what is now northern Iraq and the borderlands of modern-day Syria and Turkey.

These people were the targets of the Assyrian geno­cide.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther Churches

0 Comments
Posted April 9, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Despite the images we’ve seen splashed across the web of Islamic State fighters driving around Syria and Iraq in American Humvees and waving U.S.-made weapons, there really isn’t all that much American military gear floating around out there.

But what equipment has been captured by the radical Islamists has the tendency to float upward toward the leadership who covet the “elite” U.S. gear, according to a group cataloging illicit arms transfers.

Speaking to a small April 7 gathering at the Stimson Center in Washington, Jonah Leff, director of operations for Conflict Armament Research said that American equipment actually “represents a small fraction” of the 40,000 pieces of gear his teams have cataloged in northern Iraq and Syria since last summer. He said that includes only about 30 U.S.-made M-16s and roughly 550 rounds American-produced ammunition.

Read it all.

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

0 Comments
Posted April 8, 2015 at 4:56 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A pastor's daughter has been killed in an arson attack on a church and manse in Kano state in north-western Nigeria.

The Baptist Church at the village of Gidan Maso was attacked by arsonists whose aim was to murder a young man who converted back to Christianity after embracing Islam.

The pastor, Rev Habila Garba, lost his daughter to suffocation when the two young men set fire to his home as well as to the church.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria

0 Comments
Posted April 8, 2015 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Islamist Boko Haram militants disguised as preachers killed at least 24 people and wounded several others in an attack near a mosque in northeast Nigeria's Borno state, a military source and witness said on Monday.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

0 Comments
Posted April 7, 2015 at 4:50 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Abdia Noor Abdi sat in the yard, exhausted after all the questions from the authorities. When she saw the face of her son on the front page of a daily newspaper, she pushed it aside and began to tear up.

He was not poor or marginalized, and did not seem especially angry. He strutted around in $200 suits, the son of a local chief.

But now her son, Abdirahim Abdullahi, has been identified as one of the four gunmen who killed nearly 150 people at a university in eastern Kenya last week, the authorities say.

Once a promising student himself, Mr. Abdullahi was killed along with the other gunmen as Kenyan forces stormed the campus in Garrisa. Police officers later paraded his naked, bullet-riddled body in the back of a pickup truck.

“He was a polite and obedient son,” his mother said. “We are in shock.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolenceYoung Adults* International News & CommentaryAfricaKenya* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 7, 2015 at 5:18 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In every town and village in this country, in almost every country round the world churches stand as mute confession of the resurrection. They stand, but like the stone at the tomb they cannot speak. Only witnesses can speak, and in God's values no witness more or less important than any other. Mary Magdalene became a witness of what she had experienced: "I have seen the Lord".

Cathedrals and churches make great statements, but without words. Witnesses are those people who know Christ; lay or ordained, old or young, gender, politics, sexuality or whatever irrelevant - all are equally witnesses. The resurrection happened, and it changes our view of the universe. Once we have seen the reality of the risen Jesus nothing else should be seen in the same way as before.

To witness is to be a martyr. I am told by the Coptic Bishop in England that the Coptic Christians murdered in Libya last month died proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord. They are martyrs, a word that means both one that dies for their faith and one that witnesses to faith. There have been so many martyrs in the last year. On Maundy Thursday, three days ago around 150 Kenyans were killed because of being Christian. They are witnesses, unwilling, unjustly, wickedly, and they are martyrs in both senses of the word.

Christians must resist without violence the persecution they suffer and support persecuted communities, with love and goodness and generosity.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsEasterParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAfricaKenyaEngland / UK* TheologyChristologyEschatology

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Posted April 5, 2015 at 2:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Thousands of supporters of Nigeria's main opposition party on Sunday demonstrated in the oil-rich state of Rivers, calling for the cancellation of elections locally because of alleged irregularities.

The demonstrators from the All Progressives Congress (APC) converged on the local offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the state capital, Port Harcourt.

"We are here to register our protest that there was no election in Rivers state yesterday (Saturday)," Rivers state governorship candidate Dakuku Peterside told the crowd.

Read it all.

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

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Posted March 30, 2015 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In an act of extraordinary heroism, a parish warden stopped an Islamist terrorist from detonating a bomb during Sunday worship at Christ Church Youhanabad near Lahore, Pakistan. Fifteen people were murdered during twin attacks on Christ Church and the neighboring St John’s Catholic Church on 15 March 2015, but the heroism of Zahid Yousaf Goga (pictured with his wife, Akash and three children) prevented further bloodshed.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, Worship* Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAsiaPakistan* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted March 29, 2015 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In all of these tragedies, the religious and ethnic minorities continue to be the most vulnerable communities. Among them are the Christians, our sisters and brothers in the Lord. They face the present danger of extermination or exile from their own region, a catastrophic assault on Christian life and witness in those lands. Many churches and Christians around the world have offered signs of solidarity and sympathy through prayer vigils, humanitarian assistance and advocacy for just peace. Despite these efforts, so many still feel powerless and incapable of making any impact and change. Yet we know that we worship a God of hope, in whom there is always cross, always resurrection. As Christians we are called to live in the hope Christ gives us and make this our witness in times of deep pain and strife.

During this Lenten season, the World Council of Churches invites its member churches and Christians worldwide to offer special prayers on Sunday, March 29 for all people affected by these wars. We ask these prayers especially for the countries of Iraq, Syria, Libya and Egypt, where the indigenous Christian presence and witness have been continuous since the incarnation of our Lord, and from where the Good News has spread all over the world.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsHoly WeekSpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther Churches

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Posted March 28, 2015 at 1:18 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Just because the Middle East’s descent into chaos is hardly the fault of the Obama administration, that doesn’t mean its policies in the region are not an egregious failure.

The situation in the region is unprecedented. For the first time since the World Wars, virtually every country from Libya to Afghanistan is involved in a military conflict. (Oman seems to be the exception.) The degree of chaos, uncertainty, and complexity among the twisted and often contradictory alliances and enmities is mind-boggling. America and its allies are fighting alongside Iran to combat the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria but in Yemen, the United States and many of those same regional partners are collaborating to push back Iranian-backed Houthi forces. Israel and Saudi Arabia are closely aligned in their concerns about Iran while historical divisions between the two remain great. Iran supports Bashar al-Assad in Syria; the United States and Western allies deplore his policies but tolerate his presence while some of the rebel forces we are supporting in the fight against the Islamic State in that country seek his (long overdue) removal. The United States wants the states of the region to stand up for their own interests — just not in Libya or when they don’t get America’s permission first.

Read it all.

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

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Posted March 28, 2015 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The most sharply contested election in Nigeria’s post-independence history wound down to a tense conclusion on Saturday amid fears that a polarized electorate would clash regardless of the outcome in a country split on religious, ethnic and sectional lines.

There appeared to be little middle ground between partisans of the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south hated in the north for mismanaging a bloody Islamist insurgency at steep cost, and his challenger, Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler, a northerner and a belated democratic convert whose Muslim faith and authoritarian past are feared in the south.

Voters on Saturday morning crowded around registration stations here in the north’s largest city, a packed metropolis of more than five million, as hitches in the process added to the tension. Election officials were more than two hours late in some places, and malfunctioning electronic registration machines — a new system designed to limit endemic fraud — stymied voters in others.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 28, 2015 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Last month I visited the Syrian refugee camp in Jordan known as Za’atari. With 80,000 occupants, the camp would be the fourth-largest city in Jordan. It occupies a vast desert plain, filled with endless rows of tents that are gradually being replaced with rows of metal-sided caravans. Za’atari is a dreary place, but it is teeming with resilient people.

Residents of camps like Za’atari make up only 20% of the nearly four million refugees who have fled Syria. The rest live in cities, where they are often unregistered and therefore ineligible for services. These refugees tend to live in squalor and are vulnerable to exploitation. Nearly 80% of the refugees are women and children. These figures don’t include the 12.2 million within Syria who are either internally displaced or in urgent need of help.

About 200,000 people have been killed in Syria, many after torture. A photographer, who documented these horrors for the regime but defected, smuggled his photos out of Syria; they were passed on to me by a Syrian non-governmental organization. These emaciated, disfigured corpses could be skeletal Jewish inmates photographed during the liberation of Dachau, but they aren’t. They are Syrian Muslims and Christians—and this is happening now.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPovertyReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSyria* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesRoman CatholicOther FaithsIslamJudaism* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted March 27, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Much has been written about extremist groups such as IS and al-Qaeda, which directly threaten Westerners at home or abroad. But little is understood about Boko Haram, its leaders and its beliefs. This is partly because it has made little effort to explain itself to the wider world, unlike jihadists such as IS who reach out to potential recruits using social media, and partly because journalists are unable to enter territory it controls safely. Moreover, its limited regional focus means that most Western intelligence agencies have viewed it as posing little international threat.

This book by Mike Smith, a journalist, sheds light both on its crackpot ideas—Yusuf insisted that the world was flat and that rain was made by God—and on the deep contradictions faced by people who propose to return to a sixth-century lifestyle. When asked why he had computer equipment and hospital facilities at his home, Yusuf replied, “These are technological products. Western education is different. Western education is westernisation.”

Yusuf’s successor, Abubakar Shekau, is a particularly enigmatic figure who is known largely through the brief videos his group has released. In one he justifies selling into slavery the schoolgirls kidnapped in Chibok: “Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell.” Each time Nigerian forces claim to have killed him, new videos emerge, though security officials question whether the same person appears in all the grainy images.

Read it all.

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

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Posted March 27, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Anti-IS Sunnis think they should be armed again, as they were when the Americans fought al-Qaeda in Iraq, IS’s predecessor. But nobody is willing to give them weapons. “We wanted a national army,” says Ghazi Faisal al-Kuaud, a tribesman fighting alongside the government in Ramadi. “Instead they formed the Shia equivalent of IS.”

And Shia distrust of the Sunnis grows at a pace that matches that of the losses from its militias. Overlooking Najaf’s sprawling tombs, gravediggers talk of the brisk business they are doing burying militiamen. “I’ve never had it so busy,” says one. “Not even after 2003 or 2006 [the height of Iraq’s civil war].” The Sunnis “never accepted losing power from the time of Imam Ali, so why would they now?” asks Haider, a Shia shop owner. “Wherever you find Sunnis and you give them weapons, you will find IS,” says Bashar, a militiaman. Many Shias feel that the fight against IS justifies them in excluding Sunnis from government and the security apparatus.

The state that IS wanted to build looks more unlikely than ever to become a lasting reality, and that is good. The ruined territory on which it hoped to build, though, may end up even more damaged than it was at the outset.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 26, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“Each week that passes we learn of more brutal Boko Haram abuses against civilians,” Mausi Segun, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement. “The Nigerian government needs to make protecting civilians a priority in military operations against Boko Haram.”

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

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Posted March 26, 2015 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

To visualize the antireligion argument, we might think of a video showing the World Trade Center in flames to the accompaniment of John Lennon’s song “Imagine”: “Imagine no religion. . . . Nothing to kill or die for.” Movements like the one behind the so-called Islamic State demonstrate to many people that a world without God would be more peaceful, as it would be a world with fewer reasons to hate. If you are fighting for God against the devil, the argument goes, then there can be no peace short of annihilating the enemy.

Armstrong flatly rejects such easy equations. She admits that wars have often been framed in terms of faith and that none of the world’s religions can boast of clean hands in this regard. But she places the primary blame for violence on changing social and economic circumstances, which create larger and more aggressive political entities, commonly headed by warrior elites and dynasties. Armstrong sees a Darwinian pattern: lands with less determined and less confident elites are rapidly swallowed up by their harder-edged neighbors. For multiple reasons, ancient and medieval states sponsored and supported official faiths, which channeled and consecrated warrior ideals. All religions do this to varying degrees.

To oversimplify Armstrong’s argument: states happen, wars happen, and religion blesses them. Religion thus provides a rhetorical framework for warfare—but not, she argues, the motivation.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 24, 2015 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The road from St. Matthew's brings you to the front line, just six miles from the outskirts of Mosul. Every town and village between here and the occupied city is in the hands of the Islamic State. And now, we're told, for the first time in nearly 2,000 years, there are no Christians left inside Mosul.

Archbishop Nicodemus Sharaf: They take everything from us, but they cannot take the God from our hearts, they cannot.

Nicodemus Sharaf is the Archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Mosul, one of about 10,000 Christians who fled the city. We found him living as a refugee in the Kurdish capital, Erbil. He said ISIS fighters were already inside Mosul when he escaped.

Archbishop Nicodemus Sharaf: I didn't have any time to take anything. I was told I had five minutes to go. Just I took five books that are very old.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchBooksHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It was midnight when Babagana crept out of the Boko Haram hideout that had been his home for three days. Once he made his escape, he walked through the forest for hours before he found help. Like the other boys conscripted by the militants, he had been told that he would be hunted down and killed if he deserted.

“I didn’t leave with anything,” Babagana told me. “When the chance came to escape, I only had my pants on. I ran almost naked.”

Babagana was just 16 when militants invaded his town in northeastern Nigeria last May, butchering his parents as he watched, burning down his home, and forcing him to become one of thousands of Boko Haram soldiers.

Babagana still vividly recalls his involuntary induction into a world of misery. Boko Haram militants invaded the rural town of Gamboru in Borno State, burnt down houses and demanded that the local children be handed over to them. Parents who objected were killed, and a couple of children were forcefully taken.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureTeens / YouthViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted March 23, 2015 at 4:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

At the beginning of December [2014] I went on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury, for a few days to the north of Iraq, to Kurdistan, first to Erbil, the Kurdish capital, and then a three-hour journey to Dohuk. I went to see and know at firsthand the situation of the many thousands displaced by the forces of the Islamic State, which in August last year over-ran Mosul, Iraq’s second city, and then swept across the Nineveh plain, with its many Christian villages.

In one camp, in the grounds of Mar Elias Church, they were putting up their Christmas crib. It was in a tent, a tent like those which had been the shelter for families who had had to flee from their homes, their culture, their churches. As they put up the tent, and placed the nativity figures in it, of Mary, Joseph and the Christ Child, with the shepherds and the angels, it was a indeed a reminder of the reality of the Incarnation: God chose to come down into our midst – he pitched his tent among us.

The advance of ISIS forces, with their distorted fanatical interpretation of Islam, and appalling associated brutality, echoes the invasion of the Mongols centuries earlier, which likewise had devastating consequences for the Christian population of what is now Iraq. Christians and Christianity in the Middle East are under threat as never before. They find themselves ground so often between upper and nether millstones – between the conflict between Sunni and Shia, or between Israel and Palestine.

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury Anglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops* Christian Life / Church LifeSpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted March 23, 2015 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For all its brutality, ISIS is often praised for its social media savvy and a passion among its members akin to that of a very famous Silicon Valley start-up, says one Muslim social media entrepreneur. The way to defeat the group’s extremism is by harnessing the creativity of entrepreneurs, he says.

Listen to it all (about 4 minutes).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationMediaReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted March 22, 2015 at 5:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...the trickle of volunteers has come from across the country. On Tuesday, a 47-year-old Air Force veteran with a checkered work history was charged in Brooklyn with trying to join the Islamic State. Two weeks earlier, a computer-savvy 17-year-old boy in Virginia was charged with helping a man a few years older make contact with the terrorist group and get to Syria.

The cases raise a pressing question: Is the slick online propaganda that ISIS has mastered enough to lure recruits, or is face-to-face persuasion needed? A federal grand jury in Minneapolis is investigating whether an Islamic State recruiter gave Mr. Nur and Mr. Yusuf cash to buy plane tickets.

“No young person gets up one day and says, ‘I’m going to join ISIS,’ ” said Abdirizak Bihi, 50, a Somali activist who has worked against radicalization since his nephew left Minnesota in 2008 and was killed fighting for the Shabab.

“There has to be someone on the ground to listen to your problems and channel your anger,” Mr. Bihi said. “Online is like graduate studies.”

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingGlobalizationReligion & CultureViolenceYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 22, 2015 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Boko Haram forcibly married scores of women in Bama after seizing it in September. Nigeria's military announced the recapture of the town on Monday.

Witnesses who were taken under military protection this week to Borno's capital, Maiduguri, 73 kilometres (45 miles) away, said the killing of women began 10 days before Bama was liberated.

The Islamists said if they kill their wives, "they would remain pious until both of them meet again in heaven, where they would re-unite," said Salma Mahmud, another witness.

"He informed them of the situation and the consequence of the takeover of the town by the advancing troops. He warned them that when soldiers killed them, they would take their wives back to the society where they would be forced to marry and live with infidels. The commander said it would be better for them to kill their wives and send them to heaven," the mother-of-seven said.

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

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Posted March 22, 2015 at 11:02 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On New Year’s Day, President al-Sisi of Egypt made a remarkable speech. How, he asked, could belief in Islam make Muslim nations a “source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction”?

“Is it possible”, he added, “that 1.6 billion people should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants — that is seven billion — so that they themselves may live?” He was asking where the mechanism of restraining Islamic violence lay.

But this heroic intervention has not sparked a worldwide theological debate among Muslims. The only perceivable response was the slaughter of 21 Egyptian Copts by Isis in Libya.

To understand the lack of protest by moderate Muslims, we need to look at Islam on its own terms and not try to see it through “Christianised” spectacles....

Read it all (requires subscription)

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 21, 2015 at 1:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The images are meant to create an impression, and in this war of images, they don't miss their mark. Heads are cut off: both the heads of human beings and those of statues. Museums are looted, ancient sites are bulldozed. These images are then dispatched around the world.

It is a calculated escalation that Islamic State is pursuing. It may even be that the images of destroyed artifacts are more effective than those depicting executions, because they are televised everywhere and not relegated to the depths of the Internet. And because we can understand the images of destruction -- unlike the photos and videos of executions, which we see as acts of insanity beyond the scope of rational thought.

We aren't just able to kill in the present, that is the message of these images, we are also able to destroy the past: We are the masters of both time and space. The caliphate's goal is to expand its path of destruction into the fourth dimension.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 20, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Jihadists from the Islamic State (IS) group may have committed genocide and war crimes against the minority Yazidi community in Iraq, the UN says.

In a new report, it says IS had "the intent... to destroy the Yazidi as a group."

Tens of thousands of Yazidis fled villages in northern Iraq amid IS advances last summer. Many were killed, captured and enslaved.

Yazidis follow an ancient faith that jihadists regard as devil worship.

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

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Posted March 19, 2015 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Anglican Church is quietly preparing for a hearing that could see the defrocking of one of its former bishops, five months after the royal commission recommended he face disciplinary action for ignoring complaints from sexual abuse victims.

Keith Slater, whose title remains the Right Reverend, was forced to resign as the Grafton Bishop in 2013 for the way he handled abuse claims from a group of 40 people.

They were men and women who had been sexually, physically and or psychologically abused at the North Coast Children's Home in Lismore between the 1940s and the 1980s.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesAnglican Church of Australia* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchChildrenLaw & Legal IssuesSexualityViolence* International News & CommentaryAustralia / NZ* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted March 19, 2015 at 3:41 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe is not—or should not be—a surprise. One of the least surprising phenomena in the history of civilization, in fact, is the persistence of anti-Semitism in Europe, which has been the wellspring of Judeophobia for 1,000 years. The Church itself functioned as the centrifuge of anti-Semitism from the time it rebelled against its mother religion until the middle of the 20th century. As Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of Great Britain, has observed, Europe has added to the global lexicon of bigotry such terms as Inquisition, blood libel, auto‑da‑fé, ghetto, pogrom, and Holocaust. Europe has blamed the Jews for an encyclopedia of sins. The Church blamed the Jews for killing Jesus; Voltaire blamed the Jews for inventing Christianity. In the febrile minds of anti-Semites, Jews were usurers and well-poisoners and spreaders of disease. Jews were the creators of both communism and capitalism; they were clannish but also cosmopolitan; cowardly and warmongering; self-righteous moralists and defilers of culture. Ideologues and demagogues of many permutations have understood the Jews to be a singularly malevolent force standing between the world and its perfection....

The Anne Frank House has never had a Jewish director (though Hinterleitner pointed out that at least two members of the board must have a “Jewish background”), and I would learn later that it is widely understood in Amsterdam’s Jewish community that Jews should not bother applying for the job. Hinterleitner said that the museum addresses anti-Semitism in the context of larger societal ills, but also that it recently issued a strong press statement condemning anti-Semitic acts in the Netherlands and elsewhere. He said the museum has made an intensive study of anti-Semitism in the Netherlands, and has learned that most verbal expressions of anti-Semitism in secondary schools come from boys and are related to soccer.

The Anne Frank House is merely a simulacrum of a Jewish institution in part because, as its head of communications told me, Anne’s father said that her diary “wasn’t about being Jewish,” but also, Hinterleitner suggested, because a museum devoted too obsessively to the details of a particular genocide might not draw visitors in sufficient numbers. “We want people to be interested in this issue, people from all walks of life. So we talk about the universal components of Anne Frank’s story as well. Our work is about tolerance and understanding.”

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryEurope* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 19, 2015 at 1:32 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Syrian activists and the Western-backed opposition have accused the government of carrying out a chlorine gas attack against a rebel-held town that killed at least six people and left dozens, including children, choking and gasping for breath.

The purported use of poison gas on the town of Sarmin in northwestern Idlib province is the first alleged chemical attack since the UN Security Council approved a US-drafted resolution this month that condemns the use of toxic chemicals such as chlorine in Syria.

That measure also threatens military action in case of further violations.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSyria

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Posted March 18, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Nigerian army said on Tuesday it had repelled Boko Haram from all but three local government districts in the northeast, claiming victory for its offensive against the Islamist insurgents less than two weeks before a presidential election.

At the start of this year, Boko Haram controlled around 20 local government areas, a territory the size of Belgium, in its bloody six-year-old campaign to carve out an Islamic state in religiously mixed Nigeria.

But a concerted push by Nigeria's military and neighbors Chad, Cameroon and Niger has regained considerable ground. At the weekend, Nigerian government forces recaptured the city of Bama, the second biggest in northeasterly Borno state.

Read it all.

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

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Posted March 17, 2015 at 5:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Isis militants have attacked a Christian church and cemetery in Iraq, vandalising crosses and defacing religious artefacts in yet another assault on the country’s rich cultural history.

In pictures released by the groups’s media arm, fighters are seen removing a cross and destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary at a church in Mosul, in Iraq. Another image shows a fighter erecting a black Isis flag in place of a cross.

Other photographs being circulated on social media show paintings depicting biblical events, such as the Last Supper, piled up on the floor. The extremist group attempts to justify this destruction by condemning the statues and religious symbols as idolatrous and therefore forbidden.

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

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Posted March 17, 2015 at 5:59 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Punch reports that the bishop said leaders across the nation must come together, stop working against the country and work with one another for the greater good of the country.

He said if such was done, the country would become better for present and future generations, adding that Nigerians must also rally round their leaders to ensure their success.

Adeyemi said, “I believe if our leaders work with a sense of togetherness, Nigeria will be good for us and the future generations.

“I don’t believe in those predicting doom for the nation. Your leaders should allow things to work. They are the enemies of themselves.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of Nigeria* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria

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Posted March 16, 2015 at 5:25 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Two bomb blasts have killed at least 14 people near two churches in a Christian neighbourhood of the Pakistani city of Lahore, local officials say.

More than 70 people were hurt in the explosions, which targeted worshippers attending Sunday mass at the churches in the Youhanabad area.

Violent protests erupted after the blasts, with a mob killing two men accused of involvement in the attacks.

Pakistan's Christian community has often been targeted by militants.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAsiaPakistan* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic

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Posted March 15, 2015 at 1:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Isis is allegedly attacking Iraqi soldiers with roadside bombs containing chlorine gas as allied forces continue a huge assault against the group in Tikrit.

Footage captured by an Iraqi bomb disposal team shows plumes of thick orange gas emerging from a detonated roadside bomb.

The team told the BBC it has diffused “dozens” of chlorine bombs left by Isis militants, which it says are used more as a means to create fear than harm.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & MedicineReligion & CultureScience & TechnologyViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 12, 2015 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Some people are allergic to the T-word. After a lone gunman stormed Parliament Hill last fall, killing a soldier at the National War Memorial, they said it was not possible to conclude that this was terrorism. More likely, the guy just had mental problems. “I think that we’re not in the presence of a terrorist act in the sense that we would understand it,” said NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair. “I don’t think we have enough evidence to use that word.”

In the Vancouver Sun, Ian Mulgrew argued that Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was no terrorist. He was a victim. “The vast amount of tax money devoted to his petty crimes would have been far better spent providing him with appropriate psychiatric and social care,” he wrote. As for the two people who plotted to bomb the B.C. Legislature, “They, too, seem more sad sack than Satanic.”

Now we know better. Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau’s self-made martyrdom video, released by the RCMP last week, is chillingly clear about his motives. “This is in retaliation for Afghanistan and because Harper wants to send his troops to Iraq,” he said. “We’ll not cease until you guys decide to be a peaceful country … and stop occupying and killing the righteous of us who are trying to bring back religious law in our countries.” (In a very Canadian touch, he signs off by saying “Thank you.”)

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPsychologyReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryCanada* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 11, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Memories of Boko Haram's murderous spree in his Nigerian hometown haunt Tom Gowon, 9, as he sits on a patch of grass at a refugee camp, sipping steaming porridge from a plastic mug.

"I was lucky because I was not killed," said Gowon, recalling the assault on Baga, Nigeria, in early January. "But they shot and killed my father. My mother was kidnapped by the militants."

Children such as Gowon bear the brunt of Boko Haram's rampage since its fighters kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls last year and conquered enough territory to declare a caliphate that covers one-fifth of Nigeria.

Read it all.

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

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Posted March 11, 2015 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Every January, tens of thousands of Christian college students from all over the world attend the conference Passion, where they sing, pray, and hear from a variety of pastors, authors, and activists about issues resonating within evangelical culture. For the last several years, conference founder Louie Giglio has made the issue of human trafficking an increasingly central part of these activities. In 2013, 60,000 students gathered at Passion in Atlanta for a late-night candlelight vigil dedicated to celebrating “Jesus, the ultimate abolitionist, the original abolitionist,” Giglio told CNN. The organization’s anti-trafficking project designated Feb. 27 as “Shine a Light on Slavery Day,” encouraging young people to raise awareness by taking selfies with red X’s drawn on their hands.

Human trafficking—and sex trafficking in particular—has become something of a Christian cause célèbre. There are prayer weekends, movies, magazine covers, Sunday school curricula, and countless church-based ministries. More unusual efforts include lipstick sold to help “kiss slavery goodbye” and tattoo alteration services for victims who say they have been “branded” by their captors. An extraordinarily complex global issue has somehow become one of the most energetic Christian missions of the 21st century.

Many of the new anti-trafficking advocates compare their work to the 19th-century abolitionist movement against chattel slavery—with some leaders in the movement referring to themselves (and, apparently, Jesus) as “abolitionists.” But, according to Gretchen Soderlund, author of the 2013 book Sex Trafficking, Scandal, and the Transformation of Journalism, 1885–1917, the better comparison may be to the “white slavery” panic of the late 19th century.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & CultureSexualityViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 10, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Nigerian militant group Boko Haram’s vow of allegiance to Islamic State shows it’s being weakened by a military offensive by government forces and neighboring countries, according to analysts including Martin Roberts at IHS Country Risk.

Boko Haram made the pledge of unity with Islamic State as forces from neighboring Chad and Niger joined Nigerian soldiers in strikes against the group. In fighting over the weekend, the armies took control of Damasak, about 700 kilometers (435 miles) north of the capital, Abuja, from rebels who had held the territory for five months. Nigerian soldiers on Monday killed “a number” of insurgents in northeastern Adamawa state and seized anti-aircraft guns and ammunition, military spokesman Colonel Sani Usman said in an e-mail on Tuesday.

Read it all.


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

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Posted March 10, 2015 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Hundreds of multi-coloured balloons have been released in memory of murdered Bristol teenager Becky Watts.

The 16-year-old was last seen on 19 February and was reported missing the following day.

Her body was found on Monday after an extensive search of various locations across the city.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchViolence* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK

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Posted March 9, 2015 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Forces from the group calling itself Islamic State launched a fresh offensive to overrun a string of Christian towns in northeastern Syria on Saturday, setting off violent clashes with local fighters mobilized against the militants.

A mixture of Assyrian Christians and Kurds fought off the Islamic State assault, activist groups said, just a week after extremists took about 250 people in the area—many women, children and elderly men.

The contested towns are along the Khabur river in al-Hasaka province, a strategic gateway that would help Islamic State consolidate territory it holds in Iraq and Syria. The population of the area is predominately Christian, while the Kurds are a minority.

Read it all.

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

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Posted March 8, 2015 at 12:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Nigerian militant group Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS), according to an audio statement.

The message, which was not verified, was posted on Boko Haram's Twitter account and appeared to be by the group's leader, Abubakar Shekau.

Boko Haram began a military campaign to impose Islamic rule in northern Nigeria in 2009. The conflict has since spread to neighbouring states.

It would be the latest in a series of groups to swear allegiance to IS.

Read it all.

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

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Posted March 7, 2015 at 5:16 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

They became iconic images of the civil rights movement: A middle-aged black woman tear-gassed and beaten and slumped unconscious on the side of the road. A white Alabama state trooper, billy club in hand, stands above her. In another photo, a young man cradles her body in his arms.

Amelia Boynton Robinson, the woman in those photos, had helped galvanize hundreds of activists to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965 — part of a march from Selma to Montgomery to demand their civil rights. Helmeted law enforcement officers pummeled the peaceful demonstrators on what became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

“They came with horses,” Boynton Robinson recalled. “They came with nightsticks.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryRace/Race RelationsReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 7, 2015 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“We’re moving on Salahaddin,” said Badr Organization spokesman and military commander Karim al-Nouri. “And there are three names that strike fear in the heart of daesh: Hajj Qassem Suleimani, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and Hadi al-Amiri.”

These three figures might not be household names in Indiana, but in Iraq they are the biggest stars within the constellation of Shiite militias that are now trying to drive the Islamic State out of Tikrit, the capital of Salahaddin province. Suleimani, who is the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, regularly travels around the Middle East to lend support to Tehran’s allies; Muhandis, who is the leader of the Kataib Hezbollah militia, was convicted for the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait; and Amiri is the commander of the Badr Organization, one of Iraq’s largest and most prominent Shiite militias. Together, they form the backbone of Iranian influence in Iraq, which is at its highest point in almost four centuries.

Iraq’s Shiite militias have seen their influence skyrocket since last summer, as they have played a central role in beating back the Islamic State’s advance in Baghdad and the surrounding area. Tikrit, however, presents them with new challenges: It is the largest predominantly Sunni city that they have sought to reclaim, and U.S. officials have warned of a sectarian bloodbath if the militias launch an offensive there.

Read it all.

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

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Posted March 7, 2015 at 11:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Peace talks aimed at ending the South Sudan conflict have been extended indefinitely after the government and rebels missed the deadline for a deal.

The talks in Ethiopia are being mediated by the East African regional bloc, Igad, which had given both sides until Thursday to reach agreement.

The UN imposed limited sanctions this week and the US warned both sides of further steps if no deal was reached.

The 14-month conflict has displaced 1.5 million people and killed thousands.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAfricaSudan--South Sudan* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 6, 2015 at 12:18 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Western leaders have long urged Muslims to do more to counter jihadist ideology. This month Barack Obama said moderate Muslims, including scholars and clerics, had a responsibility to reject “twisted interpretations of Islam” and the lie “that America and the West are somehow at war with Islam”. On February 23rd Tony Abbott, Australia’s prime minister, urged Muslim leaders to say that Islam is a religion of peace—“and mean it”.

Muslims have not taken kindly to such hectoring. Yet they are starting to debate the role that Islamist ideology plays in extremism. On February 22nd Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar mosque, part of a university that is the Sunni world’s oldest seat of learning, declared that extremism was caused by “bad interpretations of the Koran and the Sunna [the doings of the Prophet Muhammad]”, and that what was taught in Islamic schools and universities needed to change.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & CultureViolence* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted March 5, 2015 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Kenya Eliud Wabukala and his South Sudan counterpart Daniel Dena Bul have appealed to the international community to fast-track peace efforts to resolve the conflict in South Sudan.

Speaking in Mogotio during a church function, the clerics said the on-going war was all about power struggle and not ethnic difference.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesAnglican Church of KenyaEpiscopal Church of the Sudan* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAfricaSudan--South Sudan* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 5, 2015 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The persecution of Christians reached historic levels in 2014, according to Open Doors USA, which estimated that 100 million Christians around the world face dire consequences for practicing their faith. North Korea topped the list of offending nations, with Iraq third and Syria fourth. Other regimes among the worst for Christians were Somalia, Iran, Pakistan, and Nigeria.

In Iraq and Syria in 2014, the so-called Islamic State ravaged Christian towns and forced Christians to flee or face death. In mid-February of this year, the world witnessed a video allegedly portraying the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians by militia in Libya allied with the Islamic State. Christians have been repeatedly targeted in the midst of that nation’s civil war....In late February, 90 Christians were kidnapped in northeastern Syria.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Francis Other FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* Theology

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Posted March 5, 2015 at 6:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A video released by Boko Haram purporting to show two beheadings shows that it is "incorporating itself into the Islamic State", an organisation that monitors terrorist groups has warned.

Veryan Khan, editorial director of the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium [TRAC], told Fox News that the latest release "shows Boko Haram is not a mere copycat of ISIS; rather, it is incorporating itself into the Islamic State."

ISIS supporters are "already starting to call Boko Haram the 'Islamic State Africa," Khan said.

Read it all.


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

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Posted March 4, 2015 at 5:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

These are bad times for outspoken sceptics in countries where religion is brutally enforced, either by governments or fanatics with a self-appointed mission. Last week the atheist blogger Avijit Roy, who was of Bangladeshi origin but lived in the United States, was hacked to death at a book fair in Dhaka. It has been reported in Saudi Arabia that a young man in his twenties has been sentenced to death after he posted a video of himself ripping up a copy of the Koran.

In the far more comfortable environment of the United States, meanwhile, religious believers and sceptics denounce one another as though they were the greatest banes of one another’s lives. Atheists claim, perhaps correctly, that they face huge societal pressure not to declare their position, especially if they have any hopes of running for public office. Some religious believers say they face a liberal-humanist conspiracy to deny them the freedom to act out their beliefs, whether as employers, employees or in places of education.

But a physically courageous atheist from a Muslim-majority land says that a few months in America have reinforced his belief that believers and sceptics can and should deal courteously with one another and work together for freedom in places where it is dreadfully violated. Maikel Nabil Sanad, a young Egyptian blogger and protest leader, spent nearly a year in prison, enduring physical abuse and a hunger strike, before his release in January 2012.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted March 4, 2015 at 11:05 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

An urgent national debate is needed to address the disproportionate number of Muslim men among groups convicted of using and selling young teenagers for sex, according to a landmark report.

Failings by police and care professionals led to more than 370 young girls in Oxfordshire falling victim to “conveyor-belt” sex crimes over the past 15 years, a serious case review published yesterday concluded.

It came after six young Oxford girls suffered years of abuse from multiple offenders, some of whom travelled the length of the country for sex in bedsits and guest houses. A review of agencies dealing with the victims identified an “undeniable” link between men of Pakistani heritage and “indescribably awful” crimes across England.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & CultureSexualityTeens / YouthViolenceYoung Adults* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted March 4, 2015 at 5:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Nigeria’s bishops have condemned Boko Haram’s use of children to commit suicide bombings.

“We deplore the fact that young children are used to commit such crimes, and the fact that young Nigerians are used by politicians to intimidate and inflict violence on their political opponents is a disturbing symptom of breakdown of family values in our society,” the bishops said at the end of a five-day meeting on the theme, ‘Good Families Make Good Nations’.

“We wonder: Who are the parents of these young Nigerians? Do these young ones not belong to families?” it said.

It said that many families were currently facing challenges caused by the Boko Haram insurgency and the heightened tension occasioned by the coming general elections, now scheduled for March 28 and April 11.

Read it all.

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

0 Comments
Posted March 4, 2015 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The area that the MNJTF will be covering draws the force's first limit.

Military and diplomatic sources have confirmed that MNJTF soldiers will only operate between the outskirts of Niger's Diffa border town, and the towns of Baga and Ngala in Nigeria.

In other words, the regional force's main task will be to secure the Nigerian side of Lake Chad, which represents "only 10 to 15% of the entire area where Boko Haram operates", according to a diplomat based in the region, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 3, 2015 at 5:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Nineteen of an estimated 220 members of an Assyrian Christian community kidnapped by Islamic State (IS) in north-eastern Syria have been released, activists say.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said an Assyrian commander had told it of the releases.

Some reports say the releases were made in exchange for a sum of money.

Read it all.

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

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Posted March 2, 2015 at 3:45 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It offends many Muslims that their religion is connected automatically to the terrorism and cold-blooded massacres that are currently creating chaos in Iraq, Syria and Libya. They believe that terms like “Islamic terrorism,” “Jihadism” and “Islamo-fascism” carry an unfair implication that all Muslims are likely to support such crimes.

“Stop saying these words, they hurt,” a Toronto imam, Hamid Slimi, urged the federal government at a recent conference. He’s the former chairman of the Canadian Council of Imams, currently at work on a global campaign, Muslim Messengers of Peace.

Everyone can sympathize with law-abiding, peace-loving Muslims when they feel accused by implication of atrocities committed far away by people with whom they have no real connection except their religion. But the connection is not as distant as they might like to think.

Read it all from the National Post.

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

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Posted March 1, 2015 at 4:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...propagandists for jihad describe life under IS and wartime domesticity. Ms Mahmood gloats about microwaves and milkshake machines seized from non-believers. But they also express the pain of leaving families and the feeling of being very foreign in the Middle East. In a series called “Life of a Muhajirah [emigrant]”, a pregnant woman posts a picture of her ultrasound and worries that her husband will be become a shahid (martyr), though she accepts that this may be God’s will.

By establishing a caliphate, IS, unlike previous jihadist groups, is attempting to build a state. That has opened up roles for women. Fighting, though, is off-limits. “Women in the Islamic State”, a document published in January by an all-female unit of IS known as the al-Khansaa Brigade (translated into English by the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism think-tank in London), explains that women should be mothers and homemakers, while men are by nature restless; “if the roles are mixed the basis of humanity is thrown into a state of flux and instability.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingGlobalizationReligion & CultureViolenceWomen* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted March 1, 2015 at 3:15 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

President Obama isn’t alone in grappling with how best to counter ISIS and its brand of Islamic extremism—and convening summits for just that purpose. Earlier this week, the Muslim World League, a Saudi-backed alliance of Islamic NGOs, wrapped up a little-noticed three-day conference in Mecca on “Islam and Counterterrorism.” With the patronage of Saudi Arabia’s newly minted King Salman bin Abdulaziz and a keynote address by Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Sunni Islam’s most prestigious university, al-Azhar in Egypt, the program sought to address the nature of terrorism, its relationship to Islam, and what the Muslim community can do to prevent its members from becoming radicalized. The proceedings offered a counterpoint to the U.S. government’s narrative about the nature of the Islamic State and how to confront the group.

Obama has been criticized recently for attempting to delink ISIS (or ISIL, as he would put it) and other terrorist groups from Islam. The president has been sounding this note since the fall, when he insisted, “ISIL is not Islamic.” And there’s reason behind his rhetoric. Obama is seeking to combat rising Islamophobia in many parts of the world, assure Muslims that the United States is not at war with Islam, and fight a war against a barbarous terrorist organization that seeks its legitimacy through Islamic theology. Earlier this month, the White House and State Department hosted a Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), during which the president once again insisted, “We are at war with people who have perverted Islam,” and “No religion is responsible for terrorism. People are responsible for violence and terrorism.” The president hasn’t gone so far as to deny any connection between terrorism and Islam, but he tends to acknowledge the link by noting how ISIS and similar groups exploit Islam to justify violence while their true motivations are wholly distinct from their faith.

At the conference in Mecca, by contrast, speakers seem to have been less certain that Islamist terror can be divorced from Islam....

Read it all.

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

1 Comments
Posted March 1, 2015 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Bangladeshis on Sunday paid tribute to an American critic of religious extremism killed in Dhaka, in the latest of a series of attacks on writers who support free thinking values in the Muslim-majority nation.

Avijit Roy, a US citizen of Bangladeshi origin, was hacked to death by machete-wielding assailants on Thursday after a book fair, sparking widespread condemnation from home and abroad.

His wife and fellow blogger Rafida Ahmed suffered head injuries and lost a finger and remains in hospital in a serious condition. The attack comes amid a crackdown on hardline Islamist groups, which have increased activities in recent years in the South Asian nation of 160 million people. No arrest has been made.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAsiaBangladesh

0 Comments
Posted March 1, 2015 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A prominent U.S. blogger, known for his writing against religious fundamentalism, has been hacked to death by unidentified attackers in Bangladesh's capital, police said Friday.

The attack on Avijit Roy, a Bangladesh-born U.S. citizen, took place late Thursday when he and his wife Rafida Ahmed, who was seriously injured in the attack, were returning from a book fair at Dhaka University.

It was not known who was behind the attack, but Roy's family and friends say he was a prominent voice against religious fanatics and received threats in the past. No groups have claimed the responsibility.

The local police chief, Sirajul Islam, told The Associated Press that the assailants used cleavers to attack Roy and his wife, who is also a blogger.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetBooksReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAsiaBangladesh* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted March 1, 2015 at 5:28 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

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.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeTurkeyMiddle EastIran* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Early in the summer of 2007, a doctoral student named Mehnaz M. Afridi traveled from her California home to a conference in southern Germany. Her official role was to deliver a paper on anti-Semitism in Egyptian literature, a rather loaded subject for a Muslim scholar. Seventy miles away, she had another appointment, and an even riskier agenda.

After the conference concluded, Ms. Afridi drove to the former concentration camp in Dachau, Germany. As she stood before the dun bricks of a crematorium, she prayed. “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un,” she said in Arabic, meaning, “Surely we belong to God and to him shall we return.”

“I didn’t know that moment would be defining my role,” Dr. Afridi, 44, said a few weeks ago. “I didn’t even realize then that I was at a crossroads. People see the Holocaust and Islam as two separate things, but these stories of faith and catastrophe are not opposites. They are companions.”

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamJudaism* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyTheodicy

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Posted February 28, 2015 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

An interim government would be “alien to the constitution” says Mohammed Bello Adoke, the attorney-general. Mr Jonathan told the FT such a government could only emerge from a military coup. However, he could theoretically push back the polls and extend his tenure on a rolling six month basis by declaring the nation at war with Boko Haram insurgents. This would require the — unlikely — endorsement of two-thirds of the National Assembly. Alternatively if for whatever reason no winner emerges by May 29, the senate president, former army colonel David Mark, would stand in with 60 days to organise elections.

The fear is that without popular legitimacy, any government — military or civilian — will struggle to repair the fissures that will appear should Gen Buhari’s followers in the north believe him to have been cheated of victory. The same applies to a lesser degree to Mr Jonathan’s supporters, with former warlords in the oil-producing Niger delta threatening to take up arms again should he be bullied out of office. In such a febrile environment, there is a risk of ethnic killing especially in the north — as happened in 1965 in the run up to the Biafran civil war.

Nigeria has withdrawn from the brink on a number of occasions since. This time the army, potentially divided and already pinned down by Boko Haram, might have difficulty containing violence across many fronts, and the country’s future as one nation would be at stake. “These next five weeks are among the most dangerous in Nigeria’s history,” says Nasir el-Rufai, a former government minister contesting the Kaduna state governorship.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

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

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Posted February 26, 2015 at 6:15 am [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

Last month, the speaker of the Russian parliament solemnly instructed his foreign affairs committee to launch a historical investigation: was West Germany’s ‘annexation’ of East Germany really legal? Should it be condemned? Ought it to be reversed? Last week, the Russian foreign minister, speaking at a security conference in Munich, hinted that he might have similar doubts. ‘Germany’s reunification was conducted without any referendum,’ he declared, ominously.

At this, the normally staid audience burst out laughing. The Germans in the room found the Russian statements particularly hilarious. Undo German unification? Why, that would require undoing the whole post-Cold War settlement!

Which is indeed a very amusing notion — unless you think that this is exactly what the Russian speaker, the Russian foreign minister, and indeed the Russian President, a man who once called the collapse of the Soviet Union ‘the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century’, are in fact trying to achieve.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEuropeRussiaUkraine* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted February 26, 2015 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan has said the tide has "definitely turned" against militant Islamists as regional forces recapture territory.

His comments came hours after Boko Haram militants were blamed for killing 27 people in bombings in two commercial centres in the north on Tuesday.

Boko Haram had hit "soft targets" because of the setbacks it had suffered in battle, Mr Jonathan said.

Regional forces have recaptured eight major towns in recent weeks.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria

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Posted February 25, 2015 at 8:00 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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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSyria* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In other words the Muslim states have often denounced “terrorism,” but only by defining that term to exclude any and all attacks against Israel and miscellaneous other depredations, such as against Americans in Iraq, undertaken in the name of “national resistance.” To countenance terror in some cases is to countenance terror, period. Who, after all, would support terror on behalf of causes that he opposes? Just as the only meaningful test of support for free speech is support for speech with which one does not agree, so the only meaningful measure of opposition to terrorism is to condemn it even if carried out in the service of a cause of which one approves.

This the Muslim world remains reluctant to do. Palestine is its signature cause. Although the Palestinians did not invent terror, it was Fatah and kindred Palestinian groups that in the 1970s, with their attacks on airplanes, ships, trains, embassies, and even the Olympic Games, made terrorism the scourge of international life that it is today and inspired others to emulate their deeds. Yet how many Muslim voices can be heard anywhere decrying Palestinian terror? Even the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas, which has repeatedly renounced terrorism, continues to honor child-murderers and pay stipends to imprisoned terrorists and the families of deceased terrorists. Its official news agency described last summer’s killers of three Israeli teens as “martyrs.” This past November, when four rabbis were hacked to death in prayer in Jerusalem, Abbas condemned the deed, but that same day, as Palestinian Media Watch has documented, Fatah’s Facebook page signaled to the Palestinians that he did not really mean it. It posted a clip from a television interview with one of Arafat’s bodyguards describing how Arafat sometimes bowed to foreign pressure to condemn terror attacks but would do so insincerely because, the guard explained, Islam allows lying under such circumstances. Any viewer would grasp the implication that Abbas was acting in the same manner as his predecessor.

Aside from playing semantic games with the word terrorism, there is another reason that helps to explain why the world’s Muslim governments maintain a strong front in defense of terrorism even while surveys, like Pew’s, suggest that most Muslims reject violence against civilians. The political dynamics of any community are shaped only in part by the proportion of people who believe one thing or another. They are also shaped by the intensity with which views are held. A huge advantage accrues to those who, in Yeats’s line, “are full of passionate intensity.” Today, in the Muslim world, the passionate ones are the Islamists.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureSociologyViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted February 25, 2015 at 5:30 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.

Read it all.

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

[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.

Read it all.

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

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A couple of days ago, a senior African cleric was holding forth on the need to combine religious instruction with, in the broadest sense, sex education. Both at home and at school, declared Archbishop Henri Isingoma, boys must be taught about the higher purpose of sex as "the way God wanted to make the human race continue". Another acute problem, he added, was "ignorance of the responsibilities of men towards women." He was speaking in a webinar organised by a department of the global Anglican church, drawing in clergy and church workers from their own and other Christian confessions.

So...was this one more depressing display of the giant cultural gap between the liberal north and the traditional south, especially over sexuality, which is tearing apart the 80m-strong Anglican Communion, and many other religious bodies?

No, it was nothing of the kind, and that's what made the discussion more worthwhile. The topic was "gender-based violence" which is a catchall term that describes both domestic cruelty and the still-greater horrors that take place on battlefields when soldiers run amok and commit rape. Victims of GBV are mainly female, but they also include men and boys. And the striking thing was that on this exceptionally grave subject, "conservatives" and "liberals" plainly find it useful to talk and cooperate, and the talk goes well beyond platitudes.

Mara Luz, an Anglican church worker from Brazil, said 40% of women in her country experienced some kind of violence; there were well-written laws, but implementation was very poor, especially in remote areas.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationPsychologyReligion & CultureSexualityViolence* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted February 23, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

To state the obvious, Europe does not have state-sponsored pogroms or discriminatory Nuremberg laws. In western Europe Jews are more integrated than ever; often their real worry is of decline through assimilation. In much of the east, there has been a flowering of Jewish life since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Berlin itself boasts Europe’s fastest-growing Jewish community. The far right in Hungary really is anti-Semitic, but in France and the Netherlands these days populists now abjure anti-Semitism, even as they denounce Muslim migrants.

Moving to Israel may fulfil a religious, cultural or political longing for some Jews—but it is hardly safer. As the Danish chief rabbi rightly put it, emigrating to Israel should be out of love, not fear. European democracies must ensure that this remains so. Given their dire history of Jew-hatred—from the Norwich blood libel in 1144 to the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 to the Nazi Holocaust—Europeans must be ever-vigilant against any sign of anti-Semitism, whether of the old endemic Christian sort or the newer Islamist variety.

Like all Europeans, Jews must be able to live free from the fear of violence. This means greater protection for Jewish institutions. Security forces must try to protect innumerable soft targets, and these days these almost always include Jews.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military* International News & CommentaryEurope* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted February 22, 2015 at 2:16 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The brother of two of the 21 Coptic Christians murdered in Libya last week has thanked their killers for including the men's declaration of faith in the video they made of their beheadings.

Speaking on a live prayer and worship programme on Christian channel SAT-7 ARABIC yesterday, Beshir Kamel said that he was proud of his brothers Bishoy Estafanos Kamel (25) and Samuel Estafanos Kamel (23) because they were "a badge of honour to Christianity".

Harrowing scenes of the murders have been seen around the world. The last words of some of those killed were "Lord Jesus Christ".

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesCoptic ChurchOther FaithsIslam

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Posted February 21, 2015 at 4:26 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In May 2010, Shannon Sedgwick Davis flew to South Africa to meet with the Elders, a nonprofit founded by Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan, and Jimmy Carter to bring peace to places of violence. She had been asked to join the Elders’ advisory board in 2007—an offer you don’t turn down, Davis said.

As she walked beside one of her heroes, she asked whether or not she should pursue Joseph Kony. The Ugandan warlord has, in the past two decades, abducted tens of thousands of children, forced them to slaughter their own families and friends, and then enlisted them in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), his rebel army of child soldiers.

“Shannon, this one is clear,” her mentor said without pausing. “This one is black and white.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAfricaUganda

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Posted February 21, 2015 at 2:00 pm [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.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSaudi Arabia* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

ithin the narrow bounds of its theology, the Islamic State hums with energy, even creativity. Outside those bounds, it could hardly be more arid and silent: a vision of life as obedience, order, and destiny. Musa Cerantonio and Anjem Choudary could mentally shift from contemplating mass death and eternal torture to discussing the virtues of Vietnamese coffee or treacly pastry, with apparent delight in each, yet to me it seemed that to embrace their views would be to see all the flavors of this world grow insipid compared with the vivid grotesqueries of the hereafter.

I could enjoy their company, as a guilty intellectual exercise, up to a point. In reviewing Mein Kampf in March 1940, George Orwell confessed that he had “never been able to dislike Hitler”; something about the man projected an underdog quality, even when his goals were cowardly or loathsome. “If he were killing a mouse he would know how to make it seem like a dragon.” The Islamic State’s partisans have much the same allure. They believe that they are personally involved in struggles beyond their own lives, and that merely to be swept up in the drama, on the side of righteousness, is a privilege and a pleasure—especially when it is also a burden.

Fascism, Orwell continued, is
psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life … Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people “I offer you a good time,” Hitler has said to them, “I offer you struggle, danger, and death,” and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet … We ought not to underrate its emotional appeal.
Read it all.

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

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Posted February 20, 2015 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]




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