Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis, Bishop of the Episcopal / Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa and the President Bishop of the Episcopal / Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, stated that the suffering, persecution and displacement of Iraqi Christians, especially in the Mosul area, is a disgrace to the international community which is not doing enough to rescue the people of Iraq from the terrorist attacks carried out by ISIS.

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesThe Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther Churches

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Posted July 28, 2014 at 3:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

Statement by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom regarding the situation in Mosul, Iraq
25 July 2014
As the widespread violence and aggression facing Christians and minority groups in Mosul, Iraq, intensifies, it is increasingly evident that the fundamental right and freedom to practice one’s Faith and belief is, and continues to be, grossly violated.

We are currently witnessing an unacceptable widespread implementation of extremist religious ideology that threatens the lives of all Iraqi’s who do not fit within its ever-narrowing perspective. While this situation stands to eradicate centuries of co-existence and culture in the region it also threatens to significantly and negatively impact these communities for generations to come. If left unchallenged, it is not Iraq alone that is at risk, but the potential is intensified for the replication of this ideology as a viable and legitimate model for others across the Middle East.

As the situation escalates, little is being said in the worldwide community, and I am therefore appreciative of the recent comment by The Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies, and its Chairman, His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, expressing its concern over the current situation in Mosul. Comments such as this have the potential to positively influence these and similar situations by challenging what is being taught, and presenting an alternative religious understanding.

We continue to pray and advocate for all whose God-given right to freedom is denied, hoping that acceptance and respect for all is realised in these affected communities, and that grace, healing and strength will be given to those who continue to suffer great atrocities and the loss of precious human life.

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Filed under: * International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted July 28, 2014 at 2:17 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Syriac Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan travelled to Washington to meet US government representatives to highlight the plight of Christians in Mosul.

He spoke out about the “mass cleansing” of Christians from the Iraqi city by what he called “a bed of criminals”.

“We wonder how could those criminals, this bed of criminals, cross the border from Syria into Mosul and occupy the whole city of Mosul … imposing on the population their Shariah (law) without any knowledge of the international community,” he said on Friday, referring to Islamic State fighters, formerly known by the acronyms ISIS or ISIL.

“What happened is really kind of a cleansing based on religion. You have heard about what they did: proclaim — they announced publicly with street microphones, the ISIS — there’s no more room for Christians in Mosul, that they either have to convert, pay tax, or just leave. And they have been leaving now since then with absolutely nothing,” he added.

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Vicar of Baghdad' Canon Andrew White has warned that Christianity in Iraq could be close to extinction. And he has called on the British government to do more to help Christians fleeing Iraq.

Canon White, on a weekend visit to the UK where he visited churches including the Chiswick Christian Centre and The Church of the Ascension in Balham, said numbers in St George's Baghdad had decreased from 6,500 to 1,000.

Many fled to Mosul, across the river Tigris from the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh. Now they have been forced by ISIS to flee Mosul also, most escaping to Kurdistan.

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

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Posted July 27, 2014 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Iraqi city of Mosul is empty of Christians for the first time in the history of the country, the country's most senior Chaldean Catholic said.

Patriarch Louis Sako said the city’s Christians – who until last month numbered a few thousand – were fleeing for the neighbouring autonomous region of Kurdistan.

Christian families abandoned homes and belongings and some were robbed of their vehicles by the jihadists and forced to flee on foot. Some Dominican nuns based in nearby Qaraqosh said that the jihadists had demanded the Christians hand over money, personal documents, passports, cars, and all valuable items.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted July 24, 2014 at 11:24 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The UN says militant Islamist group Isis has ordered all women and girls in Mosul, northern Iraq, to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM).

UN official Jacqueline Badcock said the fatwa, or religious edict, applied to females between the ages of 11 and 46.

She said the unprecedented decree issued by the Islamists in control of the city was of grave concern.

Iraq is facing a radical Isis-led Sunni insurgency, with cities in the north-west under militant control.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolenceWomen* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 24, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Just 11 years ago, there were 1.5 million Christians living in Iraq. Since the U.S. war there, that number has plummeted to approximately 400,000 — and it is still falling fast. The chaos created by the U.S. invasion, occupation, and withdrawal, as well as the ongoing Syrian civil war and insurgent-fueled unrest in much of Iraq, has dramatically increased the persecution and pressure on Iraq's Christians and other religious minorities.

ISIS, the emergent Islamist terrorist group that spans from Syria into Iraq, has already taken over Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city. They painted signs on the walls of Christian homes, meant to indicate to all the presence of a minority they hate. They gave Christians a choice and a deadline: Pay an exorbitant tax, convert to Islam, leave, or be put to death. Most have fled after having their property confiscated. Five Christian families, according to The New York Times, had members too ill to flee to Kurdistan or Turkey, and so consented to a forced conversion to Islam. ISIS burned Christian churches, and dug up a shrine many Middle Eastern Christians believe is the final resting place of the prophet Jonah, along with another site said to contain the Biblical prophet Seth.

Reading these headlines and tut-tutting isn't enough. The U.S. owes Christians and other persecuted Iraqi minorities assistance.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsIraq WarPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther Churches* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 24, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The head of Iraq's largest church said on Sunday that Islamic State militants who drove Christians out of Mosul were worse than Mongol leader Genghis Khan and his grandson Hulagu who ransacked medieval Baghdad.

Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako led a wave of condemnation for the Sunni Islamists who demanded Christians either convert, submit to their radical rule and pay a religious levy or face death by the sword.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted July 22, 2014 at 3:50 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Dr. David Curry, President and CEO of Open Doors USA, has condemned the latest action of Islamic State militants who ordered all Christians in the Iraqi city of Mosul to leave the city over the weekend or face execution.

“The persecution and treatment of Christians in Mosul is unprecedented in modern times,” he says. “This latest forced exodus of Christians further shows why Western governments and the people in the West need to cry out in support for religious freedom in the Middle East and elsewhere. If this does not move us concerning the near extinction of Christianity in the Middle East, it’s likely nothing else can.”

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, Director of Interfaith Affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, adds: “Too many of us thought that forced conversions and expulsions of entire religious communities were part of a distant, medieval past. There was little that we could do to stop this horrible episode.

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

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Posted July 22, 2014 at 5:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In his weekly Sunday Angelus address Pope Francis mourned the fleeing of the last Christians from the Iraqi city of Mosul, who were told by ISIS forces last week to either convert, pay the Jizya tax or leave.

“They are persecuted; our brothers are persecuted, they are driven out, they have to leave their houses without having the possibility of taking anything with them,” Pope Francis voiced in his July 20 Angelus address.

“I want to express my closeness and my constant prayer to these families and these people,” he continued. “Dear brothers and sisters who are so persecuted, I know how much you suffer, I know that you are stripped of everything. I am with you in the faith of the one who has conquered evil!”

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Francis Other FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 21, 2014 at 11:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

We can read, weep and pray, or read, weep, pray and do something, for these are our brothers and sisters in Christ

And ISIS/ISIL/The Islamic State is marking their homes. And it's not for a passover.

Nor is it a smiley face. It is the circled Arabic letter 'n', signifying 'Nasarah' (Christian). Once the dhimmi occupants are so identified and labelled, they can more easily be taxed (jizya), forced to convert to Islam, harassed to leave or be summarily executed by the Islamic State which now owns their property.

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Filed under: * International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted July 21, 2014 at 9:39 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Iraq’s prime minister on Sunday condemned the Islamic State extremist group’s actions targeting Christians in territory it controls, saying they reveal the threat the jihadists pose to the minority community’s “centuries-old heritage.”

The comments from Nouri al-Maliki come a day after the expiration of a deadline imposed by the Islamic State group calling on Christians in the militant-held city of Mosul to convert to Islam, pay a tax or face death. Most Christians opted to flee to the nearby self-ruled Kurdish region or other areas protected by Kurdish security forces.

“What is being done by the Daesh terrorist gang against our Christian citizens in Ninevah province, and their aggression against the churches and houses of worship in the areas under their control, reveals beyond any doubt the extremist criminal and terrorist nature of this group,” al-Maliki said in a statement released by his office, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.

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

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Posted July 21, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Christian families streamed out of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Saturday after Islamist fighters said they would be killed if they did not pay a protection tax or convert to Islam.

“For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians,” Patriarch Louis Sako lamented as hundreds of families fled ahead of a noon deadline set by Islamic State for them to submit or leave.

The warning was read out in Mosul’s mosques on Friday afternoon, and broadcast throughout the city on loudspeakers.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted July 19, 2014 at 2:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Dr Samina Yasmeen: Let me first look at his action, and I think they are anything but Islamic. They really grow out of this belief that anyone who provides a notion of what it means to be a Muslim and has weapons to support it can go to the extent of being as barbaric as he has been and as he has encouraged his own group members and followers to be. Once somebody is convinced of the authenticity of their idea of Islamic notions and identity and if they have weapons they engage in completely barbaric acts.

Noel Debien: And more specifically on the claim to be a "Caliph"?.

Dr Samina Yasmeen: The whole notion of Caliph really is so sophisticated and it's historically based, that for anyone to get up and claim that he's a Caliph really needs to be laughed at. To give you a sense of how the whole institution of Caliphate involved, it really evolved after prophet Muhammad passed away and the question of succession engaged as to who should be the Caliph. Among the Shias and the Sunnis the division existed because some argued that it was in the family line and so they supported Ali to be the next leader and others argued Abr Bakr should be. But essentially based on that experience, the first four Caliphs, there's a relatively general consensus that Caliphs are not agents of Allah because that would give them the same status as prophets. The next most accepted position is that Caliphs are the agents of the prophet, so they carry the message and the activity and the actions that Prophet Muhammad established while he ruled Medina as the Muslim leader. There are others that argued that the Muslim community is really the whole basis for the Caliphate, so Caliphs are agents of the Muslim community, so the Muslim community's rights and responsibilities in some ways even override the Caliph's opinions. Given that, the question is which aspect of Caliphate is he assuming to be appropriate for him?

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraqSyria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Last Sunday, for the first time in 1600 years, no mass was celebrated in Mosul. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) seized Iraq’s second largest city on June 10, causing most Christians in the region to flee in terror, in new kinship with the torment of Christ crucified on the cross. The remnant of Mosul’s ancient Christian community, long inhabitants of the place where many believe Jonah to be buried, now faces annihilation behind ISIS lines. Those who risk worship must do so in silence, praying under new Sharia regulations that have stilled every church bell in the city.

The media has largely ignored the horrifying stories that are emerging from Mosul. On June 23, the Assyrian International News Agency reported that ISIS terrorists entered the home of a Christian family in Mosul and demanded that they pay the jizya (a tax on non-Muslims). According to AINA, “When the Assyrian family said they did not have the money, three ISIS members raped the mother and daughter in front of the husband and father. The husband and father was so traumatized that he committed suicide.”

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

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Posted June 30, 2014 at 9:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The few available survey measures of religious identity in Iraq suggest that about half the country is Shia. Surveys by ABC News found between 47% and 51% of the country identifying as Shia between 2007 and 2009, and a Pew Research survey conducted in Iraq in late 2011 found that 51% of Iraqi Muslims said they were Shia (compared with 42% saying they were Sunni).

Neighboring Iran is home to the world’s largest Shia population: Between 90% and 95% of Iranian Muslims (66-70 million people) were Shias in 2009, according to our estimate from that year.

Their shared demographic makeup may help explain Iran’s support for Iraq’s Shia-dominated government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 28, 2014 at 11:08 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Over the past two weeks, the specter that has haunted Iraq since its founding 93 years ago appears to have become a reality: the de facto partition of the country into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish cantons.

With jihadists continuing to entrench their positions across the north and west, and the national army seemingly incapable of mounting a challenge, Americans and even some Iraqis have begun to ask how much blood and treasure it is worth to patch the country back together.

It is a question that echoes not only in Syria — also effectively divided into mutually hostile statelets — but also across the entire Middle East, where centrifugal forces unleashed by the Arab uprisings of 2011 continue to erode political structures and borders that have prevailed since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire a century ago.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsIraq WarPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIranIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 27, 2014 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On June 10, the city of Mosul fell to the forces of ISIS, the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams. Politically, this is a catastrophe for American hopes of preserving the settlement they had uneasily imposed on the region, while a humanitarian catastrophe looms. Particularly hard hit are the region’s Christians, who have no wish to live under jihadi rule. A heartbreaking story in the The Telegraph recently headlined “Iraq's beleaguered Christians make final stand on the Mosul frontline.”

So much has been widely reported, but what has been missing in media accounts is just how crucially significant Mosul is to the whole Christian story over two millennia. Although the destruction of Christian Mosul has been drawn out over many years, the imminent end is still shocking. The best way to describe its implications is to imagine the annihilation of some great European center of the faith, such as Assisi, Cologne, or York. Once upon a time, Mosul was the heart of a landscape that was no less thoroughly Christ-haunted.

Mosul itself was a truly ancient Assyrian center, which continued to flourish through the Middle Ages. No later than the second century AD, the city had a Christian presence.

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

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Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Sectarian violence in Iraq on Monday showed both sides in the conflict at their brutal worst, as Iraqi police officers were reported to have killed scores of Sunni insurgent prisoners along a highway in the south, and militants in the north turned over the bodies of 15 Shiite civilians they had killed, including women and children, only to bomb the cemetery during their funerals, according to one account.

In a third episode without clear sectarian links, a family of six, including three children, was found fatally shot in Tarmiya, a Sunni area in Baghdad Province north of the capital. There was no confirmation about who was behind their deaths.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In a darkened living room in the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City, a gray-haired militia commander picked up his phone Friday to read a text message from one of his colleagues on the battlefield.

“Captured six ISIS members in an ambush,” it said, referring to militants from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, an al-Qaeda splinter group whose advance over the past 10 days has nearly brought the Iraqi state to its knees. “At dawn I killed two, four I gave to the army.”

The message was an example of what members of Iraq’s Shiite militias describe as growing cooperation with the country’s army. As Iraq spirals into chaos, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is now relying on the militias, which once carried out hundreds of attacks on U.S. soldiers, to help him cling to power.

The lines between Shiite militias and the Iraqi armed forces have been increasingly blurred since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011.

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

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Posted June 21, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Everyone seems to agree that the Sunni extremists who are striving to carve out a caliphate in Syria and Iraq have upended the region, but there is no consensus on what to call the militant group, in English at least.

Many news outlets, including The New York Times, have been translating the group’s name as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS for short. But the United States government and several news agencies call it the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or I.S.I.L. (The BBC, curiously, uses the ISIS acronym, but “Levant” when spelling the name out.)

Neither way is an exact rendering of the group’s Arabic name, الدولة الاسلامية في العراق والشام, or al-Dawla al-Islamiya fil-Iraq wa al-Sham. The difficulty comes from the last word.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryMedia* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted June 20, 2014 at 7:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the first day of the assault on Mosul, 40,000 pro-Isis tweets were unleashed, according to analysis by JM Berger, an author who researches extremism and social media, in a co-ordinated campaign of Twitter hashtags and digitally manipulated imagery.

Mr Berger this week discovered that Isis has its own web app, catchily named the Dawn of Glad Tidings. Downloadable by its digital footsoldiers, it allows Isis’ social media command to beam co-ordinated messages into their Twitter feeds, allowing a diffuse, but co-ordinated, mass messaging programme.

“They have used social media to great effect,” says Nigel Inkster, former assistant chief of MI6, the UK intelligence service, and now director of transnational threats at the International Institute for Strategic Studies think-tank. “And its success was undeniably one of the factors in the collapse of the Iraqi army – they have been comprehensively psychologically bested.”

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingMediaReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 20, 2014 at 6:59 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The militant group that exploded on to the scene in Iraq this year has been carefully cataloging its list of brutalities over recent years in an annual report published online, according to a think tank that has analyzed the latest publication.

The report from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — known as ISIL or ISIS — records in explicit detail the number of assassinations, suicide bombings, knifings and even “apostates run over,” according to the analysis by the Institute for the Study of War.

The report doesn’t trace violence only. It also tracks “apostates repented,” a reference to winning over fellow Sunnis in areas that the group has seized.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingMediaReligion & CultureScience & TechnologyViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 19, 2014 at 11:05 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Obama administration is signaling that it wants a new government in Iraq without Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, convinced the Shiite leader is unable to reconcile with the nation's Sunni minority and stabilize a volatile political landscape.

The U.S. administration is indicating it wants Iraq's political parties to form a new government without Mr. Maliki as he tries to assemble a ruling coalition following elections this past April, U.S. officials say.

Such a new government, U.S., officials say, would include the country's Sunni and Kurdish communities and could help to stem Sunni support for the al Qaeda offshoot, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, that has seized control of Iraqi cities over the past two weeks. That, the officials argue, would help to unify the country and reverse its slide into sectarian division.

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

President Obama is considering a targeted, highly selective campaign of airstrikes against Sunni militants in Iraq similar to counterterrorism operations in Yemen, rather than the widespread bombardment of an air war, a senior administration official said on Tuesday.

Such a campaign, most likely using drones, could last for a prolonged period, the official said. But it is not likely to begin for days or longer, and would hinge on the United States’ gathering adequate intelligence about the location of the militants, who are intermingled with the civilian population in Mosul, Tikrit and other cities north of Baghdad.

Even if the president were to order strikes, they would be far more limited in scope than the air campaign conducted during the Iraq war, this official said, because of the relatively small number of militants involved, the degree to which they are dispersed throughout militant-controlled parts of Iraq and fears that using bigger bombs would kill Sunni civilians.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Sunni extremist group, while renowned for the mayhem it has inflicted, has set clear goals for carving out and governing a caliphate, an Islamic religious state, that spans Sunni-dominated sections of Iraq and Syria. It has published voluminously, even issuing annual reports, to document its progress in achieving its goals.

Under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who spent time in an American detention facility, the group has shown itself to be unrelentingly violent and purist in pursuing its religious objectives, but coldly pragmatic in forming alliances and gaining and ceding territory. In discussing its strategy, Mr. Fishman has described the group as “a governmental amoeba, constantly shifting its zone of control across Iraq’s western expanses” as its forces redeploy.

In 2007 the group published a pamphlet laying out its vision for Iraq. It cited trends in globalization as well as the Quran in challenging modern notions of statehood as having absolute control over territory. Mr. Fishman referred to the document as the “Federalist Papers” for what is now ISIS.

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Posted June 17, 2014 at 7:44 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

From ISIS-controlled regions in Syria’s northern city of Raqqa reports of Christians have emerged of them being given an ultimatum of converting to Islam, being killed or signing a ‘dhimmi contract’.

The contract is an integral part of traditional Islamic sharia law dating back to medieval times and requiring non-Muslims, in this instance Christians, to pay protection money which only allows them to gather for worship in churches.

Under the dhimmi contract, public expressions of Christian faith are not allowed. These prohibitions include: Christian wedding and funeral processions; ringing of church bells; praying in public and scripture being read out loud for Muslims to hear; Christian symbols, like crosses, cannot be displayed openly; churches and monasteries cannot be repaired or restored irrespective if damage was collateral or intentional; and Christians are also not allowed to make offensive remarks about Muslims or Islam.

The dhimmi contract also enforces an Islamic dress code, like the veiling for women, and commercial and dietary regulations, including a ban on alcohol.

According to Open Doors, about 20 Christian leaders have signed to contract in Syria. If they keep these rules and live as dhimmis, they will be protected. If not, they will be ‘put to the sword’.

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Filed under: * International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

3 Comments
Posted June 16, 2014 at 9:19 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

So absolute was the rout of Iraq’s army in Mosul that soldiers stripped off their uniforms in the street and fled. The bodies of those left behind, some mutilated, were strewn amid burned-out troop carriers. Roughly 1,500 jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), outnumbered by more than 15 to one, reportedly seized six Black Hawk helicopters as well as untold plunder from the vaults of Mosul’s banks. They released thousands of prisoners from Mosul’s jails. As the black flag of jihad rose above government buildings, as many as half a million refugees sought sanctuary.

Two and a half years ago, as the last American troops left, President Barack Obama described Iraq as “sovereign, stable and self-reliant”. Today jihadists are tearing the country apart. Mosul is its second city. On June 10th the prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, called for a state of emergency and pleaded for outside help. The next day, in league with rebellious Iraqi Sunnis, ISIS took Tikrit, the home of Saddam Hussein, just two and a half hours’ drive north of Baghdad.

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

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Posted June 14, 2014 at 2:28 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mosul's fall matters for what it reveals about a terrorism whose threat Mr. Obama claims he has minimized. For starters, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) isn't a bunch of bug-eyed "Mad Max" guys running around firing Kalashnikovs. ISIS is now a trained and organized army.

The seizures of Mosul and Tikrit this week revealed high-level operational skills. ISIS is using vehicles and equipment seized from Iraqi military bases. Normally an army on the move would slow down to establish protective garrisons in towns it takes, but ISIS is doing the opposite, by replenishing itself with fighters from liberated prisons.

An astonishing read about this group is on the website of the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. It is an analysis of a 400-page report, "al-Naba," published by ISIS in March. This is literally a terrorist organization's annual report for 2013. It even includes "metrics," detailed graphs of its operations in Iraq as well as in Syria.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchUrban/City Life and IssuesViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted June 12, 2014 at 6:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham has set out a list of rules for residents of Mosul as it seeks to impose its Islamist rules on Iraq's second city.

Refering to the area by its ancient name, Nineveh, the group says it has a clear set of instructions for the remaining occupants of the city and surrounding area.

Firstly it tells "anyone who is asking," who its members are and what it is about: "We are soldiers of Islam and we've taken on our responsibility to bring back glory of the Islamic Caliphate."

All Muslims in the city have bee instructed to attend mosque for the five daily prayers.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted June 12, 2014 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“Ninety-nine percent of the Christians have left Mosul,” pastor Haitham Jazrawi said today following the takeover of Iraq’s second largest city—and its ancient Christian homeland—by al-Qaeda-linked jihadist militants.

A mass exodus of Christians and Muslims is underway from the city of 1.8 million after hundreds of gunmen with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) overran the city and forced out the Iraqi army and the police. Reports indicate Iraqi army units abandoned their posts, in the process giving up U.S.-provided weapons and vehicles, including Humvees, in what was a key base of operations for U.S. military forces throughout the Iraq war. Long a city of diverse religious and ethnic makeup—with Arabs and Kurds, and a large population of Assyrian Christians—Mosul was a flashpoint during the eight-year conflict.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureUrban/City Life and IssuesViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted June 12, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Q. What is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria?

A. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has been designated by the United States as an international terrorist organization. It operates in Iraq and Syria and has as its goal the establishment of an Islamic caliphate, or state, in the area now occupied by Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. It is also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and sometimes as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria.

Q. What is its relationship to al Qaida?

A. ISIS was once considered an affiliate of al Qaida, but the two groups have broken over ISIS’ role in Syria. Al Qaida has criticized ISIS for being too brutal and has complained that ISIS’ zeal to establish an Islamic state has distracted from the current push to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad. Last year, al Qaida chief Ayman al Zawahiri ordered ISIS’ leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, to withdraw his forces from Syria. Baghdadi ignored the order.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureUrban/City Life and IssuesViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 11, 2014 at 6:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Militants in Iraq have stormed a university campus in the western city of Ramadi, taking dozens of students and staff hostage.

One student at the Anbar University campus said "everybody is in panic".

One report said some guards had died and that the militants were from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

The western province of Anbar is a focal point of Iraq's rising sectarian violence, with a number of areas controlled by Sunni militants.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationUrban/City Life and IssuesViolenceYoung Adults* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When someone asked the Rev. Canon Andrew White why members are so happy at St. George’s Church in war-torn Baghdad, the response came from Lina, whom White considers his adopted Iraqi daughter: “When you’ve lost everything, Jesus is all you have left.”

The question was not a theoretical one for Canon White (more popularly known as the “Vicar of Baghdad”), his loved ones, or his parishioners. St. George’s Church is a cathedral that has suffered the loss of 1,276 congregants during the last decade. And yet he declares with joy and a tinge of wonder in his voice, “I have one of the most wonderful congregations you can imagine.”

Visiting Washington, D.C., to receive the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview’s William Wilberforce Award, White spoke on “Reconciliation and Peacemaking in the World, Church, and the Anglican Communion” at Truro Anglican Church on May 1. He is the author of several books, including Father, Forgive: Reflections on Peacemaking (Monarch, 2013).

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesThe Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsIraq War* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyChristologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted May 7, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

Mary Ailes has drawn our attention to the plight of Canon Andrew White in Iraq–”more than horrendous.”

2 Samuel 22:3
The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence.

Our Father in heaven,
St. George’s church in Baghdad is part of Your household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone. Jesus Christ is a choice stone, a precious cornerstone, and he who believes in Him shall not be disappointed.
We entrust St. George’s to You. You are their shield and the horn of their salvation. You are their high tower, their refuge, and their savior. Save them from violence, we pray. Preserve this church. Amen.

Read and please pray if you will

Filed under: * International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted February 11, 2014 at 12:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

News in the Middle East is rarely uplifting. On a daily basis, a roiling brew of fanaticism, insurgency and hatred boils over into country after country, yielding death and destruction.

In a region beset with such turmoil, it is highly unusual to come across someone who rises above the fray and – without a trace of cynicism – offers a message of hope. Thankfully, just such a voice was heard in Jerusalem this past weekend.

Reverend Canon Andrew White is an Anglican priest from Great Britain who is affectionately known as the “Vicar of Baghdad.” A large silver cross graces his chest; he walks with a cane and speaks with a faint impediment because of his personal battle with multiple sclerosis.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesThe Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted February 10, 2014 at 2:38 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Read it all and pray for Iraq this morning.

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

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Posted February 6, 2014 at 4:42 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Iraq war may have never been declared lost. But the stunning surge in violence over the past year — and the return of al-Qaeda in the western province of Anbar this month — is forcing Americans who invested personally in the war’s success to grapple with haunting questions.

“Could someone smart convince me that the black flag of al-Qaeda flying over Fallujah isn’t analogous to the fall of Saigon?” former Army captain Matt Gallagher asked on Twitter. “Because. Well.”

Gallagher, 30, who left the Army to pursue a writing career in New York, has kept close tabs on Iraq since the end of his deployment as a platoon commander in the outskirts of Baghdad in 2009. He has a Google alert for Saba al-Bor, a small village northwest of Baghdad where his infantry platoon spent 15 months living in terror of armor-penetrating roadside bombs and in awe of the complexities of tribal politics.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsIraq WarPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastIraq

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Posted January 12, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Iraq's Shiite-led government paused on Wednesday on the brink of a military assault against al Qaeda-linked Sunni militants that posed the risk of exacting a high civilian toll and plunging the country deeper into sectarian conflict.

Senior U.S. officials, including Vice President Joseph Biden, have urged Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to secure the support of local Sunni leaders before attacking to drive the extremists from Fallujah, which sits in the heartland of Iraq's Sunni minority. Many Sunni tribal leaders, alienated and angered by Mr. Maliki, have refused.

The standoff tests the U.S.'s remaining leverage in Iraq, which has declined since American forces fought alongside Iraqis to subdue Islamist fighters in Fallujah in two large battles during the nearly decadelong U.S.-led occupation.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsIraq WarPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastIraq* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsChristmas* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted December 25, 2013 at 9:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Christianity is at risk of extinction in some parts of the world due to growing persecution of minority communities, a minister has warned.

Baroness Warsi said Christians were in danger of being driven out of countries, such as Syria and Iraq, where the religion first took root.

Syria's civil war and the instability in Iraq has seen many leave.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKMiddle EastEgyptIraqSyria* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted November 15, 2013 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A series of car bomb blasts in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, has killed at least 36 people and injured more than 100, officials say.

Police say the blasts targeted markets and car parks in mainly Shia Muslim districts of the city.

There has been a recent upsurge in sectarian violence, sparking fears of a return to the bloodletting of 2008.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted September 30, 2013 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A U.S. attack on Syria would likely dash expectations of progress in nuclear negotiations with Iran and undermine new Iranian President Hasan Rouhani's call for improving relations with the West, diplomats said.

An attack on Damascus would likely give Iranian hard-liners, who oppose a nuclear compromise, the upper hand over moderate President Hasan Rouhani, who has made foreign policy and nuclear talks a priority.

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

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Posted August 27, 2013 at 4:52 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Multiple attacks by Islamists on St George’s has prompted the Iraqi government to set up three checkpoints to protect the church.

The new security measures make it virtually impossible to attack the building and show “the government here cares about us,” Canon White - known as the “vicar of Baghdad” - says.

However the violence targeted against Christians in Baghdad and elsewhere in the region continues.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesThe Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesCoptic ChurchOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted August 27, 2013 at 4:22 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Security forces for the Shiite-led Iraqi government raided a Sunni protest camp in northern Iraq on Tuesday, igniting violence around the country that left at least 36 people dead.

The unrest led two Sunni officials to resign from the government and risked pushing the country's Sunni provinces into an open revolt against Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, a Shiite. The situation looked to be the gravest moment for Iraq since the last U.S. combat troops left in December 2011.

The violence Tuesday started in the Sunni town of Hawija, where shooting erupted during the raid. Security forces had demanded that protesters hand over demonstrators suspected of shooting and killing an Iraqi soldier Friday. The security forces stormed the camp after protesters failed to deliver anyone.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted April 24, 2013 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

A stone's throw from the River Tigris, in the heart of Baghdad, stands an Anglican church with an immaculate green lawn and an English vicar, the Revd Canon Andrew White.

Read it all

Filed under: * International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted March 18, 2013 at 3:46 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The vicar of St George's Church, Baghdad, has written a special reflection focusing on how Lent is a special time to refocus on God, to mark the launch of the Reflections for Lent 2013 app from Church House Publishing.

Canon Andrew White writes: "For all in this land Lent is combined with the fast of Nineveh and is an intense time of giving thanks to the Lord… In the midst of our immense suffering we remember the suffering of our Lord, culminating in his intense suffering on the Cross. That time though was also his greatest time of glory and also our greatest time of glory. So this is a time when we all draw near to God and He draws near to us. There is no better time to do this than to find time to reflect."

Take a look at the whole thing.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsLent* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted February 12, 2013 at 7:59 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Sitting in the living room of his home in Erbil, capital of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, 63-year-old Rostom Sefarian stops talking, struggling to hold back the tears. It was July 2006 and Sefarian, an Armenian Christian living in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, had been kidnapped by a group of Islamic fundamentalists — the latest victim in a series of abductions and killings of Iraqi Christians that continues to this day.

Sefarian was released five days later, when his family agreed to pay a $72,000 (U.S.) ransom. It was the second time Sefarian had been kidnapped; his family paid $12,000 to free him after one day in captivity the previous January. His wife’s cousin, also a Christian, was not as lucky: three days after being kidnapped, he was found dead by his family.

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

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Posted February 6, 2013 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The people must be alert, analytically and democratically. Populist movements are gaining strength, forcing emotional, hasty, binary and often blind reactions. Political and religious leaders, intellectuals and students, women (in the heart of their legitimate struggles) as well as ordinary citizens bear a heavy responsibility. They must become the masters of their fate. If democratisation is to mean anything at all, it must be in terms of freedom and responsibility. Time has come to stop blaming the West, the neighbouring countries and the "powers" for the crises they continue to suffer.

The Great Powers undoubtedly played a role in the uprisings - they continue to wield great influence and have not stopped promoting their interests, dictatorships or not, democracy or not. Engaged as they are in a painful transition, the MENA countries must now face their destiny. However, beyond the strategic planning of the Great Powers - both the western countries and the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China) - these countries have a historic opportunity to take their destinies in their hands; to create a new regional balance of power, new ways of handling the religious reference. They can profit from the emerging multi-polar economic order to celebrate cultural and artistic creativity, and take seriously the welfare and the superior interests of their peoples.

Where to begin? With a true process of liberation, an intellectual and psychological revolution that must first overcome the obsession with western approval, as if, once liberated, these countries must still seek legitimacy and tolerance.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgyptIranIraqIsraelJordanSyria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted December 4, 2012 at 3:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Israeli military experts Sunday worked around the clock to examine the remains of a mysterious drone that was shot down after penetrating Israeli airspace from the Mediterranean Sea.

The Israeli military announced Saturday that the unmanned aerial vehicle was shot down over the northern Negev Desert. They say the drone did not take off from Gaza, leading them to consider the possibility that it originated in Lebanon.

Israeli security experts point the finger at Israel's longstanding rival Hezbollah, the Shiite militia based in southern Lebanon.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIranIraqIsraelLebanonSyriaThe Palestinian/Israeli Struggle

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Posted October 8, 2012 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Events in recent days have illustrated just how quickly the violence in Syria could spiral into a regional war. After Syrian mortar bombs once again fell on Turkish soil, this time killing five civilians, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan felt compelled to act. The Turkish military's retaliation on Wednesday and Thursday startled the international community.

With its actions, Turkey obviously proceeded with caution: It answered the repeated attacks from Syria with a few artillery shots -- not missiles. And the permission for further military action granted to Erdogan by his parliament is intended primarily as an intimidation measure. There is no apparent intent to declare all-out war -- at least for the time being. The United Nations Security Council, meanwhile, has strongly condemned the Syrian attack on Turkish soil and called on both sides to show restraint.
The fact of the matter is that the longer Syrian civil war continues, the more often incidents like that seen earlier this week will occur -- particularly in Turkey and Lebanon. A large part of the border region around Syria has already become a war zone. Previously, the international community had worried that a military intervention could fuel a regional wildfire, but now it is being forced to look on as this increasingly appears to be the reality -- without it ever even having gotten involved.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgyptIranIraqIsraelJordanLebanonSyria

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Posted October 7, 2012 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When a senior Iraqi intelligence official traveled to Tehran in the summer of 2007 to meet with the Iranian leadership, he quickly figured out who was in charge of Iran’s policy toward its neighbor to the west.

It was not the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It was Qassim Suleimani, the shadowy commander of Iran’s paramilitary Quds Force, who calmly explained that he was the “sole authority for Iranian actions in Iraq,” according to an account the Iraqi official later provided to American officials in Baghdad.

A soft-spoken, gray-haired operative who carries himself with the confidence that comes from having the backing of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, General Suleimani is the antithesis of the bombastic Iranian president. Now a major general — the highest rank in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps — after a promotion last year, he has been the mastermind behind two central Iranian foreign policy initiatives, exerting and expanding Tehran’s influence in the internal politics of Iraq and providing military support for the rule of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastIranIraqSyria

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Posted October 4, 2012 at 3:16 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

At least 32 people have been killed in Iraq as car bomb attacks targeted security forces and Shia pilgrims around the country, police say.

In Taji, a mainly Sunni town north of the capital, Baghdad, four car bombs went off within minutes of each other, killing at least eight people.

In the southern town of Madain, a bomb exploded near a Shia shrine and Iranian pilgrims were among the injured.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsIraq WarPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted October 1, 2012 at 9:05 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Ten years ago, I was nearly 30 and over $90,000 in debt. I had spent my twenties trying to build an interesting life; I had two degrees; I had lived in New York and the Bay Area; I had worked in a series of interesting jobs; I spent a lot of time traveling overseas. But I had also made a couple of critically stupid and shortsighted decisions. I had invested tens of thousands of dollars in a master’s degree in landscape architecture that I realized I didn’t want halfway through. While maxing out my student loans, I had also collected a toxic mix of maxed-out credit cards, personal loans, and $2,000 I had borrowed from my father for a crisis long since forgotten. My life consisted of loan deferments and minimum payments.

Like so many other lost children, I had fallen into a career in IT. The work was boring, but led to jobs with cool organizations—a lot of jobs, because I kept quitting them. As soon as I had any money in the bank, I’d quit and go backpacking in Southeast Asia. My adventures were life-changing experiences, but I was eventually left with a CV that was pretty scattershot.

My luck securing interesting jobs dried up. In 2001, I ended up living with my dad for four months and working at a banking infrastructure company in suburban Pittsburgh. I should have taken that as a warning that I needed to get it together, but I thought it was just an aberration. It was not.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinancePolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeCroatiaMiddle EastIraq

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Posted September 15, 2012 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The West often sees Islam as a monolith but in reality it is a patchwork of sects, schools and ways, not to mention some fully fledged religions wearing Islamic masks to avoid persecution. And as always in Islam, religious differences are a cover for political rivalries.

Involved in the schism are three camps. One consists of traditional Sunni Muslims who have just won a share of power in several countries, notably Egypt. The second camp is that of Salafis, Sunni Muslims who dream of reconquering “lost Islamic lands” such as Spain and parts of Russia and to revive the caliphate. In the third camp are Shia militants who hope to overthrow Sunni regimes and extend their influence in southern Asia, Africa and Latin America....

Iran, the leading Shia power, and Saudi Arabia, its Sunni rival, have been fighting sectarian proxy wars for years, notably in Pakistan, Iraq and Lebanon. Last year more than 5,000 people died in sectarian clashes in Pakistan. Under its neo-Ottoman leadership Turkey has abandoned the ringside to join the fray, notably in Libya and Syria. Now Egypt is also testing the waters....

Read it all (requires subscription).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAsiaPakistanMiddle EastEgyptIranIraqSaudi ArabiaSyria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

3 Comments
Posted August 22, 2012 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“Before the war there was no separation between Christian and Muslim,” I was told on a recent visit by Shamun Daawd, a liquor-store owner who fled Baghdad after he received Islamist death threats. I met him at the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate in Damascus, where he had come to collect the rent money the Patriarchate provided for the refugees. “Under Saddam no one asked you your religion and we used to attend each other’s religious services,” he said. “Now at least 75 per cent of my Christian friends have fled.”

Those Iraqi refugees now face a second displacement while their Syrian hosts are themselves living in daily fear of having to flee for their lives. The first Syrian refugee camps are being erected in the Bekaa valley of Lebanon; others are queuing to find shelter in camps in Jordan, north of Amman. Most of the bloodiest killings and counter-killings that have been reported in Syria have so far been along Sunni-Alawite faultlines, but there have been some reports of thefts, rape and murder directed at the Christian minority, and in one place — Qusayr — wholesale ethnic cleansing of the Christians accused by local jihadis of acting as pro-regime spies. The community, which makes up around 10 per cent of the total population, is now frankly terrified.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraqSyria* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted August 7, 2012 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A hundred meters (yards) or so from taxiing airliners, Iraqi archaeologist Ali al-Fatli is showing a visitor around the delicately carved remains of a church that may date back some 1,700 years to early Christianity.

The church, a monastery and other surrounding ruins have emerged from the sand over the past five years with the expansion of the airport serving the city of Najaf, and have excited scholars who think this may be Hira, a legendary Arab Christian center.

"This is the oldest sign of Christianity in Iraq," said al-Fatli, pointing to the ancient tablets with designs of grapes that litter the sand next to intricately carved monastery walls.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryLiturgy, Music, WorshipParish Ministry* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted August 6, 2012 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Canon Andrew White, the vicar of the only Anglican church in Baghdad, said it was "a major miracle" that a bus load of children returning from their First Communion were not killed in a double bomb attack.

Canon White had first alerted his supporters across the Anglican Communion in Facebook and Twitter posts at around 1pm BST. At that time, he believed that some of the children had been killed.

Read it all.

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

2 Comments
Posted August 1, 2012 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has warned that arming either side in Syria will lead to a "proxy war".

He was speaking at the opening of an Arab League summit which is discussing a joint plan with the UN to end a year of violence in Syria.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has agreed to the plan and will spare no effort to make it succeed, Syrian state news agency Sana reported.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraqSyria

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Posted March 29, 2012 at 2:14 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A month after the last American troops left Iraq, the State Department is operating a small fleet of surveillance drones here to help protect the United States Embassy and consulates, as well as American personnel. Some senior Iraqi officials expressed outrage at the program, saying the unarmed aircraft are an affront to Iraqi sovereignty.

The program was described by the department’s diplomatic security branch in a little-noticed section of its most recent annual report and outlined in broad terms in a two-page online prospectus for companies that might bid on a contract to manage the program. It foreshadows a possible expansion of unmanned drone operations into the diplomatic arm of the American government; until now they have been mainly the province of the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency.

American contractors say they have been told that the State Department is considering to field unarmed surveillance drones in the future in a handful of other potentially “high-threat” countries, including Indonesia and Pakistan, and in Afghanistan after the bulk of American troops leave in the next two years. State Department officials say that no decisions have been made beyond the drone operations in Iraq.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign Relations* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastIraq

1 Comments
Posted January 30, 2012 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Americans have gone now, and Iraq’s Christian communities – some of the world’s oldest – are undergoing an exodus on a biblical scale.

Of the country’s 1.4 million Christians, about two thirds have now fled. Although the British Government is reluctant to recognise it, a new evil is sweeping the Middle East: religious cleansing. The attacks, which peak at Christmas, have already spread to Egypt, where Coptic Christians have seen their churches firebombed by Islamic fundamentalists. In Tunisia, priests are being murdered. Maronite Christians in Lebanon have, for the first time, become targets of bombing campaigns. Christians in Syria, who have suffered as much as anyone from the Assad regime, now pray for its survival. If it falls, and the Islamists triumph, persecution may begin in earnest.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther Churches

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Posted December 24, 2011 at 1:31 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Iraq's Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi has said Prime Minister Nouri Maliki is to blame for a sudden surge of violence in the country.

Dozens of people were killed in a string of blasts across the capital, Baghdad, on Thursday.

Mr Hashemi, who is subject to an arrest warrant on terror charges, said that Mr Maliki should be focusing on security not "chasing patriotic politicians".

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryIraq WarPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted December 23, 2011 at 5:46 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta landed in the Iraqi capital on Thursday for the ceremony officially ending the military mission here and closing out a bloody and controversial chapter of American relations with the Islamic world.

Pentagon officials said Mr. Panetta would thank all American service members who served here since the 2003 invasion, and would laud them for “the remarkable progress we have seen here in Baghdad and across this country.”

Mr. Panetta also was expected to note that the American effort "helped the Iraqi people to cast tyranny aside and to offer hope for prosperity and peace to this country’s future generations.”

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsIraq WarPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIranIraq

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Posted December 15, 2011 at 6:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

With the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq in its final days, President Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will meet at the White House Monday to discuss the next phase of the relationship between their countries.

They will have plenty to discuss.

The withdrawal of all American troops on Dec. 31 marks the end of a nearly nine-year war that has been deeply divisive in both the U.S. and Iraq. While Obama and al-Maliki have pledged to maintain strong ties, the contours of the partnership between Washington and Baghdad remain murky, especially with Iran eager to assert influence over neighboring Iraq. And serious questions remain about Iraq's capacity to stabilize both its politics and security.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsIraq WarPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted December 12, 2011 at 6:12 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Could civil war erupt again? How fragile is the ramshackle coalition government of Shia, Kurd and Sunni led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki? Iraqi leaders I spoke to say the capacity to keep the present power-sharing agreement going is far more significant for the stability of the country than any enhanced security threat from al-Qa'ida following the departure of the last American soldiers. "The leaders behave like adversaries even when they are in the same government," says Dr Mahmoud Othman, an independent Kurdish member of parliament. "It would be better to have a government and an opposition, but nobody in Iraq feels safe enough to be in the opposition."

Despite this anxious mood, Baghdad is less dangerous than it was in 2009, and infinitely better than it was in 2007, when more than a thousand bodies were turning up in the city every month.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsIraq WarPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastIranIraq

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Posted December 4, 2011 at 6:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The seven remaining Jews in Baghdad have been named by WikiLeaks, leaving them in danger of persecution, according to the city's Anglican vicar.

Their lives are now in immediate danger, according to Canon Andrew White, and they’ve been advised to hide their religion.

Canon White said Baghdad’s Anglican Church is trying to protect them, as they fear extremists might try to kill them if they’re identified.

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesThe Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism

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Posted December 4, 2011 at 12:09 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As the 31 December deadline for the pullout of all the American troops from Iraq approaches, the BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse in Baghdad asks what kind of a country Washington leaves behind.

"I've been here for over six years," said John, a mulletted, moustachioed civilian contractor, driving a pickup truck through the dusty lanes of Camp Kalsu.

"I'm helping to do whatever needs to be done. Take it easy, see ya!" and with that he cranked up the volume on his iPod, plugged into the pickup's stereo, and drove off in a blast of country and western.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsIraq WarPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastIraq

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Posted November 17, 2011 at 4:28 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Military action against Iran would be a "very serious mistake fraught with unpredictable consequences", Russia's foreign minister has warned.

Sergei Lavrov said diplomacy, not missile strikes, was the only way to solve the Iranian nuclear problem.

His comments come after Israeli President Shimon Peres said an attack on Iran was becoming more likely.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussiaMiddle EastIraqIsrael

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Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As the United States prepares to withdraw its troops from Iraq by year’s end, senior American and Iraqi officials are expressing growing concern that Al Qaeda’s offshoot here, which just a few years ago waged a debilitating insurgency that plunged the country into a civil war, is poised for a deadly resurgence.

Qaeda allies in North Africa, Somalia and Yemen are seeking to assert more influence after the death of Osama bin Laden and the diminished role of Al Qaeda’s remaining top leadership in Pakistan. For its part, Al Qaeda in Iraq is striving to rebound from major defeats inflicted by Iraqi tribal groups and American troops in 2007, as well as the deaths of its two leaders in 2010.

Although the organization is certainly weaker than it was at its peak five years ago and is unlikely to regain its prior strength, American and Iraqi analysts said the Qaeda franchise is shifting its tactics and strategies — like attacking Iraqi security forces in small squads — to exploit gaps left by the departing American troops and to try to reignite sectarian violence in the country.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsIraq WarPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted November 6, 2011 at 5:46 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

U.S. officials have scrambled this past week to redraw a 2012 military training plan after Iraqi leaders announced they would not grant immunity to troops who remain past the Dec. 31 deadline for withdrawal.

Since Tuesday, when Iraqi leaders formally requested that U.S. military training continue into next year, military and diplomatic officials in Washington and Baghdad have been sketching alternative proposals that could place training in the hands of private security contractors or NATO, entities that can be legally covered some other way.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsIraq WarPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIranIraq

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Posted October 9, 2011 at 3:31 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As the United States draws down its forces in Iraq, fears abound that Iran will simply move into the vacuum and extend its already substantial political influence more deeply through the soft powers of culture and commerce. But here, in this region that is a center of Shiite Islam, some officials say that Iran wore out its welcome long ago.

Surely, Iran has emerged empowered in Iraq over the last eight years, and it has a sympathetic Shiite-dominated government to show for it, as well as close ties to the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr. But for what so far are rather obscure reasons — perhaps the struggling Iranian economy and mistrust toward Iranians that has been nurtured for centuries — it has been unable to extend its reach.

In fact, a host of countries led by Turkey — but not including the United States — have made the biggest inroads, much to the chagrin of people here in Najaf like the governor.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsIraq WarPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIranIraq

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Posted October 8, 2011 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

You have concerns that most pastors can't begin to fathom. How does working under such extraordinary conditions affect ordinary ministry?
So many of our brothers and sisters here in Baghdad have been killed, kidnapped, or tortured even in the last few months. Members of my staff have also been killed. Just this morning, I was trying to sort out post-hospital care for our former chief of security, who recently had a leg blown off.
We cope because the Lord is always with us. When you are where the Lord wants you to be, he always enables you to cope. Look at Daniel. He had not planned to come into exile in Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar. God still provided him with all that he required. He had not intended to be an interpreter of dreams, but God gave him the knowledge to do all that he needed and enabled him to serve with joy.
In the same way, I had no intention of coming to Iraq. But God brought me here 13 years ago, and now there is nowhere in the world I would rather be. Even in the midst of terror and persecution, we have the joy of the Lord.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted August 4, 2011 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is privately telling American officials that it wants their army to stay here after this year.

The Americans are privately telling their Iraqi counterparts that they want to stay.

But under what conditions, and at what price to the Americans who stay behind?

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentForeign RelationsIraq WarPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIranIraq

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Posted July 14, 2011 at 8:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The affectionately named “Vicar of Baghdad”, Canon Andrew White, has been named as this year’s recipient of the prestigious International First Freedom Award for his extraordinary commitment to peace-keeping and religious freedom in Iraq.

Past winners include former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in 1999 for his efforts in the Northern Ireland peace process; former Czech President Václav Havel for his role in Charter 77 and the Velvet Revolution; as well as three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Father Elias Chacour, founder of Israel’s Mar Elias Educational Institutions.

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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted June 23, 2011 at 5:53 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Across the Tigris, and with strong links to St George's, is another example of resurrection in Iraq. It is the House of Love, run by Mother Teresa's Sisters of Charity. The sisters are from India and Bangladesh, and they have rescued, sometimes from the streets, severely disabled children who have been abandoned by their parents. They are a vivid reminder of Saddam Hussein's atrocities against his own people. Many of the disabilities have undoubtedly been caused by the dictator's use of chemical and other prohibited weapons against dissidents and minorities. It is most moving to see how the sisters and their helpers (some from the mothers' union at St George's) care for these young ones, many without arms and legs, and how the children respond to the love and friendship. One of the things I would most like them to have is a computer that can be operated with the voice. It would transform their lives.

While politicians, diplomats and soldiers seek to bring some sort of order to society, a gathering of leaders from all the different faiths has succeeded, at least for the time being, in halting the worst violence against Christians and other religious minorities. This has shown many the value of inter-faith dialogue where, without compromising the integrity of any faith, the hard issues of violence, security, freedom of belief and peace can be discussed fully and frankly in face-to-face encounters. There are now plans, with the support of a number of religious leaders – Muslim, Christian and others – to move from "top-down" dialogue to local dialogue in the towns and cities of Iraq about the building of peaceful and secure communities. This could become another sign of Easter in Iraq.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted May 19, 2011 at 5:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The governments of the Netherlands, Great Britain, and other European countries have refused asylum to many Iraqis, including thousands of individual Christians. But this year, evangelical leaders and human rights groups are pushing to resettle Christian refugees in groups to help them maintain their church identity.

The stream of Christian refugees from Iraq and surrounding countries has increased in recent years, though exact numbers do not exist because refugees are not counted by religious affiliation, said Grégor Puppinck, director of the European Center for Law and Justice, the European arm of the American Center for Law and Justice.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted April 10, 2011 at 1:16 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Democracy is part of America's very identity, and thus we benefit in a world of more democracies. But this is no reason to delude ourselves about grand historical schemes or to forget our wider interests. Precisely because so much of the Middle East is in upheaval, we must avoid entanglements and stay out of the domestic affairs of the region. We must keep our powder dry for crises ahead that might matter much more than those of today.

Our most important national-security resource is the time that our top policy makers can devote to a problem, so it is crucial to avoid distractions. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the fragility of Pakistan, Iran's rush to nuclear power, a possible Israeli military response—these are all major challenges that have not gone away. This is to say nothing of rising Chinese naval power and Beijing's ongoing attempt to Finlandize much of East Asia.

We should not kid ourselves. In foreign policy, all moral questions are really questions of power. We intervened twice in the Balkans in the 1990s only because Yugoslav dictator Slobodan Milosevic had no nuclear weapons and could not retaliate against us, unlike the Russians, whose destruction of Chechnya prompted no thought of intervention on our part (nor did ethnic cleansing elsewhere in the Caucasus, because it was in Russia's sphere of influence). At present, helping the embattled Libyan rebels does not affect our interests, so we stand up for human rights there. But helping Bahrain's embattled Shia, or Yemen's antiregime protesters, would undermine key allies, so we do nothing as demonstrators are killed in the streets.

Of course, just because we can't help everywhere does not mean we can't help somewhere.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign Relations* International News & CommentaryAfricaLibyaAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastEgyptIranIraqIsraelJordanSaudi ArabiaSyria

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Posted March 27, 2011 at 2:27 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The other night I found myself dreaming, drifting simultaneously through two parallel worlds, 800 years apart.

In the first vision, I was on the ramparts of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in July 1187. News came in from Galilee that the Crusader Armies had been decimated by the overwhelming Muslim forces of the great Sultan Saladin at the Battle of Hattin. Jerusalem, already an island in an angry, surging Muslim sea, was about to be totally engulfed.

My second dream was in the same place, but I was witnessing a 21st-century Islamic encirclement of modern-day Israel. This second trance was apparently shared by some Israeli columnists who openly fear Egypt’s chaotic regime could be followed by an extremist Islamic government, reinforcing that nightmare Crusader scenario of encirclement.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgyptIranIraqIsraelJordanSaudi ArabiaSyria

2 Comments
Posted February 21, 2011 at 9:02 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Moktada al-Sadr, the populist cleric who emerged as the United States’ most enduring foe in Iraq, returned Wednesday after more than three years of voluntary exile in Iran in a homecoming that embodied his and his movement’s transition from battling in the streets to occupying the halls of power.

“Long live the leader!” supporters shouted as a grayer Mr. Sadr made his way from the airport in the holy city of Najaf to his home and then to prayers at the gold-domed shrine of Imam Ali, one of the most sacred places in Shiite Islam. Supporters there hailed his return as another show of strength for a movement that is now more powerful than at any time since the United States invaded in 2003.

“We’re proving to everyone that we’re an important part of Iraq and its politics,” said Jawad Kadhum, a lawmaker with Mr. Sadr’s movement.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsIraq WarTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIranIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted January 5, 2011 at 5:08 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Christians in Iraq face a sombre and fearful Christmas, as the prospects for 2011 look, at best, uncertain.

“There’s been great fear, and there’s been a lot of anxiety,” Canon Andrew White, Chaplain of St George’s, Baghdad, told the BBC at the weekend. “We lost many of our families who have disappeared or been killed.” Some 500 of the formerly 4000-strong congregation were no longer present, he said.

The string of attacks on Christian targets this year, culminating in the siege in October of a cathedral in Baghdad in which more than 50 people were killed..., prompted the Iraqi government to erect concrete walls around churches and increase security in other ways. Despite the introduction of these new precau­tions, most churches in Iraq have decided not to risk the lives of members of the congregation, and have cancelled Christmas services and celebrations.

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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: Latest News* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted December 31, 2010 at 6:59 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The leader of Iraq's largest remaining Christian communities is preparing for a subdued Christmas, marked by a renewed exodus of Iraqi Christians from their historic Middle Eastern home.

Christmas festivities in Mosul, an ancient center for Christianity in Iraq's north, as well as in Baghdad are being shunned in favor of prayers and masses to protest the relentless targeting of Christians, especially in Mosul, one of the most volatile cities in Iraq. Chief on worshipers minds will be victims of a church siege in Baghdad at the end of October that killed nearly 60 people.

Extremists have targeted Iraqi Christians and their churches repeatedly since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq that toppled Saddam Hussein and sparked a near civil war between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. The country's relatively peaceful political transition and the approval of a new government this week haven't lessened the sense of persecution among Christians, according to Archbishop Amel Shamon Nona, who leads the Chaldean Diocese of Mosul.

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsChristmas* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther Churches

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Posted December 23, 2010 at 6:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Church officials in Iraq say they have canceled some Christmas festivities in two northern cities over fears of insurgent attacks.

The Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Kirkuk, Louis Sako, says church officials will not put up Christmas decorations outside the church and urged worshippers to refrain from decorating homes.

He says the traditional Santa Claus appearance outside one of the city's churches has also been called off.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsChristmas* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsIraq War* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

1 Comments
Posted December 22, 2010 at 6:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A new wave of Iraqi Christians has fled to northern Iraq or abroad amid a campaign of violence against them and growing fear that the country’s security forces are unable or, more ominously, unwilling to protect them.

The flight — involving thousands of residents from Baghdad and Mosul, in particular — followed an Oct. 31 siege at a church in Baghdad that killed 51 worshipers and 2 priests and a subsequent series of bombings and assassinations singling out Christians. This new exodus, which is not the first, highlights the continuing displacement of Iraqis despite improved security over all and the near-resolution of the political impasse that gripped the country after elections in March.

It threatens to reduce further what Archdeacon Emanuel Youkhana of the Assyrian Church of the East called “a community whose roots were in Iraq even before Christ.”

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

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Posted December 13, 2010 at 5:33 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Inside St. George's - Baghdad from FRRME on Vimeo.



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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

4 Comments
Posted December 2, 2010 at 10:14 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Twelve suspected militants have been arrested in connection with a deadly church siege in Baghdad last month, Iraq's interior minister says.

Jawad Bolani said the arrests were made in raids over recent days and described them as a blow to al-Qaeda.

More than 50 people were killed when militants took over the Our Lady of Salvation church on 31 October.

The gunmen seized the Catholic church during Sunday Mass, demanding the release of al-Qaeda prisoners.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsIraq WarTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslam

1 Comments
Posted November 27, 2010 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The murder of more than 50 Catholics by jihadists during Sunday Mass in Baghdad on Oct. 31 is the latest in a series of outrages committed against Christians by Islamist fanatics throughout the world: Egypt, Gaza, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Sudan and on the list goes. The timing of the attack on Baghdad’s Syriac Catholic cathedral was striking, however, for it came shortly after the conclusion in Rome of a special Synod on the Middle East. During the Synod, very little was said about Islamist persecution of Christians; indeed, every effort was bent to show the Catholic Church sympathetic to Muslim grievances, especially with regard to the politics of the Middle East.

This strategy of appeasement has always struck me as unwise. The al Qaeda-affiliated jihadists’ answer to the Synod—the Baghdad murders—has now proven the strategy deadly. Appeasement must stop.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsIraq War* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastIranIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

3 Comments
Posted November 26, 2010 at 12:29 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A spate of bombs exploded outside the homes of several Christian families across Baghdad early Wednesday, compounding a sense of fear and vulnerability among Iraqi Christians 10 days after a bloody siege at a church here.

Three people were reported killed and about 25 wounded in several bombings and mortar blasts.

At least some of the casualties were not Christians. Residents of the Kamsara neighborhood, where a car bomb blew up outside a Christian family’s house, said one of the dead included a Muslim man who had run outside to offer help and was killed in a secondary blast.

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

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Posted November 10, 2010 at 12:14 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On October 21, Canon Andrew White delivered a lecture titled “Pursuing Reconciliation in Iraq: The Art of Mediation Between Warring Religious Factions.” Co-sponsored by the Human Rights Program and the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Kennedy School, the lecture focused on the role that religion must play in the peacemaking process in the Middle East.

White is president of the Foundation for Reconciliation in the Middle East, and the Anglican Chaplain to Iraq and Rector of St. George's Church in Baghdad. The recipient of the Train Foundation's Civil Courage Prize, White has been involved in the release of more than 50 hostages in the Middle East.

“Although I’m supposedly a religious leader myself, I actually think religion is bad,” he said. “So much of what we’ve seen is religion going wrong, and causing hatred and damage and pain.”

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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: Primary Source* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsIraq WarPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

6 Comments
Posted November 4, 2010 at 6:57 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Blood still smeared the walls of Our Lady of Salvation Church on Monday. Scraps of flesh remained between the pews. It was the worst massacre of Iraqi Christians since the war began here in 2003.

But for survivors, the tragedy went deeper than the toll of the human wreckage: A fusillade of grenades, bullets and suicide vests had unraveled yet another thread of the country’s once eclectic fabric.

“We’ve lost part of our soul now,” said Rudy Khalid, a 16-year-old Christian who lived across the street. He shook his head. “Our destiny, no one knows what to say of it.”

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsIraq War* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

5 Comments
Posted November 2, 2010 at 1:40 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A deadly militant siege of a Catholic church in Baghdad, Iraq, was a "savage" act of "absurd violence," Pope Benedict XVI said.

The pope urged international and national authorities and all people of good will to work together to end the "heinous episodes of violence that continue to ravage the people of the Middle East."

"In a very grave attack on the Syrian Catholic cathedral of Baghdad, dozens of people were killed and injured, among them two priests and a group of faithful gathered for Sunday Mass", the pope said of the Oct. 31 incident.

"I pray for the victims of this absurd violence, which is even more savage because it struck defenseless people, gathered in God's house, which is a house of love and reconciliation," he said after praying the Angelus with pilgrims in St. Peter's Square Nov. 1, the feast of All Saints.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVI

1 Comments
Posted November 1, 2010 at 8:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Vatican on Tuesday (Oct. 26) called for former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz to be spared the death penalty, and suggested it might intervene diplomatically on his behalf.

“The position of the Catholic Church on the death penalty is known,” said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office. “It is therefore truly hoped that the sentence against Tariq Aziz will not be carried out, precisely in order to favor reconciliation and the reconstruction of peace and justice in Iraq after the great sufferings undergone there.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsIraq WarPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVI

2 Comments
Posted October 29, 2010 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Seven long months after parliamentary elections, Iraqis still don’t have a government. Yet Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki was on another international road trip Monday — this one to Tehran, where he was soliciting the mullahs’ support for his bid to maintain power in Baghdad.

Mr. Maliki also was just in Syria and Jordan and is expected to visit Egypt and Turkey. Reuters reported that he is offering Arab states investment deals if they nudge his rival, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, toward accepting Mr. Maliki’s leadership. Mr. Allawi, whose Sunni-backed, secular-Shiite coalition called Iraqiya bested Mr. Maliki’s Shiite State of Law bloc by two seats in the election, has also been on the road trawling for support.

Iraq needs good relations with its neighbors. But more than anything it needs a legitimate government able to address its many deep problems. Rather than trading unseemly favors with other countries, Mr. Maliki should be working full time with Mr. Allawi and other leaders to break the political impasse at home. Mr. Allawi needs to be open to compromise.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsIraq WarPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastIraq

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Posted October 20, 2010 at 7:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When Nuri Kamal al-Maliki began his bid for re-election as prime minister — exactly a year ago on Saturday — he pledged to unite a population splintered and suspicious after years of war. He has not, and while he is hardly alone in blame, the consequences could haunt Iraq for years to come.

The purging of ballot lists before the election, the contentious and inconclusive challenges to the results, and the protracted delay in forming a new government since then have all deepened the ethnic, sectarian and societal cracks in a newly democratic state as fragile as an ancient Babylonian vase.

Sunni leaders in particular are angry at the prospect that they may be disenfranchised once again.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsIraq WarPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

0 Comments
Posted October 5, 2010 at 5:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Iraq ranks fourth in the Middle East on the Index of Political Freedom from The Economist’s Intelligence Unit — behind Israel, Lebanon and Morocco, but ahead of Jordan, Egypt, Qatar and Tunisia. Nearly two-thirds of Iraqis say they want a democracy, while only 19 percent want an Islamic state.

In short, there has been substantial progress on the things development efforts can touch most directly: economic growth, basic security, and political and legal institutions. After the disaster of the first few years, nation building, much derided, has been a success. When President Obama speaks to the country on Iraq, he’ll be able to point to a large national project that has contributed to measurable, positive results.

Of course, to be honest, he’ll also have to say how fragile and incomplete this success is. Iraqi material conditions are better, but the Iraqi mind has not caught up with the Iraqi opportunity.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsIraq WarPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistanMiddle EastIraq

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Posted August 31, 2010 at 8:51 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The outgoing commander of American forces in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, said Sunday that a new Iraqi government could still be two months away and warned that a stalemate beyond that could create demands for a new election to break the deadlock that has lasted since March.

While General Odierno said he believed negotiations had picked up and would prove successful, he predicted politicians still required “four to six to eight weeks.”

“That’s a guess,” he said in an interview at his headquarters, whose plaster roof is still engraved with the initials of Saddam Hussein. “If it goes beyond 1 October, what does that mean? Could there be a call for another election? I worry about that a little bit.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsIraq War* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted August 29, 2010 at 5:56 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For now, 50,000 troops will remain — combat ready but assigned primarily to training Iraqi forces, a shift made somewhat awkward by Obama's rigid deadline. It will force the State Department, for instance, to hire an army of private security contractors to take over functions that would more appropriately be handled by the military.

That is odd and troubling. But it doesn't alter the fact that a large combat force is no longer needed. By every measure in the comprehensive Iraq Index maintained by the Brookings Institution, violence has plummeted. Civilian casualties are down to 1,366 so far this year vs. 34,500 in 2006, the year before President Bush's "troop surge" strategy reversed the course of the war. U.S. military fatalities stand at 43 this year in Brookings' July measure, just 1% of the 4,415 who've given their lives since the invasion began in 2003. This year, 280 troops have been wounded, vs. 6,412 in 2006.

Stability, the overriding U.S. priority after post-invasion blunders sent Iraq tumbling into chaos, has been achieved. But whether Iraqis can keep it is an open question.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsIraq War* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted August 24, 2010 at 6:38 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Iraq's top army officer has criticised as premature the planned US troop withdrawal by the end of next year.

Lt Gen Babaker Zebari warned that the Iraqi military might not be ready to take control for another decade.

The US says it is on target to end combat operations by the end of August and meet its deadline for removing all troops by the end of 2011.

It has 64,000 soldiers in Iraq. About 50,000 will remain until 2011 to train Iraqi forces and protect US interests.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsIraq War* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastIranIraq

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Posted August 12, 2010 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When the Americans arrived, Hamid Ahmad, a former air force warrant officer imprisoned under Saddam Hussein, imagined a new life for his family, freed from the burdens of tyranny. In seven hard years, nothing went as planned.

He spoke good English and believed in America. He got a job, his family says, with the United States military. Late last month, he wound up dead at the hands of his 32-year-old son, who had turned into an insurgent who sought money and purpose in fighting the Americans.

“I didn’t say anything to him,” the son, Abdul, said in an interview as he stood barefoot with a bruised left eye in a jailhouse here in the city, not long after he confessed to the killing. “I just pulled the trigger and shot six or seven bullets.”

He said, “Everybody hated him because he worked for the Americans.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMarriage & Family* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsIraq War* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastIraq

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Posted July 22, 2010 at 4:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In Iraq, the pullout of U.S. troops is picking up pace. By Sept. 1, the number of U.S. forces in Iraq will be pared to about 50,000 troops, part of a massive drawdown to continue in 2011 under an agreement negotiated with Baghdad.

But many Iraqi soldiers, especially at installations recently placed in their control by the U.S. military, have come to rely on American largesse to keep the facilities running.

And as U.S. troops withdraw, many Iraqis feel a growing mistrust of the Iraq security forces that are supposed to protect them. Some of the Iraqi forces behave with impunity, and as a result, Iraqis say, they are now more afraid of them than the insurgency.

That has some Iraqi security officials wondering whether they can trust their government to fund the army and police as the Americans have. And the situation has some Iraqis wondering if they can rely on their own Iraqi forces.

Read or listen to the whole thing from NPR.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsIraq War* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted June 21, 2010 at 7:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The “vicar of Baghdad” has told a Hampshire congregation about the horrifying challenges facing his mission of Christianity in Iraq.

Andrew White, the Anglican Chaplain to the Iraqi capital, told fellow Christians at Southampton’s Highfield Church of the terrorism and violence that blights the lives of ordinary citizens and the church where he preaches.

During a series of addresses he said the number of Christian followers in the country has dwindled to around 200,000, from more than a million before the 2003 invasion.

Read it all.



Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: Latest NewsAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)The Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East* Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

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Posted June 6, 2010 at 2:14 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]




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