Thanks to the overrated film When Harry Met Sally, we have been saddled for the last twenty years with the "When X Met Y"formula, overreaching itself to cover When the World and His Wife Met His Wife and the World. I suppose Harry sounds a bit like Sally, but not enough. These days it's any Tom, Dick or Harry meeting any Joan, Jane or Sally. You've even got When Barack Met Michelle, which doesn't sound a bit like Harry or Sally, so what's the point?
Almost as irritating is the extension of the "from .... to ...." formula, correctly used in "from A to Z", "from soup to nuts" and "from the sublime to the ridiculous". The whole point of this expression is that "from" and "to" are at opposite ends; hence the tickle factor in Dorothy Parker's famous comment on how Katherine Hepburn's acting "ran the gamut of emotions from A to B".
I suppose you can go from A to B in a car, but you shouldn't in a Mission Statement, as do G4S, the "International Security Solutions Group" which plummeted so spectacularly down its own learning curve over the London Olympics. They don't even go from A to B; rather G to D, or X to R. Their journeys are random and pointless:
From risk assessment to delivery, we work in partnership with governments, businesses and other organisations to provide integrated solutions to security challenges.
We protect rock stars and sports stars, people and property, including some of the world’s most important buildings and events.
Hang on a minute -- aren't you supposed to say "From rock stars to sports stars, from people to property, from buildings to events"? Back on track for the rest of it:
From advising on stadium building plans to crowd control and ensuring event tickets are not forged;
From delivering pay packets to ensuring ATMs have enough cash to meet your shopping needs;
From delivering cash to bank branches and retail outlets to managing the flow of cash for central banks and major retailers;
From ensuring travellers have a safe and pleasant experience in ports and airports around the world to secure detention and escorting of people who are not lawfully entitled to remain in a country;
When it comes to "Culture and Values", G4S -- or should that be G2S? -- goes from bad to worse:
We are proud of our distinctive culture and strong values that are cascaded through the organisation. These values guide how we conduct our business and help to develop positive relationships with all stakeholders ....Each of our values has a senior executive ‘champion’ within the Group who is responsible for ensuring that it is embedded into the way G4S conducts its business throughout the world.
Here's hoping a champion stakeholder will embed his stake through the core of its values and watch the blood cascade.
Iran general warns ‘hated Arabs’ of reprisals for backing Syrian rebels
By Associated Press,
July 24, 2012
TEHRAN, Iran — A commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards has warned “hated Arab” rivals they could face repercussions for their efforts to topple the Tehran-backed regime of President Bashar Assad in Syria, a report said Tuesday.
Gen. Masoud Jazayeri did not specify any country or give details on the type of possible backlash, but Iran’s main Arab foe Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations such as Qatar are key supporters of the Syrian rebels.
The comments, carried by the semiofficial Fars news agency, also appear aimed at dismissing speculation that Iran is trying to distance itself from Assad as part of political bet-hedging in case he falls. Assad is Iran’s main Middle East ally, and his downfall would be a serious blow to Iran and its proxy forces Hezbollah in Lebanon and Palestinian Hamas.
“Soon the soil of Syria will be cleaned of the dirt of the enemy,” Fars quoted Jazayeri as saying.
He added the “resistance” — meaning Assad’s government and its allies— “will settle scores with enemies one by one.”
Jazayeri, also a spokesman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Assad’s regime has friends in the region poised to “strike out” — an apparent reference to forces that include Hezbollah and Hamas.
“Yet none of the friends of the Syrian government and the great front of resistance has entered the scene. If this happens, they will strike back hard at the enemy, particularly the hated Arabs,” Jazayeri was quoted as saying.
The remarks suggest that Iranian has no current military role in the Syrian crisis despite close relations between Tehran and Damascus.
Iran has proposed playing a mediator role between Assad and rebels, but the offer has found no backing among opposition groups that refused to negotiate to Assad or allies. At least 17,000 people have died in the Syrian uprising since March 2011.
Gulf nations such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar have pledged funds to aid Syria’s rebels, but there is no clear trail showing how much is reaching the fighters.
CAIRO — It is the sort of image that has become a staple of the Syrian revolution, a video of masked men calling themselves the Free Syrian Army and brandishing AK-47s — with one unsettling difference. In the background hang two flags of Al Qaeda, white Arabic writing on a black field.
“We are now forming suicide cells to make jihad in the name of God,” said a speaker in the video using the classical Arabic favored by Al Qaeda.
The video, posted on YouTube, is one more bit of evidence that Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists are doing their best to hijack the Syrian revolution, with a growing although still limited success that has American intelligence officials publicly concerned, and Iraqi officials next door openly alarmed.
While leaders of the Syrian political and military opposition continue to deny any role for the extremists, Al Qaeda has helped to change the nature of the conflict, injecting the weapon they perfected in Iraq — suicide bombings — into the battle against President Bashar al-Assad with growing frequency. The evidence is mounting that Syria has become a magnet for Sunni extremists, including those operating under the banner of Al Qaeda. An important border crossing with Turkey that fell into Syrian rebels’ hands last week, Bab al-Hawa, has quickly become a jihadist congregating point.
The presence of jihadists in Syria has accelerated in recent days in part because of a convergence with the sectarian tensions across the country’s long border in Iraq. Al Qaeda, through an audio statement, has just made an undisguised bid to link its insurgency in Iraq with the revolution in Syria, depicting both as sectarian conflicts — Sunnis versus Shiite.
Iraqi officials said that the extremists operating in Syria are in many cases the very same militants striking across their country. “We are 100 percent sure from security coordination with Syrian authorities that the wanted names that we have are the same wanted names that the Syrian authorities have, especially within the last three months,” Izzat al-Shahbandar — a close aide to the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki — said in an interview Tuesday. “Al Qaeda that is operating in Iraq is the same as that which is operating in Syria,” he said.
One Qaeda operative, a 56-year-old known as Abu Thuha who lives in the Hawija district near Kirkuk in Iraq, spoke to an Iraqi reporter for The New York Times on Tuesday. “We have experience now fighting the Americans, and more experience now with the Syrian revolution,” he said. “Our big hope is to form a Syrian-Iraqi Islamic state for all Muslims, and then announce our war against Iran and Israel, and free Palestine.”
Although a low-level operative, his grandiose plans have been echoed by Al Nusra Front for the People of the Levant, which military and intelligence analysts say is the major Qaeda affiliate operating in Syria, with two other Qaeda-linked groups also claiming to be active there, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and Al Baraa ibn Malik Martyrdom Brigade.
Since the start of the uprising, the Syrian government has sought to depict the opposition as dominated by Al Qaeda and jihadist allies, something the opposition has denied and independent observers said just was not true at the time. The uprising began as a peaceful protest movement and slowly turned into an armed battle in response to the government’s use of overwhelming lethal force.
Syrian state media routinely described every explosion as a suicide bombing — as they did with a bombing on July 18 that killed at least four high-ranking government officials.
Over time, though, Syria did become a draw for jihadists as the battle evolved into a sectarian war between a Sunni-dominated opposition and government and security forces dominated by the Alawite sect. Beginning in December, analysts began seeing what many thought really were suicide bombings.
Since then, there have been at least 35 car bombings and 10 confirmed suicide bombings, 4 of which have been claimed by Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, according to data compiled by the Institute for the Study of War.
In some cases, such as on June 1, when a bomb struck at government security offices in Idlib, or on April 27, when a suicide bombing killed 11 people in Damascus, Al Nusra claimed credit for it in postings on a jihadist Web site, according to the SITE monitoring group. The group also claimed responsibility for a June 30 attack on Al Ikhbariya TV, a pro-government station, which it said “was glorifying the tyrant day and night.” Seven media workers were killed, to international condemnation. Syrian opposition spokesmen denied any role.
In February, the United States’ director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, told a Congressional hearing that there were “all the earmarks of an Al Qaeda-like attack” in a series of bombings against security and intelligence targets in Damascus. He and other intelligence community witnesses attributed that to the spread into Syria of the Iraqi branch of Al Qaeda.
Shortly before Mr. Clapper’s testimony, Ayman al-Zawahri, the apparent leader of Al Qaeda since the killing of Osama bin Laden, released an audio recording in which he praised the Syrian revolutionaries lavishly, calling them “the lions of the Levant,” a theme that has since been taken up repeatedly in public pronouncements by the group.
Daniel Byman, a counterterrorism expert who is a professor at Georgetown University and a fellow at the Brookings Institution, said it was clear that Al Qaeda is trying to become more active in Syria. As they have already done in Somalia and Mali, and before that in Chechnya and Yemen, the group is trying to turn a local conflict to its advantage. “There’s no question Al Qaeda wants to do that, and they are actually pretty good at this sort of thing,” he said. “They’ve done well at taking a local conflict” and taking it global.
They have done this by relying more heavily on local fighters than on foreign ones, except at upper leadership levels — correcting a mistake that cost them credibility in the early years of the Iraqi conflict. “They learned a lot from Iraq,” Mr. Byman said. “They even write about this — they say, ‘We got on the wrong side of the locals.’ ” In Iraq, the government is led by the Shiite majority, while a Sunni minority has been Al Qaeda’s early breeding ground.
On Sunday, one day before a wave of 40 attacks across in Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the pseudonymous leader of the group’s Iraqi affiliate, issued a rare audio statement, not only predicting the next day’s attacks, but also lavishly praising Syria’s revolutionaries. “You have taught the world lessons in courage, jihad and patience,” he said, according to a translation provided by the monitoring organization SITE.
Joseph Holliday, an analyst from the Institute for the Study of War who studies Al Qaeda and the Arab Spring, said, “The emergence of Al Qaeda-linked terrorist cells working against the regime poses risks to the United States and a challenge to those calling for material support of the armed opposition.”
He added: “It’s something to keep an eye out for, the convergence of Iraq and Syria. As the Syrian government loses the ability to project force on the periphery of its territory, what you’re going to see is an emboldened Sunni opposition emerging in Nineveh and Iraq.”
For the moment, though, the mainstream Syrian opposition is nearly uniform in its opposition to a role for Al Qaeda in its popular uprising.
“Every now and then, we hear about Al Qaeda in Syria, but there is so far no material evidence that they are here,” said Samir Nachar, a member of the executive bureau of the Syrian National Congress. “The regime has talked about it, and there were political statements from the Iraqi government that Al Qaeda has moved from Iraq to Syria, but on the ground there is no information on the presence of foreign fighters.”
In hard-pressed Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria, not far from the Iraqi border, a Free Syrian Army brigade leader, identified only as Sayid, said in an interview by Skype that he had heard rumors about Qaeda fighters, but never actually seen one. In Deir Ezzor earlier this year, a massive truck bomb exploded near a military base — which the resistance immediately attributed to the Assad regime, claiming it bombed itself.
“If Al Qaeda comes to get rid of him,” Sayid said, referring to President Assad, “why not? But I personally have seen none of them.”
Back in May I spotted a story in The Christian Post that intrigued me. Generally speaking the C.P. tends to be factually accurate and when it speculates, as it does in this article, it is usually speculation based on good grounds and done by people who try very hard not to be overly alarmist. That said, one has to remember that it is a Christian newspaper and it will, naturally and correctly, report things using a very Christian bias.
Nonetheless, this story gave me pause for thought:
The head of a California-based evangelical religious liberty group stated [...] that Christianity is presently the most persecuted religion on earth based on evidence gathered.
Dr. Carl Moeller told The Christian Post at an event on rising religious intolerance abroad that Christians are "the most persecuted in the world" when the nonprofit examined religious groups suffering from increased persecution.
"In terms of sheer numbers, the large size of the Christian populations around the world, where they're repressed or restricted… Whether you count martyrs, those killed, or you count those living in regimes, sizable Christian populations live under extreme restrictions," said Moeller.
He noted that "the methodology for determining this was not from Open Doors necessarily. It was through organisations like Pew Research."
Moeller cited in his remarks a 2011 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life study that concluded that about 70 per cent of the world's population lives in a religiously intolerant environment and 32 per cent of the world's population experienced a rise in religious hostility either at the social or government level.
Sometimes there is "an intentional misrepresentation of other faiths is primary. It's fueled by illiteracy and some cases poverty," said Moeller.
"But the core driver is a distortion of a religious message that makes Christians or other minority groups the enemy."
Moeller's remarks came at a press conference focused on the increased persecution of religious minorities in some parts of the world. Sponsored by Opens Doors and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the conference was held [...] at the National Press Club.
In addition to Moeller, other speakers included Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, director of interfaith affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Nina Shea, a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
"What we all have in common is that we are stakeholders in battling what we call a growing scourge of repression of religious freedom," said Adlerstein.
For his speech, Moeller spoke about the growing problems for Christians in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Nigeria. When talking about Nigeria, which is in the news regularly for bomb attacks by a religious extremist group called Boko Haram, Moeller held up photos of bombed churches and businesses taken over the past few months.
USCIRF Commissioner Shea talked about various issues regarding international religious liberty.
Shea also mentioned a piece of legislation known as SB 1245, which was introduced by Republican Congressman Frank Wolf as HR 440. The bill if enacted would create a "Special Envoy" for the protection of religious minorities in certain parts of the world. It is currently being held up by Virginia Democratic Senator Jim Webb for unknown reasons.
"The U.S.'s moral muscle can be used to save millions of lives from oppression, imprisonment, and even death," said Moeller.
"And I believe that there are people of good will of faith of all religious persuasions around the world who would understand the kinds of things we were talking about here today."
Christians are being killed for their faith all over the world, but especially in the Islamic countries. The last time we saw persecution on this scale was in the very, very early days of the church when the Imperial Roman authorities tried to stamp out Christianity entirely. Regrettably, we live in a new age of Christian martyrs and saints.
Israel Commits to Protecting Its â€œEnergy prize in the Levant Basinâ€�.
Israeli War Ship leaves port of Ashdod
Late last year we published a major article on Israel’s discovery and development of significant offshore gas and oil deposits in the Jewish State’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), “Will Israel Win the Energy Prize in the Levant Basin?” At the time, we noted both the impact and security concerns:
In the Middle East, the world’s attention has been diverted by the threat of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the turmoil of the Arab Spring turning into winter in the Arab Muslim heartland. However, another conflict is rapidly emerging over development of vast natural gas fields offshore in the Levant Basin of the Eastern Mediterranean, which could transform Israel into a major world energy producer and change the geo-political landscape. At stake is who will win control over an energy prize of over 122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and more 1.8 billion barrels of recoverable oil according to estimates of the US Geologic Survey. The trigger has been the successful exploratory drilling completed by an Israeli American consortium, Noble Energy, Inc of Houston, Texas and Israeli partner Delek Group, which in 2009-2010 discovered more than 26 billion cubic feet of natural gas in several fields offshore in Israel’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off shore in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Tamar, Leviathan smaller gas field discoveries offshore have the potential of achieving energy independence for Israel and creating a major export market across the Mediterranean in the EU.
[. . .]
Given these roiling disputes over control of the vast energy prize in the Levant basin, Israel has taken aggressive precautions. In addition to the sorties over Cyprus, Israel has increased naval missile boat patrolling of drilling platforms in the Mediterranean. As reported by Reuters, an Israel official noted, "We have replicated the arrangements already in place at Yam Tethys, referring to another Israeli gas field 40 km (25 miles) off southern Ashkelon port, near the waters of the Palestinian territory Gaza.” Those drilling platforms are vital to Israel’s securing its vast share of the offshore energy prize. Those security concerns about offshore development of gas fields’ security are reflected in these comments of former Israeli national security adviser, Giora Eiland, "One danger is a proximity attack, by frogmen, by boats, by terrorists in some fashion. Another bigger challenge is how to face the threat of missiles.” Israel’s naval expansion reflects the necessity of protecting fields in its EEZ offshore:
The Israeli military's newspaper Bamahane said the navy was undergoing expansion including the appointment of a commodore to handle the induction of two more German-made submarines and address "the new need to protect the drilling rigs".
"The discovery of gas fields spanning a large area within the Mediterranean, west of the coast of Israel, significantly broadens the challenges facing the Israeli navy," the military said in a statement sent to AFP.
"The protection of these strategic assets requires increased resources and extensive preparations."
According to a military map made available to AFP, Israel's EEZ extends 70 nautical miles (129 kilometers) offshore from Rosh HaNikra on the Lebanese border and some 100 nautical miles from Israel's border with Gaza in the south.
"The territory to be protected is huge," explained a senior Israeli navy officer, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity.
"Our strategy is to use both presence and deterrence on a huge scale. We're talking about defending the strategic interests of the State of Israel and I must say that our government completely understands the necessity for this."
According to details published in the Israeli press, the new naval defense plan involves the acquisition of four new warships equipped with advanced radars and the Barak anti-missile defense system.
Surveillance drones and patrol boats will also be part of the operation, which will involve hundreds more troops and eventually span some 44,000 square kilometers (17,000 sq miles) -- more than double the area of the whole of Israel.
At the moment, the existing gas rigs are monitored by UAVs, or drones, and naval patrol boats in an operation which involves the air force, the navy and military intelligence, the official said, without going into details.
But the new plan, which will reportedly cost an annual 3.0 billion shekels ($756 millions/620 million euros), will "significantly" improve the Israeli navy's defense capacity, he said.
Details of the operation have already been approved by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and military chief of staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, press reports said last week.
Map locating gas fields off Israel. An Israeli company has said there is a high probability of further major natural gas deposits off the northern Israeli coast. Faced with new challenges posed by major offshore gas discoveries, Israel is looking to significantly increase its military presence on the high seas in a bid to protect its economic waters.
The remote natural gas platforms "will pose a major security risk in the coming five years," energy consultant Amit Mor told AFP at a gas conference organized by Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) earlier this month.
"Our platforms could be targeted by Grad rockets from the Gaza Strip and Scud missiles coming from Lebanon."
What the AFP article neglects is the full repetoire of Israel’s defense capabilities that include spy satellites coupled with reconnaissance drones and IAF squadrons integrated with EWC battle management aircraft fully capable of monitoring and countering threats to offshore gas and oil platforms. Then there are the Navy's Dolphin submarines, one of which is on station in the Eastern Mediterranean. Israel Naval Sayerets (commando units) have been engaged in training to provide security for offshore rigs to prevent assaults on gas production platforms akin to the tanker wars in the Persian Gulf in the 1980's that broke out during the last stages of the Iran Iraq war. You may recall that US Navy seal and small boat teams captured and destroyed Iranian oil platforms during the tanker war. Given the rumored possible acquisition of a purported 50% interest in the Leviathan field by Gazprom, you can speculate about whether the flotilla of Russia vessels cruising in the Mediterranean, especially the aircraft carrier the Kuznetzov, might be inveighed to add heft to protecting the Israeli and Cypriot offshore gas fields and submarine pipelines. Perhaps these energy security concerns may have broached with Putin when he was in Israel recently for the dedication of the WWII Russian Jewish soldier memorial.
Israel is determined to protect this important energy prize in the Levant Basin to assure both energy independence and sovereign wealth creation from exports to the world markets.
I couldn't find a sensible way of editing down the following article without ruining its sense. I apologise for its length but it is worth a read and it gives us, I think, a little bit of hope. The article is from the Maghreb Christians website:
During the second half of the 20th century, Evangelicals spent a great deal of time and energy on the subject of contextualization, especially regarding missions to Muslims. At a Caucus on Missions held near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in July 1985, I read a paper on “Neo-Evangelical Missiology and the Christian Mission to Islam.” In my critique of this missiology, I said: “During the last two decades, some severe criticisms have been levelled at the missionary work which has been undertaken since the days of William Carey. We are told by these critics, for example, that missions among Muslims have been a failure. Most of the missionaries of the past, so the critics say, were not good at ‘cross-cultural communication.’ This happened because missionaries failed to ‘contextualize’ the Christian message.” www.unashamedofthegospel.org/rethinking_missions_today.cfm In order to correct the “mistakes” of the past, some Evangelicals proceeded further in their efforts to contextualize the Gospel among Muslims, guided by Cultural Anthropology and secular theories of communications. Without going into the history of the various stages of contextualization, by the time the 21st century had arrived, the latest genre of contextualization, as propounded by the “Insider Movement,” has made considerable inroads into various missionary organizations, claiming to offer the ideal and successful approach for the evangelization of Muslims. The majority of the advocates of the “Insider Movement” come from Western Evangelical circles that, unlike the pioneer missionaries of the 19th and early 20th centuries, do not seem to be adequately versed in Islamic languages such as Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, Urdu, or Malay. This is not to belittle their scholarship, but to indicate that their work suffers from a lack of acquaintance with what present-day Muslim intellectuals are writing on religious topics in general, and on the emergence of an indigenous Christian Church in the Maghreb (Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco.) Thanks to the Internet, it has become possible to study materials on this new phenomenon by consulting Arabic-language reformist websites. If we embark on a serious research in this area, we come across a subject that is being discussed in Maghrebi and European circles, namely the “Phenomenon of the New Maghrebi Christians.” (Dhahirat al-Masihiyyeen al-Judod fi Dual al-Maghreb al-‘Arabi) It would be uncharitable, if we ignore or dismiss the testimonies of our Maghrebi brothers and sisters in our discussions of missions to Muslims in the 21st century. After all, they are the ones who have made the journey from Islam to Christianity at a great cost. It is only reasonable to listen to the accounts of their conversion, and the way they have expressed their new life in Christ, by joining or organizing, national congregations of Masihiyyeen (Christians.) I would like to share my study of this phenomenon, and learn from the “New Maghrebi Christians” how they have arrived at a totally different paradigm of missions to Muslims, than the one offered by the “Insider Movement.” It was around four years ago, that I came across the term “Masihiyyoo al-Maghreb” (The Christians of North Africa,) in the Arab media. That indicated the presence of a considerable number of North African Muslims who have embraced the Christian faith. In March 2007, a conference was convened in Zurich, Switzerland, by “Copts United,” under the leadership of an Egyptian Christian engineer named Adli Yousef Abadir, and chaired by Dr. Shaker al-Nabulsi, a Jordanian Muslim intellectual. The theme of the conference was “The Defense of Minorities and Women.” The Arabic online daily Elaph reported on the proceedings of the conference. One of the lectures was entitled “The Christians of the Maghreb under the Rule of Islamists,” where it must be noted that the Maghrebi converts to Christianity were called, “Masihiyyoo al-Maghreb” and not “followers of ‘Issa,” the way the Insider Movement likes to refer to converts from Islam. Another term referred to them as “Al-Masihyyoon al-Judod” i.e. the New Christians of the Arab Maghreb: Here are translated excerpts from that lecture delivered in 2007, at the Zurich Conference: “The New Christians’ phenomenon throughout the Arab Maghreb has come to the attention of the media. For example, the weekly journal, Jeune Afrique, devoted three reports on this subject with respect to Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria. In March 2005, the French daily Le Monde devoted a complete report about this topic. And Al-‘Arabiyya TV channel telecast two reports on the subject that had been recorded in the Kabyle district of Algeria. “Jeune Afrique estimated that the number of people who have embraced Christianity in Tunisia was around 500, belonging to three churches. A report on the website of “Al-Islam al-Yawm” prepared by Lidriss el-Kenbouri, and dated 23 April 2005, estimated the number of European evangelists in Morocco was around 800, and that quite often, their evangelistic efforts were successful. The report further added that around 1,000 Moroccans had left Islam during 2004. The magazine “Al-Majalla,” in its No. 1394 issue, claimed that the number of New Christians in Morocco was around 7,000; perhaps the exact number may have been as high as 30,000. “The report that appeared in the French daily Le Monde claimed that during 1992, between 4,000 and 6,000 Algerians embraced Christianity in the Kabyle region of Algeria. By now, their numbers may be in the tens of thousands. However, the authorities are mum about this subject, as an Algerian government official put it; ‘the number of those who embraced Christianity is a state secret.’” “When we enquired from those who had come over to the Christian faith to learn about the factors that led to their conversion, they mentioned several factors, among them was ‘The violence of the fundamentalist Islamist movements.’ A Christian evangelist working in Algeria reported: ‘These terrible events shocked people greatly. It proved that Islam was capable of unleashing all that terror, and those horrific massacres! Even children were not spared during the uprising of the Islamists! Women were raped! Many people began to ask: Where is Allah? Some Algerians committed suicide! Others lost their minds; others became atheists, and still others chose the Messiah!’” “Quite often, the ‘New Christians’ testified to the fact that what they discovered in their new faith was love; it formed another factor in their conversion. These are some of their words: ‘We found out that in Christianity, God is love.’ ‘God loves all people.’ ‘What attracted us to Christianity is its teaching that God is love.’” It is quite evident that the testimonies of these new Maghrebi Christians are extremely important. The Christian message came to them through various means, but it struck them as a word of a loving God in search for His lost sheep. They embraced the Messiah who died on the cross, and rose again for their justification. Notwithstanding all the difficulties they faced, they clung to the Biblical Injil that had brought them peace with God, and the gift of eternal life. The link to this Arabic-language report is: http://www.elaph.com/ElaphWeb/ElaphWriter/2007/4/225336.htm Almost two years after the Zurich Conference that dealt with the plight of Maghrebi Christians should the Islamists succeed in taking over the reigns of government I read the following report posted on 22 January, 2009, on the Arabic-language Aafaq (Horizons) website. It detailed the news of young Algerians who have converted to Christianity because they had become disaffected with Islam. Here are excerpts from the report datelined Algiers:
“Some Amazigh websites have disclosed that many Algerian young people have left Islam and adopted Christianity. They confessed that they did so due to the ugliness of the crimes perpetrated by the Salafist ‘Da’wa and Combat Movement’ against civilians. They were tremendously disappointed and disenchanted with Islam, claiming that it was responsible for nurturing these Jihadists who have been terrorizing and murdering innocent people.
“The website noted that the spread of Christianity in Algeria has even reached areas that were entirely under the influence of the Islamists, such as in eastern Algeria. Furthermore, the Christian expansion in the country was not due exclusively to missionary organizations, as certain Islamic groups claim. The reason is to be found in Islam itself. It has been associated in the minds of the youth with Irhab, assassinations, and crimes against innocent people. They remember that many of the crimes were committed during the 1990s, and occurred in distant villages of Algeria when young women were abducted, taken to the mountains as “captives,” gang-raped, and then killed by having their throats slit. Such horrific scenes took place in Algeria over several years and resulted in the very word “Islamic” becoming synonymous with Irhab!
“The report added that in Islam a woman is regarded as an enemy that must be fought with all means. She must be punished for the simplest mistake, while men go unpunished when they commit similar misdeeds. Thus, a woman is held responsible for the simplest act, and is liable to be put to death, since she is by nature a “Shaytana” i.e. a female Satan. This seriously misguided and misogynist view of women causes young men to worry about their own sisters, and be anxious about their future daughters as well.
“It went on to explain that the Irhabis who committed those awful crimes against women held to a view of Islam that took for granted that discrimination between the sexes is normal. They believed in the notion that the bed is the sole reason for a woman’s existence. In northern Algeria alone, 5,000 women were raped. This Amazigh source regards these radicals as ‘Allah’s guards on earth’ who refuse to act as civilized human beings.”
The website ended its comments on the alienation of Algerian youth by stating “that as long as Islam is unable to get out of its closed circle, and evolve according to the requirements of a civil society that is open to love, tolerance, and coexistence with others; it will continue to alienate more young people.”
In the Providence of God it has transpired that the despicable actions of the Irhabis in the bloody and dark decade of the 1990s have contributed to more than 20,000 Algerians converting to the Christian faith.
Reporting on the same topic of conversions to Christianity that are taking place in Algeria, on 24 April, 2009, the Aafaq website posted an article, with this headline:
Religious Leaders in Algeria Are Demanding the Punishment of the Apostates.
“An Algerian policeman and his daughter have made a public confession that they have embraced Christianity. The policeman’s announcement precipitated a tremendous amount of discussion and argument in Algeria, causing the religious authorities to demand that the police department dismiss him from his position since his actions proved him to be an Apostate, a Murtad.
“The policemen declared to the Algerian newspaper al-Nahar that his previous life as a Muslim was filled with anxieties and the absence of peace of mind. He added that the radical Islamist movements that had massacred women and children caused him to become fearful of Islam which he held responsible for the bloodshed. His life was caught up in a deep struggle that eventually led him to embrace Christianity, that according to him, ‘has given me peace of mind.’
“As to the daughter of the policeman, she explained that the reason she embraced Christianity was due to her feeling that Islam treated women as maids and concubines, only to be sexually exploited by men. Muslim men regard women only from a physical point of view. Now, having embraced Christianity, she began to feel as a dignified human being. Her decision was final, and she didn’t regret it at all.
“The Algerian religious authority reacted swiftly by declaring that Irtidad (Apostasy) is tantamount to becoming a Kafir (Unbeliever,) and thus becomes subject to capital punishment unless an apostate repents by returning to Islam. It is estimated that there are around 10,000 Christians, most of whom live in the Kabyle district of Tizi Ouzou. Some unofficial sources claim that the number of Christians in Algeria is more than 100,000; they are to be found all over the country, especially in the west of Algeria around Oran and Mostaganem, most of these converts are young men and women. They claim that the reason that prompted them to embrace Christianity was Islam’s responsibility for murder, terror, and rape, as perpetrated by the Islamist groups who, in 1992 started their Jihad against civilians with the hope of getting closer to Allah!”
It is noteworthy that both the policeman and his daughter openly confessed that they had embraced Christianity, using the Arabic word al-Masihiyya and not another Arabic term such as the Qur’anic “Nasraniyya.” The word Masihiyya is used by Arabic-speaking Christians throughout the Middle East. To embrace Christianity and publicly announce it is a courageous act of the “New Maghrebi Christians!”
Finally, I would like to refer to an article by a reformist Algerian intellectual that was posted on 7 July, 2009, on the daily online Al-Awan (Kairos) website. He unmasked the hypocrisy of the Islamic propaganda machine that seeks to paint a rosy picture of the human rights conditions in the “Lands Governed by the Sharia.” He began, with tongue in cheek, to quote a paragraph written in a flowery Arabic style that sang the praises of the superlative tolerance and magnanimity shown to the various religious and ethnic minorities living within Daru’l Islam. Then he proceeded to list certain actions taken by Muslim governments that contradicted the empty claims enumerated in the propaganda piece. I must confess that I was fascinated with his sarcasm and wit which comes through especially forcefully in Arabic!
Here are excerpts from the article.
“We are a tolerant people. With us, there is no ‘compulsion in religion.’ We don’t punish apostates, or force them to return to Islam. Buddhists living among us are free to build their temples. As to our Christian brothers and Jewish cousins, they have all the freedom to build their houses of worship without any hindrance. [Among us] you are as free to change religion as you are to change your shirt. There is true freedom in Daru’l Islam. A Copt is a citizen, and not a dhimmi. A Shi’ite enjoys the same privileges as a Sunni in a Sunni majority land; the same thing obtains for a Sunni living in a Shi’ite majority country. The Ahmadis 1 and the Bahais 2 are well-treated. In fact, all religions are properly treated in our Arab-Muslim world. May Allah protect us from the evil designs and calumnies of the West who are very jealous on account of our blessings, the blessings of justice, peace, and Islam.”
“Now, anyone who takes seriously such propaganda, [referring to the words of the paragraph above] is a fool for believing such lies! The meetings that take place, and the funds that are spent to present Islam as a tolerant religion, are nothing but smoke-screens.
“The facts gleaned from the Islamic world don’t reveal an idealistic and tolerant Islam. How can a genuine spirit of citizenship prosper in the Muslim world, where the Sharia mandates not only discrimination against non-Muslims, but their ultimate elimination?
“Any keen observer of the condition of human rights in the Muslim world is able to dismantle meaningless discourse that seeks to present to the world an idealistic Islam. Such an observer cannot but take note of the total lack of individual freedoms and human rights in all those countries where their laws are based on Sharia, and not on human reason.
“It is necessary to dismantle the very structures of Islamist discourse based, as we know, on purely verbal formulations and vapid eloquence. Doing so would reveal the true nature of that miserable and imagined “glorious Islamic past,” a past that the Islamists are trying to resurrect, which can only mean that entire Muslim societies will continue to remain underdeveloped!
“Let us observe realistically the present state of affairs in the Arab-Islamic world so that we may not be duped by the empty claims of the Islamists. Where is that vaunted justice when a young Algerian woman is brought to trial, simply because she chose to embrace Christianity in a country with a constitution that guarantees freedom of belief? The Algerian Government claims that there is a widespread evangelization movement taking place in the country. But what exactly is the problem with that? Should the State be responsible for the conscience of its people and their inner convictions? Why do we forbid others to engage in activities which we allow ourselves? What’s the difference between “da’wa” and “tabshir” (evangelism?) And can there be harmony between the Sharia as the basis of legislations and the principle of religious freedom?
“In the final analysis, it is only when we adopt a secular outlook as the basis of our laws that we can arrive at a just solution to the problem of religious, ethnic, and racial minorities who are at present ‘submerged’ in the sea of an intolerant Muslim majority throughout the Arab world.”
This information gleaned from Arabic-language sources on the phenomenon of the “New Maghrebi Christians,” is extremely important. Western Christians are being told by some “missiologists,” that Muslims converting to the Lord Jesus Christ, need not call themselves “Masihiyyeen,” nor stop their former Islamic practices such as attending the Friday services at the mosque, or fasting during Ramadan. This novel “missionary” theory is being offered as a “quick fix” to solve the problem of the paucity of fruits in missions to Muslims.
I risk being regarded as an extremely judgmental person when I describe the Insider’s missiology as a purely Western construct, that manifests a radical discontinuity with the missiology of the great missionaries of the past, from St Francis of Assisi and Raymond Lull in the Middle Ages, down to the days of the pioneers of the 19th and 20th centuries such as Henry Jessup, Cornelius Van Dyck, Eli Smith, Samuel Zwemer, and J. W. Sweetman. As an Eastern Christian who spent most of my life bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to the followers of Islam, I find it ironic that the Insider Movement, while intending to be “culturally sensitive”, becomes in the final analysis a rather imperialistic, even hegemonic effort. Yet, this attempt to sell a new genre of missionary theory is being implicitly rejected by those brave New Maghrebi Christians. Both they and those who report about them in the Arab press, use the term “Masihiyyeen,” as a testimony to their solidarity with other Arabic-speaking Christians, and as full members of the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church,” in the words of the Nicene Creed.
It is my fervent hope that we pay more attention to the Biblical directives on missions, at the very time when they are being undermined by the advocates of the Insider Movement. We should never forget that notwithstanding the Jewish and Gentile outright rejection of the gospel of the cross, Paul did not hesitate to proclaim it. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but for us who are being saved, it is the power of God, (dunamis Theou estin.)” (I Corinthians 1:18) The basis of our salvation is the person and redemptive work of Jesus Christ; and its instrumental means is the kerygma, i.e., the Word of the Cross, whether it is formally preached by a minister of the Gospel, or given as a marturia (testimony) by a Christian.
Paul expanded on this basic missionary doctrine in verse 21: “For since in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know Him, it pleased God, through the foolishness of the preached message (kerygmatos) to save those who believe.”
Indeed, I cannot hide my joy when I hear news about the rebirth of the Christian Church in North Africa. I praise God for the boldness of these new Maghrebi Christians who are not ashamed of the Cross of their Savior, but place its symbol in the humble meeting rooms where they worship Him. They show in a concrete manner that they are “unashamed of the Injeel,” since it is the power of God that they had experienced in their own lives when He enabled them to leave Islam, and join the great company of the Masihiyyeen (Christians). He will also preserve them should the Islamist forces manage to take over the lands of the Maghreb.
I think that it is obvious that we will see even more Christian martyrs - the muslims in North Africa won't give up their devil-worshipping ways that easily - and much more denial of the persecution that Christians face in majority Islamic countries by our left-wing politicians.
Will The Bodo Be Saved From Drowning In A Muslim Sea?
Muslims from Bengal, and from Bangladesh itself, have been for decades putting steady pressure on the indigenous peoples, in the same way that Muslims in Malaysia have been putting pressure on, and uprooting from their land, the indigenous tribes, such as the Dyak, even as the Muslims instiutte a "Sons of the Soil" policy supposedly meant to favor the indigenous peoples, but only favoring the Muslim Malays.
Here is the story, which doesn't tell the real story, from AP: :
India: Soldiers Kill 5 as Dispute Over Land Explodes in Violence
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
July 24, 2012
Troops sent to quell clashes over land rights in northeast India killed five people Tuesday after the government ordered them to shoot suspects on sight. The killings and the discoveries of more bodies raised the toll from the violence in Assam State to 32 since Friday, according to G. D. Tripathy, the Assam home secretary. An additional 170,000 people have fled to more than 100 relief camps to avoid the fighting between the ethnic Bodo and Muslim settlers, who are mostly Bengali, in the western district of Kokrajhar. The police have found 27 bodies, most of them hacked with machetes and left in the jungle or beside roads or rivers. About 80 homes were burned down overnight as the violence spread to the neighboring Dhubri and Chirang districts. Residents of the village of Dimol fled Tuesday. Authorities sent about 5,000 army and paramilitary troops to the region with a mandate to shoot people suspected of arson and rioting on sight, said the Assam chief minister, Tarun Gogoi. Animosity and accusations of land theft have long simmered between Bodos and the settlers, who have clashed sporadically since the 1990s and burned each other’s homes and property.
The Election In Algeria â€“ A Slightly Different Take
Youssef writes here about the elections that took place a couple of months ago.
The election in Algeria did not lead to the victory expected by the country’s Islamist parties.
Islamist parties in Algeria failed to wrest control away from the ruling majority in the country’s May 10th legislative elections. As a result, Algeria stands as an exception to the “green wave” that brought Islamist parties to power in Tunisia, Morocco and beyond.
According to the initial results that emerged on Friday (May 11th), the National Liberation Front (FLN) nearly won an outright majority with 220 seats. Collectively, Islamist parties could do no better than 59 seats.
“The people voted to punish the FLN in 1992 by shunning it in favour of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS),” said Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia on Saturday. “This time around, the people voted to escape from the dangers to national stability.”
Abdelaziz Belkhadem, general secretary of the FLN, expressed delight at the victory. “The party will forge alliances in Parliament,” he said, in order to prevent a return to a one-party system.
Reactions from the Islamist parties, who long projected their victory, were not so optimistic.
The Green Algeria Alliance called the election results “manipulation on a grand scale”, and said it would hold the president fully responsible of any proven fraud.
Abdallah Djaballah of the Front for Justice and Development (FJD) initially condemned Thursday’s vote as an “electoral charade”. He took a harsher tone on Sunday, telling AFP that the results “closed the door on change by the ballot box”.
“The Tunisian option is all that’s left for those who believe in change,” Djaballah said.
The FJD is also threatening to withdraw from Parliament after winning just seven of the 462 available seats.
Abdelmadjid Menasra of the Front for Change called the election “worse than fraud”, saying it “was a sham from the outset”. Islamist parties failed to rally voters in support of their manifestos, Menasra said, but he refused to accept their defeat.
The former FIS gave its response to the election result in a statement signed by leaders Abassi Madani and Ali Belhadj. “The legislative elections highlight the deepening crisis of confidence between the people of Algeria and a corrupt regime,” they wrote.
The result came as a blow to the Islamist parties, who had hoped that the Arab Spring would spill over into Algeria.
Analyst Mounir Boudjemaa said the poll signalled a decline of political Islamism in Algeria.
“The Green Alliance is a victim of its own contradictions,” he told Magharebia. “How can a party like the MSP (Movement of Society for Peace), which was in government and decided at the last minute to go over to the opposition, remain in government? This is not credible in the eyes of the public.”
“What happened during the Arab Spring had an effect on Algerians, but not necessarily in the way the outside world expected,” said Noureddine Hakiki, a political observer.
“In Egypt, in Libya… there was change, but it took the form of regression and disorder. Algerians don’t want insecurity, they want stability”, he said.
“We’ve been there and done that with Islamism; it’s an era we’ll never forget. Everyone was deeply affected by the war. It’s a chapter that this generation doesn’t want to reopen,” Hakiki said.
The smooth running of the poll drew praise from the international observers sent to monitor it. The international community unanimously welcomed the lack of major incidents and the election of 120 women to Parliament.
Despite the allegations of vote rigging, the International Observers believe that the results broadly represent the will of the people. Let us hope that other majority Islamic countries eventually go this way.