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Monthly archives: November, 2016

‘We must distinguish between Islam and terrorism’

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Ján Figeľ, speaking at the event in Vienna on Saturday (26 Nov.). Psalm133 / YouTube

Keeping the distinction between Islam and terrorism clear could prevent an ultimate ‘Clash of Civilisations’, an EU diplomat says.

“All this hatred and bloodshed is a misuse of religion,” said Ján Figeľ, the European Commission’s first Special Envoy for the promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the EU. Failure to separate fanatics from the religion they claim could even spark World War III, the Slovakian MP said on 26 Nov. in Vienna at an event organised by religious freedom organisation ADF International.

Figeľ, who has been in the role since May, highlighted the words of an Iraqi Christian soldier returning to a church in the recently liberated city of Qaraqosh.

“No religion would do that,” the soldier said, pointing to the badly vandalised church. “They’re terrorists.”

“I applaud this distinction,” Figeľ said, adding that Christianity has been misused to achieve violence aims in the past. “Don’t mix [up] criminals and the religion they misuse,” he added.

Other speakers at the event, ‘Embattled: Christians under pressure in Europe and beyond’, included Swedish MEP Lars Adaktusson and Hungarian MP Tamás Török, Under Secretary of State for Hungary’s new office focusing on the persecution of Christians.

Adaktusson said that although “there is a very clear connection” between organisations such as the Islamic State and Islam, “we need to be very careful not to blame individual Muslims for terrorist attacks”.

Meanwhile, he outlined his support for an autonomous Nineveh Plain in Iraq to encourage displaced Christians to return home and warned that a Middle East without a “mosaic” of people from different faith backgrounds would be a region “rapidly returning to the Dark Ages”.

Hungary’s Török said European nations have a “precious obligation” to preserve their Christian values for future generations, saying he hoped “Hungary will have an important role to play”.

Justice for victims

ADF International’s Andreas Thonhauser stressed the importance of bringing perpetrators of religiously motivated violence to justice.

He said displaced Christians are “desperate” for justice and quoted an Iraqi refugee living in a camp in Amman, Jordan, who told him: “Make sure that those who murdered our families, those who tortured and brutalised our friends, torched our churches, drove us out of our homelands; make sure once Daesh [IS] are defeated, these people are not allowed just to shave off their beards and get on with their lives.”

Thonhauser said there is “great reluctance” in Western media to think of Christians – whom he said are “seen as aggressors” – as victims.

His colleague, Ewelina Ochab, added that the media needs to get to grips with the actions of the world’s fourth deadliest militant group – Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria. She praised the International Criminal Court for declaring Boko Haram’s actions “crimes against humanity” but said the herdsmen are in danger of being “forgotten” as they continue to carry out atrocities with impunity.

Figeľ emphasised the importance of religious literacy, noting that 84% of the world’s population – “the overwhelming majority” – still declare some kind of religious affiliation. He said “Christianity is the most persecuted religious community worldwide” and that there is a “genocide” of Christians taking place in the Middle East. However, he concluded: “If humanity, justice and solidarity prevail over fear, indifference and ignorance, centuries of genocide may belong to history and not the future.”

And in Europe?

Austrian politician Gudrun Kugler said she recognised the difficulty of focusing on Europe when much greater atrocities are happening elsewhere, but quoted the late Pope John Paul II as saying: “We must not overlook more subtle forms of persecution … that start with social exclusion and lead to social death.”

ADF International’s Paul Coleman said there is a “rising tide of restrictions” across Europe, regulating what people can say, how they can act, how they can raise their children and what they can teach in their churches.

He said Europe’s hate-speech laws are the equivalent of blasphemy laws elsewhere and warned that the position of FoRB in Europe is “fragile”.

Ellen Kryger Fantini, from the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians, cited the example of French priest Jacques Hamel, knifed to death as he led mass. She concluded: “If we don’t take [the threat to FoRB in Europe] seriously, it can lead to worse and, in fact, we’ve already seen it lead to worse”.

Source: World Watch Monitor



The most urgent prayer request imaginable

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Syria war: Key Aleppo rebel area captured by forces

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Syrian soldiers seized the area of Masaken Hanano at the weekend

Syrian government forces have captured a key part of eastern Aleppo, splitting rebel-held territory.

Both state TV and the monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that the district of Sakhour had fallen to the Syrian army.

The Syrian army and their allies launched a major offensive to retake control of Aleppo in September.

Thousands of civilians have fled rebel-held eastern Aleppo districts after a weekend of heavy fighting.

Hundreds of families have also been displaced within the besieged area.

Retaking the whole of Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, is a key aim of the Syrian government in its fight against rebels.

While it is very difficult to find out exactly what is happening in besieged eastern Aleppo, several key districts appear to have fallen to the government, leaving very little, if any, of the northern part of the rebel-held enclave still under the rebels’ control.

Scott Craig, the spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Syria, told the BBC that there were 250,000 people in need of assistance in eastern Aleppo, 100,000 of them children. Food supplies are gone, he said.

“The situation on the ground in eastern Aleppo is almost beyond the imagination of those of us who are not there,” Mr Craig said.

He said around 2,000 civilians had fled the fighting.

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State TV quoted a Syrian military source as saying that government forces “are continuing their advance in eastern neighbourhoods of Aleppo”.
“Our engineers are dismantling explosive devices and mines,” he added.

Rami Abdulrahman, director of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told Reuters that the opposition had lost more than third of the area it controlled in Aleppo city during the recent advance.

The east of Aleppo has been held by rebel factions opposed to President Bashar al-Assad for the past four years.

In the past year, Syrian troops have broken the deadlock with the help of Iranian-backed militias and Russian air strikes.

Russia says its air force is active in other parts of the country, but not operating over Aleppo.

Seven-year-old Bana Alabed, who has gathered thousands of Twitter followers with her tweets from Aleppo, said on Sunday that her home in the east of the city had been bombed.

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On Monday morning, her account tweeted:
“Under heavy bombardments now. In between death and life now, please keep praying for us.”

Kurdish groups who control the Sheikh Maqsoud area of Aleppo provided images showing people fleeing the rebel-held neighbourhoods into the Kurdish-controlled district.

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This photo shows people crossing into a Kurdish-controlled area of Aleppo from rebel-held areas on Sunday

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This woman and her young child were among those fleeing to the Sheikh Maqsoud area

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Parts of eastern Aleppo have been in rebel hands for four years

Source: BBC News



NIGERIA: CHURCH BLEEDS UNDER FULANI JIHAD

Written by Elizabeth Kendal

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Fulani herdsmen on the attack

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Fulani herdsmen attacking Christians, KADUNA STATE, NIGERIA (ANS – November 23, 2016)

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin by Elizabeth Kendal, Special to ASSIST News Service
— During the latter half of the 20th Century, modernisation and environmental factors such as drought and desertification left many Fulani and Hausa Muslims struggling to maintain their traditional, nomadic way of life.

While many abandoned cattle grazing and migrated into the cities in search of work, others still lead their cattle south in search of food and water. The situation has put immense strain on Nigeria’s ethno-religious “fault-line”, where Fulani Muslim “settlers” from the north and southern Christian “indigenes” now compete for land, water, jobs and political power.

For decades, successive northern Muslim military dictators empowered the Fulani. In today’s democratic Nigeria, Muslim fundamentalists — political leaders, military personnel and Islamic jihadists — back the Fulani and use them as proxies to expand Islamic territory at the expense of local Christians, a record number of whom are now displaced. The seemingly endless violence perpetrated by Muslim Fulani against Christian indigenous communities across the “fault-line” and ever deeper into the south needs to be understood in the context of predatory migration, ethno-religious cleansing and classic imperialistic Islamic jihad.

Kaduna — one of Nigeria’s twelve Sharia [Islamic Law] states — sits in Nigeria’s volatile Middle Belt with Fulani Muslims in the north, Christian tribes in the south and its divided capital straddling the ethno-religious “fault-line”.

On the evening of Sunday, November 13, 2016, Fulani herdsmen besieged and attacked five villages — Kigam, Kitakum, Unguwan Magaji, Unguwan Rimi and Kizipi — in Chawai Chiefdom in Kauru Local Government Area (LGA) in Southern Kaduna, about 300 km [186 miles] south-east of the Kaduna metropolis. Armed with guns, knives, machetes and explosives, the Fulani killed 45 mostly women, children and elderly Christian residents while wounding dozens more and displacing thousands. Numerous vehicles and over 120 houses (including eight house-churches) were looted and torched.

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Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) press conference. (World Watch Monitor).

According to local eyewitnesses, a Fulani herdsman named Haruna had approached a local farmer in September, requesting permission to graze his cattle on his land. The farmer refused, explaining that he had just finished preparing the land for planting yam in October. Despite this, the cattleman moved his cattle in and even built huts on the farmer’s land. Reluctant simply to submit and surrender his land, the farmer eventually called the police who intervened to remove the cattleman and his herd. When the cattleman subsequently returned, local youths chased him away. That was when the Fulani decided to ethnically cleanse the whole area.

Frustrated by the endless carnage, the Chairman of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, Solomon Musa, reiterated calls for the establishment of a military base in Southern Kaduna. “It has now become abundantly clear,” he said, “to even the worst sceptics, that Southern Kaduna has become a killing field where genocide is taking place unabated.”

Most analysts would concur with Musa’s analysis that powerful people are sponsoring terrorists to eliminate people. Church leaders accuse the government of not giving enough attention to security. It is just as the Reverend Zachariah Gado explains. He said that there is a “well-funded, organised and executed campaign, to not only make life unbearable for the entire Southern Kaduna territory through threats, intimidation and psychological warfare, but also to occupy the land through what can only be described as ethno-religious cleansing by Fulani herdsmen militia.”

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An armed Fulani herdsman.

Whole Christian communities are disappearing, being replaced with Fulani Muslims. The Church is bleeding under this Fulani jihad.

Please Pray That the Lord Our God Will:

* draw very near to the Christians in Southern Kaduna — in particular (at this time) those in and displaced from Kaura LGA — as they struggle against fear and despair, and against temptations to hate, to retaliate, and to doubt; may the Lord draw them close and lift their heads, that they will look to him for comfort, justice and security. May the devil have no victory here! May divine grace prove effective as a healer and as a witness.

“But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” (Psalm 3:3 ESV)

* influence the government of Nigeria, in particular President Muhammadu Buhari and Kaduna Governor Nasir el-Rufai, convicting and energising them to act decisively to:

* strengthen security in Christian regions;

* crack down on the illegal activities of the Fulani; and

* smash the nexus between the Fulani cattle herders, the Islamic militants, rogue Muslims in the military, and powerful Muslim fundamentalist figures (clerics and politicians) with Islamic imperialist ambitions.

Source: Asist News Service



Aleppo civilians into Syrian government-controlled areas

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Al-Shaar district is seeing some intensified fighting

Hundreds of Syrian civilians have fled into government-controlled areas of Aleppo as troops make advances against rebels in the east of the city.

The move to western Aleppo came after troops retook Hanano district, the largest controlled by the rebels.

The capture of Hanano gives the army an advantage in its drive to seize other opposition-held areas.

Some 275,000 people are under siege as the army’s offensive – now in its 13th day – is intensified.

The assault has killed 219 civilians, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.

Among the victims were 27 children, the monitoring group added. Reports suggest there is a lack of medical supplies and food.

Meanwhile, rebels have intensified rocket attacks on the government-controlled western districts of Aleppo. Their attacks have killed 27 civilians since the offensive began, the Observatory said, including 11 children.

The Syrian army’s success in Hanano is its biggest of the offensive against the rebels.

Retaking all of Aleppo would be a major victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after five years of conflict.

Hanano was the first neighbourhood in Aleppo taken by rebels in 2012.

Syrian forces regained the district on Saturday – a move making it easier for them to isolate the northern districts of east Aleppo from the southern ones.

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There are more than half a million people in rebel-controlled eastern Aleppo

Air strikes launched as part of the recent government offensive were described by activists as the most intense ever, leaving the streets deserted.

As the army advance neared, the Observatory said more than 400 residents had left the eastern districts of Haidaria and al-Shaar, where they were received by the army and taken to areas under their control in the west of the city.

Al-Jazeera says others are moving out of the besieged neighbourhoods of Hulluk, Sheikh Fares and Sakhour.

Civilians in eastern Aleppo had until now rejected several government ultimatums to leave and the latest development is important, says the BBC’s Sebastian Usher.

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Aleppo, once Syria’s commercial and industrial hub, has been divided roughly in two since 2012, with the government controlling the west and rebels the east.

In the past year, Syrian troops have broken the deadlock with the help of Iranian-backed militias and Russian air strikes.

Russia says its air force is active in other parts of the country, but not operating over Aleppo.

Source: BBC News