Tag: the Middle East

Hungary: First Nation To Establish Government Office To Address Christian Persecution

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PARLIAMENT BUILDING BUDAPEST HUNGARY PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA

(Voice of the Persecuted) Late August, at a meeting in Rome with Church leaders from the Middle East to discuss the threat Christians are facing, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban pledged to “take action” against Christian persecution. Setting an example for other nations, the Hungarian government has now created a specialized government office for the purpose of addressing the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and discrimination a portion of Christians in Europe are experiencing. Hungary is the first nation to establish a special government department to raise international awareness of the “untenable situation”of persecuted Christians and organize humanitarian actions.

Zoltan Balog, the Hungarian Minister for Human Capacities, whose ministry will oversee the newly established government department, told Catholic News Agency,

“Today, Christianity has become the most persecuted religion, where out of five people killed out of religious reasons, four of them are Christians.”

“In 81 countries around the world Christians are persecuted and 200 million Christians live in areas where they are discriminated against. Millions of Christian lives are threatened by followers of radical religious ideologies.”

The Hungarian government is known for speaking in international meetings against the modern-day persecution of Christians. They’ve also helped Middle Eastern Christian communities morally and financially supporting them to survive in their homelands.”

Balog said his government will do everything in it’s power to help Christians living in the Middle Eastern region and added,

“The establishment of this new government office, whose very nature is to deal with this matter, is another manifestation of our dedication to this issue.”

European nations are struggling with the issues of the refugee crisis. A humanitarian crisis and clash of cultures, they were completely unprepared for, as in Germany and other European nations. A large number of Germans don’t agree with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policy towards refugees and have lost faith in her claim Germany will successfully handle the situation. Many have also criticized Hungary’s leadership for their efforts to stop the influx of refugees coming to and through their country.

But where is the outcry asking governments along the Persian Gulf why they have done too little to help refugees from Arab nations, such as Syria? These states are also said to be funding the instability which has caused the refugee crisis. Syrians make up the largest group of refugees in an exodus not seen since World War II. In a past report, Amnesty International noted the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council offered zero formal resettlement slots to Syrians by the end of 2014. In 2015, even their own citizens rose the question, “Why don’t you let them in, you discourteous people?” A twitter campaign followed #ShameOnArabRulers.

Gulf officials refute the claims highlighting their large donations towards helping Syrian refugees in other Arab states, namely Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Saudi Arabia issued refugee numbers that were impossible to verify. In another state, thousands of Syrians were offered work visa’s, but many claimed they’d rather brave the journey to Europe than to continue facing severe restrictions in these countries. Others said they never felt safe and their residency could be cancelled at anytime, putting them in a precarious situation.

Some say it’s unfair to say they’re doing nothing. Certainly the Gulf states could do far more welcoming their Arab neighbors and be a part of a solution, culturally and economically. One must also consider another possible reason being raised for the inaction of these Islamic nations: An agenda to spread Islam, through demographics, into the ‘Christian’ west.

Voice of the Persecuted congratulate’s Hungary’s decision to be a voice and do more for Christians being persecuted throughout the modern world, one of the worst humanitarian crises of the planet. Praying to see other nations follow their lead to take Christian persecution and the severe violations of their human rights more seriously.

Source: Voice of the Persecuted



Ancient Christian City in Syria ‘Rising Again’

MAALOULA, Syria – Rape, beheadings and destruction. ISIS and other radical Islamists are committing genocide against Christians in the Middle East.

Yet miraculously, the people of one of the world’s oldest Christian cities have survived. CBN News found that preserving the town’s Christian heritage came with a heavy cost.

Maaloula is an ancient Christian city where the people still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

Located 35 miles northeast of the Syrian capital city of Damascus, Islamic terrorists overran and occupied Maaloula in September 2013.

Because of its ancient history, Maaloula has become a symbol of Christianity. That’s why Islamic extremists wanted to dominate it because it is this symbol for all of Syria. And that’s why it was important for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to regain control of the city.

The Syrian army fought aggressively and liberated Maaloula eight months after the terrorists seized control. But the town had already suffered much hardship and destruction.

Jihadists left St. George’s Church in Maaoula largely intact, but they did their damage to the interior, including some of the church’s ancient icons.

Terrorists tried to erase the city’s Christian heritage by shooting up the icons. They used knives to desecrate a depiction of the Last Supper. They knocked down a statue of Jesus and broke it into pieces.

And the terror inflicted on human lives proved even more devastating.

“They came here to convert the Christians to Islam, and they wanted to destroy Maaloula because it is Christian,” Maryam El Zakhm told CBN News. “They shouted ‘Allahu Akbar!’ They were from Chechneya, Egypt, Libya, from everywhere – Tunis, Algeria. They came with long hair, long beards and scary faces.”

She was at home when Islamic jihadists armed with automatic weapons and grenades approached her doorstep.

“They attacked my house and started screaming ‘come out you Christian pigs!’ I knew they planned to take our daughters, rape and kill them,” she recalled. “So, I thought of killing my daughters and then myself before they could get to us. I then prayed to God instead and asked Him to give us a chance to leave the house.”

She and her family escaped out a back door just moments before the terrorists stormed their home.

Father Toufic Eid is the parish priest of St. George’s Greek Melkite Catholic Church.

“We had a lot of fear, in fact, at that time and people began to leave Maaloula,” he told CBN News. “In fact, six men were kidnapped. We still do not know their fate.”

They also kidnapped 15 nuns and kept them captive three months before they were freed in a prisoner exchange. Other Christians, however, were not so fortunate.

Maryam’s nephew, Sarkis, and two other men hid in the cellar of a house. The jihadists called out to them, pledging they would not be harmed if they surrendered.

“When they refused to convert to Islam, they were killed – three of them,” she explained.

In a show of support for the Christians of Maaloula, President Assad toured the town in April 2014. He walked through the rubble of damaged homes, monasteries and church buildings. He pledged to help restore Maaloula to its ancient beauty.

“So the government felt it was important to care for the Christians and show they are caring for the Christians?” CBN News asked Father Toufic.

“Of course, of course – not only because they are Christians but because Maaloula became in the past a symbol – a symbol of the Christianity itself and a symbol of living together between Christians and Muslims. That’s why Maaloula was important and that’s why it was attacked,” Toufic explained.

Restoration efforts continue at Saint Sarkis Monastery. It’s one of the oldest monasteries in all of Christendom. It was heavily damaged by the terrorists, but today it is mostly restored.

The monastery chapel remains intact. Built in the 4th century on the ruins of a pagan temple, it predates the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.

Missing today are 16th and 18th century icons that once adorned the chapel walls. The jihadists may have either sold or destroyed them.

And Maryam says the terrorists could have easily massacred Maaloula’s Christians, but God intervened.

“I believe prayer had an effect. By your prayers, we were protected,” she said.

While many buildings have been restored, it will take longer for the people to rebuild their lives.

“My daughter has nightmares and screams in the middle of the night, ‘they’re coming to kill us!” said Maryam.

While Father Toufic remains optimistic, he knows the Christians of Maaloula still face many challenges as fighting continues in their country.

“We are rising again. We are rising again…This is a step of faith in fact. To have hope. Pray for us to have more hope, more hope because the difficulties are so much in fact,” he said.

Maryam also requested prayer from Christians worldwide.

“Pray that God will not only restore peace to Maaloula, but to all of Syria,” she said.

Source: CBN News



Anti-Conversion Laws

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ERIC METAXAS

 

When we think of religious persecution, the Middle East comes to mind. But the world’s largest democracy?

At this time last year, I urged BreakPoint listeners to pay close attention to the state of religious freedom around the world in 2015. I said that this most important of freedoms was in peril at home as well as abroad.

Little has changed in the past twelve months. If anything, the state of religious freedom is even more precarious, as events in India amply demonstrate.

Normally, when we think about the persecuted Church, what comes to mind are places like the Middle East and China. But as I told you two years ago, “the country that has witnessed the single greatest outburst of anti-Christian violence in recent years” is India.

I quoted from “The Global War on Christians” by John L. Allen, which told readers that in 2008, “a series of riots [in the state of Orissa] ended with as many as five hundred Christians killed,” many of them “hacked to death by machete-wielding Hindu radicals.”

Thankfully, there hasn’t been a repeat of violence in India – a least on that scale – in the past seven years. But in some ways, religious freedom in India is in worse shape today than it was back then. In the past few years, six Indian states, including Maharashtra, which includes Mumbai (or Bombay, as it’s better known), have enacted laws that effectively ban conversions from Hinduism to Christianity or Islam.

I say “effectively,” because while the laws, at least as written, “only” ban conversions that are the result of “force, allurement or fraudulent means,” these terms are extremely vague. So much so that something like providing free medical care – a moral obligation given the sorry state of India’s health care system – could be seen as “allurement.”

Likewise, the term “force” includes the “threat of divine displeasure.” Thus, talking about hell could be interpreted as a use of force, or at least coercion. What’s more, many of the laws require people to inform authorities prior to conversion or even, in some instances, to seek permission before converting.

The Hindu nationalist proponents of these laws claim that they’re protecting vulnerable populations from being exploited by what they see as “political tools” being wielded by “foreign powers.”

The bad faith of this argument can be seen in the fact that the states that have adopted these measures have large populations of “untouchables,” more properly known as Dalits, and Adivasi, also known as “tribals.” These groups occupy the lowest rung of Hindu society and have been treated accordingly by their higher caste neighbors.

Not surprisingly, they are the people most likely to convert, sometimes to Islam, more often to Christianity. Thus, the violence in places like Orissa was, in part, an effort to preserve Hindu caste hierarchies.

If the concern was for the well-being of these people, the far better and more decent approach would be to end caste discrimination instead of trampling on their religious freedom.

But of course, that wasn’t the concern. Tarun Vijay, a prominent Hindu nationalist, justified these measures by saying that “for the first time [in India], the population of Hindus has been reported to be less than 80 per cent. We have to take measures to arrest the decline. It is very important to keep the Hindus in majority in the country.”

“Measures” include a proposed national anti-conversion law, with the Orwellian title “The Religious Freedom Bill.”

While the State Department’s 2014 Religious Freedom Report mentioned these anti-conversion laws, there’s no evidence to suggest that President Obama brought up this gross violation of religious freedom when he visited with India’s Prime Minister Modi last year.

This is a shame. Our government may not want to talk about it, but that shouldn’t stop us.

Source: ERIC METAXAS: The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview