Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Devotion: Perspective is everything

The following devotion was written for the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin ministry. Like deep darkness, persecution, injustice and tribulation can shake a believer's faith. It can also shake the faith of faithful prayer warriors, especially if the darkness lingers. But Easter provides us all with the most perfect example of the fact that our world includes a spiritual dimension that we are not always privy to. Things are not always as they seem -- and God can be trusted. In this, Jesus Christ has shown us the way.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 049 | Tue 30 Mar 2010

EASTER 2010: PERSPECTIVE IS EVERYTHING
By Elizabeth Kendal

The darkness and coldness of the night are deepest just before dawn. How dark and cold Good Friday must have seemed to Jesus' followers, to those who had put their hope in him. And in the afternoon, when actual darkness shrouded the land, how terrifying that darkness must have been. Yet all was not as it seemed -- and this is one of the profound lessons to take away from the suffering and terror of Good Friday.

Perspective is everything. Jesus' followers, family and friends saw Christ's crucifixion as an appalling injustice. Their loved one, their hope, was hanging on a cross, crucified for a crime -- blasphemy -- he did not commit, purely to appease hatred. The Jews who earlier had shouted 'Crucify him! Crucify him!' saw Christ's crucifixion as thoroughly deserved. The Romans saw Christ's crucifixion as the end of a trouble-maker. Meanwhile, God in heaven saw a Lamb being slain in the name of everlasting love. He saw the penalty of sin being paid to enable reconciliation between God and man. He saw people from every tribe, language, people and nation (Revelation 5:9) being redeemed, brought out from under that shroud of death that covers all peoples (Isaiah 25:7) and given access to God's Most Holy Place (Hebrews 10:19). Dear struggling prayer warrior, dear persecuted believer -- trust in God, things are not always as they appear and the dawn is just around the corner.

This wonderful and mysterious truth gives us confidence to know we can trust God and follow Christ in attitude, amidst suffering and through the veil.

Trusting that our sovereign, provident and faithful God is always at work, we can follow Christ by adopting his attitude. 'Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus', who humbled himself, taking the nature of a servant, and was obedient even to the point of death -- 'even death on a cross' (Philippians 2:5-8 NIV).

Trusting that our sovereign, provident and faithful God is always at work, we can follow Christ by modelling his faith. It was only after Christ Jesus endured the cross in humility and faith, that 'God exalted him to the highest place' (Philippians 2:9-11 NIV). Jesus did not doubt that God would be faithful. He did not fear being rejected by the Father and left in hell. He entered the darkness with absolute faith that God the Father, who is faithful by nature, would be true to his promise, and that he would emerge victorious at the dawn of the third day.

Trusting that our sovereign, provident and faithful God is always at work, we can follow Christ through the veil. Christ went through the veil and into the Most Holy Place for us. Our souls are now anchored there through our union with him (Hebrews 6:19,20). While one day we will live there with him and see him face to face, even now we enter through the veil by faith whenever we make intercessions for ourselves and for others. How greatly this great mystery is misunderstood! How greatly this great privilege is neglected! Dear believers -- enter through the veil into the courts of the Lord and do business with God in the confidence that Christ opened the way for you.

Why is there so much pride and arrogance? Why is faith so shaky? Why is there so little prayer? May Easter be an encouragement: things are not always as they appear and the dawn is just around the corner. Jesus Christ has shown us the way. May we follow HIM.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fitna in Morocco

TIME magazine has published an article by Lisa Abend entitled: In Morocco, a Crackdown on Christian Aid Workers. 21 March 2010

(For background and analysis see my earlier post of 14 March 2010 entitled, Morocco: up to 70 foreign Christians expelled.)

Abend's article mentions a number of cases not previously mentioned in other reports; such as that of a Korean-born Protestant pastor in Marrakesh who was arrested as he led a worship service in his church. It also includes a moving 55 second film clip which shows the distress suffered by the orphans at the Village of Hope orphanage on 8 March, after they learned that their foster parents were going to be taken from them and deported. Furthermore, it also gives us another hint as to what might be simmering beneath the surface.

Quoting from Abend's TIME magazine article: "According to the Moroccan government, the deportees all broke the law, using their status as aid workers to cover their proselytizing. 'They are guilty of trying to undermine the faith of Muslims,' Interior Minister Tayeb Cherkaoui said in a press release.

"But were they? Broadbent denies the charges. Part of his job at the Village of Hope was to ensure that staff members understood the rules prohibiting proselytizing, and he notes that all the orphanage's children received instruction in Islam. 'We weren't teaching Christianity in any formal way,' he says. But asked if reading the Bible to Muslim children constitutes proselytizing, he said, 'We understood that it wasn't. And in any case, the authorities have always known that these children were being raised in Christian families.' "

Herein lies the problem -- it is a matter of perspective. The foreign Christians and the fundamentalist Muslims are viewing the issue of Christian aid work through completely different lenses. The Christian aid workers believe that as long as they are not pressuring Muslims to convert to Christianity then they are not guilty of proselytising. They believe that for a conversion to be genuine it must be of the heart and absolutely free, so they have no interest in "proselytising". They simply believe in liberty, and that it is an idea's ability to stand on its own two feet in the open market place of ideas that gives it worth. But for the Muslim fundamentalists who are doubtless behind this move and possibly pressuring the reformist government for concessions, the issue is fitna.

Fitna

In his book The Third Choice, Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom (Feb 2010, Deror Books), pastor, linguist and Islam-scholar Rev Dr Mark Durie notes (page 96): "The Arabic word fitna 'trial, persecution, temptation' is of crucial importance in understanding Muhammad's metamorphosis" [from rejected "loser" in Mecca, to victorious "winner" in Medina]. "The word," explains Durie, "is derived from fatana 'to turn away from, to tempt, to seduce or subject to trials'." (Quote taken from E.W. Lane, An Arabic-English Lexicon. Book 6, p.2334ff.)

Thus fitna, which is equated with persecution, involves anything that could cause a Muslim to leave Islam -- anything from vile torture to magnetic grace. The whole purpose of jihad was to eliminate fitna. For some, this simply meant that infidels had to be so totally subjugated and humiliated, to the point of wretchedness and paralysis, that the alternative to Islam was abhorrent and repulsive. For others, the elimination of fitna required the elimination of infidels in order to ensure that there was no alternative that could threaten Islam in any way.

For according to the Islamic order, Muslims are superior -- the most noble/best community ever raised up for mankind (Q3:110) -- and therefore must dominate. It is the Muslims who are called to success. Thus a thriving dhimmi would be a source of fitna for the Muslim community. Of course a thriving apostate is the most threatening embodiment of fitna imaginable. This is why the dictators of Islam are so desperately apostaphobic.

Durie writes (p.97) concerning the fitna phrases in the Quran (Q2:190-193 and 217, and 8:39): "These fitna phrases, each revealed twice in the Quran, establish the principle that jihad was justified by the existence of an obstacle to people entering Islam, or of inducements to Muslims to abandon their faith. However grievous it might be to fight others and shed their blood, undermining or obstructing Islam was worse."

For, as the Quran states: ". . . to turn men from the way of Allah, and to disbelieve in him . . . is a greater transgression with Allah [than fighting in the sacred month], for persecution (fitna) is worse than killing. . ." (Q2:217)

Fitna in Morocco

Consider again the words of Tayeb Cherkaoui, Morocco's Interior Minister who has accused the Christian aid workers of being "guilty of trying to undermine the faith of Muslims", and the words of Christian aid worker Chris Broadbent, who flatly denied that any "proselytisation" had taken place.

Obviously MP Cherkaoui has determined that nothing shakes the faith of a Muslim, tempting him/her to leave Islam, as much as the sacrificial gracious love of a Christian. As far as he is concerned, every one of the deported Christian aid workers was guilty of fitna (persecuting Islam, attacking Islam, seducing Muslims away from Islam) whether they were aware of it or not.

For active evangelisation is not the only form of fitna presenting a challenge to Islam. The fundamentalists know that in order to really eliminate fitna, they must eliminate every demonstration of Christian sacrificial love, Christian mercy, Christian grace, Christian joy and Christian assurance/peace -- for these amount to the most devastating fitna of all!

The expulsion of foreign Christian aid workers from Morocco may well set a precedent. All does not bode well for Christian aid work in the Muslim world.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

An analysis of religious policy in China

I would like to alert all religious liberty monitors and analysts to a paper that has been released by the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI).

The Templeton Lecture on Religion and World Affairs
Back to the Future: Pre-modern Religious Policy in Post-Secular China
By Richard Madsen. 15 March 2010

http://www.fpri.org/enotes/201003.madsen.postsecularchina.html

FPRI introduces Richard Madsen as: "the Distinguished Professor & Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author or co-author of eleven books on Chinese culture, American culture, and international relations."

What I offer here is a mere summary of Madsen's main arguments and observations concerning Chinese Communist Party's religious policy and its implications for the Chinese Protestants. Anyone interested in truly understanding the evolution of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) policy on religion, should read Madsen's whole paper for themselves.

Madsen notes that the Chinese government's policy on religion has been based on the secularisation theory that religion will eventually die out, becoming irrelevant as modernisation advances. However, it is becoming increasingly obvious that religion is not dying out and is even growing and dynamically evolving and reviving. According to Madsen, "Many social scientists are now saying that the secularization thesis is wrong and that we need a post-secularist social theory to account for the empirically obvious facts of the early twenty-first century. Religious belief and practice have not faded away, and in many parts of the world they are playing a more obvious role in public life than in the past century."

Madsen provides a detailed and insightful look at: "CCP Policy Towards Religion", and "Religion in China Today", concluding that the theoretical categories the CCP has long used to define religion and determine the difference between religion and superstition are simply no longer applicable. "The secularist assumptions behind the government's religious policy-that religion will gradually and inevitably, if not as quickly as once believed, fade away-are untenable."

"As a result the policy itself-which aims to constrain the growth of religion, to confine it to the private sphere, and to keep it from affecting politics and ethnic relations-has utterly failed, even on its own terms. Despite all efforts to control its growth, religion has grown rapidly and overwhelmed China's systems for surveillance and control. Clumsy methods of suppressing unwanted forms of religion have actually intensified religiously inspired conflict with the state. The attempt to disconnect religion from ethnic conflict has only added religious zeal to ethnic struggle. The failure is obvious enough that the leadership of the Communist Party has begun to recognize it and is searching for a new approach to religious policy."

Then under the heading: "Groping Toward a New Policy", Madsen provides an insightful analysis of evolving CCP policy. The trends he examines are trends I have been monitoring for over a decade.

Madsen notes the establishment of the public security forces, a secret police organisation which bypasses the state criminal justice system and reports directly to the CCP leadership. "Although originally developed [in 1999] to destroy an 'evil cult,' [Falungong] it has extended its reach to cover political dissidents and other threats to Party domination. The expanded organization has recently been given a new name-the 'Harmonious Society Security Office'.

"Initiatives toward increased tolerance of some religious activities are joined with new methods of repression toward others. There does not seem to be much central coordination of these separate developments, and they separately develop at their own pace according to the ambitions of the various bureaucratic units that were their source. Recognizing the incoherence of its ad hoc policies, the Party is looking for a new theoretical framework to guide its approach toward religion. The framework seems to be heading back to the future, away from a modernist Marxist version of secularism and toward a modernized version of Imperial China's sacral hegemony."

Concerning this New Imperial Sacral Hegemony, Madsen writes that historically, the Emperor, as the 'Son of Heaven', was mandated to mediate between heaven and earth. The Emperor differentiated between right religious practise and false (mythical/superstitious) religious practice. Often it was the case that for religious practice to be defined as right and true, it merely had to bolster social stability under imperial rule. Emperors controlled large communities by means of imperial patronage, and institutions and leaders would be rewarded for their loyalty.

"However," writes Madsen, "sectarian organizations that gathered people together from many different communities, contravened gender distinctions by allowing men and women to worship together as equals, preached an imminent end to the present era, and sometimes became the organizational basis for rebellion-such organizations might be labeled heterodox and persecuted strongly."

[. . .]

"As noted in a recent paper by Zhuo Xinping, the director of the Institute of World Religions of the Chinese Academy of Social Science, the basic principle of imperial policy toward religion was that 'the government is the master, religion the follower (zhengzhu, jiaocong)'."

As Madsen notes, in recent years the CCP has moved to rebrand itself. No longer does the CCP promote itself as a party of revolution, but as a party that delivers economic development, secures territorial integrity and promotes cultural heritage. Today the CCP's slogan is "Harmonious Society", which is said to be dependent on "social stability". According to Madsen, "In religious affairs at least, the approach now seems to be more indebted to the great Ming and Qing emperors than to Mao Zedong." As such, "The history of China's rulers in protecting and promoting China's cultural heritage thus becomes a more fundamental basis for religious policy than Marxian theory."

Madsen continues: "In its new incarnation, the supposedly secular Party assumes a sacred aura. It now presents itself as the carrier of a sacred national destiny. It carries out spectacular public rituals like the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics - ceremonies which powerfully evoked the glorious cultural heritage of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism but gave no mention at all to Mao Zedong or even to socialism."

And as Madsen so rightly notes: "This can lead to new patterns of religious tolerance and repression. [. . .] Christian communities are . . . problematic, because they practice a foreign religion, not part of the Chinese cultural heritage. But as long as they thoroughly indigenize-which in practice means that they accept the principle that the government is the master, religion the follower-they can be accepted." For the truly globalised religions, however, this is particularly problematic.

As China develops, it wants to export its cultural heritage. But, as Madsen notes, the kind of religion that China wants to export "is one deeply embedded in Han Chinese culture, whose elites in the past have been willing to follow the 'government master, religion follower' formula, and which celebrates the glories of Han Chinese ethnicity. [. . .] Thus, Christianity, Islam, and Tibetan Buddhism pose severe challenges to a neo-imperial sacral hegemony."

[. . .]

"Protestant Christianity in China is much more decentralized [than Roman Catholicism], and does not pose the threat of an authoritarian ecclesiastical power attempting to impose its version of orthodoxy on Chinese believers. But as a global faith, it too is open to influence spread through modern media (and often carried directly by modern missionaries) from around the world. However indigenized Protestant Christianity becomes in China, it will remain in communication with-and be subject to-influence by spiritual movements from abroad. A completely secular liberal government would not have much problem with such cosmopolitan religious influence. But a government that claims a modern Mandate of Heaven in principle could not tolerate such influence. The outlook is that the Chinese ruling party will try to restrict the spread of Christianity while actually encouraging the revival of much of its indigenous folk religion-but the restrictions will not likely be effective and the growth of Christianity will continue to cause controversy among the Chinese elite, and the result will be seemingly arbitrary, incoherent policies toward Christianity."

[. . .]

Madsen concludes: "The one way to keep universalizing global religious movements from undermining [CCP] policy is for China to become so powerful that it can set the terms of its relationship with the rest of world, or at least in Asia. Then it could use its military and economic might to enforce its claim that universal standards of religious freedom do not apply to China and that universal religions can only enter China if they accept the principle of government master, religion follower. Some political leaders think that they can accomplish this."

---------------

Madsen's conclusions are identical to my own. In fact, there has already been a marked increase in persecution since August 2008 when the global economy collapsed, stripping the US International Freedom from Religious Persecution Act (1998) of its economic leverage.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Palestinian leadership incite terror as 2000 Fatah allegedly defect to Hezballah (with update below)

The Palestinian leadership have been busy inciting terror both directly: by calling for a "day of rage"; and indirectly: by publicly honouring a terrorist. Considering the degree to which this is normative, it is little wonder that so many Sunni Palestinians are finding themselves attracted to the overtly belligerent, terrorist, Shi'ite Hezballah.

Direct incitement

As the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) reports: "On March 16, 2010, the Palestinian leadership — Fatah as well as Hamas — called for a 'day of rage,' inciting their followers to riot after the dedication of the newly rebuilt Hurva synagogue in Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter. The synagogue had been destroyed in 1948 when Jordan seized the Jewish Quarter and expelled its residents. Following the historical pattern of their predecessors, the Palestinian leaders called for jihad in defense of Muslim holy sites, falsely claiming that the opening of the synagogue was the first step in Israel's plan to take over or destroy the Al Aqsa mosque."

CAMERA decries not only Palestinian lies, incitement and rioting, but the media's general willingness to overlook and/or excuse Palestinian lies, incitement and rioting, and blame Israel for allegedly pushing the Palestinians "over the edge".

Hezballah, of course, wasted no time in pledging solidarity with the rioters.
See Iran's PressTV 17 March.

Indirect incitement

As CAMERA notes, only days earlier, the "Palestinian Authority renamed a public square in Ramallah after Dalal al-Mughrabi, a Palestinian terrorist responsible for the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre, in which 38 civilians (including 13 children and an American photographer) were murdered and 71 wounded."

See Melanie Phillip's 12 March comment in the Spectator: "Is this why the Palestinians 'deserve' a state, Mr Biden?"

See also this confronting and moving 17 March piece in the LA Times by Ron Kehrmann, Yossi Mendelevich and Yossi Zur (all victims of Palestinian terror), who simply ask, "Why glorify the murderers?"

After adding that Dalal al-Mughrabi's name already adorns a girl's school in Hebron, Kehrmann, Mendelevich and Zur ask: "What message is the Palestinian Authority trying to send to the Palestinian people, especially to the children growing up under its rule? [. . .] How can terrorists use children as human shields in fire exchanges? Where are the parents, teachers, community leaders? How does a society have a suicide-murderer waiting list of 500 young Palestinians wanting to kill themselves along with Israelis, as was the case during the worst days of the second intifada, when a terror attack occurred almost daily?"

And their answer: "The answers lie in years of brainwashing, which starts at a very young age, through education and religious television channels, mosque prayers and lessons that make people believe that death is better than life; that killing innocent people, without distinction, will improve Palestinian life.

"The answers are rooted in years of glorifying the murderers, putting their posters on streets, giving their families money and respect, and yes, in naming city squares after them.

"These children are taught to hate Israelis and Jews and to disrespect their own lives."

Now Hezballah scoops the pool

DEBKA reports (17 March) that Iran's Lebanese proxy, the Hizballah militia, has set up a Palestinian operations unit for 2,000 new recruits from the Lebanese Fatah. Fatah commander Col. Munir Maqdah, led the mass defection. "The first major Palestinian defection to the Shiite Hizballah has given Iran and its proxy a large foot inside Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah organization and swelled Hizballah's fighting strength by some 15 percent."

DEBKA notes: Col. Munir Maqdah not only acted as liaison between Fatah and al Qaeda's affiliates in Lebanon, such as Fatah al-Islam, he also maintained close ties with Palestinian terrorist sleeper cells in the West Bank towns of Nablus and Jenin. His networks and contacts are now available to Tehran.

See: More than 2,000 Fatah defect to Hizballah, Iran's first big Palestinian gain
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 17, 2010.


UPDATE: I have been advised by a long-time and respected analyst of Middle East affairs, that DEBKA is not a totally reliable source.

However, on 18 March, Lebanon's Daily Star reported that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's attempt in January to restructure Fatah in Lebanon sparked considerable aggitation.

"Residents of the southern Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh near Sidon have been expressing pessimism and frustration over the matter and have voiced doubts about the faction’s unity and goals."


Abbas controversially dismissed Fatah leader Col. Munir Maqdah, "the head of the Palestinian Armed Struggle in Lebanon", and this appears to have caused a deep rift between Abbas and Maqdah. Tensions have been escalating ever since.

According to The National (Arab Emirates) (24 Feb), the new Fatah commander's mandate to rid the camps of extremists reportedly provoked "a cycle of murder, revenge and intrigue that threatens security not only in the camp itself, but in the nearby city of Sidon, according to numerous officials, residents and observers of life in Lebanon’s most crowded and dangerous square kilometre."

The National describes "a confrontation and a meeting of influential camp officials, led by Abu Ahmed of Hamas and Munir al Maqdah, a rogue Fatah commander with close ties to the Islamist groups who maintains a powerful militia in the camp."

On Sunday 21 March, Maqdah told pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat that he had not defected to Hezballah and that such a story is aimed purely at "inciting the international community against Hezballah and the Palestinian camps and creating more division within the Fatah movement."

This is certainly a situation to be watching.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

JOS AGAIN!

Once again Christian residents of Jos South have been slaughtered in the night. At around 2 a.m. on Wednesday 17 March, Fulani Muslims armed mostly with knives and machetes crept into Biye and Batam villages under cover of darkness. In an attack that bears striking resemblance to the 7 March massacre centred on Dogon-Nahawa in which as many as 500 died, the Fulani torched homes, fired gunshots into the air, and then hacked the predominantly Christian ethnic Berom to death as they fled. This attack left 12 dead and many others critically wounded. Amongst the dead were a 90-year-old woman, several children, and a pregnant woman who was hacked to death and burned with a baby strapped to her back. Some of the victims were murdered in their beds. Some of the victims had their tongues cut out.

The press release from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) includes two photos (to be credited to CSW).

To understand why this indigene vs settler / Muslim vs Christian / Fulani vs Berom violence is occurring in Jos, see my earlier post entitled: Why is Jos such a tinderbox?

This latest attack has two very disturbing elements:
1) Reports of attackers in Nigerian army fatigues;
2) Reports that some of the victims had their tongues cut out.

Military complicity?

There are many reasons to suspect that some of the military personnel posted to secure Jos South and enforce the curfew have actually been complicit in both the 7 March and 16 March massacres. However, the General Officer, Commanding 3 Armoured Division, Maj.-Gen. Sale Maina, disputes the claims of the villagers that soldiers were involved in the attacks.

We can only hope that he is right, because if the Nigerian army splits along partisan lines, then Nigeria will be in serious trouble indeed.

Mutilation of bodies.

Why would killers cut out and take the tongues of their victims? If they butchered their victims before killing them, then it was torture, torture for torture's sake, for the pleasure of the torturer, to satiate his hatred. Even if the tongues were cut out post-mortem (which is the most likely scenario), mutilation of the body still represents extreme hatred. The fact that the mouth was targeted indicates that it is the profession/speech/testimony of the victims that is most intensely despised.

Of course the removal and collection of victims' tongues can have one other purpose: that is, for use as juju -- occult charms. If this is the case then it indicates that some of the killers are practising both Islam and pre-Islamic African occultism. While syncretism of this sort is common in Africa, the mixing of ethnic-religious hatred and fierce competition + the Qur'anic/Islamic mandate to dominate + occultic power/influence can only herald more horror ahead for the Christians of Jos South.

Does this violence have a sponsor?

Jos Governor Jonah Jang has accused "Some key people in Nigeria" of being behind the violence. "Plateau State is under siege," he said. "The attacks on the Plateau are beyond misunderstanding within the ethnic groups in the state. Some key people in Nigeria are behind it.

"In fact, some international communities are involved. Some people are making money with human blood, when they attack us they would send them text messages that they need more money.

"Some billions of naira are coming into this country because of the crisis in Plateau State; but I see it as a battle against the nation and not Plateau."

Libya's President Muammar Gaddafi has suggested that Nigeria be partitioned between Muslims and Christians, supposedly to prevent more bloodshed (when in actual fact partition would lead to massive bloodshed). As Nigeria's oil lies in the south, Gaddafi is not recommending independence, merely separation with autonomy, with the oil wealth to be shared between north and south.

Gaddafi's proposition is being widely derided and Nigeria has recalled its ambassador to Libya in protest of the reckless statement. Regardless, many Muslims, local and foreign, will doubtless be greatly inspired by it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Morocco: up to 70 foreign Christians expelled.

As Reuters reports: "Morocco has expelled up to 70 Christian foreign aid workers since the start of this month, saying they were abusing its tradition of religious tolerance to try to convert local Muslims."

According to Compass Direct News, "A Moroccan pastor, his wife and a relative were arrested on Wednesday [March 10] and released on the next day, raising fears among local Christians that the wave of intolerance may spread to the country’s small but growing church of nearly 1,000 believers.

"An expert on religious freedom in the Middle East who requested anonymity said that attacks on the church are inevitable even in a Western-looking, modern country like Morocco, as the church grows and becomes more visible.

"'Because conversion is a taboo, if the government looks like it is doing nothing in regard to all the foreign missionaries that are coming and "corrupting" the country and its "national soul," it gives credit to Islamists who could challenge the "Islam-ness" of the Royal Family and the government, and that’s just what Morocco can't afford,' said the expert.

"The clampdown on foreign workers could signal government malaise toward the growing church. 'The more they grow, the more visible they become, the more they'll attract this reaction,' said the expert. 'And that's why they've been so quiet with house groups. It's just a matter of time.'"

Commenting on the deportations in relation to the closure of a Dutch-run orphanage, Morocco Board News Service writes: "It is puzzling what the Moroccan authorities are trying to achieve by this latest wave of deportations from the country. In addition to giving the country a bad image, it also negates a long cherished claim by Moroccan authorities that the country is a bastion of religious freedom."
See: Morocco: Orphanage shut down and Missionaries Expelled. 9 March 2010
Deportations by Morocco Causes Outcry in Holland. 10 March 2010

See also: Morocco clamps down on foreign Christians
Mission Network News. 10 March 2010
Morocco defends expulsion of Christian workers
BBC 12 March 2010
Morocco warns of tough line after missionaries expelled
AFP 13 March 2010
(This AFP article includes strong condemnations of "proselytism" from Morocco's Communications Minister Khalid Naciri , as well as leading Catholic and Jewish dhimmi voices.)


While the mass expulsion of foreign Christians does indicate a dramatic shift in policy, it should not come as a total surprise.

In September last year, the government moved against a new local civil liberties group known as the Alternative Movement for the Defense of Individual Liberties (MALI) when they attempted to stage an act of civil disobedience in protest of Article 222 of the Moroccan Penal Code which criminalises public eating during the fasting hours of Ramadan.

MALI's founder, Ms Zineb El-Rhazoui (a young female journalist and dual Moroccan-French citizen) has stated that MALI's objective is to defend 'all freedoms. Including freedom of worship'.

In September 2009, Zineb El-Rhazoui appealed through the group's Facebook site for supporters to join her on 13 September 2009 for a fast-breaking public picnic in the woods outside the town of Mohammedia.

However, when MALI supporters arrived at Mohammedia railway station they were met by a large contingent of some 100 police, who recorded the names and details of the religious dissidents.

Outraged Islamic clerics responded angrily, labelling MALI as "agitators" and demanding punishment. Subsequently MALI's leaders began receiving death threats.

(See: Mohammedia: An Abortive Attempt to a Public Breakfast in Ramadan. 16 Sept 2009
Public fast Breaking Protest during Ramadan in Morocco. 17 Sept 2009
Death Threats and Arrests for Facebook Ramadan Fast Break Protesters. 17 Sept 2009)

According to Human Rights Watch, MALI explained its objectives in a statement issued on 17 September 2009:
"MALI is not a group that is against Islam. We are for freedom of religion: In calling for the abrogation of a repressive article of the penal code (article 222), we also support Tunisian women who are attacked for wearing the headscarf. ... MALI is not an organization that seeks to provoke any community. Our goal is to draw attention to contradictions between international law, Morocco's constitution, and the country's laws, contradictions that are costly to Morocco's citizens and that undermine collective and individual freedoms."

The Moroccan Association of Human Rights is very concerned about Ms Zineb El-Rhazoui, who has been 'disappeared' since 17 September 2009.
Public fast breaking Protest leader Disappeared. 27 Sept 2009


The persecution of MALI indicates that the issue goes deeper than state anxiety over conversions and church growth. It is quite common to find governments seeking to contain Islamists, appeasing Islamists. It is like a barter system: if you do this for us, then we'll do that for you. In fact this system of costly containment is utilized widely from London to Riyadh, Amsterdam to Algiers, Brussels to Jakarta etc etc etc. So quite possibly, this is what is happening in Morocco.

ANALYSIS-Moroccan political elite moves to thwart Islamists
By Lamine Ghanmi
RABAT, 5 March 2010 (Reuters)

Morocco's Gentle War On Terror
TIME magazine
By Tim McGirk / Wednesday, Aug. 06, 2008

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

North Korea: Is Kim Jong-il losing it?

Recommended reading on North Korea:

Is the Dear Leader losing his grip?
By Andrei Lankov
Asia Times 5 March 2010

As Lankov notes: "Contrary to oft-stated accusations, Pyongyang leaders are neither irrational nor ideology-driven; they are a bunch of brilliant Machiavellians, very apt at exploiting the fears and controversies of their enemies and their partners alike."

North Korea has been playing the game brilliantly for a long time: perfectly timed provocations, perfectly timed negotiations, perfectly in control. However, two recent miscalculations, which amount to real strategic errors by the regime, might indicate that it is not business as usual in Pyongyang. In fact, the serious nature of these strategic errors leads Lankov to question whether Kim Jong-il is losing his grip.

"Over the past year or so," writes Lankov, "something strange has begun to happen in Pyongyang. The North Korean leadership has taken some actions that have clearly damaged the interests of the ruling clique. It seems that the once formidable manipulators have for some reason lost their ability to judge and plan."

The two strategic errors in question are: (1) serious miscalculations in Pyongyang's currency reform, which led to unforseen (by the regime) and undesirable results – in particular, massive inflation; (2) serious miscalculations in the recent round of concession-seeking provocations, whereby unusual haste may have caused the plot to backfired and blown Pyongyang's game out of the water, possibly forever (or at least for a while).

Helpful links:
Daily NK
North Korea Economy Watch

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Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 043 | Wed 17 Feb 2010

NORTH KOREA: WORLD'S WORST PERSECUTOR

Tuesday 16 February was North Korean president 'Dear Leader' Kim Jong-il's birthday. As very little news makes it out of the 'Hermit Kingdom' to 'trigger' a prayer bulletin, we will take this opportunity to focus on the unsurpassed suffering in North Korea. The isolated state follows an ideology known as 'juche' which is essentially Stalinism mixed with the cultic, idolatrous adulation of the 'Eternal (but dead) Leader' Kim il-Sung and his son, the ruling 'Dear Leader' Kim Jong-il.

Like his father before him, Kim Jong-il has perfected the art of maintaining power. According to a recent report in the Guardian (4 February) up to 40 percent of the State's income is derived from illegal activities such as drug-trafficking, sales of weapons and missile technology, and the production of counterfeit US dollar bills. Much of that income is spent buying the loyalty of party officials and the military. Meanwhile the masses are kept isolated, ignorant, brainwashed, impoverished, dependent, starving, weak and terrorised. So any effort to stir up a popular uprising would be doomed, as those with power have too much to lose and those with everything to gain are powerless.

The State runs a gulag of concentration camps / penal labour colonies. Built according to the Stalinist model and housing some 200,000 prisoners, they rival anything the Soviets or the Nazis ever ran. Christianity is a political crime because it recognises an authority greater than Kim and advocates the worship of Someone other than Kim. Merely possessing a Bible risks public execution. Open Doors estimates that as many as 70,000 Christians may be incarcerated. To ensure that the contaminant of a political criminal is totally expunged, their whole family to three generations will also be incarcerated. Many don't survive more than a few years as prisoners are worked, tortured and starved to death. Prisoners, including family units, are even used as guinea pigs in chemical weapons testing. (Click here for the 2004 BBC documentary on North Korea, Access of Evil)

In 2002 famine, the result of regime mismanagement, led to the spontaneous rise of markets. Whilst illegal, the markets flourished because of corruption. By 2004, the regime had given up trying to control the markets and so it announced it would be moving to a market economy. However, it didn't take them long to realise that the openness and independence that came with market activity could undo decades of myth-making and propaganda. By 2006 the regime was clamping down and re-Stalinising the State, closing markets, shutting down communications and forcing people back into totally unprofitable mines and industries solely for the purpose of control and indoctrination. By 2008 North Korea had returned to deep isolation. Starvation loomed in 2009 and markets sprang up again. So this time they changed the currency. North Korea expert Kim Young Hwan told Daily NK (20 January) that he sees the re-denomination as the regime's attempt to 'deal a blow to people's thinking', lest they think they can act spontaneously, solve their own problems, and not be dependent on Kim Jong-il.

Kim Jong-il is presented to the North Koreans as a divine, Messiah-like figure. Whilst he was actually born in the former Soviet Union in 1941 during his father's exile there, the myth is that he was born in 1942 in a log cabin on the top of North Korea's highest mountain, Mt Paektu, under a double rainbow and a bright star. There is (supposedly) nothing this 1.57m (5ft 3in) god-man cannot do. Though Western media frequently portray Kim as a crazy, vain, spoilt playboy (which he is) he is also an exceptionally cruel, master manipulator who knows exactly what he needs to do to stay in power and is prepared to do it.

When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 the Soviet regime was spread wafer-thin, while the people had been enlightened, strengthened and emboldened through glastnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring). In the end, the Wall fell because, due to prayer -- not just circumstances, the Soviets knew it was over and the guns fell silent (no massacre). Pyongyang 2010 is the opposite: the regime is concentrated, fortified and confident, while the people are physically weak and without options or hope. But despite the apparent hopelessness of the situation, there can be no doubt that divine power is capable of anything the divine imagination determines. 'What is impossible with men is possible with God.' (Jesus in Luke 18:27 ESV.)


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:
  • God's unrestrained mercy will spill over North Korea, frustrating the wicked (Psalm 146:9b) and delivering the oppressed. (Psalm 40:11-13)

  • Jesus Christ will build (Matthew 16:18) sustain (1 Corinthians 1:8) and perfect (Hebrews 12:2) his Church in North Korea.

On behalf of the Church in North Korea we pray: 'So now, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.' (Isaiah 37:20) -- the prayer of Hezekiah king of Judah, right before the Lord, in answer to his prayer, defended and saved Jerusalem (v33-37).

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This RLPB was written for the Australian Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (AEA RLC) by Elizabeth Kendal, an international religious liberty analyst and advocate, and a member of the AEA RLC team.

You may receive future weekly issues direct by sending a blank email to join-rlpb@hub.xc.org

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Nepal: secular or Hindu?

Nepal running out of time
By Dhruba Adhikary, 4 March 2010

Writing from Kathmandu for Asia Times on-line, Dhruba Ahikary comments: "Nepal's transition from a Hindu monarchy to a secular republic is not going smoothly, and not just over the fast-approaching May 28 deadline for the nation's new constitution."

Apart from the issue of federalism, the question of whether Nepal should be a secular or a Hindu state is back in play, causing alarm amongst religious liberty observers.

The small royalist Rashtriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal (RPP-Nepal) is calling for a referendum on Nepal's status.

Adhikary continues (with some debatable analysis): "Hinduism, the third-largest religion after Christianity and Islam, is known for its tolerance towards other faiths. Nepal, with a sizeable Muslim population, does not possess the type of religious rivalries seen in India.

"This, however, is undergoing a subtle change. There are growing feelings that too much tolerance could impact on Nepal's Hindu way of life, especially if there is a lack of reciprocity from other faiths. The concern has grown since the proselytizing activities of Western groups that had entered Nepal in the garb of non-governmental organizations were exposed.

"The Hindu backlash against Nepal becoming a secular state has grown since 2006 when the monarchy first fell and the state was established, but the leaders of some prominent political parties believe the recent popular movements may also be a power play by right-wing elements. And they are also jittery about a possible revival of the monarchy. [. . .]

"Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal (popularly known as Prachanda) has now become one of two important figures who concede that the secularization of Nepal was a mistake. The other person is none other than the incumbent President Ram Baran Yadav. [. . .]

"If Nepal's secularization was a mistake, this could be rectified when Nepal receives its new constitution. There is no need for a simultaneous restoration of the monarchy, which ceased being the custodian of the nation's Hindus after the notorious palace massacre of 2001. Nepal could now learn to stand as a Hindu republic, not a kingdom."

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There is indeed a popular groundswell of support for Nepal restoring its status as a Hindu State, if not a Hindu monarchy.

Special ritual Hindu prayers and sacrifices have been undertaken in Kathmandu with the objective of the restoration of Nepal as a Hindu State. The organiser of the yagna (ritual prayers), Kali Baba, has already threatened that he will self immolate unto death if Nepal is not declared a Hindu state soon. Nepal’s deposed King Gyanendra has visited the yagna and expressed support for a declaration of Nepal as a Hindu State.
See: Nepal’s ex-King favors revival of Hindu State, hold talks with senior NC leader
9 March 2010, Telegraph Nepal

According to Nepalnew.com, over 200,000 devotees including many dignitaries have visited the yagna. "Many political leaders including those from the Unified CPN (Maoist), the party which does not believe in existence of god in principle and officially advocated for a secular nation, have also visited Kalidas Baba's Mahagya. Reports say, the Maoist leaders visited the Yagya at night to avoid media attention."

According to Telegraph Nepal: "Nepal’s deputy Prime Minister Sujata Koirala-Jost has said that the demand for Hindu State must be listened and be incorporated in the new constitution.

"'It would be unwise not to address the genuine demands of 85 per cent Nepali Hindus', she said adding and 'How can we only incorporate demands of Janajatis and ignore voice of the Hindus?'"

see also: Hindu state to be addressed : DPM (The Himalayan, 21 Feb)

And it looks like Pranchada has indeed undergone religious conversion for political gain.
see: Buffalo Worship pays in Nepal politics. Telegraph Nepal, 22 Feb 2010

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Christian Solidarity Worldwide has published an excellent report on the threat to religious liberty posed by anti-conversion measures likely to be incorporated into Nepal's new constitution.

Nepal: Religious freedom and the new constitution
1 March 2010

CSW notes: "The Constituent Assembly (CA) of Nepal, created by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and elected in April 2008, took the fundamental decision to abolish the monarchy and declare Nepal a secular republic. However, this decision, with significant implications for religious freedom, is yet to be enshrined in law, and can only be regarded as a statement of intent until it is reflected in a new constitution. As Nepal formalises the transition from Hindu monarchy to secular republic, in the promulgation of a new constitution due in May 2010, the right to freedom of religion and belief must be protected if the transition is to be a successful one. . .

"The current interim constitution fails to protect religious freedom in a manner consistent with the provisions of international law. There is no religious freedom at all for those whose own religion is not 'handed down to him or her from ancient times paying due regard to social and cultural traditions', either because their religion does not have the character of being handed down in that way, or because they have changed religion. The provision that 'no person shall be entitled to convert another person from one religion to another' is in violation of the freedom to manifest religion or belief under Article 18 of the ICCPR. The stipulation that 'no person shall act or behave in a manner which may infringe upon the religion of others' is ill-defined, and open to abuse."

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A Hindu nationalist backlash against the transition to secularism was inevitable. Indeed, I wrote a piece only a week after the May 2006 declaration of a secular state, entitled, "Nepal: Hindutva forces rally against Nepal's reforms" (26 May 2006) which noted: "Not long after Nepal's new House of Representatives (HoR) passed the resolution to declare Nepal a secular democracy, the Hindu rhetoric to start to rise – both in Nepal and in neighbouring India."

Hindu nationalism is essentially about Hindus seeking to preserve their caste privilege through the establishment of a Hindu State.

NIGERIA: Why is Jos such a tinderbox?

This headline from The Times says it all:

500 butchered in Nigeria killing fields
8 March 2010
By Jonathan Clayton, Africa Correspondent and Ruth Gledhill

The blood-curdling massacre of possibly 500 predominantly Christian ethnic Berom in Jos South in the early hours of Sunday 7 March has been widely reported.

Plateau State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Gregory Yenlong, described the attack on the Berom villages as ethnic cleansing.

So why is Jos such a tinderbox?

TRENDS

With foresight and good governance, individual trends can be managed. Multiple trends can also be managed, although that is obviously more difficult. The real trouble occurs when trends collide like two chemicals to cause an explosion, or merge like two rivers to cause a flood. Jos is a perfect example of the chaos that erupts upon a confluence of trends.

Consider these trends:

(1) Nigeria has a massive rate of population growth (double the world average).

(2) Nigeria has a rapid rate of urbanisation.

(3) Nigeria's southward migration of Hausa and Fulani Muslim pastoralists is putting great pressure on Nigerian's ethnic-religious fault-line. Pushed out of the Sahel by drought, the Muslim immigrants are drawn to the arable lands and industrial towns of sub-Saharan Africa which are populated by settled, mostly Christian African tribes.

(4) Nigeria has not been immune to the global revival of fundamentalist Islam. (Note: Islam is essentially a political construct with a religious element -- not the other way around.)

The first two trends portend (especially in third-world or developing state) increased competition for jobs, land and resources, as well as escalating crime and violence.

Add in the third trend -- immigration -- and much of this competition takes on "settler" vs "indigene", as well as ethnic (i.e. Fulani vs Berom) and religious (Muslim vs Christian) dimensions.

Add in the fourth trend -- the revival of fundamentalist Islam -- and we get, in the already volatile mix, increased polarisation of peoples; increased Muslim intolerance towards Christians; Muslim demands for Sharia law; and Muslim striving for dominance (political and social).

So while most commentators are saying that the Jos crisis is not religious, I would say that the revival of fundamentalist Islam is an integral element in the mix -- akin to fuel on fire.

Given an inch. . .

In 1991, President (General) Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) (a military dictator) introduced reforms to make local governments more autonomous and democratic. At the same time, as the the daily Sun news reports, "Military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida created Jos North Local Government to respond to the 'need' of the settlers [Hausa and Fulani Muslims] to feel a sense of belonging". ( Undercurrents of the Jos mayhem, By Chinelo Agina. The Sun (Nigeria) 17 Feb 2010)

The Sun News continues: "For many years, the Beroms and the Anaragutas, the original owners of the local government, co-existed side by side with the Yorubas, the Hausas and the Fulanis who had come there to settle, but after a while, the Hausas and Fulanis, who had increased in population started agitating for an Emir (a King), an Hausa who will represent them and protect their interests at the state and national levels.

According to the Sun, they were also demanding that the Local Government Chairman of Jos North be a Hausa or a Fulani. Of course the Beroms vehemently objected to this, fearing that if such discrimination were permitted, then Muslim tribes would dominate and Christians would lose their rights.

Dr Aliyu U. Tilde comments that the creation of Jos North Local Government gave the Hausa and Fulani Muslims "a sort of majority assurance", whereby they could "use their number in a democracy to mitigate [their] vulnerability. That is why some natives see the creation of Jos North as a deliberate attempt by Babangida to protect [or advance] the Hausa/Fulani.

"The Hausa, however, became dominant in the heart of Jos City, the old Jos, where their parents and grandparents were among the first to settle. That area formed Jos North Local Government where all commercial and government activities take place. This raised a unique situation where the non-natives are the dominant ethnic group of the capital city."

(See also: Jos crisis: When a mining city becomes an eternal killing field
By Charles Kumolu. 8 March 2010)

In November 2008, a Berom Christian from Jos South was named the winner of the Jos North local government chairman elections. While this was widely cited as the cause of the November 2008 Muslim rioting left at least 300 dead, around 10,000 displaced, and "settler" vs "indigene" ethnic-religious tensions higher than ever, the rioting actually started before the result was known. Furthermore, as Christian Solidarity pointed out, the Muslim rioters did not target political institutions. Rather, "rioters armed with guns, spears, machetes and other weapons immediately attacked Christian businesses, churches and the homes of clergymen". A local source informed Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW): "As usual they took Jos by surprise, and are now hiding behind election results to launch and excuse their mayhem." Sixteen churches were razed in that riot, and four Christian pastors were killed. (See: CSW press release Jos, Nigeria – ‘Inaccurate reporting’ causes resentment among Christian community. 1 Dec 2008)


Many in the Christian community believe that the "settlers" / Hausa and Fulani / Muslims are intent on driving the "indigenes" / Berom / Christians out of Jos -- or at least forcing their surrender.


Comments from the Anglican Archbishop of Jos, Ben Kwashi:

Violence Is Not Religiously Motivated, Nigerian Archbishop Says
By ROBERT MACKEY, 8 March 2010

This insightful article includes three film clips, one of which (the last one) gives an excellent overview of the crisis.

While the headline says the "violence is not religiously motivated", what Archbishop Kwashi is saying is that the tribes are not fighting over alleged blasphemies or apostasies; the nature of Jesus or the preaching of the gospel.

However, as I noted earlier, Muslim supremacy and Muslim domination are integral to Islam which merely uses its religion as a means to advance its political agenda. As such, I would maintain that the violence is motivated and fuelled by Islam -- both the Muslim's striving for domination, and the Christian's legitimate fear of dhimmitude (the highly vulnerable, second-class status of Jews and Christians subjugated under Islam).

FINALLY

For suggestions regarding prayer see:

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 046
Nigeria: explosive situation needs defusing.
By Elizabeth Kendal. 10 March 2010

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

In Malmö, Sweden, anti-Semitism is forcing Jews to flee. 4 March 2010

The Wall Street Journal has published an article on Arab anti-Semitism in Malmö, Sweden.

The article rightly notes: "Roughly 20% of Malmö's 290,000 residents are of Muslim, mostly Arab, origin". However, what we must consider is the demographic breakdown of that statistic. As in France, the UK and other parts of Western Europe which have been subject to mass immigration, residents over 50-years of age are virtually all white and native, while those under the age of 40-yrs are around 50 percent Muslim and immigrant and having three times as many babies as native women. Manye of Malmö's housing estates are at least 70 percent Muslim.

In his book Reflections on the Revolution in Europe – immigration, Islam and the West, Christopher Calwell specifically names Malmo as one of Europe's "lawless zones" (p 125).

The Wall Street Journal Reports from Malmö, Sweden (3 March 2010): " Screaming 'Sieg Heil' and 'Hitler, Hitler,' a mostly Muslim mob threw bottles and stones at a small group of Jews peacefully demonstrating for Israel at this town's central square last year. Worshipers on their way to synagogue and Jewish kids in schools are routinely accosted as 'Dirty Jews.' Last year's Davis Cup tennis match against Israel, which pro-Palestinian activists had sought to cancel, was held behind closed doors. The official reason was to avoid disruption by anti-Israeli protesters. But roughly 6,000 of them clashed with the police during the event anyway. Notwithstanding the official explanation, the closed-door match left the impression that Israel is a pariah state that needs to be quarantined. Not surprisingly, Malmö's small Jewish community of roughly 700 is getting smaller as families leave town."

[. . .] "In the streets of Malmö, one can hear 'Kill the Jews,' while at 'peace' rallies in Amsterdam and Berlin, the chanted instructions are somewhat more specific: 'Hamas, Hamas, Jews into the Gas.'

"These are not idle words. Anti-Semitic attacks in Malmö doubled last year to 79 [reported attacks], while in London they hit a record of 924. And as some Swedish Jews are contemplating emigration, thousands of their French co-religionists have already moved to Israel to escape harassment."

Eurabia Is a Place in Sweden
The Continent's post-Christian baptism of Jews: Convert to Israel-bashing and you'll be safe.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704754604575095010449674040.html?mod=WSJ_latestheadlines

English-language Swedish paper The Local reports: "Threats and harassment are becoming increasingly commonplace for Jewish residents in Malmö in southern Sweden, leading many Jews to leave the city out of fear for their safety."

According to The Local, Skånska Dagbladet newspaper highlighted the case of Marcus Eilenberg, a 32-year-old father of two who has decided to move to Israel.

" 'My children aren’t safe here. It’s going to get worse,' he told the newspaper

"Eilenberg’s family on his mother's side has roots in Malmö that date back to the 1800s, while his father's parents came to Sweden in 1945 after surviving Auschwitz.

"He describes for the newspaper how people call him 'damn Jew' (jävla jude) when he walks to synagogue and that his friends are frequently harassed and threatened.

" 'Imagine that my family can't feel safe in fantastic Sweden. It's really terrible,' Eilenberg told Skånskan.

"He blamed part of the problem on passive local politicians who he believes have failed to openly distance themselves from anti-Semitism and refuse to act when members of the Jewish community find themselves under constant threat."

Jews flee Malmö as anti-Semitism grows
27 Jan 2010
http://www.thelocal.se/24632/

In March 2009, the Sweden versus Israel Davis Cup tennis match held in Malmö had to be played in a closed stadium without spectators on account of authorities' inability or unwillingness to guarantee security.

Empty stands greet Israel-Sweden tennis tie - 07 Mar 09
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFzaP7gSr4w&feature=related

Sweden: Anti Israel Protest At Tennis Match
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zo90U3uqKBo&NR=1

(NOTE: the Davis Cup match went ahead and Israel won.)

In February 2009, when pro-Israel supporters demonstrated legally, they were confronted with a violent pro-Palestinian counter-demonstration by dozens of mostly Muslims. The police arrived and dispersed the legal pro-Israel demonstration while protecting the rights of the Muslims to express their opinion.

In Sweden, Middle East Conflict Plays Out in the Town Square
By Rukhl Schaechter. 17 February 2009.
http://www.forward.com/articles/103113/
(includes youtube clip)


For a short 2009 news documentary see:
CBN: Malmö, Sweden: Growing Muslim Influence
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRnP-XzB_U0 (5:42)

UK. Amendment to Equality Bill threatens church's liberty. 3 March 2010

At 11 pm on 2 March 2010, the House of Lords voted 95 to 21 in favour of amending the Equality Bill so that homosexual civil partnerships may be legally performed in churches.

The amendment was moved by openly gay Labour Peer Lord Waheed Alli.

According to the amendment, churches will be allowed, but not compelled, to register homosexual civil partnerships. However, critics fear the change in the law could open the way for litigation under the Equality Bill or Human Rights Act against churches that refuse to register such unions.

The Telegraph quotes Lord Waddington, a former Home Secretary, who warned: "'. . . it would only be a matter of time before it was argued that it was discriminatory for a church incumbent to refuse to allow a civil partnership ceremony to take place when the law allowed it.' And, that a clergyman 'prepared to register marriages but not to register civil partnerships would be accused of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of services and pressure would be brought to bear on him to pocket his principles and do what he believed to be wrong'."

Clergy could be sued if they refuse to carry out ‘gay marriages’, traditionalists fear
By Martin Beckford and Heidi Blake. 3 March 2010
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/7361378/Clergy-could-be-sued-if-they-refuse-to-carry-out-gay-marriages-traditionalists-fear.html

Indeed, religious liberty advocates will be watching and waiting for the test case which will set the precedent for the future. It will be case to decide whose "rights" will prevail. It will determine whether churches will retain their right to conscientious objection, or whether Gay Rights lobby groups will win the right to dictate to the church in the name of equality, human rights and non-discrimination.

The amendment was supported by Stonewall, a leading Gay Rights lobby group.

From the Christian Institute:

"Lord Waddington, a former Home Secretary, argued: 'If this amendment were carried, it would only be a matter of time before it was argued that it was discriminatory for a church incumbent to refuse to allow a civil partnership ceremony to take place when the law allowed it.'

"And if legal challenges in the courts failed, Lord Waddington added, 'it would not be long before Stonewall was back, demanding repeal of this permissive provision and for a clear duty to be placed on churches to register civil partnerships.

" 'Is that not the way Stonewall has always worked? And was not Mr Ben Summerskill of Stonewall hinting just that when recently he said that right now faiths should not be forced to hold civil partnerships although in 10 or 20 years time things may change.' "

Homosexual unions allowed in churches
3 March 2010
http://www.christian.org.uk/news/homosexual-unions-allowed-in-churches/

As Pink News commented: the amendment "has yet to be approved by the House of Commons but MPs are unlikely to oppose it".

Lords back religious civil partnerships for gay couples
By Jessica Geen. 3 March 2010
http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2010/03/03/lords-back-religious-civil-partnerships-for-gay-couples/

See also:

House of Lords vote to allow Civil Partnerships to take place in Church
3 March 2010
http://www.ccfon.org/view.php?id=1006
(Christian Concern for our Nation is a sister organisation to the Christian Legal Centre www.christianlegalcentre.com.)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ethnic-religious tensions simmer in Liberia's northern Lofa County. 1 March 2010

On Friday 26 February, a violent clash errupted between Muslims and Christians in Voinjama, the capital of Lofa country in northern Liberia, that left four dead (3 Christians) and 18 wounded, 3 critically. Calm has been restored and investigations are underway, but tensions and fears remain.

On 23 Feb. 14-yr-old Korpo Kamara, a student at the local Luthern school, went missing in Konia town, some 55 miles south-east of Voinjama. On 24 Feb. police dispatched from Voinjama found her body near a Konia mosque. When local Christians (ethnic Lormas) arrived at the mosque and began asking the local Muslims (ethnic Mandingos) what had happened, the Muslims denied having any knowledge of the incident. Some ethnic Lormas reportedly blamed the Muslims, saying that Muslims have been known to kill for ritual sacrifice (see The Inquirer). Now this might be true, or it might not. It could possibly be a case of blame shifting as ritual sacrifice is widespread in Liberia. Hopefully the investigation will uncover the truth.

According to Liberia's Daily Observer, during the confrontation at the Konia town mosque, a Muslim made a telephone call to the Muslim community in Voinjama, the county capital, delivering the false rumor that Christians had torched the Konia mosque.

The Muslim community in Voinjama responded to this false report by mobilising against Voinjama's Christian community. The Catholic Church on the Macenta Road was torched and the Voinjama Free Pentecostal CHurch was "massively looted". Private homes and vehicles belonging to Christians were also burned.

Eyewitnesses told the Daily Observer that automatic weapons-fire was heard coming from the Mandingo quarter, and that during the confrontation, Pakistani peacekeepers deployed tanks around the Konia's two mosques and protected them from looters, but left the churches and other Christian-owned establishments to be vandalized.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has expressed her grave concern over the development, and promised that a full investigation will be undertaken and that the perpitrators will be prosecuted in keeping with the law. In the meantime, the Council of Churches and the National Muslim Council will initiate mediation.

Violence Erupts in Lofa
27 Feb 2010
http://www.liberianobserver.com/node/4844

Four Killed In Voinjama Violence
1 March 2010
http://liberianobserver.com/print/4880

Four dead in religious clashes in Liberia: official
AFP 1 March 2010
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jwcBPvPiQdkWURQ3VJqaZohaGmrg

Calm Returns To Voinjama…4 Killed, 18 Wounded
By Patrick K. Wrokpoh
http://theinquirer.com.lr/story.php?record_id=2398&sub=14