Wednesday, June 30, 2010

INDONESIA: Fitna and apostaphobia in Bekasi.

NOTE: According to the Jakarta Post (2 July 2010) a leading British academic has called for greater assimilation between the EU and Islam, citing Indonesia as a key example of a peaceful coexistence between Muslims and a democratic government.
EU should embrace Islam: Expert


FITNA and APOSTAPHOBIA in Bekasi

Bekasi, located in the outskirts of Jakarta, West Java, is a culturally and religiously diverse city. However, converging trends of migration, urbanisation, Islamic radicalisation, and rapid development in residential and industrial zones has turned Bekasi into a hot-spot for religious tension rooted in Islamic apostaphobia (fear of converts and conversions).

On Sunday 27 June, at the second Bekasi Islamic Congress held in Bekasi's Al-Azhar Mosque, the call was made for all Bekasi Muslims to prepare for a fight. "[Christians] have gone too far," said Abdul Rouf, the head of the Bekasi branch of Muhammadiyah.

According to the Jakarta Post, on the last day of the Congress (Sunday 27 June), a new group to be known as the Bekasi Islamic Presidium was formed and tasked specifically with addressing the "Christianisation problem". Consisting of nine members representing different Islamic organisations in the city, the Bekasi Islamic Presidium's recommendations include the formation of Islamic militant groups (laskar) within each mosque and the drafting of Shariah-based policies by the Bekasi administration.

Sulaiman Zachawerus, the chairman of the Bekasi branch of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), told the 500-strong Congress, "We will urge the [Bekasi] regency and municipal administrations to pass more sharia-based bylaws and regulations to limit apostasy and squeeze out attempts to weaken Muslim unity in the city." (NOTE: Sharia limits apostasy by making it a capital offense.)

Bekasi administration spokesman Endang Suharyandi consented, saying, "As long as it does not violate any regulations," the municipality will support the implementation of the Sharia-based policies and carry out the Congress' recommendations.

Murhali Barda, head of the Bekasi chapter of the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday: "All Muslims should unite and standby because . . . the Christians are on to something. Apparently they want to test our patience. We are planning to invite them for a dialogue to determine what they really want. If talks fail, this might mean war."

Speaking on behalf of the Wahid Institute, Yenny Wahid told the Jakarta Globe that she wanted to see the government being more assertive toward hard-line religious groups. "Anarchism on behalf of religion is increasing, and the government seems to fear any group that uses Islam," she said.

Rev. Palti Panjaitan of the HKBP Filadelfia congregation in Bekasi, which has been refused a permit to build a church, agreed, noting that several Islamic radical groups operated as if they were guaranteed impunity.

Yunahar Ilyas, a chairman of Muhammadiyah, told the Jakarta Post that there were innate "ethical" problems with religious missionaries in the country.

The "unwritten" rules among missionaries, he said, stipulated that one should not attempt to convert those who had already embraced a religion.

"Once the rule is broken," said Ilyas, "it becomes a sensitive matter and the local administration must play an active intermediary role in preventing the conflict from escalating."

The Bekasi Islamic Presidium is planning a roadshow aimed at persuading every mosque in Bekasi to form its own paramilitary unit (laskar) that can be quickly mobilised if the decision is made for "war".

"We are planning to station members in every mosque in the city," said Tunggal Sawabi, an official with the Bekasi branch of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) who was appointed as one of the field commanders.

Abdul Qadir Aka, secretary general of the proselytisation board at FPI Bekasi, believes the militant groups are of strategic importance. "When the need arrives we will have units that can be mobilized," he said. "We cannot just depend on the FPI. We have hundreds and even thousands of mosques in Bekasi. Imagine what we can do together."

See:
Bekasi Muslim Groups Call for Formation of Militia Units, Warn of Potential 'War'
By Ulma Haryanto, Jakarta Globe, Sunday 27 June 2010

'Call to Arms' the Latest Chapter in City's Simmering Religious Tensions
By Ulma Haryanto, Jakarta Globe, Monday 28 June 2010

Muslim Groups Talk War Over ‘Christianization’
By Ulma Haryanto, Jakarta Globe, 28 June 2010

Radical groups urge Bekasi administration to implement Sharia law
Hasyim Widhiarto, The Jakarta Post, Bekasi, West Java, Sunday 27 June 2010

Hard-line groups target Christianity with sharia law
By Hasyim Widhiarto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, Monday 28 June 2010

According to Indonesia's 2000 census, 10 percent of Indonesians are Christian. Indonesian Christian leaders however, say that figure is too small. Operation World (2000) puts the figure at 16 percent. According to a recent TIME magazine article entitled: 'Christianity's Surge in Indonesia' (26 April 2010), Indonesia is experiencing a "religious revolution". There are more Islamic headscarves (signifying growth in fundamentalist political Islam) and there are more churches (signifying growth in the Christianity).

Furthermore, as TIME notes, the growth in Christianity is coming from conversions as opposed to births. According to TIME, nominal Muslims, disillusioned by violent terrorism and the spread of repressive Sharia Law, are questioning and rejecting Islam.

The "unwritten" rules of missionary activity that Yunahar Ilyas spoke of are Islamic rules: i.e. everyone is free to convert to Islam, while no-one is free to leave; and no-one may tempt a Muslim to leave Islam. As Islam deems every child born to a Muslim father to be Muslim, what choice does any Muslim have in the matter of personal faith? None! Christianity on the other hand advocates religious freedom.

But even if Christians submit to Islamic proscriptions in order to prevent tensions and avoid troubles, the issue of fitna still arises. For even without speech, even without intention, Christians can still lead Muslims to the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course Islam itself fuels the process (as TIME noted) by disillusioning and repulsing its more nominal and "secular" adherents, many of whom hold a worldview more compatable with Christianity than with Islam to start with.

For fitna is anything at all, from vile torture to magnetic grace, that could tempt a Muslim to leave Islam. Fitna is the presence of a church (which explains why churches in West Java are being forced closed and denied permits). Fitna is Christian benevolence and humanitarianism (which is why Christian aid groups are increasingly under fire). Fitna is the very existence of thriving, joyous Christians when Islam mandates that Christians be subjugated, vulnerable, miserable dhimmis. In Islam, fitna is equated with persecution, which must be eliminated.

Fitna is fast overtaking proselytism as the primary and pivotal issue in Muslim-Christian relations. This increases the jihad threat-level considerably.

The issue at the root of it all, however, is the ageless problem of Islamic apostaphobia.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

USA: not immune from Western religious liberty trends

updated 1 July 2010

The principal religious liberty trend of the multicultural West is that religious liberty is disappearing as the traditionally Judeo-Christian culture's Biblical foundations are being excavated. The excavation is integral to the social engineering/renovation project underway aimed at producing a 'post-Christian' culture. Unfortunately, most Christians do not comprehend the implications of this phenomenal strategic shift, and likely will not until the new social order has been consolidated and direct persecution starts to impact them personally.

Christians in the West are losing the right to criticise non-Christian (minority) religions (particularly Islam) and witness to non-Christians (particularly Muslims). They are also losing the right to conscientiously object to new social norms being imposed upon them essentially at the behest of radical feminist and Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender (GLBT) lobby groups.

Just as in non-free states, Western law-makers and law-enforcers claim their interventions are necessary to maintain "peace/harmony" and/or defend "equality" against "intolerant extremist fundamentalisms" (i.e. any ideas contrary to the democratic consensus).

Rattled by the chaos and confusion of cultural collapse (inevitable when culture is robbed of its foundations), Western governments are increasingly resorting to external restraints (authoritarian repression). They are opting for "peace" through appeasement, rather than justice and defence of the constitution through education and rule of law.

To remove contradictions, laws are being amended and reinterpreted, and fundamental concepts are being redefined. Driven by fear of unrest, Western governments are increasingly proving themselves willing to secure "peace" and "harmony" at any cost -- even if the price is loss of liberty. As soon as it appears that intolerant forces might protest, riot or divert their collective vote elsewhere, weak and rudderless Western democracies yield and appease, repressing "divisive" or "provocative" elements at the behest of the most belligerent.

And in a "post-Christian" (as distinct from Judeo-Christian) culture, there is nothing as divisive and provocative as the gospel message and righteousness of Christianity.

USA: RELIGIOUS FREEDOM UNDER THREAT
(2 cases to watch)


NOT ALLOWED: WITNESSING TO MUSLIMS IN DEARBORN

For some 15 years now, the city of Dearborn, in Michigan, USA, has hosted an annual Arab International Festival. (Dearborn is around 30 percent Arab.) Christians (mostly Arab Christians) have been witnessing at the Arabfest for years without any troubles, although it has stirred tensions.

In 2009, on account of complaints, a group called 'Arabic Christian Perspective' (ACP) -- led by Californian Pastor George Saieg, an Arab from the Sudan -- agreed to be confined to a booth. The organisers however, greatly limited ACP's ministry by assigning it a booth at the furthest end of the festival.

Arabic Christian Perspective filed a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in Detroit alleging its rights were violated when Dearborn police told the group its members would not be able to walk freely through the festival's four- to five-block area passing out Christian literature.

ACP's general counsel and Rob Muise of the Thomas More Law Center, believe the case "will shine a light on the grave injustice Christians have experienced in Dearborn. It asks whether Dearborn is a city of tolerant people and fair-minded public officials, or Dearbornistan, a center of dhimmitude where Christians are unwelcome."

Meanwhile, other groups that continued to witness freely at the Arabfest 2009 were harassed and expelled, despite going out of their way to avoid trouble.

See: Arab Festival 2009: Sharia in the US (Youtube)
Acts 17 Apologetics, 30 June 2010

Michigan Police Crack Down on Arab Christians
Opinion by FrontPage Magazine 5 July 2009


This year, on Thursday 17 June 2010, an appeals court overturned the lower court and ruled that George Saieg and the ACP does have the right to distribute Christian literature, but not inside the Arab Festival, only on the perimeter.

On the evening of 18 June, a team from Acts 17 Apologetics Ministries visited the Arabfest. Taking in no Christian literature, Dr. Nabeel Qureshi (the principal apologist) simply wore a t-shirt with the words "Jesus Always Loves You" and waited for curious Muslims to approach him.

Over a period of around 15 minutes, Nabeel had a couple of wonderful conversations before he and his companions -- Paul Rezkalla, David Wood and 18-yr old Afghan convert Miss Negeen Mayel, were arrested by and led away in handcuffs by Dearborn police to cheers and shouts of 'Allahu Akbar'! The four Christians were charged with breaching the peace and held overnight in Dearborn City Jail.

The Acts 17 Apologetics website contains reports, donated photographs, comments and video footage of: 1) the Friday 18 June incident (also on youtube); 2) an interview recorded after the Christians had been bailed from prison; and 3) a subsequent incident/arrest on Sunday 20 June, recorded outside the Arab Festival when police prohibited the distribution of English-Arabic gospels anywhere within a five block radius of the perimeter of the festival.

NOT ALLOWED: CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION FROM IMPOSED SOCIAL NORMS.

In 2004, the University of California's Hastings College of Law in San Francisco deregistered the campus group Christian Legal Society (CLS) after it was deemed to have violated the College's non-discrimination policy with regard to religion and sexual orientation.

For in 2004, CLS amended its bylaws to mandate that members (i.e. those with voting rights and leadership eligibility) must be able to sign a statement of faith and conduct. According to Hastings College, this provision violated the equality rights of practicing homosexuals and non-Christians.

CLS sued Hastings College on the grounds that their non-discrimination policy violated CLS' right to freedom speech and freedom of association, that is, the constitutionally guaranteed freedom to form around shared beliefs.

In April 2006, a federal district court ruled against CLS in favour of Hasting College.

In March 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld that decision.

When the Supreme Court heard CLS' petition on 19 April 2010, the bench was split down the middle.

On the steps of the Supreme Court on Monday 19 April, CLS chapter President Ryan Elder said anyone is welcome to attend the group's meetings, but gays and lesbians, and those who practice or advocate sex outside of marriage, may not be voting members. "If our Christian group is led by people who don't believe in Christianity, then we cease to have a defining voice to express our core religious beliefs," Elder explained.

CLS was represented by Michael W. McConnell, who told the court: "If Hastings is correct, a student who does not even believe in the Bible is entitled to demand to lead a Christian Bible study." McConnell argued that CLS meetings are open to all, including gays. "What it objects to ... is being run by non-Christians," he said.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor worried whether allowing CLS to set its own rules would mean more discrimination against women and minorities.

Conservative justices noted the Hastings policy could lead to turmoil among student groups if people hostile to their purpose join with the predatory intent of disrupting or destroying them. Justice Antonin Scalia expressed concern that, "Under the school's rules, Republicans could join the campus Democratic club and vote themselves control, or otherwise undermine its mission. To require this Christian society to allow atheists not just to join, but to conduct Bible classes...that's crazy."

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg commented that Hastings, by its policy, is merely seeking more diversity within groups.

But as the Wall Street Journal noted, such a policy does not create more diversity, just more groups that that are essentially more the same. "The larger fact is the way that Hastings-style 'tolerance' and 'diversity' are actually making our campuses less tolerant and less diverse. If every college group must admit even those who are hostile to its mission and beliefs, the result is nonsense and conformity." Furthermore, "When a public university makes a decision, it's not simply a policy dispute. It's a public institution using your tax dollars to put a state imprimatur about who is and who is not fit for the public square."

A judgment is expected before the end of June. At stake is the freedom of all US student groups to choose leaders who share their beliefs.

See:
Christian Student Group Takes Case to U.S. Supreme Court
Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service, 15 April 2010

Law school attack on Christian group before Supreme Court today
By J.P Feire, Associate Commentary Editor, Washington Examiner, 19 April 2010

Court Weighs Rights of Campus Religious Groups
By Nina Totenberg, NPR news, 19 April 2010

Justices Joust Over Christian Group's Rights
Dispute Centers on Whether Student Club Can Receive State Funding After Excluding Members Due to Their Beliefs
By Jess Bravin, Wall Street Journal, 20 April 2010

Supreme Court sharply divided on Christian student group case
The Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in the case of a Christian student group that required members to denounce homosexuality. The court appeared split.
By Warren Richey, Staff writer, Christian Science Monitor, April 19, 2010

Supreme Court Hears Religious Students Case
By Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service, Huffington Post, 19 April 2010

Sameness and 'Diversity' on Campus
Wall Street Journal, 20 April 2010
Why a California dean would force a black group to admit white supremacists.

Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (UC Hastings) (CLS official site)

UPDATE:

US SUPREME COURT RULING SERIOUSLY WEAKENS FIRST AMENDMENT

On Monday 28 June, the US Supreme Court (SC) ruled 5-4 against the Christian Legal Society (CLS), upholding the right of Hastings College to withhold registration from groups that discriminate, saying this does not violate the First Amendment. The SC ruling means that public colleges may dictate anti-discrimination policies. Thus the colleges are permitted to deny Christian groups registration and access to funding on the grounds that they are discriminatory if they insist that their voting members and leaders be Christians who practise biblical morality. The SC ruling has seriously weakened the First Amendment.

A CLS claim will now be tested in a lower court that Hastings College has not enforced its policy in a non-discriminatory way, but has targeted CLS because of its politically incorrect views on homosexuality.

See:
Campus Christian groups loses appeal at Supreme Court
By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer, 28 June 2010

Court: Christian group can't bar gays, get funding
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer, Monday, June 28, 2010

Christian Legal Society Loses in Supreme Court Case
Group must allow leaders who disagree with its statement of faith.
Ted Olsen and Trevor Persaud 28 June 2010

Supreme Court's CLS decision Sucker-Punches First Amendment
Huffington Post 28 June 2010

Family Research Council Opposes Supreme Court Decision in CLS v. Martinez
Statement from Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, 28 June 2010

'It is God's manner to make men . . . to see their miserable condition as they are in themselves, and to despair of help from themselves, or from an arm of flesh, before he appears for them. . .' (Great Awakening preacher, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). From a sermon on Hosea 5:15)
From Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin 061, USA: Religious Freedom Under Threat.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

KENYA's churches oppose draft Constitution over concerns about abortion, 'Balkanisation' and Kadhi (Islamic) courts.

updated 1 July 2010

Constitutional Referendum


On 4 August 2010, Kenyans will vote in a referendum to accept or reject a new constitution.

After rejecting all of the 160 changes proposed by legislators, Kenya's parliament adopted the draft constitution on 1 April 2010.

On 6 May 2010, Kenya's Attorney General published the proposed draft constitution.

While no one doubts that Kenya is in need of constitutional reform, the proposed new constitution contains several highly contentious elements:

1) Abortion. The new constitution softens, and makes more ambiguous, the language on abortion such that church leaders fear it might open the door for easier abortions.

2) Majimbo (a Swahili word meaning "administrative units"). Under the new constitution there will be a devolution of power, from the centre to 47 self-governed ETHNIC counties, a process that opponents regard as nothing short of 'Balkanisation' which will lead to renewed ethnic conflict.

3) Kadhi (Islamic) Courts. The new constitution entrenches Kadhi (Islamic) courts in the constitution, giving them national jurisdiction and authority equal to the state's secular courts. Opponents fear this could lead to Kenya's secularism, and religious liberty being diminished.

Religions no longer treated equally?

Kenya's constitution used to have a clause that stated, "All religions will be treated equally". However, as noted by the East Africa Center for Law and Justice, the new harmonised draft constitution has dropped the statement. "The draft only states that 'There will be no state religion'." Furthermore, through the entrenchment of Kadhi courts, Islam is the only religion recognised in the draft constitution.

Kenyan Muslims (8 percent) have long pushed to have Kadhi courts fully entrenched in the Constitution with national rather than just local jurisdiction.

On 24 May, a three-judge bench declared the inclusion of Kadhi courts in current Constitution illegal and discriminatory. The judges, sitting as a constitutional court, said the decision to include the Kadhi courts in the country's ultimate law favoured one religion over others.

See also: Kenya's draft constitution under fire for Islamic courts
By Mike Pflanz, Christian Science Monitor, May 28, 2010

The ruling prompted church leaders to petition for a recall of parliament so Kadhi courts could be declared unconstitutional and relevant amendments could be made to the draft constitution. However, former Law Society of Kenya (LSK) chairman Ahmednassir Abdullahi charged that the court had acted outside its jurisdiction, a claim supported by Kenya's Attorney General Amos Wako. AG Wako has launched an appeal which he wants heard before the 4 August referendum. Tensions are escalating.

Grenade attack on Christian rally

On Sunday 13 June 2010, six people were killed and some 104 wounded when grenades were thrown into a massive Christian rally/crusade in Nairobi's Uhuru Park. The rally, organised by religious leaders advocating a 'NO' vote in the 4 August referendum, included evangelism, prayer for the sick, and addresses from several parliamentarians from the 'NO' camp. While the rally officially concluded at 6 pm, many believers lingered, continuing in worship and prayer.

At around 6.45pm an explosion went off at the left rear of the gathering. Assuming it was something harmless, Pastor James Ng'ang'a, who was leading prayers at the time, called on those present to gather closer to the platform. However, after bloodied victims were brought to the front for prayer, Pastor Ng'ang'a, seeing the blood and the extent of their injuries, realised that the situation was serious and instructed that the wounded be taken straight to hospital. At that moment another grenade was thrown in from the right, exploding close to the main dais, killing some, wounding many and causing a stampede that resulted in many more injuries.

No security had been provided for the event, despite the fact that church leaders had requested it. While the nearest police station was only 2 km away, the police did not arrive until Bishop Margaret Wanjiru, after waiting an hour, drove to the station and personally requested police assistance.

See: Victims Recount Moments Before Blasts Went Off
John Ngirachu, Daily Nation, 14 June 2010

Military Joins Hunt for Nairobi Park Bombers
Daily Nation, 14 June 2010

In highly provocative statements, both Professor Peter Anyang Nyong'o, the Co-convener of the YES campaign Secretariat, and Hussein Khalid, the head of Muslims For Human Rights, insinuated that elements within the NO campaign might have orchestrated the bombing in order to gain sympathy for their cause.

"Hate speech"

The YES campaign has taken to wielding "hate speech" laws against those who dare speak out against what they believe are the dangers posed by the draft constitution. This of course is one of the great problems with "hate speech" laws -- they silence criticism, thus the more objectionable something is (i.e. the more there is to criticise), the more protection it is afforded.

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) is investigating complaints made against the Higher Education minister William Ruto, who is spearheading the NO campaign, and five other Members of Parliament.

Mr Ruto has accused the YES team of using the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) to intimidate critics of the proposed constitution.

The NCIC wants the politicians prosecuted for "hate speech" on the grounds that they have resorted to "scaremongering" and opined that elements of the draft constitution could trigger bloodshed and evictions (on account of Balkanisation) and "religious warfare" (on account of division over kadhi courts).

The Nairobi Star reports: "Muslim leaders headed by the chairman of the Islamic Development Group Khalid Njiraini and the referendum coordinator in Lamu, Hassan Albeity, accused Ruto of creating tension and religious conflict.

"Ruto reportedly told the Kwale rally that 'to avoid serious conflict between you (Muslims) and the Christians, we must reject the proposed constitution'."

Ruto has denied that he was inciting religious groups and is refusing to apologise, saying he had merely pointed out that the division between the Muslims and Christians was unhealthy. He merely maintains that if Kadhi courts are entrenched and promoted, then divisions and tensions will inevitably escalate. For this, he is being accused of "hate speech".

See: Kenyan MPs on the spot over hate speech
By Sarah Wambui and Laban Wanambisi, 14 June 2010

Commission to probe 'No' proponents over incitement
By Beauttah Omanga, The Standard, 13 June 2010

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) has welcomed the arrest of three Parliamentarians accused of "hate speech" saying such action will deter incitement to violence.

On Tuesday 15 June, NCHR Chairperson Florence Jaoko commended the government for their action, saying the government should reign on hate speech to ensure sobriety and tolerance during the ongoing campaigns on the Proposed Constitution.

"Whether it is church leaders or politicians being intolerant the law must take its course."

Criticism, however, is not incitement to violence despite the fact that the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) is busy working to have the United Nations recognise it as such.
See: The OIC & the UN: recasting 'defamation' of religions as incitement
WEA RLC News & Analysis, by Elizabeth Kendal, 24 Nov 2008

The fact that "NO" advocates were arrested for "hate speech" immediately after a "NO" rally was bombed, seems to suggest the government is very keen to blame the victim. This is how the OIC's anti-defamation measures work too. For the OIC the logic goes: "defamation"/criticism of Islam must be banned in order to prevent Islamic violence against Islam's critics. Similarly, Kenyan authorities are repressing criticism of the constitution supposedly in order to prevent political violence. But this is totally backward, upside down thinking, and a repressive misuse use of the law. It is undemocratic and a violation of free speech. Criticism is not incitement.

U.S. support

The YES campaign was greatly bolstered last week by the visit of US Vice President Joe Biden who publically supported the YES campaign, urging Kenyans to resist those who would use "fear" as a "tool" to perpetuate division.

He also promised Kenyans and the Kenyan government more American and foreign investment if the constitution is passed.

No wonder the government is hungry for a quick, loud, untroubled "YES".

Church rises with unpopular message

In the midst of this, the church has risen as a prophetic voice of opposition.

While the percentage of Kenyan's intending to vote YES has dropped from 64 percent to 57 percent in the past two months, only 20 percent say they will definitely vote NO, while around 19 percent are undecided.

The poll carried out between May 22 and 28 showed the NO supporters citing issues of abortion (55percent), kadhi courts (37 percent) and land (32percent) as the reasons for their stand.

The powerful, elite-driven, Muslim-backed YES camp will be furious if the constitution fails. Surveys report that many Kenyans believe that constitution must be passed if violence is to be avoided. This is a no-win situation for the Church.

The church's advocacy is taking it into the very dangerous realm of political opposition in a land with a history of political violence.

Henry Njagi, spokesman for the National Council of Churches of Kenya in Nairobi told Christian Science Monitor (CSM): "The Constitution is an important document for Kenya, but there is no reason why Kenyans should adopt a bad constitution. For Christians don't see why they should be asked to endure a constitution that is so directly against Christianity."

Mwalimu Mati, director of the Mars Group Kenya, an anticorruption watchdog that has pushed for the new constitution, is anxious. "These people are playing with fire. . . We Kenyans have short memories, we don't remember that people were killed because of the terrible effects of the stalemate of the last election, and if there is another stalemate in a future election under this current Constitution, there will be bloodshed again."

UPDATE:
Daily nation reports: On Sunday 27 June Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his wife Ida addressed the congregation at All Saints Cathedral, telling them they should vote 'Yes' for the constitution because the Bible tells them to. To this end PM Odinga quoted 2 Corinthians 1:18-20: 'But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not "Yes" and "No" . . . but in him it has always been "Yes" . . .'

When Odinga took his seat the courageous Anglican Archbishop Eliud Wabukala accused him of quoting the verse out of context. After correcting the PM's misinterpretation, the Archbishop urged the church to stay united. Kenya's Anglicans have committed themselves to pray daily concerning the constitution in the lead up to the 4 August constitutional referendum.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Afghanistan: what chance do 'apostates' have when their government is pursuing peace and reconciliation with an ascendant Taliban?

updated 1 July 2010

On Monday 31 May, the government of Afghanistan suspended two church-based aid organisations -- US-based Church World Service (CWS) and Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) -- over allegations of proselytisation.

According to the New York Times, "Both groups have major operations in Afghanistan, disbursing millions of dollars in aid. Church World Service employs 190 people, and Norwegian Church Aid 50 people in a variety of development programs here, the government said."

Christian Post reports that the "U.S.-based CWS is a cooperative ministry of 36 Christian denominations and communions. It operates relief and development programs in more than 80 countries. Norwegian Church Aid [which has worked in Afghanistan since 1979] operates in some 125 countries and provides emergency relief and development aid to poor communities and people in need."

Both groups are vociferously denying the charge, insisting they do not evangelise and have adhered to the Islamic State's strict protocols. Of course one does not need to preach/evangelise to be guilty of fitna. Fitna is anything at all that could have the effect of tempting or seducing a Muslim to turn away from Islam -- anything from vile torture to magnetic grace. In Islam, fitna is equated with persecution and must be eliminated. (For a fuller examination of fitna, see my earlier posting: "Fitna in Morocco".)

Islam is inherently apostaphobic, and leaving Islam (apostasy) is a capital offense under Afghan law and it is illegal to proselytise. The allegations emerged on 27 and 28 May, via a privately-run Afghan television station, Noorin TV, which broadcast video footage reportedly showing Afghans being baptised and participating with Westerners in Christian prayer meetings being held in alleged "missionary safe houses" in western Kabul. While CWS and NCA were specifically named, Noorin TV unashamedly confesses it has NO evidence they were involved. According to the producer, the report merely raised "suspicions" about the two groups whose names had simply been selected out of the telephone directory on account of the fact that they contained the word "church".

See: Afghanistan Suspends Two Aid Groups
By Rod Nordland and Abdul Waheed Wafa
New York Times, 31 May 2010

According to Reuters (31 May), Sediq Amarkhil, a spokesman for the economy ministry said on Sunday 30 May, it had formed a commission to investigate all NGOs after a local TV report accusing aid groups of promoting Christianity. "We are very, very serious about this matter," said Amarkhil. "If proven that any NGO is operating against the norms and laws of Afghanistan and Islam and is inviting people to Christianity . . . we will not only close it down, but will hand it over to the judicial and legal organs of the government."

In Kabul, angry protesters have demanded the expulsion of foreigners who try to convert Muslims. In parliament, Abdul Sattar Khawasi, a deputy of the lower house, called for Muslim converts to Christianity to be executed, saying: "Those Afghans that appeared in this video film should be executed in public, the house should order the attorney general and the NDS (intelligence agency) to arrest these Afghans and execute them." Qazi Nazir Ahmad, a lawmaker from the western province of Herat, affirmed that killing an apostate is "not a crime".

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai is reportedly taking a personal interest in the case and has ordered an investigation, but not because he is keen to defend religious liberty. According to Waheed Omar, the President's spokesman, Karzai has instructed his interior minister and the head of country's spy agency "to take immediate and serious action to prevent this phenomenon".

A European diplomat told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that he suspected there might be a "hidden political agenda", behind the Noorin TV broadcast, "at a time when stirring up anti-foreign sentiment is quite fashionable in Kabul".

See: Afghan president takes 'personal interest' in suspended NGOs
(AFP) 1 June 2010

Pursuing peace and reconciliation with the Taliban

This drama is unfolding parallel to President Hamid Karzai's desperate efforts to entice the Taliban into a peace agreement. A government-run three-day Consultative Peace Jirga commenced in Kabul on 2 June, just days after the proselytising accusations were broadcast and the government's and Karzai's indignation had been loudly publicised. Karzai no longer needs to defend religious liberty to maintain Western favour -- unlike in March 2006 when he facilitated the escape of convert Abdul Rahman so as to avoid risking Western aid. It is the Taliban that needs to be seduced now, not Western governments. Western governments want whatever leads to "peace".

The main purpose of the Jirga -- to which some 1,600 Afghans were invited -- was to discuss plans for reconciling with the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

See: Afghan jirga's resolutions 'nice on paper'
By Waheedullah Massoud (AFP) 6 June 2010

As part of the British-authored, US-approved Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program, Taliban insurgents who denounce violence and lay down their weapons will receive material support including cash, and amnesty. Billions of dollars will thus be channelled to alleged 'de-radicalised' Taliban. Western Nations desperate for "peace" are lining up to contribute to the Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund (RTF). Australia, for instance, has pledged $25 million. Officials estimate the RTF will disburse more than $1.5 billion in the next few years.

See: $25m promised to woo Taliban insurgents
By Dan Oaks, Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), 30 January 2010
(According to this article, "Australia will contribute $100 million more in aid to Afghanistan, including $25 million to a fund to lure insurgents to the Afghan Government's side" . . . $20 million for mine clearance and $55 million for reconstruction, agricultural reform and promotion of [Islamic?] human rights.)

Ministerial statement on Afghanistan, 2 February 2010
By the Hon Stephen Smith, Australian Minister for Foreign Affaris

Ministerial Statement on Afghanistan, 18 March 2010
By Senator the Hon John Faulkner, Minister for Defence

Of course you really don't need too many brain cells to imagine how this scheme could be massively rorted to produce the exact opposite of what was intended.

Broken promises send Taliban back into battle
By Tom Hyland, The AGE (Melbourne, Australia), 16 May 2010

ANALYSIS: "Flawed" peace strategy in Afghanistan
By IRIN (a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs)
KABUL, 31 May 2010

REPORT: "Golden Surrender? The risks, challenges, and implications of reintegration in Afghanistan" (March 2010).
By Matt Waldman, a fellow at the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy, Harvard University.

The foundational premise underlying the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program is the belief that "most of the rank-and-file insurgents are fighting primarily for economic reasons and an attractive reintegration package will wean them off the conflict" (IRIN).

Yet as Waldman notes: "Golden surrender' [the US military's term] holds little appeal for those who are not fighting for gold."

However, in his ONLY mention of Islam in his entire 11 report, Waldman lists "tribal, community, and group exclusion or disempowerment; leverage in local rivalries, feuds, and conflicts; government predation, impunity, or corruption; criminality, disorder, and the perversion of justice; civilian casualties and abusive raids or detentions; resistance to perceived western occupation or suppression of Islam; the hedging of bets; and as a reaction to threats, intimidation, or coercion" as reasons driving people to join the insurgency. (p 4) (emphasis mine)

Nowhere in Waldman's report (which is excellent on so many other levels) or in the IRIN analysis, is the issue of Islam as a motivating factor even raised.

Waldman does however raise the issue of honour and status (p 6). Yet even here he only considers honour and status as they may be acquired through money and power. Yet the fact remains, that many Taliban are Taliban because in such an orthodox Islamic fundamentalist society, honour and status are not derived from wealth or from being a gainfully employed husband and father, as much as from being a jihadist, suffering deprivation and risking life and limb to fighting in the cause of Allah. Like most Western analysts, Waldman insists on viewing the insurgency as a "social and cultural phenomenon" that can be addressed without reference to Islam. Thus the issue of orthodox Islamic fundamentalism as a "root cause" of the insurgency is never even raised.

Waldman concludes: "Perhaps the greatest risk is that the [reintegration] programme distracts policy‐makers from addressing the root causes of the conflict, especially predatory, exclusionary politics, and the abuse of power. This would be treating the symptoms while ignoring the cancer.

"Into what kind of society are we asking insurgents to integrate? 'Golden surrender' holds little appeal for those who are not fighting for gold. Indeed, there would seem to be as much need for the social and political reintegration of government officials and other power‐holders into society, as there is for insurgents. If this happens – through fairer politics, better government, and stronger development – it may well be that reintegration starts to happen quietly of its own accord." (p 11)

And this is exactly the point -- except Waldman is not seeing what Karzai sees. Karzai is desperately busy making Afghanistan into the kind of society that the Taliban might wish to integrate. This is why he has been on the path of Islamisation and Talibanisation since 2006.

The Taliban are not interested in peace because they are ascendant. Even now, they can terrorise Kabul at will. They can smell victory and are just biding their time until the US and allied forces depart, then, whether they decide to take over Kabul or not, they will certainly dictate their terms.

And so Karzai is offering appeasements and inducements in the hope that the ascendant Taliban will ensure his government's survival, albeit as a puppet or facade.

In such an environment of political and existential desperation, the lives of the Afghan believers who have been filmed being baptised or praying to the Lord, are imminently imperilled.

The Islamic masses are against them. The Islamic State's constitution is against them. Their own government -- including their West-backed president -- is against them. Thankfully the God of their salvation, the Almighty eternal God Yehovah, is with them and for them.

(this post is an expanded version of Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin 059, released 9 June 2010)

UPDATE:

Sources have told Christian Solidarity Worldwide that more than 20 Afghan Christians have been detained in Afghanistan since early June. Reportedly non-Christians with ties to Westerners have also been targeted for interrogation.

Afghan Christian refugees arriving in India on 8 June reported there had already been many arrests and searches as well as claiming that arrested Christians were being tortured for information on the 'underground church'.

Afghan Christian refugees have also been targeted for persecution in Delhi, India. On 14 June a group of Afghan Muslim refugees deliberately rammed their car into a disabled Afghan Christian refugee named Hamidullah. Earlier in the month a young Afghan Christian refugee named Mirdad Al was attacked by a group of Indian and Afghan Muslims who abused him as a pagan and infidel. Indian police reportedly refuse to extend protection to 'illegal immigrants'.