Monday, July 23, 2018

Ethiopia-Eritrea: rapprochement achieved; now for implementation

The silver cloud (of peace) has a dark lining (the TPLF).
Elizabeth Kendal


On 5 June, Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Amhed (41) announced that Ethiopia was ready to abide by the Algiers Declaration, accept the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission ruling of 2002, and withdraw from disputed territories pursuant of peace.

For full background see Religious Liberty Monitoring
Ethiopia and Eritrea: Reforms and Resistance
by Elizabeth Kendal, 25 June 2018

Since then, progress has been rapid.

26 June: Eritrean Delegation visits Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Tuesday 26 June, an Eritrean delegation arrived in Addis Ababa for a three-day official visit. It was the first high level meeting between the states since diplomatic relations were broken off in 1998, and it was a sensational success.

For more details see Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin
Ethiopia and Eritrea: leaders have “opened the door of peace”
by Elizabeth Kendal, 4 July 2018

8 July: Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed visits Asmara, Eritrea.

PM Abiy (l) arrives in Asmara and is
met by President Afwerki (r),
8 July 2018.
On Sunday 8 July, an Ethiopian Airlines aeroplane touched down in
Asmara – the first in 20 years. The plane was carrying Ethiopian Prime Minister, Dr Abiy Ahmed, who was met at the airport by Eritrean President, Isaias Afwerki. It was the first time the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea had met in more than 20 years. 

Eritreans were out in numbers, eager to welcome the Ethiopian Prime Minister. According to one eyewitness, “The yearning for peace was palpable.” 

9 July: declaration signed; ‘state of war’ over
On Monday 9 July, Prime Minister Abiy and President Afwerki held a historic bilateral summit in which they signed a “declaration of peace and friendship” and declared the “state of war” over.

“We have agreed,” said PM Abiy, “to open up embassies in our respective countries, allow our people to visit each other’s cities, and allow our airlines and ports to operate freely. Love is greater than modern weapons like tanks and missiles. Love can win hearts, and we have seen a great deal of it today here in Asmara.” 

Video news report: Al-Jazeera, 9 July 2018
Ethiopia, Eritrea sign “declaration of peace and friendship”,

(Includes comment by Horn of Africa specialist Matt Bryden, on the challenge of implementation.)

10 July: Phone lines opened

On the eve of the 1998-2000 Ethiopia-Eritrea war, the Ethiopian government expelled more than 70,000 Eritreans from Ethiopian territory while Eritrea likewise expelled thousands of Ethiopians from its territory. The expulsions resulted in lives being turned upside down and families being torn apart. The pain of separation was cruelly compounded by the severing of, not merely all transport and trade links, but all telecommunication and postal services as well.  

Consequently, on Tuesday 10 July 2018 when telephone services between the two states were restored, the lines lit up. Telephone lines dormant for decades buzzed excitedly as loved ones long-separated established contact for the first time in 20 years. Others excitedly made random calls, just to chat with a stranger on the other side of the border. 

14 July: Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki visits Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

On Saturday 14 July, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki flew into Addis Ababa for a three day visit. Thousands of cheering and dancing Ethiopians turned out to greet him. As reported by France24, “Some excited Ethiopians have compared the restoration of relations with one of the world’s most closed-off countries to the fall of the Berlin Wall.” 

“A visibly moved Abiy on Saturday [14 July] praised Ethiopians for their warm welcome of the Eritrean president with chants of ‘Isaias! Isaias!’ and flag-waving. ‘I’m very emotional right now,’ Abiy told a luncheon at the National Palace.

“Thank you,” said Afwerki, “for the genuine love that you all showed us.”

16 July: Eritrean Embassy re-opens in Addis Ababa

Abiy and Afwerki raise the Eritrean flag
at the re-opened Eritrean Embassy
in Addis Ababa, 16 July 2018.
Closed since 1998, the Eritrean Embassy in Addis Ababa remained like a time capsule "frozen in time" collecting dusk for 20 years [BBC images]. 

However, at a special ceremony on Monday 16 July the embassy was inaugurated. PM Abiy handed the keys to President Afwerki and together the two leaders raised the Eritrean flag. 

After inaugurating the embassy, President Afwerki left Addis Ababa to return to Asmara; he was seen off by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. 

18 July: Flights resume enabling family reunions

On Wednesday 18 July, 465 Ethiopians travelled to Asmara on the first commercial flight between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 20 years. While the flight did carry some dignitaries – including former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegne and Ethiopian Orthodox Church Patriarch Abune Mathias – the passengers were mostly people separated from their families by the war.

With tickets selling out in less than one hour, a second flight was scheduled for 15-minutes later. “With the demand we are witnessing, I think we’re going to increase the frequency to twice a day, thrice a day and even more,” said Ethiopian Airline’s chief executive, Tewolde GebreMariam, at a ceremony ahead of the maiden flight. 

On the plane, passengers received roses and champagne, and sang and danced in the aisles during the 60-minute flight. 

However, the mood changed when they landed in Asmara. 

Tears flowed freely as family members were reunited with loved-ones whom they had not seen or touched for 20 years. Among them was Ethiopian journalist Addisalem Hadgu (58) of the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC). During the war his Eritrean wife took their two teenage daughters to Eritrea, and despite all his efforts over the next 18 years he had been unable to make contact with them. For Addisalem, the reunion with his now adult daughters was almost more than he could bear. 

Ninety Eritreans flew to Addis Ababa on the return trip. 

NOW THE HARD PART:
withdrawing Ethiopian troops from Eritrean territory.


Bronwyn Bruton is the deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Centre in Washington, D.C. In an insightful, nearly 3000-word analysis she explains that “there is a very clear reason why both leaders [Abiy and Afwerki] are suddenly so eager to cooperate. They are united by the presence of a still-potent mutual enemy: the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).”

See: Ethiopia and Eritrea Have a Common Enemy 
by Bronwyn Bruton, for Foreign Policy magazine (subscription) 12 July 2018

excerpts: 

“Though it governed behind the fig leaf of a larger ruling coalition, the TPLF and the tiny ethnic minority it represents have wielded unlimited power in Ethiopia for the past two decades.

“The party has used its power to obliterate civil society, the press, religious freedoms, and all forms of political opposition.

“By early this year, the TPLF’s stranglehold on power had brought Ethiopia to the verge of collapse, as larger ethnic groups, led by the Oromo and Amhara, blocked roads into Addis Ababa in protest. To avert a showdown — which would have taken the form of a catastrophic food and fuel shortage in the capital — the ruling coalition’s government was forced to oust its prime minister, release thousands of political prisoners, and consent to the appointment of Abiy, an Oromo leader, as the new head of state. Abiy has proved more of a firebrand than expected and has been moving quickly to generate a political following and dismantle the TPLF’s grip on power. . . 

“Abiy has even more reason than Isaias to fear the holdouts in the TPLF. They are the key impediments to political reform in Ethiopia, and since taking office, he has frantically sought to undo their hold on power. He diminished the military’s authority by lifting a repressive state of emergency, repealed laws that allowed the security forces to label dissidents as terrorists and arrest them, and fired a slew of senior security and intelligence officers, most of whom were Tigrayans.

“His much-lauded decision to lift the government monopolies on several of Ethiopia’s key industries, including telecommunications and energy, was lauded as a free market advance — but it was also an important swipe at the TPLF’s bank accounts. TPLF leaders have profited from self-dealing by directing these monopolies to award lucrative government contracts to firms that they own or are run by their military cronies.
“Abiy is working hard and fast to gain ground against the TPLF before its bickering leaders can organize a coherent response . . .

“The bad news for Abiy is that his maneuvers will probably have minimal effects. After 27 years of autocratic rule, the TPLF has patronage networks that run deep and are rooted in ethnic demographics. Although Tigrayans represent only 6 percent of Ethiopia’s population, an analysis of the Ethiopian military several years ago found that 57 of 61 generals in mission-critical positions were ethnically Tigrayan. It is estimated that two-thirds of the broader officer class is, too.”

Concerning the generals, Bruton notes that while PM Abiy has already started to “thin their ranks”, that “doesn’t make them disappear”. What's more, PM Abiy “can’t possibly afford to fire 95 percent of Ethiopia’s generals. To consolidate his power, he needs to fire the worst but co-opt the rest, and that process could take years.” Until then, Bruton warns, they will continue to foment trouble. As an example, she raises the case of Maj. Gen. Tekleberhan Woldearegay who, after being forced to resign from his powerful post as director of the notorious Information Network Security Agency (INSA), went on the radio and “appeared to call for a coup”. Describing himself as a representative of the military, he lambasted the government calling it “an enemy force” and “not of the people”. 

While Bruton does not believe that disgruntled TPLF hardliners could persuade the military into open revolt, she does expect them act as spoilers. “The assassination attempt on Abiy in Meskel Square on June 26 appears to have been just such an incident — the deputy police commissioner has been arrested, alongside 30 other police and government officials.”

Peace Process Requires International Support

As Bruton explains: “Abiy’s moves — including his overtures to Eritrea and firing of key generals — are intensely provocative to the TPLF, and they may well backfire. Ethiopia’s allies, especially Washington, should be watching the developments there with alarm and should act to ensure that the situation there does not spiral out of control. If TPLF hard-liners use their influence over the military to illegally retake power — either through assassination, ethnic destabilization tactics, or a coup — Ethiopia will face a civil war.”

Bruton’s recommendation: “The European Union and the United States should be sending an unmistakable and public message to the TPLF that any seizure of power will not be tolerated — that aid funding, military cooperation, and political backing will disappear if there is a coup attempt or any other form of anti-democratic interference. Such a message would make it emphatically clear to the hard-liners that a graceful exit is their only option.”

Further to this, nothing will or even could change inside Eritrea so long as Ethiopian troops remain on Eritrean soil. 

Bruton concludes: “Peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia is long overdue. But it’s important for policymakers to understand that the current rush to peace is a tactical matter. As long as both Abiy and Isaias remain existentially threatened by the TPLF, both will be quick to gloss over their differences. . .

“For now, hard-liners within the TPLF can be held in check by the threat of popular fury. But they also may be desperate enough to act irrationally. In the meantime, a thaw with Eritrea — and the powerful military it has posted in the TPLF’s backyard — helps to even out the balance of power, if only by reminding the TPLF hard-liners of how many enemies they have.”

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


Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com

Monday, June 25, 2018

Ethiopia-Eritrea: Reforms and Resistance

by Elizabeth Kendal


On Saturday 23 June, a man reportedly dressed in police uniform attempted to throw a grenade towards the speaker’s platform during a pro-government rally in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. Eyewitnesses report that rally attendees grabbed the would-be assassin, and the grenade exploded in his hand. At the time of writing, two are confirmed dead and around 156 wounded, of whom at least six are critical. The rally in Meskel Square was a show of support for Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed Ali (41), and for his radical reform agenda.

Pro-government rally, Meskel Square, Addis Ababa, 23 June 2018

Elected in late March by the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) four-party coalition, and sworn into office on 2 April, Dr Abiy has hit the ground running. But as the grenade attack indicates, not everyone is pleased.

See: Grenade attack caused blast at rally for PM Abiy Ahmed
Al Jazeera English (VIDEO) 23 June 2018

Ethiopia’s New Prime Minister: Dr Abiy Ahmed Ali

On 15 February, after years of escalating civil unrest and political paralysis, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn submitted his resignation.

Defense and Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy (D&FA, the magazine of the International Strategic Studies Association), Issue 3/2018, assessed the leadership change as having profound and global significance.

Dr Abiy Ahmed Ali 
“Ethiopia’s ruling EPRDF on March 27, 2018, finally, and with much difficulty, voted for what could be a meaningful change in governmental leadership, but that does not mean incoming Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed Ali, 41, will immediately have his hands on all the levers of power. Security and defense controls seem to remain in the hands of the Tigrean minority which has controlled the EPRDF since 1991. Prime Minister Abiy’s maiden speech galvanized the country.”

English transcript of PM Abiy's maiden speech,
courtesy OPride.com (Oromo Pride is an independent news agency)

In D&FA’s estimation, “The election of Dr Abiy may come to be seen as the most significant strategic shift in the Horn of Africa/Red Sea strategic zone since the coup against Emperor Haile Selassie I in 1974 . . .”

The pro-Soviet Dergue (military junta) that seized power in 1974 systematically dismantled Ethiopian national identity in line with Marxist ideology. And as D&FA explains, it is a wound from which Ethiopia has never recovered, causing Ethiopia to remain internally focused and fractured.

However, D&FA believes that, “Dr Abiy has the potential to reassert Ethiopian unity, in part because he is an Oromo leader” and the Oromo – the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia – has long been the most restive and opposed to the Tigrean control of government.

D&FA makes it clear that the EPRDF coalition did not elect Dr Abiy because he is weak and pliable. To the contrary, when it comes to leadership, Dr Abiy is a rising star. He is a former soldier, having served as a colonel in intelligence and communications. He is also a technocrat and cyber warfare expert. He has a PhD (2017) in conflict resolution . . . and more. D&FA describes his career as “intense”, noting that Dr Abiy, despite his youth, has already served as Minister of Science and Technology (2016-2017), Director of the Federal Science and Technology Information Centre (2013-2016), and Director of the Federal Information Network Security Agency (2007-2010).

D&FA continues, “Dr Abiy, for all that his name reveals his Muslim birth, is a Protestant Christian, having – like many Muslims now associating with the ruling elite in Ethiopia – converted from Islam to Protestant Christianity. So it is interesting that, for all that the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was seen as often subordinating itself to the Government since, essentially, 1974, the EPRDF leadership has itself associated more with Protestantism.”

Dr Abiy was born in 1976 in the restive, Muslim-majority Jimma region of south-western Ethiopia.  The youngest of 13 children, his father was a polygamous Muslim and his mother (the fourth wife) a Christian. Deutsche Welle (DW) notes that when violent unrest erupted between the region’s Muslim and Christian communities, Abiy “actively engaged in a peace forum for reconciliation”. OPride adds: “Abiy completed his Ph.D. at the Institute of Peace and Security Studies of Addis Ababa University with his doctoral thesis entitled ‘Social Capital and its Role in Traditional Conflict Resolution in Ethiopia: The Case of Inter-Religious Conflict in Jimma Zone.’ His dissertation was built around the work he had done in a government led mission to resolve conflicts between Christian and Muslim communities in his hometown of Beshasha.”

Dr Abiy is married with three daughters.

For a more detailed profile see: 10 quick facts about Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed,  OPride.com.

Radical Reforms

Prime Minister Abiy’s reforms are causing alarm among those invested in the status quo; consequently, resistance is to be expected.

In power for less than three months, PM Abiy has already removed Ethiopia’s intelligence and military chiefs along with the national security advisor and several other older government officials. “These people have been in the system for far too long and are by and large blamed by the public for the problems,” said Awol Allo, an Ethiopian commentator who teaches law in Britain. “My worry is that he’s moving too fast in a country without the institutional safeguards to implement these policies.”

PM Abiy has also made moves to liberalise the economy, privatizing key state-run industries – among them Ethiopian Airlines and Ethio Telecom – industries in which many EPRDF elites are believed to be entrenched. Such big reforms carry big risks.

Further to this, he has lifted the state of emergency and released thousands of political prisoners.

Peace with Eritrea

One of PM Abiy’s most controversial moves – and the one that would be of the most interest to religious liberty observers and analysts – is his move to make peace with Eritrea.

click on map to enlarge
Between 1998 and 2000, an estimated 80,000 soldiers died fighting over the Ethiopian-Eritrea border. The conflict ended in December 2000 after a peace accord known as the Algiers Agreement was signed by both parties. In 2002 the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) issued its final and binding ruling on the border. The EEBC awarded “Badme” – a town with a population of a little over 1500 – “and its environs” to Eritrea, and ordered Ethiopia to end its occupation, dismantle its illegal settlements and withdraw its troops to Ethiopian territory. Ethiopia rejected the ruling and continued its occupation of the disputed territory. Ever since then, the two states have existed in a state of “no war, no peace”.

On Tuesday 5 June 2018, Stratfor Global Intelligence reported: “After years of bad blood, Ethiopia is taking steps to mend fences and reach an agreement on its shared border with Eritrea. On June 5, Ethiopia’s ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, opted to accept an agreement that would give Badme, a town on the border, to Eritrea. If Ethiopia follows through, the move could help settle some of the differences between the two archrivals on the Horn of Africa.”

Badme
Video reports:
Disputed border to of Badme to be recognised as Eritrean territory
CGTN Africa, 6 Jun 2018

Ethiopia accepts peace deal with longtime rival Eritrea
France 24, 6 June 2018

In announcing the move to pursue peace, PM Abiy explained: “All that we have achieved from the situation of the last 20 years is tension. Neither Ethiopia nor Eritrea benefit from a stalemate. We need to expend all our efforts towards peace and reconciliation and extricate ourselves from petty conflicts and divisions and focus on eliminating poverty.”

PM Abiy rejected the characterisation of relations between the two countries as a “no war no peace” situation, arguing that the psychological burden and the endless antagonism means that the two states are in reality, still in a state of war. “Every Ethiopian should realise,” he said, “that it is expected of us to be a responsible government that ensures stability in our region, one that takes the initiative to connect the brotherly peoples of both countries and expands trains, buses, and economic ties between Asmara [the Eritrean capital] and Addis Ababa.”

But as Ludger Schadomsky, the head of DW’s Amharic Service, observes, Abiy’s reforms have not been welcomed in all corridors of power. In particular, “he has alienated powerful people in the security and military establishment who view his recent peace initiative vis-a-vis Eritrea with great scepticism”.
political map
click on map to enlarge

Indeed, PM Abiy’s peace overture is eliciting strong resistance from the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a political party which forms part of the ruling EPRDF four-party coalition, and which has dominated government for decades. The move is also opposed by Ethiopian veterans of the war and other Tigrayan settlers living in Badme as well as ethnic Tigrayans living in Tigray province, along the Eritrean border.

It goes without saying though, that peace with Eritrea would radically transform the security situation in the Horn of Africa. Indeed, the implications of peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea are absolutely enormous. And as Al-Jazeera notes, the ball is now in Eritrea’s court. 

Eritrea and its President, Isaias Afwerki

Eritrea is one of the world’s most repressive states and its president, Isaias Afwerki, is one of the world’s cruellest dictators. Eritrea is also one of the world’s most severe persecutors of Christians, in particular Protestant Christians, thousands of whom have suffered appalling abuse and inhumane mistreatment, including torture, in Eritrea’s prisons and desert camps. The state generates thousands of refugees per month, many of whom are Christian [RLPB 235 (6 Nov 2013)].

All secondary school students must complete their compulsory military service in order to graduate. Yet while in military service, these teenagers are abused and mistreated, their Bibles are confiscated, and unrepentant believers (in particular Protestants) are beaten and tortured.

Of those who have fled, thousands have become stranded in camps in Sudan or Libya, while others have fallen prey to human traffickers who sell them to terrorists who then hold them in bunkers in the Sinai desert where they are tortured for ransom [RLPB 205 (10 April 2013)].

Survivor: Eritrean Christian refugee, Philemon, tortured in the Sinai desert.
"God brought me out of the deepest darkness . . ."
Philemon's story
For more details on persecution of Christians see:
Religious Liberty Monitoring: Eritrea 
World Watch Monitoring: Eritrea
Morning Star News: Eritrea
Submission to CCPR by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) April 2018

Critically, Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki legitimises his repression and the cruelty on the pretext that the war with Ethiopia never really ended, and as such, Eritrea must remain on a permanent war footing and in a permanent state of emergency.

Unsurprisingly, Afwerki – who has been Eritrea’s president since independence (1993) – is not rushing to embrace PM Abiy’s peace overture.

Marcos Hailemariam (not his real name), an Eritrean refugee living in Addis Ababa told The Ethiopian Herald that he suspects the Eritrean regime will either ignore Abiy’s overture or find an excuse to discount it.“First of all,” he said, “the no war no peace situation is one of the pretexts the regime uses to extend its life span as a dictatorial regime. If the tension between the nations is solved the people would raise various questions against the dictatorial regime.”

The analysts at the ERI platform agree, suggesting that PM Abiy’s move could “pull the rug from under Isaias’ feet”.

“Removing this state of no peace, no war denies him [Afwerki] the pretext of national security and puts Isaias in a dilemma – either way, it could be the beginning of the end of the unravelling of his dictatorship. The fact that he is unable or unwilling to respond in kind is likely a reflection of that concern. . .

“He [Afwerki] is probably afraid that either way would spell his undoing. He is facing a dilemma, because that could be the beginning of the end of his regime. With an end to the state of no war, no peace in sight, there would be no excuse for business as usual for the regime.”

See: The Missing Facts in the Eritrea-Ethiopia Border Debate
ERI Platform, 12 June 2018

It took Afwerki two weeks to respond to Abiy’s offer and to confirm that Eritrea will send officials to Addis Ababa to “gauge current developments directly and in depth”.

On Wednesday 20 June, Stratfor Global Intelligence reported: “Dynamics in East Africa have the potential to change dramatically in the near future. After weeks of silence, Eritrea’s reclusive president, Isaias Afwerki, finally weighed in on June 5 reports that Ethiopia could give disputed territory to its longtime enemy. During Eritrea’s Martyrs Day, Afwerki stated that the recent events in Ethiopia warranted attention and that his country would send a delegation to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, to discuss potential cooperation.

“While seemingly insignificant on the surface, the move from Afwerki is likely borne of desperation. The president has justified his decades long grip on power by claiming that Ethiopia wanted to wipe his Red Sea country off the map. Indeed, Eritrea’s political and economic systems have largely revolved around the need to maintain a huge military apparatus that is capable of going toe-to-toe with Ethiopia. However, Afwerki slowly transformed that system into one that perpetuates his rule, and he has used illicit activities to buy support from military elites.

“Addis Ababa’s decision to flip the script has, at least temporarily, called into question the narrative that Ethiopia presents an existential threat. Because of this, Afwerki is compelled to at least appear willing to hear out the Ethiopians to appease his people and avoid potential protests. But luckily for Afwerki, there are also signs that hard-liners in Addis Ababa may be prepared to fight the reforms that new Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is pushing. For example, the key party in Ethiopia’s ruling coalition, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front [TPLF], recently voiced its concern over the recent zeal for reform and said more deliberations were necessary. In the context of Ethiopia’s politics, this likely means the hard-liners are preparing to bite back to reassert control and ensure they continue to profit from the regional rivalry.” (emphasis mine)

Resistance Escalates 


PM Abiy (in blue jacket) visits
victims in hospital, 24 June.
(source: Fana)
Biting Back: PM Abiy’s radical reforms and the resistance they are eliciting, provide the context for the 23 June grenade attack in Meskel Square, Addis Ababa. Thirty people have since been arrested over the attack along with nine policemen accused of gross negligence.

The blast has sent shock-waves through the country. Mohammed Ademo, political commentator and founder of OPride.com, told Al-Jazeera, “Abiy’s effort to move the country forward has angered those who for a very long time maintained a stronghold on the country’s politics and economy. They are trying to scare people and undermine the prime minister so they can send a signal that he is not capable of stabilizing the country. Many Ethiopians are shocked that people would go to such lengths to stop what they [many Ethiopians] see as a really positive move – the reforms they say this country really needs.”

Reasserting Control: Further to this, on 24 April, World Watch Monitor reported that, “Ethiopia’s northern Tigray State is considering adopting a new law that would restrict Christian activities to within official [Ethiopian Orthodox] church compounds. . .

“A similar law was recently ratified in neighbouring Amhara State which, together with Tigray, is home to most members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and local church leaders fear other states will copy the move.”

PM Abiy's radical reforms -- especially his peace overture with Eritrea -- are infuriating Tigrayans, (especially those in the TPLF) and threatening powerful people who profit from the status quo. In this context, it is highly likely that this move by the governing authorities in Tigray and Amhara regions is not religious policy so much as it is reactionary politics. It would be interesting to know what the Ethiopian Orthodox Church's position is on such an unconstitutional law (see Article 11), one that in some ways mimics Eritrean policy. It is a move the central government will surely challenge, hopefully before too many Ethiopian Protestants are negatively impacted.

END

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

Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com 



Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Turkey: Christian Vulnerability Escalates Yet Again


The following post is essentially an extended version of:
 Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 460,
Turkey: Christian Vulnerability Escalates Yet Again, 20 June 2018

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

General Elections: Sunday 24 June

On Sunday 24 June, Turkish citizens at home and abroad will vote to elect both a president and a parliament. If none of the presidential candidates receives more than 50 percent of the vote, then the two leading contenders will face a second round of voting on 8 July. This will be the first general election since the April 2017 referendum in which Turks voted (51.3 percent in favour) to shift from a parliamentary to an executive presidential system [see RLPB 401 (5 April 2017)].  Originally slated for 3 November 2019, rumour has it that the polls were brought forward precisely so voting would take place before the looming economic crisis kicks in. According to economist David Goldman,
Turkey’s economic crisis has just begun, and ‘a 10%-20% overall economic contraction is quite possible. The political consequences of an economic disaster of that magnitude are hard to fathom.’

President Erdogan gestures support for
 the MHP's far-right ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves;
while Deputy PM Lufti Elvan gestures
support for Muslim Brotherhood. (source)
AKP-MHP alliance

Concerning the parliamentary elections: Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has entered an alliance with the Islamo-fascist, far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP); together they expect to win a majority. Furthermore, Erdogan (now with MHP support) is confident he will win the presidential race in the first round. That said, a look at the opinion polls reveals a very tight race. Indeed, on 13 June, neither Erdogan nor the AKP-MHP coalition had a majority.

Losing power is not an option

Erdogan aspires to be a great Islamic leader, reminiscent of an Ottoman Sultan or a Caliph. For Erdogan and his supporters, losing power is unthinkable. It is already being mooted that if Erdogan wins the presidency but the AKP-MHP coalition fails to secure a majority in parliament, then he may simply demand fresh polls. 

One academic recently stated on air that if the AKP loses power, then Turks will ‘take to the streets in the name of Allah’, adding that he had a weapons cache buried in Istanbul’s Belgrad Forest, ready for such a time. Criticised for threatening civil war, the academic backed down, clarifying (supposedly) that the only thing he actually had buried in the forest was his ‘anger’ [over the July 2016 attempted coup  -- see RLPB 367 (20 July 2016)]. His back-flip however, has done nothing to ease people’s fears of unrest should the polls not consolidate Erdogan’s power.

Erdogan in Afrin


Afrin's Church of the Good Shepherd:
emptied, shuttered and tagged with graffiti
naming the jihadist groups that now claim it. (
source)
For a glimpse of Erdogan’s ambition, one only needs to look at his actions in northern Syria. On 18 March, Afrin, in Aleppo Governorate, fell to Turkish forces. Since then, Turkish troops and their Free Syrian Army allies have ethnically cleansed Afrin of over 200,000 Sunni Muslim Kurds, some 35,000 Yezidi Kurds and some 3,000 Christians (Kurds, Assyrians and Armenians). Hundreds of civilians were killed in what has been described as some of the worst fighting of the war [see RLPB 447 (20 March)].

Afrin has since been repopulated with Arab Syrians, including tens of thousands of jihadists and their families, many of whom were recently evacuated from Eastern Ghouta (the former al-Qaeda stronghold, east of Damascus). On 20 April, Al-Monitor commented that the areas of northern Syria under Turkish control ‘have become jihadi reserves’.  Afrin's  Church of the Good Shepherd has been looted, desecrated and occupied by jihadists. Sharia law is being enforced. [See on-the-ground report by Free Burma Ranges (13 June)].

Erdogan versus Kurz

On Friday 8 June 2018 the Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (31) announced his government’s decision to close seven foreign-funded mosques. Six mosques belong to the Arab Religious Community and were said to be promoting hardline Salafi/Wahhabi Islam. The other mosque is a hardline Turkish nationalist mosque in the capital, Vienna, said to be linked to Turkey’s far-right, Islamo-fascist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), in particular to the MHP’s fascist youth wing, the Grey Wolves. The mosque is run by the Austrian Turkish-Islamic Union and funded by the Cologne-based Turkish-Islamic Cultural Associations (ATIB), a branch of the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet). The move could result in some 60 ATIB imams being deported.

April 2018: Children dressed in military uniforms reenact the
Battle of Canakkale in a Turkish nationalist mosque in Vienna.
(image source)
The closures are the result of a government investigation into images that emerged in April of young boys at an ATIB mosque in Vienna wearing Turkish military uniforms, marching, saluting, playing dead and waving Turkish flags as they re-enacted the Battle of Çanakkale (known to the Allies as the Gallipoli Campaign, April 1915).

Rene Tebel reports:  “These nationalist war games, performed in a mosque, raised the discussion about a ‘Turkish religious nationalist parallel society’ rising inside the country.

“This was also interpreted by the population and parts of the political establishment as an expression of ‘disloyalty’ inside Austria’s Muslim communities.”

Defending his government's decision Kurz said, “There is no space in our country for parallel societies, political Islam and radical tendencies.”

Kurz meets Erdogan (note the body language)
Erdogan slammed the move as “anti-Islamic” and vowed to take action against the Austrian government. In a speech in Istanbul the very next day he declared that Chancellor Kurz’s “amateurish attitude” would cost him a lot, and ominously raised the specter of a war between “the cross and the crescent” for which Kurz would be responsible.

On Monday 11 June, Kurz – while on a visit to Israel – spoke to the Jerusalem Post. “It is nonsense,” Kurz said of Erdogan’s reaction. “We have religious freedom – which is important. But we want everyone in our country to respect our laws, and our laws on Islam say it is not acceptable to have influence abroad on the Muslim community in Austria, and it is not acceptable that Islamic organizations or imams are financed from abroad.”

Kurz continued: “President Erdogan will have to respect our laws,” adding that his threats will “not change our opinion and will not change our decisions.”

See also: Turkey: Glorification of Murder, Martyrdom and Child Soldiers
by Uzay Bulut , Gatestone Institute, 19 June 2018

And Youtube news clips:

Austria crackdown government to shutdown mosques
Al JAzeera English, 9 June 2018

Turkish President Erdogan’s reaction to Austria’s mosque and imam ban
TRT 12 June 2018

Concern for Turkey’s Christians

As noted in the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB), while Erdogan might dream of breaching the “Gates of Vienna” and leading a jihad or an anti-Christian Islamic intifada in Europe, the Christians most vulnerable to Islamo-Turkish retaliation are in reality those close at hand: i.e. Turkey’s own Christians.

In recent years government-sponsored anti-Christian and anti-ethnic-religious minority hate speech has escalated to extreme levels. It is not only pervasive in the media, but also in the school curriculum.

See: Turkey Turns On Its Christians
by Anne-Christine Hoff, Middle East Quarterly Summer 2018, 1 June 2018

Turkish Education: Jihad In, Evolution Out
by Burak Bekdil , Gatestone Institute, August 17, 2017 at 4:30 am

Turkish Textbooks and the Armenian Genocide
by Turkish historian and author Taner Akcam, published in the Armenian Weekly, 4 Dec 2014

Turkey is a tinderbox!

Its Christians are exceedingly vulnerable.

Unfinished business ever looms.

Consequently, we must remain vigilant; ever watchful and ever prayerful.

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


Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Germany: Multiculturalism's Pecking Order


By Elizabeth Kendal
24 April 2018, ARMENIAN GENOCIDE MEMORIAL DAY


Driven from their homes,
Armenians wait to die in the desert.
Images: USHMM
On 2 June 2016, the German Bundestag (Parliament) passed a resolution recognising the 1915 massacre of Armenians by the Ottoman government as a genocide, and acknowledging Germany’s complicity in it. 

The decision provoked protests from Germany’s Turks; protests that were many suspect were funded by Turkey.  Some German politicians who voted to recognise the Genocide reported receiving death threats after Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan lambasted the MPs as "the long arm of the separatist terrorists in this country [Turkey] in Germany". (emphasis mine) [The Armenian Genocide of 1915 was fueled and enabled by Turkish anti-Armenian propaganda in which the Christian Armenians were described as Russian-backed separatist terrorists.]

In March 2017 the General Committee of Cologne City Council agreed that a memorial to the Armenian Genocide should be erected in the city. While a stone memorial cross was unveiled in the Lehmbacher Weg cemetery in Nov 2017, many Armenians were disappointed, believing a memorial needs to be in a public place.

On 15 April a memorial to the Armenian Genocide was unveiled in a public square on the left bank of the Rhine near the Hohenzollern Bridge.

The creation of Cologne sculptors Stefan Kaiser and Max Scholz, the memorial comprises a steel pyramid on which the words ‘This pain affects us all’ are engraved in Armenian, English, German and Turkish. The pyramid is topped with a slashed pomegranate (a symbol of Armenia).

The very next day the Cologne City Council ruled the memorial be removed ‘promptly’, on the grounds that it had not been approved. Cologne’s administrative court agreed.

Cologne, also known as ‘Little Istanbul', is home to some 60,000 Turkish migrants.

Cologne’s Armenian community – the largest in Germany with some 5,000 members – suspects the City Council succumbed to pressure from Turkish organisations.

Armenian Genocide Memorial
Background: Cologne Cathedral and a statue of Kaiser Wilhelm II, whose
 plan it was to unleash a jihad against imperial powers Russia, Britain and France
-- along with all the Christians minorities who supported them --
in order to establish a German-Ottoman super-empire.


Sunday, April 22, 2018

How Much of a Threat is Islamic State Khorasan Province?


By Elizabeth Kendal

Christians Targeted in Quetta

In Pakistan’s south-western city of Quetta, the capital of sparsely populated Balochistan Province, the already vulnerable Christian community is under attack.

On Sunday morning, 17 December, at least nine people were killed and more than 50 injured when two suicide bombers blew themselves up at Bethel Memorial Methodist Church, as some 200 local Christians were participating in a special “Sunday School Christmas Program”. . [See RLPB 437 (19 Dec 2017)].

On the evening of Easter Monday 2 April, four members of a Christian family were travelling along Quetta’s Shah Zaman road when militants on a motorbike intercepted their rickshaw and open fired. A young girl was wounded and rushed to hospital. Her father and three cousins were killed.

Then on Sunday 15 April, four men on two motorbikes opened fire on Christians in Quetta’s Isa Nagri (City of Jesus; a Christian neighbourhood). Some of the victims were emerging from a worship service; others were just sitting in front of their homes. Two Christians were killed and three were critically wounded.

The widow of slain Azhar Iqbal (26).
Christian funeral in Quetta, 18 April [Photo Gallery]

On each occasion, Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISK-P) claimed responsibility.

For more details see: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 451
Pakistan: Islamic State targets Christians in Quetta, 18 April 2018
by Elizabeth Kendal

Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISK-P)

Khorasan denotes a historical region covering all of Afghanistan along with parts of Iran, Central Asia, western China and Pakistan. ISK-P is Islamic State’s franchise in Khorasan Province / Wilayat-e-Khorasan.

After the death in 2013 of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, the Taliban found itself wracked with internal conflicts and divisions. Meanwhile, internal conflicts and divisions were also emerging in the jihadist movement in Meopotamia (Syria-Iraq) between al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who had established an al-Qaeda franchise in Syria under the leadership of Abu Muhammad al-Julani. The split in May 2013 left two jihadist factions fighting for dominance in northern Syria: Jabhat al-Nusra, which remained loyal to al-Qaeda’s al-Zawahiri and al-Julani, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (Greater Syria / the Levant; ISIS/ISIL), whose members swore allegiance to al-Baghdadi.

In January 2014, ISIS expelled al-Nusra from the provincial capital of Raqqa (in northern Syria) and assumed full control of the city. In April 2014, al-Baghdadi escalated the ideological dispute by insisting that there would be no reconciliation with al-Zawahiri’s al-Qaeda. As far the vehemently anti-Shi’ite al-Baghdadi was concerned, al-Zawahiri’s willingness to cooperate with Shi’ite Iran was proof that al-Qaeda was on a divergent path. When al-Baghdadi threw down the gauntlet and demanded all Muslims recognise his authority, nine prominent al-Qaeda leaders from the region historically known as Greater Khorasan immediately declared their allegiance to al-Baghdadi.

In January 2015, a group of disgruntled Pakistani Taliban and Afghan Taliban commanders produced a propaganda video in which they formerly pledged allegiance to Islamic State. Within days of the video’s release, the Islamic State announced its expansion into Khorasan Province and officially appointed Hafiz Saeed Khan as the Wali (Governor) of Khorasan and former Guantanamo Bay detainee and senior Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim as Khan’s deputy. The group would be based in Afghanistan.

For more information see:
Mapping the emergence of the Islamic State in Afghanistan
By LWJ Staff, 5 March, 2015

After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, by Elizabeth Kendal (Wipf and Stock, Eugene OR, June 2016). Chapter 8 ‘The Evolution of a War,’ from subheading ‘Raqqa and the Al-Nusra-ISIS split’ through ‘The Khorasan Pledge’ (pp 154 through 164).

In Khorasan as in Mesopotamia, Islamic State has shown itself to be the enemy not only of Shi'ites, but of all minorities, Christians included.

In Khorasan as in Mesopotamia, the pro-Islamic State and pro-al-Qaeda Sunni Islamic jihadist factions clash over ideology, tactics, strategy and territory.

In Khorasan as in Mesopotamia, most locals denounce Islamic State's zealous brutality and total disregard for history and local culture. 

In Khorasan as in Mesopotamia, Islamic State exploits a prophetic hadith (alleged saying of Muhammad).

The Khorasan Hadith 

In Mesopotamia (Syria-Iraq) Islamic State rallied around a prophetic hadith concerning Dabiq (a town in north-western Syria) in which Muhammad is alleged to have said:

First issue of Islamic State's
magazine, DABIQ, July 2014.
“The Last Hour would not come until the Romans would land at al-A’maq or in Dabiq.” https://sunnah.com/muslim/54/44

The leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), Abu Musab al-Zaraqawi (killed in June 2006) sighted this hadith when he predicted that the war in Iraqi was but the first stage of an apocalyptic battle that would culminate with Muslim victory in Dabiq: “The spark has been lit here in Iraq and its heat will continue to intensify…until it burns the Crusader armies in Dabiq.”

Islamic State embraced the prophetic hadith and al-Zaraqawi’s prediction effectively exploiting it to recruit Muslim men and women from all over the world and every walk of life.

A similar dynamic potentially exists in “Khorasan” on account of another prophetic hadith:

“Black standards [flags] will come from Khorasan, nothing shall turn them back until they are planted in Jerusalem.” (Source: Sunan At-Tirmidhi 2269)

The fact that this hadith is widely regarded as weak and probably inauthentic is irrelevant to the jihadists who have exploited it for decades.

early propaganda video
“The Emergence of Prophecy:
The Black Flags of Khorasan” 
As writer Asif Ullah Khan explains, “The first time this hadith was used in the sub-continent was in 1980 when the US and Saudi Arabia cobbled up the biggest global jihad coalition to wage a guerrilla war against the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan.

Brigadier Asad Munir, who commanded Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI, in the tribal areas until 2005, says the Khorasan hadith was one of the main reasons why Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have become a rendezvous of sorts for Jihadists from all over the world.”

So, How Much of Threat is ISK-P?

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
addresses the UN Security Council
On Friday 19 January, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the UN Security Council that jihadists fleeing Syria were turning northern Afghanistan into “a main base for international terrorism with the Afghan wing of the Islamic State in the lead”. Lavrov added that 2017 saw an “unprecedented growth in Afghan drug production”, the funds from which are known to fuel international terrorism. He recommended "prompt measures . . . to curb this threat".

On 20 February,  Lavrov expressed his frustration that the US and NATO simply refuse to confront the reality of ISK-P:

“We are alarmed as unfortunately, the US and NATO military in Afghanistan makes every effort to silence and deny [the IS group’s presence in Afghanistan],” Lavrov told reporters after talks with his Pakistani counterpart Khawaja Muhammad Asif.

“According to our data, the IS presence in northern and eastern Afghanistan is rather serious, there are already thousands of gunmen. This increases the risk of the terrorists’ penetration to Central Asia and it is not that difficult to get to Russia.”

Contrary to this, the position of the US – which is eager to depart from Afghanistan with a semblance of dignity – is that ISK-P is insignificant and does not present a serious threat. According to the US,  Russia is merely “peddling a narrative” and “exaggerating” for political gain. Consequently, Russian efforts to forge security cooperation across Central Asia are being mocked and derided in the West.

According to the US, Russia exaggerates and exploits fears of Islamic State simply so it might further project itself across Central Asia. Further to this, Navy Capt. Tom Gresback, public affairs director at Resolute Support headquarters, told Military Times, “[U.S. Forces-Afghanistan] has no evidence of any significant migration of IS-K foreign fighters. We see local fighters who switch allegiances to join ISIS for various reasons, but the Russian narrative grossly exaggerates the numbers of ISIS fighters that are in the country.”

Gen. John Nicholson, the head of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, agrees. “This [Russian] narrative then is used as a justification for the Russians to legitimize the actions of the Taliban and provide some degree of support to the Taliban.”

Apart from the fact that Taliban is only a threat to Russia (or the US) if it is providing sanctuary to trans-nationalist jihadi movements such as al-Qaeda, as it did before 9/11,  Russia has no interest in supporting Islamic militancy in its own backyard. Not only does Russia deny that it is supporting the Taliban, so too does the Taliban which insists it has “not received assistance from any country”.

For more on this dispute see:

Is Russia arming the Afghan Taliban?
By Dawood Azami, BBC World Service, 2 April 2018

Is ISIS gaining ‘serious’ ground in Afghanistan? Russia says yes. The US says no.
By Kyle Rempfer, for Military Times, 26 March 2018

Why Russia Exaggerates Islamic State's Presence in Afghanistan
By Samuel Ramani, for The Diplomat, 10 April 2018

Islamic State seizes new Afghan foothold after luring Taliban defectors
Matin Sahak and Girish Gupta, for Reuters, 2 December 2017.

So, How Much of Threat is ISK-P?

ISK-P suffered numerous losses through 2016 – some at the hands of the Taliban, some at the hands of US-backed Afghan forces. This culminated in April 2017 when the US military detonated a Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) munition over an ISK-P tunnel complex in Nangarhar, eastern Afghanistan.

Despite this, ISK-P has not only endured but grown in strength and capability. ISK-P has gone on to commit horrific killings and even spectacular terror attacks, including against high-profile targets in the centre of Kabul such as the 25 December bombing of the National Directorate for Security, and the bombing on 22 April of a voter registration centre in which at least 57 people were killed and around 120 wounded.

A report published in January in the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor gives credence to the Russian assessment that ISK-P is growing, consolidating and expanding and that this is indeed, “rather serious”.

Recommended:
Islamic State Gains Ground in Afghanistan as Its Caliphate Crumbles Elsewhere
Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 16 Issue: 2
By Animesh Roul, 26 January 2018

Roul’s opening assessment is blunt: “Wilayat-e-Khorasan, the Islamic State (IS) affiliate in the borderlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan, is one of the terrorist group’s strongest franchises. Bolstered by defections from the Taliban and boosted further in recent months by an influx of foreign fighters fleeing defeat in Iraq and Syria, IS Khorasan Province (ISK-P) is growing in strength and influence.”

In Roul’s assessment, ISK-P has “expanded its influence beyond its operational headquarters in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, which borders Pakistan’s tribal regions”. Roul explains that ISK-P has been able to carry out “mass-fatality attacks in cities from Jalalabad and Kabul in Afghanistan, to Quetta and Lahore in Pakistan.

“Alarmingly,” he adds, “in September last year, an IS flag bearing the message ‘The khilafat (caliphate) is coming’ was even seen hoisted on a pedestrian bridge near Iqbal town in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.”

As Roul explains, “The rise and consolidation of ISK-P in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been aided by intra-Taliban rivalry triggered by the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Recruitment has been aided elsewhere by the Deobandi seminaries, which have for decades propagated sectarian ideals in the tribal regions. Further, ISK-P – like its parent organization in Syria and Iraq – has gone beyond these more traditional support structures, using social media to attract more educated and tech-savvy city dwellers.”

According to Roul, “in early 2017, Pakistani agencies uncovered IS recruitment networks in Punjab and Lahore”.

As Roul explains, ISK-P’s ranks are increasingly being swelled by foreign fighters – French, Algerian, Uzbeks, Indians, Russians [mostly ‘Chechens’], Pakistanis and Tajiks etc -- including females, most of whom are fleeing the fighting in Syria. [This confirms the Reuters report of 2 December 2017 (linked above).]

Roul concludes, it is “certain that a safe haven for ISK-P militants has developed in the tribal lands of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The present situation suggests fleeing militants could find a new lease on life and win further sympathizers to the crumbling caliphate, allowing ISK-P to grow in stature in the region.”

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

I make the case in After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, that the dar al-Islam (house of Islam) has long exploited divisions in the dar al-harb (house of war). Indeed, it is a fact that Islam has mastered the art of inserting itself as a wedge between East and West, exploiting East-West completion and playing East and West off against each other for its own strategic purposes and geo-political gain.

See: After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, by Elizabeth Kendal (Wipf and Stock, Eugene OR, June 2016). Chapter 11, ‘A House Divided’.

Until  East and West can cooperate against their common enemy – revived fundamentalist Islam – then the future remains dark, like a vision of endless war.

If East and West can not cooperate against revived fundamentalist Islam then the chaos in Mesopotamia and Khorasan – which includes nuclear-armed Pakistan – will continue to deepen and spread.

In Khorasan as in Mesopotamia, this bodes ill for religious minorities, in particular for the region’s exceedingly vulnerable Christians who look to the West for help only to be betrayed and abandoned.

In what may prove to be prophetic utterance,  a Syrian Church leader predicted in April 2014 that the time is coming when Christians “will no longer look to the West for support . . . but to the East, to Russia, to India, to China” (After Saturday Comes Sunday, p165).

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

Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com