Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bosnia: Catholic Church targeted for terror.

Date: Thursday 10 April 2008
Subj: Bosnia: Catholic Church targeted for terror.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

-- with implications for Western Europe

ISN Security Watch reports: "Bosnia and Herzegovina's Federation Anti-Terror Unit on 20 March arrested five men: Rijad Rustempasic, Muhamed Meco, Abdulah Handzic and Edis Velic, all in their early thirties and from Sarajevo, along with Muhamed Ficer, from the central Bosnian city of Bugojno, who was released from custody after questioning.

"The four arrested in Sarajevo were members of the local Wahhabi movement -- the Saudi-based and financed order following a strict interpretation of Islam. Some of the suspects were already well known to the police for their radical activities. The group had been under surveillance for several months by the Federation Anti-Terror Unit and the State Prosecutor's Office.

"Federation Anti-Terror Unit and the State Prosecutor's Office have strong evidence that Rustempasic's group was planning attacks on Catholic Churches and international forces within the country during the Easter holidays." (LINK 1)

The ISN report includes several details that are hugely important:

1) the suspects were very well armed, having "anti-tank mines, laser sights, electronic equipment, topographic maps and bomb-making manuals".

2) they were very well connected, "receiving financial and logistical support from Wahhabi figures in Western Europe". ISN reports: "The dots begin to connect in a radical network that reaches from Bosnia across Western Europe".

3) they were targeting hugely significant Catholic sites: Sarajevo's central Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the 700-year-old Franciscan Monastery in Central Bosnian city of Fojnica. (For more details on the size and strategic value of these targets, see LINK 2)

4) while the key militant leader, Rustempasic, is reportedly one of the most notorious and violent Bosnian radical Muslims the police have ever investigated, he has managed to evade prison for years because he is tolerated by local authorities.

These details together indicate a serious and rising threat to Christian, particularly Catholic, institutions not only in Bosnia, but across Europe.


Pope Benedict has become a thorn in the flesh of the dictators of Islam on account of his reasoned, definitive and very public stand for religious liberty and peace -- from his September 2006 speech in Regensburg which highlighted the unreasonableness of violence in religion, to his very public baptism of high-profile Muslim convert Magdi Allam in St Peter's on Easter Saturday 29 March 2008. (LINK 3)

On Wednesday 19 March (10 days before the baptism of Allam), Osama bin Laden released a new audio message that named Pope Benedict as a leader in the "new crusade" against Islam and threatened retribution in Europe. (LINK 4)

It is to be anticipated that Islamic jihadist forces and the apostaphobic dictators of Islam will undertake a strategic shift -- a widening of their sights -- to take in that which is to them the greatest existential threat of all: the church that is prepared to stand for religious liberty regardless of the cost.

Elizabeth Kendal


1) Terror plot thwarted in Bosnia. 28 March 2008
By Anes Alic and Damir Kaletovic in Sarajevo for ISN Security Watch

2) Sarajevo's Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, also known as the "Sarajevo Cathedral", is the largest cathedral in all Bosnia. It was built in 1889 and is regarded as the centre of Catholic worship in Sarajevo (the capital of Bosnia).'_Heart (includes photo).

For a photo of the 700-year-old Franciscan Monastery in Fojnica, see:
official website: Franciscan monastery of the Holy Spirit in Fojnica
(Franjevackog samostana Duha Svetoga u Fojinci)

NOTE concerning Fojnica: During the 1992-95 Bosnian war, Bosnia's Muslim Army (BiH Army) fought to secede from Yugoslavia in order to make Bosnia an independent, Muslim dominated and ruled state. In July 1993, an 8,500-strong Muslim force overwhelmed Croat defences in Fojnica (then population 16,227 -- 41% Croat (around 6,500 Croats), 50% Muslim, 1% Serb). The BiH Army ethnically cleansed the town, driving out the Serbs and some 6,000 Croat civilians. On 13 November 1993 four Muslim soldiers of the "Crni labudovi" unit ("Black Swans", a BiH Army unit), invaded the Monastery, which is high on the hill overlooking the town, and executed Rev. Nikica Milicevic, the monastery's 37-year-old abbot, and the Rev. Leon Migic, its 57-year-old vicar. According to the OHR some 3,500 displaced Croats have since return to Fojnica, thanks to the security provided by the NATO-led SFOR (Stabilisation Force).
ALSO in Bosnian Monastery Widen Croat-Muslim Divide
By Chuck Sudetic, 31 December 1993
ALSO Albanians and Afghans fight for the heirs to Bosnia's SS past
By Robert Fox in Fojnica (Bosnia)
Daily Telegraph, 29 December 1993

3) Religious Liberty: the pivotal issue in these pivotal days
-- Apostasy, and the baptism of Madgi Allam

WEA RLC News & Analysis by Elizabeth Kendal. 4 April 2008

4) Bin Laden: Pope Helps Anti-Islam Crusade
By Paul Schemm, 20 March 2008

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Nepal: Militant Hindutva raises its ugly head.

Date: Tuesday 8 April 2008
Subj: Nepal: Militant Hindutva raises its ugly head.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

- as historic elections approach.


On 10 April 08, Nepalis will vote in historic constituent assembly elections. And this is no routine election -- it is the culmination of three years of upheaval and peace process. The constituent assembly elected on 10 April will draft the new secular constitution which will replace the 1990 Constitution which describes Nepal as a Hindu Kingdom.


On 1 February 2005 Nepal's King Gyanendra, backed by the Nepalese Army, dismissed the Prime Minister and his government and seized absolute power in a bloodless coup. Anti-monarchy sentiment subsequently soared and in November 2005 the previously disparate opposition parties joined forces to form the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) in opposition to direct, totalitarian royal rule.

In April 2006, crippling mass demonstrations in Kathmandu ultimately forced King Gyanendra to step down and hand power to SPA. The Maoists then declared a ceasefire. On 18 May 2006 Nepal's new parliament publicly declared that Nepal would no longer be a Hindu Kingdom but would now be a secular state. An interim government was formed that included the Maoists.

On 21 November 2006 the Maoists and the SPA signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement committed to advancing human rights and equity, bringing to an end the decade-long civil conflict. Constituent assembly elections were slated for June 2007, after which a new Constitution would be drafted. (See LINK 1)

Various setbacks, including insecurity and political fractures with the Maoist, forced the postponement of the elections in June 2007 and then again in November 2007.

Over recent months various anti-democratic, anti-secular and marginalised ethnic groups have been escalating their protests, militancy, and violent intimidation of voters in the run-up to the historic elections, forcing Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to appeal to all political parties to put an end to the violence.

Security has been bolstered and some 135,000 police are being deployed to polling booths in Nepal's 240 constituencies. There is also considerable concern that after the elections, powerful, armed, not-so-democratic losers might undo Nepal's tentative peace.


Needless to say, not everyone was excited by the 18 May 2006 declaration of secularism. Nepal's Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) elements, with backing from Hindutva forces in India, immediately increased their intolerant rhetoric and exploited the confusion of the Hindu masses.

On 22 May 2006 some 5000 Hindus rallied in Birgunj, a southern town in the "Hindutva belt" on the border with India, protesting the parliament's resolution to turn Nepal into a secular state. The rallies were organised by activists from the World Hindu Federation (WHF) and Shiv Sena Nepal. The protestors blocked the Tribhuvan highway on the Bara-Parsa industrial belt near the Indian border. Shouting "Jay Shree Ram!" (Lord Ram is great!), they burnt tyres, logs and newspapers that supported the resolution. (See LINK 2)

A group calling itself the Nepal Defense Army (NDA) committed several minor acts of terrorism during 2007, primarily targeting Maoist institutions. It claims it is fighting for Nepal's reinstatement as a Hindu state.

On the evening of Wednesday 12 March 2008 a bomb exploded in the regional office of Kantipur Publications in Biratnagar, a city some 240 km south-east of Kathmandu in the Hindutva belt on the Indian border. Kantipur, a Nepali news service, reported that the explosion caused no harm to the staff or the office property. "Though it was not immediately clear who carried out the attack, the pamphlets found at the explosion site suggested that 'Nepal Defense Army' was responsible. The pamphlets read 'Nepal Defense Army for Hindu Kingdom'." (LINK 3)


On the evening of Saturday 29 March 2008, three powerful bombs ripped through the Sarouchiya Mosque in Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's hometown of Biratnagar. A fourth bomb failed to explode and was later defused. Two locals were killed in the blasts, while two others were hospitalised with critical injuries.

According to Kantipur, "Two unidentified persons, who came on motorcycles, had lobbed four bombs while over 60 persons were busy reciting evening prayers inside the mosque.

"An eyewitness, Malik Alam Kuresi, said the unidentified men hurled the four bombs from the gate and fled the scene. 'However, only three of them (bombs) went off immediately.'

"Meanwhile, an underground group -- Nepal Defense Army -- took responsibility for the blasts. One R P Mainali aka Paribartan, who identified himself as 'supreme commander' of the group, owned up the group's involvement in the blast, in a press statement." (LINK 4)

In a statement sent to media outlets, the Nepal Defense Army vowed it "would continue such attacks until Nepal is reinstated as a Hindu nation."

The Times of India reported: "Soon after the attacks, Muslims began demonstrations on streets. Fearing a riot, the district administration clamped curfew from Saturday night. When the curfew was lifted in the morning, Muslims called a strike in Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari districts, ignoring [PM] Koirala's appeal to show restraint." (LINK 5)

An October 2007 article by Prashant Jha in the Himal SouthAsian entitled "Royal Hindutva -- The Hindu right in Nepal is currently down, but not out" provides insight to the relationship between Hindutva forces in Nepal and India. [In fact, Jha's article makes one wonder: what would it mean for Nepal if India's BJP won power in India's 2009 federal elections?]

Concern Nepal, Jha writes: "India's Hindu right does not like what it sees taking place in Nepal. Angry that the country is headed towards becoming a secular, democratic republic, it can see its traditional influence in Nepali politics waning. A terminal blow has now been dealt to the two pillars central to what the Hindutva-wallahs have cherished about Nepal: a Hindu rashtra [state] with a Hindu monarchy.

"But Hindutva leaders from both India and Nepal have not given up. They have been brainstorming -- at the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) headquarters in Nagpur, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) office in New Delhi, the Gorakhnath temple in Gorakhpur, and at the residence of royalist politicians in Kathmandu -- as well as with King Gyanendra at the Narayanhiti Palace. However, the Indian and Nepali Hindu right recognises the limits of its capacity, and does not have a clear rescue plan as yet [Oct 07]. ." (LINK 6)

Maybe the recent mosque bombing in Biratnagar signals a shift in Hindutva strategy. Perhaps the Hindutva agenda will be advanced, not through riots or minor acts of terrorism against Maoists and journalists, but, as in India, through the fomenting of sectarian strife.

Elizabeth Kendal


1) Nepal: Peace, equity and religious liberty.
WEA RLC News & Analysis. By Elizabeth Kendal. 29 Nov 2006.
Chronology of Nepal's peace process

2) Nepal: Hindutva forces rally against Nepal's reforms.
WEA RLC News & Analysis. By Elizabeth Kendal. 26 May 2006

3) Blast at Kantipur office
Kantipur Report. BIRATNAGAR, 13 March 2008

4) 2 dead in Biratnagar mosque bomb blasts, 2 others critically injured
Kantipur Report. BIRATNAGAR, 30 March 2008

5) Muslims call strike after Nepal blasts. 31 March 2008

6) Royal Hindutva
The Hindu right in Nepal is currently down, but not out.
By Prashant Jha, October 2007

Friday, April 4, 2008

Apostasy, and the baptism of Madgi Allam

Date: Friday 4 April 2008
Subj: Religious Liberty: the pivotal issue in these pivotal days.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

-- Apostasy, and the baptism of Madgi Allam

Historically the outcome of pivotal moments in Christian-Muslim relations have been determined by military might: the Arab Muslim conquest of the Byzantine Jerusalem (AD 638); the Arab Muslim conquest of Byzantine Heliopolis, Egypt (AD 640); the Ottoman Muslim conquest of Byzantine Serbian Kosovo (1389); the Ottoman Muslim capture of the capital of Byzantium, Constantinople (1453); the European victory over the Ottomans in the Battle of Vienna (1683); the Serb reconquest of Kosovo (1913); the Allied victory over the Ottomans in WW1 (1919); the Allied victory over the Muslim-Nazi Alliance in WW2 (1945); the NATO-enabled Muslim re-reconquest of Kosovo (1998-2008) . These battles and many others like them demonstrated who was ascendant and determined who was in control.

For several decades now the West has been advancing global openness through its revolution in communication and information technologies. But openness poses an existential threat to repressive dictatorships, corrupt systems and false religions. Now, in a fight for their survival, repressive dictatorships, corrupt systems and false religions are seeking to protect themselves by rolling back liberties and erecting bulwarks: repressing information and punishing dissent.

Because Islam is a global as distinct from a local phenomenon, the apostaphobic dictators of Islam are of necessity forced to pursue not only a revival of repressive, punitive Sharia in Muslim countries, but the extension of Sharia beyond the Muslim world and into the international arena through the Islamisation of human rights and laws. To this end, they use the threat of "uncontrollable" Islamic violence as leverage. (See LINK 1)

Today we are again at a pivotal moment in Christian-Muslim and Western-Muslim relations. However this time the outcome is not going to be determined by military might, but on the strength of moral and ideological convictions. Unfortunately, that is exactly why the West is in danger, for while Islam is weak militarily it is strong on conviction, the West is strong militarily but weak on conviction. The West will either buckle, surrender and submit, handing Islam the ascendancy, or it will brace itself and stand firm for what it believes (if in fact it can remember what that is).

By his very public Easter baptism of the high profile Egypt-born Italian journalist and Muslim convert to Catholicism, Magdi Allam, Pope Benedict has made a decisive and very courageous statement in defence of religious liberty, specifically a Muslim's right to convert.

Meanwhile back in Egypt, as the Great Apostasy Debate heats up, the Supreme Constitutional Court has been asked to rule on whether civil laws permitting religious freedom violate Article 2 of the Constitution which specifies that Islam is the religion of the State, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia). See report by Compass Direct:
"Egypt: Ex-Muslims Blocked from Declaring Conversion", 26 March 2008.


 Magdi Allam is the deputy director of the Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera. As a professing but nominal Muslim, Allam wrote many pieces that were critical of Islam and supportive of Israel. Because of this, Allam has received death threats and had fatwas issued against him, requiring him to live under police protection for the past five years.

The terrorism he has witnessed and the persecution he has suffered drove him to re-examine Islam and to reassess Christianity, especially after Pope Benedict's September 2006 address at Regensburg, which highlighted the unreasonableness of violence in religion.

Magdi Allam testifies: "Thus, I finally saw the light, by divine grace -- the healthy fruit of a long, matured gestation, lived in suffering and joy, together with intimate reflection and conscious and manifest expression . . . The miracle of Christ's resurrection reverberated through my soul, liberating it from the darkness . . . " (For Magdi Allam's testimony, see LINK 2)

Magdi Allam was baptised by Pope Benedict XVI in St Peter's on Easter Saturday during the Easter vigil. (LINK 3)

For PICTURES (with Italian text):
La conversione di Magdi Allam fa il giro del mondo.
23 Marzo 2008

Numerous Islamic scholars immediately condemned the event. Aref Ali Nayed, director of the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman, Jordan, criticised what he called "the Vatican's deliberate and provocative act of baptising Allam on such a special occasion and in such a spectacular way. It is sad," said Nayed, "that the intimate and personal act of a religious conversion is made into a triumphalist tool for scoring points." Nayed opined that this would negatively impact Christian-Muslim dialogue, and called on the Vatican to "distance itself from Allam's discourse". (LINK 4)

Yahya Pallavicini, a Milanese imam who is the vice-president of Italy's Islamic Religious Community, patronisingly described Allam's baptism "as an 'honest intellectual mistake' that had been committed with the complicity of the Vatican". Pallavicini told Italy's Adnkronos International (AKI) that he was embarrassed by the Pope's "indelicate choice of advisors" -- as if the Pope is without authority or lacking discernment and is vulnerable to the machinations of cunning Islamophobic conspirators! (LINK 5)

AKI reported: "Pallavicini agreed with Nayed in his attack on the baptism saying it put at risk the dialogue between Muslims and Christians." The implication is that Christian-Muslim dialogue can only proceed if the Church agrees to honour Islam's claim to life-long legal ownership of the hearts and minds and bodies of all Muslims irrespective of the individual's basic human right to believe according to his/her reason and conscience. Such a caveat leaves little space for meaningful dialogue.

Like Nayed and Pallavicini, Italy's deputy foreign minister for Middle East affairs, Ugo Intini, also criticised Allam's "very harsh condemnation" of Islam and called on the Vatican "after the emphasis given to Allam's conversion, to distance itself clearly from his statements".

However, the Vatican made it very clear that the Church not only believes in the religious liberty of all people (including Muslims), it also believes in the liberty of its members.

As Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi noted, Magdi Allam "has the right to express his own ideas. They remain his personal opinions without in any way becoming the official expression of the positions of the pope or the Holy See . . . believers are free to maintain their own ideas on a vast range of questions and problems on which legitimate pluralism exists among Christians. Welcoming a new believer into the church clearly does not mean espousing all that person's ideas and opinions, especially on political and social matters." (LINK 6)


According to Father Lombardi "the pope accepted the risk of this baptism" in order "to affirm the freedom of religious choice which derives from the dignity of the human person".

According to his testimony, which is written in the form of a letter to the director of Corriere della Sera, Paolo Mieli, Magdi Allam accepted the risk of this baptism for the same reason.

"Dear Director, you asked me whether I fear for my life, in the awareness that conversion to Christianity will certainly procure for me yet another, and much more grave, death sentence for apostasy. You are perfectly right. I know what I am headed for but I face my destiny with my head held high, standing upright and with the interior solidity of one who has the certainty of his faith. And I will be more so after the courageous and historical gesture of the Pope, who, as soon has he knew of my desire, immediately agreed to personally impart the Christian sacraments of initiation to me. His Holiness has sent an explicit and revolutionary message to a Church that until now has been too prudent in the conversion of Muslims, abstaining from proselytising in majority Muslim countries and keeping quiet about the reality of converts in Christian countries. Out of fear. The fear of not being able to protect converts in the face of their being condemned to death for apostasy and fear of reprisals against Christians living in Islamic countries. Well, today Benedict XVI, with his witness, tells us that we must overcome fear and not be afraid to affirm the truth of Jesus even with Muslims.

"For my part, I say that it is time to put an end to the abuse and the violence of Muslims who do not respect the freedom of religious choice. In Italy there are thousands of converts to Islam who live their new faith in peace. But there are also thousands of Muslim converts to Christianity who are forced to hide their faith out of fear of being assassinated by Islamic extremists who lurk among us. By one of those 'fortuitous events' that evoke the discreet hand of the Lord, the first article that I wrote for the Corriere on Sept. 3, 2003 was entitled 'The new Catacombs of Islamic Converts'. It was an investigation of recent Muslim converts to Christianity in Italy who decry their profound spiritual and human solitude in the face of absconding state institutions that do not protect them and the silence of the Church itself. Well, I hope that the Pope's historical gesture and my testimony will lead to the conviction that the moment has come to leave the darkness of the catacombs and to publicly declare their desire to be fully themselves. If in Italy, in our home, the cradle of Catholicism, we are not prepared to guarantee complete religious freedom to everyone, how can we ever be credible when we denounce the violation of this freedom elsewhere in the world? I pray to God that on this special Easter he give the gift of the resurrection of the spirit to all the faithful in Christ who have until now been subjugated by fear."


Of all the commentary on this event, none has been more powerful or perceptive than that written by "Spengler" of Asia Times on-Line. Spengler's piece entitled "The mustard seed in global strategy" can be found at LINK 7 and is a "must read" piece.

Spengler describes the baptism of Allam as a "revolution in world affairs . . begun in the heart of one man".

He writes: "Osama bin Laden recently accused [Pope] Benedict of plotting a new crusade against Islam, and instead finds something far more threatening: faith the size of a mustard seed that can move mountains . . .

"Magdi Allam presents an existential threat to Muslim life, whereas other prominent dissidents, for example Ayaan Hirsi Ali, offer only an annoyance . . Why would Muslims trade the spiritual vacuum of Islam for the spiritual sewer of Dutch hedonism? The souls of Muslims are in agony. The blandishments of the decadent West offer them nothing but shame and deracination. Magdi Allam agrees with his former co-religionists in repudiating the degraded culture of the modern West, and offers them something quite different: a religion founded upon love."

Spengler is correct when he writes: "If the Church fights for the safety of converts, they will emerge from the nooks and crannies of Muslim communities in Europe."

While governments may waver and even fail, the Church must stand firm in faith irrespective of the cost, and advance according to the word of God: "'Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord of hosts." (Zechariah 4:6 ESV).

-- Elizabeth Kendal


1) OIC: Eliminating "defamation" of Islam.
By Elizabeth Kendal, 25 March 2008
Religious Liberty Trends 2007-2008
(Apostasy, Apostaphobia and Postmodernism)

2) Magdi Allam Recounts His Path to Conversion

3) Pope baptizes prominent Italian Muslim
By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer Sat 22 March 2008.

4) Scholar denounces Muslim baptism. BBC 26 March 2008

5) Italy: Islamist website attacks Vatican baptism. 26 March2008
Muslim Scholar Denounces Vatican Baptism
By FRANCES D'EMILIO – 26 march 2008

6) Vatican: Muslim convert has right to express his own ideas
By Cindy Wooden. 28 March 2008

7) The mustard seed in global strategy
By Spengler, 26 March 2008