Posts tagged with: middle east

 A member of a Christian militia unit tries to persuade Kamala Karim Shaya, one of the last residents of Telskuf, to move to a secured home near their barracks. Credit Peter van Agtmael/Magnum, for The New York Times

A member of a Christian militia unit tries to persuade Kamala Karim Shaya, one of the last residents of Telskuf, to move to a secured home near their barracks. Credit Peter van Agtmael/Magnum, for The New York Times

With persecution of Christians there at an all time high, many have chosen to leave the Middle East. Christianity Today, reporting on the latest Pew Research report, says the number of Christians in the Middle East has dropped from 14 percent of the population to just 4 percent. That translates to less than half a million people in the Middle East who identify as Christians.

The problem turned from bad to worse with the rise of the Islamic State as it intensified the Muslim persecution of Christians and other minorities as part of its campaign of terror in the region, the report said.

Now, “Christianity is under an existential threat,” said Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat in the US House of Representatives and an advocate of Eastern Christians.

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Saturday People, Sunday PeopleOn this edition of Radio Free Acton, we talk with Lela Gilbert – author, journalist, and Adjunct Fellow at the Hudson Institute – about her book Saturday People, Sunday People: Israel Through The Eyes of a Christian Sojourner, which details her experiences living as a resident in Israel; we also discussed the very real threat posed to both Christians and Jews in the Middle East by radical Islam.

The podcast is available via the audio player below.

I attended an informative — and very moving — presentation yesterday on the humanitarian relief effort underway in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. The talk was given here in Grand Rapids by Mark Ohanian, director of programs for International Orthodox Christian Charities (see my podcast with him here). What I learned was that despite the massive scale of human suffering, the crisis is likely to get much worse. Given the gains that the Islamic State is making in Iraq, that might be a safe prediction.

Ohanian said that the relief effort in Syria, where IOCC works alongside Red Crescent and other principal agencies, is made more difficult and expensive because of the breakdown in Syrian society and the need to import so much of the supplies. The video above shows how entrepreneurial Syrians are already starting businesses in the refugee camps to help themselves.

If you want to offer direct help the refugees, you can make a donation on the IOCC site here. IOCC, in partnership with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, serves all refugees regardless of religion or ethnicity. (more…)

U.S. Border Patrol in Texas

U.S. Border Patrol in Texas

Victor Davis Hanson, writing for National Review, takes up the immigration issues facing the West. His assessment is that the West suffers from a “schizophrenia” of a sort, where those of us in the West accept “one-way” immigration as a given.

Westerners accept that these one-way correspondences are true. Nonetheless, they are incapable of articulating the social, economic, and political causes for the imbalances, namely the singular customs and heritage that make the West attractive: free-market capitalism, property rights, consensual government, human rights, freedom of expression and religion, separation of church and state, and a secular tradition of rational inquiry. Much less are they able to remind immigrants from the non-West that they are taking the drastic step of forsaking their homelands, often rich in natural resources, because of endemic statism and corruption, the lack of the rule of law, religious intolerance, misogyny, tribalism, and racism — the stuff that does not lead to prosperous, safe, and happy lives.

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Hilarion

Hilarion

In a March 29 discussion on Russian TV with a government official, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk decried the attacks against Christians in the Middle East and North Africa, describing these attacks as a genocidal campaign that until recently in international forums and mass media have been “hushed up as if non-existent; it was simply ignored.” The director of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church said in the interview that “now we have found ourselves in a situation when the whole Middle East is affected by this blight of terrorism, when the fire of civil war and inter-ethnic confrontation is blazing, when Christians are methodically eliminated, that is, when the genocide of Christians is raging. Let us call things by their proper names.” The Russian bishop said he was grateful that the West has at last paid attention to the plight of Christians but asked: ” .. is it not late?” More from the interview:

Only after the ISIS militants began terrible mass executions of Christians the world community began speaking about this problem out loud. It happened only after the number of Christians in Iraq decreased by times and almost no Christians remained in Lybia and after the Christian community in Egypt had a hard time. The world community has at last begun speaking out against the background of general instability and uncertainty, against the background of the Arab Spring developments, against the background of what is going on now in Syria, where militants in the occupied territories are systematically eliminating Christians and Christian shrines. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, March 13, 2015
By

coptic_christians_egypt_reutersIn the Middle East, the Islamic State is crucifying Christians and demolishing ancient churches, write Bethany Allen-ebrahimian and Yochi Dreazen at Foreign Policy. Why is this being met with silence from the halls of Congress to Sunday sermons?

Every holiday season, politicians in America take to the airwaves to rail against a so-called “war on Christmas” or “war on Easter,” pointing to things like major retailers wishing shoppers generic “happy holidays.” But on the subject of the Middle East, where an actual war on Christians is in full swing, those same voices are silent. A push to use American aircraft to shield the areas of Iraq where Christians have fled has gone nowhere. Legislation that would fast-track visa applications from Christians looking to leave for the United States never even came up for a vote. The White House, meanwhile, won’t say if or when it will fill the special envoy position.

“It’s been difficult to get the attention of the previous administration, or the current one, when it comes to the urgent need to act,” said Rep. Anna Eshoo, the California Democrat who drafted the visa legislation. “The classic definition of genocide is the complete annihilation of a group of people. The Islamic State is well on its way. It keeps me up at night.”

Read more . . .

Assyrian Fighters in Syria

Assyrian Fighters in Syria

The fate of more than 200 Assyrian Christians kidnapped by ISIS in northern Syria remains unknown (19 have been released), but fears of “a slaughter of major proportions” are well founded. The Assyrian International News Agency posted a plea from an Assyrian Christian fighter with the picture you see above from the front lines of the battle against ISIS.

In Tel Hurmiz our militia gave a heavy response to ISIS when they entered the village. Our fighers fought bravely, which made our people proud. Our militia fought until the ammunition was exhausted. When the ammunition ran out our fighters retreated.

Now we are trying to take back our villages but the enemy has a lot of soldiers. I have a call for all Assyrian and Christian people. Our peoples villages are being occupied and the women taken away. Until when will we stay like this? Until when will we stay in the Diaspora?

Every Assyrian must come back to his homeland and defend his people. No one can defend us but ourselves. Our martyrs have become a call for every Assyrian and Christian to fight back and defend all of Mesopotamia.

AINA also said that “it has been reported that ISIS has executed at least 12 Assyrian fighters who were captured, two of them women.”

In Foreign Policy, the article “Syria’s Christians Fight Back” places the Assyrians within the larger Christian population:

Assyrians, an ethnic minority, represent one small faction of prewar Syria’s 1.8 million Christian population. The Syrian government, to the exasperation of Assyrians, has never regarded the Assyrians as a separate ethnicity, instead classifying them as Arab, while Assyrians consider themselves a separate ethnic group with roots in the region dating back more than 4,000 years. Their identity is closely associated with Christianity, the faith Assyrians have followed since shortly after the religion’s beginning. Historically oppressed and underrepresented in political life, the Assyrians in northern Syria have armed themselves in an effort to protect their identity amid the chaos of civil war.

Assyrians in Iran

Assyrians in Iran

In both Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State is literally hunting and killing Assyrian Christians. Just this week, dozens of these Christians in Syria were captured by the Islamic State; their fate remains unknown. Who are these people facing persecution?

Michael Holtz, at The Christian Science Monitor, examines the long history of these Christians.

Alternatively known as Syriac, Nestorian, or Chaldean Christians, they trace their roots back more than 6,500 years to ancient Mesopotamia, predating the Abrahamic religions. For 1,800 years the Assyrian empire dominated the region, establishing one of most advanced civilizations in the ancient world. (more…)

Marie Harf, U.S. Department of State

Marie Harf, U.S. Department of State

I do not believe Marie Harf is an eloquent speaker, but I did think her “jobs for ISIS” remarks made some sense. We know that in American cities, for instance, if young men do not have education and jobs, they get into mischief. The kind of mischief that includes gangs and drugs and violence. Why would we expect that young men in Libya, Iraq, and elsewhere would be any different?

Apparently, I’m not the only one. While others have sneered at Harf’s comments as being simplistic, a few are tentatively suggesting she is not as far off-base as first thought. The National Review‘s Tom Rogan says this: (more…)

Silvania_Sandi_Final_Vidnette_Remove_L_Side (1 of 1)_With_Text

The text reads: “Silvania holds a picture of her sister Sandi who was a biology major at university when she was killed by a roadside bomb. Exiled in Amman and barred from school, Silvania dreams of becoming a dentist.”

Jeff Gardner was frustrated. As a photo-journalist working primarily in the Middle East, he is witness to the violence towards Christians on a daily basis, but the rest of the world seems unconcerned. Gardner realized it wasn’t that people didn’t care, but that they just didn’t know. It truly was an “out of sight, out of mind” situation. Gardner set out to fix this.

In the fall of 2013, Gardner launched the Picture Christians Project. He hopes to a put a face on a particular group of persecuted Catholic Christians — the Assyrians, most of whom are members of the Syriac Catholic Church.

For more than a decade, these Christians have been driven out of their homeland in Iraq by terrorist groups such as the Islamic State group by the hundreds of thousands.

Gardner told the National Catholic Register that he visited Jordan last year, and was struck by the situation for Christians in exile. (more…)