The Catholic Church and the Persecution of Christians in the Middle East: Can the Vatican help?

Source: http://nationalinterest.org/ feature/the-catholic-church- the-persecution-christians- the-middle-10371?page=show

Cheryl Benard,  May 6, 2014

“……In Iraq, Syria and Egypt, Christians face a relentless campaign of murder, kidnapping, arson, bombings and persecution. In Turkey, Lebanon and Palestine, the anti-Christian violence is less overt, but there, too, intimidation and discrimination have fueled a huge exodus. Islamic extremists and fundamentalists are determined to drive Christianity out of its birthplace in the Middle East—and they are succeeding. A few decades ago, 20 percent of the Middle East was Christian; today that is down to 4 percent. Iraq alone has lost 80 percent of its Christians during just the last ten years. By any standard, this is ethnic cleansing.

But the numbers, however dramatic, can’t express the human cost. The sectarian war and the random violence in Iraq and Syria are bad enough, but Christians face special targeting. Their churches are regularly mortared and firebombed, congregants killed by suicide bombers or assassins just for attending mass. In Iraq, I met priests who had been kidnapped, tortured and beaten. Their teeth had been knocked out with revolver handles and their spines broken with hammer blows, until finally, a ransom was scraped together and they were dumped on the street half-dead.

And what is Rome doing about all of this? Not very much. One almost gets the impression that religious persecution is too messy for today’s modern, ecumenical church……”

With great fanfare, before a crowd of 800,000, with 1,000 bishops and 150 cardinals in attendance and a TV audience of several millions, the Vatican recently added two new saints to its pantheon. Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II were canonized for having effected medical miracles that saved the lives of three women who had begged their intercession for, respectively, Parkinson’s, internal hemorrhages, and a brain disease.

Those were, obviously, marvelous outcomes for these three individuals. But pull back the lens just a bit and the mood of jubilation appears ill placed. In light of what is happening to Catholics in the Middle East, the crowd should have been praying for miracles on an entirely different scale.

In Iraq, Syria and Egypt, Christians face a relentless campaign of murder, kidnapping, arson, bombings and persecution. In Turkey, Lebanon and Palestine, the anti-Christian violence is less overt, but there, too, intimidation and discrimination have fueled a huge exodus. Islamic extremists and fundamentalists are determined to drive Christianity out of its birthplace in the Middle East—and they are succeeding. A few decades ago, 20 percent of the Middle East was Christian; today that is down to 4 percent. Iraq alone has lost 80 percent of its Christians during just the last ten years. By any standard, this is ethnic cleansing.

But the numbers, however dramatic, can’t express the human cost. The sectarian war and the random violence in Iraq and Syria are bad enough, but Christians face special targeting. Their churches are regularly mortared and firebombed, congregants killed by suicide bombers or assassins just for attending mass. In Iraq, I met priests who had been kidnapped, tortured and beaten. Their teeth had been knocked out with revolver handles and their spines broken with hammer blows, until finally, a ransom was scraped together and they were dumped on the street half-dead.

And what is Rome doing about all of this? Not very much. One almost gets the impression that religious persecution is too messy for today’s modern, ecumenical church. Consider how it has sanitized sainthood. Formerly, the path to sainthood was martyrdom—you became a saint by enduring agonizing trials and torments before being killed in horrific ways, all the while holding firm to your faith. Today you can live out your life in comfort, die a natural death, then heal an ailing person from beyond the grave, and be declared a saint. That’s much more civilized, but it obscures the harsh fact that Christians are still being hunted, tormented and killed in horrific ways, yet are heroically holding steadfast to the faith. Instead of being an inspiration, one feels that they are seen as a sort of embarrassing blemish on the pretty contemporary face of interfaith dialogue.

Consider, for instance, the statement by the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries, in which they finally ventured to address the issue at all. Well yes, they acknowledge therein, Christians are being persecuted…although maybe the word persecuted is too strong…True, they are being murdered and driven from their homes…but they can take comfort from the words of Jesus, “happy are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake”…which is not to say, of course, that Christians are necessarily righteous! …waffle, waffle, waffle.

‘Persecuted’ is too strong a term? Tell that to the parents who lost their children when a convoy of school buses, ferrying students from the Christian area of Nineveh to their classes in Mosul, was ambushed. Tell that to the survivors of the massacre at Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad, who—with the words “you are all infidels”—were taken hostage by armed gunmen who went on to execute fifty-eight of the worshipers, including small children. Tell that to the hospital director in Mosul who was told that her position is too high for a Christian and she and her family would be killed if she did not voluntarily resign. Tell that to the Christians in the rebel-held Syrian city of Raqqa, who have been informed that they are now “dhimmis” and must pay a special tax for the privilege of staying alive in “Muslim lands”, though they may not maintain churches or give any public sign of Christian observance.

The situation in Syria and Iraq is volatile, explosive and tragic, and remedies are not readily at hand. Still, there is much that Rome could and must do for its own.

Before we begin that discussion, though, we must remember that the Vatican is not just a prayerful, spiritual place—it is a political powerhouse of the first order. It commands an army of top-notch analysts and diplomats. Its diplomatic corps officially goes back to the year 1500, but its experience at navigating even the most Machiavellian corridors of worldly power predates that by centuries. Popes were not just moral authorities and observers of secular happenings, they were weighty players, shaping events in Europe, the colonies, and the world. Certainly, this formidable institution could come up with some effective strategies if it wanted to and hardly needs our advice. But here goes, anyway:

First, and beyond a doubt, Catholics are currently the victims of ethnic cleansing and religious persecution in the core historic region of the faith, and it is essential that Rome raise awareness about the issue. If nothing else, this would boost the morale of the afflicted, whose sense of abandonment and isolation is extreme. Visit Christian enclaves in these places, and you will constantly be asked: don’t other Christians know? Don’t they care? Why isn’t anyone helping us?

Secondly, this elevated attention would likely produce some helpful action, over time. It took years for the international community to take steps against the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, but without consistent media attention and moral outrage, the Bosnians would have had no chance at all.

Third, the Vatican maintains powerful networks of influence. Its humanitarian organizations and NGOs are among the most effective in the world. Its legates are respected mediators. Though—by its own choice—it restricted itself to observer status at the United Nations, still its influence there is significant. Its emissaries could act on multiple levels to protect, resettle, and otherwise assist and advise the flock.

Fourth, Rome should reach out to moderate Muslim opinion leaders and political figures, who generally take pride in their region’s long history of religious and ethnic diversity and tolerance. Most Muslims regret the loss of their Jewish communities, and do not wish the Christian minority to experience the same fate. They will forcefully tell you that Christians and Christianity are part of the fabric of their societies, which they do not want replaced with some radical Islamist vision of a Caliphate. These are natural allies and should be consulted for tactical, strategic and moral counsel and help.

Indeed, some Muslim leaders have stepped forward to push back against the ethnic cleansing of Christians. This is most dramatically the case in Iraqi Kurdistan, which has become a safe haven for that country’s Christians. In Erbil, the local Christian community—one of the oldest Christian settlements in the world and a bishop’s seat since the year AD 100—can count on the protection of the Kurdish Regional Government, but more than that, the government has welcomed Arab Christians fleeing from Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk. The Kurdistan Regional Government funded a beautiful, modern Catholic primary and secondary school and has given land for a Catholic University. They provided a new home for the Baghdad Seminary after that facility was destroyed. They have stood up, armed, trained and are paying the salaries of a Christian volunteer self-defense force in embattled neighboring Nineveh. They are hosting an order of Indian nuns, come to set up a nursing program. They have refurbished villages for displaced Arab Christian farmers. Bashar Warda, formerly Archbishop of Baghdad and now Archbishop of Erbil, is free to build as many churches and erect as many crosses and statues of the Virgin Mary as he likes; it is his decision to build apartments for refugees and young families instead and make do with the large, splendid, highly visible St. Joseph Cathedral, smack in the middle of Erbil. And why are the Kurds doing this? Not for good PR, apparently, as their efforts are going unremarked and unheralded, and they do not boast of them. Prime Minister Nichervan Barzani says tersely, of course he protects Kurdish Christians. “They are our citizens like everyone else.” OK, and the non-Kurdish Arab refugees? His Minister Ashti Hawrami has a simple, compelling answer. “As Kurds we know what it means to be persecuted,” he says, apparently having less trouble reaching a diagnosis of persecution than the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries.

Fifth, the Church should appreciate and encourage remarkable—and courageous—policies like the one in Kurdistan. With advice from moderate Muslim leaders, it should identify other potential Middle Eastern footholds for displaced Catholics, and support their efforts to take root there. It should assist the Erbil School of Nursing and the planned Catholic University and similar institutions that are useful to the public, regardless of faith, and thus help solidify positive social bonds.

Sixth and finally, the emphasis on interfaith dialogue is important but that does not negate the Church’s first obligation to its own faith and faithful. It should speak out consistently and with clarity against the abuse and persecution of its followers wherever that occurs.

It is not to the benefit of the Catholic Church to show itself indifferent, or powerless, in the face of the mortal peril of entire communities of its followers, or to stand idly by while Christianity is erased from whole geographic regions. In addition to its two new saints, it might invoke Saint Thomas More, patron of statesmen, or Saint Qardagh, the fourth century martyr and patron saint of Erbil. Or better still, it might bring its massive intellectual, spiritual and material resources to bear on behalf of its flock.

Cheryl Benard is the Director of Metis Analytics and the author of Civil Democratic Islam. She is currently researching the situation of Christians in Iraq.

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Churches Can’t Be Built in Streets with Islamic

Bogor’s controversial mayor says he has a new reason not to allow the GKI Yasmin church to open — the name of the street on which it is built has an Islamic name.

Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi said Bogor Mayor Diani Budiarto — who continues to defy rulings from the Supreme Court and Ombudsman Commission to open the church — had told him that a church should not be built on a street with an Islamic name.

“[Diani] said that it is a fact that the street is named after a noted Islamic Ulama,” Gamawan said at the Vice Presidential Palace on Friday.

GKI Yasmin is located on Jalan Abdullah bin Nuh, an Islamic leader from Cianjur in West Java.Local cleric Muhammad Mustofa, whose father is the street’s namesake, has previously stated that he has no objection to the church.

Mustofa, who said that Islam was a religion that promoted peace, said differences between religions were not new and similar problems had occurred since the time of Prophet Mohammad.

“Mecca is an example of pluralism during the prophet’s time. Every problem has its solution and hopefully the problem [surrounding the church] will be settled immediately,” he said.

Gamawan also indicated on Friday that he was siding with Diani in the dispute with the church.“This is the political reality in the field and it could cause disturbances to security and peace,” Gamawan said.

“It would not be healthy in the long run, even for the congregation members themselves. [Diani] told me that he has offered an alternative location with the same [dimensions].”

Gamawan said he would summon Diani next week to discuss possible solutions to the conflict.

“We need to mediate … but we also need to maintain security and peace,” Gamawan said.

Church spokesman Bona Sigalingging said Diani’s reasoning was unacceptable given that a number of churches were built on streets with Islamic names and mosques were built on streets with Christian names.

Bona said the church would refuse to accept any offer of alternative premises.

“The problem is it against the law, against the court ruling and against the recommendation of Ombudsman. It also breaches legal certainty.”

Ombudsman Commission chairman Danang Girindrawardana told the Jakarta Globe on Friday that the street name issue was a “made-up excuse.”

He said the Ombudsman’s recommendation was legally binding, with the Regional Representative Council (DPRD) and Home Affairs minister having the power to enforce sanctions.

He said he hoped the Home Affairs Ministry would uphold the law and impose serious sanctions.

Diani is supported by a coalition of political parties that includes the Golkar Party, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).

(Jakarta Globe)

Churches destroyed after blasphemy sentence handed down

Three Christian churches in Indonesia were destroyed by an angry mob during clashes with police Tuesday that erupted after a local court handed down a verdict against a Christian man accused of blasphemy against Islam, authorities said. The man was given a five-year sentence, said national police spokesman Col. Boy Rafli Amar, but the protesters wanted him to face a stiffer penalty.

The destroyed churches were in Temanggung, Central Java, Amar said. “The scene is now under police control,” he said. “It’s calm but security is high.” Security personnel are searching for those responsible for the attack on the churches, and authorities are “asking local religious leaders to stay calm and find diplomatic ways to solve the problem.”

The attacks were the second violent incident against minority religious groups in Indonesia in the past three days. On Sunday, a mob of about 1,000 people, wielding knives and stones, attacked about 25 members of the Muslim minority sect, Ahmadiyah, in Cikeusik village in West Java’s Banten province.

Three people were killed and six others injured. The crowd opposed the presence of the Ahmadiyah in the village and demanded the group stop its activities. Amateur video of the incident obtained by Human Rights Watch showed people pummeling what looked like lifeless bodies with sticks and rocks. The video has been posted on the internet, fueling public outrage.

In a televised statement Monday, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono condemned the violence against Ahmadiyah and ordered a thorough investigation. Human rights activists, however, are calling for the government to revoke a ministerial decree issued in 2008 that bans the community’s religious activities.

“How many Ahmadiyah have to die at the hands of mobs before the police step in?” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Indonesian government should end this wave of hate crimes and immediately revoke the 2008 anti-Ahmadiyah decree, which encourages these vicious attacks.”

The Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy, a local think tank, noted in a recent report a marked increase in the number of attacks against Ahmadiyah and other minority religions in Indonesia in recent years.

The most populous Muslim country in the world, Indonesia has previously been touted as an example of tolerance and democracy in the Islamic world. But a 2009 study from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life in Washington suggested it was actually among the most restrictive countries when it comes to religion.

(CNN.com)

Buddhist extremists in India have burnt 20 churches

FALSE/HOAX:: Buddhist extremists in India have burnt 20 churches

This news = FALSA/HOAX: according to snopes.com: Buddhist Extremists = http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/india.asp

http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/india.asp

P. Samuel M. Chetcuti OFM Conv.P. Provincial of the Franciscans Conventual
Republic Street, Valletta VLT 1110, Malt Tef. (356) 21241167Fax (356) 21223556

I forward to you the message received from the provincial superior of the Franciscans in India.

“Pray for the Church in India. Buddhist extremists in India have burnt 20 churches last night.This evening they plan to destroy 200 churches in the province of Olisabang.

They plan to kill 200 missionaries during the next 24 hours. Right now, all Christians are hiding in the villages. Pray for them and send this email to all Christians you know.

Ask God to have mercy on our brothers and sisters of India. When you receive this message, please send it urgently to others. Pray for them to our Almighty and Victorious Lord.

P. Samuel M. Chetcuti OFM Conv.P. Provincial of the Franciscans ConventualRepublic Street, Valletta VLT 1110, Malt Tef. (356) 21241167Fax (356) 21223556Mob (336) 99865668

Muslim radicals colonising the country, Indonesian bishops say

NDONESIA

Muslim radicals colonising the country, Indonesian bishops say

by Mathias Hariyadi

The bishop of Padang warns against the systematic and organised spread of radical Islamic ideology. Political authorities are criticised for failing to stop the wave of violence. In the meantime, police is out in force to prevent anti-Christian violence over the Christmas period.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Mgr Mathinus D Situmorang, president of the Indonesian Bishops of Conference’s (KWI), warned Indonesian political elites on a potentially serious threat to the national interest. The prelate, who is the bishop of Padang (Western Sumatra), delivered his word of caution during the admission ceremony for new members of the Indonesian Catholic University Student Association (PMKRI). In his address, he criticised the state for its powerlessness in the face of dozens of attacks carried out by Islamic fundamentalist groups against churches and Christians. 

“In the past, Indonesia was occupied and colonised by foreign rulers. However, the present situation is not much better even if we are ruled by fellow Indonesian citizens,” the bishop said. Here, he was referring to recent attacks carried out by the Islamic Defender Front (FPI), which stormed two places of worship in Rancaekek, Bandung Regency (West Java), forcing their closure. More broadly, he is deeply concerned that religious intolerance is spreading and taking rook among ordinary people. Muslim extremists, he explained, had no legal right to interfere with the aforementioned places of worship even if they did not have a building permit. What is more, the situation is getting worse because law enforcement is not stopping the Islamists, and it is not clear why.

Nonetheless, for the prelate, “A spirit of intolerance is finding fertile ground because of political interests”. In Parung, Bogor Regency, local authorities issued a ban against the Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church to prevent Christmas celebrations. 

“If some Christian communities in Indonesia hold religious ceremonies in the streets or in the open, it is out of necessity because they have been unable to secure a building permit for their place of worship, and this, for years,” Bishop Situmorang explained.

“If the [central] government and local authorities are stopped by every extremist Muslim group, the situation will get worse and the state’s sovereignty will be given away to illegal groups that will carry out actions against the law,” he lamented.

Still, the 3,000 parishioners who belong to the Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church will be able to celebrate Christmas at a local nuns’ compound. Indonesia’s Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro, who is Catholic, rejected the accusation, saying that any violent act would be punished. Mgr Situmorang is not so sure. For him, the state is powerless and incapable of dealing with the problem. Yet, he is still “proud to belong to a multicultural society, where the spirit of intolerance is restrained”. 

In the meantime, hours before the start of Christmas services, the country has been placed under tight security with thousands of police deployed near churches, 8,000 in Jakarta alone. In Bali, police has secured every strategic site, including churches.

A study by the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace warns that whilst most violent actions are carried out by the infamous FPI, less noticeable actions by other radical Muslim groups are equally worrisome, especially since they are increasingly supported by ordinary people and are attracting even liberal groups and moderate clerics.

There are also rumours that radical elements have infiltrated the moderate Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI), the country’s most important organisation of Muslim clerics, which wields the greatest influence in moral and political terms. According to the Setara report, beside the FPI, other important violent Islamist groups are the Islamic Reform Movement (Garis) and the Islamic People’s Forum (FUI).

The same study noted that in “2005, FUI’s chief Al Khaththath [. . .] made it to the MUI’s board of directors,” and at the organisation’s annual meeting that year, he was among those who “actively lobbied the MUI to issue an edict forbidding the practice of liberal Islam”

Freedom of Religion

Christians and Moslem can not live together in harmony. Altough, uur country accept the principle “freedom of religion”, but the freedom is always limited by the mayority of moslem population.

I think that moslems and christians can not live together in harmony forever except all people become Mohammedan followers.

Is it true that a religion bring peace to the world?

One of story about this disharmony, here it is, I quoted from Kompas.com newspaper.

MUI: Christmas Decor in Indonesia ‘Excessive’

JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com – Indonesia’s top Islamic body said Thursday that Christmas decorations in malls, amusement centers and public places were “excessive and provocative“ in the Muslim-majority country.

Christmas ornamentation had been put up in an “excessive and provocative way,“ said Muhyidin Junaedi, one of the chairmen of the Indonesia Ulema Council, or MUI.

“It should be done in a proportional manner as Muslims are the majority here, otherwise it will hurt their feelings,“ he said.

He said the MUI issued a recommendation urging mall and recreation center managers to act proportionally in decorating their premises.

“We received complaints from a number of malls’ employees who are forced to wear Santa Claus costumes, which are against their faith. Such things should not have happened,“ he said.

“We need to restrain Muslims from joining the festivities,“ Junaedi said.He said the body had no plan to turn the recommendation, made on Tuesday, into an Islamic edict.  Nearly 90% of Indonesia’s 234 million people are Muslims. ​

Editor: Jimmy Hitipeuw ​Source : AFP ​

 14 Javanese principles

In the middle of increasing demand to give more attention to Yogyakarta andSurakarta’s special status, we also reminded about the 14 Javanese principles: 

1.  “Nglurug Tanpa Bala, Menang Tanpa Ngasorake, Sekti Tanpa Aji-Aji, SugihTanpa Bandha”

Meaning: fight without involving other people; win without humiliating orunderestimating others; charm that not base on force / power / money /bloodline; a wealth that not come from material items 

2.  “Datan Serik Lamun Ketaman, Datan Susah Lamun Kelangan” 

Meaning: don’t give up when bad things occur and don’t be sad when you losesomething 

3.  “Sepi ing Pamrih Rame ing Gawe, Banter tan Mbancangi, Dhuwur tan Ngungkuli”  

Meaning: work hard whole hearty supported with high spirit; quick but no need tooutpace others; aim high but no need to exceed others 

4.  Aja Gumunan, Aja Getunan, Aja Kagetan, Aja Aleman” 

Meaning: do not confuse easily; do not regret easily; do not surprise easily;and do not spoil yourself 

5.  “Aja Ketungkul Marang Kalungguhan, Kadonyan lan Kemareman”  

Meaning: Do not let yourself imprison by the obsession for position / material /other world desire 

6.  “Aja Kuminter Mundak Keblinger, Aja Cidra Mundak Cilaka, Sing Was was Tiwas”  

Meaning: never think yourself as the smartest one – these habit will guided youtowards right direction; do not cheat – these will avoid disaster fromhappening; whoever doubt those 2 principles will perish 

7.  “Aja Milik Barang Kang Melok, Aja Mangro Mundak Kendo” 

Meaning: don’t let yourself tempted by luxurious and beautiful things; avoidambiguity in order to maintain good spirit and determination 

8.  “Aja Adigang, Adigung, Adiguna”  

Meaning: avoid self centered and power oriented mind set 9.  “Sing Sabar lan Ngalah Dadi kekasih Allah”   Meaning: Be patient and yield in order to become God’s lover 

10.      “Sing Prihatin Bakal Memimpin”   

Meaning: whoever willing to live a modest life will become a warrior, a fighterand a leader  

11.      “Sing Resik Uripe Bakal Mulya”  

Meaning: honesty will lead you to a noble life 

12.      “Urip Iku Urup”  

Meaning: A good life is a life which can gives positive contribution to theothers 

13.      “Sura Dira Jayaningrat, Lebur Dening Pangastuti”  

Meaning: Courage, power and influence can be beaten by peace / prosperousgreetings 

14.      “Memayu Hayuning Bawana, Ambrasta dur Hangkara” 

Meaning: all living human must fight for their safety, happiness and prosperity.

They must also fight the anger and greed within themselve (milis APIK)