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Pages tagged "persecuted Christians"
The debate we have to have
· December 05, 2013 11:00 AM
"Has the Left abandoned its prophetic role?"
is the title of an article in this month's Eternity newspaper by well-known New South Wales Baptist pastor Karl Faase.
While I do not like binary terms such as 'left' and 'right' to pigeon hole people on the political spectrum, I have, like Karl, been concerned that it is ok to speak out about some political issues but not others.
The key idea of his article, which is not available on-line, is summed up here:
“Where is the left-leaning Christian voice on issues of morality and Biblical ethics in our present community? Why do they remain completely silent? How is it justifiable to use the Bible as a text to call for justice and yet fail to speak for what the Bible has to say about morality, the sanctity of life and the dignity of the individual? Where are the clear statements about issues such as abortion, euthanasia and same sex marriage?”
Karl nominates same-sex marriage as an issue on which some Christian leaders are silent while advocating, often quite vociferously, for 'social justice' issues.
As an organisation, ACL took a strategic decision three years ago to work towards preserving man-woman marriage in the face of what has become a very fierce, intolerant and relentless campaign for changing the definition of marriage.
We live in a participatory democracy and we believe marriage, and the idea that children should wherever possible have the opportunity to know and be raised by their biological mother and father, is worth upholding for future generations.
We are committed to advocating for the public benefits of marriage between a man and a woman but we are also motivated by other issues as well.
When I joined in 2007, one of my first tasks was arranging meetings in Parliament House for the then fledgling Micah Challenge organisation which also campaigns against poverty and injustice.
This week I took a delegation of Australian Syrian Christian community leaders into the Parliament seeking help for persecuted minorities caught in the cross fire of the civil war.
Karl said in his article "Like many Christians I have cringed at the way Christian leaders have spoken publicly about moral issues".
I have learned some hard lessons along the way about the importance of messaging – there have been times where I wished I could have rephrased something I’ve said.
But at the same time, the media environment is very tough in a culture which is increasingly antagonistic to a Christian worldview. It’s also not very forgiving when it comes to making mistakes.
It’s also not always balanced. This week I was asked to do an interview for Channel 10's late night news with regards to the High Court case on marriage. Of the five minute plus package that went to air, I was given nine seconds. The rest was devoted to pro-same-sex marriage commentary.
Whenever I question whether we should continue to speak into the space on this issue, I always come back to my conviction that speaking truth in love to our culture is a necessary part of the Gospel. I’m grateful to ACL supporters for their continued encouragement and support throughout this campaign.
Karl expresses concern that there is sometimes inconsistency when about speaking into the public square. ACL shares this concern and I believe the environment would be less toxic had there been more voices in the marriage debate over the past few years.
The same-sex marriage debate is a debate that has sadly paralysed dissent, leaving a vacuum which the proponents of changing marriage have filled.
It is a debate that goes to the heart of social justice for children, yet we are largely silent.
Last night a Christian friend approached me at a function, complimented me on the fine job ACL was doing but then proceeded to say same-sex marriage was inevitable.
I wonder if he realises what he is conceding in a statement like that?
I believe only death and taxes are inevitable. It is time we as Christians found a bit of Churchillian "we will never surrender" spirit and applied our faith in a miracle working God.
Yes, we should and must be gracious in our public pronouncements. But we should also be clear. It is ironic that on other 'social justice' issues it is quite ok to be voiciforous.
It is also ironic that we are on the cusp of seeing the the political campaign to change marriage sidelined for many years and yet many think it is inevitable.
I am hopeful the High Court will overturn the ACT's same-sex marriage laws next week. There have been eight failed legislative attempts in the past three years to change marriage and advocates have all but run out of options. It will be the ninth failed attempt if the High Court overturns the bill.
We should not give up, we should be prophetic across the full range of Biblical teaching. Future generations will thank us.
Joseph Loconte: How Religion Can End the Politics of Persecution
· August 21, 2013 10:00 AM
Below is an interesting article by Joseph Loconte which explores religion and the conflict in Egypt.
The article originally appeared in The Times of London.
Faith can end Egypt’s politics of persecution
By appealing to the noblest religious impulses, the West can stop violence against Christians
wo days after the ousting of President Morsi of Egypt, Emile Naseem, 41, and his nephew were running for their lives. The Christian businessman had led an anti-Morsi petition, and a mob in their village of Nagaa Hassan attacked the pair with axes and clubs as they scrambled on to a roof and jumped from building to building. As one report put it: “Finally they ran out of rooftops.” Mr Naseem was killed, his nephew badly injured. That day Islamist extremists stabbed to death three other Christians and burnt dozens of homes in the village.
The attack is now considered the prelude to last week’s violence in Cairo between Egypt’s military government and the Muslim Brotherhood. But it is more than that: it represents a larger and more ominous tide of religious persecution that is destabilising societies around the globe.
Several powerful forces are at work. The Arab Spring is unleashing the hatreds of Islamic radicalism against Christian and other religious minorities. According to a report by the Pew Research Centre, countries in the Middle East and North Africa have witnessed “pronounced increases in social hostilities involving religion” since 2011. The violence may be most graphic in Egypt and Syria, where militants are targeting religious groups deemed disloyal to Islam. Shia and Sunni Muslims are no less at risk than Coptic Christians or Bahais.
Nevertheless, human rights groups warn of an “existential crisis” facing Christians in the Muslim world. In Egypt, 16 human rights groups have signed a joint statement condemning incitement to violence against Christians. In Syria, an estimated 300,000 Christians have fled the country. In Turkey, Christians have been publicly called “an internal threat, a danger and an enemy”. Iraq’s Christian population has been devastated by persecution and flight, since the US-led invasion in 2003.
Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians
, Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea blame the globalisation of radical Islam: extremists who view Christian communities as an obstacle to a “purified” transnational Islamic state. Indonesia, for example, has maintained a relatively tolerant society — until recently. Islamists have orchestrated hundreds of attacks on churches, mostly with impunity. In Nigeria the Islamist group Boko Haram — it means “Western education is sinful” — is engaged in a “pogrom” against the nation’s 60 million Christians. A recent attack on a Pentecostal church and two other Christian communities in Kano left nearly 50 people dead.
Another factor is the expansion of laws restricting religious freedom: 64 nations, making up nearly 70 per cent of the world’s population, place high or very high restrictions on religion. Muslim-majority states, which typically criminalise “blasphemy”, or religious speech considered insulting to Islam, are the worst offenders.
Pakistan has been singled out for criticism by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which sees a direct link between blasphemy laws and a culture of religious persecution. Over 18 months, it documented 203 acts of religiously motivated violence, injuring more than 1,800 people and claiming more than 700 lives. The methods included suicide bombings, drive-by shootings, torture, beheadings and mob violence.
A final factor contributing to the rise of religious persecution is the loss of what might be called civilisational memory. Secular elites, especially in the West, tend to view all religious beliefs with indifference or suspicion. They have forgotten how religious ideals can play a crucial role in solving sectarian violence. As a result, their response has been feeble and ineffective.
Remember that in the 17th century churches in England and Europe regarded religious minorities as a criminal underclass: they faced discrimination, imprisonment or even execution. Entire populations lived in the shadows because of religious differences.
How did the West overcome its legacy of bigotry and repression?
It was only when religious leaders viewed freedom of conscience as a natural right that the politics of persecution came under sustained assault. Religious thinkers from John Locke to James Madison dared to imagine a more generous approach to Christian faith. By appealing to the noblest religious impulses, by insisting upon a political system of equal justice for all faiths, they showed antagonists how to live together.
“It is not the diversity of opinions which cannot be avoided,” wrote Locke in
A Letter Concerning Toleration
(1689). “But the refusal of toleration to those that are of different opinions, which might have been granted, that has produced all the bustles and wars that have been in the Christian world, upon account of religion.”
We in the West seem dumbfounded by the revenge of religion: the remorseless acts of terror committed daily in the name of God. It need not be so. Abdurrahman Wahid, the late President of Indonesia, put it this way: “Beyond the daily headlines of chaos and violence, the vast majority of the world’s Muslims continue to express their admiration of Muhammad by seeking to emulate the peaceful and tolerant example of his life.”
There is a path through this wilderness of persecution, if we can summon the wisdom, courage and faith to take it.
Joseph Loconte is an associate professor of history at the King’s College, New York City.
ACL's Jim Wallace writes in The Australian about persecuted Christians in Syria
· May 29, 2013 10:00 AM
The Australian Christian Lobby's deputy chairman Jim Wallace had an opinion piece published in The Australian recently. A copy of the opinion piece is published below but can be read online
. An extended version of Mr Wallace's piece was also published in MercatorNet called
We cannon abandon Syrian Christians
West must act decisively to protect Syria's persecuted Christians
THE hardest test of foreign policy is not its intersections at the lofty geopolitical level but where it inevitably affects ordinary people, and nowhere is this test as difficult as in the Middle East.
As I visited the area recently to assess the situation of minorities in the Syrian conflict, it quickly became evident that the West's policy there courts a disaster.
I was not surprised. While my experience was dated, I had lived in the Middle East and observed some of its most enduring conflicts. Unfortunately, the passage of time seems to have taught us little.
Some level of confusion about Middle East politics is excusable for anyone.
Attempts to decipher it are always muddied by a bewildering array of sects and agendas in the context of alliances of convenience, even between sworn enemies.
But surely an alliance with al-Qa'ida is beyond the pale for any US government, even if its purpose is to counter Iran's influence.
The pictures of the American family devastated by the Boston bomb would be enough for me, but the US State Department certainly hasn't considered Syria's Christian minorities adequately.
There are reports of heartbreak as people who lived in harmony for decades are suddenly turned into bitter enemies by the radicalisation of previously moderate Sunnis under the influence of the al-Qa'ida proxy Jabhat al-Nusra.
Syria has always been somewhat unusual in the Arab world for its secularism and religious freedom.
When I lived in Damascus for six months, Christian churches were easy to find and join. There was also a ready acceptance by Muslims and Druze, many of whom became good friends. And it seems this continued to be the case until the revolution two years ago. Then cries of "Alawites out" and "Christians to Lebanon" suddenly filled the air in crowds stirred up by extremists.
For Christians to be thrown out of Syria after more than 2000 years of history is too much for most. Despite the steady flow of refugees, most will stay. But the cost of staying is extreme.
Al-Nusra empties any area it captures of the "infidels". Occupants of centuries-old Christian quarters in the ancient cities of Aleppo, Hama and Homs have been turned out of their homes with nothing. The aged are not spared and those refusing to leave are sometimes killed.
Also heartbreaking for these ancient communities is that their churches in the occupied parts of these cities have been destroyed and desecrated, at least one being used as a toilet by al-Nusra, as an illustration of its utter contempt for Christianity.
There are some Christians fighting with the Free Syrian Army. Although they were part of an initially secular opposition, their position becomes increasingly tenuous as al-Nusra's dominance of the opposition increases by the day.
As always in war, it is perhaps the women who suffer most.
Al-Nusra fighters see Christian women as little more than booty. One woman tearfully told of a friend considering suicide as she contemplated the possibility of rape, which two of her friends had suffered. As a Christian in an al-Nusra-held area, she knew she risked the same fate.
These are ancient Christian communities that look to Western governments not to abandon them by pursuing irrational policies, including a partnership with foreign jihadists allied to al-Qa'ida.
It is long past time for the West to make a stand in two other areas that are essential to combating Muslim extremism at home and abroad.
The first is that Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are funding the extremist al-Qa'ida fighters, must be told to back off.In addition we cannot accept that as many as 200 Australians might be fighting for al-Qa'ida in Syria as part of a contingent of foreign fighters drawn from Western and Middle Eastern Islamic communities.
All Western countries must pass and enforce anti-mercenary laws that will forbid their nationals from fighting as mercenaries without losing their nationality.
We have an army to fight our wars and joining it should be the only way for an Australian to become a combatant.
The so-called Arab Spring was never going to be that for anyone but extremists across the Middle East. Unless the West reconsiders its support to an opposition dominated by al-Qa'ida, vulnerable Syrian Christians will face even worse persecution than that experienced by Egypt's Copts.
Jim Wallace is deputy chairman of the Australian Christian Lobby.
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