Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Ayaan Hirsi Ali talks about the war on Christians in Muslim countries

Map of Africa

Map of Africa

This story appeared in the radically left-wing Newsweek, of all places.

Excerpt:

From blasphemy laws to brutal murders to bombings to mutilations and the burning of holy sites, Christians in so many nations live in fear. In Nigeria many have suffered all of these forms of persecution. The nation has the largest Christian minority (40 percent) in proportion to its population (160 million) of any majority-Muslim country. For years, Muslims and Christians in Nigeria have lived on the edge of civil war. Islamist radicals provoke much if not most of the tension. The newest such organization is an outfit that calls itself Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sacrilege.” Its aim is to establish Sharia in Nigeria. To this end it has stated that it will kill all Christians in the country.

In the month of January 2012 alone, Boko Haram was responsible for 54 deaths. In 2011 its members killed at least 510 people and burned down or destroyed more than 350 churches in 10 northern states. They use guns, gasoline bombs, and even machetes, shouting “Allahu akbar” (“God is great”) while launching attacks on unsuspecting citizens. They have attacked churches, a Christmas Day gathering (killing 42 Catholics), beer parlors, a town hall, beauty salons, and banks. They have so far focused on killing Christian clerics, politicians, students, policemen, and soldiers, as well as Muslim clerics who condemn their mayhem. While they started out by using crude methods like hit-and-run assassinations from the back of motorbikes in 2009, the latest AP reports indicate that the group’s recent attacks show a new level of potency and sophistication.

The Christophobia that has plagued Sudan for years takes a very different form. The authoritarian government of the Sunni Muslim north of the country has for decades tormented Christian and animist minorities in the south. What has often been described as a civil war is in practice the Sudanese government’s sustained persecution of religious minorities. This persecution culminated in the infamous genocide in Darfur that began in 2003. Even though Sudan’s Muslim president, Omar al-Bashir, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which charged him with three counts of genocide, and despite the euphoria that greeted the semi-independence he grant-ed to South Sudan in July of last year, the violence has not ended. In South Kordofan, Christians are still subject-ed to aerial bombardment, targeted killings, the kidnap-ping of children, and other atrocities. Reports from the United Nations indicate that between 53,000 and 75,000 innocent civilians have been displaced from their resi-dences and that houses and buildings have been looted and destroyed.

Both kinds of persecution—undertaken by extragovernmental groups as well as by agents of the state—have come together in Egypt in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. On Oct. 9 of last year in the Maspero area of Cairo, Coptic Christians (who make up roughly 11 percent of Egypt’s population of 81 million) marched in protest against a wave of attacks by Islamists—including church burnings, rapes, mutilations, and murders—that followed the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship. During the protest, Egyptian security forces drove their trucks into the crowd and fired on protesters, crushing and killing at least 24 and wounding more than 300 people. By the end of the year more than 200,000 Copts had fled their homes in anticipation of more attacks. With Islamists poised to gain much greater power in the wake of recent elections, their fears appear to be justified.

Egypt is not the only Arab country that seems bent on wiping out its Christian minority. Since 2003 more than 900 Iraqi Christians (most of them Assyrians) have been killed by terrorist violence in Baghdad alone, and 70 churches have been burned, according to the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA). Thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled as a result of violence directed specifically at them, reducing the number of Christians in the country to fewer than half a million from just over a million before 2003. AINA understandably describes this as an “incipient genocide or ethnic cleansing of Assyrians in Iraq.”

The 2.8 million Christians who live in Pakistan make up only about 1.6 percent of the population of more than 170 million. As members of such a tiny minority, they live in perpetual fear not only of Islamist terrorists but also of Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws. There is, for example, the notorious case of a Christian woman who was sentenced to death for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad. When international pressure persuaded Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer to explore ways of freeing her, he was killed by his bodyguard. The bodyguard was then celebrated by prominent Muslim clerics as a hero—and though he was sentenced to death late last year, the judge who imposed the sentence now lives in hiding, fearing for his life.

Such cases are not unusual in Pakistan. The nation’s blasphemy laws are routinely used by criminals and intolerant Pakistani Muslims to bully religious minorities. Simply to declare belief in the Christian Trinity is considered blasphemous, since it contradicts mainstream Muslim theological doctrines. When a Christian group is suspected of transgressing the blasphemy laws, the consequences can be brutal. Just ask the members of the Christian aid group World Vision. Its offices were attacked in the spring of 2010 by 10 gunmen armed with grenades, leaving six people dead and four wounded. A militant Muslim group claimed responsibility for the attack on the grounds that World Vision was working to subvert Islam. (In fact, it was helping the survivors of a major earthquake.)

Not even Indonesia—often touted as the world’s most tolerant, democratic, and modern majority-Muslim nation—has been immune to the fevers of Christophobia. According to data compiled by the Christian Post, the number of violent incidents committed against religious minorities (and at 7 percent of the population, Christians are the country’s largest minority) increased by nearly 40 percent, from 198 to 276, between 2010 and 2011.

The litany of suffering could be extended. In Iran dozens of Christians have been arrested and jailed for daring to worship outside of the officially sanctioned church system. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, deserves to be placed in a category of its own. Despite the fact that more than a million Christians live in the country as foreign workers, churches and even private acts of Christian prayer are banned; to enforce these totalitarian restrictions, the religious police regularly raid the homes of Christians and bring them up on charges of blasphemy in courts where their testimony carries less legal weight than a Muslim’s. Even in Ethiopia, where Christians make up a majority of the population, church burnings by members of the Muslim minority have become a problem.

Please read the whole thing.

I am actually perplexed as to how this got published in Newsweek, a magazine that might as well be edited by George Soros. But there it is, so we need to read it and share it while it lasts. I would expect that this is the first that any of Newsweek’s readers have heard about how Christians are persecuted in the Middle East.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Should Christians be prudent and responsible when planning their lives?

Here’s a great article from Relevant Magazine that talks about the realities of the Christian life.

Excerpt:

“What are you doing this summer after classes?” a college student asks his friend late in the spring semester.

“Well, I’m working with an electrician.”

“Oh, OK.”

“What about you?  What are your summer plans?”

“I’m actually gonna be living in an orphanage in Africa, loving on those kids and doing some community development stuff.”

“Oh …”

In conversations like this, it is likely that the 20-year-old working with the electrician will feel spiritually inferior to the 20-year-old who has plane tickets in hand for Kenya. There is also the tendency for the guy with the ticket to feel as though he is a bit more sincere in his devotion to Jesus.

Believe me, I do not wish to discourage young people from boarding flights to Africa. But I also do not wish to disparage electrical work as spiritually insignificant.

Scripture calls us into radical service—but that does not allow others to eviscerate tedious, less “spiritually” glamorous tasks of their meaning in God’s Kingdom. Scripture also calls us to embrace the mundane and ordinary as holy and beautiful: “… aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands” (1 Thessalonians 4:11).

Many of us want to do something awesome, something epic. We tend to think that the more normal, the less “spiritual.” So it is quite possible that our aspirations to be radical stem from dangerous ambitions to perform biography-worthy feats of global glory.  

But radical discipleship is not adventure tourism.  

Following Jesus is not to be romanticized through impressive Facebook status updates or photos of exotic places on our blog. Discipleship is often ugly, messy and painful. Faithful service will regularly lead us into dull labors and bewildering struggles that would make unexciting press. To romanticize social justice or cross-cultural evangelism is to promote an idealism that will be inevitably vaporized on the field, inadvertently leading to burnout and cynicism.

This reminds me of a must-read post I wrote about former fundamentalist Christian Dan Barker. He also acted imprudently with financial issues, compromised all of his beliefs in order to appeal to a wider base of donors, and ended by rejecting Christianity completely because being nice paid more than being faithful to the exclusive truth claims and moral rules of orthodox Christianity. You can actually destroy your own faith by being a lousy steward of your finances. Uninformed, lazy Christians with emotion-fueled expectations of bliss don’t stay Christians for very long. The less you know about apologetics, the more you start to care about pleasing people and making them feel good, so that they like you. It’s a short jump from fideism to apostasy.

You may also be interested in this post that I wrote about the futility and narcissism of certain wasteful short-term mission trips that are undertaken in order to have emotional experiences and cheap peer approval. There are plenty of people in your workplace or neighborhood who need love and evangelism and apologetics just as much as people in warm, sunny vacation spots. (Note: some short-term mission trips are worthwhile, for Christians who are qualified and who make longer-term commitments to form relationships). It’s much better to toil anonymously and in secret, and to have God see what you are doing in secret. It’s better to help others without anyone knowing that you are the one helping.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What works to halt the spread of AIDS? Morality or condoms?

New Map of Africa

New Map of Africa

From MercatorNet.

Excerpt:

Earlier this year, the journal PLoS Medicine published a stunning report about the prevalence of AIDS in Zimbabwe. Over the ten years to 2007 HIV prevalence was halved. This decline is almost unique in sub-Saharan Africa.

Aha! you might say. Despite the disastrous state of its economy, Zimbabwe has been distributing condoms by the millions to bring down adult prevalence from 27 percent to 16 percent. But you would be quite wrong. It is not condoms which are saving the lives of thousands of Zimbabweans, say researchers, but changes in behaviour, “mainly reductions in extramarital, commercial, and casual sexual relations”.

In other words, it looks like abstinence and fidelity are the secret to turning around the devastating AIDS epidemic which has killed 30 million people and infected 33 million and orphaned 16 million children.

Not condoms.

This report supports the thesis of the authors of the fascinating book Affirming Love, Avoiding AIDS, Matthew Hanley and Jokin de Irala.

[...]Hanley and de Irala show that “primary behaviour change” is the best weapon for fighting AIDS, not “harm reduction”. In fact, the rapid spread of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, despite a thorough understanding of how it spreads and billions spent on risk reduction, is “one of the greatest failures in the history of public health”. The South African strategy assumed, for instance, that the spread of AIDS has little to do with sexual responsibility. Authorities there promoted condoms with a “have fun but play safely” campaign. The results have been disastrous. About 18 percent of men and women between 18 and 49 live with HIV/AIDS.

The AIDS bureaucracy is committed to technical fixes despite lip service to abstinence and fidelity. Condoms, voluntary counselling and testing and treatment of other sexually transmitted diseases are their strategies. All of these are effective to some degree, but they ignore mounting evidence that HIV transmission rates remain high despite widespread distribution of condoms. In Botswana, the authors point out, condom sales increased from 1 million in 1993 to 3 million in 2001, while HIV prevalence rose from 27 to 45 percent among pregnant urban women. Between 1990 and 2002 life expectancy fell by 30 years in Botswana, a decline “unprecedented in the history of the human race”.

Why don’t condoms work? It’s not a question of permeability or breakage, but of how they are used. For one thing, only consistent condom use is effective in warding off AIDS. Yet it appears that most men use condoms very irregularly. And the evidence is mounting that condoms actually promote risky sexual behaviour because users feel that they are protected.

The engine of the epidemic is multiple sex partners, a growing number of AIDS researchers believe. When people have stopped engaging in casual sex and participating in a web of sex relationships, as has happened in Uganda and Zimbabwe, AIDS rates have fallen dramatically.

Here’s the abstract from the paper:

There is growing recognition that primary prevention, including behavior change, must be central in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The earlier successes in Thailand and Uganda may not be fully relevant to the severely affected countries of southern Africa.

We conducted an extensive multi-disciplinary synthesis of the available data on the causes of the remarkable HIV decline that has occurred in Zimbabwe (29% estimated adult prevalence in 1997 to 16% in 2007), in the context of severe social, political, and economic disruption.

The behavioral changes associated with HIV reduction—mainly reductions in extramarital, commercial, and casual sexual relations, and associated reductions in partner concurrency—appear to have been stimulated primarily by increased awareness of AIDS deaths and secondarily by the country’s economic deterioration. These changes were probably aided by prevention programs utilizing both mass media and church-based, workplace-based, and other inter-personal communication activities.

Focusing on partner reduction, in addition to promoting condom use for casual sex and other evidence-based approaches, is crucial for developing more effective prevention programs, especially in regions with generalized HIV epidemics.

Government programs that basically try to take promiscuity as a given and then reshuffle wealth around to make the promiscuous avoid the consequences of their own choices. Why is that? Well, government bureaucrats would be out of a job if people behaved responsibly – they have every incentive NOT to solve social problems. The bigger the social problems, the more money they can collect in taxes. The more money they collect in taxes, the more they can play Robin Hood and get accolades from the public for their generosity. That is the real reason that people on the left, who love to feel as though they are solving problems for people by shuffling money around, oppose personal responsibility.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , ,

How President George W. Bush helped to create South Sudan

New Map of Africa including South Sudan

New Map of Africa including South Sudan

From Investors Business Daily. (H/T Muddling Towards Maturity)

Excerpt:

As South Sudan joyfully celebrated its independence from Sudan, President Obama hailed it as the fruit of partnership, togetherness, hope and unity. South Sudanese, however, hailed President Bush.

Proudly wearing the black cowboy hat given to him by President Bush, South Sudan’s new president, Salva Kiir Mayardit, couldn’t have made a stronger statement about who made his country’s independence possible after 50 years of warfare.

“It was George Bush and the Christian fundamentalists who heard the cry of South Sudan,” affirmed a South Sudanese man quoted by the Los Angeles Times.

[...]In 2005, President Bush put South Sudan at the top of the U.S. foreign policy agenda. Knocking heads, he forced the murderous Islamofascist government of Sudan to negotiate with the South Sudan rebels, including their right to secede. That hard work led to today’s result — and with it, the first chance South Sudan has ever had to break free of its oppression.

No President since Reagan cared more about the freedom of people in other countries than George W. Bush. And a lot of that is owing to his evangelical Christian convictions – he cared about the freedom of other people.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

France dispatches carrier battle group to Libya

French Rafale Fighter

French Rafale Fighter

From the Times of India.

Excerpt:

France on Sunday sent its Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier to Libya to bolster the West’s air campaign against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.

The French Navy’s flagship set off from the southern naval port of Toulon at 1210 GMT, with 20 warplanes, most them Rafale and older Super Etendard combat jets, as well as helicopters and two E-2 Hawkeye surveillance aircraft.

Tugs pulled it from the wharf as dozens of onlookers watched it depart.

“The aircraft carrier is 24 hours by sea from the Libyan coast but will take 36 to 48 hours to get there, to take the time to load on the fighter jets that will participate in the operations and to hold some landing exercises,” a military source said.

The aircraft carrier was to be escorted by three frigates — the anti-submarine Duplex, the anti-air Forbin and the multi-mission stealth Aconit — and the oil tanker La Meuse, military officials said.

The French naval group was to be protected by a nuclear attack submarine, they added.

French warplanes also continued sorties over Libya early Sunday as part the West’s biggest intervention in the Arab world since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

Saturday, French jets spearheaded the West’s assault with four air strikes in Libya, destroying several armoured vehicles of forces loyal to the embattled Libyan strongman.

Sarkozy is, of course, the leader of the French conservatives. And of the free world? France started combat operations in Libya on March 10th!

Learn more about the French Rafale fighters here (they are fairly new), and the Charles de Gaulle here. It is a CVN, not a CV. Extremely capable, and fairly new.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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