08/31/14

Abortion reform call as record number of babies survive birth at 23 weeks

Sarah-Kate Templeton, Health Editor Published: 31 August 2014

AT LEAST 120 babies born during week 23 of a pregnancy — the last week when abortions on demand are legal — have survived in the past four years, The Sunday Times can reveal.

New figures show the number of babies who are born before the 24-week legal abortion limit and survive is rising at large hospitals with specialist doctors. The real number of week 23 babies who survived is likely to be higher, as it is based on a sample of 25 hospitals that replied to a request under freedom of information laws.

The disclosure will revive the debate over the legal limit for abortion. In 2008, MPs voted against moves to reduce the limit to 22 or 20 weeks. Healthy babies can be aborted legally on demand up to 24 weeks into the pregnancy.

The new figures show that at Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, six of eight babies born at 23 weeks and admitted to the neonatal unit for treatment last year survived.

Six of seven babies born at 23 weeks at University College London Hospitals (UCLH) and given treatment to save them survived. All five born at 23 weeks at North Bristol NHS Trust last year also lived.

In 2011, 565 babies were aborted at 23 weeks’ gestation when they would have had a chance of survival.

Nationally, however, and particularly in smaller hospitals, the survival figures are lower. The EPICure study, published in 2012 and based on births in 2006, found that just 19% of babies born at 23 weeks survived. The research also found high levels of disability among babies born at 23 weeks.

These statistics are used by some to defend the abortion limit, arguing the survival rate remains poor. The figures obtained by The Sunday Times show that, even in the past four years, at some trusts where up to eight babies have been born at 23 weeks, none has lived.

Some leading neonatologists argue, however, that where treatment is centralised in large hospitals with specialist expertise, the survival rate is high and increasing.

Dr Ngozi Edi-Osagie, clinical director of neonatal services at Central Manchester University Hospitals, said: “It is a concentration of expertise, both in medical and nursing, that contribute to making a difference in survival at this very low gestation.” She fears a pessimistic view harms such babies’ prospects. “If you say that they don’t survive, they won’t,” she said.

At UCLH, 20 of the 26 babies born at 23 weeks between 2010 and 2013 and given active treatment to keep them alive survived. At North Bristol NHS Trust, 15 of the 19 babies born at 23 weeks between 2011 and July this year survived; and at Central Manchester University Hospitals, the figure was 10 of 16 over the same period. Six of the 11 babies born at 23 weeks at Barts Health NHS Trust in London and admitted to the neonatal units in the two years between 2012 and 2014 also survived.

Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP and member of the all-party pro-life group, said: “I do not understand why there is not more outcry about the fact that we allow viable babies to be aborted.

“The new figures support what we have known for a while: that advances in pre-natal care make a mockery of our 24-week abortion limit.”

08/31/14

Victory for Christian sacked over gay weddings

Nicholas Hellen, Social Affairs Editor Published: 31 August 2014

Margaret Jones, a registrar who refused to marry same-sex couples, says she was sacked for her beliefs not for her actions

A MARRIAGE registrar has been vindicated by a council’s reversal of its decision to sack her for refusing to marry same-sex couples because of her Christian beliefs.

Margaret Jones, 54, who had been dismissed for “bringing the council into disrepute”, was offered her job back after an appeal hearing ruled that her employer had failed to take a “balanced view” of her religious beliefs.

While the decision does not create a legal precedent, it is likely to give people greater rights to express religious beliefs in the workplace because it was based on official guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

Paul Diamond, barrister to the Christian Legal Centre, which advised Jones early in her battle, said: “All good employers should follow this precedent, and practising Christians should no longer fear expressing their beliefs.”

If Jones’s sacking had been upheld, it could have given employers power to judge whether particular religious opinions were acceptable.

Jones pointed out in her witness statement that none of her shifts had coincided with a same-sex wedding ceremony. “As I have not yet done anything wrong, I am being sacked for my belief, not my actions,” she wrote.

Jones said the council appeared to believe that gay rights trumped religious rights to such an extent that it told her “anybody who offered to help me by standing in for me [conducting a same-sex marriage] could be aiding and abetting discrimination”.

Jones, who was senior deputy registrar at Bedford register office, said she was willing to handle the paperwork on the day of the marriage ceremony, but not to conduct the actual wedding.

“I want people who get married to have a good experience, and I don’t think I could stand up and say that it ‘gives me great pleasure’ to declare a gay couple married,” she said.

Jones said there had never been any suggestion that she was homophobic nor that she had sought to make gay people feel uncomfortable.

Civil partnerships began in December 2005 and the first same-sex weddings took place in England and Wales on March 29 this year. In her witness statement Jones, who attends an evangelical church, said she had been “stunned” to be told on March 28 that “I had to conduct same-sex marriages or resign”.

She pointed out that it was easy for the council to accommodate her beliefs as she worked part-time and, because weddings need to be arranged with at least 16 days’ notice, staff rotas could have been altered.

The ruling that overturned her dismissal said EHRC guidance notes “encourage employers and employees to find reasonable solutions to religion or belief issues at work”.

Jones said she will not be returning to her job because the process had left her too disillusioned.

Central Bedfordshire council said: “These are complex issues and we are responding to relatively new legislation, which means the council’s duty not to discriminate has to be balanced against employees’ individual rights.

“Our decisions have been based on the guidance available to us at the time.”

@nicholashellen

08/28/14

The Church is growing fast in South Korea

The Confucian kingdom sought to exterminate Catholics but now the whole country admires the Church
By MARK GREAVES on Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Last month it emerged that the South Korean pop star known as Rain had become a Catholic. The 32-year-old hip-wiggler, Asia’s answer to Justin Timberlake, is one of tens of thousands of people being baptised Cathol-ic each year in South Korea. The Church there has been growing rapidly for decades. In the early 1970s the faithful numbered less than a million; now there are over five million, about a tenth of the population.

Pope Francis will be visiting the country for four days next week, and is unlikely to face a hostile press. The Catholic Church has a good image among South Koreans – according to a recent survey it is the most trusted institution in the country.

The Church’s vitality is evident at the Korean chaplaincy in Sutton, south London, where 300 people gather every Sunday. The community saved up over decades to buy its own church rather than borrow diocesan buildings – it is the only expat group in Britain apart from the Poles to have done so. When I visit during the week volunteers are putting out flowers and statues of the Virgin Mary for a Legion of Mary meeting.

Sister Maria Yu, who is based at the parish, hands me a thick sheaf of paper – a print-out of the history of Catholicism in Korea produced by the bishops’ conference. It explains that the Church in Korea was founded by Koreans themselves. Confucian intellectuals became attracted to Catholic ideas in the 18th century; one member of the elite was baptised during a trip to Beijing in 1784 and the faith spread quickly on his return. A priest was sent from China after the community realised it could not nominate its own priests.

For the next century Catholics in Korea faced terrible persecution. The Confucian authorities saw them as a dangerous challenge to the social order – officials in 1801 wrote that if Catholics were not exterminated the land would “fall into ruin and become fit only for savages and wild animals”. In several waves of persecution more than 10,000 of Korea’s faithful were killed. The commitment shown in those early years is remarkable. An official record states: “Though it is normal for human beings to love life and fear death, when [Catholics] are brought to the execution ground they look on it as a comfortable place to lie down and take a rest.”

Over the following decades Catholics were pushed to the margins. They lived together in isolated villages and became potters, a trade at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Most of those killed were Korean, although in 1866 a handful of French priests were executed too.

The persecution stopped in 1885 after a different faction of the Korean elite gained power and opened the country up to the outside world. Yet the Church did not experience its extraordinary growth until almost a century later. According to Korea experts, the widespread respect the Church has gained has much more to do with its actions in the late 20th century than its persecution in the 19th century.

From 1961 to 1987 South Korea was ruled by a dictatorship. During those years the Catholic Church had a central role in the movement calling for democracy. Nuns and priests were on the frontline of protests; a bishop was among those jailed.

At the time the Church was led by Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, a giant on the national stage who was regarded as a moral authority by all sections of society. Donald Baker, a professor of Korean history at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, explains that politicians seeking to be elected as president would meet him before announcing their candidacy. At his funeral in 2009, Prof Baker says, the country’s most prominent Buddhist leader bowed before his coffin.

Prof Baker, in his essay “From Pottery to Politics”, notes that from the 1960s the Catholic Church also began founding colleges, universities and hospitals. He argues that the era marked a turning away from a “ghetto mentality” caused by persecution to an “awakening of Catholic social conscience”. In this the Church was actually following the example of Protestant missionaries who had set up hundreds of schools and hospitals in the late 19th century. It was through these institutions that Protestantism, and later Catholicism, became associated with modernity. In South Korea in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, says Prof Baker, “to be Christian was to be modern”.

Prof Baker, a Catholic and the leading authority on Catholicism in Korea, lives for part of the year in the South Korean city of Gwangju. There, he says, “people brag about being Catholic”. Joining the Church “marks you as serious”, he says. Catholics, in contrast to the born-again Protestants, are associated with “emotional reserve”.

He also explains that there is a strong sense of community. People come early to Mass to sing hymns and stay for lunch for two or three hours afterwards. His parish is split into small neighbourhood groups that meet regularly and look after each other.

This sense of community is apparent in Sutton. The priest, Fr John Kwon, who only arrived in November, is visiting the homes of all his parishioners – photographs of him with different families cover the doors of the church. When I visit I am treated to a banquet of squid, pancake, spiced cabbage and all kinds of meats.

Albert Chun, the parish secretary, explains that going to Mass involves more than “just saying hello”. “We hug together and have personal relationships and take part in small group activities,” he says.

Fifty parishioners are members of the Legion of Mary, who meet in groups of 10 throughout the week. Mr Chun says the popularity of the lay group, founded in Ireland in 1921, reflects the deep respect mothers have in Korean society. Members meet in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary, pray the rosary and are heavily involved in volunteer work.

Not all Korean Catholics, however, are confident about the future direction of their Church. Fr Denis Kim SJ, a member of the social science faculty at the Gregorian University in Rome, says only a third of Catholics now go to Mass. He also notes that the average age of congregations is rising. “The red light is blinking,” he says. His hope, he explains, is that the visit of Pope Francis inspires younger Catholics and “gives a sense of direction” to Church leaders”.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Catholic Herald (8/8/14)

 

08/27/14

Credo: why we would all benefit from a bit of sacred idleness

 

Sheila Watson

Published at 12:01AM, August 23 2014

“Retired? I have never been so busy. I do not know how I had time to work.” It is difficult to admit that we do not have much to fill out our day. Whatever our age or stage, we are all too proud of full diaries; and the pressures of the workplace, generated by the need for productivity, grow ever greater.
Not long ago, one manufacturer boasted, “Sure we take vacations. They are called lunch breaks.”
Overwork, busyness, is a symbol of status — the mobile to answer, the emails to send, the people to see, the family to catch up on over the bank holiday. It is very seductive.
Implicit within it is the sense that value depends on the volume of activity. We are justified by how much we get done.
In theological language it means justification by works at its most extreme: a conviction that salvation is earned by what we do. It is hard to believe that leisure was once the status symbol. “Only in leisure are we at our most human”, Aristotle says.
We forget or maybe never knew that in the middle of the 20th century academics and politicians worried about how people would fill their time in a new age of leisure. How different the outcome. Today “hurry sickness” is upon us. We hate the time it takes to boot up the computer. We search for another task to fit in while microwaving. Our danger is that in the race to save minutes we waste lives.
As Christians we believe, of course, that behaviour matters, but our faith challenges us to deeper perspectives. Five years ago this weekend a friend was diagnosed with a brain tumour, which subsequently killed him. His wife was at the same time undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. As we had a cup of tea on that bank holiday, to my surprise they seemed almost contented. His wife smiled as she remarked: “We are just doing ordinary, quiet things like having a cup of tea together in the garden — enjoying what there is.”
It reminded me of one of Ian McEwan’s characters who says, “I have spent my whole life discovering that the moment you enter the present fully you find space, infinite time, call it God if you want.”
We glimpse here the God of Christian teaching on the sacrament, the sacredness, of the present moment. Jesus sets it out very simply when he reminds us not to be anxious, saying, “Look at the lilies of the field. They do not work. They do not spin. Yet even Solomon in all his glory was not attired like one of these.”
The saints follow suit. Augustine of Hippo, Bishop in North Africa in the 4th/early 5th century, whom Christians remember this coming week, knew only too well what it meant to be drawn away from the important to the urgent amidst the hustle and bustle of a busy port and the constant demand on a religious leader. When a friend has a go at him for failing to get on with his great work, the City of God, he pleads the distractions of work.
Augustine experienced the modern juggling act of trying to do everything. He was at pains, therefore, to make the distinction between worldly wisdom (the Latin scientia, meaning knowledge in the sense of “knowing about”) and contemplation (sapientia meaning divine wisdom, godly insight).
At the fulcrum between the two, Augustine placed the “eye of the heart”, which he describes as seeing with compassion. Too often we are too busy, too harsh in our judgments, too full of ourselves to take the time to look and see what God gives. Bank holidays offer us that time for a cup of tea, even if it is too wet to be in the garden; or the time to go for a walk or a cycle ride.
They give us the opportunity to discover the present as sacred space, and the chance to look with compassion, seeing with the eye of the heart. George MacDonald, a Methodist minister in the 19th century, sums it up with a cure for hurry sickness that may save lives: “Work is not always required of man. There is such a thing as sacred idleness, the cultivation of which is now fearfully neglected.”
The Venerable Sheila Watson is Archdeacon of Canterbury

08/22/14

America reaps what it sows, says preacher as British jihadists gloat

John Simpson, Matt Charles, Duncan Gardham

Last updated at 10:49AM, August 21 2014

British jihadists gloated and cracked jokes as news of James Foley’s death spread yesterday.

Some posted in Arabic, others in English. All legitimised the brutal act as religiously ordained.
Abu Aminah, under the username of @ghazisami, tweeted: “My hopes and prayers in this whole James Foley fiasco goes to the mujahid executioner. May Allah keep him and his family safe.” He used verses from the Koran and hadiths to support the beheading. Indicating that he was British, he said of the knifeman: “Half of UK Pakis speak like that.”
Abul Muthanna, a self-described “soldier of the Islamic State”, described the British “brother” as a “lion”. Tweeting under the username of @abulmuthanna313, he said: “They went on a mad one.” He later wrote: “U can call our acts horrific but calling us cowards? Our men love death like u love life, they come at u with explosive belts #DeathSeekers”.
The writer is thought to be Nasser Muthana, 20, from Cardiff. His younger brother Aseel, 17, and their friend Reyaad Khan, 20, are among about 500 British jihadists believed to have fought alongside IS forces in Syria and Iraq.
Anjem Choudary, the radical British preacher, said that the killing was the result of the bombing by “America and its allies” and added: “You reap what you sow. The effect has a cause.” He said that Foley “got in the way” and was “from their perspective the voice of the Americans and British who has to sell his piece and is not in any way shape or form someone independent”.
He said there was “no need” for journalists to go to Syria to report and they should “keep clear and allow the implementation of the Shariah”. “Muslims don’t rely on Western journalists,” he added.
Mr Choudary refused to condemn the killing and said it was irrelevant that the man was from Britain and a British passport was “just a travel document”.
But he added: “Muslims in Britain are much more politicised than other western countries. They talk about jihad, Shariah and call for the khilafah [Muslim state] while others are talking about halal food and circumcision. I am not surprised so many are currently going to Syria and are prepared to sacrifice their lives abroad.”
Junaid Hussain, 19, a British hacker, is believed to have slipped police supervision and escaped to Syria after serving a jail sentence for stealing personal information about Tony Blair.
Calling himself Abu Abdullah al-Britani, he wrote on Twitter: “And know that the one who kills for the sake of His Lord will never go to the same place as the one he killed.”
Less than two weeks ago, Mr Hussain posted a photo of a fellow fighter sitting in the front seat of a vehicle, captioned: “From the streets of London to the dirt roads of Jihad.” He also posted pictures of various rifles and his “little Princess” dressed in a full niqab. He has encouraged his followers to take action, saying: “Some of you will only move when it is your mum in that prison and your wife that has been raped.”
Abu Turaab al-Kanadi, a Canadian fighter with the username of @AlTuraabSVD, made light of the decapitation, saying that it was “time to play soccer”.
Another fighter calling himself Abu dhar al-muhajir tweeted: “We have heard that Roman blood is very delicious, and we have come here to enjoy it”. He added: “Revenge is sweet.”
Another man, tweeting under the name Life of a Mujahid, wrote: “Reason for American journalists or civilians being killed in response to American crimes against Muslims is, they haven’t left us a choice. You have more technology doesn’t mean you kill millions of innocents . . . An eye for an eye!”
Abu Bakr Al-Janabi, who tweeted images of other Isis fighters brandishing knives in what he said was preparation for further beheadings, wrote: “The man who carried out the execution was British. which send a signal by saying ‘We are everywhere, we will come after you’.”
However, one fighter — @mujahid4life — tweeted that the killing had been rash: “The airstrikes will immensely increase (in my opinion). If it does, did Beheading him serve it’s purpose? Or was he more Valuable as a bargaining chip alive.”

08/19/14

Witness to Christ in all you do, Francis urges Asian youth

By SIMONE ORENDAIN on Monday, 18 August 2014

Pope Francis has urged young Asian Catholic leaders to witness to Christ in everything they do.

In his homily on the muddy grounds of Haemi Fortress, Pope Francis urged more than 40,000 people – including young Catholic leaders from 22 Asian countries – to “reflect God’s love”. He reminded them it was their “right and duty to take part in the life of [their] societies”.

“Do not be afraid to bring the wisdom of faith to every aspect of social life,” the Pontiff said. He also urged them to discern “what is incompatible with your Catholic faith … and what aspects of contemporary culture are sinful, corrupt and lead to death”.

Young people are always choosing their social lives over other things, and this makes it complicated to “grow up in their faith also”, said Montira Hokjareon, a youth coordinator in Thailand’s Udon Thani diocese. She said it was especially hard for young Thai Catholics to practice their faith in a predominantly Buddhist country where less than half of one per cent of the population is Catholic.

Hokjaroen, 34, was one of 20 participants who had lunch with Pope Francis last Friday. She told the US Catholic News Service it was good he nudged the youth leaders to evangelise, “because I think the people will learn [about] Jesus through us”.

Rain threatened the closing Mass for Asian Youth Day, which, unlike the massive international World Youth Day events, focuses more on youth leaders. At one point, the wind whipped off the Pope’s zucchetto.

Pope Francis emphasised the theme of this year’s gathering: “Asian Youth Wake Up, the Glory of the Martyrs Shines on You.”

“It’s no good when I see young people who sleep,” said the pontiff. “No. Wake up! Go! Go!”

Haemi Fortress was where thousands of Catholics were killed during a 100-year period in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the 1700s lay people formed the church based on Catholic writings that they got ahold of from China. The original founders promised loyalty to God rather than the Korean king, which was socially unacceptable. The government pursued them for carrying out Catholic rites and baptisms, killing 10,000 faithful in the century beginning in 1791.

A day before the closing Mass Pope Francis beatified 124 of the founders of the Korean Catholic Church, moving them a step closer to canonisation.

Michael Hwang of Seoul said being on these grounds was “exhausting emotionally” because his ancestors were among those executed. But he told CNS he was glad to be a part of Asian Youth Day because it brought him closer to other Catholics from Asia.

“[The pope] said to wake up and a lot of people can come together, and we could be like one nation,” said Hwang, a 17-year old high school student.

Hwang said his friends are not Catholic, “but I think Catholicism is a great thing and I can tell to my friends about how [being] Catholic is great, and this event will be a great background to teach or tell other people”.

Stephen Borja of Manila, Philippines, told CNS the founding of the Church in Korea “is such a unique story, and it really touched me. How passionate they were about receiving the faith, standing up for it, even giving up their lives for it.”

Borja, 34, works with the youth commission of the bishops’ conference of the Philippines. He said the Pope’s words inspired him to show his faith to others, which is still a challenge in his predominantly Catholic country.

The three characteristics the Pope identified for the Church in Asia are “holier, more missionary and humbler”, he said. “Those are words I would carry with me and also with my work in the Church.”

Pope Francis celebrated Mass at an altar made up of 16 wooden crosses that locked together like wooden blocks and were decorated by the youth. Readings and intercessions were in Filipino, Indonesian, Korean and other languages.

“As young Christians, whether you are workers or students, whether you have already begun a career or have answered the call to marriage, religious life or the priesthood, you are not only a part of the future of the Church, you are also a necessary and beloved part of the church’s present,” said the pope.

He told young Asian to build “a Church which loves and worships God by seeking to serve the poor, the lonely, the infirm and the marginalised”.

Bishop Peter Kang U-il of Jeju, president of the bishops’ conference of Korea, noted that this was the first Asian Youth Day attended by a pope.

“The young Asians may have experienced an extraordinary moment of grace, and they also may have acquired the seed of courage and hope for their future, because Your Holiness shared a great affection and intimacy with them,” he told Pope Francis at the Mass.

Organisers announced that Indonesia would host the 2017 Asian Youth Day.

08/19/14

The religious cleansing of Iraq’s Christians

The religious cleansing of Iraq’s Christians

08/07/2014 14:42 By LELA GILBERT

“Can this really be happening in the modern world?”

Mosul, Iraq/Saturday July 19: Terrified mothers and fathers carry their wailing babies and screaming toddlers, struggling to hold them close while rushing away from their houses as quickly as they can.

The handicapped and elderly – some of them very ill, others physically impaired – are ordered to get up from their beds and get out, leaving their indispensable medications behind. They are frantically pushed in wheelchairs – some by family members, some by total strangers – away from homes, hospices and hospitals.

Tear-stained children – their parents trying to quiet them and hurry them at the same time – hear no clear answers to their repeated questions: “Why did they make us leave? When can we go home? What about my friends?” Those who attempt to drive their cars out of town are abruptly halted at checkpoints that bristle with firearms. Terrorists summarily seize their vehicles and confiscate everything that is packed into them. Their orders to drivers and passengers alike are short and to the point: “Get out and walk.”

And so they press on, women, men and children, old and young, moving as hastily as possible towards some uncertain haven. They have left everything behind, with nothing to show for themselves but the clothes they are wearing.

Perhaps far worse, they have witnessed cruelties against friends, neighbors and acquaintances – torturous, terrible barbarism – that will never be erased from their memories.

The houses they’ve abandoned – where some of them have lived for generations – are marked in red paint with the Arabic letter nun: representing “Nazarene,” or Christian. In case that isn’t clear, the invaders have added further information: “Property of the Islamic State.”

This final, frantic activity started in earnest at midday on Friday, July 18.

Rumors had been circulating for weeks, and some families had left preemptively. But during those mid-July Friday prayers, the Islamic State (IS, formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS) terror group announced in every local mosque that Christians must either convert to Islam, pay an exorbitant Muslim tax – the jizya, which amounts to protection money – or flee.

If the Christians didn’t conform to these demands by noon on Saturday, July 19, there would be “nothing for them but the sword.” And so it was that the nightmare scenario culminated that Saturday, when the Sunni terrorist group expelled the last Christians from Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh Plain.

Those cities, towns and villages had been Christianity’s heartland for 2,000 years.

First the Jews… Assaults on Christians have ebbed and flowed in Iraq since 2003, and from 2011, they spread across Syria as well, leaving behind a bloodstained wake.

Clinging to the faint hope that “this too shall pass,” both Syrian and Iraqi Christians failed to read the proverbial writing on the wall. Only a few foresaw the danger. One was Baghdad’s Monsignor Pios Cacha.

In 2013, the monsignor made a grim prediction. He said that his Iraqi Christian community was experiencing the kind of religious cleansing that had eradicated the country’s once-thriving Jewish community half a century before.

His prophetic words made headlines in Lebanon’s Daily Star: “Iraqi Christians fear fate of departed Jews.”

Father Cacha’s comments were tragically prophetic. As he knew very well, Iraq had, for millennia, been the homeland of some 150,000 Jews. They had been influential, wealthy and well-connected.

But from 1948 through approximately 1970, much like today’s Christians, they lost everything – fleeing the country with nothing but the shirts on their backs.

Today, fewer than 10 Jews remain in Iraq.

For that memorable reason, it isn’t so difficult for today’s Israelis to envision the distress of entire communities being uprooted and expelled – virtually overnight – due to deadly pogroms.

For Jews, such horrors are usually understood to be manifestations of anti-Semitism, combined with other political and religious realities.

And such expulsion wasn’t solely the fate of Polish Jews, or those in other Nazi-infested European nations during World War II.

Very similar stories are woven into the family histories of 850,000-plus Arabic- speaking Jews, who were cast out of the Middle East’s Muslim lands in the mid- 20th century. Many now live in Israel.

Since then, Jews have kept a solemn vow to themselves and their children: Never forget; never again.

It is Western Christians – and particularly North Americans – who struggle to imagine such a brutal ordeal in today’s world. Again and again they ask, “Haven’t we learned to live in peace with other religions and races?” “Hasn’t civilization moved beyond such barbaric abuse?” “Can’t we all just get along?” In short, the answer is “No.”

Saturday people, Sunday people Why? We’ll set aside, for this discussion, the unspeakable treatment of Christians in Iran’s Shi’ite regime.

Instead, let’s consider the substantial number of radicalized Sunni Islamists in the Middle East who are intent on reviving the “golden age” of the Ottoman Empire’s caliphate.

They believe that Islam lost its glorious historical epoch because of impurity and sin; only cleansing will bring restoration.

Thus, their sacred lands must not be defiled by the presence of Jews, Christians or other infidels.

When the Jews were driven out of Iraq in the 20th century, they had been in Mesopotamia and the surrounding areas for more than 2,500 years.

Likewise, today’s Christians are hardly newcomers to the area.

In the first century, two of Jesus’ disciples, St. Thomas and St. Thaddeus (also known as St. Jude), preached the Christian Gospel in territory then known as Assyria – including today’s Iraq. Christian communities established at that time continued, preceding the birth of the Prophet Muhammad by 600 years.

The heartland of Iraq’s Christian community was always in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain, and in recent years other Iraqi Christians have sought refuge there, after enduring escalating bouts of anti-Christian violence.

After the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Islamist killers from various factions – sharing a common taste for bloodshed – carried out attacks on Iraq’s Christians. In fact, this reporter covered some of these assaults in the book Saturday People, Sunday People.

In January 2008, a set of choreographed bombings exploded within a few minutes of each other at four churches and three convents in Baghdad and Mosul.

In early March that same year, the archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho, was reported missing. It was soon revealed that he had been kidnapped, and a ransom was demanded to spare his life. A huge amount of money was required, but the cleric was later found, beheaded, on March 13.

In May 2010, nearly 160 Christians were wounded – some seriously – when three buses carrying Christian students from local villages to the University of Mosul were bombed. A local man was killed by a blast as he tried to help the wounded. The buses were supposedly protected by the Iraqi government.

On Sunday, October 31, 2010 – remembered today as “Black Sunday” – eight terrorists stormed into the Assyrian Catholic Church of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad just as Father Wassim Sabih finished the mass.

As the intruders started shooting, the priest fell to the floor, begging for the lives of his parishioners. His assailants silenced him with their guns, holding the rest of the congregation hostage.

A team of Iraqi security forces tried to intervene, but in response the killers threw grenades into the crowd and detonated explosive vests. The final death toll was 57, including two priests.

After these and similar episodes, Christian refugees from Basra and Baghdad crowded into the Nineveh region in search of protection. For a time, there was respite. But now – almost a decade later – they face an even more formidable foe.

On July 29, my Hudson Institute colleague Nina Shea wrote on Fox News: “Before casting out the Christians, Shi’ites and Yezidis, Caliph Ibrahim, as IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is now called, made certain to take all the possessions of the ‘unbelievers.’ “Cars, cellphones, money, wedding rings, even one man’s chicken sandwich, were all solemnly declared ‘property of the Islamic State’ and confiscated. A woman who gave over tens of thousands of dollars was also stripped of bus fare to Erbil.

“With temperatures in the area reaching a blazing 49°, the last of the exiles left on foot, carrying only small children and pushing grandparents in wheelchairs. Those who glanced back could see armed groups looting their homes and loading the booty onto trucks.”

So it was that a ragtag group of refugees, fleeing for their lives – robbed, raped and otherwise ravaged – were among Mosul’s last Christians. And at the time of this writing, no one can be sure how many other Christians remain today in the rest of Iraq.

What is IS? The IS fanatics who dispossessed Mosul’s Christians were acting under what they believed to be the divinely ordained leadership of Baghdadi, a.k.a. Caliph Ibrahim. A secretive, ruthless and strategy-minded jihadist, he rules over his self-described Islamic State with an iron fist.

Baghdadi has been described by David Ignatius of The Washington Post as the true heir to Osama bin Laden. Ignatius has noted that he is “more violent, more virulent, more anti-American” than Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s al-Qaida successor.

After a rocky start in attempting to fulfill his dream of a caliphate in Iraq, Baghdadi’s IS found a new venue. It gained success and stature in the Syrian Civil War, defying both Jabhat al-Nusra’s and al-Qaida’s radical factions by arrogantly displaying its bloodthirsty acts of religious cleansing, particularly against Christians.

In February 2014, the Syrian Christian community of Raqqa was confronted by IS with demands much like those recently faced by Mosul’s Christians.

Rather than flee, Raqqa’s Christians chose to sign a document subjecting themselves to dhimmitude (subordinate status as non-Muslims in an Islamic state) under IS rule, and surrendering to demands that they observe strict Shari’a, as dictated by their overlords.

The subjugation of Christians and Jews to dhimmitude has a long history in the Middle East, and throughout the greater Muslim world. Although it officially ended after the demise of the Ottoman Empire, its humiliating and unequivocal demands have never been erased from communities that suffered under it. And, in various ways, it is still enforced de facto in some modern Muslim states.

Meanwhile, the sadistic behavior of these invaders has defied every known human norm – rapes of entire families; multiple beheadings; mass executions; even crucifixions. More than enough of this has been captured on video and widely disseminated to friends and foes alike.

If terror was their intention, they have certainly achieved it.

When IS warriors swept across a large swathe of Iraq in mid-June 2014, they experienced little resistance from the Iraqi army. In fact, it was widely reported that the army simply melted away. Not only does IS have a reputation for gruesome atrocities, which was no doubt intimidating, the Iraqi military is also disorganized and unmotivated.

IS seems increasingly invincible. Heroic warriors, helping hands Clearly, the Christians that fled from Mosul and Nineveh had few options.

With no money, no vehicles, no passports and no cellphones, they understood that their best hope was to get themselves to Kurdistan, an autonomous region of Iraq that has its own government and practices exemplary tolerance for Christians.

Kurdistan also fields a notoriously ferocious military force called the Peshmerga.

According to Business Insider, “IS fighters stopped when they reached the borders of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan.

They were facing an opponent that wasn’t going to back off from a fight: the Kurdish Peshmerga, Iraqi Kurdistan’s own highly trained and battle-hardened paramilitary force.”

Thanks to the Peshmerga, which may include as many as 190,000 fighters, many of the Christians who were driven out of Mosul and Nineveh were given safe passage into the Kurdish region. They have found provisional refuge there.

At the same time, Christian organizations with access to Iraqi communities also rushed to lend helping hands – documenting cases, providing emergency assistance and speaking out on behalf of the traumatized refugees.

One well-respected international organization, Open Doors, reported on its website that local churches “… responded rapidly as Christians fled Mosul.”

Raja (not her real name), herself a refugee from Mosul, was able to reach out to the others. She writes: “Shortly after the occupation of Mosul, refugees started coming to our church. When it was time to distribute the relief packages, the families quickly gathered around us. It was overwhelming.

I saw the desperate faces of the old men and the mothers that came to collect their food, and I felt so sorry for them.”

Open Doors’ blog goes on to quote Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, director of Interfaith Affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

“Too many of us thought that forced conversions and expulsions of entire religious communities were part of a distant, medieval past. There was little that we could do to stop this horrible episode. It is not too late to realize that many others – Christians today, but certainly Jews, Baha’i, Hindus, Muslims and others – are mortally endangered by a potent religious fanaticism that threatens tens of millions, and which can still be resisted.”

Efforts to religiously cleanse the Middle East have been going on sporadically since the seventh century.

Today, the jihadi slogan, “On Saturday we kill the Jews, on Sunday we kill the Christians,” is being increasingly executed, not only in Iraq, but in Syria, Egypt, Gaza and in several Muslim majority states far beyond – places where few, if any, Jews remain and Christians are, quite literally, under the gun.

Since 2011, thanks to the chaotic upheaval of the so-called Arab Spring, religious cleansing in the lands of the Bible – and particularly the cradle of Christianity – has been implemented with ever-increasing success.

Apart from the Kurdish Peshmerga, there is little resistance and no intervention. World leaders intone “strongly worded” pronouncements, then fall silent. Religious leaders sign declarations; their laymen sign petitions.

And the rest of the world watches and waits, and wonders if anybody cares.

Why is there no opposition? Where will the brutality end? And who will stop it?

The writer is author of Saturday People, Sunday People: Israel through the Eyes of a Christian Sojourner and co-author of Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians. She is also author of the newly released novel The Levine Affair: Angel’s Flight. A fellow at the Hudson Institute, she lives in Jerusalem.

For more, visit: www.lelagilbert.com.

Follow her on Facebook and Twitter, @ lelagilbert.

08/16/14

Pope makes strong, silent anti-abortion statement

Associated Press By NICOLE WINFIELD
9 hours ago

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Pope Francis has generally avoided hot-button “culture war” issues like abortion, arguing that the church’s doctrine on the sanctity of life is well-known and that he’d rather emphasize other aspects of church teaching.

Pope Francis Makes Anti-Abortion Statement in South Korea ABC News

Pope holds up Korean martyrs as models for church Associated Press
Pope Francis pauses for prayer at South Korean ‘cemetery for abortion victims’ The Week (RSS)
Huge crowds greet pope at martyr beatification Associated PressTop Asian News at 2:00 p.m. GMT Associated Press

But he made a strong, albeit silent anti-abortion statement Saturday during his visit to South Korea, stopping to pray at a monument for aborted babies in a community dedicated to caring for people with the sort of severe genetic disabilities that are often used to justify abortions.

Francis bowed his head in prayer before the monument — a garden strewn with simple white wooden crosses — and spoke with an anti-abortion activist with no arms and no legs.

He also spent an hour blessing dozens of disabled Koreans who live in the Kkottongnae community, founded by a priest in the 1970s to take in disabled children and adults abandoned by their families. There is still tremendous stigma and discrimination against people with disabilities in South Korea, and supporters of the Kkottongnae community argue that if it didn’t take these people in, no one would.

Francis caressed and hugged each of the residents of the community, young and old, and seemed genuinely pleased when one of the elderly residents with cerebral palsy, Kim Inja Cecilia, presented him with an origami crane she folded with her feet.

South Korea banned abortion in 1953 with exceptions for rape, incest or severe genetic disorders. The constitutional court upheld the ban in 2012.

View galleryPope Francis is welcomed by the faithful as he arrives …
Pope Francis is welcomed by the faithful as he arrives at the the “House of Hope” center f …
Activists, however, say authorities turned a blind eye to abortions for decades until cracking down in recent years due to South Korea’s low birthrate, one of the lowest in the world. During the 1970s and 1980s, South Korea’s government saw big families as an obstacle to economic growth and encouraged families to have no more than two children.

Francis referred to the “culture of death” afflicting South Korea during his homily on Friday. But generally, he has shied away from making headline-grabbing anti-abortion statements, much to the dismay of conservative Catholics who had been emboldened by the frequent denunciations of abortion by two previous popes.

In a 2013 interview with a Jesuit journal, Francis acknowledged that he had been “reprimanded” for not pressing the issue. But he said it wasn’t necessary to harp about abortion all the time.

“The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently,” Francis said at the time. “We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

A day after the interview was published, though, Francis offered an olive branch of sorts to the more doctrine-minded conservatives in the church, denouncing abortions as a symptom of today’s “throw-away culture” and encouraging Catholic doctors to refuse to perform them.

___

AP writer Youkyung Lee contributed to this report.

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Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield

08/7/14

Islamic and Jewish Contributions to the Civilization

The Global Islamic population is approximately 1,200,000,000;

that is ONE BILLION TWO HUNDRED MILLION or 20% of the world’s population.

They have received the following Nobel Prizes:
Literature: 1988 – Najib Mahfooz
Peace:1978 – Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat
1990 – Elias James Corey
1994 – Yaser Arafat:
1999 – Ahmed Zewai
Economics:(zero)
Physics:(zero)
Medicine: 1960 – Peter Brian Medawar 1998 – Ferid Mourad
TOTAL: 7 SEVEN

The Global Jewish population is approximately 14,000,000;
that is FOURTEEN MILLION or about 0.02% of the world’s population.

They have received the following Nobel Prizes:

Literature: 1910 – Paul yd
1927 – Henri Bergson
1958 – Boris Pasternak
1966 – Shmuel Yosef Agnon
1966 – Nelly Sachs
1976 – Saul Bellow
1978 – Isaac Bashevis Singer
1981 – Elias Canetti
1987 – Joseph Brodsky
1991 – Nadine Gordimer World

Peace: 1911 – Alfred Fried
1911 – Tobias Michael Carel Asser
1968 – Rene Cassin
1973 – Henry Kissinger
1978 – Menachem Begin
1986 – Elie Wiesel
1994 – Shimon Peres
1994 – Yitzhak Rabin

Physics:
1905 – Adolph Von Baeyer
1906 – Henri Moissan
1907 – Albert Abraham Michelson
1908 – Gabriel Lippmann
1910 – Otto Wallach
1915 – Richard Willstaetter
1918 – Fritz Haber
1921 – Albert Einstein
1922 – Niels Bohr
1925 – James Franck
1925 – Gustav Hertz
1943 – Gustav Stern
1943 – George Charles de Hevesy
1944 – Isidor Issac Rabi
1952 – Felix Bloch
1954 – Max Born
1958 – Igor Tamm
1959 – Emilio Segre
1960 – Donald A. Glaser
1961 – Robert Hofstadter
1961 – Melvin Calvin
1962 – Lev Davidovich Landau
1962 – Max Ferdinand Perutz
1965 – Richard Phillips Feynman
1965 – Julian Schwinger
1969 – Murray Gell-Mann
1971 – Dennis Gabor
1972 – William Howard Stein
1973 – Brian David Josephson
1975 – Benjamin Mottleson
1976 – Burton Richter
1977 – Ilya Prigogine
1978 – Arno Allan Penzias
1978 – Peter L Kapitza
1979 – Stephen Weinberg
1979 – Sheldon Glashow
1979 – Herbert Charles Brown
1980 – Paul Berg
1980 – Walter Gilbert
1981 – Roald Hoffmann
1982 – Aaron Klug
1985 – Albert A. Hauptman
1985 – Jerome Karle
1986 – Dudley R. Herschbach
1988 – Robert Huber
1988 – Leon Lederman
1988 – Melvin Schwartz
1988 – Jack Steinberger
1989 – Sidney Altman
1990 – Jerome Friedman
1992 – Rudolph Marcus
1995 – Martin Perl
2000 – Alan J. Heeger

Economics:
1970 – Paul Anthony Samuelson
1971 – Simon Kuznets
1972 – Kenneth Joseph Arrow
1975 – Leonid Kantorovich
1976 – Milton Friedman
1978 – Herbert A. Simon
1980 – Lawrence Robert Klein
1985 – Franco Modigliani
1987 – Robert M. Solow
1990 – Harry Markowitz
1990 – Merton Miller
1992 – Gary Becker
1993 – Robert Fogel

Medicine:
1908 – Elie Metchnikoff
1908 – Paul Erlich
1914 – Robert Barany
1922 – Otto Meyerhof
1930 – Karl Landsteiner
1931 – Otto Warburg
1936 – Otto Loewi
1944 – Joseph Erlanger
1944 – Herbert Spencer Gasser
1945 – Ernst Boris Chain
1946 – Hermann Joseph Muller
1950 – Tadeus Reichstein
1952 – Selman Abraham Waksman
1953 – Hans Krebs
1953 – Fritz Albert Lipmann
1958 – Joshua Lederberg
1959 – Arthur Kornberg
1964 – Konrad Bloch
1965 – Francois Jacob
1965 – Andre Lwoff
1967 – George Wald
1968 – Marshall W. Nirenberg
1969 – Salvador Luria
1970 – Julius Axelrod
1970 – Sir Bernard Katz
1972 – Gerald Maurice Edelman
1975 – Howard Martin Temin
1976 – Baruch S. Blumberg
1977 – Roselyn Sussman Yalow
1978 – Daniel Nathans
1980 – Baruj Benacerraf
1984 – Cesar Milstein
1985 – Michael Stuart Brown
1985 – Joseph L. Goldstein
1986 – Stanley Cohen [& Rita Levi-Montalcini]
1988 – Gertrude Elion
1989 – Harold Varmus
1991 – Erwin Neher
1991 – Bert Sakmann
1993 – Richard J. Roberts
1993 – Phillip Sharp
1994 – Alfred Gilman
1995 – Edward B. Lewis
1996- Lu RoseIacovino

TOTAL: 129!

The Jews are NOT promoting brainwashing children in military training camps, teaching them how to blow themselves up and cause maximum deaths of Jews and other non-Muslims.

The Jews don’t hijack planes, nor kill athletes at the Olympics, or blow themselves up in German restaurants.

There is NOT one single Jew who has destroyed a church.

There is NOT a single Jew who protests by killing people.
The Jews don’t traffic slaves, nor have leaders calling for Jihad and death to all the Infidels.

 

 

08/6/14

Women ordered to stop praying inside mall

TODD’S AMERICAN DISPATCH
Women ordered to stop praying inside mall
Todd Starnes
By Todd StarnesPublished August 05, 2014 FoxNews.com

Some of the members of Dublin Girls RunPhoto provided by Tammy Brantley
It’s not uncommon for shopping malls to have rules of conduct. Some places ban saggy pants. Others won’t let you ask people for money. But a mall in Georgia may have one of the most unusual rules — they won’t let shoppers pray – not even over their meals.

Meet Tammy Brantley of Dublin, Ga. She’s a wife, a mom and an avid power walker. She’s also a person of deep faith in God.

Tammy is the co-founder of “Dublin Girls Run,” a group of local ladies that combines Southern fellowship with physical fitness.

The Dublin Girls hope to one day return to the mall – but only if management lifts the prayer ban.
The Dublin Girls have developed quite a reputation around southeast Georgia. They’ve run road races dressed up like Chick-fil-A cows and superheroes. And it’s not all that unusual to see the ladies accessorizing their running attire with tutus and feather boas.

But the Dublin Girls Run is not just about pounding the pavement.

“The group was started to be healthy and to be spiritually healthy, too,” Tammy told me. “I like to start off my runs with a prayer and end it with a prayer.”

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Tammy had no idea her passion for prayer would lead to trouble.

A few weeks ago the Dublin Girls had gathered inside the local mall for an evening power walk. They formed a small circle and as they had done many times before, they bowed their heads to petition the Almighty.

But before one of the runners could say, “Lord Jesus,” she was interrupted by a mall cop barreling down a corridor.

“The security guard came running toward us and said, ‘You are not allowed to pray at the mall. That’s against the policy,’” Tammy told me.

The ladies were aghast.

“I told him we’ve been praying since last November and no one said anything about it,” she said.

“We’ve never had any problems.”

The security guard told her they’d had a problem with a previous religious group trying to proselytize shoppers. But Tammy said they weren’t trying to convert anybody – they were just trying to pray. And it’s not like they were having a “Holy Ghost Shoutin’ Prayer.”

“You can’t hear us unless you are in the circle,” she said.

The ladies thought the security guard was simply mistaken so they asked him to call the mall manager. It turns out – the security guard was not mistaken.

“The mall manager verified that prayer is not allowed at the mall because this is private property,” she said.

They won’t even allow patrons to ask God to bless General Tso’s chicken at the food court’s Chong Wah Express.

“I said, sir, are you saying that people who eat in the food court can’t bow their heads and pray?” she said. “He said, ‘No ma’am.’ That’s exactly what he said.”

She said several of the ladies were shaken up by the ordeal.

“It’s very sad,” Tammy told me. “It’s really heartbreaking.”

Later that evening, Tammy wrote about the experience on Facebook. It wasn’t too long before an enterprising reporter from The Courier-Herald in Dublin picked up the story.

“Walking group told not to pray at mall,” read the front page headline in the newspaper. The reporter said he tried for a week to reach a mall spokesperson. Finally, someone answered the phone and told the reporter, “We decline to comment.”

Mall officials did not return my calls either.

Meanwhile, the Dublin Girls are searching for a new place to power walk. Tammy said she understands that the mall is indeed private property and they have a right to dictate appropriate rules and regulations.

“I don’t want my ladies to feel intimidated,” Tammy told me. “It’s already hard enough to get out and exercise.”

The Dublin girls hope to one day return to the mall – but only if management lifts the prayer ban.

“It’s really heartbreaking,” she said. “Who would have thought something like this could happen in the teeny-tiny town we live in?”

The Good Book encourages us to run a good race – to press on toward the goal. And I have no doubt that Tammy and her cloud of witnesses will continue to run their race with endurance.

It’s a difficult task in a nation that has become increasingly hostile to people of faith.
Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. Sign up for his American Dispatch newsletter, be sure to join his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter. His latest book is “God Less America.”