Tuesday, September 02, 2014

The flaw in the Fatwa on the so-called Islamic State

This really is quite magnificent. To those who insist Muslims cannot or will not integrate with or conform to British values, customs and traditions, this fatwa (= religious opinion; not death sentence) constitutes a scholarly refutation, not least because it addresses directly the “poisonous ideology” of the Islamic State, and it does so theologically and quranically: there no Warsi-like knee-jerk repudiation that "these are not Muslims" or "this is not Islam". The "so-called 'Islamic State'" may be "heretical and extremist", but its heresy is inspired by the Qur'an and its extremism derives from the example of Mohammed. You may cavil over the reliability of historical sources or quibble over the extent of theological abrogation, but Mohammed was undoubtedly something of a warmonger and Allah does indeed command that unbelievers ought to be beheaded: "I shall cast into the unbelievers’ hearts terror; so smite above the necks, and smite every finger of them" (Qur'an 8:12).

For the theologian and historian, context is important - or ought to be. If we cannot discern what biblical scholars have long called a scripture's Sitz im Leben ("setting in life"), our theological exposition may be distorted by the lens of our own time and the imposition of our own deficient moral perspectives.

There is no doubt that Mohammed used what today would be termed "murder" and "terrorism" in order to propagate his beliefs and spread his ideology (Qur'an 8.17; 33.26; 8.67). He pillaged towns without warning, slaughtered unarmed men who had gone to the fields and markets on their daily business, captured their wives and children, and is said to have distributed the younger women among his soldiers while always keeping the prettiest ones for himself and having sex with them in the same day he murdered their fathers, husbands and loved ones. These are not fables and nor are they the bigoted musings of those who may be termed "Islamophobic": it is history as recorded in the Qur’an, Sunnah and Hadith. Ergo the problems of the so-called Islamic State may be seen to find their inspiration in the example of the so-called Prophet, who is considered the template for perfect manhood.

Of course, the vast majority of British Muslim are peaceable and fraternal, and so take a more latitudinal view of such scriptures and seek to set them in their historical perspective. They would quote from the Qur’an passages like surah 2:190: "Fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, but do not begin hostilities, for God does not love aggressors." Their daily jihad is private and devotional: it is against the sins of the flesh and the temptations of this world. But for their more robust co-religionists, including members and supporters of the so-called Islamic State, their daily jihad is public and combative: it is against the heretics, infidels and the political power of the "Great Satan".

But those who use surah 2:190 to insist that Islam means "peace" are quoting out of context. This passage is from the sixth year of the Hijrah, when the Muslims were a strong and influential community, but not supreme. Mohammed ordered them to defend themselves against Meccan attacks, but not be aggressors because they had a treaty. Many of them were exiles from Mecca, where the pagans had established an intolerant autocracy, persecuting Muslims. When they tried to assert their rights, the result was bloodshed. This surah was therefore concerned with a specific period of self-preservation; it is not a blanket command regarding all acts of violence. Being bound by context in time and space, there are many who reasonably do not consider it to be an eternal injunction.

But this is where this British fatwa derives its essential inspiration. The "religious opinion" is expressed and signed by six leading Islamic leaders and scholars:
Sheikh Mohammad Shahid Raza OBE
Executive Secretary, Muslim Law (Shariah) Council of UK. Head Imam, Leicester Central Mosque.

Sheikh Qamaruzzaman Azmi
Secretary General, World Islamic Mission. Head Imam, Manchester Central Mosque.

Sheikh Paul Salahuddin Armstrong
Co-Director, The Association of British Muslims.

Sheikh Dr Qari Mohammad Asim MBE
Head Imam, Makkah Masjid, Leeds.

Sheikh Dr Usama Hasan
Author, ISIS Fatwa. Former Imam, Masjid Al-Tawhid Mosque, Leyton. Head Theologian, Quilliam Foundation.

Mufti Abu Layth
Founder, The Islamic Council, UK.
Some prominent names and organisations are notable by their absence..

It's not quite like convening a Nicaea III ecumenical council and omitting to invite the Anglicans, but, just as the Mughals and Ottomans don't really cut it for the Islamic State, one doubts that this array of moderate sheiks and muftis hold much sway over their throat-slitting co-religionists. And there is no supreme theological authority to which a disputatious party can appeal other than to their own fatwa, which is merely an opinion of what is halal or haram. One Muslim's "poisonous ideology" is another Muslim's door to Jannah.  

These scholars instruct Muslims to live by the law of the land in which they reside, and they do so by making appeal to the Geneva Conventions and (essentially) to the established social contracts (/treaties) of the UK and EU. But the Islamist's allegiance is not to Geneva; nor is to the values of liberal democracy or European oligarchy. And their citizenship is neither in Britain nor Europe: they are bound by no secular polity of man-made law. And there is no uniform Islamic theology or jurisprudence: Sharia is divided, disparate and contextual.

Surely the imams of Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Leicester and London know that?

Of course, we thank them for their wise and reasoned exhortation to the radicalised Muslim youth who prefer Jihad in Syria to weight training in the Islamic Youth Club of Wandsworth. But theology is a bit deeper than invoking secular treaties or plucking scriptures out of the air and seeking to bash them into a particular religio-political worldview. And what, in any case, is the political worth of a spiritual fatwa in a religious tradition that entertains taqiyya?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

“I have forgiven the Islamic militants, because they did not know what they are doing”

Some images are just too awful to publish. It would be easy to scour the internet to find pictures of headless Christian children in Nigeria, summarily slaughtered by Boko Haram for no other reason than that they were not Muslim. Thousands have been and are being tortured and murdered, but our attention has been deflected by the horrors of Syria and Iraq and the rise of the Islamic State. It's rising in northern Nigeria, too. Whatever happened to 'Bring Back Our Girls'?

The Voice of the Martyrs reports the beheading of a six-year-old boy:
Over 100 militants dressed in military uniforms swarmed the predominantly Christian village just as Sunday church services were beginning on June 1. The rebels opened fire on the village and went after people with their machetes. 55-year-old Sawaltha Wandala witnessed the Boko Haram slaughtering children at a church as he arrived for the second service. He saw the men throw one child into a ditch. More concerned for the child than his own safety, he picked up the 6-year-old boy, who had survived being severely slashed, and immediately rushed to take the child to the hospital in Cameroon. Sawaltha was stopped by five insurgents, who grabbed the boy from his arms and beheaded him, before turning to beat Sawaltha with tree branches. They finished their attack striking him in the head with a large rock, leaving him for dead with blood running from his nose and mouth.

After decimating the village and sending residents fleeing, Boko Haram returned two days later in a second series of attacks on several other villages in the Gwoza district. The back to back attacks left an estimated 200 people, including small children, dead. John Yakubu and his family were among those who fled across the border into neighboring Cameroon.

With his family facing starvation in the refugee camp, John decided to make a quick trip back to Attagara to retrieve some of his animals hoping he could sell them to support his family. Though it was dangerous, there seemed to be no other choice. At home, he decided to pick up some of the family’s other belongings, including the family Bible.

Boko Haram insurgents spotted him entering the house, and quickly captured him. “We know you’re John,” the militants said to him. “You must convert to Islam or else you will die a painful death.”

When John refused, the men tied him to a tree binding his arms and legs. The men hacked both of John’s hands with a heavy knife and mocked him. “Can you become a Muslim now?”

“You can kill my body, but not my soul,” John shouted in pain.

Using a machete as well as the knife, the men continued to torture John. They repeatedly cut into his feet and his back, stopping only to ask him if he would give up his faith in Christ and follow Allah. John refused. “We will show you,” they told him. The insurgents used an axe to cut so deeply into his knee that it reached the bone. His head was slashed with a knife.

Eventually, John lost consciousness. At some point, the terrorists left, and John was left bleeding and tied to the tree for three days before someone rescued him and he was taken to a hospital in a coma.

In the hospital, a VOM worker met John. When the worker asked John how he felt about his attackers, he replied, “I have forgiven the Islamic militants, because they did not know what they are doing.”
The words are liberating; they tell of an appalling horror over which love triumphs. Christians are commanded to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. It's easy to preach and it's cheap to believe - until you're confronted by such evil that every fibre of your being cries out for retaliation and revenge, which breeds mutual hostility and creates a cycle of hatred from which there is no escape.

"You must convert to Islam or else you will die a painful death” is what many thousands of Christians and other minorities are hearing right across the Islamic abyss. How many of us would be strong enough to refuse, as John did? How many of us would refuse to renounce Christ while our hands are being hacked off?

And how many would say "I forgive you" to those who wish to torture and kill our bodies?

We can only be free when we stop allowing the enemy's strategy and beliefs to dictate ours. We can only find peace when we end our obsession with the threat. We are all children of God, and He lets the sun rise on evil and good; He sends rain on the just and unjust. Anyone who repays evil with evil is doing as the world does. Those who repay evil with good have ceased simply reacting to oppression; they are creating light in the darkness; proclaiming the sovereignty of the Risen Christ over all creation; incarnating the love which nullifies hatred and conquers hostility.

If we are ever to find peace on earth, it will not be through the alienation, exile or extermination of the enemy. It will be through rejecting the 'rational' thoughts, feelings and reactions to the evil that confronts us. The Islamic militants who hack off the limbs of Christian children are as spiritually blind as the Muslim gangs who rape the children of Rotherham. Their eyes will not be opened by suspicion, invective and loathing. Their tyrannical rule will not be ended by the sword. They need to encounter the Risen Christ and be renewed from within. And that means we must love them and forgive, because they do not know what they are doing.           

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The difficulties of dialoguing with Islam

"What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?" asked Tertullian in his Prescription against Heretics (VII), as he sought to defend the purity of the gospel of faith from the faithless philosophy of men. The question was answered partially at least by St Paul himself in his mission-pulsing Areopagus speech, where the Jewish doctrine of God was expounded to the heathen of Athens. Perhaps it wasn't fully addressed until a thousand years after Tertullian, when Europe's scholastics asked: "What has Jesus to do with Aristotle?" In the Latin traditions of the Hellenised West, we are still living with the socio-theological and religio-political consequences.

What has Mecca to do with Rome? What has Mohammed to do with Jesus?

Christianity does not dialogue with Islam: Christians talk to Muslims and Muslims talk to Christians, and thence flows mutual understanding of theological precepts and perceptions of divinity. But bishops tend to be deficient in Arabic, and imams aren't too good at Koine Greek. They can chat in broken English over a kebab and a plate of hummus, but truths are veiled in the mutual misunderstandings of dynamic equivalence. What has justice to do with القاضي?

In an manichæan-eschatological frame of mind, we have long heard about a coming "clash of civilisations" and, more recently, warnings of "Muslim encroachment" and an "Islamic conquest of Europe", as mass immigration and multiculturalism challenge our religious traditions and cultural identity. We observe an increasingly precarious cohabitation. The Christian response ought to be the peaceful proclamation of the day of salvation; instead we get wrapped up in assertions of morality and expressions of dominion.

Many of those who comment on "the problem of Islam" have never met a Muslim, let alone read the Qur'an. And the meeting of Muslims is as depthless as the reading of the Quran, for they must be made our friends and it must be examined, expounded and understood. There is no dialogue in a handshake on the steps of a mosque.

Archbishop Giuseppe Bernardini lived in predominantly Muslim nations for 50 years. His comments below were written following a Christian-Muslim synod in October 1999, in Izmir, Turkey.

Most British Muslims are very happy to talk about their faith, expound the transcendence of Allah and justify the actions of their prophet. Many are eager to talk humbly about their religion and their beliefs about its place in pluralist society, and they will do so respectfully and courteously over a plate of fish and chips and a pint. But there can be no dialogue with fundamentalist forms of Islam, which is what many term "proper" or "true" Islam, because it has nothing to learn. We can discuss with Muslims the devotional similarities of Ramadan and Lent, and this may well extend to musing about doctrines of soteriology and the meaning of salvation. But fundamentalism knows no moderates and tolerates no compromise.

Archbishop Bernardini has found that there is no happy via media in Muslim-Christian dialogue; there is no halfway house in the Dar al-Islam. And his experience will confirm in the minds of many what they think they already know. For others, it will fortify them in their missiological desire to reach out and inculturate to know and understand. Still others will seek to forge a "reformed" Islam that is contiguous with the political values of liberal democracy, respecting diversity and tolerating difference. 

But fundamentalist Islam despises humility, liberty and democracy. While our arms ache with holding out olive branches, fanatical Muslims are busy sharpening their scythes. We cannot ignore a programme of expansion and conquest which is being facilitated by the very liberties we prize and which they seek to eradicate. They are determined in their politics and dogmatic in their religion. Our polity is plural and our religion is liberal. They have carved out supremacy under our laws of equality.

Interfaith dialogue is good for forging relationships and building confidence. In a secularised world of spiritual decline and moral decay there is much upon which Christians and Muslims can cooperate and make common cause. But let us not forget the way, the truth and the life.  And let us not be ashamed to preach the gospel in season and out of it, and live the faith in our every word and action.

What has xenophobia to do with Christianity?

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Islamic State presents us with a wholly abnormal situation of national emergency

Say we catch the barbarous "Jihadi John" or "John the Beatle" or "John the Jailer" or whatever he's called. And say we then gather the evidence against him and bring a charge of murder. He'll be entitled to legal aid (which will cost), prosecuted (which will cost), and, if found guilty, imprisoned 'for life' (which will cost). He might then be freed in 15 or 20 years or so to wreak revenge on the liberal democratic state he so loathes and despises - a few bombs, a bit of torture, the odd beheading. If we're lucky, we might catch him again. If we're luckier, the police might shoot him dead in the process. How exactly should we punish the Islamists found amongst us?

Some BNP types favour rounding up all the Muslims and deporting them en masse, as if such 'cleansing' is any better than the Islamist vision of the purified Caliphate. Others favour an enforced assimilation; the suspension of their liberties and the suppression of their democratic rights. Nigel Farage apparently wants to revoke their citizenship, which is relatively straightforward for those a-jihading in Syria or Iraq. We could, in theory, prevent their return. But whither do we send (and by what right do we impose upon another state) the Islamists who possess a British passport and EU citizenship? Certainly, we may agree they are not 'British' in the sense of respecting our culture or sharing our values. But the act of revoking citizenship results in stateless exile, perhaps wandering through the deserts of Syria or Iraq where they already feel quite at home. That is a woeful retribution.

A multi-faith consortium has written to the Telegraph:
SIR – What we are witnessing in northern Iraq today is a tragedy of historic proportions in which thousands of innocent people are at immediate risk of death for no other reason than their religious beliefs. Freedom of religion and belief, a right set out in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is being denied in the most gross and systemic way possible through the attempted extermination of religious minorities. There is no justification for the violation of this inalienable human right.

Such violations as are currently taking place are crimes against humanity that must be both stopped and punished. The culture of impunity within which these dehumanising atrocities have been committed needs to be challenged most vigorously. Given that Iraq is not a state party to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Government must now work towards a United Nations Security Council Resolution that refers this matter to the ICC for investigation and, where necessary, prosecution. The international community must send a clear signal to those who are committing such atrocities that they will be held accountable for their actions.

These violations are, however, sadly part of a wider global pattern of increased societal hostility to, and government restrictions on, freedom of religion or belief. Governments, international institutions and non-governmental organisations need to recognise this wider crisis and commit the necessary time, energy and resources to ensure greater respect for this fundamental freedom and forestall further such tragedies.

The Rt Rev Dr Christopher Cocksworth
Bishop of Coventry, Church of England’s Lead Bishop on Foreign Affairs
Dayan (Judge) Ivan Binstock
Court of the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
Ayatollah Dr Sayed Fazel Milani
Imam al-Khoei Islamic Centre, London
Ramesh Pattni
Secretary General, Hindu Forum of Britain
Commissioner Clive Adams
Territorial Commander, Salvation Army
His Grace Bishop Angaelos
General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom
The Rt Rev Richard Atkinson
Bishop of Bedford
Malcolm M Deboo
President, Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe
His Eminence Gregorios
Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner
Senior Rabbi, The Movement for Reform Judaism
The Rt Revd Declan Lang
Bishop of Clifton
Chairman, International Affairs Department, Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales
Moulana Mohammad Shahid Raza
Principal Imam, Leicester Central Mosque
Dr Shuja Shafi
Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain
Lord Singh of Wimbledon
Vice-Chairman, All Party Parliamentary Group on International Freedom of Religion and Belief
That's six Christians, two Jews , three Muslims, a Hindu, a Sikh and a Zoroastrian.

That's nice.

The thing is, the United Nations has been so utterly deficient in the defence of religious liberty that it is highly unlikely to prove adequate in the administration of justice. When the United Nations Human Rights Council is already captive to those who despise human rights, and when it agitates for religion (ie Islam) to be protected from "defamation", it beggars belief that a body of international judges would ever agree that those who plot the extermination of Christians and other religious minorities are committing crimes against humanity. Are they not Allah's warriors and Mohammed's freedom fighters?

Are the values of the Islamic State so very different from those of Saudi Arabia or Iran? Persecution? Imprisonment without trial? Forced conversion? Beheadings? Saudia Arabia and Iran might not crucify their Christians, but the international community turns a very convenient blind eye to their appalling treatment of religious minorities.

These faith leaders are doubtless well intentioned, and a resolution of the United Nations Security Council might indeed trigger an investigation by the International Criminal Court. But to what effect? The signatories say these violations are crimes which must be punished. How exactly?

It is estimated that somewhere between 800 and 2000 British Muslims are fighting with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Surely the "culture of impunity" within the British state has contributed to this. Our shared commitment to multiculturalism; the diminution of our Judæo-Christian notions of honour, justice and freedom; and our embrace of moral relativity and a positivist conception of nature have fundamentally challenged our understanding of national identity. We cannot "send a clear signal of intent" to those who violate human rights or commit atrocities because we can no longer agree what we mean by "clear", "violation" or "atrocity".

Surely the Jihadis that went out from amongst us ought to be tried in British courts? And surely, if found guilty, their life must be forfeit? For the commandment of God against killing is an expression of His will for the protection and affirmation of the lives of those who dwell in peace; not an absolutist expression of their inviolable and intrinsic worth.

The preservation of life may, paradoxically, occasionally require its termination. The problem, then, is that by taking up the sword against Jihadists we potentially create a legion of Islamist martyrs, who, by their submission to the will of Allah and sacrifice in the name of Mohammed, may inspire another wave of Christian-crucifying zealots.

Peacemaking is the fundamental task of Christian ethics, but the Islamic State presents us with a wholly abnormal situation of national emergency. We either confront and kill, or surrender our hard-won liberty, our cherished freedoms and our national independence. We cannot wait for the United Nations to deliberate and proclaim their resolution any more than we can depend on them to guard our freedoms of religion and belief. We are talking here about the physical, intellectual and spiritual lives of the British people, and their relationship to God. We cannot abdicate our national responsibility to supranational deficiency.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

As long as Obama spouts the fallacy that the Islamic State "speaks for no religion", we will never kill the root

It would appear that the barbaric Islamist who decapitated US journalist James Foley was a dude named John, probably from East London, who took a brief sojourn in Syria with his mates Mustafa and Aqueel in order to wage a bit of moderate Jihad against their smoking and drinking Ummah. But, you know Jihad: once bitten, never shy, never afraid, never wavering, and never averse to a bit of summary decapitation in the name of Mohammed for the glory of Allah, most gracious, most beneficient, most merciful.

It transpires that John had been captivated by the inspirational words of Winston Churchill, whom he encountered in the World War Two thematic module of his History GCSE: "We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in Syria and Iraq, we shall fight on buses and the underground, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength with shoe-bombs in the air, we shall defend our Caliphate, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the deserts, we shall fight on the airports, we shall fight in the cities and in the streets, we shall fight in the mountains; we shall never surrender."

There couldn't be a clearer geo-political fons et origo to explain John's theo-political praxis.  

But if not Churchill, then who? Tony Blair? George W Bush? Adolf Hitler? Who galvanised John to pack a suitcase, drive to Heathrow, fly out to Damascus and wage war against the infidel, heretic and apostate for the establishment of the Islamic State? What cult controlled him? What creed captivated his mind?

President Obama says the Islamic State "speaks for no religion", because "no faith teaches people to massacre innocents". In this, he takes Baroness Warsi's line that Wahhabi-Salafist Muslims are not Muslims at all, and the religion they follow bears no resemblance to any expression of Islam. The President adds: "No just God would stand for what (the Islamic State) did yesterday, and what they do every single day."

He appears not to grasp the Islamist worldview, which is as theological as it is political; as historic as it is present. Allah is not merely a "just God": he is perfect justice, and his prophet did no wrong. The people beheaded, tortured or massacred are not "innocents": they are corrupted by idolatry; tainted by the blood on the hands of Western warmongers; and damned by perversions of liberal democracy and moral relativity. We will never eradicate this cancer unless and until our politicians and religious leaders can bring themselves to acknowledge that the Islamist inspiration is a virulent quranic doctrine of God which is based on a particular reading of Hadith literature and a singular understanding of the Sunnah. It may be offensive to our Western sensibilities to say so, but we are so steeped in mushy multicultural GCSE notions of ill-taught RE that we have ceased to have any ability to discern the spirits, determine right from wrong, or distinguish between the forces of good and the legions of evil.

Centuries of scholarship bear witness to the mutability and multiplicity of the Islamic faith, which is as diverse and disparate as the myriad of Christian denominations. The problem is the ascendancy and dominance of a particular interpretation of Islam – the Wahhabi-Salfist strain – which seeks to agitate, occupy, subjugate, inculcate and deny liberty and justice to all who do not adhere to its notions of societal perfection. The Islamic State adheres to this "pure and unadulterated" version of Islam. It is by no means believed by the world's 1.9 billion Muslims, but it is practised by a disparate 10 million or so around the world, and that's only a conservative estimate. Their political vision is acutely theological:
(They) see life as being divided between the world of Islam (dar al-Islam) and the land of conflict or war (dar al-harb). Through jihad, they wish to extend the Muslim world so that all of humankind can live under its umbrella. They harken back to the Great Caliphate, when the Muslim world extended from Spain (then called Andalusia), across North Africa and the Middle East, down the west coast of Africa, and across the Caspian region to India and the Philippines. At its height in the 1200s, the Caliphate was a highly sophisticated civilization, responsible for many inventions and innovations in mathematics and science".
And so the vision of an Islamic Empire is revived. Its factions include Al-Qaeda and the Al-Nusra Front, not to mention Fatah al-Islam, Jund al-Sham, the Syria Free Army and the Abdullah Azzam Brigade. And let's throw in Jund al-Aqsa, the Syrian Martyrs' Brigade, Idlib Martyrs' Brigade, Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union, Ahfad al-Rasul Brigade, Army of Mujahedeen, Ghuraba al-Sham, Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Muslim Brotherhood. And that's just in one region: their platoons are trans-national and the fissures never-ending. They may lack a unifying commander-in-chief, but there is broad consensus on the religio-political strategy, which stems from a perception of Islamic appeasement, moral compromise and subjugation to the ‘Great Satan’. They cohere around the application of Jihad to defend the faith primarily against the evils of Zionism, Judaism, Christianity, secularism, and a plethora of corrupt manifestations of Islam. They consider it an unacceptable humiliation that the "Christian West" may demand concessions, impose conditions and dictate the terms of debate to the "Muslim world".

All of this is undoubtedly political, but it is also acutely theological.

The Muslims of the Islamic State may not speak for all Muslims, but they plainly call themselves Muslims and profess to speak for Islam. They may not be President Obama's type of Muslim or practise Tony Blair's preferred brand of Islam. But to reduce their religious beliefs to the status of a non-religion is to subjugate their devout worldview to the very notions of Western-Christian arrogance and imperialism they wage Jihad to defeat. And in such political ignorance and religious denial lie the seeds of our own decline, defeat and destruction.   

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Archbishop of Mosul: "Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here"

The translated words of Amel Nona, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, now exiled in Erbil (via Rorate Caeli):
"Our sufferings today are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future," says Amel Nona, 47, Chaldean archbishop of Mosul exiled in Erbil. The message is unequivocal: the only way to end the Christian exodus from the places that witnessed its origins in the pre-Islamic age is to respond to violence with violence, to force with force. Nona is a wounded, pain-stricken man, but not resigned. "I lost my diocese. The physical setting of my apostolate has been occupied by Islamic radicals who want us converted or dead. But my community is still alive." He is very glad to meet Western media. "Please, try to understand us," he exclaims. "Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims. Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles. You think all men are equal," Archbishop Amel Nona continues, "but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home."
From an original interview by Lorenzo Cremonesi, Corriere della Sera (10th August 2014):
I giovani chiedono armi. Gli anziani approvano. «Le nostre sofferenze di oggi sono il preludio di quelle che subirete anche voi europei e cristiani occidentali nel prossimo futuro», dice il 47enne Amel Nona, l’arcivescovo caldeo di Mosul fuggito ad Erbil. Il messaggio è inequivocabile: l’unico modo per fermare l’esodo cristiano dai luoghi che ne videro le origini in epoca pre-islamica è rispondere alla violenza con la violenza, alla forza con la forza. Nona è un uomo ferito, addolorato, ma non rassegnato. «Ho perso la mia diocesi. Il luogo fisico del mio apostolato è stato occupato dai radicali islamici che ci vogliono convertiti o morti. Ma la mia comunità è ancora viva». E’ ben contento di incontrare la stampa occidentale. «Per favore, cercate di capirci - esclama -. I vostri principi liberali e democratici qui non valgono nulla. Occorre che ripensiate alla nostra realtà in Medio Oriente perché state accogliendo nei vostri Paesi un numero sempre crescente di musulmani. Anche voi siete a rischio. Dovete prendere decisioni forti e coraggiose, a costo di contraddire i vostri principi. Voi pensate che gli uomini sono tutti uguali - continua l’arcivescovo Amel Nona - Ma non è vero. L’Islam non dice che gli uomini sono tutti uguali. I vostri valori non sono i loro valori. Se non lo capite in tempo, diventerete vittime del nemico che avete accolto in casa vostra».
The Italian version is linked and quoted in full because there might be some understandable doubt about the authenticity of this rather candid interview. Of course, those doubts may abide regardless, not least because of the variable inconsistencies of the interviewer. But, taken at face value, we are presented here with a number of irrefutable primary truths, any one of which could be extracted to create an alarming leader:
"Our sufferings are the prelude of all Europeans and Western Christians"

"I lost my diocese to Islamic radicals"

"Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here"

"You are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims - you are in danger"

"You think all men are equal, but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal"

"Your values are not their values"

"You will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home"
All of these are pertinent; any of them would be an admissible truth, though not all an advisable headline. And none of these phrases is likely to be uttered by any Western church leader, simply because there is so little understanding in the liberal and democratic Christian West of the Islamic Hydra that manifests itself so variably across what we call the Arab-Muslim world. Even the ubiquity of this geo-ethnic-religious term is indicative of the paucity of theological knowledge and religious observation, for not all Muslims are Arab; not all Arabs subscribe to the same doctrine of Allah; and not all Muslims accord with any notion of inhabiting the same world as those they view as heretics and apostates.

But, to most of us in the liberal and democratic West, this is Islam and they are all Muslims. We can quibble over the meaning of "true" Islam and cavil about what it is to be a "real" Muslim. And we do. And in the liberal and democratic West we are free to do so - at least for now. We are repeatedly told by our schoolteachers and hear in abundance from our political leaders of our common values, our shared truths, and our established assertions of tolerance and respect in an inescapable framework of equality.

But what do these values mean to the Islamic State which, some aver, is no Islamic State at all, but a perversion of Islam and a corruption of the very definition of 'state'? "Your values are not their values," says the exiled Archbishop of Mosul, as he warns of the danger of welcoming "an ever growing number of Muslims". Are his Muslims the same as our Muslims? Is he being "racist" or "Islamophobic"? The media are silent, and the politicians mute. Demographically, it is already too late. With one eye permanently fixed on the electoral cycle and the other on Baroness Warsi, the "Muslim vote" must be heeded.

And yet this "Muslim vote" is as nebulous and incoherent as the "Muslim world". Some of them vote Conservative, one or two incline toward Ukip, and many more are Liberal Democrats. But most are tribal Labour supporters - simply because their parents and grandparents found succour in their community compassion and generous notions of welfare. No one has bothered to research the disparate voting intentions of British Sunni, Shia, Sufi or Ahmadiyya Muslims. But it gets worse: they are the "ethnic minority vote", as though a plethora of Islamic denominations can be lumped in with Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, Black Caribbean, Black African or Black 'Other'..

Funny, isn't it, how we so easily conflate "ethnic minority" with "religious minority". And funny, too, that so few of us classify Jews in the same socio-political category.

The historic schism between Sunni and Shia Islam is becoming a global conflict. Israel and the Jews are the only common enemy. Palestine is all that unites them. Or so the narrative goes. But Sunni and Shia are themselves riven with religious fractures and political fissures, such that they routinely denounce one another as heretics like the pretender popes of old, fiddling with their mutual excommunications while the world burns.

We have before us the present foreign-policy obsessions - Gaza, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Egypt, Pakistan and Afghanistan seem to come and go. We hear mutterings of Yemen and Qatar. Saudi Arabia rarely hits the radar, unless they're flogging women or hanging gays. We flit about from one to the other trying to negotiate 'peace' while selling them missiles, bombs and bullets. Incredibly, we are about to ally ourselves with Shia Iran in order to defeat the greater evil of the Sunni Islamic State. This is profoundly misguided. Our enemies enemy is still our enemy.

The West must heed the stark warning of Archbishop Amel Nona, and do so before it is too late. Mosul has fallen: his warning is that Toulouse, Brussels or Liege might be next. For now, the battleground is fixed in the Middle East. But Jihadi-Salfist theatres of war recognise no state borders, and they have no time at all for democracy, diplomacy, or "moderate" notions of Islam which is not "proper" or "true" Islam. These fanatics find our governments weak and compliant; our liberal and democratic principles quite conducive to their political objectives; our Christianity favourably disposed to a multi-faith ecumenical love-in.

This unpalatable truth may irritate our democratic politicians and cause a few ripples among our liberal bishops. But Archbishop Amel Nona has seen the evil, and calls it so. There can be no fellowship of darkness with light.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bishop of Leeds accuses Cameron of turning his back Iraqi Christians

It hasn't been for the want of trying. Numerous blog posts have been written, emails and DMs exchanged, and meeting with senior ministers held. This blog has been at the forefront. But still the Government refused to see what just about every Christian in the country had eyes to see: that David Cameron said nothing and did even less while tens of thousands of Iraq's Christians were summarily slaughtered or driven from their ancient homelands. But the moment the Yazidis were stranded up Mt Sinjar, the Prime Minister was convening his Cobra emergency committee and announcing to the world that Britain would play a leading role in their rescue and relief. We even sent the SAS.

What is this incoherent foreign policy? Who determines this hierarchy of suffering?

It is as though the Government couldn't give a damn about Iraqi Christians. But the Yazidis are a syncretic Zoroastrian tribe. They are mysterious and cool, and there is kudos to be had in saving the exotic minority. The Christians are knowable and familiar. And therein lies the contempt.

So today's headlines are wholly justified: "Church launches bitter attack on PM's 'incoherent' Middle East policy'. The story has been picked up by the BBC, ITV and Sky, and is slowly reverberating around the world. Here is the incisive letter dispatched to the Prime Minister by the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Rev'd Nick Baines. Please note that it was sent in the full knowledge and approval of the Archbishop of Canterbury:  
Dear Prime Minister,

Iraq and the Islamic State

I am conscious of the speed at which events are moving in Iraq and Syria, and write recognising the complexity and interconnectedness of the challenges faced by the international community in responding to the crises in Syria and Iraq.

However, in common with many bishops and other correspondents here in the UK, I remain very concerned about the Government’s response to several issues. I write with the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury to put these questions to you.

1. It appears that, in common with the United States and other partners, the UK is responding to events in a reactive way, and it is difficult to discern the strategic intentions behind this approach. Please can you tell me what is the overall strategy that holds together the UK Government’s response to both the humanitarian situation and what IS is actually doing in Syria and Iraq? Behind this question is the serious concern that we do not seem to have a coherent or comprehensive approach to Islamist extremism as it is developing across the globe. Islamic State, Boko Haram and other groups represent particular manifestations of a global phenomenon, and it is not clear what our broader global strategy is – particularly insofar as the military, political, economic and humanitarian demands interconnect. The Church internationally must be a primary partner in addressing this complexity.

2. The focus by both politicians and media on the plight of the Yezidis has been notable and admirable. However, there has been increasing silence about the plight of tens of thousands of Christians who have been displaced, driven from cities and homelands, and who face a bleak future. Despite appalling persecution, they seem to have fallen from consciousness, and I wonder why. Does your Government have a coherent response to the plight of these huge numbers of Christians whose plight appears to be less regarded than that of others? Or are we simply reacting to the loudest media voice at any particular time?

3. As yet, there appears to have been no response to pleas for asylum provision to be made for those Christians (and other minorities) needing sanctuary from Iraq in the UK. I recognise that we do not wish to encourage Christians or other displaced and suffering people to leave their homeland – the consequences for those cultures and nations would be extremely detrimental at every level – but for some of them this will be the only recourse. The French and German governments have already made provision, but there has so far been only silence from the UK Government. Therefore, I ask for a response to the question of whether there is any intention to offer asylum to Iraqi migrants (as part of a holistic strategy to addressing the challenges of Iraq)?

4. Following on from this, I note that the Bishop of Coventry tabled a series of questions to HM Government in the House of Lords on Monday 28 July. All but two were answered on Monday 11 August. The outstanding questions included the following: “The Lord Bishop of Coventry to ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to resettling here in the UK a fair proportion of those displaced from ISIS controlled areas of Northern Iraq.” I would be grateful to know why this question has not so far been answered – something that causes me and colleagues some concern.

5. Underlying these concerns is the need for reassurance that a commitment to religious freedom will remain a priority for the Government, given the departure of ministers who championed this. Will the Foreign Secretary's Human Rights Advisory Panel continue under the new Foreign Secretary? Is this not the time to appoint an Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom – which would demonstrate the Government’s serious commitment to developing an overarching strategy (backed by expertise) against Islamist extremism and violence?

I look forward to your considered response to these pressing questions.

Yours sincerely,

The Rt Revd Nicholas Baines
The Bishop of Leeds
"Or are we simply reacting to the loudest media voice at any particular time?" the bishop asks. Of course, we all know the answer to this. Most of the mainstream media segued straight from Gaza to Mt Sinjar; from bombed-out Palestinians to the massacre of Yazidis. They said little, if anything, about Mosul, and one doubts they have ever heard of Qaraqosh. The Government tends to react to the obsessive minority passions of the BBC, Guardian and Jon Snow, all of whom manifest a pathological anti-Christian bias, born of theological ignorance and spiritual indifference.

But to say that the Government's policy in Iraq is incoherent, ill-thought-through and determined by "the loudest media voice at any particular time" is brave, coming from a bishop. No doubt some will raise a highly-polished mirror, point the finger and cry "hypocrite!", reminding us that the Church is mired in its own inconsistencies, confusions and contradictions. And perhaps there is in the Church's own muddles and murkiness a temporal reflection at the heart of the State. But this is not a time for divisive diatribes of denunciation. Christians are dying in their thousands. even now, in the relative safety of their Kurdish camps, where they sweat in their fevers and faint from thirst and malnutrition.

And David Cameron stands accused by a senior bishop of the Church of England of abandoning them. And that accusation is justified, because the Yazidis have consistently taken political precedence. The Government has created a hierarchy of suffering in which 30,000 Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar trumps 100,000 Christians fleeing the murderous Jihadists who invaded Mosul and Qaraqosh. For Cameron and his Government, the Christians have indeed "fallen from consciousness".

There has been no response to the bishops' plea that we open our borders to asylum seekers. France and Germany are offering sanctuary, but the Bishops of Leeds, Manchester and Worcester haven't even received an acknowledgement of their letter. Bishop Nick says this is "something that causes me and colleagues some concern". Frankly, it causes His Grace consternation, disillusionment and dismay. Christians are being crucified in Iraq, and the Prime Minister can't even be bothered to convene a committee.

At least Baroness Warsi managed to do that.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Why can bishops organise to condemn foodbanks but not genocide?

After the Holocaust, the whole of civilisation united behind two simple words: "Never Again". If the free world is not prepared to eradicate the Islamist evil spreading over the desert sands and pouring onto our polite and tolerant streets, the fate of the Christians of Mosul and the Yazidis of Sinjar surely awaits the genteel parishioners of Tower Hamlets. It is already unfolding in France, Germany and the Netherlands. It is naive to believe that England's mannerly history of relatively bloodless revolution can be sustained against the genocidal, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian pogroms of the Islamic State.

Whether we are in the End Times and approaching the coming final conflict we cannot know. There is a whiff of the Antichrist and sense of Apocalypse, but there are many antichrists and no man knows the day or hour. And as we pore over eschatological charts and await the Parousia, we have one mission and one calling: to proclaim the gospel, feed the hungry, heal the sick and mend the brokenhearted.

So it was a joy to read that the bishops of Leeds, Manchester and Worcester had called on the Government to offer asylum to the persecuted and destitute Christians of Iraq. "We have a tradition of offering sanctuary to people who are oppressed," explained the Rt Rev'd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds. "And it's part of the Christian heritage of this country and the law we have established that puts an obligation on us," he continued. "We also have an obligation to at least raise with the Government the possibility that we should be offering sanctuary to Christians in Iraq who have been effectively expelled under the threat of death. The Government cannot remain silent and you cannot just issue words – you've got to put something behind that. If we can't offer sanctuary to these people, then who will? Not doing so would be tantamount to the betrayal of our moral and historical obligations."

And then these three were joined by another: "Archbishop of Canterbury urges Britain to open doors to persecuted Iraqi Christians," heralded the Telegraph. But then, silence. The bishop have received no response from the Government. This utterly damning cartoon from Morten Morland in today's Times might explain why:

Or is it, quite simply, that not enough bishops have organised and united in their righteous quest in order to generate greater publicity and so exert the greatest political pressure? Why is it that 27 bishops of the Church of England can get together to castigate Cameron via the Daily Mirror over the "national crisis" of foodbanks and "failures in the benefit system", but only three can organise themselves with the Guardian to agitate over the international crisis unfolding in Iraq and the manifest failures of the Foreign Office?

Are the Daily Mirror and the Guardian really the most persuasive media by which to lobby a Conservative Prime Minister, Work and Pensions Secretary or Foreign Secretary? Shouldn't the bishops at least be attempting to speak Greek to the Greeks? Don't they appreciate that the medium is still at least part of the message?  

This is not in any sense to dispraise the efforts of the bishops of Leeds, Manchester and Worcester, or to belittle the welcome added voice of the Archbishop of Canterbury who has called out this "evil". But somebody/bodies must have done some applied administrative networking to engineer the foodbank protest and get the support of 27 bishops, whose concert of grievance was then heard at the highest levels. Why could this not have been done over the evil unfolding in Iraq?

It is, of course, too late for those who have been tortured and summarily slaughtered. What we should have said or might have done are now matters for Judgment Day. But for those who are surviving on Sinjar's mountain of hell or subsisting in the purgatorial plains of Nineveh it is not too late, and they cry out for deliverance as they weep for relief and die in their camps. It is invidious that we are prepared to condemn the cruelty and barbarism of the Islamic State but not open our borders to our suffering Christian brothers and sisters and our traumatised neighbours.   

It is inconceivable that any bishop of the Church of England has not thought, prayed or preached about this. For those who believe the Government should act beyond flying out baked beans and dropping bottles of Evian, to offer sanctuary to the thousands fleeing the Jihadist terror, His Grace is prepared to act as a conduit to establish a unified episcopal voice on this appeal:
"While conflicts rage in the Middle East, we continue to pray for peace. Britain has a history of providing refuge to the oppressed. We ask the Government to offer sanctuary to Christians and others who have been expelled under threat of death."
Those Anglican Bishops and Archbishops who make this appeal to the Government currently include:
Justin Welby, Canterbury
John Sentamu, York
Nick Baines, Leeds
David Walker, Manchester
John Inge, Worcester
Mark Rylands, Shrewsbury
Jonathan Gledhill, Lichfield
Geoff Annas, Stafford
Clive Gregory, Wolverhampton
Jonathan Clark, Croydon
Pete Broadbent, Willesden
Graham Usher, Dudley
Steven Croft, Sheffield
Ordinaries and others include:
John Hall, Dean of Westminster
Should any bishop wish to add his name, please do so. If you think your bishop might, please contact him and request that he make his support known. Bless you.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

None dare call it evil - except Archbishop Justin Welby

Our politicians are at last speaking about the terror, torture, mass murder and genocide being meted out upon Christians and other minorities by the Islamic State in Iraq. Their assessment of the situation ranges from "completely unacceptable" to "barbaric". Cardinal Vincent Nichols astutely calls it "a persecution of immense proportions". The Archbishop of Canterbury calls it "evil". And not only is it evil, but "part of an evil pattern around the world where Christians and other minorities are being killed and persecuted for their faith". And he refers specifically to Northern Nigeria, Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

It doesn't take a genius to work out that his subject is radical Islam and the malignant Saudi-backed Salafist strain.

Archbishop Justin knows a thing or two about evil: he has stared it in the face down the barrel of a gun while trying to bring peace and reconciliation to the warlords, bandits and murderous thugs of Africa. When you expect to die and phone your wife to say goodbye, you may begin to grasp what it is to agonise, grieve and suffer because of evil.

Archbishop Justin says that this "evil pattern around the world" is brutally violating people's right to freedom of religion and belief. It is, in fact, killing them for their faith in Jesus Christ. It is persecuting them for heresy, apostasy and infidelity to the temporal objectives and literal truths revealed by Mohammed. The Salafi-Jihadists or Jihadi-Salafists who agitate for a caliphate may constitute less than 0.5 percent of the world's 1.9 billion Muslims, but that still numbers them around 10 million - sufficient to establish an evil pattern of hard-line Islamisation around the world.

It is good that we have an Archbishop of Canterbury who discerns manifestations of evil not only in the principalities and powers of the spiritual realm, but also in the muddled and murky politics of the temporal. His nature is averse to the discordant skirmishes of religio-political polarisation: his heart inclines toward peace and reconciliation. But he knows the unmistakable signs of the times, and can read the moods and movements that transcend the materialistic, corrupt, decadent and immoral obsessions of the age. He won't call it a "clash of civilisations", but we have in Justin Welby an Archbishop who knows that the greatest threat to the Judæo-Christian ethic is the Islamic revival movement which we call Islamism, Jihadism, extremist or political Islam.

Right across the Arab-Muslim world, from the coastal plains of the Maghreb to the Himalayan peaks of Pakistan, a Quranic Curtain is descending. Whatever its fanatical creed and sectarian form, this veil of darkness is asserting the superiority of a culture and civilisation which is inimical to Western notions of politics, religion, morality and enlightenment, to the point that they want to cleanse the earth of all that impedes and obstructs the establishment of the Caliphate - the Islamic State.

The evil pattern which is emerging around the world must be routed and disordered. Their future is not ours. This is the repressive and brutal evil which confronts us. Thank God Justin Welby calls it so.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Canon Andrew White: "You have got to be prepared to die for your faith"

"We have had people's heads chopped off. We are having people convert. We are even having children slaughtered and cut in half." And with these words, Newsnight's interview with Canon Andrew White ends, as he leaves the Baghdad studio to carry on ministering to his flock. "We are living in worst crisis I have ever known," he writes on Facebook. "Working day and night to meet the needs of those who have nothing. We are providing a huge amount and as you will see on this video we are all very tired, but our Lord is sustaining us."

And he does look rather tired. But there is no sense of bitterness, exasperation, or even a hint of indignation. His whole demeanour is one of peacefulness and serenity. At times he sounds almost like a soul in bliss, and perhaps that is what makes his ministry so vital in a region where every waking day brings an expectation of death.

Apparently, President Obama is bombing Northern Iraq to help save the 40,000 members of the Yazidi tribe stranded on the barren crags of Mount Sinjar, before more of them die of dehydration and starvation. The President said the US could not turn a "blind eye" to the prospect of violence "on a horrific scale", especially when the Iraqi government had requested assistance. He said the US would act "carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide".

This intervention is welcome. But one notes that it was the appalling plight of the Yazidi after the Islamic State took control of Zumar and Sinjar which has animated the politicians; not the desperate anguish of Christians after those same Sunni-Salafist fanatics butchered their way through Mosul. And now the Prime Minister has issued a statement:

The world must help them in their hour of desperate need? Why were the Christians not deemed worthy of the same level of concern and support? Why is the Prime Minister less burdened by their right to freedom and dignity? Are Christians worth less than members of a so-called 'sect'?

Baroness Warsi observed back in January that the persecution of Christians has become a "global crisis". But she did nothing. She said the UK Government was committed to standing up to such persecution. But she did nothing. She said majority Muslim nations have a duty to defend Christian minorities. But she did nothing. She assured us that she had elevated religious discrimination against Christians and other minorities to a key priority in the Government’s human rights work. But she did nothing. She visited the Pope and made a speech to the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. But nothing came of it. She convened a committee to discuss the complex issues. But nothing came of that, either.

Words, words, words.

At least Canon Andrew White is doing something. And in his anguish are echoes of the passions and martyrdoms of generations past.

But the persecution of Christians throughout history has ultimately failed because it has tended to separate the wheat from the chaff and caused growth. Eusebius’ account of the martyrdom of Polycarp tells us: "When one governor in Asia Minor in the second century began persecuting the Christians, the entire Christian population of the region paraded before his house as a manifesto of their faith." The suffering of some Christians spurred others to more faithful living. Martyrs were perceived as having heroic qualities, and many peasants, onlookers, soldiers and members of the nobility became Christians through their witness. Tertullian observed: "The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed." Tacitus agreed, after the persecutions of Nero, that "in spite of this temporary setback the deadly superstition broke out afresh, not only in Judaea... but even in Rome".

The blood of Christians is seed.

Muslims loyal to the Islamic State will do what they believe they have been called by their prophet to do. Presidents and prime ministers will try to bomb them to hell. But the Living God will strengthen His people to be courageous and fearless. And persecution is nothing to be ashamed of. On the contrary, it is one of the marks of true gospel ministry and discipleship. Sharing in the sufferings of Christ translates into sharing a future glory. As St Peter says, it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God: "But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled" (1Pt 3:14).

Canon Andrew White suffers with his people because Christ suffered for him, leaving us an example, that we should follow in His steps and in his steps. He is a bold and gracious witness to the whole world. 

Thursday, August 07, 2014

"We are being butchered under the banner of 'There is no God but Allah'"

It is impossible to hear the anguished wailing of this Iraqi MP and not be hauled to the depths of her misery and despair. You might shed a tear watching it, because it is harrowing. Her name is Vian Dakheel, of Iraq's Yazidi tribe (also Yezidi, Êzidî) - an ethno-religious group whose presence in the region pre-dates that of both Christians and Muslims. Ethnically, they are Kurdish; religiously, they practise a monotheistic syncretised fusion of Islam and Zoroastrianism. Beneath their one true god are seven deities - the Heptad - the most important of which is Tawsi Melek, which translates as 'Peacock Angel' or 'Peacock King'. Tracing their origins back to 600 BC, it is not unreasonable to say that they are the oldest religious community in what we now call Iraq.

Up until a week ago, there were around 800,000 of them living in the Nineveh province of northern region. But the Sunni-Salafist Islamic State have descended in their murderous droves, and the towns of Zumar and Sinjar have been cleansed of these devil-worshipers, for Tawsi Melek may also be rendered 'Shaytan', the Arabic word for 'devil' or 'demon'. And so they have suffered persecution at the hands of Muslims for centuries.

It is estimated that some 2,000 were murdered and as many as 40,000 have fled into the mountains to avoid the slaughter. The children are now dying of thirst. Exposed to the heat of Mount Sinjar, the elderly and vulnerable adults will soon follow.

This is genocide. The Yazidi are being systematically wiped off the face of the earth. Vian Dakheel demands that the Iraqi Parliament act to repel ISIS/Islamic State, which appears to have its advocates in the legislature. Another MP Haji Ghandour told reporters: "In our history, we have suffered 72 massacres. We are worried Sinjar could be a 73rd." And we read: “People were terrified,” said Ilias al-Hussani, 27, who had been trekking through the mountains for 10 hours. “They are savages. We’ve seen what they’ve done to people of their own faith. Imagine what they would do to us non-Muslims.”

Imagine, indeed.

This is another humanitarian tragedy. The appalling plight of the Yazidi has made the Independent, Mail, Guardian, Telegraph, Economist, Yahoo News UK, Al-Jazeera and the BBC.

You've probably guessed where this is going.

The Chaldean-Assyrian Christians, Maronites, Melkites and Copts are also being "butchered under the banner of 'There is no God but Allah'". They, too, are fleeing into the mountains for refuge, as Christ exhorted at the time of the end. They, too, are being reviled, persecuted, and their children murdered. But we're not hearing an awful lot about it.

Except via Canon Andrew White, who writes today:
The Massacre of all continues. We are now in Erbil supporting to various church leaders here. The Yazidis have now come under huge attack. This group is similar to the Zoroastrians and at the best of times they are a discriminated and despised minority. What we have heard from some of the Church leaders is more than horrendous. Just like last week a felt I could not show the pictures so today I fell I cannot tell the whole story especially about the children.

Now they head toward Erbil. This is supposed to be the one safe area in Iraq but yesterday evening the whole of Erbil went into total panic with news that ISIS was moving towards Erbil. It is not here yet but it may indeed be on its way. Meanwhile over a hundred people where killed in Baghdad last night.

There is one other person here doing what we are doing with his wife. Dr Plumb and his wife Peggy are both in their late 70's, they are Mormons have been here several months using all their own money. He is our closest friend here. All the time people say to me how can you work with a Mormon. Well he is the only other person here doing the work of Jesus caring for the poor and the dying and we love each other.
Our neighbour is the one who has need. Our brother is the one who helps us to meet that need - in this instance, caring for the poor and the dying. Louis Raphael I Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, writes:
..speeches are good for nothing, so too declarations that rehash condemnations and indignation; the same can be said for protest marches. In addition, while appreciating the generosity of our donors, we would say that donations and fundraising too are not what will solve our problems. We have to demand a large-scale administrative [governmental] operation on an international level. There is in fact the need for awareness, in conscience, regarding this simple human principle: the demand for real actions and solidarity because we are before a crisis related to our very existence, facing the fact that "we will be or we will not be."

This is an appeal from the bottom of the heart in the search for a solution that lies uniquely in the hands of the international community and above all with the great powers. We address ourselves profoundly to their consciences and that they should review their positions and to re-evaluate the impact of the situation of today.

These powers face a human and moral responsibility. It is no longer reasonable to take recourse to double standards. They are called to free themselves from their narrow interests and to unite themselves in a political and peacekeeping solution that puts an end to this conflict. These powers must vigorously exercise pressure on those who support financially and train militarily these factions and so cut short these sources of violence and radicalisation.

Concerning the Christians of Iraq, in our pastoral ministry towards them, we also call upon the international community: our Christians are in urgent need of humanitarian aid, as too they are in need of an efficient, true and permanent protection that reassures them that there is no end to their existence, whose origins are so deeply rooted in Iraq; this also concerns Christians in other regions of the Middle East that are burning and being torn apart.

We also appeal to our brothers and sisters around the world, that they too be truly with us in solidarity at this our time of suffering this terrible ordeal; that they live with us this feeling of solidarity as if belonging to the same family.
There is the heartfelt plea: "..the need for awareness, in conscience, regarding this simple human principle: the demand for real actions and solidarity because we are before a crisis related to our very existence.."

The Prime Minister has asked the Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP to assume the Faith portfolio previously held by Baroness Warsi. There have already been strong objections, though, in fact, Mr Pickles always had ultimate responsibility for DCLG policy, which includes matters of faith and integration. But the Baroness was viewed by many (and known to be by a few) as something of a hurdle to progress in this area: she convened a committee on religion and belief, but her view of Islamist terrorism was never quite that of the Prime Minister or the Prince of Wales. Now gone, we can expect to see not only changes in tone, but policy.

Secretary of State, there is an urgent need for awareness. And then there must be real actions. We pray you will hear the weeping and wailing.          

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Canon Andrew White: "The governments and media of the world may have forgotten us.."

It is a tedious seasonal metaphor, now clichéd to the point of political hollowness, but these "Arab springs", once hailed as the founts of liberty and democratic dreams, have become long, cold winters of turmoil, suffering, persecution and mass slaughter.

Egypt is economically unstable; Syria is is meltdown; Iraq is disintegrating; Libya has become the very bloodbath we tried to avert; Saudi Arabia is struggling with internal discord; and Iran is fomenting regional conflict. The Arab world is collapsing in painful spasms and convulsing in a series of existential catastrophes. The disintegration has been swift and inexorable.

The ensuing humanitarian tragedy is epic - one might almost say 'biblical'. Tens of millions across the Arab world are in need of urgent aid as they displaced, made homeless and hunger for their daily bread. Hundreds of thousands have lost their lives through civil war and sectarian strife. Now that the regional strongmen have fallen one by one, the vacuum is being filled by the Salafist-Jihadist Islamic State, and they have brought hell on earth.

Where is the Arab League in all this? How are they responding to the Caliphate? What are they saying about the apocalyptic death and destruction? Where are the declarations opposing Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or uniting in their condemnation of his 'robust' interpretation of Islam?


There are, however, a few causes of optimism. God's people are not mute; nor are they turning a blind eye. Here is the latest update from the Vicar of Baghdad, Canon Andrew White:
I can’t express how immensely encouraged I am by the huge amount of support we have received here for the persecuted Christians here in Iraq. People have prayed and sacrificially given. They have enabled us to at least begin to meet the crucial needs of the people. Dr Sarah and I have been working flat out on meeting these needs but we have to have more help and I pray that today we will find the help we need. Today I will head North to Kurdistan where Sarah is at the moment.

Helping Through The Iraqi Churches

The main way we are helping the massive numbers of internally displaced people is through the various indigenous churches. The different denominations know which of their people need help, and who they have who have fled Mosul and Nineveh. The money is received through our Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME) and given through our one Anglican Church in Iraq. So the help is given from Church to Church. The Foundation is a 501C3 in the US and a registered charity in the UK. So people can give in tax beneficial ways.


Daily Information

Daily information is provided through Face Book and on less regular email updates sent about twice a week. My personal face book page is full as I have 5000 friends and am thus not allowed anymore. I do however have a popular figure page that you can like and get regular updates there.

The message to those who want to be friends:

I would very much love to have you as a friend but I am afraid I have reached the limit of 5000 friends on my page there are two public figure pages that you can join that get my same updates. You can also sign up for my regular updates at www.frrme.org .Please do join one of these pages. These pages are:


Together We Have Hope

Everything maybe awful but we have such hope. HOPE because we are not alone the support from our friends around the world has simply been phenomenal. The governments and media of the world may have forgotten us but the people of G-d are with us Jews, Christians and Muslims the people who know that the Lord is here and His Spirit is with us.

With love thanks and blessings,

Andrew White
This is an encouraging epistle, the most notable sentence being the final one. But the media have not entirely forgotten: the Christian media are well informed. And even if Channel 4 News is consumed by Gaza and busy lauding the bravery of Baroness Warsi, the BBC is slowly waking up to the horrors being inflicted upon Christians by the self-styled Islamic State.

But we must remember that these Salafist extremists neither represent nor speak for all Sunni Muslims. As Canon White explains elsewhere, there are voices being raised against them:
Islamic Sunni Leader totally Condemns ISIS

I have spent much of the day with one Iraq's most senior Sunni Imams Sheik Khalid Al Mullah he has openly and clearly spoken out against the evil events, massacres and slaughters committed by ISIS. He not only stated they were totally demonic he said they were totally against everything Islam stands for. He stated that Christianity was the very root of Iraqi society, therefore Christians are at the heart of Iraqi society. We went to see the US Ambassador together and the Sheik was able to share these points with him.
And it must be observed that the Islamic State is not only persecuting Christians, but also Shia, Turkmen, Shabaks, Yazidis and others.

Our Government mutters about the need for regional peace and stability, but the FCO offers no solutions. They whisper in Whitehall as Christians are systematically cleansed from their ancient lands, but they give no assistance. As we witness waves of terror sweeping over the land and the emergence of a new hegemonic power, the geo-politics of the Middle East and North Africa are being irrevocably transformed.

The hope must be that space is eventually made in this turmoil for the Jews, Assyrians, Maronites, Melkites, Copts and other minorities whose presence in the region pre-dates those who are currently purging the land of apostates and infidels and claiming it for their malignant sharia, in the name of Mohammed and for the glory of Allah, the all merciful and most merciful.