President Obama said that since Syria’s ruler, Bashar al-Assad, used chemical weapons against those rebelling against his regime, the United States will send weapons to help the rebels. Though sending ground-troops is not being considered, officials are reportedly considering implementing a no-fly zone, using American aircraft. [Read more…]
Paul Marshall of the Hudson Institute passed along a letter he received from his friend, a Coptic bishop in Egypt. It shows the spirit of the Christians there, as they endure terrible persecution (as we have been blogging about). They aren’t about preserving their Christian culture or taking vengeance or planning violence. They remain focused, through it all, on “painful love,” working forgiveness and praying for their persecutors:
Thank you for sharing our difficult time.
We are passing through a dark tunnel of violence, feeling grieve of death and injustice. The light of forgiveness is shining with a painful love. Trying to bring forgiveness and justice together is a big struggle, but we are committed to the love that never fails.
We are hardly pressed on every side, yet not crushed. We are perplexed but not lost, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed. We do not lose heart and continue to work for justice to be fulfilled. We continue to love and declare forgiveness so the peace of God will overshadow all hearts. We continue to work on the healing and support of the innocent victims. And we continue to pray for the victims, for the offenders and for a better future.
Thank you all for your love, care, words and actions to bring justice and forgiveness together.
Bishop Thomas Coptic Orthodox Bishopric
of Elqussia and Mair , Assuit ,Upper Egypt
& Anafora retreat farm Αnαφορα , Cairo , Egypt
Yet another Arab strongman has died, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. He was the heir to the throne, but a powerful ruler in his own right. The current king is 87 and sick. Expect another chapter in the Arab Spring:
Saudi Arabia’s ruling monarchy moved into a critical period of realignment Saturday after the death of the heir to the throne opened the way for a new crown prince: most likely a tough-talking interior minister who has led crackdowns on Islamic militants but also has shown favor to ultraconservative traditions such as keeping the ban on women voting.
A state funeral is planned for Tuesday in Riyadh for crown prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, who died in New York at the age of 80 after an unspecified illness, the official Saudi Press Agency said.
Now, Saudi rulers are expected to move quickly to name the new king-in-waiting — which royal protocol suggests will be Sultan’s half brother, Prince Nayef.
Moving Nayef to the top of the succession ladder would not likely pose any risks to Saudi Arabia’s pro-Western policies and, in particular, its close alliance with Washington. But Nayef cuts a much more mercurial figure than Saudi’s current leader, the ailing King Abdullah, who has nudged ahead with reforms such as promising women voting rights in 2015 despite rumblings from the country’s powerful religious establishment.
Nayef, 78, has earned U.S. praise for unleashing the internal security forces against suspected Islamic extremist cells in Saudi Arabia, which was home to 15 of 19 of the Sept. 11 hijackers. Yet he brought blistering rebukes in the West for a 2002 interview that quoted him as saying that “Zionists” — a reference to Jews — benefited from the 9-11 attacks because it turned world opinion against Islam and Arabs.
Nayef also has expressed displeasure at some of Abdullah’s moves for more openness, saying in 2009 that he saw no need for women to vote or participate in politics. It’s a view shared by many Saudi clerics, who follow a strict brand of Islam known as Wahhabism. Their support gives the Saudi monarchy the legitimacy to rule over a nation holding Islam’s holiest sites.
“Nayef is more religious, and is closer to the Saudi groups who are very critical of the king’s decisions regarding women and other steps he’s taken to balance out the rigid religious practices in society,” said Ali Fakhro, a political analyst and commentator in Bahrain.
The Arab Spring in Egypt is resulting in riots and persecution targeting Coptic Christians, who make up some 10% of the population. This weekend some 17 were killed. See this.
So how can Egyptians tell if one of their countrymen is a Christian? Well, in an act of defiance and self-identity and so everyone will know their religion, the Copts wear their faith on their sleeve, as it were. They tattoo a Coptic Cross on their wrists. (We blogged about this before, but I found a picture.)
The uprising against authoritarian rule in the Arab world leaves Christians in a precarious position. Ask the Copts in Egypt:
The Arab Spring initially appeared to open a welcoming door to the dwindling number of Christian Arabs who, after years of feeling marginalized, eagerly joined the call for democracy and rule of law. But now many Christians here say they fear that the fall of the police state has allowed long-simmering tensions to explode, potentially threatening the character of Egypt, and the region.
“Will Christians have equal rights and full citizenship or not?” asked Sarkis Naoum, a Christian commentator in Beirut, Lebanon. A surge of sectarian violence in Cairo — 24 dead, more than 200 wounded and three churches in flames since President Hosni Mubarak’s downfall — has turned Christian-Muslim tensions into one of the gravest threats to the revolution’s stability. But it is also a pivotal test of Egypt’s tolerance, pluralism and the rule of law. The revolution has empowered the majority but also opened new questions about the protection of minority rights like freedom of religion or expression as Islamist groups step forward to lay out their agendas and test their political might.
Around the region, Christians are also closely watching events in Syria, where as in Egypt Christians and other minorities received the protection of a secular dictator, Bashar al-Assad, now facing his own popular uprising.
“The Copts are the crucial test case,” said Heba Morayef, a researcher with Human Rights Watch here, adding that facing off against “societal pressures” may in some ways be ever harder than criticizing a dictator. “It is the next big battle.”
But so far, there is little encouragement in the debate over how to address the sectarian strife. Instead of searching for common ground, all sides are pointing fingers of blame while almost no one is addressing the underlying reasons for the strife, including a legal framework that treats Muslims and Christians differently.
Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the 80 million Egyptians, say the revolution has plunged them into uncharted territory. Suppressed or marginalized for six decades here, Islamists entering politics have rushed to defend an article of the Egyptian Constitution that declares Egypt a Muslim country that derives its laws from Islam. Christians and liberals say privately they abhor the provision, which was first added as a populist gesture by President Anwar el-Sadat. But the article is so popular among Muslims — and the meaning so vague — that even many liberals and Christians entering politics are reluctant to speak out against it, asking at most for slight modifications.
HT: Kirk Anderson
Harold Camping isn’t the only one forecasting the end of the world. So are many Muslims, including apparently the rulers of Iran, who are interpreting the uprisings in the Middle East as a sign that the Mahdi–the messianic successor of the prophet Muhammed–will soon return to punish evildoers and make Islam the world’s only religion.
New evidence has emerged that the Iranian government sees the current unrest in the Middle East as a signal that the Mahdi–or Islamic messiah–is about to appear.
CBN News has obtained a never-before-seen video produced by the Iranian regime that says all the signs are moving into place — and that Iran will soon help usher in the end times.
While the revolutionary movements gripping the Middle East have created uncertainty throughout the region, the video shows that the Iranian regime believes the chaos is divine proof that their ultimate victory is at hand.
The propaganda footage has reportedly been approved at the highest levels of the Iranian government.
It’s called The Coming is Near and it describes current events in the Middle East as a prelude to the arrival of the mythical tweflth Imam or Mahdi — the messiah figure who Islamic scriptures say will lead the armies of Islam to victory over all non-Muslims in the last days.
The link above can take you to the video that the article references. Also Read this for fascinating details about the role of the Mahdi in both Sunni and Shi’ite Islam and for the portents and effects of his coming.