Patriarch Urges Prayer for 90 Syrian Christians Kidnapped by ISIS

Patriarch Ignace Joseph Younan, Syria. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Custody of the Holy Land https://www.flickr.com/photos/ctsterrasanta/

Patriarch Ignace Joseph Younan, Syria. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Custody of the Holy Land https://www.flickr.com/photos/ctsterrasanta/

ISIS murderers have captured at least 90 Christians from villages in Syria. It is unknown whether they plan to slaughter these people, sell them as slaves or use them for barter in prisoner exchanges.

Patriarch Ignace Joseph Younan, Syriac Patriarch of Antioch, asks for prayer for the captives, saying that ISIS terrorists are “full of hatred and venomous feelings” toward Syrian Christians and that they are “ready to do … horrible acts without any human feelings,” adding that it is “so easy” for the ISIS terroriests “to kill and to cut the throat” of non-Muslims.

From Catholic Daily News:

.- With reports circulating saying that ISIS forces have kidnapped at least 90 Christians from villages in northeast Syria, Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan said prayer is the only possible response.

“Let’s pray for those innocent people,” Patriarch Younan told CNA over the phone from Beirut Feb. 24.

“It’s a very, let’s say, very ordinary thing to have those people with such hatred toward non-Muslims that they don’t respect any human life,” he said, noting that the only reaction to Tuesday’s kidnappings is “to pray.”

Patriarch Younan, Syriac Patriarch of Antioch, made his comments after the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday that at least 90 Assyrian Christians were kidnapped by ISIS militants after they seized two villages near Tal-Tamr, located in the Al-Hasakah region of Syria.

The two villages attacked are inhabited primarily by the country’s ancient Christian minority.

Also known as “Hassake,” the Al-Hasakah region is located along the country’s border with Iraq, and is not far from Mount Sinjar, where many Yazidis were trapped and faced starvation after fleeing Mosul and surrounding villages when ISIS began its assault last June.

Although he said exact numbers of those kidnapped and killed are still not confirmed, the patriarch revealed that he maintains close contact with the area’s bishop, who says that the situation there has been “very, very tense.”

Patriarch Younan said that he has tried to get in touch with Al-Hasakah’s archbishop, Jacques Behnan Hindo, regarding the situation, but has not yet been able to reach him.

History of the Crusades: Pelayo and the Dawn of the Reconquista 715-722

 

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by http://maps.bpl.org

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by http://maps.bpl.org

This video describes beginning of the Spanish Reconquista. It discusses people and events that are unknown to most of us today. I think the story of Pelayo, testifying to faith in Christ to the co-opted bishop, is especially dramatic.

I am aware that there are Islamic teachings which lead to a more peaceful application of that faith. I think that the interpretation referenced here is an accurate depiction of of the application of Islamic teachings in 633-638 AD. It also seems that it is still relevant to Islamic extremists today.

I want to emphasize that this video discusses events which happened almost 1400 years ago. The reason I am posting it here is to correct the inaccurate  history of the Crusades which is being used in the popular media to attack and degrade Christians and Christianity.

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Coptic Christians Cry Out to Jesus

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by gkaruna karan https://www.flickr.com/photos/35888164@N06/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by gkaruna karan https://www.flickr.com/photos/35888164@N06/

This is the real deal. Coptic Christians know and understand martyrdom.

Evidently, before the 21 Christian men were beheaded by ISIS a few days ago, they testified to their faith in Jesus Christ. They are true martyrs, saints of the Lord, who are in heaven right now.

This video is, like so much that comes from our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ, deeply humbling.

Lent is a good time for us to consider the question: What will we do with this Jesus they are crying for? How will we stand for Him?

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Coptic Christians of Egypt and Their Long History of Persecution

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Maggu https://www.flickr.com/photos/maggu/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Maggu https://www.flickr.com/photos/maggu/

This video is from January, 2014. At that time, the Muslim Brotherhood was subjecting the Copts to violent discrimination, including kidnapping their women and girls, selling them into sex slavery, or forced marriages in which they are “converted” to Islam.

Two weeks ago, 21 Coptic Christian men were beheaded in a ritualized manner by ISIS. Before they died, these martyrs to the faith proclaimed their faith in Christ.

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Brother of Two ISIS Victims Testifies to Their Christian Faith

 

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Ted https://www.flickr.com/photos/frted/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Ted https://www.flickr.com/photos/frted/

The brother of two of the 21 Coptic Christians murdered in Libya used live television (17 February) to thank their killers for including the men’s declaration of faith in the video of their execution.
Beshir called SAT-7′s weekly worship programme, We Will Sing and said how he and his entire village were proud of the 21 men including his brothers Bishoy Estafanos Kamel (25) and Samuel Estafanos Kamel (23), because they were “a badge of honour to Christianity”.

This video of the call is a blessing and a challenge to watch.

Twenty-one St Stephens were martyred on that beach. The challenge for us is, how can we carry their witness to the whole world?

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When You Wander the Wilderness, Remember the Water and the Blood

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted by Satan.

Why did Jesus, Who was God made human, need to go into the wilderness? For that matter why did He need to be baptized?

Lent is the time when we remember Jesus’ Wilderness Days. The period of Lent mirrors the time He spent in the wilderness, which was forty days. We are heading into Easter, which coincides with the Passover.

It’s all symbol, piled on top of metaphor. But it is not symbolic. And it is not metaphorical. It is as real as hunger and thirst. As hard as torture, blood and death. Our salvation was obtained at a great price.

Jesus made the first step toward the cross when He went to be baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan river. This was the same John who first met Jesus when they were both unborn babies in their mothers’ wombs. It was the same John who leapt for joy at the presence of his Savior, even at that young age.

John’s birth was announced by the archangel Gabriel. He was a forerunner, the fulfillment of the prophecy that before the Messiah came, there would be a voice calling in the wilderness, to prepare the way for the Lord. 

Jesus approached the Jordan river where John was baptizing. His purpose was to be baptized Himself.

At first, John, demurred.

I need to be baptized by you, he said.

But Jesus insisted with enigmatic words about fulfilling all righteousness. 

When Jesus came up out of the baptismal waters, the spirit of God descended on Him in the form of a dove and the voice of God said this my beloved son. Again, it was symbolism, piled on symbolism but the reality was real. The water was wet. And the graces of baptism which are given to each of us are real.

Baptism, this fulfilling of all righteousness the Jesus referred to, opens the door we shut in the garden. It places us back in relationship with God.

Jesus followed His baptism by going into the wilderness. Why? Why did He, being wholly God, need to go into the wilderness at all?

Because He is our brother in every way. He was, as St Paul told us, tempted in every way. Just like us. Jesus is wholly God. But He is also wholly human.

He bleeds. He feels pain. He understands loneliness and anguish. He has a mother He loves with all his heart. He, at some point in His past, had faced the death of Joseph, His earthly father.

He is our brother, and as our brother, He had to experience what it was to be human, including the pain of temptation.

Temptation is not an easy thing. It is not a mosquito that we brush off, or buy the right spray and shield ourselves from. Temptation is the devil’s needle that he stabs us with over and over until it becomes a running sore.

Temptation is the chocolate cake left over from supper. Temptation is the beautiful man or woman at the office whose presence rivets us. Temptation is the money we could make, the success we could have, by, if we are a legislator, voting that one wrong way, or, if we are a cop, by looking the other way, or if we are a car salesman by telling the small lie, or if we are a doctor, prescribing that unnecessary procedure.

The list of temptations are endless. Most of them are minor things we can brush aside as if they really were that mosquito. But others get inside our souls and nag at us without mercy. These are the temptations whose temporary fulfillment fills some hole inside us.

The beautiful co-worker, the last piece of cake, the drive to have enough money to buy things and show off, all have one thing in common: They feed a hunger that goes deeper than the normal hungers which can be sated by a full meal, time with our spouse, and having enough to live a good life.

These temptations come from hungers that won’t be fed. They come from our unmeetable needs for solace, diversion, attention, and validation that go beyond legitimate needs and reach into the un-fillable holes in our souls.

Jesus was wholly human and wholly God. What that means is that He experienced our gnawing hungers for things we can not have. He understood our attempt to fill the un-fillable holes inside us with things, people, experiences.

He went into the wilderness to face the temptations we all face. It was, like the baptism that preceded it, a fulfillment of all righteousness. It was God made human, being fully and wholly human. He placed Himself before satan and let satan tempt and entice Him.

He did this when He was like we are when temptations work their worst on us: When he was alone, tired, hungry, thirsty and sore. He let satan lay out temptations when He was exactly where we are when we’re weakest: In the wilderness.

Lent is about the journey Jesus made from the Wilderness to the Cross. We spend forty days in Lent, just as He spent forty days in the Wilderness. It begins for us on Ash Wednesday when we have a cross put on our forehead made of ashes and are reminded that the ultimate end of our time in this life is the grave.

Lent is a time a reflection and prayer. But it is a faint copy of the real wilderness times of our lives. The wilderness is when your spouse leaves you and you are alone and bereft because half your life has been shorn from you. The wilderness is when you lose your job and cannot replace it and are sleeping in a house you can no longer afford. The wilderness is when the doctor says that there is nothing more he or she can do. The wilderness is when you are isolated by lies and gossip or when you must face the violence of our society alone and in the dark.

The wilderness is defeat; deep, grinding defeat that leaves you vulnerable to any form of solace you can imagine, including the ones that harm other people or that do harm to yourself. Temptation is the bottle of booze you gave up when you started going to AA. Temptation is the desire for revenge against those who have hurt you. Temptation is the pleasure we take in our enemies’ pain, the desire to one-up and out-do, no matter what the cost.

Jesus faced a bit of what I call The Alone in the wilderness. He would drink the full draught of that Alone later, in His passion.

But He did not go into the wilderness until after He had been baptized. That all righteousness may be fulfilled, He said to John the Baptist.

Lent is a forty day period that begins in water and ends in blood.

Baptism is the mark of God on our souls. It is our first entry into the family of those who are marked by the Blood of Lamb. We enter the doorway to salvation through baptism; first by water, then by blood.

Behold, the Lamb of God, John the Baptist said when Jesus approached the river. We are twice baptized. Our sins are washed away by the waters of baptism, and we are marked with the blood of the lamb of God on the doorway of souls. The message is there, for death to see: You may not enter here. It is the Lord’s passover. 

This great spiritual truth goes with us every day, and everywhere. It goes with us into the wilderness time of our lives. It is there when we suffer unjust treatment, when we are abandoned, when we are helpless before unimaginable violence, when we become the object of vicious gossip, lose our jobs, fail that test, endure that illness, lose that limb, face that diagnosis. It is there with us in the wilderness time of our Alone.

When you are in your wilderness, remember your baptism. Remember the mark of the Blood of the Lamb on the lintels of your heart. Remember, always, that your salvation was purchased with a great price, that you are indeed worth more than the grass of the field and the birds of the air.

Remember that God loves you with an everlasting love and that He has already saved you from the temptations of your wilderness time. You are not alone. You are never alone.

Not even in the arid wilderness of The Alone.

What are You Doing for Shrove Tuesday?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Shimelle Lane https://www.flickr.com/photos/shimelle/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Shimelle Lane https://www.flickr.com/photos/shimelle/

Lent is just on the other side of tomorrow. Come Wednesday, we’re all going to church and get an ash cross on our foreheads with the admonition to “Remember, thou are but dust.”

But before Ash Wednesday comes Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday as it is sometimes called.

Shrove/Fat Tuesday is the last day before Lent, and certain Catholics use the day to party hardy before shutting all that down for 40 days of penance and fasting. Or, at least that’s how the story goes.

“Fat” Tuesday gets its name from the practice in pre-refrigeration days of using up all the fats and rich foods before Lent. The reason was both practical and celebratory. Food went bad in those days in ways that we can’t imagine now. It was eat it or toss it. People, being people, turned this necessity into a cause for rich eating and celebrating. That’s also where the idea of eating pancakes on the last Tuesday before Lent comes from. An easy — and tasty — way to use up flour and fat is by making pancakes.

Today is the last Monday before the last Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. On Ash Wednesday, we enter a season of reflection and penance in which we consider deeply what it means to be Christian. We follow a Risen Lord. But we also follow a crucified Lord Who died because of the humanity-shattering ugliness of sin.

All we have to do is read the headlines to know that humanity is still being shattered by its proclivity for sin, and that Christianity is still the revolutionary and living expression of the Word that shines in the darkness and is hated by that darkness. Christians and Christianity are under attack all over the globe.

Lent is a perfect time for us to consider whether or not we are fit for the battle.

But before Lent, before we get those ashes put on our foreheads and remember that a grave awaits us one day, we have given ourselves Shrove/Fat Tuesday. My parish is having a dinner dance Tuesday night. If the roads aren’t icy, I plan to go. If the weather is bad, I’ll probably stay home and indulge in steak with my hubby.

What are you going to do before you strap on for Lent? Is there a party in your near future?

History of the Crusades: The Second Arab Siege of Constantinople

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by http://maps.bpl.org

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by http://maps.bpl.org

I am aware that there are Islamic teachings which lead to a more peaceful application of that faith. I think that the interpretation referenced here is an accurate depiction of of the application of Islamic teachings in 633-638 AD. It also seems that it is still relevant to Islamic extremists today.

I want to emphasize that this video discusses events which happened almost 1400 years ago. The reason I am posting it here is to correct the inaccurate  history of the Crusades which is being used in the popular media to attack and degrade Christians and Christianity

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Are Wealthy US Foundations Paying to Suppress Religious Freedom?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by US Embassy The Hague https://www.flickr.com/photos/usembassythehague/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by US Embassy The Hague https://www.flickr.com/photos/usembassythehague/

Are wealthy US foundations paying to suppress religious freedom?

John Lomperis of the Institute for Religion and Democracy says that so far as the Ford Foundation and the Arcus Foundation are concerned, the answer may be yes.

From Catholic News Agency:

“The agenda of such groups in opposing basic conscience protections could hardly be more diametrically opposed to our nation’s great traditions of freedom of conscience and of religion,” Lomperis, who serves as United Methodist Director for the institute, told CNA Feb. 10.

He contended that the pattern of grants “serves a fundamentally totalitarian vision these foundations and their allied politicians have of ‘religious liberty.’” This vision is especially opposed to those who value traditional sexual morality and respect for unborn human life, he noted.

“Our society is now facing serious questions about to what extent Christians (as well as, to a lesser extent, followers of other faiths) will be allowed to have the same degree to live in accordance with our values without facing new and powerful coercions,” Lomperis said.

The Arcus Foundation’s website lists a 2014 grant of $100,000 to the American Civil Liberties Foundation supporting “communications strategies to convince conservative Americans that religious exemptions are ‘un-American.’” A two-year Arcus grant to the ACLU in 2013 gave $600,000 to support the ACLU’s Campaign to End the Use of Religion to Discriminate. Arcus Foundation tax forms describe this as a “multi-pronged” effort to combat “the growing trend of institutions and individuals claiming exemptions from anti-discrimination laws because of religious objections.”

 

The Crusades, Christian Bashing and Our Two-Tier Educational System

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by http://maps.bpl.org

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by http://maps.bpl.org

Our two-tier educational system has become essentially a trade-school education for people who live in most of the zips codes of these United States. Among other things that kids in most of our schools aren’t taught are music, philosophy, the arts and history.

It is entirely possible to graduate from our public school system, go on to college and earn advanced degrees and never learn anything of these subjects at all except a smidgen of anthologized literature and a gloss of textbook history, along with the state-mandated history of the state in which the schools exists.

No one reads original sources in most of our educational system. Except for those who are being fed the royal jelly at our elite schools, students are taught almost entirely from hideously expensive textbooks. That means everything they learn is shallow, predigested, committee-approved and edited to conformity of thought.  The “curriculum” is homogenized multiple-choice-oriented trade school stuff designed to train hirable employees for lower level positions — ranging from middle management on down — at one of our corporate or government bureaucracies.

Our educational system actually works against creating thinkers and decision makers. It works toward developing shallow thinkers who can blast through a multiple choice test. The trouble with that, of course, is that multiple choice tests always give you the answer. There’s no thinking involved.

This universal ignorance leads to a population that is like the proverbial goose, born into a new world every day. It also makes We The People easy pickins for the propagandists who seek to destroy Christianity — along with much of the rest of our societal structure — by lies and obfuscations that a truly educated person would strip clean immediately.

Every day, I delete a steady drip of Christian-bashing comments that are based on the stuff and nonsense of propaganda lies. These comments are not only based on lies, they are usually rancorous, rageful and almost identical with one another. Any politician worth his or her salt would recognize that the commenters have been programmed by misinformation and are speaking from somebody else’s script.

The first question an elected official asks when they get a wave of comments like this is “Who” (meaning which special interest) “is behind this?” That’s survival 101 for elected officials.

It’s also a skill We the People need to learn. In this day of propagandized history that is used to bash Christians and Christianity, coupled with an almost universal ignorance of history, theology, philosophy and the arts, its survival 101 for all of us.

One area in which lies and distortions of fact are used against Christianity is the Crusades. The Crusades are actually a rather small part of the misinformation and distortion used against Christians and Christianity. But, given the blank ignorance about the entire history of the Crusades in the general population, it’s also low-hanging fruit for the Christian basher, including, sadly, our own president.

The Crusades are being used to convict Christians of the beheadings, rapes, kidnappings, immolations, and mass slavery that is occurring right now, today. In an irony that belies any concept of truth or fair play, the Crusades are being used to convict Christians of the sins which are being right now, today, committed against Christians. We are facing a Christian genocide in the Middle East. This is not being done just by ISIS. It is on-going, has been on-going for a long time.

Only a truly ignorant population would “buy” the notion that Christians are somehow guilty of their own genocide because of the Crusades. Not only does that defy logic, it is a misrepresentation of the causes of Crusades themselves.

Here, for those who are interested, is the beginning of a series of videos I’m going to post about the Crusades. The videos are themselves only a brief introduction to the actual history of the Crusades.

When I was in Spain, I was struck by the passion of the people who had fought the fight to repel Islamic invaders. Even today, all these hundreds of years later, the depth of their commitment was right in front of me when I looked at the fortifications they built using their toilet seats, pig troughs and whatever else came to hand. These people had fought a desperate fight for their freedom, and their faith animated that fight.

When I was in Turkey, I encountered the bitterness of the Christians there, much of it still aimed at the Roman Catholic Church. I also encountered the gloss that is applied to the bloody history of Christian persecution in that region. There is so much history that Americans do not know and will never learn so long as they confine their thinking to the gloss and the sham.

I picked up several books about both the Crusades and the Inquisition while I was in Spain. The books were dense, and it took me a while to read them, but they taught me a lot. I also went back and plowed through the papal encyclicals that I could read (some were in French, which I don’t read) of the past 1000 years.

Reading books and original sources is a good way to learn more. It’s important when reading about a subject like this, which is being used as a propaganda tool, to read books written from all viewpoints. That’s an education in itself. If you put on your political eyes, you can often, just by reading the distortions from the angles of opposing distorters, arrive at something that is close to the truth.

Please share these with other Christians and encourage them to learn more. We can’t stop the propagandists from lying. But we can at least inform ourselves.

History of the Crusades.

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