We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication.
Christians Burn While Pope Worries about “Worldly” Matters: Raymond Ibrahim, Breaking Israel News, Aug. 9, 2015— In June, Pope Francis released his first independent encyclical. It merely served to highlight the indifference to the plight of persecuted Christians around the world.
Why All This Christian Anti-Israel Hatred?: Giulio Meotti, Arutz Sheva, July 3, 2015 — The dramatic situation has been perfectly described by Rabbi Haïm Korsia, Chief Rabbi of France, who called for a reaction of fraternal solidarity in the face of hatred against Christians, and established a comparison with the destruction of Eastern Jewry:
Is This the End of Christianity in the Middle East?: Eliza Griswold, New York Times, July 22, 2015 — There was something about Diyaa that his wife’s brothers didn’t like.
Iran's Nuclear Deal Raises Serious Questions: Irwin Cotler, Montreal Gazette, Aug. 13, 2015— In 2010, as part of the UN Human Rights Council’s first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Iran, the Iranian government committed to implementing 126 of the 212 recommendations made to it by the international community.
On Topic Links
What Has Got Into the Churches?: Paul Merkley, Bayview Review, July 18, 2015
ISIS Abducts Christians to Use as ‘Bargaining Chips’: Susan L.M. Goldberg, PJ Media, Aug. 10, 2015
A Call to Formally Label ISIS Attacks on Christians, Yezidis as Genocide: Abigail R. Esman, IPT News, July 29, 2015
Syrian Christians and the English Jew: Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, July 30, 2015
CHRISTIANS BURN WHILE POPE WORRIES ABOUT “WORLDLY” MATTERS
Breaking Israel News, Aug. 9, 2015
In June, Pope Francis released his first independent encyclical. It merely served to highlight the indifference to the plight of persecuted Christians around the world. The Pope warned about issues dealing with the environment, but he did not once mention the plight of persecuted Christians — even though he is well acquainted with it, and even though previous popes mentioned it when Christians were experiencing far less persecution than they are today.
Encyclicals are formal treatises written by popes and sent to bishops around the world. In turn, bishops are meant to disseminate the encyclical’s ideas to all the priests and churches in their jurisdiction, so that the pope’s thoughts might reach every church-attending Catholic.
If the plight of persecuted Christians had been mentioned in the encyclical, bishops and the congregations under their care would be required to acknowledge it. Perhaps a weekly prayer for the persecuted could be institutionalized, keeping the plight of those Christians in the spotlight so that Western Catholics and others would remember them, talk about them, and, perhaps most importantly, ask why they are being persecuted. Once enough people were familiar with Christian persecution, they could influence U.S. policymakers — for starters, to drop those policies that directly exacerbate the sufferings of Christian minorities in the Middle East.
Instead, Pope Francis apparently deemed it more important to issue a proclamation addressing the environment and climate change. Whatever position one holds concerning these topics, it is telling that the pope — the one man in the world best placed and most expected to speak up for millions of persecuted Christians around the world — is more interested in speaking up for a “safe” (politically correct, if scientifically questionable) subject, “the world” itself, rather than the pressing bloodbath in front of him, or a topic requiring real leadership from a Christian authority.
Meanwhile, Christians around the world and the Muslim world especially continue to be persecuted and slaughtered. In one little-reported story, the Islamic State burned an 80 year-old Christian woman to death in a village southeast of Mosul. The elderly woman was reportedly burned alive for refusing to comply with Islamic law.
In east Jerusalem, a group calling itself the “Islamic State in Palestine” distributed fliers threatening to massacre all Christians who failed to evacuate the Holy City. The leaflets, which appeared on June 27, said that the Islamic State knows where the city’s Christians live, and warned that they have until Eid al-Fitr — July 19, the end of Ramadan — to leave the city or be slaughtered. The leaflet was emblazoned with the Islamic State’s black flag.
In Egypt, after a foiled suicide attack on the ancient temples of Karnak in Luxor (a tourist destination), the Islamic State promised a “fiery summer” for Egypt’s Christian Copts. Abu Zayid al-Sudani, a leading member of the Islamic State, tweeted: “The bombing of Luxor, a burning summer awaits the tyrant of Egypt [President Sisi] and his soldiers, and the worshippers of the cross. This is just the beginning.”
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
WHY ALL THIS CHRISTIAN ANTI-ISRAEL HATRED?
Arutz Sheva, July 3, 2015
The dramatic situation has been perfectly described by Rabbi Haïm Korsia, Chief Rabbi of France, who called for a reaction of fraternal solidarity in the face of hatred against Christians, and established a comparison with the destruction of Eastern Jewry:
“Where are the Jewish communities which once lived in Aleppo, Beirut, Alexandria, Cairo and Tripoli? Where are the schools of Nehardea and Pumbedita in Iraq? And where is the flourishing Judaism of Esfahan and Tehran? In our memory alone. Expelled, killed, decimated, persecuted and exiled, Eastern Christians are now personally experiencing the same experiences of the Jews who once lived in those places”.
Christianity is dying in Syria and Iraq. Christian churches are demolished, Christian crosses are burned and replaced with flags of the Islamic State, Christian houses are destroyed, entire Christian communities are displaced, Christian children are massacred, and everything is done in plain sight. Islamists proclaim on a daily basis that they will not stop until Christianity is wiped off the face of the earth. So are the world Christian bodies denouncing the Islamic forces for the ethnic cleansing, genocide and historic demographic-religious revolution their brethen is suffering? No. Christians these days are busy targeting the Israeli Jews.
The Pope, who should represent the voice of one billion Catholics around the world, was not busy these days in writing an enciclica against the Islamic persecution of Christians. No, the Catholic Church was very busy in signing a historic agreement with the “State of Palestine”, a non-existent entity which, if it (God forbid) should be created, would be the first state after the Nazi Germany to officially ban the Jews and expel the remnant of its Christians.
These days, three US Christian bodies are also very active on the issue of the Middle East. These are the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church and the Mennonite Church. These Churches are not worried about the Christians beheaded in Libya by the Islamic State. These Christians are not raising the alarm on the last Christians of Aleppo. No. They are all adopting resolutions to divest from the Jewish State, the Mennonites having kindly decided to put off the vote for two years. They demonize, target and isolate the Israeli people for defending themselves from barbaric terrorists.
It is a mystery. How can we explain all this Christian animosity toward the Jewish people in this time of suffering for Christian communities? It is a kind of anti-Semitism which cannot be explained by rational concepts. It is a virus, a malady, a disease, a cancer which will ultimately rebound against Christians themselves. Sorry, my irrelevant Christian fellows, but Israel and the Jews are not ready to commit suicide. Don’t forget what happened during the Holocaust. You sided with the enemies of the Jewish people and you were also devoured by them.
IS THIS THE END OF CHRISTIANITY IN THE MIDDLE EAST?
New York Times, July 22, 2015
There was something about Diyaa that his wife’s brothers didn’t like. He was a tyrant, they said, who, after 14 years of marriage, wouldn’t let their sister, Rana, 31, have her own mobile phone. He isolated her from friends and family, guarding her jealously. Although Diyaa and Rana were both from Qaraqosh, the largest Christian city in Iraq, they didn’t know each other before their families arranged their marriage. It hadn’t gone especially well. Rana was childless, and according to the brothers, Diyaa was cheap. The house he rented was dilapidated, not fit for their sister to live in.
Qaraqosh is on the Nineveh Plain, a 1,500-square-mile plot of contested land that lies between Iraq’s Kurdish north and its Arab south. Until last summer, this was a flourishing city of 50,000, in Iraq’s breadbasket. Wheat fields and chicken and cattle farms surrounded a town filled with coffee shops, bars, barbers, gyms and other trappings of modern life.
Then, last June, ISIS took Mosul, less than 20 miles west. The militants painted a red Arabic ‘‘n,’’ for Nasrane, a slur, on Christian homes. They took over the municipal water supply, which feeds much of the Nineveh Plain. Many residents who managed to escape fled to Qaraqosh, bringing with them tales of summary executions and mass beheadings. The people of Qaraqosh feared that ISIS would continue to extend the group’s self-styled caliphate, which now stretches from Turkey’s border with Syria to south of Fallujah in Iraq, an area roughly the size of Indiana.
In the weeks before advancing on Qaraqosh, ISIS cut the city’s water. As the wells dried up, some left and others talked about where they might go. In July, reports that ISIS was about to take Qaraqosh sent thousands fleeing, but ISIS didn’t arrive, and within a couple of days, most people returned. Diyaa refused to leave. He was sure ISIS wouldn’t take the town.
A week later, the Kurdish forces, known as the peshmerga, whom the Iraqi government had charged with defending Qaraqosh, retreated. (‘‘We didn’t have the weapons to stop them,’’ Jabbar Yawar, the secretary general of the peshmerga, said later.) The city was defenseless; the Kurds had not allowed the people of the Nineveh Plain to arm themselves and had rounded up their weapons months earlier. Tens of thousands jammed into cars and fled along the narrow highway leading to the relative safety of Erbil, the Kurdish capital of Northern Iraq, 50 miles away.
Piling 10 family members into a Toyota pickup, Rana’s brothers ran, too. From the road, they called Diyaa repeatedly, pleading with him to escape with Rana. ‘‘She can’t go,’’ Diyaa told one of Rana’s brothers, as the brother later recounted to me. ‘‘ISIS isn’t coming. This is all a lie.’’ The next morning Diyaa and Rana woke to a nearly empty town. Only 100 or so people remained in Qaraqosh, mostly those too poor, old or ill to travel. A few, like Diyaa, hadn’t taken the threat seriously. One man passed out drunk in his backyard and woke the next morning to ISIS taking the town.
As Diyaa and Rana hid in their basement, ISIS broke into stores and looted them. Over the next two weeks, militants rooted out most of the residents cowering in their homes, searching house to house. The armed men roamed Qaraqosh on foot and in pickups. They marked the walls of farms and businesses ‘‘Property of the Islamic State.’’ ISIS now held not just Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, but also Ramadi and Fallujah. (During the Iraq War, the fighting in these three places accounted for 30 percent of U.S. casualties.) In Qaraqosh, as in Mosul, ISIS offered residents a choice: They could either convert or pay the jizya, the head tax levied against all ‘‘People of the Book’’: Christians, Zoroastrians and Jews. If they refused, they would be killed, raped or enslaved, their wealth taken as spoils of war.
No one came for Diyaa and Rana. ISIS hadn’t bothered to search inside their ramshackle house. Then, on the evening of Aug. 21, word spread that ISIS was willing to offer what they call ‘‘exile and hardship’’ to the last people in Qaraqosh. They would be cast out of their homes with nothing, but at least they would survive. A kindly local mullah was going door to door with the good news. Hoping to save Diyaa and Rana, their neighbors told him where they were hiding.
Diyaa and Rana readied themselves to leave. The last residents of Qaraqosh were to report the next morning to the local medical center, to receive ‘‘checkups’’ before being deported from the Islamic State. Everyone knew the checkups were really body searches to prevent residents from taking valuables out of Qaraqosh. Before ISIS let residents go — if they let them go — it was very likely they would steal everything they had, as residents heard they had done elsewhere.
Diyaa and Rana called their families to let them know what was happening. ‘‘Take nothing with you,’’ her brothers told Diyaa. But Diyaa, as usual, didn’t listen. He stuffed Rana’s clothes with money, gold, passports and their identity papers. Although she was terrified of being caught — she could be beheaded for taking goods from the Islamic State — Rana didn’t protest; she didn’t dare. According to her brothers, Diyaa could be violent. (Diyaa’s brother Nimrod disputed this, just as he does Diyaa’s alleged cheapness.)
At 7 the next morning, Diyaa and Rana made the five-minute walk from their home to Qaraqosh Medical Center Branch No. 2, a yellow building with red-and-green trim next to the city’s only mosque. As the crowd gathered, Diyaa phoned both his family and hers. ‘‘We’re standing in front of the medical center right now,’’ he said, as his brother-in-law recalled it. ‘‘There are buses and cars here. Thank God, they’re going to let us go.’’
It was a searing day. Temperatures reach as high as 110 degrees on the Nineveh Plain in summer. By 9 a.m., ISIS had separated men from women. Seated in the crowd, the local ISIS emir, Saeed Abbas, surveyed the female prisoners. His eyes lit on Aida Hana Noah, 43, who was holding her 3-year-old daughter, Christina. Noah said she felt his gaze and gripped Christina closer. For two weeks, she’d been at home with her daughter and her husband, Khadr Azzou Abada, 65. He was blind, and Aida decided that the journey north would be too hard for him. So she sent her 25-year-old son with her three other children, who ranged in age from 10 to 13, to safety. She thought Christina too young to be without her mother.
ISIS scanned the separate groups of men and women. ‘‘You’’ and ‘‘you,’’ they pointed. Some of the captives realized what ISIS was doing, survivors told me later, dividing the young and healthy from the older and weak. One, Talal Abdul Ghani, placed a final call to his family before the fighters confiscated his phone. He had been publicly whipped for refusing to convert to Islam, as his sisters, who fled from other towns, later recounted. ‘‘Let me talk to everybody,’’ he wept. ‘‘I don’t think they’re letting me go.’’ It was the last time they heard from him.
No one was sure where either bus was going. As the jihadists directed the weaker and older to the first of two buses, one 49-year-old woman, Sahar, protested that she’d been separated from her husband, Adel. Although he was 61, he was healthy and strong and had been held back. One fighter reassured her, saying, ‘‘These others will follow.’’ Sahar, Aida and her blind husband, Khadr, boarded the first bus. The driver, a man they didn’t know, walked down the aisle. Without a word, he took Christina from her mother’s arms. ‘‘Please, in the name of God, give her back,’’ Aida pleaded. The driver carried Christina into the medical center. Then he returned without the child. As the people in the bus prayed to leave town, Aida kept begging for Christina. Finally, the driver went inside again. He came back empty-handed…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
IRAN'S NUCLEAR DEAL RAISES SERIOUS QUESTIONS
Montreal Gazette, Aug. 13, 2015
In 2010, as part of the UN Human Rights Council’s first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Iran, the Iranian government committed to implementing 126 of the 212 recommendations made to it by the international community. Last fall, on the eve of Iran’s second UPR, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, appeared before the House of Commons’ Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights, of which I am the vice-chair. I asked him to what extent Iran had lived up to its commitments. His response: “I have been very disappointed in the way this has turned out.”
In his more recent appearance before our Foreign Affairs subcommittee during our annual Iran Accountability Week, he joined other witnesses, including former Iranian political prisoners such as Maziar Bahari and Marina Nemat, in deploring the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran and the ongoing breach of its international undertakings.
Indeed, in the five years since making those commitments — on matters ranging from women’s rights, to freedom of religion and expression, to the humane treatment of detainees — the human rights situation in Iran has worsened in many respects. The persecution, imprisonment and torture of human rights defenders, members of minority groups, journalists and many other leaders of Iranian civil society has intensified, while the execution rate in Iran — which was already the highest in the world under former president Ahmadinejad — has almost doubled under the supposedly moderate President Hassan Rouhani.
Given the Iranian regime’s appalling track record of bad faith and duplicity when it comes to international commitments — as well as its standing violation of international treaties to which it is a party and its wanton violation of the human rights of its own citizens — there are serious questions to be asked about the nuclear agreement.
To begin with, will Iran truly scale back its nuclear operations, as it has pledged to do? It has been long-standing practice for the regime to conceal and lie about its nuclear activities, even using past negotiations as opportunities to distract the West while secretly progressing toward a nuclear bomb. Indeed, it was current Iranian President Hassan Rouhani himself who said of his time as chief nuclear negotiator in 2004: “While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the (nuclear) facility in Isfahan. … In fact, by creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work on Isfahan.”
And if Iran continues to pursue nuclear weapons in secret, as it has done in the past, will we know about it? The deal requires inspectors to give advance notice of visits to nuclear — or suspected nuclear — sites. If Iran does not agree to an inspection within 14 days, the matter will be adjudicated by a commission comprised of representatives of the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, China, Russia, the European Union and Iran. This process allows for up to 24 days between notice of inspection and the inspection itself, assuming the commission sides with inspectors.
With regard to military sites, the deal effectively — and surprisingly — excludes them from inspections, stating that “requests (for access) will not be aimed at interfering with Iranian military or other national security activities.” On this point, Iran’s defence minister has recently echoed the views of Supreme Leader Khamanei, saying that “we will not give any authority access to our military and security secrets.”
Furthermore, in the event inspectors determine that the regime is not adhering to its nuclear commitments, what will the international community be able — or willing — to do about it? According to the deal, sanctions against Iran would “snap back” into place if the regime violates its nuclear commitments, but such as “snapback” may prove difficult to achieve. It took decades to establish the impactful and wide-ranging international sanctions that brought the regime to the negotiating table. Once countries and companies around the world resume doing business with Iran, it will become exceedingly difficult to reinstate sanctions on a scale large enough to have an effect on the regime.
Moreover, Iran has declared that it will treat the reinstatement of sanctions as grounds to nullify its nuclear promises. As such, as long as Iranian violations of the terms of the deal are deemed limited in their breach, the international community is unlikely to reinstate sanctions for fear of all-out Iranian abandonment of the accord.
Finally, even if Iran’s government complies fully with the deal and scales back its nuclear operations as required, one key question remains: How will the regime use the windfall of over $100 billion in sanctions relief? The Iranian regime has long been a leading state-sponsor of terrorism, but its capacity to train, arm and finance groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban, and extremist groups in Yemen and Bahrain — not to mention the criminal regime of Bashar Assad in Syria — has recently been hampered by international sanctions. With the sanctions lifted, the regime’s ability to offer substantial support to extremist, violent groups and governments will be restored.
Indeed, the Iranian regime poses a fivefold threat: the pursuit of nuclear weapons, support for terrorism, regional hegemonic belligerence, incitement to genocide and massive domestic repression. Even if the deal recently struck proves successful, it addresses the nuclear threat alone, and it may give Iran a freer hand to engage in aggression on the other four fronts.
Even the nuclear front may be undermined by a cycle of nuclear proliferation triggered by the legitimization of Iran as a threshold nuclear state, along with the Iranian regime’s regional hegemonic assaults. Let there be no mistake: this agreement does not solve the panoply of threats posed by the government of Iran. At best, it may help to mitigate the nuclear threat and even that is problematic.
What Has Got Into the Churches?: Paul Merkley, Bayview Review, July 18, 2015 —Giulio Meotti is an Italian journalist who has for several years researched meticulously attitudes of Christians towards Israel and towards the Jews.
ISIS Abducts Christians to Use as ‘Bargaining Chips’: Susan L.M. Goldberg, PJ Media, Aug. 10, 2015 —Arab media reports: Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants have abducted hundreds of civilians, including dozens of Christians, from a central Syrian town it captured earlier this week, activists say, a development that has prompted hundreds of Christian families to flee to areas outside the control of the ultra-radical group.
A Call to Formally Label ISIS Attacks on Christians, Yezidis as Genocide: Abigail R. Esman, IPT News, July 29, 2015—They buy and sell the women, using them as slaves. They kidnap children, even infants, and detonate them as bombs.
Syrian Christians and the English Jew: Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, July 30, 2015 —Christianity, whose presence in the Middle East predates Islam’s by 600 years, is about to be cleansed from the Middle East.