Pope’s advisers start first draft toward document overhauling Vatican

September 23, 2014 by admin  
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New apostolic constitutionVatican, September 17, 2014: Pope Francis’ international Council of Cardinals has begun creating the first draft of a new apostolic constitution that would implement a major reform of the Vatican bureaucracy.

The so-called C9, a papally appointed group of nine cardinal members, held its sixth meeting Sept 15-17 with Pope Francis at the Vatican to help advise him on the reform of the Vatican’s organization and church governance.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters Sept. 17 that the series of discussions have now begun a more “concrete” phase with “putting ink on paper” in the form of a draft for the introduction to a new constitution.

“It may be assumed that, with the next two meetings of the council — Dec. 9-11, 2014, and Feb. 9-11, 2015 — the draft constitution will reach an advanced stage of preparation, making it possible for the pope to proceed with further consultations,” the priest said in a written statement.

In a first step toward reorganizing the Roman Curia, Pope Francis created the Secretariat for the Economy in February as a way to begin universal oversight and standards for all of the Vatican’s financial assets and activities.

Father Lombardi told reporters that the cardinals’ discussions concerning financial issues have concluded, and that they now resumed looking at the different pontifical councils of the curia, as part of a bigger strategy of finding the most effective and efficient way to reorganize the large bureaucracy.

In their three days of talks and study, the nine cardinals “focused on two principle hotspots,” the Vatican spokesman said in his written statement.

The first topic included the laity, the family, “the role of women in society and the church, youth, childhood, or matters related to lay associations and movements and so on,” he wrote.

The second topic combined the issues of “justice and peace, charity, migrants and refugees, health, and the protection of life and ecology, especially human ecology,” the written statement said.

The way the different issues were divided into two major areas seemed to lend credence to some news reports predicting the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family would be merged into one new congregation, and that the pontifical councils for Justice and Peace, Cor Unum and Migrants and Travelers could be combined, since their areas of focus are closely related and often overlap.

Pope Francis would make the final decisions, Father Lombardi said, based on input from the Council of Cardinals and regular talks with the heads of the curia, other cardinals and bishops.

The Vatican spokesman said the pope’s Commission for the Protection of Minors will meet Oct. 4-5, and any announcements or clarifications concerning new members and the group’s statutes would be made around that time.

Since its inception in July, the Commission on Vatican media was set to hold its first meeting Sept. 22-24 in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where the pope lives.

The 11-member body has been asked to review and recommend ways Vatican communications structures could be streamlined and modernized.

The commission president is British Lord (Chris) Patten, former governor of Hong Kong, former chairman of the BBC Trust and former chancellor of the University of Oxford. The commission secretary is Irish Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

- cns

Sydney church targeted by IS threats

September 19, 2014 by admin  
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Our Lady of Lebanon ChurchSydney, September 18, 2014: Church-goers in Sydney’s west have been left shaken after a stranger shouted death threats from a car bearing the Islamic State flag.

The car drove past Our Lady of Lebanon Church at Harris Park on Tuesday and witnesses claim it had a flag similar to those brandished by Islamic State jihadists hanging out the window.

A priest from the church told AAP the people in the car threatened to “kill the Christians” and slaughter their children.

“They were strong words and people were scared of what they saw,” he said.

Witnesses told police there was a small triangular flag placed out the window with Arabic words similar to “there is only one god and Muhammad is the prophet”.

Rosehill police Inspector Brian Jackson confirmed “some threats were made in regard to some people” near the church.

Maronite Catholic parish priest Monsignor Shora Maree contacted police ahead of the church’s 7pm mass on Wednesday night.

Officers were sent down to patrol the Harris Park church while hundreds took part in mass inside.

It’s understood detectives are looking into who is behind the threats.

- 7 news

Why Pope Francis supports limited action against Islamic state?

September 7, 2014 by admin  
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Islamic StateUS, August 22, 2014: When it comes to the use of military force, Americans tend to be in two camps: those who want to use overwhelming force to defeat our enemies and those who oppose the use of force for one reason or another.

Conservative hawks and Hollywood are in the first camp — the bigger the bomb, the better. These folks would support President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s call for unconditional surrender during World War II, even though the Vatican feared it would prolong the war.

In the second camp are those opposed to any killing (pacifists) and those who feel that no American should ever die helping a foreigner (isolationists). Both do not trust the government to use force well.

The limited use of force is denigrated by both sides. Foreign policy realists, on the other hand, see the use of military force as simply one among many tools of foreign policy. Thus, President John F. Kennedy could threaten the Russians during the Cuban missile crisis but at the same time secretly negotiate the withdrawal of our missiles from Turkey in exchange for removing the Russian missiles from Cuba.

Hawks criticized President George H.W. Bush, another realist, for not letting our troops take Baghdad. The hawks wanted total victory, and the pacifists opposed any fighting. Bush, on the other hand, had limited goals — getting Iraq out of Kuwait.

The limited use of force is a hard sell in a democracy. People don’t want their children to die for limited foreign policy goals. Their deaths have meaning only if they are defending our country or dying for the highest principles (freedom, etc.).

The French solved this problem by having the French Foreign Legion, an army made up of expendable foreigners. The U.S. tried to solve this problem by eliminating the draft and staffing the military with poor, undereducated minorities.

It is this context that makes it so difficult for Americans to understand the Vatican’s position on the use of military force, which is based on the just war theory.

The Vatican begins with a presumption against war. War can only be a last resort after all other avenues have been exhausted. Diplomacy and reconciliation must be tried first. But “last resort” does not mean “never.”

Waging war requires a just cause, such as defending oneself or another from unjust aggression. But not every just cause is an excuse for the use of military might. Besides a just cause, the military intervention must cause less harm than not intervening. You do not destroy a village to save it. The use of military force must be proportionate, and everything possible should be done to avoid civilian casualties.

Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI opposed both Gulf Wars and Pope Francis opposed any American intervention in Syria because they did not think those actions fulfilled the criteria demanded by the just war doctrine. They called for cease-fires, negotiations, diplomacy and reconciliation. They believed military intervention would only make matters worse.

The popes were clearly right with regards to the second invasion of Iraq. It is hard to argue that the thousands of deaths and billions of dollars spent have made Iraq better.

As for Syria, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she would have given more support to the “moderates” than President Barack Obama did, while the pope opposed any outside military intervention. I agree with the pope and Obama. There is no evidence that we would have done better in Syria than we did in Iraq, especially with a much smaller investment of resources. The moderates would have failed no matter how many weapons we gave them. The just war theory says you should not wage a war you cannot win.

Because the popes and the Vatican have so ardently opposed war, many were surprised when the Vatican supported intervention to stop the slaughter of religious minorities by the Islamic State. They should not have been surprised. The Vatican also supported international intervention in the early 1990s to stop ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Last week, Catholic News Service reported that when asked about the U.S. military airstrikes, Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the Vatican nuncio to Iraq, told Vatican Radio, “This is something that had to be done, otherwise [the Islamic State] could not be stopped.”

Likewise, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva, said, “When all other means have been exhausted, to save human beings the international community must act. This can include disarming the aggressor.”

For Tomasi, this was a case of “humanitarian intervention,” but it should be done by the international community and not unilaterally by one nation.

The pope said something similar during his press conference on his way home from South Korea. In response to a journalist’s question, he said:

In these cases where there is unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb “stop”; I don’t say bomb, make war — stop him. The means by which he may be stopped should be evaluated. To stop the unjust aggressor is licit, but we nevertheless need to remember how many times, using this excuse of stopping an unjust aggressor, the powerful nations have dominated other peoples, made a real war of conquest. A single nation cannot judge how to stop this, how to stop an unjust aggressor. After the Second World War, there arose the idea of the United Nations. That is where we should discuss: “Is there an unjust aggressor? It seems there is. How do we stop him?” But only that, nothing more.

Francis was very careful in what he said and what he did not say. In saying, “It is licit to stop the unjust aggressor,” he said “stop,” not “destroy,” “conquer,” “push back” or “defeat.” Stop, “only that, nothing more.” This limited goal will not please the hawks.

Nor did he say how to stop the unjust aggressor, but he did say, “I don’t say bomb, make war.” Rather, “the means by which he may be stopped should be evaluated.” And like Tomasi, he argues that this should be done by the international community, the United Nations.

Here, foreign policy realists will say that the pope is naive. The only way that the Islamic State was stopped was with force, including bombs. And if we had waited until the U.N. acted, it would have been too late to save anyone.

For more on humanitarian intervention and the responsibility to protect, see the excellent analysis by my colleague Jesuit Fr. Drew Christiansen.

I would guess that the pope’s diplomats (Lingua and Tomasi) are more closely articulating the Vatican’s position than the pope. The pope is being extremely cautious because he does not want American hawks to say he is blessing American military intervention to destroy the Islamic State. Nor does he want Muslim extremists to say he is calling a crusade against Islam. He prudently errs on the side of caution and lets his diplomats fill in the blanks.

What the pope really did at his news conference was stress the word “stop.” He is not giving the American military a blank check. Stopping the advance of the Islamic State allows for diplomacy and negotiations to take place. He understands that the use of American might to take back Mosul would be a disaster. Rockets and bombs can only liberate a city by destroying it.

From Obama’s point of view, limited military intervention provides time for the new Iraqi government to get its act together, especially by bringing the Sunnis on board. He understands, as the hawks do not, that there is no American military solution to the conflict in Iraq. Only the Sunnis can defeat the Islamic State. After all, it was the Sunni awakening that defeated al-Qaida, not the American surge.

Here, the pope and the president agree: Only Iraqi negotiations and compromise can bring peace to the people of Iraq.

- ncr

Vatican spokesman: ISIS threat to Pope Francis unfounded

August 28, 2014 by admin  
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isisVatican City, August 26, 2014: In response to rumors that the Islamic State may be targeting Pope Francis, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. said there is no reason for concern.

“There is nothing serious to this. There is no particular concern in the Vatican. This news has no foundation,” the spokesman told CNA Aug. 26.

The rumors spread following an Aug. 25 article published in Italian newspaper “Il Tempo,” which said the number of jihadists in Italy is on the rise due to the influx of unidentified immigrants in the country.

According to the article, Islamic fundamentalists led by Al-Baghdadi plan to “raise the level of confrontation” in Europe and alluded to Israeli sources who said that Pope Francis is “also in the crosshairs of ISIS” as “the greatest exponent of the Christian religions” and the “bearer of false truth.”

Al-Baghdadi has been named as Caliph – the head of state and absolute monarch – of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in western Iraq and north-eastern Syria, and is the former head of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

While the reports regarding the threat of attacks in Europe and on the Pope appear to be unfounded, an Aug. 20 article published by Italian news agency Rai reveals that Italy is tightening its security.

According to the agency, there have been no targeted threats or specific indications of attacks on Italy. However, a nationwide alert has been issued.

- cna

Texas Man to Launch ‘Death Row Jesus’ Campaign; Says Christ Was History’s ‘Worst Criminal’

August 27, 2014 by admin  
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Death Row JesusUS, August 26, 2014: The man behind the controversial “Jesus Tattoo” movement will launch a new campaign “Death Row Jesus” on Wednesday to spread the message that God was the “worse criminal” while on earth.

David L. Miller of the Little Pencil organization is known for his thought-provoking marketing campaigns that promote the Gospel. Last year, he erected 59 billboards throughout Lubbock, Texas, depicting the image of Jesus Christ clad in tattoos. But this time, he is opting for digital video advertisements that will launch in major cities throughout the U.S.

“When people think about Jesus, they don’t think about him being on death row, but if you think about what he did when he was on earth, that’s really the experience he had,” Miller told Lubbock’s NBC affiliate KBCD 11.

He continued, “We communicate very directly that Christ became the worst criminal in history when he took our mistakes on himself. The second message is we are all equally undeserving of God’s grace.”

Part of the video depicts Jesus in an orange prison jumpsuit as He is beaten to the ground. Another part transitions to the scene of the crucifixion where He is dying at the same time that other inmates in prison are being set free.

Miller says the funding for the video advertisements was raised through merchandise sales from the previous campaign, while adding that he is not out to make a profit.

“Corporations spend an enormous amount of money marketing whatever their product is and there is nothing wrong with that,” said Miller. “We just think in this case we have a much better product and one that’s everlasting, life-changing, and so it’s certainly worthy of whatever we invest in it.”

Last year, Miller’s campaign garnered controversy after he filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing Lubbock’s largest school district of allegedly violating his right of free speech after they refused to display his ad showing a tattooed Jesus on a jumbotron during high school football games.

The tattoos were the words “addicted” and “depressed,” among other negative descriptions on Jesus’ chest and arms, but the message behind them was that Jesus’ love can change people despite their labels.

At the time, the school district said it denied Miller’s request because by their own policies and practices they were prohibited from allowing religious advertisements with the use of government property, based on the Establishment Clause.

A federal judge eventually sided with the school district this past May saying that the district was right to reject a Christian company.

Miller’s Little Pencil organization was founded about a year ago. Its name comes from a quote by Mother Teresa, “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”

- christian post

6 facts about South Korea’s growing Christian population

August 23, 2014 by admin  
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South KoreaSouth Korea, August 15, 2014: Pope Francis will travel to South Korea this week for Asian Youth Day, making his third international trip as pontiff. He’ll be visiting a country that has experienced considerable religious change in recent decades. Here are six facts about Christianity in South Korea:

1. South Korea has no majority religious group. Its population includes a plurality of people with no religious affiliation (46%) and significant shares of Christians (29%) and Buddhists (23%). South Korea’s current president, Park Geun-hye, is an atheist with connections to Buddhism and Catholicism, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

2. In 1900, only 1% of the country’s population was Christian, but largely through the efforts of missionaries and churches, Christianity has grown rapidly in South Korea over the past century. In 2010, roughly three-in-ten South Koreans were Christian, including members of the world’s largest Pentecostal church,Yoido Full Gospel Church, in Seoul.

3. The majority of Christians in South Korea belong to Protestant denominations, including mainline churches such as Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist churches as well as various Pentecostal churches. Since the 1980s, however, the share of South Korea’s population belonging to Protestant denominations and churches has remained relatively unchanged at slightly less than 1-in-5. Catholics have grown as a share of the population, from 5% in 1985 to 11% as of 2005, according to the South Korean census. The growth of Catholics has occurred across all age groups, among men and women and across all education levels.

4. Only about 11% of South Koreans are Catholic, but a survey we conducted in March found that the population has a positive view of Pope Francis. More than eight-in-ten South Koreans (86%) said they have a favorable opinion of the pope, higher than the share of Americans (66%) who had a favorable view of him in February. (Among U.S. Catholics, 85% said they have a favorable view of the pontiff.)

5. The share of Christians in South Korea (29%) is much smaller than the share of Christians among Korean Americans living in the U.S. Nearly three-quarters of Korean Americans (71%) say they are Christian, including 61% who are Protestant and 10% who are Catholic.

6. As of 2012, South Korea had low levels of government restrictions on religion and social hostilities toward or among religious groups, based on our most recent analysis. In fact, religious restrictions in South Korea are lower than in the U.S., and significantly lower than the median level of religious restrictions in the Asia-Pacific region.

- pew research

Islamic ” State ” beheads, crucifies in push for Syria’s east

August 15, 2014 by admin  
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iraqSyria, August 11, 2014: Islamic State has crushed a pocket of resistance to its control in eastern Syria, crucifying two people and executing 23 others in the past five days, a monitoring group said on Monday.

The insurgents, who are also making rapid advances in Iraq, are tightening their grip inSyria, of which they now control roughly a third, mostly rural areas in the north and east.

Fighters from the al-Sheitaat tribe in eastern Deir al-Zor had tried to resist Islamic State’s advance this month, according to residents near the area and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring organization.

In al-Shaafa, a town on the banks of the Euphrates river, Islamic State beheaded two men from the al-Sheitaat clan on Sunday, the Observatory said, and gave residents a 12-hour deadline on Monday to hand over members of the tribe.

In other parts of Deir al-Zor province, the militants crucified two men for the crime of “dealing with apostates” in the city of Mayadin, and two others were beheaded for blasphemy in the nearby town of al-Bulel, the Observatory said.

Islamic State, which has fought the Syrian army, Kurdish militias and Sunni Muslim tribal forces, has made rapid gains in Syria since it seized northern Iraq’s largest city, Mosul, on June 10, and declared an Islamic caliphate.

The Observatory said a further 19 men from the al-Sheitaat tribe were executed on Thursday, 18 shot dead and one beheaded, on the outskirts of Deir al-Zor city. It said the men worked at an oil installation.

“No one will now dare from the other tribes to move against Islamic State after the defeat of the al-Sheitaat,” said Ahmad Ziyada al-Qaissi, an Islamic State sympathizer contacted by Skype from Mayadin.

Tribal sources say the conflict between Islamic State and the al-Sheitaat tribe, who number about 70,000, flared after Islamic State took over of two oil fields in July.

One of those, al-Omar, is the biggest oil and gas field in Deir al-Zor and has been a lucrative source of funds for rebel groups.

The head of the al-Sheitaat tribe, Sheikh Rafaa Aakla al-Raju, called in a video message for other tribes to join the fight against Islamic State.

“We appeal to the other tribes to stand by us because it will be their turn next … If (Islamic State) are done with us the other tribes will targeted after al-Sheitaat. They are the next target,” he said in the video, posted on YouTube on Sunday.

WINNING RESPECT

A Syrian human rights activist from Deir al-Zor who fled for Turkey last year said rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad had retreated to al-Sheitaat tribal areas from which they had been trying to mount resistance to Islamic State.

He said, on condition of anonymity, that the resistance had been crushed in the last few days. “The situation is very bad, but the people can’t repel them,” he said.

He said that, in tandem with their violent campaign, Islamic State was distributing gas, electricity, fuel and food to garner local support.

“It is a poor area. They are winning support this way. They won a lot of support this way. They are halting theft and punishing thieves. This is also giving them credibility.”

Another resident of Deir al-Zor, Abdullah al-Noami, said that four al-Sheitaat towns had fallen.

“These areas have fallen into the hands of Islamic State after the withdrawal of the (al-Sheitaat) fighters. The youths who were found were executed or their heads were cut off on the grounds that they fought against Islamic State,” he said.

More than 170,000 people have been killed in Syria’s civil war, which pits overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim rebels against Assad, a member of the Shi’ite-derived Alawite minority, backed by Shi’ite militias from Iraq and Lebanon.

The insurgency is split between competing factions, with Islamic State emerging as the most powerful.

In Raqqa, Islamic State’s power base in Syria, its hold appears to be growing only firmer even as Syrian government forces intensify air strikes on territory held by the group.

One Syrian living in an area of Islamic State control near Raqqa said the number of its fighters in the streets had grown dramatically in the last few weeks, particularly since it captured the army’s 17th Division at the end of July.

The group has levied a tax on non-Muslims, and settled foreign fighters in confiscated homes, said the resident, who asked for anonymity due to security concerns.

But despite that, as in Deir al-Zor, it has won a degree of respect among locals by curbing crime using their version law of and order. For youths without work, salaries offered by Islamic State are one of the few sources of income.

“The (Islamic) State has respect and standing and its voice is heard,” said the resident, speaking by Skype.

- reuters

Republican congressman sends Bibles to his fellow legislators

August 13, 2014 by admin  
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BibleWashington, August 06, 2014: A Mississippi Congressman who belongs to the Republican House Whip leadership has sent copies of the Holy Bible to all members of the United States Congress.

Rep. Steven Palazzo of Mississippi sent the Good Book to his peers last week, along with a note including the official Congress letterhead.

“On a daily basis, we contemplate policy decisions that impact America’s future. Our staffs provide us with policy memos, statistics and recommendations that help us make informed decisions,” wrote Palazzo in the letter.

“However, I find that the best advice comes through meditating on God’s Word. Please find a copy of the Holy Bible to help guide you in your decision-making.”

The Reverend Rob Schenck, head of the Washington, DC – based group Faith and Action, told The Christian Post that he supported Palazzo’s Bible distribution.

“Rep. Palazzo is to be commended for sending Bibles to his members of Congress. For a Christian, sharing a Bible is one of the most meaningful things one can do for somebody you care about. So, it’s meaningful and generous,” said Schenck.

“Good for the Congressman. I’ll pray that his actions have a salutary effect on the thinking and actions of Congress as a whole. We need more of his kind of thing in Washington.”

Schenck also told CP that the Bibles were more likely to reach their intended audience because it was a peer like Palazzo sending them rather than an outside group.

“Bibles have been delivered to members by various groups and it’s always worth doing, but many times Bibles from the outside, so to speak, are intercepted by staff or diverted somewhere else,” said Schenck.

“When a Bible comes directly from a colleague, it’s far more likely it will land in the hands if it’s intended recipient.”

Palazzo’s gift went to all members of Congress, including those who do not consider themselves Christian, according to Sahil Kapur of Talking Points Memo.

“Palazzo’s letter was treated as a gesture of good will, including by non-Christian members of Congress who also received a copy of the Bible,”wrote Kapur.

“The first Muslim elected to Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), wrote back with a thank-you note. His office and other offices wouldn’t discuss the letter on the record.”

Not everyone was supportive of the move. The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, spoke with concern about elected officials using the Bible as a pretext for public policy.

“When a politician calls for using the Bible as the basis for public policy, what he or she is really saying is, ‘Let’s use the Bible as I interpret it as the basis for public policy’,” said Lynn, according to TPM.

“Rather than look to the Bible or any other religious book to craft our nation’s public policy, we would do well to examine another source instead, one that was actually created to guide governance. It’s called the Constitution.”

Geoff Earle of the New York Post noted that Palazzo’s gift of a Bible to each member of Congress may be a timely act.

“Lawmakers will have plenty of time to study the Bible’s discourses on avarice, sloth, vanity and depravity. The letter went out Tuesday — right before the start of a month long congressional recess,” wrote Earle.

- christian post

Obama authorizes targeted airstrikes in Iraq as Islamic state

August 9, 2014 by admin  
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IraqIraq, August 08, 2014: President Barack Obama announced Thursday night at the White House that the U.S. military will engage in targeted airstrikes against Islamic State terrorist convoys in Iraq if they advance toward the U.S. embassy in Baghdad or the consulate in Arbil.

Obama emphasized that while he believes the “U.S.cannot and should not intervene every time there’s a crisis in the world,” he said his administration is taking action in this case to help “avert a massacre.”

“In recent days, these terrorists have continued to move across Iraq, and have neared the city of Arbil, where American diplomats and civilians serve at our consulate and American military personnel advise Iraqi forces,” Obama said. “We’re also providing emergency assistance to the Iraqi government and Kurdish forces so they can more effectively wage the fight against ISIL.”

Obama said he’s also authorized targeted airstrikes to protect Iraqis who are stranded along Mount Sinjar, because the Iraqi government has requested military assistance.

“We’ve begun operations to help save Iraqi civilians stranded on the mountain,” Obama said. “As ISIL has marched across Iraq, it has waged a ruthless campaign against innocent Iraqis. And these terrorists have been especially barbaric toward religious minorities, including Christians and Yazidis.”

“Yazidi women, men and children from the area of Sinjar have fled for their lives by the thousands, perhaps tens of thousands,” noted Obama, who said the U.S. had to act to “carefully and responsibly prevent a potential act of genocide.”

“Today, America is coming to help,” Obama commented, in response to Iraqi civilians’ pleas for intervention.

By Thursday night, the Defense Department said it had already dropped 72 bundles of food (8,000 ready-to-eat meals) and 5,200 gallons water to the estimated 40,000 Iraqis stranded on the peaks of Mount Sinjar.

Prior to Obama’s announcement, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest announced Thursday afternoon that while the administration would be taking action to combat the Islamic State terrorists who have a “callous disregard for human rights,” he emphasized that there is “no American military solution for the problems in Iraq.”

Earnest further explained that while the U.S. was considering airstrikes, the administration hadn’t yet committed to taking direct action, but did plan to coordinate strategic efforts with Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

“Iraqi and Kurdish authorities are focused on this specific threat to the nation, and to the vulnerable populations that live in these areas,” Earnest said. “The U.S. government and military is supporting the ongoing efforts of Iraqi and Kurdish officials to address this urgent humanitarian crisis that exists.”

Earnest added that the U.S. has military personnel on the ground in Iraq who are working with Iraqi and Kurdish Security Forces to evaluate their capabilities and will be providing an assessment of the situation to the administration.

The administration is also working to persuade Iraq’s Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to form a more inclusive government.

Islamic State terrorists extended their gains in northern Iraq Thursday, seizing more towns and strengthening gaining territory near the Kurdish region, according to Reuters.

“The militant group said in a statement on its Twitter account that its fighters had seized 15 towns, the strategic Mosul dam on the Tigris River and a military base, in an ongoing offensive that began at the weekend,” Reuters reports. “Kurdish officials say their forces still control the dam, Iraq’s biggest.”

Reuters also reports that two witnesses said Thursday that “Islamic State fighters had hoisted the group’s black flag over the dam, which could allow the militants to flood major cities or cut off significant water supplies and electricity.”

Mark Arabo, national spokesman for the group “Ending Genocide in Iraq,” told CNN Wednesday that “Christianity in the city of Mosel is dead and a Christian holocaust is in our midst.”

“This is truly a living nightmare that’s not going away,”Arabo explained. “Day-by-day, it’s getting worse and worse. More children are being beheaded; mothers are being raped and killed; fathers are being hung. Right now, 300,000 Christians are fleeing, living in neighboring cities, just wanting a chance — not just to survive, but to live.”

Arabo, who said his group met with Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes at the White House last week, has been asking the administration to take action against the Islamic State and protested outside the White House in support of Iraqi Christians seven weeks ago.

“The world hasn’t seen an evil like this for generations,” he added. “There’s actually a park in Mosul (the second largest city in Iraq) where they put beheaded children on a stick. These are crimes against humanity.”

Ninety five percent of all Christians have fled Mosul and 5 percent have converted to Islam, according to Arabo. He further explained that even if Christians are able to meet the Islamic State’s demands to pay a fine instead of converting to Islam or be killed, their homes and property are being taken and men are watching the terror group capture and kidnap their wives and daughters.

Andrew White, an Anglican canon at St George’s church in Baghdad, who has served the Christian community in Baghdad for 10 years, said in a newsletter that the Islamic State has been able to commit atrocities in Iraq without fear of reprisal because the world’s attention is focused on the Israel-Hamas conflict.

“The Islamic State simply said we can do anything now the world is just looking at Gaza,” White said in the newsletter sent to supporters of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, according to the Anglican Communion News Service.

“It is as if hell has broken out here and nobody cares … The situation is so serious and it is very easy to feel forgotten,” White said.

He continued: “Even in Baghdad people are terrified of what is happening around us. … The number of kidnappings here has soared and people simply do not know what is going to happen next.”

On Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power released a statement announcing that the administration is condemning the Islamic State’s attacks in Iraq.

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant … [And ISIL's] reported abuse, kidnapping, torture and executions of Iraq’s religious and ethnic minorities and its systematic destruction of religious and cultural sites are appalling.”

“The U.S. supports the Iraqi Security Forces and Peshmerga Forces working to defend these areas against ISIL. …. The U.S. is committed to helping the people of Iraq as they confront the security and humanitarian challenges in their fight against ISIL. Iraq’s leaders must move swiftly to form a new, fully inclusive government that takes into account the rights, aspirations and legitimate concerns of all of Iraq’s communities,” Power added.

Islamic State terrorists, an offshoot of al Qaeda, have come within a 30 minute drive of Arbil, according to Reuters.

- christian post

Giving the Devil his due

August 6, 2014 by admin  
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DevilEngland, 14 July, 2014: Church of England is nothing if not polite. And in polite theological circles, it is best not to mention the “D–evil” word. The death of God had been announced in liberal theologies in the early Seventies. But the Devil, if never admitted to have actually died, had been sent to a home for superannuated fallen angels by the middle of the 18th century. So it is perhaps a matter for little surprise that, against the apparent objections of only a few, all mentions of the Devil are to be removed from a new alternative form of the baptism service. No longer do the Devil and all his works have to be renounced. The battle is now against an impersonal “power of evil”, not against Satan himself.

On the other hand, it is a notable event, for the Devil has been present throughout the drama of history as Christianity has portrayed him. Next to God, he has been the leading member of the cast. He fell out of favour with God shortly after creation, and it was he who entered the serpent and tempted Eve. The life, death and resurrection of Christ significantly reduced his power within the world, but his final defeat by God will only come at the battle of Armageddon at the end of history. So his removal from baptism does suggest that he is being written out of the Christian story.

It is a surprising development, too, because the Devil has recently returned to centre stage in conservative Protestant and Catholic churches. There has been a notable increase in reported demonic possessions in conservative Christianity, and a consequent growth in exorcism and deliverance ministries. Pope Francis has declared his belief in a personal Satan. The Devil has been at the core of the moral panic about the imagined sexual abuse of children within Satanic cults. And in conservative circles, there have been increased (though unwarranted) suspicions of demonic influence in the growing New Age movements, particularly modern witchcraft (Wicca) and neo-Paganism.

In fact, the Devil has been centre stage within popular Western culture for the past 40 years. When, in the 1973 film The Exorcist, a voice inside the possessed girl, Regan, announced, “And I’m the Devil! Now kindly undo these straps”, he was announcing, in Terminator mode, that he was back. The girl in whom the Devil had taken up residence spoke with a deep contralto voice, screamed obscenities, vomited and levitated, rotated her head 180 degrees and walked like a spider. Audiences were horrified and appalled, yet captivated and fascinated.

The re-emergence of the Devil in popular, if not in elite, culture is part of a new Western engagement with an imaginary enchanted world. He belongs to a new world of supernatural beings, both good and evil. He takes his place alongside vampires and fairies, witches and wizards, werewolves and wraiths, shape-shifters and superheroes, angels and demons, ghosts and dragons, elves and aliens, succubi and incubi, hobbits and zombies. Not to mention the inhabitants of Hogwarts.

This modern enchanted world is one of multiple meanings, where the spiritual occupies a space between reality and unreality. It is a domain where belief is a matter of choice and disbelief willingly and happily suspended. And in this new realm of limbo, the Devil finds a new space.

As the revised Anglican baptism service suggests, belief in the Devil is now very much a matter of choice, even within the Christian Church. It was not always so. For the better part of the past 2,000 years, it was as impossible not to believe in the Devil as it was impossible not to believe in God. To be a Christian was not only to believe in the salvation that was available through Christ, but also to expect the punishments inflicted by Satan and his demons in the eternal fires of hell for those not among the chosen. The history of God in the West is also the history of the Devil, and the history of theology is also the history of demonology.

For some forms of modern conservative Christianity, marginalised within Western secular and liberal theological thought, the Christian story of the Devil is very much alive still. The belief remains that the Devil is active and will remain so until finally consigned to an eternity in Hell at the end of history. The existence of the Devil and his capacity to act in history, nature, and human lives, remains for many Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, a satisfactory explanation of natural misfortune and human suffering.

And the modern world often does seem at times to be so evil and human actions so wicked that only a supernatural explanation can suffice. That Satan and evil always seem to be winning the battle against God and the good has always been only partially and paradoxically mitigated by the Christian conviction that, at the end of the day, he has been carrying out God’s will. Christianity has always wrestled with the apparent contradiction between a God who is both all-powerful and all-good, and yet appears either unable to control the Devil or unwilling to do so.

Still, the story of the Devil is one that had lost its central role in Western intellectual life by the middle of the 18th century. By then, for an educated elite if not for the masses, the Devil was no longer a matter of fact but of fiction, and even occasionally a folkloric figure of fun. For some, the Devil became merely a metaphor for the evil within us. For others, he became merely a personification of an impersonal force. It was no longer a valiant struggle against sin, the world and the Devil but rather, as the new baptism service has it, a matter of “standing bravely” and opposing “the power of evil”. For others, it was a convenient excuse for men, as Daniel Defoe put it in 1727, to “shift off these crimes on Him which are their own”.

It was the rise of secular scepticism about the Devil that made possible his effective elimination from liberal Christian theologies. His relegation to the darker corners of the Christian mind was perhaps the most important consequence of the growth of liberal Protestantism from the beginning of the 19th century. Yet, ironically, this very marginalisation of the orthodox Christian story of the Devil in the modern West has allowed for a proliferating of “lives” of the Devil in modern popular culture.

The Devil still exists within the Christian story, but also beyond it, an objectification of the often incomprehensible evil that lies within us and around us, threatening to destroy us. The spell of disenchantment has been broken. The Devil now has new domains and new borders. Hedged in by the traditional Christian story on the one side, on the other by modern secular agnosticism, he “prowls around, looking for someone to devour”, yet again, both delectable and dangerous, fascinating and terrifying, familiar and alien, in a newly enchanted world.

Philip Almond is professorial research fellow at the University of Queensland and author of ‘The Devil: A New Biography’ (IB Tauris)

- telegraph

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