Vatican spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi SJ, said Filipino authorities estimated between six and seven million attended the Mass in Rizal Park on the last full day of the Pope’s four-day visit to Asia’s largest Catholic nation.
“We are not able to count all these people, obviously, or to verify this, but in any case, we have seen so many people that we believe that it is possible,” Fr Lombardi said during a briefing, according to Reuters.
“If this is true, and we think it is, this is the largest event in the history of the popes.”
Celebrating the feast of the Santo Niño, or Holy Child, Francis described the Christ Child as “the protector of this great country.”
He said: “When he came into the world, his very life was threatened by a corrupt king. Jesus himself needed to be protected. He had an earthly protector: St Joseph. He had an earthly family, the Holy Family of Nazareth. So he reminds us of the importance of protecting our families, and those larger families which are the Church, God’s family, and the world, our human family.
“Sadly, in our day, the family all too often needs to be protected against insidious attacks and programmes contrary to all that we hold true and sacred, all that is most beautiful and noble in our culture.”
Russia, January 16, 2015: Russia’s communications watchdog Roskomnadzor issued a warning to the country’s media on Friday against publishing religious-themed cartoons. Its statement, which does not contain a ban, comes after regional branches began issuing statements about coming bans.
Whilst Russian authorities expressed solidarity with the opponents of extremism and terrorism, it said that the media of the Federation Russian should not publish cartoons that may violate the law.
In its statement, Roskomnadzor warned that offensive cartoons in the media could be qualified as violation of existing media and anti-extremism laws.
For Russia’s media watchdog, the publication of such cartoons has always had the potential – long before the Charlie Hebdo massage – of offending and denigrating the religious beliefs of others and fostering ethnic or religious strife.
In fact, the St Petersburg-based Business News Agency was told to take down pictures of Charlie Hebdo’s latest cover, which features the Prophet Muhammad.
After the Paris attacks, very few in Russia have spoken out in favour of “freedom” to publish religious cartoons.
The Russian Federation is a mosaic of religions and ethnic groups. Muslims are about 7-10 per cent of the population, the second largest religious group after the Orthodox. Some areas, like Tatarstan and the northern Caucasus, have a Muslim majority.
Although the average Russian tends to be very xenophobic and nationalist, given the rising number of Muslims, the Kremlin knows that the country is sitting on a ticking time bomb.
Indeed, in the last fifteen years, Russia has suffered several terrorist attacks linked to Islamic extremist groups in the Caucasus.
In the big cities as in the province, integration is a delicate matter. In more than one occasion, brawls between people of different ethnic background have turned into urban guerrilla.
For their part, Russian authorities have remained cautious over the Charlie Hebdo affair, especially over the concept of “freedom of expression,” an issue that might be overflowing in the pages of the Western press but remains a rather touchy issue in Russia.
Instead, Russia’s mainstream media have tried to portrait the affair as an American “plot” against France, aimed at French President Nicolas Hollande because of his push for weaker sanctions against Russia over the Ukrainian crisis.
In Moscow, government officials have said nothing so far about Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s planned Saturday rally against the Muhammad cartoons, an event that is backed by local Muslim religious leaders.
Accused by human rights activists of having de facto imposed Islamic law (Sharia) on Chechnya with the Kremlin’s tacit approval, Kadyrov warned that “we will not allow anyone to insult the prophet, even if it will cost us our lives.” For him, Russian Muslims will not be patient forever.
Syria, December 4, 2014: The Prince of Wales has spoken of his distress about the suffering of Armenian Christians in Iraq and Syria, as he visited London’s Armenian cathedral on 19 November. And at the end of a three-day visit to Turkey, Pope Francis signed a joint declaration with Patriarch Bartholomew I condemning the persecution of Christian communities in the Middle East. Also in solidarity with suffering Christians, Russia’s ambassador to the UK has pledged that his country will support Christians in Iraq and Syria.
Lamenting the plight of Armenian Christians in the Middle East, the UK’s Prince Charles denounced the destruction of the Armenian church in Deir el-Zour, Syria by Jabhat al-Nusra Islamists as well as the devastation of a 1,800-year-old church in Mosul, Iraq by Islamic State (IS) earlier this year. Condemning the persecution of Christians in the Middle East as “the most soul-destroying tragedy” and a “grotesque and barbarous assault” he said, “Our prayers for those who have to endure this continuing horror, seem so hopelessly inadequate under such dreadful circumstances, but please, please just know how truly heartfelt they are.”
Although many church buildings have been attacked, the targeting of these two highly significant churches comes as a blow to those for whom they mean so much. The Armenian church in Deir el-Zour was built to remember the 1.5 million Armenians massacred under Turkish Ottoman rule in a decades-long genocide that peaked in 1915. Commemorated annually on 24 April, Armenians in Syria flock to the church; 2015 will mark the centenary, but there is little hope that anyone will reach the church ruins next year.
Meanwhile, in modern-day Turkey, the Christian population is now as low as 0.1% or less, with around 100,000 believers although Christians accounted for over 20% of the Ottoman Empire before the Armenian genocide. Patriarch Bartholomew I, who is Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, welcomed Pope Francis at Istanbul on 30 November. Together, they expressed concern for the Christians who have been forced to leave their homes in the Middle East and urged the international community to assume its duty to care for the oppressed and the displaced.
Elsewhere, according to a statement on 26 November by the Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian experts are working on a document that examines the possibility of implementing a UN Human Rights Council draft decision to protect Christians in the Middle East and North Africa.
Dr Yakovenko also wrote that Russia is set to defend the case of persecuted Christians in the region at the OSCE Ministerial Council that is currently meeting in Basel, Switzerland. “Preventing the persecution of Christians in this part of the world is one of Russia’s foreign policy priorities,” he said. The report highlights Russia’s concern about the suffering of Christians in Iraq and Syria who have been victims of an enforced head tax [the traditional Islamic jiyza tax on non-Muslims] and forced to leave their homes as IS militants attempt to impose aggressive laws.
Dr Yakovenko also commented, “We believe that Europe, including the UK, should make its contribution to these efforts, taking into account the Christian roots of the European civilization.”
- barnabas team
Africa, December 04, 2014: Two brutal attacks by Al-Shabaab on Christians in Kenya have followed quickly on the heels of one another, with up to 64 people shot or beheaded because they refused to recite the Islamic creed. Meanwhile Boko Haram’s attacks in Nigeria are so many it is getting hard to keep up with the news, let alone tally the number of dead. In both these contexts Christians are one of the prime targets, as zealous Islamists seek to extend their rule, believing that this is what their God demands.
On a smaller scale, but even more horrifying, was the mob lynching of a Christian couple in Pakistan, thrown alive into the furnace of the brick kiln where they worked. Again it was a religious motivation that prompted the frenzied attack, because of a rumour that the wife had desecrated pages of the Quran.
Such examples are multiplied across the world. Although Barnabas Fund works all out to try to help victims of anti-Christian violence, how much better it would be if the violence itself could be halted so there were no victims needing aid.
This week I have attended a conference of progressive, liberal Arab Muslim scholars, who are seeking to reform Islam to make it into a truly peaceful religion, taking its place harmoniously alongside others in our multi-faith modern world. These courageous men and women put their lives at risk to make known their views. As was pointed out very clearly at the conference, it is the theology and ideology of Islamist militants that drive them; their killings are not wanton depravity but completely legitimate according to the doctrines they have been taught.
Such teaching is exactly what the progressive scholars would like to counter, by means of fresh interpretations of the Islamic sources that emphasise the peaceable teachings rather than the belligerent ones that urge and model hatred, intolerance and violence. Their writings, and those of other like-minded Muslims, have now been published in a book which I have had the privilege of co-editing.
Very little is heard of such scholars, despite their learning and their boldness. They have no funding to get their message across. They are not asked to advise government and security. They are not invited to international inter-religious conferences where extremism is discussed. They are left to fend for themselves and to try to influence as best they can. One spoke of how he had been threatened and there was no protection.
All the scholars were agreed that the voices of the extremists are increasing rather than decreasing, and that it is the extremist ideas which are taking root, not the liberal ideas. This does not bode well for the future. However much Muslim leaders have denounced extremism and organisations like Islamic State, they remain faced with the fact that many, including their young people, are moving in the opposite direction.
The Christians living in Muslim-majority countries are faced now, not just with marginalisation, discrimination, alienation or harassment, but with sheer brutality threatening their very existence. And this is not the only context where Christians face such pressure. A Christian leader in India recently compared the situation of Christians in that country to living in Nazi Germany in the 1930s because the present political leadership is seeking to eradicate Christianity from India.
In places like Sri Lanka and in some other Buddhist-majority countries, Christians face similar problems. Whether it be religion of its most extreme form or developing nationalism, Christians find themselves increasingly at risk. Thankfully governments have now recognised this, and the media have now taken up this cause.
Christian leaders, however, lag behind. As to solutions, few know what to do, for Christians have no guns (thankfully), no power, no oil. This renders them not only defenceless, but also economically irrelevant to the West and therefore not worth defending.
And yet, in the midst of it all, there is God, who remains in control of the nations, who holds His people in His hands and will control their ultimate destiny. As we move towards Christmas and think of the coming of the Messiah, we remember also that He came into a dark world where His advent saw the massacring of little children. But we remember that He is a god of justice, who has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly (Luke 1:52).
- dr patrick sookhdeo
China, November 24, 2014: China’s Communist government has been on an anti-Christian rampage of late, tearing down churches in the coastal city of Wenzhou and elsewhere, arresting underground bishops and home church leaders, and illicitly ordaining pliant priests as Catholic “bishops”. But underneath this escalating campaign of repression — in fact, the reason for it — is a rapidly growing population of Christians.
There are now an estimated 100 million plus Christians in the world’s most populous country, with Catholics alone accounting for about 12 million of this number. Many of these are new converts who, eager to fulfill the Great Commission, are busy evangelizing their fellow Chinese citizens.
The Chinese Communist Party has been doing some recruiting of its own in recent years, opening its ranks to intellectuals, business owners, and other previously suspect classes — even capitalists! Still, the 86.7 million formal members of this decaying “faith” — most of whom are Communists in name only — are now outnumbered by a growing and vibrant Chinese Christianity.
For China’s leaders, who vastly prefer that the Chinese people believe there is no god but the Party (and remember: they are the Party), this is an intolerable situation. This latest wave of persecution is their answer. The good news is that Catholicism in China is on the rise nonetheless.
Let me share with you some of the many hopeful faces of the Catholic faith that I saw on a recent trip to China.
One is the face of a Catholic priest, serving as the pastor of a large parish near a major Chinese city, who is determined to save souls. As we sat in his office, he unrolled a drawing of a huge statue of Jesus. He intends to have it built in secret and then erected overnight on a pedestal overlooking the freeway that runs near his church. “How are you going to get permission from the authorities?” I said. “It’s Church land,” he said firmly, “I don’t need permission.”
There were no churches being torn down in the North China provinces I visited, but there were certainly churches being built. The thousands of churches that were torn down or confiscated on Party orders during the fifties and sixties have nearly all been rebuilt or refurbished, often with foreign donations. This includes the parish church at Dongergou in Shanxi province that I visited, where Masses have been held continuously for more than 220 years.
Many new churches have been built as well, sometimes with official permission, sometimes without. This is an area where the laity often takes the initiative. In one village, the parishioners — many of them new converts — were holding prayer meetings and occasional Masses, when a priest was able to be present, in an abandoned stable.
Islamic militants al-shabaab kill 36 mainly Christian quarry workers after separating them from Muslims
Kenya, December 2, 2014: Islamic militant group al-Shabaab has killed 36 non-Muslim quarry workers, mainly Christians, after separating them from Muslims at a camp in Kenya. The attack, 10 miles from the town of Mandera, was reportedly carried out in retaliation for the Kenyan army’s presence and anti-terror operations in Somalia.
“The militia separated the Muslims, then ordered the non-Muslims to lie down where they shot them on the head at close range,” said Hassan Duba, an elder at a nearby village, according to Reuters.
President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that he will change his top security officials following a series of such attacks in recent weeks. The al-Shabaab militants were also accused of hijacking a bus and killing 28 passengers a week ago near the same area at the border with Somalia.
Another 67 people were killed by the jihadists in an attack on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall last year.
Kenyatta, who accepted Police Chief David Kimaiyo’s resignation on Tuesday, said that internal political conflicts in Kenya cannot help in the fight against terror.
“Our bickering only emboldens the enemy,” the president said.
An al-Shabaab spokesman said that the attack was against “Kenyan crusaders” that are battling Islamists in Somalia.
“We are uncompromising in our beliefs, relentless in our pursuit, ruthless against the disbelievers and we will do whatever necessary to defend our Muslim brethren suffering from Kenya’s aggression,” spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage said.
Muslim leaders in Kenya have condemned the attack, calling it a “beastly tactic.”
“This unfortunate and ugly incident should not be used to divide peace loving Kenyans who have lived harmoniously for centuries — along religious or ethnic lines, but rather it should be taken to reflect on improving the security situation of the country,” Nairobi’s Jamia Mosque said in a statement, according to CNN.
Kenya’s population is predominantly Christian at 82.5 percent, while Muslims make up close to 11 percent of the population.
Al-Shabaab, which also has ties with al-Qaeda, has said that it will drive out Christians “from Muslim lands” and will continue carrying out attacks in Kenya.
In September, the U.S. carried out airstrikes against the jihadist group in Somalia that are believed to have killed a senior al-Shabaab figure.
“U.S. drones managed to hit the representative of al-Qaeda in Somalia, who is also the leader of al-Shabaab, Ahmed Godane,” Lower Shabelle region Gov. Abdikadir Mohamed Nur Sidii revealed at the time.
“We can tell that a senior figure from the group was killed due to the way they reacted after the attack, as they have started committing atrocities in the area, they have beheaded some of the people who had mobile phones and arrested many others [accused of spying].”
Kenya’s military operations in Somalia have caused internal debate, however, with some government opponents saying that Kenyan troops have not managed to safeguard the country and need to be pulled out.
“They were supposed to create a buffer between our countries and the chaos on the other side. But it has not done that. So we are saying leave,” said Dennis Onyango, a spokesman for opposition politician and former prime minister Raila Odinga.
- christian post
Jakarta, November 13, 2014: After attacking the Protestant community, extremist groups of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and the Formasi (Forum of Indonesian Islamic community) have attacked Catholics, blocking the celebration of Mass over the weekend and preventing the faithful from gathering.
The warning was launched in a series of text messages that started circulating in recent days and were confirmed later by Fr. Saptono, priest of the parish of St. Odilia in Cinunuk, in the regency of Bandung (West Java province). The complex of St. Charles Borromeo was targeted in the November 9 raid when it was surrounded by dozens of extremists – shouting insulting slogans and mafia-style messages – who blocked the celebration of Sunday Mass.
The FPI and the Formasi members threatened to burn the property if, in the future, Masses or other Christian services are celebrated. To avoid the worst damage, the priest – while engaged in a discussion with some representatives of the extremist groups – asked the faithful to remove the sacred objects and symbols of faith.
A move that has convinced the extremists to curb their destructive folly, on the back of a promise by the priest that there would be no more celebrations in the structure. Addressing the faithful, Fr. Saptono spoke of a t “shocking” even for a private community and abuse of their right to prayer and to the free practice of worship “after 16 years of peaceful existence”.
The presence of Catholics in the area dates back to 1995. “After the four Protestant churches blocked since 11 October – adds the priest – it is now the turn of the Catholic community.” Limitations on the practice of worship concern not only the communities of Cinunuk, but also locations scattered in West Java, one of the areas most at risk from intolerance or sectarian violence. These attacks have not only affected Christians but also other minorities, including Ahmadis and Shias.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, where Catholics are 3 per cent of the population, is becoming as one of the main centres of Islamic activism in the Asia-Pacific region. As AsiaNews recently reported, fundamentalist movements and local Muslim leaders have found inspiration in the exploits of Sunni fighters in Syria and Iraq and plan to support the struggle for the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate, even in Asia. The new government of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and neo Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnomo, better known as Ahok, number two Widodo when he headed the capital, will have their hands full in trying to stem this extremist drift that was endorsed for years by the previous government.
Ukraine, November 04, 2014: Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March, religious groups there – aside from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) – are facing persecution, and restrictions on their ministry.
Religious communities in Crimea face an uncertain legal framework – they are unsure of what laws must be observed. Catholics, Ukrainian Orthodox of the Kyiv Patriarchate, and Muslims are all facing persecution from local authorities, and anticipate that they may have to go underground next year.
“The so-called ‘Crimean government’ issued a new law under which all religious organizations, by the end of the year, must go through a process of re-registration,” explained the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, at an Oct. 23 press conference.
“The requirements are very complicated. But even if we fulfilled all the requirements, no-one would be able to guarantee the existence of our Greek Catholic community in Crimea any longer.”
It is thus possible that in January 2015 the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church will find itself outside the law, with its parishes and other property subject to confiscation.
On Feb. 13 – barely more than a month before Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine on March 18 – the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church had expanded its presence on the peninsula, establishing a new exarchate dedicated to the territory.
Today, the Archiepiscopal Exarchate of Crimea has five parishes, with Divine Liturgy celebrated at each of them. For political reasons, a bishop has yet to be appointed for the exarchate; but its administrators have exchanged married priests on the peninsula for monks, because the risk to priests with families is doubly dangerous.
Among the Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests continuing to serve in Crimea is Fr. Bohdan Kosteskiy. He celebrates Divine Liturgy in Ukrainian, and says he can’t abandon his believers now, because “the priest is a sign of hope for them.”
In September, Fr. Kosteskiy was detained, along with a group of his parishioners, by “unknown police forces.” They were released after a few days in captivity. He was also briefly detained in March, three days before Crimea’s official annexation, by pro-Russian forces.
While the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was preparing for expansion in Crimea up until the peninsula’s annexation, construction on its new parishes in Yalta and other Crimean cities has been halted.
The legal uncertainty accompanying the process of re-registration makes continued ministry difficult for the Church.
“The re-registering means accepting the annexation of Crimea as a legal fact; but to ignore this process would place the community outsidethe law, and be the actual start of an underground sector,” commented Alexander Dobroyer, director of the European Institute of Social Communications, in an interview with CNA.
Dobroyer said the situation is further complicated by the lack of Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops in Russia — such parishes there are currently under the supervision of the Roman Catholic Church. He added that “if these communities are registered in Crimea, then there will be a chance to do the same in Moscow.”
The sociologist, who studied at the Catholic University of Lublin, suggested that “on behalf of the needs of the pastor, they could just register and serve the people; but on the side of politics, that could give the Russian media the possibility of manipulating information, ultimately stating that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has indeed recognized the annexation” of Crimea.
Until lately, nine Roman Catholic priests worked in Crimea, but two were recently forced to leave the peninsula. Like the Ukrainian Greek Catholics, the Roman Catholics in Crimea have halted plans for the construction of new parishes.
“We do not recognize the annexation of Crimea, because the Church is outside of politics,” Bishop Bronislaw Bernacki of Odessa-Simferopol told CNA.
“There are processes that do not depend on us; but we must re-register our communities under the new Russian legislation in order to stay among our people. This puts deep fear in us.”
Among the Roman Catholic priests exiled from Crimea was Fr. Dmytro Andriychun, a Dominican.
“In Soviet Union it was the same system,” Bishop Bernacki said. “The special police call Fr.Dmytro for a conversation, and try to collaborate him. He said, ‘I am a priest, so I can’t collaborate with any government.’”
Bishop Bernacki continued, saying that “the Russian government doesn’t grant visas for priests, especially Polish priests. This could create a major problem with staffing. We actually can’t prepare for the future now; we don’t know what will come next.”
Bishop Jacek Pyl, who is Auxiliary Bishop of Odessa-Simferopol and is based in Simferopol, told Aid to the Church in Need in September that “although … Crimea is under Russian rule, the Catholic Church can still exercise its ministry but we do not know how our future is going to look.”
Alongside Catholics, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate) is also facing persecution by the Russian government in Crimea. It has lost control of six of its 15 parishes in the territory, according to a report of the Council for Europe. The home of the Church’s Bishop of Simferopol and Crimea, Klyment Kushch, was burned down.
“The UOC-Kiyv Patriarchate is in the most uncertain situation, as they have no canonical status within the Orthodox world,” explained Dobroyer.
The Kyiv Patriarchate was established in 1995 when a Russian Orthodox bishop in Ukraine, Filaret, attempted to distance his Church from the Russian Orthodox. The move led to the presence of two separate Ukrainian Orthodox hierarchies, one aligned with Moscow and one independent.
And like Christians not aligned with the Russian Orthodox Church, Muslims have also been persecuted in Russian-administered Crimea.
“Since March 18 young Muslims, Crimean Tatars, have disappeared there,” Said Ismagilov, a mufti and head of the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Ukraine, told CNA.
“Some of them were found dead with signs of torture. We don’t know who is responsible for it, but this is too many young victims.”
Tatars are an indigenous ethnic group of Crimea, most of whom are Muslim; they constitute around 15 percent of the population. Most boycotted the vote which led to Russia’s annexation of their homeland, and wished to remain part of Ukraine.
Ismagilov said that the mass disappearance of young Muslims is a sign of the beginning of religious persecution.
In Yevpatoria, mosques, as well as Muslims’ homes, have been raided by Crimean police looking for “extremist” literature: Russia has a list of such banned literature, which is legal in Ukraine.
“The problem is that it is not only modern literature, but fundamental books of Muslim theology,” Ismagilov commented. “Even the second-most important book after the Quran – the ‘Sahih al-Bukhari’, a collection of sayings of the Prophet Muhammad – is also prohibited; but every Muslim mosque keep this in a private library.”
“In fact the (prohibited) books are just an excuse for the control of Muslims, and an attempt to determine their loyalty to Russia’s actions,” the mufti charged.
“Persecution of Muslims in Russia has long been a problem,” Ismagilov said. “In more than twenty years of independence, Ukraine has never had such problems. I’m afraid that in Crimea, Russia will manipulate religious sentiments.”
An Oct. 27 report of the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights indicated abuses committed by Crimean authorities against both ethnic Ukrainians and Tatars.
Crimea is a southern peninsula of Ukraine where nearly 60 percent of the population are ethnic Russians, and more than 50 percent of the population speak Russian as their first language. The territory was transferred from Russia to Ukraine in 1954 under the Soviet Union.
It was annexed by Russia in March, in a move unrecognized by Ukraine and the West, following political unrest in Ukraine.
The month prior, Ukraine’s pro-Russian president was ousted by protests, and an interim government more favorable to western nations was installed.
Ukraine held elections Oct. 26 which strongly reaffirmed the pro-western protests of early 2014 and rejected far-right nationalists. The political parties led by president Petro Poroshenko and prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk both won the largest number of seats in Ukraine’s parliament, while the party of fomer president Victor Yanukovych won fewer than 10 percent.
However, the elections did not include Crimea – annexed by Russia – or the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, in far-eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have declared independence and are holding their own polls.
The separatists’ elections will not be recognized by Ukraine, the EU, or the US, though Russia has already given them support.
Since fighting began in the separatist regions in April, more than 3,700 people have been killed.
- cna/ewtn news
Iraq, November 21, 2014: For the first time since the Islamic State seized most of the Nineveh province in northern Iraq over the summer, a Christian mass was successfully held at a church in a small Iraqi village nearly 20 miles north of the ISIS stronghold of Mosul this past Sunday, Iraqi News reports indicate.
Although reports coming from Iraqi news outlets originally said that the mass was held at the Mar Yacob Church in the Christian village of Telskuf, Father Paulus Thabit Makku, a Chaldean priest in Mosul, told Fides News that the Eucharist was held at the only other church in Telskuf, Saint Georges Chaldean church.
“We celebrated the Eucharist this Sunday in one of the Nineveh province’s villages – the first time since locals were forced out last August by ISIS jihadists,” Father Makku said.
Father Makku further added that he and many other Christian refugees from the town, all of whom were men living as refugees in Kurdistan, had yearned to return to the village, especially after Kurdish peshmerga liberated the town from ISIS control this August.
Although the town has been free of ISIS control for about three months, ISIS still has strong control in neighboring villages and Mosul, so the town is not particularly safe for Christians to live in. But, Makku said he and the men, even if for just a few hours, wanted to return to the church to ring the church bell and and bring some life back into the house of God.
After the mass concluded, the men returned to their refugee camp in the North.
“It was a way for us to express that we will not leave our land. We live in hope that we will soon return to our homes, villages and churches,” Makku said.
The Islamic State has captured most of the Ninevah province with its military advances starting in June. Although Telskuf has been liberated, those villages that are captured by ISIS militants are subjected to cruel persecution. People must submit to ISIS’ radical brand of Islam or face taxation or death. Once they capture the towns, ISIS militants are said to first take control of church and other religious buildings and tear down the crosses to replace them with the Islamic State’s black flag.
The Kurdish peshmerga forces have fought to liberate Christian, Yazidi and other religious minority villages so that people can return to their homes and families. But like Telskuf, when some of these villages are liberated, people are fearful to return either because ISIS is still in control in neighboring areas or they believe ISIS militants have rigged their homes with booby traps and explosives.
A militia made up of Iraq’s Christians, called the Iraq’s Assyrian Patriotic Party, has also been established to win back Christian villages. Last week, with the help of the peshmerga, the party raised its flag in victory after liberating the Northern Iraqi town of Bakufa from ISIS control.
“We want to take our cities back from the Islamic State,” one Assyrian Patriotic Party member named Tabya told The Scotsman. “We want to protect the Christian villages. No one wants their home, life and land taken from them; no one wants this. I am doing this not just for me but for the Christians of my country.”
- christian post
Iraq, November 23, 2014: A militant of the Islamic State terror group who sold kidnapped Yazidi girls in a slave market in Syria has reportedly been killed along with 34 other ISIS fighters in a U.S.-led airstrike in Mosul in northern Iraq.
Mustafa Sulaiman Qarabash, also known as Abu Husam al-Iraqi and who is responsible for selling kidnapped Yazidi girls, is said to have been killed near the al-Faruq mosque in Tal Afar close to the Syrian border, reported Rudaw, a Kurdish media network, attributing it to Kurdish official sources.
Husam was among 35 ISIS armed men who were killed, and their base destroyed, in airstrikes on ISIS positions near Gayara, it added.
About 5,000 Yazidi girls and women were taken captive by ISIS to be sold or given to fighters as slaves in August, according to estimates.
ISIS, also known as ISIL, is an al-Qaeda offshoot that has gained control of large swathes of territories in Iraq and Syria. It wants to form an Islamic emirate in the Levant region through “jihad.” The U.S.-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes on ISIS positions in Iraq and Syria since August.
Meanwhile, nearly 150 of the kidnapped girls have come back to their families in Kurdish-controlled areas recently after families paid almost their one year’s income to buy them back, according to International Business Times.
A 15-year-old girl, Sabreen, told the Christian Science Monitor that she and many others were taken to a school in Tel Afar. “Lots of men used to come and look around and when they would see a girl they liked they would say ‘I want to buy that one,’” she was quoted as saying. “There was an emir who was taking money for the girls – $1,000 to $1,500.”
Many of the girls are still living in areas of northern or western Iraq under the control of the ISIS, while many others have been sent to Syria or other countries, victims and their advocates told The New York Times.
There are about 600,000 people from the Yazidi minority in Iraq, who consider themselves to be Kurds ethnically and live mostly in north-central Ninevah province and northeastern Iraqi Kurdistan.
Yazidis believe that God governs the world through seven angels with “Malak Tawous,” or Peacock Angel, as the leader, who disobeyed God’s command to bow down to humanity but was forgiven and made the head angel due to his devotion. Therefore, Yazidis are accused of worshipping the Devil, or Satan, as the leader angel resembles Satan in Abrahamic texts.
In its English propaganda publication, the Sunni terror group recently sought to justify its barbarity, saying it is “Islamic” to capture and forcibly make “infidel” women sexual slaves.
“Before Shaytan [Satan] reveals his doubts to the weak-minded and weak hearted, one should remember that enslaving the families of the kuffar [infidels] and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shari’ah that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Qur’an and the narration of the Prophet … and thereby apostatizing from Islam,” stated the ISIS’ glossy propaganda magazine “Dabiq,” named after a site in Muslim apocalypse mythology.
“Dabiq” bills itself as “a periodical magazine focusing on the issues of tawhid (unity), manhaj (truth-seeking), hijrah (migration), jihad (holy war) and jama’ah (community),” according to the Washington, D.C.-based The Clarion Project.
The terror group stated the reasons for sexual slavery in an article titled, “The revival of slavery before the Hour,” referring to Judgment Day.
- christian post