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Friday, February 25, 2011

Egyptian armed forces fire at Christian monasteries, 19 Injured

For the second time in as many days, Egyptian armed force stormed the 5th century old St. Bishoy monastery in Wadi el-Natroun, 110 kilometers from Cairo. Live ammunition was fired, wounding two monks and six Coptic monastery workers. Several sources confirmed the army's use of RPG ammunition. Four people have been arrested including three monks and a Coptic lawyer who was at the monastery investigating yesterday's army attack.

Monk Aksios Ava Bishoy told activist Nader Shoukry of Freecopts the armed forces stormed the main entrance gate to the monastery in the morning using five tanks, armored vehicles and a bulldozer to demolish the fence built by the monastery last month to protect themselves and the monastery from the lawlessness which prevailed in Egypt during the January 25 Uprising.

"When we tried to address them, the army fired live bullets, wounding Father Feltaows in the leg and Father Barnabas in the abdomen," said Monk Ava Bishoy. "Six Coptic workers in the monastery were also injured, some with serious injuries to the chest."

The injured were rushed to the nearby Sadat Hospital, the ones in serious condition were transferred to the Anglo-Egyptian Hospital in Cairo.

Father Hemanot Ava Bishoy said the army fired live ammunition and RPGs continuously for 30 minutes, which hit part of the ancient fence inside the monastery. "The army was shocked to see the monks standing there praying 'Lord have mercy' without running away. This is what really upset them," he said. "As the soldiers were demolishing the gate and the fence they were chanting 'Allahu Akbar' and 'Victory, Victory'."

He also added that the army prevented the monastery's car from taking the injured to hospital.

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Coptic Christian priest killed in Egypt

A Coptic Christian priest has been killed in southern Egypt, triggering street demonstrations by several thousand Christians.

The priest was found dead in his home. A fellow clergyman, Danoub Thabet, says his body had several stab wounds. He says neighbours reported seeing several masked men leaving the apartment and shouting "Allahu akbar," or "God is great," suggesting the killing was motivated by the divide between Egypt's Muslims and its minority Coptic community.

About 3,000 protesters scuffled with Muslim shop owners Tuesday night and smashed the windows of a police car in the city, Assiut.

Egypt's religious tension spiked in January when a suicide bomber killed 21 people outside a Coptic church in the port city of Alexandria. Days of protests followed.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Weapons hidden in Nigerian mosques

Numerous weapons and mercenaries point to plans awaiting a triggering incident.

Christian leaders in Bauchi state said religious violence here sparked by a row over a billiards table on Jan. 27 bore signs that Muslim extremists were prepared for a large-scale slaughter of Christians.

Initially authorities said only 18 people were killed after sectarian violence erupted in the areas of Tafawa Balewa and Bogoro, where there are large Christian populations in predominantly Muslim Bauchi state in northern Nigeria. Since then, estimates have ranged wildly from 25 to 96 people killed over a three-day period starting Jan. 27, with Christian leaders asserting that Muslim extremists used the billiards table incident as a pretext for unleashing attacks with a stockpile of weapons hidden in mosques.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ethiopia: persecution escalates in Muslim areas

CONTINENTALNEWS

The simplistic portrayals of Ethiopia as 'Orthodox Christian' or 'a Christian island surrounded by hostile Muslim neighbours' are misleading. These descriptions ignore the reality that Ethiopia is the legacy of a Christian empire that incorporated many diverse peoples. The Tigray-dominated north and the Amhara-dominated central highlands comprise the Christian heartland. These two Semitic tribes together comprise 45 percent of the population and most of the elite. The periphery is highly diverse and includes many animist and Muslim peoples. Unity is fragile and divisive forces are strong.

Before the Communist Revolution of 1974, Ethiopia was an Amhara-dominated kingdom. After Mengistu's Marxist regime fell in 1991, the new Tigray-led government federalised the state, controversially devolving power to nine autonomous, ethnic regions (just as Tito did in Yugoslavia and as has recently been done in Kenya). By enabling a degree of self-determination, ethnic federalism was supposed to prevent Amhara domination, end cultural conflict and diminish centrifulgal forces. In reality (as in Yugoslavia) it has had the opposite effect: it has weakened the state while magnifying ethnic differences and interests. The largest ethnic group, the Omoro (about equal Muslim / Christian), complain of Tigrayan domination and want to secede. In September 2009 the International Crisis Group lamented that the international community was neglecting 'the increased ethnic awareness and tensions created by the regionalisation policy and their potentially explosive consequences'.

Ethiopia's Constitution (adopted in December 1994) states: 'The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Any law, customary practice or a decision of an organ of state or a public official which contravenes this Constitution shall be of no effect' (Article 9.1). Complicating ethnic tensions is the trend of rising Islamic intolerance. According to the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council, Saudi-funded entities are exacerbating tensions between traditional Sufis and new Wahhabis, as well as between Muslims and Christians. In recent years Christians living in Muslim-dominated areas have been subjected to escalating persecution and application of Sharia law. To maintain 'harmony' and to appease restive Muslims, the Federal Government made religious incitement and religious defamation criminal offences in 2008. While Article 27 of the Federal Constitution guarantees 'Freedom of Religion, Belief and Opinion' it also provides that religious freedom may be limited by law in the interests of public safety.

In August 2010 Tamirat Woldegorgis (early 30s and father of two), a Protestant Christian in Ethiopia's southern town of Moyale, Oromia region, was arrested after a Muslim co-worker accused him of inscribing 'Jesus is Lord' on a cloth. The accuser changed his statement several times before the local imam testified that Woldegorgis had written the offensive words on a Quran. Despite the absence of evidence, Woldegorgis was sentenced on 18 November 2010 to three years in prison for allegedly defiling a Quran. He was then transferred to Jijiga Prison in Ethiopia's Somali Region Zone Five which is governed according to Sharia. Consequently his life is greatly imperilled. Two friends who recently brought him food were fined for supporting a criminal imprisoned for defaming Islam. Authorities have reportedly offered to release Woldegorgis if he will convert to Islam (Compass Direct News, 29 November 2010).

International Christian Concern (ICC) has reported several violent attacks on Christian leaders in recent months. Of great concern is the report that harassed and persecuted Christians in the southern city of Besheno, Oromia region, have recently had notices posted on their doors warning them to convert to Islam, leave the city or face death. According to ICC, three leading Christians from an evangelical Christian community of about 30 believers have been forced to flee and two have been forcibly converted to Islam.

Intolerant, repressive, fundamentalist Islam is spreading, exerting itself and testing the limits in Ethiopia's autonomous ethnic regions. Are minority Christian groups in restive Muslim-dominated areas going to be protected according to the Federal Constitution, or will they be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency, stripped of their constitutional rights and handed over to the dictators of Islam in exchange for promises of 'harmony' and national unity?

Somalia’s al Shabaab popularity going down?

Three years after of taking over more than eight regions in south-central Somalia, Is the popularity of al Qaeda’s associate in Somalia falling?

Al Shabaab, whose name means "the youth" in Arabic, became famous immediately after thousands of Ethiopian forces invaded Somalia in late 2006 and managed to dislodge the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which had controlled much of southern and central Somalia.

No sooner did forces loyal to the transitional federal government’s former leader Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, endorsed by Ethiopian troops, take over control of the capital city and large swaths of southern Somalia than al Shabaab, using the name of the Hawiye clan, started ambush attacks against TFG and Ethiopian troops.


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Egypt – Democracy for whom?

CHRISTIAN POST

In a recent column, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times proclaimed that “today we are all Egyptians!” Well, hyperbole aside, it’s easy to be inspired, even carried away by the images coming from Cairo. And images are all most Americans have to go by.

After all, who isn’t for democracy? What well-meaning person wouldn’t prefer to see an autocrat and his family leave power?

Unfortunately, those aren’t the only considerations. It’s far from certain that what follows the reign of soon-to-be ex-president Mubarak will be democratic in any sense you or I would recognize.

As we have learned the hard way in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, deposing a dictatorship is a lot easier than creating a democracy. Places that have no tradition or experience of democratic rule often wind up replacing one kind of despotism for another. Or, the brutal order of tyranny is replaced with the tyranny of chaos and disorder.

While Egypt, thanks to its military, may not descend into Iraq-like chaos and mass killings, it has no history of the kind of traditions we associate with democracy--traditions that themselves spring from Western Christendom and the Christian worldview.

Democracy is about more than elections: as Yale law professor Amy Chua described in her book World on Fire, elections in many countries are a preface for oppression. The majority, finally getting a chance at running things, decides that the first order of business is to persecute and deprive a despised minority.

In Egypt, that despised minority are Coptic Christians. For the Copts, whose ancestors debated the Trinity long before ours even heard of Christ, discrimination and harassment are the best they can reasonably expect from the Muslim majority.

The sad truth is that while Mubarak can’t be called a “friend” of the Copts, he at least tried to reign in his and their common enemy: the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is the original and still most influential Islamist group in the world. Its progeny include al-Qaeda and Hamas.

While the Brotherhood has participated in the electoral process, it’s with an eye to creating an Islamic republic at the center of the Arab world. To call the Brotherhood a force for democracy is insane-and dangerous.

In its vision of a society where the Qur’an is the “sole reference point” for the ordering of family and social life, there is no room for the Copts. The Brotherhood has been implicated in the burning of churches, seminaries and Copt-owned businesses, as well as the murder of Coptic Christians.

All of this makes talk about “democracy” in Egypt and “everyone being an Egyptian” a bit premature. It’s not at all clear whether Copts, whose ancestors have lived there since time immemorial, would be recognized as “Egyptians” in a new government.

This isn’t to say Mubarak ought to be propped up. As Johns Hopkins’ Fouad Ajami put it, Mubarak is a pharaoh whose time is over.

The real question is, who and what will replace him? As Christians, we ought to pray for peace in Egypt and for a transition to true democracy-as difficult as that is, it’s a transition that indeed, requires divine intervention.

Nine dead in latest attacks on Christians in Nigeria

At least nine people, including three children, have been killed in a series of attacks in Nigeria’s Plateau State.

Eye witnesses report that men dressed in military uniforms carried out targeted attacks on three homes at the Federal College of Land Resources in Kuru on February 10.

According to a report from Christian Solidarity Worldwide, gunmen entered the first home and shot dead Chube Job, his wife Susan and their young daughter Emmanuella.

In the next home, a man identified only as Gideon and another man identified only as Hosea were shot dead.

Gideon’s daughter, named only as Alice, said: “At about 7pm we heard gunshots and my father came out. We told him not to go out but he went out to call my brother, who was standing outside with another man [Hosea]. The men barged in, shouting, ‘Here he is, get him!’ And they shot them.”
Alice’s brother was shot in the neck during the attack and remains in hospital.

Gunmen proceeded to enter a third house, shooting one man who survived his injuries. The attackers also fired at the couple’s car and set a bus on fire.

Eye witnesses report that the attackers set the houses on fire with a blow torch and stole 30 cows belonging to Mr Job.

A second attack was launched two days later on Shekan village in Jos South, in which an elderly woman was beheaded and two of her grandchildren murdered. A man was killed in a further attack in the village by unknown assailants.

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Muslims attack two Christian families in Egypt, 11 Killed

AINA

"Fight against such as those to whom the Scriptures were given [Jews and Christians]...until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued." (Surah 9:27-)

News of a massacre of two Christian Coptic families by Islamists just emerged from Upper Egypt with the return of the Internet connections after a week of Internet blackout by the Egyptian regime. The massacre took place on Sunday, January 30 at 3 PM in the village of Sharona near Maghagha, Minya province. Two Islamists groups, aided by the Muslim neighbors, descended on the roof of houses owned by Copts, killing eleven Copts, including children, and seriously injuring four others.

Anba Agathon, Bishop of Maghagha, told Coptic activist Dr. Mona Roman in a televised interview on Al-Karma TV that the killers are their neighbors, who seized the opportunity of the mayhem prevailing in Egypt and the absence of police protection to slaughter the Copts. He said that he visited today the four injured Copts, who escaped death despite being shot, at Maghagha General Hospital and they told him that they recognized the main attackers as they come from the same village of Sharona. They gave the Bishop details of what happened.

"The two families were staying in their homes with their doors locked when suddenly the Islamists descended on them," said Bishop Agathon, "killing eleven and leaving for dead four others family members. In addition, they looted everything that was in the two Coptic houses, including money, furniture and electrical equipment. They also looted livestock and grain."

According to the Bishop the first group was led by Islamist Ibrahim Hamdy Ibrahim, who was joined by a gang of masked assailants. They accessed the roof of the house of Copt Joseph Waheeb Massoud through the roof of his Muslim neighbor Mahgoub el Khawaled. The armed men killed Joseph, his wife Samah, his 15-year old daughter Christine and 8-year-old son Fady Youssef.

Another Islamsist group led by Yasser Essam Khaled and several masked men simultaneously accessed the house of Copt Saleeb Ayad Mayez through the roof of his Muslim neighbor Mohamad Hussein el Khawaed. The Islamist shot dead Saleeb, his wife Zakia, his 4-year-old son Joseph, 3-year-old daughter Justina, his 23-year-old sister Amgad, mother Zakia and Ms. Saniora Fahim.

The police in Minya were called and they transferred the bodies in ambulances to Maghagha Hospital.

The Bishop denied any vendetta between the Copts and the Muslims. He called on the police to arrest the Islamist perpetrators immediately, as everyone knows they are the neighbors of the victims. He said "The massacre has nothing to do with the mayhem in Egypt, but the murderers took advantage of the lack of police protection and thought they could commit their crime and no one would notice."

Coptic activist Dr. Hanna Hanna views the Mubarak era with its policy of impunity to be the cause of why Copts are targeted. "Why have those Islamists chosen those two Coptic families and not Muslim ones to slaughter and rob? I believe it is because they know that with Copts they can literally get away with murder."

„For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not give false testimony," "You shall not covet," and whatever other commandments there are, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Romans 13:9 )

Egyptian Imams and intellectuals: Renewing Islam towards modernity

ASIANEWS

A score of intellectuals and theologians of Al Azhar have issued a text of enormous importance, entitled "Document for the renewal of religious discourse." The text was "posted" on the Internet on 24 January at 18:27, on the website of the weekly magazine Yawm al-Sâbi’'("The Seventh Day"). The importance of the document also derives from its signatories, all noted scholars and profoundly committed Muslims.

Among these it is worth mentioning: Dr. Nasr Farid Wasel, former Grand Mufti of Egypt, the imam Safwat Hegazi, Dr. Gamal al-Banna, brother of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, the professors Malakah Zirâr and Âminah Noseir the celebrated Islamist writer Fahmi Huweidi; Dr. Mabruk Atiyyah, a large number of preachers (du'ât), responsible for Islamic Propaganda, such as Khalid al-Gindi, Muhammad Hedâyah, Mustafa Husni, etc..

It is the first time that such an attempt has been made by recognized Islamic figures. On being posted, the document received 153 comments in the same day. The majority (88.25%) condemned the text, saying it distorts Islam or tries to establish a new religion. Only 18 people congratulated the authors. This means that the path of renewal will be long and require much time and effort.

The original text of the document (in Arabic) and comments can be found at: http://www.youm7.com/News.asp?NewsID=343007.

Here a draft translation of the document, which will probably need to be reviewed. is pubished

Document for the renewal of religious discourse

1.Review the books of the Hadith (the words attributed to Muhammad) and Koranic commentaries to purge them.
2.Fine tune Islamic political-religious vocabulary, such as the gizyah (the special tax required of dhimmi, the second-class citizens).
3.Find a new expression for the concept of fraternisation between the sexes.
4.Develop the Islamic vision of women and find suitable ways for marriage laws.
5.Islam is a religion of creativity.
6.Explain the Islamic concept of gihâd, and clarify rules and requirements that govern it.
7.Block attacks on external piety and foreign practices that come from neighbouring states [a euphemism that aims to expose the influence of Saudi Arabia-ed.]
8.Separate state and religion.
9.Purify the heritage of the "first centuries of Islam (Salafism), discarding the myths and attacks against religion.
10.Give adequate preparation to missionary preachers (du'ât) and in this field open the doors to those who have not studied at the University of Al Azhar, according to clear criteria.
11.Formulate the virtues common to the three revealed religions.
12.Eliminate incorrect practices and provide guidance with regard to Western ways.
13.Articulate the relationship that should exist between members of religions through schools, mosques and churches.
14.Redraw in a different way [adapted] to the West the presentation of the biography of the Prophet.
15.Do not keep people away from economic systems with the requirement not to deal with banks.
16.Recognising the right of women to the Presidency of the Republic.
17.Combat sectarian claims, [underling] that the flag of Islam [must be] one. Invite people to come to God through gratitude and wisdom, not through threats.
18.Evolve the teaching of Al Azhar.
19.Recognise the right of Christians [to have access] to important positions and [also] to the presidency.
20.Separate religious discourse from power and restore the bond with the needs of society
21.Establish the bond between the Da’wah (the call to conversion to Islam) and modern technology, satellite chains and the market for Islamic cassettes.

Nigerian women protest against islamic violence

CHRISTIAN SOLIDARITY WORLDWIDE

The central Nigerian city of Jos was brought to a standstill yesterday as thousands of women dressed in black marched through the streets to protest the continuing violence in Plateau State.

The women, some of whom were half-dressed in a cultural sign of deep mourning and desperation, marched to the state governor’s official residence in Jishe, where they also denounced discrimination against Christians in northern Nigeria and called for the military forces stationed in Jos, which are viewed as biased, to be replaced by the mobile police.

The group’s spokesperson Rhoda Awang said, ‘Women are killed and children are killed.  Pregnant women are killed and the babies cut out of their wombs. We have local chiefs in all the 17 Local Government Councils.  Where are they and what are they doing?  We have former governors, where are they?  Where is Yakubu Gowon (the former Nigerian President who is from Plateau State)? If the people are killed in the state who will they rule over?”

The women’s anger was further fuelled by the deaths of a woman and child during an attack on a village in Vom on the previous night, and they made clear their rejection of any federally instituted state of emergency in Plateau State. They also called on Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang to relocate Jos’s Motor Park and the Vegetable Market from the Bauchi Road and Farin Gada areas, as several non-Muslims have disappeared there.

In response, Governor Jang pleaded for restraint and understanding, adding that a gradual withdrawal of troops was already underway.

CSW has also learned that a service on Sunday 30 January at the Methodist Church in the centre of Bauchi Town in Bauchi State was disrupted when a bomb, concealed in a laptop bag, was left under a pew at the back of the church by a young man who entered the building towards the end of the service, and later fled on a waiting motorcycle.

Church ushers threw the bag out of the building and called the police who, upon opening the bag, immediately cleared the area and blocked off the street. The bomb squad arrived half an hour later and defused what turned out to be a large explosive device.  “They said we should thank God it did not explode because no-one would have survived”, Reverend Timothy Aneke told CSW. “I replied that God would not have allowed it to explode”.

CSW National Director Stuart Windsor said, “We give thanks for the miraculous escape of the Methodist Congregation.  When viewed in light of last year’s bombings in Jos and the continuing attacks on churches in Maiduguri, this incident becomes even more worrying, and CSW is calling for increased prayer for the Church in northern Nigeria, and increased vigilance on the part of state and federal authorities.  CSW also salutes the women of Plateau State, who once again have taken the lead in protesting the perplexing failure of an army so well-versed in peacekeeping abroad to protect the most vulnerable members of its own society.  While it is good to learn that this failure is being addressed officially, for the sake of vulnerable communities any change must be urgent, not gradual.”