Tuesday, 4 March 2014

persecution of aramaic christians

 

Syrian Islamists Defecate in Church, Light Christian Man on Fire

By Raheem Kassam on Brietbart http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2014/02/10/VIDEO-Syrian-Islamists-defecate-in-Church-light-Christian-man-on-fire

A new documentary short by the Journeyman.TV company operating out of the United Kingdom shows evidence of the targeting of Christians in Syria, and apparent fighting back in the north of the country.

The video sheds light on recent incidents in the war-torn country, which include Islamists defecating in a Church, tearing Bibles to shreds, and pouring gasoline over a Christian man and lighting him on fire.

The video (below) is just eight minutes long, but goes some way to explaining how "Christians, who make up one tenth of the population, are being driven out." The documentary claims that "in the Northeast, hand-in-hand with the Kurds, one group [is] beating back the Islamists' advance."

The news comes on the heels of recent news that over 450,000 Christians have been displaced since the start of the country's civil war in 2011.

Mahjoub Abdulahad, an elderly Christian, said, "The extremists said the Christians and the Kurds were infidels and had to be killed!"

Abdulahad explained how he was trying to repair a church damaged by extremists: "The windows were broken, too. They made a mess of the church, even defecated on the floor... There were books on the floor, they ripped them apart, even the Bible."

However, he also explained how a few towns are developing Christian militias to fight back against the Islamist terror.

"We have checkpoints around the town to protect it from strangers," he said.

When asked about leaving the country, Abdulahad replied, "No, we must stay. We must stay and defend our land and, God willing, this crisis will be resolved."

Early on in the video, Mohammed Jelloud, a local Arab man, told the filmmakers, "They said they'd chop our heads off if we stayed. They said we were supporting the regime and they burnt one of my cousins. They poured gasoline over him. But he is alive, and with the help of the Kurds we managed to get him to a hospital".

Fadi, a young Christian, echoed Jelloud's statements, telling the film crew, "I have came to work with [the Kurds] because they are working to secure, to keep my way and my style of life, not to let people from outside like Jabhat al Nusra [jihadis] to come and force me to change my style of life, force me to change the way I live."

"Don't wear pants, don't do this, don't do that, be a Muslim. I just wanna be like I was before and better, and have freedom."

The film ends on a pessimistic note, explaining that the situation is not likely to improve at any point soon. "The Syrian civil war", the narrator claims, "may be just another step in [Christianity's] slow decline in the Middle East."

Is Religion the Cause of Most Wars?

Posted: 04/10/2012 3:52 pm by Rabbi Alan Lurie

" In their recently published book, "Encyclopedia of Wars," authors Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod document the history of recorded warfare, and from their list of 1763 wars only 123 have been classified to involve a religious cause, accounting for less than 7 percent of all wars and less than 2 percent of all people killed in warfare. "

There are many common misconceptions about religion that are often taken as unquestioned facts, such as the idea that religious people are inherently anti-science, that a literal reading of holy texts is the "true" religious stance, that faith is incompatible with reason, and that all religions claim to posses sole and absolute truth.

While all these ideas are true for a minority of the population, they do not describe normative religious beliefs and practices for the majority of believers. It is understandable that these misconceptions persist, though, because they come from the loudest voices on the extremes, and like other polarizing positions in politics and culture are simplistic ideas that promote easy "us vs. them" thinking. But there is one common misconception about religion that is voiced often and consistently as an obvious truth -- often by educated, thoughtful people --that is just not factually true: The idea that religion has been the cause of most wars.

In his hilarious analysis of The 10 Commandments, George Carlin said to loud applause, "More people have been killed in the name of God than for any other reason," and many take this idea as an historical fact. When I hear someone state that religion has caused most wars, though, I will often and ask the person to name these wars. The response is typically, "Come on! The Crusades, The Inquisition, Northern Ireland, the Middle East, 9/11. Need I name more?"

Well, yes, we do need to name more, because while clearly there were wars that had religion as the prime cause, an objective look at history reveals that those killed in the name of religion have, in fact, been a tiny fraction in the bloody history of human conflict. In their recently published book, "Encyclopedia of Wars," authors Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod document the history of recorded warfare, and from their list of 1763 wars only 123 have been classified to involve a religious cause, accounting for less than 7 percent of all wars and less than 2 percent of all people killed in warfare. While, for example, it is estimated that approximately one to three million people were tragically killed in the Crusades, and perhaps 3,000 in the Inquisition, nearly 35 million soldiers and civilians died in the senseless, and secular, slaughter of World War 1 alone.

History simply does not support the hypothesis that religion is the major cause of conflict. The wars of the ancient world were rarely, if ever, based on religion. These wars were for territorial conquest, to control borders, secure trade routes, or respond to an internal challenge to political authority. In fact, the ancient conquerors, whether Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, or Roman, openly welcomed the religious beliefs of those they conquered, and often added the new gods to their own pantheon.

Medieval and Renaissance wars were also typically about control and wealth as city-states vied for power, often with the support, but rarely instigation, of the Church. And the Mongol Asian rampage, which is thought to have killed nearly 30 million people, had no religious component whatsoever.

Most modern wars, including the Napoleonic Campaign, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the American Civil War, World War I, the Russia Revolution, World War II, and the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, were not religious in nature or cause. While religious groups have been specifically targeted (most notably in World War II), to claim that religion was the cause is to blame the victim and to misunderstand the perpetrators' motives, which were nationalistic and ethnic, not religious.

Similarly, the vast numbers of genocides (those killed in ethic cleanses, purges, etc. that are not connected to a declared war) are not based on religion. It's estimated that over 160 million civilians were killed in genocides in the 20th century alone, with nearly 100 million killed by the Communist states of USSR and China. While some claim that Communism itself is a "state religion" -- because it has an absolute dictator whose word is law and a "holy book" of unchallenged rules -- such a claim simply equates "religion" with the human desire for power, conformance, and control, making any distinctions with other human institutions meaningless.

Of course the Hebrew Bible chronicles many wars -- most notably Moses' conflicts in the desert and Joshua's conquest of the nations of Canaan -- and we may see these as examples of religiously sanctioned violence. Here, though, we must recognize that archeological evidence points to the conclusion that these conquests never occurred, or at least not as dramatically as described in the Bible. As one who reads the Bible for spiritual truths, not historical facts, I am, of course, quite happy that no such slaughters occurred. The ancient Rabbis also understood these stories not as celebrated victories, but as warnings about the dangers of warfare.

Judaism has always taught that war may only be considered when there is a clear threat, and only after every other option has been exhausted. Avoiding war must be the goal. Deuteronomy states, "When you approach a city to do battle with it you should call to it in peace." In other words, even when threatened, seeking peace must be the first course of action. The ancient Rabbis took this teaching so far as to flatly state, "In God's eyes the man stands high who makes peace between men. But he stands highest who establishes peace among the nations."

To be clear, this is not to say that religion is not a cause of conflict. Obviously it is, has been, and no doubt will continue to be. Clearly there are those who have committed horrendous acts based on religious zeal, and we must be alert to these threats and respond forcefully. But in a world with billions of people who are self-defined as religious, those who believe that violence is the will of God and that the murder of innocents is a holy act are a small, insane minority.

Peace is the highest religious aspiration for which we must work. As he envisioned a future where the world is perfected by the conscious acts of human beings, the ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah wrote, "They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." While religions have often fallen well short of this utopian vision, we must recognize that greed, unbalanced power, and causeless hatred - not religion - are the causes of most wars, and eliminating these should be our focus.

James the Just and the Ebionites

Early Jewish Christians placed James, the brother of Jesus, in a place of high honor. Paul describes James as one of the “pillars” of the church and went to report to him when he arrived in Jerusalem (Galatians 2: 9-10, Acts 21:18) . According to ancient sources, including the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, Jesus placed James in a position of authority, and stated that he was to lead the church after the ascension (Thomas 12). In the New Testament, James is depicting as making decisions for the whole church, such as his decision to admit Gentiles into the church at the Counsel of Jerusalem (Acts 15). We see in the New Testament that James, not Peter, was the “head” of the church.

Stories of the “Acts” of James were preserved in ancient sources. Josephus wrote of the martyrdom of James. An early Jewish Christian named Hegissipus also wrote a more expanded account of the martyrdom of James. James was stoned to death by the High Priest. Eusebius preserved Hegissipus’s account in his “Antiquity of the Jews.” Hegisipus describes James in the following manner, “After the apostles, James the brother of the Lord surnamed the Just was made head of the Church at Jerusalem. Many indeed are called James. This one was holy from his mother's womb. He drank neither wine nor strong drink, ate no flesh, never shaved or anointed himself with ointment or bathed. He alone had the privilege of entering the Holy of Holies, since indeed he did not use woolen vestments but linen and went alone into the temple and prayed in behalf of the people, insomuch that his knees were reputed to have acquired the hardness of camels' knees.

An early group of Jewish Christians were called the Ebionites. This name is derived from the Hebrew word for “the Poor.”

We have fragments of “Hebrew Gospels.” In one verse quoted by Jerome, the resurrected Jesus appears to James, his brother. This seems to be a more complete account of the appearance of the resurrected Jesus than we find in 1 Corinthians 15.And when the Lord had given the linen cloth to the servant of the priest, he went to James and appeared to him. For James had sworn that he would not eat bread from that hour in which he had drunk the cup of the Lord until he should see him risen from among them that sleep. And shortly thereafter the Lord said: Bring a table and bread! And immediately it added: he took the bread, blessed it and brake it and gave it to James the Just and said to him: My brother, eat thy bread, for the Son of man is risen from among them that sleep. (Jerome, Vir. ill. 2) Several fragments of Hebrew Gospels and other Jewish Gospels such as the Gospel of the Ebionites have survived.

The Ebionites were very diverse. It seems that they were vegetarian and rejected the temple sacrificial system. Some rejected Paul and the deity of Jesus. All kept the Sabbath although some did also worship on Sunday. The “Ascents of James” an Ebionite “Acts of the Apostles” (which is mostly a collection of abridged sermons attributed to the apostles) was been preserved in what is called “Clementine” literature.

It is important to consult the Church Fathers when exploring the “Jewish Roots of Christianity.”

The Problem with Camels in the Bible

However, most scholars believe that Camel were domesticated sometime around 3000-1500 BC. As beasts of burden and transport, camels occupy an important place alongside horses and donkeys. Two small members of the camel family, the llama and the alpaca of south America, are domesticated first - probably before 3000 BC. At that time both species appear to have been on the verge of extinction. Domestication by the American Indians saves them. Neither the llama nor the alpaca exists now in the wild. The larger of the two, the llama, is primarily a beast of burden, while the shaggy alpaca is valuable for its wool. Neither animal is strong enough to pull a plough or drag a cart - two important steps in the story of civilization which are denied to the early Americans. In the parched regions of north Africa and Asia two different species of camel become the most important beasts of burden - the single-humped Arabian camel (in north Africa, the Middle East, India) and the double-humped Bactrian camel (central Asia, Mongolia). Both are well adapted to desert conditions. They can derive water, when none is available elsewhere, from the fat stored in their humps. It is probable that they are first domesticated in Arabia some time after 1500 BC. By about 1000 BC caravans of camels are bringing precious goods up the west coast of Arabia, linking India with the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia.

The domestication of camels does have important consequences for the Bible. This problem has existed for some time-but has recently gotten media attention. (See Will camel discovery break the Bible's back? Opinion by Joel Baden, special to CNN and Camels Had No Business in Genesis By JOHN NOBLE WILFORDFEB. 10, 2014 in the New York Times.) Camels do not seem to have been known in Ancient Egypt or North Africa until after the dawn of Islam. This seems incredible, because desert Arabs did domesticate camels earlier. While there are pictures of exotic animals in ancient Egypt-no depictions of camels or references to camels have yet to be found (but I would not be surprised if such evidence eventually is discovered). The problem is the dating of Abraham. If camels were domesticated in the year 1500 BC, then camels were not used by people in the year 2000 BC, the time period to which Abraham is usually dated. However, what if Abraham lived 1500-1400 BC and the Exodus occurred around the year 1200, as many Bible scholars believe? Another issue is that we do not know exactly when camels were domesticated. The year 1500 is an educated guess, it may have been earlier. They may have been domesticated several decades, at least, perhaps even centuries before people started drawing them or leaving records of them. This would especially be true if the camels were domesticated by people who lived outside the cities of “civilization.” With These new discoveries these “experts” try to prove that camels were unknown in Israel until well after the rule of King David. This means what they were saying is that, yes, Abraham may have lived in 1500 when camels were domesticated-however, even as late as the time of King David, who died around 970 BC, there were no domesticated camels in Israel. (It is hard to precisely date anything in the Bible that is before the time of David, Saul and Samuel.) If you read the research by these new “experts” you will notice how much of it is mere speculation motivated by a desire to “disprove” the Bible. They found camel bones that were early but they say they don't think they were domesticated-but they don't know. They looked at the leg bones and said they thought that they weren’t used as a beast of burden. What if the camel bones they found were used for riding and not for carrying burdens? These so-called scholars had an agenda. We know that camels were domesticated much earlier than what they are saying-but their caveat is "in Israel." I think these so-called scholars set out with an agenda to try to "disprove" the Bible and make news. Another fact of the matter is that we don't know for sure exactly when Abraham lived. It may be later than many suppose-and remember-Joseph's brothers went to Egypt several times-on donkeys-not camels. I think it is very interesting that in this story it is stated that the patriarchs most often rode donkeys. New discoveries could soon refute these new proposals by these so-called archeologists who are trying to get in the news. Personally, to me Jesus is Lord and the eternal Word of God. I think the Patriarchs had a limited understanding of God. I feel very uncomfortable with the efforts of people to elevate Abraham over Jesus Christ in order to find common ground with Muslims and Jews. Abraham was the friend of God but Jesus is God Incarnate. Abraham did not die for our sins or rise again. Abraham wasn’t sinless the way Jesus is. Also, Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Muslim. (Jews will concede that Abraham was not Jewish, but Muslims do view Abraham as a Muslim. To Muslims, Jesus was a Muslim too, and is inferior to Muhammad-the so-called “seal” of the prophets. Of course, Abraham wasn’t a Christian either.) As I have stated, Abraham’s understanding of God was partial and limited. God chose to give a more fuller revelation of himself to Moses than he had the Patriarchs. And then, in Jesus the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily. Jesus Himself said, “For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it” (Matthew 13:17). The Book of Hebrews says, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by hisSon, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2). My faith is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. It isn’t built on camels bones! (as important as they may be).

There are two species of quadruped animal of the deserts of the world known as camel, both of which have implications for archaeology. The Bactrian (Camelus bactrianus) (two humps) resides in central Asia, while the dromedary (Camelus dromedarius) (one hump) is found in North Africa and the Near East. Camels were (and are) used for transportation, but also for their milk, dung, hair and blood, all of which were used for various purposes by nomadic pastoralists of the deserts. Dromedaries were probably domesticated in coastal settlements along the southern Arabian peninsula somewhere between 3000 and 2500 BC. The earliest reference to camels in Arabia is the Sihi mandible, a camelid bone direct dated to ca 7100-7200 cal BC, or about 8200 RCYBP. Sihi is a Neolithic coastal site in Yemen, and the bone is probably a wild dromedary. The earliest camels in Africa are from Qasr Ibrim, Nubia, 9th century BC. Evidence for the domestication of Bactrian camels has been found as early as 2600 BC at Shar-i Sokhta (also known as the Burnt City), Iran.

Sources

This article is part of the Guide to Animal Domestication.
Compagnoni, B. and M. Tosi, 1978. The camel: Its distribution and state of domestication in the Middle East during the third millennium B.C. in light of the finds from Shahr-i Sokhta. Pp. 119–128 in Approaches to Faunal Analysis in the Middle East, edited by R.H. Meadow and M.A. Zeder. Peabody Museum Bulletin no 2, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, New Haven, CT.
Grigson, C., J.A.J. Gowlett, and J. Zarins 1989 The Camel in Arabia: A Direct Radiocarbon Date, Calibrated to about 7000 BC. Journal of Archaeological Science16:355-362.

Zeder, M.A., E. Emshwiller, B.D. Smith, and D.G. Bradley 2006 Documenting domestication: the intersection of genetics and archaeology.

Read more: http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?ParagraphID=bor#ixzz2tUopAdZn
Trends in Genetics 22(3):139-155.

Syria's Christians face new threat -- "convert, submit to Islam or face sword"


By Lela GilbertPublished February 28, 2014 FoxNews.com

“Convert. Submit to Islam. Or face the sword.” In recent days, the besieged Christian community in Raqqa - a city in northern Syria – has faced those three stark alternatives. The terrorist group known as ISIS – the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – made their demands after seizing control of the region. They required the local Christians to renounce their faith and embrace Islam, assent to extreme subjugation, or face death. On February 27, ISIS published a statement that an agreement had been signed by 20 of Raqqa’s Christian leaders. Faced with losing their lives or denying their Christian faith, the community opted for dhimmihttp://global.fncstatic.com/static/v/all/img/external-link.png status – suppression as a “protected” minority – which requires them to submit to an array of demands, including the notorious jizya tax, which can be compared to Mafiosi protection money: purchasing their safety, but under strictly enforced regulations. Raqqa’s Christians are now subject to an extreme version of Islamic Shariah law, which among other things forbids them to repair their war-torn churches, worship or pray in public, ring church bells, or wear crosses or other symbols of their faith. Bearing arms is, of course, forbidden, as are alcoholic beverages. Even before the agreement was signed, on February 22 Lebanon’s Daily Star reportedhttp://global.fncstatic.com/static/v/all/img/external-link.png, “ISIS has imposed a strict form of Islamhttp://global.fncstatic.com/static/v/all/img/external-link.png in Raqqa, enforcing the veil and banning cigarettes. They have doled out harsh punishments under Shariah courts for religious crimes, including beatings and executions. In Al-Bab, Aleppo, pictures showing ISIS fighters burning tons of cigarettes were recently published.” The Christians of Raqqa chose “to sign the dhimma treaty over war,” the ISIS statement explained, and in return received a commitment by local ISIS commander Ibrahim Al-Badri – also known as Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi – that they would not be subjected to physical harm or religious targeting once the treaty was approved. ISIS made the case for signing the treaty clear: "If they reject, they are subject to being legitimate targets, and nothing will remain between them and ISIS other than the sword." This subjection of Christians and Jews to dhimmitudehas a long history in the Middle East and throughout the greater Muslim world. Although it officially ended after the demise of the Ottoman Empire, its humiliating and unequivocal demands have never been erased from the behavior patterns of communities that suffered under it. And in various ways it is still enforced de facto in some modern Muslim states. But in today’s Syria, where warlike militias compete to wield power, enhance prestige and impose piety, the command to convert or die is a familiar threat. And although dhimmi status may save lives temporarily, it is null and void if protection money isn’t paid or if the local authorities are somehow offended. And although Syria’s Christians face exceptional dangers, they aren’t alone in their misery. In recent days, other Christians have also been violently attacked in the Middle East.

On February 16, three Korean pilgrims and an Egyptian Christian bus driver were killed, and more than a dozen injured in a suicide bombing as they drove across the Sinai Peninsula. Korea’s New Straits Timeshttp://global.fncstatic.com/static/v/all/img/external-link.pngreported, “The bus was carrying 31 parishioners from Jincheon Jungang Presbyterian Church, which is south of Seoul, and was attempting to travel from Egypt into Israel…the church had long saved money to commemorate the 60th anniversary of its founding with a trip to Biblical sites.” Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, an organization affiliated with al-Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for the attack. In Libya, on February 24, terrorists went door to door in a Benghazi apartment building, asking residents whether they were Muslim or Christian. Seven Egyptian Coptic Christians were seized, taken to a beach and summarily executed – each one shot in the head. An eighth Christian escaped and reported the crime. The outraged Coptic Church in Egypt has demanded further information, and the arrest of the terrorists.
In Syria and in Egypt, in Libya and beyond, Islamist attacks on Christians happen every day: rapes and kidnappings, maiming and murders, houses burned down; churches blown up. Recently in Nigeriahttp://global.fncstatic.com/static/v/all/img/external-link.png, Christians have been massacred by the hundreds.
It’s so pervasive and so constant that our minds struggle to believe it.
Can you imagine a gang of hateful, heavily armed terrorists showing up at your door? Your terrified family is with you, and maybe a few friends. An angry spokesman orders all of you to choose – at gunpoint, then and there – to convert to Islam, surrender, or die.
Believe it or not, it’s an ever-increasing scenariohttp://global.fncstatic.com/static/v/all/img/external-link.png.
In fact, in some form or other, it’s probably going on somewhere right now.
Lela Gilbert is author of "Saturday People, Sunday People: Israel through the Eyes of a Christian Sojourner" and co-author, with Nina Shea and Paul Marshall, of "Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians." She is an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute and lives in Jerusalem. For more, visit her website: www.lelagilbert.com. Follow her on Twitter@lelagilbert.

http://aramaicherald.blogspot.com/2014/03/persecution-of-aramaic-christians.html

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