Friday, April 6, 2012

Pope Shenoudah III, Patriarch of the Coptic (Egyptian) Orthodox Church of Egypt Dies.




AP Maggie Michael and Lee Keith Saturday, March 17, 2012

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) — Pope Shenouda III, the patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church who led Egypt's Christian minority for 40 years during a time of increasing tensions with Muslims, died Saturday. He was 88. His death comes as the country's estimated 10 million Christians are feeling more vulnerable than ever amid the rise of Islamic movements to political power after the toppling a year ago of President Hosni Mubarak. The months since have seen a string of attacks on the community, heightened anti-Christian rhetoric by ultraconservatives known as Salafis and fears that coming goverments will try to impose strict versions of Islamic law. Tens of thousands of Christians packed into the main Coptic cathedral in Cairo on Saturday evening hoping to see his body. Women in black wept and screamed. Some, unable to get into the overcrowded building, massed outside, raising their hands in prayer. "He left us in a very hard time. Look at the country and what's happening now," said Mahrous Munis, a Christian IT worker in his 30s who was among the crowds. "Copts are in a worse situation than before. God be with us."Munis' friend, Sherif Sabry, interrupted. "He was our rock. God help us find someone who can fill his place." An archbishop later announced to the crowd that the funeral would be held in three days, and in the meantime Shenouda's body would be put on display in the cathedral, sitting in the Mar Morqos — or St. Mark — throne from which the pope in his elaborate regalia traditionally oversaw services. Shenouda died in his residence at the cathedral, and the state news agency MENA said he had been battling liver and lung problems for several years. Yasser Ghobrial, a physician who treated Shenouda at a Cairo hospital in 2007, said he suffered from prostate cancer that spread to his colon and lungs. U.S. President Barack Obama paid tribute to Shenouda as "an advocate for tolerance and religious dialogue." "We will remember Pope Shenouda III as a man of deep faith, a leader of a great faith, and an advocate for unity and reconciliation," Obama said in a statement issued by the White House. "His commitment to Egypt's national unity is also a testament to what can be accomplished when people of all religions and creeds work together." "Baba Shenouda," as he was known to his followers, headed one of the most ancient churches in the world. The Coptic Church traces its founding to St. Mark, who is said to have brought Christianity to Egypt in the 1st Century. For Egypt's Christians, he was a charismatic leader, known for his sense of humor — his smiling portrait was hung in many Coptic homes and shops — and a deeply conservative religious thinker who resisted calls by liberals for reform. Above all, many Copts saw him as the guardian of their community living amid a Muslim majority in this country of more than 80 million people. Christians have long complained of being treated as second-class citizens, saying they face discrimination and that police generally fail to prosecute those behind anti-Christian attacks. Shenouda's method was to work behind the scenes. He sought to contain Christians' anger and gave strong support to Mubarak's government, while avoiding pressing Coptic demands too vocally in public to prevent a backlash from Muslim conservatives. In return, Mubarak's regime allowed the Church wide powers among the Christian community. In the past year, young and liberal Christians grew increasingly overt in their criticism of his approach, saying it brought little success in stemming violence or discrimination. Moreover, they argued, the Church's domination over Christians' lives further ghettoized them, making them a sect first, Egyptian citizens second. "This was the mistake of Baba Shenouda and his predecessor. The state wanted to deal with Christians through one person," said prominent Christian columnist, Karima Kamal. "We want the state to deal with Christians as citizens and for the Church to step aside," she said. "Christians are increasingly dealt with just as a sect."

Shenouda had one significant clash with the government, in 1981 when he accused then-President Anwar Sadat of failing to rein in Islamic militants. Sadat said Shenouda was fomenting sectarianism and sent him into internal exile in the desert monastery of Wadi Natrun, north of Cairo. Sadat was assassinated later that year by militants. Mubarak ended Shenouda's exile in 1985. The incident illustrated the bind of Egypt's Christians. When they press too hard for more influence, some Muslims accuse them of causing sectarian splits. Many Copts saw Mubarak as their best protection against Islamic fundamentalists — but at the same time, his government often made concessions to conservative Muslims. After Mubarak's fall, ultraconservative Salafis grew older and more vocal, accusing Christians of seeking to convert Muslim women or even take over the country. Several churches were attacked by mobs. Christian anger was further stoked when troops harshly put down a Christian protest in Cairo, killing 27 people. In an unprecedented move aimed at showing unity, leaders from the Muslim Brotherhood along with top generals from the ruling military joined Shenouda for services for Orthodox Christmas in January at the Cairo cathedral. "For the first time in the history of the cathedral, it is packed with all types of Islamist leaders in Egypt," Shenouda told the gathering. "They all agree ... on the stability of this country and on loving it, working for it and working with the Copts as one hand for Egypt's sake." During the first post-Mubarak parliament elections late last year, the Church discreetly urged followers to back a liberal, secular-minded political bloc, an unusual political intervention aimed at balancing religious parties. Nevertheless, the Muslim Brotherhood won nearly half the seats in parliament and now dominate the political scene. Salafis won another fifth of the seats. The Brotherhood's political party offered its condolences "to the Egyptian people and its Christian brothers." Parliament speaker Saad el-Katatny, a Brotherhood member, praised the pope in an evening session, calling him a "man respected among Coptic Christians and Muslims" for his love of Egypt and his opposition to Israel's annexation of Jerusalem. Under a long-standing order, Shenouda barred his followers from pilgrimage to Jerusalem as a protest of Israel's hold on the city. Under Church law, the process of choosing Shenouda's successor can take up to three months, though an interim leader will be picked within a week. A synod of archbishops, bishops and lay leaders will then form a committee to come up with three candidates. The names are then put in a box and a blindfolded acolyte picks one — a step meant to be guided by the will of God. Two leading contenders are close associates of Shenouda. Archbishop Bishoy, head of the Holy Congregation, the main clerical leadership body, is seen as the more conservative figure; Archbishop Johannes, the pope's secretary, is younger — in his 50s — and seen as having a wider appeal among youth. Shenouda was born Nazeer Gayed on Aug. 3, 1923, in the southern city of Assiut. After entering the priesthood, he became an activist in the Sunday School movement, which was launched to revive Christian religious education. At the age of 31, Gayed became a monk, taking the name Antonious El-Syriani and spending six years in the monastery of St. Anthony. After the death of Pope Cyrilos VI, he was elected to the papacy in 1971 and took the name Shenouda. During the 1990s, Islamic militants launched a campaign of violence, centered in southern Egypt, targeting foreign tourists, police and Christians until they were put down by a heavy crackdown. Muslim-Christian violence has flared repeatedly in the past decade, mainly in towns of the south and in the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria. Sometimes it was sparked by local disputes that took a sectarian tone, sometimes by disputes over the building of churches. The most startling attack came on New Year's 2011, when suicide bombers attacked an Alexandria church, killing 21 worshippers. At the same time, Christian emigration has increased tremendously. Coptic immigrants in the United States, Canada, and Australia number an estimated 1.5 million, according to the pope's official Web site.

Throughout, Shenouda largely worked to contain anger among Copts. But in one 2004 incident, he stepped aside to allow Coptic protests, sparked when Wafa Constantine, the wife of a priest, fled her home to convert to Islam. Many Christians accused police of encouraging or forcing Christians to convert. Amid the protests, Shenouda isolated himself at the Saint Bishoy monastery until the government ensured Constantine returned home. She was later quoted as saying she converted to Islam to divorce her husband, since divorce is banned by the Church. Shenouda kept a strict line on church doctrine — including the ban on divorce, except in cases of adultery — in the face of calls by secular and liberal Copts for reform, including reducing the role of clergymen in Christians' life. Archbishop Moussa told mourners at the cathedral that Shenouda would be buried at the Bishoy Monastery.

I lived in Egypt and I have been to the Anba Bishoy Monastery.

Shenoudah's time as pope was indeed historic, however, there are a few problems with his tenure.

  1. Shenoudah was against Evangelical Christians. I read his book "Salvation in the Orthodox Concept." He held that one was "born again" as a child when baptized and that it is through the church and not through a personal experience with Jesus Christ that one finds salvation.
  2. He banned all Coptic Christians from going on pilgrimages to Israel. Actually, they are free to, but very few do. He was also placed under house arrest for opposing the peace treaty with Israel. (It is interesting that Anwar Sadat was assassinated by people with connections to the Muslim Brotherhood-and now the Muslim Brotherhood controls the country.)
  3. Shenoudah prevented the Assyrian Church of the East from joining the "Middle East Counsel of Churches." This is because he viewed them as "Nestorian heretics." (Quite wrongly.) While at the same time, he had friendly relations with Islamists and hosted Islamic end of Ramadan parties.
  4. The issue of divorce is a problem for Coptic Christians. The church should discourage divorce but not prevent Copts from getting them. Sometimes, certain Copts feel that they need to divorce and a conversion to Islam makes it an easy matter. The Coptic priests have some legal authority in marriages and such things and obviously don't want to give their power up.

Caliph Uthman burned Qu'rans

Shortly after Muhammad's death the Quran was compiled into a single book by order of the first Caliph Abu Bakr and at the suggestion of his future successor Umar. Hafsa, Muhammad's widow and Umar's daughter, was entrusted with that Quranic text after the second Caliph Umar died. When the third Caliph Uthman began noticing slight differences in Arabic dialect, he sought Hafsa's permission to use her text to be set as the standard dialect, the Quraish dialect now known as Fus'ha (Modern Standard Arabic). Before returning the text to Hafsa, Uthman made several thousand copies of Abu Bakr's redaction and, to standardize the text, invalidated all other versions of the Quran. This process of formalization is known as the "Uthmanic recension". The present form of the Quran text is accepted by most scholars as the original version compiled by Abu Bakr. In about 650, as Islam expanded beyond the Arabian peninsula into Persia, the Levant and North Africa, the third caliph Uthman ibn Affan ordered the preparation of an official, standardized version, to preserve the sanctity of the text (and perhaps to keep the Rashidun Empire united, see Uthman Qur'an). Five reciters from amongst the companions produced a unique text from the first volume, which had been prepared on the orders of Abu Bakr and was kept with Hafsa bint Umar. The other copies already in the hands of Muslims in other areas were collected and sent to Medina where, on orders of the Caliph, they were destroyed by burning or boiling. This remains the authoritative text of the Quran to this day.

If one of the so-called "Rightly Guided Caliphs" burned Korans because they contained certain alternate readings, then why are Muslims killing innocent people in Afghanistan because Korans containing terrorist messages written on the margins were destroyed?

What really happened was different versions of the Koran contained different readings in certain places. There were textual variations. Muslims claim that the Koran is the perfect word of God. How can you insist upon that when different versions of the Koran don't agree with each other in certain places? The solution the Muslims can upon was to standardize the text and destroy all non-authorized versions. Most likely many authentic oracles given by Muhammad were destroyed in the process. Uthman probably also took the opportunity to alter the text, and get rid of certain controversial and embarassing Suras, such as "the Camel of God," about a magical Camel. (The story is alluded to in other Suras but John of Damascus was familiar with the original account.)

Uthman was one of the so-called "Rightly Guided Caliphs." I think it is interesting that all the "Rightly Guided Caliphs" died violent deaths and that says a lot about Islam. (Abu Baker was poisoned the rest were violently assassinated.) The "Rightly Guided Caliphs" called the rashidun were:

Obama "turns the page" on the war on terror

I think it is very odd that Obama states he wants to "turn the page" on our involvement on the war on terror. It seems that Obama wants to undo all the progress we have made on the war on terror and go backwards instead of forwards. I think security for the United States must be fundamental. A friend of mine stated that when Obama said that America is no longer a Christian nation-he was proclaiming it so by his authority as president. (I.E. "I hearby declare that America is no longer a Christian nation.") It was odd that six weeks after this statement, he declared that America was a "Muslim nation."

Muslim kills Jewish children in France

France was plunged into mourning and national outrage Monday by the terrorist-style killings of three young children and a rabbi as they gathered for classes at a Jewish school in a quiet residential neighborhood of Toulouse. The lone gunman rode up on a motor scooter and opened fire with two pistols, first shooting at a group of waiting children outside the school and then following some of them into a courtyard as they ran for safety toward the building, a local prosecutor, Michel Valet, told reporters. In addition to the four people killed, six students were wounded, including a 17-year-old boy reported to be in serious condition at a Toulouse hospital. Those killed were a French-Israeli rabbi sent to France to help teach in the school, and his two sons, 3 and 6, along with a girl who was the daughter of the principal. Her age was given variously as 8 and 10.

The news stories I read about this said nothing about three important issues:

  1. Islamic extremism in France
  2. Anti-Semitism in France
  3. Anti-Semitism among France's Islamic population

The killer was Mohammed Merah who killed seven people during his eight-day saga of terrorism, including three French soldiers, three Jewish children, and their teacher. He died in a violent shoot out with French authorities after an over 30 hour seige.

PARIS—Mohamed Merah was buried Thursday in a Toulouse suburb, against the wishes of the city's mayor and local Jewish organizations, after President Nicolas Sarkozy insisted that the suspected killer was French and should be buried without a debate.Mr. Merah was shot dead by French special forces on March 20 after a 33-hour siege at his Toulouse apartment. He was the suspected killer of three soldiers in and around Toulouse, and three Jewish children and a rabbi at a private school in the city, in a series of attacks that stunned France. Mr. Merah's parents had initially sought, with the assistance of the Paris Great Mosque, to have his body shipped to Algeria, where they were born. But Algerian authorities refused to authorize the move "in order to maintain public order," said Slimane Nadour, a spokesman for the mosque. Toulouse Mayor Pierre Cohen initially postponed the ceremony and asked the government for an alternative. But a short time later, Mr. Cohen issued a statement saying that even though he disagreed with the decision, the burial would proceed, noting that he didn't receive an answer from the state or the family proposing another solution. Mr. Merah was laid in the ground just before 7 p.m. "The law forces me to authorize the burial of Mohamed Merah in the territory of the town of Toulouse," said Mr. Cohen. "I find this decision inappropriate."The mayor said burying the suspected killer in a city graveyard "is likely to disrupt public order and goes against my efforts to unite the people of Toulouse since the heinous events that have left our city grief-stricken."Representatives of French Jewish and Muslim communities, as well as government officials, have voiced concerns that Mr. Merah's grave might become a focal point for Muslim extremists or be the target of vandalism."First, I am worried his tomb will become a place of pilgrimage and secondly it hurts the victims' relatives to have him rest so close to the killings," said Nicole Yardeni, the head of the Toulouse section of France's main Jewish organization.


Monitoring Mosques in New York and New Jersey Jan 30, 2012 OneNewsNow

The head of a Messianic Jewish ministry is defending the producers of a documentary on Islamic Jihad that has created substantial controversy in New York City. "We believe Islam will dominate" -- those are the opening words of the trailer. "It's an entire movement, and the idea of it is hatred for our way of life," former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani goes on to comment. He is just one of the terrorism experts featured in the full-length documentary, The Third Jihad: Radical Islam's Vision for America, produced by the Clarion Fund. The New York Times reports that nearly 1,500 officers in the New York City Police Department had viewed the video since early 2010 as part of their counter-terrorism training. But the NYPD stopped showing the film after a few officers, as well as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), complained about it. On Friday, New York's police commissioner said the "inflammatory" film was shown by mistake -- and described the department's relationship with the city's Muslim community as "excellent." The Clarion Fund has stood by its project, saying it is not a film about Islam, but a film about the threat of radical Islam. Jan Markell, founder and director of Olive Tree Ministries in Minnesota, was present when the film was introduced, and she is glad that New York City police officers had a chance to see the documentary. "I think this is very, very appropriate, and I think they can learn a lot," she contends. "And what's good about it is they're learning about it from a balanced Muslim, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser. He's a faithful, loyal practitioner of Islam, but he is showing its dark side. So I say Hallelujah! I'm glad this happened." And Markell has no problem with the idea of the NYPD "spying" on activities in the mosques. "I think it's time we start monitoring our mosques," she suggests. "I'm sure that it gets over into the area of political correctness and it looks like persecution, but I would maintain the source of a lot of our problems within our borders [is] mosques in America." And the Olive Tree Ministries founder does not think peaceful Muslims who love America should have a problem with mosques being searched.

The Battle for Our Minds-Excellent New Book

This is an excellent book and strongly recommended.

After thousands of people were murdered in simultaneous terror attacks on September 11, 2001, the New York Times said the violence came "out of the blue." Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Arab-Islamic terrorists had been attacking the West for years but the reports were dismissed as the work of "madmen" and, in fact, all the while recruiters and fund-raisers for Arab-Islamic terror were receiving academic and economic sanctuary in some of America's most esteemed institutions. Had Osama bin Laden been held accountable in 1992, 1996, and 1998, and had his followers been called out, his Al-Qaeda network wouldn't have become a clarion call for anti-Western terror. Now as new attacks, aborted and otherwise, are carried out from London to Mumbai to New York's Times Square, Western elites—academia, the media, and government officials—have once again been fueling that same dangerous complacency that is leaving us as vulnerable as before.

In Battle for Our Minds, Michael Widlanski delivers a powerful and sound argument for turning around this willful ignorance, and explains exactly how it can be done: by facing and genuinely understanding the precise motives and mind games behind those who want to destroy us. He names the officials, media pundits, and academics who have hindered the battle against Islamic terror, in turn obstructing a logical fight to stop it. Clearly, a lack of factual accuracy is sabotaging the Western mind, and Widlanski's anger is justified: Why has an all-out "holy war" been softened into the more liberally acceptable "spiritual struggle"? Why, pre-9/11, were the terrorist threats made in New York City mosques ignored? Why did we go out of our way to give bin Laden a proper burial out of respect to an ideology that erased the World Trade Center? Why is President Barack Obama so hesitant to offend the enemy by calling it what it is: Islamic Extremist Terror? How can we stop it if, out of a weak and outrageous political correctness, we refuse to even recognize it?

Dr. Widlanski lays out a commonsense, no-holds-barred solution to an imperative and increasingly dangerous global dilemma. This is not a witch hunt, nor a temporary Band-Aid, but a comprehensive strategy built around a hard-hitting truth carefully omitted from every liberal media outlet, and downplayed, overlooked, and incorrectly assessed by the FBI, CIA, and the State Department: terrorist "martyrs" want to change the course of history. By convincing them that their acts are futile, the tide turns and we can prevent further acts—and win the battle for our minds.



Several European leaders have recently shown that they are moving away from the politically correct path that avoids criticizing Islamic extremism and instead has enshrined it as part of multiculturalism. German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Nikolas Sarkozy, and British prime minister David Cameron, all of whom have large Muslim minorities in their countries, have now said that that path is a dead end.

After the London bombings then–prime minister Tony Blair said the war with Arab-Islamic terror was a battle whose roots were ideological: "This is the battle that must be won, a battle not just about the terrorist methods but their views. Not just their barbaric acts, but their barbaric ideas. Not only what they do but what they think and the thinking they would impose on others."

Fortunately, a growing number of Western leaders is starting to recognize ideology as a key to Arab-Islamic terror. To fight terror we need also to combat these ideological motivators directly in what has sometimes been called "the battle of ideas."

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