By Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund
The plight of Christians in Syria continues to plummet to new depths, and we need your help to make world leaders realise the gravity of the crisis our brothers and sisters are facing.
My colleagues at Barnabas Fund have this week produced asample letter to politicians, and we are urging our supporters to use this as a framework to write to their elected representative on behalf of Christians in Syria caught up in the brutal civil war.
The deliberate targeting of Christians by Islamist rebels within the opposition is an “angle” that the Western media has largely ignored, while Western political leaders, especially from the US, UK and France, are actually backing the side that is intent on destroying the Syrian Church.
The difficulty for both the media and political leaders is that they “bought” a particular line on the Syrian uprising that has turned out to be false, and they need to be persuaded to have the courage to change their narrative.
The Western “line” on the Syrian conflict is that it has been about the masses rising up against a cruel dictatorial leader in pursuit of democracy and freedom. But as the war has gone on, it has become increasingly clear that, while this may have been the goal of some revolutionaries at the beginning, the battle against President Bashar al-Assad is now largely being fought by jihadists, many of them foreign, who do not represent the Syrian people and want to create an Islamic state.
The 400,000 Christians among the 2.25 million people trapped in the rebel-held part of Aleppo are experiencing the grim reality of this, and yet we do not hear about their suffering in our newspapers or on our TV news bulletins.
They have been completely cut off for many months. While Muslims are able to travel in and out freely, Christians trying to leave the besieged areas are stopped at rebel checkpoints. Christian men are kidnapped and/or killed while women and girls are forced to convert to Islam or else be raped and/or killed.
Last month, around 25 Christians were kidnapped. Many have been held with no ransom demand or news of their whereabouts; their families do not know if they are dead or alive.
Not only can the Christians not get out of Aleppo; very few supplies are getting in. Our key partner in the city, a Christian doctor, said that many people, especially children, are now suffering from malnutrition. He said that people have not eaten meat, chicken or fish for the last six to eight months, and the very few vegetables that are now available to buy – at highly inflated prices – are turning rotten. The cost of some essentials has risen an astonishing 1,000%.
Barnabas is distributing food to around 10,000 Christians in Aleppo, as well as many thousands more in other parts of the country. Formerly wealthy Syrian families who used to donate support for others are now asking to be added to the distribution list. One woman said last month, “Here is my last gift; next month add me to the list of people to receive help.”
Their physical hardships are compounded by a lack of fuel, electricity and medicines. Dead bodies and rubbish are piling up in the streets as the fighting stops normal services from functioning.
On top of all this, winter has come early to Aleppo and, with no heating and people weakened by malnutrition, there are fears that the elderly will die in the cold; the young too are expected to suffer.
Our partner said:
Some relief for this besieged Christian community is in sight, as government forces last week managed to reopen a road from Aleppo to Homs and supplies of medicine are said to be on their way.
On 26 September, fighters from the al-Qaeda-linked group the Islamic State of and the Levant (ISIL) stormed two churches in the northern city of ar-Raqqah; they destroyed crosses and other Christian symbols and hoisted a black flag over one of the.
Most of ar-Raqqah fell to the opposition in March. Where ISIL dominates, it imposes a strict version of sharia law on the population. Following the church attacks, ar-Raqqah residents took to the streets demanding ISIL leave their city.
Islamist rebels have also carried out raids on the historical Christian village of Saidnaya, north of Damascus. As in , which was seized by al-Qaeda-linked rebels last month, a version of Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is spoken in Saidnaya.
Two Christians have been killed in the attacks, which appear intended to frighten the population into fleeing.
One church leader said, “Today the people of Saidnaya are afraid of having the same fate as Maaloula.”
Almost all of Maaloula’s mainly-Christian population of 3,000 fled following the Islamist takeover, leaving it a ghost town.
’s sizeable Christian minority is largely defenceless and unarmed; they are in danger of a full-scale genocide in a country where the Church has existed for nearly 2,000 years. This terrible prospect can no longer be ignored.
Please play your part in making those in a position of power realise what is happening to Christians in , and urge them and their political parties to seek only those outcomes to the conflict that would allow freedom, equality and justice for all.
Use our as a basis to write to your elected representative, and, if you have not already done so, please and promote it in your church and community.
DISTURBING THREATS TO FREEDOM OF RELIGION IN THE USA
High court declines appeal from photographer objecting to working same-sex ceremony
Published April 07, 2014
The Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from Christian photographers who were fined and admonished by the New Mexico Supreme Court for declining to work a same-sex ceremony, in what could be a blow to religious business owners.
The high court decision not to take up the appeal means the New Mexico ruling against them stands. That ruling is only binding in New Mexico, but could set a precedent that can be cited in subsequent cases.
In this case, Elane Photography, owned by Jon and Elaine Huguenin of New Mexico, was brought to court for refusing to photograph a same-sex couple's commitment ceremony in 2006.
The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled in August that the business's refusal to photograph the ceremony involving two women violated the state's Human Rights Act.
Lawyers for the business argued the ruling violates the business owners' free speech rights by compelling them to "express messages that conflict with their religious beliefs."
Huguenin said she also has a right of artistic expression under the First Amendment that allows her to choose what pictures to take, or refrain from taking.
Is ‘intimidation’ to blame for ouster of Mozilla chief over gay marriage?
By Howard Kurtz
Published April 07, 2014
The forced resignation of Mozilla’s CEO over his views on gay marriage has sparked a passionate debate that doesn’t always break down along the lines you would expect.
The media framing of the saga of Brendan Eich has been that a bigot got what he deserved (that is, when it was covered; the network evening newscasts couldn’t find time for the Mozilla story last week). But even some of those who deeply believe in same-sex marriage say it’s a case study in intolerance.
Eich was pushed out of the company that makes the Firefox browser after a week in the top job because he contributed $1,000 to California’s Prop 8 back in 2008. He has not spoken of gays in disparaging terms or made his workplace unfriendly to gays. He simply supported the position backed by Barack Obama until the spring of 2012: that marriage should be between a man and a woman…….
Andrew Sullivan, the gay blogger who has been an advocate of same-sex marriage for decades and is married to his husband, is appalled by what happened to Eich:
“Will he now be forced to walk through the streets in shame? Why not the stocks? The whole episode disgusts me – as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society. If this is the gay rights movement today – hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else – then count me out. If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us.”
For Sullivan to accuse some of his fellow gays and gay-rights advocates of fanaticism and intimidation is an incredibly strong statement—and a tribute to his long record of independent thinking.
Americablog’s John Aravosis, who got into a heated debate with Amy Holmes on yesterday’s “Media Buzz,” takes a different view—and at one point compared opposition to same-sex marriage to the Holocaust. Holmes shot back that the Human Rights Campaign endorsed Obama when his position was also in favor of traditional marriage.
Aravosis writes: “Normally, I wouldn’t really care how a corporate CEO felt about marriage equality. Don’t get me wrong, I care. And I’d laud a CEO if she came out in support of it. But I don’t think I’d launch a campaign against a company simply because its boss wasn’t quite there yet on marriage. I know lots of people who aren’t there yet – though that audience is slimming down fast.
“But Brendan Eich wasn’t simply ‘not there yet’ – he played an active role in creating and enforcing discrimination against millions of gay Californians. So his offense was pretty severe, and it went arguably beyond ‘speech’ – he joined the ranks of anti-gay activist.
“But does that mean he can’t be CEO of a company?
“Well. I think once you reach the level of CEO in a visibly-named company, there’s greater internal sensitivity to anything in your life that could harm the business.”
The company chastised itself for giving Eich the top job, and celebrated his departure:
“Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it. We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves.
“We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.”
Eich, for his part, told the Guardian before he quit: “I don’t want to talk about my personal beliefs because I kept them out of Mozilla all these 15 years we’ve been going. I don’t believe they’re relevant.”
In National Review, Reihan Salam says Eich could have minimized the damage but chose not to:
“I was a supporter of same-sex civil marriage long before our incumbent president — at least a decade before, if memory serves. I continue to support same-sex civil marriage. But I find the campaign against Brendan Eich instructive…
“Had Brendan Eich decided to apologize — had he decided to say that he had come around on the issue, and had he added that his donation to the Proposition 8 campaign was a profound mistake that he would regret for the rest of his life, and which he will atone for by making a large donation to one of the organizations pressing the case for same-sex civil marriage — he could have spared himself all of this trouble…Agree with him or disagree with him, Brendan Eich was willing to pay a price for his beliefs.”
That is true; he could have saved his job by mouthing the right words.
In Slate, Will Oremus acknowledges that the pendulum has swung dramatically in recent years—but insists it doesn’t matter:
“There was a time when supporting gay marriage made you a radical. Then there was a time when it made you a progressive. Now we’ve reached a point where not supporting gay marriage makes you unfit to lead a major Silicon Valley organization.
“Some will say we’ve come too far, too fast—that it’s unfair to pillory someone for a political view that was held by the majority of Californians just six years ago. They’re wrong…
“The notion that your political views shouldn’t affect your employment is a persuasive one. Where would we be as a democracy if Republicans were barred from jobs at Democrat-led companies, or vice versa?
“But this is different. Opposing gay marriage in America today is not akin to opposing tax hikes or even the war in Afghanistan. It’s more akin to opposing interracial marriage: It bespeaks a conviction that some people do not deserve the same basic rights as others. An organization like Mozilla might tolerate that in an underling, and it might even tolerate it in a CTO. But in a CEO—the ultimate decision-maker and public face of an organization—it sends an awful message.”
We’ll give the last word to a Mozilla staffer, Erin Kissane, who penned a tortured blog post before her boss stepped down:
“As a queer employee of Mozilla, I don’t actually feel particularly vulnerable, but I know many people in the wider community have been stung as well as intellectually offended by this choice. So my first duty is to them: to the people harmed. Neither Brendan nor our board have apologized for the ramifications of their actions, which is certainly their call. But I am sorry for the harm done. To everyone who has flinched away, and everyone re-traumatized by these events, I offer a complete and sincere apology: I have chosen to walk under this banner, and that makes me complicit, and I am so sorry for the pain I know this has caused…
“Brendan, I grew up in a very conservative religious home and many of the people I love the most can still be described as very religious and very conservative. I think your views on this issue are wrong, and that your actions have done harm, but I can no more caricature you as a terrible person driven by homophobia and hatred than I can break off relations with my cherished family members because they take actions similar to yours.”
Her conflicted stance underscores that this is not a clear-cut issue.
What America Would Look Like if We Made All Our Business Decisions Based on Politics by Justin Charters
From Chik-Fil-A to Duck Dynasty and now Mozilla, I never thought I would see the day where people are targeting others for character assassination because they support traditional marriage. It is bad business to claim that because a CEO donated to Prop 8, they are unqualified to run a company. Since when did you include your political views on your resume?
One of the founders of Bolthouse Farms donated $100,000 to Prop 8 too. Does that mean that their juice is bigoted and isn’t worthy of your refrigerator? Brandon Flowers is the lead singer for the Killers and he supports traditional marriage, does that mean he does not produce multi-platinum quality music anymore? Brad Pitt’s Mom thinks gay marriage is immoral, does it mean she doesn’t know how to raise kids?
OK Cupid telling people to not use Mozilla because their CEO supported Prop 8 is as irrational as saying do not use Google Chrome because they openly support gay marriage. I’ve used both browsers and I do not ever recall the terms of service covering social issues. I installed my browser understanding it was a tool to access information more conveniently. Before I step foot in Home Depot, I don’t Google if any of the company’s products they sell have CEO’s or executives who support traditional marriage. The best tool in the store is still the best tool, regardless of its political affiliation.
Can you imagine what would happen if we based where we choose to do business on a CEO’s political donations or stances? Liberals would have to stop flying Southwest Airlines, end their insurance with All State, never eat at Olive Garden and cut their Nordstrom’s cards up. Conservatives would have to stop drinking Starbucks, discontinue their Amazon membership, never go into Dick’s Sporting Goods again and find another place to shop in bulk other than Costco.
And all both parties would be doing is creating a bigger divide and hurting the businesses they were boycotting. They do not seem to realize or maybe they just don’t care about the simple fact that when a business isn’t making a profit, they usually have to downsize and downsizing comes with layoffs and job losses (Guys, gals that’s the job of Obamacare). But at least you made your point right?
Don’t get me wrong, I respect your right to be a Grumpy Pants. I’m grumpy too. I’m grumpy because society is establishing a standard where “You Aren’t Cool If You Aren’t Being Offended” could be a hit reality TV show. I’m grumpy because I’m told I’m a bigot if I don’t line up 100% with the activist left on what they think should be the cultural norm (And I thought it was just religious people who did that type of thing). I am grumpy because I see my generation being brainwashed by the falsehood that political correctness, and not freedom for people to choose, makes the world a better place.
I know. I know. I am a bigot and a hate monger because I don’t see that the Mozilla CEO is really Godzilla’s twin brother set to wreak unspeakable havoc on the United States. Actually I’m just a guy who appreciates people who preach from the pulpit of tolerance to tolerate people who have different beliefs than they do.
Now I wonder what’s on Amazon Prime…