Open Doors World Watch List 2018Open Doors report 2018
The 50 countries where it’s most dangerous to follow Jesus
Open Doors World Watch List 2018Open Doors report 2018
The 50 countries where it’s most dangerous to follow Jesus
Learn from Israel, end the open-borders policy, and dig in for a long war of ideas against Islamists.
by Ayaan Hirsi Ali / WSJ.com
French President François Hollande declared the Nov. 13 terrorist attack in Paris an “act of war” by Islamic State, and he was right, if belated, in recognizing that the jihadists have been at war with the West for years. Islamic State, or ISIS, is vowing more attacks in Europe, and so Europe itself—not just France—must get on a war footing, uniting to do whatever it takes militarily to destroy ISIS and its so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq. Not “contain,” not “degrade”—destroy, period.
But even if ISIS is completely destroyed, Islamic extremism itself will not go away. If anything, the destruction of ISIS would increase the religious fervor of those within Europe who long for a caliphate.
European leaders must make some major political decisions, and perhaps France can lead the way. A shift in mentality is needed to avoid more terror attacks on an even bigger scale and the resulting civil strife. Islamic extremists will never succeed in turning Europe into a Muslim continent. What they may well do is provoke a civil war so that parts of Europe end up looking like the Balkans in the early 1990s.
Here are three steps that European leaders could take to eradicate the cancer of Islamic extremism from their midst.
First, learn from Israel, which has been dealing with Islamist terror from the day it was born and dealing with much more frequent threats to its citizens’ security. True, Islamic extremists inside Israel today resort to using knives and cars as their weapons of choice, but that is because attacks like those in Paris last week are now simply impossible for the terrorists to organize. Instead of demonizing Israel, bring their experienced, trained experts to Europe to develop a coherent counterterror strategy.
Second, dig in for a long battle of ideas. European leaders will have to address the infrastructure of indoctrination: mosques, Muslim schools, websites, publishing houses and proselytizing material (pamphlets, books, treatises, sermons) that serve as conveyor belts to violence. Islamic extremists target Muslim populations through dawa (persuasion), convincing them that their ends are legitimate before turning to the question of means.
European governments must do their own proselytizing in Muslim communities, promoting the superiority of liberal ideas. This means directly challenging the Islamic theology that is used by the Islamist predators to turn the heads and hearts of Muslims with the intent of converting them into enemies of their host countries.
Third, Europeans must design a new immigration policy that admits immigrants only if they are committed to adopt European values and to reject precisely the Islamist politics that makes them vulnerable to the siren song of the caliphate.
There are distinct weaknesses in Europe’s current immigration policy: It is too easy to gain citizenship without necessarily being loyal to national constitutions; it is too easy for outsiders to get into European Union countries with or without credible claims for asylum; and, thanks to the open-borders policy known as Schengen, it is too easy for foreigners, once they are in the EU, to travel freely from country to country. This state of affairs has been revealed as unsustainable by this year’s migrant flood into Europe.
Does this amount to “Fortress Europe,” with a new Iron Curtain to the east and a naval cordon sanitaire in the Mediterranean and the Adriatic? Yes. For no other strategy makes sense, given a threat like the one posed to Europe by Islamic extremism. And if Europe’s leaders persist, like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in making a virtue of the openness of their borders, they will soon be chased out of office by populists better attuned to public feeling.
The trouble is that such people generally bring to the table other ideas beyond immigration control—not least the kind of fervent, illiberal nationalism that has torn Europe apart in the past.
To achieve all this, Europe would need to overhaul treaties, laws and policies—in other words, take steps that before the atrocities in Paris on Friday couldn’t even be discussed. Maybe this will be the watershed moment for Europe to rethink the path it has been traveling.
BY STOYAN ZAIMOV / CHRISTIANPOST.com
American pastor Saeed Abedini has reportedly been “viciously beaten” by fellow prisoners in an unprovoked attack in the Iranian prison where he’s being held. The pastor was punched in the face, leaving his eyes beaten black and blue, but prison guards intervened and prevented further injury.
The American Center for Law and Justice, the law group which represents his wife, Naghmeh Abedini, and the couple’s two children in the U.S., said that the prisoners also demolished a small table that the pastor had used to study and read during the beating that he endured the first week of June.
Abedini was allowed to see a prison doctor, who determined that he does not have any broken bones. The following week, he was able to see a family member who came to visit him and see his injuries firsthand.
“It is heartbreaking to me and my family that Saeed was again beaten in prison. Saeed’s life is continuously threatened not only because he is an American, but also because he is a convert from Islam to Christianity. It’s time to get Saeed home before it is too late,” Naghmeh Abedini said in response to the news.
Back in May, Abedini marked his 35th birthday in prison, where he has spent over two and a half years for his Christian faith. He was arrested in Iran in 2012 while working on an orphanage for children, and later sentenced to eight years in prison.
The pastor has faced a number of beatings while in prison, both from other inmates and guards. The ACLJ and Naghmeh Abedini have expressed concerns that his condition worsens after each beating.
After the beating, Abedini spoke before Congress, pleading for further actions to be taken to help free her husband.
“Over the last three years, I have had to watch my two children, Rebekka (who is 8 years old) and Jacob (who is 7 years old), suffer daily as they have grown up without a father,” Abedini said.
“I am here today as a single mother who is trying to be strong for her children, and as a wife who humbly admits, I need your help. I cannot bear to look at my children’s longing eyes one more time and explain to them why their daddy is still not home.”
She later told The Christian Post that Abedini has been told his prison sentence will be increased unless he denies his Christian faith — something she insists her husband will not do.
“The times they have moved him in and out of solitary [confinement] and the times they have threatened him, they said ‘You will stay here longer than the eight years and your only key to freedom is if you deny your Christian faith and you return to Islam.’ The guards have said that, officials have said that continuously,” Abedini said.
Arutz Sheva, www.israelnationalnews.com
By Gedalyah Reback, April 7, 2015
Decimated by 12 years of war in Iraq and Syria, Christians find refuge in Kurdistan and in a new militia.
Amid the ISIS assault on Iraq, minorities have borne the brunt. One of those groups is Iraq’s Christians, who before the 2003 US invasion were spread throughout the country with a sizeable community in the northwest.
The majority of Iraqi Christians come from the Syriac, Assyrian and Chaldean churches with affiliations mainly to the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. Most other denominations have had a presence in Iraq, but have never overtaken these Churches, which are among the oldest in the world.
But many of those Christian areas have been in the crosshairs of last year’s sweeping military advances by ISIS.
“In all towns and villages where ISIS rules, the Christian population has disappeared,” says Julie Lenarz, Executive Director of the Human Security Centre.
“Qaraqosh, a historic Assyrian city, was home to the largest Christian population in Iraq with approximately 50,000 members. Now the city is virtually devoid of its Christian population.”
This is not the first time a Muslim conquest has produced trouble for Christians there. In the early 1500s, the infamous Tamerlane swept through the area and beheaded an estimated 70,000 Christians in Tikrit and 90,000 in Baghdad. With that perspective, ISIS has not represented such a catastrophe – yet.
“When ISIS took control of Mosul, roughly 20,000 Christians initially stayed, but after the group issued an ultimatum – convert, flee or die – the remaining Christians had no other choice but to leave as well.”
“As well as attacks on Christians, there have also been attacks on Christian sites of worship, with deep historical value, particularly to the Assyrian community.”
Just last month, ISIS destroyed the Mar Behnam Monastery near the town of Beth Khdeda near the Kurdish border. The monastery had been built in the 4th century to memorialize a Christian martyr. This past Easter Sunday, ISIS also destroyed a church in the Syrian Kurdish (Rojava) city of al-Hasakah. The destruction of Christian heritage, both ancient and modern, is just bricks and mortar. Iraq and Syria over the last 12 years represent merely the latest iterations of existential threats to the Middle Eastern Christian rites.
“Less than 1% of the global Christian population lives in the Middle East and, as a result of discrimination, persecution and war, the proportion of Christians in the region has dropped from around 20% at the start of the 20th century to around 5% today. What we are witnessing now is only the latest phase of something that has been going for many decades.”
Christianity has been literally decimated by the onslaught in Iraq starting in 2003, then the Syrian Civil War which forced many resettled Iraqi refugees to return to northern Iraq in time for the current assault by ISIS.
“The number of Christians in Iraq has fallen from approximately 1.5 million prior to the US-led intervention in 2003 to 350,000-450,000 (data is unreliable and some estimate as low as 150,000). Many Christians had originally fled to Syria, but the civil war forced them to return to Iraq.”
“However, Christianity will not be eradicated in the Middle East,” says Lenarz. Judging by the moves many of them have made, Christians will remain in the region.
“Kurdistan currently host over 100,000 Christian refugees from other parts of the country and Lebanon has announced it will take in an additional 5000 Christian refugees.”
Perhaps under the radar of Western media, a large portion of the community has escaped to other parts of the Arab World. Many have gone to the Persian Gulf, where the economy and even the culture is far more open.
“The Gulf states, where religious minorities can practice their faith in relative freedom, have seen their Christian population surge from basically nothing a century ago to 10-13 percent and the trend is believed to continue.”
Most Christians hail from the Nineveh region in northern Iraq on the border between the Kurdish region and the rest of Iraq. Nineveh was once the capital of the historic Assyrian Empire, now the epicentre of an embattled Christian culture.
Yet, there are apparently silver linings in the storm clouds that are the region’s sectarianism.
“In the Nineveh Province of northern Iraq – a traditionally Christian part of the country where over 30,000 members of the community were forced to flee from ISIS – a Christian militia has been established which goes by the name of Nineveh Plains Protection Units (NPU).”
“It is approximately 4,000 men strong, is allied to the Iraqi Government and the Kurdish Peshmerga, receives funds from the Assyrian diaspora abroad and training from a private American security company.”
The Assyrian International News Agency reports that number might be as high as 5,500. Dr. Duraid Tobiya Zoma, an Assyrian and former adviser to the Governor of occupied Mosul, has said that to end Christians’ marginalization in the unified Iraq in the future that Assyrians “are requesting an autonomous region for Assyrians in the Nineveh Plain to protect them as the indigenous people, who are being extremely affected by ISIS.”
Despite attempts to organize the community to defend itself, the signs of a shifting future are already clear. This past Sunday’s Easter was one of emptiness for the community in a way not experienced in centuries.
“For the first time in 1600 years, no Christmas and Easter masses were celebrated in Mosul.”
The Christian Post
By Todd Starnes, March 6, 2015
A government crackdown on churches has Christians in Lake Worth, Fla., wondering if they live in the United States or the former Soviet Union.
Churches in Lake Worth, population 36,000, have been ordered to acquire a business license. As if the church has to get the government’s permission to preach and pray?
But wait. It gets worse, folks.
City officials were so concerned about one congregation that they dispatched a code enforcement officer cloaked in a hoodie to spy on a Southern Baptist church that was meeting in a coffee house.
Folks, it’s like the plot of a Cold War spy novel.
“Government employees are public servants and prohibited by the Constitution from inhibiting religious freedom,” said Mat Staver, founder of the religious liberty law firm Liberty Counsel. “That is a far cry from sneaking around and into a church and acting like KGB agents.”
Staver is calling on city leaders to immediately rescind the business license mandate on churches. He is also representing Common Ground Church, the congregation that was targeted by the city’s investigator.
The church owns and operates a coffee house in downtown Lake Worth. For the past three months, it has used the coffee house for a weekly worship service. Prior to that the congregation rented space in other buildings in the community.
Pastor Mike Olive told me there had not been any problems until early last month, when he had an encounter with Andy Amoroso, a city commissioner.
“After we opened up the coffee bar and started doing services, I heard that he told people we were anti-gay,” Olive said. “So I went to his shop to ask him about that.”
I reached out to Amoroso on Wednesday but he did not return my telephone calls.
Pastor Olive told me he tried to convey to Amoroso that the church’s message is ‘Love God, Love People.’
“Our message to the gay community is the same as it is to the straight community,” he said.
The commissioner, Olive said, did not seem to appreciate his message.
“He pointed at me and said, ‘Listen, you better not have a church down there,” Olive told me.
By the strangest of coincidences, a code enforcement officer showed up for a Sunday service on Feb. 8. He was wearing a hoodie and was armed with a concealed video camera, according to the letter Liberty Counsel sent to the city.
The code enforcement officer’s notes read like something out of a KGB report.
“I walked back to the Coffee Bar and was able to visualize, in my opinion what appeared to be a ministry in progress,” he wrote in the report.
He documented how he observed “people holding what appeared to be Bibles or religious books as one had a cross on it” and “what appeared to be a ministry in progress.”
“I was approached by an unknown man with a cross around his neck,” he wrote.
I’m surprised the code enforcement officer didn’t call up the National Guard for reinforcements.
The officer wrote that he was “able to capture on my city phone a video which will be attached to this case file for future court presentation.”
It’s pretty shocking stuff for a city that prides itself on being a tolerant, multicultural city. But as we all know — tolerance and diversity do not extend to Christians.
“It was pretty shocking,” Pastor Olive said. “We had no prior warning.”
The following Sunday a city employee showed up again and told the church it had one week to vacate the building. They were accused of operating a church in a business rental property without a Lake Worth business license.
For the record — the church was only licensed to sell java — not preach Jesus.
William Waters, the city’s community sustainability director, told me they have nothing against the church — they were simply responding to a complaint.
“We had a complaint that a gathering of people was taking place there in the form of a church,” he said. “We investigated that and determined that, yes, there were people gathered there.”
So if 115 people gather for coffee, that’s OK. But if they gather for worship — it’s against the law?
“We have to treat everybody the same,” Waters said. “We couldn’t give preferential treatment to churches versus other businesses.”
And in the city’s opinion, a church is, in fact, a business — just like grocery store, a Waffle House or an adult novelty shop.
So why all the super-secret spy stuff? Why send an investigator to infiltrate a Southern Baptist worship service? Why not just call the pastor and explain the rules and regulations?
“It could eventually go to the special magistrate,” Waters told me.
“Evidence had to be documented as to what the gentleman found when he went to visit the place on that Sunday.”
He said every business in the community received letters about the permits and fees — including churches.
Joan Abell, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, told The Lake Worth Tribune she was troubled by the city regulations.
“We’ve been there 99 years and we’ve never had to have a license,” she told the newspaper. “Where do you all of a sudden say the church has to have a license to gather and pray?”
Waters could not tell me how many churches have complied with the city’s demands. Local news accounts indicate the First Baptist Church paid nearly $500 in fees to the city.
Staver said the city’s actions violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Florida Constitution, the Florida Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the federal Religious Land Uses and Institutionalized Persons Act.
“Churches are not businesses and need not obtain such licenses,” Staver wrote in a letter to the city.
Waters said any church that refuses to comply could be shut down by the fire department.
“There’s a variety of things that could happen if you don’t comply with the use and occupancy requirement,” he said.
As for Pastor Olive — his church will no longer meet in its church-owned coffee house. Instead, it is taking its congregation “underground” until the issue is resolved.
“We just want to urge the city — don’t allow God and our faith to be zoned out of downtown,” the pastor said.
It appears to me that this is a standoff that could use a healthy dose of all that multicultural tolerance and diversity that Lake Worth takes pride in.
The Christian Post
By Anugrah Kumar, March 8, 2015
U.S. Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has now been in an Iranian jail for his Christian faith for nearly two-and-a-half years, is “shaken” as six of his fellow prisoners were executed around him this week, his wife, Naghmeh, says.
“Saeed was quite shaken as he had to witness 6 fellow prisoners being beaten and taken to be executed (hanged) that day,” Naghmeh was quoted as saying in a report by American Center for Law and Justice on Saturday.
“It was a hard and dark day having witnessed that and seeing life being taken. The prison visit was also very hard as the families of those who were executed were crying and wailing,” she added.
Naghmeh learned about this after Pastor Saeed’s family members in Iran were able to have a short visit with him at the prison.
“It was also an emotional visitation as it is getting closer to Jacob’s 7th birthday. Last time Saeed saw Jacob he was 4 years old,” she said, urging Christians to continue to pray for her husband “to have the strength to endure in that harsh prison and that Jesus would continue to meet him there and give him hope.”
“Please pray that this will be the year that Saeed is released,” she said.
Pastor Saeed remains in an incredibly dangerous situation, ACLJ says, explaining that summary executions, inmate violence and beatings are commonplace.
Saeed has also sustained prolonged internal injuries due to beatings in the prison.
“The Obama Administration must do all within its power to bring this wrongfully imprisoned U.S. citizen home to his family in America,” ACLJ says.
Obama raised the issue of the pastor’s detention during his first phone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in September 2013, but authorities in Iran have not responded.
Saeed grew up in Iran before converting to Christianity at the age of 20. He later traveled with his family back and forth between Iran and the U.S. to meet other members of his family and for Christian work.
During one such trip in 2009, Saeed was detained by Iranian officials and interrogated for his conversion. While he was released with a warning against engaging in underground church activities, he was once again arrested in 2012 while working on a non-sectarian orphanage project.
Saeed was sentenced for endangering “national security,” but the ACLJ believes the punishment has more to do with Saeed’s Christian faith.