Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Plenty of blame, but who has the answer?





So proud are the Islamic State’s leaders of their acts of barbarism that they broadcast them for the world to see on Twitter and YouTube. "In one propaganda video, they show hundreds of victims being trucked to an execution site, where they are filmed pleading for their lives before being marched toward open pits and shot one by one. Islamic State militants recently tweeted a photo of a decapitated head with this message: 'This is our ball. It is made of skin #WorldCup.'"
 
The Islamic State "runs camps where it indoctrinates children to believe that all non-Muslims are sub-human, 'apostates' and 'infidels' who should be exterminated. Vice News recently interviewed children undergoing such indoctrination by the Islamic State. One young boy looks into the camera and says 'In the name of God my name is Daoud and I am 14 years old. I’d like to join the Islamic State and to kill with them, because they fight infidels and apostates.' Another declares: 'We promise you car bombs and explosives. . . I swear to God, we will divide America in two.'
    
 "Some would like to believe that the Islamic State’s offensive in Syria and Iraq is nothing more than 'a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing,' in the words of Neville Chamberlain. In fact, the Islamic State’s leaders have a messianic vision of building a totalitarian Islamic empire encompassing all current and former Muslim lands, stretching from Europe to North Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. They may never see that vision realized, but they can wreak an awful lot of death and destruction trying.

 "Their 'caliph,' Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, recently warned: 'Our last message is to the Americans: Soon we will be in direct confrontation, and the sons of Islam have prepared for such a day. So watch, for we are with you, watching.' They are rapidly accumulating the recruits and resources to follow through on this threat. The Islamic State is actively establishing cells outside Iraq and Syria, including in Europe. And according to scholars at the Rand Corporation, it 'currently brings in more than $1 million a day in revenue and is now the richest terrorist group on the planet. . . A conservative calculation suggests that [the Islamic State] may generate a surplus of $100 million to $200 million this year.'

"To put this in perspective, al-Qaeda spent about $500,000 to carry out the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"The worst part is that all of this could have been prevented. Just a few years ago, the Islamic State (then al-Qaeda in Iraq) was a spent force, defeated both militarily and ideologically thanks to the 2007 US surge, and the Sunni masses who rose up to join the United States in driving them out. Then President Obama’s complete withdrawal of US forces in 2011 took the boot off of the terrorists’ necks. And, as Hillary Clinton recently pointed out, Obama’s 'failure' to act in Syria 'left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.'

"Now, after standing by and allowing the Islamic State to establish control in an area the size of Belgium, Obama has finally launched limited strikes - but only to prevent the Islamic State from overrunning US diplomatic facilities in northern Iraq (for fear of another Benghazi), massacring Yazidis and controlling the Mosul Dam. Obama insists that 'there’s no American military solution' to the rise of the Islamic State and that 'it’s time to turn the page on more than a decade in which so much of our foreign policy was focused on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.'

 "Obama may be tired of war, as were Hitler’s enemies. But the Islamic State is not tired of war. It has been explicit about its intentions. The lessons of history are clear. The free world ignores such barbarity at its peril."

Thiessen doesn't offer a solution. Obama's air strikes are limited. David Cameron doesn't appear to have a coherent strategy.

So what is to be done with militant Islam?
   

Monday, August 25, 2014

From shadow of death to freedom

In the most desolate circumstances, God works.

Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh were born into Muslim families in Iran. Both had a desire to know God. Both were converted to Christ in their teens, one after a vision of Jesus; the other by reading a copy of Luke's Gospel. 

They met while studying in Turkey. Studies over, they decided to return to Iran. Their people needed to hear of the love of Jesus.

Together they handed out - illegally - 20,000 New Testaments and started two house churches. They saw miracles as God protected them. Then one day they were arrested.

After days of interrogation, they were moved to the notorious Evin Prison in Teheran. They were charged with apostasy, blasphemy and anti-government activity. They were promised they would be executed by hanging - but they were told if they converted to Islam they would be released immediately. They refused.

The authorities' promise was not carried out. Eventually, they were released. How that came about is a remarkable story.

You can hear their testimonies on video here. They have written a book. Captive in Iran, about their experiences. You can read the first chapter here.

Take advantage of the opportunity. Your faith will be strengthened as you hear the stories of these brave young women.
   

Friday, August 22, 2014

Religious freedom and a secular Britain

The picture is of the flag of the new Islamist State. I don't know what its designers had in mind, but it's not black by accident. There are reports coming out of Iraq of rapes, beheadings and crucifixions. There are reports of joint suicides after women being raped. There are reports of women and children being buried alive.

Both Barack Obama and David Cameron did little when 200,000 Christians were displaced by IS (Islamist State, formerly ISIS) fighters. It was as though Christians didn't really matter. It was only when some 40,000 Yezidis were trapped on a mountain that they began to take action.

David Cameron said the Government will redouble its efforts to prevent Britons from travelling to join the 500 Britons said to be already with the world's best armed and fastest growing terrorist group. He said Islamist militants could bring terror to the streets of Britain unless urgent action were taken.

He said the terrorists have "murderous intent" and Britain must use its "military prowess" to stop them coming here. Britain had "no choice but to rise to the challenge," but he ruled out a war in Iraq. Britain is not going to get involved in another Iraq war.

Tim Montgomerie highlighted the problem in the Times yesterday.

"June’s mass persecution of Iraqi Christians in Mosul hardly moved any head of government. Barack Obama only acted when the ancient Yazidi sect was threatened with extinction. That, however, may have been only a pretext. The real trigger for action may have been US strategic interests in Arbil. Yet at least America acted. At least Germany and France are offering asylum to Iraqi Christians. Britain, with its proud heritage of providing refuge for those fleeing for their lives, has been almost comatose. . . 

"We’ve learnt in recent days that government inaction has brought some of the Church of England’s most senior clerics to the edge of despair. . . 

"I sent a round of texts to government contacts yesterday, asking whether the intervention of church leaders would spur action. Some replies left me profoundly depressed: “We can’t get bogged down in a another conflict in Iraq so close to an election.” “The public oppose granting large numbers of Iraqis asylum.” “Intervention could be a huge distraction from domestic concerns.” I did get one or two replies of high principle but most were soaked in the language of electoral calculation. I hope the Church of England has begun to realise that religious freedom is not a priority for this government or, for that matter, the opposition. . .

"Britain is becoming one of the most secular countries on earth. Growing hostility to faith schools is of a different order to what we see in the Middle East, but common to the secular mindset is a blindness to the importance of religious faith to people. It begins by wanting to push religion to the corners of the public square and then beyond it. . . 

"I hope the Baines letter [a letter to the Government from the Rt Rev Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds] might be the moment when Church realises that, for all their worthy rhetoric at Christmas and Easter, British politicians will not fight for religious freedom. I hope its underlying mood was not, as one newspaper suggested, bitterness but resolve. Resolve to ensure the Christian voice is heard again in politics. Because religious freedom is a foundational freedom of conscience. If the political class isn’t willing to defend it, other freedoms are at risk in the years ahead."

What should we do in light of what's happening in Syria and Iraq? Pray, act and give, to help people in desperate need. Excuses might be found for election-minded politicians not to be interested, but there is no excuse for Christians to be unconcerned.
    

Monday, August 18, 2014

Suddenly, the wind blew. . .

One of the most remarkable things about Israel's war with Hamas has been the low number of casualties from the thousands of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza.

Many have exploded in unpopulated areas. Israel's Iron Dome missile defence system - developed in Israel and said to have been one of the most effective missile defence systems the world has seen -  has dealt with up to 90 per cent of the rest. Even so. . .

The commander of an Iron Dome battery protecting Tel Aviv tells a remarkable story.

The battery calculated the trajectory of an incoming missile from Gaza. (It is possible to tell where a missile will land to within 200 metres.) It was going to hit the Arieli Towers, the Kirya (Israel's equivalent of the Pentagon) or a central Tel Aviv railway station. Hundreds could have died.

The Iron Dome fired its first interceptor. It missed. It fired a second. It missed. "This is very rare. I was in shock. At this point we had just four seconds until the missile lands. We had already notified emergency services to converge on the target location and warned of a mass-casualty incident.

"Suddenly, Iron Dome (which calculates wind speeds, among other things) shows a major wind coming from the east, a strong wind that. . . sends the missile into the sea. We were all stunned. I stood up and shouted 'There is a God!'

"I witnessed this miracle with my own eyes. It was not told or reported to me. I saw the hand of God send this missile into the sea."

He will not allow your foot to be moved;
  He who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, he who keeps Israel
  Shall neither slumber nor sleep.
                            
                                         Psa 121:3, 4
   . 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Journalists intimidated by Hamas

People have asked me "What's happening with Israel?" I have replied that no one has greater respect for human life than Israel. Hamas are terrorists, and have no respect for human life.

Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of a founding member of Hamas, who converted to Christ and now lives in the United States, put it well. "Hamas does not care about the lives of Palestinians," he said. "It does not care about the lives of Israelis, or Americans. They do not care about their own lives. They consider dying for their ideology a way of worship."

I was ashamed when I saw an ITV newscaster shout at an Israeli spokesman. "You were told 17 times that that was a UN school," he said. "Why did you fire at it?" The man could only say they had not yet had time to complete an investigation, but that the Israel Defence Forces did not target civilians. It later turned out that the carnage at the Shati refugee camp was caused by a Hamas rocket which had gone adrift. Hamas rushed in, removed the debris, and blamed Israel.

Hamas have placed rocket launchers in the heart of populated areas. They have fired rockets from hospitals and schools. Foreign journalists in Gaza have been closely monitored by Hamas. I thought this was common knowledge. Apparently not. But the news is beginning to leak out.

 Alan Johnson,a professor of democratic theory and practice, senior research fellow at the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre and senior research associate at the Foreign Policy Centre, writes in the Telegraph. He says a long Hamas record of shutting down news bureaux, arresting reporters and cameramen, confiscating equipment and beating journalists has already been documented by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The Foreign Press Association, he says, has now issued a protest about "blatant, incessant, forceful and unorthodox" intimidation of journalists in the Gaza Strip by Hamas. "In several cases," it says, "foreign reporters working in Gaza have been harassed, threatened or questioned over stories." Hamas was "trying to put in place a vetting procedure."

I would invite you to read the article for yourself. You can see it here.

A Hamas Ministry of Interior video directed: "Anyone killed or martyred is to be called a civilian from Gaza or Palestine, before we talk about his status in jihad or his military rank. . . always add 'innocent civilian' or 'innocent citizen' in your description of those killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza."

Indian television broadcaster Sreenivasan Jain wrote - after leaving Gaza - how Hamas placed civilians at risk by firing rockets "deep from the heart of civilian zones." How often, he asked, did they not report such things for fear of reprisals against them?

A Spanish journalist asked how television reporting never showed Hamas people, only civilians, mainly women and children, said "It's very simple. We did see Hamas people there launching rockets. . . but if we ever dare pointing our camera on them they would simply shoot at us and kill us."

French-Palestinian journalist Rudjaa Abou Dugga was forced to leave Gaza immediately, without his papers. RT correspondent Harry Fear was told to leave Gaza after tweeting that Hamas fired rockets into Israel from near his hotel.

In his article, Johnson quotes section 11.4.1 of the BBC guidelines on accuracy and impartiality: "We should normally say if our reports are censored or monitored or if we withhold information, and explain, wherever possible, the rules under which we are operating."

"Journalists from India, America, Norway, Italy, Spain, Australia, Canada and elsewhere," he says, "are complaining. Will we now hear from the Brits?"

I am waiting to see. But I'm not holding my breath.
   

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mr Pickles takes the helm

After the resignation of Baroness Warsi as faith minister, Prime Minister David Cameron has handed her role to Eric Pickles, who will fill the faith brief in addition to his job as Communities Secretary.

A couple of years ago, after the National Secular Society obtained a High Court decision banning councils having prayers to open council meetings, Mr Pickles fast-tracked laws to override the decision. "The Government recognises and respects the role that faith communities play in our society," he said.

He complained in a speech last year: "In recent years long-standing British liberties of freedom of religion have been undermined by the intolerance of aggressive secularism."

And in April this year he told the Conservative Forum: "I've stopped an attempt by militant atheists to ban councils having prayers at the start of meetings if they wish. Heaven forbid. We're a Christian nation. We have an established church. Get over it. And don't impose your politically correct intolerance on others."

He explained: "The Government has backed British values. And we've stopped Whitehall appeasing extremism of any sort. Be it the EDL, be it extreme Islamists or be it thuggish far-left, they're all as bad as each other."

Says the New Statesman: "Eric Pickles's appointment as Faith Minister is bad news for secularists."

And in a blog post about the appointment, Stephen Evans, campaign manager for the National Secular Society, asks: "Rather than a 'minister for faith,' perhaps we need a minister for freedom of belief?"

Critics complain that Baroness Warsi produced nothing but words. So will Eric Pickles do a better job as faith minister?

Time will tell.

But if his appointment causes the secular humanists to draw in their horns a little, that can't be a bad thing, can it?
   

Friday, August 08, 2014

Hundreds of thousands in humanitarian crisis

ISIS fighters are butchering their way across Iraq. Hundreds of thousands have fled, and are stranded without food and water. Many have already died in what looks to become an unprecedented humanitarian disaster.

Some 200,000 Iraqi Christians are reported to have fled from ISIS militants, who took control of Christian towns and villages in the Nineveh region this week. A number of towns are reported to have been completely emptied of their Christian populations. Many have nowhere to go and are stranded in streets and open fields.

At least 40,000 members of the Yezidi minority community are stranded on a mountain without food or water. Many have already died. Water, food and blankets are desperately needed.

The vicar of Baghdad, Canon Andrew White, says his organisation is seeking to help everybody, irrespective of belief. "People have nothing," he says. "We have had people's heads chopped off. We are having people convert. We are even having children slaughtered and cut in half."

You can see a video of Canon White here. You  can see an impassioned appeal by a Yezidi member of the Iraqi Parliament here.

You can send funds to Canon White's organisation here, or you can contribute to barnabasfund.org.

John Robb, chairman of the International Prayer Council, has appealed for five minutes of prayer in services on Sunday, August 10 and Sunday, August 17, and a day of prayer and fasting on Wednesday, August 13. The e-mail containing his appeal quotes Isa 64:1 - 4:

"Oh, that you would rend the heavens!

"That you would come down! . . ."
  

Thursday, August 07, 2014

A glorious hope

Man has been here a long time, but he doesn't improve much. Violence and lawlessness are on every hand. Daily newscasts are a litany of murder and mayhem.

It can't go on for ever. We are living in the days when God Himself will call time.

The first thing that will happen is that Christ is going to take His church - all those who know Him, love Him and serve Him - out of the earth. It might sound unbelievable, but it's true.

Look it up yourself in the Bible, for instance in 1 Thess 4:15 - 18:

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Can you believe it?

Are you ready?
    

Monday, August 04, 2014

The photograph he daren't show

The vicar of Baghdad, Canon Andrew White, writes in a post on his blog dated today:

"You know I love to show photos but the photo I was sent today was the most awful I have ever seen. A family of 8 all shot through the face lying in a pool of blood with their Bible open on the couch. They would not convert it cost them there life. I thought of asking if anybody wanted to see the picture but it is just too awful to show to anybody. This is Iraq today. The only hope and consolation is that all these dear people are now all with Yesua in Glory."

After a few prayer requests.he adds:

"Very Bad News. Baghdad Airport Closed. (2nd August)

"We have just had terrible news that Baghdad International Airport has been shut down because of security risks. Without it we cannot go North to do the relief work or even leave the country. Please pray that we can get out.

"Baghdad Airport open but no RJ flights (3rd August)

"Baghdad International Airport is open the main airline Jordanian Airways is not flying in or out of Iraq. So we are stuck here. We got one flight to Erbil on Iraqi Air that was all they had so she will go to to take the relief money North."

Yesterday a number of English bishops were pressing the British Government to offer asylum to Christians persecuted in Iraq.

Said the Right Rev Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds:

"We have a tradition of offering sanctuary to people who are oppressed, and it's part of the Christian heritage of this country and the law we have established that puts an obligation on us. We also have an obligation to at least raise with the Government the possibility that we should be offering sanctuary to Christians in Iraq who have been effectively expelled under the threat of death.

"The Government cannot remain silent and you cannot just issue words - you've got to put something behind that. If we can't offer sanctuary to these people, who will? Not doing so would be tantamount to the betrayal of our moral and historical obligations."

France agreed last Monday to grant asylum to Christians driven from Mosul.

A petition on behalf of Christians in Iraq can be signed here. Donations for their relief can be sent here.
 

Friday, August 01, 2014

A war with no winners

With more than 60 Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza - nobody places higher value on the lives of its citizens than Israel - it is significant that a majority of the Israeli public wants the war in Gaza to continue. The prospect of rockets continuing to fall and armed terrorists appearing from hidden tunnels to kidnap women and children is apparently not an acceptable alternative.

With its pictures of broken, bleeding children, Hamas is beginning to win the propaganda war. There is no question that Hamas is using women and children as human shields. "Palestinian blood that is spilled is precious," said one Palestinian official, "but the goals for which this blood is spilled are even more precious."

It has now been proven that a number of tragedies - like that in a school playground in Shati refugee camp, where a number of children died - were caused by Hamas rockets fired at Israel which went adrift. Hamas rushed in, cleared the debris, and blamed Israel, leaving Israeli spokesmen to be shouted down by Western newscasters.

Hamas rockets have now been found hidden in three UN schools, as well as houses and mosques. Pictures of Israel shelling schools and mosques do not endear Israel to the public. Few people realise that the walls of fire rising from them come not from Israeli missiles, but from exploding rockets in the buildings.

This is a war in which there will be no winners. Israel may quieten Hamas for a while, but they will have worse to contend with in the future.
   

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mosul: There are no Christians left

We have found out what has happened to the Christians in Mosul: there are no Christians left. And Western governments are doing little or nothing.

Virginian Congressman Frank Wolf told the US Congress: 
With the exception of Israel, the Bible contains more references to the cities, regions and nations of ancient Iraq than any other country. The patriarch Abraham came from a city in Iraq called Ur. Isaac's bride, Rebekah, came from north-west Iraq. Jacob spent 20 years in Iraq, and his sons - the 12 tribes of Israel - were born in north-west Iraq. The events of the book of Esther took place in Iraq, as did the account of Daniel in the lions' den. Many of Iraq's Christians still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

Despite. . . Christian leaders speaking out about the systematic extermination of Christians in Iraq, the silence in this town is deafening. Does Washington even care?

In Britain, the Roman Catholic organisation Aid to the Church In Need reported on its website: 

Imagine having your house daubed with a cross or a big "C" for Christian, knowing that your house was about to be targeted and taken. This is what happened in Mosul - and the Arabic letter "N" equating to Nazarene was daubed on Christian properties by the jihadist ISIS forces. Now a city which had up to 60,000 Christians ten years ago has no Christians - they have had to flee after being told to convert or face the sword.

Just last Sunday another one thousand Christians fled from the Nineveh Plains to the Kurdish area. A city where the Liturgy was celebrated for 1,600 years had no Mass or any Christian service last Sunday. Churches have been detonated and set ablaze, converted to Mosques and all crosses taken down - with ancient tombs desecrated and destroyed.

What is our government doing about this and how are they responding? Whether we like to admit it or not - this country's government has over the years laid the foundations for such a situation to arise. Now the government seems incapable or unwilling to help Christians and others suffering and dying at the hands of ISIS.

The UK's balanced approach to the uprisings in the Middle East - supporting rebels as long as they are not too extreme - has blown up in our face. The UK and other Western governments speak about their concerns, but surely they can work to form an axis of moderation in the Middle East.

We are called to stand with our Christian brothers and sisters now - in prayer and solidarity - and to speak up for religious tolerance, religious freedom and respect for all. The echo around the Middle East of many Muslims as well as Christians was - thanks to the social media - to stand with the Arabic "N" and to say "I am Christian. I am Iraqi". . . 

If we do not stand up for Christians in a city where they have followed Christ for 1,600 years, how will anyone help us when the attacks on us become more physical? Addressing nearly one thousand Iraqis and ACN supporters opposite the Houses of Parliament on Saturday was a haunting experience - I had the feeling that what is happening in our biblical historical homeland could easily happen here before long.

Now is the time to stand up for our faith and the right to believe. 
    

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Murders in the name of Allah

When is the mainstream media going to report on the persecution of Christians in other countries? When is the mainstream media going to report on what's happening with ISIS in Iraq?

Under Saddam Hussein there were said to be 60,000 Christians living in the city of Mosul. It was a Christian centre for something like 2,000 years. It was recently estimated that there were 25,000 Christians who had not fled.

A few weeks ago, ISIS, among the most bloodthirsty of Islamic jihadists, who had taken territory in Syria and Iraq, declared the territory a caliphate, with their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as caliph. Ten days ago, they gave the Christians in Mosul until noon the following Saturday to convert to Islam, pay the jizya - the tax for non-Muslims, said to have been set at an impossible 450 dollars a month - leave, or die.

The houses of the Christians who left became the property of the state. As they left, they were relieved of all their valuables and all their money. In some cases, their cars were taken too and they were made to walk.

Despite all, some are said to have decided to stay. I have been waiting for the mainstream media to report what had happened to them. It looks like I will have a long wait.

Walid Shoebat claims to have been a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation who was willing to die for the cause of jihad - though some deny his claim. He was converted to Christ about 1994.

He claims to have obtained videos of human slaughterhouses in Syria. They show executions of Christians and of Muslims who disagree with their Takhiri theology. Shoebat notes a prayer offered before the executions: "In defence of the Sunnis, O Lord. O Lord. we bring these offerings to you, O Lord. Please accept this sacrificial offering, O Lord. O Lord, accept this from us, accept this from us. In the name of Allah." The videos show severed heads neatly lined up against a wall, and headless corpses suspended by their feet.

You can read the story here, here and here.

Lord Alton initiated a debate in the House of Lords concerning international compliance with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."

You can read the debate here.
   

Friday, July 25, 2014

Evidence of the existence of God

Norman Geisler has written or co-written more than 70 books. He has spoken in every state in the US and in 25 other countries.

Once he was taking part in a public debate with an atheist. Geisler asked the atheist this question: "If there is no God, why is there something rather than nothing at all?"

  The Bible says (in Psa 19:1) The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows his handiwork. The sun, moon and stars are His handiwork. He made them and put them in place.

●  If we are just animals, how come every man has a conscience and an innate awareness of right and wrong. Who put them there?

●  The Bible says (in Heb 11:1) that faith is the evidence of things not seen. It is evidence of things that exist, not things that don't exist. If what you have is evidence of things that don't exist, then what you have is not faith. Faith is God-given.

●  The way to God is Jesus. He said I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  He also said The one who comes to me I will by no means cast out. If you want to know the truth, why not ask Him to reveal Himself to you? If you are serious, He will do it. If it's not true, nothing will happen. What have you got to lose?
 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

'Expose the madness and speak the truth'

Just before Israel began their ground offensive in Gaza, their forces spotted a group of heavily armed Hamas terrorists emerging from an underground tunnel into Israeli territory, evidently heading towards an Israeli village. The tunnel was part of an extensive network.

"I can't imagine anything more terrifying," said one Israeli. "They're armed with machine guns, anti-tank missiles, grenades and a few thousand rounds of ammunition, tranquillisers and handcuffs and they're coming for you and they're coming for your  children. . ."

To find and destroy the tunnels, the Israelis say, was why the ground offensive became necessary.

Not that the Israelis are having it all their own way. With 29 soldiers killed and international airlines cancelling flights to Tel Aviv airport because a Hamas rocket landed a distance away, they are having a big price to pay.

Why do rockets continue to fall into Israel? The Washington Post doubtless has the truth.

"So far Hamas's campaign against Israel has been a dismal failure. Thanks in part to Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system, some 1,200 rockets fired at Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities have caused only one Israeli death and a few other casualties. Attempted commando attacks via the sea and a tunnel were stopped short, and a drone that ventured into Israel was quickly shot down. . .

"Why would Hamas insist on continuing the fight when it is faring so poorly? The only plausible answer is stomach-turning: The Islamic movement calculates that it can win the concessions it has yet to obtain from Israel and Egypt not by striking Israel but by perpetuating the killing of its own people in Israeli counterattacks. . . Hamas probably calculates that more deaths will prompt Western governments to pressure Israel to grant Hamas's demands."

US columnist Charles Krauthammer says while Hamas deliberately aims rockets at civilians, Israel painstakingly tries to avoid them, actually telephoning civilians in the area and dropping warning charges, so-called roof knocking.

The whole point of Hamas's rockets, he says, is to draw Israeli counterfire.

"This produces dead Palestinians for international television. Which is why Hamas perversely urges its own people not to seek safety when Israel drops leaflets warning of an imminent attack.

"It's to the Israelis' credit that amid all this madness [the depravity of Hamas, the world's treatment of Israel and the UN's incessant condemnations] they haven't lost their moral scruples. Or their nerve. Those outside the region have the minimum obligation, therefore, to expose the madness and speak the truth. Rarely has it been so blindingly clear."
   

Monday, July 21, 2014

Antisemites have a field day

Antisemitic attacks are on the rise through Europe. Synagogues have been attacked in France. And tens of thousands spewing antisemitic nonsense and carrying placards with such messages as "Well done Israel. Hitler would have been proud" marched across central London to take their slogans to the Israeli Embassy on Saturday. Because Israel have entered Gaza.

Hamas have been firing rockets into Israel for months. They have ignored every plea for a ceasefire. They continue to fire rockets in quantities. Israel has installed bomb shelters. Israeli civilians have 15 seconds to gain shelter after the alarm sounds. Faced by the provocation, Israel began to respond.

There are no bomb shelters in Gaza. Hamas have placed their rocket launchers in built-up areas. They use women and children as human shields. They tell people to ignore Israeli warnings to evacuate targets, made by leaflet, telephone. text and pre-strike explosions.

Hamas know they cannot defeat Israel militarily. The more Palestinian casualties there are, the more they can expect international sympathy.

As evidenced by the rally in London at the weekend.

Writes Douglas Murray at the Spectator: "Thousands of anti-Semites have today succeeded in bringing central London to an almost total standstill. . .

"These are the people who stayed at home throughout the Syrian civil war, stayed at home when ISIS rampaged across Iraq, stayed at home when Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab carried out their atrocities across central Africa and showed no concern whatever when the Muslim Brotherhood was running Egypt into the ground. Yet they pretend to care about Muslims

"And here they all are, coming out to scream because Israel is carrying out the most specific and targeted campaign in the history of warfare in order to stop Hamas - a group dedicated to the annihilation of all Jews - from firing thousands of rockets into the Jewish homeland."

The rally was evidently organised by the Stop the War Coalition, whose website sports headlines like "Israel's invasion is a pre-planned atrocity that makes a mockery of ceasefire 'offers'" and "Western powers that arm Israel are complicit in its war crimes against Palestinians."

Evident too have been the media's double standards in dealing with Israelis and Palestinians. Last week two Israeli missiles exploded on a Gaza beach, killing four Palestinian children. (That was a tragedy, whichever way you look at it.) It was cringe-making watching the ITV correspondent putting the Israel Defence Forces spokesman through the third degree.

The IDF spokesman kept his cool. "The matter is being investigated. I can't say yet what is the cause. The Israeli military does not target civilians," he said.

Hamas rockets have been targeting civilians - men, women and children - for months. About that, nary a word.
       

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The debate goes on

After almost 10 hours of impassioned debate, Lord Falconer's Assisted Dying bill passed its second reading in the House of Lords without a vote, which enables it to have further consideration by a full committee of the House. Assisted suicide, of course, is still not legal. It would need a further debate and a successful vote, and would then need to go to the House of Commons.

More than 20 faith leaders - Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist, United Reform, Pentecostal, Baptist, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh and Zoroastrian - signed an open letter against assisted suicide.

"Vulnerable individuals," they said, "must be cared for and protected even if this calls for sacrifice on the part of others. Each year many thousands of elderly and vulnerable people suffer abuse, sadly, often at the hands of their families or carers. 

"Being perceived as a burden or as a financial drain is a terrible affliction to bear, leading in many cases to passivity, depression and self-loathing. The desire to end one's ;life may, at any stage of life, be prompted by depression or external pressure; any suggestion of a presumption that such a decision is 'rational' does not do justice to the facts. 

"The Assisted Dying Bill can only add to the pressures that many vulnerable, terminally ill people will feel, placing them at increased risk of distress and coercion at a time when they most need love and support."

The Bible forbids the taking of innocent human life. The majority of doctors are opposed to assisted suicide. The majority of organisations supporting the disabled are against it.

The pro-euthanasia lobby has made progress with talk of "compassion," "ending suffering" and."freedom of choice." We are living in a society which is increasingly less motivated by the facts, even where they recognise they exist, and increasingly influenced by feelings. Therein lies the danger.
  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

'Keep assisted suicide illegal' - dying cleric

A plea from a dying clergyman for assisted suicide to remain illegal has been sent to every member of the House of Lords by the Church of England in an attempt to prevent a change in the law.

Lord Falconer's bill on assisted dying is expected to be voted on at its second reading in the House of Lords on Friday.

The Rev Christopher Jones, former chaplain of St Peter's College, Oxford, and a tutor in doctrine at Cranmer House, Durham, wrote of his experience when he was dying of cancer. He died in 2012.

He said he experienced intense stress and a sense of hopelessness when he realised his condition was terminal, and might have been open to ending his life by legal means, had they existed. Since then, he had experienced renewed energy and vitality "beyond anything I could have expected, and I am enjoying life in this period of 'remission.'

"The legal prohibition of this course was immensely helpful in removing it as a live option, thus constraining me to respond to my situation more creatively and hopefully. . . I now know that had I taken this course, I would have been denied the unexpected and joyful experience of being 'recalled to life' as I now am."

There was great danger in giving decisive significance to a sick patient's judgment that their life was no longer worth living as their feelings could change drastically in a short space of time.

Lord Falconer's bill would allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs for terminally ill people who were expected to die within six months. He says there have been more than 200 new appointments to the House of Lords since the matter was last debated five years ago, and he believes a majority of peers now support a change in the law.

Baroness Jane Campbell, the disability rights campaigner who is herself disabled, will be fighting the bill. "Assisted dying is to abandon hope and ignore the majority of disabled and terminally ill," she said.

Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, who is also wheelchair bound, said: "An assisted dying law is playing with fire, especially when there are no safeguards in place. Lord Falconer's bill just isn't fit for purpose."
   

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A modern day miracle

Israel is a small sliver of land in the Middle East.

Arabs have 20 nations surrounding Israel. They are Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Yemen. Djibouti, Somalia, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania. Their lands together are 650 times the area of Israel and their combined populations something like 50 times that of Israel.

The Jews have just one nation - Israel.

The Arabs have a hatred of Israel. They have tried to destroy her in four major wars, without success. The Palestinians could have been absorbed in any of the Arab nations. They could have had a state on Israeli land several times over, had they wished. But they want to see Israel destroyed.

Almost a thousand rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel in the past week. Rockets have been aimed at Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and the nuclear facility at Dimona, apparently (surprisingly to some people) without fatal injury. Hamas have said they were ready to continue firing rockets for weeks, even months.

Israel have carried out a bombardment of Hamas in Gaza. They have said they will continue as long as rockets fall on Israeli civilians (while taking the opportunity to destroy the Hamas leadership).

A cease fire was reported last night, starting at seven o'clock this morning. Will it hold? It's too early to say. For how long will it hold? I don't know.

One thing is certain. While other nations come and go, Israel will still be there. The land of Israel was promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for an everlasting possession, and the promise confirmed to their descendants.

Israel was called to be a nation of priests, and a light to the Gentiles. She has not yet fulfilled her destiny. She has suffered much, but her journey is not yet over.

 The God of Israel is a God of promise. His word will yet be fulfilled.
     

Monday, July 14, 2014

How to get to heaven

The second chapter of Ephesians explains how to get to heaven.

Once, it says, we were all sinners, full of trespasses and sins; children of disobedience, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and the mind; by nature children of wrath. Despite what we think, nothing to commend us at all. But God so loved us that He sent His Son to die to pay the price for our salvation.

There's nothing we can do to earn it, or make ourselves fit to receive it. Because Jesus paid the price in full, there's nothing that we can add. It's a gift. It's the product of grace - God's undeserved favour. It's received simply through faith. We need to believe it and receive it. Until we do, we don't have it.

When we come to Christ, a divine exchange takes place. He takes our sin, and gives us His righteousness. We are His workmanship, Ephesians says, created in Christ Jesus for good works.

But didn't we say there was nothing we could do? Ah, nothing we could do to add to the price He paid for our salvation. After we receive Him we will do good works. Good works are the proof of our faith.

Here's something beautiful. It says we are created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. God doesn't just leave us hanging. He has a place for us in His kingdom. He has a plan and a purpose for our lives. There is something that only you can do, and a gift of grace for you to enable you to do it.

So how shall we know what it is that God has for us to do? William MacDonald says that in order to find out the good works that God has planned for our individual lives, we should

1. Confess and forsake sin as soon as we are conscious of it in our lives;

2. Be continually and unconditionally yielded to Him;

3. Study the word of God to discern His will, and then do whatever He tells us to do;

4. Spend time in prayer each day;

5. Seize opportunities of service as they arise;

6. Cultivate the fellowship and counsel of other Christians.

How are we doing?
   

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Voting on your 'right to die'

The BMJ's coming out in favour of legalising assisted suicide has sparked a storm. (I do not apologise for a second blog post on such a serious matter.)

Wrote Cristina Odone: "The medical profession is supposed to take in the tired, the poor, the huddled masses vulnerable to disease and dying - to care for them, not kill them off. . . Whatever happened to care, compassion and the 'do no harm' principles once embedded in good clinical practice?"

A considerable number of medical practitioners cared sufficiently to voice an opinion. One said legislation would corrupt the profession and hurt public trust. "Instead of killing patients, why not try talking to them?"

Another pointed out the UK had abolished the death penalty. "Make no mistake: the Falconer bill will reinstate the death penalty for those who do not think their lives are worth living."

"Once 'assisted suicide' is legal," wrote a third, "it is in order to persuade people to have themselves killed."

Said yet another: "I do not object to the statement that 'People should be able to exercise choice over their lives,' but I fail to understand why doctors and nurses who are devoted to saving and preserving life should do the work for them. Hospitals are places for saving lives and not for killing oneself."

I will leave the last comment to Cranmer: "Death is not simply a divine distalgesic. It is the passing of the soul to judgment and into eternity. . . This is about 'rights' and 'choice' and 'compassion' and 'dignity in dying,' because leaving it all to God is a manifest denial of rights and choice, totally lacking in compassion and devoid of any dignity whatsoever. Death can be painful and messy, so let's make it quick and clinical. . . 

"The anxieties and traumas of life are not pointless, nor is the morphine in our dying. It adds to our human experience, and witnesses to our divine purpose and profound meaning."

There are a considerable number of new members of the House of Lords, and some of them will be voting on the issue for the first time. Will you write to one or two of them and ask them not to change the law? You can find their names and addresses here.

There are now 10 days to the proposed vote.
      

Monday, July 07, 2014

The BMJ steps out of line

One of the world's most prestigious medical journals, the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) has come out in favour of legalising assisted suicide.

The publication - which claims to advance healthcare worldwide by sharing knowledge and expertise  - says "Lord Falconer's Assisted Dying Bill is expected to receive its second reading in the House of Lords this month. The BMJ hopes that this bill will eventually become law. . . let us hope that our timid lawmakers will rise to the challenge."

But how can something that has been wrong for centuries suddenly become right?

The BMJ's editors claim there are few dangers in legalisation (despite the well-publicised and well-justified fears of organisations supporting the disabled). They base their argument on patient autonomy:

"People should be able to exercise choice over their lives, which should include how and when they die, when death is imminent. In recent decades, respect for autonomy has emerged as the cardinal principle in medical ethics and underpins developments in informed consent, patient confidentiality, and advanced directives. Recognition of an individual's right to determine his or her best interests lies at the heart of efforts to advance patient partnership. It would be perverse to suspend our advocacy at the moment a patient's days are numbered."

So respecting choice is now more important than preserving life?

A strong influence in forming their argument is the experience of Oregon, in the USA, where assisted suicide is legal, and in their view, unproblematical. Based on figures from Oregon, they say legislation would hardly affect the lives of British doctors:

"Each year about one patient per general practice of 9,300 patients would discuss the issue of assisted dying; each general practice would issue one prescription for life-ending medication every five or six years, and every eight to nine years one patient per general practice would take life-ending medication."

Are they sure?

In Oregon in 1998 there were 34 prescriptions written and 16 assisted suicide deaths. By 2012 numbers had risen to 116 prescriptions and 82 deaths. That's a 380 per cent increase in prescriptions and a 430 per cent increase in deaths by assisted suicide.

The BMJ's publishers, the British Medical Association, immediately disassociated itself from the BMJ editorial. Said Dr Mark Porter, chairman of the BMA council: "There are strongly held views within the medical profession on both sides of this complex and emotive issue. The BMA remains firmly opposed to legalising assisted dying.. . Recent calls for a change in the law have persistently been rejected."

Said Dr Peter Saunders, of Care Not Killing: "About two-thirds of doctors in recent surveys are opposed to any change in the law along with all the major medical institutions including the BMA, RCGP, British Geriatrics Society and the Association for Palliative Medicine.

"In a free society choice is important, but it has its limits. The duty to protect life trumps the so-called 'right to die.'"
 
There are 11 days to the proposed vote in the House of Lords.

   

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Time to pray?

Civil war in Syria has decimated the Christian population. In Aleppo, where Christians once numbered around 450,000, only about 180,000 remain. Homs once had a Christian population of 60,000. Now only a few dozen are left.

ISIS, the extremist Muslim group which has taken territory in Syria and Iraq, has declared it a caliphate. It claims its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is caliph and the only legitimate successor to Mohammed. Rape, torture, crucifixions and beheadings are reportedly being carried out against opponents there. Al Qaeda is said to have cut all ties with ISIS because of its "notorious intractability" and wanton brutality.

Large numbers of Christians have been killed in northern Nigeria by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Of girls, mainly Christians, kidnapped from a school, 219 are still missing. Boko Haram have since kidnapped more than 60 more women and girls. Four villagers who tried to escape were shot dead. Gunmen burned churches and attacked villages in north-eastern Nigeria on Sunday, leaving at least 50 dead.

Thousands of Christians have been killed in the Central African Republic by the Seleka, an Islamist militia. Christians are being killed during political unrest in Egypt.

Three more Christians were sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy. No death sentences for blasphemy have been carried out there, but 52 people involved in blasphemy cases have been killed by vigilantes.

Twenty years ago, there were about 1.1 billion Muslims. Today their number is estimated at 2.1 billion. Efforts to reach them have increased tenfold. Needless to say, not all Muslims are extremists.

This week is the first week of Ramadan,  the month-long festival where Muslims fast during daylight hours, seeking forgiveness and cleansing of their souls. The 30-Days Prayer Network organises prayer for the Muslim world each day during the month. It publishes prayer booklets in 39 languages.

You can get involved here.
   

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

'A day of national mourning'

The Israeli cabinet appears to be finding it difficult to decide how to respond to the murder of the three Israeli teens kidnapped as they hitchhiked home.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Hamas is responsible. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said "Netanyahu should know that threats don't scare Hamas, and if he wages a war on Gaza, the gates of hell will open on him." But Israel knows that if Israel does not retaliate, it will be open day for terrorists to kill Israeli civilians.

An emergency meeting of the cabinet on Monday, shortly after the bodies were discovered, ended without a firm decision. A second meeting was convened last night.

Israel named two Palestinians alleged to have been involved. Both have been missing from their homes since the night of the kidnap. Both have previously been imprisoned for terrorist offences. Others are believed to have been involved with them.

Some 16,000 Israeli soldiers were employed to search for the teens, Gilad Shaar (16), Naftali Frenkel (16) and Gaal Yifrach (19). Early on Monday evening, 18 days after they disappeared, soldiers and some civilians were searching on land near Hebron when one of them noticed a bush. half green and half brown, which appeared to have been uprooted. Underneath was a pile of rocks. He moved the rocks and discovered the bodies. They had apparently been shot in the car shortly after being abducted.

More than 50,000 people, including the president of Israel, Shimon Peres, and the Israeli Prime Minister, attended the funeral of the three youths in Modi'in yesterday.

"Today became a day of national mourning," said Mr Netanyahu. Of the kidnappers, he promised: "We won't stop until we reach every last one of them. We will reach everyone, even if it takes time."