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."