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Carry on and Keep quiet when reporting on religion in China: GetReligion, March 9, 2014  April 24, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Press criticism, Terrorism.
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“Why does the press soft pedal links between terrorism and Islam?” was the question under discussion in this week’s edition of Crossroads, a Get Religion podcast produced in conjunction with Lutheran Public Radio’s Issues Etc host Todd Wilken.

“I don’t know why, but it does” — pretty well sums up the show. Last week’s Kunming terror attack, which left 29 dead and almost 150 injured, was our point of entry into the debate. In the media coverage of the Kunming incident I argued it was possible to see two divergent themes. Chinese press outlets were quick to label the incident as a terrorist attack. State officials were quoted describing the attack as terrorism, while eyewitness accounts called the knife-wielding assailants as terrorists. Yet the hand of government censorship could be seen in the Chinese press accounts as no mention was made of religion or politics.

Several Western press outlets were squeamish about using the word terrorism to describe the attack — placing it in quotes or allowing it to appear only in the words of Chinese government officials. However, the Western press did shine a light (though rather dimly) on areas the Chinese government sought to keep dark. They identified the attackers as members of the Uighar minority group from Northwest China and noted the on-going ethnic tension in that part of the country between the Uighars and Han Chinese. The Western press was not as one in reporting on the Muslim faith of the Uighars. Some outlets like the New York Times mentioned Islam at the top of their stories. The Associated Press placed it in the middle of their story. CNN in the last paragraph, while the Telegraph made no mention of it at all.

The Chinese government’s silence about religious strife I observed was predictable as it reflected a long standing policy of state control/accommodation of the major religious faiths in support of the Communist Party’s official goal of promoting a harmonioussociety.

The silence about Islam and terrorism from the Western press I could not readily explain without resorting to facile nostrums of political correctness or ignorance. The specialist literature has noted the links between radical Islam and Uighar separatism, while the first day reports in the Western press described the unusual killing style adopted by the terrorists — using knives and swords they attempted to strike at the necks of their victims to decapitate them (a hallmark of Islamic terrorism).


Western reporting from China is a delicate business. If you look too closely into some corners you will lose your visa and have to leave the country. Though I have never reported from China I know several members of the trade who have. One conversation I had several years ago focused on the relative silence about the role of religion in Chinese life found in Western press reports. Save for the occasional specialist stories about the House Church movement, we did not hear much about religion. Was China like Japan, I asked? A country where religion plays a much smaller role in civic life than in the US?

The answer I received (admittedly given whilst chatting in an airport bar in Africa, an environment not calculated for the deepest ruminations on the craft of reporting and religion I admit) was that it was a mug’s game to try to work in the religion angle in stories from China. You were likely to displease your hosts jeopardizing your access to sources (and even the country itself) while your editors in London were uninterested in the religion angle anyway. Why go to all that bother? Stick to politics, economics — be bold about corruption but don’t pick a fight in a battle you were not likely to win — was the sage advice I received.

Over the past ten years the internet has changed the mechanics of reporting in ways I could not have predicted. Maybe the old ways of the Fleet Street hack have passed into oblivion. Perhaps, but in the Kunming affair my sense of the story is that disinterest from the Western press and hostility from the Chinese government have closed a profitable avenue of investigation. Self-censorship is not always a deliberate act.

Silence about terrorism and Islam in the Kunming attack: GetReligion, March 5, 2014  April 24, 2014

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What was it about the murder of 29 men, women and children on Saturday at the Kunming train station that does not qualify make it an act of terrorism? And why is the press so shy about connecting the dots on this incident to the wider campaign being waged by Islamist terrorists? Can the word terrorism no longer be used in polite company?

The first news story I saw came from the state-run Xinhua News Agency which announced that on the night of March 1, 2014 a gang invaded the central waiting room of the Kunming train station in China’s Yunnan province. Armed with knives the attackers attacked people waiting for their trains and police officers, killing 28 and in jured 113 (the numbers were later revised to 29 dead and 143 wounded.)

Police shot five of the assailants dead. The identity of the attackers was not given, but the incident was described as:

an organized, premeditated violent terrorist attack, according to the authorities.

The report stated the killers were dressed in black and attacked their victims with knives. Xinhua was able to quote eye witness accounts of the attack. saying:

Chen Guizhen, a 50-year-old woman, told Xinhua at the hospital that her husband Xiong Wenguang, 59, was killed in the attack. “Why are the terrorists so cruel? ” moaned Chen, holding her husband’s ID card in blood with her trembling hands.

So we have a group of black clad knife welding assailants rushing into a busy urban train station and randomly maiming and killing 172 people. The government describes it as a terrorist act and a witness calls the attackers terrorists. Let me go out on a limb and say the attackers were likely to have been terrorists.

Xinhua did not identify who the attackers were, but at the close of their story recounted two recent terrorist attacks. While not naming names, Xinhua implied the attack was the work of militants from northwest China’s Xinjiang province — the Muslim Uighar people.

In the first press reports many western news outlets were reticent in describing the attack as terrorism, or they placed the word “terrorist” or “terrorism” in quotes either in the title or in the body of the story.

The New York Times report described the attack in terms usually reserved for a clash between groups. A “group of assailants wielding knives stormed into a railway station” and proceeded to kill and injure scores of travelers. The NY Times identifies the “assailants” as Uighars, citing local government sources, and states:

The attack, in Yunnan Province, was far from Xinjiang, and if carried out by members of the largely Muslim Uighur minority could imply that the volatile tensions between them and the government might be spilling beyond that restive region.

But the language of the story shifts. “The violence erupted …”;  “the attack would be the worst …”; “The latest attack appears …”; “After the slashing attack, President Xi Jinping of China said …” — why the reticence in using the word terror, terrorism, terrorist?

CNN was equally shy,writing:

Members of a separatist group from Xinjiang, in northwest China, are believed to have carried out the assault, authorities said. The report referred to them as “terrorists.”

The mention of Islam is pushed to the last paragraph of the story while CNN plays the trick of having the Chinese government use the word terrorist.

The circumlocutions were such that the People’s Daily — the official Chinese Communist Party newspaper — denounced Western news reports as biased for failing to describe the attack as an act of terrorism.

The international community strongly condemned this cruel attack, but the coverage of the incident by a few Western media organizations, including CNN, Associated Press, The New York Times, and the Washington Post was dishonest and appeared to be directed by ulterior motives. Emanating from such loud advocates of “the fight against terrorism”, the coverage was insulting and has led to widespread resentment in China.

There was extensive evidence at the crime scene to leave no doubt that the Kunming Railway station attack was nothing other than a violent terrorist crime. But regardless of this evidence, some western media organizations were unwilling to use the word “terrorism” in their coverage. CNN’s report on March 3 put the word “terrorists” in quotation marks, and offered the view that “mass knife attacks” are “not unprecedented” in China. The intention here was to associate this terrorist incident with a number of attacks that occurred in 2010 and 2012, all the more disgusting because these attacks happened at schools, they were conducted by individuals who were clearly mentally disturbed, and their victims were children. None of the perpetrators had any political connections, or any political motives. The Associated Press report used the term “described by the authorities as” to qualify their use of the word “terrorists”. The New York Times and the Washington Post called the terrorists “attackers”.

The People’s Daily article is not above reproach, however. It ignores the religious aspect of the attack and argues that the relations between the majority Han Chinese and minority Uighars are good.

In their depictions of the background to the attack, CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post all ignored the significant social progress that has been made in Xinjing, instead focusing on the problem of “relations between China’s ethnic groups”

Making an editorial decision to omit the t-word by Western press agencies has stirred up the Chinese government. But where is the religion ghost? Is the demographic fact that most Uighars are Muslims sufficient to start the Islamist terrorist theme for this story? No, that is not enough.

However there is evidence of an Islamist terror connection based on how the attack unfolded that many religion reporters would have picked up from the eyewitness accounts. The first day report from the Associated Press reported that one witness saw one of the killers slash at the neck of one victim. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported:

A 20-year-old university student, Wu Yuheng, says the attackers tried to target people’s heads. One had swiped his long knife and just nicked him on the scalp.

“I was terrified … they attacked us like crazy swordsmen, and mostly they went for the head and the shoulders, those parts of the body to kill,” he said, lying on a hospital bed.

In the Spring 2005 issue of the Middle East Quarterly Timothy Furnish published an article entitled “Beheading in the name of Islam”.

Decapitation has become the latest fashion. In many ways, it sends terrorism back to the future. Unlike hijackings and car bombs, ritual beheading has a long precedent in Islamic theology and history.

Furnish argues that decapitation is one of the hallmarks of modern Islamist terrorism. In investigating these attacks, should not reporters have pushed this envelope? In all of the press reports I have read I have not seen any questions about what the killers said when they were on the rampage. Where they silent? Where they screaming unintelligible words? Were they shouting “Allahu Akbar”?

Asking whether the past actions of separatist extremist groups with suspected links to militant Islam and the unique way in which this attack was carried out point to a religion motivation in the attacks?

Perhaps that is asking too much. If the Western press is uncomfortable describing such attacks as terrorism, how can they even begin to be even less politically incorrect and look to the links to militant Islam?

Sausage making and news reporting on Zanzibar: GetReligion, February 27, 2014 April 11, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Tanzania, Get Religion, Press criticism, Terrorism.
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Otto von Bismark’s reputed maxim: “Laws are like sausages — it is best not to see them being made …” could be applied to the crafting of a news story.

Most readers do not concern themselves with how a story came to be and accept the finished product of a news story as “the story.” In the age of the internet and declining standards and budgets for the once great news outlets this is not always a wise move.

Now approaching everything one reads with absolute skepticism is a tedious business. There will always be cranks who see the hidden hands of Freemasons, international Jewry or the vast right wing conspiracy lurking behind the text. Readers must balance their skepticism against the trust they have in the publication or author.

If Walter Cronkite said it, it had to be true. If it appears in the National Enquirer it has to be false.

But as history has shown us, the icons of of good and bad journalism, like the sayings everyone knows to be true because we’ve heard them so often, are not always so.Walter Cronkite in his broadcast of Feb 27, 1968 was wrong about the Tet Offensive, the National Enquirer was right about John Edwards in 2007, and Otto von Bismarknever said anything about laws and sausages.

These musings were prompted by a story in the Washington Post from the Religion News Service entitled “Bombs explode Zanzibar calm as religious tensions flare” where RNS bungles the lede.

In the classical Anglo-American style of reporting the lede sentence is where the voice of the author is heard. The lede lays down the tracks that sets the destination for the news train that follows. My instructors in the craft likened the process to organizing a goods train. While the lede gives the destination and names the passengers and freight, the paragraphs that follow are akin to freight cars — each with its own cargo.

Opinions are welcome, but they should be from identifiable third parties, as is analysis, but it should be identified as such. This differs from advocacy reporting where facts are interspersed with opinion throughout a story in order to convince the reader of the merits of the writer’s view.

The RNS story begins:

After months of calm in Zanzibar, two homemade bombs exploded Monday (Feb. 24) near St. Monica Anglican Cathedral and the Mercury restaurant, a popular hangout for tourists visiting the Indian Ocean archipelago.

No one was hurt, but one day earlier, four people were injured in another explosion, targeting an Assemblies of God church.

The article then proceeds to lay out the name of the suspected attackers, offer a comment from the Anglican bishop of the island, and then provide background on past attacks by Islamic militants on Christians and tourists in Zanzibar. These paragraphs are fine, but the lede I find problematic.

A disclaimer — I have visited the cathedral in Zanzibar and know its dean (the priest in charge). This having been said, the name of the cathedral is Christ Church Cathedral. St. Monica’s is the hostel next to the cathedral.

The dean emailed me shortly after the blast with news of the attack stating the bombs exploded at the entrance to the cathedral compound. In 2012 St Monica’s was damaged by a mob of Islamic militants — but this time round it was the cathedral that was attacked.

It might well be the case that the bishop quoted in the article said St Monica’s had been damaged in the blast and this was interpreted by the reporter to mean the cathedral. This is not a fatal error.

What concerns me more, however, is the opening phrase “after months of calm”. The article appears to contradict this assertion by noting an Assemblies of God church was attacked earlier in the week. But if the author means to imply that this attack came out of the blue — and broke a tranquility of the island, then he is seriously misinformed.

There has been an on-going campaign of aggression against native Christians in Zanzibar waged by the Islamic terror group named in the article. Western news sources pick up reports of European tourists, Catholic priests and Anglican cathedrals being attacked, but the harassment of the Christian minority is a daily fact of life.

Setting the direction of the story by implying the bombing of Christ Church Cathedral was an aberration that broke “months of calm” creates a false framework. While this is a wire service story and there is only so much context that can be given — it would have helped explain the story by noting there will be a referendum in April in Zanzibar on Tanzania’s new constitution. The militants want Zanzibar to secede from Tanzania and establish the island as an Islamic republic.

The story would have been improved had RNS tied the political to the religious aspects of this story.

Sausage making photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

First published at GetReligion.

Zanzibar Cathedral attacked by terrorists: The Church of England Newspaper, March 14, 2014 March 20, 2014

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Islamist militants have bombed Christ Church Cathedral in Zanzibar. The attack comes amidst a rise of political and anti-Christian agitation as the East African archipelago prepares to vote in an April referendum calling for independence from Tanzania.

On 24 February 2014 two explosions rocked the main entrance to Christ Church Cathedral and the Old Slave Market – the island’s largest tourist attraction. A tourist bar in Stone Town and a Pentecostal church were also attacked.

The Vicar General of Zanzibar told the Church of England Newspaper there were no fatalities in the blast. “We thank God there were no injuries,” he wrote in an email shortly after the attack.

“Police are investigating and have swept the compound. We are assessing the situation, in contact with multiple agencies and Western government officials. The British Consul was on site almost immediately and a tremendous help to us. The people here are obviously shaken.”
Zanzibar has been the scene of several attacks on native Christians and Western tourists. In October 2012 the cathedral was attacked after militant Islamists rioted in the wake of the disappearance of a leading Muslim cleric.

Anglican leaders were evacuated after Islamist militants issued death threats against Bishop Michael Hafidh and foreign clergy serving on the island. Built on the site of the former slave market of Zanzibar, the Nineteenth century cathedral is one of the island’s leading tourist attractions. It also hosted Dr. Rowan Williams and the primates of the Anglican Communion in 2007.

The Muslim Mobilization and Propagation Group (UAMSHO) has called for the dissolution of the United Republic of Tanzania and the creation of an Islamist state for the island of Zanzibar. UAMSHO cadres have also demanded the expulsion of Zanzibar’s Christians, saying they have no place on the island.
UAMSHO has also been suspected of involvement in a series of shootings and acid attacks on Christians, as well as arson attacks on rural churches on the island.

In August 2013 Islamist terrorists attacked two British teenagers, throwing acid on the girls as they were walking in the Shangani section of Stone Town, the island’s capital.

A Roman Catholic priest was severely injured last September after terrorists threw acid in his face while he was walking along a busy street in the town’s commercial district. A Catholic priest was shot to death while standing at the doorstep of his church in Zanzibar on 17 Feb 2013, while on Christmas Day gunmen shot and seriously wounded a Catholic priest as he was returning home from services.


Pakistan terror trial in danger of collapse: The Church of England Newspaper, February 14, 2014 March 20, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan, Terrorism.
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The trial of two men accused of murdering a Pakistani government minister is in danger of collapsing, after key witnesses fled the country in fear for their lives.

The sole Christian cabinet minister in Prime Minister Yousaf Gillani’s government, Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated outside his home in Islamabad in March 2011. Two gunmen sprayed the minister’s car with bullets and dropped pamphlets next to his body, denouncing him as a Christian infidel.

Islamabad police arrested Hammad Adil and Umer Abdullah, in September 2012 and charged them with the murder. The two men confessed to the police their guilt in the attack and are being tried by an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi

However, the complainant in the case, Shahbaz Bhatti’s brother Paul Bhatti, chairman of the All Pakistan Minority Alliance, has fled to Italy for safety.

“Punjabi Taliban dropped pamphlets at my office in Lahore and warned me of dire consequences for pursuing the murder case of my brother,” he told a Pakistani cable television channel on 8 Feb 2014. But added that: “I will not give up this case despite the threats.”

Mr. Bhatti said he had asked repeatedly for protection from the Interior Ministry and police, but they ignored his requests. His attorney Rana Abdul Hameed told Newsweek International that he too had been threatened for mounting the private prosecution against the killers.

Mr. Hameed also represented Rimsha Masih, the Pakistani Christian girl who had been arrested in 2012 for allegedly desecrating pages of the Koran – but was later found not guilty after police discovered an extremist mullah had fabricated the case — said: “Pamphlets are dropped in my office warning me to disassociate myself from the case.”

“They say you freed Rimsha, now you are trying to convict our comrades, you should be taught a lesson.”

He added: “Paul Bhatti is abroad. He cannot come to Pakistan. Our witness has been threatened. We are receiving constant threats. What can you then expect from the case? It won’t go anywhere.”

Taliban church attack leaves 100 dead: The Church of England Newspaper, September 27, 2013 p 6. October 15, 2013

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The Church of Pakistan has called for three days of mourning and solidarity in the wake of a suicide bombing at All Saints’ Church, Kohati Gate in Peshawar.

As approximately 600 worshippers filed out of the church in Peshawar’s old city following the principle morning service two men wearing explosive vests holding ball bearings and other pieces of shrapnel detonated their charges. The police reported at least 78 people, including 37 children, were killed. Church of Pakistan leaders estimate the death toll to be at least 150 with hundreds more wounded.

The explosion at All Saints Church, built in 1883 by the CMS and unique among Peshawar’s churches as it was designed to resemble a mosque, comes a year and a day after a mob set fire to a church in the nearby town of Mardan in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they will continue to attack non-Sunni Muslims until the coalition forces end their drone attacks against terrorists in Waziristan.

In a letter to students and faculty, the Dean of Edwardes College in Peshawar, the Rev. Dr. Titus Pressler said the “scale of the atrocity is terrible.  News is still coming in, but it is said that about 150 people or more were killed and 200 or more were injured.  The news has gone around the world.”

“Information is emerging,” he wrote, “but a number of our current students were killed as were a number of Edwardes College alumni.  The same is true of Edwardes College School and, of course, other church institutions throughout the city.”

The attack on Peshawar’s Christians follows upon attacks by the Taliban against Shia Muslims in Quetta this past February which killed 200, and on-going attacks against members of the Ahmadiyya community.

Dr. Pressler reported that members of the Muslim community were quick to reach out to Christians with offers of prayer and support. “Such ecumenical spirit is crucial in any place and time, but especially so in Peshawar and in Pakistan today,” he wrote. “So I thank God for such compassion and generosity of spirit between people of different religions.”

In a letter to the Church of Pakistan, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said he was “appalled” by the news.

“My heart goes out to all those bereaved and injured by this terrible attack. I pray for the peace of Pakistan and the protection of Christ’s people. With the people of Peshawar I join in calling for the Pakistan Government and all people of good will to ensure that communities may go about their daily lives in safety, and that the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

In a Twitter message released on 22 September 2013 the archbishop said: “Peshawar bomb reveals depths of human evil, yet those suffering speak of forgiveness as well as justice. That is the love of Jesus shown.”

Church calls for prayer and restraint in wake of Nairobi massacre: The Church of England Newspaper, September 27, 2013 p 7. October 15, 2013

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Kenya’s Christian and Muslim leaders have issued a united statement condemning the terror attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, which has left at least sixty people dead including five Britons and a dozen other ex-pats.

Police report that approximately 15 terrorists of the Somali Islamist group Al-Shabaab attacked the upscale shopping mall in suburban Nairobi on 21 September 2013, spraying shoppers with automatic rifle fire. Some shoppers were taken hostage, eyewitness reported, and were released if they could recite the Shahada, the Islamic basic profession of belief, or if they converted to Islam. Those who could or would not were executed.

The Shabelle Media Network in Mogadishu reports that al-Shabaab has identified the names and nationalities of the killers.  Three are listed as Americans, one Briton and a Finn amongst the Somali and Kenyan terrorists. Those who could or would not were executed.

Kenya’s inter-religious council responded to the attack by saying they would not let the massacre divide the country along sectarian lines, but would stand united against terrorism.

Reading the statement on behalf of the religious leaders, Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims Secretary General Adan Wachu said:m “We, the religious leaders, are engaged in robust dialogue to ensure that these relations are not just maintained but also made stronger. We are convinced beyond doubt that the attempt to sow seeds of discord between Muslims and Christians will fail miserably and that we shall remain united,.”

The Rt. Rev. Joel Waweru, Anglican Bishop of Nairobi urged Christians not to seek revenge. “We are so disheartened with whatever happened, but we would want to call upon our Christian brothers and sisters to keep peace and to maintain peace,” said Waweru.

The religious leaders statement said that one of the motives behind the attack was to destabilize the economy by driving away tourists. On Sunday the general secretary of the Gafcon movement, the Most Rev. Peter Jensen, Archbishop of Sydney released a video saying he was flying to Nairobi this week to review security arrangements for next month’s Gafcon Conference at All Saints Cathedral.

Dr. Jensen said it was his “desire” to “stand with our Kenyan brothers and sisters” in the face of terrorism, but he would nonetheless meet with local organizers to review security details and report back within the week.

Church leaders from around the world have offered their prayers and condolences to the families of the dead and injured and to the people of Kenya. In a note to the Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Rev. Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town wrote “to express not only that the Anglican Church of Southern Africa stands in solidarity with you at this time, but that we too share in the grief that this senseless attack has brought.”

“As you speak and act in response to these terrible events, may you be a channel of God’s grace:  to comfort the bereaved, bind up the broken hearted, and proclaim the triumph of our Lord Jesus Christ over both evil and death,” Dr. Makgoba said.

Return al Qaeda hate with peace, Nairobi bishop asks Kenyans: Anglican Ink, September 23, 2013 September 23, 2013

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Westgate Mall, Nairobi

Religious leaders in Kenya have called upon Christians and Muslims to foreswear revenge in the wake of the attack on the Westgate shopping mall in suburban Nairobi, urging all Kenyans to remain united in the face of terrorism.

On 21 September 2013 upwards of 15 members of the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab attacked shoppers in the upscale mall patronized by the city’s expatriate community and the burgeoning middle classes.  Reports from survivors state the terrorists, including one woman, began to spray shoppers with automatic rifle fire and lobbed grenades into stores and restaurants.

Some patrons of the mall were taken hostage, eyewitnesses reported. Those who were able to recite the Shadada, the Muslim profession of belief, were released. Those who would not convert to Islam were executed.  The Red Cross reports that 69 bodies had been recovered from the Mall, including those of two terrorists. However the interior ministry reports only 59 dead so far, but concedes the death toll will rise.

Read it all at Anglican Ink.

Triumph of the stringer in the Nairobi massacre coverage: Get Religion, September 23, 2013 September 23, 2013

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African reporters are coming into their own with the stories coming out of Kenya this weekend. If you step back from the reports on the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi — now entering its third day as of the writing of this post — and look not at the content of the news, but how it is being presented, you can see examples the changes taking place in journalism. Advances in technology, newspaper and network business models, and the worldviews brought to the reporting by journalists have resulted in different stories today than would have been written 10 years ago.

Religion is part of the story. In the last week Boko Haram has killed over 150 Nigerians, the Taliban has killed 70 plus churchgoers and the Mall death total is expected to rise.  All of the attacks were undertaken by Muslim terrorist groups, and the initial reports suggest they were targeting non-Muslims.

Twitter and the internet have changed the game. The police, the president of Kenya and the terrorists (if the tweets from the Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab which claim responsibility are to be trusted) have taken to Twitter or posted statements on the internet to release information that in the past would have come from press conferences or interviews. This story written by AFP and printed in The Australian as “More hostages freed as explosions rock mall complex” draws on one the scene reporting from local stringers and staff, statements posted on the web, Twitter tweets and press conferences.

The quantity of information has increased, but has the quality? By this I do not mean discrepancies such as the Red Cross reports 69 dead and the police report 59, as noted in this Reuters report. Twitter provides immediacy, but no context. The Shabelle Media Network in Mogadishu reports that al-Shabaab has identified the names and nationalities of the killers.  Three are listed as Americans (two from Minnesota and one from Kansas City), one Briton and one Finn amongst the Somali and Kenyan terrorists.  Major news — “Twin City killers in Nairobi Mall Massacre” — but can we trust it? I have no idea who the Shabelle Media Network is, and their report is drawn from a Twitter post.

There appears to be no way to confirm or verify this information. Are they immigrants, refugees, converts? The appearance of intimacy offered by the immediacy of the internet does not mean what is being said is true. When reporters trekked into the mountains to meet guerrilla groups — think of Mao in Yunnan or Castro in the Sierra Maestra Mountains — the stories they brought home were conditioned by what they were allowed to see and hear. Yet they offered a more complete story — depth, context and analysis. It is too soon in the news cycle from Nairobi to hear these things — but will we ever? Will the next big story (the Pakistani church bombing perhaps) overshadow Nairobi?

In comparing the American to Australian or English press reports, most papers have relied on the wire services, adding local color to the base story. The Australian story adds the name of the Australian national killed in the attack, while the British papers list their countrymen killed. Few newspapers or networks have bureaus in East Africa anymore — and those who do such as the New York Times — do not appear to have an advantage in their reporting over their competitors.

The value added found in these stories comes from local stringers. (I am making an assumption that the on the scene interviews with Kenyans have been conducted by Kenyans.)

This passage from The Australian is compelling.

Mall worker Zipporah Wanjiru, who emerged from the ordeal alive but in a state of shock, said she hid under a table with five other colleagues. “They were shooting indiscriminately, it was like a movie seeing people sprayed with bullets like that,” she said, bursting into tears. “I have never witnessed this in my life.”

Cafe waiter Titus Alede, who risked his life and leapt from the first floor of the mall, said it was a “miracle from God” that he managed to escape the approaching gunmen. “I remember them saying ‘you killed our people in Somalia, it is our time to pay you back’,” he said.

One teenage survivor told how he played dead to avoid being killed. “I heard screams and gunshots all over the place. I got scared… (and) hid behind one of the cars,” 18-year-old Umar Ahmed told AFP.

Two Christians and a Muslim (based upon their names) speak and Africans, based upon my experiences, really do speak this way. But so do Americans. Yet we are not as likely to hear God-talk in reports about natural disasters and traumatic incidents in the American press. Is this a function of the worldview of the African stringers?

The Nairobi story is not done. It will be fascinating to see how the story is told based upon these new variables: Twitter and African reporters telling the story. But I do believe this story signals the end of the good old days of the ex-pat reporter. From what has been published so far, those newspapers that have invested in bureaus in Nairobi have not seen a return on their investment in terms of the quality or quantity of their coverage.

Scores dead in Taliban church attack: Anglican Ink, September 23, 2013 September 23, 2013

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In near simultaneous explosions, two suicide bombers exploded shrapnel laden vests outside All Saints’ Church in the old city of Peshawar on Sunday killing scores of Pakistani Christians in the Taliban’s latest attack on religious minorities in Pakistan.

Police reported at least 78 people, including 37 children killed in the blast. Church of Pakistan leaders tell Anglican Ink they estimate the death toll to be at least 150, with hundreds more wounded.

The attack came following the main service at All Saints Kohati Gate, a colonial church built in 1883 by the CMS along the design of a mosque to offer a familiar atmosphere to converts to Christianity. As the 600 worshippers filed out the front of the church to waiting buffet tables offering coffee and a light lunch, two men walked past a police guard into the compound and detonated their vests, sending ball bearings, nails and other pieces of shrapnel through the crowd.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Reporting on Islam and lone-wolf terror attacks: Get Religion, May 25, 2013 May 25, 2013

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Details are beginning to emerge on Wednesday’s murder of British soldier Lee Rigby near the Woolwich barracks in London – – a crime described by Prime Minister David Cameron as a terrorist attack.

The killing was carried out by two British nationals of Nigerian origin who converted to Islam from Christianity within the past few years. MI5, the British domestic security agency, is reported to have been aware of the radical nature of their religious beliefs, but until Wednesday the two had not done anything to warrant prosecution. No terrorist groups have yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

Like the Fort Hood shooting and last month’s Boston Marathon bombings, the Woolwich killing appears to have been a lone-wolf attack — a terror attack carried out by an individual or small group on the radar of the FBI or MI5 but not under the operational command of the terrorist organization like Al Qaeda or the Taliban. While no evidence has so far been published that connects these local cells with overseas terrorist groups, the radicalization via the internet of the terrorists in Cambridge, London, and Texas draw upon a common religious or ideological indoctrination from the wider jihadist movement.

The British press appears to be following the Greenberg template for reporting on Islamist terror attacks in its coverage of the Woolwich jihad murder. In 2009 GetReligion scribe Brad Greenberg outlined the progression of stories in the American press on Maj. Nidal Hasan and the Fort Hood shootings.

Start with shock and awe. Then, as information starts to get out, report that the suspected shooter has an Arabic name. Confirm that he was, in fact, a Muslim. Once that has settled in, add to the story about motive the possibility of jihad and the references to 9/11. Finally, within short order, fill out the picture with a story about American Muslims condemning the alleged act of their misguided brother.

Some things remain the same. The Muslim Council of Britain has denounced the murder is being unrepresentative of Islam and the Thursday print editions put the killers’ jihadist motivations at the top of their stories.

The Daily Mail led its story with photos of the two knife-wielding killers with this extended caption:  “2.20pm on a suburban high street, Islamic fanatics wielding cleavers butcher a British soldier, taking their war on the West to a new level of horror”.  It opened with:

‘You people will never be safe,’ he declares in a clear south London accent. ‘An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.’ In broad daylight, he and an accomplice had just repeatedly stabbed and tried to behead an off- duty soldier in front of dozens of passers-by. Throughout the frenzied attack they shouted ‘Allah Akbar’ – Arabic for ‘God is great’ – then demanded horrified witnesses film them as they ranted over the crumpled body. The two black men in their 20s, waited calmly for armed police to arrive before charging at officers brandishing a rusty revolver, knives and meat cleavers.

The Daily Telegraph reported:

“A BRITISH soldier was butchered on a busy London street yesterday by two Islamist terrorists, one of whom proclaimed afterwards: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

The Guardian:

A man suspected of staging a terrorist attack that left a British soldier dead near a military barracks in London, was caught on camera clutching a meat cleaver and knife in hands apparently covered in the blood of his victim, as he justified the violence as part of a jihadist-inspired fight against the west.

The Independent:

Terrorism returned to the streets of Britain yesterday when a soldier was murdered by two suspected Islamists who attempted to behead and disembowel him as he left a barracks, in the first deadly attack since the 2005 London bombings. One of the suspected killers, who addressed an onlooker who had a camera, said the pair had carried out the attack “because David Cameron, [the] British government sent troops in Arabic country”.

The Herald (Glasgow) stated: “A MAN believed to be a serving soldier has been killed on a London street in a frenzied machete attack by two suspected terrorists who shouted “Allahu Akbar” and said they were avenging the deaths of Muslims.”

The Scotsman: “A MAN believed to be a British soldier has died after he was hacked to death in the street by two suspected Muslim fanatics armed with knives, machetes, a meat cleaver and a handgun.”

The Daily Express:

TWO suspected terrorists were shot by police yesterday after they kidnapped a soldier in broad daylight and hacked him to death in the street. Police marksmen gunned down the killers who were seen “chopping and cutting” the defenceless man with a long knife and a machete as he lay on the ground. Chanting “Allahu akbar” – meaning “God is great” in Arabic – the men filmed themselves committing the atrocity before dragging the lifeless victim, wearing a Help For Heroes T- shirt, into the middle of the road near Woolwich Barracks, in south- east London.

In terrifying scenes, a horrified onlooker filmed one of the attackers calmly walking away from the soldier’s corpse and launching into a chilling rant.His hands soaked in blood and carrying a blood- covered cleaver and knife he warned: “We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you. Your people will never be safe. “We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

And the Daily Mirror reported:

Horrified witnesses told last night how the off-duty soldier beheaded by two Islamic terrorists yesterday was hacked at “like a piece of meat”. The unnamed serviceman, wearing a Help for Heroes T-shirt, was brutally butchered with knives and meat cleavers after a car mounted the pavement and ploughed into him.

All of the newspapers I’ve read the day after the killing played it straight, reporting the news without resort to politically correct euphemisms or obfuscations.

The follow-up stories have also focused on religion — the circumstances surrounding the killers conversion to Islam, their links to militant groups and membership in radical mosques, and speculation on the religious motives behind the attack.

We may see the British government adopt the craven attitude of the U.S. Army in the Fort Hood shooting, which characterized it as “workplace violence” and avoided mention of Islam — but in these initial stories the British press has been doing a great job in bringing all the facts to the attention of the newspaper reading public.

First printed in Get Religion.

Prayers for Boston bombing victims: The Church of England Newspaper, April 29, 2013 May 1, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Terrorism, The Episcopal Church.
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U.S. President Barack Obama spoke to a congregation of over 2000 last week at Boston’s Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Cross to commemorate those killed and wounded in the Boston Marathon bombing.

Boston “will run again” the president said on 18 April 2013. “If they sought to intimidate us, to terrorize us … It should be pretty clear right now that they picked the wrong city … .”

On 15 April – celebrated as Patriots’ Day in Boston — two explosions ripped through a crowd near the finish line of the Boston Marathon killing three and injuring more than 170. “We may be momentarily knocked off our feet,” the president said. “But we’ll pick ourselves up. We’ll keep going. We will finish the race.”

President Obama called the then as yet unidentified terrorists “small, stunted individuals who would destroy instead of build, and think somehow that makes them important.”

“Yes, we will find you. And, yes, you will face justice. We will find you. We will hold you accountable,” the president said.

That evening one of the suspected bombers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, (26) was killed in a shootout with police in Watertown a western suburb of Boston. Earlier that night Tsarnaev and his brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (19) shot and killed a policeman. During the firefight that later ensued a second policeman was shot and gravely wounded.

Dzhokhar fled the scene of the shootout and Gov. Deval Patrick ordered a curfew for Watertown as police began a house to house search. Dzhokhar was captured the next day after a man found the fugitive hiding in a boat parked on the trailer behind his home.

The two bombers have been identified as Chechen immigrants to the United States and initial reports indicate that they had become radicalized Islamists in the past few years. The Tsarnaev brothers attended prayer services at the Islamic Society of Boston Cambridge Masjid, a small mosque near their apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

“In their visits, they never exhibited any violent sentiments or behavior,” said a statement from the masjid. “Otherwise they would have been immediately reported to the FBI. After we learned of their identities, we encouraged anyone who knew them in our congregation to immediately report to law enforcement, which has taken place.”

Trinity Church Copley Square, an Episcopal Church 300 yards from the Boston Marathon’s finish line, had been closed for the race and remains closed as police investigate the crime scene. The church’s rector, the Rev.  Patrick  Ward, told Episcopal News Service he was “hugely relieved” to learn the church’s team of runners was safe.

The Archdiocese of Boston’s Cardinal Seán O’Malley sent a message from Israel following the attacks saying he would be returning to join the city’s faith community “to witness the greater power of good in our society and to work together for healing.” The Vatican sent a telegram to the archdiocese, saying Pope Francis “prays that all Bostonians will be united in a resolve not to be overcome by evil, but to combat evil with good.”

Following the blast the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church Katharine Jefferts Schori offered a prayer for those killed and injured as did the Anglican Church in North America. “As we pray for those affected by the bombings in Boston, MA, it seems appropriate to pray for the reign of Christ in this situation. May the Lord pour out His Spirit of peace during this time of chaos and violence.”

Terror attack at base chapel in Nigeria: The Church of England Newspaper, November 29, 2012 December 5, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria, Islam, Terrorism.
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Terrorists have attacked the base chapel at the Nigerian Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC) in Jaji in Kaduna State, killing an undisclosed number of people.  While no group so far has claimed responsibility, the twin suicide attacks follows a campaign of bombings and shootings mounted by the Islamist Boko Haram terror group, which has demanded Christians convert to Islam or leave Northern Nigeria.

Government reports state that on 25 Nov 2012 at approximately 1:00 pm a terrorist driving a bus packed with explosives detonated his vehicle outside the Protestant Chapel at the Nigerian Army’s staff college. Services had concluded for the morning and only the parish council remained in the building. Aside from the bomber, no deaths occurred in the attack, though the exterior of the building was damaged.

However, as a crowd gathered to inspect the damage and help the wounded a second bomb exploded.  Reuters reported that at least five people were killed while the Vanguard newspaper reported 11 deaths.  The Kaduna state police command declined to comment on the incident telling This Day newspaper that as the attack took place at an army compound, only the army could discuss the incident.  A military spokesman in Kaduna, told AFP that two bombs have exploded at the AFCSC, but he declined to offer further

Last month, at least 10 people were killed and 145 wounded in the bombing of a Catholic Church in Kaduna, and an estimated 3000 people have died in terror attacks since Boko Haram began its jihad in 2009.

Last week, the Nigerian Armed Forces offered a reward of 50m Naira (£198,000) for information leading to the capture of Abu Bakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Nigerian police out of control charges Amnesty International: The Church of England Newspaper, November 11, 2012 p 6. November 15, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria, Terrorism.
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The Nigerian government’s heavy handed response to Boko Haram’s terror campaign was violating the civil liberties of Muslims claims the international human rights group Amnesty International.

The 1 November 2012 report, Nigeria: Trapped in the cycle of violence, documented the crimes of the Islamist terror group, which is seeking to impose Sharia law on the West African nation and drive out Christians from the country’s North. It also lambasted the government for what it called serious human rights violations carried out by the security forces including enforced disappearance, torture, extrajudicial executions, the torching of homes and detention without trial.

The report follows the news of the latest terror attack which left eight people dead and over one hundred injured in a suicide bombing of St Rita’s Catholic Church in Kaduna.

According to a report printed in the Daily Trust, Fr. Michael Boni, the rector of St Rita’s, said the church was unexpectedly left unguarded on 28 Oct. “We only had the catholic cadets who secure the area on Sundays during service,” he said from his hospital bed, noting that unlike previous four Sundays, the police were not at their posts during the worship service.

Fr. Boni said that the attack came as the sign of the peace was being exchanged when a lone bomber rammed an explosive-packed car into the outside wall of the church.  “I moved to bring out the Holy Communion and at that point I can’t say what happened because there was pandemonium everywhere, people stamping on one another to gain access to outside.

“So all I noticed was that I was drenched in blood completely, I thought at first that my left eye is blown off, because the eye was covered in blood and I could not see, but I quickly recovered as people came to my aide, they even asked me where my car key was so that they could take me to the hospital and remarkably, I remembered where the keys were and they brought me to the hospital,” he said.

In its report, Amnesty International said the situation had become intolerable.  “The cycle of attack and counter-attack has been marked by unlawful violence on both sides, with devastating consequences for the human rights of those trapped in the middle,” said its Secretary General, Salil Shetty.

“People are living in a climate of fear and insecurity, vulnerable to attack from Boko Haram and facing human rights violations at the hands of the very state security forces which should be protecting them,” he said.

The government of Nigeria must take effective action to protect the population against Boko Harem’s campaign of terror in northern and central Nigeria, but they must do so within the boundaries of the rule of law. Every injustice carried out in the name of security only fuels more terrorism, creating a vicious circle of murder and destruction,” said Mr. Shetty.

“Only by clarifying the truth about events, establishing accountability for abuses, and bringing to justice those responsible can confidence in the justice system be restored and human rights be guaranteed.”

New suspects in Kenya church bombing: The Church of England Newspaper, November 4, 2012 p 6. November 6, 2012

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Bishop Joel Waweru and Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya visiting one of the victims of the 30 Sept attack on St Cyprian’s Church

Greed, not terrorism, may have been the motive for last month’s Nairobi church bombing, the Bishop of Nairobi reports.

Speaking at the 10 Oct 2012 funeral of one of the victims in the attack, Bishop Joel Waweru said a dispute over the ownership of the church’s land may have been the cause of the crime.

“The case on the ownership of the plot is dragging in court and we think the dispute could be connected to the attack,” Bishop Waweru said.

While the 30 September 2012 attack on St Cyprian’s has all the hallmarks of an operation by the Somali-based Islamist group al-Shabaab, police are investigating an alternative theory of the crime and are considering the lawsuit between the church and the Juja Development Company headed by Kenya’s former Defence minister Njenga Karume.

Initial witness statements said two men of Somali appearance were seen fleeing the scene after the explosion and were said to have thrown grenades.  However other witness reports said no one was in the alley when the explosion took place.

Nairobi’s police commissioner Njoroge Ndirangu reported that an examination of the crime scene indicated a limpet mine or an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was electronically detonated alongside the wall of the Christian education building of St Cyprian’s Anglican Church at approximately 10:30 local time.  Shrapnel from the blast killed an eight year old boy and wounded several children attending a Bible study.  Six children were taken in serious condition to the capital’s Kenyatta National Hospital for treatment.

Popular sentiment in Nairobi blamed the blast on al Shabaab.  The Somali terror group had been responsible for a series of low level bombings of churches and public buildings in Nairobi and in towns along the border with Kenya.  Last year it claimed responsibility for a series of blasts in Kampala that killed 74.

Bishop Waweru said the use of an IED might have been a copycat attack designed to drive the church off its land.  The land on which the Sunday school building sits is the focus of a protracted legal battle between the church and a property developer – a former parishioner.

Asked at a press conference whether he believed the bombing was political, or a dispute over land, Kenya’s Archbishop Eliud Wabukala said he did not know, nor was it fruitful for him to speculate.  This was a “crime” he said, that called for prompt police action.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Muslim extremists attack Zanzibar’s Anglican Cathedral: The Church of England Newspaper, October 28, 2012 p 6. October 30, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Tanzania, Church of England Newspaper, Islam, Persecution, Terrorism.
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Ponda Issa Ponda

Christ Church Cathedral in Stone Town on the island of Zanzibar came under assault last week after militant Islamists rioted in the wake of the disappearance of a leading Muslim cleric, Sheikh Farid Hadi Ahmed.

The Muslim Mobilization and Propagation Group (UAMSHO) has been calling for the dissolution of the United Republic of Tanzania and the creation of an Islamist state for the island of Zanzibar.  UAMSHO cadres have also demanded the expulsion of Zanzibar’s Christians, saying they have no place on the island.  In July two rural Pentecostal churches were attacked by Islamist extremists and attacks on Christians have been reported across the island.

On the morning of 16 October 2012 Sheikh Ahmed was seen getting into a car driven by an unidentified man.  UAMSHO reported his disappearance to the police soon after.

Police Commander Said Juma told the Dar es Salaam Daily News the police had not arrested Sheikh Ahmed and “immediately we started to investigate.”

“Unfortunately as the investigation continues, youths started demonstrating by blocking streets with stones, garbage and burning tyres.” He reported a leisure centre was destroyed by fire and riot police deployed to the old city area of Stone Town.

Anglican leaders were warned to evacuate as Islamist militants had issued death threats against Bishop Michael Hafidh and foreign clergy serving on the island.  Unconfirmed reports from Stone Town sent to Dar es Salaam report militants had attacked the cathedral after the bishop was evacuated and attempted to burn the coral stone building.  Built on the sight of the former slave market of Zanzibar, the Nineteenth century cathedral is one of the island’s leading tourist attractions.  It also hosted Dr. Rowan Williams and the primates of the Anglican Communion in 2007.

Four days after leaving the island, the bishop and the evacuated clergy were able to return to their homes.  One priest told the Church of England Newspaper that although his car had been vandalized his home appeared untouched, as the army was patrolling the streets and had restored order.  As of our going to press, no reports have been released on the condition of the cathedral.

Riot police were also deployed in the Central Business District of the capital Dar es Salaam last week after militants marched on the Central Police Station demanding the release of Mr. Ponda Issa Ponda, the Secretary of the Council of Muslims’ Organizations.

Mr. Ponda had been arrested on 16 Oct after threatening President Jakaya Kikwete.  The Muslim leader had issued an ultimatum to the government calling upon it to release members of his organization arrested last week for their involvement in a sectarian riot sparked by claims a 14-year old Christian boy had urinated on a Koran.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Terror attack on Sunday School: The Church of England Newspaper, October 7, 2012 p 7. October 8, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Kenya, Church of England Newspaper, Terrorism.
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One child has died and nine have been injured in an attack on a Sunday school class at St Cyprian’s Anglican Church in Nairobi.

On 30 Sept 2012 at approximately 10:30 local time, an explosion rocked the Christian education building of the congregation in the city’s Eastleigh District.  Ian Morio (9) was killed in the blast and nine other children were wounded.  Six of the injured are reported to be in critical condition and have been taken to Kenyatta National Hospital.

“Some witnesses are telling us they saw two men of Somali origin running towards the back of the church where explosion occurred,” Nairobi district police commissioner Wilfred Mbithi told reporters. A second report suggests the explosion was caused by a bomb planted in the building before the start of the class.

The bombing of St Cyprian’s is the latest in a series of grenade attacks and drive by shootings blamed on al-Shabaab since Kenya sent troops over the border into neighboring Somalia last year to restore order. Churches, bus stations and other public settings have been targeted in a low level terror campaign conducted by the Muslim terror group – an affiliate of al-Qaeda.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.


Land dispute may be behind Kenyan church bombing: Anglican Ink, October 2, 2012 October 3, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Kenya, Anglican Ink, Terrorism.
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Bishop Joel Waweru of Nairobi and Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya visiting one of the victims of the 30 Sept 2012 bombing at St Cyprian’s Church

A property dispute is being investigated as an alternate theory of the crime in last Sunday bombing of St Cyprian’s Anglican Church in Nairobi which left one child dead and six seriously wounded.

While the 30 September 2012 attack on St Cyprian’s has all the hallmarks of an operation by the Somali-based Islamist group al-Shabaab, the question whether the bombing was related to a lawsuit between the church and a property developer pending in the Nairobi courts is also being considered.

Initial witness statements said two men of Somali appearance and dress were seen fleeing the scene after the explosion and were said to have thrown grenades.  However other witness reports said no one was in the alley when the explosion took place.

Nairobi’s police commissioner Njoroge Ndirangu reported that an examination of the crime scene indicated a limpet mine or an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) containing nails, ball-bearings and other pieces of shrapnel was electronically detonated alongside the wall of the Christian education building of St Cyprian’s Anglican Church at approximately 10:30 local time.  Shrapnel from the blast killed an eight year old boy and wounded several children attending a Bible study.  Six children were taken in serious condition to the capital’s Kenyatta National Hospital for treatment.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Terror attack on Sunday School leaves 1 dead, 9 injured: Anglican Ink, September 30, 2012 October 2, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Kenya, Anglican Ink, Terrorism.
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Gunmen belonging to the Somali terrorist group, al-Shabaab, have been blamed for an attack upon a Sunday School at St. Cyprian’s Anglican Church in the Eastleigh District of Nairobi that has left one child dead and nine injured.

“Some witnesses are telling us they saw two men of Somali origin running towards the back of the church where explosion occurred,” Nairobi district police commissioner Wilfred Mbithi told reporters.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Death Penalty upheld for Bombay terrorist: The Church of England Newspaper, September 9, 2012 p 6. September 13, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of North India, Terrorism.
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Mohammed Ajmal Kasab entering the Bombay CST station on 26 Nov 2008

A two-judge panel of India’s Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of Mohammed  Ajmal Kasab, dismissing the 25-year old Pakistani’s appeal of his conviction on 80 counts of murder and terrorism charges arising from the 2008 terror attack on Bombay.

In the opinion handed down last week, Justices Aftab Alam and C.K. Prasad held that in “view of the nature of the gravity of his crime and the fact that he participated in waging war against the country, we have no option but to uphold his death penalty.”

Church leaders in India had been divided over the propriety of imposing the death penalty following Kasab’s 10 May 2010 conviction. Catholic leaders had urged clemency citing their church’s social teachings on capital punishment. However, the Church of North India’s general secretary told reporters the sentence was just and that Anglicans did not oppose in principle capital punishment.

Kasab was one of ten heavily armed terrorists who attacked a rail station, hotels, a Jewish center and other Bombay landmarks on 26-29 November 2008 in a rampage that that left 173 dead and 300 injured. A closed circuit television camera captured Kasab carrying a sub-machine gun in the Chatrapathi Sivaji Terminal where 52 people died.  Kasab was captured by police on the first day of the assault while the other nine were killed in gun battles with police.

Following the 2010 conviction, the Rev. Enos Das Pradhan, General Secretary of the Church of North India said: “We welcome the judgment. It is a message to everybody that the rule of law prevails.”

While Christians differed on the morality of capital punishment, he believed it was ethically just.  It also served as a deterrent to crime, he argued.

However, the head of the Roman Catholic bishops’ Commission for Justice, Peace and Development, Fr. Nithiya Sagayam, said the Catholic Church was opposed to capital punishment.

“Capital punishment does not solve any problem. It will only make things worse,” he argued.

Kasab may ask for reconsideration of the court’s ruling or petition President Pranab Kumar Mukherjee for clemency.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Gay marriage a greater moral threat than terrorism, bishop warns: The Church of England Newspaper, August 5, 2012 p 6. August 13, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Kenya, Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Terrorism.
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The Anglican Bishop of Mombasa has come under sharp criticism for saying the moral threat to society posed by gay marriage was of greater long term consequence to Kenyans than the threat from terrorism.

On 22 July 2012 Bishop Julius Kalu told worshipers at Mombasa’s Anglican cathedral “our greatest fear as Church should not be the grenade attacks, but the new teachings like same sex marriages.”

Kenya has witnessed an upsurge of sectarian violence in recent months.  In April a grenade attack on a church killed one worshiper and on 1 July gunmen raided two churches killing at least 17 and wounding more than 60 people in Garissa, the capital of Kenya’s Northeast Province along the border with Somalia.  Garissa serves as the Kenyan Army’s base of operations in its campaign against the al Qaeda linked Somali Muslim terrorist group al Shabaab.

Bishop Kalu told the cathedral congregation that churches had seen a fall in attendance since the start of the al Shabaab bombing campaign as people have stayed at home, afraid of the violence.  While not deprecating the threat of terrorist violence, the bishop stated the greater evil was the lies of Satan that would pull people away from the faith – not the attacks of men.

“Christians must be fully armed spiritually as it is only divine intervention that will enable the country overcome these challenges,” the bishop said according to the East African Standard.

“The Church is at war with enemies of the faith,” Bishop Kalu said, citing those who sought to change the doctrine of marriage.

An editorial in the Nairobi Star took the bishop to task for his comments arguing that “these gays are not hurting anyone. They are minding their own business. And what they do behind closed doors with a consenting partner should remain private, just as it should for husband and wife.”

“Terrorism on the other hand is a deadly threat to Kenya,” the Star said as “many Kenyans die each year at the hands of al Shabaab. Tourism at the Coast is depressed because of terrorism. Gays do not hurt Kenya. Terrorists do hurt Kenya. It is extraordinary that Bishop Kalu cannot see this,” it said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Jihad fears for Zanzibar: The Church of England Newspaper, June 17, 2012 p 5. June 18, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Tanzania, Church of England Newspaper, Islam, Persecution, Terrorism.
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Church leaders in Tanzania report the government has cracked down on Islamist extremists following two days of rioting in Zanzibar.

Members of the Islamist militant group Uamsho — the Association for Islamic Mobilization and Propagation – took to the streets on 28-29 May 2012 in protest to the arrest their leaders by police.  Emails received from clergy in Zanzibar report that militants clashed with police and burned two Christian churches, shutting down Stone Town — the central business and tourist district of Zanzibar.

In a letter printed on 2 June 2012 in the Guardian of Dar es Salaam, three Zanzibari Christian leaders, Bishop Augustino Shayo of the Catholic Church, Bishop Michael Hafidh of the Anglican Church and Pentecostal Pastor Timothy Philemon of the Pentecostal Church, warned that Muslim fanatics were plotting to destroy all churches and church related buildings – schools, convents, cemeteries and heath centers on the island.  Members of their churches were receiving mobile text messages warning them to leave the island or face death.

The Indian Ocean archipelago of about 1 million people merged with mainland Tanganyika in 1964 to form the modern Tanzania, but Zanzibar retains its own president and parliament. Tanzania is set to introduce a new constitution in 2014, and Uamsho has urged voters to push for dissolution of the union with Tanganyika.

After meeting with government ministers on 31 May 2012, Archbishop Valentino Mokiwa read a statement to the press on behalf of the country’s Christian leaders.  “Our followers are living in fear, because of what happened to our churches some few days,” the Anglican archbishop said, adding “there is also displeasure, on the part [of Christians] over government inaction and failure to take those responsible to court,” he said.

“This is not the first time” he noted, stating that “25 churches have been burned so far in different parts of Zanzibar, and the government is quiet, despite the initiatives taken to report the incidents to the police. We don’t know who should bear the blame.”

The archbishop, who is also chairman of the Tanzanian council of churches, added that government inaction had created the “impression that these acts have government blessing.”

“The government is duty-bound to extensively trace them and bring them to book – in order to restore public trust and confidence in the government,” he said.

Zanzibar President Dr Ali Mohamed Shein responded on 1 June saying his government was “conducting a thorough assessment before taking necessary measures, including the possibility of compensation.”

Speaking to the press, Dr. Shein said the government had banned unauthorized religious meetings, assemblies and demonstrations as a threat to public order.  “We will not allow the peace and harmony created by the National Unity Government to be threatened by a few individuals who are using a religious umbrella” to shelter their political ambitions.

An Anglican clergyman who asked not to be named for fear of retribution from extremists told CEN the dispute appears to have died down. Zanzibar “is always fragile and relations between the ruling Muslims and religious minorities touchy,” he said.

“It doesn’t help for the media in general to exaggerate and sensationalize” as it “puts more pressure on the Christians” which “can really cause problems.”

The roots of the current dispute, he said were political.  Opposition leaders want an independent Zanzibar.   “They’re being particularly problematic during this time of constitutional review,” he clergyman said, adding that at present “Christian leaders are asking for the protections promised by the president” of Zanzibar.

Dr. Shein “has always been a public advocate for religious freedom and was very gracious in his speech last month at the consecration of the new Anglican bishop.”

However, the “situation generally is stable now everything is calm [with] things moving as usual” sources in Zanzibar report.  The government has intervened “and they are dealing accordingly with the Muslim group which caused the riot.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Akinola warns of a Nigerian jihad from Boko Haram: The Church of England Newspaper, June 10, 2012 p 7. June 8, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Islam, Persecution, Terrorism.
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The former Primate of Nigeria has rejected claims that the Boko Haram insurgency in Northern Nigeria is driven by economic deprivation or tribal jealousies.

Speaking to a congregation that included the country’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, and its political elites, Archbishop Peter Akinola lambasted the country’s parlous political state. Human sin, tribal passions and Britain’s determination to get out of Africa before it had prepared the new nation for independence had led to the present state of affairs.

“Shun all political claims that Boko Haram is not against Christianity. It is,” Archbishop Akinola said on 27 May 2012 in a sermon at the National Christian Centre in Abuja in celebration of Democracy Day.

The war has been “going on since 1966. They are committed to Jihad. You can’t stop them it is their religious obligations. They have been doing it for 36 years; they have not stopped and they won’t stop,” Archbishop Akinola said.

Recent press reports in the West have argued that the Boko Haram insurgency is not, at heart, a religious war.  On 24 May 2012 the Voice of America reported that a report by the NGO Human Rights Watch claimed that while the conflict may be along ethnic and religious lines, but the “root of the fighting is often political and economic.”

“We have ignored the truth. Boko Haram must be seen in the right context. It is a continuation of the past,” the archbishop said.

“Boko Haram means Jews and Christians are abomination. They have been unleashing terror since 1966 and they have a mandate. This problem is not peculiar to Nigeria, many other stakeholders are disenchanted but waiting for their time. They want to eliminate infidels which includes you Mr. President,” the archbishop said to the congregation, which included Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan.

Archbishop Akinola warned the country’s leaders gathered for the Democracy Day service that Nigeria had lost its way.  “We are still disunited.  Leaders are interested in their own, no national identity. We are blood thirty and bloodletting society with no regards for sanctity of life. Nigeria is at war against itself. Selfish politicians are doing all things on basis of political exigency.”

Nigeria’s former colonial master had done the country no favours by its hasty grant of independence, the archbishop said.  “A word of truth about our past amalgamation, there was no consent from the South and North. It was done for political and economic gains of the colonials. Our leaders failed to gather the authentic representatives of Nigerians to seek the kind of independent Nigeria they want.”

“This would have led to a new Nigeria,” the archbishop said according to accounts of his speech published in the Nigeria press.

“The euphoria of independence was consequently short-lived,” he said and the “political atmospheres” were now “full of acrimony. There is tribal war. The country has been fragmented with inhibitions to progress.”

The general election of first republic was based on a “faulty census leading to blood-letting that led to the [Biafran Civil War],” he said, as national unity cannot be maintained by “military fiat.”

The 1970s and 1980s in Nigeria were “characterised by unrest, military rule, coup, and armed robbery.” The year 1999 saw the “return of democracy,” but since that time “rather than dealing with the causes, successive governments have been hiding from the truth putting new wine in old bottle.”

“Insecurity has been with us. About 30 crises so far has occurred in the country leading to religious and ethnic cleansing. In 1980 another religious riot with Christians killing took place. In all cases, we have failed to address the causes,” the archbishop warned.

Nigeria’s structural problems were also coupled with the moral failings of its people. “Corruption, the hydra-headed monster, has taken over the soul of Nigeria,” Archbishop Akinola said.

“Officials are stealing us blind,” he said, and they scavenge the country’s “carcass” for their own ends.  Government anti-corruption campaigns were “selective” and short lived. The police and judiciary did not have “clean hands” while the country’s universities had become diploma mills giving honours and “questionable titles” to the powerful.  All of this “will continue because government pays lip service to the fight against corruption,” the archbishop said.

In his address to the gathering, President Jonathan disputed the predictions of further chaos made by Archbishop Akinola. “Even though people are predicting the disintegration of Nigeria, let me assure you that Nigeria will not disintegrate. Though we have these challenges, but we will succeed,” he said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Jihad warnings for Zanzibar: Anglican Ink, June 6, 2012 June 6, 2012

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Bishop Michael Hafidh of Zanzibar (left) and Archbishop Valentino Mokiwa of Tanzania (right)

Church leaders in Tanzania have called for prompt government action following two days of rioting by Muslim extremists in Zanzibar.

The Tanzanian press reports that over one hundred members of the Islamist militant group Uamsho — the Association for Islamic Mobilization and Propagation – took to the streets on 28-29 May 2012 in protest to the arrest their leaders. Militants have clashed with police and burned two Christian churches, shutting down Stone Town — the central business and tourist district of Zanzibar.

Police said they had arrested 30 members of Uamsho, but the organization disclaimed responsibility. “The Uamsho association … is not involved in any acts of breach of peace. We would like to urge all Muslims and Zanzibaris to continue to maintain peace and tranquility in the country,” it said in a statement published in the media.

However in a letter printed on 2 June 2012 in the Guardian of Dar es Salaam, three Zanzibari Christian leaders, Bishop Augustino Shayo of the Catholic Church, Bishop Michael Hafidh of the Anglican Church and Pentecostal Pastor Timothy Philemon of the Pentecostal Church, said Muslim fanatics were plotting to destroy all churches and church related buildings – schools, convents, cemeteries and heath centers on the island. Members of their churches were receiving mobile text messages warning them to leave the island or face death.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Archbishop Okoh urges Nigerians to keep the faith in the face of terror: Anglican Ink, June 4, 2012 June 4, 2012

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Archbishop Nicholas Okoh

A lone suicide bomber killed at least 15 people last Sunday in a terrorist attack on a church in Nigeria’s Bauchi state. On 3 June 2012 a terrorist drove into the compound of the Harvest Field of Christ Church, Yelwa, Bauchi State, detonating a car bomb as worshipers began leaving the morning service.

While no group has so far taken responsibility for the attack, police believe the attack was the work of Boko Haram, the radical Islamist sect whose name in Hausa means “Western education is sacrilege.” At least 500 people have been killed in mass terror attacks in Northern Nigeria so far this year – church leaders in Nigeria report the death toll is much higher as sectarian murders in the countryside are seldom reported in the media.


“This synod called the whole of the country not to lose faith.  Because of the bombing and insecurity people were beginning to lose faith in God as if God is not able to protect them,” the archbishop said to the 2nd Session of the 8th Synod of the Diocese of Abuja meeting at St. James’ Church Asokoro, Abuja.

People were also “beginning to lose faith in the entity called Nigeria,” he said. “Individuals also are beginning to lose faith — losing courage in themselves, they feel that everything is collapsing.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Koran-Offensive in Die Welt: Get Religion, April 18, 2012 April 18, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Free Speech, Get Religion, Islam, Press criticism, Terrorism.
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Who says the Germans don’t do comedy well? An article in a recent issue of Die Welt — “Koran-Offensive alarmiert Deutschlands Parteien” shows this not to be so. As I read the article, which tip-toes round the issue of radical Islam in Germany, my mind harkened back to an episode of the television series Seinfeld.

In the “Koran-Offensive” we know what Die Welt is talking about when it mentions Salafists or radical Muslims, but the paper will not say what it means. It sidles around the issue, performing a verbal silly walk that implies radical Islam is un-German, small minded, uncultured and a generally bad thing.  Die Welt knows that we know, but is reluctant to say this aloud.

What we do have is a story about the distribution of Korans that is slightly strange. The story arc tells us that freedom of religion and expression is a good thing, freedom to distribute Korans during Holy Week is a bad thing. Or, is it that those doing the distribution are the bad thing? The article is not quite sure.

It is like “The Outing” episode of Seinfeld. Whilst seated at a cafe, Jerry, George and Elaine notice that a young woman in a nearby booth eavesdropping. In a spirit of fun, Elaine speaks to Jerry and George intimating that they are a secret gay couple. The woman reappears shortly thereafter when she arrives at Jerry’s apartment on assignment from her student newspaper. During the interview, the interplay between Jerry and George strengthens her belief the two are a gay couple. They then recognize her from the coffee shop and deny they are gay, closing each of their denials with the catch phrase “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

The humor in this episode came from the interplay between George’s and Jerry’s fear of being taken for homosexuals against their fear of being homophobic. The audience knows the truth about Jerry and George, but takes pleasure in their panic.

The Die Welt article follows the same line in its Good Muslim/Bad Muslim story.

Here is the lede, taken from the English translation provided from Worldcrunch.

After more than 300,000 copies of the Muslim holy book were reportedly distributed in German cities during Christian holy week, major political parties have announced that they will push for closer monitoring of Salafist groups advocating fundamentalist Islam.

The Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union, known as the Union parties, and Alliance ‘90/The Greens, have all declared their concern about the massive free distribution of the Koran launched by Ibrahim Abou Nagie, a Cologne-based businessman and preacher with Palestinian roots. According to Abou Nagie, the 300,000 copies were distributed at information booths and over the Internet, with the purchase of one copy entitling the buyer to another Koran free.

The timing of the action is thought to be a particular provocation for Christians, as thousands of the copies of the Koran were distributed around Good Friday and Easter.

Abou Nagie — one of Germany’s most influential Salafist leaders — has been charged in Cologne with inciting the public to commit illegal acts and disturbing the “religious peace.” The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution has been monitoring Salafist groups, which is why this distribution of religious literature – normally not a cause for concern – is being seen in another light.

The article then shifts to comments from spokesmen from the major political parties, each of whom offered a version of “Not that there’s anything wrong with that (Islam).”

“I view the distribution campaign of free copies of the Koran by Salafists with great concern,” said an SDP spokesman, but added she had “fundamentally nothing against the distribution of religious literature as long as this is not associated with encouraging criminal acts or defamation.” The Green party spokesman told Die Welt. “Distributing the Koran is certainly not forbidden by the law, but this should be monitored very carefully by the police.” And a spokesman for the governing CDU/CSU parties called for “an urgent stop” to be placed on the “machinations of the growing radical Salafist movement in Germany.”

Germany’s churches were described as “maintaining a low profile”. An EKD spokesman stated that “Fortunately, in Germany it is not forbidden to distribute religious literature,”but “Of course I hope that in countries where Islam is the religion of the majority that the distribution of Bibles were allowed.” While a Catholic spokesman said the Salafists were not interested in dialogue, and view tolerance and any form of integration for Muslims as toxic.

Only the Greens seemed prepared to speak up. Its spokesman answered the question I had — why was this a problem — by saying:

the Koran campaign was “very worrisome, because calls to violence and terror have repeatedly risen from these radical Muslim splinter groups, which is why it is entirely justified for them to be watched by security authorities.”

A Green politician of Turkish descent, Cem Özdemir, added that he had a:

“problem with any religious group that puts their vision of the world above basic law, the Constitution and human rights. So that also goes for the Salafists, who do encourage violence, and whose ideology is a front for Islamic terrorism.” It was apparent, he said, “that the strategy underlying this campaign is to represent themselves as the mouthpiece of Muslims and to propagate what they would claim is the true Islam. The Salafists can’t be allowed to get away with this.”

Moderate Muslim groups said the right things in Die Welt’s narrative.

“The Koran is not some PR flyer to be handed out like mass merchandise,” Ayman Mazyek, the chair of the Central Council of Muslims, told the Catholic News Agency. Kenan Kolat, the chair of Germany’s Turkish community, said the action reminded him of Jehovah’s Witnesses. While it was not forbidden to distribute the Koran, Kolat told Die Welt that “the question to be asked are: Are the Salafists acting aggressively? Are they disturbing people?”

And a spokesman for the group giving out 300,000 Korans said?

We don’t know as their voice does not appear.

On its face the idea that distributing 300,000 Korans is a threat to public order in an open democracy seems ludicrous. The article asserts those handing out the books are not good, or acculturated westernized Muslims, but does not say what it is about the Koran getting into the hands of Germans that makes it a danger to public order.

This question is made even more curious by the Seinfeld answer given by those opposed to its distribution. “We’re against giving out the Koran, not that there is anything wrong with that.”

The answer is not the Koran, of course, but the people handing it out. But there is a reticence to make this clear save for the Greens. The BBC’s coverage of this story managed to include the objections voiced by political leaders but offered a few words of context that cleared away the absurdist Die Welt story structure.

Last summer, the president of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Heinz Fromm, said: “Not all Salafists are terrorists.  “But almost all the terrorists we know about had contacts with Salafists or are Salafists themselves.”

Is this part of the cultural cringe we see in some quarters — an ease at criticizing Western norms and culture, but a reticence to speak out about the “other”? Should Die Welt have made it clear at the top of its story the suspected link between Koran distribution and terrorism? Or would that have vilified Muslims as a whole, for the actions of a radicalized minority?

How should the press handle this? Who speaks for Islam?

What say you GetReligion readers?

First printed in GetReligion.

Resist Muslim aggression, Archbishop tells Nigeria: The Church of England Newspaper, February 24, 2012, p 6. March 1, 2012

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh has urged Christians in Northern Nigeria to hold fast and not abandon their homes in response to attacks by the Muslim terrorist group Boko Haram.

The archbishop’s plea for peaceful resistance comes amidst heightened anti-Christian persecution in Northern Nigeria.  The Barnabas Fund reports that 95 per cent of the Christian residents of one northern state have fled in fear. However, the Bishop of Dutse, the Rt. Rev. Yusuf Lumu, told reporters the insurgency had evolved from an anti-Christian to an anti-government campaign in recent weeks.

Nevertheless the Rev. Garba Idi, chairman of the Yobe State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) told the UK-based Christian aid organization the situation in Yobe state was “terrible.”

“Churches were burnt and attacked while many Christians lost their lives in the course of this mayhem,” Mr. Idi said.  “We have to leave because the sect is hunting us; that is why we had to flee… Many Christians have left Yobe to save their lives from these attacks.”

In Yobe approximately 20 churches have been set alight since November and 15 Christians have been murdered over the past six weeks by Muslim militants, Mr. Idi reported.

Speaking to members of the Church of Nigeria’s Standing Committee meeting at St Faith Cathedral Church, Awka on 17 Feb 2012 Archbishop Okoh warned that unless the government acted quickly, a civil war leading to the unraveling of Nigeria was in the cards.

“We call on Boko Haram, their sponsors and admirers to have a rethink; in fact, all of us have a lot to lose in the event of a breakup of the country, if pushed too hard,” the Primate told the meeting, according to the Information Nigeria website.

The unity of Nigeria was “non-negotiable”, the primate said, as were its people. “We are all one,” Archbishop Okoh told the 170 members of the provincial standing committee.

But the government must ensure that the life and liberties of its citizens were safeguarded.  Northern Christians must be protected by the government, he said, but Northern Christians must also stay and resist the attacks of Boko Haram.  He also charged the church’s clergy and parish leaders to ensure that security arrangements were in place so as to prevent attacks on worshipers.

Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the attacks upon Nigeria’s Christians and has mounted a campaign of violence with the aim of imposing Sharia law on the country.  On Christmas Day 35 people were killed in one attack upon a Catholic Church in Madalla, near the capital of Abuja, when terrorists threw bombs into a crowd leaving the church after a service.

Bishop Lumu told the Nation newspaper that he believed the terror campaign was evolving.  Boko Haram had been “hijacked by politicians,” he charged, bent on destabilizing the government so as to provoke a military coup.

Derry bombings draw condemnation from across N.I.: The Church of England Newspaper, January 27, 2012 p 7 February 2, 2012

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Church of Ireland’s Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, the Rt. Rev. Ken Good has denounced last week’s bombings in Londonderry, but has warned the terrorists their campaign of violence and intimidation will not derail the peace process.

On 19 January 2012 bombs were detonated in the centre of Londonderry at the visitor and convention bureau and at the city’s DHSS office following a warning telephone call.  No one was injured in the blasts, though the area was evacuated by the police after the blasts.

The PSNI believes that a dissident republican faction opposed to the peace process is to blame for the attacks, and suspect either the Real IRA – responsible for the 1998 Omagh bombing that killed 29 – or a second group the Oglaigh na hEireann.

Speaking in the Northern Ireland Assembly on 23 January, the DUP’s MLA Gregory Campbell said that while “we are in the third year” of their bombing campaign, their efforts are doomed “to fail” as “90 per cent of the community oppose what they are doing.”

Sinn Fein’s Raymond McCartney called upon MLAs to send a united message to dissident republicans to cease their attacks.  Their actions “stood in stark contrast” to the views of the community who condemned the attacks, while the UUP’s Danny Kinahan who appealed to the community to see “the dissidents have no room to move and that they will never win”.

Following the attack Bishop Good released a statement saying “we are proud of this city. Our resolve to create a new future as a united community is undiminished by acts such as this”.

The attack had been made upon “all of the people of this city who are committed to a hopeful and bright future. The shared future we are working for is one that has left behind destructive violence and makes progress through democratic processes. I believe this city has a bright future because we are as one in our determination to work constructively together.”

The people of Londonderry “will not to be deflected by these negative and destructive attacks,” Bishop Good said.

Indian church leaders call for calm in the wake of terror attacks: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 12, 2011 p 6. August 17, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of North India, Terrorism.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church leaders in India have condemned last month’s terror bombings in Bombay that killed 26 and injured 130 people.

On 13 July, three bombs exploded within 15 minutes of each other at the Zaveri Bazaar in South Bombay, the Opera House in the centre of the city, and near a bus stand in the Dadar district in the heart of Bombay. The blasts occurred two days after the fifth anniversary of the railway station blasts that killed 200 people and injured 700. In 2008 Islamist terrorists from Pakistan attacked a train station, hotel and other crowded areas killing 164 people.

“We strongly condemn the inhuman and dastardly attack,” said Alwan Masih, general secretary of the Church of North India (CNI). “It is highly unfortunate that we could not prevent the attack despite our vast resources. What is more painful is that this was a serial blast.”

“These forces engaged in inhuman actions must not divide and destroy our unity,” Mr Masih said. “They do not belong to any civil society. So it is very crucial that we react maturely.”

Since 1993, more than 700 people have been killed in terror attacks by foreign and domestic jihadi groups in Bombay, India’s commercial capital. Initial reports suggest the Indian Mujahideen (IM) may be behind last month’s attack. A home-grown terror group comprised of Indian Muslims, IM came to the notice of the security services in 2007 after it claimed responsibility for bombings in several Northern Indian cities.

Prayers for Norway: The Church of England Newspaper, July 29, 2011 p 6. July 31, 2011

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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church leaders have offered their condolences to the people and government of Norway following the worst mass killing in Europe since the 2004 Beslan school siege.

The initial statements from Anglican and European church leaders have expressed shock and outrage at the attacks, and also reflect the early confusion of the media over Anders Behring Breivik’s motives for his 22 July rampage.

The Archbishop of Canterbury expressed his “deepest sympathy with the people of Norway in the wake” of the bombing and shootings in Oslo that have left at least 76 dead. Dr Williams said that Norway had played “so great a part over many years in international reconciliation as well as developing its own distinctive national ethos of openness and fairness” that it as a “special tragedy that it should suffer this outbreak of senseless carnage.”

The prayers of the Church of England were with “all those who died and all those who mourn them; and we are grateful for the many signs of strength and spiritual maturity that the Norwegian people have shown in their response to evil and destructiveness,” the Archbishop said.

On 23 July Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone sent a message of condolence, in the name of Benedict XVI, to King Harald V of Norway.

The Pope expressed his “profound sadness” at the “great loss of life” and offered “fervent prayers for the victims and their families, invoking God’s peace upon the dead and divine consolation upon those who suffer.”

Explanations and justifications for the attacks provoked disgust and outrage from Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town, who said he could not “be silent in the face of the horror and brutality.”

“I feel saddened and shocked by this outrageous lack of regard for human life and more angered by stories emerging about the justification for such violence. I trust that firm and tough legal action will be taken against Anders Behring Breivik.”

Writing to the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Norway, the Archbishops of Dublin and Armagh and the Bishop of Clogher offered the Church of Ireland’s “deepest sympathy, and the fellowship of our prayers to the Norwegian people.

“There is something blindly unjust about such an attack in a country which is a byword for toleration,” the Irish bishops said, noting Norway was regarded as a model of “mutually respectful diversity and generous tolerance.”

The traits cited by the Irish bishop for approbation, however, were amongst those denounced by the Oslo bomber as signs of his country’s moral collapse that could only be resolved through violent revolution.

The World Evangelical Alliance released a statement saying it was “saddened to read reports that the suspect claims a ‘Christian’ faith,” adding that “evangelical Christians globally condemn religious violence in the strongest possible terms, and are sickened when such violence is carried out in the name of Christ.”

Meanwhile in London the Evangelical Alliance also issued a statement promising prayers for the victims.

The statement said that the EA “expresses its deepest sympathy to the people of Norway at this tragic time. Our prayers are with the families and friends of those murdered in Oslo and on the island of Utoeya. We also pray for the many people injured in the attacks.

“As all Norwegians begin to deal with this national trauma, our hope is that Christians in Norway play their part in the healing process. We also hope that this diabolical reminder of the persistence of evil will not adversely affect the much cherished freedoms and social harmony in the country.”

The Scottish Episcopal Church along with a number of English dioceses prepared prayers for the people of Norway for use by congregations this week. On 25 July, the Diocese of Exeter released a “Prayer for Norway.”

‘God our saviour, we pray with those in Norway who are shocked, grieving or in pain.

‘In your mercy, look on this wounded world, and hold us closely to your promise of hope in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen’

Hate the key to Oslo bombing: The Church of England Newspaper, July 29, 2011 p 1. July 28, 2011

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Anders Behring Breivik

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Oslo bomber, Anders Behring Breivik, was a self-appointed Knight Templar tasked with freeing Europe from the scourge of ‘cultural Marxism’ and Islam, according to his 1,518-page manifesto posted on Stormfront.org, a white supremacist internet forum.

Initially tagged as a “Christian fundamentalist” by Norwegian police, Breivik’s apologia shows only a passing concern with religious belief, but professes a fanatical faith in European culture.

On 22 July, the 32-year-old Norwegian detonated a car bomb in central Oslo, killing at least eight people. He then proceeded by ferry boat to Utoya Island where he shot and killed 68 people attending a youth camp organized by the Labour Party.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg told a national television audience the attacks would forever change Norway, but he vowed to ensure it remained an “open society.”

Initial reports stated that a hitherto unknown Islamist terrorist group had claimed responsibility, but police quickly arrested Breivik. The shooter admitted his crime and claimed it was a political statement, a police spokesman said. Oslo Deputy Police Chief Roger Andresen told reporters “Mr Breivik belongs to a Christian, fundamentalist, extreme-right environment in Norway,” the Aftenposten newspaper reported.

Breivik was arraigned on 25 July before a closed session of court and entered a plea of not guilty. However, he told Judge Kim Heger the killings were necessary. “What the court understands (is that) the accused believes that he needed to carry out these acts in order to save Norway and Western Europe from, among other things, cultural Marxism and Muslim take over,” Judge Heger said during a televised news conference after the hearing.

“The operation was not to kill as many people as possible. It was to give a strong signal that could not be misunderstood, that as long as the Labour Party keeps driving its ideological line and keeps deconstructing Norwegian culture and mass importing Muslims then they must assume responsibility for this treason. And any person with a conscience cannot allow its country to be colonised by Muslims,” the judge explained.

Breivik’s alleged motives find support in his manifesto, published online shortly before the attack. Entitled “2083 — A European Declaration of Independence” and written under the pseudonym Andrew Berwick, the manifesto states Breivik had joined with nine other men in 2002 to re-form the Knights Templar and he was its “Justiciar Knight Commander.”

“Our purpose,” in forming the Knights Templar was to “seize political and military control of Western European countries and implement a cultural conservative political agenda,” he explained.

Muslims would be expelled from Europe and war waged against their Marxist and multi-culturalist allies. “The time for dialogue is over. We gave peace a chance. The time for armed resistance has come,” he wrote, estimating the revolution would leave “45,000 dead and 1 million wounded cultural Marxists/multiculturalists in Western Europe.

The “2083 — A European Declaration of Independence” manifesto is divided in three sections, with the first two containing dozens of articles and quotes from a cross section of authors.

Articles from conservative European bloggers and commentators predominate, but passages and snippets from the writers as diverse as Melanie Phillips, Jeremy Clarkson, Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Jefferson, William Burke, John Stuart Mill and other commentators, philosophers and political writers abound.

In the third section of his manifesto, Breivik sets out his agenda of cleansing Europe of Muslims and suppressing multi-culturalism and lays out his personal beliefs.

To join his crusade, one must take the Knight Templar’s Oath and swear to “protect the interests of all free, indigenous Europeans, European cultures and Christendom in general through armed struggle.”

“Europeans have not just a right, but a duty to resist through political and military means; cultural Marxist/multiculturalist atrocities and crimes committed against the indigenous peoples of Europe. As such, any European Christian conservative can act as a Justiciar Knight. This includes Christian agnostics and Christian atheists.”

Culture, not religious belief nor ethnicity are the defining qualifications of this new knighthood, Breivik wrote, stating on page 820 that although the Knights Templar “is a pan-European indigenous rights movement we give all Europeans, regardless of skin colour, the opportunity to become a Justiciar Knight as long as the individual is either a Christian, Christian agnostic or a Christian atheist.”

He also denied any personal belief in Jesus Christ and voiced disapproval of Christian moral teachings, but was comfortable in professing the merits of “Christendom.”

“If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian,” Breivik wrote on page 1309.

Equal in merit as a bulwark against Marxism and Islam, in the bomber’s eyes, were Hinduism and Buddhism. Breivik applauded the stance of Hindu Nationalist groups like the BJP and denounced Christian missionaries in India for diluting the strength of Hinduism.

He attacked the Indian Congress party for making common cause against the BJP by “appeasing Muslims and very sadly proselytising Christian missionaries who illegally convert low caste Hindus with lies and fear alongside Communists who want total destruction of the Hindu faith and culture.”

Breivik’s social views are confused as well. He professed a fondness for Barak Obama and Vladimir Putin, and espoused libertarian social mores. On page 658 he lamented the hijacking of a number of worthy causes by the multi-culturalists: “They often recruit under false and deceptive idealistic banners we all have sympathy for (anti-racist, pro-minority, pro-gay, anti-war, pro-environment, pro-wildlife, helping Palestinian children and similar organisations).”

Breivik has been remanded in custody for eight weeks, and if convicted of all the killings faces a maximum sentence of 21 years imprisonment under Norwegian law.

US Middle East policy naïve, bishop charges: The Church of England Newspaper, June 17, 2011 p 7. June 18, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Islam, Politics, Terrorism.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The former Bishop of Rochester has roundly condemned US President Barack Obama’s May 19 speech on the Middle East, calling it naïve and insubstantial.

In an article printed on the website of the National Review, a conservative American political magazine, Bishop Michael Nazir Ali stated the president’s euphonious phrases on ‘hope’ and ‘change’ for peace in the Middle East were lovely to hear, but amounted to little more than “sugar coating.”

To Dr. Nazir Ali’s ears, the speech was not written for an American audience, but to assuage Muslim opinion.  “Some scholars have written about the dhimmi mentality, i.e., a subservient attitude developed towards Muslim rulers by Christian, Jewish, and other communities that were allowed to survive, but under heavy restrictions, in the Muslim world. It has sometimes been held that the West’s response to events in the Muslim world betrays a similar mentality, brought about by fear. Was the president’s speech an example of this?,” he asked.

The president’s optimism that the death of Osama bin Laden would see the “end of radical Islam” was unduly optimistic, and “extremist Islamism is now so decentralized” the death of the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks “will have little effect.”  Bin Laden’s death “may in fact lead to his becoming an icon or a martyr in exactly the way that the president does not wish.”

The president’s description of the revolts across North Africa and the Middle East as mostly “non-violent” would not be shared by Egyptian Christians “whose churches have been burned, whose young people have been killed, and whose women have been abducted,” the bishop said.

The benefits of democracy, touted by President Obama as one of the new growths of the ‘Arab Spring’ would likely see a tyranny of the majority.  “Unless there is a strong charter of liberty that safeguards the rights of women and non-Muslim communities, democracy on its own may prove chimerical,” he said.

Bishop Nazir Ali welcomed the “president’s claim that America’s current policy in the region is not to support despotic regimes that deny people their fundamental freedoms,” but noted this “rhetoric sounded a little hollow in the absence of any reference in the speech to Saudi Arabia, a country which continues to deny its citizens religious freedom and freedom of movement, and to deny equality of opportunity to women.”

What was missing from the speech, the bishop said, was any statement that liberty was not a gift from the state, but a gift from God.  “I would have welcomed an acknowledgment from the president of the Biblical basis of the idea, expressed in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, that women and men are endowed with certain inalienable rights by their Creator.”

“This is the true basis for any struggle to have human equality affirmed and respected,” Bishop Nazir Ali said.

Bin Laden death sparks security alerts world wide: The Church of England Newspaper, May 6, 2011 p 1. May 5, 2011

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Police are guarding St. Luke's Church in Abbottabad and other Pakistani churches to ward off revenge attacks following the death of Osama bin Laden

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The killing of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden in his Pakistani mountain redoubt has prompted security warnings and mixed feelings from Anglican leaders across the globe.

On 1 May, US Navy SEAL commandos assaulted the al-Qaeda leader’s walled compound in Abbottabad and killed bin Laden in a gun battle. While speculation that bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan had been rife for several years, most experts believed he was holed up in the rugged tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan, not in a former British hill station living in a luxury compound.

“The world would not wish Osama was alive,” Bishop Julius Kalu of Mombasa told reporters after bin Laden’s death was announced by US President Barack Obama. “We hope this is the first step to wiping out terrorism,” the Bishop said.

The killing of the terrorist leader has led to heightened security round the world. In Nairobi, scene of a 1998 al-Qaeda attack, security around government buildings and commercial centres has been raised and police spot checks introduced.

“What happened in Pakistan is totally related to Kenya and East Africa,” anti-terrorism police commander Nicholas Kamwende told the Star. “The threat of terrorism is real and everyone has to be on the look-out even as police do their work.”

In London, the Foreign Office stated the killing of bin Laden “may lead to an increase in violence and terrorist activity” and urged Britons abroad to “remain vigilant, exercise caution in all public places and avoid demonstrations, large crowds of people and public events.”

On 3 May Prime Minister David Cameron warned that Britain “will have to be particularly vigilant in the weeks ahead.”

Church leaders in Pakistan have also urged care. The Bishop of Lahore Alexander Malik said the “security of Christian institutions” had been “beefed up due to potential threats” of retaliation out of concern that terrorist rage at the death of bin Laden may blow back onto Pakistan’s Christians.

“We are a soft target as they cannot attack America,” the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Lahore Lawrence Saldanha told a Catholic news agency. “We demand security. The government should control any retaliation.”

The resort town of Abbottabad, northeast of Rawalpindi, served as the headquarters for the British deputy commissioner of the Hazara District and the cantonment for the 5th Ghurkha Rifles, and remains the regimental centre for the Frontier Force of Pakistan, as well as a popular summer holiday destination.

The Association of Churches of the Hazara Division, a group of five Churches around Abbottabad including St Luke’s Church — the former British garrison chapel — have been given police protection and its leaders are staying off the streets and out of the public eye. Bishop Malik added that “many Christians are hesitant to publicly talk about Osama bin Laden’s death.”

Peter Marsden, Director of The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME), reported that in Iraq “we are seeing massively increased security following the killing of Osama bin Laden. The security services are clearly bracing themselves for trouble. These are very dangerous times to be in Baghdad.”

“We hope and pray that al-Qaeda’s hold over Iraq’s people and politics will diminish with bin Laden’s passing,” Mr Marsden told The Church of England Newspaper, noting “for our part, we don’t see anyone’s violent death as a cause for celebration.”

American church leaders were also conflicted over the death of the terrorist leader. “As followers of Jesus Christ we believe that every life is precious, every person created in the image of God,” Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina said.

“While justice has been done it is not cause for celebration, but a call to solemn dedication of ourselves to work for a world where all may dwell in peace,” Bishop Curry said.

Writing on his Facebook page, the Rt Rev Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham said: “Osama bin Laden’s death is a military success, but he was a human being better put on trial as a criminal than killed in a way that some will call martyrdom.

“We also have to note he was in Pakistan, and known to be so. The billions spent and hundreds of thousands killed in conventional war in Iraq, and even the fourth Afghan War, seem to have had nothing at all to do with his demise,” Bishop Wilson said.

Turkey’s Gülen movement under criminal investigation in the US: The Church of England Newspaper, April 21, 2011 p 7. April 21, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Terrorism, Turkey, Washington.
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Fethullah Gülen

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has commenced an investigation into the activities of Turkish Muslim leader Fethullah Gülen and his educational and charitable network.

Called the “world’s top public intellectual” in 2008 by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines, Gülen is a controversial figure.  Considered an inspirational religious leader by millions of Turks and Muslim followers around the world, he has also been called the “world’s most dangerous Islamist” by US investigative journalist Paul Williams.

In 1998 Gülen left Turkey after the government sought to arrest him for seeking to overthrow the government.  He fled to the United States and currently lives in a 45-acre compound in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Over the past decade Gülen has built a network of schools across the world that allegedly call for the creation of a global caliphate.

In the United States, the Gülen movement has opened 125 schools that receive government assistance under the “charter school” system.  The federal investigation, according to the March 21 Philadelphia Inquirer report, is not linked to terrorism but to allegations that Gülen school employees, granted visas to enter the United States to teach at the schools, are forced to kick back 60 per cent of their salaries to the Hizmet, or Service, movement Gülen founded.  Prosecutors have declined to comment, however, as the investigation is on-going.

A spokesman for Gülen told the Inquirer the reclusive imam has no relationship to the schools, though he might have inspired the people who founded them.

Since his arrival in the United States, Gülen has cultivated media, religious and political leaders.  At a Jan 20, 2011 meeting hosted by the Rumi Forum, a Turkish think tank in Washington, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington, the Rt. Rev. John B. Chane praised Gülen as a “magnificent man.”

“In the 50 books he has written he has probably been one of our greatest voices. He is a scholar and communicator who has really addressed — not only the role of religion — but the place of religion as an antidote to violence throughout the world, stressing the importance of the need to come to the table for dialogue and conversation,” the bishop said.

The bishop added to his postprandial encomium saying “I really want to make a point in recognizing him and honoring him for the work he continues to do for global peace among all of God’s children.”

However, diplomatic cables obtained by Wikileaks and published in the Turkish newspaper Taraf on March 17 show US government officials in Washington and Ankara were concerned with the growing influence of the Gülen movement.

One 2005 cable said the Gülen community seems to espouse “moderate Islam,” but  as it had a global mission of fostering Islamism, it was an open question how the movement would act once it consolidated its hold on power.  “It is not possible to confirm the Turkish police are under the control of the Gülen community members, but we have not met anybody who denies it,” one cable said.

Turkish analysts in the West have also questioned the motives and methods of the Gülen movement.  On Dec 3, 2010, Dr. Sebastian Gorka of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies linked the Gülen movement to the “soft jihad” campaign waged by Islamists who seek to use Western institutions and liberties to bring about the mastery of the world by Islam in an interview with WABC’s John Batchelor Show.

Bishop Chane told The Church of England Newspaper he was “troubled by references that have been made about Gülen being a soft jihadist. Clearly the use of the word jihad demonstrates a significant lack of understanding of the term and a baffling use of the word soft.”

“If in fact there is an investigation underway that links Gülen to radical, religiously motivated terrorists then let the facts of the investigation be known,” the bishop said.

Fears for Christians in North Africa: The Church of England Newspaper, Feb 25, 2011 p 7. February 27, 2011

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Fr Marek Rybinski

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Egypt and North Africa has offered his condolences to the Catholic Church in North Africa following the murder of a Polish missionary priest in Tunisia.

On February 18, Archbishop Mouneer Anis wrote to Archbishop Ghaleb Badr of Algiers offering his prayers and support after he learned of the “tragic death of Fr Marek Rybinski of La Manouba, in Tunisia. He was found dead and decapitated this afternoon.”

The Area Bishop for North Africa, the Rt Rev Bill Musk, who also serves as rector of St George’s Anglican Church in Tunis, attended the funeral mass of the murdered priest, whom he called a “lovely priest and much loved in the school community where he served.”

In a statement released on February 20, the Interior Ministry vowed to punish those responsible for the “odious crime” which it said appeared to be the work of a “group of extremist terrorist fascists.”

Slitting the throats of their victims has been a hallmark of Islamic terrorist activities from the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl to the January 7, 2011 murder of 36-year-old Asha Mberwa, a mother of four murdered in Somalia for having converted to Christianity.

The sanction Islamist terrorists take for killing comes from Surah 47:4 of the Koran, which says, “Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks; at length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them): thereafter (is the time for) either generosity or ransom: until the war lays down its burdens. Thus (are ye commanded).”

Secular autocrats have been toppled from power in recent weeks in Tunisia and Egypt, while Libya, Algeria, Bahrain and Jordan have seen anti-government protests. The possibility that Islamic militant groups like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt will gain power has Christian leaders in the Middle East worried that the attacks born by Christians in Iraq following the collapse of Saddam Hussein will soon be visited upon them.

However, Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahdha, or Renaissance Party, which had been banned under the former regime of President Ben Ali denounced the murders. Party leader Rached Ghannouchi, who returned to Tunisia last month from exile in London, denounced the killing and an attack on Tunis’ Grand Synagogue, urging “vigilance in order to ward off anything that could spark anarchy in our country.”

Archbishop Anis called upon Christians across Egypt and North African to turn their hearts toward God in prayer. “We hold on to the promise of Christ who said that the ‘gates of hell will not prevail’,” he said and asked “May the Lord protect his church.”

Pakistani politican murdered over his call for repeal of Blasphemy Laws: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 7, 2011 p 5. February 22, 2011

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Murdered Punjabi Governor Salman Taseer

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

A leading opponent of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws has been assassinated.  On Jan 4 the Governor of the Punjab Salman Taseer was shot to death by one of his bodyguards during a visit to an upscale shopping mall outside of Islamabad.

The murder of Salman Taseer is likely to further weaken the government of President Asif Ali Zardari and the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and set back the movement to reform the country’s blasphemy laws.

A moderate within the ruling PPP, Mr Taseer had been an outspoken opponent of the Taliban and had campaigned for the release of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death in November.  He had been minister for industry and production under former military ruler Pervez Musharraf from 2007 to 2008, and was appointed Governor of the Punjab in 2008.

Pakistan has come under strong overseas political pressure to reform its blasphemy laws, with much international attention focused on the case of Mrs. Bibi.  President Zardari and Prime Minister Galani face the difficult task of satisfying the demands of the international community and moderates within the government that they pardon the imprisoned mother of five, and of Muslim leaders who have called for her execution.

Promises made last month to reform the Blasphemy Laws have since been shelved as the PPP seeks to find a coalition partner among the Muslim parties, who have opposed any changes in the law. On Jan 2 the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) quit the cabinet and joined the opposition, while the country’s largest religious based political party the Jumiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) left the government last month after one of its leaders was sacked as Religion Minister by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

In a statement released by Interior Minister Reham Malik, the government reported that Mr. Taseer had been shot by one of his security guards, identified as Mumtaz Qadri.

“He confessed that he killed the governor himself because he had called the blasphemy law a black law,” Mr. Malik said, adding that Qadri “has confessed his crime and surrendered his gun to police after the attack.”

Pakistani human rights activist Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry condemned the killing.  “This shooting is tragic and should never have happened.”

Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas, said Taseer’s “death is a tragic reminder of the extreme danger faced by all those who stand for justice in opposition to the blasphemy laws in Pakistan, whether politicians, journalists, lawyers or activists. How many more lives must be destroyed before this legislation is repealed?”

Arrests made in CMJ murder in Jerusalem: The Church of England Newspaper, Feb 4, 2011 p 8. February 5, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Mission Societies/Religious Orders, Terrorism.
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Kristine Luken

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Kristine Luken, the CMJ staffer stabbed to death while hiking in a forest outside Jerusalem, was murdered because her attackers thought she was a Jew, Israeli police report.

Last week the Israeli police announced that two Palestinian men had confessed to the Dec 18 stabbing of Ms. Luken and her friend and fellow CMJ staffer, Kay Wilson.  Four other Palestinians from the West Bank also have been arrested, accused of providing logistical support to the killers.

According to indictment, the alleged killers, Kifah Ghneimat and Iyad Fatafa, were part of a gang responsible for a series of violent crimes committed over the past two years.  Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told ABC News the gang’s “activity had an initial criminal orientation,” but took a political turn following the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

On Jan 19, 2010 al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas military commander reputed to be a liaison between Hamas and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, was killed in his hotel room at the five-star al-Bustan Rotana Hotel in Dubai.  Suspicion initially fell on Israel, and Hamas claimed the killing was an Israeli government sanctioned assassination.  However, at the time of his death, al-Mabhouh was wanted by the Israeli, Egyptian and Jordanian governments and the murder remains unsolved.

The murder of Kistine Luken was in “revenge” for the al-Mabhouh assassination, Mr. Rosenfeld said.

According to the indictment, the two Palestinians “decided to enter Israel illegally in order to kill Jews.”

They chanced upon Luken and Wilson, who were hiking through a forest southwest of Jerusalem, and attacked them.  Wilson “tried to convince them they were not Jewish, in order to convince them not to hurt them,” the indictment read, but one of the attackers grabbed a Star of David necklace worn by Wilson, shouting in Arabic, “What’s this?” and proceeded to stab the two women.

Stabbed 12 times, Kaye Wilson feigned death.  After her attackers fled, she was able to make her way to a parking lot where a passerby found her and alerted the police.  Kristine Luken, however, bled to death.

The alleged killers were arrested within 48 hours of the attack, the police spokesman said, but held in secret while other members of the gang were sought.

The rector of Christ Church, Jerusalem, the Rev. David Pileggi, said the Anglican community was “relieved at the capture” of the alleged killers.

However the arrests do not “end our grief, nor does it bring healing,” he said.  “We look for that consolation in God’s presence amongst us and in the hope of the resurrection,” Mr. Pileggi said.

Handle with care militant Islam, British diplomat warns: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 28, 2011 p 6. January 31, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan, Islam, Terrorism.
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Justin Bedford (right) speaking to Vatican Radio. Photo: Foreign & Commonwealth Office

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The EU should tread warily when dealing with militant Islam and not be seen as supporting Christian minorities in the Muslim world, the deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy to the Holy See said last week.  “We need to be very careful as to how the West, and the EU as part of the ‘western construct’, approaches the question of religions,” Justin Bedford told Vatican Radio on Jan 12.

His remarks come in contrast to comments made by the Second Church Estates Commission to Parliament on Jan 18, who condemned the persecution of Christians in the Muslim world and denounced the killing of the Governor of the Punjab this month—murdered for his support for Pakistan’s oppressed Christian minority.

Asked to comment on Pope Benedict XVI’s Jan 10 address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Vatican, where the pope voiced his concerns over the persecution of Christians in many Muslim majority countries, Mr. Bedford said the speech showed the pope’s belief in “protecting religious freedom as a fundamental human right.”

When questioned about what steps the EU might take to support or protect Christians in the Middle East, Mr. Bedford said “we need to be very careful as to how the West, and the EU as part of the ‘western construct’, approaches the question of religions.”

If the “West took the concept of Christianity under its umbrella,” it could “provide a reason for extremists to continue to divide those societies…we would seek to avoid that, if possible,” he said.

“If this question is discussed in the EU we would need to find an approach which did not divide societies, but sought to unite them and present solidarity between Christians and Muslims as they confront extremists.”

Speaking in response to a question from the member for Gillingham and Rainham, Mr. Rehman Chishti (Cons.), as to “what representations the Church Commissioners have made in support of Christians in Pakistan?”, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Tony Baldry, said “It is a sad and terrible fact that Christian minorities who have lived peacefully in Muslim countries for generations are finding themselves subject to increasingly violent persecution.”

“Churches have recently been attacked in Egypt, Iraq and Nigeria, and the assassination in Pakistan of Salmaan Taseer for defending a Christian woman who had been sentenced to death was particularly horrible,” Mr. Baldry said.

Dr. Rowan Williams, Bishop Alexander Malik of Lahore and “the Christian community as a whole in Pakistan” were “working hard to foster inter-faith collaboration in Pakistan during this time of difficulty,” he said.

The murder of Governor Taseer was a “tragedy for Pakistan,” whose people appeared to have forgotten the maxim of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, “the father of Pakistan, who said: ‘you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship’.”

“What I suspect every Member of this House hopes for is that there shall be freedom of religion throughout the world,” Mr. Baldry said, “and I am sure that, as a Chamber, we will continue to campaign for that wherever we have the opportunity.”

Prayers for Moscow airport bombing victims: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 28, 2011 p 7. January 29, 2011

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Patriarch Cyril of Moscow and All Russia

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has joined European church leaders in offering his condolences and prayers for those killed in the Moscow Airport bombing.

On Jan 24 a bomb exploded in an unguarded area of the international arrivals section of Moscow’s Domodedova airport, killing 35 and wounding 168.  No group has so far claimed responsibility for the blast, though past terror attacks in Russia have been linked to Chechens and other separatist ethnic groups in the North Caucasus region.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has vowed “retribution” for the attack.

Patriarch Cyril of Moscow and All Russia called the attack a “horrific crime” and urged Russians to unite in the face of terrorism.

“There is and there can be no justification for such criminal aggression,” Cyril said in a statement published on the Moscow Patriarchate website, and asked all Russia to “unite to fight the inhumane attacks that kill innocent people.”

Those who “committed this have put themselves outside law, both human and divine,” the patriarch said.

Dr Rowan Williams wrote to Cyril on Jan 25 offering his prayers.  “I write to assure you and all your people of our prayers for those injured and killed and our deep sorrow for this new trauma inflicted on the Russian people.  We shall be praying too for yourself and for all others among the clergy of the Orthodox Church who will be involved in ministering to those who have suffered.”

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone sent a telegram of condolence to Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, expressing the pope’s “profound suffering and firm condemnation at this serious act of violence,” the Vatican Information Service reported.

A survivor of the 9/11 attack in New York, Dr. Williams noted that “we know from experience in London something of what these atrocities feel like, and there will be very many here who will want to join me in expressing our sympathy and our condemnation of this indiscriminate violence.”

Londonderry Bombing Condemned: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 21, 2011 p 6. January 26, 2011

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The Rt. Rev. Ken Good, Bishop of Derry & Raphoe

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe has condemned the Jan 17 bombings in Londonderry.

“Those who took it upon themselves to set off an explosion in Guildhall Square display a shortsightedness that is breathtaking,” Bishop Ken Good said.

At approximately 0330 GMT on Jan 17 an explosive device was detonated.  No injuries have been reported and no group has yet to claim responsibility for the blasts.

Bishop Good said the suspected sectarian attacks would not derail Northern Ireland’s push for peace.  Londonderry “has a growing desire to move forward peacefully and positively. This is a city of Culture, a city of enterprise, a city of welcome, a city of hope. Those who placed this explosive device seek to extinguish this growing sense of hope. However, our hope will not be extinguished. Its roots are already too strong,” the bishop said.

The explosion follows a series of attacks on Orange Order Halls in County Tyrone.  Four Orange halls were vandalized this past weekend.  The windows at Strawletterdallon Orange Hall outside Newtownstewart were smashed on Friday, while on Sunday an oil drum was placed against the door of the building and set alight.  The windows of three other halls were broken or covered with paint.  The Police Service of Northern Ireland has taken a 41 year old man into custody for questioning.

“The recent attacks on Orange Halls in County Tyrone are to be outrightly condemned,” Bishop Good said.

“These attacks cause great distress. If their intention is to damage good community relationships I am confident that they will not succeed”.

CMJ staffer murdered in Israel: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 7, 2011 p 6. January 12, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Israel, Mission Societies/Religious Orders, Terrorism.
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Kristine Luken

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

An American staff member with the CMJ UK, the Church’s Ministry among Jewish people, has been murdered while on vacation in Israel.

Kristine Luken (44) an administrator with the CMJ in Nottingham was hiking in a forest southwest of Jerusalem on Dec 18 with fellow CJM staffer, Kay Wilson, a British-born Israeli, when they were approached by two Arab men asking for water.  The men attacked the two women, stabbing each repeatedly.  Ms. Wilson feigned death and survived the attack, but Ms. Luken bled to death.

“They came to kill,” Ms. Wilson said, telling the Israeli media that one of the attackers ripped a Star of David from around her neck and stabbed her where in the place where the star had lain.

“I saw that the stab had not penetrated my heart, and I played dead. While I lay there, I could hear my friend dying. Her breath sounded like bubbles,” Ms. Wilson told Haaretz.

“I waited two minutes, we lay in the corridor. Our hands tied behind our backs and something was covering my mouth,” she said. “It was terribly hard for me to get up, but I managed to go. I saw that we were in a bush area and I did not know then that they had fled. I felt myself getting tired, all I wanted to do was sleep but I knew I could not.”

Ms. Wilson, bleeding from 12 stab wounds, was able to make her way to a parking lot near the popular recreation area, where a passerby found her and alerted the police.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place near the border with the West Bank, nor have any suspects been detained.  Israeli police are treating the attack as a political crime, though they have not ruled out sexual assault as a motive.  Ms. Luken’s body was returned to her family last week and was buried near her home in West Virginia.

The murder has been “an incredible shock,” said Rev. David Pileggi, the vicar of Christ Church Jerusalem said. “We were just weeping. I would describe it as one wave of sadness after another. We still have not recovered from this by any means,” he told an Israeli newspaper.

The CEO of the CMJ, Robin Aldridge, stated the organization was “deeply shocked” by the murder of their “much loved administrator Kristine Luken.  Kristine had worked for the ministry for one year having previously worked for the American government.”

Ms Luken had “just taken on responsibility for Shoresh Tours, a CMJ company that organizes tours to Israel” and was out hiking with her close personal friend, Kay Wilson, Shoresh’s senior tour guide, when they were attacked, he said.

The murder of Ms. Luken was a “tragedy,” and the staff of the CMJ was “praying for her friends and family at this tragic time.  However, CMJ will continue to share the gospel with the Jewish people and to work for forgiveness and reconciliation in Israel.  This is a mandate that God gave us 201 years ago and we are confident that the best epitaph we could give Kristine is to continue to that to which she was totally committed to supporting,” Mr. Aldridge said.

Alexandria church bombing sparks world outrage: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 7, 2011 p 1. January 12, 2011

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Pope Shenouda III

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church and government leaders around the world have condemned the New Year’s Eve bombing of a Coptic Church in Alexandria that has killed 23 people.

The Egyptian police believe a lone bomber detonated a bomb outside the Coptic Church of the Saints killing himself and 20 others instantly.  Two others have since died from their wounds, while over 100 were injured in the attack.

The attack has prompted strong reactions from Egypt’s Christian minority, with Copts accusing the government of ignoring warnings from al Qaeda linked groups that they planned on targeting Christians.  ‘We cannot prevent people from expressing their sorrow, yet I ask them to express their feelings without violence,’ said Pope Shenouda III, in a Jan 3 interview on state television, after protestors clashed with police for a third day in a row in protest to the attacks.

“I call on our sons for calm, as calm can solve all issues,” Pope Shenouda said, according to a transcript of his address released by the state news agency.

Writing from Cairo on Jan 1, the President Bishop of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Bishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt offered the condolences of Anglicans to Pope Shenouda.

Dr. Anis stated that it was “very clear from the nature of this attack that it was planned by Al Qaeda, especially after the threats that were made against Egypt after the attacks on the church in Baghdad on 31 October 2010.”

Anglicans in Egypt were cooperating with the security services to improve church security, he noted, and had installed barriers and security cameras.  “We are not used to such measures, but we have been requested to do this,” the bishop said.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams condemned the attack as “yet another dreadful reminder of the pressure Christian minorities are under in the Middle East, echoing the atrocities we have seen in recent weeks.”

We “know the long and honourable history of co-existence of Christians and Muslims in Egypt and are confident that the overwhelming majority of Egyptian people will join in condemning this and similar acts,” Dr. Williams said.

Speaking to a crowd gathered in St Peter’s square on Jan 2, Pope Benedict XVI said the Alexandria bombing was a “vile and murderous gesture … offends God and all humankind.”

“In the face of these strategies of violence, which aim against Christians but have consequences on the entire population, I pray for the victims and their relatives, and encourage ecclesial communities to persevere in the faith and in the witness of non-violence which comes to us from the Gospel,” the pope said.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Department of External Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion said that there was no “doubt this atrocity is aimed at further fomentation of interreligious enmity. The confrontation that the terrorists mean to enkindle by their actions brings nothing but grief, tears and suffering and threatens the human race with self-destruction.”

The bombing has also sparked reactions from Egypt’s moderate Muslim community.  On Jan 3 the influential Cairo newspaper Al-Ahram in an editorial entitled “J’Accuse!” attacked Egyptian society’s indifference to the growth of militant Islam.

“I am no Zola, but I too can accuse,” editor Hani Shukrallah  wrote, denouncing government corruption and cynicism in dealing with fundamentalists.

“But most of all, I accuse the millions of supposedly moderate Muslims among us; those who’ve been growing more and more prejudiced, inclusive, and narrow-minded with every passing year.”

“I accuse those among us who would rise up in fury over a decision to halt construction of a Muslim Center near ground zero in New York, but applaud the Egyptian police when they halt the construction of a staircase in a Coptic church in the Omranya district of Greater Cairo.”

He also accused “the liberal intellectuals, both Muslim and Christian who, whether complicit, afraid, or simply unwilling to do or say anything that may displease ‘the masses’, have stood aside, finding it sufficient to join in one futile chorus of denunciation… even as the massacres spread wider, and grow more horrifying.”

Unless steps were taken immediately, Al Ahram warned, Egyptian society would collapse in a welter of sectarian madness.

Real IRA car bombings pointless, bishop charges: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 15, 2010 p 6. October 20, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland, Terrorism.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe has denounced last week’s car bombing in Londonderry, saying the attack by the Real IRA “offers nothing hopeful or constructive to the citizens of our community.”

An estimated 200 pound explosive device placed in a parked car was detonated on Oct 5, the 42nd anniversary of the civil rights march in Londonderry that marked the start of the “Troubles.”

Two police officers were injured in the blast, which blew out the windows of an Ulster Bank branch and damaged nearby buildings.  Approximately 200 guests of a hotel close to the blast were evacuated.  The Police Service of Northern Ireland confirmed that three warnings were given in advance of the explosion.  The Real IRA contacted a newspaper on Oct 6, claiming responsibility for the blast.

On Oct 6 Bishop Ken Good condemned the republican bombing.  “Ordinary people are left to deal with the consequences of an act by those who represent no-one and who offer no hope to themselves or their fellow citizens,” he said, adding: “We stand all the more united in our commitment that peace rather than violence shall determine our future.”

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson said the government would “not allow these people to achieve their aim”.

He said the authorities would tackle those responsible and would “smoke them out” and “bear down on them.”

God will protect Nigeria, archbishop says: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 15, 2010 p 8. October 15, 2010

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Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church leaders in Nigeria have denounced the Independence Day bombings in Abuja, saying the Oct 1 attack by secessionists from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) was evil and served only to destabilize the country.  However,  Archbishop Nicholas Okoh has reassured Anglicans political violence would not break the country apart, as God was protecting Nigeria.

Two car bombs and a smaller explosive device were detonated during the 50th anniversary celebration of Nigeria’s independence in the capital of Abuja, killing 12 people.  MEND claimed responsibilities in an email sent to the press warning an attack was imminent, saying there was nothing to celebrate since independence from Britain.

However, claims MEND was behind the attack have been disputed by some of its leaders, and downplayed by President Goodluck Jonathan, who said the attack was the work of a splinter group based outside Nigeria.  “Let me also use this opportunity to reassure Nigerians that what happened yesterday had nothing, and I have to repeat, had nothing to do with the Niger Delta,” President Jonathan said on Oct 2.

“People just use the name of MEND to camouflage criminality and terrorism,” the president told reporters during a visit with victims of the blast at Abuja’s main hospital.

The investigation into the attacks is on-going.  The Nigerian police have arrested nine MEND militants, while the South African police have detained Henry Okah, a former MEND leader who was freed during an amnesty least year.

Police have also questioned the director of former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida’s presidential campaign in connection with the attacks, saying text messages to Raymond Dokpesi, the director of the Babangida campaign, were found in the mobile phone of one of the suspects in detention.

The Church of Nigeria denounced the attack as “cruel, ungodly and an unqualified evil” that could not be “justified on any grounds.”

“This type of approach on issues of the Niger Delta is counter-productive, as it will destroy the abundant goodwill and deep sympathy of most Nigerians for their cause,” the Oct 3 statement said.

The Church of Nigeria invited “all those behind the ugly incident to repent and embrace the government’s constructive approach to issues of the Niger Delta development,” and also urged President Jonathan not to be distracted by the attack but to “remain focused in the work of governance.”

Fears of political instability have roiled Africa’s most populous nation, and writing in Foreign Affair, former US Ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell said the Jan 22 presidential election could lead to “postelection sectarian violence, paralysis of the executive branch, and even a coup.”

The current round of instability in Nigeria began in Nov 2008, when President Umaru Yar’Adua entered a Saudi Arabian hospital for treatment of renal failure.  However, he declined to follow the Nigerian constitution and hand over power to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan during his absence from the country.

A power vacuum was created, that was only resolved win the National Assembly in Feb 2010 declared Jonathan ‘acting president’ even though the action was not authorized by the Nigerian constitution.  In May 2010, Jonathan assumed the presidency upon the death of Yar’Adua.

Since the end of military rule in 1998, an unwritten power sharing agreement has been in place among Nigeria’s political elites that rotates the presidency between a Christian southerner and a Muslim northerner.  President Jonathan’s decision to stand for election as president in his own right has ended this accord.

Muslims have not consolidated behind a single candidate however, as Gen. Babangida and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, both former military dictators are running for the presidency, setting the stage for political clash between the Christian South and Muslim North.

“Nigerians have long danced on the edge of the cliff without falling off,” Ambassador Campbell said.  “Yet at this juncture, the odds are not good for a positive outcome, and it is difficult to see how Nigeria can move back from the brink.”

However, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh has assured Nigerians that God will see the country through the elections.  “Nothing will happen to us. We will be alright. God will use the Church to save Nigeria from any trouble that may come from the election,” he told a national meeting of the Mothers’ Union last month.

Ugandan bishops on peace mission to Washington: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 1, 2010 p 8. October 4, 2010

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Archbishop Odama and Bishop Ochola speaking to the press in Washington

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church leaders from Northern Uganda have urged the US government to back a non-military solution to the war with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Last week the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Gula John Odama and the retired Anglican Bishop of Kitgum Macleord Ochola met with US State Department officials to discuss ways in ending the insurgency.  The two leaders of the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative met with government officials to discuss ways of implementing the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009 signed into law by President Barack Obama on May 24.

The LRA act passed by Congress states that it will be US policy to “protect civilians from the Lord’s Resistance Army, to apprehend or remove Joseph Kony and his top commanders from the battlefield in the continued absence of a negotiated solution, and to disarm and demobilize the remaining LRA fighters.”

The law also requires President Obama to develop a comprehensive, multilateral strategy to protect civilians in central Africa from LRA attacks and take steps to permanently stop the rebel group’s violence and to increase humanitarian assistance to countries currently affected by LRA violence.

In a statement released after the law was enacted, President Obama said the LRA “preys on civilians – killing, raping, and mutilating the people of central Africa; stealing and brutalizing their children; and displacing hundreds of thousands of people.  Its leadership, indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, has no agenda and no purpose other than its own survival.  It fills its ranks of fighters with the young boys and girls it abducts.  By any measure, its actions are an affront to human dignity.”

The US State Department has been directed to provide policy recommendations to Congress and the White House by November to implement the LRA Act.

The Ugandan church leaders told the US government that a military solution alone would not end the 24 year old war.  In 2008 units of the Ugandan, Congolese and South Sudan armies fell upon the strongholds of the LRA in the Congo’s Garamba forest destroying 70 percent of the rebel group’s supplies.  However, the strike served to atomize the LRA, dispersing its forces.

“The issue is no longer the LRA and Uganda,” said Archbishop Odama told the Catholic News Service.  “The issue now is regional.”

LRA leader Joseph Kony’s forces now operate across South Sudan, the Central African Republic, the Congo and Northern Uganda the bishops said, and had the potential to destabilize the entire region.  Bishop Ochola noted that church brokered negotiations between the Ugandan government and the LRA collapsed after the 2008 military offensive.  It was now time for all parties to return to the negotiating table, to bring a lasting peace to Northern Uganda, Bishop Ochola said.

Bomb blast destroys Pakistani church: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 17, 2010 p 8. September 20, 2010

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St Paul's, Mardan

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

St Paul’s Church in Mardan in Pakistan’s Northwest frontier has been destroyed in a bomb blast.

On the night of Sept 12 at approximately 12:00 midnight a remote-controlled explosive device placed against the wall of the break away congregation of the Diocese of Peshawar detonated, causing one wall of the church to collapse.  Two policemen were reported injured in the blast, which sparked panic among revelers in the streets celebrating the second day of the Muslim Eid festival.

Had the bomb exploded during daylight hours, it would have taken a higher toll, police said, as the colonial era church is located next to a school, an open air market and a mosque.  No group has so far claimed responsibility, while church sources tell CEN it is unclear whether the media controversy surrounding a proposed Koran burning by a Florida Pentecostal church had any connection to the blast.

Bishop Peter Majeed, rector of St Paul’s, reports that he and his family were not injured.

While Christians have been the target of Taliban violence in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, formerly known as the Northwest Frontier Province, Sunday’s blast was the first attack on a church in several years.

In August 2008, St Paul’s withdrew from the Diocese of Peshawar when Mr. Majeed was consecrated as Bishop of the Northern Diocese Mardan by the former Church of Pakistan Bishop of Karachi, the Rt. Rev. Arne Rudvin.

Bishop Rudvin, who had been the Lutheran Bishop of Mardan before the Lutheran Church joined Anglicans to form the United Church of Pakistan, consecrated Bishop Majeed to re-establish the Lutheran succession in Pakistan.  He justified his actions by claiming the Church of Pakistan was corrupt and had succumbed to Western liberalism.

The August 2008 issue of the Diocese of Peshawar newspaper said the attempt to reestablish a Lutheran church in Pakistan was not recognized by the diocese’s European partners.  The Danmission, the Norwegian Mission Society, the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission, and the Church of Scotland had “condemned the totally illegal consecration” and did not recognize Bishop Majeed’s claims.

On Sept 7, 2008 Bishop Majeed was installed as bishop and took possession of St Paul’s Church in Mardan, Bishop Rudvin’s former see. On Sept 19, a Pakistani court permitted Bishop Majeed to keep possession of the colonial era church and its adjacent properties.  However, the Diocese of Peshawar has appealed the ruling.

Questions over Taliban murders raised: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 10, 2010 p 5. September 14, 2010

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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Reports that three American Christian aid workers were murdered by the Taliban last month in Pakistan’s Swat Valley are untrue, Church World Service reports.

On Aug 27 the Compass Direct news service reported that the aid workers had been abducted on Aug 23.  Citing the District Coordination Officer (DCO) for Swat, Atif-ur-Rehman, the news service reported three bodies were recovered on Aug 25.

“Military sources who withheld news of the deaths from electronic and print media to avoid panicking other relief workers granted permission to Compass to publish it in limited form,” Compass Direct said.  It also quoted Rizwan Paul, described as the head of a Pakistani Christian human rights advocacy group called Life for All, as saying the dead had been taken to Islamabad by the army.

The following day the BosNewsLife news service  reported that three “American Christian aid workers” had been killed.  Citing army sources, BosNewsLife reported the bodies had been taken to the US Embassy in Islamabad.  The names of the dead had not been released so as to avoid “panic” among the foreign aid community.

It cited an unnamed Pakistani military source as saying the bodies of the three had been taken to the U.S. Embassy. The source said the names of the victims and their organization had not been released so as “not to create panic” among other foreign aid workers.

However Church World Service last week issued a statement saying, “the local government, military commanders and police officials have informed our security team that this a baseless news report. All the names of the officials mentioned are fake and similarly no organisation called Life For All has been working in Swat area.”

It noted the Taliban had threatened Christian and foreign aid workers in the past, “so this is a sensitive issue.”

A spokesman for the  US Embassy has also denied receiving the bodies of dead aid workers and has not been notified of the kidnapping of murder of any US nationals.

Speaking to CNS on Sept 1, Mr. Paul said asserted that three foreign aid workers had been killed, but the government was covering up the murders.  “Pakistan military and other sources are trying their best to stop the news from getting out,” he said.

Government admits to covering up Catholic priest’s role in 1972 Ulster car bombing: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 27, 2010 p 5. August 30, 2010

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Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Willie Whitelaw in 1972

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

A Roman Catholic priest was the mastermind behind a 1972 bombing in Northern Ireland that left nine dead, a report by the Police Ombudsman into the Claudy bombing has found.

The report concluded that Fr. James Chesney was behind the terror attack.  However, the priest was able to escape justice after a deal was brokered between the government and the Catholic Church to transfer him to the Republic of Ireland.

The government has apologized for its role in the cover-up, while the Roman Catholic Church has accepted the “shocking” findings in the report released on Aug 24.

On July 31, 1972 three car bombs exploded in the village of Claudy, injuring 30 and leaving nine, including three children dead.  No one was ever charged with the murders, but the Police Ombudsman’s report found that the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) detectives who investigated the attack determined that Fr. Chesney “was the IRA’s director of operations in South Derry and was alleged to have been directly involved in the bombings and other terrorist incidents.”

“Police ombudsman investigators spoke to a former special branch detective who said he had wanted to arrest Fr. Chesney in the months after the bombing,” the report stated, “but that this had been refused by the assistant chief constable (ACC) special branch, who had advised that ‘matters are in hand’.”

Fearful of provoking civil unrest and fueling sectarian conflict if a Catholic priest were arrested for the murders, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Willie Whitelaw met on Nov 30, 1972 with Cardinal William Conway, who agreed to transfer the priest to Donegal.

Fr. Chesney later died of cancer in 1980, aged 46.

The Church of Ireland welcomed the release of the report saying “the indiscriminate bombings that took the lives of nine people in the quiet village of Claudy were a brutal act. The events of that day brought pain and suffering that cast a long shadow over the lives of many families in the Claudy area.”

A spokesman for the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe said “we pay tribute to the dignity and persistence of the families who have long sought for truth concerning this tragedy. Our prayer and hope is that this report will make a significant contribution in a journey of healing for the scars of a terrible act”.

Writing from Oberammergau while on holiday, Bishop Ken Good stated his “thoughts and prayers” were with those “who have walked a painful journey since that tragic day in Claudy. The truth surrounding these events should have come out at that time. It is right that the truth should come out now. Those who were so cruelly bereaved or injured on that day deserve no less.”

Following the release of the report, the Northern Ireland secretary, Owen Paterson, said: “For my part, on behalf of the government, I am profoundly sorry that Father Chesney was not properly investigated for his suspected involvement in this hideous crime, and that the victims and their families have been denied justice.”

In a joint statement Archbishop Seán Brady of Armagh, and Bishop Séamus Hegarty of Derry, said “we accept the ombudsman’s findings and conclusions.”

“Throughout the Troubles, the Catholic church, along with other churches in Northern Ireland, was constant in its condemnation of the evil of violence. It is therefore shocking that a priest should be suspected of involvement in such violence,” the Catholic leaders said.

Taliban kill ten Western aid workers: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 13 2010 p 1. August 14, 2010

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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Ten members of Christian medical charity working in Afghanistan have been murdered by the Taliban.

On Aug 6, the bodies of ten members of the International Assistance Mission (IAM) were found in Badakhshan north of Kabul.  The ten: six Americans, two Afghans, one German, and a Briton, Dr. Karen Woo, a general surgeon from London, were murdered as they were returning from a medical mission to Nuristan in the Hindu Kush.  One member of their team, an Afghan driver, survived after convincing the killers he was a Muslim.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the killings, saying the ten were spies and Christian missionaries, seeking to proselytize Afghans.

However, in an Aug 9 press conference in Kabul, IAM executive director Dirk Frans said the team was not seeking to convert Muslims.

“IAM is a Christian organization – we have never hidden this,” Mr. Frans said, and “our faith motivates and inspires us – but we do not proselytize.”

“We abide by the laws of Afghanistan.  We are signatures of the Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs Disaster Response Programmes, in other words, that, “aid will not be used to further a particular political or religious standpoint.”  But more than that, our record speaks for itself,” he said.

IAM would not pull out of Afghanistan, Mr. Frans said.  “Our NGO has worked here for well over four decades. And we remember that there were times when security was much worse than it is now.   IAM works in Afghanistan as the guest of the people and the government. As long as we are welcome here, we will, God-willing, continue to stay and serve the Afghan people,” he said.

Dr. Karen Woo, 36, the lone Briton among the dead, had left private practice in London to provide maternal health care in Afghanistan and was planning to leave in a few weeks to get married, friends said.

“Her motivation was purely humanitarian. She was a humanist and had no religious or political agenda,” her family said in a statement.

Islamists target soccer fans in terror attack in Uganda: The Church of England Newspaper, July 23, 2010 p 6. July 26, 2010

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Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Uganda has called for restraint in the wake of two suicide attacks launched by Islamist militants in Kampala, which killed 74 and has left dozens injured.

Archbishop Henry Orombi called upon Ugandans to “desist from anger and revenge; this will only perpetuate the pain we already feel. Revenge is not a solution and neither is a sectarian approach to this problem helpful.”

He urged Ugandans to “instead now focus our energies on being a part of the fight against terrorism in our country.”

On the evening of July 11, bombs were detonated at an Ethiopian Restaurant and at the Kyadondo Rugby Club in Kampala while the two were packed with revelers watching the World Cup Final.

The Somali Islamist group al-Shabab is believed to be behind the attack, which analysts say was launched in retaliation for Uganda’s support of the interim government in Mogadishu.  Somali Islamists have also denounced soccer as un-Islamic and forbidden by the Koran.

A fatwa banning soccer was issued in 2003 by the Saudi Wahhabist cleric Abdallah Al-Najadi.  His 40 page ruling, the MEMRI news service reported, held that Muslims may not play soccer unless the game is altered to eliminate fouls, penalties, short pants, and the use or red and yellow cards.  In June two Somalis were murdered as they watched a televised World Cup match for violating the ban.

However, the Muslim world is not united in its condemnation of soccer.  On June 21 the London-based Arab language newspaper al-Hayat published an editorial denouncing the ban.  Editor Jamil Al-Thiyabi stated that these fatwas reflected a crisis in the Islamic world, where the legitimate Islamic institutions do nothing about extremist groups that are forcing their will upon society.

On July 12, a government spokesman said arrests have been made, and an un-exploded suicide vest packed with detonators  and shrapnel was found in Kampala.

An Irish woman was among the dead at the restaurant reported Reuters, while the US embassy said a 25-year old American working for a California-based NGO, Invisible Children, which rehabilitates child soldiers, was among those killed at the rugby club.  The vice-chancellor of Uganda Christian University, Prof. Stephen Noll, said one alumnus was killed, as were three members of the family of one of the school’s staff members.

Archbishop Orombi said “this act of malice and hatred towards mankind is completely ungodly, especially towards innocent and unsuspecting persons. I condemn this act in the strongest terms possible and hope to see the perpetrators of this hideous crime brought to justice.”

“To the bereaved, I extend my sincere condolences. We share in your pain and wish you God’s comfort during this difficult time.”

“And to the entire nation, I ask you to fix your eyes on the cross of Jesus. The cross is a reminder of human cruelty to an innocent person; the agony of pain He went through enables Him to share in our pain as well. He had to pay a price for us to receive our freedom. The blood of the Ugandans spilled on Sunday will bring to Ugandans peace,” the archbishop said.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni condemned the attackers and said his country would not “run away” from its commitments in Mogadishu.

“People who are watching football are not people who should be targeted. If they want a fight, they should go and look for soldiers.”

Foreign Secretary William Hague offered Britain’s condolences, and denounced the bombing.  “These were cowardly attacks during an event that was widely seen as a celebration of African unity, and I condemn them in the strongest possible terms.  The UK will stand with Uganda in fighting such brutal acts of violence and terror.”

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor condemned the terrorist bombing. “The president is deeply saddened by the loss of life resulting from these deplorable and cowardly attacks, and sends his condolences to the people of Uganda and the loved ones of those who have been killed or injured,” he said.