It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself. -- Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Assyrian Monks Won't Leave Ancient Monastery Amid ISIL Threat

The following excerpts are from AINA.org:

Yousif Ibrahim, the head monk at Saint Matthew's Monastery,
laments the ever present struggle the Christian community faces in Iraq

(photo: Abed al Qaisi)


AL-FAF, Iraq -- Yousif Ibrahim paces down the 1,600-year-old chamber room of Saint Matthew's Monastery passing rows of empty polished-wood pews. Ornate crystal chandeliers hang from the arched ceiling above him. The room smells of dust and incense, and its silence is peaceful. Outside of the ancient walls, however, the battle for Iraq is raging.

"We can see the battles and the airstrikes from here in front of us, especially at night. The sky lights up at night, but we of course are not scared. God protects us," Ibrahim, one of three monks who resides in the monastery, says.

Situated on the side of Mount Al-Faf in North Iraq's Nineveh Plains, St. Matthew's Monastery is recognized as one of the oldest Christian monasteries in Iraq. Today, the beige stone structure looks down on the rolling hills of one of Iraq's most active frontlines against the Islamic State, less than four miles away.

The horizon is spotted with pluming towers of white and black smoke from U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and heavy artillery fire. From this frontline, Islamic State territory stretches back to Mosul, the group's largest Iraqi stronghold.

The proximity of the Islamic State to St. Matthew's means the monastery is constantly at risk. The extremist group is known for destroying churches, museums and other culturally and historically significant sites.

Last week, the militants seized the Syrian city of Palmyra and its ruins, described by the United Nations as "one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world." The city's fall left the world holding its breath in anticipation of the UNESCO World Heritage site's destruction.

St. Matthew's is safely under Kurdish Peshmerga military control for now. But Sahar Karaikos, one of six students at the monastery, fears what could happen if the Islamic State advances closer.

"We are not scared, because our teachers give us a feeling of peace here, but we know we are on the frontlines, and in seconds the Islamic State could be here," Karaikos says. "I don't even want to think or speak about the destruction the Islamic State would cause if they took our monastery."

While monks at the monastery say they are confident God and the Peshmerga forces will protect the site, they have removed their most precious relics, including centuries-old Christian manuscripts. The tomb of the monastery's namesake, St. Matthew, lies empty -- the bones have been moved north into the relatively safe territory of the Kurdish Regional Government.


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Assyrian Monks Won't Leave Ancient Monastery Amid ISIL Threat



Friday, May 22, 2015

Egypt Police Rescue Kidnapped Christians



The following excerpts are from AINA.org:

Egyptian police have rescued four Copts who were kidnapped while on their way from a pilgrimage site in Minya province.

Authorities raided an isolated farmhouse in the mountainous area not far from the city of Salamut where the victims were taken away by armed gunmen, the Catholic Fides news agency reported.

Police tracked down the hideout of the kidnappers, who demanded ransom from the victims' families of 600,000 Egyptian pounds ($79,000), at the village of Akoris.

The raiding team stormed the kidnappers' safe house around dawn May 20, and a firefight ensued between authorities and the criminals. Some of the kidnappers managed to escape.

Police found the victims shackled with chains at the farm, and saw indications that they had been tortured by their captors, who waited for ransom to be paid.

The victims said the kidnappers constantly threatened to kill them if their families refused to pay ransom.

Some of the victims even suffered physical abuse as the kidnappers beat them up while waiting for the families to give into their demands.

Three of the victims were adults with ages ranging from 20 to 35 years, while the fourth was a five-year-old child.

The victims had come from the Church of the Virgin Mary in Jabal al-Tair, which was built around 328 A.D. on the orders of Queen Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine.

The church is one of the most popular Marian shrines frequented by the Coptic Christian community in Egypt.


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Egypt Police Rescue Kidnapped Christians



Assyrian Girl Kidnapped in Baghdad Released

Juliana George released in Baghdad
Juliana George released in Baghdad

The following excerpts are from AINA.org:

(AINA) -- Juliana George, a 16 year-old Assyrian girl who was kidnapped from her home in Baghdad 9 days ago (AINA 2015-05-12), was released yesterday after a $55,000 ransom was paid. According to her father, George, Juliana was badly frightened by the experience but was not apparently mistreated.

"I fear for her and my two other daughters," said George in a telephone interview. "There is no reason to believe that we will not be targeted again. I don't see how we can stay in Baghdad after this."

Juliana was abducted by four men when she answered the door bell at her home.

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Islamic State Burned a Woman Alive for Not Engaging in an 'extreme' Sex Act



The following excerpts are from AINA.org:

Amid all the Islamic State's atrocities -- its massacres of civilians, its beheading of hostages, its pillaging of antiquities -- the systematic violence the jihadists have carried out against countless enslaved women and girls never fails to shock. For months now, we've heard appalling testimony from women who escaped the Islamic State's clutches, many of whom endured rape and other hideous acts of violence.

Zainab Bangura, the U.N.'s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, recently conducted a tour of refugee camps in the shadow of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, war-ravaged countries where the Islamic State commands swaths of territory. She heard a host of horror stories from victims and their families and recounted them in an interview earlier this week with the Middle East Eye, an independent regional news site.

"They are institutionalizing sexual violence," Bangura said of the Islamic State. "The brutalization of women and girls is central to their ideology."

Bangura detailed the processes by which "pretty virgins" captured by the jihadists were bought and sold at auctions. Here's a chilling excerpt:

After attacking a village, [the Islamic State] splits women from men and executes boys and men aged 14 and over. The women and mothers are separated; girls are stripped naked, tested for virginity and examined for breast size and prettiness. The youngest, and those considered the prettiest virgins fetch higher prices and are sent to Raqqa, the IS stronghold.

There is a hierarchy: sheikhs get first choice, then emirs, then fighters. They often take three or four girls each and keep them for a month or so, until they grow tired of a girl, when she goes back to market. At slave auctions, buyers haggle fiercely, driving down prices by disparaging girls as flat-chested or unattractive.

We heard about one girl who was traded 22 times, and another, who had escaped, told us that the sheikh who had captured her wrote his name on the back of her hand to show that she was his "property."

Estimates vary, but there are believed to be somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 women enslaved by the Islamic State. Many are Yazidis, a persecuted minority sect that the extremist Islamic State considers to be apostate "devil-worshippers," in part because of the Yazidis' ancient connection to the region's pre-Islamic past. The jihadists' treatment of Yazidi women, in particular, has been marked out by its contempt and savagery.

Here's Bangura again:

They commit rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution and other acts of extreme brutality. We heard one case of a 20-year-old girl who was burned alive because she refused to perform an extreme sex act. We learned of many other sadistic sexual acts. We struggled to understand the mentality of people who commit such crimes.

Hundreds of Yazidi women and girls have escaped their captors, either by running away, or being ransomed and rescued by their families. Bangura has urged international assistance in providing proper medical and "psychosocial" support to the escaped women, who have experienced terrible trauma.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

ISIS Using Passports Stolen From Westerners to Travel to Syria and Iraq



The following excerpts are from AINA.org:

The Islamic State (Isis) militant group reportedly is using passports stolen from unsuspecting Westerners to assist its jihadi supporters to travel to Syria and Iraq.

According to a report by Dubai based Al Aan TV, several passports found in an Isis safehouse following a raid by a local Syrian armed rebel group, belonged to 'innocent' Westerners from the United States, the United Kingdom and France, apart from those belonging to Israel, with no ties to Isis.

The investigative report found that these passports were stolen and were later used by the Isis supporters to travel to Syria.

Jenan Moussa, a correspondent with Al Aan TV noted that she was able to get copies of 34 passports issued by various countries.

Six of the passports were Albanian, four were French, two each were of Holland, Germany, Sweden, Poland and Denmark; and one each of the US, the UK, Israel, Kosovo, Latvia, Finland and the Czech Republic.

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Assyrian Girl, 16, Abducted in Baghdad

16 year-old Assyrian girl Juliana George was kidnapped in Baghdad 7 days ago.


The following excerpts are from AINA.org:

Baghdad (AINA) -- A 16 year-old Assyrian girl, Juliana George, was abducted from her home in Baghdad 7 days ago. A person knocked on the door of her home and when she answered she was abducted by 4 men and placed into a taxi which sped away. Her grandfather Joseph, who is a priest, chased the taxi on foot and grabbed on to the door, but as the taxi sped away he could not hold on and fell to the side. A man riding a bicycle witnessed the incident and followed the taxi. He recorded the license plate of the car and returned and gave it to Fr. Joseph.

The police were able to find the taxi and its owner, who is in custody but has refused to talk.


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Assyrian Girl, 16, Abducted in Baghdad



Monday, May 4, 2015

Muslims Demand 'Right of Return' to Spain



The following excerpts are from AINA.org:

Muslim groups are demanding Spanish citizenship for potentially millions of descendants of Muslims who were expelled from Spain during the Middle Ages.

The growing clamor for "historical justice" comes after the recent approval of a law that would grant Spanish citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain in 1492.

Muslim supporters say they are entitled to the same rights and privileges as Jews because both groups were expelled from Spain under similar historical circumstances.

But historians point out that the Jewish presence in Spain predates the arrival of Christianity in the country and that their expulsion was a matter of bigotry. By contrast, the Muslims in Spain were colonial occupiers who called the territory Al-Andalus and imposed Arabic as the official language. Historians say their expulsion was a matter of decolonization.

In any event, the descendants of Muslims expelled from Spain are believed to number in the millions--possibly tens of millions--and most of them now live in North Africa. Observers say that by granting citizenship to all of them, Spain, virtually overnight, would end up with the largest Muslim population in the European Union.

Much of the Iberian Peninsula was occupied by Muslim conquerors known as the Moors from 711 until 1492, when the Moorish Kingdom of Granada surrendered to the Catholic Monarchs of Spain (Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon), in what is known as the Christian Reconquest.

But the final Muslim expulsion from Granada did not take place until over a century later, beginning in 1609, when King Philip III decreed the expulsion of the Moriscos.

The Moriscos--Moors who decided to convert to Catholicism after the Reconquest rather than leave Spain--were suspected of being nominal Catholics who continued to practice Islam in secret. From 1609 through 1614, the Spanish monarchy forced an estimated 350,000 Moriscos to leave Spain for Muslim North Africa.

Today, up to five million descendants of the Moriscos are living in Morocco alone; there are millions more living in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Tunisia and Turkey.

In a recent essay published by the Morocco-based newspaper Correo Diplomático, the Morisco-Moroccan journalist Ahmed Bensalh wrote that the "decision to grant Spanish citizenship to the grandchildren of the Hebrews in Spain in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, while ignoring the Moriscos, the grandsons of the Muslims, is without doubt, flagrant segregation and unquestionable discrimination, as both communities suffered equally in Spain at that time. The decision could also be considered by the international community to be an historic act of absolute immorality and injustice...This decision is absolutely disgraceful and dishonorable."

Bensalh then went on to threaten Spain: "Is Spain aware of what might be assumed when it makes peace with some and not with others? Is Spain aware of what this decision could cost? Has Spain considered that it could jeopardize the massive investments that Muslims have made on its territory? Does Spain have alternatives to the foreign investment from Muslims if they ever decide to move that capital to other destinations due to the discrimination against Muslims?"

Bensalh is one of many Muslim journalists, historians and academics who are demanding that Spain treat Moriscos the same way it treats Sephardic Jews.

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ISIS Demands $23 Million for Assyrian Hostages, Vigil Held in Australia



The following excerpts are from AINA.org:

(AINA) -- Assyrian church leader are reporting that ISIS has rejected a ransom offer for the 230 Assyrians it captured on February 23 in the Hasaka province of Syria (AINA 2015-02-23). 253 Assyrians were captured in the initial attacks on the 35 Assyrian villages on the Khabur river. 23 were subsequently released but 230 remain in captivity, including 52 children, 84 females and 95 males.
ISIS has demanded 100,000 US dollars for each hostage, for a total of 23 million.

Leading the negotiations with ISIS is Bishop Mellis of Australia. In an interview with SBS Radio in Australia, Bishop Mellis said:

We are a poor nation. These people have not done anything wrong and won't harm anyone. We as Assyrians do not have this amount of money you are asking for.

We offered an amount of money that we cannot disclose at this time. With the amount we offered, we thought it was acceptable, to have the return of the 230 people

After two days, they (ISIS) told us, "the amount the church offered was not acceptable. From now on, we will no longer negotiate with you.

The hostages have been moved to Raqqa, the ISIS stronghold in Syria, and are now awaiting trial in Islamic court under Sharia law, where a Muslim judge will decide their fate. Desperate church leaders have pleaded for assistance neighboring countries, including Turkey, in securing the release of the Assyrian hostages.


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ISIS Demands $23 Million for Assyrian Hostages, Vigil Held in Australia