Iraqi Christians Facing Extinction After 1,400 Years Forgive ISIS of Genocide ‘In the Name of Christ’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

 

Iraqi Christians Facing Extinction After 1,400 Years Forgive ISIS of Genocide ‘In the Name of Christ’

‘There Is No Future for Christians in the Middle East If Islam Doesn’t Change’
(PHOTO: REUTERS/SUHAIB SALEM)Iraqis attend the first Palm Sunday procession in the burnt out main church of the Christian city of Qaraqosh since Iraqi forces retook it from Islamic States militants, Iraq April 9, 2017.

Iraqi Christians are reaching out with forgiveness to the Islamic radicals who have murdered, tortured, and raped their communities, even as they face an existential struggle for survival.

Iraqi Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, who has been outspoken about the plight of Christians in his country, said believers “have endured persecution in patience and faith for 1,400 years,” but now face an “existential struggle” that could possibly be their last in Iraq.

Speaking at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. last week at an event hosted by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, the bishop noted that the Islamic State terror group displaced more than 125,000 Christians in the Nineveh region.

Warda said the attacks left Christians “without shelter, without refuge, without work, without properties, without monasteries, without the ability to participate in any of the things that give our lives dignity,” as reported by Catholic News Agency.

“So few of us are left, some estimate 200,000 Christians or less,” he said of the total number of Christians in the country, down from 1.5 million in 2003.

“While it is true that our numbers are small, the Apostles were much smaller.”

Still, the church leader said that Christians are open to forgiveness despite the horrors of the genocide they have suffered.

“We forgive those who murdered us, who tortured us, who raped us, who sought to destroy everything about us. We forgive them in the name of Christ,” Warda declared.

He added that Muslim leaders need to do more than simply clarify that IS does not represent their faith, but praised some nations, such as the United Arab Emirates, for offering genuine support to the victims of violence.

“Since the ISIS attack, they’ve been with us helping all — Catholics, Yazidis, Muslims,” the bishop explained.

“There is a fundamental crisis within Islam itself and if this crisis is not acknowledged, addressed and fixed then there can be no future for Christians in the Middle East,” he added.

“We’ve been hearing some courageous voices from Islamic leaders concerning the need of change and the need to address this issue openly. It should be encouraged.”

The decimated communities have seen hope in the opening of the new Catholic University of Erbil, which welcomes both Christian and Muslim students, offering degrees in economics, international law, English literature, and accounting, among others.

Nineveh Plains Christians were also able to celebrate the reconsecration of the first church since IS’ invasion in December, with the reopening of St. George’s Church in Telleskuf.

Others, such as Ashur Sargon Eskrya, president of the Assyrian Aid Society branch in Iraq, have said that despite the victories against IS and the liberation of Iraqi territories, Christians are facing their “biggest and greatest challenge” in returning to their homelands.

“Iraqi Christians (Assyrian,Chaldean) are indigenous peoples of the country, according to historical sources, and their future in Iraq depends of on international support and protection. Without protections, they will not be able to live in Iraq anymore,” Eskrya said in August 2017.

“It is critical time for the Christians of Iraq — ‘to be or not to be.’ The Christians of Iraq are facing their biggest and greatest challenge” in post-IS Iraq, he added.

Follow Stoyan Zaimov on Facebook: CPSZaimov

Turkey Could Sever Ties With Israel If Trump Recognizes Capital

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Erdogan says Turkey could sever ties with Israel if Trump recognizes capital

Palestinians, Saudi Arabia, Arab League and European Union warn changing Jerusalem’s status could scuttle peace efforts

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, gestures as he gives a speech at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara, on December 5, 2017. (AFP Photo/Adem Altan)

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, gestures as he gives a speech at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara, on December 5, 2017. (AFP Photo/Adem Altan)

The status of Jerusalem is a “red line” for Muslims and changing it could prompt Turkey to cut its ties with Israel, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Tuesday, as US President Donald Trump reportedly geared up to recognize the city as the Jewish state’s capital.

Erdogan said Turkey, which currently holds the chairmanship of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, would immediately call a summit meeting of the pan-Islamic group if Trump went ahead with the move on Wednesday, and “set the entire Islamic world in motion.”

“Mr. Trump! Jerusalem is a red line for Muslims,” he said in a raucous televised speech to his ruling party that was greeted with chants and applause.

Turkey, Erdogan said, would “follow this struggle to the very last moment with determination and we could even go right up to cutting our diplomatic relations with Israel.”

Officials in Jerusalem rejected Erdogan’s threat.

Nabil Shaath, the Commissioner for External Relations of the Fatah movement, seen in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, January 18, 2012 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Nabil Shaath, the commissioner for external relations of the Fatah movement, seen in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, January 18, 2012 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Meanwhile, a senior Palestinian official warned that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would spell the end of Trump’s nascent Israeli-Palestinian peace push.

“That totally destroys any chance that he will play a role as an honest broker,” Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, told journalists on Tuesday.

“That takes away… the deal of the century,” he added, referring to Trump’s pledge to clinch the long-elusive peace deal.

Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit also warned of the “danger” of the United States recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or relocating its embassy there, calling on Washington to reconsider.

Abul Gheit told Arab government delegates that they had decided to meet in Cairo “given the danger of this matter, if it were to happen, and the possible negative consequences not only for the situation in Palestine but also for the Arab and Islamic region.”

US President Donald Trump visits the Western Wall, May 22, 2017, in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Saudi Arabia, a major partner to the American efforts to revive the peace process, added its voice, expressing “grave and deep concern” over the possible US plans.

If Trump decides to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital it would reverse years of US policy, even if he did not move the US embassy.

“Saudi Arabia (expresses) grave and deep concern over reports that the US administration intends to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem,” the official Saudi Press Agency said, citing a foreign ministry source.

“This step will have serious implications and will further complicate the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It will also obstruct the ongoing efforts to revive the peace process.”

The European Union also noted possible “serious repercussions” of the move.

Above: EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini

The EU, which supports a two-state solution to the conflict, warned against doing anything that would jeopardize the peace process.

“Since early this year, the European Union was clear in its expectation that there can be reflection on the consequences that any decision or unilateral action affecting Jerusalem’s status could have,” EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini’s office said in a statement.

“It might have serious repercussions on public opinion in large parts of the world,” it added. “The focus should therefore remain on the efforts to restart the peace process and avoiding any action that would undermine such efforts.”

Trump is expected to make an announcement on Jerusalem in a major policy speech Wednesday.

The mercurial president has yet to make his final decision, officials said, but is expected to stop short of moving the embassy to Jerusalem outright, a central campaign pledge that has been postponed once already by the new administration.

Facing dark warnings of a historic misstep and widespread unrest, Trump on Monday delayed a decision on whether to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. The White House said the president would miss a deadline on the decision, after a frantic 48 hours of public warnings from allies and private phone calls between world leaders.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the most contentious issues of the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel gained control of East Jerusalem during the Six Day War in 1967 and extended its sovereignty there in 1980, an effective annexation that remains unrecognized by the international community. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

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Indian politician offers $1.5M for beheading of Bollywood star

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FOX NEWS AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

 

Indian politician offers $1.5M for beheading of Bollywood star over Hindu queen, Muslim ruler romance film

A member of India’s Hindu nationalist ruling party offered a $1.5 million bounty Sunday for anyone who beheads the lead actress and the director of a yet-to-be released Bollywood film that’s sparked controversy for depicting a romance between a Hindu queen and Muslim ruler.

The film “Padmavati” was set to be in theaters on Dec. 1 and has caused a firestorm over its alleged handling of the relationship.

Suraj Pal Amu, a Bharatiya Janata Party leader from the northern state of Haryana, offered the bounty against actress Deepika Padukone and filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali.The film’s producers postponed the release of the movie the same day.

Speaking at a public rally, Amu also said the film would not be allowed to be released at all, local media reported.

FILE - In this June 25, 2016 file photo, Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone poses for photographers at the International Indian Film Academy Rocks Green Carpet for the 17th Edition of IIFA Weekend & Awards in Madrid, Spain. A member of India's Hindu nationalist ruling party has offered a 100 million rupee ($1.5 million) reward to anyone who beheads the lead actress Padukone and Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the director of the yet-to-be released Bollywood film "Padmavati" over its alleged handling of the relationship between a Hindu queen and a Muslim ruler. The film's producers postponed the release of the film, which was set to be in theaters Dec. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Samuel de Roman, File)

Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone poses for photographers at the International Indian Film Academy Rocks.  (AP)

The movie “Padmavati” is based on a 16th century Sufi epic poem, “Padmavat,” a fictional account of a brave and beautiful Rajput queen who chose to kill herself rather than be captured by the Muslim sultan of Delhi, Allaudin Khilji. Over the centuries, the tale has come to be seen as history, even though there is little historical evidence to support it.

Padukone plays the role in the film of Padmini, the legendary queen who committed “jauhar,” the medieval Rajput practice in which women of royal households walked into funeral fires to embrace death over the dishonor of being taken captive.

The film has been in trouble since the beginning of the year, with fringe groups in the western state of Rajasthan attacking the film’s set, threatening to burn down theaters that show it and even physically attacking Bhansali in January.

70th Cannes Film Festival - Screening of the film "Nelyubov" (Loveless) in competition - Red Carpet Arrivals - Cannes, France. 18/05/2017. Model Deepika Padukone poses. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe - RC1F97CCB4A0

Deepika Padukone poses at the 70th Cannes Film Festival.  (Reuters)

Most of the anger at the film appears to stem from allegations that Bhansali distorted history by filming a romantic dream sequence between the film’s main protagonists. Bhansali has denied the allegations.

Earlier this month, the head of the Rajput Karni Sena in Rajasthan said Padukone should have her nose cut — a symbol of public humiliation — for being part of a film that allegedly insulted the famed queen.

On Monday, local government officials vowed to take “stringent action” against those threatening Padukone and others involved in the movie, The Indian Express reported.

India’s 1.3 billion-strong democracy is the largest in the world, but despite significant economic progress over the last few decades its politics are held hostage by a complex mix of religion and caste. Books and movies have found themselves at the receiving end of threats of violence and bans because they either offend one religious or caste group, or are deemed offensive to Indian culture in general.

Members of India's Rajput community shout slogans as they protest against the release of Bollywood film "Padmavati" in Mumbai, India, Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. The film has been in trouble since the beginning of the year, with fringe groups in the western state of Rajasthan attacking the film's set, threatening to burn down theaters that show it and even physically attacking the director in January. A member of India's Hindu nationalist ruling party has offered a 100 million rupee ($1.5 million) reward to anyone who beheads the lead actress and the director of the yet-to-be released film over its alleged handling of the relationship between a Hindu queen and a Muslim ruler. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Members of India’s Rajput community shout slogans as they protest against the release of Bollywood film “Padmavati” in Mumbai.  (AP)

In the past, India’s film censor board rejected the erotic drama “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and Hollywood movies that appear on Indian screens are routinely scrubbed of sex scenes. “The Da Vinci Code” was banned in the Indian state of Goa, which has a large Christian population, because religious groups objected.

On Monday, India’s Supreme Court refused to ban the controversial film, saying it is not inclined in the matter and the fate of the film needs to be decided by the country’s censor board, India Today reported.

In its decision, the court said: “The censor board has a role and the Supreme Court cannot assume that role. Why should the court interfere to stop the release of a movie which has not been cleared by the censor board?”

Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone interacts with the media during a news conference promoting the upcoming film "xXx: Return of Xander Cage" in Mumbai, India January 12, 2017. REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade - RC1C7813B2F0

Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone interacts with the media during a news conference in Mumbai.  (Reuters)

In 2014, the publishing house Penguin India pulled from shelves and destroyed all copies of American historian Wendy Doniger’s “The Hindus: An Alternative History” after protests and a lawsuit from a Hindu right-wing group. The group’s main objection was that the book described Hindu mythological texts as fictional.

India-born writer Salman Rushdie’s book “The Satanic Verses” has been banned here since 1998, since many Muslims consider it blasphemous. Rushdie was forced to cancel a 2012 appearance at the Jaipur Literary Festival amid protests and threats by prominent Muslim clerics.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The True Meaning of Shaheed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GOOGLE DICTIONARY)

 

The True Meaning of Shaheed

Many often wonder what drives one to become a martyr.  There are actually many reasons.  However, in light of a special type of “martyr,” we need to make a distinction between “martyr” and “Shaheed” (an Islamic term).  When translators relay to us the word “Shaheed”, they usually translate it as “Martyr.”  This is not quite accurate.  In the English language, as well as other languages, there exists no special word to describe the exact meaning of “Shaheed.”
A martyr is one who decides to give up his life for whatever cause he serves or to uphold his principles and honour.  Maybe he wishes to go down in history as a hero.  Maybe he feels very passionate about his country or his philosophy that he would risk his life for it.  Some martyrs do die for their religion.  Some risk their lives to uphold truth and justice.  A martyr has many reasons for which he may risk his life.
However, the term “Shaheed” is only applied to those who sacrifice their lives for Allah’s (God’s) cause.  They have no fear; they only fear Allah and want to obey Him and to serve Him.  They realize that their lives belong to Allah, the One who created them, so it is a gift and we should not be so selfish about it.  To obey Allah and to implement what He has commanded (truth, justice and liberty) might mean the loss of their loves.  Their lover for Allah motivates them to sacrifice the precious gift of life.  They are assured of a great reward in the end for their unselfish act.  Their focus is on the next life and on pleasing Allah.
In some cases, people have translate, or named, “Shaheed” as “suicide” bomber”.  This is such an ugly term.  A Muslim knows that suicide is prohibited and that Allah will punish them for it; it is like murder, even though one would be killing one’s self.  A Shaheed has no desire to die for the sake of escaping life.  He loves life.  A Muslim should want to continue living and never even wish he were dead because maybe his life could serve the purpose of Allah and he could continue doing good deeds.  A Shaheed decides when he goes off to fight for Allah’s cause that he is not going to fear death.  His attitude is to submit to whatever Allah has chosen for him, and he will accept the outcome.  He would prefer not to die and leave his family, but at the same time he almost looks forward to the sacrifice because of the great reward he’ll receive form Allah.  He knows he’ll be in Paradise forever.  He doesn’t even fear the pain of death because Prophet Muhammad SallalLahu Alayhi Wasallam has told the Believers that at the time a Shaheed dies, he will not feel the pain; this is the mercy of Allah.  The pain will be similar to a bee’s sting.
However, in order to earn the title of Shaheed one must have the correct Niat (intention).  In Islam intention is important behind every action in the religion.  The only One who really knows the true intention of a person is Allah, for He sees their heart and knows their mind.  Thus, the reward will rest upon the intention of the person.  The Shaheed must have in his intention to risk his life only for Allah and not for anyone else.  It can’t be for his own ego.  It can’t be for the title of “hero”.  It can’t be for revenge, for Allah will truly take care of the evildoers.  It must be to serve the purpose of Allah and to uphold truth, justice, and liberty as well as to fight against all types of oppression.
Allah states in the Qur’an that “Those who believe, and suffer exile and strive with might and main,, in Allah’s cause, with their goods and their persons, have the highest rank in the sight of Allah:  They are the people who will achieve (salvation)”  (9:  20)
To die as a Shaheed is an honour.  Some people desire this title if they must die because of the great reward.  Other people can achieve equal reward as a Shaheed:  those who die from terminal illnesses like cancer, the woman who dies as a result of childbirth or those who are murdered.
An incentive to be a Shaheed is found in the Hadeeth that states:  “No one who enters Paradise will want to come back to the world and have anything on the earth except the ‘Shaheed.’.  He will wish to return to the world and be killed ten times because of the honour he sees” (Bukhari and Muslim).
We can understand why a Muslim is happy to sacrifice his life.  He gains great reward in Paradise as well as honour.  We see so many who’ve died under the hands of occupiers, tyrants and barbarians.  They fought in defence, but they also fought to uphold truth, liberty, justice and their religion.  Many are honoured as a Shaheed, but only Allah knows their true intentions.  Allah willing, they are in Paradise.

Citing Quran, Kuwaiti Pundit Says Israel ‘A Legitimate State’ Not An Occupier

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

‘WHEN ISRAEL WAS ESTABLISHED THERE WAS NO PALESTINE’

Citing Quran, Kuwaiti pundit says Israel ‘a legitimate state,’ not an occupier

In Kuwaiti TV interview that prompts angry Arab response, Abdullah Al-Hadlaq praises Israeli culture and values, calls for alliance with Jewish state against common enemies

Kuwaiti writer Abdullah Al-Hadlaq on Alrai TV (YouTube screenshot)

Kuwaiti writer Abdullah Al-Hadlaq on Alrai TV (YouTube screenshot)

Al-Hadlaq cited Quranic verses as proof that “Israelites have the right to the Holy Land. Allah assigned that land to them, and they did not plunder it.

“The history of the Israelite’s is ancient, predating Islam. Therefore we Muslims must acknowledge that the Israelite’s have a right to that land, and that they have not plundered it,” he said.

Al-Hadlaq also spoke with glowing praise of Israel’s “scientific centers and universities, the likes of which even the oldest and most powerful Arab countries lack.”

And he celebrated Israel’s loyalty to its soldiers, speaking effusively of the lengthy public campaign to free soldier Gilad Shalit from Hamas captivity in 2011. He said he wished Arabs could be like the people of Israel “who rallied, down to the very last one, to defend a single Israeli soldier.

“By Allah, if he were a soldier in any Arab country, would his nation, country or head of state rally the same way Israel did? The Arab countries have had thousands of casualties, and nobody cares about them.”

Finally, Al-Hadlaq called for cooperation with Israel against common enemies such as Iran and its allies. “Why shouldn’t we live in peaceful coexistence with Israel and cooperate with it?” he asked.

He suggested a three-way alliance between Israel, the US and Gulf states to “annihilate Hezbollah beyond resurrection.”

It was not the first time Al-Hadlaq has made his pro-Israeli opinions known. He has in the past written columns in which he has defended Israel’s right to defend itself in the face of Hamas attacks, and lauded Israel’s democracy in a region of oppressive regimes.

He has been heavily criticized in Arab circles for these views.

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Ratko Mladic guilty of genocide, sentenced to life in prison

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Ratko Mladic guilty of genocide, sentenced to life in prison

(CNN)Former Bosnian Serb wartime army leader Ratko Mladic has been sentenced to life in prison Wednesday after being found guilty of genocide over atrocities committed during the Bosnian war from 1992 to 1995.

Verdict proceedings had been interrupted earlier when the 74-year-old’s legal team claimed that his blood pressure was too high to continue.
After outbursts from Mladic, Judge Alphons Orie, who was delivering a summation of the case, ordered the removal of the ex-general, telling him he could monitor proceedings by audio and video.
Mladic’s legal team had asked for proceedings to be halted or for the summation of the case to be skipped, which the Judge refused.
Mladic was charged with two counts of genocide, and nine crimes against humanity and war crimes for his role in the conflict in the former Yugoslavia from 1992 to 1995, during which 100,000 people were killed and another 2.2 million displaced. He was found not guilty on one charge of genocide.
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The trial, which opened in 2012, took place at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Netherlands. The ad-hoc court was established to prosecute crimes committed during the Balkans conflict.
Mladic was accused of orchestrating a campaign of ethnic cleansing, including the slaughter of thousands of Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in July 1995. It is the worst massacre to have taken place in Europe since the Second World War.
Arrested in 2011, Mladic’s trial has lasted 530 days, included more than 500 witnesses and nearly 10,000 exhibits.
Before the case was adjourned last December, prosecutors recommended a life sentence. Mladic had previously referred to the court as “satanic” and labeled the charges against him as “obnoxious.”

Who is Ratko Mladic?

The ex-general — accused of being “the Butcher of Bosnia” — was in command of the Bosnian Serb army which entered the town of Srebrenica in July 1995. In the days which followed, 8,000 Muslim men and boys were systematically slaughtered by troops under his leadership.

The Srebrenica massacre: A defining moment

The late Bosnia peace negotiator Richard Holbrooke once described Mladic as “one of those lethal combinations that history thrusts up occasionally — a charismatic murderer.
Mladic faced charges over his actions during the siege of Sarajevo where his heavily armed forces cut the city off from the outside world. Serb forces pounded the city from higher ground positions each day, trapping Sarajevo’s residents in the valley below. More than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, perished.

pkg amanpour srebrenica genocide survivor iaw_00014219

As the war ended in 1995, Mladic went on the run before being found 16 years later when police burst into the garden of a small house in northern Serbia.
Though he was carrying two handguns, he surrendered without a fight. He was extradited for trial in the Netherlands.
In 2011, a tribunal judge entered not guilty pleas for Mladic after he refused to cooperate and was forcibly removed from the courtroom at the judge’s order.
Mladic’s judgment day comes more than a year after Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic was sentenced to 40 years in prison in March 2016, for his role in the 1990s conflict.
Former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic was arrested in 2001 but died before his trial could be completed.

White Nationalists Disrupt Polish Independence Day

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Nationalist protesters disrupt Poland independence day events

White nationalists disrupt Polish independence day

White nationalists disrupt Polish independence day 00:51

Warsaw, Poland (CNN)Tens of thousands of nationalist protesters disrupted Poland’s independence day events Saturday, waving flags and burning flares as they marched down the streets of Warsaw.

Demonstrators carried banners that read “White Europe, Europe must be white,” and “Pray for an Islamic Holocaust.”
Some wore masks and waved red and white Polish flags, chanting “Death to enemies of the homeland,” and “Catholic Poland, not secular.”

Police estimate that 60,000 people took part in the nationalist demonstration.

Police estimate that 60,000 people took part in the nationalist demonstration. While the vast majority were Poles, other protesters came from all over Europe.

Poland regained its independence in 1918.

One of the lead organizations behind the nationalists march is the National Radical Camp, which has previously taken to the streets to protest against Muslim immigration,gay rights, the EU and anything it considers undermines Polish Catholic values.
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Tens of thousands attended the march in Warsaw.

While support for the group remains small, its critics argue that the Polish government, which has struck a nationalistic tone and linked immigrants to crime and disease, has fostered an atmosphere of intolerance and xenophobia that has emboldened it.

Some of those marching lit flares during the event.

Earlier on Saturday, the Polish capital had seen a far smaller demonstration by groups condemning the protesters’ hijacking of Polish independence day, which falls on November 11.

Far-right marchers waved flags as they took part in the march.

The day celebrates the re-birth of Poland in November 1918, 123 years after the Prussian, Habsburg, and Russian empires carved up Poland among themselves and erased it from the map of Europe.
But in the past few years, the holiday has been overshadowed by the far-right march and fears of violence.
Polish President Andrzej Duda led the formal celebrations of Polish independence day in central Warsaw. After laying a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier, he told the crowd to remember the price of freedom and independence.

Myanmar Government Vows to Address Refugee Crisis in Rakhine State

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Myanmar Government Vows to Address Refugee Crisis in Rakhine State, but Avoids Saying ‘Rohingya’

A Rohingya camp for internally displaced persons in Rakhine State. Photo by Mathias Eick. Source: Flickr page of EU/ECHO (CC BY-ND 2.0)

On September 19, 2017, Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi delivered a widely anticipated speech in front of diplomats, United Nations officials, and members of the media to speak about what the government is doing to address the refugee crisis in Rakhine State.

Since August, about 400,000 Rohingyas have escaped to Bangladesh after the Myanmar government intensified its crackdown of insurgents belonging to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which attacked several police and military outposts.

The crackdown involved clearing operations that displaced thousands of Rohingya families. Both the ARSA and government troops accused each other of committing widespread abuses such as looting and burning of houses, beating and killing of women and children, and instigating religious violence. The conflict has affected various ethnic groups in the Rakhine state.

The Rohingya people are an ethnic group in western Myanmar, but the government considers them to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship. Most are Muslim, and living in a country with a Buddhist majority population, they suffer from discrimination. Many are deprived of basic social services.

In her speech, Suu Kyi assured Myanmar’s ethnic groups that the government is thinking about their welfare. Unfortunately, she failed to mention the Rohingya, a move in line with the government’s refusal to recognize the Rohingya as an official ethnic group. In fact, her whole speech avoided reference to “Rohingya” and instead she referred to them simply as Muslims:

We feel deeply for the suffering of all the people who have been caught up in the conflict. Those who have had to flee their homes are many – not just Muslims and Rakhines, but also small minority groups, such as the Daing-net, Mro, Thet, Mramagyi and Hindus of whose presence most of the world is totally unaware.

She also said refugees who fled to Bangladesh can return to Myanmar — but only after undergoing a verification process:

Those who have been verified as refugees from this country will be accepted without any problems and with full assurance of their security and their access to humanitarian aid.

With regard to the recent spate of attacks in Rakhine, she spoke about punishing groups responsible for spreading violence:

Action will be taken against all peoples, regardless of their religion, race, or political position who go against the laws of the land and who violate human rights as accepted by our international community. We have never been soft on human rights in this country.

Suu Kyi, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her promotion of democracy, has been criticized for her silence regarding the issue and her alleged inaction to prevent the persecution of Rohingya. Her September 19 speech was regarded as a crucial moment for her to clarify once and for all the government’s position on the matter, in particular the forced exodus of thousands of Rohingya to nearby Bangladesh. Suu Kyi is not the head of government but she is the leader of the ruling party.

In her speech, Suu Kyi emphasized that Myanmar has a fragile democracy that is undergoing transition after five decades of experiencing direct military rule. She added that the new government has been in power for only 18 months and it has been struggling very hard to enforce reforms while keeping peace and restoring democratic processes.

‘The harshest international critics of the government will be far from satisfied’

Meanwhile, Vice President U Henry Van Thio addressed the United Nations General Assembly on September 20 and echoed Suu Kyi’s point that the majority of Muslims in Rakhine have decided to remain in the country:

We would need to find out the reason for this exodus. What is little known is that the great majority of the Muslim population decided to remain in their villages. We share the need to ensure that vital humanitarian assistance is provided to all those in need.

Suu Kyi’s speech was beamed live across Myanmar and groups of people even watched it in the capital while holding placards with the words, “We stand with Aung San Suu Kyi.”

Historian Thant Myint-U thinks the speech will resonate with the domestic population, but international critics will not be satisfied:

My guess is that the harshest international critics of the government will be far from satisfied; but that the vast majority of Burmese people and at least some foreign governments will feel she’s steering the only realistic course she can under very complex circumstances.

Indeed, local media highlighted how global news reports about the refugee crisis focused on the Rohingya but neglected the situation of other ethnic groups. Some even complained that rich countries are unduly interfering in Myanmar’s domestic affairs.

‘Little more than a mix of untruths and victim blaming’

Netherlands Ambassador to Myanmar Wouter Jurgens tweeted his disappointment with Suu Kyi’s speech (ASSK stands for Aung San Suu Kyi):

ASSK’s speech on Rakhine: we feared denial and hoped for a message of compassion and justice: neither has come true.  @DutchMFA

James Gomez of Amnesty International wondered about Suu Kyi’s “silence about the role of the security forces” in the attacks against the Rohingya:

Aung San Suu Kyi today demonstrated that she and her government are still burying their heads in the sand over the horrors unfolding in Rakhine State. At times, her speech amounted to little more than a mix of untruths and victim blaming.

Writing for news website Coconuts Yangon, Jacob Goldberg witnessed how an enthusiastic crowd welcomed the speech of Suu Kyi.

Generalizing a problem in order to ignore a specific emergency works like a charm for people in power when their followers are on board.

Watching the crowd outside City Hall throw a mini-rave before and after they heard Aung San Suu Kyi trivialize the pain of the world’s most persecuted people made it clearer than ever that the struggle for real justice inside Myanmar will be long and torturous. But it will only begin once at least one person in the crowd suggests that death and displacement are no occasion for a dance party.

After weeks of being quiet about the issue, Suu Kyi broke her silence but failed to appease everyone, especially human rights groups. Worse, by avoiding to mention the Rohingya, Suu Kyi’s speech could in fact reinforce negative views about the ethnic group. Meanwhile, as Myanmar rebuilds the shattered villages in Rakhine, the situation of Rohingya refugees staying in makeshift camps in both Bangladesh and Myanmar continues to deteriorate.

Muslims in the Former Soviet Union Rally Behind Myanmar’s Besieged Rohingya

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘GLOBAL VOICES’)

 

Muslims in the Former Soviet Union Rally Behind Myanmar’s Besieged Rohingya

‘Rohingya’. Creative commons image by Flickr user Rockefeller.

Over the past few weeks, Russia’s North Caucasus republics and the ex-Soviet states of Central Asia have seen an explosion of interest in the plight of Myanmar’s besieged Rohingya minority, who share the Islamic faith dominant across the region.

According to the United Nations over 270,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state for Bangladesh amid a campaign of government-backed violence sparked in part by a standoff with militants during the last two weeks. Al Jazeera and aid agencies estimate almost a million members of the stateless minority have fled Myanmar since the late 1970s.

Several large, seemingly Whatsapp-fuelled rallies against the violence have already taken place in Moscow and Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. The rallies went ahead in spite of Russia’s seeming official position on Myanmar, that saw it block a UN Security Council resolution regarding state-sponsored violence against the Rohingya earlier this year. In ex-Soviet Central Asia, while no-one took to the streets, a football match featuring Myanmar’s international team was cancelled over security fears and Facebook posts, petitions and even poetry in support of the Rohingya flooded timelines.

A strongman takes a stand

The Moscow rallies that took place on September 3 and 4 were unsanctioned in a country where the right to protest is strictly controlled. The first Moscow rally didn’t result in any arrests, despite heavy police presence, but 17 people were briefly detained on Monday at a follow-up rally. According to reports in the Russian media, WhatsApp groups served as a the main hub for organizing the protests.

Chechnya’s controversial leader Ramzan Kadyrov has played a leading role in organising the response to a sudden surge of violence and state-driven persecution in the Southeast Asian country. Kadyrov, famed for gay-bashing and fiery tirades in support of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has used social media to strike out against world leaders for their inaction. On September 4 he staged a rally attended by tens of thousands — the official claim was a million people, or almost 80 percent of the republic’s total population — in the Chechen capital Grozny. On Thursday, three days after the Grozny rally, Kadyrov made another statement on Instagram, saying that no further protests will be necessary as enough awareness had been raised.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this year. Russian government photo. Creative commons.

By that point Kadyrov had already hinted that Moscow should step up pressure on Myanmar, while claiming he would launch a nuclear strike against the Rohingya’s oppressors if he was able to.

He later said the comments — which analysts called alarming for his superiors in the Kremlin — had been taken out of context by his enemies. Russia’s foreign ministry warned against putting pressure on Myanmar on June 8.

Given Kadyrov’s uncompromising stance on Myanmar, it is no surprise that social media users from Chechnya have been among the loudest voices backing the Rohingya on Russian social media. Users from neighbouring Dagestan and Ingushetia have also been vocal even as citizens in Russia’s other majority Muslim federal republics, Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, largely ignored the issue.

This North Caucasus bias was reflected in Yandex, Russia’s largest national search engine, reporting a sharp increase in searches about Myanmar (Мьянма in Cyrillic) coming from the region.

Support for the Rohingya cause across the region has a pop-up feel. Many long-standing Islamic-themed Vkontakte pages have transformed themselves into 24/7 pro-Rohingya advocacy channels overnight. Most are explicitly run by and aimed at residents of Chechnya.

Pro-Rohingya meme widely shared on Russian social media

One such online community, [V]Chechnye ([In]Chechnya), has posted at least 43 messages relating to the Rohingya crisis since September 1. Messages include video appeals informing Muslims of the atrocities against the Rohingya, calls to sign a Change.org petition, and allegations that anti-Muslim violence in traditionally Buddhist regions of Russia such as Kalmykia goes unpunished (incidents reported in the Russian media, such as a prayer room in Elista, Kalmykia’s capital, being torched by unidentified assailants, and a pig’s head thrown into a village mosque, were mentioned).

Some have gone as far as recruiting volunteers online to join a “holy jihad” to save their brethren in Myanmar.

One page, Overheard in Chechnyapublished a post bringing attention to the September 4 rally, adding bullet-pointed instructions on how to keep the online campaign alive.

They are experiencing what we cannot even imagine!
#Rohingyawearewithyou
ALLAHU AKBAR
Tomorrow (04.09), a rally near Grozny’s central mosque!!
Don’t be indifferent!!!!
Max repost!!

Let’s all hold a rally on social media!!! All! All of you! Everyone who opposes the genocide in Myanmar!!! Your faith, denomination or nationality don’t matter!!!
Replace your Instagram, What’s App [sic], Vkontakte etc profile picture with the following image (share both the text and the image)
DON’T LIKE IMAGES AND VIDEOS NOT RELATED TO THE CAMPAIGN! So that the genocide stays on top of most discussed posts!!! So that everyone knows!!!
DISSEMINATE INFORMATION ABOUT THE RALLY AMONG EVERYONE YOU KNOW ON SOCIAL MEDIA! Let the whole world know that we won’t just let the story go!!! We are prepared to go any length to save innocent people!!!
USE THE HASHTAG #ROHINGYAWEAREWITHYOU

Even My Private Aul, an anonymous online community for gay persons from Northern Caucasus — arguably one of the most marginalized and persecuted groups in Russia — posted an appeal to sign a petition addressed to Russia’s UN envoy.

The petition, which at the time of writing has over 160 thousand signatures, urges the the Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzya to support a UN Security Council resolution on violence in Myanmar, rather than vetoing it with China, as happened earlier this year.

Political football and poems of woe

Over on the other side of the Caspian Sea in the Central Asian states once part of the Soviet Union there has also been a strong reaction to violence in Myanmar. This was most apparent in Kyrgyzstan, where the government cancelled a scheduled Asia Cup football qualifying fixture with Myanmar, amid concerns over a potential terror threat and fan clashes with Burmese players.

Many Kyrgyz social media users thought this was an overreaction. But officials were clearly nervous in the build-up to the game, as social media users called variously for a boycott of the match, a peaceful protest outside the stadium and a minute’s silence in respect of the Rohingya victims prior to kick off.

The football federation, whose Facebook page was overwhelmed by criticisms of Myanmar and support for the Rohingya, posted a plea for order before the country’s Prime Minister eventually moved to cancel the game:

We position ourselves as a friendly and hospitable nation!!! Like all we condemn and mourn what is happening to Muslims in Myanmar! Nevertheless…let’s show on September 5 that we don’t give in to provocations. Let’s support our guys in a friendly fashion!

Not all Kyrgyz have been impressed by online pro-Rohingya messaging. One post in the group We are for a Democratic and Secular Kyrgyzstan (In Russian Мы за СВЕТСКИЙ, ДЕМОКРАТИЧЕСКИЙ КЫРГЫЗСТАН!) hinted at frustrations over pan-Islamic sympathies and posts written “stupidly for likes and comments”.

In this post a Facebook user criticizes another user for writing posts “stupidly for likes and comments”. The original post calls on Muslims to pray for the Rohingya and for God to punish their persecutors “in the harshest possible way.”

The violence in Myanmar also inspired a number of lyrical tributes. Here citizens of Tajikistan came into their own. One website focused on the country counted at least five Tajik poems on social media, themed on the unfolding tragedy in Myanmar.

A woman poet Shoira Rahimjon wrote:

I’ll go to Myanmar!
To tell Burma not to take hopes from
My poor pregnant sister,
Not to burn my nation,
Not to take my soul,

I’ll go right now!
To take Burma to the house of justice,
And to the home of forgiveness

Although the Grozny and Moscow protests may have played a role in drawing Central Asians towards the Rohingya cause, it is worth considering that the opportunity for solidarity presented to them by the conflict in Myanmar is also an opportunity for self defence.

While all five countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan) have majority-Muslim populations, they also share aggressively secular authoritarian governments, who fear growing religious adherence is undermining their authority.

Tajik migrants gather on a Moscow street for Eid al-Fitr prayers. Praying on the street is banned in Tajikistan. Photo by David Trilling for Eurasianet.org. Used with permission.

Last week Tajikistan moved to ban the Islamic hijab covering from schools completely while mobile service providers mobbed citizens with SMS messages stressing the need to wear non-religious “national” clothes. Neighbours Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are routinely recognised by the US state department as “countries of particular concern” in regards to religious freedom. Kazakhstan is seemingly movingin a similar direction.

For citizens in these countries then, the plight of a geographically distant community whose religion they share has offered a chance to amplify concerns about injustices committed against Muslims the world over, without too much fear at the consequences of speaking out.

For Ramzan Kadyrov over in Chechnya, the Rohingya tragedy perhaps represents something even greater: a bid for power and influence across the Muslim world.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan a “huge iceberg of misinformation” about the Rohingya crisis was being distributed to benefit “terrorists.”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

(CNN)Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has made her first public comments on the fate of her country’s persecuted Rohingya minority since new violence broke out almost two weeks ago.

Suu Kyi, who as Myanmar’s state counselor is the country’s defacto leader, claimed during a phone conversation with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan a “huge iceberg of misinformation” about the Rohingya crisis was being distributed to benefit “terrorists.”
According to a readout of the call, she added her government was fighting to ensure “terrorism” didn’t spread over the whole of Rakhine state.
Suu Kyi has come under fire in recent days for failing to speak out against the mass killings and displacement of Rohingya by her government, particularly given her previous image as a champion of human rights.
During the call, Suu Kyi said her government was already working to protect the rights of the Rohingya.
“We know very well, more than most, what it means to be deprived of human rights and democratic protection,” Suu Kyi said, according to a readout of the call.
“So we make sure that all the people in our country are entitled to protection of their rights as well as, the right to, and not just political but social and humanitarian defense.”
At least 123,000 Rohingya refugees have poured across the Bangladeshi border in just two weeks after Myanmar’s military crackdown. The violence intensified after coordinated attacks on border posts which the government blamed on “terrorists.”
Refugees brought with them stories of death and destruction from inside the western Myanmar province. Satellite imagery released by Human Rights Watch allegedly shows entire villages razed to the ground.

International aid heads to Myanmar

Following Erdogan’s call with Suu Kyi, a spokesman for the Turkish presidency announced the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) would be allowed to deliver 1,000 tons of aid to Rakhine State.
“The aid will be delivered to the Maungtaw and Buthi Taung areas in the northern regions of Rakhine … to the hundreds of families displaced from their homes and villages as a result of attacks,” spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said.
“The first stage of the aid which will be made to the Rohingya who fled to mountainous areas … includes the food staples of rice and dried fish as well as clothing.”
The spokesman added as the region was still unsafe, aid would be delivered via military helicopters in cooperation with Rakhine authorities.

Myanmar's Rohingya ethnic minority members walk through rice fields after crossing over to the Bangladesh side of the border, Friday, Sept. 1.

Turkey isn’t the only one sending aid to the troubled province either — the Migrant Offshore Aid Station Foundation (MOAS) announced Monday it would relocate to Myanmar to help fleeing refugees.
MOAS is the organization that has been working since April 2014 to rescue migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe on often unsafe vessels.
They claim to have already helped more than 40,000 people, including children.
“Building on MOAS’ long-standing dedication to alleviating the plight of the persecuted Rohingya minority, MOAS is therefore undertaking a strategic shift of its operations to South East Asia,” the organization announced on their website.
“MOAS said they were following a direction from Pope Francis, who on August 27 publicly called for an international response to the Rohingya crisis.”
“From there, MOAS will deliver much-needed humanitarian assistance and aid to the Rohingya people, and will work to provide a platform for transparency, advocacy and accountability in the region.”

Muslim anger grows worldwide

Myanmar has faced a growing chorus of outrage from across the Muslim world following the most recent outbreak of violence inside Rakhine State.

Thousands in Chechnya rally for Rohingya Muslims

Thousands in Chechnya rally for Rohingya Muslims 00:49
Leaders of several Muslim majority countries, including Turkey, Indonesia and Pakistan, have issued strong statements calling out the ongoing persecution of the Rohingya.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif on Monday expressed “deep anguish” at the continuing violence, which he termed “deplorable.”
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi flew to Myanmar on Monday for talks for state councilor Suu Kyi, after her president Joko Widodo said real action was needed to stop the conflict.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due to hold talks with Suu Kyi during a state visit to Myanmar on Wednesday.
Multiple countries have also seen large protests in support of the Rohingya people, including a mass march in the Chechnyan capital of Grozny and outside the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres led Western states in condemning the violence, releasing a statement Tuesday saying he is “deeply concerned about the security, humanitarian and human rights situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.”
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