Friday, August 12, 2011

Palistan: Targeted-Killing Of A Christian Man In Drigh Road Karachi

From Christians Under Attack:

09 August 2011

Target Killing of a Christian man in Drigh Road Karachi

Karachi (PCP) Arnold Archie Dass, age 38, was gunned down in oldest Karachi city Christian colony named Drigh Road on August 6, 2011

The armed Muslim gunmen were waiting for Arnold Dass at Hazara Chowk in Drigh Road, and sprayed bullet in front of dozen of eye witnesses on Arnold Archie Dass when he approached in his car on way to his home in afternoon.

Arnold Dass received also one fatal bullet on his chest and was rushed to hospital but died on way for medical help.

The Muslim militants fled from scene of shooting after carefully examining that Arnold Dass cannot survive their attack.

The Drigh Road Cantonment Bazar was a residential area built by Roman Catholic Church of Pakistan and allotted to Christian employed in nearby Air Force Base and Airport in nineteenth century. The Drigh Road Cantonment Bazar housing scheme had RC Lines (Roman Catholic Lines) which were bound to sell to Christian only not to any other community.

Drigh Road Bazar remained residential area of Christian only till 1970, while Church of Pakistan, a union of protestant Churches in Pakistan, also built housing apartment for their congregates.

After building of new Karachi International Airport, the values of land of Drigh Road Bazar raised sky high and Muslim land mafia started buying homes of Christians with harassing them or forcing them with government pressure after 1980.

After 1990, Drigh Road Cantonment Bazar was Muslim dominated residential area not a Christian colony.

The Shaha-e-Faisal Police Station registered a case against unidentified killers of Arnold Dass but relatives of victim told media that there are many eyewitnesses of murder but police is hesitant to name culprits in First Information Report FIR.

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Muslims Attack Christian Village In Egypt, One Murdered, Homes Looted And Torched

From Christians Under Attack:

09 August 2011

Muslims Attack Christian Village in Egypt -- 1 Murdered, Homes Looted and Torched

AINA) -- Muslims attacked Christians in the village of Nazlet Faragallah, in the southern Egyptian Minya province, on Sunday evening. The attack continued until the early hours of Monday morning, August 8. One Copt was murdered

and homes were looted and torched when Muslims from Nazlet Faragallah together with Muslims from four neighboring villages started their violence at approximately 8 PM, after breaking their Ramadan fast.

According to eyewitnesses, thousands of Muslims entered the village from all sides, firing automatic weapons (mostly in the air), looting and throwing Molotov Cocktails at several homes. "They even destroyed our irrigation pumps," said one witness.

The first attack was on the house of Father Youanes, pastor of St. George Church, which lies at the head of the village. He was beaten and his home was looted and torched.

Maher Nassif Tobias (50), an employee at the local council, was murdered in his home. He was found by his son. His house was completely looted, including his livestock.

Security forces arrived 4 hours after the attack began and there were too few of them. "They only had batons in their hands, and were unable to control the situation," said a Coptic village resident. "Our village is surrounded by corn fields. The Muslims came into the village to loot and quickly disappeared in the fields, the police could not follow them. They were coming from all directions at the same time."

Nazlet Faragallah has 8000 inhabitants, 80% are Copts and 20% Muslims.

The events were preceded on Saturday by an altercation caused by Muslims harassing Christian girls as they came out of a church service in the late afternoon. Stones were hurled by Muslims at the church, breaking five windows. A "reconciliation" meeting took place. Some 200 Copts staged a sit-in in front of St. George's Church on Sunday afternoon to protest against Muslim attack on the church.

In a statement tonight, the security authorities in Minya said the Muslim attack on Nazlet Faragallah was caused by a group of Copts, headed by Haddar Ishaq, firing at Muslims as they came out of the mosque on Sunday afternoon. Copts in the village denied this claim.

Three Muslims were arrested yesterday and three Copts today. None of the Copts were involved in any incident, and one of them had broken his leg two weeks before. "Security is doing its balancing act again," said one of the villagers. "They will use these Copts, who were arrested at random, to bargain for their freedom in exchange for village Copts giving up their rights during the 'reconciliation' meeting."

It was reported that Muslim women walked the streets today, warning that after breaking the Ramadan fast the men would come to finish the Christians off, but this did not happen, as security was present in large numbers in the village and preparations were being made for another "reconciliation" meeting to take place on August 9.

By Mary Abdelmassih

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Ireland: "Fatwa" Sheikh With Links To Irish Muslims Is Refused Visa

From Christians Under Attack:

09 August 2011

'Fatwa' sheikh with links to Irish Muslims is refused visa

A CONTROVERSIAL religious leader with close links to Ireland's largest Muslim organisation has been banned from entering the country, the Irish Independent has learned.

The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service refused to approve an entry visa for Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian cleric who has defended suicide bombing and advocated the death penalty for homosexuals.

Sheikh al-Qaradawi (84) is head of the European Council of Fatwa and Research (ECFR), a private Islamic foundation whose headquarters is in the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland (ICCI) in Clonskeagh, Dublin.

Immigration officials are understood to have blocked his entry to the country after Mr Al-Qaradawi described suicide-bombing attacks on Israelis as "martyrdom in the name of God".

The Irish Independent has learnt the elderly religious leader was denied a visa when he last tried to enter the country on ECFR business.

The Irish ban follows similar ones in the US and UK.

Mr Al-Qaradawi had his US visa revoked in 1999 and was also refused entry to the UK three years ago.

He now spends most of his time in Qatar, where he is a regular guest on satellite broadcaster Al Jazeera.

Despite Mr Al-Qaradawi's controversial remarks, the ICCI, the largest Muslim organisation in the country, has refused to criticise him. Its chief executive, Dr Nooh al-Kaddo, confirmed to the Irish Independent that Mr Al-Qaradawi's foundation had its headquarters at the ICCI. He described the sheikh as "widely respected" and a "learned scholar".

"His views are representative of Islamic teachings and are not assumed to be a violation of same," said Dr al-Kaddo.

Mr Al-Qaradawi is viewed as a complex character in the Muslim world. Although accused of anti-Semitism and homophobia, he has expressed some moderate views, condemning the 9/11 terror attacks and supporting Muslim integration in Western societies.

The Irish Independent has learnt that immigration officials have been concerned about him for some time and have blocked his entry to Ireland for the past three years.

A visa application made by Mr Al-Qaradawi in June 2008 was refused. Since then he has been "red flagged". This means he would be arrested and immediately deported if he turned up at an Irish port of entry.

The decision is believed to have been made after consultation with other governments who imposed similar bans.

No official reason was given for the red flagging and it is unclear if other religious figures have been the subject of similar bans.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said it could not comment on specific cases.


When Mr Al-Qaradawi was banned from the UK in 2008, the Home Office there said he was refused entry because of fears his views "could foster inter-community violence".

The ICCI's defence of Mr Al-Qaradawi is likely to give rise to criticism in some quarters of the Irish Muslim community who have previously accused the body's leadership of not being tough on extremism.

However, Dr Al-Kaddo said he rejected such criticism.

"The ICCI is aware that on occasion there are claims it does not take a sufficiently strong stance against global extremism," he said.

"The ICCI has, on all occasions of extreme violence carried out against innocents, condemned it, especially when the perpetrators claim it to be in the name of Islam."

Dr Al-Kaddo also disputed claims, made in leaked US embassy cables, that ICCI members celebrated the kidnapping of Irish-born aid worker Margaret Hassan in 2004.

"We cannot be held accountable by our community or others for the actions of a few who see matters in a different light," he said.

"We are not aware that these celebrations took place. However, we do not condone it if they did. If we had knowledge of such celebrations on our premises we would have endeavoured to address the matter immediately and stopped such atrocious behaviour."

Dr Al-Kaddo also denied other US embassy-cable claims that children of ICCI members did not turn up for school and were visibly sad following the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qa'ida in Iraq, in 2006.

"We did not uncover any evidence that these events took place," he said.

"However, we cannot guarantee that all families are exempt from harsh viewpoints and we cannot prevent such actions.

"But we can advise and preach with the hope of ascertaining a balanced view with those who listen."

- Shane Phelan Investigations Editor

Irish Independent

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Whole Foods Draws Controversy Over Ramadan Promotion

From Chrisitans Under Attack:

11 August 2011

Whole Foods Draws Controversy Over Ramadan Promotion

Whole Foods landed in some hot water this week after advertising food for Ramadan, then seemingly backing off, then returning to their original stance.

The grocery chain, known for being socially conscious, started promoting frozen food from Saffron Road that is halal (meaning it follows Muslim dietary laws and restrictions) in commemoration of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month.

The promotion, which included giveaways of gift cards, received an enthusiastic response from Muslim customers. One foodie named Kari responded to Whole Foods' blog post announcing the specials, saying "This is great! Finally a major retailer has recognized [its] Muslim customers!"

(PHOTOS: Iftar: Breaking Ramadan's Fast)

The offering caused backlash among some, though, who demanded Whole Foods remove the special. One conservative blogger, Debbie Schlussel, claimed Whole Foods was ready to do anything to "shill for jihadist interests" and is "anti-Israel."

Things only got worse from there when an internal email that was obtained by the Houston Press said that they should continue to promote halal but not necessarily celebrate Ramadan in an effort to prevent any more criticism from the far right.

"It is probably best that we don't specifically call out or 'promote' Ramadan," the email read.

Activists supporting Muslims immediately fired back, accusing the chain of caving on their original deal. Disapproval of the perceived retreat was palpable in comments from customers on the chain's blog and to their Twitter account.

"[I'm] disappointed to hear that Whole Foods has capitulated to a vocal minority that does not believe in the freedom to observe non-Christian religious practices in America," customer Bunnie Watson said in response to the same Whole Foods blog post that announced the sale.

Whole Foods is now on a public-relations marathon to continue to promote halal and Ramadan. The email was authentic, they say, but it was not a directive from Whole Foods headquarters and instead was sent from an office in one of Whole Foods's 12 regions, according to their Twitter account. When asked via Twitter whether HQ "set this store straight," the store replied "yes, we did."

"We are still carrying and promoting halal products for those that are celebrating #Ramadan this month," read one of the chain's tweets.

Read more:

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Egypt: Coptic Christian Killed In Attack On Village In Upper Egypt

From Christians Under Attack:

12 August 2011

Coptic Christian Killed in Attack on Village in Upper Egypt

Muslim mob murders him in his home in assault on village.

(CDN) — A Coptic Christian was killed and several others were injured in Upper Egypt after Muslims on Sunday (Aug. 7) attacked a predominantly Christian village following an argument between a Muslim and Christian.

The attack at Nazlet Faragallah village in Minya, 218 kilometers (136 miles) south of Cairo, lasted until Monday morning (Aug. 8), Christians said. The attackers raided an unknown number of homes owned by Christian villagers and set eight on fire, area residents said.

The assailants killed Maher Nassif, 46, a civil servant and livestock farmer, when he tried to defend his home. The men burst into Nassif’s house, shot him in the head and slit his throat while his teenage son watched from under a bed where he was hiding, Christian villagers said. The men looted the home and stole Nassif’s livestock as his son escaped into the night, according to villagers who spoke with the boy.

One villager, Melad Thabet, a 25-year-old teacher, said he spent the night of the attack listening to gunfire and the sound of people “weeping and screaming in the village.”

“Any [Christian-owned] house close to a Muslim house was looted and attacked,” Thabet told Compass. “And if someone had stood up to them, they would have killed them as they did with Maher.”

Initial reports on what sparked the attack varied widely, but as the dust settled, the general consensus was that on Saturday (Aug. 6) a Muslim man driving a three-wheeled taxi known across Egypt as a touk-touk had an argument with a Coptic woman in Nazlet Faragallah. The nature of the argument could not be confirmed, but several Coptic men came to the aid of the woman, ending the dispute.

Several hours later, a group of Muslims arrived at the village church and started pelting congregants with rocks as they left the building, villagers said. The Copts responded in kind. Several people suffered cuts and bruises, and some of the windows of the church building were broken.

According to Thabet, the leader of the Muslims attacking the church was the cousin of the man involved in the initial argument involving the Coptic woman. He is also a police lieutenant stationed in the village. The lieutenant was hit in the face with a rock, Thabet said.

In response to the villagers’ claims, police have issued their own report about the incident, stating that it started on Sunday (Aug. 7) after a Coptic man began screaming insults and throwing rocks at Muslims exiting prayer at one of the two mosques near the village. Thabet said this version “doesn’t make any sense.”

One mosque is in a Muslim area, and any Copt going there “would be killed,” he said. The other mosque near the village, he added, is located at the far edge of the community and only one Muslim attends it – the man who opened it.

Regardless of what triggered the incident, by Sunday groups of Muslim men carrying long knives and automatic weapons were seen gathering around the village.

“They went around all the neighboring villages spreading a rumor that ‘the Christians burned the mosque and killed some Muslim people,’ which isn’t true,” Thabet said. “And we suddenly found that the village was surrounded by Muslims from everywhere.”

Late that night, after the Ramadan fast had ended for the day, the attacks began, Thabet and other sources said.

Waiting for the Army

Running through the community shooting rifles into the air and screaming, “Allahu Akbar [God is greater],” the Muslim villagers attacked houses and businesses isolated on the edge of the village, Thabet said.

They forced the victims out of their homes and then looted their property, he said, and not all homes were set on fire. Thabet named six different families whose homes were destroyed but said a total of eight homes were torched, and not all homes that were looted were set ablaze.

The house of the parish priest was razed. He hid on the upper floors of his home during the attack and somehow escaped the fire with only minor scrapes and bruises, according to Thabet.

Nazlet Faragallah is a Christian-majority village surrounded by a string of Muslim villages. The villagers are largely impoverished and make their living by farming and doing sporadic work at a nearby rock quarry.

During the attack, only 10 soldiers and one officer were posted to Nazlet Faragallah, an area with a combined population of about 10,000 people, according to 2006 United Nations population figures. Thabet said that in addition to a lack of manpower, the army isn’t equipped to stop violence in the community. Because of this, he said, local soldiers are simply unwilling to get involved in any disputes.

It took some four hours for soldiers to get back up from other army units in the area, he said.

“Every time we asked him [a police officer] to get involved to stop what was happening, he kept saying he was ‘waiting for the army,’” Thabet said. “Even when they [police] came, the number was very, very small. It didn’t help at all. They weren’t even able to protect themselves. They didn’t even have weapons; they had sticks. Having sticks is not the right thing to face machine guns.”

According to the Egyptian newspaper Watani, seven Muslims were arrested because of the incident. One Coptic man was arrested and charged with illegal possession of weapons. Some fear he was arrested to give officials a bargaining tool to force the Copts into a “reconciliation meeting” agreement with unfavorable terms.

Based on the concept of traditional tribal meetings, such reconciliation meetings are ostensibly meant for parties to come to amicable solutions outside of court. In reality however, the meetings are used to deny Copts their rights when they are attacked, human rights activists in Egypt say.

A reconciliation meeting took place on Tuesday (Aug. 9), said Zakaria, a Coptic villager who would only give his first name. He said Muslims and Christians involved apologized for the incident, and the council agreed to fine anyone else causing further trouble.

Nassif’s killer has not yet been arrested, in spite of being identified by his son. Zakaria said the atmosphere in the village was so tense on Monday morning, after the attacks, that Christians buried Nassif’s body outside of the village.

“They usually hold the funeral prayers in the village, but because of what happened they had to do it outside the village,” he said.


Thabet said relations between Christians and Muslims in Egypt have gotten much worse since the Jan 25-Feb. 11 revolution. He blamed worsened relations on the increased radicalization of certain Muslims in Egypt who want to “complete their faith by killing Christians.”

An incident like the one in Nazlet Faragallah can happen “for any silly reason,” he said.

“What does it do if you just keep chanting ‘Islam! Islam!’ when there is a stupid problem between two ordinary people in the village?” he asked rhetorically. “There is no relation between two people just having an ordinary argument and having religion getting involved in it. Sometimes religion controls people. They don’t think, they just do.”

Thabet said he has fled his home in anticipation of other attacks. Keeping in touch with his neighbors by phone, he said that at night there are still skirmishes on the edges of the village.

“Any house near the fields and away from anything can get looted and attacked by the thugs and these people,” he said. “A lot of the villagers have left to escape with their lives. All our young men have locked themselves in their houses and try to hide, just waiting for whatever is going to happen to them – either waiting for their house to be burned or for somebody to get in and attack them.”

Zakaria confirmed that many residents have fled the village.

“In the beginning, the people who were leaving were the women and children,” he said, adding that now “the people who live in the houses at the edge of the village” are leaving too.

Zakaria was unable to leave, he said, because it was still too dangerous to pass through the villages surrounding Nazlet Faragallah on foot.

Thabet said he doesn’t think the village will be safe again.

“When I was in the village, I saw my family and friends getting shot at, and I couldn’t do anything for them,” he said. ‘I didn’t know who to contact, who to call to protect us. I hope God protects us.”

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TiZA School's Future Falls To Bankruptcy Court

From Act! for America:

TiZA school’s future falls to

bankruptcy court

By Mila Koumpilova

Updated: 07/25/2011 11:23:31 PM CDT

Weeks after it ceased to exist in the eyes of the state, a metro-area charter school is making a case for its survival in bankruptcy court.

The Inver Grove Heights-based Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy filed for bankruptcy June 30, a day before it found itself lacking the state-approved overseer it needs to continue operation. The school since has asked the bankruptcy judge for permission to continue paying employees' salaries and benefits, stressing the value of saving its successful academic program.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union asked the court to allow its 2-year-old federal lawsuit against the academy to move toward a resolution. The ACLU accused TiZA of promoting religion. The school has denied those charges, arguing it merely accommodated its primarily Muslim students.

These developments leave TiZA attorneys with a delicate balance to strike: They are championing the school's survival as they argue that its likely demise makes the ACLU lawsuit moot.

"How can TiZA adjust its religious accommodation policies if it doesn't exist anymore?" asked Shamus O'Meara, the school's lead counsel. "It's pretty nonsensical to try to push those claims forward."

At the start of this month, TiZA's overseer - the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Islamic Relief USA - became ineligible to continue its role because of a new charter school law that bans out-of-state overseers. Islamic Relief and the state were co-defendants in the ACLU lawsuit before settling out of court.

The state Education Department turned down an application by Twin Cities nonprofit Novation to take over as TiZA's overseer.

TiZA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which allows an organization to restructure and continue to exist. In court filings, the academy touts the high test scores and other achievements of its overwhelmingly low-income minority students.

"The continued operation of TiZA saves a successful program for the development of students," records say.

And to continue to operate, the school said, it needs to hang onto its staff of about 60. The school, which lists a monthly payroll of about $143,000, is asking the judge to allow it to continue paying its teachers and other employees over the summer.

An attorney for U.S. Trustee Habbo Fokkena argued against granting that request. The ability of the school to reopen in the fall is "clearly in dispute," wrote the attorney, Michael Fadlovich.

He especially objects to a severance clause in employment offers made in the weeks and months before the school filed for bankruptcy: If the school is forced to close, the offers said, employees would receive four months' salary - a liability of about $438,500 by his estimate.

Mark Kalla, TiZA's bankruptcy attorney, did not return a call seeking comment.

TiZA's Executive Director Asad Zaman said the school hasn't worked out a survival plan. Its leaders and legal team still are weighing a court appeal of the Education Department's rejection of Novation's application.

Zaman said he does not plan to re-invent TiZA as a private school, which would require lining up significant private resources.

O'Meara, the school's counsel, is more pessimistic. He said many TiZA employees scattered over the summer, and many students have requested their academic records so they can transfer to other schools.

"The reality is there isn't anyone to fill that school any more," O'Meara said. Meanwhile, the ACLU, the state and Islamic Relief have asked the bankruptcy court to lift a freeze on all legal actions that went into effect automatically when TiZA filed for bankruptcy.

For one thing, the state and Islamic Relief want to pursue repayment of more than $1.7 million in legal expenses that the federal court ruled TiZA should cover. The ACLU is seeking closure in the long-running case, which still is scheduled for trial in November.

Peter Lancaster, lead counsel for the ACLU, said the trial is unlikely with TiZA closed. Lancaster said the ACLU realizes it might not be able to get TiZA to repay millions in state aid or cover the group's own legal fees even as he questioned why TiZA had not yet filed information on its assets.

But Lancaster said the ACLU still hopes the court will approve the ACLU's settlement with the state and thus unseal records marked confidential during the lawsuit's investigative phase.

"The single most important thing we still hope to accomplish is the release of that information to the public," Lancaster said.

Lancaster and his team have argued the documents release would be "highly useful" to the bankruptcy court as well, throwing light on TiZA's financial dealings.

TiZA and its attorneys have called the issue of the settlement documents a misleading publicity stunt by the ACLU.

Judge Robert Kressel, who presided over the bankruptcy case of former auto mogul Denny Hecker, will rule on the various motions in coming weeks.

Zimbabwean Churches Told to Support Ruling Party—or Else | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Zimbabwean Churches Told to Support Ruling Party—or Else Christianity Today A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Zimbabwean Churches Told to Support Ruling Party—or Else | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Zimbabwean Churches Told to Support Ruling Party—or Else Christianity Today A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Obama Set To Mark 9/11 With Ramadan Dinner

from The Wall Street Journal and

August 10, 2011, 9:55 PM ET.Obama Marks 9/11 at Ramadan Dinner.

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By Laura Meckler

President Barack Obama marked the Muslim holy month of Ramadan by looking ahead to the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks next month and reminding Americans that Muslims were both victims and heroes that day.

The president made no mention of the men who hijacked four planes that day, or their religious beliefs. But his remarks at an Iftar dinner at the White House were meant to push back against any suggestion that because they were Muslims, other Muslims are tainted by their deadly actions.

Muslims, Mr. Obama said, were passengers on those planes and were at the Pentagon and working in the twin towers when they were struck. “They were cooks and waiters, but also analysts and executives,” he said. “They were taken from us much too soon.” Muslims, he said, were among the first responders and, later, among those who volunteered for military service—part of what he called the “9/11 generation.”

“Make no mistake, Muslim Americans help to keep us safe,” he said.

He said the way to honor the nearly 3,000 people who died nearly 10 years ago is to treat one another with respect and to honor, not just tolerate, differences.

“This year and every year, we must ask ourselves: How do we honor these patriots — those who died and those who served? In this season of remembrance, the answer is the same as it was 10 Septembers ago. We must be the America they lived for and the America they died for, the America they sacrificed for,” he said. “Here in the United States, there is no them or us; it’s just us.”

This was the third Iftar dinner, which marks the end of the daily Ramadan fast, that Mr. Obama has hosted. He spoke at about 8:40 p.m., just after sunset, and promised to be brief as the observant at the dinner had been fasting since sunrise.

The White House Iftar tradition was begun by President Bill Clinton and continued by President George W. Bush. Invited guests Wednesday included two Muslim members of Congress, Reps. Andre Carson (D., Ind.) and Keith Ellison (D., Minn.); a large number of ambassadors from the Muslim world and two professional football players.

Mr. Obama’s remarks this year were far less controversial that they wound up being a year ago, when he appeared to endorse construction of a community center and mosque on property near Ground Zero in Manhattan. In that speech, he referred to the controversy and said Muslims have the same rights to practice their religion as anyone else.

A Third of the World Suffers Religious Persecution

A Third of the World Suffers Religious Persecution: "Religious freedoms are declining for more than a third of the world's population, says results of new research."

A Forgotten African Catholic Kingdom

From The Root and

A Forgotten African Catholic Kingdom

A year before Columbus discovered America, the king of Kongo led his people to Christianity.

By: John Thornton and Linda Heywood
Posted: August 12, 2011 at 12:39 AM

A Forgotten African Catholic Kingdom

The ruins of the oldest cathedral in sub-Saharan Africa

A year before Columbus set sail for America, an African king was baptized and converted his kingdom into a Catholic nation that lasted nearly 370 years. King Nzinga a Nkuwu, ruler of Kongo, located in what is now northern Angola, decided to become a Christian not long after Portuguese mariners reached his shores in 1483. He was baptized in May 1491, became João I Nzinga a Nkuwu, and many of his noble followers followed suit. But when he died, two brothers contested the throne, one of whom, Afonso Mvemba a Nzinga, represented a Christian party and the other, Mpanzu a Kitama, opposed both Afonso and Christianity.

In the war the brothers fought, Afonso and the Christian party triumphed. Our only account of the war comes from the pen of Afonso, and therefore has an inevitable bias, but according to him, when the greatly superior forces of Mpanzu a Kitama were about to render a final assault against him in the square of Mbanza Kongo, the country's capital, they suddenly broke and ran, giving Afonso a surprising victory. When Afonso interviewed the survivors of the battle, he learned that they had been frightened by the appearance of a heavenly force of five horsemen led by St. James the Greater.

Afonso was so moved by this miracle that when he designed a coat of arms of the country, he included five arms holding swords to represent the events of that day. The coat of arms that appeared on seals on letters, on royal regalia and in the throne room continued in use until King Pedro V swore vassalage to Portugal in 1859.

St. James' Day, the 25th of July, was Kongo's national holiday, as much in memory of the king and his victory as it was of the Portuguese saint. Every year the day was celebrated with feasting and military reviews, and people crowded in from the countryside to Mbanza Kongo and some of the provincial capitals to revel and to pay their taxes. Mbanza Kongo, which still exists as a medium-size provincial capital in northern Angola, continues to celebrate the day, now called a "cultural celebration," which lasts from July 20 to 25.

Afonso did much more than create a coat of arms and a holiday, though. He devised the institutional framework for the growth of the Catholic Church into a lasting part of Kongo culture that reached from the capital, with its dozen churches, to remote country villages. His son, Henrique, became the first bishop of Kongo in 1518, and along with his father, Portuguese priests and educated Kongolese, created a marriage of African spirituality and Catholicism that would be the distinctive feature of its religion.

Kongo's Christianity did not break completely with its older religious tradition. The Kongo High God, Nzambi a Mpungu, became identical to the Christian God, and thanks to a number of apparitions and miracles, many local territorial deities became incorporated into Catholic saints.

The ancestors, venerated as active spiritual forces in Kongo as everywhere in Africa, were given a special place in the religion, and All Hallows' Eve (Halloween) was dedicated to them. On that day, Kongolese gathered at the graves of their family ancestors, kept an all-night vigil with lighted candles and prayed for them. In the morning, All Souls' Day, they heard Mass.

Even magical charms, physical items into which spiritual forces were compelled or cajoled to enter, were integrated. Such charms were called nkisi in Kikongo, the national language, and religious literature in Kikongo used the term or variants of it to mean "holy" so that the Bible was nkanda wakisi (either holy book or charm in book form, depending on how you choose to translate it), and a church was nzo wakisi (holy house or charm in the form of a house). Christian priests, like their traditional religious counterparts, were called nganga.

Not everyone was happy with this arrangement. When the Portuguese persuaded the Vatican to give them the right to appoint bishops to Kongo's church, the bishops, always Portuguese, refused to ordain enough Kongolese priests to run the church. The kings of Kongo appealed to Rome and, in a compromise, agreed to allow the functions usually performed by parish priests to be done by Capuchin missionaries, mostly from Italy, a country considered neutral in Europe. These priests were militant followers of the Counter-Reformation, a movement within the Catholic Church dedicated to wiping out, among other things, the folk Christianity that did not fit into their revised vision of the Christian religion.

These Capuchin priests took their campaign with them to Kongo and literally made war on the practices of Kongo associated with the traditional religion. They wrote lurid accounts describing these practices as diabolical and burned all manner of "idols." But they made little impact on the religion.

When Kongo was deprived of clergy by the Portuguese bishops, they turned to the laity, and noblemen, educated in the country's schools, served as the prime interpreters and teachers of religion. These mestres de escola, as they were called in the official Portuguese documents of Kongo, continued the tradition, and the Capuchins were relegated to performing the sacraments, since these could be done only by priests. Capuchins wrote in their reports of performing tens of thousands of baptisms and thousands of marriages and confessions during grueling tours of parishes. They taught and they preached, but they could not force the religion to change.

Perhaps the development of a Catholic kingdom in central Africa would simply be a charming sideline to history, a curious story of conversion and institutionalization, had it not been for the slave trade. While Kongo was capable of defending itself very well, the Portuguese built a colony in Angola just south of Kongo in 1575 and, using it as a base, occasionally attacked Kongo. But Kongo repelled the Portuguese attacks and, in one case, forced the Portuguese to return to Kongo more than 1,000 captives they had sent as slaves to Brazil.

If Kongo resisted Portuguese attempts to enslave its people, unfortunately, it also engaged in the practice through civil war. Succession to Kongo's throne was often hotly contested, and the country's history was littered with internecine conflict. In such wars, the losers, branded as traitors by the victors, were often sold to slavery wholesale.

These wars became frequent in the 1600s, and after 1665, when a succession crisis was triggered by a military setback on the Kongo-Angola frontier, civil war became a near-permanent fixture of Kongo's history. Thousands and tens of thousands of losers in this endless struggle for the throne were captured and exported to French, English, Dutch and Portuguese shippers and spread all over the Americas.

About 1 in 5 Americans of African descent come from Kongolese stock, with the greatest percentages being concentrated in South Carolina and Louisiana. They carried their religion with them, as well; the Stono Rebellion in 1739, the largest slave uprising in the U.S. before independence, was led by Kongolese Catholics anxious to escape slavery in Protestant South Carolina to freedom in Catholic Florida.

In some parts of the Americas, Kongolese actually created their own missionary activity. George Christian Andreas Oldendorp, a Moravian missionary, reported that Kongolese slaves in the Virgin Islands baptized and catechized incoming slaves from non-Christian Africa; the Brazilian Inquisition examined the activities of Pedro Congo, who dressed in priestly garb and said Mass to a congregation drawn mostly from non-Christian parts of Africa.

This complex story reveals an important aspect of the African-American past: that 20 percent of African Americans descend from Africans who came to these shores from a region that had sustained its own version of Christianity for four generations before the first Africans arrived in Virginia. In Kongo's case, internal dissension as much as European activities and demands led to massive enslavement and deportation. Twentieth-century colonialism erased the kingdom.

John Thornton is a professor of history and African-American studies at Boston University and specializes in the history of the Kingdom of Kongo. Linda Heywood is a professor of history and director of the African-American Studies Program at Boston University. She specializes in the history of Angola. They are the authors of Central Africans, Atlantic Creoles and the Foundation of the Americas, 1585-1660 (New York:Cambridge University Press, 2007).

The Intolerant, Coercive Atheists

From Wallbuilders:

The Intolerant, Coercive Atheists

While Christians are regularly accused by secularists and atheists of being intolerant and coercive, often it is exactly the opposite. This has been demonstrated again this past week.

Most Americans are aware of the remarkable 9/11 World Trade Center Cross that has been on display since the collapse of the Twin Towers following the fateful terrorist attacks. After its discovery among the rubble, that cross became an instant symbol of hope and optimism for first responders, families of the victims, and America at large. That cross has been on temporary display at Ground Zero since recovery efforts began almost a decade ago. But now that the famous cross is being moved to its permanent home inside the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, a lawsuit has been filed against the cross by the American Atheist Association.

Ironically, Dave Silverman, head of the atheist organization who filed the suit, claims the object of their suit is really only “some rubble that represents a cross.” He called it “truly ridiculous” that such a random pile of steel should “become a Christian icon.”

Dave! If it is only a random pile of rubble, then why file suit? After all, every day across America, as loggers cut down trees, the trunks randomly fall across each other to form crosses; so why not sue the loggers? And everywhere an oilfield crew drops a load of pipe for a new well, the joints of pipe randomly roll across each other to form various crosses; so why not sue the drillers? Apparently Silverman and the American Atheists must not really believe that the 9/11 cross is so random. In fact, why do they insist on getting so wrought up over something and Someone they claim doesn’t even exist?!

Somehow, so many atheists and secularists just can’t seem to allow people of faith to enjoy their constitutionally-guaranteed “free exercise of religion” in public; instead, they are consistently and aggressively intolerant of Christian faith and they want to coerce citizens not to publicly express their faith. Romans 2:20-21 talks about how often someone is actually guilty of that which they accuse others – and atheists and secularists certainly seem to be the intolerant and coercive ones, rather than the Christians they accuse.

Strikingly, there is an official symbol and logo for atheism, yet there is no flurry of lawsuits filed by Christians to keep atheists from expressing their beliefs or their symbols. But there are plenty the other way, including the ongoing and the recent lawsuits against the Mojave Desert War Memorial Cross to honor those who fell in WWI, the Mt. Soledad Memorial Cross to honor those who fell in the Korean War, the crosses erected to honor fallen State Troopers in Utah, the Bald Knob Cross of Peace, the Anderson County Cross erected by a pastor on his own property, the Prayer Garden Cross erected by a private organization, the city seals of Los Angeles, Redlands, Wauwatosa, Zion, Edmond, and many similar cases.

NPS image

Crosses have always been an important part of the public culture and landscape in America. After all, inside the Rotunda of the Capitol is the massive painting of Christopher Columbus landing in the New World with the cross in tow, the Cape Henry Cross (see picture on right) commemorating the cross erected when the first settlers landed in Virginia, the St. Clements Island Cross commemorating the cross erected when the first settlers landed in Maryland, the Peace Cross of St. George’s County in Maryland, the large cross engraved in stone outside the U. S. Federal Courthouse in Washington, D. C., the crosses engraved in the Memorial Stones inside the Washington Monument, and many others.

Atheists and secularists seem determined to continue their intolerance of faith and their efforts to coerce others into secularism. The good news is that because of the religious and strongly Christian nature of the American people for the past four centuries, they will have no shortage of high-visibility targets to pursue – such as the World Trade Center Memorial Cross in New York City!

God bless!

Egyptian Islamist Tareq Al-Zumar against Women and Christians Running for the Presidency and in Favor of Chopping Off Hands as a Deterrent against Stealing

Egyptian Islamist Tareq Al-Zumar against Women and Christians Running for the Presidency and in Favor of Chopping Off Hands as a Deterrent against Stealing

Book Review: Piety And Pluralism

From The Wall Street Journal:

BOOKSHELFAUGUST 12, 2011.Piety And Pluralism

Liberal democracy can grow on Muslim soil if neither Islamists nor secular strongmen are allowed to mix religion with politics..


Modern Turkey dazzles the eye and addles the mind. With growth in double digits and shiny new buildings everywhere, the old "sick man of Europe" looks more like a Eurasian China—though with minarets, an aggressive media and free elections. The man who oversaw this rebirth, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, began his political career from within Turkey's Islamist movement. He won a third term in June in a landslide, campaigning with an iPad in one hand and prayer beads in the other. In recent years he has sidelined the powerful Turkish military and sought to loosen decades-old restrictions on traditional Muslim dress. Some of his opponents are in jail on treason charges. Critics call him a dictator and an Islamist. His supporters credit him with the country's economic miracle and its new openness to democratic principles.

So which is it? To find an answer, a good place to start is Mustafa Akyol's "Islam Without Extremes." A columnist for English-language papers in Turkey, Mr. Akyol offers a delightfully original take on Turkey and on the prospects for liberal democracy in the broader Islamic Middle East. Throughout the 20th century, Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries were offered a choice between secular and religious authoritarianism. What the Muslim world needs, he says, is a "synthesis of Islam and liberalism." Today's Turkey comes closest to that ideal.

Mr. Akyol, a pious Muslim and a classical liberal, begins his case by proposing a serious rereading of the Quran. "The idea of freedom—in the theological, political, or economic sense—was not unknown in classical Islamdom, as some have claimed," Mr. Akyol writes. He notes that the Quran, compiled in the seventh century, broke with the traditions of its time and place—by mandating protections for property, appealing to the judgment of reason and promoting the idea of a rule of law (as opposed to rule by the whim of despots). Taking inspiration from the separation of church and state in the American constitution, Mr. Akyol suggests that a liberal democracy can be built on Muslim soil as long as neither Islamists nor secular strongmen are allowed to mix religion with politics.

Mr. Akyol offers a historical narrative that shows how, within Islam, an idea of freedom was lost over time. Islam was once the world's "supercivilization," a leader in science and the arts as well as a great military and economic power. Arguments over what brought it low have raged for centuries. Mr. Akyol blames the triumph of "the culture of the desert" in the Middle Ages. In the language of our day, the Muslim world lost its competitive edge.

In its early phases, Mr. Akyol says, Islam was a religion "driven by merchants and their rational, vibrant and cosmopolitan mindset." But ultimately "the more powerful classes of the Orient—the landlords, the soldiers and the peasants—became dominant, and a less rational and more static mindset began to shape the religion. The more trade declined, the more the Muslim mind stagnated." Applying this historical lesson today, Mr. Akyol claims that "socioeconomic progress in Muslim societies" may change Islam itself—leading to progress in "religious attitudes, ideas, and even doctrines."


.Islam Without Extremes

By Mustafa Akyol

(Norton, 352 pages, $25.95)


In any culture, an open society and a free economy are the foundation stones of liberalism. In the Muslim world, Turkey's experience is most instructive. As the Ottoman Empire crumbled, the founder of the modern republic, Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938) took inspiration for his republican secularism—to the liberals' regret—from France's rigid laïcité, which put religion under the aegis of the state. His centralized government and statist economic ideas came from Bismarck's Germany. Atatürk was the last century's least bloody and probably most successful social engineer. After his death, Kemalism remained locked in place for decades. Turkey was beset by coups and economic crises. By the 1980s it had reached a point of stagnation, if not crisis.

The hero of Mr. Akyol's story is Turgut Özal, who dominated Turkish politics for a decade until his untimely death in 1993. Unashamed of his faith, he was the first modern Turkish leader to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. He had lived in the West and had worked in business, and he understood free markets. Özal gave Turkey the "gift of capitalism," in Mr. Akyol's words. As the economy opened to the world, so did Turkish society and politics. A new entrepreneurial class emerged in the country's conservative heartland to challenge the secular establishment in Istanbul and Ankara. In the 1990s, as an old and corrupt political guard ruined the economy, Mr. Erdogan emerged as a fresh talent. His popularity as mayor of Istanbul was tied largely to his ability to deliver city services.

As prime minister, Mr. Erdogan has built on the Özal legacy. Early on he won over conservative business owners as well as many secular Turks. Though the leaders of the country's military, loyal to the Kemalist creed, made their dislike of Mr. Erdogan clear, most voters ignored them—not because they harbored a secret desire for Shariah law but because a young, dynamic society was eager to see a durable democracy take hold.

The hurdle before Turkey today isn't the temptation of political Islam but the repressive legacy in the country's political culture and institutions, including the judiciary and security services. Past supporters of Mr. Erdogan, like Mr. Akyol, criticize the prime minister's increasingly authoritarian actions and pronouncements. But even if Mr. Erdogan wanted to grab Turkey by the throat and turn it into Iran-lite, the country has probably become too pluralistic, vibrant and messy for him (or anyone else) to succeed. Turkey's experience may be hard to replicate in the Arab world after this year's popular uprisings. Yet Turkey offers a useful corrective to the fatalistic view that liberal democracy and Islam are destined to be enemies.

Mr. Kaminski is a member of the Journal's editorial board.