Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Germany: Multiculturalism's Pecking Order


By Elizabeth Kendal
24 April 2018, ARMENIAN GENOCIDE MEMORIAL DAY


Driven from their homes,
Armenians wait to die in the desert.
Images: USHMM
On 2 June 2016, the German Bundestag (Parliament) passed a resolution recognising the 1915 massacre of Armenians by the Ottoman government as a genocide, and acknowledging Germany’s complicity in it. 

The decision provoked protests from Germany’s Turks; protests that were many suspect were funded by Turkey.  Some German politicians who voted to recognise the Genocide reported receiving death threats after Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan lambasted the MPs as "the long arm of the separatist terrorists in this country [Turkey] in Germany". (emphasis mine) [The Armenian Genocide of 1915 was fueled and enabled by Turkish anti-Armenian propaganda in which the Christian Armenians were described as Russian-backed separatist terrorists.]

In March 2017 the General Committee of Cologne City Council agreed that a memorial to the Armenian Genocide should be erected in the city. While a stone memorial cross was unveiled in the Lehmbacher Weg cemetery in Nov 2017, many Armenians were disappointed, believing a memorial needs to be in a public place.

On 15 April a memorial to the Armenian Genocide was unveiled in a public square on the left bank of the Rhine near the Hohenzollern Bridge.

The creation of Cologne sculptors Stefan Kaiser and Max Scholz, the memorial comprises a steel pyramid on which the words ‘This pain affects us all’ are engraved in Armenian, English, German and Turkish. The pyramid is topped with a slashed pomegranate (a symbol of Armenia).

The very next day the Cologne City Council ruled the memorial be removed ‘promptly’, on the grounds that it had not been approved. Cologne’s administrative court agreed.

Cologne, also known as ‘Little Istanbul', is home to some 60,000 Turkish migrants.

Cologne’s Armenian community – the largest in Germany with some 5,000 members – suspects the City Council succumbed to pressure from Turkish organisations.

Armenian Genocide Memorial
Background: Cologne Cathedral and a statue of Kaiser Wilhelm II, whose
 plan it was to unleash a jihad against imperial powers Russia, Britain and France
-- along with all the Christians minorities who supported them --
in order to establish a German-Ottoman super-empire.


Sunday, April 22, 2018

How Much of a Threat is Islamic State Khorasan Province?


By Elizabeth Kendal

Christians Targeted in Quetta

In Pakistan’s south-western city of Quetta, the capital of sparsely populated Balochistan Province, the already vulnerable Christian community is under attack.

On Sunday morning, 17 December, at least nine people were killed and more than 50 injured when two suicide bombers blew themselves up at Bethel Memorial Methodist Church, as some 200 local Christians were participating in a special “Sunday School Christmas Program”. . [See RLPB 437 (19 Dec 2017)].

On the evening of Easter Monday 2 April, four members of a Christian family were travelling along Quetta’s Shah Zaman road when militants on a motorbike intercepted their rickshaw and open fired. A young girl was wounded and rushed to hospital. Her father and three cousins were killed.

Then on Sunday 15 April, four men on two motorbikes opened fire on Christians in Quetta’s Isa Nagri (City of Jesus; a Christian neighbourhood). Some of the victims were emerging from a worship service; others were just sitting in front of their homes. Two Christians were killed and three were critically wounded.

The widow of slain Azhar Iqbal (26).
Christian funeral in Quetta, 18 April [Photo Gallery]

On each occasion, Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISK-P) claimed responsibility.

For more details see: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 451
Pakistan: Islamic State targets Christians in Quetta, 18 April 2018
by Elizabeth Kendal

Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISK-P)

Khorasan denotes a historical region covering all of Afghanistan along with parts of Iran, Central Asia, western China and Pakistan. ISK-P is Islamic State’s franchise in Khorasan Province / Wilayat-e-Khorasan.

After the death in 2013 of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, the Taliban found itself wracked with internal conflicts and divisions. Meanwhile, internal conflicts and divisions were also emerging in the jihadist movement in Meopotamia (Syria-Iraq) between al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who had established an al-Qaeda franchise in Syria under the leadership of Abu Muhammad al-Julani. The split in May 2013 left two jihadist factions fighting for dominance in northern Syria: Jabhat al-Nusra, which remained loyal to al-Qaeda’s al-Zawahiri and al-Julani, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (Greater Syria / the Levant; ISIS/ISIL), whose members swore allegiance to al-Baghdadi.

In January 2014, ISIS expelled al-Nusra from the provincial capital of Raqqa (in northern Syria) and assumed full control of the city. In April 2014, al-Baghdadi escalated the ideological dispute by insisting that there would be no reconciliation with al-Zawahiri’s al-Qaeda. As far the vehemently anti-Shi’ite al-Baghdadi was concerned, al-Zawahiri’s willingness to cooperate with Shi’ite Iran was proof that al-Qaeda was on a divergent path. When al-Baghdadi threw down the gauntlet and demanded all Muslims recognise his authority, nine prominent al-Qaeda leaders from the region historically known as Greater Khorasan immediately declared their allegiance to al-Baghdadi.

In January 2015, a group of disgruntled Pakistani Taliban and Afghan Taliban commanders produced a propaganda video in which they formerly pledged allegiance to Islamic State. Within days of the video’s release, the Islamic State announced its expansion into Khorasan Province and officially appointed Hafiz Saeed Khan as the Wali (Governor) of Khorasan and former Guantanamo Bay detainee and senior Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim as Khan’s deputy. The group would be based in Afghanistan.

For more information see:
Mapping the emergence of the Islamic State in Afghanistan
By LWJ Staff, 5 March, 2015

After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, by Elizabeth Kendal (Wipf and Stock, Eugene OR, June 2016). Chapter 8 ‘The Evolution of a War,’ from subheading ‘Raqqa and the Al-Nusra-ISIS split’ through ‘The Khorasan Pledge’ (pp 154 through 164).

In Khorasan as in Mesopotamia, Islamic State has shown itself to be the enemy not only of Shi'ites, but of all minorities, Christians included.

In Khorasan as in Mesopotamia, the pro-Islamic State and pro-al-Qaeda Sunni Islamic jihadist factions clash over ideology, tactics, strategy and territory.

In Khorasan as in Mesopotamia, most locals denounce Islamic State's zealous brutality and total disregard for history and local culture. 

In Khorasan as in Mesopotamia, Islamic State exploits a prophetic hadith (alleged saying of Muhammad).

The Khorasan Hadith 

In Mesopotamia (Syria-Iraq) Islamic State rallied around a prophetic hadith concerning Dabiq (a town in north-western Syria) in which Muhammad is alleged to have said:

First issue of Islamic State's
magazine, DABIQ, July 2014.
“The Last Hour would not come until the Romans would land at al-A’maq or in Dabiq.” https://sunnah.com/muslim/54/44

The leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), Abu Musab al-Zaraqawi (killed in June 2006) sighted this hadith when he predicted that the war in Iraqi was but the first stage of an apocalyptic battle that would culminate with Muslim victory in Dabiq: “The spark has been lit here in Iraq and its heat will continue to intensify…until it burns the Crusader armies in Dabiq.”

Islamic State embraced the prophetic hadith and al-Zaraqawi’s prediction effectively exploiting it to recruit Muslim men and women from all over the world and every walk of life.

A similar dynamic potentially exists in “Khorasan” on account of another prophetic hadith:

“Black standards [flags] will come from Khorasan, nothing shall turn them back until they are planted in Jerusalem.” (Source: Sunan At-Tirmidhi 2269)

The fact that this hadith is widely regarded as weak and probably inauthentic is irrelevant to the jihadists who have exploited it for decades.

early propaganda video
“The Emergence of Prophecy:
The Black Flags of Khorasan” 
As writer Asif Ullah Khan explains, “The first time this hadith was used in the sub-continent was in 1980 when the US and Saudi Arabia cobbled up the biggest global jihad coalition to wage a guerrilla war against the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan.

Brigadier Asad Munir, who commanded Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI, in the tribal areas until 2005, says the Khorasan hadith was one of the main reasons why Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have become a rendezvous of sorts for Jihadists from all over the world.”

So, How Much of Threat is ISK-P?

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
addresses the UN Security Council
On Friday 19 January, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the UN Security Council that jihadists fleeing Syria were turning northern Afghanistan into “a main base for international terrorism with the Afghan wing of the Islamic State in the lead”. Lavrov added that 2017 saw an “unprecedented growth in Afghan drug production”, the funds from which are known to fuel international terrorism. He recommended "prompt measures . . . to curb this threat".

On 20 February,  Lavrov expressed his frustration that the US and NATO simply refuse to confront the reality of ISK-P:

“We are alarmed as unfortunately, the US and NATO military in Afghanistan makes every effort to silence and deny [the IS group’s presence in Afghanistan],” Lavrov told reporters after talks with his Pakistani counterpart Khawaja Muhammad Asif.

“According to our data, the IS presence in northern and eastern Afghanistan is rather serious, there are already thousands of gunmen. This increases the risk of the terrorists’ penetration to Central Asia and it is not that difficult to get to Russia.”

Contrary to this, the position of the US – which is eager to depart from Afghanistan with a semblance of dignity – is that ISK-P is insignificant and does not present a serious threat. According to the US,  Russia is merely “peddling a narrative” and “exaggerating” for political gain. Consequently, Russian efforts to forge security cooperation across Central Asia are being mocked and derided in the West.

According to the US, Russia exaggerates and exploits fears of Islamic State simply so it might further project itself across Central Asia. Further to this, Navy Capt. Tom Gresback, public affairs director at Resolute Support headquarters, told Military Times, “[U.S. Forces-Afghanistan] has no evidence of any significant migration of IS-K foreign fighters. We see local fighters who switch allegiances to join ISIS for various reasons, but the Russian narrative grossly exaggerates the numbers of ISIS fighters that are in the country.”

Gen. John Nicholson, the head of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, agrees. “This [Russian] narrative then is used as a justification for the Russians to legitimize the actions of the Taliban and provide some degree of support to the Taliban.”

Apart from the fact that Taliban is only a threat to Russia (or the US) if it is providing sanctuary to trans-nationalist jihadi movements such as al-Qaeda, as it did before 9/11,  Russia has no interest in supporting Islamic militancy in its own backyard. Not only does Russia deny that it is supporting the Taliban, so too does the Taliban which insists it has “not received assistance from any country”.

For more on this dispute see:

Is Russia arming the Afghan Taliban?
By Dawood Azami, BBC World Service, 2 April 2018

Is ISIS gaining ‘serious’ ground in Afghanistan? Russia says yes. The US says no.
By Kyle Rempfer, for Military Times, 26 March 2018

Why Russia Exaggerates Islamic State's Presence in Afghanistan
By Samuel Ramani, for The Diplomat, 10 April 2018

Islamic State seizes new Afghan foothold after luring Taliban defectors
Matin Sahak and Girish Gupta, for Reuters, 2 December 2017.

So, How Much of Threat is ISK-P?

ISK-P suffered numerous losses through 2016 – some at the hands of the Taliban, some at the hands of US-backed Afghan forces. This culminated in April 2017 when the US military detonated a Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) munition over an ISK-P tunnel complex in Nangarhar, eastern Afghanistan.

Despite this, ISK-P has not only endured but grown in strength and capability. ISK-P has gone on to commit horrific killings and even spectacular terror attacks, including against high-profile targets in the centre of Kabul such as the 25 December bombing of the National Directorate for Security, and the bombing on 22 April of a voter registration centre in which at least 57 people were killed and around 120 wounded.

A report published in January in the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor gives credence to the Russian assessment that ISK-P is growing, consolidating and expanding and that this is indeed, “rather serious”.

Recommended:
Islamic State Gains Ground in Afghanistan as Its Caliphate Crumbles Elsewhere
Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 16 Issue: 2
By Animesh Roul, 26 January 2018

Roul’s opening assessment is blunt: “Wilayat-e-Khorasan, the Islamic State (IS) affiliate in the borderlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan, is one of the terrorist group’s strongest franchises. Bolstered by defections from the Taliban and boosted further in recent months by an influx of foreign fighters fleeing defeat in Iraq and Syria, IS Khorasan Province (ISK-P) is growing in strength and influence.”

In Roul’s assessment, ISK-P has “expanded its influence beyond its operational headquarters in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, which borders Pakistan’s tribal regions”. Roul explains that ISK-P has been able to carry out “mass-fatality attacks in cities from Jalalabad and Kabul in Afghanistan, to Quetta and Lahore in Pakistan.

“Alarmingly,” he adds, “in September last year, an IS flag bearing the message ‘The khilafat (caliphate) is coming’ was even seen hoisted on a pedestrian bridge near Iqbal town in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.”

As Roul explains, “The rise and consolidation of ISK-P in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been aided by intra-Taliban rivalry triggered by the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Recruitment has been aided elsewhere by the Deobandi seminaries, which have for decades propagated sectarian ideals in the tribal regions. Further, ISK-P – like its parent organization in Syria and Iraq – has gone beyond these more traditional support structures, using social media to attract more educated and tech-savvy city dwellers.”

According to Roul, “in early 2017, Pakistani agencies uncovered IS recruitment networks in Punjab and Lahore”.

As Roul explains, ISK-P’s ranks are increasingly being swelled by foreign fighters – French, Algerian, Uzbeks, Indians, Russians [mostly ‘Chechens’], Pakistanis and Tajiks etc -- including females, most of whom are fleeing the fighting in Syria. [This confirms the Reuters report of 2 December 2017 (linked above).]

Roul concludes, it is “certain that a safe haven for ISK-P militants has developed in the tribal lands of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The present situation suggests fleeing militants could find a new lease on life and win further sympathizers to the crumbling caliphate, allowing ISK-P to grow in stature in the region.”

--------------------------

I make the case in After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, that the dar al-Islam (house of Islam) has long exploited divisions in the dar al-harb (house of war). Indeed, it is a fact that Islam has mastered the art of inserting itself as a wedge between East and West, exploiting East-West completion and playing East and West off against each other for its own strategic purposes and geo-political gain.

See: After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, by Elizabeth Kendal (Wipf and Stock, Eugene OR, June 2016). Chapter 11, ‘A House Divided’.

Until  East and West can cooperate against their common enemy – revived fundamentalist Islam – then the future remains dark, like a vision of endless war.

If East and West can not cooperate against revived fundamentalist Islam then the chaos in Mesopotamia and Khorasan – which includes nuclear-armed Pakistan – will continue to deepen and spread.

In Khorasan as in Mesopotamia, this bodes ill for religious minorities, in particular for the region’s exceedingly vulnerable Christians who look to the West for help only to be betrayed and abandoned.

In what may prove to be prophetic utterance,  a Syrian Church leader predicted in April 2014 that the time is coming when Christians “will no longer look to the West for support . . . but to the East, to Russia, to India, to China” (After Saturday Comes Sunday, p165).

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

North Korea: Reasons for Hope


by Elizabeth Kendal

The best possible outcome for North Korea -- reform without bloodshed -- will require smart policy from all stakeholders.

See: Belligerence v Smart Policy’ E. Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring, Feb 2014.

Consequently, as tensions escalated on the Korean Peninsula through 2017, the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) repeatedly called for prayer that God would: (1) sustain North Korea’s long-suffering and severely persecuted church, and (2) intervene in the Korean crisis creatively and according to his wisdom, to bring peace to the peninsula, liberty to the Church and glory to God’s name.

See: RLPB 403, North Korea: Uncertainly looms over long-suffering Church (19 Apr 2017)

and RLPB 423, North Korea: Talks the Only Option (13 Sep 2017).

The most recent Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) on North Korea -- RLPB 446 North Korea: A Step in the Right Direction (14 March 2017) – deals with the 8 March announcement that President Donald Trump has accepted an invitation to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

As noted in that RLPB, “Understandably, observers are cautious; some are deeply skeptical, others are derisive. Many are yawning, saying, ‘We have been here before.’ In reality, however, the strategic situation today is entirely different and the persons involved are entirely new and are beginning, rather than ending, their terms. We have a new North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un (35), who, apart from being shrewd and ruthless, is Swiss-educated and a big fan of American basketball and popular culture [meaning he is probably more interested in survival than in ideology]. We have a new and totally unconventional US president in Donald Trump (inaugurated in January 2017). We also have a new South Korean president, the hugely popular Moon Jae-in (65) – elected in May – for whom détente with the North is a priority essentially because it is personal. Moon’s parents fled the North as refugees during the Korean War. He has stated that when peace comes, the first thing he will do is take his 90-yr old mother to visit her home town of Hungnam.”

RLPB 446 also notes that while President Moon’s South Korea is clearly eager to re-engage with the North, so too is Russia, whose Far East shares a border with North Korea. Russia would like to connect the Trans-Korean railway to the Trans-Siberian railway. Not only would this be huge for north-east Asian trade, it would also serve as competition to China’s Belt Road Initiative (BRI).

Most critically, there is the tantalizing prospect that through these initiatives North Korea could be “drawn out of Communist China’s sphere of influence and into that of predominantly Christian South Korea, Russia and the US”, to the benefit of the Church in North Korea.

Below are a few non-subscription, freely available articles that I would recommended to anyone searching for reasons to share my optimism and hope.

Of course, quite apart from anything any strategic analyst might say, I am acutely aware that millions of faithful believers having been praying for North Korea for some seven decades. Add to this is the vast multitude of Korean martyrs who continue to cry “How long, O Lord?” I have absolutely no doubt that these prayers are being heard and that God – who “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (from Eph 3:20-21) – can be trusted.

Recommended Reading

History in the making: US president to meet North Korean leader
By Andrew Salmon, Asia Times Online, 9 March 2018.

The Modest Diplomatic Promise of North Korea's Charm Offensive
International Crisis Group, 11 March 2018

Moon Jae-in: Who is South Korea's new president? 
BBC, 9 May 2017

South Korea's President May Be Just the Man to Solve the North Korea Crisis
S.Nathan Park, The Atlantic, 18 July 2017

Russia-North Korea Economic Ties: Is There More Than Meets the Eye?
By Artyom Lukin and Liudmila Zakharova,
Foreign Policy Research Institute, 6 Oct 2017
in particular Chapter 5, “Can Russia Play a Role in Resolving the Korean Crisis?”

Nuclear Weapons And Russian-North Korean Relations
Artyom Lukin, Foreign Policy Research Institute, 29 November 2017

Russia and Crisis Management on the Korean Peninsula
Rensselaer Lee and William Severe,
Foreign Policy Research Institute, 29 November 2017

ALSO, for subscribers to Stratfor Worldview:
Cheeseburgers in the Workers' Paradise
By Rodger Baker, VP of Strategic Analysis, Stratfor, 13 March 2018

-----------------------------------------------

Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).


Thursday, January 25, 2018

China: The Return of “Mao-style Terror and Control”

By Elizabeth Kendal

To fully appreciate the intent behind and likely outcome of China’s new Religious Affairs Regulations, requires they be viewed and interpreted in the framework of President Xi’s political ambition.  Xi’s goal is to transform China into a superpower so as to cement the power of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and his role as leader into perpetuity. It is a task that will require “stability maintenance” par excellence.

Religious Affairs Regulations

The new Religious Affairs Regulations, Order 686, as promulgated on 26 August 2017, will come into effect on 1 February.

While Article 2 asserts, “Citizens have freedom of religious belief”, it quickly becomes clear that religion – or at least that which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) deems “normal religious activity” – may only be exercised in accordance with strict CCP parameters and under the oversight of the CCP’s religious affairs departments. Article 3 clarifies that, “The management of religious affairs upholds the principles of protecting what is lawful, prohibiting what is unlawful, suppressing extremism, resisting infiltration, and fighting crime.”

Article 4 states that, “The State, in accordance with the law, protects normal religious activities [and] actively guides religion to fit in with socialist society . . .” so as to “preserve the unification of the country, ethnic unity, religious harmony and social stability”. Article 5 mandates that religious groups must be independent and not controlled by “foreign forces”.

Article 8 lists “assisting the people’s government in the implementation of laws, regulations, rules and policies . . .” as a function of religious groups. Article 63 proscribes, “Advocating, supporting, or funding religious extremism, or using religion to harm national security or public safety, undermine ethnic unity, divide the nation . . .” and allows for extra-judicial “administrative punishments” to be delivered where no crime has been committed.

Generally speaking, religious activities may only take place in approved, registered Religious Activity Sites and only with the approval of the relevant CCP authorities. Approval must be obtained for any “large outdoor religious statue”, presumably this includes a cross. In fact approval must be sought for just about everything. The requirement for churches to “submit an application” would probably be the most repeated phrase in the text, along with the assurance that the authorities will “make a decision”.

Clearly, all non-registered religious activity is going to be stamped out. Registered religious groups meanwhile, will find half their time will be taken up with administration, much of which is little more than a means of occupying the Church’s time and keeping it from “causing trouble”. Apart from being squeezed to the point of suffocation, churches find they now have dozens of ways to fall foul of the law.

Linfen city, Shanxi Province, 9 January 2018
Article 65 notes that at various times the authorities may order religious groups, religious schools or religious activity sites to undergo “rectification”. If rectification is refused, then registration certificates or establishment permits will be revoked, rendering the group or school illegal. Illegal buildings and structures will be “disposed of” (article 71), and large outdoor statues will be “demolished” (article 72).

Finally, Article 75 reads: “Where anyone is dissatisfied with administrative acts taken by the religious affairs departments, they may lawfully apply for an administrative reconsideration; where dissatisfied with the decision of the administrative reconsideration, they may lawfully raise an administrative lawsuit.” However, this article needs to understood in the light of the amended “Administrative Measures for Law Firms” which came into effect on 1 November 2016. The new measures prohibit lawyers from speaking out on human rights abuses. Even silent protests, such as walking out of a courtroom without permission, are prohibited. Lawyers who do not toe-the-line, and who take on “sensitive” political cases, are at risk of losing their livelihoods. 

Full text of Religious Affairs Regulations, in Chinese or English  

South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported in September 2017 that house churches across China were already breaking up into smaller groups and keeping a low profile in the hope they might avoid massive fines and other punishments.

A major nation-wide crackdown on religion looms, indeed, it has already begun.

See: Persecution of Church to escalate as Zhejiang experiment goes national
By Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 16 October 2016 

President Xi Jinping

Also known as the “Core leader” and “Supreme Commander”, President Xi Jinping emerged from the 19th five-yearly Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Congress (18-25 October 2017) as the most powerful Chinese ruler since Mao Zedong (Tse-tung). Though China’s Constitution limits the presidency to two terms, Xi – who is supposed to step down at the next Congress (i.e. at the end of his second term) – broke with tradition and didnot designate a potential successor. Many observers suspect that Xi intends to rule China as “Chairman of Everything” and “Emperor”for life. 

On 24 October 2017, the CCP Congress agreed to enshrine “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”, into the CCP’s Constitution. The amended CCP constitution reads:
Since the 18th Party Congress, Comrade Xi Jinping has been the primary representative of the CCP….[his] ‘Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era’ is a successor and development of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the important thought of Three Represents (Jiang Zemin’s core contribution) and the Scientific Outlook on Development (Hu Jintao’s) and is the result of the sinification of Marxism….

Subsequently, at a high-level meeting in Beijing on 19 January, the Central Committee of the CCP proposed enshrining “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” into China’s national constitution. The proposal now goes to the National People’s Congress – the parliament that meets annually in March – where it will be approved. Once amended, the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China will provide a legal basis for any policy Xi should dictate.  

So what is Xi Jinping Thought?

As China expert Peter Woods explains, “Xi Jinping Thought can be understood as an umbrella for a number of ideas and policy initiatives that include, most famously, the China Dream, Strong Military Dream, and Four Comprehensives. . .”

In a 21 September 2017 analysis for The Jamestown Foundation entitled “What is Xi Jinping Thought?” China expert Willy Wo-Lap Lam explains that, unlike Mao Zedong Thought or Deng Xiaoping Theory, Xi Jinping Thought does not offer China anything new. The core idea is said to be Xi’s “Chinese dream”, which, as Lam explains, “is a super-nationalistic narrative about China becoming a superpower”. This is to be achieved through “comprehensively deepening reform and upholding the mass line”. As Lam notes, there is nothing new here; Xi is simply reviving Maoist ideology.

Beijing souvenir 
The personality cult being built around Xi as the “Core” is also nothing new, for while it goes against the basic tenets of Deng Xiaoping Theory (which established collective leadership), it revives the Mao-era model of leadership.

As Lam also notes, Xi “has reiterated that ‘ideological and thought work’ – a reference to brainwashing and Mao-style ideological campaigns – is ‘an extremely important task of the party’.”

According to Lam, “the biggest difference between Mao Zedong Thought and Xi Jinping Thought is that the former is oriented toward the future [i.e. the pursuit of a Marxist utopia in which China dominates the world], and the latter is consumed with self-preservation”. 

“Xi’s obsession,” observes Lam, “is to preserve the ‘perennial ruling party’ status of the CCP as well as his status as undisputed leader.” 

Stability Maintenance

Integral to all this is wei-wen, “stability maintenance”; for “upholding the mass line” necessitates the rooting out of “destabilising elements”. To this end, China is rapidly developing as a world leader in police-state hi-tech surveillance.

In a 21 July 2017 analysis for The Jamestown Foundation entitled Beijing Harnesses Big Data & AI to Perfect the Police State, Willy Lam exposes this most disturbing aspect of China’s emerging “New Era” reality.  “Specialized weiwen cadres have the full cooperation of the country’s social-media and e-commerce platforms, as well as cloud-computing and related high-tech firms in establishing a seamless and all-encompassing intelligence network that would do George Orwell’s Big Brother proud.” 

Having rolled out millions of facial recognition cameras nation-wide, China is already amassing a “social credit system” which will allow state officials to assess a citizen’s financial records and social connections, and review their consumption habits, relationships, communications and travels and respect for the law. Acts deemed loyal to the CCP generate positive “social credit”, which in turn will guarantee “loyal” citizens will have access to the best colleges, jobs and hospitals, as well as permission to travel etc. Negative “social credit”, however, will doubtless cause all sorts of problems for those who fall fowl of the CCP.

A government official installs cameras at a Wenzhou church.
World Magazine (Photo: Robert Katz)
See: Big Brother Invades Church 
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 415, 19 July 2017. 

In November, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported how in Yugan county, Jiangxi province, privileges such as poverty relief are only for those upholding the mass line.

According to the SCMP, thousands of poor Christians in Yugan county, Jiangxi province, have been told that if they want to access the local government’s poverty-relief programme, they will first need to take down their crosses, Bible texts and others religious artefacts and replace them with images of President Xi. As Nectar Gan explains, this practice “hearkens back to the era of the personality cult around late chairman Mao Zedong, whose portraits were once ubiquitous in Chinese homes”.

“In Yugan,” writes Gan, “the officially atheist party is competing for influence with Christianity, which has spread rapidly in both poor rural villages and prosperous cities since the end of the Cultural Revolution more than 40 years ago. . .

“A local social media account reported over the weekend that in Yugan’s Huangjinbu township [which is home to about 5,000 to 6,000 Christian families, or about a third of the total] cadres visited poor Christian families to promote the party’s poverty-relief policies and helped them solve their material problems. The officials successfully ‘melted the hard ice in their hearts’ and ‘transformed them from believing in religion to believing in the party’, the report said. . .

 “Qi Yan, chairman of the Huangjinbu people’s congress and the person in charge of the township’s poverty-relief drive [said], ‘Many rural people are ignorant. They think God is their saviour … After our cadres’ work, they’ll realise their mistakes and think: we should no longer rely on Jesus, but on the party for help.’ . . .”

There is nothing new about this either. Every totalitarian regime knows that the best way to control people is to make them totally dependent on the regime.

Dangerous Situation

Human Rights lawyer and devout Christian,
Gao Zhisheng
In his recently published “2016 Report on Human Rights in China” [Briefing and summary & Full Text ] persecuted human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng observed that “most of the human rights abuses committed in China today are committed by the Communist regime. Consequently, being a human rights defender is about the most dangerous thing a person can do in China.”

Gao laments the silence of the West, commenting that it “solidifies the unfathomably lonely and dangerous situation” faced by dissidents who protest the “rapid return of a Mao-style terror and control”.

Concerning religious freedom Gao wrote: “Religious belief is a natural human trait, a common behavior shared by people everywhere, and therefore a part of human nature. Religious persecution not only erodes natural law, but also castrates human nature and degrades the human race to the level of animals. It is the most unforgivable crime against humanity.”

For this, Gao is once again being forced to endure the cruellest punishment at the hands of a brutal regime that should not be permitted to call itself “civilised”.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 432, 15 Nov 2017

China is entering a “New Era” of repression and persecution. The primary difference between the repression under Mao and the repression under Xi will be that China’s “New Era” repression and persecution will be even more suffocating because it will be enabled by cutting edge technology.

What remains to be seen is whether Xi will over-reach. Suffocating repression, systematic persecution, “stability maintenance” and “upholding the “mass line” can only be achieved with the full co-operation of the security forces. And this is where the CCP’s system hides a potentially fatal flaw.

As Gao Zhisheng makes clear in his revealing, ground-breaking and must-read book, Unwavering Convictions, (Carolina Academic Press, 2017),  the entire system is built around pillage, corruption and violence. 

“Pillage,” writes Gao, “is the foundation and purpose of CCP power,” explaining that while Mao’s political reforms were catastrophic, so too were Deng’s economic reforms through which state-owned assets became the private property of the elite. “Today,” writes Gao, “the CCP bureaucratic group’s privilege and corruption damage is greater than that of any other time in history.”

Meanwhile, violence is used to elicit obedience. However, violence tends also to elicit intense hatred and a burning desire for revenge.

According to Gao, even though the principle job of the armed forces is “stability maintenance”, “the government controls the armed forces through coercive power and violence”. According to Gao, tensions between senior officers and lower ranked soldiers are always at their highest when soldiers are about to be demobilised. Having been treated like animals by officers who are free to brutalise and terrorise the lower ranks at will, most demobilised soldiers dream, and even talk of nothing but revenge.

As for the extensive brainwashing sessions all soldiers must endure, Gao maintains the CCP knows they don’t work, but persists with them “purely a means of occupying soldiers’ time and keeping them from causing trouble”.

Dangerous times indeed – for everyone!

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).



Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Islamisation of Nigeria

by Elizabeth Kendal

CONVERSION CRISIS

Nigerians Miss Nabila Umar Sanda (19) and Engineer Simput Eagles Dafup (33) first met and exchanged contact details in Dubai four years ago. A few years later, as Nabila (then a Muslim) was studying at the Bingham University – a Church-owned university in Karu, in Nigeria’s central Nasarawa State – she decided that she wanted to become a follower of Jesus Christ too. When Nabila learned that Simput Dafup was going to be Jos, Plateau State, over Christmas, she re-connected with him and arranged to meet him there. When Nabila told Simput that she wanted to convert to Christianity, he asked about her family, in particular her father who is a powerful Muslim elder and in traditional title holder in Biu, Borno State. Nabila told Simput that as she was 19-years of age, she was entitled to choose her own religion and would do so regardless of obstacles. But Simput remained concerned, so on Monday 8 January he and Nabila meet with local church leader Pastor Jeremiah Datim. Cognisant of the delicacy of the situation, Pastor Datim decided it was best to follow protocol and contact the Jama’atu Nasril lslam (JNI) to inform them of Nabila’s decision to convert, in the hope they might smooth the way forward. The JNI then contacted Nabila’s parents, after which her father, who has vowed revenge, requested an intervention of the Department of State Security Services (DSS).  

Simput Dafup (l);  Nabila Sanda (c);  DSS (r).
Later that day (8 Jan), DSS officers stormed Pastor Jeremiah Datim’s home, assaulted his wife and children and abducted Nabila. They also violently abducted Simput Dafup from his home, and arrested Daniel Hassan, the taxi driver who had driven Nabila from Abuja to Jos. At a press conference in Jos on Saturday 13 January, Pastor Jeremiah Datim clarified the constitutional issue at the heart of the crisis. ‘I want to state,’ he said, ‘for the avoidance of doubt, that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees the right to anyone to propagate his faith and the right to also practise any religion of one’s choice.’ Simput Dafup’s widowed mother, Lydia then appealed for information on her son’s whereabouts. ‘My son,’ she said, ‘a quiet gentleman per excellence, was on Monday, January 8, 2018, brutalised, tortured and whisked away from his residence in Jos by men we suspect were from the DSS for allegedly converting one Miss Nabila Umar Sanda from Islam to Christianity’.

Despite the fact that no charges had been laid and no arrest warrants issued, the DSS alleges that Nabila had been abducted in Abuja, held captive in Jos and forcibly converted to Christianity. This echoes the ‘Camilia’ myth promulgated by Islamists in Egypt [see: RLPB 082 (17 Nov 2010)].  The accusation comes as the Voice of Northern Christian Movement of Nigeria (VNCMN) is pressuring the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate the abduction of some 100 Christian girls. VNCMN Executive Director, Pastor Kallamu Musa Ali Dikwa explains: ‘Muslims have abducted 100 Christian girls under the age of 18 and forcefully converted them to lslam and we have reported to security agencies severally but no arrest was made or return of Christian girls to their parents . . .’ Thus the whole context mirrors that of Egypt [see: RLPB 398, ‘Bring Back Our Coptic Girls’ (15 March 2017)].

But Nigeria is not Egypt! Nigeria is a democracy with a secular Constitution where Christians comprise at least 51 percent. Tensions are soaring.

DSS IN THE SERVICE OF ISLAM

The DSS operates as a department within the presidency and is under the control of the National Security Advisor. Its mission is to “protect and defend the Federal Republic of Nigeria from domestic threats”. It is also charged with protecting the president and other senior government officials. 

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has slammed the DSS for its intervention in the conversion case and for acting “as some kind of ‘Islamic religious police’.”

The Rights group has specifically asked “that the Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS) Alhaji Lawal Musa Daura to be restrained by the National Assembly and the Presidency from interfering in a completely civil and religious rights issues relating to an alleged conversion to Christianity of a female university undergraduate [Nabila Sanda] from her former religion which is Islam, same as that of the current DG of DSS.”

The HURIWA called on the National Assembly to call the DG of DSS “to desist from using public offices to promote and canvass the interests of a particular religious group which are direct affronts to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which absolutely prohibits the elevation of one religion as state religion”.

DSS TARGETS JOS PREACHER

On the evening of Monday 15 January, DSS officers stormed the Jos headquarters of Evangelical Bible Outreach Ministries International (EBOMI) and similarly (i.e. violently and without a warrant) attempted to arrest the General Overseer, Pastor Isa El-Buba. However, their efforts were thwarted when church members gathering for a midnight prayer vigil resisted the invasion and forced the officers to retreat.

El-Buba maintains that the order to illegally arrest him came from President Buhari himself after the  government deemed his New Year’s Eve sermon “inciteful”.

In the sermon, which was broadcast nationally, a fired-up El-Buba condemns the Buhari government for its inaction over Fulani terrorism and exhorts Nigerians to get their voter cards and fight back through the polls.

[Nigeria’s presidential, federal and state assembly elections will be held in Feb-March 2019.] 

Youtube footage of the relevant portion of the sermon
 can be found here (5 mins 23 sec).  
This is not the first time El-Buba has challenged the Buhari government and he is certainly not repentant. “I stand by my words,” he said, stressing that the DSS invasion has not left him feeling afraid or intimidated. 

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin brings reproach. I said in my broadcast that the unrighteousness in Nigeria would not do anyone of us any good. And I stand by it.”

Referring to the Fulani terrorism ravaging the Middle Belt – for which he holds the government of Muhammadu Buhari responsible – El-Buba insists the killings must stop. He implores all Nigerians: “Wake up from your sleep and decide your fate,” while making it clear they are to reject violence and obey the law.

Holding up a voter card, he refers to it as the peoples’ weapon with which they can determine their future by voting wickedness out of government.

For this – and despite the fact that no charges had been laid and no arrest warrant issued – the DSS was sent to arrest the fiery preacher.

PRESIDENT PURSUING A PRO-FULANI, ISLAMIST AGENDA

In a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday 16 January, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) publicly condemned the Buhari government, holding it responsible for the gross insecurity plaguing the north. CAN accused President Buhari of serving the interests of ‘his Fulani ethnic group only’ and pursuing an ‘Islamist agenda’.

CAN General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Musa Asake told the media: “The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has reviewed the catalogue of horrendous and inhuman attacks on several states and mostly Benue State from 2013 – 2018. The impression has now been firmly established that the Islamists of northern Nigerian have ‘legalized jihad’ in Nigeria.

“As if the attacks on Benue, Taraba, Kaduna, Plateau, Yobe, Borno, Nasarawa, Enugu, Imo, Abia, Rivers, Ogun and Oyo States are not enough, the Islamists and their agents have extended their trail of blood and destruction to Bwari in Abuja and Ilorin in Kwara State. . .”

Dr. Asake noted that Security Agents routinely do not intervene until the [Fulani] attackers have finished their “horrendous assignment”.

“This pattern,” he said, “suggests collusion of the Security Units with the Islamists militia operating under such names as Fulani herdsmen, Boko Haram, ‘unknown gunmen’, and ‘group of vandals’. On 17th January, 2017, the Nigerian Air Force ‘accidentally’, in broad daylight, bombed a Christian IDP Camp and killed over 200 Christian refugees in Rann, Kala-Balge Local Government in Borno State. In December 2017, an Air Force spokes person confirmed that the Nigerian Air Force sent an Alpha Jet and an EC 135 attack Helicopter to fire ‘warning’ shots at Islamist militia attacking Christians in Numan, Adamawa state, but not to kill them! The villagers were later to report that the Jet actually bombed the Christian villages resulting in the death of over 50 people, while, the Nigerian Air Force said it merely fired warning shots at the Islamist militia attacking the villagers. This is jihad as we cannot understand fired warning shots in the narrative of this attack.”

Dr. Asake claimed President Buhari had “flagrantly violated the Constitution and adopted Sharia ideology as operational standard.

“Having reviewed the situation in the country, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) wishes to note that some principal entities appear responsible for the current distress in the nation.

“President Buhari was elected on a wave of unprecedented public approval in 2015. Unfortunately, within a few weeks of his election, he started creating the impression that he was in power to serve the interests of his Fulani ethnic group only. Discerning people were quick to note that contrary to his electoral promises, he actually meant to pursue core Islamist agenda. Almost every vital appointment in Security and Education went to Muslims from the North. He did not hide his disdain for the indigenous ethnic nationalities and, at every opportunity, showed preferential treatment to the Muslim North.

Full transcript of CAN statement. 
“Under President Buhari, the murderous Fulani herdsmen enjoyed unprecedented protection and favoritism to the extent that the herdsmen treat Nigeria as a conquered territory. Rather than arrest and prosecute the Fulani herdsmen, security forces usually manned by Muslims from the North offer them protection as they unleash terror with impunity on the Nigerian people. The bottom line is that President Buhari failed woefully to protect Nigerians. He wilfully permitted the Fulani herdsmen to operate killing people, destroying communities wholesale, destroying farmlands and turning the entire Middle Belt into ‘killing fields’, all the while enjoying government protection from counter attack, arrest or prosecution. . .”

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com